Once again, poker has seemingly proven impervious to these difficult times. The World Series of Poker (WSOP) “Stimulus Special” tournament in Las Vegas (with a lower-than-normal $1,000 buy-in) sold out, drawing 6,012 players. It was the fourth-largest field of all time, trailing only the main events in 2006 (8,773 players), 2008 (6,844) and 2007 (6,358). The winner was 24-year-old Steven Sung, who pocketed $771,106.
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Andrew Cohen, from Las Vegas, captured the $500 buy-in Casino Employees No Limit Hold’em championship at the 2009 World Series of Poker, winning $83,778. This year’s field drew 867 dealers, floorpeople and bartenders and generated a prize-pool of $389,700.
Originally from New York, Cohen is a bartender at the Palms Casino, inside the Nine steakhouse in Las Vegas. “The one thing that I always wanted—for any poker player—this is it,” Cohen remarked. “I told all these guys here, it’s not about the money to me, and I’m not even a rich guy.”
Cohen called his wife moments after winning, and she was crying at their Las Vegas home. “She knows how much the gold bracelet means to me. Life doesn’t get much better than today,” he said.
Poker ace Annie Duke plays poker like she is running a business, not letting emotions rule her play, thinking quickly and accurately, as witnessed in her latest TV show stint. With CEO-like skills, she is one of the most successful female poker players in the world. The 43-year-old Duke has been playing in the World Series of Poker since 1994 and has cashed in on 37 events, earning more than $1.13 million through the Rio tournament annually held in Las Vegas.
Her best finish in the tournament’s $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em Main Event was in 2000 when she placed 10th and won $52,160. She won her first World Series of Poker champion’s bracelet in 2004 at an Omaha High-Low event.
“I’ll probably play in about 15 to 20 events at the World Series,” Duke said. “It’s a long haul.”
Duke drafted a new legion of fans and followers, boosting poker’s image in the process, as a contestant in the television series “The Celebrity Apprentice.” She was one of 16 personalities trying to raise money for charity while trying not to be fired by the host, billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump. Duke finished second ahead of a whole slew of sports stars, but it was her acrimonious verbal battles with comedienne Joan Rivers, the show’s eventual winner, that had the audience turning on in record numbers, driving ratings out the roof.
Rivers said Duke was worse than “Hitler” and compared poker players to members of the Mafia. Although the comments raised the ire of the poker community and officials at the World Series of Poker, the media boost couldn’t have been better for the game, Duke and Trump– it raised more than $1.5 million for various charities.
But Duke believes that Rivers still owes poker players and Las Vegas an apology.
“Poker is a legitimate profession,” said Duke, who is a graduate of Columbia University with degrees in psychology and English. She also spent five years working toward a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania in cognitive psychology, which she has set aside for now.
Divorced, Duke is the mother of four children, ranging in age from 7 to 14.
Her brother is poker standout Howard Lederer, who has two World Series of Poker titles to his credit. On four occasions she and her bro have ended up at the same table during World Series of Poker play- each time she has knocked him out of the competition, adding “I guess I have bragging rights.”
Duke is well known for her charitable giving efforts. Through poker events, she has raised millions of dollars for children’s hospitals and educational foundations.
In 2007, she and actor Don Cheadle established the Ante Up for Africa event, a $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold ‘em annual Las Vegas event in July that raises funds for the survivors of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan. The event attracts the best Hollywood A-list celebrities and the poker elite, raising $500,000 last year alone for the cause.
Duke is also an activist on Capitol Hill in trying to change the federal law outlawing the Internet wagering. She is one of the founding members of the Poker Players Alliance, which supports making online poker once again a legal activity.
The 2009 World Series of Poker $2,500 buy-in Omaha High-Low Split / Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split champion is 32-year-old Las Vegan Phil Ivey. Ivey collected $220,538 for first place. He was also awarded his seventh WSOP gold bracelet.
Ivey now has 7 wins, 19 final table appearances, and 33 in-the-money finishes at the WSOP. Ivey currently has $3,439,386 in WSOP winnings.
The Las Vegan is one of the rare poker players who excels at both tournaments and cash games, being nearly a mythological figure in the poker world that is unquestionably one of the game’s most enigmatic personalities. Considered by many to be one of the most publicity-shy poker star in the world, Ivey rarely gives out interviews or reveals much about his private life. Yet the further Ivey runs away from the spotlight, the more it seems to shine upon him. Ivey’s numerous wagering exploits have become part of the popular modern folklore, making it difficult at time to separate fact from fiction.
Ivey routinely makes stratospheric-sized prop and sports bets. He reportedly bet $1 million on last year’s Super Bowl. He won.
Ivey’s “poker office” was in the luxurious Trump Taj Mahal until the age of 24, when he moved to Las Vegas. He then started playing tournament poker and gradually attained superstar status.
Steven Sung, a 24-year-old resident of Torrance, California, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated with his parent to the United States 17 years ago, is a very determined poker player. His true grit paid off.
He didn’t like the way he played in the World Series of Poker’s Special Anniversary $40,000 buy-in, no-limit hold ‘em event in Las Vegas.
Sung lost in the first day of competition.
Undaunted, Sung, who has been playing poker professionally for three years, fought back his emotional funk and then ponied up $1,000 more to participate in the tournament’s “Stimulus Special,” a low buy-in, no-limit hold ‘em event that attracted 6,012 players.
He played for over four days. His efforts earned Sung his first World Series of Poker championship bracelet just before midnight on Wednesday at the Rio, pocketing $771,106.
Sung has won $949,476 in his World Series of Poker career, with more than $2.3 million in career winnings through several poker tournaments.
For now, Sung plans to on continuing to play in the World Series of Poker upcoming events, including the main event.
The $1,000 buy-in event he won attracted the fourth-largest field of players in World Series of Poker history, trailing only the main event of 2006 (8,773 players), 2008 (6,844 players) and 2007 (6,358 players).
Las Vegan Thang Luu, a 34-year-old Vietnam native who has been living in the United States for the past 17 years, has won the $1,500 buy-in Omaha High-Low World Series of Poker (WSOP) event for the second year in a row. Luu also finished second in the same event in 2007.
Luu raked in $263,135 for first place, the largest cash prize ever awarded in an Omaha High-Low tournament. He defeated a field of 918 players over three days.
The last time any poker player has finished first, first and second in the same event at WSOP was Johnny Chan’s accumulated record in the $10,000 buy-in Main Event in 1987-1989. Chan won the titles the fist two years but finished runner-up to poker “bad boy” Phil Hellmuth in 1989.
Can’t make it next week to Las Vegas to watch the World Series of Poker? That’s not a problem according to WSOP officials. Twenty-four of the final tables for the 40th Annual WSOP will be streamed live via the Internet.
Click on the following link to view the online poker schedule: