Top-10 players you want to watch at the WSOP

11 May 2009

As we pointed out in our recent Top-10 tidbits from the 2009 World Series of Poker Media Guide article, ESPN used 40 cameras to cover last year's WSOP. That's more than what NBC used to cover Super Bowl XLIII.

But as much as we enjoy the ESPN coverage of the WSOP, even 40 cameras can't capture all of the action. Think about it. In one day of the Main Event, there are as many as 250 tables in play at one time and the action lasts for more than 12 hours a day. Can you imagine the kind of quality footage the ESPN producers have to leave on the cutting room floor in order to turn a show into a one-hour package?

So unless you want to rely on ESPN, the only way to experience the full flavor of the WSOP is to head to Las Vegas and see it live and in person. Last year, when the Casino City team returned from Vegas we provided our list of the Top-10 reasons to attend the WSOP. And in case those reasons get you motivated enough to make the trek to the Rio this summer, this week we present the 10 players you want to watch. So grab yourself a beer, find a table assignment sheet and walk the Rio floor with us as we tell you who you must see and why this summer at the WSOP.

10. Phil Laak
Laak is as goofy as they come. He likes to chat with anybody who will listen and most of the time the subject matter has nothing to do with poker. He has a self-deprecating sense of humor and the fact that you have a chance for a Jennifer Tilly sighting if you follow Laak (the two are a longtime couple) makes him a no-brainer for this list.

9. Find a celebrity
Speaking of celebs, there are always a great variety of big names in the WSOP field that are famous for something other than poker. You'll find plenty of actors and athletes and more often than not they are worth sweating for a while. Not only is it fun to see celebrities in the flesh, but it's especially entertaining to see them doing something that's not their forte. If you're in town just before the Main Event begins, the charity Ante Up For Africa tournament is perfect for celebrity gawking.

ray_romano

Ray Romano was one of the many celebs in the WSOP field last year. (photo by Vin Narayanan/Casino City)

As for the Main Event itself, last year Ray Romano, Jason Alexander and Paul Azinger were all fun to watch, but the one guy who had us in hysterics for the brief time he was alive was former Major League Baseball pitcher David Wells, who was not only ultra-aggressive, but continually taunted his opponents after a hefty raise by telling them to "Sac up, man. Sac up!" Hilarious.

8. Scotty Nguyen
Part of the excitement of sweating the Prince of Poker is that you never know what you're going to get. You could get the gregarious and personable Scotty or you might get the drunk and nasty one. Either way, you know you're going to see good poker and you're going to be entertained.

7. Greg Raymer
The FossilMan may come across as a bit of an oddball with his holographic sunglasses and hefty build, but the 2004 Main Event champ is actually one of the more intellectual players in the game. He has great discipline and rarely makes an unforced error. He also doesn't play a ton of tournaments so you have to take advantage of the opportunity to see him in person if you get it.

6. Doyle Brunson
He's one of the greatest players in the history of the game and a true legend. So if you have a chance to see him do his thing in the flesh, you simply have to seek out Texas Dolly and watch a couple orbits. It's the poker version of being able to tell your grandchildren that you saw Michael Jordan on the basketball court or Tiger Woods on the golf course. And besides, Doyle's not getting any younger and we have no idea how many more WSOPs he has left in him.

5. Gus Hansen
The Great Dane is one weird dude and one hell of a poker player. That combination makes him a show unto himself. The great thing about Hansen is that he very aggressive and you can never really tell what he's holding. His facial expressions are priceless and he also usually attracts his fair share of eye-catching female fans on the rail, another prime reason to find out what table he'll be at.

4. Mike "The Mouth" Matusow
Let's just say that Matusow's nickname is well deserved. After every hand – whether he's involved in it or not – Matusow typically provides his commentary on who played the hand well, who didn't, who got lucky and who got screwed. If he loses a hand he'll tell you what he should have done (even if you didn't ask) and if he wins a hand he'll tell you why. He's also on the short list of players you definitely want to be around after he suffers a bad beat because fireworks are sure to follow.

3. Daniel Negreanu
As you're probably well aware, Kid Poker isn't exactly a wall flower. Negreanu is an absolute motor mouth at the table and part of it is because it's his personality, but the constant chit-chat is also a major part of his poker game.

phil_hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth pleads to God for better cards during one of his frequent rants at last year's WSOP. (photo by Gary Trask/Casino City)

He's also one of the friendlier – and most sought after – players outside the rail. Last summer, I watched him leave a PokerStars private party at The Palms and walk out onto the main casino floor and get mobbed as if he were one of the remaining living Beetles. Instead of getting bothered like many celebrities would, Negreanu signed everything that was handed to him and posed for about 15 pictures in a span of three or four minutes. Very gracious.

2. Phil Ivey
Just getting to see Ivey's steely-eyed stare down of an opposing player is the only reason you need to seek him out. Not only is Ivey truly one of the best players in the game, but he also exudes a combination of confidence and intimidation that noticeably affects his tablemates. It makes for great theater.

1. Phil Hellmuth
There is talk that the new WSOP disciplinary rule that has been set in place this year might pacify the antics of the Poker Brat, but we're betting that at some point Hellmuth will go off on one of his belligerent yet hysterical rants. And it will happen more than once. He simply can't help himself. And when he does erupt, like he did on more than a few occasions last year (see here, here and here) you want to be in the very near vicinity. The ESPN cameras can't do it justice. This is something you have to see live.


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