In the 50th event of the 2014 World Series of Poker, one of the game's all-time greats demonstrated the depth of skill and determination which separates the pros from the pretenders.
In the early morning hours on Saturday, Event #50: $1,500 Eight-Game Mix came to a close, and in the end it was none other than Phil Ivey who managed to accumulate every chip in play to secure his 10th career bracelet.
While donning another piece of gold jewelry is obviously an accomplishment in its own right, the poker world was left buzzing about Ivey's rumored payouts from a series of last-longer, final placement, and similar side wagers. The details of those bets have been the subject of much speculation, however prevailing wisdom holds that Ivey has wagered a healthy sum over the years on various bracelet bets, while his friend and fellow pro Daniel Negreanu also tweeted a publicly issued prop bet before the summer. According to the terms offered by Negreanu at the time:
WSOP Bracelet Bet Offering: me and @philivey as a team, you can bet the don't on either of us winning a bracelet this summer at even money.Follow @RealKidPoker
Min bet is $5k against me and Ivey winning a bracelet this summer and the odds are even money. One of us wins- you lose. Simple.Follow @RealKidPoker
Dozens of pros and others looking to fade two members of poker's old school ponied up the dough, lending an extra bit of drama to the series before it had even started.
You Can Bet Your Bottom Dollar: Anybody who enjoys poker or pays attention to social media knows that Ivey plays WSOP events for much more than a bracelet win or a six-figure score, which is why it was surprising that he had made no deep runs until Saturday. With only 15 bracelet events left on the schedule, the sweat was on for Ivey, Negreanu, and those who had bet against them. But as he has done so many times before in his storied career, Ivey rose to the occasion when the pressure intensified.
For his part, "Kid Poker" made a deep Event #50 run of his own en route to a ninth-place finish — continuing an impressive series in which he has registered a runner-up result and four other top 10 finishes. But the beauty of his wager on the pair's shared performance was that either party could win to save the summer. Negreanu wasn't shy in celebrating the win either, taking to Twitter moments after Ivey finished Bruce Yamron off for the win to begin the collection process:
Phil Ivey just won!! If you owe me money I'll be at Rio Sunday. Fun sweat all summer and my man got the job done. Phew!Follow @RealKidPoker
Hold'em Holdout: Ivey has won 10 gold bracelets during the last 15 years, with his first coming in a $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event back in 2000. Throughout his storied career on the felt Ivey has grabbed the gold in variants such as S.H.O.E (2002), No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball (2009), and H.O.R.S.E. (2010), but none of his WSOP triumphs have come in Texas hold'em. Friday's win made it a cool 10-for-10 in terms of non-hold'em victories, proving that the most "Polarizing" figure in poker — to evoke Ivey's Full Tilt Poker nick — is far from it when it comes to proving his mixed-game mettle.
Round Numbers: Since winning that first bracelet Ivey has simply owned the world of tournament poker. Reaching 10 career bracelets is meaningful for a number of reasons, as Ivey joins Johnny Chan (10), Doyle Brunson (10), and Phil Hellmuth (13) as the only players to eclipse the double-digit bracelet plateau. Neither the Orient Express nor Tex Dolly have donned the gold since 2005, however, meaning Ivey is the only serious contender of that group in terms of chasing down the Poker Brat for the all-time lead.
Making it Count: After stringing together a truly dominant run in 2012 — one which saw him record five final table appearances out of his seven WSOP cashes — Ivey came ever so close to binking one of those bracelet bets. Last year marked the middle of Ivey's reported three-year bracelet bet challenge, and although he was certainly motivated to make things happen after winning the $2,200 Mixed Event at the WSOP Asia Pacific in Melbourne — a lone cash at the 2013 WSOP in Vegas left him lacking. This year Ivey started slow out of the gates once again, but with the window of opportunity closing ever so slightly with each bracelet lost, he decided to harness the power of his legendary on-the-felt perception in enough time to turn the final table tide.
Party Crasher: As the poker world's collective focus became fixed on the final table, Dan Heimiller occupied a usual position, sitting on the verge of something special while staying largely out of the spotlight. The unassuming Heimiller has quietly compiled one of the most impressive records in tournament poker, and yet even as he pursued his third career bracelet — and second of the summer — his presence at the final table remained relatively unnoticed. Heimiller rode the roller coaster during his final table run, falling all the way to 40,000 at one point before briefly wresting the chip leadership back from Ivey, then ultimately bowing out in third place.
Check out a video segment of Ivey's interview with Remko Rinkema: