In 2006, the World Series of Poker added their first ever $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, which was dubbed the player's championship. In some ways, pros wanted to win the H.O.R.S.E. bracelet more so than the Main Event. With the title also came prestige, honor, and glory.
The inaugural H.O.R.S.E. event was plagued with several structure issues. The event was crammed into three days which posed problems for the players, staff, and media covering the event. Day 2 ran into the wee hours of the morning before a final table was set. And the final table itself ran long especially since the heads-up battle between Andy Bloch and Chip Reese was slow and methodical, more like a chess match than a heavyweight boxing fight.
At the 2006 H.O.R.S.E. event, the final table was switched to exclusively no-limit hold'em to make the final table more attractive to ESPN's audience. That decision drew criticism from players, media, and fans. It seems absurd to think that after playing two back-to-back grueling days of mixed games that the championship would be decided by playing NL. However, that's what happened with the inaugural event.
Despite the lengthy heads-up battle, Chip Reese emerged victorious to win the first ever H.O.R.S.E. bracelet.
"I couldn't think of a more worthy winner," said Doyle Brunson, Reese's long time friend.
The $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship was instituted to determine which pro was truly the best overall player in the world. For several decades Chip Reese was known as one of the world's best mixed cash-game players. However, he was out of the public eye because he flew under the radar and focused solely on cash games instead of tournament poker. During the first stages of the televised poker boom, the media was partly responsible in hyping up the most recent WPT and WSOP champions. New fans were only exposed to certain players that the media machines were hyping up, while seasoned veterans such as Reese were absent from their coverage. The H.O.R.S.E. championship changed all of that and soon after, everyone knew Chip Reese by name.
Harrah's made several changes to the 2007 event which pleased the players. The event was spread out over five days. It was also moved up earlier in the schedule to give everyone involved (players, media, staff, ESPN, etc.) a couple of days to rest up before the Main Event began. And the most important change? The final table would continue to be H.O.R.S.E. instead of NL. The 2007 H.O.R.S.E. event ran smoother due to the new changes that were implemented.
Freddy Deeb took down the 2007 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship and for the second year in a row, a veteran Las Vegas pro won the bracelet. Since 2008 is being dubbed the 'Year of the Pro' it goes without saying that a pro will be favored to win it. However, in the last week or so, the Europeans have been making a run and picked up several bracelets. Will this be there year that a European wins the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event? After all, Bruno Fitoussi from France was very close to winning it last year.
France's David Benyamine is my pick to win it all. Benyamine won his first bracelet earlier this week in Omaha-8. He has cashed in four different events so far at the WSOP and has been crushing the online tables at Full Tilt Poker. This could be Benyamine's breakout year.