The World Series is approaching the Main Event, and as the number of events per day gradually drops to one, the intensity of the tournaments and the stress level of the players increases. This makes for plenty of drama, both on and off the felt. As we get down to the WSOP, everyone is fighting to be the story of the series.
Hellmuth Cheers Himself On: Phil Hellmuth made a final table this week and had a shot at his 12th bracelet, but despite the historic occasion, the story went unnoticed. Hellmuth didn't have many chips, and most of the poker community seems tired of listening to him talk about himself. He was eliminated from the $1,500 PLO-8 event in seventh place, and the poker world kept turning.
We did love one of the Poker Brat's lines during the start of the Tournament of Champions. "I'm a grinder," he said. "Like Tony Cousineau." That line alone was enough to prove he shouldn't have to worry about where to keep that 12th bracelet any time soon.
The Year of Chainsaw: Maybe the biggest cult hero of the summer is Allen "Chainsaw" Kessler. It's hard to deny that it has been a record year for the legendary structure-denouncing, food-voucher-hoarding poker player. Kessler finished second in the $10k Stud-8 Championship for $276,000. He's also leading the WSOP with eight cashes at the 2010 Series. Can he pull out another final table and become a real threat for Player of the Year? That might be epic enough to quiet even his Twitter doppelganger, Complainsaw.
Fan Favorites FTW: Allen Kessler hasn't been the only player with a following to have a great series. Crowd pleasers Gavin Smith, Dean Hamrick, Shawn "Jordankickz" Busse and Chris Bell all took home bracelets in front of stands packed with their friends and fans. Watching some of poker's "good guys" reap the rewards of hard work (and well-timed luck) adds value to the game's most coveted bracelet.
Sick Beat of the Week: Danny Wong was among the chip leaders at the dinner break on Day 1 of the $25k six-max, but he lasted less than an hour after the break. He got all of his chips in the middle with pocket eights for top set on an board. His opponent held pocket threes for bottom set and was drawing to one out on the river. But sometimes, one out is all it takes. The cruel on the river gave Wong's opponent quads and sent him reeling toward the rail. That's gotta hurt. Read the hand here.
Most Dramatic Bubble: The $5k PLO event had been approaching the bubble for several hours, and the 46 players remaining would all appreciate an extra $10k in the rolls and another WSOP cash on their resumes. Men Nguyen had been increasingly argumentative all day, but also seemed to be playing his aggressive table to his advantage. He'd gotten in several big confrontations with Ryan "G0lfa" D'Angelo, who was on his left. After a few rounds of hand-for-hand, Nguyen raised and D'Angelo potted preflop. Nguyen called with more than half of his stack. The flop fell , and Nguyen moved all in. Calling would leave D'Angelo too short to survive another few hands if he were wrong. But he made the agonizing call with . Nguyen didn't want to table his hand, but the dealer took the cards and spread them on the felt. The crowd around the table was stunned to see that Nguyen had been bluffing with . D'Angelo's aces held to eliminate Nguyen on the bubble. Surprisingly, the Master had nothing at all to say as he left the table. Read the description of the hand here.
Champions of the Game: The Tournament of Champions started this week, though the field only got through eight levels over two days. What claims to feature the game's best is a throwback to another era of poker, and the action has clearly reflected a style that predates the light three-bet. Mike Matusow is in the lead, both in chips and in the race for the most TV time, but as long as he plays as well as he performs, we're happy to keep watching the show.