Other than Hold’em, the game with the longest and richest tradition at the World Series of Poker is most certainly Seven-Card Razz -- sometimes called “Razz,” for short.
It’s a peculiar game. For instance, you don’t want to be dealt any Royal Flushes in Razz. You’ll go broke quickly, if you do. In fact, the object of the game is to make the worst (or lowest) possible ranked hand.
That’s right. You want bad cards. Trash. Garbage. Bricks. But the game is hardly for losers.
The illustrious list of former Razz champions reads like a “Who’s Who” of poker. Former gold bracelet winners include -- Billy Baxter, Doyle Brunson, Eskimo Clark, T.J. Cloutier, Ted Forrest, Linda Johnson, Berry Johnston, O’Neil Longson, Lakewood Louie, Tom McEvoy, Huck Seed, Barry Greenstein, Jeffrey Lisandro, Frank Kassela and others ho have pretty much written the history of poker by themselves.
The first-ever Razz champion was legendary Sam Angel, one of the most (how does one phrase this?) colorful personalities ever to burst upon Las Vegas. He won the inaugural event held at Binion’s Horseshoe, in 1973. Angel was a complete contradiction of his given name (he was hardly “angelic”), and is often remembered as a surly, abrasive figure. He often wore loud checkered jackets and slurred ceaseless profanities. And, that was his good side. When he was at the poker table, things usually got worse.
Perhaps in part due to Angel’s two early victories in Razz and his undeniably cantankerous demeanor, the poker variant developed (an undeserved) reputation as the perfect game for sour-faced nits. It’s certainly changed since the early days of Angel's antics. Yet the game remains as a bone fide WSOP tradition, with as interesting a history of any tournament held annually, other than the WSOP Main Event.
The Razz championship was televised by ESPN once, back in 2004. That was one of the most interesting tournament final tables ever shown. There were several interesting personalities among the eight finalists and lots of table chatter. However, the game was never broadcast again, presumably because it was difficult for viewers to follow and confusing (to novices) since the object of the game was the make the worst/lowest hand. Which is a real shame, as the following years would prove to be just as unusual.
This event has also been particularly kind to the ladies. Two women have won this event in the past – former Card Player magazine owner and editor, Linda Johnson (1997) and German poker pro Katja Thater (2007).
The 2005 Razz championship was one of the longest final tables in WSOP history. That finale clocked in at a mind-numbing 16 hours – which set a WSOP record at the time. The Razz mark stood for three years until the 2008 WSOP Europe Main Event final table, which lasted 19 hours.
Perhaps 2007 included the oddest episode of any Razz tournament in history. Late in the tournament when players finally reached the money, ex-champ “Eskimo” Clark sat alone as the chip leader. Then suddenly, he suffered a heart attack in the middle of the tournament, hitting the floor at the Rio while paramedics rushed to the rescue. Incredibly, Clark not only brushed off medical assistance, he demanded being allowed to continue to play. Half a pack of smokes and a dozen hot wings later, Clark did indeed continue and ended up finishing in fourth place, while an emergency stretcher was conspicuously parked near tableside.
After an Angel, a marathon, and even a heart attack – it’s hard to imagine what might come up next in the wild wacky game of Razz.
The answer appears to be – Rep Porter.
Rep Porter (a.k.a. Ralph Porter) won the most recent tournament held at the 2011 World Series of Poker. The event was a $2,500 buy-in Razz championship, which attracted 363 entries. Porter won $210,615 in prize money for finishing first. He was also presented with his second WSOP gold bracelet, symbolizing the ultimate achievement in the game. Porter's previous win took place in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em, in 2008.
Porter's path to victory was not easy. It took four days and every bit if skill and energy in his reservoir to achieve a most satisfying win. Among those who tested Porter were runner up Stephen Su, and two former gold bracelet winners who made it to the final table – Robert Williamson III (who finished 4th) and Chris Bjorin (who finished 6th).
Among the other former gold bracelet winners who cashed in this tournament were: John Monnette (13th), David Sklansky (21st), Chau Giang (25th), Dan Idema (28th), David Warga (31st), Perry Friedman (34th) and Chris Viox (37th).
Alas, Rep Porter may not have very much in common with the late Sam Angel. Porter seems like a nice enough guy. But Porter does share at least two similarities with the legend from WSOP past. Both players have double gold bracelets. And both players have proven themselves to be outstanding Razz champions.
For a comprehensive recap of Event #44 including the official report, please visit the WSOP.com later.