Sunday, June 20, 2010

BJ's WSOP Report: Week 3

By BJ Nemeth
Las Vegas, NV

Three weeks down, four more to go until the November Nine is set. But in terms of the preliminary bracelet events, the WSOP is already more than half over. I'm BJ Nemeth, and I'll be guiding you through the biggest stories each week and the stats that summarize the rest.

While the first story listed below could be one that comes to define this year's WSOP, the rest of the week was fairly unremarkable with no major storylines developing. We're definitely in the mid-WSOP grind.


1. Men Playing in the Ladies Event

This year's WSOP Ladies Event attracted 1,054 players, very similar to last year's field of 1,060. But about 10-12 of this year's players were men, and that made all the difference.

In recent years, WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack personally convinced any men who registered for the Ladies Event to back down. You see, Harrah's can't legally restrict men from an event, because it would be sexual discrimination. But during Pollack's reign, the Ladies Event was focused on the women.

Shaun Deeb was the most visible of the men, dressed in drag as part of a prop bet (wearing a shirt and hat that belonged to Liv Boeree). It seemed to be just fun and games at first, but Harrah's and many of the women didn't find it funny at all. At least a few of the men were searched thoroughly (harassed?) before sitting down to play, and there were rumors spreading that Harrah's would punish the men by banning from the WSOP for a year (or possibly forever). WSOP Communications Director Seth Palansky even called the men who played "scumbags."

The Ladies Event always stirs up controversy -- Annie Duke and others see it as demeaning to women, while others find it empowering for women and think it attracts more females to poker. But this year the debate got louder and more intense. It seemed like every female in poker weighed in with a blog on the subject, and many of the men did too. Shaun Deeb recorded a defensive YouTube video where he awkwardly read a prepared statement like a prisoner of war, claiming he was protesting the restrictive nature of the event.

The event is now over, and the debate has died down as players and the media move on to other things. But as French reporter Benjo DiMeo said, "If 10 guys played this year, next year there will be 50." The big question now is what will Harrah's do with this event next year? Will they run it like they always have, and hope for the best? Will they increase the intimidation factor on men who want to play, or scale back to more subtle Jeffrey Pollack-style politicking? Or will they turn it into an exhibition event, rather than a bracelet event? (That would quiet some, but not all, of the critics.)

2. Seniors Event is the Largest Single-Day Start in WSOP History

While the ladies attracted all the controversy, it was the Seniors Event that attracted the players. There were 3,142 players aged 50 or older who entered this event -- nearly three times the size of the Ladies Event.

While men can't be legally excluded from the Ladies Event, youngsters CAN be kept out of the Seniors Event -- our society has fewer problems with ageism than sexism. For example, you have to be 25 or older to rent a car, you have to be 28 or younger to audition for "American Idol," and some restaurants give discounts to customers 65 years or older just for surviving that long.

With no forty-somethings ruining all the fun for the older crowd, this event had no controversy. But what it did have was a huge field. In fact, it's the largest field to ever sit down to start an event on a single day, and nearly three times the size of the Ladies Event. Does that mean poker needs to do more to attract old people to the game? Some of the arguments for and against the Ladies Event sound weird when applied to seniors.

However, by the end of the WSOP, this story will likely fade into the background and become a trivia question. Let's face it, the Seniors Event lacks the sex, sizzle, and stigma of the Ladies Event, regardless of how may people play.

3. Year of the Chainsaw

Allen Kessler is known for being a min-cash grinder, but he is having one hell of a WSOP. Kessler has four cashes and three top-17 finishes, including a runner-up finish to Frank Kassela in Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo). Kessler has already told everyone within earshot that his four cashes have come in four different variations of poker -- Omaha Hi-Lo, 2-7 Triple Draw, Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo, and H.O.R.S.E.

Kessler's second-place finish earned him $276,485. Uncharacteristically, he didn't pay close attention to the prize structure until he was heads up and learned he was already guaranteed the biggest cash of his career. (Could that have played a role in his loss? Probably not, because Kassela already had a dominating chip lead.)

All of this adds up to 120 POY points for the man they ironically call "Chainsaw," which ties him for 12th in the WSOP Player of the Year standings. If Kessler can pull off a third-place finish, he'll catch POY points leaders Michael Mizrachi and James Dempsey. That would surely turn the poker world upside-down, and become the Big Story of the WSOP.

* * *


Event #20, $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha
885 players (last year: 809)
Winner: John "Tex" Barch, $256,919

Event #21, $1,500 Seven Card Stud
408 players (last year: 359)
Winner: Richard Ashby, $140,467

Event #22, $1,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold'em
1,054 players (last year: 1,060)
Winner: Vanessa Hellebuyck, $192,132

Event #23, $2,500 Limit Hold'em (6 handed)
384 players (last year: 367)
Winner: Dutch Boyd, $234,065

Event #24, $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em
3,289 players (last year: 6,012)
Winner: Jeffrey Tebben, $503,389

Event #25, $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo
212 players (last year: 179)
Winner: Sam Farha, $488,241

Event #26, $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em (6 handed)
1,245 players (last year: 1,068)
Winner: William Haydon, $630,031

Event #27, $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo
644 players (last year: 466)
Winner: David Warga, $208,682

Event #28, $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha
596 players (last year: 436)
Winner: Miguel Prouix, $315,311

Event #29, $10,000 Limit Hold'em
171 players (last year: 185)
Winner: Matt Keikoan, $425,969

Event #30, $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
2,394 players (last year: 2,095)
Winner: Mike Ellis, $581,851

Event #31, $1,500 H.O.R.S.E.
828 players (last year: 770)
Winner: Konstantin Puchkov, $256,820

* * *

United States: 20
Great Britain: 4
Canada: 3
Hungary: 1
New Zealand: 1
France: 1
Russia: 1

The WSOP Player of the Year race is heating up with 31 events completed, and there are 21 players who have accumulated more than 100 points -- which is what a bracelet victory is worth. Here are the top POY contenders with at least 150 points:
1. Michael Mizrachi: 180 pts
2. James Dempsey: 180 pts
3. David Baker: 170 pts
4. Dan Heimiller: 170 pts
5. John Juanda: 160 pts
6. Vladimir Schmelev: 155 pts
7. Michael Chow: 150 pts
Juanda and Schmelev are cooling down a bit, as neither one picked up any additional points this past week. Mizrachi made his third final table, and like Juanda and Schmelev, all three were in events with buyins of $10,000 or more.

As mentioned earlier, min-cash master Allen "Chainsaw" Kessler is currently tied for 12th in the WSOP Player of the Year standings.

There are now four players with five cashes each -- Shawn Buchanan, Christian Harder, Tad Jurgens, and Pat Pezzin. (Jurgens was the first to reach that mark.) With about 25 events left, it's going to be extremely tough for anyone to challenge the record for cashes in a single WSOP (10, set by Nikolay Evdakov in 2008).

There are another 21 players with four cashes each, including original November Niner Chino Rheem and last year's Card Player POY, Eric "Basebaldy" Baldwin. We mentioned Allen Kessler's four cashes earlier, and it's interesting that both David "Bakes" Baker and Dave Baker have four cashes each. So if you accidentally congratulate the wrong David Baker on having an excellent WSOP, you'll still be justified.

We've now had four women who have reached final tables. But even though all of them have reached the top four, it's been a relatively disappointing WSOP for women in general. The media is already shopping around for a new "Year of the Blank" headline.

Here are the four women who have reached final tables:
J.J. Liu: 3rd place, $86,512
Event #9 ($1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em)

Jennifer Harman: 3rd place, $173,159
Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)

Christine Pietsch: 2nd place, $86,756
Event #21 ($1,500 Seven Card Stud)

Karina Jett: 4th place, $60,588
Event #27 ($1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)
Christine Pietsch was the first woman to play heads-up for an open bracelet this year, and even though she held a large chip lead at one point, she couldn't finish off Richard Ashby, who came back to win. This was Pietsch's first cash in a WSOP event (she admitted to being a relative rookie in tournaments), and she came one spot away from making history.

In Event #23 ($2,500 Limit Hold'em, 6-handed), J.J. Liu and Anh Le bubbled the final table in 7th and 8th places, respectively. Liu is having the best Series for a woman so far, with two top-seven finishes and $108,503 in earnings.

