This summer, the 48th annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) is awarding a record 74 gold bracelets, one to each of the champions. With the 37th bracelet event ($1,000 no-limit hold 'em) beginning on Monday, June 19, and finishing on June 21, we are now in the midst of the halfway point of this summer's poker extravaganza.
If you haven't been following the WSOP on a daily basis, it's easy to miss storylines. Here's what you've missed over the first half of the 2017 WSOP, including my biggest takeaways.
Attendance is up for most weekend tournaments ...
During the WSOP, every weekend has a special tournament scheduled to attract players. During the first three weekends, most events have increased attendance numbers compared to last year. One of the primary contributing factors has been the ability to re-enter each of the events.
In 2016, the Millionaire Maker had two flights and players were allowed to play both. However, in 2017, players were allowed not only to play both flights, but also to re-enter each flight once, ultimately doubling the number of possible entries per player. As for both senior events, players weren't allowed to re-enter last year, but have been able to re-enter each event once in 2017.
As for the kickoff weekend event, The Colossus, the expectation heading into the tournament was a possible record-setting number, established during the inaugural 2015 event at 22,374. This year, not only did the tournament have six flights (2015 had only four, while 2016 had six), but also for the first time, a player could re-enter each flight, giving a maximum of 12 entries per player (amazingly, one player did enter 11 times).
Here are the numbers for the weekend tournaments:
While all $10,000 Championship Events (including $111,111 High Roller Event) were down
Although most of the weekend events did see an increase in attendance, the $10,000 championship events have been down across the board. These events bring out the best players in the world within specific poker disciplines and thus many amateurs aren't willing to take a $10,000 chance on playing these events. Even the $111,111 High Roller For One Drop saw a significant decrease in participants, potentially because some players didn't want to start out the summer in such a hole if they did not cash.
Last year, we did see a slight increase over 2015 in some of these events, as the WSOP included re-entries to some of these championship events.
Marathon 'down,' while The Giant exceeded expectations
Many believed that the Marathon Event (with 26,200 starting chips with 100-minute levels) would see significant numbers, especially since the event is the closest tournament in chips and structure to the WSOP main event itself. This new event had an increase in starting chips and level duration compared to last year's similar event, Summer Solstice (only 7,500 chips, but 90-minute levels). However, the registration numbers were weaker compared to Summer Solstice (1,759 to 1,840), having a 4.4 percent decrease.
The newly introduced Giant event, which will have a Day 1 flight for five consecutive Friday nights beginning on June 9, has performed better than expected. A Caesars representative's prediction for this turbo event was between 750 and 1,000 players for the opening flight, but the Giant, with a price point same as the WSOP circuit at $365, blew away the expectations, registering 1,629 and 1,230 participants during the first two flights. With three more Friday night flights, we will see if that trend continues.
Best first-time WSOP winners
As with every summer, players from all around the world have lofty expectations entering the WSOP. Some of the best players in the world still do not own any WSOP jewelry and were considered the best players in the world without a bracelet. After the first few weeks here at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, these fortunate players can now cross their names off of this dubious list.
Liv Boeree and Igor Kurganov: Many friends joined forces to play in the Event 2 ($10,000 Tag Team Championship), but in the end, a poker power couple ended up outlasting 101 other teams. What made this victory so special is that the couple has been dating for the past several years, and to win the event as a team will be an extraordinary moment that will bond them together in history.
John Racener: Best known in the poker world as the runner-up finisher at the 2010 WSOP main event, the Florida native had made 12 WSOP final tables entering this summer. However, No. 13 was the lucky number as Racener won Event 17 ($10,000 Dealer's Choice Six-Handed event).
James Obst: This Australian has come agonizingly close to winning a bracelet, finishing runner-up twice including earlier this summer in Event 7 ($2,500 Mixed Triple Draw Lowball). However, in Event 26 ($10,000 Razz Championship), Obst overcame a 3-to-1 chip deficit to finally claim his first gold bracelet.
Chris Moorman: Considered by many as one of the most successful online poker player ever, this Englishman had two runner-up finishes in 2011. However, in Event 27 ($3000 no-limit hold'em six-handed), Moorman outlasted a field of 959 entrants to capture his first gold bracelet.
Multiple bracelet winners
Early in the 2017 WSOP, many of the bracelet winners were repeat champions. From Event 3 to Event 15, 10 out of the 13 winners already had hardware in their jewelry case. These following players now have multiple bracelets on their résumés.
Upeshka De Silva: The Sri Lanka native won three consecutive single table shootouts in three days to bring home his second bracelet in Event 3 ($3,000 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout).
Benjamin Zamani: The newly crowned World Poker Tour player of the year won his second bracelet, besting a field of 905 player in Event 4 ($1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or better). Doug Polk: The proficient video blogger took home his third WSOP bracelet in four years. However, this one earned him over 10 times more than the other two combined, as he captured Event 6 ($111,111 High Roller for One Drop) for almost $3.7 million.
