In the second part of our year-end wrap up, we look at the list of those people and events that were good for poker in 2010. Here is the nice list.
Michael Mizrachi. Mizrachi almost accomplished the impossible, but even falling tantalizingly short, he had a memorable year. He won the first event of this year’s WSOP, the prestigious $50,000 players’ championship, and then went on to make the final table of the main event. Had he won that event he would have been the first player to complete the poker hat trick. Even with his pocket threes blow-up that led to a disappointing fifth place finish, Mizrachi had a tremendous WSOP. And with his three brothers all cashing at the main event, a first for one family, 2001 could easily be called the year of the Mizrachis.
Phil Laak. The Unabomber proved himself to be impervious to the things that would halt a mere mortal in their tracks and earned his own super hero status, once intentionally and once, literally, by accident. First he guaranteed himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records by playing 114 straight hours of poker, shattering the old record by a day and a half! Solidifying his “nice” status, Laak donated half of his session’s profits to charity. Then he crashed an ATV he was driving.
The crash resulted in, as he later tweeted from the hospital, a “massive arm injury and lacerations to eye... Life is good.” He bounced back to win his first bracelet in the WSOP-Europe six-handed no-limit hold’em championship. Maybe Laak should trade in his trademark hoodie for a superhero’s cape.
First Time Bracelet Winners. The list of the best to never win a WSOP bracelet grew even smaller this year as perennial also-rans got their poker jewelry. In addition to the previously-discussed Phil Laak and Michael Mizrachi, multiple World Poker Tour winner Gus Hansen finally added a WSOP win to his resume as did Canadian Gavin Smith. His fellow Canadian Jonathan Duhamel also won his first bracelet, becoming the first Canadian to win the main event, a feat we strongly suspect Daniel Negreanu was hoping to achieve. The best-to-never-win group is still led by MIT- and Harvard-educated Andy Bloch, showing that education isn’t everything.
Matt Affleck. No, he didn’t make the November nine. He didn’t even win a bracelet. But this poker powerhouse showed a rare combination of talent and class that makes him a favorite as we look towards 2011. In 2009 he tore through the first five days of the WSOP main event before leaving on Day Six in 80th place. In 2010, he was sailing though Day Eight on the way to the final table when a bad all-in call by Jonathan Duhamel turns into a suck out for the ages. Affleck left in tears but came back to make a proper exit and his grace and poise, as much as his sick poker skills, made a lasting impression with his back-to-back deep runs.
New members of the Poker Hall of Fame. Two gentlemen, in the best sense of the word, were invited to join 38 others in the Poker Hall of Fame by qualifying through a vote of poker fans and then being chosen by an elite panel of poker experts. “Action” Dan Harrington is best remembered for his back-to-back top four finishes in the 2003 and
2004 main events. Eric Seidel is known as the man with all the bracelets on the Full Tilt Poker commercial, as the eight pieces of gold clang noisily on his arm. He is also known to an entire generation of players who were introduced to poker through the movies for his cameo in “Rounders.” But both men are drama-free practitioners of good, old-fashioned poker.
Shari Geller is an attorney, journalist, reporter, blogger, poker player, and observer of the poker scene. You can write her at BurnThis2@aol.com, and read her blog at www.burnthistoo.blogspot.com.