WSOP: One for the ages!

Jul 18, 2005 12:08 AM

In its first year handling the World Series of Poker, Harrah’s has done an outstanding job. Especially considering how the sheer numbers have exponentially increased over last year.

Through its handling of all the players, the media (over 300 were credentialed), the money, the dealers, the TV coverage ”¦ Harrah’s actually made it look easy.

That’s not to say there weren’t complaints and complainers. Some members of the media complained about being able to get onto the floor, some players complained about delays in getting paid, but for the most part everyone enjoyed the tournament.

Besides the championship event (see page 1 story), here are some of the highlights of the 2005 World Series of Poker.

There have been a lot of players with notable achievements this year, with multiple final tables or a record number of cashes. But there are four players who clearly stand out from the crowd with outstanding performances: Allen Cunningham, Mark Seif, Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson.

Allen Cunningham is the first person in history to earn a million dollars in a single World Series, prior to the playing of the championship event.

Cunningham won the first open event (Event No. 2, $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em), which was nearly the size of last year’s championship event. Even with $725,000 from that one win, getting to a million wasn’t easy. When he made his fourth final table, he started out eighth in chips, and had to finish in seventh place or higher to break the million-dollar mark. He finished seventh, writing his name in the history books in the process.

With the field sizes exploding, most felt multiple bracelet winners were a thing of the past. But Mark Seif proved them wrong, winning his first career bracelet in Event No. 15 ($1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout), then winning his second bracelet just seven days later in Event No. 22 ($1,500 No-Limit Hold’em). And these weren’t low-turnout events; he beat out 450 players the first time, and 2,013 players the second.

The tournament started with a three-way tie for first place in career bracelets: Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Hellmuth each had nine. Not any more.

Johnny Chan made his way through the final table in Event No. 25 ($2,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em) to record his tenth bracelet. It only took 16 hands before his pocket queens held up against Phil "Unabomber" Laak’s K-J, and just like that, Johnny Chan was the first person to win 10 WSOP gold bracelets.

The new record lasted for four days. That’s how long it took for the legendary Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson to catch him. Brunson battled through a tough final table (Minh Ly, Scotty Nguyen, Layne Flack) to win his tenth career bracelet in Event No. 31 ($5,000 Short-Handed No-Limit Hold’em).

A endearing crowd favorite, Brunson who limps and uses a crutch, stayed focused deep into the night, winning the last hand at 3:51 am.

There were 23 players who made multiple final tables this year. Of those, there were four players who made three final tables: Todd Brunson (finishing 1st, 6th, 8th), Erik Seidel (1st, 8th, 9th), Cyndy Violette (2nd, 7th, 7th), and Minh Nguyen (2nd, 7th, 9th).

But there was just one player who made four final tables. It should come as no surprise that it was Allen Cunningham (1st, 4th, 4th, 7th).

An interesting piece of trivia: each of the players with three or more final tables only cashed in one other event. So once they made the money, they usually made the final table.

Speaking of cashes, there were just four players who cashed more than five times: Anthony Cousineau (seven cashes, $146,890), Marco Traniello (seven cashes, $75,740), Max Pescatori (six cashes, $101,620), and Steve Zolotow (six cashes, $57,545).

The career record for cashes is still tied between Phil Hellmuth and Berry Johnston, with 49 each. While Hellmuth missed his chance to be the first player with 10 bracelets, he can take the consolation prize by being the first player with 50 cashes

But Berry Johnston is still going strong, and if Hellmuth falls short, he might just be spending another year one cash behind Mr. Johnston.

There were a few other memorable moments. The aforementioned Brunson family, father Doyl and son Todd, became the first time a father and son won bracelets.

Todd won Event No. 21 ($2,500 Omaha Hi-Lo Split), his first ever, to go along with dad’s great achievements.

Not to be outdone, Barry Greenstein won Event No. 19 ($1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha), while his step-son Joe Sebok made two final tables.

This year’s tournament saw a number of celebrities — actors and athletes — join in the action. Former Penn State quarter back Zack Mills, golfer Rocco Mediate, and champion wide receiver Shannon Sharpe threw their green eye-shades into the poker arena.

Actress Jennifer Tilly, who charmed poker opponents as well as spectators, actually parlayed a history of poker playing to win a gold bracelet in the Ladies Championship event.

Making a splash in his first World Series, rookie Todd Witteles should have considered playing more events. He only played in two events but made them count: He finished in third place in Event No. 4 ($1,500 Limit Hold’em), and followed that up with a victory in Event No. 36 ($3,000 Limit Hold’em). Witteles, a strong Internet player that goes by the comical name of "Dan Druff," clearly has the potential to become a repeat champion. Hopefully, he’ll play in more than two events next year.

Eric Froehlich became the youngest player to ever win an event at the World Series, taking the bracelet in Event No. 4 ($1,500 Limit Hold’em) just four months after his 21st birthday.