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  1. When Veronica Brill first went public a year ago with her accusations that Mike Postle had been cheating in the Stones Live games, Brendan I. Koerner, a contributing editor for WIRED, was completely oblivious to the poker world. Over the 10 months that followed, following a phone call from a source from a previous gambling story he had written, Koerner immersed himself in the scandal that had taken a small live-streamed game in Northern California and put it front and center. The fruits of his labor hit newsstands and the web this week under the title “The Cheating Scandal That Ripped the Poker World Apart”. The article includes all kinds of details, some of which the poker community learned for the first time as they scrolled their way down the online article or turned the pages of the magazine, but not everything Koerner learned made it to print. Some were left out for legal reasons while others were edited out for brevity. Everything started with that phone call from a Las Vegas-based casino security consultant pointing him in the direction of Brill and Postle for the first time. “I started looking into it and at first, I thought it’d be a pretty black and white, pretty straightforward story about this person was cheating and someone called him out and that it would be pretty cut and dried,” Koerner said. “The more I looked at it and the more I talked to people, I realized there were really shades of gray in the story and a lot of nuance and detail that made it really compelling as a sprawling narrative and really a story about two characters. It’s what we call in the business, a two-hander - which is basically a two-character drama.” Koerner thought there was enough intrigue and drama that he took the story to his editors at WIRED, where he has been writing for the better part of 18 years. Knowing that the poker community was putting together a case against Postle using data was a good enough hook for the WIRED team to give Koerner the greenlight to pursue the story. “The fact that there’s such a strong analytics component to it and that basically there’s no accomplice that has come forward to say, “I helped Mike Postle do this”, it’s really based on the circumstantial evidence of analytics and looking at the math and people asking, “Does this make sense? What’s within the realm of the possible when it comes to the plays being done here?” I feel that really taps into the same kind of mindset that a lot of WIRED readers have (which) is viewing the world through data can provide to us all kinds of information that can give us a view from a distance,” Koerner said. Since Thanksgiving of last year, Koerner has been chasing down every angle of this story and talking to as many people involved as possible, including Brill, Postle, Justin Kuraitis, and others. He also had to learn as much as he could about poker in a short time frame. “Because I am a poker neophyte, I really had to spend a lot of time getting up to speed. A lot of times that just meant after putting my kids to bed at night, going to my desk and just watching a couple hours of hands just to understand what’s going on,” said Koerner. Writing for an audience that may not be well versed in poker also gave Koerner a challenge. He needed to explain some of the basics - as simple as the rules of Hold’em - while also introducing Game Theory Optimal and making it make sense in one or two paragraphs. Learning and simplifying some of the more complex parts of poker were just a small part of the story and the more time Koerner spent learning, the more the story changed. “What I originally conceived was pretty different than I think what it ended up being. I think that I, especially as I did have more conversations with Mike Postle in particular to get to know his character a little bit better, my conception of how to structure the piece changed,” Koerner said. While Postle seemed to have gone into hiding following his appearance on Mike Matusow’s podcast last October, Koerner was able to stay in contact with him and spoke with him multiple times. “He kind of faded in and out of my life between March and August, essentially. We had some very extended, sometimes contentious conversations. There were certainly aspects of my reporting he did not appreciate, that he was actually pretty fired up about. There were times when he was incredibly cordial,” Koerner said. At multiple points throughout the process, Postle promised Koerner that he would provide evidence that would exonerate him and show details of a conspiracy he claimed was created by his enemies. That evidence was never made available. “In the end, he not only didn’t provide that evidence but, as I say in the story, he did not even answer the detailed fact-checking questions we sent to him. That is, in my experience having done this for 20 years, highly unusual for someone to not even respond to fact-checking questions,” Koerner said. While any scandal is going to provide salacious details, Koerner was intrigued and his writing was driven by the two main characters, Postle and Brill, and the destruction of what was once a fairly strong friendship was an important piece of the narrative. “I don’t think I’ve ever come across or rarely come across two people who genuinely loathe each other as much as these two. There’s just such bad blood between them,” Koerner said. “So I feel like the dynamic between them, these former friends who actually have life stories that share some similarities, that for there to be such toxicity in their relationship now, to me, is really interesting.” While Koerner went into great detail about those two main characters and some of the other players on either side of the scandal, there was one key figure that he wasn’t able to track down or even identify that left him wanting more. John - or Jane - Doe, named as such in the class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Brill and more than 80 others. “If there was an accomplice, who was it? I was definitely given some names of people and just cold-called. There was one person in particular I was given a name by some former Stones Live people that they thought it was this one particular person. I just went through an online directory and called every single person with that name in the 916 area code trying to find them. It’s frustrating that I couldn’t do that,“ Koerner admitted. That frustration was so strong for Koerner, that earlier drafts detailed his pursuit of the potential John Doe accomplice. That part of the story didn’t make his final cut and Koerner thinks that the recent settlement of the lawsuit means that person’s identity will likely remain hidden forever. Getting Justin Kuraitis, the Stones tournament director who was also responsible for the Stones Live livestream, to talk also proved to be a difficult task for Koerner. During his reporting, Koerner learned that after allegations surfaced, Kuraitis called Andrew Milner, the creator of the graphics system used to display hole cards on the livestream, to ask if he was aware of any vulnerabilities that could be exploited by Postle or others. “If he was in on it, I don’t know if he would have made that phone call. It’s possible, but I just found that curious,” Koerner said. “I also heard from someone else in the poker community that there was some soul searching on Justin’s part, but Justin basically didn’t comment to me, just sent me a link to a RounderLife story, which basically accused Veronica of concocting the whole thing to make herself famous.” Speaking with Milner gave Koerner a crash course in the security protocols for livestreamed poker games. The technology angle of the story was another reason why WIRED pursued the story. He had a very different outlook once he saw Stones in person. “It was interesting to see, just on the ground, how little security that they had. It really reminds me that security is only as strong as its weakest link in the chain. So you could have signals that are encrypted and so no one can pick them up and de-encrypt them in real time, but if anyone can walk into the control room and look at it i real time and us text the information, that kind of subverts the whole rationale for having strong encryptions,” Koerner said. Once the settlement, which included the statement from Mac Verstandig, the lawyer representing Brill and 80 others, which said they found no evidence of cheating by Stones or Kuraitis, became public, Kuraitis went on a social media victory lap and Koerner could only watch and wonder exactly what the strategy was. “I would say that if I was a PR person at Stones or wherever handles Stones’ communications or legal policy, I would be tearing my hair out. It was not a good communication strategy for him to basically get on Twitter and just invite more attention,” Koerner said. The timing was also something that Koerner found suspicious. “(Kuraitis) did it on September 15 and Mike Postle had reached out to me several days before and asked me when the story was going to run. I didn’t know at that time what the run date was, but I told him “on or around September 15”. So a big piece of me wonders if he did that to get ahead of the story,” Koerner said. The WIRED story isn’t the only non-poker media coverage that this story will be getting. An independent production company based out of Los Angeles headed by Dave Broome, 257 Productions, is working on a documentary. The poker community has been skeptical about the project and it appears they’re not alone. “(Broome) is a guy who’s very accomplished in the world of Hollywood. I had some questions about the documentary that I’ve not necessarily gotten satisfactory answers about,” Koerner said. “Myself having recently helped produce a documentary, I know that the way that was done and I’m curious to see how this is going to be done. I would like to have another conversation with Dave Broome to clarify some of the questions I have about it.” The recently announced settlement and the statement that accompanied it came as a surprise to many in the poker world, but Koerner was aware that the lawsuit was heading in that direction as far back as mid-summer. “Clearly, those who defend Postle and say no cheating goes on, to them it’s vindication. To others, it doesn’t change the equation at all and I think does raise some questions about whether the filing of the lawsuit may have actually complicated the pursuit of truth in the first place,” Koerner said. Whether or not that documentary ends up streaming on Netflix, as Broome has told people, or not, the future of the case remains murky. A group of poker players, led by Phil Galfond, are attempting to transcribe and catalogue every hand Postle played on the stream in hopes of showing that the likelihood he didn’t cheat is just a few decimal places away from zero. “The plaintiffs who did not sign the settlement, they would have to go out and find a new lawyer and refile. It’s tough to foresee that happening, to be honest. There’s a lot of expense that goes into that,” Koerner said. “Clearly, California gaming laws are not very amenable to this kind of civil action, which is probably something that the plaintiff’s attorney should have known about before filing. So it’s tough to see a civil remedy here.” It’s also unlikely that any sort of criminal action is going to come from this, according to Koerner. While rumors of a grand jury have never been confirmed by anybody, Koerner learned that the California DOJ did look into the case - but not necessarily the complaints against Postle or even Stones. “From what I gathered from those who spoke to the California DOJ, the California DOJ was most interested in ‘did anyone defraud Stones?’ So with that not being the issue, their interest seemed to wane,” Koerner said. “At the same time, I was told the investigation is ongoing and that’s why I was not able to use public information requests to get investigative files.” “So, it’s possible there is still an open case on this, but I would say that the DOJ looking at defrauding of other players, that’s a tricky investigation and probably ultimately too little money involved to really make it worth their while. The proverbial bigger fish to fry,” Koerner said. The story is now on newsstands now and while Koerner believes the potential for any sort of actual justice appears to be fading away, doesn’t mean that he is done with the story. He hopes to follow up over the coming months in particular detailing more about Postle and, hopefully, John or Jane Doe. The initial reaction to the story has shown both Koerner and WIRED that there’s an appetite for more. “I would assume very few of our readers are really experienced poker players, I mean some of the mare, but it’s probably a pretty small percentage,” Koerner said. “But the story’s been getting a lot of readership. We can see the metrics online. It’s been really gratifying to see it be the most popular story right now on the site for the second day running.”
  2. [caption width="640"] Davidi Kitai of the Paris Aviators won the first Global Poker League tournament.[/caption] After months of build up and hype, the Global Poker League finally got cards in the air this week with three days of action and it was two players, Randy Lew of the Hong Kong Stars and Davidi Kitai of the Paris Aviators, who stole the show. Kitai gets the honor of going down in history books as the first winner of a GPL tournament. Kitai came out on top of a Six Max match that included Daniel Cates, Dzmitry Urbanovich and Igor Kurganov. Lew, one of the wildcard picks for the Stars, left his heads-up match with Sergey Lebedev of the Moscow Wolverines with a perfect record – the only player to do so in Week 1. The schedule has teams playing Six Max matches, one player from each squad, on Tuesdays and Heads Up matches on Wednesday and Thursday. Teams play against their own conference until the Summer Series when inter-conference play is introduced for the first time. Day 1 The Paris Aviators had the best opening day in the Eurasian Conference. David Kitai won the first Six Max match and finished third in the second to earn 10 points for the Aviators. The Hong Kong Stars picked up the win in the second match-up thanks to Raiden Kan. The most talked about hand from Week 1 was a hero fold by the Belgian that seemed to dominate post-match conversation. With a 5-1 chip lead over Kurganov, Kitai checked his option with [poker card="ts"][poker card="8h"] after Kurganov limped his button with [poker card="ac"][poker card="8c"]. Kitai then checked the [poker card="8s"][poker card="4d"][poker card="3s"] flop to Kurganov who bet 1,600. Kitai check-raised to 4,444 only to have Kurganov reply with a re-raise to 7,288. Kitai folded, leaving announcers Griffin Benger and Sam Grafton in shock. The other end of the spectrum was the Berlin Bears. Daniel Cates managed to post sixth place finishes in both matches, leaving the Bears without any points after Day 1. Cates admitted on Twtter later to being distracted while playing his GPL match. In Americas Conference play, Jason Wheeler, of the New York Rounders, also had a win and third place finish to give his team 10 points. The Las Vegas Moneymakers also had a strong showing thanks to Anthony Zinno finishing runner-up in both matches. And Anthony Gregg repeated Cates’ performance, posting identical sixth place finishes for the San Francisco Rush in both matches. Day 2 With the Six Max matches out of the way, the schedule turned to Heads Up matches in the Eurasian Conference. The Hong Kong Stars vaulted themselves into first place in their division thanks to Randy Lew’s 3-0 sweep of Sergey Lebedev of the Moscow Wolverines. Lew was the only player over the course of two days of heads-up matches to win all three. Grospellier earned six points by beating Cates 2-1 in their match while Justin Bonomo did the same for the London Royals beating Timothy Adams of the Rome Emperors 2-1. Day 3 The third day was all about the Americas Conference. Possibly the most highly anticipated match saw the L.A. Sunset’s Olivier Busquet, considered by some to be the best heads-up sit & go player in the world, going up against Darren Elias of the Sao Paulo Metropolitans. Busquet earned six points for the Sunset, beating Elias 2-1. All three Americans Conference heads-up matches ended with identical 2-1 scores. Tom Marchese of the New York Rounders beat Anthony Zinno of the Las Vegas Moneymakers and the San Francisco Rush got six points from Anton Wigg beating the Montreal Nationals’ Martin Jacobson 2-1. Zinno and Cates were the only two players to play every match for their team in Week 1. Week 1 MVP Sure, Lew went 3-0 in his match against Lebedev and deserves some consideration, but Kitai gets the Week 1 honors. The Belgian pro earned 10 points for his team with a win and a third place finish in the Six Max matches and gave those who tuned in on Twitch something to talk about with his amazing fold against Kurganov. Standings Week 2 Schedule Tuesday, April 12 12:00 pm ET Six Max: Eurasia Conference 1:40 pm ET Six Max: Eurasia Conference 3:30 pm ET Six Max: Americas Conference 5:10 pm ET Six Max: Americas Conference Wednesday, April 13 12:00 pm ET Heads Up: London Royals vs. Hong Kong Stars 2:30 pm ET Heads Up: Paris Aviators vs. Rome Emperors 5:00 pm ET Heads Up: Moscow Wolverines vs. Berlin Bears Thursday, April 14 1:00 pm ET Heads Up: Sao Paulo Metropolitans vs. Montreal Nationals 3:30 pm ET Heads Up: San Francisco Rush vs. New York Rounders 6:00 pm ET Heads Up: Las Vegas Moneymakers vs. L.A. Sunset All matches are streamed live on Twitch.tv/GPL.
  3. [caption width="640"] PokerStars officially launched in New Jersey on Monday, March 21, 2016.[/caption] Thanks for following our live blog coverage of the PokerStarsNJ launch. 9:13 PM: With nearly 1,200 seated players, there are currently eight full $1/$2 Six Max NLHE tables and 14 full $0.25/$0.50 Six Max NLHE tables. 8:01 PM: The threat of an overlay in the big nightly events on Day 1 was probably overstated. The Big $50, which carried a $1,500 guarantee needed 33 players to reach the guarantee and ended up with 79 for a total prize pool of $3,594.50. The biggest guarantee of the night was in the Nightly Stars $100. With a $10,000 guarantee the event needed 109 players to avoid an overlay. With another 58 minutes of late registration available, there are 115 players in the event, making the guarantee easily. 6:52 PM: One of the products that U.S. players will find new on PokerStarsNJ is the Spin N Go. The Hyper Turbo sit n gos, which are played three-handed, do not have a set prizepool. Before play begins players watch a spinning wheel with prizes ranging between two and 10,000 times the buy-in. Just before 7 PM three players signed up for a $5 Spin N Go and wound up splitting $6,000. 'sumzyy' took home $5,000 for winning and 'NJPLandy15' and 'alucard 27' each earned $500 for finishing second and third. If you don’t already have a PokerStarsNJ account you can sign-up here and be ready to play as soon as you’re inside the state of New Jersey. 6:20 PM: The 'Big $50' tournament which runs nightly at 6 PM and has a $1,500 guarantee, had no trouble meeting the number of the first night. With registration open for another 1 hour and 40 minutes, there are 30 players registered, meaning they've raised exactly $1,500 so far. However, unlike in other markets around the world, the buy-in of $50 is inclusive of fees, so the buy-in for this event is actually $45.50 + $4.50. This leaves the net overlay currently at $135. 5:43 PM: Six full days before their first "Sunday Major", PokerStarsNJ has a player registered for their marquee Sunday event, the Sunday Special. 'RevelOwner', who has been active on the site during throughout the day, signed up for the $200 buy-in, $50,000 guaranteed event. The full PokerStarsNJ tournament schedule includes regular daily events with buy-in from $5 to $100 and guarantees as high as $10,000. 5:37 PM: Heading into the busier part of the nightly tournament schedule, PokerStarsNJ broke through the 500-player mark with four tables of $5/$10 Six Max NLHE running, two full tables of $2.50/$5 Six Max NLHE and a full lineup of NLHE games from $0.05/$0.10 and up. 4:22 PM: Chris Moneymaker is known for winning the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, but he's not just a one trick pony. Moneymaker, playing under the screen name 'Money800NJ', is currently playing $1/$2 Pot Limit Triple Draw. And he's making hands like a boss. 3:41 PM: Jason Somerville, a Team PokerStars Pro, is in New Jersey and started streaming on Twitch.tv/jcarverpoker just after 3 PM. Somerville, playing as 'jcarverNJ', currently has just over 5,000 people watching him play a $20 deepstack NLHE event. 3:01 PM: Just after the clock struck three o'clock, PokerStarsNJ hit another milestone, topping the 400-player mark for the first time. As the afternoon approaches and more of the 9-5 bridge-and-tunnel crowd make their way home, this number should see a bigger jump. 2:50 PM: The PokerStars media event at Resorts Casino & Hotel has all of the big name Team Pros on hand to show off the new PokerStars NJ product. One of those players is Jason Mercier and he even managed to bring along his dog, marshmallow. 1:00 PM: It appears that at least on Day 1, PokerStars is quickly becoming the top site. A look at the lobby of competing sites shows PokerStars as the leader. PokerStars: 283 connected players WSOP.com: 110 cash game players* partypoker: 189 connected players *data from PokerScout.com 12:16 PM: Mainstream media is starting to pick up on the scent. The Associated Press just released a story about the re-launch of PokerStars in New Jersey and mentions the possibility that the Garden State might need to start working with other states for this thing to really take off. New Jersey has been seeking reciprocal compacts with other states and even other countries to offer Internet gambling with larger combined prize pools, but so far it has only succeeded in taking small steps toward that goal. 11:29 AM: The excitement of PokerStars being in just one state is spilling over to surrounding states - even if the play isn't. Players in the Pennsylvania Poker Community are talking about making the trip into New Jersey to play - one player did so during Soft Launch and was pretty impressed by the product, calling the software "by far the best offered in NJ right now". 11:00 AM: A new high in number of connected players of 169. There were three full $0.25/$0.50 Six Max NLHE tables and two tables of $2.50/$5 Six Max NLHE for the first time. 10:34 AM: The first official tournament now has a winner with 'Pandemicz' taking down the $15 No Limit Hold’em (Six Max, Turbo, Progressive SuperKO). 'Pandemicz' beat out PocketFives members 'Mrs. Baskets' and 'LennyCappy' to win $82.03 plus $50.57 in bounties. 10:23 AM: While the cash games are picking up and multiple tournaments are now running, there are still no ZOOM tables running. 10:15 AM: Check out our PokerStarsNJ FAQ for many of the answers to questions you might have about the return of PokerStars to the United States. 9:57 AM: New Jersey native Vanessa Selbst is apparently contemplating moving back to her home state. 9:45 AM: Traffic has peaked with 91 active players. Most players are playing $1/$2 Six Max NLHE and $0.25/$0.50 Six Max NLHE. There is also a single table of $0.50/$1 Six Max Pot Limit Omaha running. 9:30 AM: Registration is closed on the first official tournament on PokerStarsNJ. The $15 No Limit Hold’em (Six Max, Turbo, Progressive SuperKO) got 27 entries, pushing the total prize pool to $364.50 - well past the $250 guarantee. There were two other tournaments scheduled for earlier in the day, but both were cancelled after not making the minimum number of players. 8:33 AM: More and more players are finding their way to the site. Lobby shows 62 players playing and two full $1/$2 Six Max NLHE tables. The first guaranteed tournament of the day is set for a 9 AM start and has three players currently registered. 7:57 AM: It's no surprise that PokerStars has put the full weight of their Team Pros behind the launch. While Jason Somerville is scheduled to stream from New Jersey later on Monday, another Team Pro is making his way there now. [CCODE] [/CCODE] 7:41 AM: PocketFives member Steven Madara, the #17 ranked player in New Jersey, is up early and playing. Madara, playing under the screenname 'FadeOrHoldz', is seated at a $1/$2 Six Max NLHE table. 7:30 AM: A little over an hour into the day and there are 32 active players on the site. The most popular tables are $0.05/$0.10 Six Max NLHE where three tables were running. 6:13 AM: PokerStars issues a press release announcing they have passed all New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement soft launch requirements and are now 100% live in the Garden State. "We could not be more proud to bring PokerStars to New Jersey. Working with our partner, Resorts Casino Hotel, we look forward to providing the most exciting, innovative and secure gaming experience to New Jersey," said David Baazov, Chairman and CEO of Amaya, PokerStars' parent company.
  4. [caption width="640"] Anatoly Filatov hopes the Russian fighting spirit will lead the Moscow Wolverines to GPL success[/caption] If you believe American pop culture, the Russians are always the bad guys. In Rocky IV, Ivan Drago was meant to destroy Rocky Balboa. In Rambo, Colonel Podovsky was the one torturing John Rambo. In the WWF, Nikolai Volkoff wouldn’t begin his matches until he sang the Soviet national anthem. Granted, those are all throwbacks to the Cold War, but you get the point. As the Global Poker League makes its way through its first season Anatoly Filatov is hoping to be anything but a bad guy. Still, the 28-year-old Moscow Wolverines team manager went into the inaugural draft and with a really short list of players he was targeting. “I mostly concentrated on Russian and (Commonwealth of Independent States) players because they were more clear for me. Some of them are my friends and I know what to expect from them,” said Filatov. “My strategy was to find flexible people who can work in the team and adapt to different circumstances.” To that end Filatov filled his four spots with three Russian players and another with strong ties to the former Soviet Union. With his first pick, eighth overall, Filatov took one of the hottest players in poker today, Dzmitry Urbanovich. The 20-year old poker pro, who was born in Belarus but now lives in Poland, won European Poker Tour Player of the Year last season and last month took down the EPT Dublin Main Event for the third biggest score of his career. From there, Filatov went full Russian and had more than a few heads turning as he filled out his roster. In the second round he chose Vladimir Troyanovskiy, fresh off of his fifth place finish in the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event. With over $4,000,000 in lifetime earnings, Troyanovskiy is a successful tournament player. Filatov selected Andrey Pateychuk and Sergey Lebedev in the third and fourth round respectively. Pateychuk already has EPT and World Poker Tour titles to his credit and is the ninth highest ranked online player in Russia. When Filatov selected Lebedev with his final pick, those watching the live stream were left with one question. “Uhh, who?” Lebedev has made final tables in Europe, Asia and North America but hasn’t broken through with a live win just yet. He’s banked over $1.2 million in tournament earnings with a quarter of that coming in the last four months. While the general public might not be overly familiar with his roster, Filatov is quite happy to have built his team around players from his part of the world. “I must admit that it played a huge role for me, because we need to communicate well and have the common mentality. That`s why I prefer to choose mostly Russian-speaking or European players,” said Filatov, who also took into consideration the enthusiasm the players showed for the GPL concept. Enthusiasm is what got Filatov interested in the GPL in the first place. Not his mind you, but that of GPL founder Alex Dreyfus. “Some time ago Alex called me and described the concept. We talked a lot about the ideas that they have to promote and how these events will develop poker as a sport,” said Filatov. “His vision of this project, enthusiasm inspired me to lead the Moscow team and I didn`t doubt that I wanted to be involved in it.” Even though the Cold War is long over, Filatov is happy to some Russian history when it comes to his team name and logo. “I like the red color of the logo because its associates with 'Red Machine' – the USSR hockey team and Red Square," said Filatov. "And the the logo shows Russian character and fighting spirit.”
