Grand Prix of Poker


[SS] “When I say Grand Prix, what do you guys think of?” Stan the Stat polled.

[FF] “Auto racing, of course”, Figaro the Fish insisted.

[LL] “Agreed, although I think there are multiple races called a Grand Prix”, Leroy the Lion concurred.

[RR] “Wasn’t there a Grand Prix game for the Atari 2600?” Roderick the Rock suggested.

[SS] “Yes, and it was a car racing game. But did you guys know that the original Grand Prix didn’t involve automobiles (because they hadn’t been invented yet)?”

[LL] “Perhaps a track event? No, that’s not something the French are big on. So, I guess it had to involve wine, cheese, or horses.”

[SS] “Correct! The original Grand Prix was a French horse race way back in 1807. Now known as the Prix Gladiateur, the contest originally pitted thoroughbreds age four and up over a 4,000-meter course, which was lengthened to 6,200 meters in 1861 but reduced several times to reach its current distance of 3,100 meters1 in 1991.

Grand Prix auto racing began almost a century later, in 1901.”

[RR] “But I’ll bet you really want to talk about a different kind of horses, am I right?”

[SS] “And a different type of race. For chips. Steve Wynn created the Grand Prix of Poker for the Golden Nugget in direct response to the Stairway to the Stars at the competing Stardust poker room:

Grand Prix of Poker (1984 to 1987)

Dates Events Main Event Winner Notes
November 28 to December 13, 1984 15 David Baxter ($320,000) Robert Baldwin finished second for $128,000. Hal Fowler won the $1,000 Seven Card Stud for $76,000 and the last tournament cash of his career. Ray Zee won the overall points championship to take home a new Mercedes 380SL valued at $45,000.
December 2 to 19, 1985 15 Dewey Tomko ($355,000) Tomko, who also won the $2,500 No Limit Hold ‘Em for $123,750, defeated Baxter ($142,000) heads up for the title. Ken Flaton edged out A.J. “Action” Jackson to win a 26-foot Chris Craft boat valued at $55,000 for the best overall player in the festival.
December 1 to 20, 1986 17 Hugo Mieth ($247,000) The amateur and the pro Mike Hart agreed to split the first and second place prize money and play for just the title. Barbara Gold, the first woman to win a major poker tournament, won three open events to earn a Chevrolet Corvette valued at $31,000 as the best overall player at the festival, while Said Barjesteh got a Suzuki JX Samurai for second, and Robert Turner settled for a Hyundai All-Terrain Vehicle for third.
November 29 to December 19, 1987 16 Jim Doman ($400,000) Howard Andrew had to settle for $250,000 for second place. Berry Johnston ($77,600) won the $1,000 Razz, Jack Keller ($97,000) the $2,500 Limit Hold ‘Em, and David Reese ($108,400) the $1,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em.

Notes:

  • Pro-Celebrity Charity Tournament:
    • In 1984, actor Mike Warren and pro Jack Keller won the event, which featured his co-stars Ed Marinaro and Rene Enriquez, as well as Kenny Rogers, Paul Anka, Dionne Warwick, Alan King, and Sarah Vaughan. $10,000 in prizes were donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation.
    • The 1985 tournament included defending champ Michael Warren, Ed Marinaro, Rene Enriquez, Telly Savalas, Diahann Carroll, Kathy Rigby, and Jerry Lewis. Country singer Doug Kershaw won with pro Bill Smith, marking the second straight year the reigning WSOP Main Event champion had won the event.
    • The 1986 event had one of the unlikeliest winners: Charo! The Spanish-American actress, comedienne, and musician teamed up with Bobby Baldwin to top 35 other teams for the first place donation.
  • At both the 1985 and 1986 festivals, singer Willie Nelson took on Amarillo Slim Preston… in dominoes. Preston won 5-2 the first year to win a CJ7 Jeep from Steve Wynn and possibly some cash from Nelson. He won 5-3 the second year for an unknown prize.
  • In 1986, Cyndy Violette won the $1,000 Seven-Card Stud event for $74,400, which at the time was the largest prize ever won by a woman in a poker tournament. By contrast, Barbara Enright, the winner of the Women’s Seven-Card Stud at the 1986 WSOP earned only $16,400. The WSOP Ladies champion wouldn’t take home more than Violette did until 2005.

Footnotes:

  1. In imperial units, that’s 2.49, 3.85, and 1.93 miles. For comparison, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes are 1.25, 1.19, and 1.50 miles.

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Stairway to the Stars


[SS] “What do you guys remember about the Stardust casino?” Stan the Stat inquired.

[LL] “I’ve never been there, but I heard that’s where David Bowie1 liked to hang out”, Leroy the Lion cracked.

[RR] “With Tinker Bell”, Roderick the Rock added.

[LL] “I think that was fairy dust.”

[SS] “Or pixie dust or stardust. But let’s fly back in time to the early 1980s… The Stardust Resort and Casino already had one of the two major poker rooms in Las Vegas in the late 1970s, but when they hired Bob Thompson, he created the Stairway to the Stars festival to draw more people to the casino.

