Soccer fans around the world (i.e., “football” fans anywhere outside the U.S.) are currently enjoying the Euro 2012, the quadrennial tournament that determines the European champions of the sport. After the initial random draw of 4 European countries’ teams into random groups, the media immediately clamber to name the “Group of Death” from which it will be the most difficult to qualify for the next round of matches. For its part, poker also has “groups of death” that come together when a number of tough players make the final table of WSOP events.
Two Groups of Death So Far
When it comes to groups of death at the WSOP, any of the pros who manage to make this type of final table would have enough star power to headline any other “normal” table. Indeed, Event #24 and Event #30 each featured a murderer’s row of poker pros at their respective final tables at this year’s World Series of Poker.
Among the final nine players seated at the $5,000 Omaha high-low split eight-or-better (Event #24) were Mike “the Mouth” Matusow, Scotty Nguyen, Joe Cassidy, and Phil Ivey. And for its part, $1,500 2-7 Draw Lowball (Event #30) featured Erick Lindgren, Brandon Cantu, John Phan, Andrew Lichtenberger, and Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi among the other final tablists. To boot, other poker pros like Bryan Devonshire and Erik Seidel just missed out making the final table in the latter event.
While soccer’s groups of death happen based on random lottery draws, part of what makes “group of death” final tables so special at the WSOP is that the big name pros all have to weave their way through massive fields. Just to illustrate, Event #24 fielded 256 players and Event #30 had 284 players.
Groups of Death Happen Each Year at the WSOP
If it seems like there’s always a star-studded final table at one of the WSOP events each year, you’re right! Before the Chris Moneymaker poker boom, it was mostly pros who made up the fields contesting for bracelets; thus inevitably many of them made final tables. Remarkably, since 2003 when field sizes began to increase substantially, every so often a small group of talented poker professionals still manage to weave their way to a final table simultaneously.
What’s the Ultimate Group of Death in Poker?
Arguably, the most famous “group of death” final table in World Series of Poker history occurred in the inaugural $50,000 Players Championship. Eventually won by the late, great Chip Reese, that final table also featured Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Dewey Tomko, Andy Bloch, Patrik Antonius, David Singer, Jim Bechtel, and T.J. Cloutier. Witness the greatness in this video.
Even that assemblage of all-time greats may be eclipsed at this year’s $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop. Only time will tell.
What’s your ultimate group of death in poker? Sound off on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.