WSOP Poker Variations: Introduction

[LL] “I really enjoy the dealer’s choice cash games after our Hold ‘Em tournaments”, Leroy the Lion opined. “While I appreciate the fact that Hold ‘Em is probably the most accessible game for amateurs, I’m a really big fan of variety. For example, I don’t have a favorite food, so if you ask me what I want to eat, it’ll be something I haven’t had in a while.”

[FF] “I like the fact that it’s a cash game, so you can rebuy if you run out of chips”, Figaro the Fish said. “Busting out of a tournament is just so… final. But I like the variety too. I actually wish we played more different games.”

[RR] “It’s dealer’s choice”, Roderick the Rock reminded Figaro. “Just call whatever you want.”

[FF] “I tried that. But you guys have already banned Baseball, Follow the Queen, Five Card Draw with One-Eyed Jack and Suicide Kings…”

[LL] “You mean every game with wild cards.”

[SS] “There are enough games you can play without relying on the luck of wild cards”, Stan the Stat insisted.

[FF] “But those are my favorites!”

[SS] “There’s a reason no games at the World Series of Poker have wild cards… Actually, did you know that there was one game, played only twice, that had wild cards?”

[RR] “Really!?”

[SS] “Yep. No Limit Ace to Five Draw with Joker was contested in 1983 and 1986. Only 37 and 32 players entered, and it never came back.”1

[FF] “That’s too bad.”

[LL] “The problem with wild card games, Figaro, is that the wild cards are too powerful. If you have one, you have too big an advantage over the players who don’t have one. But like Stan said, there are lots of games to choose from, even if we just stick with what they play at the WSOP.”

[SS] “Very true. Even though a No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em tournament has served as the championship event since 1971 (and that’s been true for pretty much every major poker festival ever since),2 the WSOP has always had a good variety of games.

The first five events were:

  • Limit Ace to Five Draw
  • Limit Razz
  • Limit 7 Card Stud
  • Limit 5 Card Stud
  • No Limit Hold ‘Em

Game Types

These five events covered the three basic types of poker games: stud, flop, and draw. Those early poker pioneers already possessed the skills to handle almost every game that has ever been played at the WSOP even as it grew from 5 events to 69.

Stud

Three of the 1971 events were stud games: Razz,3 7 Card Stud, and 5 Card Stud.

Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo (or Split) was added in 1976.

Flop

No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em was the only flop game played in 1971. Limit and Pot Limit versions would join the mix in 1983 and 1992, respectively.

Omaha would be added as a Limit game in 1983 and as a Pot Limit game in 1984. Both would also gain Hi/Lo versions (1990 for Pot Limit and 2000 for Limit). Big O (Omaha with five hole cards) would join as part of mixed games in 2015.

Draw

Ace to Five Draw was the only flop game played in 1971. It seems like a surprising choice now, as many movies set in poker’s past portray Five Card Draw as the game of choice.

Ace to Five Triple Draw, Deuce to Seven Draw, Deuce to Seven Triple Draw, Badugi, Badeucy, and Badacey are the other draw poker games that have been played at the WSOP, the latter three only in mixed tournaments.

Game Limits

The 1971 WSOP had four Limit games and one No Limit game. The first Pot Limit game was Pot Limit Omaha in 1984.

Hold ‘Em is the only game that has been played as Limit, Pot Limit, and No Limit. Omaha is Limit or Pot Limit.4 Ace to Five Draw is Limit or No Limit.

High, Low, or Hi/Lo

The 1971 WSOP had three High-only games and two Low-only games. The first Hi/Lo game, also known as a Split game, was Seven-Card Stud Split in 1976.

Hold ‘Em and Five Card Stud have only been played as High-only games.

Omaha is a High or Hi/Lo game (called Omaha 8 among other names).

Five Card Draw is a High-only game whose Low-only partners are Deuce to Seven Draw and Ace to Five Draw, which differ mainly in what the low hands are.

Seven Card Stud can be a High-only game or a Hi/Lo game (Stud 8); Razz is the Low-only counterpart.

Badugi, Badeucy, and Badacey are Low-only games.”

[FF] “That’s a lot of poker variations!”

[SS] “More than enough to keep you and Leroy happy for a while, I hope.”

Footnotes:

  1. Mike Cox finished second in 1983 and first in 1986. David Angel finished first in 1983 and third in 1986. Some well known pros also cashed in 1986: Jack Keller (2nd), Dewey Tomko (5th), Bobby Baldwin (6th), Stu Ungar (7th), and Billy Baxter (8th).
  2. In roughly chronological order, the Main Event for all of the following are contested in No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em: World Series of Poker, Super Bowl of Poker, Irish Open, U.S. Poker Championship, World Poker Tour, Aussie Millions, and the European Poker Tour.
  3. Razz is basically 7 Card Stud Low. Razz and all of the other poker variants will be explained over the coming weeks.
  4. No Limit Omaha does exist. The 2016 WPT L.A. Poker Classic had a No Limit Omaha 8 or Better tournament.
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Poker Mad Gab


[RR] “Are you playing that poker game again?” Roderick the Rock asked Deb the Duchess.

[DD] “Well, as much as I like to play to warm up for these tournaments, today the answer is ‘no'”, Deb responded. “I’m actually beta testing a new game from the same developer.”

[RR] “What is it?”

[DD] “It’s a poker-themed Mad Gab game.”1

[RR] “My kids love Mad Gab.”

[DD] “Well, they might enjoy this version, but I think it’ll be too hard for them. Unless you play poker or are a fan of poker, most of the answers might as well be in Greek.”

[RR] “Hit me with one.”

[DD] “Well, the sample puzzle is:

	They Tub Bow Curb Row"

[RR] “Day Dub Oh… Day Duh Poke… Day Duh Poker something… Oh, of course. THETA Poker Pro.”

[DD] “Yeah, horrible example, but that’s the developer’s Hold ‘Em app. Probably not the best place for cross-promotion though.”

[RR] “How about a good puzzle.”

[DD] “My favorite so far was this word palindrome:2

	Hoe Sake Ants Sake Hoe"

[RR] “Hose A Can’t Say Co… Hoe Say Can’t Say Co… Jose Canseco!”

[DD] “Right. You’re pretty good at these!”

[RR] “I’ve had a lot of practice. What does a baseball player have to do with poker?”

[DD] “He’s a celebrity poker player. I’m sure Stan could tell you for sure, but Canseco played in a couple WSOP Main Events.3

Celebrity Poker Players is one of the main categories. Unlike normal Mad Gab, this game provides hints if you need them instead of using a human coach to help you. The first hint is the general category (e.g., Poker Pro, Player Nickname, Hand Nickname, Poker Phrase, etc.). The second hint can be almost anything.”

[RR] “Cool. Hit me with another one.”

[DD] “Okay, here’s one that alliterates:

	Hair Heap Hotter"

[RR] “Oh, that’s too easy. Harry Potter. He doesn’t play poker, does he?”

[DD] “No, that’s a hand nickname. Harry Potter means J.K. Rowling, and her initials stand for the Jack-King.”

[RR] “Did you hear that she’s publishing another book?”

[DD] “Can’t wait, even though it’s just the script of a play. And Harry Potter and the Cursed Child isn’t out until the end of July.”

[RR] “I’m sure my kids will enjoy it more than Poker Mad Gab, but I’d love to do some more puzzles.”

[DD] “Okay, why don’t you just start a new game on my iPhone? The app’s still early beta, so the puzzles are in alphabetical order for now, but I assume they’ll be randomized later.”

{ Rod quickly plays through the following dozen Mad Gabs. See if you can solve each of these dozen puzzles in under a minute each. Score three points for each correct answer, but subtract one point for each hint you use. Highlight any of the hidden cells to read them. }

