Of all the thousands of players who have already descended on the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for the 2017 World Series of Poker, there are a few that people have been wondering about. In the case of two of those legends, one is on the way while the other says there is a “100 billion to 1” shot that he’ll show up.
Poker professional Phil Ivey, who has been a no-show to poker’s greatest event for at least the last year if not longer, will be making his appearance soon. Living for the cash game action, Ivey has been ensconced in the high stakes arena at Bobby’s Room in the Bellagio. Playing $2000/$4000 mixed games there, Ivey seems to be in good shape and honing his skills for the Championship Events alongside another player who wants to splash back into the deep end of the pool.
On June 14, fellow high stakes pro Gus Hansen posted a picture of Ivey on the felt at the Bellagio. In a Tweet along with the photo, Hansen noted that he had been “contemplating playing the ‘One Drop’” but the cash games were too good to walk away from. The photo and Hansen’s statements leads one to believe that not only Hansen but also Ivey will be in the mix at the Championship Event in July.
One player who won’t be a part of the mix is Poker Hall of Famer Doyle Brunson. Now 83, Brunson hasn’t played the at the WSOP since his “last ride” in the 2014 Championship Event (Brunson’s last tournament cash was the 2013 WSOP Championship Event, where he finished 409th). “The Godfather of Poker” teased the poker world that he would be in some of the higher buy in tournaments ($10,000 and up) in a Tweet back in May “depending on my wife’s health issues.”
Unfortunately, it seems that Dolores Brunson’s health has changed Doyle’s mind on playing in 2017. Over Twitter someone wondered what the odds were that Brunson would play “at least one event” this year and the response from Brunson wasn’t in the affirmative. Brunson piped up from his Twitter feed to the query, “100,000,000,000 to 1” to effectively put the kibosh on the idea.
The news from these two men is both exciting and a bit disappointing. Ivey, should he make his return to the WSOP, has long been rumored to be the ONLY player who could make a run at Phil Hellmuth’s record for WSOP bracelets. Holding 10 WSOP bracelets, he is tied with Johnny Chan and Brunson for the second most all-time behind only Hellmuth. As he is to turn 40 this year (and is expected to be elected to the Poker Hall of Fame on the first ballot), Ivey is just entering his prime in the game of poker.
Other endeavors have taken Ivey’s minds from bracelet hunting, however. Cash games have become more important to Ivey, with much of his time spent in Macau playing the big cash games in the Asian gaming Mecca. There’s also been the litigation regarding his punto banco play in both the United Kingdom and the States of America that has taken up a great deal of his time (Ivey was either denied his winnings or force to repay the winnings back to the two casinos in each case due to those casinos stating he “cheated” by using edge-sorting techniques to gain an edge). Ivey hasn’t won a bracelet since 2014, when he captured the $1500 Eight Game Mixed event at the WSOP.
Brunson’s case is disappointing but understandable. Before he departed in 2014, Brunson noted how the grind of tournament poker was tougher on the older players (the WSOP is a nearly two-week long tournament if you drive deep), even if it were only the preliminary events. He also, at 83, has achieved every accolade that could be expected by a poker player. Still, seeing Brunson make another run at a WSOP bracelet – and perchance breaking the tie with Ivey and Chan – would excite the poker community, much like a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band heading out for a “farewell” tour.
Perhaps this is the year Ivey makes his run at the World Championship. And perhaps Brunson will come back around in 2018. While having one of poker’s legends back for the Championship Event is outstanding, having both Ivey and Brunson back would make the 2017 tournament truly memorable.