Stairway to the Stars (1983 to 1986)

Dates Events Main Event Winner Notes
January 3 to 27, 1983 11 Ken Smith ($140,000) Johnny Chan won the $1,500 No Limit Hold ‘Em event for $60,750 and finished seventh in the Main Event for $5,600.
January 9 to 31, 1984 22 Ralph Morton ($55,000) Main Event runner-up Gary Berland won four tournaments and clinched the points-based Best All Around Player award and a customized Chevy van over David Reese with four events still to be played.
January 2 to 21, 1985 24 Carl McKelvey ($55,000) Barbara Gold won the $500 Razz and finished second in the $1,000 Razz, while Cissy Russo won the $200 Limit Hold ‘Em and placed third in the $500 Limit Omaha. Other winners included Betty Hiller ($500 Limit Omaha), Jack Straus ($1,500 No Limit Hold ‘Em), David Sklansky ($1,000 Limit Draw Low Ball).
January 2 to 23, 1986 28 T.J. Cloutier ($42,500) Cloutier beat Hamid Dastmalchi heads up for the title. Other winners included Bob Stupak ($2,500 No Limit Deuce to 7), Berry Johnston ($1,000 Pot Limit Omaha plus third in $500 No Limit Hold ‘Em Match Play, $500 Razz, $1,000 Razz, and Main Event), Jack Straus ($1,000 Match Play Omaha & $2,500 No Limit Hold ‘Em plus 2nd in $500 No Limit Hold ‘Em Match Play and $1,000 Tag Team with Cheryl Davis and 4th in $500 No Limit Deuce to 7 and Main Event), Robert Turner ($1,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em & $200 Limit Hold ‘Em plus third in $200 Limit Omaha), and Barbara Putterman ($200 7 Card Stud).

Notes:

  • In 1985, “Oklahoma” Johnny Hale won three match play (heads-up) events. He outlasted a field of 16 in the $1,000 Pot Limit Hold ‘Em Match Play and a field of 32 in the $500 No Limit Hold ‘Em Match Play, but he was the only player to sign up for the $2,500 No Limit Hold ‘Em Match Play. Bob Thompson gave him the trophy, refunded his buyin, and cancelled the tournament. During the $500 event, Hale had a bye in the first round but offered to play the late-arriving Bob Stupak for 20% of his action if he won and one week use of his Rolls Royce, a uniformed chauffeur, and $500 expense money if he lost. Hale collected on his winning bet and earned points with his in-laws by giving them use of the car on their next visit to Las Vegas.2
  • Also in 1985, the $500 Limit Omaha tournament had a guarantee of $100,000 in prizes, but only 107 players entered, of whom 44 rebought once, leaving the Stardust $24,500 in the hole. That didn’t stop the Stardust from offering tournaments with $100,000 and $200,000 guaranteed the following year, and both events ran in the black, so that was not a factor in the death of the festival.”

[RR] “So the festival just disappeared with no explanation?”

[SS] “As far as I can tell. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Footnotes:

  1. Bowie’s 1972 concept album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars introduced his alter ego, who is also a rock star.
  2. Hale recounts this story in a February 2011 article nearly a quarter-century later, so his memory may have slipped a little as he got two of the buyin amounts and two of the game types wrong. The Hendon Mob database also has one game type wrong, as it claims that he won a $1,000 Pot Limit Omaha instead of Pot Limit Hold ‘Em. According to the Stardust’s ad on page 8 of the December 24, 1984 Poker Player newspaper, this Pot Limit Hold ‘Em event took place on the same day as a $500 Limit Omaha tournament and having overlapping Omaha events wouldn’t make sense.

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America’s Cup of Poker


[SS] “After the success of Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker,” Stan the Stat continued, “entrepreneur and marketing wizard Bob Stupak1 decided to host his own event to promote his Vegas World casino, which had opened in 1979 but was newly renovated. In addition to the usual variety of events and big prizes, Stupak offered the winner of the $1,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em event a free chance to win his Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow in a heads up match. Poker legend Berry Johnston, who would go on to win five WSOP bracelets including the 1986 Main Event, was able to survive a field of 109 players but couldn’t pry Stupak’s car keys from him.”

[LL] “You make it sound like Johnston was trying to steal the car”, Leroy the Lion complained.

[RR] “Johnston wasn’t rich and famous yet”, Roderick the Rock noted.

[SS] “Stupak certainly was. He actually built up fortune selling coupon books, believe it or not. But he was always looking for that next great idea, and America’s Cup was it. The successful festival would run through the rest of the 1980s before he killed it, and Vegas World itself would close its doors in 1995 to be replaced by the Stratosphere, which still has the tallest freestanding observation tower in the U.S.

America’s Cup of Poker (1983 to 1989)

Dates Events Main Event Winner First Prize Notes
September 19 to 28, 1983 7 Johnny Chan $130,000 When Chan took out the entire final table in an hour for his first career tournament win, Stupak dubbed him the Orient Express, because he was “very fast and very aggressive”.2
September 10 to 24, 1984 9 Mike Markos $100,000 Markos defeated Dewey Tomko heads up when he was lucky enough to catch runner-runner Sevens after bluffing all-in on the flop with nothing.3
September 5 to 14, 1985 11 unknown unknown Was it the bad luck of Friday the 13th that’s caused these results to be lost?4
September 8 to 20, 1986 15 Roger Moore $120,000 J.J. Busey finished second, Seymour Leibowitz third, and Bob Stupak himself fourth.
September 8 to 20, 1987 12 Stu Ungar $55,000 Ungar also won the $5,000+50 Deuce to Seven tournament for another $55,000.5
July 7 to 22, 1988 ? unknown unknown It’s possible this event didn’t happen despite being advertised in the June 26, 1988 San Bernardino County Sun, but the Hendon Mob database, CardPlayer, and World Poker Rank all call the 1989 festival the “7th annual”.
July 6 to 13, 1989 9 Roger Moore $80,000 Moore beat Phil Hellmuth heads up for the title.