  5. [caption width="640"] Anna Khait is hoping her poker skills help her win Survivor Kaôh Rōng[/caption] Cash game grinders at Atlantic City casinos have a history of going on to great things. Phil Ivey went from an underaged kid sleeping under the Boardwalk to the best player in the game. Three-time World Poker Tour champ Anthony Zinno built his bankroll playing in cash games at the Borgata. Starting Wednesday night Anna Khait is hoping to rise to stardom, albeit through a very different path. The 26-year-old Brooklyn native is one of 18 contestants on Survivor: Kaôh Rōng. A lifelong fan of the show, Khait first applied by sending in a video application in 2014. When she didn’t hear back, she figured it wasn’t going to happen. “I told one of my friends and he said there was a live casting call tomorrow at Caesars. I’m already at Borgata all the time and he said ‘why don’t you go to Caesars?’,” said Khait. Being new to the entire casting process, Khait had no idea what she was in for when she got in line. Others that were waiting with her hit her with a harsh dose of reality pretty quick. “I made friends with the people around me and they were telling me they’ve tried out for six years … eight years … four years and have never gotten a phone call, never gotten an email, nothing,” said Khait. “I was like ‘that’s great, I’m just going to waste my time right now’ but I just said whatever. I got really nervous in front of the camera and thought I’d messed it up that interview.” That was late 2014. CBS was casting for two seasons of the show at the time. Over the next few months producers kept in touch with Khait. “It was a six or seven month long process of paperwork, interviews, doctor visits and more interviews and then they flew me out to finals in December,” said Khait. “I had interviews there and stuff and met Jeff (Probst) and CBS executives and it still wasn’t a done deal.” In those meetings producers asked Khait what she did for a living. When she told them she was a professional poker player, they pushed back a little bit. “They were like ‘well we’ve never heard of you’ and I was like, yeah I don’t really play in the public eye,” said Khait. “I play mostly cash, I don’t really play tournaments, I don’t play WPTs.” Khait eventually got the call that she had been cast for Season 32 of the hit reality show. The theme for the season is Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty and Khait is a member of the “Beauty” tribe. Once she got to Cambodia, where the show was being filmed, she decided to keep her poker playing identity hidden. “I didn’t tell anyone that I play a strategy game for a living, I thought that would be a good move. There were poker players that did. I mean, Jean-Robert (Bellande) couldn’t really get away form it because he was in the public eye and somebody might have known,” said Khait, who instead told her fellow competitors that she was a medical school student who worked as a cocktail waitress at The Borgata. “Not exactly a lie, but it is, whatever. But I didn’t tell them what I did because I didn’t want them to know I play a strategy game, that I’m very analytical and can read body language,” said Khait. As a Survivor superfan, Khait felt she had a pretty good understanding of what to expect once the game began. She quickly learned she was wrong. “You don’t really realize how much rain there is and how much down time there is. There’s so much down time in between challenges, sometimes two to three days where you’re just sitting around camp, finding food, cooking food, getting water,” said Khait. “You don’t realize how tough it is until you’re out there and you have to fend for yourself.” Dealing with the constant buzz of mosquitos, the 130 degree temperatures all while sleeping on hard, uneven bamboo beds can be a mental challenge as much as physical. Through all of that, and the physical and mental nature of the game, Khait feels like she discovered some things about herself she didn’t know going in, including something that will come in hand as she resumes her poker career. “I learned that I’m pretty tough, that I can handle any situation that’s thrown my way,” said Khait. “I also realized how competitive I am.”
  6. [caption width="640"] HoldEmX is now available for Alpha testing.[/caption] If you've been waiting for a new variation of Hold'em to come along that takes influence from outside of the world of poker, then you're going to be a happy camper. Mediarex Sports & Entertainment, the company behind the Global Poker Index and Global Poker League, has released an Alpha version of HoldEmX and is seeking feedback from players. The game combines No Limit Hold'em with some game elements that will probably feel very familiar to video gamers. The game is played in a heads-up freezeout format using a standard 52 card deck. Each player starts a match with 1,000 chips. The xDeck, a deck of 15 unique cards, allows each player to change the game throughout a hand. Prior to the match starting players can choose up to six of these cards to have at their disposal during a match. Each card has a value and players must select their six xCards within a pre-determined budget. They can also choose to "ban" three cards from use, bringing in multiple layers of strategy. Examples of cards in the xDeck include "Re-Deal Flop", "3rd Hole Card", "6th Street" and cards that allow a player to change any heart to a diamond and any club to a spade. The game, available at HoldEmX.com, has been released in Alpha mode to allow game developers an opportunity to get feedback from experienced poker players and gamers alike. "We wanted to release this alpha as soon as possible to get as much feedback as possible before moving on to development of a beta version. The game works - but our current lobby/ game registration system is still very bare-bone," the company said in an email to prospective players. Players who have tried the game are invited to leave feedback here.
  7. [caption width="640"] Aussie Millions Tournament Director Joel Williams[/caption] Almost 20 years ago a young, inexperienced blackjack dealer went to his first day of work at Crown Casino in Melbourne. Within minutes of his shift starting though, he was already wondering if he’d need to make a career change. “I found myself on a blackjack table at the original Crown Galleria complex with several of my closest 'friends' on the table to wish me well,” said Joel Williams, who now serves as the Crown Casino Tournament Director and oversees the Aussie Millions. “My nerves then led me to dropping all 416 cards onto the casino floor - much to the amusement of those so-called 'friends'.” Despite the first day mishap, Williams has rebounded well. He picked up the eight decks of cards and made it through his first shift at Crown. On Sunday Williams will be the man in charge when the best poker players in the world play in one of the biggest buy-in poker tournaments in the world, the LK Boutique $250,000 Challenge at the Aussie Millions. It’s a long way from being a blackjack dealer fumbling his way through a shuffle. “From early 2000 I'd become a poker dealer and within a few years became involved with the training of poker staff, Poker Room Management as well as Tournament Operations,” said Williams. “When the Tournament Director position eventually became available, I jumped at it. The chance to be involved in one of the world's most prestigious poker events was just too good to pass up, and especially at a management level.” Ask players who’ve made the trip to Melbourne to play the Aussie Millions and they’ll tell you it’s a different experience from nearly anything else they’ve ever played. The schedule, with buy-ins from $1,150 all the way up to the $250,000 Challenge, is only part of the equation. “It’s a combination of many things. Melbourne is such a wonderful city this time of year - between the summer weather, the Australian Open Tennis, Chinese New Year as well as all Melbourne has to offer all year round,” said Williams. “Crown prides itself on customer service, and I think the friendly, almost 'laid back' Australian nature is almost always well received by our players.” That’s reflected in the numbers. The 2016 Aussie Millions Main Event drew 732 players – the largest field since 2011 and a 13% jump over the 2015 event. “The employees who make the experiences even better for the players also is a major draw card and we'd obviously like to think that the continued strength of the Aussie Millions playing schedule is a major drawcard as we work very hard to ensure it's the best schedule we can offer for an event of this caliber,” said Williams. And while the casino goes out of their way to cater to players flying from Europe or North America, Crown is at the center of the Australian poker scene and have developed a satellite program meant to give local players a myriad of opportunities to get in – and not just for the Main Event. The program was a huge success this year, with Crown breaking the record for most players qualified via satellite. “Our local satellite campaign is one of my proudest achievements. We are on track to satellite over 300 local players to our Main Event, many of them even qualifying from 'Free to Enter' satellites,” said Williams “As well as this, two new key satellites were added to the schedule: a $2800 satellite to Event 9 $25K Challenge generated six $25K seats as well as adding another of our famous '10 Seat Guarantee' satellites to the calendar.” If you look back at the history of the Aussie Millions and peruse the various tournament schedules each year, you begin to notice a trend. Crown seems to always be creating new tournament formats. They were the first venue to have a six-figure buy-in event on the schedule, they were the first venue to hold an event with a buy-in of $250,000 and they’ve also had shot clock tournaments and Speed Poker. Innovation is a calling card of the Crown Poker Room. “We've never been afraid to try new events and I personally think it's important to keep the schedule new and full of surprises. We claim the 'Accumulator' format as a Crown Poker initiative, and are proud to have led the charge in perfecting the 'Repechage' formats,” said Williams. “As for the 'Shot-Clock' events, I think there's a worldwide trend towards faster action - as displayed by the fact there's even a 'shot-clock' on our $100K Challenge event.” Williams indicated that there are more innovations on the way, including bringing their 10/10/10 format to the Aussie Millions next year. The 10/10/10 format, which first debuted at the Crown in 2014, is a hyper turbo that gives players a 10,000 starting stack with 10 minute levels and a 10 second shot clock. Being the man in charge of what most consider the most prestigious poker tournament in the Southern Hemisphere means long days on the property. For three weeks Williams finds himself at Crown for most of the day, and then when the day is over he puts his head down a pillow not his own. While crashing at a hotel might be fun for a bachelor, Williams has a fiance and two kids at home. “I found an eight hour window early in the week that enabled me to visit the family, and they have come into Crown to visit me once throughout the Series,” said Williams. “Just finding the time to clear my head and speak to my two boys makes the next phase of a long series far more manageable.” When the Aussie Millions wraps up on Monday, Williams gets to head home to get back to the day-to-day life of being a father and he’s certainly looking forward to it. “I'd love to say 'hug my kids', but with two boys aged 3 and 5, the reality is 'let my boys jump all over me’,” joked Williams. “I also think my long-suffering partner will be overdue for a rest by that stage, so I'll be sure to try and ease her workload a little too.” Once Wiliams has some down time, plays with his kids and lets his partner enjoy a slower pace, he’s back at Crown getting ready for the 2017 Aussie Millions. “The Aussie Millions is our absolute flagship event for the entire year, and next year's planning commences almost within a week of the previous Aussie Millions concluding,” said Williams. Just this week Crown announced that the 2017 Aussie Millions will run January 11 – 30.
