We just started our eighth season of the World Poker Tour (WPT).  It’s actually pretty amazing to think we’ve been on television for seven seasons!  And it’s more amazing how time flies.

Season VIII kicked off at Bellagio in July with a $15,000 buy-in for the Bellagio Cup V.   268 players were looking to take down the nearly $1.2 million first place prize.  It was a strong field and a very tough final table.  Erik Seidel, who was going for his second WPT title, said that it was the toughest final table in WPT history.  I’m not sure I’d agree with that, but it was a very strong group.

One thing I do know is that the six finalists set an all-time WPT record by playing the longest six-handed before losing a player at 103 hands.  And congratulations to our first WPT champ from Brazil, Alexandre Gomes.  Here are the final standings and payouts from the Bellagio Cup:

1st Place: Alexandre Gomes – $1,187,670
2nd Place: Faraz Jaka – $774,780
3rd Place: Justin Smith – $464,870
4th Place: Alec Torelli – $271,165
5th Place: Christoffer Sonesson – $203,385
6th Place: Erik Seidel – $164,640

The thing people will probably remember most about this final table was that we had our first physical injury due to excessive celebration.  Justin Smith, a very tough young player, drew out to stay alive on one hand and started jumping around, injuring his Achilles heel.  What’s really unusual about this is that Justin is one of the quietest people I’ve ever played with.  He’s one of the last guys you would expect to be jumping up and down.  To those who question whether poker is a sport, you can now say, “Well, players do get injured when playing in tournaments.”

The 2009 World Series of Poker (WSOP) closes with the Main Event final table in November.  Congratulations to all of the November Nine, the phrase used for those who make it to the Main Event final table.  They outlasted nearly 6,500 players to reach the final table.  The monster chip leader is Darvin Moon, an amateur player from Oakland, Maryland who got in this tournament by winning a satellite.  He’s a logger by trade and is playing in his first-ever WSOP tournament.  Could we have a second coming of Chris Moneymaker?

ESPN and the WSOP can thank their lucky stars that the guy many would consider to be the most famous poker player in the world, Phil Ivey, is one of the November Nine.  Ivey already won two bracelets at the 2009 WSOP and is going for his ninth overall!  My guess is that ratings will be more than double last year’s show primarily because Phil Ivey will be on it.  And I have no doubt that every promo about that show will include Phil Ivey (and if they don’t, they should).

If it seems like I’m a big Phil Ivey fan, it’s because I am.  Even though he’s only 33, he is the best player (and that means the most successful) in virtually every category in poker – live games, tournaments, and online.  I’ve always thought that Chip Reese made more money playing poker than anyone in history, but I now believe Ivey has gone by him due to the high-stakes cash games that they’re playing nowadays, the big-time tournaments, and the monster games online.

Ivey really is incredible. Make no mistake about it, his poker resume is unmatched by anyone.  He destroys the biggest cash games and online games and will become the all-time leader in tournaments if he finishes in fifth place or better in November.   Whether he likes the name or not, Phil Ivey is the “Tiger Woods of Poker.”  I, for one, will be pulling for him to win in November.

On a personal note, I had a shot and made the money in the Main Event, finishing around 400th or so.  I won’t bore you with my bad beat story, but it was pretty ugly.  It’s the seventh time I’ve finished in the money in the Main Event even though I didn’t start playing it until 1992 and missed it about three times along the way.  That ties me with the likes of Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, and Jay Heimowitz for second place all-time cashing in the Main Event and second only to Berry Johnston, who has finished in the money 10 times.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Main Event already!  Hope to see you there.

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