Looking Back at 10 Years of $50,000 Poker Players Championships

2014 Poker Players Championship winner John Hennigan is back to defend his title.

2014 Poker Players Championship winner John Hennigan is back to defend his title.

The $50,000 Poker Players Championship is in its 10th year on the World Series of Poker schedule, and it looks a lot different today than it did when it was introduced as the $50,000 HORSE Championship in 2006.

It’s changed again for 2015, but before we get to that let’s take a look back at the history of what’s become one of poker’s most prestigious events.

2006: Chip Reese Wins Inaugural $50,000 HORSE

A decade feels like an eternity ago in the poker world, but it’s strange to think that an even of this caliber has only been on the schedule since 2006. After two long and grueling days of HORSE, which included a 19 hour Day 2 that lasted until 9:30 in the morning, a final table of nine was set.

The game changed to straight No Limit Hold’em for the TV cameras, which many felt favored the likes of Phil Ivey. While he did manage to get three-handed for the title, Chip Reese and Andy Bloch would eventually get heads-up for the first ever $50,000 HORSE title. After playing a match that lasted over seven and a half hours, Reese became the inaugural champion of a tournament that has his name attached to it to this day and earned his third career WSOP bracelet.

143 players, $6,864,000 prizepool
Top 5

  1. Chip Reese – $1,716,000
  2. Andy Bloch – $1,029,000
  3. Phil Ivey – $617,760
  4. Jim Bechtel – $549,120
  5. TJ Cloutier – $480,480

2007: Freddy Deeb Wins the Biggest Prize in $50K Championship History

The field grew to 148 for the second running of this tournament, which is tied for the biggest turnout ever for this event. The TV cameras were back, but rather than changing the game to No Limit Hold’em for the viewing audience it was played out as HORSE through to the end.

Freddy Deeb would eventually go head-to-head with Bruno Fitoussi for the biggest prize ever awarded to a $50,000 champion, with Deeb taking the chiplead for the first time at the final table after eliminating John Hanson in third place. After 15 hours of play, Deeb won over $2.2 million and his second bracelet by defeating Fitoussi just after 5 am.

148 players, $7,104,000 prizepool
Top 5

  1. Freddy Deeb – $2,276,832
  2. Bruno Fitoussi – $1,278,720
  3. John Hanson – $852,480
  4. Amnon Filippi – $586,080
  5. Kenny Tran – $444,000

2008: Scotty Nguyen Makes a Scene

With the tragic death of Reese at the end of 2007, a trophy bearing his name was crafted to be awarded to all future champions of this $50,000 event. For the second consecutive year the field reached 148 players, and for the second consecutive years ESPN cameras were there to film all of the HORSE action through to the end.

Scotty Nguyen infamously started to berate Michael DeMichele during their heads-up match, and it appeared that Nguyen was somewhat intoxicated as the final table rounded to a close. Nonetheless, Nguyen – the 1996 WSOP Main Event champion – became the first player to capture both of the biggest titles the WSOP had to offer after he dispatched DeMichele heads-up.

148 players, $7,104,000 prizepool
Top 5

  1. Scotty Nguyen – $1,989,120
  2. Michael DeMichele – $1,243,200
  3. Erick Lindgren – $781,440
  4. Matt Glantz – $568,320
  5. Lyle Berman – $444,000

2009: David Bach Survives a 20 Hour Final Table

bach_chipreesetrophyThe first serious dip in field size came with the news that the fourth $50,000 HORSE event would not be broadcast on ESPN. There were still 95 hopeful and eager pros vying for the title, one that featured seven new final tablists and John Hanson, who hoped to improve on his previous third place finish.

He’d eventually get heads-up with David Bach, but Hanson would once again fall short of the title. Bach’s win made him the first player to win his first career WSOP bracelet in the $50,000 HORSE event.

95 players, $4,560,000 prizepool
Top 5

  1. David Bach – $1,276,802
  2. John Hanson – $789,199
  3. Erik Sagström – $522,394
  4. Vitaly Lunkin – $368,813
  5. Huck Seed – $276,610

2010: Return of the No Limit Hold’em Final Table for TV

mizrachis_PPCwinAfter a year away, the ESPN crew came back to film this tournament – one of a number of changes for 2015. The $50,000 HORSE event became the Poker Players Championship, implementing an 8 Game format that added No Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha and Deuce to Seven Triple Draw to the mix.

The final table would once again transition to No Limit Hold’em play, and the field size climbed significantly from the previous year along the way. The final five players included brothers Michael and Robert Mizrachi, with Michael ultimately faring the best among the pair. He’d go on to defeat Vladimir Shchemelev heads-up to win the first WSOP bracelet of his distinguished career

116 players, $5,568,000 prizepool
Top 5

  1. Michael Mizrachi – $1,559,046
  2. Vladimir Shchemelev – $963,375
  3. David Oppenheim – $603,348
  4. John Juanda – $436,865
  5. Robert Mizrachi – $341,429

2011: Hellmuth Sees it Slip Away to Rast

rast_WSOP2011 followed the same format as 2010 with 8 Game through the final table and No Limit Hold’em for the television cameras. The field grew for the second straight year, with 128 players vying for the Chip Reese trophy. Once the final table was set Phil Hellmuth highlighted the final eight, and he had designs on winning his 12th career bracelet and the Poker Players Championship in one fell swoop.