Notes:

  • Ads for the inaugural 1983 event touted Bob Stupak as “The Polish Maverick”, WORLD’S GREATEST POKER PLAYER, and his wife Sandy as “The Australian Bloose”,6 WORLD’S GREATEST WOMAN POKER PLAYER. With training from Puggy Pearson, Stupak eventually won a World Series of Poker bracelet at the World Series of Poker in the 1989 $5,000 Deuce-to-Seven Draw event for $139,500, five years after Sandy won the WSOP Casino Employees event.
  • The same ads boasted, “Loni Anderson and George Kennedy will be roaming around Vegas World during the America’s Cup Classic… to film ‘Fast Eddie’, the true story of famed bank robber Eddie Watson.” The movie was never made.
  • In 1984, Ken Lambert won the right to play Stupak for his Rolls-Royce, and the showman let comedian Jerry Lewis defend his car for him. Hopefully, Stupak donated a nice chunk of change to combat muscular dystrophy when Lewis won the match.
  • The festival also included Ladies-only freerolls to win various prizes. Cissy Bottoms took home a diamond bracelet and Cheryl Davis a mink coat. “Oklahoma” Johnny Hale claims to have taught his mother-in-law Jane to play Hold ‘Em in five minutes to win another mink coat. She probably made more than he did at the America’s Cup, as he had just a single fifth place finish for $1,827.”

[LL] “Ungar pretty much rolled a Yahtzee with all those Fives in 1987.”

[RR] “The Hendon database really wanted to build up his legacy.”

[SS] “I don’t know where all the misinformation came from. He certainly won enough tournaments in his short career, so he didn’t really need to get credited with another two victories worth $300,000.”

[RR] “Between the Ungar and Chan errors, I can only guess that a lot of the data came from vague memories, long after the fact.”

[SS] “Exactly right. The Hendon Mob database only started in 2001. Still, I have to give a lot of credit to those four guys — Joe Beevers, Barney and Ross Boatman, and Ram Vaswani — for their amazing poker resource.”

Footnotes:

  1. In No Limit: The Rise and Fall of Bob Stupak and Las Vegas’ Stratosphere Tower, John Smith refers to Stupak as P.T. Barnum’s hedonistic twin.
  2. Source: Could Three Consecutive World Titles Bring Even More Luck to Poker Ace Johnny Chan? : Big Deal article in the May 15, 1989 Los Angeles Times. The Hendon Mob database also thinks Chan won this event in 1982, but the festival didn’t debut until 1983.
  3. The Hendon Mob database says Stu Ungar won the 1984 Main Event, but the September 16, 1985 Poker Player newspaper disagrees and is a much more reliable source for tournament of this era.
  4. The Hendon Mob database knows about the 1985 America’s Cup of Poker, but is missing most of the events, including the Main Event.
  5. The Hendon Mob database says Ungar won another $10,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em event at the 1987 America’s Cup for $150,000, but it appears to be a bogus claim with no tournament details. All of the America’s Cup events in most years are also incorrectly placed in January (only 1984 and 1989 are correctly put in September and July respectively).
  6. Sorry to disappoint, but I have no idea what a “bloose” is. The Urban Dictionary definition refers to a man, not a woman.

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Stan’s Lists – 1980s Poker Festivals


[SS] “Short-Stacked Shamus’s historical recreation of a report on the 1973 World Series of Poker made me nostalgic”, Stan the Stat waxed. “For a long time, the World Series of Poker was the only major poker festival in the world. The Granddaddy of Poker stood alone from 1970 to 1978 until Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker entered the scene in 1979.

But poker grew rapidly in the 1980s. There were actually nine other poker festivals in the decade1 that had at least one tournament, usually the Main Event, with a $5,000 or higher buyin.2

Major Poker Festivals of the 1980s

Festival Years Location (Creator/Host)
America’s Cup of Poker 1983-89 Vegas World (Bob Stupak)
Celebrity Poker Classic 1984 Continental Inn, Aspen, CO
Diamond Jim Brady festival 1985-94 Bicycle Casino, Los Angeles (George Hardie)
Grand Prix of Poker 1984-87 Golden Nugget (Steve Wynn)
Hall of Fame Poker Classic 1988-92, 1994-95, 1997, 2002 Binion’s Horseshoe (Jack Binion)
Jack Straus World Match Play Championship 1983-84 Frontier (Jack Straus)
Knights of the Round Table 1986 Tropicana, Atlantic City (Sam Gamburg)
Stairway to the Stars 1983-86 Stardust (Bob Thompson)
Super Bowl of Poker 1979-91, 1996 various3 (Amarillo Slim Preston)
Triple Crown of Poker Classic 19854 Frontier
World Series of Poker 1970-present Binion’s Horseshoe5 (Jack Binion)

[RR] “Wow, I’ve never heard of most of those”, Roderick the Rock admitted.

