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2001 World Series of Poker
Breaks Records, Offers Memories for a Lifetime
by Andrew N.S. Glazer

To most casual gamblers, the World Series of Poker begins and ends with the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Championship, and that’s not surprising. The money is huge (1.5 million dollars guaranteed to the winner). The winner is considered The World Champion, and is the only one that gets on TV.

Nonetheless, the World Series of Poker offers much more than just the Championship Event (dubbed the “Big One” by most players). It’s just what the name implies, a seriesof tournaments that lasts almost a month. Players compete in a number of different poker games, such as Texas Hold’em, Seven-Card Stud, and Omaha, at a number of different buy-in levels. A Limit Hold’em player, for example, would have had his choice of $2,000, $3,000, or $5,000 buy-in events at the 2001 Series.

In this story, I’m going to take you on a very brief tour of some of the more dramatic moments of the 2001 World Series. We started off with a bang when Mississippi’s Nani Dollison, a slightly built 45 year-old woman, won $441,400 in the opening $2,000 Limit Hold’em event. Dollison defeated 614 other hopefuls, and her payoff broke the record for the opening event, as did the total of 615 players. The huge prize also enabled Dollison to become the all-time leading women’s money winner at the Series in only her second in the moneyfinish, sending her past tournament veteran and high stakes money pro Annie Duke.

Two of the three next most exciting moments involved 1989 World Champion Phil Hellmuth, Jr. In the first, Hellmuth squared off in the finals of the $2,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event in a true Clash of the Titansagainst poker legend T.J. Cloutier, the former Canadian Football League tight end who has made the final table of the Big One four times, including 2000 when he finished second to Chris “Jesus” Ferguson.

2001 WSOP First Place Event Winners
Event Winner Winnings Total Purse
Casino Employees Limit Hold’em Travis Jonas $40,200 $93,010
$2,000 Limit Hold’em Nani Dollison $441,440 $1,193,100
$1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo Split Chris “Jesus” Ferguson $164,735 $445,230
$1,500 Seven-Card Stud Adam Roberts $146,430 $395,760
$2,000 No-Limit Hold’em Phil Hellmuth, Jr. $316,550 $855,540
$1,500 Limit Omaha Eddie Scharf $83,810 $209,520
$1,500 Seven Stud Hi-Lo Split Barry Shulman $123,820 $334,650
$1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha (rebuys) Galen Kester $167,035 $417,585
$2,000 S.H.O.E. David Pham $140,455 $351,140
$3,000 Limit Hold’em Jim Lester $223,490 $558,720
$2,500 Seven-Card Stud Paul Darden $147,440 $368,800
$2,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em Burt Boutin $193,800 $523,800
$1,500 Razz Berry Johnston $83,810 $209,520
$2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha (rebuys) Scotty Nguyen $178,480 $446,200
$2,500 Seven Stud Hi-Lo Split Richie Korbin $159,080 $397,700
$1,500 Ace-to-Five Lowball Draw Cliff Yamagawa $73,915 $184,785
$2,500 Omaha Hi-Lo Split Bob Slezak $173,625 $434,075
$5,000 Deuce-to-Seven (rebuys) Howard Lederer $165,870 $368,600
$1,000 Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Jay Heimowitz $115,430 $329,800
$3,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em Steve Zolotow $243,335 $657,660
$5,000 Seven-Card Stud Allen Cunningham $201,760 $504,440
$3,000 No-Limit Hold’em Erik Seidel $411,300 $1,111,620
$5,000 Omaha Hi-Lo Split Scotty Nguyen $207,580 $518,950
$5,000 Limit Hold’em Hemish Shah $312,340 $780,850
$1,000 Ladies ˝ Hold’em ˝ Stud Nani Dollison $40,130 $91,570
$10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Carlos Mortensen $1,500,000 $6,130,000

Because most experts believe that Hellmuth and Cloutier are the two best no-limit Hold’em tournament players in the world, their dispatching of the other 439 entrants was reduced to a mere preliminary, and a huge throng gathered to watch their long heads up battle. Hellmuth eventually prevailed, winning his seventh World Series title. Only poker legend Doyle Brunson has more, with eight.

Two weeks later, Hellmuth came close to tying Brunson’s record when he reached the final two in the $5,000 buy-in Omaha High-Low Split event. Again Hellmuth faced a formidable foe: 1998 World Champion Scotty Nguyen. This match-up marked the first time in World Series history that two former World Champions had met heads-up for another title.

Nguyen prevailed, which surprised no one watching because despite his 1998 title in no-limit Hold’em, Nguyen is an Omaha specialist, probably the best Omaha tournament player in the world, while all of Hellmuth’s titles have come in Hold’em. This fact didn’t console Hellmuth in defeat, because he’d come incredibly close to eliminating Nguyen at one point in the match, with a chip lead of $485,000-$60,000.

Perhaps the tournament’s most dramatic moment, though, came when Erik Seidel faced two-time World Champion Johnny Chan in the finals of the $3,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Championship. Seidel redeemed himself for a moment that came early in his poker career, immortalized in the movie Rounders, which used actual footage of the 1988 final between Chan and Seidel. Seidel was at that time an inexperienced player who had reached the finals on sheer ability, and Chan maneuvered him into making a weak play on the hand that won the title.

The error and lost opportunity for a world title was bad enough, but to have it selected as the lone World Series moment ever used in a movie seen by millions was much worse, and Seidel’s victory over Chan in 2001 struck a blow for every person who has ever made a mistake and wished he’d had a chance to atone for it.

The Championship event lived up to these dramatic moments. A record 613 players entered, shattering the previous record of 512. Had only a dozen more coughed up the ten large needed to enter, first prize would have been $2,000,000.

Hellmuth was again part of the story. He reached the final table, but lost most of his chips on an unlucky hand (he was a 4.5-1 favorite). He still battled back into contention, but eventually was eliminated in fifth place by the eventual winner, 29-year-old Carlos Mortensen of Madrid, Spain, who defeated veteran 54-year-old Dewey Tomko, who has the fourth highest total of “in the money” finishes in WSOP history, for the title. It was the second time in Tomko’s life that he’d had to settle for second place in the Big One, but his $1,098,925 payday for second place was a pretty good consolation prize!

2001 WSOP Top Ten Money List
Carlos Mortensen $1,500,000
Dewey Tomko $1,098,925
Phil Hellmuth, Jr. $755,040
(cashes in 7 events)
Stan Schrier $699,315
Nani Dollison $481,570
Erik Seidel $455,770
Phil Gordon $399,610
Scotty Nguyen $390,005
Jim Lester $347,205
Hemish Shaw $317,115

The top ten money list was, as is usually the case, dominated by those who finished well in the Championship Event — Mortensen, Tomko, Schrier, and Gordon each cashed only once at the Series but made it count with first, second, third and fourth place finishes respectively, in the Championship — and by players who won the big money events. Every member of the top ten won an event. Although “money talks and BS walks,” many players consider reaching a final table almost as impressive an accomplishment as winning an event.

Performances like that of 2000 World Champion Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, who cashed in six events, winning a total of $209,685, are more impressive within the poker world than the mere dollar total would indicate. Hellmuth, with a first, second, sixth, three other cashes, plus his fifth place in the Championship, clearly had the best overall Series… although Carlos Mortensen’s accountant might argue with that!

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