James Holzhauer of “Jeopardy” Fame Makes his World Series of Poker Debut

James Holzhauer of "Jeopardy" Fame Makes his World Series of Poker Debut
It’s been another thrilling week at the 50th Annual World Series of Poker (WSOP), with a Jeopardy champ James Holzhauer sighting, a visit by the Twinkiemobile, NFLNHL and Soccer star sightings, oh and of course some remarkable achievements on the WSOP felt.  Here is the latest from the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas as we’ve reached the halfway point of the 2019 WSOP (Pictured: “Jeopardy” Champ James Holzhauer – Photo credit: Joe Giron/WSOP)

Big Numbers Continue: Through 55 events, the WSOP looks sure to break the all-time participation record set last year.  With 35 events remaining, the WSOP has already amassed 111,713 entries – up 28.4% y-o-y, and just 12,152 short of the record 123,865.  This year’s WSOP has already awarded $124,228,298 in prize money – up 12.4% y-oy. At same point in 2018, there were 86,997 entries and $110,481,222 in prize money awarded.

Jeopardy James:  Answer: The longest-running and richest poker tournament series. We hope our latest WSOP participant knows the question to this answer!  Can you imagine being a poker player who just paid $1,000 to enter a World Series of Poker gold bracelet event and find amongst your tablemates, none other than James Holzhauer?  Holzhauer is the recent Jeopardy game show contestant who turned the game on its head with his unorthodox style and smarts to win 32 consecutive games and $2,464,216.  The 34-year-old Las Vegas resident and professional sports bettor by day is trying his hand at poker, participating in his first two WSOP gold bracelet events today.  Holzhauer, played some online poker back in his college days at the University of Illinois, but this marks his first appearance at the WSOP.  He showed up to participate in Event 56, a $1,000 buy-in Super Turbo Bounty No-Limit Hold’em one-day event, as well as play in Event 57, a $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold’em event with Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton as his tag team partner. Holzhauer planned to donate 50% of any winnings to a homeless teen charity in Nevada called Project150.

All-In Athletes: The WSOP often gets professional athletes participating in WSOP events, especially those from team sports.  Poker is often used as a way to pass time on plane trips and bus rides, and several players use the same competitive drive from their profession and apply it to the WSOP felt.  Three notable stars from different sports have played and won money in WSOP events this week.  They are:

  • NFL’s Calais Campbell – Defensive End, Jacksonville Jaguars.  Finished 338th out of 2,808 entrants in Event 37, an $800 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Deepstack event winning $1,292 for his first-ever WSOP cash.
  • NHL’s Phil Kessel – Right Winger, Pittsburgh Penguins.  Finished 153rd out of 1,216 entrants in Event 40, a $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event, winning $2,357 for his sixth career WSOP cash.
  • German Soccer Star Max Kruse – Forward and Captain of Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. Has cashed in two WSOP events thus far, Events 33 and 43, including a 17th place finish for $5,802.  Kruse has now amassed 10 cashes at the WSOP for $129,670, with two final tables a 3rd and a 4th place finish since 2014.

49er for the 50th: Another star sighting was NFL defensive star Richard Sherman, the current San Francisco 49er and former Super Bowl champ for the Seattle Seahawks.  Sherman was in the EStars Lounge, a special area at the WSOP where poker players can take a break from poker and play a myriad of video games.  The WSOE – World Showdown of Esports – was hosting the Madden Masters over the weekend, a multi-genre, multi-game tournament series that Sherman was participating in with a host of other notable Esport enthusiasts in the EStars Lounge.

Free Twinkies!: Twinkie the Kid and the Twinkiemobile stopped by the WSOP on Friday handing out Hostess snacks.  Hostess is celebrating its 100th birthday while the WSOP is playing its 50th annual, the two iconic American brands got together for a little fun.  While we always knew poker players loved chips – poker chips – it is clear Twinkies are a close second.

Move over Calvin: Loren Klein, a 37-year-old from Reno, Nevada just captured his fourth WSOP gold bracelet – becoming the first player in the modern era to win a WSOP gold bracelet in four consecutive years.  This feat has only been matched twice previously, last by Poker Hall of Famer Doyle Brunson from 1976-1979.  The first to do it was Poker Hall of Famer Bill Boyd from 1971-1974.  What makes this feat historical are the size of the fields now compared to the 1970’s.  Klein’s bracelets have all come in some variant of Omaha. Here’s Klein’s list of victories, which have now put him at more than $2.7 million in career WSOP earnings, with 39 cashes:

  • 2019 – Event 43 – $2,500 Mixed Big Bet – 218 entries – Won $127,808
  • 2018 – Event 49 – $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Championship – 476 entries — Won $1,018,336
  • 2017 – Event 41 – $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha – 870 entries — Won $231,483
  • 2016 – Event 45 — $1,500 Mixed No-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha – 919 entries — Won $241,427

Four of a Kind: Pot-Limit Omaha has certainly gained in popularity the last half decade.  Instead of getting two cards down, players receive four cards, and then play the five community cards to come up with their best five-card hand – while using exactly two cards from their down cards to pair with three from the community.  Entries for these “PLO” events are at historical highs in 2019.  Here’s some data from this year’s PLO events:

  • $25,000 PLO (Event 45) – 278 entries, up 21% y-o-y and a new record at this buy-in level.
  • $10,000 PLO (Event 52) – 518 entries, up 9% y-o-y and a new record at this buy-in level.
  • $1,500 PLO (Event 40) – 1,216 entries, up 52% y-o-y and a new record at this buy-in level.
  • $1,000 PLO (Event 30) – 1,526 entries, up 55% y-o-y and a new record at this buy-in level.
  • $600 PLO (Event 25) – 2,577 entries. A new event this year.

There are a couple more chances left this summer to play PLO at the WSOP.  Event 78 on July 9 is a $1,500 Bounty PLO tournament, and Event 85 on July 12 is a $3,000 6-Handed event.  Of course, every Sunday at 5pm, a Daily Deepstack using the PLO format is running with a $250 buy-in, for those looking to give this format a try.

An International Affair: The World Series of Poker was created in 1970, and WSOP patriarch Benny Binion might have been a bit hyperbolic when he chose the word “World” to describe what were solely American players initially.  But Mr. Binion was a visionary, because the WSOP has truly become an international affair.   Fittingly, the WSOP saw its 50th different country capture a WSOP gold bracelet earlier this year, and non-Americans continue to do quite well here, despite being clearly outnumbered by American players.  So far this WSOP, a dozen different countries have captured WSOP gold, winning 17 gold bracelets.  Here is the list of non-U.S. countries to claim victory thus far in 2019.

  • Australia (1)       Austria (1)         Brazil (2)           Canada (1)        France (1)          Greece (1)         Israel (3)
  • *Nigeria (1)       Russia (1)          *South Korea (1)           Sri Lanka (1)      United Kingdom (3)      *1st Winner

(Israel has moved into eighth place on the all-time list of WSOP victories by country, with 18 overall.  The U.S. leads with 1,191 all-time.)

About the World Series of Poker

The World Series of Poker is the largest, richest and most prestigious gaming event in the world, having awarded more than $2.99 billion in prize money and the prestigious gold bracelet, globally recognized as the sport’s top prize. Featuring a comprehensive slate of tournaments in every major poker variation, the WSOP is poker’s longest-running tournament in the world, dating back to 1970. For more information on the World Series of Poker, please visit www.wsop.com.