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Best of Ryan McLane
Another crazy weekend at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) saw the first multi-bracelet winner of 2006, the greatest final table ensemble ever put together, and the record for the youngest player to ever win a WSOP event fall.
Between the final table of the first $50,000 buy-in event at any World Series of Poker and Jeff Madsen's incredible Event #22 victory at the tender age of 21-years, one month and nine days, spectators in the Amazon Room of the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino had plenty to cheer about.
And as if all of that isn't enough for a two-day span, poker superstar Phil Hellmuth has once again made a WSOP final table and looks poised at a run for a record-tying tenth gold bracelet.
Chip Reese Takes Home $1.7 Million and His Third Gold Bracelet
It wasn't about the money. High stakes poker player Chip Reese routinely plays in games that would make the $50,000 buy-in to the WSOP H.O.R.S.E tournament seem laughable. Even the $1.7 million take home doesn't compare to Reese's life-long accumulation of cash-game chips.
It was about respect. Considered by many to be the best all-around poker player in the world, Reese added another piece of evidence on Saturday morning, defeating the greatest WSOP final table ever put together to grab the prestigious H.O.R.S.E. title and all the accolades that come with it.
Although he went into the final table with a considerable chip lead, Reese had to battle with the likes of Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, T.J. Cloutier, Jim Bechtel, Andy Bloch, Dewey Tomko, David Singer, and Patrik Antonius.
The tournament was grueling. What began as a three-day event eventually became a four-day battle as play on day two lasted 19-hours and the heads-up match between Reese and Bloch lasted more than 300 hands and an incredible seven hours.
Four times Bloch had Reese on the ropes, forcing the cash-game-master to place his tournament life on the line with the worst hand multiple-times. Miraculously, Reese continually wriggled out of the noose, turned the tables, and captured his third WSOP title - his first since 1982.
"He had me beat four or five times," Reese told the crowd after the match. "I just kept coming back. I'm very happy to win, but I feel bad for (Bloch), because he played well enough to win today."
Bloch was obviously more than disappointed after his performance in Event #20, but as he told the final table participants, this was his largest cash-to-date whether he won or lost. Although Bloch is an accomplished poker player, he has never captured a major title, placing him as one of the best to never win a big one.
Still, the $1,029,600 payday more than heals the wounds. As always, Bloch will donate at least one percent of his earning to his buddy Phil Gordon's "Put a Bad Beat on Cancer" charity, a cause many players in the WSOP fully support.
William Chen Grabs His Second 2006 WSOP Bracelet
WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla wrote this after William Chen's 2006 WSOP $1,500 Event #7 Limit Hold'em victory, "Based on his performance this night, odds are the World Series of Poker has not seen the last of Bill Chen."
Apparently Dalla knows what he's talking about. Less than a week after the mathematical genius captured his first gold bracelet, he won another, defeating 740 participants in the popular Event #21 $2,500 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em event.
Chen holds a PHD in mathematics from Cal-Berkeley and does quantitative analysis for Susquehanna, a highly successful financial services firm founded by poker players. Chen is already releasing a book called The Mathematics of Poker this fall. Judging by his success in this year's series, it's safe to say it will be well read in the poker community.
"Math works," Chen said after his second victory. "Math and poker do work. A lot of my play is not about reading my opponents. Sure, when I get a clear read on someone, I act on it. But that is rare. Most of my play in this event and in the limit event has been to balance my play, balance my bets and bluffs, and call with the right frequency. I try to gauge what my opponents range of starting hands is, and then devise my counterstrategy from that. It's all part of game theory."
Chen's 2006 WSOP has directly modeled his mathematically consistent play. Chen has eight cashes in his WSOP career, his first coming in 2000 and five of them coming this year alone. He also isn't a one-trick pony. His WSOP top finishes have come in No-Limit Hold'em, Limit Hold'em, Omaha, Omaha High-Low, and Lowball Ace to Five.
This could be the year of Chen. One more victory in 2006 would tie him with Phil Ivey and Ted Forrest for the most bracelets won in a single WSOP.
Jeff Madsen Becomes the Youngest WSOP Winner in History
Just one month and nine days after Jeff Madsen was legally allowed inside a Las Vegas poker room, he proved he belonged in one, winning the $2,000 WSOP Event #22
No-Limit Hold'em tournament and becoming the youngest WSOP champ in history.
The win came less than two-weeks after Madsen placed third in the $2,000 WSOP Event #8 Omaha High-Low 8/OB. Combined, the WSOP's youngest bracelet winner has received more than $750,000 for his efforts. His first place finish was worth $660,948.
This marks the third straight year the "youngest player to win a bracelet" record has been broken, emphasizing poker's growing appeal to a younger generation. In 2004, Gavin Griffin won the distinction only to see the record fall in 2005 when Eric Froelich won his first gold bracelet at 21-years, three months, and three days old.
"It's going to be tough to break (the new record)," Madsen said after his victory. "I'm just lucky that my birthday was so close. It's going to be hard, since I'm 21 and one month. It will sure be tough to break that record."
Phil Hellmuth Eyes His 10th WSOP Bracelet…Again
Poker superstar Phil Hellmuth will once again be at a WSOP final table with a chance to tie the all-time WSOP gold bracelet record. Chasing legends Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan, both with 10 bracelets, Hellmuth's highly publicized attempt to achieve poker immortality will be the main story in the finale of the #3,000 WSOP Event #24 Omaha High-Low Split.
Hellmuth goes into the final table in second chip position with $158,000, well behind the leader Scott Clements who has $244,000. However, Hellmuth has a large experience advantage against the rest of the competitors so it should be interesting.
Hellmuth already has a second place finish in the 2006 WSOP and was a river card away from tying Brunson and Chan for the record when he battled Jeff Cabinallas heads up in the $5,000 Event #9 No Limit Hold'em tournament earlier this month.
Twice Hellmuth had Cabinallas all-in with the best hand, but was unable to finish off his opponent. This time, Hellmuth is playing in an event away from his strength (No-Limit Hold'em is generally considered to be his best game), but his determination to win in 2006 might probe to be enough of an edge.
Hellmuth is already on record with Casino City as saying his game is in "tip-top" shape and his focus this year is win enough bracelets to make him the best WSOP player of all-time. Monday's finale will be his best shot to make good on that claim.
Other WSOP Notes
Four WSOP major tournaments will run at the same time today (Monday, July 17).
While Hellmuth battles for his 10th bracelets in Event $24, Ian Johns and his $207,000 will lead the final table of WSOP Event #23, a $3,000 Limit Hold'em tournament. The final table, which includes several solid players, but no notables, will commence at 2 p.m. PST Monday.
WSOP Event #25, the popular $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout, will move to its second day with notables Layne Flack, James Woods, Mike Sexton, Mark Seif, Blair Rodman, Evelyn Ng, Josh Arieh, and Kathy Leibert all in good position. Play will continue today at 2 p.m. PST and will continue until the final table is set.
The final competition Monday will be the first day of Event #26, a $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha tournament. That event will begin at noon.
Ryan McLane is a gaming industry reporter for Casino City and is assigned to the poker beat. Email your comments and questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org .