The World Series of Poker Seniors Championship is an extremely popular event, bringing together thousands of players who, while not exactly ancient (a player only needs to be 50 in order to qualify for this tournament), may not quite feel at home in a game that is increasingly dominated by young professional players.
That gives the tournament a unique, somewhat relaxed feel, sparking an atmosphere quite different than the typical series event.
This year, a total of 4,193 players turned out to participate in the $1,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em tournament, most of whom were there just to dream of winning a gold bracelet.
One of those players was 50-year-old construction manager Travis Baker, who had never before cashed in a WSOP event.
That changed in dramatic fashion on Monday, however, as Baker had little trouble defeating his opponents at the final table to win the 2015 WSOP Seniors Championship.
Baker won $613,466 and his first ever gold bracelet, leaving Baker understandably moved.
“I’m so overwhelmed right now,” Baker told WSOP.com. “For me this is gratifying and satisfying. It’s an exclamation point.”
The final table moved at a stunning pace, especially once the game got short-handed. From the moment that the tournament was reduced to five players, it took just another 35 minutes for Baker to claim his title, with Baker finishing the job by quickly dispatching Carl Torelli in heads-up play.
For the first time, this year’s WSOP actually has two events for seniors, as the Super Seniors event (open only to those 65 and over) is also underway.
While it didn’t draw quite the crowd that the Seniors Championship did (after all, young folks like Baker aren’t allowed in it), there were still 1,533 players who took a shot in the new tournament, with 25 surviving to see Tuesday’s Day 3.
Scott Seiver held the chip lead after the first day of the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, and that advantage held up through the end of Day 2.
But while Seiver’s run at a wire-to-wire victory is certainly a big story, most of the talk about this signature WSOP event has been focused on the changes made to the event this year.
While the tournament was originally conducted as a H.O.R.S.E. event starting in 2006, the format changed in 2010 to become an eight-game mix.
While that change was generally well-received, WSOP organizers have received noticeably worse reviews for another alteration to the format made this year: the addition of Badugi and No Limit Deuce-to-Seven to make the tournament into a ten-game mix.
Many players expressed confusion for the reasons behind the change, and predictions of a massive drop off in participation were made by some.
While the most dramatic projections proved to be wrong, the event did lose players this year: while 102 tried to contest the title last year, only 84 participated in this tournament.
That said, the tournament still features an incredibly tough field, with most of the world’s best taking a shot at putting their names on the Chip Reese Trophy.
Any controversies over the game mix won’t diminish the prestige that comes with winning this event, and the top prize is still a hefty $1,270,086.
Another point of minor controversy has been the WSOP Player of the Year race, which is being powered for the first time by the Global Poker Index.
At the moment, Paul Volpe has a commanding lead thanks to his three final table finishes this year, while the pair of two-time bracelet winners from this season, Max Pescatori and Brian Hastings, sit in fourth and fifth places.
Volpe being in the lead isn’t particularly contentious on its own: while some might disagree with him being ahead without having won a bracelet, he would certainly be in contention in any reasonable scoring format.
However, the fact that he has a rather massive lead over the rest of the field right now has dismayed some observers, as it makes little intuitive sense that winning multiple bracelets wouldn’t put a player at least on par with Volpe.