[SS] “Unfortunately, they’ve mostly been lost in the cobwebs of time.

Not surprisingly, all of these were in the U.S., with seven in Las Vegas (including the Super Bowl, which also spent time in Reno and Tahoe), one in Los Angeles, one in Atlantic City, and one in Aspen(!).”

[RR] “What about the Irish Open? Doesn’t that go pretty far back?”

[SS] “Although the Irish Poker Open debuted in 1980, its buyin was too small to qualify until 2008 when the €4,200+300 buyin was worth about $6,620.”

[LL] “So there’s a World Series from baseball, a Super Bowl from football, America’s Cup from yachting, a Grand Prix from car racing, and a Triple Crown from horse racing. What about a Grand Slam from tennis and golf or a World Cup from soccer?” Leroy the Lion inquired.

[SS] “There’s actually been a Larry Flynt Grand Slam of Poker since 2002. There have also been various Masters events (1989-90 in Reno and 1993-98 in Gardena, California) and even a Kentucky Derby Poker Championship (2008-09). All of those festivals had smaller buyins though.

The World Cup of Poker wasn’t a festival but an international team competition that PokerStars ran from 2004 to 2013. Its preliminary rounds were played online, but the finals were held in casinos.”

{ to be continued… }

Footnotes:

  1. The main source for this information is the Hendon Mob database (see other years as well), but back issues of Poker Player newspaper have details of several tournaments missing from Hendon.
  2. If we lower the cutoff to $2,500 buyins, a few other festivals make the grade: the Plaza Poker Tournament (1983: main event won by T.J. Cloutier), the 1st Annual Poker Week (1984: Johnny Chan), and the Super Stars of Poker (1987-90: John Esposito, Jack Keller, Sam Grizzle, and John Bonetti).
  3. One of the downfalls of the Super Bowl of Poker was that it kept moving around. After starting at the Hilton Las Vegas in 1979 it moved to the Sahara Reno from 1980-81, the Sahara Lake Tahoe from 1982-84, the High Sierra Lake Tahoe in 1985, Caesars Lake Tahoe in 1986, Caesars Las Vegas from 1987 to 1990, and the Flamingo Laughlin in 1991 before a last gasp at the Bicycle Los Angeles in 1996.
  4. The Triple Crown of Poker Classic was also held in 1986, but the main event buyin was dropped to $2,500.
  5. The World Series of Poker was held at the Horseshoe until 2005, except for one final table on Fremont Street in 1997. It moved to the Rio in 2006.

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WSOP Howard Lederer/Chris Ferguson Recap

[RR] “Yuri, are you still mad at Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson?” Roderick the Rock wondered.

[YY] “Not really. I got my money back. And they’re not the ones who killed internet poker on Black Friday.”

[RR] “I guess you didn’t have five or six figures locked up for a few years.”

[YY] “I played more on PokerStars, which returned my money almost immediately.”

[SS] “I think they waited just long enough before returning to play in this year’s WSOP”, Stan the Stat contributed.

[RR] “Yeah, I heard that a few people confronted them, but nothing physical happened.”

[SS] “Lederer is definitely the more hated of the two of them, and he only played three events. Perhaps more importantly, he didn’t cash in any of them, which made a lot of people happy. $70,000 back into the poker economy.”

[LL] “It’s a start.”

[SS] “He actually came very close to cashing in the Poker Players Championship. He was second in chips at one point, but ended up busting in 17th, just three spots short of the money.”

[RR] “And the crowd roared.”

[SS] “Ferguson, on the other hand, had an excellent series. I don’t know exactly how many events he played,2 but regardless, he cashed an impressive ten times, two above his previous career high of eight in 2003. His best result and only final table was in the $10,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em 6-Handed Championship, where he placed fourth for $183,989. His total haul for the summer was $253,519, with his other cashes ranging from $3,551 in the Millionaire Maker to $17,760 in the Crazy Eights.

In fact, Ferguson did well enough to rise from unranked to #1,046 in the Global Poker Index3 and #200 in the GPI Player of the Year rankings. He also moved back into the top ten in career WSOP cashes (tied for ninth with David Chiu at 73).”

[SS] “Lederer and Ferguson were variously given the silent treatment or sworn at, but no physical altercations occurred.”

[RR] “One player posted a video where he told Ferguson off.”4

[LL] “I hope that made him feel better, but this Whatzit? puzzle from last week is fitting:

✗✗=✓ ✗

Got it?”5

[SS] “There’s also ‘forgive and forget’.”

[YY] “Yeah, I’m chill with that. But I wish I could play on PokerStars again without moving to another country, or worse, New Jersey.”

Footnotes:

  1. Lederer played the $10,000 2-7 Single Draw, the $50,000 Poker Players Championship Six Max, and the Main Event.
  2. By my count, Chris Ferguson entered just 19 events, cashing in 52.6% of them (pretty impressive even if I missed a couple events).
  3. The Global Poker Index will be covered in another blog post later this year.
  4. StanObv delivered his NSFW message to Chris Ferguson during a break in the action.
  5. The Whatzit answer is “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
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2016 November Nine Odds


[SS] “Do you guys want to bet on this year’s WSOP Main Event winner? We can divide the nine players into three pretty even groups”, Stan the Stat offered.

