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November 23, 2014

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WSOP:

Five storylines as the World Series of Poker hits the halfway point

Canadians have won 25 percent of tournaments despite accounting for 5 percent of entries

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Leila Navidi

Players participate in the $1,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Tournament at the World Series of Poker on Thursday, May 30, 2013 at the Rio in Las Vegas.

Many card players say time flies during the annual World Series of Poker.

The world’s best poker minds wait all year for the 62-event, 48-day series only to feel like it ends right after the first “shuffle up and deal” command.

This summer’s WSOP is no different, running as fast as an electronic shuffle machine through three-and-a-half weeks. More than half of the championship bracelets have already been handed out, and today marks the official midway point with 24 sessions officially completed.

Three-and-a-half short weeks from now, a new Main Event final table of nine players will be the talk of the poker world. There’s still plenty to figure out before then, and a lot is already settled, at the Rio.

Read below for the five biggest takeaways so far at the World Series of Poker.

    • O Canada

      Anyone who’s spent their whole summer playing tournaments at the World Series of Poker could probably hum along to Canada’s national anthem intrinsically by now.

      Our northern neighbors’ song is in as heavy a rotation over the PA system in the Rio’s Pavilion Room as a Taylor Swift ballad on top-40 radio airwaves. Canadian players just keep earning bracelet ceremonies by winning events.

      Canada already has set a record for most WSOP tournaments won in a single year by a country outside of the United States. The WSOP has awarded seven bracelets to Canadians, which snaps the record of six in 2010.

      Canadians have won 25 percent of the tournaments staged despite accounting for only 5 percent of total entries.

      Included in the champions club are close friends from Montreal Charles Sylvestre and Jason Duval, who scored a combined prize $1,022,562 for a total buy-in of $2,500. Millionaire Maker titlist Benny Chen, from Prince Edward Island, is the biggest single winner of the summer with a $1,199,104 payout.

      Canada’s most famous professional, Daniel Negreanu, continues to lead the Player of the Year race stemming from his WSOP Asia Pacific Main Event victory earlier this year.

    • Tom "The Donkey Bomber" Schneider poses with the two HORSE bracelets he's won at the 2013 World Series of Poker on June 16 2013.

      The Year of the Donkey Bomber

      Poker veteran Tom Schneider can safely call himself the best HORSE tournament player in the world for at least the next year.

      “The Donkey Bomber” wiped away any doubt by winning both events featuring the five-game mix — which consists of hold’em, Omaha, razz, seven-card stud and seven-card stud hi-low eight or better — at the WSOP.

      He took down the $1,500 buy-in HORSE tournament for $258,960 before doing the same in the $5,000 buy-in 10 days later for $318,955.

      “I am playing well,” Schneider said through the WSOP after the second win. “I am sensing other people and how they feel about hands better than I have in the past.”

      The 53-year-old from Scottsdale, Ariz., is schooling the predominantly younger fields at the WSOP. He credits much of his success to not obsessing over poker and having interests outside of the game.

      The former certified public accountant is working on a business venture called Loudmouth Golf, a pants and shorts company, and also writing country-western songs.

      Schneider joins an exclusive group of 32 other players with four WSOP bracelets.

    • The champ is here

      Greg Merson might have set a record of his own, albeit an official one, as the latest arriving defending champion in WSOP history.

      Merson, of course, won last year’s Main Event for $8.5 million. The winner typically takes the equivalent of a victory lap the following year, arriving at the beginning of the series to soak in all the adulation and attention that comes with the title.

      But Merson is different. He’s barely played any tournaments since his world championship, not so much as registering an in-the-money finish worldwide since last November at the final table.

      He arrived in Las Vegas on Tuesday after spending the first part of the summer playing poker in Macau, the new ground zero for high-stakes cash games.

      Merson registered for one tournament, the $5,000 six-handed no-limit hold’em event, before busting out and announcing on Twitter that he wouldn’t play again until next week.

      Merson plans to spend the weekend at the Electronic Daisy Carnival with his girlfriend before returning to the tables.

    • Benny Chen poses with his friends after winning the 2013 World Series of Poker Millionaire Maker tournament at the Rio on June 4, 2013.

      Caught in a crowd

      As of Wednesday, the World Series of Poker had attracted 40,039 entrants for its bracelet events and awarded $54,109,710.

      Sounds like a lot, right? That’s because it is, even for the WSOP’s lofty standards. The amount of players is up 27 percent from the same point a year ago while the money has increased 10 percent.

      “We are truly humbled once again by the players from all over the world who continue to make the World Series of Poker the great success of the poker industry,” WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said.

      Stewart and his staff made it a goal before this summer’s series to eclipse all attendance-based records possible, most of which were set in 2011 before a slight downturn last year. Through three weeks, it looks like a lock to occur.

      Two events that have specifically helped expedite the process were the $1,500 Millionaire Maker and the $1,000 Seniors Event.

      The Millionaire Maker broke the mark for most entries in a non-Main Event tournament with 6,343 players. Likewise, the Seniors Event featured its largest field ever with 4,407 players.

    • Main Event(s) still to come

      The WSOP winding down isn’t all negative for poker enthusiasts. There’s one piece of indisputably good news: Three of the four most anticipated tournaments of the summer are still to come.

      The Millionaire Maker was the only event that garnered widespread interest that passed in the first three weeks. A marquee event is on tap in each of the next three weeks.

      The fun starts next Wednesday with the $111,111 buy-in One Drop High Rollers tournaments. Despite the pricey buy-in, those around the WSOP are confident the charity event could get more than 100 entries.

      That doesn’t seem too outlandish when remembering last year’s $1 million buy-in capped with 48 players registering. Antonio Esfandiari memorably won the first One Drop event for $18,346,673.

      That came five days after Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi became the first player to win the Poker Player’s Championship twice. Mizrachi’s title defense is scheduled two weeks away as the $50,000 buy-in event starts on June 30 this year.

      It runs five days, leading right up to the start of the most prestigious tournament in poker — the $10,000 buy-in Main Event, which begins July 6.

    Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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