Last night, the first piece of really significant poker history was made at the Rio. Sure, 18 people had won bracelets so far at the 2005 WSOP, and they all deserve their place in history. But to get a really significant place in history, you have to rise above the hundreds of players who have won one or maybe even two bracelets. How does ten bracelets sound?
In a race that has been deadlocked for over two years, Johnny Chan broke the deadlock, and won his tenth WSOP Bracelet by winning the $2,500 Pot Limit Hold Em event. The 2003 WSOP race was very exciting, and were that race taking place in the new world order of poker in 2005, it would probably get a lot of mainstream media attention.
At the beginning of the 2003 WSOP, Doyle Brunson, and Johnny Chan were tied as the best WSOP players ever, with eight championship bracelets each. Phil Hellmuth was only one win behind, with seven bracelets. The first to strike blood in 2003 was Doyle Brunson, whose win in the HORSE event (a mixed game event no longer part of the WSOP schedule in the No Limit Hold Em mania world of ESPN, and Harrahs) gave him the lead over Chan with nine bracelets. Three days later, Hellmuth made it interesting by pulling even with Chan with a win in a $2,500 Limit Hold Em event. Three days after Hellmuth's win, Chan pulled away from Hellmuth, and back to even with Doyle by winning a No Limit event. To put the finishing touch on a great WSOP, two weeks later, Phil Hellmuth won a No Limit event to make all three competitors even at nine bracelets each.
The three way bracelet battle was the poker equivalent of the summer of 1998, when Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire battled it out all summer for home run supremacy, and captivated the nation.
The poker nation was captivated in 2003, and now a much larger poker nation should follow along in 2005. Johnny Chan has set the bar at ten bracelets, and the others must follow. With the size of the fields in these WSOP tournaments today, it is doubtful we will see a three way race the way that we saw it in 2003, with the three men with the most wins (Doyle, Phil, Johnny) winning 4 of the 36 events. However the race is on, and for now it is a three person race.
No other modern player is close to catching the three masters of the WSOP. Probably the player with the best chance is Erik Seidel, who just picked up his seventh bracelet last week. But again, with the size of the fields today, the chance of Seidel catching the top three is not likely, at least in the near future.
Chan was the picture of a Champion on Sunday night, ironically dressed in his Doyle's Room garb. When his QQ held up against Phil Laak's KJ, Johnny was the picture of the ultimate champion, a champion with ten titles, and deservedly on top of the poker world.
Chan has pulled ahead in the race as the best ever. Doyle, Phil, its on you guys.
Ed Note: With 19 bracelets between them, Chan and Doyle both endorse Doyle's Room shouldn't you check it out?