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  1. The poker world might not like the idea, but Damian Salas will have no problem calling himself the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event champion. The 45-year-old Argentinian beat Joseph Hebert in the heads up finale of the 2020 WSOP Main Event on Sunday night at the Rio Hotel & Casino to take home $1 million, the bracelet and the title of WSOP Main Event champ. The $1 million is in addition to the $1,550,969 Salas earned for winning the international leg at King's Casino in mid-December. Hebert, who earned $1,553,256 for winning the U.S. leg of the event, earned no additional prize money for finishing as the runner-up. “Joseph was a very hard opponent, and he played really well. In a few instances, he was about to win, it was a real fight and he never slowed down,” Salas said. “Going into the championship, I felt all the energy and support from my family and friends in Argentina tonight, and that helped me.” Both players started the heads up match with 500,000 chips and levels were 20 minutes long. Over the course of nearly six hours and 173 hands of play, both players took turns holding the chip lead with Salas being down 9-1 in chips before clawing his way back to win. After the third chip lead change, Hebert seemed to have Salas cornered. Down 9-1 in chips after hand #82, Salas doubled with [poker card="ad"][poker card="2c"] against Hebert's [poker card="kd"][poker card="5h"]. He doubled again on hand #101 and then took the lead on hand #136. Hebert was down 3-1 in chips before taking a slight lead after doubling through Salas on hand #153. Hebert increased that lead to as much as 3-1 before running [poker card="as"][poker card="8d"] into Salas' [poker card="ah"][poker card="td"] with only 20 big blinds in play on hand #170. Salas won that hand to hold his own 3-1 chip lead and just three hands later, finished Hebert off. With blinds of 25,000/50,000, Hebert jammed for 390,000 with [poker card="ad"][poker card="qs"] and Salas called with [poker card="kd"][poker card="js"]. The [poker card="ks"][poker card="8s"][poker card="5c"] flop moved Salas in front and Hebert could only watch as the [poker card="5d"] turn and [poker card="kc"] river completed the board to give Salas the title. Salas is no stranger to WSOP Main Event success. In 2017, he finished in seventh place and won $1,425,000. The heads up match was the culmination of the WSOP decision to host a hybrid online-live Main Event on GGPoker and WSOP.com after hosting a "Main Event" on GGPoker as part of the 2020 WSOP Online. In December, each site hosted a $10,000 buy-in online event which played down to a final table of nine. The final tablists from each site met in a live setting to play down to just one player. Each of the two winners then met in Las Vegas to play for the right to be called Main Event champion. The heads-up finale was originally scheduled to take place December 30, but had to be delayed until Sunday after Salas was denied entry to the United States due to his recent travel activity and COVID-19 protocols.
  2. In the final days of 2020, former World Series of Poker Main Event champion Huckleberry Seed became the 60th person inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. Seed, a four-time WSOP bracelet winner including the 1996 WSOP Main Event, is undoubtedly a worthy recipient of what should be considered poker’s highest honor. The mission of the Poker of Fame should be to celebrate the game itself while recognizing the players and people who have shined brightest and helped elevate the game during their careers. That being said, the current system responsible for nominating and enshrining people into the Poker Hall of Fame is broken and needs an overhaul to mitigate some issues which are already making themselves known and are only bound to get worse. A quick explainer on the current system: Following a public nomination process, the WSOP releases a list of 10 nominees based on the public input. Living PHOF members are given those 10 names to consider. Each voter has 10 points to distribute amongst the 10 nominees however they choose. All votes are tallied and the nominee receiving the most points is inducted. This is a change from the previous 10 years where a select panel of media (equal to the number of voting PHOF members) were also given a vote and the top two point earners were inducted. The criticisms of the current system are aplenty but there are two which stand out. The heavy bias towards American players has long been a frustration for players, fans and media from outside of the country. The second issue is a growing backlog of worthy candidates that has no hope of being cleared anytime soon as more and more worthy candidates become eligible each year. Let the Public Continue to Be Involved The one thing that doesn’t need any real change is the nomination process. The WSOP makes it so that anybody, a poker fan, a poker player, a family member, can nominate somebody for the PHOF so long as the person they’re nominating is at least 40 years old. It gives everybody an opportunity to be involved and gives WSOP executives a number of names to choose from when putting the final list of 10 nominees together each year. Remove the Cap on Number of Annual Inductees Seed was the only member of the 2020 class by design. From 2010-2019, the PHOF enshrined two nominees each year. That became a single inductee in 2020 with WSOP executives citing a return to tradition as the reason behind the change. “We like tradition. One per year is the way it was for the majority of the Poker Hall of Fame’s history. A single inductee seems to promote the prestige of the honor,” said Ty Stewart, Executive Director of the WSOP, who oversees the administration of the PHOF. In fact, the PHOF has had a single inductee in 18 years, two inductees in 16 years, seven inductees in the inaugural class of 1979, and another five years with no inductees at all. Keeping one inductee, or even two, per year certainly keeps the PHOF exclusive, but there is already a backlog of candidates waiting to get in and the coming onslaught from the online poker generation is going to make the nominees list awfully crowded. Five years from now five of the most recent nominees will still be on the nomination list and the following players will be eligible for the first time in either 2025 or 2026: Justin Bonomo, Shaun Deeb, Phil Galfond, Isaac Haxton, Jason Koon, Chris Moorman, Nick Schulman, Scott Seiver, Vanessa Selbst. Neither the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, or the Basketball Hall of Fame restrict the number of inductees on an annual basis. The PHOF needs to follow suit and this could be accomplished by eliminating the points system currently being used and replacing it with the system used by those other halls of fame. In all three instances, voters are given the name of all of those eligible for induction and simply vote yes or no. For basketball and baseball, a nominee becomes an enshrinee with 75% of the vote, for football, it’s 80%. Add More International Flavor Seed was the 60th inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame and one of the major criticisms of the current system is that it places an emphasis on American players. Of the 31 living Hall of Famers, who are eligible to vote, only four are not American. Carlos Mortensen, Daniel Negreanu, John Juanda, and Henry Orenstein are the only four voters born outside of the United States and most of them, if not all of them, spent a considerable amount of their poker career living and working in the United States. This fails to recognize the incredible worldwide growth that the game of poker has enjoyed over the last 50 years. Eliminating the maximum number of inductees rule as mentioned above could lead to an increase in the number of international members, which in turn leads to more international voters. Allowing select industry leaders, including members of the media, would also increase the number of international voters. Starting in 2010, a select media panel, intentionally equal in size to the number of HOF members voting, were afforded the opportunity to vote. That privilege was eliminated this year. Modifying this concept to include those who have worked long term in the poker industry puts in place a much needed system of checks and balances and ensures the international players get a fair shake. While the number American poker media outlets may be declining, the growth in international coverage of the game and the industry has grown immensely. Markets such as Brazil, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Japan, Korea, Canada, Hong Kong, Russia, Germany, and India all have talented, knowledgeable media covering the game not only in their own country, but around the world. Vetting and filling a panel of 32 media members wouldn’t be difficult and would provide a much-needed sense of balance to the final vote. Make the Builder Category Official The current criteria that voters are asked to consider when voting is the following: A gambler must have played poker against acknowledged top competition, Played for high stakes, Played consistently well, gained the respect of peers, And stood the test of time. Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results. While that last line certainly allows for a voter to recognize “non-players” in their voting, it also forces them to evaluate two completely different categories of nominee against each other. It also doesn’t tell voters how to apply the criteria to the nominees. For example, Chris Moneymaker was part of the PHOF Class of 2019 and a number of those who voted for him were doing so based on the “non-player” criteria because of his role in helping ignite the poker boom following his 2003 WSOP Main Event win. Moneymaker clearly doesn’t fit the criteria as a player and he would most likely be the first one to tell you that. Creating and properly defining a category specific for builders gives voters the opportunity to properly assess the entire body of work of that nominee. A yes or no voting system also removes the requirement that a five-time WSOP bracelet winner’s credential be considered against that of a longtime member of the industry whose impact was responsible for measurable growth. To ensure that the Hall continues to shine on light on the game’s best players, removing the minimum vote threshold and simply inducting the leading vote getter each year ensures no more than a single builder is recognized each year. Get Ceremonial and Show the World Over the years there have been varying types of ceremonies for the annual HOF induction. From a dinner at Binion’s with friends, family, fellow HOFers and industry leaders invited to a simple ceremony during November Nine festivities, the WSOP has, in the past, made an effort to afford the inductees a chance to be recognized in front of an audience. Budgetary restrictions and timing issues have made a ceremony of any magnitude a challenge the past few years, but adding a Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony to the calendar not only gives the newest members of the PHOF a night to shine, but it gives the WSOP a chance to thump its chest and strut. The WSOP already has a strong relationship with PokerGO and including a night of pomp and circumstance where the inductees, Hall of Famers, top players, and celebrities all gather to celebrate the game to the broadcast schedule seems like a win-win. Footing the bill for something like this comes down to finding a sponsor. WSOP executives have had success bringing non-endemic advertisers into the fold as sponsors and this seems like a great opportunity to bring one of those companies to the table. Small steps like the one's listed here aren't necessarily new, but re-vamping the entire process with an eye towards ramping up the intensity of the spotlight shined on poker's best and brightest is a win-win for everybody. FIVE THINGS is written by PocketFives President and Editor in Chief, Lance Bradley and covers pressing topics and current events in the poker world today. It appears periodically at PocketFives.com.
  3. Some players rocket up the PocketFives Rankings after a single score in a big event. Sometimes it's a player taking a shot in a tournament out of their normal buy-in range or maybe it's somebody riding a heater after winning their way in via satellite. More often than not, those players quickly fade into the distance of the PocketFives Rankings as similar results don't follow. Then there are players who continually put up strong results week in and week out and maintain their position in the upper echelon of the rankings. They use consistency as a means of maintaining their spot. 888poker ambassador Dominik Nitsche could easily be the poster child for that group. As expected, Nitsche turned in strong results in 2020 with a PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker win, an European Poker Tour Online win, and managed to bank a six-figure score on his birthday on 888poker. All told, the four-time WSOP bracelet winner earned more than $1.34 million online in 2020. Despite all of his career success, which includes more than $6.5 million in online earnings, Nitsche had never won a SCOOP title. That changed in May when he took down Event #87 High ($530 NLHE) to grab the title and $82,365 and 353.56. And it was no easy task, in the end, Nitsche had to beat Georgios 'Geokarak' Karakousis heads up to claim victory. The 888poker Millions Superstorm Main Event in October had a $1 million guarantee and drew 3,196 entrants. After outlasting 3,192 of those players, Nitsche, who just happened to be celebrating his birthday that day, wound up chopping the tournament with the three other remaining players and banked $121,146 for coming out on top after the deal was made. That wound up being the third largest win of his online career. In November, Nitsche topped the 2,833-entry held in the PokerStars European Poker Tour Online Event #14 ($215 NLHE - EPT Online Cup) to take home $82,093 and add 752.73 PLB points to his total. That same day he also won a PokerStars High Roller Club event, beating 44 other players in the $530 Bounty Builder High Roller for $3,331.31. The calendar turning to 2021 didn't change much for Nitsche. To date he's cashed 24 times with five of those adding to his PLB total. The highlight of that group was a win in a PokerStars Blowout Series Event #51 High ($530 Turbo NLHE) where he beat out 325 other runners to win $30,664.69 and 403.73 PLB points. Through just two weeks of the new year, Nitsche has already won $96,841.11 and added 1,092.47 PLB points to his total. All of that has placed Nitsche in the #1 spot in the German rankings where he has a narrow lead over 'nilsef' who held the top spot for most of 2018 and 2019. German Online Poker Rankings [table id=155 /]
  4. The global Coronavirus pandemic meant poker looked very different in 2020 than it has in any other year. That didn't stop some of the most talented players in the world from putting on a show every time they took to the felt in 2020. It Was Connor Drinan's World, We Were All Just Living In It Connor Drinan had a year any poker player would dream of - and he did it while playing a somewhat limited schedule. In May, Drinan, who calls Las Vegas home, traveled outside of the United States to play the PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker more than a week after it began. He quickly made up for lost time and put on a show for the ages. Drinan started things off by winning Event #34 High ($530 PLO) for $34,421 on his first day back in action. Two days later he outlasted 149 other entries to ship Event #40 High ($5,200 PLO Six Max) for $152,011. He didn't even wait another 24 hours before completing the hat trick. Drinan won Event #45 ($215 NLO8 Six Max PKO) for a $105,200 payday. Three days after that, Drinan won Event #56 High ($1,050 HORSE) and added $30,223 to his ever-growing bankroll. That win tied him with former #1-ranked Shaun Deeb for most SCOOP titles in a single year with four, but Drinan, wasn't quite finished yet. Just three days later, Drinan beat 158 other runners to win Event #75 High ($10,300 PLO) for what was then a career-best $322,264 score and a record-setting fifth SCOOP title of the year. That final table included the likes of Ben Tollerene, Linus Linus Loeliger, Talal Shakerchi, Gavin Cochrane, Joao Vieira, and eventual runner-up Jens Kyllonen.   