The PokerNews Top 10: Ten Top WSOP Bracelet Winners
Only a week remains until a new crop of professionals and dreamers alike descend upon the Rio Casino’s Amazon Room for the 2009 World Series of Poker. Fifty-seven bracelets will be handed out in Las Vegas this summer and an elite group of players, including Layne Flack, Erik Seidel, Doyle Brunson and Phil Hellmuth will be chasing down their seventh, ninth, eleventh or even twelfth pieces of WSOP gold. As we count down the last week before the series commences, let’s take a look at the ten guys with the most jewelry — our Top 10 WSOP bracelet winners.
7-10. Jay Heimowitz, Layne Flack, T.J. Cloutier, Men “The Master” Nguyen (6)
One of the New York City rounders who frequented Manhattan’s Mayfair Club in the 1980s (along with Dan Harrington, Erik Seidel, and Howard Lederer), Jay Heimowitz is one of four players tied with six WSOP bracelets apiece. Heimowitz earned his hardware with victories in the 1975 $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em event, the 1986 $1,500 Limit Hold’em event, the 1991 $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha event, the 1994 $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em event, the 2000 $5,000 Limit Hold’em event, and the 2001 $1,000 Seniors’ Event. Though he still lives in New York, Heimowitz still makes trips out to the WSOP each summer and has finished in the money six times in the last four years, adding to his grand total of 36 lifetime WSOP cashes.
After a long drought between big tournament scores, Layne Flack made a triumphant comeback last summer when he took down the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event, winning over $577,000 and his sixth WSOP bracelet. Flack won his first bracelet in the 1999 $3,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em event, and then earned his nickname by going “back to back” in 2002, winning the $1,500 and $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em events for bracelets #2 and #3. Flack’s fourth and fifth bracelets came in 2003, when he won the $2,500 Omaha Hi-Lo event and the $1,500 Limit Hold’em shootout.
Arguably the greatest no-limit tournament player to never have won the Main Event, T.J. Cloutier won his first bracelet when this year’s crop of 21-year old WSOP rookies were in utero, taking down the 1987 $1,000 Limit Omaha event. He’d have to wait seven years for his second, earned in the 1994 $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo event, but it took only another two weeks for him to take down his third, in the $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em event. The rest of Cloutier’s wristwear came in the 1998 $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event, the 2004 $1,500 Razz event, and the 2005 $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em event, bringing his grand total to six. Cloutier is also #5 on the list of all-time WSOP cashes with a staggering 55 in-the-money finishes.
Men “The Master” Nguyen, our final member of the six-bracelet club, earned his first bracelet in the 1992 $1,500 Seven-Card Stud event. He went on to earn two bracelets at the 1995 WSOP, in the $2,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo event and the $2,500 Limit Hold’em event, another in 1996 in the $2,500 Omaha Hi-Lo event, and two more in 2003 in the $5,000 Seven-Card Stud event and the $1,500 Ace-to-Five Triple Draw event. He currently sits behind only Phil Hellmuth when it comes to all-time WSOP cashes with 62 to Hellmuth’s 69.
6. Billy Baxter (7)
Back in the day, the lowball tournaments at the WSOP were known as the “Billy Baxter Benefit” as most pros knew they were essentially donating to Baxter in these events. All seven of Baxter’s WSOP bracelets were earned in lowball, beginning in 1975 when he won the $1,000 Deuce-to-Seven Draw event. He won the $10,000 Deuce-to-Seven event in both 1978 and 1982, and also won the $2,500 Ace-to-Five Draw event at the ’82 series. Five years later, he won the $5,000 Deuce-to-Seven event at the 1987 WSOP, earning bracelet #5 and picked up #6 with a win in the same event in 1993. His seventh bracelet was the only one he earned in a non-draw game (though it was still a lowball variant), with a victory in the $1,500 Razz event in 2002. In addition to his seven tournament wins at the WSOP, Baxter also has two seconds and a third place finish to his credit… in, you guessed it, lowball events.
