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We’re just one week into the 2021 World Series of Poker and already so much has happened. Bracelets have been won, the hallways have been packed, and, yes, Phil Hellmuth threw a fit in the Amazon room. The WSOP is back, it’s different, and so far it’s been fantastic. Not without its difficulties but the final series to take place in the Rio is, in fact, taking place. And with that, plenty of storylines have emerged - here are five of the biggest from the first seven days. #1. Reports of the WSOP’s Death Were Greatly Exaggerated No one was quite sure what they were going to find when they first stepped into the Rio this autumn. With the complicated information surrounding COVID’s Delta variant, the vaccination mandate, and the mask-optional exception it’s safe to say that there were plenty of questions as to who and how many players would show up. It became clear from Day 1 that players were more than willing to show up and show out. The Reunion, with its $5 million guarantee, blew the doors off the Rio as players flooded the hallways, packed the tables, and ended up crushing the guarantee. Masked and (presumably) vaxxed, all three rooms - the Pavilion, Brasilia, and Amazon, were lively and, at times, even rowdy. What could have been a muted sense of excitement, instead still had that electric feel of the summer series of years past. The FOMO was real for those who wanted to be on hand and those who predicted that the brand would take a big hit are going to have to wait a little longer to see, as the opening weekend concluded with a $600 Deepstack event that exceeded player projections. Sure, numbers will be down, how could they not. But spirits were not. A case in point is… #2. This What The WSOP Is All About Kenna James captured George McBride’s first WSOP cash on camera and everyone who watched it immediately had all the feels. https://twitter.com/Kenna_James/status/1444163921712017414?s=20 “It was just everything opening up,” McBride told PokerNews in an interview, getting misty just thinking about his run in The Reunion. “That was totally uncontrollable,” he said talking about his emotion and how he was playing in memory of friends who couldn’t be there with him and his family history of playing cards. And for many, that’s what the WSOP is all about. A pilgrimage to play with some of the best in the world and taking a shot to live your dream. #3. Jesse Klein Takes A Shot, Scores Direct Hit There’s been a handful of bracelets handed out this week from top pros like Jeremy Ausmus and Connor Drinan adding to their resumes to Long Ma outlasting the nearly 13,000 runner Reunion and turning his $500 into $513,604. But Jesse Klein’s first career gold bracelet win caught everyone off guard because it came in the $25,000 H.O.R.S.E. where he survived a field of 78 runners of mostly elite players to take home the $552,182 first-place prize. It seems Klein, a businessman who plays high-stakes mixed game cash, just flew out with the sole intention of playing this one event - his flight home booked at the end of the weekend. Along the way, he battled against pros like Ben Yu, David Benyamine, Daniel Negreanu, and Benny Glaser. But he really made headlines after besting 15-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth in a hand and sending Hellmuth into one of his famous rants. “He just went off and I loved it,” he said. “It made me laugh, all that kind of stuff cracks me up.” Klein demonstrated the other side of the WSOP - anyone with the will and the buy-in can come and compete. And sometimes, leave a champion. #4. Phil Hellmuth On A Heater Phil Hellmuth is off to one of his hottest starts at the World Series of Poker in years. The Poker Brat is on the prowl for gold bracelet #16 and had been making deep runs in every event he’s entered so far. His first score was in the $25K H.O.R.S.E. where he made the final table, but ultimately fell just a few spots short by busting in sixth place for $95,329. Days later he found himself deep in the $1,500 Dealers Choice where he fell in 18th place for another $4,429. Finally, at the time of this writing, Hellmuth is at yet another final table, this time in the $10K Omaha 8, where he will start the day with the short stack and a guaranteed payday of no less than $80,894. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1446037960311250951?s=20 But for Hellmuth, it’s all about the bracelet and fans will be tuning in to see if he can somehow climb the chip counts and make history once again. Hellmuth on a heater is decidedly “good for poker.” #5. Staff In Good Spirits But Lines, Technology Problems Persist To go along with the fact that the WSOP has been bustling with activity is the downside of that which has been lines. Everywhere you looked over the weekend, there were long - very long - lines. Lines to buy-in, lines to get your vaccination verified, lines to get your credit card registered, and, of course, lines to use the restroom. Some reports had the most egregious lines lasting three hours as a combination of tech and the players not having everything ready to go meant sometimes just to get a player all set up could take 4-5 (or more) minutes per person. With current conditions leaving some of the cages shorthanded, those waits could take time. Players, for the most part, remained patient with the understanding that once everything was verified, the process would be smoother. To their credit, the WSOP acknowledged the difficulties. They faced them head-on in morning announcements and worked to get better. The staff seemed to stay in good spirits which helped as well. By Saturday afternoon, if you picked the right time, you could get registered or have a credit card verified with minimal waits. However, technology problems continue to be an issue. From printers not working on the first day to, as recently as Wednesday, a complete outage when delayed the start time of some events and resulted in the cancelation of some side events, the tech issues have added some unnecessary stressors on WSOP staff. https://twitter.com/WSOP/status/1445843005710082056?s=20
Largely unknown Mixed Games player Jesse Klein won his first WSOP bracelet after taking down a final table stacked with stars at the 2021 World Series of Poker. The recruitment firm owner went from recreational hopeful to WSOP winner on a final day full of drama as one $25,000 event ended and another began. Hellmuth Rants, Glaser Denied As Klein Pulls Out The WIn All the focus at the start of the third day of WSOP action was on the final table of Event #2, the $25,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event which saw another mixed game specialist, British player Benny Glaser, go into the final table with the lead. It took little time for Matt Glantz to become the first casualty of the day as Phil Hellmuth took out his fellow American in Razz with a ten-five, with Glantz paired up and drawing dead on 6th street. Glantz cashed for $52,211. Next to go was DJ Buckley, who lasted just a few minutes more to bust in eighth place for $61,549. Buckley’s elimination to Ben Yu precipitated an extended period of play without a bust-out, but it was not short of drama as Hellmuth exploded at the end of losing a hand to eventual champion Klein. Folding on the river, Hellmuth declared his opponent’s start as "insane" and it was to serve as the opening bout in a war of words between the pair. It was some time before Yu busted in seventh place for $75,260, but that was only the warm-up act to another blow-up from Hellmuth as Klein scooped a second big pot against the 15-time WSOP bracelet winner. The Poker Brat was back as Hellmuth left the table, pacing the floor and cursing at his lack of fortune. Just a few hands later, Hellmuth was gone, out in sixth place for $95,329 after bricking every street in Seven Card Stud against Chad Eveslage. After the event, Hellmuth was keen to point out the benefits of his staying power in bringing his A-Game to the Rio. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1444470919204769803 Hellmuth’s bust-out started a flurry of them. Philip Sternheimer was crushed in the same format by Glaser to leave in fifth place for $124,935. The same winner of that hand took out the aforementioned Eveslage in fourth for $169,218 when Glaser’s pair of sevens with a low ace was enough to win both Hi and Lo to send his American rival to the rail. Glaser led at that stage, but over the course of two hours without an elimination, each man had their periods of domination as the chips moved between each man. French player David Benyamine’s neck was on the block when he lost on 7th street to Klein, who won the pivotal pot to go into heads-up with a massive lead of 10.1 million to Glaser’s 1.5m. Klein won his maiden bracelet not long after the final duel began, with his victory in a Seven Card Stud hand ending an entertaining event. While Glaser, who had already won three WSOP bracelets in his career called off his stack with a smile and will enjoy the second-place prize of $341,274. For Jesse Klein, however, it was the fulfillment of a dream as the recruitment firm owner capped an enjoyable two-day sojourn to Sin City with a WSOP bracelet and $552,182 score. Event #2 $25,000 H.O.R.S.E. Final Table Results: Jesse Klein - $552,182 Benny Glaser - $341,274 David Benyamine - $236,626 Chad Eveslage - $169,218 Philip Sternheimer - $124,935 Phil Hellmuth - $95,329 Ben Yu - $75,260 DJ Buckley - $61,549 Matt Glantz - $52,211 Jake Daniels Leads $25K NLHE, Michael Addamo Outsted Many of the H.O.R.S.E. field