A Senior Moment

James Hess Wins Seniors World Championship

Biggest Seniors Event in History – 3,752 Entrants Shatters Previous Record Set in 2010

Talent Manager Collects WSOP Gold Bracelet and Half-Million Dollar Prize

2011 WSOP Passes Halfway Point

Full House at the 2011 WSOP-- Tournament Attendance Still Up Double Digits Over Last Year

30 Gold Bracelets Won – 28 More Still to Go


Poker is a natural pastime for all seniors.  It may very well be the only competitive game which allows persons 50, 60, 70, or even 80-years and older to compete on an equal playing field with opponents who are in their 20s and 30s.  

Where else but a poker table could a 61-year-old grandmother become a “world champion,” as happened a few years ago when Clare Miller won a WSOP gold bracelet?

Where else but a poker table could a crusty 80-year-old Korean War vet outplay and outwit more than a thousand other competitors, which occurred when Paul McKinney won his gold bracelet?

Where else but a poker table can seniors proudly use all the knowledge and experience life has given them, and at the same time -- feel young again?

Well, everyone in the universe who could make it to Las Vegas and post a $1,000 buy-in seems to agree.

This year’s Seniors No-Limit Hold'em Championship attracted the largest turnout in poker history -- with a whopping 3,752 entries.  Incredibly, attendance was up nearly 20 percent over last year's turnout, which was then an all-time record.  In fact, the capacity crowd represented the largest single-day start for any live tournament in poker history.

That may take a moment to sink in.  So, let’s repeat slowly:  The Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship was the busiest day in live poker history.

The 2011 champion is James Hess, from Encino, CA.  He earned $557,435 in prize money -- the biggest payout ever for what is commonly known as the “Seniors World Poker Championship.”  Hess was also presented with his first-ever WSOP gold bracelet, the game's ultimate achievement.  This marked Hess' third time to cash at the WSOP.

Predictably, the battle was not easy.  What was originally planned as a three-day competition extended into an early morning fourth day, when the action concluded just shy of 4 am.  Hess made trip sixes on the final hand of the tournament, topping his final adversary, Richard Harwood -- who showed two pair.

With the conclusion of Event #30, the 2011 WSOP has now crossed the midway point -- both in terms of total days and number of events.  So far, several attendance and prize money records have been set at the Rio in Las Vegas.

For a comprehensive recap of Event #30, please visit the WSOP.com tournament portal page HERE.


The 2011 World Series of Poker $1,000 buy-in Seniors No-Limit Hold’em champion is James Hess, from Encino, CA.

Hess is a 50-year-old talent manager.  He turned 50 in May, becoming the youngest Senior winner in history.

Hess is originally from Cambridge, MA.

Hess is a graduate of the University of Southern California.

Hess is married and has two children.

Hess’ first recorded live tournament cash took place in 2010. 

Hess’ best previous showing was a second-place finish in a tournament at the Venetian.  His best prior WSOP finish was a 32nd-place finish.

Hess has been coming to the WSOP for the past seven years.

For his victory, Hess collected $557,435 for first place. 

According to official records, Hess now has 1 win, 1 final table appearance, and 3 in-the-money finishes at the WSOP.

Hess currently has $575,073 in career WSOP winnings.

Hess is to be classified as an amateur poker player (in WSOP records and stats), since he plays recreationally and has a full-time job. 


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

The final table contained no former gold bracelet winners – which is the sixth finale this year which guaranteed a first-time winner.

Only two nations were represented at the final table – Great Britain (1 player) and the United States (8 players). 

The runner up was Richard Harwood, from Granada Hills, CA.  He earned a very nice consolation prize amounting to    $342,407.  Harwood is a television director.  He has directed many notable shows, including The Incredible Hulk, Sheriff Lobo, Harper Valley PTA, and several Bob Hope Show specials.  Harwood has also directed sports programming, including the Olympic Games.

The eighth-place finisher was Walter Browne, from Berkley, CA.  During the 1960s and 1970s, he lived in New York and was regarded by many authorities as the second-best chess player in the United States, behind Bobby Fischer (at one time, a world champion grandmaster).  He is a six-time U.S. national chess champion.

Final table play began at 9:20 pm on a Sunday evening.  Played concluded early Monday morning at 3:45 am. 

The final table was played on ESPN’s so-called secondary 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. 


The top 396 finishers collected prize money.

Among former gold bracelet winners who cashed in this tournament -- aside from those who made the final table – were the following players:  Andre Boyer (42), Mike “Little Man” Sica (88), Susie Isaacs (132), Rich Korbin (138), Mike Carson (139), Mike Carson (139) and others.

Paul Magriel, the former world champion backgammon player who is now a tournament circuit regular, finished in 50th place.

Dr. Bruce Van Horn (Ada, OK) finished in 56th place.  He is best known as runner up in the 1996 Main Event Championship, won by Huck Seed.

Rene Angelil (Henderson, NV) enjoyed a min-cash in this tournament.  He is the husband-manager of international superstar Celine Dion, and an avid poker player.

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. 


This was the largest seniors-related poker tournament in history.  Attendance shattered the previous record, set at last year’s WSOP.  The total number of entries at 3,752 surpassed the 201 figure by 610 players (3,142).  This represents a 19 percent increase in attendance, an almost unconscionable turnout given that last year’s attendance was the largest in history by a 16% margin from the previous year.

Moreover, this was the largest single-day start of any live poker tournament in history.  Even the previous record setting WSOP Main Event Championships of recent years had four Day Ones, meaning the 3,752 players who began the start of this event constituted the largest live field in one place at any one time in poker history.

