WSOP of the Past; 2006

In 2006 the World Series of Poker reached its peak of growth. Each year since Moneymaker’s epic win in 2003, the WSOP had seen exponential growth and in 2006 it was at its pinnacle. All of the events were played at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. This would mark the first time in the history of the WSOP, that a final table of the Main Event would not be held at the Binion’s Horseshoe.

Two players that had a great year at the WSOP were Jeff Madsen and William Chen. Chen used his mathematical expertise to win the $3,000 limit hold ’em event and the $2,500 no-limit hold ’em event. Madsen was a young gun who made a name for himself at this WSOP. He was remarkably consistent at his debut, eventually earning him the Player of the Year. Madsen quite possibly experienced one of the greatest WSOP’s in the history of the series. He made 4 final tables, finished 3rd twice and won two bracelets. He won the $5,000 no-limit hold ’em six handed event and the $2,000 no-limit hold ’em event. At the age of 21 years 1 month and 9 days, he was also the youngest bracelet winner at the time.

In the days of huge fields that were dominated by online players and amateurs, the pros actually had a great year themselves. John Gale won a $2,500 no limit hold ’em event and David Williams captured a $1,500 7-card stud event. Dutch Boyd took $2,500 in a no-limit hold ’em six handed event, and Brandon Cantu pocketed $1,500 at a no-limit hold ’em event. These winners also received their first bracelets for these wins. Meanwhile, pros Allen Cunningham, Sam Farha, David “the Dragon” Pham, Lee Watkinson and Eric Froehlich added to their bracelet total with wins. No pro had a better year than Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth won his 10th career bracelet by besting the field in the $1,000 no-limit hold ’em re-buy event. At the time, he tied Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan for most all time, which he broke the following year with his 11th win. Hellmuth made a total of 4 final tables and cashed 8 times in 2006.

$50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship Winner – Chip Reese

The $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship made its debut and was considered to be the poker player’s championship, a true test of one’s poker skills. The tournament lasted 3 long days and had a final table full of poker greats. Imagine this final table at your home game: TJ Cloutier, Andy Bloch, Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Patrik Antonius, James Bechtel, Chip Reese, Dewey Tomko and David Singer. After 8 hours of play, Chip Reese finally disposed of Andy Bloch by winning the longest heads-up battle in WSOP history.

The Main Event was and is the largest poker event in history with 8,773 participants. The prize pool was a gargantuan $82,512,162 and the final 12 players would all be millionaires that year! Eventually the massive field was reduced to the final table of nine players which included: Dan Nassif, Eric Friberg, Doug Kim, Richard Lee, Rhett Butler, Allen Cunningham, Michael Binger, Paul Wasicka and Jamie Gold. Many thought that Allen Cunningham would use his pro experience to overtake the table and prove once and for all that the pros were not going anywhere. However, it was a different outcome than most expected. Jamie Gold had been building a huge chip lead over the 7 days of the event and bulldozed his way to the final table with an overwhelming chip advantage. Gold busted out Nassif in 9th and got Friberg next in 8th when his pocket Queens destroyed Friberg’s pocket Jacks. Wasicka got the best of Kim when his pocket Queens beat Kim’s pocket 9’s. Gold’s next elimination came when he woke up with pocket Queens against Lee who held the infamous pocket Jacks. Lee was gone in 6th. Gold kept on rolling as he railed the next player as well when Butler’s pocket 4’s couldn’t catch up to Gold’s pocket jacks and he was gone in 5th. At this point in the tournament Gold had $54 million in chips and nobody left held more than $13 million. Cunningham was ousted next when his pocket 10’s were beaten when Gold’s K-J paired the King and Cunningham was gone in 4th. There was really no shot for Wasicka or Binger to have a chance unless one of them knocked the other out, but it wasn’t meant to be as Gold made his open ended straight draw to eliminate Binger in 3rd. So now it was heads-up time and it was hardly a fair fight. Wasicka had a mere $11.2 million in chips and Gold had a whopping $78.9 million in chips which took up that whole side of the table. The match lasted all of 7 hands. The final hand played out like this: Gold raised pre-flop and Wasicka called. The flop was Q-8-5 and Wasicka led out and bet $1.5 million. Gold immediately moved all-in. Wasicka calls and turns over pocket 10’s but Gold turned over a Q-9. The turn was an Ace and the river a 4 eliminating Wasicka in 2nd. Jamie Gold became the 2006 World Champion in the most dominating performance in WSOP history. He also won the largest payout ever for first place of $12 million.

In 2006, something to take away was that even in large fields, the pros are still a force to be reckoned with. Something else to remember is we will probably never again witness a main event performance like Jamie Gold delivered that year.

The 2006 WSOP Main Event Final Hand:

Michael Krisle – Senior Writer/Editor – AGP

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