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Improved Structure Credited as Major Reason for Pros’ Success

In 2009, Players Were Given More Starting Chips and Added Levels

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Last year was affectionately coined “The Year of the Pro” by several media organizations, Card Player included. But incredibly and quietly, pros have continued to dismantle record fields left and right for an even more impressive performance this year.

Amateurs only won 10 bracelets of the first 56 events of the 2009 World Series of Poker, meaning players that identified themselves as “pros” or “semi-pros” took down 46 bracelets this year.

That’s a noted increase over last year’s totals, where 39 pros and 3 semi-pros won bracelets. But these two years have been the exception rather than the rule since poker exploded in 2003, where amateurs flooded in the World Series and took a hefty chunk of gold bracelet jewelry home with them.

But with a new and improved structure that debuted in 2009, many pros think the tides may have turned in the pro vs. amateur battle for bracelets.

“I think the added starting chips have definitely made a difference,” said Eric “basebaldy” Baldwin, an online pro who won his first bracelet this year in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event and then finished third in the $10,000 pot-limit hold’em world championship. “That’s why so many pros are winning this year.”

Greg “FBT” Mueller, who had been bracelet-less before this year, captured two WSOP wins in 2009 and said that the new structure “for sure” has helped the pros.

“The better structure allows for better players to use their skills,” said Mueller. “The structure of the events was definitely great, especially at the end of the tournaments. There was no point where I really needed to panic or worry because of the blinds.”

Mueller’s two bracelets both came in limit hold’em events, tournaments whose structures were heavily criticized in past years.

Not only are more pros winning this year, but there are more players who are defying the odds to win multiple bracelets in a single year. Mueller, of course, was the fourth pro to win at least two bracelets this year.

Phil Ivey and Brock Parker each won two events, while Jeffrey Lisandro became just the fifth person in the World Series’ 40-year history to win three bracelets in a single summer.

That marks the most multiple bracelet winners in a single World Series since 2003, just before the Moneymaker Boom expanded field sizes exponentially, when six players captured two bracelets apiece — Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Layne Flack, Men Nguyen, Chris Ferguson, and John Juanda.

Lisandro, with three bracelets this year and four in his career, joined Puggy Pearson (1973), Ted Forrest (1993), Phil Hellmuth (1993), and Phil Ivey (2002) in an exclusive group of players who have won three WSOP events in a single year.

“It took me so long to get the first one,” said Lisandro, referencing his struggle to get his first bracelet in 2007. “To get three in one year, it’s amazing.”

With added starting chips and more levels, 2009 may no longer be seen as an anomaly. Rather, it could be seen as the start of a new era, dominated by pros. Time will tell.