Drinan set the record over a nine day span (May 9 - 17) and won a total of $553,504 for those five wins. He had 25 other SCOOP cashes, including one other final table. That was Drinan's spring adventure. When the summer came, Drinan turned his attention the online World Series of Poker events, first in Las Vegas for the WSOP.com schedule, and then back to Mexico to get it on the GGPoker events. In Las Vegas, Drinan cashed six times, highlighted by a sixth place finish in Event #13 ($1,500 High Roller Freezeout) before heading down to Mexico with former PocketFives #1 Chris Moorman to battle the worldwide market in a quest for a bracelet against much larger fields. He started off hot with a seventh place finish in Event #50 ($2,100 NLHE Bounty Championship) and then rattled off 13 more cashes before taking his seat in the biggest buy-in event on the schedule, Event #83 ($10,000 WSOP Super MILLION$). Drinan worked his way through 890 other entries to make the final table alongside former #1 PocketFiver Chris Oliver, Christopher Kruk, and 2013 November Niner Sylvain Loosli. Despite starting the final table sixth in chips, Drinan worked his way through that group and found himself with a better than 4-1 lead heads-up against Daniyar Aubakirov. Drinan didn't need long to put Aubakirov to rest to claim his first career WSOP bracelet and the $1,423,049 first place prize. Drinan also picked up a few extra dollars thanks to a bracelet bet with Daniel Negreanu. Another Conor Crushed 2020, Too Midway through 2020, Conor Beresford did what seemed nearly impossible at one point: he unseeded Sweden's 'lena900' from the #1 spot on PocketFives and then held onto it for more than seven months. Beresford officially took over the highly coveted #1 spot on May 16 after winning SCOOP Event #18 Medium ($215 NLHE Sunday Cooldown SE) on May 3 and Event #32 High on 7. Those wins gave Beresford a combined $124,538 in winnings and 645.25 PLB points, but he had set himself up to move into the #1 spot wish a series of career-defining scores beginning at the end of January. On January 30, Beresford finished runner-up in the GGPoker Phased: 2020 Series Championship event for $611,134 and 399.91 points. The Brit then picked up $617,857 and 1,236.19 points for winning a pair of PokerStars High Rollers events just four days apart in March. In September, Beresford crossed a career accolade off of his to-do list by winning PokerStars WCOOP Event #33 High ($5,200 NLHE High Roller) for $162,674.33. Despite his heavy list of accomplishments, this was the first time in his career that Beresford topped a WCOOP event. Attesting to his dominance this year, the four biggest scores in Beresford's online career, five of his top six, and six of his top ten, all came in 2020. The Arena Seemed Not to Matter To Timothy Adams When live poker basically shut down around the world in March, there might not have been a hotter player than Timothy Adams. The Canadian cashed both the $100K and $50K Challenge at the 2020 Aussie Millions in January and then won an Australian Poker Open $25,000 event before winning Super High Roller Bowl Australia. All told, Adams added $2.1 million to his bankroll before Valentine's Day. In March, he found himself in Russia. He posted a fifth place finish in a $25,000 event at the partypoker MILLIONS Sochi Super High Roller Series before beating 39 other entries to win Super High Roller Bowl Russia. Those two scores put another $3,716,000 into his bank account. Adams didn't slow down once the action was forced online. Adams won one Poker Masters Online event and cashed in another ten PMO events to finish fourth in the race for the Purple Jacket in April. He closed out the year by finishing runner-up in the European Poker Tour Online event for $728,632.82, finished eighth in the EPT Online $10,000 High Roller, and then won a GGPoker Super MILLION$ for $315,158. Success at Nearly Every Turn: Yuri Dzivielevski While Bruno Botteon rose the #1 spot on the PocketFives Rankings this year, fellow Brazilian Yuri Dzivielevski went about his work. Dzivielevski, who was #1 in 2014 and 2015, won partypoker POWERFEST titles on March 19 and April 3, before earning his second career WSOP bracelet after coming out on top of the 4,356-entry field in Event #42 ($400 PLOssus) for $221,557 in August. He cashed in 14 other WSOP events to wrap up the summer. That was just an appetizer for what Dzivielevski pulled off in the fall. Against the toughest competitors that the PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker has to offer, Dzivielevski emerged victorious not once, not twice, but three times in the first two weeks of the 25-day festival. He won Event #9 High ($1,050 NL 2-7), Event #20 ($1,050 HORSE), and Event #48 ($5,200 NLHE PKO) for more than $180,000 in winnings. Viktor Blom Had Himself a Work Week To Remember While the other players mentioned here all put together a string of results spread out over the course of the entire year, Swedish superstar Viktor Blom condensed all of his crushing into a single week - and still had time for a weekend of rest at the end. In May, Blom won three Super High Roller Bowl Online events in a span of just five days. He won Event #9 ($10,300 High Roller) for $213,750 on May 26, Event #14 ($25,500 Super High Roller) for $407,500 on May 28, and then capped it off by taking down Event #21 ($10,300 High Roller) to earn $195,250 on May 30. He also picked up a runner-up finish in Event #8 ($25,500 Super High Roller) for $365,500 to bring his SHRB Online earnings to $1,182,000.
  5. When the United States leg of the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event reached the final table two weeks ago, Louisiana native Joseph Hebert was the chip leader. Having two weeks to prepare for the biggest moment of his poker career, Hebert admitted that the nerves got to him as he took his seat at the Rio on Monday night. "The pressure was overwhelming for sure. When I sat down I was uncomfortable for sure," Hebert said. Hebert didn't break under the pressure though and late Monday night he was the last player standing and was $1.5 million richer because of it. The day began with news that Upeshka De Silva had failed a COVID test and was disqualified from the final table and awarded a ninth place finish. That left just eight players vying for the $1.5 million first place prize and the opportunity to play International leg winner Damian Salas for the bracelet and additional $1 million in prize money. Gershon Distenfeld started the final table with the third smallest stack but lasted just six hands before being eliminated. Ron Jenkins raised to 375,000 from middle position with [poker card="qd"][poker card="qs"] before Distenfeld shoved for 1,430,000 from the cutoff with [poker card="kc"][poker card="jc"]. Jenkins called and sweated the [poker card="9h"][poker card="3s"][poker card="2h"][poker card="th"][poker card="5h"] runout to eliminate Distenfeld in eighth place. Distenfeld plans to donate his $125,885 winnings to charity. Seven-handed play went on for another 55 hands of play before the next elimination occurred. With blinds of 125,000/250,000, Shawn Stroke shoved his last 975,000 from TG+1 with [poker card="3d"][poker card="3s"], from his immediate left, Harrison Dobin moved all in over the top for 4,200,000 with [poker card="ah"][poker card="ks"], and Jenkins called all in for 3,280,000 with [poker card="qc"][poker card="qd"]. The [poker card="td"][poker card="2d"][poker card="2s"] flop kept Jenkins in front and neither the [poker card="th"] turn or [j] river changed anything and Stroke was eliminated in seventh. Down to just four big blinds, Dobin only got to see two more hands. From the button, Hebert raised to 500,000 with [poker card="kh"][poker card="2d"] and Dobin called off his last 750,000 from the big blind with [poker card="5d"][poker card="3h"]. The [poker card="kc"][poker card="9c"][poker card="2h"] flop left Dobin in dire straits before the [poker card="qc"] river sealed his fate. The [poker card="9s"] completed the board to send Dobin out in sixth. Hebert was responsible for the next elimination 11 hands later in a blind vs. blind situation. Tony Yuan moved all in for 2,830,000 from the small blind with [poker card="ah"][poker card="th"] and Hebert called with [poker card="4d"][poker card="4h"]. Yuan found no relief on the [poker card="5h"][poker card="3d"][poker card="3s"] flop and could only collect his things as the [poker card="7d"] turn and [poker card="9h"] river left Hebert to rake in the pot and bust Yuan in fifth place. Jenkins went back to work eliminating opponents 19 hands later. Action folded to Jenkins in the small blind and he moved all in with [poker card="as"][poker card="jd"] and Ryan Hagerty called all in from the big blind with [poker card="ah"][poker card="8d"]. The [poker card="js"][poker card="8s"][poker card="2h"] flop gave both players a pair but left Jenkins in front. Neither the turn or river card saved Hagerty from being eliminated in fourth place. Six hands later, the tournament entered the heads-up portion of play after Hebert sent another player to the rail. Hebert opened to 600,000 from the button with [poker card="ac"][poker card="ah"] and Michael Cannon responded by moving all in from the small blind for 4,800,000 with [poker card="kc"][poker card="qd"] and Hebert snap-called. Hebert was well in front and stayed there as the [poker card="ts"][poker card="6s"][poker card="5d"] didn't gave Cannon any real extra outs and he was eliminated in third. Hebert held a 2-1 chip lead when heads-up play began and it took just one single hand for him toe garner all of the chips in play. From the button, Hebert raised to 700,000 with [poker card="ac"][poker card="qs"] before Jenkins raised to 2,300,000 with [poker card="qc"][poker card="qd"]. Hebert clicked back all in and Jenkins called with his tournament life on the line. The [poker card="ad"][poker card="kd"][poker card="7c"] flop gave Hebert top pair and left Jenkins hoping for running straight or flush cards or the case queen. The [poker card="4h"] turn meant only one card in the deck could save Jenkins and the [poker card="8c"] river was not it. Hebert eliminated Jenkins in second place and banked the $1,553,256 score while Jenkins had to settle for runner-up status and $1,002,340. Hebert now waits for Salas, winner of the international leg of the tournament, to arrive from Argentina to play him heads-up for the bracelet and an additional $1 million. Salas was apparently denied entry to the United States this week after traveling to Europe in the last 15 days. Hebert plans on spending the next few days learning as much as he can about the former November Niner in preparation for their match. "I really don't much about him. I need to read up on him a little bit more. I was trying to focus on this final table first," Hebert said. "I'm super excited and I can't wait to face him." The finale is expected to be played next Sunday. Final Table Payouts Joseph Hebert - $1,553,256 Ron Jenkins - $1,002,340 Michael Cannon - $529,258 Ryan Hagerty - $387,130 Tony Yuan - $286,963 Harrison Dobin - $215,222 Shawn Stroke - $163,786 Gershon Distenfeld - $125,885 Upeshka De Silva - $98,813
