Back at the beginning of it all, in 1970, a guy named Johnny Moss was elected by his peers as the first World Champion of Poker and received a silver cup as a prize. A year later, in 1971, he defeated a field of six (including himself) and was awarded the championship title and a total of $30,000 . Flash forward 42 years to 2012, and a guy named Greg Merson was declared the World Champion of poker and took home $8,531,853 after defeating a field of 6,598 players. Now it is the 44th annual World Series of Poker and it continues to amaze us; it continues to create millionaires and change lives forever. Who will be this year’s WSOP Champion?
Here’s the latest from the floor at the Rio:
Event 45 drew a field of 678 to the poker tables to battle each other in the $1,500 Ante-Only No-Limit Hold’em tournament. Ben Volpe, The 26-year-old from Chicago, Illinois, comfortably ran through that field until he was heads-up with Paul Lieu. Then it turned into a back and forth war where, for a while, it looked like Volpe was through. He was holding a pair of queens and snap called an all-in by Lieu holding pocket fours. The river gave Lieu the win with trip fours and it seemed as though Volpe just gritted his teeth, recouped his poker chips and went in for the kill. Volpe took the WSOP title, his first gold bracelet and $201,399.
Vladimir Shchemelev, 40 years old from St. Petersburg, Russia, championed event 46, a $3,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Low tournament. Shchemelev outlasted a fairly heavy field of 435 players chasing the dream, among them Mike Matusow, Gavin Smith, Joe Hachem and several other prior bracelet winners. Shchemelev fought heads-up against two-time bracelet winner Mel Judah and came out on top to win his first gold bracelet and WSOP title plus $279,094 to celebrate his victory.
Marco Johnson, a 27-year-old poker professional from Walnut Creek, California, finally wraps his first gold bracelet around his wrist. Johnson has been close before. He came in second in the same event last year and just a few days ago he was runner up yet again. But, he wasn’t satisfied and this time in event 48, a $2,500 Six-Handed Limit Hold’em event, he held tough and outplayed a total field of 343 players and easily defeated Jeff Thompson heads-up to finally take home the bracelet that has eluded him in the past, along with a 2013 Championship title and $206,796.
And so the 44th Annual World Series of Poker, in what has now become traditional, continues to amaze, continues to make millionaires and continues to change lives.