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One week into the 2021 World Series of Poker and a few things are certain — Phil Hellmuth is better at non-hold’em games than many give him credit for, attendance is higher than some anticipated, and the excitement of chasing a gold bracelet is as high as it’s ever been.
Heading into Thursday’s action at the Rio, nine players have won a bracelet during the live portion of the series, seven of whom are first-time champions. Jeremy Ausmus, who shipped Event #3: Covid-19 Relief No-Limit Hold’em Charity Event, and Connor Drinan, the winner of Event #5: $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better, each earned their second career WSOP titles.
With one full week of action in the books, what have we learned so far about the 2021 WSOP? Let’s take a look:
Phil Hellmuth Continues to Silence the Critics
One would think winning 15 WSOP bracelets, five more than anyone else in history, would be enough to prove a player’s greatness. But then again, there are those who still can’t admit LeBron James is one of the two or three best basketball players of all-time. So, why would Phil Hellmuth be any different?
The “Poker Brat” is off to a rip-roaring start to the series, and he isn’t doing it in no-limit hold’em, the game many believe is the only poker variant he can crush. On Thursday, he’ll be among the final four in Event #9: $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship, and will be seeking to extend his record to 16 bracelets.
Hellmuth is at his second final table of the series, both in non-NLH games. His first came in Event #2: $25,000 H.O.R.S.E., a sixth place finish for $95,329. On top of that, he took 18th place in Event #7: $1,500 Dealers Choice, a 19-game mixed tournament, for $4,429.
Hellmuth’s end result in the $10k Omaha/8 event on Thursday won’t change the fact that he’s off to a strong start to the 2021 WSOP, and he’s doing it in non-NLH games, including a pair of high rollers.
Attendance is Better than You May Have Expected
The 2021 World Series of Poker isn’t taking place in its usual summer slot. Instead, the series is being hosted in the fall, which left many wondering if the recreational players would be able to attend. Throw in the vaccine requirement, a pandemic, and a European travel ban, and it wasn’t ridiculous to question if attendance at the WSOP would be extremely low this year.
Yes, attendance is down overall compared to 2019, the last live WSOP. But the doom and gloom projections were far off base. Event #4: The Reunion No-Limit Hold’em surpassed its $5 million guarantee, perhaps the biggest win for the WSOP thus far given many questioned if the tournament would even come close to hitting the 12,000-player mark needed.
Attendance in most events is right about where you should expect them to be given about 25%-30% of the WSOP regulars are unable to play either due to the Euro travel ban or the COVID-19 vaccine requirement. All things considered, it’s difficult to put a negative spin on attendance, at least so far.
Daniel Negreanu is Still Crushing the Vlog Game
One of the top highlights of the World Series of Poker annually is Daniel Negreanu’s YouTube vlogs. The six-time bracelet winner does an exceptional job every year of showing viewers what it’s like to grind a daily WSOP schedule for seven weeks. And nothing has changed this year.
Negreanu knows how to entertain an audience on his own. Hence, why he’s one of the most popular poker players in history. And the video production quality is top-notch. Even better, Negreanu brought back the popular “Chainsaw Corner” segment with Allen Kessler letting the audience know what’s bugging him on that given day.
Players Seem Enthusiastic About Being Back
After 27 months away from the live World Series of Poker, it’s no surprise thousands of poker players are ecstatic just to be back at the Rio. That much has been evident throughout the first week, and it seems the drama surrounding the series is at an all-time low, perhaps due to everyone being in a better mood this year.
Not only are the regulars stoked to be back, a number of first-timers couldn’t be happier to be in attendance. PokerNews has already interviewed a number of WSOP newbies, all of whom said they’re having a blast. That includes businesswoman Ashley Colpaart, who took up poker during the COVID-19 lockdown, and Michael Muniz, a 64-year-old retiree who took Amtrak cross country just to attend his first World Series of Poker.
Bracelets are Still Meaningful
The 2021 WSOP in Las Vegas features 88 gold bracelets and 11 more online, along with dozens won this past summer on GGPoker and WSOP.com. Some claim the increase in bracelets awarded over the past couple of years waters down the prestige of winning a WSOP event. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with those who actually win the bracelets.
Take Michael Perrone for example. Perrone, a successful poker pro who finished sixth in the WPT Choctaw event earlier this year, couldn’t have been more ecstatic after winning Event #10: $1,000 Super Turbo Bounty No-Limit Hold’em for $152,173 on Tuesday.
The first-time WSOP champion shook hands with darn near everyone in the Amazon room after taking down the bracelet. He was so enthusiastic about winning the bracelet that he made some very specific requests to our photographer on his winner photos, which of course we happily obliged.