UNITED STATES—The World Series of Poker is underway in Las Vegas and will run through until the end of November.
Qualification for the event begins as early as May, with online satellite competitions seeing people qualifying both in person and online. This year’s event’s first qualifier was high-profile; former San Antonio Spurs player Tony Parker secured his spot in poker’s main event. Whilst he is a big name, plenty of other people have decided to play poker online for real money, looking to get their place around the tables of the WSOP. Many will have Chris Moneymaker in their thoughts, the winner of the 2003 main event and someone who qualified by playing online in his basement. He played real money games at home, qualified for the 2003 event, and took home more than $1m
Moneymaker might be the most famous winner of the main event, but plenty of others have been noted. Who can forget Stu Ungar, a three-time winner whose rags-to-riches tale of redemption was told in the film High Roller? Other big names of the poker world, such as Dan Negreanu, haven’t won the main event yet but are practically household names.
Some top players have strong links to Los Angeles, with two former main event winners and some stars from poker’s other big tournament, the televised World Poker Tour. Many well-known professionals end up moving to Las Vegas, making the home of poker their base, but these three have strong connections with our city. You might not catch them around the tables of the 2021 WSOP, but we start with a former winner of the main event.
Strauss won the 1982 WSOP, coming back from being down to a single chip and giving meaning to the now-popular phrase ‘a chip and a chair’. Nicknamed ‘Treetop’, he is credited with having pulled off the biggest bluff in poker history. Holding a 7-2, with 7-3-3-2 on the board, he was virtually all-in on a hand. He offered his opponent a chance; for $25 he’d show him one of his two cards. His opponent bought it and selected the two, folding under the impression Strauss had another two, resulting in a full house. He didn’t; he had two pair and a weaker hand. He is the only player on our list to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Ferguson was born in LA to mathematical parents. His father, Thomas, teaches game theory and theoretical probability at UCLA. Ferguson attended UCLA and earned a PhD in computer science, which would be handy later in his career. He won the 2000 WSOP, taking home $1.5m, but he is best known for what happened years later. Ferguson was one of the founders of Full Tilt Poker, one of the companies closed down in the Black Friday scandal. Ferguson was undaunted; he came back in 2017 to register a record 23 cashes at the WSOP.
Lee isn’t a WSOP winner, although he does have two bracelets and nine money finishes to his name. In 2014 and 2015, he won the $10,000 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball Championship, the first player to win consecutive $10,000 titles other than the main event. The 43-year-old has also won two WPT events; in 2004, he took home $1.57m in the $10,000 World Poker Finals and a year later earned $2.85m by winning the $25,000 WPT World Championship. He was the all-time leading money winner on the WPT but has since been overtaken by Dan Negreanu.
Keep an eye on our local news pages and who knows, we might even have another Los Angeles-based winner come the end of November.