Year in Review: July sees new WSOP champion

Too Close To Tell
The controversial new playing cards.

For all the action that took place on the felt at the 2007 World Series of Poker in July, it seemed there was just as much controversy brewing away from it.

The introduction of the PokerPeek cards in June was quickly fixed by the Harrah's staff. After player complaints that the cards were confusing (with sixes that looked like nines and even the name of WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack's name misspelled on the backs of the cards), the WSOP reverted to older cards for the run of the tournaments.

While this imbroglio was quickly resolved, others plagued the entirety of the event. With the size of the fields, an auxiliary "Poker Tent" was set up outside of the Rio to handle the overflow of players. In principle this may have looked like a good idea, but it quickly became obvious that it wasn't.

As winds pushed the tent to near-collapse and temperatures climbed toward the 90-degree mark inside it, the grumbling of players was heard by Pollack, who vowed that players would not have to contend with the Poker Tent in 2008

Another point of contention among professional players, amateurs and fans was the sequestering of final tables during the WSOP. Harrah's decided to broadcast almost live (the broadcasts were on a one-hour delay to prevent any possibility of cheating) on the WSOP Web-site some of the final tables that occurred during the run of tournaments (including Phil Hellmuth's 11th bracelet victory).

This setup meant the elimination of the tried-and-true live audience for the final tables - a sorely felt loss, as it had been one of the hallmarks of the WSOP. As the schedule wore on, the noise became louder (Mike "The Mouth" Matusow was one of the most vocal opponents) and Harrah's stated that it will re-examine the practice for next year's tournaments.

Another controversy in June was about an event that had nothing to do with the play of the tournaments. The Gaming Life Exposition, entitled "Girls, Gaming & Gear," was attempting to cover the fact that due to the UIGEA many online poker rooms could not participate in it.

The resulting bevy of scantily clad women (among other things) that were a part of the Expo left a sour taste in the mouths of many (particularly women and families). Apparently, if Pollack has his way, this won't be the case during future Expos at the WSOP.

As the WSOP ratcheted up into its Main Event, there was also time to honor two of the greats in the game. Former World Champion Phil Hellmuth and groundbreaking female poker player Barbara Enright were inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.

Enright, the winner of three WSOP bracelets, was the first woman ever inducted into the sanctified Hall and commented, "I feel like it's a lifetime achievement award... I feel like I've earned it; I've worked hard."

With classic braggadocio, Hellmuth remarked about his induction by saying, "You waited this long to put me in the Hall of Fame?"

Once again, this was attributable to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the inability of online rooms to send players to the WSOP directly. Still, the event had everything we have come to expect from the Main Event, including a truly international cast of characters at the final table.

In the end, it was the previously unheralded Jerry Yang, a player from Laos via California, who conquered Tuan Lam and took the title of World Champion, along with $8.25 million dollars.

For the first time in the history of the WSOP, there were other tournaments that were competing against it. The Venetian hosted a "Deep Stack Extravaganza" during the run of play at the Rio and the World Poker Tour held an event in Las Vegas. Both events drew in players after they had busted from action at the Rio, including the WSOP Main Event.

The WPT's Bellagio Cup III was eventually taken down by Kevin "BeLOWaBOVe" Saul, who defeated Mike Matusow for the title.

As all involved in the poker world caught their breath after the completion of the WSOP, there was still a long tournament poker season ahead and other newsworthy events that would occur in 2007. We'll look at those in our next installment of the Year in Review.

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