“Mixed Games” is a new event on this year’s WSOP schedule. This is the first time in history that a major poker tournament has included eight poker games. These games include:
1. No-Limit Hold’em
2. Pot-Limit Omaha
3. Triple-Draw Lowball
4. Limit Hold’em
5. Omaha High-Low Split
7. Seven-Card Stud
8. Seven-Card Stud Eight-or-Better
Games are played on a rotation basis. Games change every eight hands.
The $10,000 buy-in tournament attracted a stellar field of superstars and arguably the toughest field in poker history for an event of this size, other than the $50,000 buy-in HORSE competition. No less than 76 of the 192 entrants were former WSOP gold bracelet winners. The total prize pool amounted to $1,804,800. The top 24 players collected prize money.
Despite the astral field of poker celebrities, some top players pointed out that the composition of the tournament is not quite as formidable as one might believe. Three players (Sammy Farha, George Abdullah, and Amnon Filippi) argued that younger players in this event did not play “limit” and “high-low” split games as well as some of the more experienced players. Of course, two of those three were standing on the rail at the time, watching and pointing to at least of couple of finalists who allegedly “don’t have a clue.”
While all 55 WSOP tournaments on the 2008 schedule are categorized as “gold bracelet” events, this is also known as a “world championship” event. This means the winner of this event is the Mixed Games world champion. Beginning this year, all $10,000+ buy-in tournaments are designated as official world championships. This means a total of ten WSOP tournaments are world championships. This includes eight gold bracelet tournaments with $10,000 buy-ins, the $50,000 buy-in HORSE event, and the Main Event.
The tournament was played over three days. Day Three featured final table play, which took place adjacent to the ESPN stage. Given the magnetic field of finalists, a standing-room only crowd circled the table. In fact, the turnout (and one presumes -- interest) for this finale was significantly higher than for the conclusion for Event #7, which was played at the so-called “feature” table.
The winner was Anthony Rivera. He is a 22-year-old professional poker player from Las Vegas. Rivera is originally from St. Louis, MO. He attended the University of Missouri, but decided to suspend his education and move to Las Vegas to play poker.
Rivera began playing poker about three years ago on the computer. He turned 21 just prior to last year’s WSOP and played in a few events. However, this marked his first time to cash at the World Series. He really made this one count as $483,688 was paid as the top prize.
Rivera has become a solid high-stakes player who frequents $200-400, $300-600 limit (and higher) tables in Las Vegas. He remarked afterward: “This was a very tough field. But it did not intimidate me. I am used to playing with many of these players. I know many of them pretty well. I know I can play all the games well enough to win.”
The champ wore his lucky t-shirt, which read “Friends Don’t Let Friends Play No-Limit.” Rivera also pointed out that, for him, it was kind of social statement. While many poker players have concentrated their efforts on No-Limit Hold’em, Rivera has focused his poker development on a much more diverse collection of games. Fittingly, the hard work paid off and he became the first-ever “Mixed Games World Champion.”
He said: “I really do not have a ‘best’ game. I do not really play No-Limit, that much. I prefer the other games. I think I can play all the games well.”
Rivera pointed out that David Oppenheim was his most intimidating opponent throughout the tournament. He stated that Oppenheim got unlucky and busted out. “I was glad to see him go,” Rivera said later.
The final table began at 3 pm and ended at 10:30 pm.
The runner up was James Mackey, who won last year’s $5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em championship. At the time, he was the third youngest gold bracelet winner in WSOP history. He came up just short of victory on this occasion.
Matt Glantz took third place. This was his sixth time to cash at the WSOP. He was the runner up last year in the $3,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event.
Eli Elezra busted out in fifth place. This marked his 15th career WSOP cash. Last year, the Israeli-born poker pro won the Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split championship.
Dashing and debonair Sammy Farha went out in sixth place. The two-time former gold bracelet winner is perhaps best remembered by casual poker fans for his second-place finish to Chris Moneymaker in the 2003 Main Event.
Jeff Madsen catapulted to superstardom at the 2006 WSOP, where he earned two gold bracelets and very nearly picked up two more, with duel third-place finishes. He obliterated the record for “youngest player ever to win two WSOP victories,” achieving the feat at 21 years and 20 days. Madsen sought to add to his WSOP jewelry chest in this event, but ended up as the seventh-place finisher.
Given that ten-time gold bracelet winners Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan were both still alive in the tournament with three tables to go, a buzz began to circulate around the Rio that this tournament might be memorable for its historic implications. However, both former two-time world champions were eliminated late on Day Two.
So far, this can be defined as the year when poker pros have rebounded to their former glory, after years of seeing poker rocked to its foundations with so many amateur victories. Bona fide poker pros have now won 7 of the 8 events which have concluded at this year’s WSOP.