The $50,000 Poker Players Championship got underway on Sunday with 43 players aiming to win what most people consider the highest honor at the World Series of Poker (WSOP). The Mixed Game event, which includes variants such as Razz and Lowball, bleed into the early hours of Monday morning.
It took six levels and four eliminations to reach that point. Bryce Yockey led the way at the close of Day 1, closely followed by Italy’s Dario Sammartino. Registration remains open until the end of level 10 (midway through Day 2), so we could see more players pony up the $50,000 entrance fee before all is said and done.
Even if we don’t see anyone else ante up, the current line-up features some of the biggest names in poker. Chasing Yockey are recent WSOP bracelet winners Shaun Deeb and Yuval Bronshtein. Also making it through the day with a healthy stack is high stakes legend Eli Elezra and two-time Poker Players Championship winner, Brian Rast.
The man to beat at this stage, however, is Yockey. The Californian finished fourth in the 2019 WSOP Poker Players Championship for just over $325,000. He’s now in a position to go three places better, but only if he can maintain his current position and fend off attacks from the best players in the world.
Of course, that’s always the case with this tournament. Players not only have to beat the game’s finest, they have to prove they’re the most dexterous grinder in the world to win the Poker Players Championship. It’s these dynamics that make the Mixed Game event so tough. Moreover, this is why many believe it’s a true test of poker ability and, therefore, the real World Championship.
What is the WSOP Poker Players Championship?
The Poker Players Championship is a Mixed Game tournament where players compete across nine different variants. Each player starts with 300,000 chips and the clock is set to 100 minute levels. The longer than average clock mean that all variants are played once per level. In other words, there are no hiding places.
The current line-up of variants in the WSOP Poker Players Championship are:
- No Limit Texas Hold’em
- Seven Card Stud
- Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better
- Pot Limit Omaha
- Limit Hold’em
- Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better
- No Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw
- 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw
You have to be strong in all variants if you want to win this WSOP event. Of course, there are certain points where players can press home their advantages more than others. For example, it’s a lot easier to eliminate players in a round of No Limit Hold’em than Limit Hold’em because it’s possible to someone all-in. However, given that the stacks are so deep, the winner of the Poker Players Championship really does have to be dexterous, flexible, and adaptable.
The History of the WSOP Poker Players Championship
The WSOP Poker Players Championship was born out of the H.O.R.S.E. Championship. The five-game mixed event was added to the WSOP schedule in 2006 due to a growing demand for non-Hold’em tournaments. The buy-in was set at $50,000 to encourage the game’s best to ante up and, in turn, elevate the event’s status.
Poker legend Chip Reese won the inaugural H.O.R.S.E. Championship after beating Andy Bloch heads-up. That performance not only earned him $1.7 million but confirmed the event’s status as one of the most prestigious in the world. Indeed, after Reese’s death a year later in 2007, the winner’s trophy was renamed in his honor.
The organizers also decided that the tournament needed to become even more varied to determine the world’s best all-round poker player. As such, it was rebranded in 2010. The $50,000 buy-in remained but number of variants was increased to eight.
The Poker Players Championship continued to grow in popularity and, in 2015, the organizers turned it into a 10-variant tournament. Badugi was one of the variants added to the mix, along with No Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw. These variants were removed from the mix in 2016 but, five years later, in 2021, No Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw was put back in.
Today, the Poker Players Championship remains a highlight of the WSOP. Although the Main Event is the official World Championship, pros consider this tournament more important. Even though the prize money is lower, the fact it requires an understanding of multiple variants makes it a real test of skill when it comes to tournament poker.
This Year’s Event Will Crown Another Worthy Champion
The 2021 WSOP Poker Players Championship is shaping up to be another fantastic event. We can’t ignore the fact that the number of entrants is down this year. However, the same is true for other events due to COVID-19 restrictions and the US travel ban.
Regardless of how many people ante up, the winner will still have to beat poker’s best in nine different variants. Only once they’ve done that will they win a WSOP bracelet and lift the "David 'Chip' Reese Memorial Trophy.