2017 World Series of Poker

WSOP Continues “First Fifty” Celebration with Awards Celebration

The World Series of Poker has continued its celebration of its 50th annual rendition (and 49th anniversary) with a recent “First Fifty” gala held right at the Rio Convention Center’s Brasilia Room, even as play continued in ongoing events in adjacent rooms. The special evening was open to all prior WSOP gold bracelet winners and assorted poker VIPs, with the gala hosted by the prominent ESPN / WSOP broadcast team of Lon McEachern and Norman Chad.

In the run-up to the gala, the WSOP (via WSOP.com) asked the poker public to vote on a handful of awards to be presented at the banquet in recognition of some of the WSOP’s most famous moments and players. The WSOP received thousands of online votes for seven different awards that were presented, with the categories and winners as follows:

  1. Most Memorable TV Hand: Sammy Farha vs. Chris Moneymaker “Bluff of the Century” 2003 WSOP
  2. Best Overall WSOP Performance: (Single Year) DANIEL NEGREANU: 2013 2 bracelets/4 final tables
  3. Most Likely to Succeed: (Most Bracelets 2020-2070) – JUSTIN BONOMO
  4. Fan Favorite: DANIEL NEGREANU
  5. WSOP’s Favorite Bad Boy: PHIL HELLMUTH
  6. Most Impressive WSOP Main Event Win: CHRIS MONEYMAKER, 2003 WSOP Main Event
  7. Four Most Important Players in WSOP History:
  • DOYLE BRUNSON
  • PHIL HELLMUTH
  • CHRIS MONEYMAKER
  • DANIEL NEGREANU

As one can see, the categories and the honorees represent an “all in good fun” atmosphere designed to promote and honor the WSOP itself as well as some of its most famed players. Deciding who should be on the WSOP’s “Mount Rushmore” of players was one of the most interesting categories. Of no particular importance, those were the four players I voted for, though I’d believe that Brunson, Hellmuth, and Negreanu were locks and that it probably was a tighter race for the fourth spot between Moneymaker, Phil Ivey, and one or two others.

That Moneymaker walked away from this gala with three awards is a leading indicator of why I also think the time is ripe for Moneymaker to be enshrined in the Poker Hall of Fame. Moneymaker’s popularity and importance to the casual poker-loving public is simply too large to be ignored. There’s always been this schism regarding HOF voting between those who think that for players, nothing matters at all other than for taking home the money, personal ethics and responsibility be damned. Then there are those — an I’m in this category — who believe that being a good poker citizen should also be part of the criteria for HOF enshrinement, whether specifically included as such or not.

In short, I’ve never understood why certain poker players believe the game should honor them, when they’ve never done anything to honor the game in return or have done so many negative things as to overwhelm any good they once might have done. That’s given, of course, that very few poker players are saints; all these things have to be viewed on a sliding scale. Pretending there is no scale, however, doesn’t work for me.

For Moneymaker, though, the image means as much as the player himself. And whether he gets into the HOF this year or next or never at all, it was nice to see him scoop some hardware here.

P.S.: One category I voted for someone different than who won was the Most Likely to Succeed category, won by Bonomo. I  considered him but he didn’t make my top five because he focuses more on big buy-in tourneys rather than strictly grinding bracelet events. I decided on Ben Yu among several highly qualified players who I expect to put up big lifetime numbers, but it’s no surprise Bonomo won that award.

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