Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


The 10 Best Performances of the World Series of Poker 2009

by Stephen A. Murphy |  Published: Oct 01, 2009


It was a year for the ages. Four players won multiple bracelets, pros took down a majority of the events offered, and these players stunned and amazed the gallery with their accomplishments.
David Bach
10. David Bach Wins Marathon Final Table at the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship
There may have only been 95 players in this year’s $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a tougher field. The world’s best players, with more than 100 bracelets between them, anted up for the “players championship” to crown an overall winner. The winner that emerged from that field? First time bracelet winner David Bach.

Bach was no stranger to the World Series, having made a final table in a bracelet event in each of the past four years. But this was the first time he finally took one down, earning over $1.27 million for his win. What was particularly noteworthy about Bach’s win however, was the manner in which he did it. The final table was 18 hours and 44 minutes in length, with a heads up battle which lasted more than seven hours. It ranks as the second longest final table in World Series history.

9. Steve Sung Wins Stimulus Special, Then Scores Top-Three Finish
It was the biggest live tournament outside the main event in poker history. The field, chock full of amateurs and dreamers, was won not by an anonymous card player but by established pro, Steve Sung, for his first major tournament victory of his career. Sung outlasted a massive field of 6,012 players to win $771,106.
Steve Sung
When asked how it felt to finally win his first bracelet, Sung replied, “I feel like the monkey is off my back. I feel like I could go for another one.”

Shockingly, he almost did. Less than two weeks later, Sung final tabled the $10,000 no-limit deuce-to-seven draw lowball event. He fell just short of his second bracelet, finishing in third place and earning an additional $112,042.

8. Brandon Cantu Follows Up Runner-Up Performance With a Win
It was a tough pill to swallow. In event 39, a $1,500 no-limit hold’em tournament, Brandon Cantu survived and outplayed a massive field to get heads-up against an amateur for his second bracelet of his career, and first since 2006. But it wasn’t meant to be, as he struggled to knock off his final opponent, eventually having to settle for a second place finish.
Brandon Cantu
While some players would be satisfied with a runner-up performance and the cash that comes with it, Cantu was just getting started. He exacted his revenge just five days later, final tabling and then winning event 40, a $1,500 pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better event.

7. James Van Alstyne Records Three Top-Six Finishes in Mixed Games
In a nutshell, James Van Alstyne showed just how ridiculously good the 2009 World Series was. He finished first, second, and then sixth in three World Series events and still just comes in 7th place on this list.

Van Alstyne’s highlight on an impressive resume would have to be his $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. win, where he defeated 770 players for the first bracelet of his career. This victory came less than two weeks after he finished runner-up in the $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. event.
James Van Alstyne
His sixth place finish? In the $10,000 mixed games world championship.
Those three results in 2009, which earned him more than $610,000, make it hard to argue that he shouldn’t be in the conversation when it comes to the best mixed games players in the world.

6. Greg Mueller Becomes Fourth Multiple-Bracelet Winner
In any other year, Greg Mueller would be near the very top of this list. His two bracelets in 2009 are a remarkable accomplishment, yet it almost feels like old news in the year he did it in. This year, of course, there were four players who took down at least two bracelets in the 2009 Series and Mueller was the fourth.
Greg Mueller
Still, he showed off his limit hold’em skills as the former professional hockey player won both of his bracelets in limit events. Mueller won the limit shootout for $194,909 and the limit hold’em world championship for $460,836.
Oh, he also finished seventh in the seven-card stud world championship for $53,855. Just your average/ridiculous World Series 2009 statistic sheet.

5. Brock Parker Wins Back-to-Back Events in Huge Fields
If you’re sitting at a sixhanded table and Brock Parker is there, be afraid, be very afraid. Parker showed his short-handed hold’em pedigree this year when, over the span of four days, he won two bracelets — one in six-handed limit hold’em for $223,697 and the other in six-handed no-limit hold’em for $552,745.
In his first bracelet win, he overcame fan favourite Daniel Negreanu to secure his much deserved first bracelet. It was certainly a breakout year for the respected online pro, who goes by “t_soprano” online. Parker beat out fields of 367 and 1,068 players for his wins.
Brock Parker
“I’m obviously very surprised,” Parker told Card Player TV. “I was surprised to take down the first one. I thought it would probably happen at some point, and then the last tournament was just unreal.”

