PAYING HIS DUES. LENNY MARTIN WINS 1ST WSOP GOLD BRACELET AFTER 25 YEARS IN THE GAME

July 01, 2011 - 10:22:38 PM EST  | 

PAYING HIS DUES.  LENNY MARTIN WINS 1ST WSOP GOLD BRACELET AFTER 25 YEARS IN THE GAME

TOURNAMENT HEADLINES

Twenty-Five Years in the Making

After 25 Years as a Poker Pro, Leonard Martin Wins First Gold Bracelet at 2011 WSOP

Ukrainian-Born Martin Wins $2,500 Buy-in Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw Lowball (Limit)

New Champion Rakes-In $189,818 Pot

Full House at the 2011 WSOP -- Tournament Attendance Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

49 Gold Bracelets Won – Nine More Events Still to Go

OVERVIEW

To give some indication of what kind of a man Lenny Martin is, consider some of the big-name players who were gathered along the rail, cheering him on to victory at the 2011 World Series of Poker.

Todd Brunson, Mike Matusow, Alexander Kravchenko, Oleksii Kovalchuk, Ralph Perry, and others served as his own personal cheering section.  Every one of them stayed until the very end, when the Ukrainian-born poker pro and real estate investor now residing in Las Vegas won what he would later describe as a victory 25 years in the making.

“I’ve waited 25 years for this!” Martin shouted out in multiple languages, as he threw his hat wildly into the air, ultimately collapsing into the adoring arms of several American, Russian, and Ukrainian supporters.  “I have always wanted this moment to happen, and now it’s finally here!”

Every poker player who came to celebrate and share in the victory had his own Lenny Martin story to tell.  In fact, all of these poker pros had numerous "Lenny stories" -- all with the common thread of a good and decent man who cares deeply about those who are closest to him.

Consider Ralph Perry’s "Lenny story."

Perry told of the time he was about to give up poker.  About 10 years ago, the Russian-born poker pro was operating poorly.  He was broke and preparing to depart Las Vegas, for good.  Before making his final move, Perry paid a visit to his friend, Lenny Martin.

“Lenny talked me out of it,” Perry recalled.  “And that moment changed my whole life.  He told me I was a good poker player and to stick with it.  He talked me out of leaving and for that reason, I stayed in the game.”

Perry went on to recover from his downswing.  Within a year, he was playing in and beating the biggest cash games at the Mirage.  Within a few more years, he was a WSOP gold bracelet winner.  That's but one Lenny story, of many.

Other players too, gathered around Martin, demonstrating reverence for a man rarely seen in the highly-competitive, often cutthroat world of high-stakes poker.  Despite the late 3:30 a.m. hour, nearly two dozen friends were there beside Martin on his most memorable poker night, eager to share in his joyful moment of personal and professional triumph.

Martin won the $2,500 buy-in Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw Lowball (Limit) championship, which was officially classified as Event #49 on this year’s WSOP schedule.  He earned $189,818 in prize money, by no means his biggest monetary score given his penchant for big cash games.  But the symbolism attached to this victory was indeed priceless, surpassing his previous successes due to the historical significance of this special win.  He was presented with the first WSOP gold bracelet of his career, following what amounts to a quarter century of grinding it out in cash games and paying his dues as a poker player.

The new poker champion was born in the Ukraine.  He spent half of his life in what was the former Soviet Union, before immigrating to the United States and settling down in Los Angeles.  About 25 years ago, Martin discovered Las Vegas for the first time and moved to the gambling Mecca when a new casino opened called the Mirage.

At the time, the Mirage was the epicenter of the poker universe.  All the big games rotated around the glamorous new jewel in the desert.  In 1989, Martin began playing $10-20 Hold'em regularly inside the Mirage Poker Room.  

Over the next two and a half decades, Martin gradually blended in with the Las Vegas poker crowd.  He possessed an everyman attitude and a quiet charm that made him a welcome addition to any poker game, often masking the fact he was the superior player and the unsuspecting adversary was hopelessly outmatched.  During the 1990s, he played with them all -- starting with (the late) Johnny Moss at Binion's Horseshoe. 

His long list of table-mates over the years was pretty much a Who's Who of poker. By the time poker's modern era had come in the mid-2000s, even Martin had to start thinking his chances to win a WSOP gold bracelet were slipping away every time an upstart hot-shot twenty-something online pro trickled into the Rio.  But Martin retained hope and confidence.  The same advice that once served Ralph Perry so well, was applied a bit closer to home.  Martin had many talks with his friends and then with himself.  It was time to look in the mirror and truth be told, use a little dose of the inspirational magic that had once served Ralph Perry so well.

Martin attended the WSOP during most years.  He came close to victory a few times.  In fact, he cashed in this same tournament twice during the previous three years -- finishing in second and sixth place, respectively.  He was so close, yet so far.

In this tournament, Martin overcame a tough field of 309 players, including three former gold bracelet winners who also made it to the final table – Jason Mercier, Eli Elezra and David Bach.  It took Martin three-and-a-half long days and nights to vanquish his final opponent, poker pro Justin Bonomo – who finished as the runner up.  No doubt, Bonomo's moment of triumph will come some day.  In the meantime, he may want to take a seat and glance over the playbook that has been Lenny Martin's life.

Alas, no poker player has paid his dues in the game quite the way Martin has.  Which brings up an old adage which goes like this:  The best things in life are well worth waiting for.

For a comprehensive recap of Event #49, please visit the WSOP.com tournament portal page HERE.

EVENT #49 CHAMPION – LEONARD MARTIN

The 2011 World Series of Poker $2,500 buy-in Deuce-to-Seven Triple-Draw Lowball (Limit) champion is Lenny Martin, from Las Vegas, NV.

Martin is a 55-year-old professional poker player.  However, he also invests in real estate.

Martin was born in the western Ukraine.  He immigrated to the United States about 30 years ago.

Martin initially settled down in Los Angeles.  He developed a fondness for poker and began playing in the card clubs there.

In 1989, when the Mirage opened up in Las Vegas, Martin started visiting the poker room regularly.  He found he could beat the games and accordingly, decided to relocate permanently to Las Vegas.

Martin started out playing $10-20 Limit Hold’em.

Martin has attended the WSOP for most of the past two decades.  He is unsure of how many events he’s entered.  Martin says he prefers Lowball and Mixed Game events.

For this victory, Martin collected $189,818 for first place.

Martin has made it to the final table of this event 3 out of the past 4 years.  He finished second in 2008, sixth in 2010 and first in 2011.

Martin is to be classified as a professional poker player (in WSOP records and stats), since he has been a full-time player for about 25 years.

Following his victory, Martin was asked if he prefers to be classified as an American or a Ukrainian.  He has lived half of his life in each country.  Martin stated he is proud to be an American.  However, he is also proud of his Ukrainian heritage and accordingly will classify himself as a Ukrainian in order to give his native country another victory in the official gold bracelet count.

Ukrainian-born poker players have now won four gold bracelets this year.

THE FINAL TABLE

The official final table was comprised of the top six finishers. 

The final table contained three former gold bracelet winners – Jason Mercier, Eli Elezra and David Bach

Two nations were represented at the final table – Japan (1 player) and the United States (5 players). 

The runner up was Justin Bonomo.  He grew up in Virginia and now resides in Las Vegas.  Bonomo enjoyed playing games from a young age, and became a devoted aficionado of Magic: The Gathering.  The game taught him important strategic fundamentals which would serve him later during his poker career.  At age 21, Bonomo began playing poker professionally.  He has since earned nearly $3 million in live tournaments alone.  His online winnings are estimated to be at least as high.  Second place paid $117,305.

The third-place finisher was former $50,000 buy-in HORSE champion (2009), David Bach.  He just missed out on what would have been a second gold bracelet victory.  Bach is a former professional bowler-turned-poker pro from Athens, GA.