  6. When Brent Hanks took on the role as PokerGO’s Director of Programming, a good friend texted him with a congratulatory note - and a warning. “You are going to make and lose a lot of friends because of this,” the text read. The job meant having some say in who was - or wasn’t - invited to play on some of poker’s most popular shows, including Poker After Dark and the recently relaunched High Stakes Poker. Putting a lineup together for Poker After Dark, Hanks is often working with two variables: the first is a theme for the show while the second is, well, who’s available. For High Stakes Poker, Hanks has the extremely enviable position of taking a backseat to Poker Hall of Famer, Mori Eskandani. “High Stakes Poker was a little different because that was pretty much going back to the man, the myth, the legend Mori and his connections to so many of the great players,” Hanks said. “Obviously Mori being able to network with Jean-Robert Bellande, and Tom Dwan especially, who has some connections to some fun players as well. So it's like herding cats a lot of the time.” One of the key sponsors of the return of High Stakes Poker has been Poker King, an Asian-facing online poker site that has relationships with Dwan, Bellande, Nick Petrangelo, and Phil Ivey. That helped ensure that all of those players were part of the HSP cast this season. The nostalgic appeal of Dwan and Ivey, combined with the likes of Petrangelo, Jason Koon and a few new faces have helped forge a table dynamic that reminded many poker fans of the original incarnation of the show. Finding on-air chemistry amongst six to eight randomly chosen poker players isn’t easy, but Hanks has figured out that ensuring producers don’t end up with those players buried in their hooded sweatshirts, too dialed in to the game to be talkative or entertaining once the TV lights go on. “A lot of the times you want to bring what you know is sort of maybe a game that's happening elsewhere, or these guys have a ton of history playing with each other and you bring that chemistry and you bring those lineups together,” Hanks said, pointing to the times Phil Hellmuth has been the center of a show featuring a number of his friends from Silicon Valley. “This game is amazing because they just rip on Phil. Like they'll pay him not to talk. Jason (Calcanis) and Chamath (Palihapitiya) are just so brutal with Phil Hellmuth. You don't really see that but you realize that that's what it's like in their home game. He's kind of the whipping boy.” The cast for the first episode of High Stakes Poker included Bellande, Dawn, Petrangelo, alongside HSP newcomers Bryn Kenney, Brandon Steven, Rick Salomon, and former major league baseball player Michael Schwimer. While poker fans will recognize Kenney, Steven, and even Salomon, it was the addition of Schwimer to the roster that got Hanks’ blood pumping. “I believe he's friends with Tom Dwan and that was the connection to the show, but he is special. That guy played so many hands. His comments, you couldn't tell if he was being genuine and he would say something like, ‘Oh, that's a bad card’ and he'd bet anyway,” Hanks said. “And everyone would just die laughing. He'd be up a million, he'd be down a million. Yeah, wait till you see the next episode. It's crazy.” If poker fans who watched the first episode of the new season liked Schwimer, Hanks thinks they’re gonna love what’s to come when some more new blood grabs an open seat. “Another guy that stood out for me, who you haven't seen yet, that's going to be in the show is Jake Daniels. He is a recreational-slash-businessman-slash semi-pro. Hails out of Texas. He is electric when it comes to his play,” Hanks said. With the entire season already in the can and being voiced over by Gabe Kaplan and AJ Benza in Los Angeles, Hanks already has some ideas in mind for new players to add next season that might have been overlooked. “I think Garrett Adelstein was the biggest snub, and if I had my control of it, he would have played in the games, but obviously there's the politics involved,” Hanks said. “The reality is we had a huge list. When we film again, hopefully in March, which is the plan … I'm just going to fight for him. When I think of high stakes poker, I think of Garrett Adelstein, he's one of these modern players and I think that most people that are fans of the game would agree.” Another one of the challenges that Hanks and Eskandani face with every casting decision is making sure that not only is the PokerGo core audience going to be happy and want to tune in, but they also try to attract viewers who might not quite be poker diehards. “The key is getting outside. So it's, can we target the hardcores? Yeah, we're doing that. We're giving them the content that they love, Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, all the tournaments, obviously the World Series of Poker,” Hanks said. “But what else can we do to make sure that we get outside of that? And that's the difficulty, that's the trick that, unfortunately, we're still trying to learn and solve every single day from the industry side.” That text message about making and losing friends comes in full view for Hanks when new shows air. Whether it’s a group of familiar faces or a new face or two, he always ends up hearing from one or two players, either privately or via social media, who are disappointed or even upset that they weren’t included. Hanks always has to ask them what including them in the show would have done for the metric that matters most, total viewers. “You're the best player in the world. That's how you make a living. That's how you print money. No problem. But if you really care about your brand and if you really bitch about not being on shows, well then let's build, right?,” Hanks said. “I don't care if you want to be an introvert and you just want to print money and do your thing in poker. I'm all about it. Have at it. You are the man. Awesome stuff. I just don't want to hear it when you say, ‘Well, why can't I get on that show?’" When Black Friday shut down the three busiest online poker sites in the United States, the first defence that poker industry advocates turned to was that poker was a game of skill. Hanks understood the thinking at the time, but as daily fantasy sports and most recently sports betting, have become accepted forms of gambling, Hanks thinks poker needs to lean into that side of the game to help build a more mainstream audience. “I don't see why poker should be any different. It's time to embrace gambling for what it is. Poker is gambling. And we should be allowed to say that without hushing and not saying the G word. And to me, I think we're there. I think the industry is there,” Hanks said. “We're going to turn a corner and we should be sort of seen in the same light as daily fantasy or fantasy football or just sports betting in general. Is there an element of skill? Sure. But for the most part, this is gambling and you should have fun.” That belief is also something reflected in how Hanks puts lineups together for Poker After Dark and when he looks at the cast for this season of High Stakes Poker, he knows they’ve got a hit on their hands thanks in large part to just how much gamble there is amongst the players. “Do I like it when you've got guys that are willing to mix it up, maybe gamble, do prop bets on the side, talk about that? Yeah, I think there's a culture there that is appealing,” Hanks said .”And I think the mainstream, the masses, really sort of resonate towards that as opposed to just so much of the solver study.”
