WSOP 2008: The Pros Strike Back

Created By: Martin Derbyshire
19 June 2008
Posted in: WSOP Blog, Tournament Trail
Erick Lindgren

If it wasn't clear before, it's crystal now; 2008 at the World Series of Poker is the Year of the Pro.

It's not that professional poker players haven't picked up their fair share of bracelets in the events leading up to the Main Event in the past. It's just that this year, more than halfway through the 55-event schedule, poker's elite seems to be dominating.

Already we've seen the well-respected Erick Lindgren finally win his first bracelet. Daniel Negreanu has picked up his fourth and the two have each made another final table, putting them both at the top of a tight Player of the Year race.

However, it's more than just those two buddies. It started in the very first event of the series where Canadian pro Nenad Medic added to his already-impressive resume that includes a WPT title by taking down the bracelet.

Since then the much-sought-after winner interview has been bestowed upon none other than Mike Matusow, Max Pescatori, Kenny Tran, Barry Greenstein and David Singer - each of whom is as big a name as it gets in this game.

OMG Clay Aiken!!!1
OMG he can play Omaha!

Things really looked good for the pros the other night when Phil Galfond won the $5k Omaha w/Rebuys event.

The truth is that Galfond, known as OMGClayAiken online, plays the toughest Omaha cash games on the Internet, taking on and beating the best in the world every day. So it was to no one's surprise that all the chips ended in a stack sitting in front of him - another top pro with another bracelet.

Even in the Women's event, we saw the cream rise to the top when Svetlana Gromenkova took home the gold. She can be found playing Hold'em alongside the boys at just about every WPT stop on the tour.

Last night the pro domination continued when John Phan won his first bracelet and former EPT Grand Final champ Rob Hollink also joined the exclusive club.

Even as I write this blog, Team PokerStars Pro, online phenom and 2007 Main Event chip leader Dario Minieri is heads-up for a chance at his first bracelet in the Six-Max Hold'em event. Considering the loose play that rules the day six-handed, Minieri, widely known as one of the most aggressive and borderline maniacal players in the game, is pretty much the perfect pro to represent the best of the best in that one.

Dario Minieri
The boy who would be king!

Outside of the $1,500 donkaments that sometimes dominate the schedule here at the World Series, almost every final table seems to be filled with a roster of poker's best. So, instead of a Series full of Cinderella stories where the amateurs take on the best of the world and win, this year has been all about the pros striking back.

And why is it that the poker's best and brightest seem to be grabbing all the gold and the big paydays at the 2008 WSOP?

A colleague of mine suggested the other day that it's the pros' experience in the games outside of Hold'em that gets them into the winner's circle so often, and I can't disagree. But I have to agree more with what Daniel Negreanu said about it after taking down a bracelet in Limit Hold'em.

In putting together the WSOP schedule, Harrah's consults with a players' committee that includes some of the top players in the game. Together they made some interesting changes to the structure of many of the events.

Daniel Negreanu
Insights from The Kid!

When they made the move to double the buy-ins for starting stacks in 2007 they also made the blinds go up twice as fast, effectively canceling out any additional play the extra chips provided. This year they slowed it down and with more play and less pressure from escalating blinds, Negreanu suggested the best in the world really have the chance go out there and prove it.

All that really stands now between this truly being the Year of the Pro or just another year where the pros win a bunch of bracelets is the Main Event. If the pros can strike back in the biggest poker tournament on the planet, that would really be something worth writing about.

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