Three weeks have passed into the World Series of Poker Tournament Schedule and 2009 is quickly turning into the Year of the Poker Pro. Unlike past years where unknown amateurs took down the majority of events, the professionals, both live and online, are dominating the 2009 WSOP.
First and foremost, Phil Ivey has done a lot to cement himself as the world’s premier poker player. After a lackluster 2008 WSOP in which Ivey supposedly lost millions in bracelet prop-bets, he set out to redeem himself in ’09. His first chance came at the final table of $2500 NL Deuce-to-Seven Lowball championship. Taking on a final table full of lowball professionals, Ivey dominated, taking down the title and nearly $100,000 in prize money. While the first-place check was quite a nice sum, it paled in comparison to the amount of money Ivey won from bracelet prop bets. At the final table Ivey was overheard saying, “I don’t snow with three-million on the line.” Snowing is a bluff in low-ball and the $3,000,000 he referenced certainly pertained to his bracelet bets.
While most would not have blamed Ivey for taking the rest of the series off he got right back on the horse with a final table appearance in the $2500 Omaha/Seven-Card-Stud Hi/Lo Championship. While most recognize Ivey for his NL excellence he actually learned poker through Stud, and he called on that experience as he took down yet another final table, a bracelet, and over $220,000 in prize money. His second bracelet of 2009 was the seventh of his career, inching him ever closer to Hellmuth for the overall record. It is unknown whether Ivey had even more bracelet bets down after his initial win; however, if he did, you can bet there won’t be too many people lining up to wager against him anymore.
It’s quite a rare event for a player to win two bracelet’s in one year in today’s environment. What’s even more remarkable is this year two players have already done it! Brock “t soprano” Parker, known for his online prowess, has already managed to defeat two talent-filled final tables. His first win, in the $2,500 6max Limit Hold’em event came at the hands of Daniel Negreanu, who was trying to trump Ivey’s win earlier in the week. Parker thoroughly dismantled Negreanu once heads-up play started, overcoming a significant ship disadvantage to win his first bracelet and just over $223,000.
Parker continued his short-handed mastery as he took down another bracelet that same week in the $2,500 6max NL Hold’em championship. In this event he overcame some of the world’s best young tournament professionals including Clayton Newman and Joseph Serock, once again coming from behind to take the crown.
While these two professionals combined for four victories, many other seasoned pros have won big titles as well. Steve Sung, who plays some of the highest-stakes cash games in the world, won the “Stimulus Special”, a massive $1,000 buy-in tournament which set a record for the largest non Main Event tournament in WSOP history.
Another professional having an enormous run in this year’s WSOP is Ville Wahlbeck. The $10,000 buy-in events are known as the World Championship events for their respective games. The first 3 of the year, the $10k Mixed, 2-7lowball, and Seven Card-Stud all saw Wahlbeck make it down to three-handed play. In events consisting solely of world-class players, this is one of the most impressive accomplishments in WSOP History. Showing his diversity Wahlbeck finished 1st in the Mixed Event, 2nd in the 2-7, and 3rd in the Seven-Card-Stud Championship. In the 4th world championship event, the $10k Omaha Hi/Lo, Wahlbeck plummeted to a 13th place finish. Overall he now has four cashes and nearly $850,000 in cashes in this series.
Other well-known professionals winning bracelets including Nick Schulman ($10k 2-7), Daniel Alaie ($10k Omaha Hi/Lo), Roland De Wolfe ($5k PLO8b), Jeffrey Lisandro ($1,500 Seven Card Stud), and Greg Mueller who earlier tonight won his first bracelet in the $10,000 Limit Hold’em World Championship.
With all the success of the “poker pro” one can only hope their great runs continue into the Main Event, handing the title back to the pro, away from the unknown amateur.