PokerNews WSOP Awards Part I: The Summer's Brightest Stars and Biggest Disappointments
For a good part of the summer, we watch the pros (and the dealers, of course) decide the fates of each player in the World Series of Poker. But now that it's over, it's our turn to decide who wins. Check out the PokerNews Live Updating Team's nominations for the WSOP awards. Who was most impressive? Who earned our respect? And who would have been better off spending the summer on the beach? In this edition, the people who watched it all pick their favorite players. Next time, they'll come back to pass judgment on the Series' most memorable moments.
Meet the Academy
Donnie Peters, Tournament Reporting Manager
Mickey Doft, Field Reporting Manager
Nicole Gordon, Senior Writer
Elissa Harwood, Senior Writer
Tim Duckworth, Blogger
Martin Harris, Blogger
Rich Ryan, Blogger
Biggest Break-Out Star:
Frank Kassela ― the only player to win two bracelets this summer; cashed six times, including two wins, one final-table bubble, and third place in the $25k Six-Handed No-Limit event to almost lock up WSOP Player of the Year (will have to share with Michael Mizrachi if Mizrachi wins the Main Event).
Harris: Most of us have known about Frank Kassela for some time, but by winning two bracelets and securing at least a share of the WSOP Player of the Year, he’s definitely increased his profile this summer.
Peters: With the year he had, he'll surely be a face in the future for all to recognize.
Dan "djk123" Kelly ― won the $25k Six-Handed No-Limit event for $1.3 million in his first WSOP ever (read about Kelly in our WSOP Rookies series here).
Doft: While play was on the bubble late on Day 2, a short-stacked Kelly came over to me several times to see the chip counts of the rest of the field. I was thrilled to see him sneak into the money. From there, he found a few doubles and went on to take it down. It couldn't have happened to a nicer and humbler guy.
James "Flushy" Dempsey ― British pro who won his first bracelet in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em event, then finished second to Sam Farha in the $10k Omaha Hi-Lo Championship; has a crazy rail who likes to cheer about degrees he doesn't have.
Ryan: Hint: "He’s a doctor! He’s a doctor! He’s a doctor!" Coming into the 2010 WSOP, Dempsey only had one WSOP cash to his name. Well, the Englishman added four more cashes this summer including a second and the illustrious gold bracelet. He finished the Series sixth in the POY standings and left the states with over a half a million dollars in winnings. Surely, that’s just what the doctor ordered.
David "Bakes" Baker ― started the Series with a sixth-place finish in the $50k Player's Championship, then scored victory in the $10k 2-7 Draw Championship; often confused with ODB (the original David Baker), who also had a record summer.
Gordon: Baker really impressed me, navigating through a brutal field to make the final table of the $50k and then followed it up with a bracelet win.
Michael Chow ― young mixed-games grinder who broke through with his first bracelet in the $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo event and went on to final-table the same event with a $10k buy-in and just miss the final table of the $10k H.O.R.S.E.; cashed in the Main Event.
Harwood: Chow came out of nowhere to prove he is one of the best in the world at Omaha Hi-Lo and that he can hold his own in one of the toughest $10k fields. Plus, he's responsible for one of the funniest moments of the summer. Deep in the H.O.R.S.E. $10k, Carlos Mortensen had turned his chips into one of his trademark sculpture towers. A reporter wondered out loud how sturdy it was. "Wanna find out?" Chow asked, and without missing a beat shook the table as hard as he could. Mortensen's tower swayed but didn't fall, and Chow flashed the rail a grin and went back to his cards.
Best Online-Turned-Live Grinder:
Jeffrey "jpapola" Papola ― finished second in the $2,500 NLH Six-Handed, then turned around and started the $5k NLH Six-Handed the next day, which he won by defeating Men Nguyen heads up.
Doft: Papola battled through a field of 1,245 and finished second for $391,068. He followed that by defeating 567 others, winning the his first bracelet and $667,433 a few days later.
Ryan: Papola banked over a million dollars and his first gold bracelet at the 2010 WSOP, nearly quadrupling his previous live earnings. Plus he’s from New Jersey, which gives him bonus points.
Dan "djk123" Kelly ― see above
Gordon: WCOOP beast becomes WSOP beast with $25k win. 'Nuff said.
Harwood: Kelly managed to prove he could handle big-time live pros just as well as he runs through online opponents in his first WSOP, and he locked up a sponsorship deal with Doyle's Room by timing his bracelet win to coincide with a contest for membership in the Brunson Ten. Smart move. Plus, you have to love an online kid who wins over a million dollars, and when dragged out to a club that night, can only scrounge up a few crumpled $20s from his pocket.
David "Bakes" Baker ― see above
Peters: Baker had a heck of a Series and really put his name out there for all to notice. A final table in the $50k, winning the $10k 2-7 and then running deep in the $10k O-8 shows that he's not just your normal online NL player. He can play all the games and play them with the best in the world.
John Racener ― continued his streak of solid WSOPs and finished strong; important part of his Series is just beginning.
Harris: Racener already had over $1 million in online tourney winnings before this summer. Like he did in 2009, Racener cashed four times this year, including sitting in fourth place currently among the November Nine.
Best Foreign Invasion:
Vladimir Schemelev ― made four final tables in his U.S. tournament debut; first appeared on the scene with a second-place finish in the $50k Player's Championship.
Peters: Who is this guy and where the heck did he come from? They must just breed super-human poker players in Russia and then ship them over when they feel they're ready to compete. Don't be surprised if we're talking about another Russian next year who made noise like this guy did.
Gordon: The pot-limit stud cash-game beast from St. Petersburg more than proved himself as a tournament force this summer and made a serious run at POY.
Harris: His four cashes ― all final tables ― totaled over $1.14 million, including a runner-up finish in the $50,000 Player's Championship.
Simon "durrrr killer" Watt ― won his first bracelet in a $1,500 NLH event; defeated Tom Dwan heads up to save the poker economy.
Ryan: It’s safe to say the Rio caught a severe case of World Cup fever during the 2010 WSOP. There were chants yelled, flags waved, jerseys worn and even vuvuzelas blown throughout the two months of play. The best American invasion came from a very quiet Kiwi, however. New Zealand’s first-ever bracelet winner, Watt, wins this award. He indeed defeated Dwan heads up, winning $614,248, a gold bracelet, and, according to Mike Matusow, a framed photograph on the wall of Bobby’s Room.
Shawn Buchanan ― continued his consistent live tournament career with a strong summer and a second-place in the $25k Six-Handed No-Limit event.
Doft: Canadian Buchanan is no stranger to live success, having a WPT win and several deep runs under his belt. His WSOP resume hadn't been as impressive, until now. Buchanan cashed eight times, capping it with his second-place finish in the $25k for $812,941.
Team Britain ― took over the Series with four bracelet winners and countless other final table appearances.
Harwood: If you're set on awarding the summer to any group, then it's got to be the "Summer of the Brits." They surprised everyone with the depth of their team, the volume of their rails, and the tolerance of their livers. Praz Bansi kicked things off with a bracelet early, and once they heard "God Save the Queen" once, there was no stopping them. Neil Channing went deep the next day, James Dempsey and Richard Ashby had insane summers, and Steve Jelinek grabbed his own hardware. At least the Brits had poker to comfort them during the World Cup.
Annette Obrestad ― As unfair as it is, it's the name that comes to mind first. The 21-year-old had unfair expectations placed on her first foray into the wilds of the Rio. With almost life-sized displays of herself in the hallways on the cover of a poker magazine, and smitten U.S. fans stopping her for photos every two minutes, there was no way she could live up to expectations without winning a bracelet, and that's too much to expect from anyone, especially someone who isn't playing most of the smaller-field mixed-games events.
Ryan: Wait, Phil Ivey only won one bracelet? What? As a matter of fact, only one person, the current POY Frank Kassela, won multiple bracelets. Coming off the “Year of Multiple Bracelet Winners,” this has to be the biggest disappointment.
Duckworth: The biggest disappointment of the 2010 WSOP would be Joe Cada, in my eyes. Although he only played 16 events ― which is the near complete opposite to Tom Dwan’s 50 ― he was unable to register a cash in any of them. There wasn’t one occasion when Cada managed to make a deep run, instead bowing out early on in the event. Yes, it can be assumed that he may have been running bad for the Series, but he really did need to register a score or two to justify his win last year as his deep PCA High Roller run can only keep the weight off his shoulders for a limited time.
Peters: There's a lot of hype around Annette Obrestad, but I'll go with Barry Greenstein. He only managed two small cashes and played a high volume of events as he does every year. As a whole, the "old brigade" didn't fair too well at all this series. Doyle Brunson, Howard Lederer, Annie Duke, Chris Ferguson, Mike Matusow? You didn't hear much of these guys throughout the Series. It's a new day and age. The younger players are really starting to take over, and people need to start recognizing the younger players in the game.
Harris: Not everyone will agree, but I personally thought men playing in the ladies event was disappointing.
Gordon: I'm still disappointed in the men who decided to crash the ladies event. They may have been trying to make a larger point but went about it in entirely the wrong way.
Harwood: Forget the ladies event. I'm disappointed that the Main Event didn't produce any new female stars to bring us hours of comedy and tons of photo shoots in the year to come. This year, women only made up 3 percent of the Main Event field, down from 5 percent last year. And the last woman standing was out in 121st place. That meant two full days at the Rio were men-only. That's a much bigger problem than an event only for women.
Most Deserving Bracelet Winner:
Pretty much everyone voted for fan-favorite Gavin Smith who won his first bracelet in the $2,500 Mixed Hold'em event. (OK, Peters gave a shout out to some random guy named Phil Ivey, but then he came to his senses and went with Smith.)
Ryan: This is a tie between two great friends: Gavin Smith and Chris Bell. Both players were without bracelets entering the 2010 WSOP, and they won their respective events on back-to-back days. Few players are as nice and as approachable as Smith and Bell, and I definitely let out a little fist-pump upon hearing about their successes.
Peters: He has been deserving of a bracelet for a long time and it couldn't have happened to a nicer, more fun-loving guy. It's about time Smith captured that WSOP gold, and the entire poker community couldn't be happier for him.
Harris: Smith played a terrific tourney and final table.
Tune back in after the commercial break for WSOP Awards Part II, where we argue over the most memorable moments of the 2010 World Series, and while you're waiting, follow us on Twitter.