The World Series of Poker is celebrating its 50th anniversary in style with record-setting numbers and plenty of gold bracelets.
There may be no West Virginia online casinos, online poker rooms or even online sports betting sites available right now, that doesn’t diminish the popularity of poker in the Mountain State.
A few West Virginians have even gotten in the action with some nice scores.
This year’s event celebrates 50 years of high-stakes poker and features 89 bracelet events. The series continues growing each year with significant numbers of players heading to the tables. Here’s a look at some of the action so far and a look at some WV players.
WV’s Lee Childs enjoys being back at the tables
One of PlayWV.com’s players to watch, Lee Childs has already scored two cashes. The best was a deep run in the Big 50, a $500 buy-in to kick off the series.
Childs finished 56th for $18,244 – not bad for an event that featured a massive field. After initially planning to skip much of the WSOP, Childs sold some action at the last minute for several events.
On Wednesday, Childs said:
“I’m having a blast. My love for the game has been rekindled and I am focusing on having fun and playing the best that I can.
“Ever since my Main Event run in 2007, I’ve had too much pressure on myself to be good and to be perceived as good. I lost a lot of my ability to have fun at the table. I’ve got that back now. I’m having fun at the tables and just focusing on one decision at a time. I’m just getting started.”
That year, Childs finished seventh for $705,229 and hoping for more big cashes this year.
As he plays this summer, Childs is active on Facebook documenting his play with an almost reality-show approach. Friends and backers are cheering him on – including many who didn’t know much about his poker life.
“I’m generating a lot of interest from my non-poker peeps in WV,” he said. “I haven’t played much since we have gotten to know most of them.”
After exiting the Big 50, the Charles Town native was quickly back to the grind looking for another deep run. He may need a little help, though.
Other WV players finding some cash
In other action, West Virginian Jason Koon notched his first cash in a $5,000 NLHE event. He finished 41st for $9,007.
Fresh off huge finishes on the Triton Poker Series, the Weston native is looking for that run to continue. Koon is one of the most successful poker players in history and will continue to be a player to watch.
Like many in the poker world, he was urging civility among the large crowds at the Rio.
Wheeling’s Taylor Wilson has already scored two small cashes in:
- The Big 50
- $1,000 Double Stack
The Big 50 may not have gone quite as well as he hoped at times.
Big numbers showing up at the Rio
It’s a good bet that the 50th anniversary of the WSOP will be the biggest yet. In recent years, the WSOP has offered a successful two-tier price point approach.
That included $10,000 and higher championship events, and $1,000 to $2,500 events geared toward Regular Joes. This year, WSOP officials scheduled more tournaments with an even lower tier – 10 events at $1,000 and under.
That approach could be a competitive move to lure more of those players who might find other tournaments in Vegas. It has also produced huge turnout of poker players at the Rio.
To grasp the numbers, consider the record-setting Big 50. Caesars took over the WSOP brand in 2004 and had 14,054 entries that year in the entire series.
Fifteen years later, the Big 50 alone attracted 28,371 entrants – the biggest live tournament in history. Other events are also drawing big numbers.
The Millionaire Maker produced 8,809 entries, an increase of 1,448 from 2018. The $1,500 Dealer’s Choice attracted 406 entries last summer, up to 470 this summer.
Tournament poker seems to be doing well and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Some familiar names finding success
When it comes to play on the felt, a few big names have made some news. Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu made final tables in the first week.
The Poker Brat has already scored four cashes and was running deep in another event. Time will tell if a 16th bracelet is in his future this summer.
Negreanu also has four cashes, and several other recognizable players have made some nice finishes as well. Here’s a look at a few:
- Event 10: $1,500 Dealers Choice 6-Handed – Longtime pro Scott Clements won his third bracelet after a 12-year drought. He took home $144,957 and now has almost $8 million in career earnings.
- Event 11: $5,000 NLHE – This final table featured Maria Ho, Shannon Shorr, and Ali Imsirovic looking for their first bracelets. However, Daniel Strelitz took the title for $442,385, and now has a WPT and WSOP title.
- Event 20: $1,500 Seven Card Stud – Fans of televised cash games will certainly recognize Eli Elezra. The former member of the Israeli Defense Forces added his fourth bracelet and won $93,766. He won this same event in 2015 and also recently released his autobiography, Pulling the Trigger.
- Event 21: $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw – Plenty of eyes were on Jean-Robert Bellande and Darren Elias at this final table. Bellande won his first bracelet last summer, and the four-time WPT champion Elias is still hoping for his. In the end, 1993 Main Event winner Jim Bechtel added his second bracelet and won $253,817.
For a complete guide to the WSOP, click here. For a complete programming guide on watching the WSOP on CBS or online, click here.
WSOP celebrates 50 years with the First Fifty Honors ceremony
As part of this year’s 50th-anniversary celebration, the WSOP has added a few prestigious events. The First Fifty Honors allows fans to vote on some of the biggest moments and players in the series’ history.
Voting remains open through June 15 and categories include:
- Most Memorable TV Hand
- Best Overall Performance (single year)
- Most Likely to Succeed (a player currently 35 or under expected to win the most gold bracelets between 2020-2070)
- Fan Favorite Player
- Favorite Bad Boy
- Most Impressive Main Event Win
- Four Most Important Players in WSOP History
Those who vote are entered into a drawing for prizes that include:
- A seat in Event 69: $1,000 Mini Main Event
- A seat in Event 88: $500 WSOP.com Online No-Limit Hold’em Summer Saver
- WSOP merchandise and more
In addition to all this, the WSOP has convened a panel to vote on the 50 greatest players in series history. Those names will be announced at a special First Fifty Honors ceremony at the Rio on June 29.
The poker action will be paused briefly for the event followed by a special VIP poker event.
Executive director Ty Stewart commented on the special event in a press release:
“From its founding by the Binion family in 1970, no one could have foreseen what the modern-day World Series of Poker has become. It’s only fitting we take an evening out from poker playing to celebrate the great game of poker and all the characters who have made a mark on the WSOP over the past five decades.”
As sports fans in the Mountain State head to one of the active WV sportsbooks to bet on the US Open this weekend, there will be at least a few locals in the Nevada desert panning for gold.