  8. [caption width="640"] Jason Somerville is bringing the Aussie Millions to Twitch[/caption] There's an entire generation that grew up playing or watching Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego? It was a game show and series of video games developed to teach kids geography as they took the clues provided and attempted to capture the criminal mastermind Carmen Sandiego. There's an entire generation of poker players and fans that are learning geography, but it's not a fedora-wearing, redheaded villain, but rather a 28-year-old poker-playing, live-streaming New Yorker who is showing his ever-growing fan base the world, one Twitch broadcast at a time. Just a week after taking his show to the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Jason Somerville finds himself Down Under as the sole broadcaster for the 2016 Aussie Millions, one of the premier events on the poker calendar. "I started talking to the Aussie Millions guys at the end of September," said Somerville. "They reached out to me saying they wanted to do something really special this year and that they had tried live streaming, I guess, in the past and it hadn't gone really great and they had seen what I had done on Twitch." While Somerville's existing audience was certainly a big part of the reason Crown contacted him in the first place, the enthusiasm he showed in pitching them his concept was what sold them on him. They knew they had the right medium, and after talking to Somerville they knew they had the right partner. "In 2016, Crown Melbourne made the decision to extend the global reach of the Aussie Millions and make the tournament accessible to poker enthusiasts where they consume poker the most," said Xavier Walsh, Crown's COO. "We are committed to providing the most dynamic, compelling, and relevant coverage possible, and it was crucial to extend the digital footprint to a new phase whilst including new channels in the social media space, namely Twitch.tv, allowing the world to enjoy the action as it happens." What Somerville had "done on Twitch" is now well known in most poker circles. Crown Casino still wasn't sure what Somerville would want to do. "At first, I think they didn't quite know what they wanted and then once I heard they were interested I pitched them on the full thing," said Somerville. "I told them, 'I want to come out there, we'll do the full broadcast, commentary on the $100K, $250K, Main Event, as much coverage as we can get every single day and let's showcase this event.'" Somerville debuted as an official partner on Twitch in October 2014 and quickly became the single most popular poker player on the live streaming service. The success of his Run It Up broadcasts have paved the way and set a template for the likes of Jaime Staples, Randy Lew, and Celina Lin to follow. But Somerville's Twitch broadcasts were originally built around his own play. People were tuning in to watch Somerville live stream his own play in PokerStars tournaments and cash games. While that proved extremely popular, Somerville had his eyes on bigger things, including live streaming from live poker tournaments and events around the world. In December, while Somerville was busy finalizing his plans for the Aussie Millions, the brain trust at PokerStars, where Somerville is a Team Pro, wanted to know what his PCA plans were. Sure, it was relatively short notice, but Somerville jumped at the chance to offer his legions of fans the chance to check out PokerStars' marquee event. Somerville didn't exactly take it easy – he jumped in with both feet. Over the course of the PCA, Somerville was on air for nearly 5,000 minutes – 81 hours. During that time, there was an average of 6,000 concurrent viewers tuned in, peaking at just over 13,500 for the Main Event final table. His efforts set a record for live tournament poker on Twitch. He's hoping to smash that record this week. "The shows are going to be absolutely awesome, with hole cards the entire time. That's one thing we heard consistently (during PCA) was people saying, 'I don't know what they have,'" said Somerville. During the PCA broadcasts, hole cards were kept hidden. "It's going to be the same kind of interactive broadcast as we had (at PCA). I'm going to be talking in the Twitch chat the whole time through and people can ask questions. I think it will be the most high-quality (poker) broadcast ever done." The PCA broke all the records, but it also gave Somerville a lot of notes on how to improve the product heading into the Aussie Millions. Being able to see hole cards is important, but that wasn't the only feedback he's using to take the product to the next level. "We've learned a lot of lessons about trying to minimize recycled break content, trying to always have something fresh and interesting and engaging to keep the viewers all night long, and I think they're going to be really compelling and interesting shows," said Somerville. While many poker fans might think of Twitch as a place to watch poker, the Twitch audience is much larger and consists largely of eSports and video game streams. Finding a way to get that audience is one of the challenges that Somerville most embraces, largely because he feels like he's a part of both worlds. "Twitch is used to a certain level of production quality for the massive eSports events that they have. We see Riot games run their League of Legends finals; they're getting hundreds of thousands of concurrent views watching a pristine, top-of-the-line, beautiful broadcast and many of the top games on Twitch present their games in that way," said Somerville. "Poker really hasn't done that too much yet. The live streams from poker have always been like, 'Oh, and let's live stream on Twitch,' instead of having a guy like me who can bridge the gap between the video game world and the poker world." [caption width="640"] The complete Twitch stream schedule for the 2016 Aussie Millions[/caption] The schedule calls for Somerville to be on air for eight straight days, not only talking poker, but also engaging with the Twitch audience. He'll have plenty of help, though, as some of poker's biggest stars will undoubtedly make their way into the broadcast booth to provide commentary and insight. Still, Somerville is going to find himself talking for over 80 hours. "Honestly, I don't drink coffee. I don't really drink soda or anything, I'm just a very... to me, it comes naturally. I'm just passionate about what I'm doing here and I find that it's easy to be energetic because we truly are showcasing one of the most premiere events in the poker universe and we're bringing it to an audience that has never heard of Aussie Millions before," said Somerville. "I feel like we're going to be delivering a broadcast that caters to Twitch. The production is oriented around what I'm saying and what I want to do." Somerville starts streaming on Sunday, January 24 at 8pm local time (4am US Eastern Time) with the opening day of the $100K Challenge, an event that will draw the biggest names in poker. Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, Sam Trickett and Antonio Esfandiari are all expected to be in the field.
  9. [caption width="640"] Antonio Esfandiari is no stranger to high stakes, high pressure situations.[/caption] There are a number of ways in which a poker player can be disqualified from a tournament. On Sunday, Day 2 of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event, Antonio Esfandiari was disqualified and it had nothing to do with anything the Poker Tournament Directors Association has ever made a rule for. Esfandiari was disqualified for urinating into a bottle while at a table. You read that right. Mother nature called and rather than leave the table and head to the men's room, Esfandiari took care of business at the table. It turns out getting from the table to the men's room would have been all too painful thanks to a prop bet Esfandiari had made with Bill Perkins. To win the bet, Esfandiari had to lunge everywhere he went for 48 hours. Sunday was the second day of the bet and Esfandiari was apparently feeling the effects of lunging around the Atlantis Resort for two days straight. Before Day 2 began, Esfandiari took to Twitter to give an update on the prop bet and ended up foreshadowing the big incident of the day. Esfandiari's punishment was only for the Main Event and he is allowed to play other PCA events beginning Monday.
  10. [caption width="640"] Daniel Negreanu was the biggest name in the field, but suffered an upset thanks to Jonathan Little.[/caption] When the field was announced for the WPT Champions Challenge, the bracket-style contest pitting former WPT champions against one another in a fan vote, it seemed like Daniel Negreanu was a lock to win it all. Negreanu has $6.4 million in WPT earnings, nine final tables and two titles. Couple that with his massive fanbase and Negreanu seemed to be in position to dominate the popularity contest. Locks are apparently just for doors. In what can only be described as a major upset, Negreanu, the number one seed in the Clubs region, was defeated by four seed Jonathan Little. Little did some social media campaigning to get his fans to vote for him. It paid off. Little now moves on to the Elite 8 and finds himself up against Doyle Brunson for a Final Four berth. Brunson, the 11 seed in the region, beat out two seed Hoyt Corkins to advance. Negreanu was actually the second top seed to fall. The Hearts region saw Carlos Mortensen eliminated in the second round by Erik Seidel. Only one of the four regions, the Spades region, had the top two seeds advance to the Elight 8. Top seed Gus Hansen beat out Alan Goehring to advance while second seed Antonio Esfandiari beat out good friend Phil Laak to move on. The other remaining top seed, Anthony Zinno, came out on top of Mohsin Charania to get through. He’ll now face Barry Greenstein. The three seed upset two seed JC Tran to move on. Despite being a number seven seed, Phil Ivey continues to survive and advance. Ivey made it past Michael Mizrachi. Seidel posted yet another upset, beating out Marvin Retteinmaier to earn a spot against Ivey. Clubs Region Matchup Key Stats #4. Jonathan Little: $3,695,510 - 2 titles - 4 final tables - 21 cashes #11. Doyle Brunson: $2,081,824 - 1 title - 3 final tables - 8 cashes Diamonds Region Matchup Key Stats #1. Anthony Zinno: $2,336,548 - 3 titles - 3 final tables - 15 cashes #3. Barry Greenstein: $2,427,428 - 2 titles - 5 final tables - 20 cashes Hearts Region Matchup Key Stats #7. Phil Ivey: $4,027,221 - 1 title - 10 final tables - 14 cashes #8. Erik Seidel: $2,332,000 - 1 title - 7 final tables - 22 cashes Spades Region Matchup Key Stats #1. Gus Hansen: $4,051,782 - 3 titles - 7 final tables - 9 cashes #2. Antonio Esfandiari: $2,956,243 - 2 titles - 8 final tables - 13 cashes The Elite 8 of the WPT Champions Challenge is open for voting until Tuesday at 5 pm ET. Vote here.
  11. [caption width="640"] Only three of the four top seeds are moving on to the WPT Champions Challenge Sweet 16.[/caption] Even though they've had little trouble this year, number one seeds don’t always breeze through the NCAA tournament. Upsets happen. It seems that the World Poker Tour Champions Challenge is no different. Carlos Mortensen, top seed in the Hearts Region, was beaten by poker hall of famer and eight seed Erik Seidel in the Round of 32. The other three top seeds, Gus Hansen, Anthony Zinno and Daniel Negreanu, all advanced to the Sweet 16. The Champions Challenge is a bracket-style tournament pitting 64 former WPT champions against each other with each match-up decided by a fan vote on WPT.com. The field of 64, and the seeding, were determined by taking into account the WPT success of each player. In the Sweet 16, Hansen is matched up against Alan Goehring, while Zinno takes on Mohsin Charania and Negreanu has Jonathan Little as his opponent. There was only two other upsets in the second round, but poker fans might not call one of them that. Doyle Brunson, seeded 11th in the Clubs region, beat Darren Elias, a three seed, to advance to the third round. While Brunson’s popularity is unquestionable, his WPT resume isn’t quite as polished as Elias’. Brunson has one WPT title, three WPT final tables, eight WPT cashes and $2,081,824 in earnings, but Elias has two WPT wins, five final tables and 19 cashes and he only trails Brunson’s lifetime WPT earnings by $189,000. Still, Brunson earned enough fan votes to move on. The other upset came in the Spades region as 11 seed Phil Laak beat out 3 seed Freddy Deeb. Laak’s victory sets up a third round match-up that will probably end up as the most talked about of the round. Laak now faces his best friend, Antonio Esfandiari, in the Sweet 16. The pair have been good friends since long before their WPT success. Those two aren’t the only good friends facing off in the next round though. After upsetting Elias, Brunson now faces Hoyt Corkins for a chance at moving on to the Elite Eight. Like Elias, Corkins brings a better-than-Doyle WPT resume to the table, but his two WPT titles, six final tables, 19 cashes and $3.5 million in earnings might not be enough to overcome Brunson’s popularity. This round of voting is open until Friday at 5 pm ET. The WPT Champions Challenge Sweet 16 Clubs Region Daniel Negreanu vs. Jonathan Little Hoyt Corkins vs. Doyle Brunson Diamonds Region Anthony Zinno vs. Mohsin Charania JC Tran vs. Barry Greenstein Hearts Region Erik Seidel vs. Marvin Rettenmaier Phil Ivey vs. Michael Mizrachi Spades Region Gus Hansen vs. Alan Goehring Antonio Esfandiari vs. Phil Laak
  12. [caption width="640"] Celina Lin relied heavily on her personal connections to construct the Hong Kon Stars roster.[/caption] One of the core concepts of the Global Poker League is taking a game that has always been about individuals and making it about a team of players and personalities. Attaching those teams to a geographic region and giving poker fans in that part of the country a reason to cheer for their local team is another. On draft day last Thursday, nobody May have done more for their local market than Hong Kong Stars manager Celina Lin. Through the four rounds of the draft, Lin was entirely focused on players from Asian markets, something she admitted was her strategy before the draft even began. “I would like the team to feel comfortable and at home, so since I live mainly in Asia, I will look to draft players from my region who regularly play in the PokerStars Live Macau tournaments,” Lin said on draft day. The Hong Kong Stars Roster: Weiyi Zhang (China) - $257,873 career live earnings - #614 on GPI Raiden Kan (Hong Kong) - $908,891 career live earnings - #284 on GPI Dong Guo (China) - $555,656 career live earnings - #431 on GPI Bryan Huang (Singapore) $854,703 career live earnings - #474 on GPI “The idea of having a unified team amongst many different markets/communities brings me to believe we will have strong team morale,” said Lin, a Team PokerStars Online pro. “One of the key characteristics I was paying attention to during the draft was players with an e-gaming background, especially Hearthstone, as I feel many elements are comparable to poker.” Lin was the only manager to not draft a single player ranked in the top 25 of the Global Poker Index. Lin was first approached by GPL founder Alex Dreyfus about running the Stars franchise and was immediately on board. “Alex reached out to me. He was looking for the right ambassador to manage and represent the Hong Kong Stars,” said Lin. “Since I have lived in Macau/Hong Kong the past five years, I’m very familiar with the players and am well-respected in the poker community.” It was that familiarity with the Asian players that turned heads on draft day. As Lin made her way to the stage and announced each pick, more than a few other GPL managers had to ask, “Who’s that?” That sort of risk-taking is something she apparently shares with and admires in Dreyfus. “The idea of ‘sportifying’ poker is an exciting new take on promoting the game like never before. It puts an interesting twist on the game we already know and love,” said Lin. “The idea of playing in ‘The Cube’ on a global stage in front of thousands of people drives me to give my 100% effort into forming and representing the Hong Kong Stars.” While she has plenty of experience as a player – she has $581,359 in career earnings and is 14th on China’s all-time money list – she will now be managing a group of players, something entirely new to her. “As a poker player, you are used to working alone. As the GPL manager for the Hong Kong Stars, I will be working and managing other poker players, something I have never done before,” said Lin. “If I can find good, helpful, hard-working people who are team players, I think my role as the manager will be a breeze.” While Lin didn’t have a hand in naming her team or designing the logo, she’s thrilled that it ties in some cultural aspects of Hong Kong and some of her personal poker story. “I do have to say that the logo is very fitting, as it reminds me of my success of winning the Red Dragon main event twice in Macau,” said Lin.