took to the 6th event on the schedule, the $25,000-entry NLHE High Roller that kicked off on Day 3 of the WSOP. With 135 entries in total, it was Jake Daniels who ended Day 1 top of the pile, bagging up 1,182,000 chips by close of play as one of only two players to "crack a milly." While Daniels was steady throughout, he did not dominate the leaderboard until the final two levels, eliminating Eric Worre and Daniel Negreanu to vault himself to the top of the chip counts, with Michael Liang (1,028,000) and James Chen (835,000) his nearest challengers. Elsewhere in the top 10 players, Jake Schindler (667,000) and Chance Kornuth (570,000) will be major threats when the action resumes on Day 2. Several superstars made the upper echelons of the leaderboard, but plenty of big names hit the rail too. Australia’s most successful tournament player of all-time, Michael Addamo busted both bullets so will not be eligible for re-entry on Day 2. Others to lose their stacks on Day 1 included Stephen Chidwick, Brian Altman, Kenny Hallaert, Koray Aldemir, Sam Grafton, Joseph Cheong, Ryan Riess, Jeremy Ausmus, Upeshka De Silva, and Niall Farrell whose epic journey to the World Series was common among those from outside the United States. At the close of play on Day 1, just 54 players made the counts, but with entry and re-entry possible on Day 2 right up until the start of play, that number is sure to swell with some of the best players in the world going for gold. Galen Hall was among those to express his relief at playing some live poker for the first time in a very long time. https://twitter.com/galenhall/status/1444423233160187904 Some of the biggest players in the world have already been drawn together for Day 2, with battles between Jake Schindler, Adrian Mateos and Mikita Badziakouski at one table just a single example of the level of quality in the event. Whoever grabs a final table place at the end of Day 2 will have earned it. Event #6 $25,000 No Limit Hold’em High Roller Top 10 Chipcounts: Jake Daniels - 1,182,000 Michael Liang - 1,028,000 James Chen - 835,000 Scott Eskenazi - 747,000 Jake Schindler - 667,000 Clayton Kalisek - 610,000 Alexandros Theologis - 594,000 Chance Kornuth - 570,000 Ankush Mandavia - 553,000 Brian Rast - 551,000 Brobyn Bags 5 Million During Reunion Day 2 The Reunion, otherwise known as Event #4 on this year’s 2021 WSOP schedule, saw a huge number of entries on Day 1b, as 4,455 players took to the felt and made it into the money. Several high-profile players busted out before 204 players bagged up for the night, with Maurice Hawkins, Shaun Deeb, and Brad Owen just three of the Day 1 casualties. Others thrived at the felt, however, and by close of play, it was Robert Brobyn who bagged the biggest stack of chips, an incredible 5,015,000 of them. That total was way clear of Brobyn’s nearest challenger on the day Tyler Jamieson (3,040,000) and Brobyn’s lead represents the overall tournament lead after two days. Others to pile up plenty of chips on Day 1b included two former WSOP bracelet winners in the form of Ronnie Bardah, who proved a ‘Survivor’ with 2,005,000, and Jeremy Wien (1,640,000). WSOP 2021 Event #4 $500 The Reunion Top 10 Chipcounts: Robert Brobyn - 5,015,000 Tyler Jamison - 3,040,000 Jared Ambler - 2,450,000 Ya Yun Liu - 2,445,000 Ryan Messick - 2,410,000 Elvis Toomas - 2,375,000 Darryl Ronconi - 2,030,000 Ronnie Bardah - 2,005,000 Randy Rhee - 1,990,000 Mark Lilomaiava - 1,765,000 Connor Drinan, Rob Mizrachi Top Omaha 8 Final 15 Event #5, the $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better, saw 230 players whittled down to just 15 by the close of Day 2. Of those 15 players, only Connor Drinan and Robert Mizrachi have won WSOP bracelets before, but with both men at the top of the chipcounts, it could be a ding-dong battle on the final day to see whether Drinan wins his second, Mizrachi wins his fifth or a new player gets their hands on the gold. Day 2 of the event saw players such as Brian Hastings and Shaun Deeb hit the rail on the day the bubble burst with players such as Max Pescatori (80th for $2,400), David ‘Bakes’ Baker (75th for $2,400), Randy Ohel (48th for $3,200), Ari Engel (41st for $3,634) and former two-time WSOP bracelet winner Ryan Hughes (18th for $5,580) all make the money. It’s the potential shoot-out between Drinan and Mizrachi that has us salivating, however, as the final day of the event on Monday will crown a winner. WSOP 2021 Event #5 $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better Top 10 Chipcounts: Connor Drinan - 2,415,000 Robert Mizrachi - 1,410,000 Sandy Sanchez - 1,380,000 Pearce Arnold - 1,160,000 Carl Lijewski - 1,095,000 Curtis Phelps - 1,080,000 Kris Kwiatkowski - 1,045,000 Yehuda Buchalter - 1,020,000 Michael Moed - 965,000 Scott Baumstein - 900,000