  7. Sometime before the end of 2020, one person - and potentially two - will receive a phone call from World Series of Poker executives letting them now they have been enshrined into the Poker Hall of Fame. The list of ten finalists for the class of 2020 were announced Thursday with three first-time nominees and seven others who have been up for induction before. Lon McEachern and Norman Chad, the longtime voices of the WSOP on ESPN broadcasts, are nominated as a pair. This marks the first-time in Hall of Fame history that a duo has been nominated together and is the first nomination for the each of them. Patrik Antonius, who turned 40 earlier this month to meet the minimum age requirement is also a first-time nominee. The Finnish superstar has more than $12 million in lifetime tournament earnings but is more well-known for his high stakes cash game prowess both online and live. The third new name on the list of finalists is PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg. The 75-year-old Scheinberg founded the company that eventually became PokerStars in 2000 and turned it into the industry leader before selling the company to Amaya in 2014. In 2011, Scheinberg was one of 11 people indicated by the United States government in what eventually became known as Black Friday in the poker community. WSOP officials, who oversee the Poker Hall of Fame, had made it clear in years past that Scheinberg's inability to travel to the United States to accept a possible induction was part of the reason he had not been nominated. Scheinberg settled the case earlier this year. RELATED: Isai Scheinberg Leads Potential 2020 Poker Hall of Fame Nominees Scheinberg isn't the only finalist with connections to Black Friday. Full Tilt Poker co-founder and six-time WSOP bracelet winner Chris Ferguson is nominated for the second consecutive year. Ferguson, who disappeared from the WSOP scene following Black Friday before returning to action in 2016, won the WSOP Main Event in 2000 and sits third on the WSOP all-time cashes list. To many, Ferguson remains one of the most controversial figures in poker over his connections to Full Tilt Poker and refusal to address his role in the downfall of the company. The other six finalists are Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari, Ted Forrest, Mike Matusow, Matt Savage, and 1996 WSOP Main Event champion Huck Seed. The list of finalists is now in the hands of the 31 living members of the Hall of Fame. Each member is given 10 votes to distribute to any of the finalists they deem worthy of induction. Voters are expected to consider the following criteria when casting their ballot: Player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition Be a minimum of 40-years-old at time of nomination Played for high stakes Played consistently well, gaining the respect of peers Stood the test of time Or, for non-players, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results The finalist who receives the most votes will be the sole inductee this year with the announcement coming at the 2020 WSOP Main Event final table in Las Vegas on December 30.
  8. Making the trip from Argentina to the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event international live final table at King's Casino in the Czech Republic was well worth it for Damian Salas. The 45-year-old, who also made the final table of the 2017 WSOP Main Event, defeated Brunno Botteon, the #1-ranked online poker player in the world, heads-up to win $1.5 million and will now travel to Las Vegas to play the winner of the American final table live for another $1 million. The final table began eight-handed after China's Peiyuan 'fish3098' Sun not to travel to Rozvadov due to the coronavirus pandemic. It took just 45 minutes for the Salas to turn his aggression into an increased chip stack with the elimination of Hannes Speiser. Salas was the initial aggressor, raising to 425,000 from early position before Speiser, who started the final table with the fifth best stack, responded by moving all in for 1,925,000. Salas called and showed [poker card="th"][poker card="ts"] while Speiser was in trouble with [poker card="qc"][poker card="tc"]. The board ran out [poker card="ac"][poker card="ad"][poker card="jh"][poker card="9d"][poker card="6s"] to eliminate Speiser in eighth place. Salas continued to accumulate and 30 minutes later, sent another player home. Stoyan Obreshkov raised to 900,000 from the cutoff and Salas re-raised to 1,750,000 and Obreshkov called all in. Salas showed [poker card="as"][poker card="tc"] which was the worst case scenario for Obreshkov who tabled [poker card="ks"][poker card="th"]. The [poker card="td"][poker card="9d"][poker card="7d"] flop changed nothing for Obreshkov and all he could do was sweat the [poker card="7s"] turn and [poker card="as"] river to seal his fate with a seventh place result. That pot moved Salas into striking distance of Brunno Botteon for the first time since the final table began. A battle of the blinds just 15 minutes later between Dominykas Mikolaitis and Manuel Ruivo ended things for one of them. From the small blind, Ruivo moved all in and Mikolaitis called and showed [poker card="ad"][poker card="jc"] while Ruivo was ahead with [poker card="3c"][poker card="3h"]. Ruivo improved to bottom set on the [poker card="9c"][poker card="5c"][poker card="3d"] flop. The [poker card="7s"] turn ended Mikolaitis' running clubs dream. The [poker card="4c"] completed the board to officially eliminate Mikolaitis in sixth. Ruivo found another victim but it wasn't until nearly two hours later. The Portugal native raised from the button to 600,000 and Marco Streda shoved from the small blind for somewhere north of 2,500,000. Ruivo called and showed [poker card="ac"][poker card="ad"] while Streda was in bad shape with [poker card="ah"][poker card="kd"]. The board ran out [poker card="jc"][poker card="8c"][poker card="2c"][poker card="7s"][poker card="4s"] to eliminate Streda. Thanks to a 30-minute dinner break and a regularly scheduled 15-minute break, the next elimination didn't happen until nearly one hour and 45 minutes after Streda hit the rail. Ramon Miquel Munoz was down to approximately 800,000 and moved all in from UTG. Botteon followed that by moving all in, forcing the rest of the table to fold. Munoz had life with [poker card="as"][poker card="6d"] while Botteon showed [poker card="3d"][poker card="3s"]. Munoz' tournament life was all but snuffed out on the [poker card="kc"][poker card="th"][poker card="3h"] flop. The [poker card="ks"] turn made a comeback impossible and the [poker card="ad"] river made Munoz' fourth place finish official. Three-handed play last just about an hour before Salas sent the tournament to the heads-up portion. Botteon folded his button, Salas completed from the small blind and then called when Ruivo raised to 1,500,000 in the big blind. After the [poker card="9c"][poker card="4c"][poker card="2d"] flop, Salas check-raised to 5,000,000. Ruivo moved all in for not much more and Salas called. Ruivo showed [poker card="9d"][poker card="4h"] for top two pair while Salas tabled [poker card="tc"][poker card="7c"] for a flush draw. Salas added a straight draw on the [poker card="8s"] turn and then completed his flush draw on the [poker card="5c"] river to bust Ruivo in second. Heads-up play began with Salas holding nearly two-thirds of the chips in play. Over a full hour of play between Botteon and Salas, the Brazilian only managed to briefly take over the chip lead before Salas regained it and eliminated Botteon. On the final hand, Botteon completed from the small blind and Salas checked to see a flop of [poker card="kc"][poker card="4c"][poker card="2h"]. Both players checked to see the [poker card="6h"] turn card. Botteon check-raised to 2,800,000 and Salas called. The [poker card="8c"] completed the board and Botteon moved all in and Salas tank-called. Botteon showed [poker card="7h"][poker card="3h"] for a missed flush draw while Salas tabled [poker card="kd"][poker card="8h"] for top two pair to eliminate Botteon in second place. The win means Salas will be flying to Las Vegas right after Christmas to play the eventual winner of the U.S. leg of the 2020 WSOP Main Event for the $1 million prize. Final Table Payouts Damian Salas - $1,550,969 Bruno Botteon - $1,062,723 Manuel Ruivo - $728,177 Ramon Miquel Munoz - $498,947 Marco Streda - $341,879 Dominykas Mikolaitis - $234,255 Stoyan Obreshkov - $160,512 Hannes Speiser - $109,982 Peiyuan Sun - $75,360
