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Best of Vin Narayanan
Top-10 surprises at the WSOP Players Championship1 July 2013
10. Day 2 registrations
I'm not a huge fan of late registration. Actually, I'm not a fan at all. And I would think the $50,000 Players Championship would be one of those tournaments you'd want to be there from the beginning for. But nine players joined play on Day 2.
We'll give Phil Galfond a pass, because he was busy finishing in second and winning $744,841 for finishing second in the $25,000 No-Limit-Hold'em Six-handed tournament Sunday. But what's the excuse for the others, including Gus Hansen, Alex Kravchenko and Shaun Deeb?
9. Phil Galfond
Everyone would have understood if Galfond had skipped the Players Championship. He just won $744,841 and could have cited fatigue, exhaustion or just wanting to get away for awhile as reasons not to play the tournament. But he decided to play. He's a true professional. And if he makes a deep run in this event, this week could be a really special one for him.
8. Phil Ivey
This has been a disappointing summer for the world's best poker player. He's cashed just once at the WSOP this summer and busted out on Day 2 of the Players Championship. Much like Tiger Woods (you see how I did that), anything short of winning is a disappointment.
7. No more Bakers
David "ODB" Baker and David "Bakes" Baker are two of the best high-stakes players around. But neither escaped Day 2. "ODB" Baker busted out in a Razz hand against Ivey and Brian Rast, and "Bakes" Baker was eliminated about 30 minutes later in a Pot-Limit Omaha hand. And coming off a 15th-place finish in the $25,000 six-handed event, Baker was certainly hoping for better in this tournament. That neither Baker made Day 3 is one of the bigger surprises in the tournament (and a blow to my fantasy team).
6. Jonathan Duhamel
If you drew up a list of 20 players likely to win this even, Duhamel probably wouldn't have been on the list. And it's not that Duhamel isn't a good poker player. Everyone in this tournament is a good poker player. It's just that the 2010 WSOP Main Event Champion isn't thought of as one of the strongest mixed-game players. He's quickly changing that reputation. Duhamel ended Day 1 as the chip leader and has been strong throughout Day 2.
5. Vanessa Selbst
Vanessa Selbst excels in high-pressure situations. And she's something of a poker savant. That combination makes her dangerous in tournaments like the Players Championship. And considering only 13 players had been eliminated midway through Day 2, there was every expectation that Selbst would still be in the field. Only she wasn't. Selbst busted out on Day 1. That was extremely unexpected (but good for my fantasy team), and that's why she's on the list at No. 5.
4. Matt Glantz
Matt Glantz is a terrific high-stakes poker player. He finished 13th in the $111,111 One Drop High Roller event to win $251,549. And he was one of the favorites to do well in this tournament. But like Selbst, Glantz busted out on the first day of the tournament, surprising everyone.
3. $1.774 million
Last year, the Players Championship drew 108 players and paid out 1.45 million to champion Michael Mizrachi. In 2011, the tournament drew 128 entries and paid out 1.72 million for first place. And in 2010, Mizrachi survived a field of 116 to win $1.56 million. This year's first prize is the biggest of the group, and that's pretty remarkable given the positioning of this tournament (more on that next).
2. 132 players
This is the largest field the Players Championship has seen. And that's remarkable given its place on the schedule this year. Last year, the $1 million Big One for One Drop depressed the number of entrants in the Players Championship (108). And this year, the Players Championship comes on the heels of an $111,111 tournament and a $25,000 tournament. But even with two big-ticket items ahead of it, the Players Championship drew a record field. That's a testament to the event's prestige. Players want to win this tournament and prove they're a great all-around player. That bodes well for the future of this event.
1. Doyle Brunson
In May, Doyle Brunson announced his retirement from tournament poker. But like Brett Favre, Michael Jordan and almost every boxer known to man, Brunson couldn't stay retired. He's playing in this year's Players Championship, and he's doing well. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Brunson has a number of side bets going based on how well he'll finish in this tournament. If he wins, he'll make $800,000 off of the side bets. And if he busts out early, he'll lose $140,000.
Best of Vin Narayanan