Every year, poker players flock to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. With so much money flooding the poker economy, it seems that every card room wants a piece of the pie. In recent years, various Vegas properties have begun to offer their own tournaments series, either complementing the WSOP or directly competing with it, depending on your point of view. Two of these series are the Golden Nugget’s Grand Poker Series and the Caesars Palace 2011 Mega Stack Series.
Although bracelet winners tend to dominate the headlines during the WSOP, they’re not the only poker champions in Sin City. So we thought we’d recognize some of the winners from these smaller events and examine how they left their mark on poker history. While there are too many events and winners to list individually, we thought it would be best to give you the highlights, including some of the notable events, results, and winners.
The Grand Poker Series
The Grand, which has become synonymous with the film bearing the same name, has proven to be one of the more popular side series as an affordable alternative to the WSOP. With buy-ins ranging from $100-$1,080, the Grand tournaments have a tendency to draw an eclectic mix of both amateurs and pros. Between June 4 - July 4, 2011, the Golden Nugget held its latest incarnation with 67 events, varying from traditional no-limit tournaments to more flavorful ones like Guys ‘n’ Dolls, Young Guns (30 & under), and Tag Team events.
While not saturated with as many big names as the WSOP, the Grand has been known to pull in some notable players. Throughout this year’s series, a number of pros journeyed downtown including Susie Isaacs, Steve Wong, Faraz Jaka, Kenna James, Donald Webb, Ben Tang, Jeff Hwang, Esther Rossi, “Captain” Tom Franklin, and Will “Monkey” Souther. However, although all of these pros found mediocre success, they were all no doubt looking up to poker professional Chip Jett, who managed to win two events.
Here is a look at some of the Grand’s notable events and winners, including a look at the Grand Finale Championship final table.
The Grand Poker Series 2011
|Date||Event||Buy-in||# of Entrants||Prize Pool||Winner||Prize|
|June 4||#2 Pot-Limit Omaha||$230||61||$11,834||Chip Jett||$3,076|
|June 6||#6 7-Card Stud Hi-Lo||$230||129||$25,026||Randy Propson||$6,400|
|June 10||#13 Young Guns No-Limit Hold’em||$230||18||$3,492||Derek Gomez||$1,746|
|June 19||#32 Seniors No-Limit Hold’em||$230||332||$64,408||Mark Hirakawa||$10,003|
|June 23||#40 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo||$225||96||$4,162||Chip Jett||$4,162|
|June 25||#45 No-Limit Hold’em||$125||159||$15,423||Matthew Schultz||$3,378|
|June 26||#46 Guys ‘n’ Dolls NLHE||$125||145||$14,065||Kendall & Hank Paloci||$1,200 each|
|July 1||#61 No-Limit Hold’em||$125||176||$17,072||Kent Frampton||$4,611|
|July 2||#63 Grand Finale Championship||$1,080||235||$227,950||Marvin Rettenmaier||$54,713|
2011 Grand Finale Championship Final Table
Caesars Palace 2011 Mega Stack Series
In May, the WSOP unofficially kicked off with the WSOP-Circuit National Championship at Caesars Palace. While the WSOP festivities relocated to the Rio shortly thereafter, not all of the poker action did. Caesars Palace played host to the popular Mega Stack Series, a string of 91 tournaments held between May 30-July 15, 2011.
Aside from the Main Event, which we'll talk about below, the big story from the 2011 Mega Stack Series was Leif Force’s win in Event #50 $340 Pot-Limit Big Omaha 8 or Better Six-Handed for $14,007. If you recall, Force barely missed out on the WSOP Main Event final table in 2006, ultimately finishing in 11th place for $1,154,527. He also finished second in the World Poker Tour Southern Poker Championship Main Event in January for $315,790.
While the 2011 Mega Stack Series was a tremendous success all around, the folks at Caesars saved the best for last. The $1,060 Main Event drew an astounding 1,610 entries spread across two starting days. The turnout demolished even the most optimistic projections, forcing the tournament staff to call an audible on Day 1B. With not enough room to accommodate everyone, a temporary cap was placed on the field before tournament officials began accepting alternates and seating them accordingly. It was a madhouse, but the subsequent $1,561,700 prize pool help soothe any frustrations.
With huge money on the line, dozens of poker pros turned out to attempt to claim their share. While not all managed to make the money, a few did including Antoine Saout (122nd - $2,186), Drazen Ilich (100th - $2,499), Zachary Clark (95th - $2,499), Tomer Berda (78th - $2,967), Vitaly Lunkin (67th - $3,436), Isaac Baron (65th - $3,436), David Steicke (63rd - $3,904), Justin Young (61st - $3,904), Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi (45th - $5,154), Roland Isra (43rd - $5,154), and Eric “basebaldy” Baldwin (17th - $10,463).
Poker Phenoms' Jake "PSUTennis" Toole went on to finish in third place for $143,052. In the end, Frenchman Adrien Braesco outlasted all others to claim the $269,382 first-place prize and the 2011 Mega Stack Series Main Event Title.
2011 Mega Stack Series Main Event Final Table
|5||Benjamin Le Few||$89,329|