  9. With people around the world quarantined in their own homes in the early throes of the global coronavirus pandemic in mid-April, Phil Galfond put the finishing touches on his back-from-the-dead victory against the mysterious ‘Venividi1993’ in the first of the Galfond Challenges. The poker world was tuned in and engrossed in the final moments. Galfond ended up ahead of ‘Venividi1993’ by €9,843.25 to win the challenge and the €100,000 side bet that accompanied it. Poker media outlets spent the days following it going in-depth on how Galfond, long considered one of the best heads-up Pot Limit Omaha players ever, went from being down more than €900,000 to his opponent to emerging victorious. The mainstream media ignored it entirely. At a time when majors sports were all on hold, the sports media companies that previously turned to poker during pro sports work stoppages couldn’t be bothered to give Galfond’s amazing comeback the time of day. Enter David Hill and The Ringer. Having grown up in a small town in Arkansas where gambling was commonplace, Hill was introduced to most forms of gambling before he was old enough to legally drive a car. A childhood spent in what was once a "big illegal gambling town" combined with a flare for storytelling led Hill to a career as a freelance writer known for finding the best stories from the world of gambling. After writing a story about a professional sports bettor for The Ringer in 2019, his editor there wondered if there were more stories like that that could be told via a podcast. "Definitely, yeah, I've thought about that a lot. I think that this could definitely be a show," Hill told his editor. And from that conversation, Gamblers was born. A narrative-style podcast that takes the listener straight into the action with the people making their living by winning by gambling. When Hill started vetting topics for the show, he knew there had to be a poker story in the first batch. He zeroed in on Bryn Kenney. “I was going to fly to Korea for one of the Triton events and tag along with Bryn and just see if maybe there was something there, and he's invited me to do it. But then of course it all got shut down,” Hill said. The worldwide COVID shutdown didn’t just put an end to the Kenney episode, it almost ended Hill’s chances of getting the podcast to air. He had some of the interviews done for a few of the episodes, but being unable to travel to interview subjects and grab audio to use on the show almost killed the show entirely. When the Galfond Challenge began, Hill realized he wouldn’t have to travel to cover the action. “We ended up doing Phil because the story happened at a moment where we weren't even sure if the show was going to continue. When I started watching all this, I was like, ‘Man, this is great. This is such a good story’,” Hill said. “Suddenly I had a great story right in front of us on our computer screens. So, that really saved us. Had it not been for that, I'm not sure that we would've done poker in the first season.” That episode, titled Phil Galfond, the Poker Player Who Couldn’t Be Solved, debuted Wednesday as the fifth of six episodes of Gamblers. The episode is focused on Galfond vs. 'Venividi1993' and features interviews with Galfond, David Tuchman, Joey Ingram, and a few others that poker fans will recognize, but Galfond is undoubtedly the star of the show. The more time Hill spent talking with Galfond, the more he felt he had stumbled across a player who might have been the best of his generation while failing to live up to the stereotype of what a poker player of his generation looks like. "The stereotype about this generation is that they're all computer nerds, they were all Magic the Gathering nerds. And to learn that Galfond really didn't fit that stereotype, that he studied philosophy as an undergraduate in college and he was a football player in high school," Hill said. "He had an aptitude for math, but it wasn't like he was studying math in college or pursuing it in any kind of serious way. Just that the way he found himself where he found himself in the game was just by a dogged pursuit of it." Three of the four episodes of Gamblers that preceded the one about Galfond focused on other professional gamblers including a card counter, a pool hustler, and a gin rummy pro yet each of those episodes includes ties to poker players that have spent some part of their career in the poker spotlight. This was intentional on Hill's part to give a wider audience something - or somebody - they can connect with. "Poker has broken into the mainstream. Poker is something that is a part of the broader popular culture in a way that other forms of gambling aren't," Hill said. "If I can compare things to poker or frame things in poker terms or show how things are relevant to that world, I know that most of the audience will have poker as a touchstone or whatever that will help them maybe understand things a little bit." While the poker world decries the lack of attention that mainstream media outlets have offered poker over the last decade, Hill believes that poker actually gets it right. While sports betting, which has enjoyed the full heat of the spotlight as legalization and regulation have pushed it forward, has a lot to learn. "Poker really is the example for sports, and not the other way around. Because poker has been willing to really celebrate and make stars out of their best players, rather than hiding them away and kicking them out and shunning them from the universe," Hill said. "I would say that poker should continue to do what they're doing, which is take people like Phil Galfond, take stars in that game who are such fascinating people. Even if you're not a poker player, I think you would like this episode just learning about Phil Galfond's life." With only one unreleased episode of Season 1 still to come, Hill is hoping that the downloads, likes, and subscribes are strong enough with the first season so The Ringer decides to greenlight a second season. If that turns out to be the case, you can bet there will be another episode that jumps into the world of poker. "It's just something that I don't think that I could avoid it even if I wanted to, but why would I want to? Why would I want to avoid poker when so many of the best stories and the best characters, the most interesting people, the most fascinating people exist in the world of poker?," Hill said. "(Poker) is just a magnet for brilliant people. It is a magnet for creative thinkers. I'd be a fool to ignore the world of professional poker if I want to tell a story about the minds of the most interesting and brilliant gamblers."
