One of these November Nine players will pocket $8.7 million — and wear the coveted WSOP main event bracelet they’re reaching out for here — when action resumes in about four months. From left: Badih Bounahra, Phil Collins, Matt Giannetti, Pius Heinz, Samuel Holden, Ben Lamb, Anton Makiievskyi, Eoghan O’Dea and Martin Staszko.
BY RUSS SCOTT
RELEASE: JULY19, 2011
2011 World Series Sets Records Despite Economic, Legal Woes
Now that we’ve reached the four-month hiatus for the World Series of Poker’s main event, let’s reflect a bit on the game’s grandest spectacle.
From record prize pools to strange happenings, the 2011 WSOP presented quite a show, which won’t officially end until a champion is crowned in November.
Contenders for the title, from tallest chip stack to smallest, are Martin Staszko, 35, Trinec, Czech Republic; Eoghan O’Dea, 26, Dublin, Ireland; Matt Giannetti, 26, Las Vegas; Phil Collins, 26, Las Vegas; Ben Lamb, 26, Tulsa, Okla.; Badih Bounahra, 49, Belize City, Belize; Pius Heinz, 22, Cologne, Germany; Anton Makiievskyi, 21, Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, and Sam Holden, 22, Canterbury, England. (Short bios posted below)
Meanwhile, here’s a look at the past six weeks at the WSOP:
* Take that, U.S. Department of Justice!
One of poker’s darkest days, April 15, saw DOJ indictments effectively shut down online poker in the U.S. and freeze an estimated $150 million in players’ cash sitting in poker site accounts.
With so many poker bankrolls locked up and online WSOP qualifying squashed, many predicted doom.
That’s definitely not what happened.
This year’s WSOP drew a record 75,672 entries in 58 tournaments, creating a prize pool of $191,999,010 — the largest in WSOP history. Those are better numbers, by several percentage points, than last year’s record totals.
The significance wasn’t lost on ecstatic World Series officials.
“This summer underscores the appeal of the game and the power of this event,” said WSOP executive director Ty Stewart in a news release. “We’re so thankful for all those who came from around the world to demonstrate that poker continues to grow.”
At least 17 events broke records for largest turnout or biggest prize pool. The robust numbers pushed the total prize money awarded in the WSOP’s 42-year history to $1.4 billion.
* Recession? Jobless rate? Let’s play!
A sketchy U.S. economy and high jobless rate seemed like formidable hurdles for the WSOP’s most-popular tournament, the world championship.
Drawing big fields with half a dozen $1,000 tournaments was one thing, but what about the annual $10,000 main event? Many thought that entries might dip below 5,000 for the first time since 2004.
Again, that’s not what happened.
Thanks to poker’s enduring popularity and to stepped-up satellite action (feeder tournaments) at the Rio, the main event attracted 6,865 entries.
That’s the third highest ever, trailing only the ridiculous 8,773 total at the height of the poker boom in 2006 and last year’s 7,319.
One of the November Nine players will win a top prize of $8.7 million. All but one will become millionaires. None of them will need a job.
* “Sir, this is the Ladies Event!”
The biggest uproar this year probably came at the Ladies World Championship, where a guy made the final table.
Hostility reached scary levels before his elimination in ninth place by eventual champion Marsha Bladel Wolak of Sarasota, Fla., formerly of Rock Island, Ill. A huge cheer erupted.
A new Nevada law effective next year apparently will allow WSOP officials to legally ban male players from the ladies event.
* Who’s present? Who’s not?
Poker’s acknowledged best player wasn’t dealt a single hand. Phil Ivey boycotted the WSOP to show support for players blocked from their money on Full Tilt Poker, the site Ivey represented until the shutdown.
Also missing in action were most of FTP’s stable of high-visibility sponsored pros. It seemed weird at first, but exciting action quickly diverted attention to the games and some new champions.
Meanwhile, 78-year-old poker legend Doyle Brunson raised a stir by tweeting he wouldn’t play in the main event because he’d lost interest in poker after the online indictments and shutdown.
Friends ultimately persuaded him to play, thus reinstating balance to the poker universe.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2011 RUSS SCOTT
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FROM WSOP RECORDS: A GLANCE AT THE NOVEMBER NINE
Seat 1: Matt Giannetti (Las Vegas, NV) – 24,750,000 in chips
Giannetti is a 26-year-old poker pro from Las Vegas. Prior to playing full time, Giannetti graduated from the University of Texas. He was short-stacked during much of the later stages of Day Eight, but managed to survive a number of all-ins and comes to the final table right in the middle of the pack (fifth of nine players)
Seat 2: Badih Bounahra (Belize City, Belize) – 19,700,000 in chips
Bounahra becomes the first player from Belize ever to make it to the Main Event final table. He is a 49-year-old businessman. Bounahra was actually born in Lebanon, but is proud to now call Belize City his home. Bounahra was very low on chips on Day Six, but ran well late and survived. Now, he has an average-size stack.
Seat 3: Eoghan O’Dea (Dublin, Ireland) – 33,925,000 in chips
O’Dea is a 26-year-old poker pro. This is his fifth WSOP cash, four of which have taken place this year. He has cashed in several major tournaments, mostly in Europe. He is the son of famous Irish poker player and gambler Donnacha O’Dea, who won a WSOP gold bracelet in 1998. O’Dea was second in chips when Day Eight began. He remains second in chips.
Seat 4: Phil Collins (Las Vegas, NV) – 23,875,000 in chips
Collins is a 26-year-old pro poker player. He was previously a college student. He attended the University of South Carolina. He met his wife Katie while in school. She lived across the hall from him. They were married last year. He played a lot of online poker until the developments of April 2011. He has been at or near the top of the leaderboard during much of the last two days.
Seat 5: Anton Makiievskyi (Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine) – 13,825,000 in chips
Makiievskyi is a 21-year-old aspiring poker pro. This is his first trip to the WSOP in Las Vegas. Four Ukrainians have already won gold bracelets this year. Makiievskyi hopes to become the fifth. This marks the first time a Ukrainian player has ever appeared at the Main Event final table. He is one of the lowest two stacks, but is not in serious danger of busting soon because he has several rounds of blinds and antes.
Seat 6: Sam Holden (Sussex, UK) – 12,375,000 in chips
Holden is a 22-year-old professional poker player. He is playing in his first WSOP this year. He holds the lowest stack, but (like Makiievskyi) is not in serious danger of busting soon because he has enough chips to make it through several rounds of blinds and antes.
Seat 7: Pius Heinz (Cologne, Germany) – 16,425,000 in chips
Heinz is a 22-year-old student and poker player. He is playing at his first WSOP this year. He finished seventh in one of the earlier $1,500 NLHE events. He becomes the first player from Germany ever to make it the Main Event finale. He’s seventh in chips at the moment.
Seat 8: Ben Lamb (Tulsa, OK) – 20,875,000 in chips
Lamb is enjoying a monster run and is unquestionably the player who is on the hottest streak of anyone at this year’s WSOP. He leads the 2011 WSOP “Player of the Year” race. He has a gold bracelet win, a second place finish, and eighth- and twelfth-place showings in his four cashes – and is now making a very deep run in the Main Event. He currently ranks second in chips. Lamb is playing as well as, if not better than, any player in the world at the moment.
Seat 9: Martin Staszko (Trinec, Czech Republic) – 40,175,000 in chips
Staszko is a 35-year-old professional poker player. He becomes the first player ever from the Czech Republic to make it to the Main Event final table. He will resume play at the chip leader when the November Nine begins.