Much of the talk surrounding the 2009 World Series of Poker before it began was about the economy and how it might affect purses and field sizes. Predictions of doom were coming from all angles and it was difficult to argue with the naysayers. Just how many people out there in this economic climate are willing to dish out tens of thousands of dollars to play poker?
Well, what we have found out over the course of the last six weeks is that while the poker business may not be recession-proof, it is certainly recession-resistant. The Main Event drew the fourth-largest field in its 40-year history with 6,494 entrants and if the final Day 1 didn't sell out that amount would have easily soared over the 7,000-mark.
Other attendance records have been broken at a regular pace during this year's WSOP and there have also been plenty of other impressive milestones reached along the way.
So, before the second November Nine is decided in the wee hours Thursday morning, let's take a look back at what we feel have been the most extraordinary milestones reached and records broken during the 2009 WSOP. And before we do, we want to offer a special tip of the poker visor to WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla and his crack staff for compiling all of this information on a daily basis.
10. Most sell-outs in one year
An eye-popping 10 tournaments reached capacity this year, marking the most gold bracelet events to sell out in one year. And this doesn't even count the Main Event, which partially sold out because the Day 1D reached capacity while the other three Day 1s did not. While this is a positive note for attendance figures, it's something the WSOP will look into before 2010. The last thing that the WSOP wants to do is turn back people so you can be sure that there will be a procedural change installed for next year so this can be avoided.
9. Most million-dollar events
The slew of sell-outs has predictably led to record purses in 2009. The 2009 WSOP saw 39 of the 57 events cross the $1 million mark for prize money, which is another new record.
After almost 19 hours of final table action, David Bach won the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship to earn the David 'Chip' Reese Memorial Trophy.(Photo by Vin Narayanan/Casino City)
8. Youngest final table
There is a certain disdain among some old-time poker pros for the players out there who come from the "online generation." But the truth is that these are the players of the future. For proof, look no further than this year's $5,000 No-Limit Shootout (Event 41) that drew the youngest final table composition in WSOP history. The ages of these infantile final tableists ranged from 21 to 24 with Hungarian Peter Traply -- better known as "Belabacsi" online – being crowned the eventual champ and taking home $348,000.
7. Most former World Champions in one event
As part of the 40th anniversary of the WSOP, the Champions Invitational was created this year. All of the previous Main Event champs were invited to come back and play for the inaugural Binion's Cup. It was a non-bracelet event, but 20 former champions came out for the event – which was won by 1983 Main Event champ Tom McEvoy – breaking the record of last year's Main Event that had 19 former champs.
6. Second-longest final table
The final table for this year's $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship began on Tuesday, June 30 at 2 p.m. And when David Bach was finally crowned the new H.O.R.S.E. champion the next morning at around 10 a.m. more than 20 hours had passed. In actual playing time this year's final table lasted 18 hours and 44 minutes, which ranks it as the second-longest. The only WSOP to last longer was the WSOP Europe Main Event last year, which went 19 hours and nine minutes. This year's H.O.R.S.E. event also now ranks second to the 2009 WSOP Europe Main Event in number of hands played with 480. This year's heads-up duel between Bach and John Hanson lasted more than seven hours.
5. Hellmuth adds to all-time cash record
Phil Hellmuth failed to capture that elusive 12th-career bracelet this year at the WSOP, but he did cash in six events, helping to continue his stranglehold on the all-time lead. The Poker Brat – who bowed out of the Main Event shortly after the money bubble burst and placed 436th – now has 72 career-WSOP cashes, well ahead of Men "The Master" Nguyen, who jumped from 59 to 62 this year.
4. Johnston's WSOP cash streak
Talk about longevity. Berry Johnston, the 1986 Main Event champ, cashed in a WSOP event for the 27th straight year in 2009, which adds to his record streak and gives him 56 career-cashes. To put this in perspective, the 74-year-old Johnston began his WSOP cash streak in 1982, three years before 2008 Main Event champ Peter Eastgate was born. And although Johnston did not cash in the Main Event this year, he still holds the record for most Main Event cashes with 10.
Phil Ivey added two bracelets to his collection at this year's WSOP and he may not be done. (Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)
3. Ivey moves up on all-time bracelet list
Phil Ivey added two more bracelets to his collection this year and at this writing he's not done yet. Ivey – who won the $2,500 Omaha High Low/Seven-Card Stud High-Low split event and the $2,500 Deuce-to-Seven No-Limit Lowball event – is one of this year's November Nine and would like nothing better than to add another bracelet to his resume. Overall, Ivey now has seven bracelets, which puts him in a tie for sixth on the all time list with Billy Baxter. The only players ahead of Ivey are Hellmuth (11 wins), Doyle Brunson (10 wins), Johnny Chan (10 wins), Johnny Moss (9 wins) and Erik Seidel (8 wins).
2. Largest non-Main Event tournament
The WSOP decided to take a cue from President Obama this year and offer a "Stimulus Special" tournament and Commissioner Pollack and crew got a much better result than our president has thus far. After offering the lowest buy-in in history, the WSOP saw 6,012 players pony up the $1,000, a field that absolutely trounced the previous record for a non-Main Event field (the 2008 $1,500 No Limit event drew 3,929). Even if you toss in Main Events, this year's $1,000 buy-in tournament still ranks as the fifth-biggest field in WSOP history, trailing only the 2006 Main Event (8,773), the 2008 Main Event (6,844), the 2009 Main Event (6,494) and the 2007 Main Event (6,358).
1. Lisandro nabs three bracelets
All of the above items on this list are impressive, but in our minds nothing was more striking at this year's WSOP than Jeffery Lisandro's performance. Even though the Main Event will factor into the WSOP Player of the Year race for the first time this year, Lisandro has already clinched the 2009 title after he became only the fifth player to win three gold bracelets within a single Series. With the hat trick, Lisandro – who had six cashes overall this year -- joined an elite list of players that includes Puggy Pearson (1973), Ted Forrest (1993), Hellmuth (1993) and Ivey (2002).
(In addition to the 10 items on this list, other records broken at this year's WSOP include the largest Six-handed tournament, largest pot-limit Omaha tournament, largest 2-7 Lowball tournament, largest Omaha H/L split tournament, largest seniors poker event and largest Seven Card Stud H/L prize pool.)