  10. With the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event now underway, the team in charge of the WSOP is proceeding with as much of the normal pomp and circumstance that normally accompanies the summer series as possible. On Tuesday came the official announcement that nominations for the 2020 Poker Hall of Fame class are now open. As in years past, the WSOP is giving the public the opportunity to submit names for nomination to eventually create a list of 8-10 nominees. Unlike the last ten years however, where two nominees were chosen for induction, only one eventual nominee will be enshrined this year. The change marks a return to the pre-poker boom tradition of honoring just one individual each year. "We like tradition. One per year is the way it was for the majority of the Poker Hall of Fame's history. A single inductee seems to promote the prestige of the honor," said Ty Stewart, Executive Director of the WSOP. "Most of the finalists these past few years are very young men. I would hope and assume they will all get inducted eventually." The other change for 2020 sees the inductee being chosen by just the 32 living members of the Poker Hall of Fame. Since 2010, a select panel of poker media were also part of the voting panel. For Stewart, this change was one about returning to the early years of the Poker Hall of Fame. "For many years Jack Binion and his poker team just used to meet and decide. And I don’t think they ever got it wrong. In 2020, with 32 living hall of famers who take the criteria seriously, we think the honor is best bestowed by one’s peers," Stewart said. The number of players who have been nominated over past years but not inducted includes the likes of Mike Matusow, Chris Bjorin, Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari, Max Pescatori, and Humberto Brenes. While those players are likely to be nominated by the general public, the likelihood that they make it through the nomination process to be the sole member of the Poker Hall of Fame Class of 2020 aren't great. With that in mind, here are the only five names that have a shot at joining the likes of Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, and Chip Reese in the Poker Hall of Fame this year. Isai Scheinberg The founder of PokerStars, Isai Scheinberg has never been one of the 10 named finalists for the Poker Hall of Fame despite having a decent amount of support from key people in the poker industry. The most likely reason for that was the charges against Scheinberg from Black Friday. In 2014, Stewart told The Fives Podcast co-host Donnie Peters that Scheinberg would likely get in one day, but since Scheinberg "can't enter country to accept, likely isn't the time" to induct him. In March, Scheinberg plead guilty to one count of operating an illegal gambling business to settle the charges with the United States Department of Justice and was sentenced to time served and a $30,000 fine. As the driving force behind PokerStars from 2001 until 2014, when it was sold to David Baazov and his group of investors, many credit Scheinberg for setting the standard for the online poker industry while turning his company into the largest operator in the space. Former PokerStars Team Pro Daniel Negreanu is firmly on Team Isai when it comes the Poker Hall of Fame. Matt Savage Nearly 20 years ago, Matt Savage co-founded the Tournament Directors Association alongside Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, and David Lamb. Since then he's been the tournament director of record for some of the largest and most prestigious poker tournaments in the world. That list includes the WSOP from 2002 - 2004 and the Bay 101 Shooting Star event which he oversees to this day. For the past 10 years, Savage has been the Executive Tour Director of the World Poker Tour where he has had arguably his greatest influence. Along with continuing to push for standardized rules and structures at all Tour stops, Savage has helped the WPT from a business perspective as the tour has grown while working with properties around the world, many of whom came from the introduction by Savage. While the resume is complete, Savage has the support of what often feels like the entire professional poker community. Players from around the world reach out to Savage as their first point of contact when it pertains to questions about tournament or poker room rules and rulings. His position as the de facto expert in his field is as solid as ... Savage has been nominated for the Hall of Fame before but whether or not is ever allowed to hold the honor of being the first tournament director enshrined remains to be seen. Bruno Fitoussi The Patriarch of French Poker, Bruno Fitoussi was nominated for the Hall of Fame in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018 without being inducted. While Scheinberg and Savage are both firmly entrenched as "builders", Fitoussi is one of the rare individuals who has successfully straddled between being a world class player who has successfully helped promote the game from the business side. Fitoussi has more than $3,000,000 in live earnings on his Hendon Mob profile, with $1.28 million of that coming from his runner-up finish in the 2007 WSOP $50,000 HORSE World Championship, one of his three second place finishes in bracelet events. He also served as a consultant for the Aviation Club in Paris, France and many considered him the face of French poker as he was a regular commentator for televised poker in his home country and across Europe as poker began growing in popularity. Fitoussi's struggle to go from nominee to inductee is likely a reflection of the heavily skewed American voting process used in years past. He's not getting any help this year either. Of the 32 voters, none are European. Only five of the 32 are not American and they all either live in the United States now (Negreanu, Johnny Chan, Scotty Nguyen) or spent a considerable amount of their career living in the U.S. (John Juanda, Carlos Mortensen). David Chiu Nobody has had their name included on the nomination list more times than David Chiu. The Chinese-born Chiu was nominated in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019. With a poker resume that most of his colleagues would kill for, Chiu seems like a good bet to be nominated yet again this year. He won WSOP bracelets in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2005, and 2013. Then in 2008, he beat Gus Hansen heads up to win the World Poker Tour World Championship for $3.4 million. He and Ted Forrest are the only players with at least five WSOP bracelets and an open WPT title to not be in the Hall of Fame. Chiu is also one of the most versatile players in poker history. A master of nearly every game on the WSOP schedule, Chiu has cashed 74 times at the WSOP and only one of his 24 final table appearances was in a No Limit Hold'em event. Joe Hachem Joe Hachem, the 2005 WSOP Main Event winner, has never been one of the ten nominees for the Hall of Fame, but a case could be made for him as a hybrid player-build nominee. Hachem beat a then-record field of 5,619 players to win the 2005 Main Event for $7.5 million and helped the popularity of poker in his native Australia reach never-before-seen heights. Hachem spent the years that followed traveling the world as a Team PokerStars Team Pro and in late 2006 seized the opportunity to prove he wasn't a one-hit wonder. Hachem topped the 583-player field to win the WPT Doyle Brunson North American Poker Classic for $2.2 million. In the post-Moneymaker era, Hachem is only one of two WSOP Main Event winners to have won a WPT title after their WSOP win. (Ryan Riess is the other). In the years following Hachem's win, the Aussie Millions Main Event went from 263 runners to 418 to 747 and many in the Australian poker industry credit Hachem's win - the first ever for an Australian - as a key piece of the perfect storm that was the mid-2000s poker boom.
