WSOP 2011 – The Year of the Runner-Up? [Editorial]

WSOP 2011 – The Year of the Runner-Up? [Editorial]

Friday, 1 July 2011

“They never remember who finished second in the World Series of Poker,” the saying goes. Unless you lose to Johnny Chan in the Main Event and Rounders replays the hand over and over again, eh Erik Seidel? Try to remember the Main Event runners-up since 2003: Farha, Williams, Danneman, er... Wasicka? Then, uhm... that guy Jerry Yang beat. Then Ivan Demidov. Then... whassisface... him.

That wasn’t for comedic effect, that was a verbatim transcription of my thoughts. It’s damn hard to remember who came second though I remember the winners easily – Moneymaker, Raymer, Hachem, Gold, Yang, Eastgate, Cada, Duhamel. Oh, Darvin Moon! He was whassisface. Anyway, you see my point – despite hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars as a consolation prize for missing a bracelet by one spot, the winners are the only ones remembered for the long term. And poker is all about the long term.

This year, though, has truly been the year of the runner-up. In the first week, railbirds were disappointed that Yevgeniy Timoshenko missed out on his opportunity to add the $25,000 Heads-Up Championship to his $25k WPT and WCOOP titles; days later Maria Ho fell short of becoming the first female open event winner since Vanessa Selbst in 2008. Next week, legendary mixed games player Chris Bjorin lost out heads-up in the $1,500 2-7 No Limit; two days later PokerStars grinder extraordinaire George Lind failed to beat Viacheslav Zhukov to the $10,000 Omaha 8 Championship.

Just last night, I went to bed with Chris Moorman returning outchipped for a heads-up battle versus Joe Ebanks. This morning I woke up and rushed to Twitter to see if the tournament-destroying God that is Chris Moorman had managed to secure his first bracelet in the packed $10,000 NL 6-max Championship... nope, second place. I was as disappointed as two weeks earlier when Allen Kessler finished runner-up to Brian Rast in the $1,500 Pot Limit Hold ‘em.

That’s not even mentioning the most famous runner-up of the 2011 WSOP thus far – twice Phil Hellmuth has gone for his twelfth bracelet and twice he has made it heads-up in a non-Hold ‘em game this WSOP. Twice, he has been totally demolished by a far superior opponent.

First, John Juanda totally deconstructed him and overcame a chip deficit in order to take the $10,000 2-7 NL title; then, Stud 8 specialist Eric Rodawig destroyed Hellmuth heads-up for the $10,000 Stud 8 Championship. Another runner-up, in Stud 8 no less, that most of the poker world was rooting for to win a bracelet was Mike Sexton who came second in the $1,500 event and Michael Mizrachi just recently came second going for his second bracelet in the $2,500 Omaha 8/Stud 8 Mix.

Why do we root so hard for familiar faces at final tables? If anything, we’re British and should root for the underdog. What happens is that at a table full of no-names, the one we recognise is the one we latch on to and root for. Unless one of the no-names is from the UK in which case they get a rowdy crowd of drunkards chanting amusing slogans at the table.

I think we probably root hard for familiar faces to win because it justifies our own poker. We see Phil Hellmuth, or Mike Sexton, or Chris Moorman at a final table and we root for them because we know they work on their game and try hard and so do we, dammit. It doesn’t matter if your “trying hard” equates to “posting a hand on Two Plus Two once a week” because when you see a familiar face there you live vicariously through them.

If they win this bracelet it justifies the hard work they’ve put in over the years and thus justifies the hard work that you’ve put in over the years, too. Because it could be you, this is confirmation of that – all you need to do is keep working on your game and soon it will be you at that final table.

Of course, you’re a no-name so everybody will be rooting for the pro at the table. Just because.

Tags: Editorial, Matt Perry, WSOP 2011, Phil Hellmuth, Mike Sexton, Chris Moorman, Maria Ho, Chris Bjorin, Erik Seidel, Johnny Chan