[RR/LL] “I’m in!” Roderick the Rock and Leroy the Lion agreed.

[SS] “Okay, here are the odds from the first place I could find them:

2016 November Nine Odds

Player Sportsbook
Odds
Percent
With Vig1
True
Percent
ICM2
Percent
Diff
Cliff Josephy 9/4 30.8% 26.1% 22.2% 3.9%
Qui Nguyen 4/1 20.0% 17.0% 20.2% -3.2%
Gordon Vayo 5/1 16.7% 14.1% 14.7% -0.5%
Kenny Hallaert 5/1 16.7% 14.1% 12.9% 1.3%
Michael Ruane 10/1 9.1% 7.7% 9.4% -1.7%
Vojtech Ruzicka 10/1 9.1% 7.7% 8.1% -0.4%
Griffin Benger 12/1 7.7% 6.5% 7.8% -1.3%
Jerry Wong 20/1 4.8% 4.0% 3.0% 1.0%
Fernando Pons 30/1 3.2% 2.7% 1.8% 0.9%
Totals 118.0% 100.0% 100.0%

Using the True Percent, the closest groups are:

  • Josephy and Benger: 32.6%
  • Nguyen, Hallaert, and Pons: 33.8%
  • Vayo, Ruane, Ruzicka, and Wong: 33.5%

Any strong preference?”

[RR] “You know I always like the favorite. Worked for me last year!”

[SS] “You got it. But Josephy is more like J.C. Tran, who bombed out in fifth three years ago than McKeehen last year. Josephy has a smaller chip lead, and he’s the only player with two bracelets.”

[LL] “I’m a pure numbers guys when I don’t have a good reason not to be, so I’ll take the middle group, which has the highest odds by a tiny bit.”

[SS] “Okay, I’m more than happy to take four players to two for each of you, since you know, Leroy, that Pons winning would be a miracle. Not only is the Spaniard the only amateur at the table, but no November Niner has ever come back from 9th position or less than 6.8% of chips to win.”

[LL] “I don’t really understand the markup on him.”

[SS] “Everyone loves a long shot, I guess.”

[RR] “Same stakes as last year? I really enjoyed collecting on that.”

[LL] “Sure, our serving you all night didn’t help you win the tournament in any case.”

[SS] “It just means that we’ll take extra pleasure in knocking you out!”

Footnotes:

  1. The Percent With Vig is simply the denominator of the odds divided by the sum of the numerator and denominator. The True Percent normalizes this by dividing by the total of 118.0%.
  2. ICM stands for Independent Chip Model.

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Stan’s Lists – WSOP Team Events


[RR] “I heard the new team event at the WSOP was a huge success!” Roderick the Rock announced.

[SS] “By sheer numbers alone, it was awesome!” Stan the Stat confirmed. “The old Mixed Doubles event never topped 52 pairs:”

WSOP Mixed Doubles Champions

Year Teams Winners Notes
1979 25 Starla Brodie & Doyle Brunson Even though this is one of Brunson’s ten bracelets, everyone still considers him tied with Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey.
1980 41 Lynn Harvey & A.J. Myers Event was contested in No Limit Hold ‘Em (every other year was 7-Card Stud, in which Myers won a solo $5,000 Limit event the next year!).
1981 52 Juanda Matthews & Frank Cardone Neither player ever cashed in any other WSOP event (or any tournament the Hendon Mob Database tracks).
1982 44 Dani Kelly & David Sklansky Kelly never had another WSOP cash, while Sklansky has won over $1.3 million at the WSOP.
1983 25 Donna Doman & Jim Doman They were the first husband and wife to win WSOP bracelets.

This Tag Team tournament crushed that with 863 teams and around 2,100 players!”

[LL] “Sounds like people had a lot of fun, too”, Leroy the Lion added.

[RR] “Poker is usually such an individual sport that I can see people really getting into being on a team for a change.”

[FF] “It’s always nice to have someone else to blame when things go wrong”, Figaro the Fish noted.

[RR] “But you also let at least one other person down if you make the mistake.”

[FF] “I’m used to that.”

[SS] “The low entry fee also helped — just $250 each for a team of four.”

[RR] “Were there a lot of larger teams though?”

[SS] “I haven’t seen a breakdown of all the team sizes, but among the 130 teams that cashed, 11 had four players (14.3%), 24 had three players (23.5%), and 95 had two players (62.1%).

The winning team was a pair of pros, Doug Polk and Ryan Fee ($153,358 for the team), while second place was a trio, Adam Greenberg, Niel Mittelman, and Gabriel Paul ($94,748). The top quad squad, finishing sixth, was Owais Ahmed, Bart Lybaert, Adam Owen, and Benny Glaser ($24,982).

The top all-in-the-family team, finishing ninth, was Jonathan Little and his parents, Rita and Larry ($10,724). They were also the top mixed-gender team and the top team that included a married couple.

