After Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker, there were a lot of people grumbling about how he was a "fluke" and didn't deserve to win the title. Quite a few people thought that after Varkonyi won in 2002 and Moneymaker won in 2003, that the pros would come storming back this year and capture the title.
It wasn't even close. The big name pros such as Ivey, Lederer and Hellmuth were summarily dispatched in this year's tournament. Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and Dan Harrington were the two biggest names to make it into the final 25. Dan "The Man" Harrington went out in 4th this year, his second straight solid performance at the WSOP.
Just look at the final table to see how well online qualifiers did this year. 4 out of the final 9 people qualified for the tournament online, including Williams and Raymer, who were the final two.
The two questions are: why did big name pros do so poorly this year, and why does Harrington do so consistently well?
First off, online poker has completely changed the game. Big stakes poker used to be a fairly exclusive club; the average Joe couldn't find a poker game other than messing around with his friends. Now, the Average Joe can play online ten hours per day if he wants to, playing multi-table tournaments 5 or 6 times a day if he so chooses. The Average Joe can play thousands of hands of poker per week, and gain a knowledge of the game fairly quickly. Add that to the mountain of information online, such as rec.gambling.poker, the 2+2 forums or pokerschoolonline.com, and someone can become a fairly skilled poker player in less than a year.
Online players are fairly fearless as well. One of the biggest downfalls of the pros this year was that they thought they could intimidate and bluff out the online qualifiers. This didn't work at all, and they were dispatched fairly quickly.
Why does Harrington consistently do so well? It is because he has a conservative style, that relies on his knowledge of the game instead of pushing in all his chips every fifth hand. He plays a tight game, so when he does push in his chips, you have to respect it. He caught a bad break this year when he pushed in his chips to bluff and Williams caught two pair with his 2/3 suited. He made the right move at the wrong time.
Other pros could benefit by watching how Harrington plays the game. Placing in the top 5 out of a pool of over 2500 poker players shows you just how strong of a player he is. To be a good poker player, you need to know how to adapt, and expect that most big name pros will adapt their game for next year's tournament and place much better. They thought that they could stare down their opponents and intimidate them, but it didn't work.
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