By Paul McGuire
Over 50 poker players will go down in history as bracelet winners at the 2008 WSOP. No matter what happens to them in life, the fact that they won a bracelet is a major accomplishment. In fact, winning a WSOP event might be one of the many achievements listed on their obituaries when they eventually pass away.
Everyone praises the winners, while the folks who came in second are an afterthought. To quote Mike McD in Rounders, „You don’t hear much about guys who take their shot and miss, but I’ll tell you what happens to ‚em. They end up humping crappy jobs on graveyard shifts, trying to figure out how they came up short.“
By now, you know that this year is being dubbed the „Year of the Pro“ after several big-time professional poker players won a bracelet at the 2008 WSOP. That list includes Nenad Medic, David Singer, Erick Lindgren, Mike Matusow, Vanessa Selbst, Daniel Negreanu, Max Pescatori, Kenny Tran, Barry Greenstein, Phil „OMGClayAiken“ Galfond, John Phan (twice), Rob Hollink, Dario Minieri, Layne Flack, David Benyamine, Scotty Nguyen, and J.C. Tran.
And there were lesser known pros, semi-pros, and amateurs who etched their names in the history books with bracelets at the 2008 WSOP which included… Grant Hinkle, Michael Banducci, Thang Luu, Matt Keikoan, Anthony Rivera, Rep Porter, Farzad Rouhani, Phil Tom, Jimmy Schultz, Duncan Bell, Eric Brooks, Svetlana Gromenkova, Andrew Brown, Jason Young, Scott Seiver, Jens Voertmann, Blair Hinkle, Vitaly Lunkin, Luis Velador, Sebastian Ruthenberg, Mike Rocco, Jesper Hougaard, David Kitai, David Woo, Frank Gary, Dan Lacourse, Martin Klaser, Max Greenwood, Joe Commisso, Ryan Hughes, Alexandre Gomes, Marty Smyth, James Schaaf, David Daneshgar and Matt Graham.
The 2008 WSOP bracelet winners got their pictures taken at the final table happily clutching their winning hand. They were sought out for interviews by the local press, poker magazines, and members of the international media. Some of them were also interviewed for TV.PokerNews.com and their videos were seen all over the world.
But what about those folks who came so close… and fell short of the mark? Does anyone talk about the guy who came in second place? Nope. Their names are quickly forgotten.
For example, who did Nenad Medic beat heads up for the bracelet in Event #1 USD 10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em World Championship? I’ll pause and let you think for a bit. Don’t cheat and look it up on Poker News‘ live reporting archives. OK, do you give up?
If you don’t recall, Bloch was ahead with pocket nines but Medic had second pair and a gutshot straight flush draw. The turn gave Medic a five-high heart flush, but Bloch picked up a bigger flush draw. The river blanked out for Bloch and Medic won his first bracelet. Bloch had another frustrating runner-up finish at the WSOP. Andy Bloch? Almost famous.
Jacobo Fernandez took second place in Event #3 USD 1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em. If the cards fell Fernandez’s way, he would have won his first bracelet and he’d be a lock for the 2008 Player of the Year. Fernandez made several final-table appearances but couldn’t close the deal. Jacobo Fernandez? Almost famous.
Almost four weeks after it happened, people are still talking about Erick Lindgren’s first bracelet, but people rarely bring up that he defeated Justin „ZeeJustin“ Bonomo, who was the runner-up in Event #4 USD 5,000 Mixed Limit. ZeeJustin? Almost famous (for something not involving a cheating scandal).
Jeff „YellowSub“ Williams is an EPT Grand Finale Champion which he won at the age of 19. The young gun turned 21 this year and played in the WSOP for the first time. Williams came so close to winning his first bracelet. Michael Banducci beat him heads up in Event #5 USD 1,000 NL with Rebuys. YellowSub? Almost famous.
Matt Keikoan won Event #7 USD 2,000 NL and outlasted a massive field. Shannon Shorr was the runner-up in that event. The young gun from Alabama was so close, but also fell short. Shorr? Almost famous (for something other than a YouTube video of him jumping off a balcony and breaking his back).
For several years, James „mig.com“ Mackey had been dominating the online poker scene. Mackey came close in Event #8, the inagural World Championship Mixed Event. Anthony Rivera won the bracelet, and Mackey went home empty-handed. Mig.com? Almost famous.
Phil Tom took down Event #11 USD 5,000 NL Shootout. The runner-up? Greg ‚FBT‘ Mueller. The former professional hockey player missed his chance to be another Canadian bracelet winner. Greg Mueller? Almost famous.
One of the most talked about and watched final tables had to be Mike Matusow’s victory in Event #18 USD 5,000 No-Limit 2-7 Draw w/ Rebuys. His final table was one of the toughest ever assembled. He had to beat Aussie Jeff Lisandro heads up for the win. Lisandro won a bracelet last year and was seeking his second but couldn’t pick off The Mouth. Jeff Lisandro? Almost famous.
Dutch pro Rob Hollink won Event #30 USD 10,000 Limit Hold’em World Championship, while Jerrod Ankenman took second place. Ankenman is best known for co-authoring the book „Mathematics of Poker“ with Bill Chen. His buddy Chen has two bracelets. Jerrod Ankenman? None. Almost famous.
David Kitai won the first ever bracelet for Belgium when he won Event #38 USD 2,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em. North Carolina pro Chris Bell finished in second place and missed his shot at his first bracelet. Chris Bell? Almost famous.
German pro Martin Klaser won Event #43 USD 1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi/Lo but had to defeat Casey Kastle in the process. Kastle has been a pro for many years and made fifteen final tables… but has never won a bracelet. Casey Kastle? Almost famous.
Of course there are famous pros and previous bracelet winners who came close to winning one this year. That list includes Ted Forrest and Chris ‚Jesus‘ Ferguson.
Oh and don’t forget about some of these guys who finished in third place this year… Miami John Cernuto, Vinny Vinh, Alexander Kostritsyn, Marcel Luske, David Benyamine, and Phil Hellmuth.
I always thought that bubbling out of a tournament was the worst feeling in the world. But coming in second has to rival that sick feeling.