Puzzle Category Hint Second Hint Answer Notes
A Knack Or Nick Oaf A hand nickname tennis player Anna Kournikova Ace-King (for her initials). Vince Van Patten claimed this was a particularly apt nickname because both Kournikova and Ace-King “look great but never win”.
Air Hicks Idol poker pro top High Roller Erik Seidel Seidel was the runner-up in the 1988 WSOP Main Event and finished 4th in 1999.
An Need Uke poker pro top female poker pro Annie Duke Duke was the Last Woman Standing in the 2000 and 2003 WSOP Main Events.
And Honey Hand Glee Of Batter Ah hand nickname historical figures Antony & Cleopatra Ace-Queen (“A” for Antony)
Ant Owe Neo West Fund Tee Are He poker pro popular pro Antonio Esfandiari Esfandiari won the 2012 Big One for One Drop for over $18 million.
Ape Hair poker phrase hand type A Pair Two cards of the same denomination
Array Nub Oval Hop poker phrase share and share alike A Rainbow Flop In Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha, a rainbow flop is when the first three cards on the boards have three different suits.
Axe Shunt Tan player nickname Massachusetts native Action Dan Dan Harrington’s ironic nickname given his usually tight play
Ball Beers celebrity player basketball player Paul Pierce The NBA player was Last Celebrity Standing in the 2014 WSOP Main Event.
Barber Of Felt Ton hand nickname actress Barbara Feldon A pair of Nines. Feldon played Agent 99 in the Get Smart television series.
Basque Keen Raw Beans hand nickname food Baskin Robbins Ace-Three. The ice cream chain boasts 31 flavors.
Bathe Hat Mayonnaise Moon Knee movie quote quote from Rounders Pay That Man His Money In Rounders, Teddy KGB concedes to Mike McDermott.

[RR] “Please tell the developer that I enjoyed his game so much I almost wish I had an iPhone.”

[DD] “Cons Hitter Rid Ton.”4

[RR] “Than Cue.”5

Footnotes:

  1. Sorry, although the Poker Mad Gab app has been almost completely designed, no actual development is planned. I would love to actually make the app for iOS and tvOS, but I just don’t have the time because of THETA Poker Pro.
  2. A normal palindrome spells the same thing forward and backward if you reverse the letters, ignoring spaces. A word palindrome is the same thing each way if you reverse the words.
  3. Jose Canseco played in the 2007 and 2008 WSOP Main Events but didn’t cash either year.
  4. “Consider it done.”
  5. “Thank you.”

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Stan’s Lists – High Roller Poker Tournaments

[SS] “Do you guys remember a TV game show called High Rollers in the 1970s?” Stan the Stat wondered.

[RR] “Sure, that was with Alex Trebek before he became famous for Jeopardy!“, Roderick the Rock offered. “Big dice, Shut the Box rules with a bonus roll for doubles.”

[LL] “I was a bigger fan of The Joker’s Wild, but I watched it a few times”, Leroy the Lion acknowledged. “I like anything with trivia, but their questions were a bit too easy.”

[RR] “Especially for the size of the prizes. By the standards of the time, the players were definitely high rollers. I remember one episode where two contestants combined to win over $30,000 and a new car.”1

[SS] “But even though they were rolling dice, they weren’t the kind of high rollers casinos are looking for. Casinos have entire departments of employees whose job is to bring in whales to gamble and lose, not win. Slot machines may bring in a steady rake of profit, but high rollers can dump hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars during each visit, so they’re comped free rooms, food, drinks, and entertainment as long as they keep gambling.

For many of these players, the thrill of gambling requires betting large enough amounts to make it exciting. Table limits and poker buyins keep going up. At one point, a poker tournament was considered to be a High Roller affair if the buyin exceeded the $10,000 of the World Series of Poker Main Event. The threshold went from $15,000 to $20,000 to $25,000 to $50,000. Then the Aussie Millions claimed the first A$100,000 buyin ($73,290) in 2006. By 2011, when they added a A$250,000 buyin ($247,256) event Down Under, six-figure buyin events were set to explode. The number of $100,000 buyin events2 jumped from one in 2010 to five in 2011:

$100,000+ Buyin Poker Tournaments by Year

Year Events
2006 1
2007 1
2008 1
2009 1
2010 1
2011 5
2012 8
2013 10
2014 13
2015 10

The following year, the World Series of Poker set the current high-water mark with the biennial one million dollar buyin for the Big One for One Drop.

Since then, the next biggest buyin event has been the Aria $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl in 2015, which returns this year with a $300,000 buyin.

