Missing the Mark (Quiz)

4 years ago
Missing the Mark: Who is Always Second Place?
15 Apr

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride? Close but no cigar? The English language has always found ways to describe that ‘unlucky’ person who never quite makes it across the finish line as often as they should.

Of course, unless it’s a ‘two-horse race’, finishing second isn’t a bad achievement at all – sometimes it means you’ve beaten off thousands of other players before falling at the final hurdle, and often it means you’ll be taking home a tidy payday check to soften the blow of being pipped at the post! But before I overdo the horseracing idioms, let’s get down to the business at hand.

Who are the players who have the most second-place finishes in WSOP history? It’s a quiz, and you’ll be given clues along the way, so see how good you are at spotting our second-best battlers…

This popular 41-year old has actually won six WSOP gold bracelets, but his runner-up figure is even higher, with seven ‘close but no cigar’ moments over the years in Limit Omaha Hi-Lo, Limit Holdem, No Limit Hold’em and 2-7 Limit Triple Draw Lowball.

This remarkable breadth of poker knowledge has seen him picking up millions from his world-wide WSOP adventures, with 83 cashes and $16,172,789 in earnings over an 18-year career, but the big one – the Vegas Main Event - has eluded him so far.

His second spot in the $1million Big One for One Drop at the 2014 WSOP saw his biggest paycheck so far – a whopping $8,288,001 (don’t forget that one dollar on the end!) – and he almost took down the WSOP Europe back in 2009, but lost heads-up to Barry Shulman.

The match had one hand of supreme importance, which ended with our mystery man losing out on the title…

Player X had the chip lead at the time, about 60-40, and was dealt Q♣ J♦ in the big blind and faced a raise from Shulman who had A♠ A♥. Our mystery man called and the flop came…

5♦ 8♦ J♣

A very dangerous hand for our man, who now had top pair heads up and was bet into by Shulman for 300K. “Make it 9,” announced our ‘hero’ and Shulman quickly replied, “All-in!”

♥ ♦ ♠ ♣

“Is this the one?” said mystery player X, who had never won an NLHE bracelet in any of the WSOP events across the globe. With his usual humorous demeanour, our guy messed with the rail a bit before announcing, “I call!” only to find himself way behind the pocket rockets of Shulman. But then…the turn fell…

5♦ 8♦ J♣ (J♥)

And the crowd went wild! Only an ace could save Shulman’s tournament life and title hopes. The river came

5♦ 8♦ J♣ J♥ (A♦)

And the place erupted!

It’s an ace! That did not just happen, did it?” screamed the commentator. "Shulman got it in with the best of it, and ended up with the best of it…but what a ride in-between!”

The truth is, because it was on television and we were heads-up, I knew I got in with the best hand," said Shulman. "When the jack came on the turn, I had pretty much given up. I said to myself, 'Well, at least I am not going to be embarrassed here. What are you going to do? That's poker.' When the ace came [on the river], I just about passed out."

Our hero now found himself a 4-1 dog in chips and his bracelet hopes were all but shattered by the river ace – Shulman taking down the title shortly afterwards.

So, do you know who our unlucky WSOP second-best player is yet? A final clue: There is rarely a bad word to be heard from or about him, but he has had to ‘duke’ it out with detractors on occasion.

Our second mystery guest in the runner-up stakes has managed to balance his WSOP books somewhat: seven bracelets and seven second spots spanning 27 years of WSOP visits.

Again he is a complete poker player, his second spots covering Limit Razz, Limit Omaha variants, and PLO, with a few NoLimit title deep-runs thrown in for good measure.

Although not as prolific in the money-stakes as our mystery man number one, player Y (for want of a better pseudonym) has scooped over $3million across 84 WSOP lifetime cashes and cleared $12million in his full pro career.

However, unlike our first ‘guest’, player Y has a horrible reputation in poker circles, covering everything from outright cheating (collusion, chip dumping, and soft playing) to forcing ‘horses’ in his poker stable to lose to him on demand!

Where do these allegations come from? None other than our player X! The poker world is a small one indeed at times.

Some, not all, of his horses are given the following instruction:

  1. Never call him.
  2. Don't raise his blind.
  3. In no limit, when he re-raises you, fold.
  4. In no limit, you are not allowed to move in on him.”

So, a great poker player but a shady character. What else? Well, if you’re a poker dealer you don’t want this man at your table. He has been downright ignorant and abusive to a huge number of them according to various different sources.

One, perhaps apocryphal-perhaps not - post on 2+2 stated:

I've heard of one story where a dealer who was pretty built had cards thrown at him by (player Y), stood up, reached across the table, grabbed (him) by the neck and lifted him off his chair and gave (him) the business while (he) pretty much **** himself before the dealer dropped him back into his chair and then pushed out to his next table.”

In the words of Jesse May:

The nicest thing you can say about [him] is that he's not a very nice person."

So, a hugely successful player with bracelets and money aplenty, but also a bit of a serial WSOP runner-up – and a master at the art of poker no-no’s? Who are we talking about?

Our third and final mystery player holds the record for WSOP runner-up prizes, with a staggering 10 second spots in his prolific career spanning almost three decades on the Vegas felt.

But there’s no need to shed tears for the serial second-place gent, as he also holds almost every other WSOP record going: most bracelets won, most cashes in WSOP history, highest WSOP lifetime earnings, and plenty more to boot. When it comes to Vegas’ summer extravaganza, Player Z is the man!

As with our other faceless heroes, this guy can play all the poker games to world-class level – but 2011 must have been the most painful year of all when he finished 2nd no less than three times in bracelet events, including a heart-breaking ‘close but no cigar’ moment in the $50K buy-in Poker Players Championship event – good for over $1million but not the gold jewellery he craves.

The heads-up between our mystery man and Brian Rast was an incredible affair, and the denouement defied the poker odds. Player Z had a nice chip lead and was playing well – but three hands in a row he saw a flopped flush draw – and three times he tried to take Rast out of the game by calling the all-ins.

The first double-up came when the heart flush missed on the turn and river, the second saw clubs missing the same way and in the third…could diamonds save the day for our guy?

Rast: K♣ Q♣

Player Z: 8♦ 2♦

Flop: J♦ 9♦ 10♠

Rast flopped the straight, but player Z was still 39% to pull through, as he ignored the board by joining his wife in the crowd, letting her update him on the turn…

J♦ 9♦ 10♠ (5♥)

Which didn’t help and then the river….

J♦ 9♦ 10♠ 5♥ (8♠)

And somehow his 3rd flush draw in a row had missed and Rast was champion, leaving our unlucky player Z to rue what might have been yet another gold bracelet.

And now…. it’s up to you to tell us who player Z is? The clues are all there!!|

Speaking of, did you figure out the first two? #1 is easy because we included a video, but how about #2? Ready for the answers. They're on the next line.

#1: Daniel Negreanu

#2: Men Nguyen

#3: Phil Hellmuth

Hope you had fun playing.

Articles 2003

Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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