The top all-female team, finishing 33rd, was Fatima Moreira de Melo (the Dutch field hockey player who was the last celebrity standing at last year’s Main Event) and Leo Margets (the last woman standing at the 2009 Main Event).

Some other notable cashes included:

  • 22nd Place: Ryan Laplante and Leo Wolpert, earning Laplante his record 12th cash of this year’s WSOP.
  • 26th Place: The four Mizrachi brothers (Robert, Michael, Eric, and Donny) quadrupled their buyin.
  • 28th Place: Brian Rast, Antonio Esfandiari, Jeff Gross added negligibly to their $47+ million in combined career winnings.

A few of the higher-profile teams that went home empty-handed included:

  • David Williams, Daniel Negreanu, Vanessa Selbst, and Maria Ho
  • Niall Farrell and Safia Umerova, who teamed up a week after Umerova beat Farrell heads up for the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout bracelet
  • Andrew Brokos and Nate Meyvis, the founders of Thinking Poker.”

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2016 WSOP Main Event Odds

[SS] “Do you guys know what’s really odd?” Stan the Stat opened.

[RR] “Three, five, seven, and every prime number besides two?” Roderick the Rock suggested.

[LL] “Rod’s sense of humor?” Leroy the Lion countered.

[FF] “All of you guys”, Figaro the Fish corrected.

[SS] “Well, I can’t disagree with you Figaro, although you’re included too.

But I’ve been looking over these Las Vegas odds on particular players winning the Main Event, which starts tomorrow, and the numbers are just bizarre…, like it’s a popularity contest, not a poker tournament.”

[LL] “Well, the betting public is going to back the players they know, right?”

[RR] “Almost by definition, people place long shot bets just for fun. They enjoy a smidgen of a hope for a little while, but really don’t expect to win.”

[SS] “You’re right. ‘Cause otherwise, what kind of fool would take Phil Ivey at only 40-to-1?”1

[LL] “He’s usually to busy raking it in playing cash games to be bothered to even show up, right?”

[SS] Exactly! The second highest player is more reasonable; Daniel Negreanu’s at 60-to-1. He’ll definitely play and has finished 11th twice (2001 and 2015). Allen Cunningham is fine at 100-to-1 (4th place in 2006), but Gus Hansen isn’t (his best finish is 61st, and that was back in 2007).”

[RR] “But he’s still gaining fans from High Stakes Poker reruns on television.”

[SS] “Jason Mercier is one of the summer’s hottest players, so he could be the bargain of the lot at 125-to-1.”1

[LL] “It’ll be amazing if he runs deep, needing his third bracelet of the summer to win his huge side bet with Vanessa Selbst, or whoever she ended selling off her action to!”

[SS] “Other overpriced players include Tom Dwan at 200-to-1 (has never cashed), Doyle Brunson at 400-to-1 (almost undoubtedly not playing), Howard Lederer at 600-to-1 (the amount of pressure on him if he runs deep would be overwhelming given his status as persona non grata due to the Full Tilt Poker meltdown; Chris Ferguson is probably also overvalued since his price is 200-to-1, but at least he still has a lot of fans), Chris Moneymaker at 700-to-1 (hasn’t cashed in any WSOP event since 2007), Darvin Moon at 1,000-to-1 (hasn’t cashed in any WSOP event besides his 2009 WSOP ME runner-up finish), and Jennifer Tilly at 1,000-to-1 (Phil Laak at 700-to-1 is no better, as his only money finish was 412th last year).”

[RR] “Even the best bets are bad bets though, I think.”

[SS] “Selbst is the top woman is of course, at 400-to-1. Maria Ho and Vanessa Rousso are 800-to-1, while Cindy Violette, Jennifer Harman, and Mimi Tran are 1,000-to-1 (and all much better bets than Tilly).”

[LL] “Was there a line for any female winning?”

[SS] “Unfortunately not. I think they missed a good opportunity there, too, because I think a 15-to-1 line could have brought in a lot of bets from women.”2

More interesting to me than the player bets are four new bets I hadn’t seen before.”

Winner’s Birthplace

  • U.S.: 1-to-2
  • Europe: 3-to-2
  • Canada: 11-to-5
  • South/Central America: 5-to-1
  • Australia: 10-to-1
  • Other: 10-to-1

[SS] “Before Johnny Chan in 1987, every WSOP ME winner was born in the U.S. Since then, 16 of the 28 winners were born in the U.S., 6 in ‘Other’, 4 in Europe, 1 in Australia, and 1 in Canada. ‘Other’ looks like the best bet here by far.1

[LL] “Definitely! All the Asian-born players.”

Age of Winner

  • Over 27.5: -120
  • Under 27.5: -120

[SS] “Noel Furlong was the last person older than 41 to win a championship in 1999. Since then, it’s been a young man’s game, but especially since the November Nine began in 2008. Every single winner starting with Peter Eastgate has been under 27.5. Take the ‘Under’.”1

[RR] “That seems like a really bad line. I’d seriously consider that bet despite the vig!”

Winning Hand at Final Table

  • One Pair or Lower: -150
  • Two Pair and Higher: +110

[SS] “Of the 44 winning hands from 1972 to 2015, only 13 have been as weak as a pair (9 pairs and 4 high cards). Take the ‘Two Pair and Higher’ bet.”1

[RR] “Also weird.”

