The $50,000 buy-in H-O-R-S-E World Championship (Event #45) attracted 148 entries, creating a prize pool totaling $7,104,000. The top 16 finishers collected prize money. H.O.R.S.E. is an acronym for the five most popular poker games played inside most poker rooms. H.O.R.S.E. tournaments include a rotation of the following games -- Texas Hold'em, Omaha High-Low Split, Razz, Seven-Card Stud, and Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split (also called Eight-or-Better). Many purists consider H.O.R.S.E. to be the ultimate test of poker skill, since it requires that players play all games well in order to win.
The $50,000 entry fee for this event ranks as the largest buy-in of any annual poker tournament in the world.
The H.O.R.S.E. World Championship was first conceived of by various poker players. The concept was to create poker's version of an all-star game, only to make it really matter. Three years ago, Daniel Negreanu took the idea of holding an exclusive tournament for superstars to Harrahs Entertainment. The idea was accepted and the tournament was added to the official WSOP schedule in 2006. Negreanu's role in creating the H.O.R.S.E. event was acknowledged in a pre-tournament announcement by WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, who also cited the contribution made by Vice President of Specialty Games for Harrahs Entertainment, Howard Greenbaum for his acceptance of the idea.
While the WSOP Main Event remains the undisputed world championship of poker, in some respects the H.O.R.S.E. title is even more prestigious within the poker world. Most highly-successful poker players acknowledge the winner of this event as the year's best "all around" player.
The 2006 inaugural H.O.R.S.E. World Championship was memorable for many reasons. Since the late 1970s, David "Chip" Reese had been widely regarded by his peers and industry insiders as the best all- around poker player in the world. Appropriately, he won the very first mega buy-in tournament in WSOP history and became the first H.O.R.S.E. world champion.
Sadly, Reese suddenly passed away in December 2007. In honor of Reese's memory, Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack and WSOP organizers created the "Chip Reese Memorial Trophy," which is to be awarded to all H.O.R.S.E. world champions from this year forward. The special trophy was unveiled prior to the start of play at the final table.
That first year in 2006, the H.O.R.S.E. final table clocked in at more than 12 hours. However, the real test of stamina came when play became heads-up between Chip Reese and Andy Bloch. The two weary players battled back and forth for a marathon-like 7 hours and 10 minutes, which still stands as the longest heads-up duel in WSOP history.
The 2007 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship final table lasted 14.5 hours, which currently stands as the fourth-longest final table in WSOP history. Freddy Deeb was the winner. The top prize was $2,276,832.
For the most part, the $50,000 entry fee allows only the most successful (or very wealthy) players to compete in this event. Entries totaled 143 in 2006, 148 in 2007, and 148 (again) in 2008.
The number of entries this year would have been 149 (a new record). However, eight-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Erik Seidel, who had planned to enter, made it to the final table of a conflicting event, and therefore could not play in this tournament.
In an effort to open up the H.O.R.S.E. championship to as many players as possible, the WSOP offered satellites costing $2,250 to enter. Seven satellites were completed, which awarded three full buy-ins and two partial buy-ins to the winners.
The rotation of games in this tournament goes for 30 minutes at a time. The format tends to favor stud specialists, since 3/5ths of the games are stud-based (Seven-Card Stud, Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split, and Razz).
There were two honorary "Shuffle Up and Deal" announcements made during the course of this event. On Day One, 2007 champion Freddy Deeb was granted the honor. On Day Five, prior to the start of the final table, poker legend Doyle Brunson joined the pre-game festivities and said few words in memory of his close friend, Chip Reese.
Prior to the start of the final table, Chip Reese's daughter, Taylor Reese was introduced to the large crowd of spectators. She was joined by Doyle Brunson and Jeffrey Pollack on the Corum Swiss Timepieces stage for the much-anticipated unveiling the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy. The trophy and special gold bracelet, made exclusively for the winner of this tournament, were both on display throughout play at the final table on a special platform overlooking the main stage.
The trophy is unique in many ways. It weighs 60 pounds. The marble base is inscribed with the names of past winners. The plaque reads David "Chip" Reese Memorial Trophy - Standing the Test of Time. The phrase was famously uttered by Reese following his victory during the first year. The trophy is crowned with the gold-embossed winning hand from the inaugural event. Perhaps most unusual is the fact that the trophy was slightly damaged while in transit between the manufacturer and the Rio. Fittingly, the trophy has a small "chip" in the base, which Jeffrey Pollack described as "Reese's ghost leaving his mark."
