Five reasons why the 2007 WSOP will rock

31 May 2007

The 2007 World Series of Poker will be better than last year's. It has to be.

Last year's event was missing something. The most exciting moment came when Phil Hellmuth won his tenth-bracelet. This was when I was still a Hellmuth fan. But then he started blogging about his pseudo-celebrity status and I stopped caring. Plus, he talks in the third person off the record as well as on, which is pretty tedious.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to this years WSOP.

For those of you that don't know, I'm a Red Sox fan. So I have an innate unreasonable strain of optimism whenever a season (or series in this case) begins anew. So here are five reasons why I think this year's WSOP will be better than last year's…

1. Jamie Gold will not win the World Series

After 15 hours of watching the 2006 Main Event final table play out from the media room, one thing became clear - no one wanted Jamie Gold to win. Every time the man went all-in, the "objective" media cheered for his opponent. Not even the amazing story of Gold playing for his dying father elicited sympathy. The media felt for Gold and his family (myself included), but could not stop loathing an arrogant player who said he might tank the final table because he didn't want to become a celebrity. And then we found out about the Crispin Leyser ordeal! After a year of watching Jamie Gold ruin the goodwill for poker created by past champs Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem, one thing is certain, the man couldn't handle the responsibility of being champion. There is no way Gold can repeat, and that's good for poker.

2. Shannon Elizabeth will win the heads-up event

Nadia is on fire. Her poker education came full circle this spring when she finished second in the pro-heavy field at the NBC Heads-Up Championship. Whether she likes it or not, Nadia has become a standard-bearer for women in the Series, similar to Jennifer Tilly in 2005. After a dismal 2006, women will make a comeback in 2007 and I'm all for it. I expect big things from Elizabeth, Jennifer Harman, Kathy Leibert, and the amazing Anna Wroblewski, who held the chip lead for a time at the WPT Championship. Women players are good for poker because watching ugly old men win and pimply-faced college kids is becoming a bit passé.

3. The pros will make a comeback

The Chris Moneymaker story was nice, but for poker to survive as a televised sport, the superstars must make some noise in 2007. I want "The Mouth" back at the Main Event final table. I want Doyle Brunson to win number 11. I want Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey to capture two bracelets a piece. I want little Jennifer Harman breaking people in the Main Event. Poker needs it, much like baseball needed Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire to break the single-season homerun record to make the game relevant again. Poker needs its stars Harrah's, so don't be too heavy-handed with the steroid policies. Juice the pros up and let's make some history.

4. The H.O.R.S.E will be a H.O.R.S.E

The 2006 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. final table was the greatest ever put together, pitting poker's past (Brunson) against poker's future (Ivey) with a sprinkling of great minds (Andy Bloch) and a whole lot of cash game prowess (that Chip Reese guy). The only problem is the world didn't get to see poker's greatest play H.O.R.S.E. because ESPN didn't trust that the masses would understand a mixed-game. I believe those days are done. The major online sites now offer weekly big-buy-in H.O.R.S.E. tournaments and many casinos, including Bellagio and Foxwoods, have started offering regular H.O.R.S.E cash games. No-Limit Hold'em is still king, but people want to see the other games offered in their casinos. This year's H.O.R.S.E. tournament is sure to draw another amazing group of top players, and I'm excited to see which one of them will win.

5. Participation numbers will be down

The "boom" is over. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. For every sport, the true test comes when the glitz and glamour wears off. I don't care who you are, I know you were excited for a few moments about the XFL. The thought of combining pro-wrestling antics with football was intriguing -- regardless of your fears of watching Vince McMahon in pads. The XFL failed because it sucked. Poker doesn't suck. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the NETeller arrests did not kill online poker in America because people enjoy playing the game. It's become a pastime -- where people can socialize and have a little harmless fun. The number of WSOP entrants will drop this year because not everyone is interested in playing for bracelets, but that doesn't mean people are no longer interested in poker. All of the major media outlets will cover the Main Event. Nearly everyone has played or knows someone who plays poker and that's not going away. I say let's weed out the weak and see how poker does without the flash. My bet is poker will do just fine.


Mucking McLane

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