The World Poker Tour (WPT) has a long and storied tradition dating back to 2002, a year before Chris Moneymaker rocked the poker world by shipping the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event and starting what is known as the poker boom.
The very first WPT event was the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and the tournament is now approaching its 15th anniversary. It is also the only event to be held every year in WPT history.
This year’s $10,400 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic takes place from Dec. 5-10 and is once again expected to attract the biggest names in the game as one of the most recognizable poker tournaments of the year.
Here is a look at the history of the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic:
2002: Gus Hansen Defeats John Juanda
The first WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic was held in May 2002 when Gus Hansen won the first of his three WPT titles after defeating a field of 146-entrants to win $556,460. Remarkably the first-place prize represented 40 percent of the $1,416,200 prize pool.
Back in 2002, there weren’t many five-digit tournament buy-ins. This resulted in many of poker’s top names entering the field with many that were among the 18 players that cashed including John Juanda who snagged the second-place prize of $278,240.
Other notable players to cash in the first WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic included Freddy Deeb (third – $139,120), John Hennigan (fourth – $83,472), Scotty Nguyen (sixth – $48,692), Amir Vahedi (12th – $16,694) and Todd Brunson (16th – $13,912).
Additionally, this tournament represented the last time 1992 WSOP Main Event champion Hamid Dastmalchi cashed in a live poker tournament, taking 14th place for $15,303.
2003: Paul Phillips Ships the First Seven-Digit Prize
The following year, the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic moved to the middle of the World Poker Tour schedule and since then has been held every year in December.
Thanks to the poker boom beginning, the tournament attracted more than double than the event the year before, with 314 entrants generating a $3,070,050 prize pool.
Gus Hansen made a serious run at becoming a back-to-back champion before bowing out in third place for $276,426. Dewey Tomko, who before this tournament finished twice in second place in the WSOP Main Event in 1985 and 2001, once again had a runner-up performance in this tournament to collect $552,853. This isn’t to say Tomko hasn’t been in the winner’s circle before; he has collected three WSOP gold bracelets in side events with one in 1979 and two more in 1984.
Paul Phillips, however, was the star of the show collecting the tournament’s first seven-digit cash after defeating Tomko to collect $1,101,908 or almost 36 percent of the prize pool. The first-place prize also represented almost half of Phillips’ $2,331,237 total career cashes.
Once again many big names were among the 36 to cash in this tournament including Abe Mosseri (fourth – $174,585), Chip Jett (eighth – $58,196), Bill Baxter (11th – $34,917), Phil Laak (12th – $34,917), Amir Vahedi (14th – $29,097) and Erik Seidel (19th – $17,458).
2004: Daniel Negreanu Ships His Second WPT Event of the Year
It wasn’t until 2007 that Daniel Negreanu became a member of Team PokerStars, joining a very recognizable stable of players including former WSOP Main Event champions Chris Moneymaker, Joe Hachem and Greg Raymer. However, Negreanu was already a big name in poker well before that.
Negreanu took down the third WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic in 2004 collecting what was then a record $1,770,218 top prize or more than 32 percent of the $5,470,800 in this tournament. Remarkably, this was Negreanu’s second WPT victory and second seven-digit cash of the year after previously shipping the 2004 Borgata Poker Open Main Event for $1,117,400.
Despite now having seven cashes of at least $1 million in his poker career and having the most cashes in live poker tournament history with $32,619,168, according to The Hendon Mob, it took almost a decade before his win in 2004 was supplanted as his biggest in his career when he took second place in the 2014 WSOP Event #57: $1,000,000 No Limit Hold’em – The Big One for One Drop for $8,288,001.
The 2004 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic also witnessed another increase in entrants with a field of 376 players despite the tournament’s buy-in increasing to $15,300. Big names to finish in the top 10 in that year’s event included Humberto Brenes (second – $923,475), Jennifer Harman (fourth – $299,492), Nam Le (sixth – $152,468), Hasan Habib (seventh – $108,906) and Johnny Chan (eighth – $87,125).
2005: Rehne Pedersen Wins Over $2 Million
In 2005, the buy-in for the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic remained the same at $15,300. However, the field once again grew for the fourth straight year with 555 entrants generating a huge $8,075,250.
Denmark’s Rehne Pedersen might be the definition of a one-hit wonder after he shipped the tournament for $2,078,185 or almost 26 percent of the total prize pool. While Pedersen went on to record other cashes, he has been unable to break the six-digit cash mark, let alone seven, since his big day in 2005. His win also represents more than 90 percent of his total $2,302,466 as tracked by The Hendon Mob.
This year’s tournament also marked the first time it awarded more than one seven-digit prize with Patrik Antonius winning the runner-up prize of $1,046,470. Poker legend Doyle Brunson also came close to being the last man standing, taking third place for $563,485.
Other big names to finish in the top 10 during that year included Joanne Liu (fourth – $362,140), Darrell “Gigabet” Dicken (fifth – $241,495), Phil Laak (sixth – $160,995), Joe Cassidy (seventh – $144,895) and David Levi (ninth – $112,695).