Masayoshi Tanaka, from Tokyo, has two very strong showings in this tournament over the past three years.  He finished second in 2009.  He took fourth place this year.  He’s one of the highest WSOP finishers in history from the nation of Japan.

Former gold bracelet winner Eli Elezra finished in fifth place.  This was his highest WSOP finish in three years.

Two-time gold bracelet winner Jason Mercier finished in sixth place.  This was his seventh time to make it to a WSOP final table.  He is the youngest player other than Phil Ivey to reach seven final tables by age 25.  Ivey had 11 by the time of his 25th birthday.

Final table play began Thursday evening at 8:45 p.m.  Played concluded nearly 7 hours later (playing time wise) at 3:30 a.m.

The final table was played on ESPN’s main stage.  The new final table set this year is getting raves in terms of design and appearance.  No stage in the history of poker has ever looked as spectacular.  Viewers will be able to see ESPN’s coverage again once the WSOP Main Event begins in July.

Action was streamed live over WSOP.com.  Viewers can tune in and watch most of this year’s final tables.  Although hole cards are not shown, viewers can follow an overhead camera as well as a pan-shot of the table.  The floor announcer provides an official account of the action. 

OTHER IN-THE-MONEY FINISHERS

The top 30 finishers collected prize money.

Apart from the final table players, former gold bracelet winners that cashed in this tournament included – Scott Seiver, David Chiu, David Sklansky, Greg Raymer, Mike Matusow, Michael Chow and John Monnette.

Canadian poker pro Shawn Buchanan cashed for the fifth time this year.  All of his five cashes were 22nd place or higher, which is quite an accomplishment.  No other player has as many premium cashes at this point.

Four-time gold bracelet winner David Chiu finished in 14th place.  This marked his 52nd career cash, which ranks 11th on the all-time list.

Three-time gold bracelet winner David Sklansky, the noted poker author and theorist, cashed in 18th place.  He has been playing in WSOP events since the mid-1970s.

2004 world poker champion Greg “Fossilman” Raymer finished in 23rd place.  This was his third time to cash this year.

Three-time gold bracelet winner Mike “the Mouth” Matusow, finished 24th.  He now has 31 career cashes at the WSOP.

John Monnette rivals Sean Buchanan in premium cashes.  The previous gold bracelet winner now has five cashes at this year’s WSOP, which are 26th or higher.

2009 WSOP “Player of the Year” and five-time gold bracelet winner Jeffrey Lisandro finished in 30th place.

Tournament results are to be included in all official WSOP records.  Results are also to be included in the 2011 WSOP “Player of the Year” race.

“WSOP Player of the Year” standings can be found at WSOP.com HERE.

ODDS AND ENDS

This tournament attracted 309 entries.

This is the 940th gold bracelet awarded in World Series of Poker history.  This figure includes every official WSOP event ever played, including tournaments during the early years when there were no actual gold bracelets awarded.  It also includes the 16 gold bracelets awarded to date at WSOP Europe (2007-2010).  Moreover for the first time ever, one gold bracelet was awarded for this year’s winner of the WSOP Circuit National Championship.

The official WSOP gold bracelet ceremony takes place on the day following the winner’s victory (or some hours later when the tournament ends very late).  The ceremony takes place inside The Pavilion, which is the expansive main tournament room hosting all noon starts this year.  The ceremony begins at the conclusion of the first break of the noon tournament.  The ceremony usually starts around 2:20 p.m.  The national anthem of the winner’s nation is played.  The entire presentation is open to the public and media.  Video and photography is permitted by both the public and members of the media.

Lenny Martin’s gold bracelet ceremony is set to take place on Friday, July 1st.  The national anthem of the Ukraine will be played in honor of his victory. 

2011 WSOP STATISTICS

Through the conclusion of Event #49 (excluding # Event 48 because it has yet to finish) the 2011 WSOP has attracted 54,251 combined total entries.  $99,927,510 in prize money has been awarded to winners. 