This is the third of three H.O.R.S.E. tournaments on the 2008 WSOP schedule. The other buy-ins were considerably smaller, at $1,500 and $3,000.
This tournament was played over five consecutive days. Day One thinned the field down from an initial 148 entrants to 140. Day Two ended with 67 survivors. Day Three played down to 24. Players reached the money on Day Four as the field was reduced to the final eight. The eight finalists took seats at the final table on Day Five, and played until a winner was determined.
Technically, the tournament lasted six days, since the final table lasted well past midnight on Day Six.
Final table play commenced at 3:30 pm on Sunday afternoon. Player introductions were made by WSOP Tournament Director, Jack Effel (Las Vegas, NV). Tournament Supervisor Brooks Turk (Tulsa, OK) provided all of the play-by-play announcing. The final table ended at 5:01 am PST. Hence, the final table clocked in at 13 hours and 31 minutes.
The ESPN main stage and Milwaukee's Best Light All-In Lounge were filled to capacity. Hundreds of spectators lined up in advance to watch a star-filled final table. The grandstand remained full all night long until a winner was determined.
ESPN filmed the entire final table for later broadcast. The event will be shown in two parts (one-hour each) on August 19th, from 8-10 pm EST.
Nine of the 16 players who finished in-the-money were former WSOP gold bracelet winners. The nine former event champions combined for 35 total career wins.
Five of the final 8 players (the final table) were former WSOP gold bracelet winners. The five former champions combined for 15 total career wins.
The 2008 H.O.R.S.E. World Champion is Scotty Nguyen. He is from Henderson, NV. Nguyen won the WSOP Main Event in 1998. This was his fifth WSOP gold bracelet.
Despite his extraordinary success in tournament poker for more than a decade, Nguyen suffered through one of his lowest points following last year's meltdown, which resulted in an 11th place finish in the 2007 Main Event. At one point, Nguyen seemed primed to go much deeper in last year's championship and many say he should have won. But Nguyen went through a horrific two-hour phase late on the preceding day to the final table and was eliminated. So distraught with disappointment, Nguyen reportedly did not eat regularly for months afterward. He was physically ill. He lost 15 pounds and refused to leave the house.
Nguyen's wife Julie was instrumental in rekindling the former champion's enthusiasm for poker. Prior to the start of this year's WSOP, Nguyen was determined to win one of two events - this H.O.R.S.E. championship, or the Main Event.
Nguyen was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam. He grew up in the midst of the Vietnam War.
Nguyen escaped his native homeland on a small boat which sailed out into the South China Sea. He ultimately made safe passage to the United States. He and his family arrived in the U.S. with very little money or material possessions.
Nguyen started playing in small poker games in Las Vegas about 20 years ago. He eventually built his bankroll and began playing in poker tournaments in 1994. Nguyen's first WSOP cash came in 1995. He won his first WSOP gold bracelet in 1997.
This was Nguyen's first WSOP gold bracelet victory since 2001.
Scotty Nguyen's poker nickname is "The Prince." He relishes the nickname as he considers himself the people's champion.
"When I was first coming into poker, I wanted to be playing with Doyle (Brunson), Chip (Reese), and Stuey (Ungar)," Nguyen said. "Now, two of them are gone. I wanted to win this trophy to be the first winner to honor Chip."
As proud of he was of this victory, Nguyen still referred to his 1998 WSOP Main Event win as his most satisfying poker accomplishment.
At one point during final table play, Nguyen became testy - quite uncharacteristic for the popular poker champion. He was dissatisfied with many things, anger perhaps misdirected from a flurry of bad cards and poor luck. He later defended his emotional outbursts by saying, "You can't be friends at the poker table. You have to want to win. If you want to make friends, then go bowling."
Nguyen won $1,989,120 for first place.
In a post-tournament interview, Nguyen thanked his wife Julie, as well as players and fans for their support.
Nguyen went on to predict that he will win the 2008 WSOP Main Event.