Jesse Martin: The former 2013 champion in $10,000 2-7 no-limit single draw earned another lowball bracelet, this time in Event 7 ($2,500 Mixed Triple Draw Lowball).
Abe Mosseri: All eyes were watching his heads-up battle as Daniel Negreanu was trying to win his seventh WSOP bracelet, but Mosseri finished off Kid Poker, capturing his second bracelet in (Event 9: $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or better Championship).
David Bach: Event 11 ($1,500 Dealer's Choice) and Event 30 ($10,000 H.O.R.S.E Championship. See below for more details. David Pham: Winning his first bracelet over a decade ago in 2001, the "Dragon" captured his second in 2006. Over a decade later, Pham earned his third bracelet in Event 12 ($1,500 No-Limit Hold'em).
Frank Kassela: The 2010 WSOP POY won his third bracelet in Event 13 ($1,500 2-7 no-limit single draw event) outlasting yours truly (thanks to everyone for their well-wishes and support).
David Singer: The longtime pro battled almost six hours to win his second bracelet in Event 14 ($1,500 H.O.R.S.E).
Adrian Mateos: This 22-year-old Spaniard won his third bracelet in Event 15 ($10,000 Heads-Up Championship), becoming the youngest player ever to win three bracelets.
John Monnette: With his new bride watching, "Angry John" won his third bracelet in the coveted $10,000 2-7 no-limit single draw championship (Event 22).
Ben Yu: This 31-year old Stanford graduate claimed his second bracelet (first in 2015 in $10,000 Limit Hold'em Championship) in three years. This time, Yu won another championship event, Event 34 ($10,000 Limit 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw Championship) besting two-time bracelet winner Shawn Deeb.
Multiple-bracelet-winner streak still alive
Ever since 2000, there has always been at least one player that has won multiple bracelets in a single year. In 2017, this remarkable streak will continue as David Bach initially captured Event 11 ($1,500 Dealers' Choice Six-Handed). Then, just 10 days later, Bach won his second bracelet of the summer (third career) by taking home Event 30 ($10,000 H.O.R.S.E Championship). This event was headlined by Daniel Negreanu (see below) who had already final tabled two events this summer and 2016 WSOP Player of the Year (POY) Jason Mercier, who had won the same event last year. The "Gunslinger" came out on top to keep the multiple bracelet streak alive.
Third WSOP POY for Negreanu?
Since the award's inception in 2004, the WSOP POY has only been won by one player twice -- Daniel Negreanu (2004, 2013). The six-time bracelet winner is always one of the proverbial favorites heading into the summer. This year, he has had a tremendous start with already six cashes, including three final tables. Unfortunately, Kid Poker has come close, but has been unable to win bracelet 7 with a third- (Event 2: $10,000 Tag Team event), second- (Event 9: $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better) and sixth-place finish (Event 30: $10,000 H.O.R.S.E.). At the halfway point, Negreanu is in third place in the WSOP POY standings.
With the WSOP Europe, held at King's Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, part of the calculations this year, the winner will not be determined until early November. However, once again, Negreanu is among the leaders and we will watch to see if he can win an unprecedented third WSOP POY.
Second-half WSOP events to watch
There are over 30 events remaining on the 48th Annual WSOP schedule. Here are some of events to highlight during the remainder of the summer:
Event 19: $365 The Giant: There are three more Day 1 flights and the remaining players will reconvene on Saturday, July 8, to play Day 2. As this event ends during the beginning of the main event, the $10,000 championship event will add a unique excitement to the Giant.
Event 47: $1,500 Monster Stack: Last year, 6,927 entries started this event. Will the trend continue with more entries during the weekend events than the previous year? This large stack event (15,000 starting chips) will not incorporate a re-entry, which won't help increase the number of entrants.
Event 59: $2,500 Big Bet: This inaugural event includes seven games that are considered to be big bet and highly volatile: No-Limit Hold'em, No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw, 2-7 Pot-Limit Lowball Triple Draw, Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better, Pot-Limit Omaha, Big O, and No-Limit 5 Card Draw. This bracelet event will bring out some of the best players in the world, using all of their "big bet" skills.
Event 62: $50,000 Poker Players Championship: Many poker pros consider this event to be the most prestigious outside of the WSOP main event. With an eight-game rotation (No Limit Hold'em, Limit Hold'em, Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better, Razz, Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better, Pot-Limit Omaha, 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw Six-Handed), these combatants have to be proficient in all of these games to win the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy.
Event 67: $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha (PLO): Currently, the second-most popular poker game, this high-roller tournament will bring together the best PLO players in the world to compete for a seven-digit first prize and the coveted gold bracelet.
Event 73: $10,000 Main Event: With the increased same day coverage on ESPN, all poker eyes will be focused on the WSOP main event this year. With the November Nine defunct, the champion will be crowned during the summer on Saturday, July 22.
Last year, 6,737 players competed in the WSOP main event, up from 2015. However, consistent with the other $10,000 championship events, I predict that we will have a decrease this year to around 6,625 players. This number would still make the tournament the seventh-largest in the history of the WSOP main event.