Preface:  This year marks the tenth anniversary of the World Series of Poker being played at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  During this series, we’ll occasionally take a look back at the highlights from each of the past ten years.  Today’s feature looks back at the most memorable moments from 2010
 
The 2010 World Series of Poker shattered previous records for overall attendance and prize money.  Tournament attendance increased significantly from the previous record-setting year, when there were 60,875 entries.  In 2010, there were 72,966 total entries -- an increase of 20 percent.  Hence, 2010 was the biggest WSOP of all time as measured by total participation.  Not only that, but the WSOP crossed the billion-dollar mark in all-time prize money awarded.  [See Footnote 1]

Growth was also illustrated in the diversity of nations that participated in the series that summer.  Turnout was the broadest ever assembled for a poker event.  The Main Event drew players from 92 different nations and territories.  Overall, there were players from 117 different nations and territories who participated in WSOP events.

The 2010 WSOP lasted 53 days, including the two days associated with the November Nine.  There were 57 gold bracelet events held, the same number as the previous year.

Notable winners including Men “The Master” Nguyen, who earned his seventh career gold bracelet.  Matt Matros also won, which would be his first of three wins in consecutive years (he also won titles in 2011 and 2012).  Steve Gee won a gold bracelet, foreshadowing two deep runs he’d late make in the Main Event (9th in 2012 and 24th in 2013).  Eric Buchman won a title as well, fresh off his fourth-place finish in the Main Event the previous year.  

Other memorable wins included Phil Ivey’s eighth career gold bracelet, Sam Farha's third, and Dutch Boyd's second.  Scott Montgomery, a 2008 November Niner, made it to the winner’s circle for the first time.  And the insufferable Gavin Smith, who attracted a packed gallery of supporters, finally won his first WSOP gold bracelet, certainly one of the year’s most sentimental moments.

The series wasn’t without some controversy.  The Ladies Championship, which is an annual event designed to celebrate women in poker and encourage more to play the game, was invaded by more than a dozen male players.  The men who entered drew widespread criticism, initiating rules changes in subsequent years designed to protect the traditions of the event.

Frank Kassela was the only multiple gold bracelet winner that year.  He won two events, and wrapped up the WSOP Player of the Year honor.  Kassela finished with six cashes, three final table appearances, four top-ten finishes, and a cash in the Main Event.

The biggest revision to occur in 2010 was expanding the mix of games in the $50,000 buy-in Poker Players Championship.  From its inaugural year in 2006, HORSE was the format that was used, with No-Limit Hold’em played at the final table that year.  The 2010 PPC saw an eight-game mix introduced to the structure.  Games added included No-Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha, and Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw Lowball.  The final table returned to a No-Limit Hold’em only format.    

Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi enjoyed a career year at the WSOP, finally earning his first gold bracelet after years of success elsewhere, but no wins in the world's biggest tournament series.  Mizrachi won the Poker Players Championship in dramatic fashion, then followed up that success with a final table appearance in the Main Event, ultimately finishing in fifth place.

In fact, the Mizrachi family was arguably the biggest story of the entire year.  Michael not only faced his brother Robert at the PPC final table (only the third time in history siblings had played in a final together for a gold bracelet), but all four Mizrachi brothers cashed in the Main Event, an astounding achievement unlikely ever to be equaled again.

Six Canadians won gold bracelets in 2010, but none was bigger than the victory by Montreal's Jonathan Duhamel.  Two Canadians had previously finished as the runners-up in the Main Event (Harold Goldfarb in 1995 and Tuan Lam in 2007).  However, Duhamel, who was then a 23-year-old online poker pro, became the first Canadian World Champion ever.  He collected a whopping $8,944,310 in prize money. He was also presented with the widely-cherished and universally-revered gold and diamond-encrusted gold bracelet, representing the game’s sterling achievement.

The triumph was both a mental and physical marathon.  Duhamel overcame a huge field of 7,319 entrants who entered what was the second-largest WSOP Main Event in history. The No Limit Hold’em tournament began on July 5th and took more than four months to complete once you factored in the customary recess prior to the November Nine.

Duhamel's route to victory was a determined one, albeit peppered with a few detours.  He arrived at the final table with the chip lead. He held about one-third of the total chips in play when action began and beat out John Racener heads-up for the bracelet.

The year 2010 marked only second time in history no Las Vegas-based players appeared at the Main Event final table (2008 was the other).  The average age of participants was 37.  However, eight of the nine players who made it to the final table were age 29 or younger, once again illustrating the skill savvy of younger players that began with the poker boom.

The November Nine closed out with what became known as “Poker’s Biggest Night.”  On the final night of play during a break, poker greats Dan Harrington and Erik Seidel were both inducted into Poker Hall of Fame.  Their moment of glory combined with the emergence of new stars that year all contributed to a WSOP that was not just bigger than ever before, but also filled with more memories for those lucky enough to have been there to witness history in the making.

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[Footnote 1] – Here’s the annual prize money breakdown by year leading up to 2010:

2010 -- $187,109,850
2009 -- $174,011,894
2008 -- $180,774,427
2007 -- $159,796,918
2006 -- $159,599,815
1970-2005 -- $354,000,000