The World Series of Poker made a triumphant return this past Thursday with the first bracelets out of 88 being handed out for the 2021 event. Only the Grateful Dead’s famous observation about “what a long strange trip it’s been” is accurate for how we got here for the biggest tournament in the poker universe.
The last time a traditional World Series of Poker was held was in 2019. When health and safety issues forced the entire poker world to scramble in 2020, the WSOP officials made decisions on the fly as they tried to salvage poker’s most prestigious event.
First, they postponed the WSOP from its original spring date. When the summer months rolled around, Vegas casinos started opening up again. But the nature of poker, with players tucked in at a table in enclosed spaces, still went against health and safety protocols, so poker rooms closed.
The decision was made to pivot to online play, with bracelets being handed out to international players as well as US players who could log on from New Jersey or Nevada. A Main Event was even held to give the feeling that there wouldn’t be any interruption in the hallowed history of the WSOP.
That was a lot for everybody to comprehend, which was why players and fans harbored hopes for something that would look like the World Series of Poker that everybody knows to hold sway. And it looks like that’s exactly what we’re going to get.
Players in the live events must be vaccinated, which means they can play without masks. They can wear masks if they choose, which we’re expecting some to do. After all, what better way to maintain a poker face than to have your face covered?
The First Bracelet
The first bracelet handed out in this year’s World Series of Poker was a charity-based no-limit matchup that required a relatively modest buy-in of $1,000. It was a relatively quick tourney as well, starting and finishing all within an evening’s work.
Jeremy Ausmus managed to be the guy to strike first. Ausmus knows his way around the World Series of Poker, having cashed over $2 million at the Main Event final table in 2012 and then having won a bracelet the following year. He ended up with $48,681 for his victory.
Ausmus was not leading the way when the final table began. Jesse Lonis had that distinction, and he was also leading when it came down to head-to-head play with Ausmus. But Ausmus quickly pulled even when he was able to outdraw Lonis with a pair of 10s against suited king-jack.
From there, it was only a matter of time before the end came when another Ausmus lead after the deal held up after the community cards were shown. In this case, it was ace-nine suited over king-nine suited. When the dust settled, Ausmus was the champion.
It was a quick and exciting way to start off the action. The fever pitch of excitement for live World Series of Poker action is now being ramped up by the actual play. Let’s hope that the rest of the play can live up to all of that anticipation.
Phil Falls Short to Surprise Winner
One of the exciting parts of the World Series of Poker is that you can have instances where some of the superstars of the game rub shoulders with hobbyists taking a chance. This past weekend that dynamic played out to the extreme in a $25,000 buy-in HORSE event.
For those who don’t know, HORSE is a game where the discipline periodically changes, meaning that players have to be adept at more than just Hold’em. Phil Hellmuth is one of the best ever in the Hold’em ranks, but he was brilliant in this tourney handling the five different games that make up HORSE.
Hellmuth made it to the final table, which gave hope that he might be able to add to his 16th World Series of Poker bracelet. The final table turned out to be loaded with big-name talent, with several other bracelet winners taking part.
Yet Klein was no complete greenhorn. Even though he hadn’t cashed in a tournament in 11 years, Klein was a cash game regular all that time. He was also busy with a full-time job and a family, but he clearly still had the itch.
Since he had experience in HORSE, Klein decided he would roll the dice and try out an event with the return of live WSOP play. And he indeed maneuvered through the early rounds of play, with 78 players eventually narrowed down to nine.
Wouldn’t you know it that it wasn’t too long into the final table that Klein got locked up in a key hand with Hellmuth? The game was Razz, and Klein ended up taking a big chunk of Hellmuth’s chips, sending Phil into one of his trademark tirades.
The damage done to Hellmuth’s stack was too much for him to overcome. He ended up having to settle for sixth in the event. But it was still a good overall sign to see him be in the mix in a style of play for which he isn’t normally well-known. This could mean big things for him in the remainder of the WSOP.
As for Klein, he kept on trucking, with Glaser helping him out by knowing out several competitors. It came down to Klein and Glaser, and it was the unheralded player who came out on top. Klein ended up winning $552,182 for his efforts.
Klein’s excellence in Razz was the key, as that was the game he used to both damage Hellmuth and wrest the lead away from Glaser. But for him to step up and play against that caliber of opponent in all those different disciplines was something else.
As we said, that’s part of the magic of the World Series of Poker. In the long run, the Phil Hellmuth’s of the world will dominate the action. But in the short term, the Jesse Kleins of the world have a shot at glory on the biggest poker stage of all.
Last week, here in this column, we told you about the exploits of Australian high-stakes superstar Michael Addamo. To refresh your memory, Addamo won the last two events of the Poker Masters series in consecutive nights to take the overall Masters point crown.
Poker is not a game that makes winning streaks an easy thing to accomplish. First of all, there’s the fact that you’re competing against dozens of other players (at least.) Mathematically speaking, the odds are against winning you even one tournament, let alone several in a row.
On top of that, you have the luck factor that plays into it. Chances are, if you get a run of luck in one tournament, that luck is just as likely to head in the opposite direction the next time you play. So, Addamo’s two tournament wins in a row, against top competition, were accomplishment enough.
Before all the WSOP action flared up later in the week, there was one more bit of high-stakes business to take care of with the Super High Roller Bowl VI. With a buy-in of $300,000, this was not an event for the meek of heart, considering a large percentage of the field would be taking a major financial hit.
If people were expecting Addamo to suffer some letdown, they were way off the mark. The Aussie jumped out to a big lead heading into the final table. A big part of that lead came from a monster-winning hand over Daniel Negreanu in the early going.
But that all ended with a hand where everything that could go wrong did for the challenger. You also have to give some credit for how Addamo played the hand in question. It came when Addamo received a 7-2 suited against Bonomo’s queen-ten suited.
The two-three-four flop gave Addamo a pair but, more importantly, it gave him a flush draw. He made that flush on the turn, which also gave Bonomo a high pair. That’s when Addamo overbet to set the trap for Bonomo, and he called to fall into the trap.
It got even worse when a ten on the river gave Bonomo two pair. Addamo went after him with an all-in bet, causing Bonomo to contemplate for a while before calling. The reveal made Addamo a winner, his third straight in a streak that won’t be often duplicated.
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