In 2009 three UK Players won World Series of Poker Bracelets and one made the final table of the main event. At the time we considered it a massive success and coined it the ‘Year of the Brit’, suggesting that this feat was an isolated incident in the history of the WSOP. 12 months on and we are calling 2010 the ‘Year of the Brit’ too, because the success of our boys in Vegas this summer has almost overwritten what we achieved in 2009 as well as proving any doubters wrong that British success was any sort of one off.
This year UK players snagged an amazing five World Series of Poker Bracelets in Vegas. Praz Bansi won his second bracelet by taking down Event Number #5: $1,500 No Limit for $515,501. Popular Blondepoker shareholder James Dempsey took down Event Number # 9: $1500 Pot Limit Hold'em a few days later for $197,470 and high stakes star Richard Ashby won #21: $1,500 Seven Card Stud for $140,467. GUKPT Grand Final Champ Mike Ellis made it four winning Event #30: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em for $581,851 and prolific tournament pro Steve Jelinek finished things off winning Event #41: $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-low Split-8 or Better for $245,871.
On top of the bracelets there were a stream of final table appearances and deep finishes. Richard Ashby and James Dempsey both followed up their bracelet wins with 2nd place finishes, Neil Channing, Michael Greco, Paul Kerr, Kevin Howe, the Devilfish, James Mitchell, Julian Gardner and Paul Foltyn all made finals, Stuart Rutter managed two final tables and Sam Trickett boasted two final tables and four more cashes making him the biggest cash winner of the year with $693,387. Our best main event finisher was Redmond Lee who finished 21st for $317,161. In total there were five bracelets, three second places, 20 final tables, 275 cashes and $8,679,918 in winnings for UK players this year in Vegas (Including 13 scores worth over $100,000).
Not only was this the best year ever for the UK it was also the most successful bracelet haul ever seen by a non US nation, which unfortunately was matched by Canada almost as soon as it happened, but the honour still unlikely to be repeated any time soon. In fact the year of the Brit is by no means isolated to the WSOP, it’s been a great year thus far worldwide for UK players. Jake Cody took down EPT Deauville, James Mitchell won the Irish Open and Liv Boeree stunned the world winning EPT San Remo.
So what does one put this major achievement down to?
We may as well get this one out of the way. It would be unrealistic not to acknowledge the role variance may have played in bagging all those bracelets and final tables, because we sure as hell would be blaming it if it were the other way round. Yes the Brits could just have run hot but thankfully the structures are getting so deep these days that variance is arguably playing less of a part than a few years ago and we are seeing more and more ‘names’ taking down gold in the last few years.
The UK circuit is booming, but it is also in a way very small. Everybody knows each other, everybody has played against each other and outside of trying to take each others chips, there is a real culture of support in the UK. Poker is fundamentally a solitary game but there are so many communities in the UK scene that are nurturing and supporting UK talent.
Whether its forums like Blondepoker and the Hendon Mob, community tours like the Sky Poker Tour and APAT, staking sites like BadBeat and BlackBelt Poker or just likeminded bands of brothers like the Hit Squad and the Shrewdies – poker players in the UK come together and help each other. It’s much easier to learn the game with likeminded friends and that was evident with the support shown for UK players on the rails and the forums this year in Vegas.
Well Structured UK Tournaments
A few years ago you would have to be a high roller to enjoy a deep structured event, with everything else falling into the £5 rebuy crapshoot category. These days events with well-structured 10,000 stack events are becoming the standard for a very low price. APAT, the Coral British Masters Poker Tour, the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour, the Pokerstars UK & Ireland Poker Tour and the Dusk Till Dawn Monthly £300 Deepstack all host regular championship style structured events for between £75 and £1,000, with a huge host of other one off events doing the same. All of which means that the Brits don’t show up to Vegas any more with no clue on how to handle a deep stack.
A Relaxed Stance on Gambling
People don’t really talk about this that much but you only have to look at other nations to see how valuable it is. In the UK we have a relaxed attitude towards gambling overall, we don’t have to pay tax on winnings, poker is advertised and broadcast on terrestrial television and the stigma associated with it is getting smaller all the time. Contrast this with just about every other country who either tax the game heavily, monopolise online poker or even try and ban the game altogether and you realise how lucky we are as players. It’s very easy and appealing to be a professional poker player in the UK, which has no doubt helped flourishing poker players make their mark on the world stage.
The Best Rails in Poker
It’s quite sad that most Americans think, and report accordingly, that any Britain who has had a drink and is cheering someone is a football hooligan. The American poker press did not know what to make of the rowdy rails in Vegas, completely bemused by the drinking, singing and chanting, but everyone back home loved hearing about them. The most notable rails had to be for James Dempsey who won one bracelet and came 2nd for another. Singing songs such as ‘Hes a Doctor’, ‘Pot Limits Coming Home’ and ‘Sammy Give Us a Wave’ (To Sam Farha) they also had a few railers thrown out.
Of course the question is, does that sort of support actually help a poker player? You can see how it would in an athletic pursuit where might give a sportsman an extra 5 minutes of energy, but in a game where concentration is key surely it would be a distraction? It’s hard to say, but either way, the rails were the icing on the cake for this fantastic year.
It was a real shame that this year, just like it was last year, hardly any of the mainstream British press caught onto this fantastic achievement by Brits abroad. Obviously the World Cup would get in the way of any other sporting news but after such a dismal performance by England in South Africa you would think that the media would be keen to latch onto any arena where the Brits are excelling. I’m not expecting the Sun or the BBC to all of a sudden show an interest, but maybe someone like Sky Sports who have always had their fingers in the poker pie, it would have been nice for some sort of acknowledgement on Sky Sports News or even just their website.
But the attention from the British poker media is only going to get bigger, with lots of expectation going into the World Series of Poker Europe, EPT London and WPT London in September. Expect the front covers of all the magazines to be adorned with the bracelet winners and no doubt all the big winners will be nominated for British Poker Awards later on this year. Now let’s see if we can bag a couple at the WSOPE and leapfrog Canada at the same time.
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