WSOP 2011 - Five reasons why this year's World Series was a great one [Editorial]
Monday, 25 July 2011
Not only does it seem that the WSOP comes around quicker every year (because it’s now June/July/September/November instead of just yearly) but this time it seemed to finish really quickly. No sooner had we begun proceedings with the Casino Employees’ event than we were on Event #38. Just when that finished, the Main Event starts and all of a sudden we’re fifty-eight tournaments down and done until next summer.
5. Post-Black Friday field sizes.
The ambience of depression before the WSOP 2011 was palpable. As far as poker players were concerned the sky had fallen in; even though by the first event we knew that the sky was still pretty much all where it was meant to be but had definitely gotten lower. In a previous editorial I postulated (yeah, I postulate sometimes) that the increased field sizes might have been the glorious last stand for many hundreds of online players. Be that as it may it still gave us a record-breaking WSOP right when the poker world needed it the most. I’m looking at the list of records broken this year and they’re too many to repeat. Dozens of tournaments broke attendance and prize pool records plus we saw the second-largest non-Main Event field of all time and the third-largest Main Event field of all time. All in all, a good success.
4. A pretty incredible November Nine.
This year the nine remaining players in the WSOP are all better than me at poker. Those who don’t truly “get” poker tournaments are thinking “well, duh” but this is the first time since the inception of the November Nine that I don’t look at any of these players and think “how the hell did you get there?” The clear amateur at the final table is Badih Bounahra and while you can see from some of his plays that he’s no Phil Collins or Eoghan O’Dea, the dude can play poker. He’s certainly no Darvin Moon or Jerry Yang. Furthermore, we have seven countries represented at the November Nine – USA, Lebanon/Belize, Germany, Ukraine, Czech Republic, England and Ireland. Diversity for the win.
3. Ben Lamb’s ridiculousness.
Ben Lamb’s WSOP run has the same touch to it that the first four months of Erik Seidel’s 2011 did. Every time I saw him take a chip lead or reach a final table in the past two months I was thinking “this simply has to be a joke”. His WSOP was amazing enough what with three final tables including a bracelet and a runner-up spot worth over $1.3m and a reported seven-figure profit in cash games but when he not only overtook Hellmuth in the Player of the Year race AND made the November Nine... just stop it, Ben. It’s not fair to everyone else.
2. ESPN potentially revolutionises TV poker.
I’ve written before about ESPN and Poker PROductions’ new live streaming (a thirty-minute delay is as close to live as we’ll get) and as you may have gathered, I approved. It is definitely the way to go and I think we’ll only see it improve with the 2012, 2013 and hopefully the rest of the World Series of Poker events over the following years. In my eyes, though, it needs to be largely studio-based in the manner of Sunday football coverage with commentators and different analysts discussing big hands while graphics display the key facets of the tournament coverage – average chip stack, blinds, remaining players and perhaps a rolling ticker of chip counts in the same way ESPN do golf results.
The only question this new coverage really raises is one for another editorial – it seems to me that if this continues then without sequestering players, competitors will need to get themselves a real-life HUD. By this I mean a crew of friends. If I were competing at a TV table on a half-hour delay I would force all my friends to watch and write down all the shown hole cards so I had all the available information.
1.Phil Hellmuth changes the world(‘s opinion of him).
This is easily the number one spot because despite no one really wanting to admit it to him, Phil Hellmuth is kind of a big deal. Whether or not his apartment smells of rich mahogany I don’t know but he is without a doubt one of the top three most famous poker players in the world, even number one in most people's lists. This year he put on an amazing performance to make two $10,000 final tables and the $50,000 Players’ Championship final table as well. As we know, he was the bridesmaid for all three events after being bested by John Juanda, Eric Rodawig and Brian Rast. However, he got his (shockingly) first million dollar score and pocketed almost $2m on the WSOP. He made deep runs in large-field NL events, as he does, and totally outplayed Rast heads-up for the $50,000 title; only some whiffed flush draws stood between him and the twelfth bracelet.
Not only that, but the Poker Brat is dead. Phil Hellmuth lives but his loudmouthed, childish alter-ego seems to have vanished. He took each defeat graciously, congratulated his opponent and was a little pissed off, sure, but who wouldn’t be? In times past that would have been a major meltdown and I think the rail was disappointed not to see him curled up in the foetal position, crying. Is it because UB no longer sponsors him and he has no motivation for TV time? Or has he really changed his game? I can’t confidently say it’s the latter based on one tournament series but I hope it is and he’s “done a Negreanu”.