Following Black Friday, where the four biggest poker sites in PokerStars, Full Tilt, UB and Absolute Poker were shut down, many insiders feared that the WSOP’s attendance would experience a severe drop. After all, a large portion of those who play in WSOP events come via prize packages won at online poker sites. Interestingly enough though, the 2011 WSOP has experienced some of the best early attendance figures in history. And as you’ll see below, this has led to some incredible storylines thus far:
Event #1: Casino Employees Hold’em - Sean Drake became the 2011 WSOP’s first winner after claiming victory in this $500 buy-in event. Drake earned $82,292 for topping an 850-player field.
Event #2: Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship - Many of poker’s biggest stars turned out for this $25,000 buy-in tournament, including Tom Dwan, Gus Hansen and Yevgeniy Timoshenko. UK player Jake Cody defeated Timoshenko in the final to win the bracelet here, along with a $851,192 first place prize. Cody also became the fourth player in poker history to win a WSOP bracelet, EPT title and WPT title (triple crown).
Event #3: Omaha Hi-Lo 8’s or Better - 925 players bought into this $1,500 event, which created a moderate-sized $1,248,750 prize pool. Former Chicago bartender Francesco Barbaro took the biggest share of this prize pool ($262,283) after winning the tournament.
Event #4: No-Limit Hold’em - There were two big stories at work in this $5,000 buy-in tournament: 1. Allen Bari topping the 865-player field and winning $874,116 of the $4,065,000 prize pool, and 2. Maria Ho ($540k) just narrowly missing out on becoming the first woman to win a 2011 WSOP event after being beaten heads-up by Bari.
Event #5: Seven Card Stud - By overcoming a 357-player field to win $122,909 and the bracelet here, Eugene Katchalov exited the “best players to never win a WSOP bracelet” club. Katchalov now has $6,361,943 in career live winnings.
Event #6: Limit Hold’em - College dropout Harrison Wilder hit his biggest tournament score ($205,065) after topping 675 players in this $1,500 buy-in event. In addition to this, he also made his parents look like geniuses after they convinced him to drop out of the University of Oregon to pursue poker.
Event #7: Pot-Limit Omaha Championship - Amir Lehavot beat South African Jarred Solomon in heads-up play to win this prestigious $10k buy-in tournament. Lehavot hauled in $573,456 for the victory after outlasting 249 players.
Event #8: No-Limit Hold’em - Yet another big NLHE tournament, 4,178 players bought into this $1k event to create a $3,760,200 prize pool. Sean Getzwiller ($611,185) ended up winning this tournament after beating UK player Sadan Turker ($377,411) in the final.
Event #9: 2-7 Draw Lowball - In one of the most fascinating stories of the young 2011 WSOP, Matthew Perrins beat out a 275-player field and won $102,105 despite never having played 2-7 Draw Lowball in his life! Perrins prepped himself for the $1,500 buy-in tournament by watching half an hour of 2-7 Lowball videos on YouTube, then applying his Hold’em experience to the game.
Event #10: No-Limit Hold’em (6-handed) - Gynecologist and amateur poker player Geffrey Klein cruised through 1,920 players, and on towards the $544,388 first place prize in this tournament.
Event #11: Omaha Hi-Lo 8’s or Better Championship - Moscow Mining University graduate Viacheslav Zhukov topped this 202-player field, and earned $465,216 for winning the tournament.
Event #12: Triple Chance No-Limit Hold’em - David Diaz is truly one of the feel-good stories of this year’s WSOP since he has overcame life-threatening cancer and the loss of an arm during his life. Diaz also overcame a 1,340-player field in this tournament to win a $352,808 payout.
Event #13: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout (2,000-max) - It looked like a noted pro was going to win Event #13 for sure since the final table included Vitaly Lunkin (2 bracelets), David Pham (2 bracelets), Dan Kelly (1 bracelet) and Erik Cajelais (1 bracelet). However, little-known college dropout Andrew Badecker snuck away with the win and $369,371 in this tournament.
Event #14: Limit Hold’em - Canadian Tyler Bonkowski earned $220,817 after beating out 337 players in this $3,000 buy-in tournament. Bonkowski kept the college dropout trend going in 2011 since he gave up on school after rifling through accountant, police officer, radio, and pharmacy majors.
Event #15: Pot Limit Hold’em - Brian Rast should be thankful that he’s friends with Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari. After all, Rast almost didn’t play in this tournament due to the fact that he just got home from a month-long Brazilian vacation on the tourney’s start day. However, Esfandiari paid Rast’s $1,500 buy-in, which lead Rast to taking the bracelet in this tournament, along with $227,232.