First up is Phil Hellmuth, aka "The Poker Brat." Hellmuth has nine bracelets under his belt (or on his wrist). If he wins one more, he'll be tied with Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson for the record 10 WSOP bracelets. Celebrating his 42nd birthday just two days ago, Phil is still a young pro. How many poker players can claim to have made more than 80 final tables before hitting a mid-life crisis?
Hellmuth holds the title for the youngest poker player to win the Main Event at the WSOP, which he accomplished at the age of 24 back in 1989. The Brat also holds the record for the most lifetime cashes at the WSOP with a whopping 50 total. So far at this year's World Series, Hellmuth finished in 13th place in Limit Hold'em, placed sixth in Omaha Hi-Lo Split, and came in second in No-Limit Hold'em. He's so close he can almost taste that cold, golden metal. With these current and prior finishes, it's safe to say that Hellmuth consistently fares very well at the World Series.
Odds of Phil winning a 2006 WSOP bracelet - 3:1
Johnny Chan, or the "Orient Express" as he is known on the poker circuit, is only one of two living players to have ever won the Main Event back-to-back. Chan won consecutively in 1987 and 1988 and narrowly missed a hat trick coming in second place in 1989. And if you've been paying attention, you know who he lost out to - Phil Hellmuth.
Chan's record at this year's World Series has been, well, decent. He finished and cashed 84th out of 1,900 entrants in a No-Limit Hold'em event and came in seventh place in the Seven-Card Stud event. That only accounts for two cashes, but keep in mind his record shows he's gone heads-up at 16 final tables and won 10 of them, all of which were WSOP tournaments. With the top 10 WSOP bracelets adorning his amazing poker career, can Chan break through and add another to make it 11? We shall see.
Odds of Johnny winning a 2006 WSOP bracelet - 20:1
Last but not least, Doyle Brunson. Brunson is the pro who shares Johnny Chan's record for winning two consecutive Main Event titles. The larger-than-life Texan pulled it off in '76 and '77. Also sharing the World Series record with Chan for the most bracelets, this 73-year-old poker star still has the gift.
Who can forget Brunson's appearance in the H.O.R.S.E. event this year? He's already made history just by landing on the final table of this tournament. Unfortunately he didn't stay very long, busting out in eighth place. Still, finishing eighth out of 143 entrants is pretty impressive. So far, the H.O.R.S.E. event has been Brunson's only notable finish - can he stick it out for one more bracelet? I really hope so.
Odds of Doyle winning a 2006 WSOP bracelet - 100:1
It would be great to see a living poker legend like Brunson come out ahead and collect another bracelet - after all, he's the granddaddy of the game, the poster-boy for poker. Brunson represents the romanticism of a dearly loved game. Even Johnny Chan, who is truly magical to watch, would be a fun win. But dad always told me to bet with your mind, not with your heart. My money's on Phil.