2006: Joe Hachem Binks His Second Big Win in Back-To-Back Years
Joe Hachem became a household name back in 2005 when he shipped the WSOP Main Event for $7,500,000. A little more than a year later, Hachem did it once again by shipping his second multimillion-dollar win with a victory in the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic, which was also referred to as the WPT Doyle Brunson North American Poker Classic for $2,207,575, or approximately 26 percent of the prize pool.
Unfortunately for Hachem, he has been unable to parlay on these two performances to break through for another seven-digit cash since then, despite racking up numerous six-digit cashes to help bring his total career live tournament cash mark to $12,170,329, according to The Hendon Mob.
Despite a small rake increase bringing the tournament buy-in to $15,400, the tournament once again grew on its previous performance with 583 entrants generating a $8,482,650 prize pool. Daniel Negreanu almost found himself to be the first multiple Five Diamond winner, however, he hit the rails in third place during this year for $592,000.
Notable players in the top 10 included Justin Bonomo (seventh – $152,230), Haralabos Voulgaris (eighth – $135,315) and Steve Sung (ninth – $118,400).
2007: Eugene Katchalov Wins $2.4 Million
Ukraine’s Eugene Katchalov recorded his biggest win, which still stands to this day, when he won the 2007 Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $2,482,605 or almost 26 percent of the prize pool. Katchalov has gone on to win a handful of other tournaments, including the 2011 PCA Main Event for $1,500,000, to give him a total career live tournament cashes of $8,766,459, the highest amount from players in Ukraine, according to The Hendon Mob.
The field size once again ballooned with 664 entrants creating an almost eight-digit prize pool of $9,661,200. Other players to score big in 2007 included Dave Ulliott (third – $674,500), Ryan Daut (sixth – $192,715), Raymond Davis (seventh – $173,445), Jimmy Tran (eighth – $154,170), Matthew Casteralla (ninth – $134,900) and Erick Lindgren (10th – $115,630).
2008: Chino Rheem Wins Over $1.5 Million
David “Chino” Rheem might be as well-known for owing people money and paying them back after big cashes than he is as a poker player himself. However, in 2008, it was perhaps the year of Chino as he not only appeared on the final table of the 2008 WSOP Main Event taking seventh place for $1,772,650, but also won the 2008 Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $1,538,730 or about 21 percent of the prize pool.
The tournament was the first year that witnessed a decline in attendance with just 497 entrants ponying up the $15,400 buy-in to generate a $7,231,350 prize pool.
Steve Sung, who finished in ninth place a couple of years earlier, was able to improve on that performance by snagging fourth place for $396,205. The top 10 finishers in this tournament was a “who’s who” in poker with Justin Young (second – $936,760), Amnon Filippi (fifth – $288,235), Hoyt Corkins (sixth – $216,175), Mike Matusow (ninth – $100,880) and Clonie Gowen (10th – $86,470) all scoring big.
2009: Five-Time WSOP Champ Daniel Alaei Tops the Field
In 2009, the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic declined for a second straight year with just 329 entrants generating a $4,761,450 prize pool or the smallest since the second year the tournament was held in 2003.
Daniel Alaei went on to defeat Josh Arieh heads up for an impressive win against a strong field to collect the top prize of $1,428,430 or 30 percent of the prize pool. Arieh, for his efforts, almost collected his second seven-digit cash collecting the runner-up prize of $952,290. His biggest cash came when he won $2,400,000 for a third-place finish in the 2004 WSOP Main Event.
Just about every name on the televised six-max final table is likely to be one any poker enthusiast should recognize including Faraz Jaka (third – $571,374), Shawn Buchanan (fourth – $333,302), Scotty Nguyen (fifth – $249,976) and Steve O’Dwyer (sixth – $202,362).
2010: “The Magician” Ships His Second WPT Title
Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari needs no introduction as he is one of poker’s most successful live tournament players of all time.
In 2010, Esfandiari shipped his second WPT title in his career with a win in the 2010 Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $870,124, or more than 20 percent of the $4,248,600 prize pool. Esfandiari’s first WPT victory came in the 2004 L.A. Poker Classic for $1,399,135.
The 2004 WPT win was Esfandiari’s biggest for almost a decade until he notoriously won the WSOP Event #55: $1,000,000 The Big One for One Drop for $18,346,673. With the help of this win, Esfrandiari sits only behind Negreanu with $27,321,225 in career live tournament cashes according to The Hendon Mob.
This year’s WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic witnessed a drop-in buy-in for $10,300. Perhaps because of the reduction, the tournament attracted more entrants than the year before with 437, however, it was unable to stop the slide of the total prize pool.
Once again big names graced the six-max final table in 2010 with Andrew Robl (second – $549,003), Vanessa Rousso (third – $358,964), John Racener (fourth – $232,271), Kirk Morrison (fifth – $168,924) and Ted Lawson (sixth – $126,693) all winning big.
2011: James Dempsey Wins as Tournament Once Again Declines
Despite keeping the buy-in at $10,300, the 2011 Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic declined once again with a turnout of just 413 entrants. Additionally, the $4,006,100 prize pool was the lowest since 2003.
Esfandiari was looking to make history by becoming the first two-time champion in the event after winning it the year before, but he fell short, despite making the final table and hit the rails in sixth place for $119,418.
Meanwhile, James Dempsey, who began the six-max final table with the chip lead, was able to parlay this into a victory in the tournament worth $821,612 or almost 21 percent of the prize pool.
Joining Dempsey and Esfandiari on the final table were Soi Nguyen (second – $517,478), Vanessa Selbst (third – $338,351), Andrew Lichtenberger (fourth – $218,933) and Vitor Coelho (sixth – $159,224).
2012: Ravi Raghavan Wins, Esfandiari Appears on Third Straight Final Table
The 2012 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic came back in a huge way with 502 entrants generating a $4,879,100 prize pool.
Illinois’ Ravi Raghavan notched his single biggest cash in this tournament by shipping it for $1,268,571 or 26 percent of the prize pool. Despite this win, Raghavan became a household name in Europe a year later by taking fifth place in the 2013 WSOP Europe Main Event for €176,000 ($237,892). With the help of these two big cashes, the American now has $3,080,335 in total career tournament cashes according to The Hendon Mob.
However, the biggest news from this tournament could be that for the third year in a row Esfandiari appeared on the televised final table. He finished a bit better than a year ago, taking fourth place for $329,339. Meanwhile Lichtenberger appeared on the final table for his second straight year, finishing one spot worse than last year with a fifth-place finish worth $234,197.
Other players on the final table in 2012 included Shawn Buchanan (second – $746,502), Thomas Winters (third – $483,031) and Jeremy Kottler (sixth – $187,845).
2013: Dan Smith Ships the Title, Tournament Declines Again
It is hard to say that the 2013 WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic was by any means less than a success despite a smaller turnout than the year before. The tournament witnessed 449 entrants who generated a $4,355,570 prize pool, which was smaller than the year before, but bigger than that two years prior.
Well-known high roller specialist Dan Smith proved that he could win when field sizes hit triple digits. While 2013 might have been a slump compared to the over $3.5 million in cashes he won in 2012, Smith went on to win the 2013 WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic for what at the time was his third seven-digit cash for $1,161,135 or almost 27 percent of the prize pool.
Since this win, Smith has notched up two more seven-digits victories including shipping the 2014 Bellagio No Limit Hold’em Super High Roller for $2,044,766 as part of a three-way deal with Jason Mercier and Tom Marchese and a runner-up performance in the 2016 WSOP Event #67: $111,111 No Limit Hold’em High Roller for One Drop for $3,078,974.
Other players on the final table in 2013 included Gary Benson (second – $672,685), Eddy Sabat (third – $436,160), Shaun Suller (fourth -$303,793), Barry Hutter (fifth – $219,165) and Joe Serock (sixth – $175,766).
2014: Mohsin Charania Wins, Tournament Rebounded in a Huge Way
The 2014 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic rebounded in a huge way despite a $100 increase in rake to bring the total buy-in to $10,400. The tournament generated 586 entrants for a $5,684,200 prize pool, representing the second biggest in the tournament’s history in terms of number of players and fourth biggest in terms of the amount of the prize pool.
Mohsin Charania brought a second Five Diamonds World Poker Classic Title to the state of Illinois after shipping the event in 2014 for $1,177,890 after agreeing to a heads-up deal with California’s Garrett Greer who collected $1,169,683. The official top prize was slated to be $1,477,890 or 26 percent of the prize pool.
This wasn’t Charania’s biggest win, as he became well-known in Europe after shipping the 2012 Monte-Carlo® Casino European Poker Tour Grand Final for €1,350,000 ($1,782,343).
Other players on the final table in 2014 included Brett Shaffer (third – $562,736), Ryan Julius (fourth – $383,684), Ryan Fee (fifth – $272,842) and Tobias Reinkemeier (sixth – $218,842).
2015: Tournament Turnout Huge, Kevin “1sickdisease” Eyster Wins
In April 2013, Kevin “1sickdisease” Eyster shipped the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown for $660,395. In the same month, he shipped the FTOPS XXII Event #34: No-Limit Hold’em Six Max Reentry on Full Tilt for $333,680.
In 2014, Eyster won his first WSOP gold bracelet bytaking down the 2014 WSOP Event #24 $5,000 No Limit Hold’em – Six Handed for $622,998.
One year later, Eyster once again found himself in the winner’s circle by shipping his biggest win to date with a victory in the 2015 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $1,587,382 or almost 26 percent of the prize pool.
The rake on the tournament increased once again by another $100 to bring the total buy-in to $10,400. However, this didn’t deter big numbers from showing up, as in back-to-back years it grew with 639 entrants generating a $6,198,300 prize pool. This is only second to the event in 2009 in terms of total players attending and was fourth in terms of the prize pool thanks to some of the earlier events having almost a 50 percent higher buy-in.
Eyster wasn’t the only player to score big on the final table that featured many big names including Bill Jennings (second – $929,745), Ben Yu (third – $607,433), Jake Schwartz (fourth – $412,187), Cate Hall (fifth – $291,320) and Eddie Ochana (sixth – $226,238).
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