Of course there were poker tournaments. Day 5 of the 2009 World Series of Poker meant that the poker action was in full swing, and the second day of the $1K buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament added to an Omaha Hi-Low final table and $40K NLHE all-star final table made it complete. But the inclusion of a special two-day invitational tournament involving most past WSOP main event champions put a special touch and extra fan attraction into the mix.
The Champions Invitational was a coordinated effort designed specially to commemorate the 40th annual World Series of Poker, and it brought out the majority of past WSOP main event winners to compete in a spectator and media favorite. At the same time, the much-anticipated final table of the $40,000 buy-in NLHE was taking place on ESPN’s main stage with names like Raymer and Forrest competing for nearly $1.9 million in prize money and the first open-event bracelet to be awarded this year. Event 3 was also seeking its bracelet winner among players like Freddy Deeb and reigning champion Thang Luu.
It was a poker enthusiast’s dream day at the WSOP, and several players were going to win life-changing money as the hours went by. While the final tables will be recapped in their own individual articles, we’ll take a look at some of the other events that garnered worldwide attention on Sunday, May 31.
Event 4: $1,000 NLHE “Stimulus Special”, Day 1B
Organizers knew it would be a hit, but predicting a field of more than 6,000 players was almost too optimistic. The offer of a $1,000 buy-in tournament was enticing enough that it happened, and knowing that the crowd would be large, it was split into two starting days, the first of which brought 2,998 players to the tables.
Though Day 1A was so well received, tournament staff notified the public two hours before the start of play that day that the tournament was full to capacity and would accept no more registrations. In the end, however, most likely due to last-minute cancellations, there were spaces open. And when registration was back open prior to the start of Day 1B, the WSOP decided to oversell by a few seats and make use of the extra tables set up for it. When all of the confusion was over and done, the final number of entrants was 6,012, which created a total prize pool of $5,410,800 and a first prize of $771,106. The last 621 players standing in the event will be paid a minimum of $1,894 per finish.
At approximately the same rate of poker speed as the day before, players were eliminated at an average of five per minute throughout the day until action was stopped for the day with 385 out of the 3,021 that started. That brings the number of remaining players to 760, all of whom will be facing the task of getting to the money, which begins paying with 621 left, on Day 2.
The goal of Day 2 at the WSOP is to find the final table players, though that looked to be a daunting task with 760 starting the day. Despite the expediency with which the field has dwindled thus far, there is quite a bit of money to be made at the final table, and few of the players will be taking that lightly.
Special Event: Champions Invitational
To help commemorate the 40th annual World Series of Poker, an invitation-only tournament was introduced to honor past WSOP main event champions. And honor they did, with a meet-and-greet period for the 20 players in attendance, followed by a group photo shot that was minus Peter Eastgate due to his late arrival. All of the attendees were then paraded up to the stage to be introduced individually to the large crowds of people gathered to see the game’s history makers.
The players involved in the tournament were, in order of most recent champion backward: Peter Eastgate, Jerry Yang, Jamie Gold, Joe Hachem, Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker, Robert Varkonyi, Carlos Mortensen, Chris Ferguson, Scotty Nguyen, Huck Seed, Dan Harrington, Jim Bechtel, Brad Daugherty, Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Berry Johnston, Tom McEvoy, Doyle Brunson, and Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston.
Raymer was the only one to play a few hands and leave, not due to elimination but because of the intensely important participation in the Event 2 final table of the $40K NLHE event. As one of the solid chip stacks, he not only had the opportunity to win nearly $1.9 million and another WSOP gold bracelet, but the chance to garner respect for the incredible amount of time and effort he has dedicated to improving his game in the past few years. Therefore, he played a few hands of the Champions Invitational before returning to his final table and came back periodically to participate in the event of which he was honored to be a part.
The first player to bust from the event was Jamie Gold, after his pocket jacks ran into the pocket kings of Carlos Mortensen. Though Gold had a few chips left, they went into the pot soon after and were lost, making Gold the first to bust from the tournament. Chris Moneymaker followed, and after their return from the dinner break, Jerry Yang was ousted by Scotty Nguyen. Amarillo Slim was the next to go, and after Raymer finished in third place in his $40K NLHE final table appearance, he came back to a blinded-down stack in this event, pushed with A-9, and lost to Carlos Mortensen’s pocket kings.
Next out was Brad Daugherty, and Scotty Nguyen left in 14th place. Chris Ferguson left soon after, followed by Johnny Chan. Ultimately, it was Joe Hachem who took his short stack into battle with Doyle Brunson on a flop. Hachem showed , but Brunson flipped over his for top pair. The turn was the and the river the to end Hachem’s tournament with an 11th place finish.
With that, play ended, and the final table set to play out on Monday, June 1 will begin with the following players and chip counts:
Carlos Mortensen 42,375
Tom McEvoy 31,000
Jim Bechtel 30,475
Doyle Brunson 20,250
Dan Harrington 19,975
Peter Eastgate 18,425
Huck Seed 15,400
Robert Varkonyi 13,450
Berry Johnston 7,625
Phil Hellmuth 1,125
The final ten will be playing for the title of the champion’s champion as well as a vintage Corvette Stingray and the first ever Binion Cup to be awarded by Jack Binion himself.