Around the WSOP: Players to watch in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship

25 June 2008

For an event that has been around for just two years, the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship has certainly made its mark on the World Series of Poker. And this year's third-annual edition of the event – which begins on Wednesday evening – will carry even more reverence for a couple of reasons.

chip_reese

The late Chip Reese was the inaugural winner of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship at the WSOP and this year's event will be played in his honor.

First and foremost, the inaugural winner of the event back in 2006 was David "Chip" Reese, who passed away suddenly in December at the age of 56. Shortly after his death, the WSOP announced that this year's $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship would be played in Reese's honor and that all future winners would receive the David "Chip" Reese Award.

Secondly, the event has increasingly become known among the professional players as the one that clearly crowns the most complete poker player. The first two $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championships drew 143 and 148 entrants respectively, and this year's is expected to have just as with a purse in excess of $7 million.

The event requires participants to play a rotation of five popular forms of poker – (H)old'em, (O)maha High-Low, (R)azz, Seven-Card (S)tud and Seven-Card Stud (E)ight or Better. It truly takes an all-around player to win because it demonstrates he or she can outplay the competition in a wide range of game variations with high stakes on the line.

Harrah's Entertainment decided to include the event in the WSOP in response to repeated player requests to add a high entry fee H.O.R.S.E. game to determine the professional poker player's true champion. And the massive buy-in pretty much guarantees that only true professionals will be in the field. It is the most expensive of the 55 events at the World Series of Poker and is the richest entry fee for a poker event in North America.

Freddy Deeb won last year's event and cashed in for $2,276,832. Deeb, a native of Lebanon, is a perfect example of the type of player it takes to win an event of this caliber as seen by his more than $5 million in career earnings and 24 WSOP cashes.

Reese, who finished on the bubble last year, had to beat out an impressive final table back in 2006, one that included Andy Bloch, Phil Ivey, Jim Bechtel, T.J. Cloutier, David Singer, Dewey Tomko, Doyle Brunson and Patrik Antonius.

As for players to watch in this year's event, Casino City has three choices, all of whom were sitting at that infamous final table in 2006.

Andy Bloch: If we were to start a list of "The Best Players Who Have Never Won a WSOP bracelet," Bloch would be at the very top. And wouldn't this year's $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event be a perfect place for the MIT whiz to relieve him of that title? Bloch finished second to Reese in 2006 and he's obviously on top of his game, as seen by three WSOP cashes this year already, including second place in the $10,000 World Championship Limit Hold'em event. And if a complete player is what you're looking for, Bloch fills the bill. His 16-career WSOP cashes have come in seven different games (Razz, No-Limit Hold'em, Limit Hold'em, Seven Card Stud, Limit Omaha, Omaha Hi/Lo, Limit 2-7 Draw).

David Singer: This is an obvious choice considering he has placed sixth in this event in each of the last two years. He also has four WSOP cashes this year, including his first-career bracelet in the $1,500 Pot Limit Hold'em event.

Doyle Brunson: Go ahead, call us sentimental fools. Or maybe this is the journalist in our blood because Brunson winning the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event just six months after the death of his long-time friend would be quite a story. The soon-to-be 75-year-old, 10-time bracelet winner hasn't won one since 2005, but he placed eighth in this event in 2006 and was 22nd in the $5,000 H.O.R.S.E. event last year. He also won the $2,000 H.O.R.S.E. event back in 2003. Let's put it this way: If Chip is pulling any sort of strings from high above this year, Texas Dolly will be in contention.

Phan becomes 2008's first two-timer

It's been a pretty good week for John Phan. After years of close finishes at the WSOP (including three Top-10s), but no bracelet to show for it, Phan finally broke through and won the $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em championship last week. The momentum from that victory carried over to this week as "The Razor" quickly added a second bracelet to his jewelry box on Tuesday night when he prevailed over a final table that already had plenty of bracelets of its own in the Limit Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw Lowball championship.

Overall, eight of the last 12 players in the event were former WSOP gold bracelet winners. Four of the six final table finalists had previously won an event at the WSOP. The finale of six players included renowned poker author David Sklansky, as well as two bracelet winners from a year ago (Robert Mizrachi and Ben Ponzio). In addition, there was Shun Uchida, who had already added two WSOP cashes to his resume this year.

Phan, who cashed for $151,911, was demonstratively more excited about the second win as compared to his first and when asked about it said that he is on a mission to set new records. He cited a new goal to become the first three-event winner in a single year since Phil Ivey's accomplishment back in 2002.

"I'm going to go after all of Stu Ungar's records," Phan boldly stated in reference to the three-time Main Event icon.

Phan also revealed after his victory that he intends to donate some of his cash prize to charity, and specifically the hometown in Vietnam where he still has relatives. He did the same after his first win last week.

With the victory, Phan's two wins at this year's World Series means that the WSOP has had multiple event winners every single year since 1999. In addition to Phan, this multi-winner list includes: Tom Schneider (2007), Bill Chen (2006), Jeff Madsen (2006), Mark Seif (2005), Ted Forrest (2004), Chris "Jesus" Ferguson (2000, 2003), John Juanda (2003), Phil Ivey (2002) and Scotty Nguyen (2001).


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