It look like he’d shake off two previous runner-up finishes at the 2011 WSOP when he got heads-up with Brian Rast holding a 5-to-1 chiplead, but on three separate occasions a flush draw failed to get there in an all in situation. The first two earned Rast doubles and the third spelled the end for Hellmuth, who settled for second-best for the third time in 2011 while Rast grabbed his second bracelet victory of that summer.

128 players, $6,144,000

Top 5

  1. Brian Rast – $1,720,328
  2. Phil Hellmuth – $1,063,034
  3. Minh Ly – $665,763
  4. Owais Ahmed – $482,058
  5. Matt Glantz – $376,750

2012: Mizrachi Wins Again

mizrachiX2The ESPN cameras ceased covering the Poke Players Championship for good in 2012, leading to a transition back to 8 game through the entirety of the final table. The final three players set up a dramatic finale, as Michael Mizrachi attempted to win his second title and 2006 runner-up Andy Bloch hoped to break through and finish one spot better.

They took on young pro Chris Klodnicki, with Bloch falling out in third place. Compared to Bloch’s final table in 2006 this one was comparatively a breeze, with Mizrachi running away to victory in a final table that lasted less than five days. “It’s the best you could ever run at a final table,” said Mizrachi. “The cards went my way, and I think I played my best. When I got down to heads-up with Chris, it just kind of fell apart [for him]. I was just getting all the cards.”

Mizrachi became the first to hoist the Chip Reese trophy twice, taking down his third career bracelet in the process.

108 players, $5,184,000
Top 5

  1. Michael Mizrachi – $1,451,527
  2. Chris Klodnicki – $896,935
  3. Andy Bloch – $561,738
  4. Luke Schwartz – $406,736
  5. Roland Israelashvili – $317,882

2013: Matt Ashton Caps a Tremendous Breakout Summer

ashtonThe field surged again in 2013, growing to 132 players to make it the biggest one since 2008. There was quite a bit of fresh blood at the final table, with only Minh Ly making his second PPC final table appearance, and in a nearly yearly occurrence a Main Event champion (Jonathan Duhamel) was also among the final eight.

Future WSOP POY George Danzer took fifth, future PPC champion John Hennigan finished third but the heads-up battle for the title would take place between Matt Ashton and Don Nguyen. Ashton would go on to claim the $50,000 PPC bracelet to cap a tremendous summer – one that nearly led to his winning 2013 WSOP POY honors, had it not been for a late run by Daniel Negreanu.

132 players, $6,336,000
Top 5

  1. Matt Ashton – $1,774,089
  2. Don Nguyen – $1,096,254
  3. John Henningan – $686,568
  4. David Benyamine – $497,122
  5. George Danzer – $388,523

2014: Third Time’s the Charm for Johnny World

Despite the same format as the previous two years, the field size took a considerable tumble in 2014. Those who chose to play settled in to play for over $1.5 million and the title, and few seemed more determined than John Hennigan.

After finishing 12th and third in the previous two years, Hennigan made the final table again in 2014 with high hopes of making this one count. He got heads-up with then-WSOP POY frontrunner Brandon Shack-Harris and Hennigan dispatched the younger pro on the way to his third career WSOP bracelet.

102 players, $4,896,000 prizepool
Top 5

  1. John Hennigan – $1,517,767
  2. Brandon Shack-Harris – $937,975
  3. Jesse Martin – $594,570
  4. Abe Mosseri – $402,696
  5. Chun Lei Zhou – $286,122

2015: Adding to the Mix: The PPC Expands to 10 Games

For the first time in a number of years, there were a couple of significant changes made for the 2015 Poker Players Championship. The lineup was expanded from eight games to 10, adding No Limit Deuce to Seven and Badugi to the mix, and all tables were made six-Handed. The change met with a mixed reaction, but 84 players turned out to play for the $50K title.

Will defending champion Hennigan or past champions Ashton, Bach or Michael Mizrachi find victory again, or will it be a fresh face in year 10? Only time shall tell.

84 players, $3,696,000 prizepool
Top 5 Payouts

  1. $1,270,000
  2. $784,828
  3. $514,926
  4. $353,928
  5. $251,314
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Tim Fiorvanti

Tim Fiorvanti graduated from St. John's University with a B.S. in Journalism in 2008. After several years in the industry, he started working for BLUFF in the summer of 2010. He worked his way up at BLUFF and joined full time as a Senior Writer in April of 2012. Fiorvanti now serves as the Managing Editor of BLUFF. He's a tortured Mets and Jets fan, along with several other frustrating allegiances, but he's also a two-time defending BLUFF Fantasy Football Champion.
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