The Red Pros at Full Tilt Poker have been making their presence felt at the 2009 World Series of Poker. The online behemoth is famous for attracting the very finest talent to its stable of sponsored players, a fact clearly evident at this year’s WSOP. Just over halfway through the series Full Tilt players have already picked up 6 bracelets, along with numerous other cashes and final table appearances.
Things could not have begun better for Full Tilt, after their Russian ace Vitaly Lunkin finished victorious in Event #2. This was the first open event of the series, following the the Casino Employees event, and was a concocted especially to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the World Series. A $40,000 buy-in attracted 200 of poker’s top talent to battle it out for a first place reward of $1.8 million.
In the end it came down to a contest between Vitaly and Isaac Haxton. Their lengthy heads up battle finally came to an end when Isaac missed his flush draw and failed to crack Vitaly’s pocket Aces. This was Lunkin’s biggest pay-day, and his second bracelet – having won a $1.5k No Limit Hold ‘em event in 2008. As a world class backgammon and Renju player, the immediacy of his success should come as no surprise. Since committing himself to poker a few years ago, he has already reached 3rd in the all-time Russian money list.
The next FT bracelet would be awarded to perhaps the most well known Red Pro of all. Phil Ivey crushed the opposition in the $2.5k 2-7 Lowball to win his 6th WSOP title. A heavily stacked field of 147 runners provided tough opposition, meaning that Ivey entered the final table with the second smallest chip stack. 2-7 Lowball is considered by those in the know to be one of the most demanding variations of poker, so it should come as no surprise to hear that someone as skillful as Ivey was able to overcome his chip deficit and take the title. Chances are that he scooped a lot more than just the $95,000 first prize. Ivey is rumored to have had between $5-$10 million riding on him winning a bracelet.
The Full Tilt crowd enjoyed their most concentrated period of success so far when three of their pros won three bracelets in three days. Nick Schulman started the ball rolling with victory in Event #23, the World Championship No-Limit 2-7 Draw event. An elite 94 players blocked his path, but he outlasted them all to capture the $275k first prize. At only 24, Nick has already amassed over $3.8 million in live tournament earnings, and became the youngest ever World Poker Tour winner at the $10k WPT Finals in 2005.
Next up it was the return of Phil Ivey, winning his second bracelet of the series and his 7th overall. His triumph in Event #25, the $25k Omaha/7-Card Stud Hi/Lo tournament, puts him 4th in the all-time bracelet list. His 36th WSOP cash, for $220k, takes his lifetime life tournament earnings to over $10.8 million.
UK pro and former magazine editor Roland de Wolfe would rise to the fore in Event #27, the $5k Pot-Limit Omaha Hi/Lo 8-or-better. By winning his first WSOP bracelet he completed poker’s hallowed Triple Crown. Wofle had previously won a WTP title at the Grand Prix de Paris in 2005 and a European Poker Tour title at the EPT Main Event in Ireland in 2006. Gavin Griffin is the only other player to have completed this prestigious triplet of titles.
Full Tilt’s latest victory came via former hockey pro Greg Mueller. Since retiring from the world of ice hockey in 1999, Greg has made a name for himself under the online moniker “FTB”. He picked up his first bracelet in the $10k World Championship Limit Hold ‘em event. The $460,000 first prize was well earned, with Mueller starting the final table in 5th position. His electric final table run culminated in a heads-up battle against Pat Pezzin that lasted only 7 hands. Greg seems to have a taste for the $10k World Championship events, having made the final table of the 7-Card Stud version earlier this series.
Full Tilt’s pack seem to be running well, and with 19 events still to go you wouldn’t bet against another Red Pro bracelet winner before this year’s World Series concludes.