5. Erik Seidel (8)
Too often overlooked in favor of younger, flashier internet hotshots, Erik Seidel is one of the biggest threats in the Amazon Room on any given day. Excelling in all the games and backed with over 20 years of live tournament experience, Seidel is the lone member of the eight-bracelet club. After famously finishing second to Johnny Chan in the 1988 WSOP Main Event, Seidel went on to win the 1992 $2,500 Limit Hold’em event, the 1993 $2,500 Omaha Hi-Lo event, the 1994 $5,000 Limit Hold’em event, the 1998 $5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw event, the 2001 $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em event, the 2003 $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event, the 2005 $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em event, and the 2007 $5,000 World Championship No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw event. Seidel comes into this year’s WSOP after a tremendous 2008 where he finished second in the Aussie Millions Main Event, earned a WPT title and nearly a million dollars at the Foxwoods Poker Classic, and made the final table of both the $10,000 World Championship Seven-Card Stud event and the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo event at the ’08 series.
4. Johnny Moss (9)
Before his death in 1995, Johnny Moss earned nine WSOP bracelets, a record that stood until Doyle Brunson and Phil Hellmuth tied it in 2003 and Johnny Chan broke it in 2005. Moss won the first-ever WSOP Main Event in 1970 (voted champion by his peers), then won two bracelets in 1971, winning the Limit Ace-to-Five Draw event and the Main Event. In 1974-1976, Moss won a bracelet each year (his third Main Event in 1974 and stud bracelets in 1975 and 1976), then won his seventh in 1979 in the $5,000 Seven-Card Stud event. His eighth came in 1981 with a victory in the $1,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo event, but he’d wait seven more years before taking down his ninth and ultimately final bracelet, in the 1988 $1,500 Ace-to-Five Draw event. All in all, Moss cashed 24 times at the WSOP and won nine of those tournaments for quite an extraordinary win rate.
2-3. Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson (10)
Within four days of Johnny Chan winning his record tenth bracelet in the 2005 $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em event, Doyle Brunson joined him in that elite club, picking up his own #10 in the $5,000 Short-Handed No-Limit Hold’em event. Chan earned his first bracelet in 1985, winning the $1,000 Limit Hold’em event, before capturing back-to-back Main Event titles in 1987 and 1988. He went on to win the 1994 $1,500 Seven-Card Stud event, the 1997 $5,000 No-Limit Deuce to Seven Draw event, the 2000 $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event, the 2002 $2,500 No-Limit Hold’em Gold Bracelet Match Play event, the 2003 $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em event, and the 2003 $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha event.
Fellow living legend Brunson picked up his first bracelet in 1976 in the $5,000 Deuce-to-Seven draw event before winning the Main Event later that month. Brunson won the Main Event again the following year, along with his third bracelet in the $1,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo event. Texas Dolly earned #5 in the $5,000 Seven-Card Stud event one year later in 1978, and #6 in 1979 in the $600 Mixed Doubles event. He’d wait until 1991 for his seventh, earned in the $2,500 No-Limit Hold’em event then pick up #8 in the 1998 $1,500 Razz event. Big Papa was the first to tie Johnny Moss’ record nine bracelets with his win in the $2,000 H.O.R.S.E. event in 2003, only to have Phil Hellmuth join him later that week. Over his 39 years playing in the WSOP, Brunson has cashed 32 times and made 24 final tables.
1. Phil Hellmuth (11)
Phil Hellmuth wasn’t the first player to ten bracelets, but he was the first (and currently only) player to eleven. After defeating Johnny Chan heads-up to win the 1989 Main Event, Hellmuth went on to earn ten more bracelets, all in hold’em events — three in limit hold’em, seven in no-limit hold’em, and one in pot-limit hold’em. Whatever you may think of his antics at the tables or his often cringe-worthy trash talk, with eleven bracelets in 23 years at the WSOP and four of them in the last five years, no one can claim a better record in hold’em tournaments at the WSOP.
Editor's Note: Nicole Gordon's "PokerNews Top 10" is a weekly look at some of poker's most memorable achievements in a wide range of categories. The column appears each Wednesday at PokerNews.com. Check into our news archives for more fun "Top 10" lists!