NUMBER CRUNCH: The Last 10 WSOP Main Event Champions


Martin Jacobson came from a long way back to win the 2014 WSOP Main Event (WSOP photo)

Over the past decade, more often than not, the guy with the most chips has not walked out of the Rio in Las Vegas with the bracelet. Sure, Joe McKeehen cruised to victory last year, as did Jamie Gold before them, but a quick look at the chip counts can tell you quite a bit about how varied the past decade of Main Event Champs’ paths to victory have been. Let’s take a look at them, by the numbers.

0 – Number of hands at the final table both Jamie Gold and Joe McKeehen didn’t hold the chip lead. Both players came in with massive stacks and never experienced a moment where their tournament life was at risk from nine down to the bracelet.

1 – Times Cliff Josephy has been on stage in the Penn & Teller Theater during the Main Event championship. This year, two-time bracelet winner Josephy is the chip leader and in charge of his own destiny, but in 2009, he was memorably on hand to watch Joe Cada win the bracelet. The exuberant Josephy wasn’t just a good friend enthusiastically cheering Cada on—he had a financial interest as his backer. While that victory did not count towards his own bracelet total, Josephy does have the leg up on the competition when it comes to final table experience in the Main Event.

2 – Number of Main Event champions who bagged the chip lead on Day 1, then went on to win the entire tournament. In 2009, Joe Cada finished as Day 1C chip leader and eked into the final table seventh in chips. Five years later, Martin Jacobson had a similar trajectory, leading on Day 1A, making the final table eighth in chips, and going on to win.

4 – Average chip position at the start of the final table for the last ten WSOP Main Event champions. Three times, including last year, the chip leader at the start of the final table came away with the bracelet, but the other seven times, someone came from behind to win. Interestingly, no player who was second in chips has gone on to win the bracelet, but twice the second-smallest stack has won, in 2007 when Jerry Yang’s sudden, aggressive approach threw his opponents off as he ascended the counts, and in 2014 when Martin Jacobson took home the title.

7 – Number of hands of heads-up play before Gold bested Paul Wasicka to win the 2006 Main Event. Gold dispatched with his opponent quicker than anyone, but there have been two other heads-up battles this decade which lasted fewer than 20 hands. Last year, it took McKeehen 12 hands to best Josh Beckley. In 2012, after hours of three-handed play, Greg Merson beat Jesse Sylvia after 17 hands of action.

25 – Percentage of the time the player who began two- or three-handed play with the chip lead on the final day of the November Nine has not won the event. In the eight years the delayed final table has been in place and split into two days of play, only Jorryt van Hoof and Jay Farber have come in with the lead and not left with the bracelet.

265 – Number of hands at the final table before Jacobson took the chip lead for the first time. There were only three players left by the time Jacobson reached the top spot on the counts. Sixty-three hands later, Jacobson was champion.

3,150 – Number of chips Ryan Riess grew his stack by from Day 1 to Day 2. During their Main Event runs, Riess and others haven’t experienced smooth sailing the entire way. A couple of players bagged less than they started with on some days, while others like Riess mainly tread water, starting with 72,250 and ending with 75,400.

50,000 – Approximate number of chips Greg Merson was left with during Day 5 after doubling up Fabrizio Gonzalez. While it was more than a starting stack, at that stage in the tournament it amounted to less than two big blinds. Merson managed to find double-up after double-up though and ended the day with an average stack. He also ended the tournament with his second bracelet and the WSOP Player of the Year title.

42,000,000 – Approximate chip count of the infamous hand in which 2010 champ Jonathan Duhamel eliminated Matt Affleck from the Main Event in 15th place, launching himself to the top of the counts where he would be with an impressive 65 million chips when they bagged and tagged five eliminations later and headed on their 100-day break.