The poker world waited in anticipation for the latter stages of June and the start of the 2006 World Series of Poker. Pokernews.com ran a series of buildup articles to the WSOP, even as a few other major developments occurred: Michael Mizrachi cemented his early lead in the POY race, new poker shows were announced, and --- shockingly--- some folks even used sex appeal to sell poker. By the end of the month the WSOP itself had kicked off, with the poker world converging on Las Vegas for seven weeks of cards and glory. June brought us these stories, and more:
WSOP Tournament of Champions – Sexton Wins One for the Old School --- The first big payday of the seven-week extravaganza known as the World Series of Poker went to one of the poker world's most familiar faces --- Mike Sexton. Sexton triumphed over a 27-player, invitation-only field in the 2006 WSOP Tournament of Champions. The TV-friendly finale saw Sexton outmaneuver Daniel Negreanu and Mike Matusow during three-way play. Sexton, the 'Ambassasdor of Poker,' widely known for his affiliations with the World Poker Tour and Party Poker, later announced that half of his million-dollar win would be donated to various charities.
Poker Pair: Pamela Anderson and Doyle Brunson --- Pamela Anderson and Doyle Brunson? The second half of the year would bring the rise and fall of the Pamela empire in terms of all things poker --- we would see the opening of the PamelaPoker online room and a mock wedding at the WSOP featuring Anderson and the legendary 'Texas Dolly,' Doyle Brunson. Of course, the online room lasted about as long as Anderson's other relationships, four months, to be precise. Still, Anderson's first poker-world appearances dated to June, when we reported that she had appeared as a celebrity bounty in a tournament on the Doyle's Room site, and would also show up in ads promoting Doyle's Room.
Intercontinental Poker Championship to Debut This Weekend on CBS --- CBS tossed its hat into the televised poker ring when it announced that the 'Intercontinental Poker Championship,' a made-for-TV event spanning six weekends as part of CBS's long-running 'Sports Spectacular' series. The series debuted on June 17th, featuring 21 players broken into three seven-player groups, with the players including Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan, Dave 'Devilfish' Ulliot, Tony G and Carlos Mortenson among the participants.
WSOP Updates – Event #2 Final Table – An 'Absolute' Star is Born --- Absolute Poker had only recently signed young poker pro Brandon Cantu to an endorsement contract, but the deal paid off in a big way when Cantu took down 2006 WSOP Event #2, a $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event. This was the first WSOP event open to all comers (or at least as many as could be squeezed into seats), following the specialized Tournament of Champions and casino-employee events, and an incredible 2,776 players were on hand. Cantu claimed the $757,839 first prize after winning an all-in showdown against eventual runner-up Phong 'Mark' Ly when the two players' chip counts were almost even.
Michael Mizrachi Continues to Grind the POY Race --- Who would replace Gavin Smith as poker's 2006 Player of the Year? Michael 'The Grinder' Misrachi made the first claim to the honor with a win and a runner-up in back-to-back WPT events early in the year, and followed that up four more final tables during the first half of the year. By June Mizrachi had opened up a huge lead in the POY points race, only to see several players surge to striking distance by the year's final events.
Maxim Magazine to Feature Clonie Gowen --- This story featured more than just a mainstream magazine feature, though the mainstream's increased awareness of the poker world would have been a great topic by itself. Maxim put Full Tilt poker pro Clonie Gowen the cover of the July '06 issue, which hit shelves on June 22nd. The issue featured a special insert on the soon-to-begin WSOP, plus a two-page photo spread on Gowen herself, a former Miss Teen Oklahoma whose poker skills are no longer questioned. However, the same piece saw news of a beautiful girl whose poker skills were questioned, that being socialite/heiress Paris Hilton, although a poker challenge issued by Gowen to Hilton in response to some of Hilton's claims went unanswered.