The various Aussie Millions A$250,000 events come next, peaking at a converted worth of $263,925 in 2013, mixed in with the two million Hong Kong dollar Macau High Stakes Challenge Super High Roller in 2012, which worked out to $257,854.

The $100+K buyin events with the most players have been the two $111,111 One Drop High Rollers with 166 players in 2013 and 135 players in 2015. No other field has topped 100, even counting rebuys.

Top High Rollers

Unfortunately, no official records exist for how many rebuys players have made, so we don’t know if players who cashed even made a profit. We also don’t know who sold off pieces of their action or how much. But we do know who the winners are. Daniel Colman was the first player to win three of these events, all in 2014, and Phil Ivey and Erik Seidel3 matched the record in 2015. Brian Rast, Dan Smith, Fabian Quoss, Fedor Holz, Jason Mercier, Philipp Gruissem, Sam Trickett, Steve O’Dwyer, and Tom Marchese have each won two. Here are the resumes of these dozen big-time high rollers, roughly sorted from best to worst:

Erik Seidel

  • 1st 2011 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2011 WPT World Poker Classic $100,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2015 EPT Monte Carlo €100,000 Super High Roller
  • 2nd 2007 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 2nd 2013 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic $100,000 High Roller
  • 3rd 2011 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 3rd 2014 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 4th 2014 Bellagio $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Super High Roller
  • 5th 2015 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 6th 2015 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 7th 2015 Aria $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl

Phil Ivey

  • 1st 2012 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2014 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2015 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 2nd 2010 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 5th 2016 WPT Philippines $200,000 Super High Roller
  • 8th 2012 Macau HK$2,000,000 High Stakes Challenge Super High Roller
  • 10th 2006 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge

Daniel Colman

  • 1st 2014 EPT Monte Carlo €100,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2014 WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop
  • 1st 2014 WPT Alpha8 London €60,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 3rd 2014 Aria Super High Roller $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max
  • 6th 2016 WPT Philippines $200,000 Super High Roller

Jason Mercier

  • 1st 2011 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic $100,000 High Roller
  • 1st 2014 WPT Alpha8 St. Kitts $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 2nd 2013 EPT Monte Carlo €100,000 Super High Roller
  • 2nd 2014 Bellagio Summer High Roller $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max
  • 3rd 2014 WPT Alpha8 Johannesburg $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 3rd 2016 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge

Sam Trickett

  • 1st 2011 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 1st 2013 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 2nd 2011 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 2nd 2012 WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop
  • 7th 2012 Macau HK$2,000,000 High Stakes Challenge Super High Roller

Fabian Quoss

  • 1st 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2016 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 3rd 2013 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 4th 2016 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 5th 2014 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller

Brian Rast

  • 1st 2015 Aria $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl
  • 1st 2013 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic $100,000 High Roller
  • 3rd 2014 WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 3rd 2014 Aria Super High Roller II $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max

Tom Marchese

  • 1st 2012 WPT World Championship $100,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2014 Aria Super High Roller II $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max
  • 3rd 2014 Bellagio Summer High Roller $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max
  • 6th 2015 Aria $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl

Steve O’Dwyer

  • 1st 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2016 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 4th 2016 WPT Philippines $200,000 Super High Roller

Philipp Gruissem

  • 1st 2013 WPT Alpha8 London €100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 1st 2013 WPT Alpha8 St. Kitts $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 5th 2013 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller

Fedor Holz

  • 1st 2015 WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 1st 2016 WPT Philippines $200,000 Super High Roller
  • 6th 2016 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge

Dan Smith

  • 1st 2012 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 1st 2014 Bellagio Summer High Roller $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max

Honorable mention to Antonio Esfandiari, for having won the largest prize in poker history by taking down the 2012 WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop for $18,346,673, and to Jonathan Duhamel, for being the only WSOP Main Event champion to win one of these events, the 2015 WSOP $111,111 High Roller for One Drop.”

[LL] “I’m surprised that Daniel Negreanu isn’t on your list.”

[SS] “Amazingly, he has yet to win a six-digit High Roller. He’s come very close several times, notably placing second to Colman in the 2014 Big One for One Drop. He’s reached eight final tables, so it’ll happen soon enough.”

[FF] “Are there any female high rollers?”

Female High Rollers

[SS] “Only two women have had any real success in the high rollers, and only Vanessa Selbst has won an event:

Vanessa Selbst

  • 1st 2015 Aria $100,000 No Limit Hold’em Shootout
  • 3rd 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller

Kathy Lehne

  • 2nd 2014 WPT Alpha8 St. Kitts $100,000 No Limit Hold’em
  • 6th 2015 WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas $100,000 No Limit Hold’em
  • 8th 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller”

[RR] “Who’s Kathy Lehne?”

[SS] “Lehne is a businesswoman, the President and CEO of Sun Coast Resources, a fuel distribution company in Houston that she founded in 1985. She had a few other small cashes a few years back, and her next cash should bring her over the $1,000,000 mark in career winnings. Of course, her next cash could alone be for over $1,000,000!”

Footnotes:

  1. The episode can be found on YouTube.
  2. “High Roller” events are defined here as $100,000 or higher buyin tournaments, with allowances made for currency fluctuations that technically dropped most of the A$100,000 Aussie Millions under the threshold (all but 2012 and 2013). The WPT Alpha8 London €60,000 No Limit Hold’em was also deemed “close enough” at $96,000. So far, all these events have been No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em, but it wouldn’t be surprising if another type of poker, like Omaha, had a $100,000 buyin soon.
  3. Seidel was the first player to win two $100,000+ High Roller tournaments, back in 2011, two years before Sam Trickett and Philipp Gruissem. And for completeness sake, John Juanda was the first to win one, as he took down the inaugural A$100,000 Aussie Millions in 2006.
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Stan’s Lists – Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker


[RR] “Are you guys going to a Super Bowl Party on Sunday?” Roderick the Rock polled.

[SS] “Yep”, Stan the Stat acknowledged.

[FF] “Sure”, Figaro the Fish responded. “I always do.”

[LL] “Kind of”, Leroy the Lion wavered. “I always go to a Super Bowl Commercial Party. We watch the game, but the stars of the night are the commercials, which we vote on to determine a favorite.”

[RR] “You know what I hate the most about Super Bowl Sunday?” Roderick asked rhetorically.

[RR] “When the game’s over, I know there won’t be another meaningful NFL game for seven months!”

[SS] “Maybe so, but did you guys know that there was once another Super Bowl just a few weeks after the Super Bowl?”

[RR] “What, the Bud Bowl?”

[FF] “The Lingerie Bowl?”

[LL] “The Puppy Bowl?”

[SS] “No, those all took place during the Super Bowl, and none of them are called a Super Bowl anyway.”

[FF] “The Canadian Football League’s Super Bowl?”

[SS] “It’s called the Grey Cup, and it’s in November.”

[LL] “Arena Football League?”

[SS] “ArenaBowl in August.”

[FF] “NFL Europe?”

[SS] “World Bowl in June.”

[LL] “XFL?”

[SS] “Million Dollar Game in April…1

No, I’m talking about the Super Bowl of Poker!”

{ Multiple groans. }

[SS] “Hey, I never said anything it had anything to do with football. Anyway in 1979, Amarillo Slim Preston thought the poker world was big enough to support a second large festival besides the World Series of Poker, so he created the Super Bowl of Poker. Just a few weeks after the Steelers beat the Cowboys 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII, the Hilton in Las Vegas hosted the inaugural event. Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker lasted until 1991 in Nevada, then reappeared once in Los Angeles in 1996.

So this year is not only the fiftieth Super Bowl but also the 20th anniversary of the last Super Bowl of Poker (the 25th if you don’t count L.A.).”

[FF] “What happened to it?”

[SS] “Preston’s idea was probably sound, but it lacked continuity, jumping around to seven different casinos2 in four cities in just a dozen years. The last consecutive event, in 1991, was at the Flamingo in Laughlin, Nevada, a full 125 miles from Las Vegas, and only a dozen players entered its Main Event.

