But, well, the WSOP also featured plenty of disappointing performances from players who doubtless counted on racking up big scores in the early summer months, and who instead found themselves struggling and, in many cases, failing to cash totals higher than Vinnie Vinh's chair . Here are the underwhelmers from the 2007 WSOP:
It is the peril of every WSOP Main Event winner since Robert Varkonyi to have to convince an oftentimes cynical poker world that he deserves the crown. Between lawsuits and P.R. disasters, Gold's reign as champ was nightmarish. He came into the World Series this year having racked up zero significant cashes since his Main Event victory, busting out in the opening days of the tournaments he chose to play (which, admittedly, were few).
Despite his lack of success on the tournament circuit and the high-stakes cash games (where he was straight owned by Doyle Brunson in his first on-air appearance), Gold came into the WSOP convinced he could repair his reputation prove his worthiness as champion on poker's biggest stage. It would not turn out that way.
Gold racked up barely $14,000 in cashes, failing to crack the Top 40 in any event. He has claimed publicly that he will make the final table of the Main Event this year, and having drawn Day 1D there is no evidence as yet to prove Hollywood Jamie a liar, but it will take a mighty fine showing in Event 55 to show the poker world Gold is more Hachem than Moneymaker.
In August of 2006, Jeff Madsen was the new face of poker. A bright and highly-motivated (not to mention barely-legal) young man with two WSOP bracelets and a Player of the Year award to go along with them, Madsen signed a top sponsorship deal with Full Tilt Poker, bought a house in Vegas and started dating a buxom reality TV star.
The world, it seemed was Madsen's oyster, and to be fair, Madsen did not entirely tank on the circuit this winter: he cashed for more than $200,000 at top events, including an 8th place finish at Bay 101 on the World Poker Tour . But if you would have placed money last August that Madsen would cash for under $10,000 at his next WSOP - and beyond that, that he would find himself having a worse WSOP than Joe Sebok, of all people - you would have been called crazy.
Madsen has survived to Day 2 of the Main Event, and his circuit-season cashes have been more than sufficient to prove his worth as a bona-fide poker pro, but as far as the 2007 WSOP is concerned, J-Mad has to see failure as the bottom line.
While Phil Hellmuth was racking up his eleventh bracelet and Doyle Brunson was making runs at high-profile final tables (including a 6th place finish and $123,967 cash in the World Championship Pot Limit Omaha event ), Johnny Chan was more or less AWOL. The Orient Express garnered attention and headlines when he came into the second-and-ostensibly-final day of the World Championship Seven-Card Stud event as chip leader, but promptly gave away most of his chips and wound up with a disappointing 18th place finish.
Chan was eliminated from the Main Event on Day 1A (as was Brunson), and so his '07 WSOP cashes amount to just over $14,000. The Rounders icon has appeared embittered and cantankerous of late, and is reported to have a number of high-profile side investments on the go, leading some to suspect that his love for and interest in the game that made him a household name is waning.
Tran came into the World Series as the reigning W.P.T. Player of the Year. Your boy ran hot through the first months of 2007, but ran into a wall in June, cashing for a bit more than $32,000 in the Series. He told PokerListings.com that the Series has been "very disappointing for [him] so far," but claimed he'd do well in the Main Event, if nothing else. At the time of this writing Tran is still alive on Day 1C, so all is not lost for the likeable pro just yet.
Vanessa Rousso's presence on this list is a testament to her tremendous potential as a professional. She's scary smart, possesses a strong work ethic and a love for the theoretical aspects of the game. By all accounts she should have made the '07 Series her breakout year, especially after enjoying a 2006 that saw her amass $650,000 in tournament cashes. So far this year, however, Rousso has cashed only $80,000, and at the WSOP she's been shut out, playing in most of the events but disappearing in the early levels despite her best efforts.
Rousso, like everyone on this list, is a talented and winning player, and even winning players run cold sometimes. You can certainly expect to see the Lady Maverick, the Mad Dog and J.C. Tran pulling big money again soon, and if Chan never rakes a pot again it will because of a lack of interest rather than a deficit of talent. Gold, though, still has plenty to prove if he doesn't want to find himself heaped atop the scrap pile of so-called luckboxes with Varkonyi and Moneymaker.