BY RUSS SCOTT
JUNE 30, 2009
STUD CHAMP, RECORD SENIORS EVENT HIGHLIGHT WSOP
Let’s take a quick spin around the Amazon Room for some recent headlines as the 40th annual World Series of Poker enters its final stretch in Las Vegas.
* H.O.R.S.E. loses riders
The fourth running of the “players championship” had trouble right out of the gate. Only 95 players ponied up the huge $50,000 entry fee, well below the 148-player fields the past two years and 143 in its first year, 2006.
A lousy economy could have been a factor in the decline, but much more likely was the decision by ESPN to not televise the mixed-game tournament this year. Without TV exposure for their logos on shirts and hats, some sponsors reportedly backed off from paying entry fees for perhaps two dozen pros.
ESPN’s decision was rooted in ratings. Although coverage of the main event last year — especially the delayed final table in November — fueled an overall 15 percent increase in viewers for all 31 telecasts, ratings for the H.O.R.S.E. event were low by comparison.
During a media session in April, WSOP commissioner Jeffrey Pollack said, “We’ve learned that games other than no-limit hold’em do not draw a significant audience on television.” H.O.R.S.E. is an acronym for a rotating mix of fixed-limit games including hold’em, Omaha high-low/8 or better, razz, stud, and stud high-low/8 or better.
Because of the elite field and the tournament’s top status, WSOP and ESPN officials should look for a solution to put the event back into the coverage lineup.
One promising suggestion came from Annie Duke, one of only two women in this year’s five-day H.O.R.S.E. event which concludes this week. (Jennifer Harman is the other). Duke proposed that the tournament remain a mixed-game event, “but include no-limit hold’em and then maybe there’s no-limit hold’em alone at the final table.”
* King of stud crowned
Jeffrey Lisandro rewrote World Series record books last week, and entered this week with a chance to set a new standard for most bracelets won in one year.
Lisandro’s victory in a $2,500 seven-card razz event was his third this year (career fourth), tying him with just four others who have scored three WSOP wins in a year. Phil Ivey was the last to do it in 2002. Before that, Ted Forrest and Phil Hellmuth each won three events in 1993 and the late Puggy Pearson pulled it off in 1973 against much smaller fields.
Lisandro’s triumphs came in the three variants of stud — seven-card high, seven-card high-low/8 or better, and seven-card razz (in which the lowest hand wins.) Doyle Brunson, Paul Clark and Gary Berland have completed stud’s career “triple crown” with WSOP victories in all three disciplines, but no one had ever won a title in all three the same year.
In an interview with WSOP media director Nolan Dalla, Lisandro acknowledged the poker immortality he would achieve with a fourth victory this week. “That would be nice — to be remembered one hundred years from now.”
Lisandro doesn’t have much time to make history. Just a handful of tournaments remain to be played. The $10,000 main event, the WSOP’s final tournament of the year, begins July 3.
* Seniors grab spotlight
Poker’s “old guard” came out in droves last week, producing the largest seniors tournament in WSOP history. A whopping 2,707 players age 50 and older plopped down $1,000 to play, blowing away last year’s then-record total of 2,218.
When the dust settled, 58-year-old Michael T. Davis, a retired home inspector from Dubuque, Iowa, claimed the title and $437,258, the largest senior’s cash prize ever.
After the victory, Davis told media director Dalla, “I have to make my yearly pilgrimage to play in the senior event. There were some superb players. I had a ball.”
He also said he just sold his business and plans to move to Las Vegas to escape harsh Midwest winters and live near his daughter. An extra $437K should help with that!
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 2009 RUSS SCOTT
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