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WSOP $50k Championship Takes Center Stage
It’s not the Main Event but to many poker pros the $50k Player’s Championship is an even bigger deal.
Since it began in 2006, the tournament has only had 650 entrants but with elite fields and winners like the late Chip Reese, Freddy Deeb, Scotty Nguyen and David Bach the poker world has taken notice.
"Of course you get all the crazy money and prestige with winning the Main Event but to me winning this tournament is actually more important and I think there are other players who feel the same way," said last year's winner Bach.
Although tournaments tend to take the lion's share of publicity in the poker world, there are many players who believe that cash games are the true test of poker skill and the $50k Player's Championship, with its use of Mix-Games, is perhaps the closest thing to a cash game at the WSOP.
Last year the number of players dropped to its lowest ever (95) but to the general public it's simply astounding that anyone plays the tournament at all.
"I'm always blown away there are even 50 players who have $50,000 cash to plop down for an event," said WSOP communications director Seth Palansky
This year 116 players paid the $50,000 to play including big-name players Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and Doyle Brunson.
It's not just the old-school cash game players who are keen on the format either as Jason Mercier, David Benefield, Phil Galfond, Tom "durrrr" Dwan, Cole South and several other up-and-comers decided to play this year's $50k Championship.
South has been spending a large amount of time playing the high-stakes Mix-Games on Full Tilt Poker over the last year and enjoys the change of pace.
"I like that it tests a lot of elements of being a poker player like Pot-Limit Omaha and Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, Seven-Card Stud Eight-or-Better," he said. "These are games that incorporate a lot of concepts."
The tournament is not without its controversies, however, and this year there were several significant changes to the marquee event.
For the first time ever the event was changed from H.O.R.S.E. to 8-Game and the decision was also made to switch back to No-Limit Hold'em at the final table to get it televised.
Not everyone likes the move.
"I don't like the changes," said Bach. "My biggest problem is actually having Pot-Limit Omaha as part of the mix. It's too much of a gambling/variance game. It takes some of the skill out of what is supposed to be the most skillful tournament."
Bach was also not supportive of changing to No-Limit Hold'em at the final table.
"The tournament is named after Chip Reese and he was a Limit player," he said. "There are plenty of No-Limit Hold'em events at the WSOP."
The gambit seems to have paid off for the WSOP, however, as 21 more players bought in, perhaps intrigued by a TV final table appearance.
To Palansky the numbers in the event are almost irrelevant.
"The best players in the world come to play and want to test themselves against each other. It should be a unique and small event."