WSOP 2021: John Gorsuch returns to defend title in down-sized Millionaire Maker

Haley Hintze
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Posted on 10/10/2021

What’s it like to be a poker millionaire, yet it seems nobody recognizes you and nobody knows your name. A lot of poker veterans might dream of such a situation, but for John Gorsuch, that was Saturday’s reality at the 2021 World Series of Poker. Gorsuch was on hand to play the 1B starting flight in Event #17, $1,500 MILLIONAIRE MAKER No-Limit Hold’em. That’s the same event that he won in 2019.

Gorsuch rose from relative obscurity to win a life-changing $1,344,930 in the 2019 Milly, and he’s been here through the 2021 WSOP’s early days. Poker.org caught up to Gorsuch in a far corner of the Brasilia Room several hours into Saturday’s play.

Gorsuch has already cashed twice this series, and he’d amassed a 130,000-chip stack two-thirds of the way through the day. He was well on course to find a chip bag at night’s end, though of course a repeat title is still nearly 2,000 competitors away. But “Cowboys,” as he’s known, still had tales to share.

Four bracelet winners at starting title

One would think as massive a tourney as the Millionaire Maker might offer an easy starting table. That didn’t happen for Gorsuch today. As he told it, he and three other bracelet winners all battled early in the day at a Pavilion Room table. Gorsuch’s table also featured Kyle Cartwright, Yen Dang (the 2012 Ladies champion), and Jimmy Barnett, who won the 2021 Casino Employees event just a week ago.

“I ended up knocking out that employee champ [Barnett],” Gorsuch noted. “And then the [other] three of us all bagged into this room,” meaning Brasilia, “so everyone’s still kind of in it.” Even at his new table, formidable foes waited; tk another bracelet winner, Brett Apter, was just two seats to Gorsuch’s right.

For Gorsuch, though, there’s a world of difference between this year and previous WSOPs. That’s what a $1.3 million payday and being a big event’s defending champ means. “It feels awesome.” he said. “I mean, I’ve got a lot of friends here playing as well. And I just want to be able to defend my crown for as long as I can. Whether it’s day two, three, or four, or even a final table, we’ll see.”

Gorsuch noted reduced Millionaire Maker turnout

Gorsuch won’t have to battle quite as large a field this time around. He said it’s something he and his tablemates had been monitoring and commenting on all day. Though most of the 2021 WSOP’s events to date have drawn solid numbers, given all the factors in play, the Millionaire Maker’s attendance was down. This year’s Millionaire Maker pulled in 5,326 entries over two starting days, but that’s well short of 2019’s event-record 8,817 entries.

“I thought it’d be less,” he said, “but I was hoping to keep the record. I thought it’d be closer, like 7,000 or 8,000, and the other ones have been doing pretty well, especially the bigger events like this.” There’s no ready single explanation for why the Millionaire Maker’s attendance was off, and it may well turn out to be an aberration. The WSOP’s opening weekend’s long lines haven’t been a problem in recent days. And in the 2021 Millionaire Maker, its promise remains true. The event’s million-dollar first-place guarantee is still there, waiting for Gorsuch or another fortunate player to claim later this week.

Featured image source: Haley Hintze