  13. [caption width="450"] Dzmitry Urbanovich continues to find new ways to dominate the European Poker Tour[/caption] Last season Dzmitry Urbanovich burst onto the European Poker Tour scene and at 19 years old made easy work of the EPT Player of the Year race even though he never won an EPT Main Event. On Saturday in Dublin the now 20-year-old Polish poker pro found himself on top of the EPT Dublin Main Event field after a grueling heads-up duel with Germany’s Gilles Bernies to win €5,125,000 ($5,705,157 US). "It feels very good, very good," Urbanovich said. "It's been a long week." Urbanovich kicked things off on the third hand of the day. Urbanovich opened to 110,000 from early position and Rhys 'floppinhel' Jones moved all in from the big blind. Urbanovich called and tabled [poker card="ac"][poker card="tc"] and had Jones’ [poker card="as"][poker card="9h"] dominated. The board ran out [poker card="ts"][poker card="5h"][poker card="2d"][poker card="9d"][poker card="ad"] to give Urbanovich top two pair and eliminate Jones in sixth. It took nearly two hours for the next elimination. Ilios Kamatakis raised to 150,000 from UTG and Bernies called from the cut-off. Kamatakis bet 275,000 before Bernies raised to 650,000. Kamatakis moved all in and Bernies called. Kamatakis showed [poker card="ks"][poker card="9s"] for second pair but Bernies held [poker card="as"][poker card="qd"] for top pair. The [poker card="3h"] turn and [poker card="3d"] river provided no relief for Kamatakis and was out in fifth. The remaining four players played without another elimination for three hours and Bernies used that time to build his chip lead before some fireworks began. Bernies raised to 225,000 and Patrick Clarke announced he was all in. Bernies quickly called and turned over [poker card="qh"][poker card="qs"] while Clarke showed [poker card="ac"][poker card="2d"]. The [poker card="qc"][poker card="9c"][poker card="5h"] flop gave Bernies top set and left Clarke hoping for runner-runner. The [poker card="7c"] turn was one half of that equation but the [poker card="2s"] river was a brick and Clarke was out in fourth and Bernies held over 72% of the chips in play. He increased that total on the very next hand. Bernies moved all in from the button and Kully Sidhu called from the big blind. Bernies was ahead with [poker card="5c"][poker card="5h"] against Sidhu’s [poker card="ah"][poker card="6h"]. The [poker card="js"][poker card="7s"][poker card="4h"] flop was no help for Sidhu and neither were the [poker card="2c"] turn or [poker card="2s"] river and he was eliminated in third place. When heads-up play began, Bernies held 14,840,000 of the 18,125,000 chips in play. But over four hours of heads up action, Urbanovich battled back to even, took the chip lead, briefly lost it again and then overcame Bernies again before finall finishing him off. The 61st and final hand of play between Bernies and Urbanovich started with Bernies shipping all in for just about 2,000,000 and found himself in dire straits when Urbanovich snap-called and tabled [poker card="kd"][poker card="ks"]. Bernies, with [poker card="qd"][poker card="7h"] needed a lot of help. The [poker card="7s"][poker card="5s"][poker card="4c"] flop gave him a pair but didn’t change much. The [poker card="5s"] turn and [poker card="9d"] river were complete bricks and Urbanovich eliminated Bernies in second place and captured his first EPT Main Event title. The event - the first for the EPT in Dublin since Season IV - drew 605 players paying the €5,300 buy-in. The EPT is now on a brief hiatus until the EPT Grand Final in Monaco April 25 to May 6. Final Table Payouts Dzmitry Urbanovich - €561,900 Gilles Bernies - €349,800 Kully Sidhu - €250,300 Patrick Clarke - €193,650 Ilios Kamatakis - €52,600 Rhys Jones - €119,450
  14. [caption width="640"] Steve O'Dwyer has .7M earnings so far in 2016[/caption] Steve O’Dwyer did in January what most poker players dream of doing in their lifetime. He finished fourth in the Triton Super High Roller in the Philippines for $953,700. He then won the $50,000 High Roller at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for $945,495. Then he made his way to the Aussie Millions where he finished fourth in the $25,000 High Roller. Three six figure cashes inside of three weeks. But he wasn’t done. On Monday - the first day of February - he capped that off by winning the Aussie Millions LK Boutique $250,000 Challenge for A$951,960 ($673,371 US). The event drew a total of 16 entries including two from Fedor Holz and a Day 2 entry from Mike McDonald to build a total prize pool of A$3,920,000. After Byron Kaverman busted in fifth place, the remaining four players agreed to an ICM chop, leaving $100,000 cash and the title to play for. The original payout structure was only paying the top three spots. Just over 40 minutes after agreeing to the chop, a crippled Fabian Quoss was sent out in fourth place. Peter raised to 50,000 from the button, O’Dwyer re-raised to 150,000, and Quoss put his last 60,000 in the middle. Peters folded. O’Dwyer held [poker card="ac"][poker card="9c"] which put him well ahead of Quoss’ [poker card="6c"][poker card="3c"]. O’Dwyer paired his queen on the turn and Quoss was out in fourth. Five minutes later Drinan followed Quoss. Drinan moved all in from the button and Peters moved all in over the top, forcing O’Dwyer to fold. Drinan showed [poker card="8d"][poker card="7d"] and was well behind Peters’ [ah[poker card="4h"]. The board ran out [poker card="kh"][poker card="jc"][poker card="9h"][poker card="9s"][poker card="9c"] and Drinan was out in third leaving O’Dwyer and Peters to play for the title. Heads-up play took just over an hour. On the final hand of the night O’Dwyer raised and Peters called to see a flop of [poker card="qh"][poker card="6h"][poker card="3s"]. Peters checked to O’Dwyer who bet 115,000. Peters called and the two saw the [poker card="th"] hit the turn. Peters checked again and O’Dwer bet 230,000. Peters called again. The river was the [poker card="7d"] and Peters checked again. O’Dwyer announced he was all in for 1,700,000. Peters snap-called and tabled [poker card="qd"][poker card="7c"] for two pair but O’Dwyer showed [poker card="qc"][poker card="ts"] for a better two pair, eliminating Peters and earning his second high roller victory of the last three weeks. Final Table Payouts Steve O’Dwyer - 951,960 David Peters - 889,236 Connor Drinan - 1,021,909 Fabian Quoss - 956,896
  15. [caption width="450"] Rui 'RuiNF' Ferreira is now part of a unique club following his TCOOP victory.[/caption] History was made on the third to final day of PokerStars Turbo Championship of Online Poker as Rui 'RuiNF' Ferreira become just the third player to join the PokerStars COOP Triple Crown club with his win in Event #37. Ferreira joins Shawn Buchanan and James ‘Andy McLEOD’ Obst as players to have won a WCOOP, SCOOP and TCOOP title in their career. The day began however with Oscar ‘MendaLerenda’ Serradell beating out 299 other players to win Event #36, a $82 No Limit Draw event. The 300 players also produced 198 re-entries to push the total prize pool to $37,350 - well over the $25,000 guarantee. When the final table started, Serradell, the #14-ranked player in the world, was second in chips behind only Artur ‘ARTSchGamble’ Scerbak. Serradell turned the tables early though after Scerbak dropped a big chunk of chips to ‘risto155’. Serradell busted Scerbak in fifth and found himself with the chip lead. After ‘MaTitheone’ busted ‘schn4trick’ in fourth, Serradell eliminated ‘risto155’ in third and then MaTitheone in second to win the first COOP title of his career and earn $7,096.70 in the process. Ferreira’s history-making run came in Event #37, a $215 Six Max No Limit with rebuys Event. When the final table began Ferreira had 2,235,845 in chips - more than 1,000,000 ahead of his closest competitor. Shashank ‘felter1989’ Jain took care of the first elimination, sending ‘Tankanza’ out in sixth. Ferreira busted ‘oswald187’ in fifth before Jain sent ‘mczhang’ out in fourth. Despite picking up two of the first three eliminations, Jain was on the losing end of a blind vs. blind battle against Ferreira and was done in third place leaving only ‘uWannaLoan?’ between Ferreiro and the COOP Triple Crown. After chop discussions went nowhere, Ferreiro went to work at winning the tournament outright. On the final hand of the night ‘uWannaLoan?’ raised to 336,000 before Ferreiro moved all in. ‘uWannaLoan?’ called and tabled [poker card="jc"][poker card="jh"] while Ferreiro was needed some assistance with [poker card="ah"][poker card="6s"]. The [poker card="ac"][poker card="kd"][poker card="3h"] flop gave Ferreiro top pair and that held through the [poker card="8c"] turn and [poker card="6h"] river to give Ferreira the TCOOP title and another $81,474 in earnings. In Event #38, a $215 Ante Up No Limit Hold’em event with Progressive Super Knockout, ‘chickensssss’ (chicken on PocketFives) came out on top of a 1,191 player field to win $20,556.66. ‘chickensssss’ dominated the final table, eliminating five of the last six players to collect not only their chips, but their bounties as well. On the final hand of the tournament, ‘chickensssss’ called from the small blind before ‘philipgm’ raised to 90,010. ‘chickensssss’ called to send both players to a [poker card="kh"][poker card="tc"][poker card="3c"] flop. ‘chickensssss’ called ‘philipgm’s bet of 119,001. After the [poker card="7h"] turn ‘philipgm’ bet 202,311 and again ‘chickensssss’ called. The [poker card="8d"] river got ‘philipgm’ to move all in for 849,047 and ‘chickensssss’ called and tabled [poker card="th"][poker card="5d"] for second pair while ‘philipgm’ showed [poker card="qc"][poker card="9c"] for busted straight and flush draws. The final event of the day, Event #39, saw ‘duffm0n’ emerge victorious in the $82 Six Max Limit Hold’em event over a field of 643 players. The final table included Team PokerStars Pro Kosei ‘K. Ichinose’ Ichinose who finished fifth. With just three players remaining ‘RyderRock’ had the chip lead over both ‘duffm0n’ and ‘TaBuLA_Ras4’. Early talks of a chop were quickly dismissed by ‘duffm0n’ and play continued. Not long after that ‘RyderRock’ and ‘duffm0n’ tangled that eliminated ‘RyderRock’ and sent ‘duffm0n’ on to a quick heads-up battle with ‘TaBuLA_Ras4’ that ended when ‘duffm0n’ made a full house on a [poker card="ah"][poker card="4d"][poker card="4s"][poker card="8s"][poker card="2d"] board with ‘TaBuLA_Ras4’ betting the entire way with just queen-high. TCOOP Event #36: $82 No Limit Draw (re-entry) 300 entrants, 198 re-entries $37,350 prize pool Oscar ‘MendaLerenda’ Serradell - $7,096.70 MaTitheone - $5,229.00 risto155 - $3,828.37 schn4trick - $2,614.50 Artur "ARTSchGamble" Scerbak - $1,867.50 Bigboss300 - $1,195.20 TCOOP Event #37: $215 Six Max No Limit Hold’em (rebuys) 659 entrants, 1,543 rebuys $440,400 prize pool Rui ‘RuiNF’ Ferreira - $81,474.00 uWannaLoan? - $60,775.20 Shashank “felter1989” Jain - $45,141.00 mczhang - $30,828.00 oswald187 - $22,020.00 Tankanza - $13,212.00 TCOOP Event #38: $215 Ante Up No Limit Hold’em (Progressive Super Knockout) 1,191 entrants $238,200 total prize pool chickensssss - $20,556.66 philipgm - $14,887.50 MarcusG22 - $11,314.50 RodRish - $8,289.36 pcayobh - $5,895.45 Tankanza - $4,704.45 FiatEruditio - $3,513.45 The Carnadas - $2,322.45 marksfive - $1,310.10 TCOOP Event #39: $82 Six Max Limit Hold’em 643 entrants $48,225 prize pool duffm0n - $8,921.95 TaBuLA_Ras4 - $6,655.05 RyderRock - $4,943.06 _stel_23_ - $3,375.75 K. Ichinose - $2,411.25 BADEXTASY - $1,446.75