Nguyen joins an exclusive club of five-time WSOP gold bracelet winners which includes Bones Berland, Allen Cunningham, Phil Ivey, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Ted Forrest, Berry Johnston, and Stu Ungar.
The second-place finisher was Michael DeMichele, from Las Vegas, NV.
DeMichele was both mature and wise far beyond his 23 years of age. He completely understood the gravity of the moment, fully understanding how special Chip Reese and the H.O.R.S.E. championship are to the legacy of poker. "I never dreamed I would finish this deep," he said afterward. "There were so many players to deserving of this victory more than me - I was the new kid on the block."
DeMichele added: "I still have a long way to go to get where I want, but I am happy with my focus. I also have to say that Scotty is really a great player and I congratulate him."
Former WSOP gold bracelet winner Erick Lindgren finished in third place. As the early chip leader, he seemed primed to seize victory. But he was the shortest-stack during most of the 3.5 hour three-handed exchange, which forced him to be more selective about hands.
"It hurts a lot (not to win)," Lindgren said afterward. "I really wanted to honor Chip (Reese) by winning."
Atlantic City-based poker pro Matt Glantz (who lives in Philadelphia and commutes to the Jersey Shore) finished in fourth place. Glantz is a former options trader who specializes in high-limit cash games. This was his sixth time to cash at the WSOP.
Three-time WSOP gold bracelet winner and Poker Hall of Fame member Lyle Berman finished in fifth place.
Three-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Barry Greenstein finished in sixth place. Greenstein's third career win came just two weeks ago in the Razz championship.
1996 world poker champion Huck Seed finished in seventh place. The four-time WSOP gold bracelet winner survived about 90 minutes at the final table.
Patrick Bueno arrived with the shortest stack of the final eight players. He ended up busting out quickly and ended up as the eighth-place finisher.
Other former WSOP gold bracelet winners who cashed in this event included Ralph Perry (9th), Phil Ivey (12th), Daniel Negreanu (13th), and Doyle Brunson (16th).
The only player to cash in all three H.O.R.S.E. championships played to date (2006-2008) is Barry Greenstein. He now has 12th, 7th, and 6th place finishes on his WSOP resume.
Only three players have cashed twice in this event over the past three years - Doyle Brunson (8th and 16th), Dewey Tomko (7th and 10th), and David Singer (6th and 6th).
The unfortunate "bubble" finisher was former WSOP gold bracelet winner Mike Wattel, from Phoenix, AZ. Wattel came in 17th, but only the top 16 finishers collected prize money. Finishing one spot out of the money cost Wattel $124,320.
Nikolay Evdakov has made history. With his in-the-money finish in Event #48 (which ended on this day), the poker player from Moscow, Russia established a new record set for "Most WSOP Cashes in a Single Year." Evdakov became the first player in WSOP history ever to cash nine times in a single year.
Winner Scotty Nguyen is officially listed as being from Henderson, NV. Through the conclusion of Event #48 at this year's World Series of Poker, the gold bracelet count by nations and states reads as follows:
12 - Nevada
7 - California
4 - New York
3 - Germany
2 - Italy
2 - Missouri
1 - Arizona
1 - Belgium
1 - Brazil
1 - Denmark
1 - Florida
1 - France
1 - Georgia
1 - Holland
1 - Maryland
1 - Michigan
1 - Ohio
1 - Pennsylvania
1 - Russia
1 - South Carolina
1 - Wisconsin
Ten different nations have produced a gold bracelet winner at this year's WSOP. This list now includes Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Russia, and the United States.
The Event #48 winner Scotty Nguyen is to be classified as a professional player. He has been playing professionally for about 15 years and has earned many major tournament victories. Accordingly, the "Pro-Am" gold bracelet scoreboard currently reads:
Professionals - 35 wins
Amateurs -- 11 wins
Semi-Pros -- 2 wins
For a complete "Player of the Year" points list, see: http://www.worldseriesofpoker.com/players/2008.asp?sort=poypts
Scotty Nguyen is now the leader on the 2008 prize money list, having won the most money at the WSOP, to date. His accrued winnings total $2,039,628.
Through the conclusion of Event #51, the total amount of prize money awarded at the WSOP totals $111,115,333. This is more than last year's prize pool at this same time last year.