How Should You Play the $25k Fantasy Draft at the World Series of Poker?

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PokerGO Studio
The PokerGO Studio will play host to the 2022 WSOP $25k Fantasy Draft... but who will come out on top?

Every year, the World Series of Poker is enormous fun for fans of the game as poker heroes such as Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and Shaun Deeb take each other on for the biggest prizes and bragging rights associated with winning the much-coveted Player of the Year title as well as individual bracelets.

 

This year sees the return of the $25k Fantasy Draft, where players and fans alike can invest their hard-earned money in the performances of their poker idols. But how does the $25k Fantasy Draft work and who are the best people to ask?

 

We’ve delved into poker’s biggest sweat in Las Vegas by speaking with Remko Rinkema and Donnie Peters, who this year are the two men behind Team Pocket Fives, as well as chatting to Jeff Platt and Brent Hanks, who both represent Team No Gamble, No Future. For the first time, investors can buy a piece of the action from both teams direct from the Pocket Fives site. Remko Rinkema can see the benefits of following the website to keep track of which players are selling their action.

 

“There are people who have posted action on Pocket Fives,” he says. “If we can see that a player is playing a big buy-in tournament, there’s a good chance they’ll be playing a full schedule. The staking marketplace on Pocket Fives has brought all that to one platform.”

 

Jeff Platt couldn’t agree more. The man who made award-winning content at the last World Series of Poker is excited about how easy it is to advertise the package.

 

“While it’s a thrill for us to run the team, it’s even more exciting to be able to get fans involved with the squad, via the Pocket Fives Staking platform,” he says. His teammate, Brent Hanks, agrees.

 

“A few years ago, Remko and I did this thing together and it dawned on both of us that we were actually sharp when it comes to the WSOP and determining the value and pricing of players. Fast forward, Jeff and I have been very fortunate to be immersed within the poker industry.”

 

Making the Best Picks

 

“Knowing how it works has absolutely nothing with winning this.” ~ Remko Rinkema

 

The two teams know all about the process of picking players, but what strategy is the right one? As both teams confess, experience is no guarantee of success.

 

“Knowing how it works has absolutely nothing with winning this. We know better than anyone how it works and haven’t won a thing!” laughs Rinkema, who won a Global Poker Award earlier this year for his spectacular feature on the life of Stu Ungar told through his daughter Stephanie’s memories for PokerGO.

 

“It’s very different from playing a tournament or cash game,” says Donnie Peters, Rinkema’s right-hand man on Team Pocket Fives. “You’re betting on other players. It’s fantasy football transitioned to poker. They didn’t run the $25k fantasy last year because of the vaccine or mask mandates, but we’ve been doing this $25k for several years.”

 

As Rinkema explains, knowing that a player will put in the volume no matter what is key to making the right buys on Draft night.

 

“The first tier is how much are they going to play,” he explains. “Then how likely are they to stick to that schedule based on outside parameters such as cash games and skill level compared to their opponents. Anyone can win a tournament on a given day; Jeff Platt made a final table last year – that says it all.”

 

This theory applies to the biggest players, as the men who know poker best tell us. Volume is by far the biggest factor and while some stars of the game like Daniel Negreanu will play every game, others such as Phil Ivey might take four or five days off if a juicy cash game kicks off elsewhere on the Strip.

 

The Origins of the Game

 

“We have been in the industry and have a good feel for the WSOP.” ~ Donnie Peters

 

The notion of playing a $25,000-entry Fantasy Draft for poker started in 2011. At that stage, Daniel Negreanu was the man behind it, but interest in the idea quickly snowballed. Podcasters Quad Jacks, who were huge in 2012 interviewed Rinkema for their show and the latter then discussed the idea with Peters on a PokerNews podcast episode.

 

“We thought it didn’t seem like they understood draft strategy,” says Peters. “We joked that we’d max the auction on Phil Ivey, spending 193 on Ivey then fill in the rest of our players with $1 players. Some people got wind of it on social media.”

 

The pair were encouraged to take part the following year, raising the money from several investors. Despite their knowledge and background in the game – both men have lived and breathed poker for well over a decade – they are yet to profit… but believe this is the year.

 

“The last time it was organized in 2019, I had a team with Poker Central,” says Rinkema. We were a min-cash shy of finishing in the top three [with] probably the best team ever assembled. We had Jeremy Ausmus, Dan Shak, Rob Mizrachi, Jon Turner, Stephen Chidwick, James Obst, Justin Young and Bart Lybaert was our one-dollar player.”

 

The $25k Fantasy Draft, or rather ‘gambling on gamblers gambling well’ as Rinkema says, is, as all four men admit, the funniest thing imaginable. Investors are betting money on poker players not only showing up with their own money, but finding ways to win. Variance is huge, and Team Pocket Fives are well aware that players ‘grind for years and never make the final table’. The variance is so high that it’s the reason never to give up. Anyone can win it.

 

“If you’re investing in Team Pocket Fives, you’re investing in Remko and I. We’re the brain trust. Similar to if you’re backing me in a poker tournament, you invest in me and take a leap of faith with your dollars. Remko and I lean on our expertise. We have been in the industry and have a good feel for the WSOP, we’re there every single day and have studied these players over the years.”

 

The PokerGO Studio at ARIA
Who’ll pick the best team when Daniel Negreanu hosts the $25k Fantasy Draft at the PokerGO Studio at ARIA?

