The 2010 Championship

In 2010, the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E Championship became renamed to The Poker Player’s Championship, with the same large buy-in. This change was to look to add prestige and prominence to the tournament, and it was moved up to the second event of the series, running right after the traditional kick off to the ceremonies, the $500 Casino Employees No Limit Hold’em championship.

This smaller tournament was open to any casino employee who was willing to plunk down $500 for a seat, and was won this year by Hoai Pham, a poker dealer from California. In spite of working in a live poker room, Pham plays mostly online poker, and he honed his skills there to put himself in a position to take down the bracelet and the $71,424 first place prize.

The Poker Player’s Championship remained the largest buy-in event on the schedule, and was won this year by 2006 Card Player Magazine player of the year Michael Mizrachi. Both he and his brother Robert both finished in the top 5, a pretty amazing feat. As it would turn out, 2010 was a pretty good WSOP indeed for Michael, as he not only took home the bracelet and the over $1.5 million first prize in this championship, but also made it to the famed November Nine in the main event.

Beating the world’s best professionals in the Player’s Championship and then working his way through over 7000 players in the main event showed without a doubt that Mizrachi could play. In fact, poker playing definitely ran in the Mizrachi family, as Michael, Robert, and their brothers Eric and Donny all finished in the money in the main event. This was of course the first time anything like this had been accomplished at the World Series.

Near the beginning of the WSOP, a separate Ladies Championship had been run, and it had been determined that in spite of that, the tournament cannot ban men from competing. In the past a few men have entered the tournament, but in 2010 this number grew to a dozen or more, prompting WSOP officials to call these men “scumbags.” None of these wannabe ladies ended up with results of any note. The event was won by Vanessa Hellebuyck who took home $192,132.

The WSOP by now had exceeded one billion dollars in terms of total prize money paid out over the years, and in fact this year topped $1.25 billion. The main part of the tournament was now two months long. 7319 players sat down for the main event, the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Championship, and once again, as had been the case for the past several years, the first day was broken up into four segments on four separate days, with Day two being run in two segments over two days. So it took six days to run the first two days so to speak, and players could now be forced to wait 4 or 5 days to resume play.

As had been customary for many years now, several celebrities stepped up to the plate at the big dance. Gabe Kaplan was still at it, having appeared in his first WSOP way back in 1978 and being the first celebrity to play regularly at the event. The best celebrity finish this year was by UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer, who finished 478th. As for past champions, 1987 and 1988 winner Johnny Chan performed best, ending up going out in 156th place.

Finally, the November Nine of 2010 became set, where the lucky 9 players would vie for a total of over $29 million in prize money, averaging more than $3.2 million each, with a top prize of almost $9 million. The twenty somethings were really taking over the game now, and only one of the nine participants was over 30. Seven pros sat down at the final table, with only 2 amateurs, although none of the pros were real big names by any means, and only Misrachi was of any significant renown.

No Canadian had ever won the title, but Canada was represented at the final table by not just one but two players. Jonathan Duhamel from the Montreal area in fact was the chip leader going in, with almost 67 million chips. Fellow Canadian Matthew Jarvis sat down in 5th place with 16.7 million chips. As for the rest of the November Nine, John Dolan sat in second place with 46 million, followed by Joseph Cheong with 23.5 million. John Racener started in fourth with 19 million. Jarvis was in 5th spot, Italian poker pro Fillips Candio was sixth with 16.4 million, and Mizrachi was in seventh with 14.4 million. Rounding out the field were salesman Soi Nguyen in eighth with 9.6 million, and Jason Senti in ninth with 7.6 million.

Finally, the time had come for the final table action to start, and the players and the crowd all assembled at the Penn and Teller theater at the Rio. MMA announcer Bruce Buffer, who had not only been hired as the WSOP announcer but finished in the money in the event and was the top celebrity finisher, announced the proclamation of “shuffle up and deal.” Can anyone cut into Duhamel’s big stack? Would one of the shorter stacked players be able to double up enough times to become a serious contender?

Soi Nguyen and Joseph Senti, the two shortest stacks at the table, were the first to go to war and essentially put their tournament lives on the line. Nguyen went to battle all in with AK versus Senti’s pocket queens. Once a queen hit the flop, Nguyen was in big trouble, and he was unable to pull off a miracle and stay alive. Nguyen was pretty happy with the result though in addition to the experience, and stated that it was the greatest four months of his life. He also went home with $811,823.

This gave Senti some much needed life as the 15 million chip pot he won in eliminating Nguyen bolstered his chances to move up further from his ninth place starting spot when the action began. The next big hand was between Michael Mizrachi and Matthew Jarvis, a full time college student who played online poker on the side. The experienced pro sat with AQ against Jarvis’ pocket nines, and once again we had another race. The loser of this hand was either out or for all intents and purposes out, so there was obviously a lot riding on the outcome.

Mizrachi was the clear favorite with the crowd and they roared when the flop came down QQ8, giving him three queens and almost certainly the hand. There was only two cards in the deck that could help Jarvis, which were the other two nines. The turn card was dealt – a nine! In one card, Mizrachi went from almost certain winner to almost certain loser, as this gave Jarvis a full house to Michael’s three queens.

There was one more card to come though, and all Mizrachi could hope for was the last queen, or one of the three aces in the deck. Finally, the river card hit the felt….an ace!!! Jarvis’ miracle card on the turn was completely undone by Mizrachi’s miracle on the river. He who has the last miracle laughs last though, and Jarvis was out in eighth.

Jason Senti sat with AK and was more than willing to get all his chips in provided he could find a taker. Joseph Cheong was eager to take him on though with his pocket tens, so the stage was set. Senti had to win to survive, and if he could pull it off, he’d climb up the ladder nicely with the 30 million chip pot that was at stake. Cheong was looking to build his stack and this pot would do nicely. However, his chances were slim as the flop came down KKQ, giving Senti three queens.

Cheong had very few outs, but when a jack hit on the turn, he at least had the possibility of a miracle. He could make a straight with either an ace or a nine, but the ace would give Senti a full house, so that was no good to him. So, come on nine, come on nine, became his battle cry. Incredibly, a nine did indeed hit on the river, putting Senti and the crowd in a state of shock. Once again a miracle river card sent someone home packing, and this time it was Jason Senti, although he did manage to move up from his starting spot of ninth to finish in seventh.

John Dolan had started the day in second place with a very large stack, but things certainly didn’t go his way at all during final table play. He eventually was down to a very short stack, and shoved what little he had into the middle on a bluff. He was called by Jonathan Duhamel with pocket fours, and ended up finishing off Dolan, who was out in sixth place.

We were now 10 hours into the first day’s final table action, with play set to continue until things got down to just 2 players, even if that took all night. In 2009, things didn’t wrap up until 5 AM, so it very well might. As action resumed, Michael Mizrachi had not long ago been the chip leader at the table, but saw his fortunes take a serious turn for the worse when he lost a coin flip to Duhamel, who doubled up on him. The two players went at it again a little later, and this time it was Mizrachi’s life that was on the line, and he ended up with top pair on the flop only to see Duhamel turn over pocket aces and take him out.

Next to fall was Fillipo Candio, who got taken out by a bad beat laid on him by Joseph Cheong, who hit a straight on the river. Cheong then became the chip leader, but as fate would have it, ran into some bad luck himself and lost some key hands, and ended up bowing out in third place for a nice sum of $4,130,049. After 14 hours of play, the stage was now set, and the tournament was adjourned to the next day where Duhamel would take on John Racener for the title.

Duhamel had a huge lead going into the final day, with 188.9 million chips to Recener’s mere 30.7 million. Recener would have to double up several times in a row to get back into the match, each time risking elimination. So he needed a real miracle to pull this off, but this time it wasn’t to be. He had to settle for the consolation prize, albeit a pretty nice won, totaling $5,545,955. Jonathan Duhamel became the first Canadian to win the world championship, along with the diamond studded gold bracelet and almost nine million dollars.