Last year the World Series of Poker (WSOP) decided to change things up and move the WSOP Europe series from London to France. A decision initially met with skepticism ended up being a huge success with record breaking numbers and memorable bracelet winners.
This year's WSOPE is just two weeks away and will return to the picturesque shores of Cannes, France and the Barriere Casino for the sixth installment of the series. Before we kick off the festivities for 2012, let's look back at the highlights of the WSOP's maiden voyage to France with a photo retrospective from photographer Jonathan Boncek, who captured both the on and off the felt moments that made the 2011 WSOPE such a success:
A bracelet is still a bracelet, even across the pond. In 2011, seven lucky players earned gold in Europe, starting with Guillaume Humbert (right), who defeated Azusa Maeda heads-up to claim the €2,680 buy-in Six-Handed No Limit Hold'em bracelet. Humbert was the only European to earn a bracelet last year, with five bracelets going to Americans and one bracelet going to Aussie Andre Hinrichson.
The Hotel Majestic Barriere (pictured) served as the official host of the tournament, but the events were actually split between the hotel and Le Croisette Casino Barriere, located on the famous thoroughfare Croisette in Cannes, just steps from the beach.
There were plenty of sites to see and things to do in Cannes, but for players like Phil Hellmuth, poker came first. Hellmuth got down to business early, making a run at his 12th bracelet in the opening event, but he bubbled the final table of the six-handed event, taking seventh. While Hellmuth didn't pick up his twelfth in France, the man whose 2011 was defined by near misses returned to the winner's circle at this summer's WSOP. And, while Hellmtuh was all business in Cannes, the photo-bombing Daniel Negreanu reminds us there was plenty of fun to be had at WSOPE as well.
Any tilt at the poker tables had to dissipate a little with sunsets like these.
Since the inception of the "November Nine" concept in 2008, at least one of the Main Event final tablists have found their way to the final table in Europe.In 2008, Ivan Demidov established himself as a real contender for the Main Event title by final tabling the WSOPE Main Event. The following year, Antoine Saout and James Akenhead accomplished the same feat. In 2010 John Racener did not final table the WSOPE Main Event, but his fifth place showing in the PLO event continued the November Niner streak. Last year, it was Eoghan O'Dea (pictured) who found European success, final tabling the No Limit Hold'em Shootout event, finishing ninth. Who will it be this year?
Another former November Niner who thrived in Cannes was Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi. Sandwiched in between his two $50,000 Poker Players Championship victories is The Grinder's second bracelet, won in Cannes in the first-ever WSOP Mixed-Max event that tested playrs' prowess in nine-handed, six-handed, and heads-up No Limit Hold'em play. Even with a formidable opponent, Shawn Buchanan, standing in his way in the finals, Mizrachi still prevailed to win his second bracelet in another historical WSOP event along with a more than €330,000 payday.
Mizrachi was one of a number of American bracelet winners along with Steve Bilirakis and Tristan wade, but the US success extended beyond just bracelets. The second annual Caesars Cup once again pitted the Americas vs. Europe, this time with the teams captained by Phil Hellmuth and Bertrand Grospellier respectively. Europe may have prevailed during the original Caesars Cup back in 2009, but it was Americas' year this year as (L to R) Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu, Ben Lamb, Jason Mercier, and Hellmuth (not pictured) brought the trophy across the Atlantic for the first time.
The Caesars Cup as well as the WSOPE Main Event both unfolded before the cameras. The crew was on hand to capture the action, which later aired on ESPN and around the world, so that those who couldn't be there in person to witness it could still be part of the action of the largest Main Event in WSOPE history, which drew 593 players and generated a prize pool worth almost €5.7 million.
The ESPN crew had a star-studded line-up to work with at the WSOPE Main Event final table, which featured a range of young international players, including Moritz Kranich, Shawn Buchanan, Brian Roberts, Jake Cody, and Patrik Antonius. The final table also featured a tight WSOP Player of the Year race as Chris Moorman (right) tried to pass Ben Lamb in the standings. Moorman needed a victory to take the lead, but Elio Fox (left) had other plans in mind...
The patriotic Elio Fox became the fifth and final American gold bracelet winner of the 2011 WSOPE, taking down the Main Event and pocketing the biggest payday in WSOPE history worth €1,400,000. Fox also forced 2010 champ James Bord to eat a little crow and pay out a little money, as he placed several bets that a European would end up on top in one of the biggest events on the European poker circuit.
Fox's record-setting WSOPE Main Event victory ended the 2011 WSOPE with a bang. However, though the sun has set on the 2011 WSOPE, the 2012 event is just days away. It is not too late to book a room right on the shore so you can take in all the sights, sounds, and scores the 2012 WSOPE is sure to offer. For more information on hotel reservations, please see the WSOPE accommodations page on WSOP.com