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of nationality of gold bracelet winners has been:

United States (29)

Canada (5)

Ukraine (4)

Great Britain (3)

France (3)

Russia (2)

Brazil (1)

Pakistan (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the national origin (birthplace) of winners has been:

United States (25)

Canada (5)

Ukraine (4)

Great Britain (3)

France (3)

Russia (2)

Israel (1)

Honduras (1)

Indonesia (1)

Germany (1)

Brazil (1)

Pakistan (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the home-states of (American) winners have been:

California (5)

Nevada (4)

New York (3)

Texas (3)

Illinois (2)

Florida (2)

Connecticut (2)

New Jersey (1)

Tennessee (1)

Indiana (1)

Maryland (1)

Virginia (1)

Michigan (1)

North Dakota (1)

Washington (1)

Ohio (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of professional poker players to semi-pros and amateurs who won gold bracelets has been:

Professional Players (37):  Jake Cody, Cheech Barbaro, Eugene Katchalov, Allen Bari, Harrison Wilder, Matt Perrins, Sean Getzwiller, Viacheslav Zhukov, David Diaz, Andrew Badecker, Tyler Bonkowski, Brian Rast, John Juanda, Aaron Steury, Darren Woods, Jason Somerville, Bertrand Grospellier, John Monnette, Elie Payan, Mark Radoja, Chris Viox, Dan Idema, Andy Frankenberger, Chris Lee, Sam Stein, Mark Schmid, Jason Mercier, Mikhail Lakhitov, Fabrice Soulier, Mitch Schock, Matt Jarvis, Justin Pechie, Ben Lamb, Rep Porter, Andre Akkari, Joe Ebanks, Lenny Martin

Semi-Pros (5):  Sean R. Drake, Amir Lehavot, Oleksii Kovalchuk, Eric Rosawig, Arkadiy Tsinis

Amateurs (6):  Geffrey Klein, Foster Hays, James Hess, Kirk Caldwell, Ken Griffin, Owais Ahmed

Since tracking first started in 2005, this year’s WSOP has the greatest disparity of professionals winning over semi-pros and amateurs than any year recorded, so far – with 42 out of 48 events being won by pros or semi-pros.

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the victories of 9 of the 48 winners (19 percent) marked the first time the new champion had ever cashed at the WSOP.

Every WSOP held over the past 11 years has included at least one multiple gold bracelet champion (meaning two or more wins within the same year).  The last year the WSOP was comprised exclusively of single-event winners was back in 1999.  The record for most multiple gold bracelet winners within a single year was in 2009, when five players managed to win two or more titles.  So far this year, no player has yet won two gold bracelets.

The streak of consecutive male WSOP gold bracelet winners has now reached 207 consecutive events.  Aside from the annual Ladies Poker Championship, the last female player to win a WSOP tournament open to both sexes was Vanessa Selbst, in 2008.  The longest “cold” streak for female players occurred between years 1982 and 1996, when 221 consecutive open events passed without a female champion.

The highest finish by any female (open events) at this year’s WSOP was by two players.  Maria Ho finished second ($5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em).  Kim Nguyen also finished as the runner up ($1,500 buy-in Six-Handed Limit Hold’em).

The highest finish by any defending champion at this year’s WSOP was by David Baker, who after winning the previous $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw Lowball World Championship finished in sixth place in defense of his title.

Reigning world poker champions rarely perform well the following year after their victory.  Chris “Jesus” Ferguson was the last world champion to win a gold bracelet the next year, which happened in 2001.  Perhaps it’s due to the increasing size of the fields.  But there’s also great pressure on the champions to do well.  What follows is a list of the only world champions in history to win a gold bracelet after winning the championship during the previous year:

Johnny Moss (1975)

Doyle Brunson (1977)

Bobby Baldwin (1979)

Stu Ungar (1981)

Johnny Chan (1988)

Hamid Dastmalchi (1993)

Chris “Jesus” Ferguson (2001)

By contrast, players who make it to the final table of the Main Event Championship (November Nine) one year tend to do quite well in subsequent WSOP years.  Consider that last year, three former Main Event finalists won gold bracelets – Eric Buchman, Tex Barch, and Scott Montgomery.  This year, Matt Jarvis won his first gold bracelet one year after making it to the November Nine in 2010.