  16. [caption width="540"] Fabian Quoss won the Aussie Millions 0K Challenge[/caption] After a four day break in action, the stacked final table of the 2016 Aussie Millions $100K Challenge final table resumed play on Friday night with Ben 'Ben86' Tollerene leading over Jason Mercier, Fedor 'CrownUpGuy' Holz, Fabian Quoss, Connor Drinan and Sam Greenwood. It took just five hours to play down to a winner with Quoss outlasting Tollerene heads-up to win A$1,446,480 ($1,024,000 US). Holz, who won Super High Roller events in December and January, wasn’t able to overcome the short stack he started the day with. On just the sixth hand of the day, action folded to Drinan on the button and he moved all-in with [poker card="4h"][poker card="4s"] before Holz tank-called from the button with [poker card="kh"][poker card="qs"]. The board ran out [poker card="6h"][poker card="5d"][poker card="2h"][poker card="as"][poker card="9s"] to keep Drinan in the lead and eliminate Holz in sixth place for A$281,260 for his tenth six-figure score in the last year. Just six hands later Greenwood became Drinan’s second victim of the day. From the cutoff Drinan raised to 40,000 before Greenwood moved all in from the small blind for 235,000. Drinan called and tabled [poker card="qc"][poker card="9c"] while Greenwood was ahead with [poker card="ac"][poker card="2c"]. The [poker card="jc"][poker card="6d"][poker card="3d"] flop was safe for Greenwood, as was the [poker card="4d"] turn, but the [poker card="9d"] river gave Drinan a pair of nines and sent Greenwood home in fifth place. Despite adding the stacks of Holz and Greenwood to his own, Drinan’s run was cut short. After dropping pots to Mercier and Quoss to get short, Drinan doubled through Mercier before finding himself in a tough spot. Action folded to Quoss on the button and he raised to 55,000 with [poker card="ac"] [poker card="2c"] and Drinan called from the big blind with [poker card="qc"] [poker card="9s"]. After the [poker card="jc"][poker card="td"][poker card="7c"] Drinan check-called Quoss’ bet of 75,000. The [poker card="9c"] turn completed Quoss’ flush and after Drinan checked, Quoss bet 135,000. Drinan called. The river was the [poker card="6c"] which gave Drinan a flush of his own. Drinan bet 165,000 and Quoss responded by moving all in. Drinan went into the tank, eventually using the time bank chips players are given to extend the shot clock on any given hand. Drinan called, was given the bad news and was eliminated in fourth place. While the first three eliminations came in the first 26 hands, the next one took some time. It took 31 more hands of play to get to heads-up action. Holding [poker card="ah"][poker card="8h"] Mercier button-raised to 60,000 and Quoss re-raised to 160,000 with [poker card="ks"][poker card="qd"]. Mercier moved all in and Quoss called. The [poker card="qs"][poker card="3s"][poker card="3h"] flop gave Quoss top pair. He improved to two pair after the [poker card="kh"] turn but Mercier was now drawing to the nut flush. The [poker card="2d"] missed Mercier and he was eliminated in third place. When heads-up play began Quoss had 2,500,000 in chips to Ben Tollerene’s 1,100,000. The pair played over 60 hands before Quoss conquered the highs stakes cash game specialist. Short-stacked after over two hours of heads up play, Tollerene called off his last 250,000 holidng [poker card="js"][poker card="td"] after Quoss moved all in with [poker card="kh"][poker card="jh"]. The board ran out [poker card="6h"][poker card="5c"][poker card="4d"][poker card="5h"][poker card="5d"], completley missing Tollerene and leaving Quoss with the third super high roller title of his career. Final Table Payouts Fabian Quoss - A$1,446,480 Ben Tollerene - A$924,140 Jason Mercier - A$602,700 Connor Drinan - A$441,980 Sam Greenwood - A$321,440 Fedor Holz - A$281,260
  17. [caption width="640"] Mike 'SirWatts' Watson Wins 2016 PCA Main Event[/caption] The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure has often been the place where poker legends have their coming out party. The final table of the 2016 PCA Main Event, however, took on a different narrative. The six-handed final table included former WPT champ Mike 'SirWatts' Watson, One Drop High Roller winner Tony Gregg, and EPT Vilamoura champ Toby '810ofclubs' Lewisas well as Russia’s fifth all-time leading money winner, Vladimir Troyanovskiy. Watson, who won his World Poker Tour title 7.5 years ago at the Bellagio Cup, ended up navigating his way to the third major title of career following a heads-up battle with former PCA Main Event runner-up Gregg. Watson knows the player he was then is very different from the player he is today. "I look back and think about how I was playing in that main event. I was able to win, but I realize all of the fundamental errors I was making. My game has grown so much over that time and the player I was then wouldn't have nearly as good of a chance of winning a tournament today," said Watson following his PCA win. Randy Kritzer, who came into play Thursday with the shortest stack, couldn't get much going and was the first player eliminated. On just the eighth hand of the day, Kritzer raised to 225,000 and Phillip McAllister called from the big blind. The [poker card="qh"] [poker card="9h"] [poker card="6d"] flop got a check from McAllister followed by a bet of 325,000 from Kritzer. McAllister announced all-in and Kritzer called and flipped up [poker card="qs"] [poker card="tc"] for top pair. McAllister showed [poker card="8s"] [poker card="7h"] a straight draw and backdoor flush draw. The [poker card="4h"] turn and [poker card="8h"] river gave McAllister his flush and ended Kritzer's run. With the least experienced player gone, play tightened up. It wasn't until almost four hours later that another player was sent packing. Gregg opened to 350,000 and Troyanovskiy defended his big blind. After the [poker card="ac"] [poker card="8h"] [poker card="4h"] flop, Troyanovskiy moved all-in for 700,000 and Gregg called. Gregg tabled [poker card="as"] [poker card="qc"] for top pair and Troyanovskiy showed [poker card="7h"] [poker card="3h"] for a flush draw. Neither the [poker card="td"] turn nor [poker card="9c"] river helped Troyanovskiy and the Russian was out in fifth place. It took 90 minutes to go from four players to three. McAllister called from the button and Toby Lewis moved all-in from the button before Watson came over the top of both players from the big blind. Lewis tabled [poker card="ks"] [poker card="9s"] and Watson showed [poker card="ac"] [poker card="jd"]. The board ran out [poker card="tc"] [poker card="6s"] [poker card="3h"] [poker card="kh"] [poker card="qs"] to send Lewis home in fourth. Action folded to McAllister, who limped from the small blind. Watson raised all-in from the big blind and McAllister snap-called and showed [poker card="jd"] [poker card="jh"], while Watson turned [poker card="8c"] [poker card="7c"]. The [poker card="tc"] [poker card="7s"] [poker card="5c"] gave Watson middle pair and flush draw and all drama ended with the [poker card="3c"] turn. The meaningless [poker card="5s"] river ended the hand and McAllister was out in third. When heads-up play began, Watson held a nearly 2-1 chip lead over Gregg. The pair went on a dinner break and when they came back agreed to a deal that saw Watson take $695,325 and Gregg $612,175, leaving $33,000 on the table and, of course, the title. Even with just 2.5% of the first and second place prizes still at stake, Gregg and Watson continued to play for over two hours. On the final hand, Gregg limped his button and Watson checked his option to see an [poker card="8h"] [poker card="6h"] [poker card="2h"] flop. Watson checked and Gregg bet 400,000, only to have Watson check-raise to 1,200,000. Gregg responded by moving all-in for 4,100,000. Watson took his time before calling and showed [poker card="7h"] [poker card="4s"] for a flush draw. Gregg tabled [poker card="as"] [poker card="8c"] for top pair. The [poker card="7s"] turn gave Watson extra outs and the [poker card="5h"] turn filled his flush to win the 2016 PCA Main Event. 2016 PCA Main Event Final Table Payouts Mike Watson - $728,325 Tony Gregg - $612,175 Phillip McAllister - $356,020 Toby Lewis - $267,340 Vladimir Troyanovskiy - $207,940 Randy Krizter - $153,920 Ken Demlakian - $110,220 Timothy Ulmer - $78,540
  18. [caption width="640"] Fedor Holz has won over https://cdn.pocketfives.com/p5wp/2017/11/593308-fedor-holz-triton-super-high-roller.jpg million in the last two weeks thanks to back-to-back wins[/caption] It seems like there’s really nothing stopping Fedor Holz these days. Just two weeks after Holz won the WPT Alpha8 event at Bellagio, the German poker pro conquered another tough high roller field, winning the $200,000 buy-in Triton Super High Roller at Solaire Resort in the Philippines. The event, part of the WPT National Philippines schedule, attracted 40 unique players totalling 52 entries after re-entries, including Tom Dwan, John Juanda, Philipp Gruissem and Phil Ivey. Holz beat a final table that included Dan Colman, Steve O’Dwyer, David Peters and Ivey to win the $3.4 million first place prize. Holz eliminated thee of his six opponents at the final table on his way to the victory. Steve O’Dwyer, who started the day with the second largest stack behind only Ivey, picked up the first elimination of the day just 17 hands in. O’Dwyer opened the action with a raise to 65,000 from early position, Peters made it 160,000 before Paul Phua announced was all in for 485,000. O’Dwyer responded by moving all in and Peters folded. O’Dwyer tabled [poker card="as"] [poker card="qs"] while Phua showed [poker card="ad"] [poker card="jd"]. The board missed Phua entirely with O’Dwyer pairing his queen on the turn to send Phua home in seventh. Another player with well-documented success in high roller events was the next player to bust. Dan Colman raised to 85,000 and Tang and Ivey both called from the blinds. After the [poker card="jd"] [poker card="8d"] [poker card="7h"] flop, Tang bet 150,000, Ivey folded and Colman called. The turn was the [poker card="3h"] and Colman called Tang’s 200,000 bet. After the [poker card="ts"] river, Tang checked, Colman bet 300,000 and Tang announced he was all in. Colman called and mucked his hand when Tang showed T-9 for a straight to eliminate Colman in sixth. Starting the seven-handed final table with the biggest stack didn't mean much for Ivey. Left with just nine big blinds, Ivey moved all in from the cutoff with [poker card="qs"] [poker card="jc"] and Holz called from the small blind with [poker card="ah"] [poker card="qd"]. The board ran out [poker card="8d"] [poker card="7h"] [poker card="2d"] [poker card="ad"] [poker card="9h"] to eliminate Ivey in fifth place, marking the fifth time that he has cashed in a tournament with a buy-in of at least $200,000. Holz continued the aggression to claim another elimination. The German raised to 140,000 from the button before O’Dwyer moved all in from the small blind for just over 1,300,000. Holz called and showed [poker card="td"] [poker card="ts"] against the [poker card="ah"] [poker card="9c"]. The [poker card="qh"] [poker card="9h"] [poker card="5h"] flop improved O’Dwyer’s hand but not enough to get ahead of Holz. The [poker card="kd"] turn and [poker card="7d"] turn were no help for O’Dwyer and he was eliminated in fourth. Devan Tang had been the frontrunner for most of the final table, but his run at the title came crashing to a halt three-handed against Peters and Holz. On his final hand of the tournament, Tang moved all in from the button for 1,620,000 only to have Peters move all in for 1,790,000 right behind him. Holz folded and left Tang, with [poker card="ah"] [poker card="qc"], and Peters, with [poker card="9d"] [poker card="9s"], battle it out. The board ran out [poker card="kd"] [poker card="ks"] [poker card="tc"] [poker card="3h"] [poker card="3c"] to eliminate Tang and send Peters to heads-up action with Holz. Holz had a nearly 2-1 chip lead when heads up play began but lost two of the first three hands of heads up play before the two made a deal based on stacks. The tournament ended on the fourth hand of heads-up play when the pair got it all in preflop with Peters holding [poker card="ac"] [poker card="qc"] and Holz barely leading with [poker card="7d"] [poker card="7s"]. The board ran out [poker card="jh"] [poker card="5d"] [poker card="5c"] [poker card="kd"] [poker card="kh"] to give Holz the trophy and the lions share of the money. Official Final Table Payouts Fedor Holz - $3,463,500 David Peters - $2,309,000 Devan Tang - $1,405,500 Steve O’Dwyer - $953,700 Phil Ivey - $652,500 Dan Colman- $502,000 Paul Phua - $401,600
