Luxe Life Blog
Three historic WSOP matchups to be re-created for TV challenge
When the annual World Series of Poker champion is crowned, enthusiasts regard it as the ultimate moment of the sport each year, and it’s also headlined each year as a milestone in poker history. In 2003, poker showed signs of life again after years of muddling along in relative obscurity when Hall of Famer Henry Orenstein invented the hole card camera at the same time the Internet exploded, with people playing and seeing the game in a new way.
That year, the 33rd WSOP brought an all-new influx of players to Las Vegas to experience live tournament poker for the first time. One of the novice newcomers was 27-year-old Tennessee accountant Chris Moneymaker, taking part in his first live tournament thanks to winning his $10,000 entry fee after qualifying for just $39 on his home computer.
Chris was one of a then-record 839 players who entered the Main Event, chasing the gold bracelet and a $2.5 million first-place prize. Incredibly, he made it to the final two and defeated legend and high-stakes icon Sammy Farha, pulling off one of the most improbable victories in poker history.
WSOP execs thought it was a good time to look back and ask the question, “What if?” What if Chris didn’t beat Sammy that day? What if in 1989, the unstoppable Johnny Chan, coming off back-to-back victories in the Main Event, had successfully pulled off a three-peat instead of losing to Phil Hellmuth Jr., who became the youngest Main Event champion ever at the time? How would Johnny’s legacy be different? What would have happened to Phil had he not won?
Now comes the opportunity to re-live history in bringing back those players to the Rio for the inaugural WSOP Rematches TV special, as the poker princes replay the duels to see what today’s outcome would be. Chris will play best of 2 of 3 against Sammy, starting with the exact chips they began with in 2003. Then Johnny and Phil will play one game with even starting stacks.
The third matchup will be chosen by fans among four pairings: Jonathan Duhamel vs. John Racener (2010), Jamie Gold vs. Paul Wasicka (2006), Greg Raymer vs. David Williams (2004) or Johnny again vs. Erik Seidel (1988). Voting is at Facebook.com/worldseriesofpoker.
The matches will be filmed June 2 at the Rio and are open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis. ESPN will televise it as a 2-hour special July 26 and include footage from the original matchups.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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