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Top-10 storylines from the 2009 WSOP

21 June 2009

The 2009 World Series of Poker is in full stride and the anticipation is beginning to build for the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship, which begins later this week, and the Main EVent, which starts July 3. So before we get to the two biggest events left on the WSOP docket, let's take a look at some of the storylines that have broke since the havoc began back in late May.

10. Attendance records broken early and often
Heading into the 2009 WSOP, there were a lot of questions as to how the global recession would affect attendance. The answers to those questions were answered very early as two out of the first four events broke records for either attendance or prize pools.

The third event on the docket was a $1,500 Omaha 8-or-Better tournament and it set the mark for the largest Omaha tournament in WSOP history with 918 entrants, besting the old record of 833. Then Event #4 – a newly created event called the "Stimulus Special" – set the largest non-WSOP Main Event tournament ever played. Through 33 events the combined WSOP prize pool has passed the $60 million mark.

Attendance has held steady since the start of the WSOP and now the big question on everyone's mind is what kind of attendance figure the Main Event will draw. Last year the Main Event had a 6,844 players competing for the big prize. Only the 2006 Main Event, with 8,773 players, had a larger field.

9. The success of the "Stimulus Special"
As mentioned above, the WSOP met its goal of getting a large field for its newly created $1,000 buy-in Stimulus Special No Limit Hold'em event. The idea was to have an event with a lower buy-in than usual in order to draw some people who may have otherwise stayed away.

Consider it a mission accomplished as the event drew 6,012 entries and had 621 spots paid out. The prize pool was $5.4 million and the eventual winner, first-time bracelet winner Steve Sung, carried home a check made out to the tune of $771,338. Sung, however, wasn't some country bumpkin that came to the event for simply the thrill of playing in the WSOP. The win marked Sung's sixth WSOP cash and brought his career-earnings to more than $1 million.

8. $40K event makes for a record prize pool
For years, many of the poker pros have been longing for a big buy-in No Limit event and the WSOP staff gave'em what they wanted this year with a $40,000 event that was created to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the WSOP. While the actual number of entrants (201) was relatively low by some observer's standards, the big names were out in force and the large buy-in helped the event set the record for the largest prize pool in a non-Main Event field with $7,718,400 at stake. Former Main Event champ Greg Raymer made a run at the title, but ended up in third place. The eventual winner was Vitaly Lunkin, who cashed a check worth a cool $1,891,012 when he took down Isaac Haxton when it got down to heads up.

7. Bracelet ceremonies catching on (sort of)
A new tradition has been created this year at the WSOP where the winners of each event are awarded their bracelets in an official ceremony the next day. The ceremony mimics what is done at the Olympics with the winner's national anthem being played after WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack hands them the coveted piece of jewelry. At first, it seemed that most people in the Rio didn't know how to react, but as the days have gone on more and more people are now standing for the anthem.

The ceremonies have not gone without a few hiccups, however. In one instance, the wrong anthem was played. Also, after Richard Austin won Event #35 he made the classless move to not only refuse to speak with the media, but he also announced he didn't want any part of the bracelet ceremony, prompting the WSOP media relations team to announce, "Following Austin's victory, he declined to be interviewed. Furthermore, Austin refuses to participate in the traditional WSOP gold bracelet ceremony. This means there will be no gold bracelet ceremony held on Saturday, June 20th. Austin is the first WSOP winner to decline participation in post-tournament activities. All other 34 gold bracelet winners this year have agreed to participate in interviews and festivities. The WSOP Media and Pubic Relations makes every effort to provide as much background information about the winner as possible. However, coverage of this tournament (Event 35) is, by necessity, limited to facts and figures about the event, rather than the winner."

Austin is a Kentucky native who is a first-time bracelet winner and this was also his first WSOP cash. Poker has been pretty good to him over the years as he has earned more than $600,000 in tournaments all over the country in the last four years. Why he would snub the hard-working WSOP staff and disrespect the game is a mystery. Hopefully, the WSOP decides to send Austin his bracelet via snail mail and it somehow gets lost. That would be sweet justice.

6. "Twittering" takes center stage
The popularity of Twitter has absolutely exploded over the last few months and it has become an efficient and entertaining way to follow the WSOP. More and more players are using it as a way to communicate and update their fans and to be quite honest, it's much more fun to hear Phil Hellmuth rant in 140 characters or less about his status rather than watching his chip count on the WSOP Web site.

Earlier this month, Casino City posted a list of the Top-10 WSOP-related "twitterers," so if you aren't already following them it's time to get on board for the remainder of the WSOP.

5. A triple crown for Roland De Wolfe
The former poker writer – yes some people can write and play poker – has put himself in pretty select company after becoming just the second player in history to win an EPT title, a WPT title and a WSOP bracelet – poker's version of the triple crown. De Wolfe picked up the third part of that trifecta last week when he captured a $5,000 buy-in Pot Limit Omaha High-Low Split Eight or Better event. Gavin Griffin is the only other player to pull off this feat.

De Wolfe almost won a second bracelet over the weekend when he finished fifth in a $1,500 No Limit Hold'em event. Overall he has five cashes this year and it appears he is going to be a major factor in the Player of the Year race.

4. Brock Parker breaks through
Brock Parker – a man well known throughout online poker circles by the name "TSoprano" – is one of three players this year to have won two bracelets. He emerged from a field of 1,068 to win Event 19, the $2,500 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em event just a week after winning the $2,500 Six-Handed Limit Hold'em event.

The first big win for Parker in the Six-Handed event earned him some extra attention since he faced a big chip deficit heading into heads up play against none other than Daniel Negreanu. But he turned the tables on Kid Poker and got the coveted first bracelet. Parker has played in a lot of events this year and if he keeps it up he could make a run at Player of the Year.

3. Kid Poker has been busy
Although he has cooled off as of late, Daniel Negreanu was the talk of the Rio in the early going, playing in every event as he could and doing pretty well. Although he hasn't captured a fifth-career bracelet, Kid Poker cashed in four of the first 18 events, including three Top-5 finishes.

Make no mistake about it. When a player that holds the stature of Daniel Negreanu does well at the WSOP, it's good for everyone involved – the fans, the TV ratings, and the media. Negreanu is unabashed in speaking about his desire to win a second Player of the Year award. He knows exactly what it will take for him to accumulate enough points to contend so you can expect to see even more of him as the WSOP moves on.

2. Lisandro is a 'stud'
(EDITORS NOTE: Since this story was posted Lisandro won a third braclet this year in the $2,500 Razz event)

As good as Negreanu has been this year, a lesser known player among the fans but certainly not the poker pros has been even better. Jeffrey Lisandro not only became the third player to win a bracelet for each wrist this year, but he also has a total of five cashes in 2009, which has helped him earn nearly $600,000.

The Italian known as "Iceman" has long been known as one of the best cash players in the game and Seven Card Stud has always been his specialty. He has further driven home that point as both of his bracelet wins came in stud events. Over the weekend he won the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo World Championship and that victory came just 12 days after he won a $1,500 Seven Card Stud event. Overall for his career, Lisandro now has three WSOP bracelets. The other one came in 2007 in – you guessed it – a $2,000 Seven Card Stud event.

(Just as an aside, Doyle Brunson final tabled the $10k Stud event and finished seventh. If he had won it, an 11th-career WSOP bracelet for Texas Dolly certainly would have ranked high on this Top-10 list)

1. The legend of Phil Ivey grows
Not that anyone would have disputed Phil Ivey's claim as one of the game's greatest players before the start of the 2009 WSOP, but his performance in the first few weeks of this year's Series has reminded everyone just how brilliant a player that he is. The worst-kept secret at last year's WSOP was that Ivey lost millions of dollars on side bets with fellow pros when failed to win a bracelet. But rumor has it he had the same kind of action going this year and if that is indeed the case, Ivey has made his money back and more.

Through Sunday's action, Ivey has won two bracelets – one in the $ 2,500 2-7 Lowball and another in the $ 2,500 Omaha/Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo. What's more, he was multi-tabling two tournaments when he won the second bracelet and finished just out of the money in the other one. Also, on the day he won the bracelet, he reportedly cashed in for six figures playing online.

Ivey now has seven bracelets for his career, moving him into a sixth-place tie on the all-time WSOP bracelet list and just one behind fifth-place Erik Seidel. He also has two other cashes this year – an 18th-place finish in a $ 2,500 No Limit Hold'em event and a 44th in a $ 2,500 Pot Limit Omaha – meaning he's not only earned nearly $350,000 in WSOP winnings, but he done so in four different events. That, my friends, is versatility.

Top-10 storylines from the 2009 WSOP is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT