Forgotten World Series of Poker Champions Part 2

In Part 1 of our Forgotten World Series of Poker Champions series we looked at a few Main Event champs who faded into the woodwork rather than climbed back up to the rafters.

In Part 2 guest poster James Guill continues his look at a few more Main Event champs who have kept (or been relegated to) a fairly low profile. 

Forgotten WSOP Champs

Robert Varkonyi

While Chris Moneymaker is credited with launching the modern poker boom, Robert Varkonyi was actually a year ahead of him as an amateur to win the Main Event. Varkonyi's win in 2002 also made him the first poker player to win $2 million in the ME.

His deep run was, for some people, more stunning than Hal Fowler's. Phil Hellmuth even made an infamous prop bet where he agreed to shave his head bald should Varkonyi win the title.

Varkonyi entered the final table fourth in chips with John Shipley holding a huge lead. He quickly lost over half of his stack to Brit Julian Gardner when he ran nines into aces.

After doubling up through Shipley he continued to build his stack back up to 1 million. Chip leader Shipley then remarkably called off most of his stack with A-J when Varkonyi three-bet shoved pre-flop with pocket jacks.

The jacks held and Varkonyi took a massive chip lead. He never looked back. 

Varkonyi would defeat Gardner heads-up to win the title and $2 million. Unfortunately, his victory was overshadowed by Hellmuth who then shaved his head to follow through with his prop bet.

Most considered Varkonyi's title run one of the more unlikely runs in Main Event history. Sadly, Varkonyi was one year off of the poker boom and never was able to capitalize on his win the same way that champions starting with Chris Moneymaker did.

jack keller
Jack Keller

Jack Keller

Gentleman Jack Keller proved in 1984 that good guys can finish first.

With three players left he was the short stack at the table and ultimately became the beneficiary of a bold bluff by Cowboy Wolford.

Jesse Alto had been liberally stealing blinds when Wolford decided to play back at him and three-bet him pre-flop. After betting out both the flop and turn, Wolford shoved on the river.

Wolford then made a brilliant move. He took out a stack of cash, unwrapped it and dropped it on the table and then winked at his wife. Alto eventually folded and Wolford showed the crowd that he made an incredible bluff with 5-3 offsuit.

Alto then went on monster tilt and then started moving all-in blind. Keller picked up cards two hands in a row and proceeded to knock out Alto from the event in 3rd place.

Keller had the chip lead at this point and held onto the lead to take the title and $660,000.

Tom McEvoy

While most know Tom McEvoy as a poker author, he is an accomplished poker player and former Main Event champion.

McEvoy made history before the Main Event even started when he became the first player to win his way into the event via a satellite. However with three players left it was Doyle Brunson looking to make history as he was in the hunt for his third Main Event title.

Doyle would ultimately fall in 3rd and Rod Peate had the chip lead. Peate was a low-stakes grinder and McEvoy took advantage of this by grinding him down over the next several hours.

Finally McEvoy seized the chip lead and Peate made a huge error by shoving pre-flop with Kd-Jd. McEvoy made the call with pocket queens and they would hold to give him the title.

McEvoy will always be the first satellite winner to win the Main Event but his $580,000 pales in comparison to today's prizes. A future satellite winner - a Tennessee accountant who would go on to win the 2003 Main Event - would also become a much more famous beneficiary of a WSOP satellite.

McEvoy was a PokerStars pro for years but is a name lost to much of poker's new generation.

Jim Bechtel

The 1993 Main Event is known more for John Bonetti's blowup than for Jim Bechtel's win.

With three players left, Bechtel and Bonetti were nearly even in chips and amateur Glenn Cozen had just 60,000 left at 5k-10k blinds.

While it appeared that Cozen would finish 3rd, the most remarkable hand of the event went down. After Bechtel raised to 30,000, both Bonetti and Cozen called to see a flop of Kc-8d-6c.

Bonetti bet out and Bechtel raised. Even with just 30,000 left in his stack and holding a pocket pair, Cozen decided to fold. Bonetti then shoved holding A-K and Bechtel made the call,

He had Bonetti crushed when he flipped over pocket sixes for a set.

The set of sixes would hold and Cozen would move up $210,000 in prize money, the best example of laddering in poker history.

Unfortunately he also had the largest heads-up chip deficit in WSOP Main Event history. Bechtel would quickly dispatch Cozen to win the title and $1 million.

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