More chips, more pro bracelets at 2009 WSOP

Phil Ivey

Chris Moneymaker's fairytale win in the 2003 WSOP Main Event launched poker into a new stratosphere of popularity.

Powered by the dreams of amateur players watching at home Moneymaker's improbable victory transformed the Greg Mueller have all won bracelets, while EPT circuit pro Ville Wahlbeck leads the Player of the Year standings, with Ivey close behind.

Some pros, like WPT pioneer Mike Sexton, attribute the resurgence of the pros to the larger starting stacks at many bracelet events this year.

"It's because they tripled our chip stacks. Absolutely," Sexton said minutes before sitting down for the $10k Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo World Championship event.

"They doubled the starting stacks last year and none of the pros really got through. This year you're really seeing what some of the pros can do with the triple stacks."

Mike Sexton
Sexton sees an edge for pros in this year's Series.

Ivey has commented that he's taking bracelet events more seriously in 2009, thanks to a renewed respect for poker history. With seven bracelets already in the bag, Ivey is starting to gain on Phil Hellmuth's record setting 11 bracelets.

Aside from the glory associated with winning bracelet events, some of the pros have plenty of other reasons to bring the "A" game to the WSOP.

"Their incentive is the millions and millions in side bets," Sexton said. "That's what brings all the big names out here."

One well-known bet standing at the 2009 WSOP involves Negreanu and Erick Lindgren taking on Lisandro and Barry Greenstein in a wager involving the Player of the Year standings.

Other pros such as Wahlbeck, John Brock Parker and James Van Alstyne might not be as well known as some of the more famous TV pros, but each is in the top five in the POY standings.

PokerListings.com blogger Jason Mercier is another pro who's having a big year in 2009, taking his first career bracelet in the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha event.

Mercier isn't surprised that the pros are on the comeback trail this year.

"I think it's just kind of random," Mercier said. "I think with some of the bigger buy-in tournaments you have less amateurs in the field anyway. And a lot of these online kids have really done well."

On his way to the $10k Stud World Championship, Mercier contemplated Sexton's comment about the larger starting chip stacks and mostly agreed.

"That may be it," Mercier said. "Having that increase in chips does probably make it more favorable for the pros."

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