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Top 5 Poker Stories of 2010: Michael Mizrachi's World Series
It was another big year for the game of poker in 2010 and the PokerListings news team was there to document it all.
From highs like Jonathan Duhamel's 2010 WSOP Main Event win to lows like Amir Vahedi's untimely passing, the year was filled with stories big and small.
As has become tradition, PokerListings has spent the final week of 2010 counting down the top five stories of the year the way only we can - with the thoughts, words and opinions of the protagonists.
We conclude today with Michael Mizrachi's World Series at Number 1:
Jonathan Duhamel may have won the Main Event and Frank Kassela took Player of the Year honors, but you'd have a tough time proving anyone had a better 2010 World Series of Poker than Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi.
"To win the $50,000 Player's Championship and have my brother make the final table, make two other final tables, then have all my brother's cash in the Main Event and me make the November Nine was amazing," Mizrachi said. "Sure, I would have liked to have won it, but no one could really ask for a better World Series than I had. It was incredible."
The South Florida based medical-student-turned-poker-pro was one of the original stars of the Chris Moneymaker induced poker boom, winning two World Poker Tour titles in 2005 and 2006, tying what was then the record with seven in-the-money finishes at the 2005 World Series of Poker and collecting more than $5 million in tournament earnings in just his first three years as a pro.
He even came close to winning his first WSOP bracelet in 2008 with two final tables and another five cashes.
He earned more than $300k, including a runner-up finish to Justin Bonomo on the Las Vegas leg of the WSOP Circuit, but 2009 marked his worst year as a pro and pundits began predicting Mizrachi's best years may be behind him.
The first half of 2010 almost confirmied that, with Mizrachi recording just one single $7,465 cash in a prelim at the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, before things went from bad to worse.
In May, just before the start of the 2010 WSOP, the Sun Sentinel newspaper in South Florida reported Mizrachi owed some $339,000 in back taxes and was facing foreclosure on a rental property he owned and his Miramar, Florida home.
Mizrachi has since set the record straight, saying that despite a few losses in the real estate market and some bad accounting, money he earned playing cash-games was enough to help him avoid the kind of financial ruin many were predicting.
However, the stage was still set for this year's World Series to either make or break The Grinder.
The 2010 WSOP schedule kicked off with the new $50k Poker Player's Championship and Mizrachi wasted little time proving it was his year, winning the $1,559,046 first-place prize at a final table that included his brother Robert.
With his first WSOP bracelet win now under his belt, Mizrachi went hunting for more, making the final table of both the $10k Stud and Limit Hold'em Championships.
A deep run in the $2,500 8-Game World Championship then ended in 26th, but up next was the Main Event.
With the ESPN cameras watching their every move, brothers Michael, Robert, Eric and Donny Mizrachi became the biggest story of the 2010 Main Event with all four making the money.
And although he was short stacked in the final days, Michael miraculously held on to make the November Nine.
The storybook ending looked like a possibility when The Grinder took the lead seven-handed at the final table, but his run ended with a fifth-place finish.
However, by winning his first bracelet in the game's elite event, earning over $4 million and making a real run at poker's biggest prize, Mizrachi had a most memorable World Series, certainly worthy of the top spot on PokerListings' Top Five Stories of 2010.
"I hope I can, but I'm not sure anybody will ever have that kind of year again," Mizrachi said. "I couldn't have dreamed up a better scenario."