Now that the 2019 World Series of Poker has been “whamboozled” (I have to give Norman Chad a shout out because he gave me one on ESPN during the Main Event coverage), it’s time to look back at the series that was. And it was most certainly an entertaining seven weeks of intense poker action.
I compiled a list of about 30 top moments from the summer. But my editor begged and pleaded with me to narrow it down to 10 or fewer. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the 10 most interesting moments from the summer.
10. Chris Moneymaker Joins Poker Hall of Fame
No one is more responsible for the current state of poker than Chris Moneymaker. The 2003 WSOP Main Event champ has been one of the game’s top ambassadors for the past 16 years. But many felt that his overall accomplishments as a player made him unworthy of the Poker Hall of Fame.
Whether you feel he’s deserving or not, the PokerStars pro was finally inducted into the HOF this summer. He joined high-stakes cash game legend David Oppenheim as the class of 2019. I don’t believe the Poker Hall of Fame can be taken seriously without Moneymaker, so I’m glad the voters finally came around the third year he was eligible.
9. Dan Zack Dazzles on Live Poker Tournament Stage
“Live at the Bike” viewers know of Dan Zack as a high-stakes cash game crusher. But up until this summer, he hadn’t shown much as a live tournament player. In fact, live tournaments were barely part of his arsenal. That all changed after won the $2,500 Limit Mixed Triple Draw on early June, his first career bracelet.
Zack spent most of the summer in the Player of the Year lead. He finished up in fourth place, just behind Robert Campbell, Shaun Deeb, and Daniel Negreanu. If he chooses to attend WSOP Europe in October, he’ll have a legitimate shot at winning the award, which nobody expected prior to the start of the WSOP.
8. Nick Schulman Removed from Broadcast Booth Over Comments (Apparently)
Nick Schulman was removed from the ESPN and PokerGo broadcast booth during the Main Event and no one seems to know exactly why. Apparently, the broadcast companies were upset with negative comments he made about how the Main Event is “soft.” But that might not actually be accurate.
Daniel Negreanu and Norman Chad both said the reason Schulman wasn’t in the booth was due to a “scheduling conflict.” Schulman said on Twitter that he didn’t believe ESPN or PokerGo were “censoring me.” But he also hinted at the comments being the reason he wasn’t part of the Main Event broadcast.
7. John Hennigan Defeats Daniel Negreanu in Never-Ending Heads-Up Match
“Johnny World” Hennigan was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame last year, and he proved those voters right with a sixth bracelet, this one in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud for $245,451. He earned every penny of that title when he defeated Daniel Negreanu heads-up for the bracelet in an epic four-hour grudge match.
For Negreanu, it was a crushing defeat as he’s still stuck on six bracelets and has been since 2013. He would go on to finish second in another event to close out the summer, the $100,000 High Roller. DNegs will eventually win another bracelet, but he’s got to be frustrated with the drought.
6. Daniel Negreanu’s Daily Vlogs Were a Delight
Each summer, one of the top things poker fans have to look forward to is Negreanu’s daily vlogs. This year was no different and the vlogs were even better than ever. The production quality of his videos are off the charts for a small scale operation.
Negreanu gave fans a glimpse into the life of a World Series of Poker tournament grinder. They’ll be missed now that the WSOP is over but I can’t wait to see them again next year. And maybe his vlog watchers next summer will finally get to see him win a bracelet.
5. Jeopardy James Holzhauer Competes in WSOP Events
After Jeopardy G.O.A.T. James Holzhauer finally lost, he needed something else to do. So, why not play some poker? And that he did. Holzhauer is a former online poker pro who became a successful sports bettor before going on a 32-game Jeopardy win streak.
He teamed with Mike Sexton in the Tagteam Event and then also played in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em tournament the same day. Unfortunately, the TV game show legend was unable to cash. But he still gave the game of poker some mainstream attention, even if it was only for a day.
4. Big 50 Sets Live Tournament World Record
In 2015, the Colossus set a world record with 22,374 entries. If you assumed that would never be topped, you weren’t being unreasonable. However, that tournament which I ran reasonably deep in, had nothing on the 2019 $500 Big 50.
There were an insane 28,371 entries in the Big 50. I said in 2015 that I would never witness another tournament so massive in my lifetime and, as it turns out, I was wrong which is something that doesn’t happen often. But I’ll say try this again…there won’t be another 28,000-player field in my lifetime. And if some other event surpasses the Big 50, I will probably give up on making bold predictions.
3. Man Exposes Himself at Table During Main Event
Yes, you read that headline correctly. And, yes, that picture is real. Sadly. An unidentified man had himself quite a memorable exit from the Main Event. His pocket aces weren’t cracked and he didn’t bluff off his stack. Instead, he was disqualified from the tournament – his $10,000 buy-in lost – for, get this...pulling his pants down at the table and throwing a shoe at the dealer.
While all-in, the man stood up from his seat, dropped his shorts, exposing his rear end and genitalia to others at the Rio, and then promptly tossed his shoe at the dealer. Afterwards, he was spotted at the nearby Luxor Hotel and Casino where he climbed on top of the craps table and again exposed himself to a crowd of gamblers. Vegas, baby!
2. Dying Man Competes in Main Event as Last Wish
Enough with the funny stuff and on to something more meaningful and serious. Kevin Roster made a true impression on the poker world this summer. The poker enthusiast is dying from Sarcoma, a cancerous tumor that occurs in bones and tissues, and was given just a short time to live.
Instead of letting the disease bring him down, Kevin decided he would make the most of his final days. On the top of his bucket list was to compete in the World Series of Poker. Greg Merson, 2012 world champion, covered his $10,000 buy-in and gave Roster the opportunity of a lifetime. That is what the World Series of Poker is truly all about. Thank you to Kevin Roster, who used this platform to spread awareness for his disease, for bringing positive vibes to the 2019 WSOP.
1. Hossein Ensan Wins 2019 WSOP Main Event
The WSOP Main Event is the most prestigious tournament in the world each year. So, naturally, the winner of that tournament is almost always going to be the biggest story of the summer. This year is no different. Germany’s Hossein Ensan is your 2019 world champion after putting on a big stack clinic at the final table.
Ensan won $10 million, the largest prize of the series and became the 50th poker world champion. He was the only player who resides in Germany to win a bracelet this year and also the second German to win the Main Even (Piuz Heins was the first in 2011). Let’s hope he’s as valuable of an ambassador as John Cynn was the past year.