  19. Three seperate times Fedor 'CrownUpGuy' Holz has been the number ranked online poker player in the world. Sunday night in Las Vegas he add the biggest live win to his resume when he beat Nick Petrangelo heads-up to win the $100,000 buy-in WPT Alpha8 event at the Bellagio. Holz started the eight-handed final table with the chip lead and needed just 106 hands to claim the title and the nearly $1.6 million first place prize. He only eliminated two players on Sunday; David Peters on the bubble and runner-up Petrangelo. It was Petrangelo that did most of the heavy lifting on Sunday. Daniel Negreanu eliminated Keith Tilston in seventh and Sean Winter busted Kathy Lehne, who was runner-up at the WPT Alpha8 event in St. Kitts last December, in sixth place. That’s when Petrangelo went to work. Just one hand after Lehne exited, Holz raised to 125,000 from under the gun, Petrangelo called from the cutoff before Ankush Mandavia moved all-in from the small blind. Holz got out of the way but Petrangelo called. Mandavia tabled Td Th and was ahead of Petrangelo’s 8c 8d. The flop cam 8h 7h 2d putting Petrangelo ahead. Neither the 5c turn or Qc river were of any relief to Mandavia and he was sent packing in fifth place. Petrangelo wasn’t done flopping sets. From UTG Petrangelo raised to 135,000 before Winter moved all-in for 990,000. Petrangelo called and flipped over 7d 7c while Winter needed help with Ac Ts. The flop came Kd Qh 7s giving Petrangelo bottom set but giving Winter a gutshot Broadway draw. The turn was the 4c and the river was the As and Winter was out in fourth place. His next victim was a little bit more high profile. After Holz folded his button, Negreanu moved all-in for 655,000 from the small blind and Petrangelo called. Negreanu was ahead with Kd 3s against Petrangelo’s Qd Jh. The flop changed everything though as the dealer spread out Js 9c 4s putting Petrangelo ahead. The Qc turn gave him top two and left Negreanu drawing to one of four tens for a straight. The 6s river sealed Negreanu’s third place finish. Petrangelo’s carnage took just 45 minutes. Despite being responsible for three consecutive eliminations to get heads-up with Holz, Petrangelo still trailed the young German by a 2.25-1 margin. Petrangelo closed the gap during heads-up play but ultimately couldn’t overcome Holz. it took just 23 hands before the tournament came to a close. Afte Holz limped from the button, Petrangelo shoved for 3,600,000 and Holz called. Petrangelo turned over Ad Qs while Holz showed 5c 5s. The board ran out Jc 3s 2d 4c 9s and Holz’s pocket fives stayed ahead to eliminate Petrangelo in second place. The win is just the fifth of Holz’s career with the most recent coming in the €770 High Roller event at the Israeli Poker Championships in September. The event, the first of WPT Alpha8 Season III, attracted 45 entrants - down 10 from the Season II turnout. There are currently no other Alpha8 events scheduled. Final Table Payouts Fedor Holz - $1,589,219 Nick Petrangelo - $1,015,335 Daniel Negreanu - $640,103 Sean Winter - $441,450 Ankush Mandavia - $309,015 Kathy Lehne - $242,798 Keith Tilston - $176,580 Photo courtesy Joe Giron/World Poker Tour
  20. [caption width="640"] Amaya Chairman and CEO David Baazov has stepped aside - temporarily - to deal with insider trading allegations.[/caption] Just days after being charged with insider trading, David Baazov has taken an indefinite paid leave of absence from his role as Amaya Chair CEO to deal with the allegations. He will remain a member of the board of directors. Last Wednesday, Autorité des Marchés Financiers, the securities regulator in Quebec, announced they had filed 23 charges related to insider trading at Amaya. Five of those charges were levied at Baazov including aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya securities, and communicating privileged information. Amaya acquired the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands in June 2014. After the charges were announced, Baazov proclaimed his innocence. "These allegations are false and I intend to vigorously contest these accusations," Baazov said. "While I am deeply disappointed with the AMF's decision, I am highly confident I will be found innocent of all charges." Others charged included Yoel Altman and Benjamin Ahdoot, both described by AMF as close friends of Baazov. With Baazov stepping aside, at least temporarily, Amaya's board of directors named Divyesh Gadhia as interim chairman and Rafi Ashkenazi as interim CEO. Ghadia is currently on the Amaya board of directors, while Ashkenazi is the CEO of Rational Group, the company which oversees the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands. Despite the charges, which could result in fines, jail time or a combination of those for Baazov, he has indicated he still intends to pursue an acquisition of Amaya. "As always, I continue to be dedicated to doing the right thing for Amaya and all its stakeholders. I believe that stepping down in the short term will help to avoid distraction for the company and its management while I vigorously contest all allegations made against me and pursue my bid to acquire the company," Baazov said in a statement. Ghadia is also the chair of the special committee of independent directors, which was established to handle any potential sale or transfer of Amaya ownership, including the interest shown by Baazov. Rumors of Baazov's interest in acquiring the publicly traded company first surfaced in February and the news sent Amaya's stock price on a nearly 30% upswing. The day the charges were announced, Amaya stock price fell from $18.57 to $14.75 - a 21% decrease.
  21. [caption width="640"] PokerStarsNJ is back on U.S. soil for the first time since 2011.[/caption] Monday, March 21 will go down as one of the brightest early days in the history of regulated poker in the United States. Sure, the markets are few and far between and this new world of online poker is in its infancy, but when PokerStars, after nearly a five-year hiatus from dealing real money poker in the United States, made its return, people got excited. The day, which PocketFives covered live, featured a number of important firsts. First tournament win. First time over 500 seated players. First time over 1,000 seated players. First set of nightly tournaments. While there was probably some celebration in PokerStars’ offices in New Jersey and Isle of Man, there are probably also multiple whiteboards and legal pads filled with notes on things that worked and things that didn’t on Day 1. While nobody from PokerStars is likely to share the content of those whiteboards or notepads, watching the day unfold from the outside looking provided a unique perspective as the day unfolded. Here is What We Learned. People still love PokerStars Black Friday was over 1,800 days ago. That was the last time that PokerStars dealt real money poker in the United States, so its return to the market comes after a lengthy absence. There was probably very good reason to assume people would be excited about the return, but even the most optimistic soul probably didn’t think PokerStars would find itself over 1,000 seated players for a good chunk of prime time on Monday night. While recent events with the rest-of-world product have turned some high-stakes regulars against the company, the general reaction from New Jersey players on Monday was one of pure excitement. Following the social media chatter throughout the day, there were very few complaints or messages of disappointment about what was happening in New Jersey. Spin & Gos are hot; Sit & Gos are not When PokerStars dealt its last hand of real money poker in the U.S., sit & gos were one of the most popular products the company had. Recreational players – those without a six-hour window to dedicate to playing a multi-table tournament – were more than happy to play a sit & go and, good or bad, be done in an hour. In 2014, the company introduced a new concept: the Spin & Go. Played three-handed, the Spin & Gos are a hyper-turbo tournament where, instead of playing for the buy-ins of all players, the prize pool is determined by a pre-tournament spin of a wheel. Players end up playing for between 2X and 10,000X the buy-in amount. The PokerStarsNJ launch gave Americans their first taste of this new product and they proved to be extremely popular. On the other hand, those sit & gos that were once a staple of the overall experience struggled to find traction. Watching all lobbies throughout the day on Monday, the SNG lobby looked and felt like a bit of a ghost town. Those recreational players, the ones who originally flocked to them, seem more keen on gambling it up a little bit to find a big prize pool to play for in a Spin & Go than grinding out a smaller payday in a standard sit & go. PokerStars enjoyed a late-mover advantage When the New Jersey market first opened up, there were a number of hurdles that operators and players faced. While most players were expecting and hoping for an experience identical to the one they had pre-regulation, the reality was a lot different. The sign-up process was different, more personal information (including Social Security Number) was required, credit card companies were slow to differentiate between regulated, legal online gaming operations and offshore gray market sites and depositing wasn’t easy. One of the biggest issues was geo-location. NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement regulations require operators to limit their offering to people within the Garden State. Geo-location software was supposed to make this an easy process, but players were often met with confusing situations, including being told they weren’t in New Jersey even though they were attempting to play from that operator’s Atlantic City casino. But while partypoker, 888, WSOP.com and the now-defunct Ultimate Poker suffered through those early hassles and made their own share of mistakes along the way, PokerStars sat back and were able to observe and be ready for any potential problems. GeoComply, a third-party company that is now the standard-bearer for the gaming industry, solved the geo-location issue. Credit card processing still isn’t perfect (some players reported issues depositing with VISA on Monday), but it’s a lot further developed than it was. The initial guarantees weren’t all that aggressive PokerStars developed a reputation years ago of being the site for tournaments. When they announced their PokerStarsNJ tournament schedule last week, it was met with a shoulder shrug or two and considered pretty standard for the state. To be fair, the New Jersey market isn’t big and there are already a couple of operators with market share. That being said, PokerStarsNJ had no trouble at all making the guarantees on Day 1. A snapshot of some of the regular schedule and how they did against the guarantee. The Big $5: $500 guarantee, $759.85 prize pool The Big $10: $1,000 guarantee, $1,274 prize pool The Big $20: $1,000 guarantee, $1,601.60 prize pool The Big $50: $1,500 guarantee, $3,594.50 prize pool The Nightly Stars $100: $10,000 Guarantee, $12,943.80 There were a few smaller events that did have an overlay and a lot of this early success can be chalked up to the overall buzz and excitement about PokerStars being back in action, but should these numbers continue to be better than the guarantees, it seems likely that PokerStars will come up with bigger guarantees quickly to maintain this momentum. Not all the news was good on Monday PokerStars is a mammoth operation and the New Jersey market represents a fraction of its player base and revenue. So while that state, and a lot of the other U.S. markets, were celebrating Monday, the company managed to drop a bombshell on the rest of its player base. The price of poker was going up. Just after Noon ET, the company announced an increase in rake that averages out, according to PokerStars, to 4%, but "PokerStars will still have the lowest overall pricing (known as 'rake') of any major online poker operator." The increase comes just a few short months after the dramatic altering of the PokerStars VIP program that led to player strikes and meetings between high-profile players and company executives. The announcement, which did not impact the PokerStarsNJ rake, was not received well. The timing could have been a coincidence, but it still felt like a dark cloud on what was otherwise a day of rainbows and sunshine. While New Jersey players were happily clicking away at flush draws and making hero calls for the first time in five years, regular players in other markets were again taking to social media to express their frustration, anger and disappointment with the way in which PokerStars is conducting business. Rather than enjoy a day or two or seven of mostly positive coverage, the company found itself swimming in a sea of negative energy.
