The 2002 World Series of Poker Main Event is often referred to as the first year in which an amateur won the Main Event when New York’s Robert Varkonyi topped the 631-player field to capture the $2 million first-place prize and the coveted WSOP bracelet.
It was Varkonyi’s first recorded live tournament cash, and since that win, he has only added an additional 24 cashes and $348,918 in winnings.
On today’s Run it Back show, Remko Rinkema sat down with poker commentator Norman Chad to relive the 2020 WSOP Main Event final table. It was one of the first final tables where hole card cameras were installed to allow broadcasters to show the players’ cards on tape delay. Unlike many other WSOP Main Event final tables leading up to this one, the final nine weren’t a who’s who of poker players.
Watch Run it Back with Norman Chad | 2002 WSOP Main Event now on Poker Central’s YouTube channel.
The biggest name at the final table was cash game player Minh Ly from Las Vegas, followed by Russell Rosenblum and Ralph Perry. Rosenblum still ventures to the WSOP every year, and Ly is more likely to be found at the Bellagio or in a mixed game tournament. Perry is a constant on the tournament circuit and found most of his success several years later when he won the 2006 WSOP $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha for $207,817, and added two WSOP-Circuit rings online on WSOP.com in 2019.
“He’s one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever meet,” Chad said when discussing memories of Varkonyi. “When he won this event, she [Varkonyi’s wife Olga] was pregnant with their first child, which they then name Victoria because he was the victor in the Main Event.”
The first hand of the broadcast sees Varkonyi doubling up Julian Gardner with pocket nines unable to outdraw pocket aces. Chad and Rinkema don’t just discuss the strategy of these players at the final table, but they share poker stories from those days at Binion’s Horseshoe, exchange a few laughs, and respond to questions from the chat. Go watch Run it back with Norman Chad now!
World Series of Poker Main Event coverage is available right now on PokerGO. Check out the WSOP Classic collection and watch the best moments from past Main Events including Johnny Chan’s quest for a third title, the meteoric rise of Chris Moneymaker, and Joe Cada setting the record as youngest champion.