4. Vitaly Lunkin Goes From Virtual Unknown to High-Stakes Beast
There was so much water cooler talk in the poker community as to who would win the new, prestigious $40,000 no-limit hold’em event. In a star-studded field, virtually no one would have guessed Vitaly Lunkin.

Although he won his first bracelet event in 2008 in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event and then followed it up with a win in Moscow on the Russian Poker Tour for $443,731, Lunkin had flown pretty much underneath the radar. The non-English speaking Russian simply wasn’t on anyone’s short list to take down the $40,000 event.
Vitaly Lunkin
Yet that’s exactly what he did, dismantling perhaps the toughest poker field ever assembled for a payday of nearly $1.9 million.

That alone would’ve been grounds for a stellar World Series. But Lunkin followed it up with second place finish in the pot-limit Omaha world championship and a fourth place finish in the other high roller event at the World Series, the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship.

In all, Lunkin won nearly $2.7 million this summer.

3. Too Legit to Quit? Wahlbeck Scores Incredible Results
Ville Wahlbeck got off to an amazing start in this year’s World Series, winning the first bracelet of his career in the world championship mixed games event for $492,375 after coming in third place in the $10,000 seven-card stud world championship. His two huge results put him at the top of the WSOP Player of the Year leader board in the early running. Although he eventually fell behind to the man at number 2 on this list, he followed those early results up with a series of incredible performances.

At the 2009 World Series, Wahlbeck had the following results: first place, second place, third place, sixth place, 12th place, and 13th place. That’s right — six top-13 finishes, four final tables, three top three results, and a bracelet. It is one of the most impressive and consistent performances in World Series history.
Ville Wahlbeck
A while back Wahlbeck was thinking about quitting, telling Card Player, “I’m really considering almost quitting online poker. I used to play easily 60 hours a week. If you put in too many of those sessions together, then you’re in pretty bad shape.”

Time will tell if Wahlbeck actually will start to phase himself out of the game after these results.

2. Jeffrey Lisandro Wins Three Bracelets in a Single Year
Yes, it’s been done before — by Puggy Pearson (1973), Ted Forrest (1993), Phil Hellmuth (1993), and Phil Ivey (2002). But winning three bracelets had never been done since the poker boom, and quite frankly, many people had wondered if it was even possible in the modern era.

“A lot of people might have said before this year, we may not ever see another guy win three bracelets because the fields are so big,” said Barry Greenstein. “Lisandro proved them wrong.”
Jeffrey Lisandro
Coming into the 2009 World Series with just one bracelet in his career, the professional poker player played like a man on a mission — winning the world championship in seven-card razz, the world championship seven-card stud eight-or-better, and winning another bracelet in a $1,500 seven-card stud event.

His three bracelets (along with another three cashes in the 2009 Series, including a ninth place finish in the seven-card stud world championship) have catapulted him to the top of the WSOP Player of the Year standings and seventh in the Card Player Player of the Year standings.

“It took me so long to get the first one,” said Lisandro. “To get three in one year, it’s amazing.”

1. Phil Ivey Shows Why He May Indeed Be the Best
With rumors of high-stakes prop bets reaching an incredible pitch, all eyes were on Phil Ivey this year to see if he could win his first bracelet since 2005. Widely respected as one of the best players (if not the best) in the game, Ivey decided to put up a considerable amount of money on his belief that he would indeed take down a bracelet this year.

So with the pressure on and a lot of money on the line, Ivey wasted no time in taking down two bracelet events — in no-limit deuce-to-seven draw lowball and an Omaha eight-or-better/seven card stud eight-or-better mixed event. Although he only won slightly more than $300,000 for the events, he likely made much, much more in prop bets.
Phil Ivey
To follow this up with making the final table of the main event is simply incredible.

But besides the money, Ivey’s 2009 performance gives him seven bracelets in his career, tying him with Billy Baxter at sixth on the all-time career list. He is the youngest player to reach that milestone and is in good shape to have a realistic crack at bracelet number eight in November.

Ivey has won bracelets in Omaha eight-or-better/seven-card stud eight-or-better, pot-limit Omaha, S.H.O.E., seven-card stud, seven-card stud eight-or-better, and no-limit deuce-to-seven lowball events.

He will be most people’s favorite to win the main event — if not in the market, at least in their hearts — and he has shown this year that the cream will always rise to the top.

This list represents the opinions of the author, not necessarily those of Card Player.