WSOP H.O.R.S.E Finale Simply Amazing - Monday 17th of July 2006

By Ryan McLane

The adjective amazing comes to mind. Exciting, intriguing, riveting, all those descriptors work. Hell, I'll just say it, the 2006 World Series of Poker $50,000 H.O.R.S.E tournament will have the most exciting final table ever played.

Statistics alone prove this point. Combined, the final nine players in WSOP Event #20 have three WSOP Main Event Championships, two WPT Championships, 27 WSOP gold bracelets, 116 WSOP final table appearances and more than a century's worth of high-stakes poker experience.

If you move beyond the statistics it gets even better. Imagine this heads up match: Doyle Brunson versus Phil Ivey, the greatest player ever versus the heir apparent. Think of it terms of this…Jack Nicholson versus Tiger Woods, Michael Jordon versus Lebron James, Babe Ruth versus Barry Bonds, heck, I'll even go there - Muhammad Ali versus Mike Tyson.

And that's just one match-up. Pick any of the legends sitting as this table and you have a true poker fan's dream. The threesome of Brunson, Chip Reese, and TJ Cloutier make up a trifecta of players that basically made the sport. Even though the game has changed since their heyday, these guys continue to dominate, raking in bracelets and money in waves. If you like history, it's about to be written. Pick two of those three players and you have the greatest WSOP heads-up pairing ever.

Then, there are the others guys. Andy Bloch may be the best poker player to never win a gold bracelet. In one day, Bloch could sit atop the Pantheon of Poker and shed any doubts about his place.

Jim Bechtel is the 1993 WSOP Main Event Champion. Dewey Tomko has 20 WSOP final table appearances and three gold bracelets. Poor David Singer and Patrik Antonius. Even though they are two of the rising stars in a rising sport and have endorsement deals that would make anyone jealous; experience-wise, they're lightyears behind. Yet, if either of them win tonight, they instantly become the greatest player in the sport.

My final point of intrigue– it's a mixed game event, a chance for the cream of the crop to rise out of the WSOP No-Limit Hold'em mire. To thrive in an event that switches games at every level takes true talent, true mettle, and true lasting power.

There is one problem. Taking away from perhaps the greatest tournament ever played is the structure of the final table. After battling the game's toughest field through both a sunset and a sunrise, the mixed game experts will now finish the tournament playing ESPN-friendly No-Limit Hold'em.

My associate Aaron Todd, who is covering the event live for Casino City, called the switch to No Limit Hold'em a sham job. He's a nice guy. I'm going to call it a freaking joke. When Aaron said the players should boycott the final table and tell ESPN to shove their rule change, he bordered on Poker Prophet. Again, I'll take it one step further. I think they should stand around the table refusing to play until they change the rules, and they should do it in style - by flipping off the cameras (to avoid the F-Bomb penalty).

It's bad enough that the tournament started with used decks and marked cards. It's a travesty that WSOP officials ended Day One far too early Wednesday, only to watch as the tournament ran so long on Thursday that they contemplated making it a four-day event. The final table controversy only proves the WSOP has tried everything they can to ruin this tournament, and couldn't.

Regardless of the flaws, I'll still be glued to the riveting live blogs and Internet reports. The statistical appeal, the exciting drama, and the lure of watching poker history unfold is unfortunately far too intriguing to let a ridiculous rule keep me from watching.

Simply put - it's going to be amazing.

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