Number of U.S. Players at Final Table

  • Over 4.5: -150
  • Under 4.5: +110

[SS] “Since 2008, the final table has contained 5, 7, 6, 4, 8, 5, 4, and 6 Americans, an average of 5.6; or more importantly, six were ‘Over’ and only two were ‘Under’. Take the ‘Over’.”1

[RR] “And that also seems odd! How do I get in on these bets?”3

Footnotes:

  1. Please don’t take gambling advice from a fictional character in a blog written by an iPhone app developer.
  2. Less than 4% of last year’s Main Event field was female. Even if that increases to a record 5%, the bookies would easily be getting the better end of the bet.
  3. The initial odds were posted in 2016 WSOP Main Event Odds on May 27, 2016 but are subject to change.1

    { July 19, 2016 Update: The results of two of the bets are now known: none of the mentioned players made the final table, so “the field” would have been the right bet if it existed. And 5 U.S. players reached the November Nine, so “Over” was the correct bet. }

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Women in Poker Hall of Fame Induction

[SS] “The long wait is almost over…”, Stan the Stat stated cryptically.

[RR] “For July, your favorite month of the year?” Roderick the Rock proposed.

[LL] “No almost about that”, Leroy the Lion rejected. “It’s already July.”

[SS] “And I hate July. It’s too hot. It’s too humid. And the neighbors set off fireworks pretty much the entire month after our kids have gone to bed.”

[RR] “You can’t hate it that much. The World Series of Poker runs through more than half of it.”

[LL] “Stan can’t wait for the Coney Island hot dog eating contest in a few days.”

[FF] “I didn’t think he was such a fast eater”, Figaro the Fish commented.

[LL] “Not as a contestant! Stan likes anything with lots of counting. And records.”

[RR] “And patriotism. What’s more American than hot dogs and gluttony?”

[SS] “Can’t argue with either of you. Joey Chestnut wolfing down a record 691 hot dogs in 2013 certainly made me smile. As did Sonya Thomas’s 45 the previous year. But another event later in the week has had a longer wait.”

[FF] “It’s not the soccer World Cup, that’s still two years away.”

[RR] “Or the Summer Olympics; that’s not until August.”

[LL] “Although I’ll bet the Rio organizers wish they had a couple more years to prepare.”

[SS] “Two years is right though. It’s a biennial event.”2

[RR] “Does it have something to do with poker?”

[SS] “Yep.”

[LL] “You can’t possibly be talking about the Women’s Poker Hall of Fame induction.”

[SS] “Why not? The Women in Poker Hall of Fame is on Wednesday after a two-year wait.”

[RR] “Oh, now I remember you talking about it last year. So who did they vote in?”

[SS] “Funny you should phrase it that way. They, as in the Internet voters, selected Shirley Rosario, founder of the Poker-Babes.com website, but the committee nullified the result on a technicality that may or may not have actually affected the vote.”

[LL] “And what was that?”

[SS] “They claimed that the voting rules limited people from voting once per IP address, but since this was enforced via a trivially deletable cookie, illegal votes may have been cast.”

[RR] “And Boaty McBoatface should have been the name of that new British ship!”3

[LL] “If you’re foolish enough to allow internet voting, you should abide by the results.”

[SS] “Well, I’m pretty sure they didn’t think a web site named ‘Poker Babes’ was the right image they wanted to project. And no, don’t bother trying to go there; the domain was sold to PokerStars in 2010, undoubtedly for the traffic, then the plug was pulled late last year.”

[RR] “And so the committee just chose whoever they wanted, as usual.”

[SS] “Indeed. Although I’m happy to report that the main, poker-playing inductee was Victoria Coren Mitchell, whom Leroy suggested last year.”

[LL] “A fine choice.”

[SS] “The other selection I’d never heard of, because I’ve never subscribed to Poker Player Newspaper. Debbie Burkhead penned a column called ‘Debbie Does Poker’ for over a decade. She’s won ten tournaments in Hold ‘Em, 7-Card Stud, and H.O.R.S.E. since 1996, and apparently is famous enough to have had a $10 Debbie Burkhead Challenge tournament back in 2000.”

[LL] “Sounds like a much more safer choice than Rosario.”

[SS] “Or Annie Duke, the other player you proffered last year.”

Footnotes:

  1. { July 4, 2016 update: Chestnut broke his own Nathan’s record by ingesting 70 hot dogs in ten minutes. }
  2. Alas, “biannual” means both “occurring every two years” and “occurring twice a year; semi-annual”, so it should be avoided.
  3. Boaty McBoatface won the internet vote, but the Natural Environment Research Council chose to name their new research vessel the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

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Stan’s Lists – Most WSOP Cashes Without a Bracelet

[SS] “Who do you think is the best poker player without a WSOP bracelet?” Stan the Stat queried.

[RR] “I don’t know, but it’s probably some German player who doesn’t even play in the WSOP”, Roderick the Rock suggested.

[SS] “Among those who generally play in the WSOP then.”

[LL] “I remember when we first had this same discussion about seven years ago”, Leroy the Lion contributed. “Pretty much everyone thought Tom Dwan would quickly win a bracelet as soon as he started playing WSOP events. Didn’t happen.”1

[SS] “We were definitely biased by the pros we saw on TV. Like Gus Hansen (who won his only bracelet in Europe in 2010) and Patrik Antonius (who finished third once but hasn’t cashed since 2011).”

