Star-studded H.O.R.S.E. event returns to WSOP

Chip Reese
The $50k H.O.R.S.E. event will honor the memory of its inaugural winner by presenting a Chip Reese Memmorial Trophy to future winners.

When play at the World Series of Poker gets under way today, there will be plenty of other events on the schedule. But none of them carry the gravity of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, the highest-buy-in tournament the WSOP has ever known.

Even though this will only be the third year for the event, the prestige of the H.O.R.S.E. event is nearly equal to that of the Main Event. Why?

For starters, the high buy-in virtually guarantees that the field will be composed of the best players in the world. Then there's the fact that whoever wins the event has to be a master of five different varieties of poker, a difficult feat for even some of the more well-known players in poker.

Here's a look at the brief history of the H.O.R.S.E. tournament.

2006: Freddy Deeb wins $2,276,832

Kassem 'Freddy' Deeb
Deeb digs deep to win the second $50k H.O.R.S.E. event.

The $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tourney returned in 2007 after its successful first run, and drew a field of 148 players the second time around. Many of the complaints about the previous year's structure were addressed by the WSOP staff; the tournament was lengthened to five days instead of three, and the final table was played out the same way as the rest of the tournament: in H.O.R.S.E. mode.

Just as in the previous year's tournament, the $50,000 buy-in guaranteed that the field was stacked with the best players in the world. Only 16 players made the money, but they were some of the best-known players in all of poker.

Former Main Event champ Greg Raymer, Seven-Card Stud bracelet winner Chris Reslock, two-time bracelet winner Mike Matusow, and High Stakes Poker co-host Gabe Kaplan all cashed but came up short of the final table. Dewey Tomko came close to repeating at the final table, but fell just two spots short in 10th place.

Where Tomko came up short, however, David Singer succeeded: he proved his mettle by making the final table for the second year running, ultimately finishing in sixth place.

The rest of the final-table lineup may not have racked up as much superstar name recognition as the previous year's, but there was still a ton of poker talent on display. Two-time bracelet winner Thor Hansen, double-bracelet holder and cash-game monster Barry Greenstein, Stud specialist Amnon Filippi, and cash-game specialist Kenny Tran all made the final eight.

The wild card at the final table was New York stock trader John Hanson, who had just three prior career tournament cashes to his credit. He ultimately finished in third place, setting the stage for a heads-up match between bracelet holder Freddy Deeb and Aviation Club de Paris founder Bruno Fitoussi.

Deeb held a chip lead of more than 3-1, and kept control of the match virtually the entire way. Unlike the previous year's No-Limit Hold'em final table, coming back from a huge chip deficit was much more unlikely in the Limit H.O.R.S.E. games. Fitoussi finally fell on the 341st hand of final-table play. That made the 2007 H.O.R.S.E. final table the fourth-longest in WSOP history.

"When I won my first bracelet, I was mostly a cash-game player so it didn't really matter that much to me," Deeb said after his win. "But this one - it means everything to me. They are the toughest players in the world. It has the highest buy-in. Except for the Main Event, this is the bracelet that means the most of any of them."

2008: H.O.R.S.E. returns to the WSOP again

The popular H.O.R.S.E. tournament returns to the WSOP this year for a third run, and chances are good that both the final table and the winner will share the same pedigree as the last two years.

Unfortunately for the poker world, Chip Reese died suddenly last December at the age of 56 and thus won't have a shot at becoming the first two-time champ in the event's history. In honor of the poker legend, the WSOP has announced that the winner of the tournament will take home not only the bracelet and cash, but also a trophy known as the David "Chip" Reese Award.

This year's $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event begins today at 5 p.m. and is scheduled to last five days. PokerListings.com will have its crack reporting staff on hand for the duration of the tournament, so be sure to check in and see who follows in the footsteps of two poker greats by claiming one of the world's most prestigious titles.

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