New tournament records set at the 2011 WSOP (to date):

Biggest Heads-Up tournament prize pool in history ($3,040,000) – Event #2

Largest live Omaha High-Low Split Tournament in history (925 entries) – Event #3

Largest live Six-Handed tournament in poker history (1,920 entries) – Event #10

Biggest Deuce-to-Seven tournament prize pool in history ($1,184,400) – Event #16

Largest live $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start (3157 entries) – Event #18

Largest live $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start (3175 entries) – Event #20

Largest consecutive-days starting field sizes in poker history (combined 6,332 entries) – Event #18 and Event #20

Largest live Pot-Limit Omaha tournament in poker history (1,071 entries) – Event #22

Largest Mixed-Game (Eight-Game Mix) in poker history (489 entries) – Event #23

Largest Seniors tournament in poker history (3,752 entries) – Event #30

Biggest Seniors No-Limit Hold’em championship prize pool in history ($3,376,800) – Event #30

Largest single-day live tournament start in poker history (3,752 entries) – Event #30

Largest consecutive-days starting field sizes in poker history (combined 6,580 entries) – Event #30/Event #32 (broke Event #18/Event #20 record from earlier in 2011 WSOP)

Largest four-consecutive days field sizes in poker history (2,500+3,752+2,828+3,144 =12,224 entries) -- Events 28, 30, 32, 34, June 16-19, 2011

Largest Mixed Pot-Limit tournament in history (606 entries) – Event #39

Biggest Pot-Limit Omaha prize pool in live poker history ($3,393,400) – Event #42

New player records set at the 2011 WSOP (to date):

The 35-year span between Artie Cobb’s first cash in this event (1976) and most recent cash in the same event (2011) represents the longest time span in WSOP history.  He accomplished this in Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split (Event #25).

Phil Hellmuth Jr. added to his record as the individual all-time leader in cashes (83) and final table appearances (42).

Howard “Tahoe” Andrew added to his record as the player with the longest consecutive streak of WSOP appearances, currently at 38 years, and counting (1974 to present).

RAISING AWARENESS:  BAD BEAT ON CANCER AND THE WSOP

Bad Beat on Cancer was created in 2003 by Phil Gordon and Rafe Furst as an easy and fun way for poker players to donate to the Prevent Cancer Foundation.  It all began when Chris Moneymaker pledged 1 percent of his 2003 Main Event winnings and went on to capture the championship, contributing $25,000 when he was awarded the $2.500,000 first- place prize.  By taking the pledge, wearing the patch, and joining ‘Team 1%’, players can feel good supporting a cause that only benefits when they win.  As the official charity of the WSOP, pledges simply indicate to the payouts staff that they are donating 1 percent of their winnings, and the funds are automatically withheld.  A tax receipt is generated and sent to their mailing address.  Several high profile professionals have made ‘life pledges’ of 1 percent of all their winnings -- including Annie Duke, Phil Hellmuth Jr., Lee Childs, Paul Wasicka, Andy Bloch, Dennis Phillips, and others.  Since 2003, the initiative has raised over $3,500,000 for cancer prevention research, education, and community outreach programs.  Players can pick up a patch and join Team 1% by stopping by the Bad Beat on Cancer booth, located at the 2011 WSOP opposite the Amazon Room in the concourse.  The Nevada Cancer Institute based in Las Vegas is a benefiting charity from the Bad Beat on Cancer.

Note:  Various categories and statistics will be updated with each gold bracelet event as they are completed.


 
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Nolan Dalla – WSOP.com Senior Writer


About the author: Nolan Dalla's work is found all over WSOP.com, as he is the Senior Writer for poker's longest-running poker series and has contributed to the site since 2005.

He is also the longtime Media Director of the World Series of Poker. He's become the lone link from poker's modern age back to the old days when the WSOP was played at Binion's Horseshoe – where Dalla served as the casino's Director of Public Relations.
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