Michael Mizrachi is the only two-time winner of the Poker Player’s Championship.
In the 10 years that it has been part of the World Series of Poker schedule, the $50,000 Poker Players Championship has gone through a number of different appearances. First it was a HORSE event with No-Limit Hold’em for the final table to cater to a TV audience. Eventually the latter element was dropped and the format held its shape until completion.
Then it became an eight-game event, a 10-game event, an event that recaptured (and lost) the all-hold ’em final table… you get the point. His $50,000 prize, which seemed astronomical at first, now sits between dozens of six-figure buy-ins and even the occasional $1 million buy-in tournament on the annual tournament calendar.
Despite it all – the various format changes, a burgeoning nosebleed-level tournament buy-in scene and a field that has waxed and waned in size – the Poker Players Championship is still considered the gold standard for mixed game players to test themselves Compete against some of the best and brightest the game has to offer.
“It’s the original High Roller,” said Ty Stewart, Executive Director of the WSOP. “I’d say it’s kind of a shame that it seems to have lost a bit of its luster [with so many other high rollers]but I think the excitement stays with the players – and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.”
Maintaining his standing among the players who will be battling for the bracelet and Chip Reese trophy beginning Saturday afternoon has a lot to do with several elements that set the tournament so far apart from any other massive buy-in event — namely, the requirement Master eight games instead of just one.
“Players have always viewed this event as the decathlon of poker,” said Stewart, “the one that really tests all of a player’s skills across the different variations, which is very unique. We believe playing all games is part of the core structure of the World Series of Poker.”
While attendance isn’t quite as high as it was when the event was televised on ESPN as its own experience, the ability to evolve over time has certainly helped keep the tournament relevant and fresh.
When one element works, it stays, like going from five games to eight games and understaffing the tables. When another expansion to 10 games didn’t go quite as smoothly and players voiced their opinions, the WSOP listened and switched accordingly.
“It’s 100 percent player feedback,” Stewart said. “We want the PPC winner to represent the best all-around player, and what it means to be the best all-around player at any given time will change based on what games are currently being played the most. We will always reach out to players to let us know what is and isn’t working for that particular event.”
Much of its flexibility comes from the nature of its format, with the primary goal of providing the most accurate representation of mixed game trends and player opinion each year. Whether it’s five games, eight games, 10 or even 20, it all fits under the same banner – and you can’t say that about a game like No-Limit Hold’em.
“In the main event, you’re probably never going to see a big format change, if at all,” Stewart said. “On the other hand, the PPC may change annually because, again, we’re just trying to reflect what players believe is the most accurate measure of the best all-around player. The type of games played and the overall format should evolve. 30 or 40 years ago, no-limit hold’em was hardly ever played.”
The $50,000 Poker Players Championship is also on the WSOP schedule as a kind of “line of demarcation”. With this tournament underway, the $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller, the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop, and finally the biggest stage of all in poker, the Main Event, will soon follow.
That’s not to say that this track is only for the players with the deepest pockets. A few new and unique events are also right around the corner, offering those who prefer No-Limit Hold’em a twist or two of their own compared to the ‘standard’ No-Limit events.
“Yes, absolutely,” Stewart said when asked if the PPC was intentionally included in the schedule as an escalation to work towards the main event. “They also have the tag team event which we hope will attract a different audience and we also have the online event. At this point we’re building to the climax on all levels, but for the PPC and the one drop high roller and the PLO high roller, yes, it’s all the guys playing tournaments at that level within a couple of weeks want.
“We want this to be a time when everyone is in the house,” Stewart said. “I think with the World Series of Poker being seven weeks there are a lot of people who have to choose how long they want to stay here. For example, if you are an international player it may not be practical to be here all the time. But anyone can come into that window for the grand finale.”
However, it all comes back to the Poker Players Championship. Cards go into the air at 3pm PT on Saturday, and from there things become sort of a blurry daily chaotic action at the Rio until the main event suddenly looms over us all. That’s not to say there weren’t any other highlights at the 2016 WSOP: Monster Stack, Millionaire Maker and Colossus all retained large fields; Jason Mercier took the world by storm for 10 days; and former champions find gold again.
But there’s no denying that business will pick up soon.
“It’s a pillar event,” Stewart said as he reflected on the PPC. “It’s not the biggest buy-in event anymore, but it’s certainly still one of the most significant.”
Mitchell Towner was the fourth millionaire to be crowned at the 2016 World Series of Poker.
This week’s results
Event 39: $10,000 Six-Hand No Limit Hold’em
Winner: Martin Kozlov ($665,709; first bracelet)
Remarks: Kozlov eliminated both Davidi Kitai and Justin Bonomo in the same hand to win the tournament as his pocket queens held against his opponents’ lower pocket pairs.
Event 40: $2,500 Mixed Limit Triple Draw Lowball
Winner: Christopher Vitch ($136,854; first bracelet)
Event 41: $1,500 Monster Stack No Limit Hold’em
Winner: Mitchell Towner ($1,120,196; first bracelet)
Remarks: Towner is the fourth person to win a prize worth at least $1 million at the 2016 WSOP
Event 42: $3,000 No Limit Hold’em Shootout
Winner: Phillip McAllister ($267,720; first bracelet)
Event 43: $10,000 Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight-or-Better Championship
Winner: George Danzer ($338,646; fourth bracelet)
Event 44: $1,000 No Limit Hold’em
Winner: Steven Wolansky ($298,849; second bracelet)
Event 45: $1,500 No Limit Hold’em/Pot Limit Omaha
Winner: Loren Klein ($241,427; first bracelet)
Event 46: $1,500 Bounty No-Limit Hold’em
Winner: Kristen Bickell ($290,768; second bracelet)
Remarks: Bicknell became the first woman to win a WSOP bracelet in 2016. This is her first Open Event WSOP win; She won the women’s championship in 2013.
Event 47: $10,000 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball Championship (Limit)
Winner: John Hennigan ($320,1013; fourth bracelet)
Event 48: $5,000 Turbo No Limit Hold’em
Winner: Ankush Mandavia ($548,139; first bracelet)
Remarks: This was the first final table of the 2016 WSOP for 14-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, who finished eighth. This was Hellmuth’s 55th career WSOP final table – also a record.
Event 49: $1,500 Seven Card Stud
Winner: Shaun Deb ($111,101; second bracelet)
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