The World Poker Tour kicked off its ninth season last May with a revamped format. Tournament director Matt Savage was brought in to run the show. In addition a number of new personalities were brought in including the Royal Flush Girls, a bevy of six gorgeous women who took viewers behind the scenes of WPT events and served as event ambassadors; Tony Dunst, who became the host of the popular segment The Raw Deal; and Kimberly Lansing, who was brought back, much to the satisfaction of poker fans, as the on-air and online anchor.
“We're in Season Nine now, and you can basically say that the first eight seasons the show looked the same. Steve Lipscomb had the show the way they wanted it, it became an easier show to produce because it became a carbon copy from show to show,” Savage had previously stated in an interview with PokerNews. “Now the show is going to be taking some chances and doing things that have not been done before. I think that's definitely going to build some excitement.”
Indeed, the general consensus among poker fans and professionals was that the WPT recaptured some of its prestige and glory during its ninth season. Over the course of 19 stops, 7,519 players entered WPT tournaments and competed for combined prize pools worth €9,142,360 for those events overseas, and $41,645,817 For those in the United States!*
*These numbers don’t include the popular Celebrity Invitational that was recently broadcast on FSN, nor the $100,000 World Championship Super High Roller.
With Season X kicking off with the WPT Spanish Championship later this month, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at five memorable moments from Season IX.
Mike Sexton Makes a WPT Final Table
For years, Mike Sexton wasn’t allowed to compete in World Poker Tour tournaments because he was the event’s host. Luckily for him, and his numerous fans, that rule was changed and Sexton began playing WPT events all around the world. His first cash came in September of 2010 when he navigated a 1,042-player field at the Borgata Poker Open to finish in 20th place. Six months later, Sexton went on to make his first WPT final table at the Bay 101 Shooting Star, much to the delight of the poker community.
Because he was playing the tournament, Sexton was unable to serve as commentator in the booth, so Tony Dunst served as his substitute. While Sexton was clearly the fan favorite, he entered the final table as a short stack. In what would be his final hand, Mike Matusow raised to 55,000 on the button, and Sexton moved all-in from the small blind for about 200,000. Matusow made the call and the cards were turned up.
Sexton was in a dominating position and remained so through the flop and turn. All he needed to do was dodge a jack on the river, but since this was an elimination hand, you can already guess that the spiked. Sexton was eliminated in sixth place for $148,000.
Andy Frankenberger Wins WPT Player of the Year
No one had a better WPT Season IX than Andy Frankenberger. He played in 15 tournaments, cashed in three, made the final table in two, and claimed victory in the Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino for $750,000. He racked up 2,100 points in the WPT Player of the Year race, which was enough to capture the title as he faded some stiff competition in Vivek Rajkumar (2,000 points), Alessio Isaia (1,750 points), and Kia Mohajeri (1,700 points).
On his Twitter account, @AMFrankenberger, Frankenberger expressed his excitement over being named WPT Player of the Year: “THRILLED (!!!), humbled, and honored to be @WorldPokerTourSeason 9 Player of the Year!!!”
Now that the WPT Season IX has come to a close, Frankenberger will turn his attention to the Word Series of Poker, including the WSOP Circuit National Championship for which he qualified in December when he final-tabled the Regional Championship at Harrah’s Atlantic City.
Dwyte Pilgrim Shocks the World
Since his rise in the WSOP Circuit, Dwyte Pilgrim has become one of poker’s most polarizing players. Love him or hate him, there seems to be no in-between. Regarded as the “King of the Minor Leagues,” Pilgrim was looking for a breakthrough performance to thrust him into the majors. That opportunity came in September at the World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open. Pilgrim overcame a record field of 1,042 players to claim his first major title and the $733,802 first-place prize. While Pilgrim still has his critics, they’re no longer able to label him as a minor-league player.
On top of it all, Pilgrim’s final table performance proved to be one of the most entertaining in WPT history. To say that Pilgrim is an outspoken and emotional guy would be an understatement. He proved this as he took down pot after pot. After outlasting Kia Mohajeri in heads-up action, Pilgrim’s true nature showed as tears of joy streamed down his face. It was an emotionally charged scene and one of the most iconic of the WPT’s Season IX.
Antonio Esfandiari Wins Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic on Birthday
In 2004, a player known as Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari helped popularize the World Poker Tour when he took down the L.A. Poker Classic for $1,399,135. Esfandiari quickly became one of the most popular characters in poker, but as the years ticked by, his moment of glory slowly faded into WPT history.
Fast forward nearly seven years later to the 2010 Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic. Esfandiari performed exceptionally well as he emerged as chip leader on Days 2-4, ultimately landing on one of the most stacked final tables in WPT history. The table included Vanessa Rousso, Andrew Robl, Ted Lawson, Kirk Morrison, and John Racener.
As fate would have it, the final table just so happened to take place on Esfandiari’s birthday. Given all the facts, it seemed like destiny as The Magician outlasted opponent after opponent and squared off against his good friend Robl in heads-up play. In the final hand, Esfandiari raised to 800,000 with only to have Robl move all-in for 6.25 million with . Esfandiari didn’t even think before making the call and shouting “Ship the cheese,” after his opponent rolled over his cards.
The crowd broke out into a rendition of “Happy Birthday” as the came out on the flop, giving Robl both a straight and flush draw. Esfandiari had a sweat as the hit the turn followed by the on the river. Robl had missed his bevy of outs and was eliminated in second place for $549,003. Meanwhile, Esfandiari captured his second WPT title and the $870,124 first-place prize.
Erik Seidel & Scott Seiver Win Big at WPT World Championship
As always, the World Poker Tour $25,000 World Championship proved to be a prestigious and star-studded event, especially with the addition of the new $100,000 Super High Roller tournament. The latter event drew 29 of the world’s best players including Daniel Negreanu, Phil Laak, Tony G, Eugene Katchalov, and Sam Trickett. Unfortunately for all of them, the tournament also drew Erik Seidel, who has been on an unprecedented heater in 2011, having earned $4.3 million in just five months.
Seidel’s heater continued as he made his way to a tough final table that included Negreanu, Justin Bonomo, Vivek Rajkumar, and Erick Lindgren. Soon, only Seidel and Lindgren remained in what would be a rematch of the 2007 Aussie Millions Super High Roller, a tournament in which Lindgren emerged victorious. This time, Seidel exacted his revenge, claiming the title and $1,092,000 first-place prize. For those keeping count, that prize brought Seidel’s 2011 earnings up to $5.4 million in less than six months.
As if that wasn’t enough, the WPT $25K World Championship was yet to conclude. In fact, the final six players of a 220-player field were still in competition. They included Justin Young, Tony Gargano, Roger Teska, Galen Hall, Farzad Bonyadi, and Scott Seiver. As you surely know by now, it was Seiver who outlasted all to pick up the $1,618,344 prize and the World Championship title, which will no doubt compliment his 2008 World Series of Poker bracelet. All in all, the World Championship proved to be the perfect ending to an already amazing WPT season.