Hellmuth, Dwan, Duhamel & Merson: BLUFF Staff’s Top WSOP Moments

BLUFF-Staff-photoLater this week the 2015 World Series of Poker gets underway and BLUFF will be there to provide coverage as another 68 bracelets are awarded and more poker history is made. The four-man BLUFF team has a combined 30 years of WSOP coverage under their belts and for each of them there is one particular moment that stands out. In this edition of BLUFF 2015 WSOP Countdown each of the BLUFF staff reflect on their favorite WSOP moment.

Lance Bradley, Vice President, Content & Editor in Chief

This will be my 11th World Series of Poker. I’ve interviewed every Main Event winner in that time, and seen Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and Doyle Brunson all win bracelets but for me the moment that stands out the most was the night Greg Merson won his first bracelet. He beat out a final table that included Shannon Shorr, Eddy Sabat and Andrew Lichtenberger to win the $10,000 Six Max No Limit Hold’em for his first bracelet.

At the time I knew of Merson, but didn’t know much about him. When Nolan Dalla and I went to interview him after he won he told the familiar story of his parents being reluctant to approve of his decision to be a pro poker player. I asked Merson what they would think now that he’d won a WSOP bracelet and Merson broke down crying. A show of emotion like that from a bracelet winner is really rare and it instantly humanized Merson for me and our readers. I remember tweeting that night that the interview with Merson that night was probably my favorite one ever.

It wasn’t until weeks later, when Merson made the 2012 November Nine, that a little birdie told me about Merson conquering substance abuse problems and that eventually lead me to write this story, about Merson’s personal triumphs, just weeks before Merson won the Main Event.

Tim Fiorvanti, Managing Editor

The WSOP moment that sticks out most clearly in my head is the night Phil Hellmuth won his 12th career bracelet. A lot of poker memories blend together after so many long summers, but there was so much going on that night that crystallized a lot of the details in my head.

It had been five years since Hellmuth had won his then record-setting 11th WSOP bracelet, and he was one year removed from one of the most impressive and yet frustrating summers of all time, where he finished second on three different occasions.

As if there wasn’t enough drama that night, Phil Ivey – the man that most tab as the greatest threat to Hellmuth’s record – was simultaneously playing for his ninth bracelet in the next room over.

The crowds were big in both rooms, but the $1,500 Razz final table was up on the stage in the Pavilion Room with the whole room able to look on as Hellmuth aimed to make more history – by extending his record, and winning his first non-Hold’em bracelet.

Hellmuth outlasted the likes of Barry Greenstein, Scott Fischman, Brendan Taylor and Michael Chow to get three-handed with Don Zewin and Brandon Cantu – two players Hellmuth had a lot of history with. Things swung in Hellmuth’s favor and he dispatched Cantu in third, leaving him to battle Zewin – the man who finished third to Hellmuth and Johnny Chan in the 1989 WSOP Main Event –  heads-up.

It started as a 1.3 million to 1 million chip lead for Hellmuth, and while Zewin never got closer than that it took Hellmuth about two hours to finally finish off the tricky Zewin. At the same time, Ivey finished second to Andy Frankenberger and Hellmuth had a four bracelet lead as he enjoyed a lengthy celebration of his 12th career WSOP victory – during which he shook hands with nearly every fan in attendance.

Kevin Mathers, Poker Information Manager

My personal favorite memory is the first WSOP I attended, the 2010 November Nine. After spending several years as a part of the poker media, I decided to come out of hiding and get up close and personal with the game I had followed so long from afar.

I watched that final table high above the action in the skybox at the Penn and Teller Theatre, joined by other poker media members. Also in the skybox were a few French Canadian reporters more than willing to let the rest of us know they were rooting for the eventual champion, Jonathan Duhamel.

The final table was full of exciting action, but the biggest hand was towards the end of play that night when Joseph Cheong six-bet shoved with A-7 against Duhamel’s Q-Q. A short-stacked John Racener could not hold in the excitement of earning an additional $1,400,000 for a likely second place finish.

When heads-up play resumed Monday evening, Duhamel held a commanding lead over Racener, expecting a quick victory for Duhamel. Those expectations were met as Duhamel finished Racener off in less than two hours as Duhamel’s home town reporters couldn’t hold back their excitement.

Afterwards, Duhamel invited the media to attend the celebration in his Rio Palazzo suite as he and his friends, wearing Montreal Canadiens jerseys, partied hard well into the night.
The entire experience that weekend was all that I hoped for, and more.

Paul Oresteen, Senior Writer

When it comes to big WSOP moments, there was none bigger for me than the night Tom Dwan finished runner-up to Simon Watt in a $1,500 No Limit Hold’em event. It was 2010, the heyday of huge bracelet bets with Team Full Tilt, and while Dwan was at the final table laddering up, a $10,000 Championship event underway on the other side of the ESPN Feature Stage.

After every elimination, more and more players started to sweat the final table – most notably Phil Ivey and Mike Matusow. The Amazon Room was electric with rumors of up to seven-figures were on the line in total action.

Ultimately, Durr finished in second place, millions were saved and little-known Watt was the toast of the town. Matusow crashed the bracelet winner interview saying, “You’re gonna be famous kid. We’re gonna put your picture up on the wall of Bobby’s Room because you just saved the high stakes community.”

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