WSOP officials called Friday, June 17th the busiest day in poker history.  Nearly 6,000 players were processed through the Rio in various WSOP-sanctioned tournaments which began on that day.  This is a 24-hour record for any establishment.

The most senior “Senior” in the field was 87-year-old Tony Grand Cantalup (yes, that’s his name).  When he was introduced to the huge crowd Grand Cantalup grabbed the microphone and stated, “I’m not sure which is going to last longer in this tournament, me or my chips!”

Three players in the field were 87-years-old.  There were four 86-year-olds who played.

This is the 922nd 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 pm.  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.

Hess’ gold bracelet ceremony took place on Monday, June 20th.  The national anthem of the USA was played in honor of his victory.


The Seniors Poker Championship has been successful due in part to the efforts of “Oklahoma” Johnny Hale, who is known as the “Elder Statesman of Poker.”  Hale has organized many senior’s poker events over the years.  Prior to the start of this year’s Seniors Championship, Hale addressed the large crowd.  He conducted the annual “Roll Call,” which provides for a moment of silence and reflection on behalf of many deceased poker greats, such as Benny Binion, Johnny Moss, and others.  Hale is also the caretaker of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame.  During a break on the first day of play, all living members of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame were photographed as a group on the main stage inside the Pavilion. 

This year’s tournament awarded the famous “Golden Eagle” trophy, which is engraved with the winner’s name(s).  The trophy is a keepsake that is passed forward from champion to champion, similar to the tradition of the Stanley Cup in the National Hockey League.

To be eligible for entry into the Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship, the entrant must be age 50 or older -- which means the player had to have been born prior to June 17, 1961.

A tournament similar to the Seniors World Poker Championship was first played in 1993.  It was spread at various locations in California and Nevada during the first eight years of its existence.  Then, in 2001 an exclusive event for seniors was added to the WSOP schedule.  Jay Heimowitz won the first official WSOP Seniors championship gold bracelet.

A woman has won the Seniors Championship just once.  That took place in 2006 when Clare Miller was the winner.

The oldest winner was Paul McKinney, who was 80-years-old when he won the Seniors Championship in 2005.  McKinney, from West Virginia made a famous quip following his victory.  He shared his secret for success by saying, "I like moonshine whisky, big cigars and young women."

The Seniors event is a No-Limit Hold’em tournament.  This has been the game since inception at the WSOP in 2001.  The buy-in has always been $1,000.


The tournament was played over four days.  It was originally scheduled to last three days.  But the record field side made that impossible.

Day One began with 3,752 entries and ended with 529 survivors.

Day Two began with 529 players and ended with 36 survivors.

Day Three began with 36 players, which played down to the winner.

The tournament officially began on Friday, June 17th at noon.  The tournament officially ended early Monday morning, June 20th, at 3:45 am.


Through the conclusion of Event #29, players from the follow states have combined for the following number of in-the-money finishes.  The current state leaderboard reads as follows:

Nevada – 424 cashes

California – 408 cashes

Florida – 178 cashes

Texas – 155 cashes

New York – 148 cashes

Through the conclusion of Event #29, players who have entered the most WSOP gold bracelet events are as follows:

Tom Dwan – 26

Shannon Shorr –22

Justin Smith – 22

Michael “Grinder” Mizrachi – 21

Sorel Mizzi – 20

Steven Kelly – 20

Jason Mercier – 20

Dan Heimiller – 20

Through the conclusion of Event #29, players who have cashed in the most WSOP gold bracelet events are as follows:

Kirill Rabtsov – 5 cashes

Shaun Deeb – 5 cashes

14 players tied with 4 cashes each

Through the conclusion of Event #29, female players who have cashed in the most WSOP gold bracelet events are as follows:

Melanie Weisner – 4 cashes

Jennifer Tilly – 2 cashes

Cyndy Violette – 2 cashes

Erica Schoenberg – 2 cashes

Joanne Monteavaro – 2 cashes

Svetlana Gromenkova – 2 cashes


Through the conclusion of Event #30, the 2011 WSOP has attracted 37,773 combined total entries.  $56,871,510 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 (20)

Great Britain (3)

Canada (3)

France (2)

Russia (1)

Ukraine (1)

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

United States (15)

Great Britain (3)

Canada (3)

France (2)

Ukraine (2)

Israel (1)

Russia (1)

Honduras (1)

Indonesia (1)

Germany (1)

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

California (4)

Nevada (3)

New York (3)

Texas (2)

Illinois (2)

New Jersey (1)

Florida (1)

Tennessee (1)

Connecticut (1)

Indiana (1)

Maryland (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 (24):  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, Mark Radoja, Chris Viox, Dan Idema, Andy Frankenberger, Chris Lee

Semi-Pros (3):  Sean R. Drake, Amir Lehavot, Oleksii Kovalchuk

Amateurs (3):  Geffrey Klein, Foster Hays, James Hess

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 24 out of 30 events being won by pros.

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the victories of 7 of the 30 winners (23 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, no player has yet won two gold bracelets (this year).

The streak of consecutive male WSOP gold bracelet winners has now reached 192 consecutive events.  Aside from the annual Ladies 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, who finished second ($5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em) and Kim Nguyen, who 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 finished in sixth place after winning the previous $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw Lowball World Championship.

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 6,350 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

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 added to his record as the individual all-time leader in cashes (80) and final table appearances (41), with his second-place finish in the Deuce-to-Seven Lowball Championship (Event #16).

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

Note:  All results are now official and may be reprinted by media.  If you are posting these results on a website, we would appreciate providing a link back to:  WSOP.com