The other problem was that the event didn’t attracted many non-pros, so attendance never grew much. The Main Event had 30 players in 1979 but only reached 55 at its highest, while the World Series of Poker was growing every year even before online poker took off.3

Here’s the complete list of Main Event winners and runners-up:4

Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker Main Event

Year Winner Prize Entrants5 Cashed Runner-Up
1979 George Huber $150,000 30 7 Robert Bone
1980 Gabe Kaplan $190,000 25 2 Perry Green
1981 Junior Whited $130,000 26 3 Perry Green
1982 Ed Stevens $195,000 51 4 Tony Salinas
1983 Hans Lund $275,000 55 7 Jack Straus
1984 Stu Ungar $275,000 55 6 Ralph Morton
1985 Mickey Appleman $205,000 41 7 Dewey Tomko
1986 Billy Walter $175,000 36 9 Richard Klamian
1987 Jack Keller $220,000 44 7 Chip Reese
1988 Stu Ungar $210,000 42 7 Jack Keller
1989 Stu Ungar $205,000 41 7 Len Miller
1990 T.J. Cloutier $240,000 48 7 Jack Keller
1991 Jack Keller $52,250 12 3 Berry Johnston
1996 Johnny Chan $27,600 11 3 Russ Hamilton

Notes:

  • First place always included a special prize. In 1979 Huber got custom-made, $3,000 cowboy boots. In 1980, Kaplan got a 3-foot loving cup, which became a regular prize. In 1983, Lund got a Super Bowl of Poker ring worth about $20,000. Other bonus prizes included a 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster, a Jeep, and a Coleman trailer.6
  • Stu Ungar was the only player to win the Main Event three times, and the only player to win back-to-back.
  • Jack Keller was the only other player to win twice.
  • Jack Keller had the most Main Event cashes (two 1sts, two 2nds, and a 5th), one more than Ungar (three 1sts and a 3rd), Green (two 2nds, a 4th, and a 5th), and Chip Reese (a 2nd, a 4th, a 6th, and a 9th).
  • The 1996 event was actually a “Tournament of Champions” (the three players who cashed were all WSOP Main Event winners, but that’s probably a coincidence). Somewhat fittingly, Amarillo Slim himself was the last player paid, placing third, albeit for just $4,600.7

Footnotes:

  1. The XFL played only one season, 2001.
  2. The venues were: 1979 Hilton Las Vegas, 1980-81 Sahara Reno, 1982-84 Sahara Lake Tahoe, 1985 High Sierra Lake Tahoe, 1986 Caesars Lake Tahoe, 1987-90 Caesars Las Vegas, 1991 Flamingo Laughlin, and 1996 Bicycle Los Angeles.
  3. The WSOP Main Event had 54 players in 1979, 215 in 1991, and 295 in 1996.
  4. Despite significant research on this, I was only able to find five of the final hands:
    • 1983: Lund’s 95 vs. Straus’s T9 offsuit got it all in on the turn on a 25987 board.
    • 1984: Ungar’s QQ vs. Morton’s 99 on a Q♦K♣2♣ flop with blanks on the turn and river.
    • 1985: Appleman’s 8♣8♠ held up against Tomko’s A2.
    • 1986: Walter’s 9♠8♣ called a pre-flop all-in from Klamian’s K♦5♦, flopped a straight with 6♦T♦7♣, and faded the flush outs.
    • 1987: Keller’s 5♠2♠ checked behind after Reese’s Q♦J♥ limped and flopped a major draw with Q♠3♦4♠. Keller check-raised and called Reese’s shove. The 2♦ turn didn’t help enough but the river 6♣ gave Keller the winning straight.

    And I could only identify four of the bubble boys: Tony Salinas (1979, 8th), Roger Van Ausdall (1981, 4th), Al Ethier (1982, 5th), and Gabe Kaplan (1985, 8th). Kaplan had the misfortune of bubbling three events that year.

  5. The number of players isn’t completely certain for 1980 and 1982.
  6. Source: From the Poker Vaults: Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker, Part I. Story continued in Part II.
  7. The Main Event buyin was $10,000. In 1996, the Tournament of Champions buyin was $5,000 or less (probably a freeroll), as the prize pool was only $46,000 for 11 players.

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