  22. [CAPTION=100%]All four #1 seeds advanced to Round 2 in the WPT Champions Challenge.[/CAPTION] Just like March Madness, the first round of the World Poker Tour Champions Challenge was all about the upset. Eight of the first 32 first round match-ups ended with the lower seed advancing to the second round. The Champions Challenge is a bracket-style tournament pitting some of the greatest performers in WPT history against each other in a contest driven by fan voting. It's structured identically to the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament with the winner announced on April 11. Four of the upsets came from the Spades region, with the biggest highlight being #10 seed Tony Dunst beating out #7 seed Howard Lederer. Season 9 WPT Player of the Year Andy Frankenberger, the #12 seed, beat out #5 Tommy Vedes, #11 Phil Laak eliminated #6 Matt Giannetti and #9 David Williams beat out #8 Nenad Medic. The biggest upset came in the Hearts region as #15 seed Dan Harrington beat out #2 seed Erick Lindgren. The only other upset in that region had #11 Nick Schulman come out ahead of #6 Aaron Mermelstein. The other two regions only had one upset each. In the Diamonds region, #11 Vivek Rajkumar bested #6 Randal Flowers and in the Clubs region #11 seed Doyle Brunson ousted #6 Kevin Eyster. And just like March Madness, number one seeds had no trouble in the first round. Carlos Mortensen, Gus Hansen, Anthony Zinno and Daniel Negreanu all moved on to the second round. Looking through the 16 second round match-ups, there are a few that stand out as worth watching. Clubs Region #1 Daniel Negreanu vs. #8 Gavin Smith It's an all-Canadian battle as Season 3 WPT Player of the Year Daniel Negreanu goes up against Season 4 WPT POY Gavin Smith. Negreanu has two WPT titles, both coming in Season 3 when he won the Borgata Poker Open and Five Diamond Poker Classic. Smith won the Mirage Poker Showdown in Season 4 and followed that up with a third place finish at the North American Poker Championship and a fourth place finish at the World Poker Open. Negreanu has a huge edge in lifetime WPT earnings, having banked $6.4 million to Smith's $2.6 million. Diamonds Region #2 JC Tran vs. #7 Scotty Nguyen There may not be a closer match-up in the second round than JC Tran against Scotty Nguyen. Tran has two WPT titles to Nguyen's one and has $1.3 million more in earnings, but Nguyen has eight WPT final tables to Tran's seven and 18 cashes to 16. The bulk of Nguyen's success came early in his career. Six of his first eight WPT cashes were final tables including his win at the World Poker Open in Season 4. Tran's first win came in Season 5 at the World Poker Challenge in Reno. He returned to the winner's circle in Season 12 when he won his hometown Rolling Thunder event at Thunder Valley. Hearts Region #1 Carlos Mortensen vs. #8 Erik Seidel Carlos Mortensen is a #1 seed thanks to his three WPT titles, but he may be in for a rough ride in the second round as he goes up against Erik Seidel. Mortensen's three wins are spread out over three different seasons. He won the North American Poker Championship in Season 3, the WPT World Championship in Season 5 and the Hollywood Poker Open in Season 8. He's cashed 21 times for $6.7 million in earnings. Seidel won the Foxwoods Poker Classic in Season 6 and has cashed 22 times with seven final tables and $2.3 million in earnings. Spades Region #2 Antonio Esfandiari vs. #10 Tony Dunst Tony Dunst took out Howard Lederer in the first round, but beating one the poker world's biggest villains is an easier task than taking on one of its most popular players. That's the challenge in front of Dunst, though, as he takes on #2 seed Antonio Esfandiari. Dunst has one WPT title to his credit, the Season 12 WPT Caribbean event, but has four final tables. Esfandiari has two WPT titles, the LA Poker Classic in Season 2 and the Five Diamond World Poker Classic in Season 9. He has nearly $3 million in WPT earnings and eight final table appearances. Second round voting is open until Monday, March 21 at 3 pm PT. Vote here.
  23. [caption width="640"] The Super High Roller Bowl confirmed 47 of 49 entrants on Tuesday.[/caption] Three months before cards are even in the air, the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl at Aria Hotel and Casino has sold out all 49 available seats. And the list of confirmed players reads like a who's-who of the high-stakes tournament scene - with the glaring omission of one name. Andrew Robl, Dan Colman, Doug Polk, Dan Smith and Fedor Holz are among the 47 confirmed names. Brian Rast, who won the 2015 Super High Roller Bowl, is also one of the players who have confirmed their place in the event. Not surprisingly, others from the 2015 final table are also slated to make another run. Runner-up Scott Seiver is joined by Connor Drinan, Timofey Kuznetsov, David Peters and Tom Marchese. Each one of those players cashed for at least $1 million last year when the buy-in was $500,000. "The speed at which this exciting event sold out is evidence of the popularity of the Super High Roller Bowl and of poker itself,” said Clint Stinchcomb, CEO of Poker Central, the broadcast partner of the event. “With some of the most exciting and famous players already locked in, the Super High Roller Bowl will be riveting to watch.” While most of the regulars from the high roller circuit are in this event, one such player is not amongst them. Phil Ivey, who played the event last year, is not included in the list of 47. Other players who are confirmed to play include Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Hellmuth and Erik Seidel. Only 47 of the 49 players in the field were announced as two final spots are being held for ARIA VIPs. A shot-clock will also be enforced throughout the tournament. Players will have 40 seconds to act on their hand and will have five 60-second time banks to use each day to extend their allotted time. Players are also expected to adhere to a business casual dress code and players are not permitted to wear sunglasses at the table. This year, the buy-in is $300,000 and the prizepool is guaranteed at $15,000,000. With $300,000 added to the prizepool by sponsors, the SHRB is a negative-rake event. “I’ve never seen a high-stakes tournament sell out three months in advance," Sean McCormack, ARIA Director of Poker Operations. "It’s unprecedented. We have a significant waiting list, too.” The speed at which the event filled even caught some players off-guard. Registration opened on January 22 and nearly four weeks later, interested players were being turned away. Max Silver, who won a $25,000 High Roller event at Aria last May, attempted to lock up his seat in mid-February, only to find there was no more room. "Guess I'm not playing the Aria 300K," Silver tweeted on February 16. "Seems like I bubbled the remaining spaces for pros." The event runs May 29 to June 1 at the Aria Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Play will start with seven seven-handed tables and the final seven players will all cash. The winner walks away with $5,000,000.
  24. [caption width="640"] Stefan Schillhabel outlasted Adam Geyer to win WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star (Joe Giron photo)[/caption] German poker players have had so much success on the international poker circuit the past three to four years that it's really no surprise when another German star emerges to take down a major title. That's exactly what happened Friday night in San Jose as Stefan Schillhabel came out on top of the World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star event to win $1,298,000. Schillhabel started the final table with the chip lead, but watched as Adam Geyer was the most active player early, picking up three eliminations in the first two hours of play. Maria Ho entered the final table third in chips with a shot at becoming the first female player to win an open WPT event. Ho lost a significant pot early on to Adam Geyer only to have her tournament come to an end an hour later. After Geyer opened to 175,000 from the cutoff and Schillhabel re-raised to 460,000 from the button, Ho, the last remaining Shooting Star left in the field, cold four-bet all in for 1,735,000. Geyer tank-called and Schillhabel folded. Geyer was in control with [poker card="ac"][poker card="ad"] against Ho's [poker card="ah"][poker card="kh"]. The board ran out [poker card="9c"][poker card="5c"][poker card="4d"][poker card="6c"][poker card="qs"] to send Ho out in sixth. After losing over 2,600,000 in a hand with Bryan Piccioli, Season XIII Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown champ Griffin Paul was left short-stacked and in need of an opportunity to double-up. Paul moved all in from UTG for 610,000, Geyer called from the button, but Andjelko Andrejevic announced he was all in for 1,130,000. Geyer called and turned over [poker card="ad"][poker card="9h"] and found himself way behind Andrejevic's [poker card="as"][poker card="kd"] and Griffin's [poker card="ac"][poker card="qd"]. The [poker card="ah"][poker card="9d"][poker card="4h"] flop changed everything though and gave Geyer top two pair with two cards to come. The [poker card="6s"] turn and [poker card="7s"] river were blanks for Andrejevic and Griffin and both players were eliminated, Griffin in fifth place and Andrejevic in fourth. Having been responsible for the first three eliminations, Geyer was in full control with just three players remaining and over 50% of the chips in play. Things got close to even, though, after Schillhabel clashed with Piccioli. From the button, Geyer opened to 240,000. Schillhabel made it 73,000 from the small blind before Piccioli moved all in from the big blind. Geyer folded, but Schillhabel called and got great news when he found out his [poker card="ac"][poker card="qh"] had Piccioli's [poker card="ks"][poker card="qc"] dominated. Neither player connected on the [poker card="th"][poker card="td"][poker card="5s"][poker card="js"][poker card="6c"] run out and Piccioli was eliminated in third place. That hand moved Schillhabel to within 350,000 of Geyer, but as heads-up play began, both players had more than 90 big blinds. Heads-up play took nearly three hours and 54 hands. Schillhabel took down a 6,750,000 chip pot early on to take a nearly 2-1 chip lead, but Geyer battled back to take even and took a small chip lead himself. Schillhabel then took down a 9,000,000 chip pot without showdown to put himself clearly ahead of Geyer for the final time. On the 102nd hand of play, Geyer, left with just 1,850,000, moved all-in and Schillhabel called. Geyer showed [poker card="kd"][poker card="9s"] and Schillhabel needed help with [poker card="8s"][poker card="7d"]. The [poker card="ks"][poker card="tc"][poker card="3c"] flop moved Geyer even further ahead with top pair, but the [poker card="8h"] turn and [poker card="8c"] river gave Schillhabel running trips to eliminate Geyer and take down the title. Along with $1,283,000 in prize money, Schillhabel also earned a $15,000 seat into the WPT Tournament of Champions next month at Seminole Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The WPT now heads north to Sacramento for the WPT Rolling Thunder at Thunder Valley Casino with the Main Event beginning Saturday. Final Table Payouts Stefan Schillhabel - $1,298,000 Adam Geyer - $752,800 Bryan Piccioli - $493,350 Andjelko Andrejevic - $331,500 Griffin Paul - $231,310 Maria Ho - $179,930
  25. When PokerStars acquired the Full Tilt Poker assets as part of their Black Friday settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, many wondered about the future of the Full Tilt Poker brand. To the surprise of many, PokerStars kept the Full Tilt Poker brand running separately alongside their own brand. Now, some 3.5 years later, things are changing. On Wednesday Amaya Gaming, the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt, confirmed that the company will consolidate all players into one player pool. "Players will benefit from a larger pool of players offering greater game choice, bigger prize pools," said Rafi Ashkenazi, Chief Executive Officer of Rational Group. "It will also make us more nimble as we can focus our technological innovation on one platform, rather than two, so we will be able to innovate more quickly and enter newly-regulating and existing markets swiftly." The Full Tilt brand isn't going anywhere though. While the player pool will be combined into one, players will still have the choice of playing on Full Tilt Poker or PokerStars. Accounts will be consolidated so players have only one account, but they will be able to choose which brand they play under. Those who choose to play under the Full Tilt brand will still be able to choose from their custom avatars. The decision to merge the player pools will result in greater liquidity at all levels and a subsequent increase in tournament prize pools. Players will be contacted once the software migration is complete and given an explanation as to how the changes will impact them. Players with accounts on both sites will now play under their existing PokerStars screenname. All players will now be under the PokerStars reward program. Once one of the most popular online poker rooms in the world, Full Tilt Poker has dropped out of the top 10 according to PokerScout rankings while PokerStars remains a clear number one.
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