This year’s Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship attracted the largest turnout in poker history – with a whopping 3,752 entries.
Incredibly, attendance was up nearly 20 percent over last year’s turnout and the capacity crowd represented the largest single-day start for any live tournament in poker history.
The 2011 champion is James Hess, from Encino, Calif. Hess earned $557,435 in prize money – the biggest payout ever for what is commonly known as the "Seniors World Poker Championship. It was his first-ever WSOP gold bracelet, the game’s ultimate achievement.
The Seniors Poker Championship has been successful due in part to the efforts of longtime GamingToday columnist "Oklahoma" Johnny Hale, who is known as the "Elder Statesman of Poker."
Hale has organized many senior’s poker events over the years. Prior to the start of this year’s Seniors Championship, Hale conducted the annual "Roll Call," which provides for a moment of silence and reflection on behalf of many deceased poker greats, such as Benny Binion, Johnny Moss, and others.
Hale is also the caretaker of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. This year’s tournament awarded the famous "Golden Eagle" trophy, which is engraved with the winner’s name. The trophy is a keepsake that is passed forward from champion to champion, similar to the tradition of the Stanley Cup in the National Hockey League.
The battle was not easy. What was originally planned as a three-day competition extended into an early morning fourth day, when the action concluded just shy of 4 a.m. Hess made trip sixes on the final hand, topping his final adversary Richard Harwood who showed two pair.
With the conclusion of Event 30, the 2011 WSOP has now crossed the midway point in terms of total days and number of events.
Hess, 50, is originally from Cambridge (MA) and a graduate of the University of Southern California. His best prior WSOP finish was 32nd.
Through the conclusion of Event No. 29, players who have entered the most WSOP gold bracelet events are as follows:
Tom Dwan - 26
Shannon Shorr -22
Justin Smith - 22
Michael "Grinder" Mizrachi - 21
Sorel Mizzi - 20
Steven Kelly - 20
Jason Mercier - 20
Dan Heimiller - 20
Through the conclusion of Event No. 29, players who have cashed in the most WSOP gold bracelet events are as follows:
Kirill Rabtsov - 5 cashes
Shaun Deeb - 5 cashes
14 players tied with 4 cashes each
Through the conclusion of Event No. 29, female players who have cashed in the most WSOP gold bracelet events are as follows:
Melanie Weisner - 4 cashes
Jennifer Tilly - 2 cashes
Cyndy Violette - 2 cashes
Erica Schoenberg - 2 cashes
Joanne Monteavaro - 2 cashes
Svetlana Gromenkova - 2 cashes