[RR] “There was your list of players who’d won on the WPT and EPT but not the WSOP.”

[SS] “Sure. Mohsin Charania, Moritz Kranich, Andrey Pateychuk, and Roberto Romanello. Oh, and Canadian Mike Watson joined the list this year. He’d probably get my vote from that group.”

[LL] “Some of the top WPT players are probably candidates. Chino Rheem hasn’t won a WSOP bracelet yet, right?”

[SS] “He’s a good pick. He has a record-tying three WPT bracelets and over $2.5 million in WSOP cashes, including six final tables.

A bunch of players with two WPT bracelets have been shut out on the WSOP as well. The best of those are probably Matt Giannetti, who’s made over $3.6 million at the WSOP, and Jonathan Little, who’s become famous as a trainer lately.2

And I’d also include Nam Le, who only has one WPT bracelet but has reached six final tables, which is in the top ten.”

[LL] “I suppose you have a list for us that answers the question objectively?”

[SS] “Nope… I have three.3

Most WSOP Cashes Without a Bracelet

Rank Cashes Player
1 73 Tony Cousineau
2 59 Tom McCormick
Roland Israelashvili
4 53 Shannon Shorr
Yueqi Zhu
6 50 Allen Kessler
7 45 Tom Koral
Mark Gregorich
9 44 Victor Ramdin
Nam Le

Cousineau’s total is ninth all-time! But his style is geared toward cashing; Kessler plays that way too. On this list, I like Le the best.”

[SS] “Even more frustrated are the players who’ve made many final tables without a victory…

Most WSOP Final Tables Without a Bracelet

Rank Final Tables Player
1 12 Tom McCormick
John Racener
3 11 Stephen Chidwick
Surinder Sunar
5 10 Dave Crunkleton
Mike Watson
Trai “Danny” Dang
8 9 Brian Nadell
Chad Brown
Gabriel Nassif
Ismael Bojang
Jon Turner
Kirill Gerasimov
Mark Gregorich
Stan Goldstein

Only McCormick (2nd and 1st) and Gregorich (9th and 8th) are on both lists. I’d take Watson over both of them, but McCormick is obviously a great choice too.

One player who may deserve the title of ‘Best Poker Player Who Never Won a WSOP Bracelet’ just missed this list. Jesse Alto made eight final tables back when there were many fewer events to play.

{ July 4, 2016 Update: Andrew Lichtenberger, who had made seven final tables, just won the $3,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em event on his eighth shot to stay off of this list. }

Cousineau, Minh Ly, Matthew Glantz, Shannon Shorr, and Chis Klodnicki also have reached eight final tables.

By the way, the top women are Marsha Waggoner, with 7 final tables, Esther Rossi (6), Phyllis Meyers (5), and Mimi Tran, J.J. Liu, and Karina Jett (4 each).”

[SS] “We can also look at the players who’ve won the most money at the WSOP without a bracelet; at least these players have some prize money to show for their work!

Most WSOP Winnings Without a Bracelet

Rank WSOP Earnings Player Notes
1 $11,270,518 Sam Trickett $10,112,001 from 2nd place in 2012 Big One for One Drop
2 $7,764,906 John Racener $5,545,955 from 2nd place in 2010 Main Event (also 2nd in 2014 $10,000 Seven Card Stud Split)
3 $6,501,745 Ivan Demidov $5,809,595 from 2nd place in 2008 Main Event (also 3rd in 2008 WSOP Europe Main Event)
4 $6,464,639 Paul Wasicka $6,102,499 from 2nd place in 2006 Main Event
5 $5,850,215 Jesse Sylvia $5,295,149 from 2nd place in 2012 Main Event
6 $5,512,183 Martin Staszko $5,433,086 from 2nd place in 2011 Main Event
7 $5,446,235 Joseph Cheong $4,130,049 from 3rd place in 2010 Main Event (over $5 million in non-WSOP winnings)
8 $5,366,032 Dennis Phillips $4,517,773 from 3rd place in 2008 Main Event
9 $5,871,187 Chris Klodnicki $2,985,495 from 2nd place in 2013 One Drop High Roller and $896,935 from 2nd place in 2012 Poker Players Championship (also 12th in 2008 Main Event)
10 $5,202,205 Jay Farber $5,174,357 from 2nd place in 2013 Main Event

Only Racener is also on one of the other lists, ranking second in final tables (he also has 38 cashes, just missing that list). Chris Klodnicki is the other player who didn’t get on this list by virtue of just a single big second or third place finish in a Main Event or One Drop.”

Footnotes:

  1. Dwan was the runner-up in the $1,500 No Limit Hold ‘Em in 2010 but has no WSOP cashes since 2011.
  2. The other players with two WPT bracelets and zero WSOP bracelets are Mohsin Charania, Cornel Cimpan, Darren Elias, Randal Flowers, Alan Goehring, Marvin Rettenmaier, and Tommy Vedes.
  3. { July 3, 2016 Update } Israelashvili has tied McCormick for the second most cashes. Racener and Chidwick have tied McCormick for most final tables.
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