Annette Obrestad has still been quiet, with just two small cashes. While Obrestad was one of the biggest stories coming into this year's WSOP, she'll need a final table or a lot more cashes to become one of the stories coming out of this year's WSOP.

The number of players with three final tables has doubled to four, and three of them (Schmelev, Juanda, and Mizrachi) have done it in events with $10,000 or higher buy-ins.

Note: While those of us in the media trumpet that stat because it sounds impressive, in many ways it is easier to make a final table in the higher buy-in events because of the smaller fields. Yes, it's a tougher field, but it would be far more impressive to have three final tables in $1,000 or $1,500 no-limit hold'em donkaments against thousands of players.

Here are the four players with three final tables, in the order that they accomplished the feat:
Vladimir Schmelev
2nd in Event #2 ($50,000 Poker Players Championship)
7th in Event #10 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud)
7th in Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)

John Juanda
4th in Event #2 ($50,000 Poker Players Championship)
5th in Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)
4th in Event #19 ($10,000 2-7 No-Limit Draw)

Michael Mizrachi
1st in Event #2 ($50,000 Poker Players Championship)
6th in Event #10 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud)
8th in Event #29 ($10,000 Limit Hold'em)

Jameson Painter
5th in Event #7 ($2,500 2-7 Triple Draw)
7th in Event #12 ($1,500 Limit Hold'em)
4th in Event #29 ($10,000 Limit Hold'em)
Another seven players have made two final tables each: David "Bakes" Baker, Al Barbieri, David Chiu, Michael Chow, James Dempsey, Dan Heimiller, and Matt Matros.

One of the big stories from the first half of 2009 was Sam Chauhan, a life coach that specializes in neuro-linguistic programming. He has taken on several high-profile players as clients (students?), and guides them toward poker success. Bluff Magazine did a story on him in their April issue, showing him with clients Phil Hellmuth, Gavin Smith, Antonio Esfandiari, Josh Arieh, and Paul Wasicka.

Along with David Williams (a Chauhan client who won the WPT World Championship), these players were all turning around bad years with some impressive results. Some in the media seemed ready to proclaim Chauhan as a miracle man that could make you a better poker player without teaching you anything about poker.

Well, if anything can test a player's mindset, it's the day-to-day grind of the WSOP. So how have these six players fared? Not well. Between them, they have a total of six cashes in the first 31 events for $119,113. That's less than $20,000 each. The closest they've come to a final table is a 15th-place finish by Hellmuth and a 12th-place by Antonio.

None of this is enough to make a final ruling on Chauhan's methods, just as it was foolish to claim they worked because of a hot streak earlier this year. It's called variance, people.

Justin Bonomo laid 10-to-1 odds (he put up $10,000 to anyone else's $1,000) that one of the 68 players who lives in Panorama Towers would win a bracelet this year. To see all the names, check out Justin Bonomo's post in the 2+2 thread by clicking here.

Bonomo has already won this bet, due to the victory by David "Bakes" Baker in Event #19. But it'll be interesting to continue tracking Panorama's results to help set a proper line for next year's bet. (Bonomo offered the same bet last year with 7-to-1 odds, and won with a Greg "FBT" Mueller bracelet.)

There have been six final table appearances by Panorama players so far: David "Bakes" Baker (1st, 6th), Nick Binger (3rd), Nenad Medic (4th), Brock Parker (5th), and David "Doc" Sands (8th).

* * *

There's your recap for the third week of the 2010 WSOP. Thanks again to Pauly for letting me get my geek on and run down the stats and the big stories. This summer I'm working for Greasie Wheels, which is providing the official WSOP photography for Harrah's. Check out my official WSOP Photo Blog on I'm also recording the award-winning "Poker Beat" podcast twice a week for

Check out The BJ Report... Week 1 and Week 2.


  1. Jobin2:44 PM

    I think Eric Baldwin has three cashes - 50th in event 32, 11th in event 25, and 15th in event 3.

  2. Trisha7:38 PM

    Some of the arguments for and against the Ladies Event sound weird when applied to seniors.

    Which is why the guys who played in the Ladies' Event who claimed they were doing it in the name of egalitarianism are hypocrites if they also didn't show up to the Seniors events.