This past April, I wrote that this was slowly becoming the Year of the Woman. Some predicted that this trend may carry over to the World Series of Poker, but after 33 events, this has not been the case.
Despite the lack of female WSOP bracelet winners, there have been some very interesting stories coming out of the 2010 WSOP, especially from players who came so close in previous years. For lack of a better name, on this week's ESPN Inside Deal, I dubbed the 2010 WSOP the Year of Redemption.
The trend seemed to begin right away with Event 2, the $50,000 Poker Player's Championship. Although his older brother Robert entered the final table as the chip leader, Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi was not going to let him or anyone else get in his way.
"I was completely focused throughout the final table," recalled Mizrachi. "I wanted to win the bracelet so badly."
Back in 2006, "The Grinder" was on top of the poker world. He captured multiple World Poker Tour titles, culminating with the 2006 Card Player Magazine's Player of the Year honor. Since then, there has always been one missing accomplishment in Grinder's mind: a WSOP title. In 2007, he witnessed Robert capture his first WSOP bracelet in the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha. In the following year, Michael had a chance to keep the same title in the family, but he finished in third place. This time, he would not let the opportunity slip through his fingers. En route to winning his first WSOP bracelet, he eliminated his brother in fifth place, earned $1,559,046 and removed himself from "The Best Player without a Bracelet" list.
In 2009, Eric Buchman entered the November Nine second in chips and was chosen by many people, including myself, as the odds-on favorite to win the main event. In the end, he came up a little short, finishing in fourth place, but the 2009 WSOP main event was not the first time he came agonizingly close to taking home WSOP hardware. In 2006, Buchman finished runner-up in Event 4, a $1,500 limit hold 'em tournament. However, Buchman was ready entering the 2010 WSOP.
"I felt confident and excited to get back to the WSOP," explained Buchman.
This confidence would allow him to cash in three events within a week, culminating in capturing his first WSOP bracelet. Buchman outlasted a field of 476 players in Event 18, $2,000 limit hold 'em and earned $203,607.
In 2005, John "Tex" Barch had an almost identical situation. Barch entered the final table second in chips and was believed to be one of the favorites. Unluckily, he finished in third place and watched as Joseph Hachem grabbed the coveted bracelet. Since then, Barch had not been regularly seen on the circuit due to his family commitments and a recent injury.
"I cut back on my travel as my two kids are 7 and 9," said Barch. "I have been coaching a lot of their sports, including Little League. Then, last year, I had shoulder surgery which prevented me from travelling." After the lengthy layoff, Barch was ready to come back with a new determination in the WSOP and made a splash, capturing his first WSOP bracelet in Event 20, $1,500 pot-limit Omaha, while winning $256,919.
Finally, Sam Farha is unfortunately best-known for finishing runner-up to Chris Moneymaker in the 2003 WSOP main event. This dubious title could have taken a toll on Farha, but instead he has thrived since that encounter. While making numerous appearances on television, Farha found the time to author a book on Omaha, which he strongly believes is his best game. Farha showed the world that he knew what he was writing about after taking home his third bracelet, all of which are in Omaha, in Event 25, $10,000 Omaha high-low split eight-or-better championship for $488,241.
Redemption is so sweet!
WSOP Update by Andrew Feldman
Can you believe that the WSOP is already more than halfway complete? With the conclusion of Events 30 and 31 early Saturday morning, there are only 26 more bracelets up for grabs, including the biggest one of them all, the main event.
Here's what's going on at the WSOP this weekend -- and just something to be aware of, a certain Phil Ivey has made a Day 3 for the first time this Series.
Event 32, $5,000 six-handed no-limit hold 'em: Mark Radoja leads the final 12 in one of the largest $5,000 six-handed events the WSOP has ever seen. He is joined by only one other player over the million-chip mark: Erick Lindgren. Lindgren has had a very quiet last two years at the WSOP since winning his first bracelet in 2008. A second bracelet is Lindgren's goal, while an eighth bracelet will be the goal of Men Nguyen, who enters the final day of play as the short stack. Winning this event will net one of these lucky players $667,433.
Event 33, $2,500 split pot-limit hold 'em/pot-limit Omaha: There are 15 players left in Event 33 and it is full of big names. Leading the way is former bracelet winner Jose-Luis Velador. No matter where he finishes, this will be his ninth cash at the WSOP. Right behind Velador is David Chiu who, if he gets there, will make his third final table of the 2010 WSOP. He already has a fourth- and ninth-place finish under his belt and will be looking for his fifth bracelet. 2010 WSOP bracelet winner Josh Tieman will try to earn the first double-bracelet honors of the Series, and he sits right above Victor Ramdin. In eighth, recent EPT champion Kevin MacPhee will look for his first bracelet, and then there's Phil Ivey. Yes, Ivey has made his first Day 3 of the series. This is his third cash of the year and a bracelet would mean a lot more to him than just the prize money. It's an amazing group of competitors left in this event, and this is the one to watch on Saturday.
Event 34, $1,000 Seniors event: A record 3,142 players bought into this event and 450 players made it to Day 2. Players must be 50 years or older to participate and yes, a bracelet will be awarded to the champion of this event. Notables making it through to Day 2 include Dennis Phillips, Tom Schneider, Berry Johnston, T.J. Cloutier and ESPN's own Lon McEachern. Go Lon! The huge field created a massive prize pool and the winner will take home $487,994.
Event 35, $10,000 no-limit hold 'em heads-up world championship: Capacity was reached in this event, and 256 players bought in for the biggest heads-up competition of the year. Two rounds were played on Friday and 64 players advanced to Day 2, where a win means they'll make the money. Yes, Phil Ivey made it through playing as few hands as possible, and others who moved on included ESPN.com's Poker Edge host Phil Gordon, Vanessa Rousso, Antonio Esfandiari, a ton of other notables, and then Andrew Feldman. Yes, the British player who shares my name is on to Day 2. He'll face off against Nicholas Rampone. Other notable matchups include Gordon versus Brock Parker, Chris Moorman versus Vladimir Shchemelev, and Mike Leah versus Faraz Jaka.
If it's Saturday, it means there's another $1,000 event on the schedule to kick off the weekend. The 5 p.m. start on Saturday belongs to the $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, which should hopefully draw around 500 players.
Bernard Lee is the official spokesperson of Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Lee is the co-host of ESPN Inside Deal, weekly poker columnist for the Boston Herald and radio host of "The Bernard Lee Poker Show."