Sunday, July 16, 2006

WSOP H.O.R.S.E. Tourney Fulfills the High-Profile Players' Dreams

It's in the books, now, and unless you've been hiding under a rock you've no doubt read or heard that Chip Reese took down the inaugural $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event at the 2006 WSOP. That the final table was almost a dream lineup of big-name pros goes without saying, with Reese, Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey and T.J. Cloutier among the last nine, and other "no-names" (such as Andy Bloch and David Singer) filling up the remaining seats.

Reese's record-setting win over runner-up Bloch --- it was the longest heads-up duel in the history of the WSOP --- certainly gives Harrah's and ESPN everything they could have hoped for from the event. Look for big ratings when this one hits the air. It also returns to the highest-profile pros the premium cachet that they desired, certainly one of the impetuses for the creation of the event itself. It was meant to be an elite event --- though open to everyone, not by invitation only --- and through chance and circumstance it looks as if the biggest names had their wishes answered.

Look for lots of Chip Reese cover photos in the coming weeks.

Is it a good or a bad thing for the "Main Event?" Well, as we mentioned in a previous post, it's an apples-vs.-oranges debate. The Main Event is what it is for other reasons, and it's not going anywhere. Think of the H.O.R.S.E. tourney as a return to the days when the WSOP was just a handful of friends gathering informally at the Horseshoe, and you might have a glimpse of what the goals were here. No one can really go back to those early days, of course, but the high buy-in, "status" feel of the event was the most direct attempt to capture some of the hard-core glory.

I've not yet read a satisfactory explanation of why the event's setup was changed at the last minute, changing the final table to No Limit only, but this outside-looking-in perspective suggests that ESPN got a case of the cold feet, and decreed that since No Limit was their "golden goose," it had to be used here as well. I could also be so full of it that my eyes have turned brown, but I can't think up another scenario that makes any sense. It also says something about how ESPN views big-event poker in general, but that'll be a topic for another post.

In any event, congrats to all. Back to the games, now.

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