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Top-10 World Series of Poker moments

1 August 2011

Many poker pundits predicted the World Series of Poker would suffer a major fall from grace after the Black Friday indictments of April 15. But it never happened. In fact, this year's WSOP was a smashing success with a record 75,672 entries in 58 events creating a record prize pool of $191,999,010.

The WSOP is not over yet. There are still events in France at the WSOPE in September. And the Main Event final table will play out in November. But that doesn't mean we can't look back and relive some of this year's best WSOP moments.

10. Somerville breaks through

Jason Somerville's track record at the WSOP before this year was extremely impressive. The 24-year-old American online poker pro had finished in second, third, fourth and fifth in previous WSOP events. However, he never captured a gold bracelet. That changed this year after he won a $1,000 No Limit Hold'em event, taking home a first-place prize of $493,091. Somerville's mentor Daniel Negreanu was able to see him break through first-hand at the final table.

9. One for the Bingers

Brothers Nick and Michael Binger are both accomplished poker players who have consistently made final tables at WSOP events for the last six-plus years. And entering this year's Series, both were considered two of the best players to have never won a WSOP bracelet. That didn't change for Michael this year (he did cash in four events), but Nick finally got the monkey off his back by defeating David Bach heads-up in a $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo event. Nick Binger won $397,073 and had a boisterous rail cheering him on, including his brother, Liv Boeree and Vanessa Selbst.

8. Katchalov's dream year continues

Eugene Katchalov began 2011 with a bang in January by winning the $100,000 Super High Roller event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas and taking home $1.5 million in the process. He won $131,920 two weeks later when he finished second in another high-roller event at the PCA. In March he was named a Team PokerStars Pro. The following month he won $68,000 by finishing second in a high-roller bounty shootout at NAPT Mohegan Sun. And his good form continued in the WSOP where he won $122,909 and his first gold bracelet in a $1,500 Seven Card Stud tournament.

7. Cody completes Triple Crown

Thanks to some rowdy British fans, beer was banned in the stands around the final table (for a few days), much to the dismay of poker spectators everywhere. Thankfully, that ban came after Englishman Jake Cody won the $25,000 Heads-Up Championship. In doing so, the 22-year-old became the youngest player to land poker's Triple Crown (he won the EPT Deauville and WPT London last year). He was railed by nearly 40 boisterous Brits, who broke into soccer-style chants in the stands at the final table.

6. Mercier stays hot

Katchalov wasn't the only Team PokerStars pro that came into this year's WSOP on a hot streak. Jason Mercier won the NAPT Mohegan Sun high-roller bounty shootout (over Katchalov) for the second year in a row. He final-tabled a $25,000 high-roller event at the PCA. And he cashed three times in the first three weeks of this year's WSOP. Mercier topped all those performances by winning his second gold bracelet in a $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha Six Handed tournament. Mercier's trophy case now includes two WSOP gold bracelets, two NAPT titles and an EPT championship. He has won over $1.5 million at the WSOP and has cashed in 19 events.

5. Brazil goes bonkers

If one WSOP tournament this year could be compared to a rowdy soccer match, it wouldn’t be Jake Cody’s triumphant win. It would be Event #43, a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event. It was won by Brazilian Andre Akkari. He was railed by over 50 of his fellow countrymen, who wore soccer jerseys and waved Brazilian flags. Akkari defeated American Nachman Berlin to win $675,117.

4. Juanda vs. Hellmuth

Poker has been mostly dominated by hotshot online poker pros in the last few years. Many of the players mentioned above earn (or earned) their keep by grinding on the Internet. That’s why it was great to see two members of the old guard go at it heads-up in the $10,000 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship. Phil Hellmuth, an 11-time bracelet winner, held a 2-to-1 chip advantage over four-time bracelet winner John Juanda in heads-up play. But Juanda was able to chip away at Hellmuth’s stack and wound up victorious. Little did we know, Hellmuth’s quest for his first non-Hold’em bracelet was just beginning (see below).

3. Elky gets his bracelet

Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier had won nearly everything on a poker pro’s checklist. WPT event? Check. EPT event? Check. WCOOP title? Check (twice). However, he had never won a WSOP gold bracelet. In fact, he had never reached a final table in the WSOP in four years. That all changed in 2011 after the Frenchman overcame a massive chip deficit to win the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship. At one point during heads-up play, Steve Landfish held a 24:1 chip lead. However, after four hours of intense play, Elky was victorious.

2. Lamb highlights November Nine

This year’s WSOP Main Event final table has a European flair, with five players from the Continent in the November Nine. That being said, all eyes will be on one of the three Americans at the table: Ben Lamb. If Lamb is able to win the Main Event, he will have completed the greatest WSOP in the event’s 42-year history. Lamb started his unbelievable heater by finishing second in a $3,000 Pot Limit Omaha event. The following week he won the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship. Three days later he finished in 12th place in the $10,000 No Limit Hold'em - Six Handed Championship. He then finished in eighth place in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship. All told, Lamb has won over $1.3 million in this year’s WSOP, not including the Main Event. Regardless of where he places at the Main Event final table, he will pocket over $2.1 million.

1. Rast vs. Hellmuth

Hellmuth came agonizingly close to winning his 12th gold bracelet against Juanda. A week later he finished in second again, this time against Eric Rodawig in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo Championship. Those two tournaments are peanuts compared to the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship, the granddaddy of them all. And once again, Hellmuth found himself heads-up. Once again, Hellmuth held a significant chip advantage against his heads-up opponent, Brian Rast. And once again, Hellmuth squandered that chip advantage. Hellmuth’s brutal loss is even more noteworthy when you take into account how quickly the tide turned against him. In a span of 30 minutes, he lost three all-ins on flush draws to turn a 5-to-1 chip lead into his third second place finish of the WSOP. Hellmuth is now second in the WSOP Player of the Year Standings behind Lamb, with Rast not too far behind.
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