The top 5 greatest WSOP bracelet bets

Following the news that Daniel Negreanu wants to bet either him or Phil Ivey will win a bracelet this year, Barry Carter looks back at some of the most epic bracelet bets in poker history.

5. Eli Elezra popularises bracelet bets

// bets were not always as common as they are today. The high stakes pros were simply not motivated to play in $1,000 events where the top prize might be $200,000, when that might the size of a single pot in their cash games.

However, in 2007 Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Chip Reese and Eli Elezra were discussing whether bracelets were as easy to win after the 2003 poker boom as they were before it. Elezra felt that the sheer size of the fields combined with the readiness of strategy information to the general public, made it much harder to win a WSOP bracelet.

Ivey suggested Elezra give him odds of 5-1 on a $100,000 bet and all of a sudden the bracelet became interesting. The high stakes community wanted in, and before you knew it Elezra had made similar bets with names such as Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Barry Greenstein, Gus Hansen and David Benyamine.

The bet worked out brilliantly for Elezra. Not only did he win about $750,000 in wagers that year laying odds for his friends, but he took matters into his own hands by winning a bracelet himself. He won the $3,000 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo event for a little under $200,000, nicely plumped up by a $250,000 present from Barry Greenstein, who gave him 10-to-1 odds.

The high stakes community may have suffered in 2007, but this inspired a renewed interest in bracelet bets that remains to this day (Thanks to this great ESPN article, which shared this story originally).

4. Daniel Negreanu vs Phil Ivey

// year Daniel Negreanu is offering anyone who has $5,000 or more a bet that he or Phil Ivey will win a bracelet in 2014. However, normally he is the one betting against Ivey.

The two have a long standing bet where they both simply pay each other $200,000 whenever the other one wins a bracelet. There are no odds involved, paying the other man six-figures is an inevitability, the aim is to make sure he pays you more than you pay him.

As recently as last year Negreanu had to pay Ivey $200k for his WSOP APAC bracelet, but Ivey had to pay Negreanu $400k for winning both a WSOP APAC and WSOPE bracelet the same year.

3. Justin Bonomo’s Panorama Towers bet

// different spin on the bracelet bet came from Justin Bonomo, who, instead of betting just on himself, bet on an entire building. In 2009 and 2010 he laid odds of 10-to-1 that at least one resident of the Panorama Towers hotel would win a bracelet that year. The hotel is a hub for professional poker players, and included both players who lived there, were staying there during the series or even crashing on a friend's couch.

Roughly 70 pros were expected to stay at the hotel each year, including Antonio Esfandiari, Isaac Haxton, Scott Seiver, Steve O’Dwyer, Shaun Deeb, Liv Boeree and Sorel Mizzi.

Of course he was betting on some of the best players in the world to win a bracelet, but with only around 60 events each year he still had plenty to be concerned about. He was laying very dangerous odds, with a minimum bet of $1,000 to his $10,000.

It was a good bet each year, however, in 2009 Greg Mueller won two bracelets and in 2010 David Baker won one - both residents of the hotel. 

2. Tom Dwan almost breaks Vegas

// the most intriguing bracelet bet of all was a story of what could have been involving Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan.

He is not known as a tournament player, but the lure of the bracelet bet sparked his interest and he booked lot of action, and I mean a lot.

Pretty much everyone in the high stakes community bet against Dwan winning a bracelet, giving him around 3-to-1 odds. Some people also made separate bets against him winning two bracelets in three years.

Nobody will know the exact monetary amounts involved, but they were speculated to have been around $9-20 million if Dwan had won. Mike Matusow had $30,000 riding on it, Eli Elezra $750,000, Phil Ivey $3 million and Howard Lederer was also said to have a large amount wagered. 

So when Dwan found himself heads-up for a bracelet in Event #11, the $1,500 No Limit Hold’em event, Vegas got scared. Dwan was facing Simon Watt, an accomplished player from New Zealand who had previously won a big regional event in New Zealand, the ANZPT, for $200k.

The atmosphere at the final table was tense, it felt more like the WSOP Main Event than a seemingly irrelevant prelim tournament. Watt was fighting for a $614,248 first prize yet also to deny Tom Dwan a pot more than 20 times larger than that.

The high stakes community was on the ropes. Huck Seed, who had $300k bet against Dwan, was so convinced that he had already lost the bet that he actually wired Dwan the money before the match was over. However, it would be Watt who prevailed in the event, notching his place in his history books as winning $614,248, but should be better known as the man that denied Tom Dwan a mult-million prize and kept the Las Vegas poker economy afloat.

Mike Matusow, who seemingly had the least amount of money on Dwan losing seemed to be the most jubilant after the match, shouting to Watt: “They are going to put your picture on the Bobby’s Room wall. Here is Simon, saved everyone from going broke.”

1. Phil Ivey breaks Vegas

// man who has perhaps taken the most money from bracelet bets is also probably the man who has taken the most money from other poker players in general – Phil Ivey.

The biggest single wager he is rumoured to have made on bracelets was with Howard Lederer, a two-year bet between 2010 and 2011 that Ivey couldn’t win two bracelets. The bet was reported to be worth $5 million to each man. Ivey won a bracelet in 2010, but didn’t in 2011 because he chose not to play the WSOP after Black Friday, so he lost that bet.

It may have been his biggest single bet but his biggest year for bracelet bets came in 2009, when he won two bracelets prior to the Main Event. The amount he won in bracelet bets from that one event is unknown, but Eli Elezra revealed he alone lost $400,000 (“It’s like betting against God” Elezra declared) to Ivey and we know Daniel Negreanu would have also paid out $400,000.

Those two confirmed amounts alone were double the official first prizes on offer for the events he won them in (To prove how insignificant the prize money in the actual tournament was, Ivey stood up after winning one event and asked aloud “So how much is first place anyways?”).

Ivey was not done yet, and gave the high stakes community a real scare by making the November Nine, all the while booking more bracelet bets. One of the best documented bets of which was with Andy Bloch, who with 2,500 players left in the event offered Ivey odds of 99-to-1.

Tom Dwan was also rumoured to be on the hook to lose $1 million to Ivey and Phil Gordon was said to be risking a very large amount, and was ‘quaking in his boots’ as Ivey got deep.

Luckily for the high stakes community it would not be Ivey’s day at the final table, as he exited early in 7th position. Sadly for poker fans, 2014 is the last year that Ivey is said to have any sizeable bracelet bets running, so it may be our last chance to pick him for our fantasy WSOP teams. 

Did I miss a classic bracelet bet story? Tell me about it in the comments box. 

// Carter is the editor of and the co-author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2. He has been working in the poker industry for nine years and in 2013 won the APAT Award for Best Poker Media Provider. You can learn more about his work here

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