The Poker Players Championship

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Published: 26/07/2012

Until 2010, it was virtually impossible to name the top poker player in the world. Some would answer with the name of the year’s top money earner on the tournament circuit. Others would refer to the winner of the annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event because it offered the highest single prize and required defeating the most players.

Among professional poker players, for many years it was generally acknowledged that the “best of the best” was the winner of the WSOP’s annual $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship. In their minds at least, whoever could beat the world’s top pros in a rotation of five mixed games—including draw, stud, lowball and split-pot variations—had to be the most skillful of them all, worthy of coronation as the “King of Poker” and possession of the Chip Reese Trophy that had symbolized “poker’s greatest” since 2008.

Of course, the WSOP officials had their own thoughts on the matter, and just to prove a point, they introduced an official “Poker Players Championship” event. It was decided that the Eight Game Mix, first introduced as a bracelet level event in 2008, was a better test of a player’s all-around talents than H.O.R.S.E., and they set the entry level at $50,000 to exclude all but the most serious of players.

The rotation for the Poker Players Championship contains all five games played in H.O.R.S.E., plus three additional poker variations. In order, they form the acronym “T.H.O.R.S.E.H.A.” Play begins with a round of “T,” taken from “triple” in the lowball game known as 2-7 Triple Draw.

The first “H” in the event is “Hold’em.” The “O” is for Omaha Hi-Low Split Eight or Better (aka Omaha 8). The “R” represents the game of lowball stud known as “Razz” and the “S” stands for traditional Seven Card Stud. The letter “E” is for “Eight or Better,” as in Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Eight or Better. All rounds up to this point are played as Limit games.

The seventh round brings back “H” for “Hold’em, but this time the version is the same No-Limit form played in the WSOP Main Event. At the end of the rotation is “A,” which refers to a round of Pot-Limit Omaha (No Ante).

The 2010 WSOP was the inaugural installment of the Poker Players Championship with eight games in rotation. The $50,000 event attracted a field of 116 players for a prize pool of $5.5 million. The event turned out to be everything the organisers hoped it would, eventually won by Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, one of the most successful tournament pros at the time. His payday was worth just over $1.5 million.

The victory was made even sweeter because Mizrachi’s older brother, Michael, was one of the final table opponents he had to beat. It required a comeback from 3-1 chips deficit during heads-up play with Russia’s Vladimir Schmelev, too. Till that win, the younger Mizrachi was often referred to as one of the greatest players never to win a bracelet. Not only did he get his jewelry but also the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy, presented by David Bach.

American Brian Rast won the 2011 Poker Players Championship, and then Mizrachi shocked everyone in 2012 by becoming the first repeat winner in what has been described as “the battle of the greatest poker players in the world.” Currently, those who wish to practice the Eight Game Mix in anticipation of a seat at the $50,000 championship event can do so at PokerStars.com.

Published on: 26/07/2012

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