In the early morning hours on Friday a new Poker Players' Champion was crowned at the World Series of Poker, and in the end it was John "Johnny World" Hennigan who claimed the honor.
Hennigan won Event #46: $50,000 Poker Players' Championship to earn his third career bracelet while also bagging a $1,517,767 boost to his bankroll. Hennigan defeated 2014's breakout player Brandon Shack-Harris heads-up to add his name to the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy. Topping a field of 102 truly talented pros to take the title, Hennigan — widely regarded by his peers as one of the game's most skilled players in all games — secured a legacy defining win one year after falling short on the same stage.
Second Time's a Charm: Last year the man known as "Johnny World" made it to the final table the Players' Championship for his second career cash in the prestigious event. That deep run ultimately ended in third place and at the time Hennigan admitted that he didn't quite grasp the significance of winning this particular tournament until after the fact. Motivated by the chance to redeem himself and settle unfinished business, Hennigan showed why fellow pros like Daniel Negreanu and Gavin Smith have nominated "The World" as the toughest and most talented competition they've ever encountered.
The World is His, and Everything in It: The win capped off an amazing three-year WSOP run for Hennigan as he has now cashed 16 times over that span, including three top-15 finishes in the Poker Players' Championship. In 2012 Hennigan put on an impressive performance mainly in big buy-in events against elite competition, placing no lower than 31st place in his seven cashes, with all but one of those coming in events boasting buy-ins of $5,000 or more. Hennigan made two final tables during six cashes in 2013, including the aforementioned close call in the Poker Players' Championship, and this year he added two more final tables, nearly winning another bracelet in Event #19: $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em, where he finished as the runner-up. Of his five final table appearances between 2012 and 2014, Hennigan has placed first, second, third, fourth, and seventh — meaning he could very well have climbed to five or six all-time bracelets had a few cards fallen differently.
Bang for His Buck: Of his 48 career live cashes Friday's win marked Hennigan's second seven-figure score, and in fact, both of those produced paydays of more than $1.5 million. With a $1,606,223 haul to his credit for winning the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open Championship event in 2007, Hennigan's earnings from the Poker Players' Championship rank as a close second. In addition, Hennigan has secured 10 six-figure cashes in his career, largely by virtue of his impressive ability to finish off deep runs with wins. With seven first-place finishes on his record, as opposed to only two runner-up results, Hennigan clearly knows how to close, and when he makes the money "The World" wins it all an astounding 15 percent of the time.
A Star is Born: Before the 2014 edition of the WSOP, the name Brandon Shack-Harris was not exactly of the household variety. After all, he had only recorded four career cashes at the summer series, with just seven total live cashes to his credit before this summer. Nonetheless, by the time the history of the 2014 WSOP is written, Shack-Harris' name will be among the signature storylines.
Shack-Harris claimed his first career bracelet back in May by taking down Event #3: $1,000 Pot-Limit Omaha for a $205,634 score. Not long after that Shack-Harris proclaimed the win to be nice, but not as meaningful as a win in his favorite game's World Championship would be. Like the best usually do, Shack-Harris backed up his bravado by nearly winning his second bracelet in Event #18: $10,000 Seven-Card Razz Championship, where he was forced to settle for a runner-up result when George Danzerdenied him. Shack-Harris continued his torrid pace a short time later, making his third final table of the series to that point in Event #43: $1,500 Limit Hold'em, where he made it a 1-2-3 run after bowing out in third place.
Every summer sees one player make a breakthrough while running deep in seemingly every tournament on the schedule, but by nearly besting one of the most skilled fields in all of poker to finish second in the Poker Players' Championship, Shack-Harris showed that he will be a fixture at the final table stage for years to come.
The Respect of One's Peers: Although Hennigan and Shack-Harris hail from different ends of the generational spectrum, with "World" representing the old guard of high-stakes cash game specialists and the phenom taking up the mantle for internet wizards turned live tournament heroes, the pair shares much in common. Both are accomplished mixed game players who excel at all the games, and both are exceedingly gracious competitors who have earned the respect of their peers and fellow pros. Phil Hellmuth was among the first to congratulate his pal Hennigan after the big win, while Shack-Harris was applauded by another of poker's young superstars in Danzer:
Congrats to Johnny "The world" Hennigan for winning #WSOPPlayers Championship! Hennigan plays every game great and is loved by all @WSOPFollow @phil_hellmuth
Congrats and well played @Oscillator_WSOP i am proud to be in your corner. Congrats to Mr. Hennigan too, a well deserved Players Champion.Follow @trickyscarfy
Skin in the Game: During his deep run through the Poker Players' Championship, high-stakes pro and avid bettor Abe Mosseri was not shy about the stakes he was truly playing for. While the $1.5 million first-prize payout was obviously the primary objective for Mosseri, he stood to win 40 percent of the amount even if he failed to take the title.
Mosseri had a series of side wagers against his friends and fellow pros competing in the event, including Matt Glantz and Doyle Brunson, with the upshot being $300,000 payments for making it through three milestones during the tournament. By earning a cash in the event Mosseri matched the first target, and when he sat down at the final table of seven he had secured the second. A win would have provided the third and final requirement, but Mosseri's run ended with a fourth place result. Nonetheless, if the rumored stakes of his side bet are anywhere near true, Mosseri more than matched his $402,696 tournament payout by pilfering his pal's pockets.
Burr-fection: Throughout the 2014 WSOP campaign the poker world has been captivated by Melissa Burr's consistently excellent performance. Predominately a cash game grinder from the East Coast, Burr has enjoyed a dreamlike summer so far, after entering the series with only one WSOP cash to her credit. By making the money in the Poker Players' Championship Burr became the first woman to achieve the feat, and her seventh place finish was remarkable for another reason as well.
Burr made her third final table appearance in the month of June, after finishing eighth and fifth in Event #10: $10,000 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo and Event #30: $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo, respectively. In between those runs and her Poker Players' Championship performance, Burr added another top-10 result in Event #41: $1,500 Dealers Choice - Six Handed, where she bowed out in ninth place.