Fireworks Guaranteed

 

The $25k Fantasy Draft will be presented by Daniel Negreanu on May 30th and looks set to be held on a live stream on PokerGO too, with a live auctioneer of Tim Duckworth and an electric atmosphere in the room. With huge money on the line and poker heroes captaining many teams, Rinkema explains it can be nerve-wracking for debutants.

 

“It is one thing betting on fantasy football sitting behind your computer, but quite another being in a room where Daniel Negreanu bids $73 for Stephen Chidwick and I raise my hand and shout ‘$75!’ It’s quite the vibe that you’re stepping into.”

 

Rinkema explains that team cohesion is everything on the night when the lights are on the teams and marginal decisions need to be made. Whatever the team’s spending limit on players before the auction can change in a second if a big name goes for cheap or sleeper picks gather traction.

 

“It’s a really cool atmosphere,” says Rinkema. “It’s for the true hardcore. If you’re a podcast fan and love the WSOP, it’s the coolest thing ever. If you’re a true fan of the game, it’s ‘can’t miss’ content and provides an amazing sweat during the WSOP.”

 

Peters admits that every year, walking into the room for the Draft sends a shiver down his spine.

 

“You’re going up against a lot of people in the industry and you want to do well. You walk in there and its game day you got your stats, you’ve done your research, but every year people are winging it! They want to borrow your computer it’s like ‘No, you should have done your own research!’ If players don’t go for as many dollars as they think they’re worth, they go crazy.”

 

Peters says the pair get messages from players thanking them for being drafted and promising how hard they’ll try. Not everyone ends the draft delighted with proceedings, though.

 

“One year Phil Hellmuth went for fourth or fifth most expensive player,” recalls Peters. “Obviously, he’s the most decorated WSOP player of all time. He lost his mind that he wasn’t the most expensive player drafted that year!”

 

PokerGO Studio Doors
Walking through the famous PokerGO studio doors is inspiring and daunting on Draft night.

Talking Tactics

 

“We know when well-known players are looking to play.” ~ Brent Hanks

 

When it comes to individual players, how does each team decide who goes for who? In every case, the process is different, only adding to the variance across the board.

 

“We both have endless contact information for domestic and international players alike,” says Hanks about his and Platt’s tactics. “We know the sort of volume that goes under the radar and when well-known players are looking to play.”

 

This isn’t always foolproof, as Rinkema reminds us. It’s not always about the quality of the player.

 

“I would love to have Jeremy Ausmus on our team every year, but I have a feeling he’ll be one of the highest-priced players bid on. He plays a lot of tournaments, he’s extremely good looking; these factors are important.”

 

Others won’t be playing a full series, as Rinkema reveals to everyone who reads this.

 

“Darren Elias, I know without asking him, always takes a break to fly back to the East Coast to hang out with his family. We don’t want those family men on our team. We want dedicated grinders who do not leave the parameter of the valleys and lock in to play every single tournament. Jeremy Ausmus, by the way, big time family man.”

 

Rinkema has already been sharking Twitter for new names and admits to having found ‘a couple of gems’ in the hunt for a great value breakout player.

 

“Jason Mercier is a really good example,” says Peters. “He was crushing this thing for so long but, from 2018, hasn’t really played, so you have to find the next people who are coming up. Hanks can’t contain his excitement about the next two months on and off the felt.

 

“The 25k Fantasy Draft is something that Jeff and I absolutely had to be a part of,” he gushes. “It’s the perfect fit for No Gamble, No Future and what we’re trying to create for our show and brand.”

“Yeah, Brent and I have been discussing innovative ways to relaunch No Gamble, No Future,” agrees Platt. “Having a $25k WSOP fantasy team is the perfect complementary piece to that puzzle.”

A Rowdy Rail is Guaranteed

 

“Our virtual rail will only be topped by Brent’s in-person antics when one of our players makes a final table.” ~ Jeff Platt

 

Part of the fun for Pocket Fives investors or players on each team is the guaranteed entertainment that either participation or investment in either Team Pocket Fives or Team No Gamble, No Future brings.

 

“Our virtual rail will only be topped by Brent’s in-person antics when one of our players makes a final table,” laughs Platt in a reference to the last time Hanks and Platt lit up Twitter after the latter ran very deep at the World Series. “We’ll have so many social media updates so that rail can really feel like they have a good sweat. We plan to feature short interviews with our squad, and love looking at our best sweats throughout the course of the WSOP.”

 

“Players on our team are going to get our undying support for the duration of the WSOP,” says Peters. “We’ll do almost daily podcasts from Bally’s and Paris, the podcast has nine topics going to every show with nine players on our team. It’s going to generate some major content.

 

Brent Hanks couldn’t agree more and is determined to bring the same party mood that he did last year to every step of the $25k Fantasy Draft.

 

“Not only do we absolutely love being a part of this experience, we also know our fans will have a blast alongside us. Not only will this be a fun sweat, but we fully expect to win the damn thing! When our horses make a final table, we guarantee a wild rail as we cheer our team on.”

 

The last word goes to Rinkema before each of the four go back to their spreadsheets, social media messages and other contacts to continue work on building the perfect $25k Fantasy Draft.

 

“It’s the most fun content to do during the WSOP,” he says. “There are sweats, players going deep, and having a little skin in the game every morning when you wake up to see how your team is doing is a fun way to make the WSOP even more exciting.”

 

The $25k Fantasy Draft takes place in less than a fortnight. Before then, you can invest in both teams right here: