In the modern era of sports the all-star game has lost its luster. What was once a great way to honor the best and biggest of any particular sport has morphed into a corporate schmooze fest with players wishing for three days off rather than a spot in the game.
But poker is different.
While the World Series of Poker doesn’t have an official all-star game, Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack has been promoting the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship as just that since its inception in 2006. And it makes sense as only the best in the world enter and the coming together of the game’s best without much dead money alters the atmosphere significantly. The respect felt by each player towards the rest of the field is obvious to all who get to see the action first hand.
So it’s only more fitting to see the man many consider to be the best player of all time in contention as Day 4 carries on. Doyle Brunson finished the third day of play sitting ninth in chips out 24 remaining players. And while he trails some other big names, Daniel Negreanu, Scott Nguyen and Barry Greenstein, it’s tough to find anybody cheering against Texas Dolly.
“I think if Doyle wins, it would be amazing,“ said Hellmuth, who was playing in Event #49 ($1,500 No Limit Hold’em) only feet away from where the final three tables were. “I think that would be amazing.”
There’s also history at stake here. Brunson’s ten WSOP bracelets put him one behind Hellmuth for the all-time lead. But this year is different, the bracelet is still there and so is the prize money, but maybe more importantly for Doyle, the winner of this year’s event walks away with the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy. WSOP management wanted to honor Reese, who won the first event in 2006, with a trophy.
“When do I get to see the trophy?,” Brunson asked tournament staff as he prepared to un-bag his chips for Day 4. Just like the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup the winner will get one year with the trophy before returning it the next year. The trophy has been kept under wraps and will be unveiled prior to Sunday’s final table.
To Brunson that trophy means something a little more special, Reese was his closest friend and the sudden death hit him hard. To ensure that Reese is with him throughout the tournament Brunson has been wearing a gold cross medallion with some of Reese’s ashes in it.
“He’s with me,” Brunson said on Day 1. With the number of top level players who keep making their way over to check on Brunson’s progress through Day 4, the whole poker world is with him.