  11. FIVE THINGS is a column, written by PocketFives President and Editor in Chief, Lance Bradley that covers pressing topics and current events in the poker world today. It appears periodically at PocketFives.com. For the last 10 days, the poker world has been tuned in to Daniel Negreanu vs. Doug Polk grudge match. The pair have played a total 4,651 hands and Polk holds a $143,996.16 lead over Negreanu. With nearly 20% of the 25,000-hand challenge (or 40% if the combatant who is trailing at the midway point throws in the towel) now complete, poker fans now have a good idea of what exactly this thing is all about. Here are Five Things the poker world has learned through the opening salvo of the so-called High Stakes Feud. It's Closer Than Expected In the days leading up to the start of this battle, Polk made it quite clear that he was lookng to put a financial hurting on his opponent and only cared about "backing up the fucking truck". While Polk opened up a six-figure lead after Monday night's lengthy session, that's only 3.5 buy-ins - not quite yet the thrashing many of Polk's most ardent supporters were predicting. On the other side of that coin, Negreanu is keeping this heads-up for rolls match close and those who bet on him at 4-1 (or better) are probably feeling pretty good about their wager. If you want to put on a tinfoil hat and dive deep into a potential conspiracy theory that Sidney Powell would approve of, you might wonder if Polk really believes his edge is massive, why would he want to be up even $1 at the midway mark when Negreanu could simply walk away without losing another cent? Polk might be better served by learning as much as he can about Negreanu's tendencies over the first 12,500 hands before stepping on the gas pedal of his massive truck and taking home a mid-seven-figure score. It's a Viewer's Utopia Whether they're cheering for Negreanu, Polk, or just want to see blood, poker fans have had a plethora of options for how to follow the action as it happens. Rather than tying up the viewing experience with just a single option, Polk and Negreanu allowed the Twitch/YouTube content creators full reign to do as they please with the action. The winner has been the fans. Polk has been running a livestream on his YouTube channel with the likes of Jamie Kerstetter, Andrew Lichtenberger, Marty Mathis, and others all taking turns calling the action. Negreanu hasn't done anything on his own, but GGPoker has been running live coverage on GGPoker.tv with Jeff Platt, Niall Farrell, along with GGPoker GGSquad members Kevin Martin and Patrick Tardif, all jumping in at various points to provide analysis and insight. A few days into the challenge, YouTube legend Joey Ingram threw his hat into the ring and fired up a stream of his own. He's had Nick Schulman and rising star Landon Tice working alongside him. The SolveForWhy crew recently brought their own flavor to the stream game, with Matt Berkey and Christian Soto at the helm. Can We Pull Back the Curtain Just a Little? While the live stream options are aplenty, anybody hoping that Polk and Negreanu would give their fans a glimpse at what's going on beyond the scenes between sessions has been left wanting. Outside of a few post-session interviews with both Polk and Negreanu, the lack of content being produced by these two is somewhat surprising. Both Polk and Negreanu have a talent group of content creators around them and they have each had a hand in producing some of the best player-created content ever. The stakes being as high as they are - especially when you consider the side action - probably means neither guy wants to give anything away until the session is over. Still, a vlog or two from each camp during the challenge would add a great deal to what we've already pointed out is one of the most viewer-friendly experiences in poker history. Here's hoping once they've played the 25,000 hands that each camp can put out some videos that will take poker fans behind the scenes. A Cage Match with a Side of Civility Remember when Negreanu and Polk hated each other? The challenge kicked off with a live session on PokerGO and while Negreanu winning big to kick things off grabbed the headlines, the level of civility these two "mortal enemies" displayed towards each other was also a real talking point. That hasn't gone away with the shift to the online felt. Outside of a small needle here or there on social media, there's been no real hatred - or even dislike - shown towards each other, even as both enjoyed or endured a six-figure swing in the opening few weeks. Fans firmly entrenched on one player's side were prepped and ready with More Rake is Better memes and oh-so-tired Vanessa Selbst jokes, but for better worse, they've been left to follow the lead of Polk and Negreanu who seem to be much too focused on the actual gameplay to spend any time engaging in trash talk at this point. Bill Perkins Can't Help Himself Before the challenge began, we speculated which Karate Kid character Polk was representing in this challenge. While the civility mentioned above makes it difficult to cast Polk as either Daniel LaRusso or Johnny Lawrence just yet, at least one other casting decision has a front-runner. Bill Perkins, who has gone on record with his six-figure bet on Negreanu, is definitely in the lead to take on the role of Tommy. For those who don't remember Tommy, he's the guy that LaRusso easily dispatched in the early rounds before he makes a somewhat memorable appearance during the finals despite not actually being in the match.  On November 17, Perkins, who like Tommy is not actually in this match, took to Twitter to share details of a potential delay in the schedule after a dispute arose over what was and wasn't allowed in terms of stat-tracking. The supposed controversy was quickly resolved (apparently thanks to some mediation from Phil Galfond) and the match continued without any delay while Perkins continues to shout from the rail. The Polk-Negreanu Challenge continues with Session #11 on Wednesday, November 25 and Session #12 on Saturday, November 28.
  12. As the poker world has turned nearly its entire focus to online poker in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the best tournament players in the world have found themselves battling more frequently on the virtual felt. Following its launch in June, the GGPoker Super MILLION$ has became one of the top destination for poker's elite. The Super MILLION$ is one of four events on the weekly MILLION$ schedule and features by far the largest buy-in. The other three are the High Roller MILLION$ ($500 buy-in), the Zodiac MILLION$ (¥500 buy-in) and the Global MILLION$ ($100 buy-in). Each of those events are doing well in their own right, but the murderer's row field that frequents the $10,000 buy-in Super MILLION$ each Sunday sets it apart. The fields often include the likes of Stephen Chidwick, Timothy Adams, Ali Imsirovic, Alex Foxen, Isaac Haxton, Artur Martirosyan, and former #1-ranked PocketFivers Niklas Astedt, Fedor Holz, and Yuri Dzivielevski all playing under the real name. The high buy-in and relative strength of the field are helping to turn the five-month old tournament into one of online poker's most prestigious Sunday events. The Dominance of Michael Addamo No player has had more success in this event than Australian Michael Addamo. The Super MILLION$ has run 23 times and Addamo has five cashes, four final tables appearances, and three victories for $1,537,452.90 in winnings. Addamo's wins came on June 28, July 19, and August 16. His two other results were a 33rd place finish on August 23 and a third place finish on October 18. He also finished on the stone bubble on September 20. No other player has won more than once. [table id=125 /] The Consistency of Stephen Chidwick While Addamo leads the way in wins and overall earnings, no player has cashed with a higher frequency than Stephen Chidwick. A former #1 on the Global Poker Index, Chidwick has found the cashier cage in 14 events. His best finish came on October 11 when he finished runner-up to 'blakjak19' and earned $263,791.65. Rui Ferreira is the only other player to have broken the double digit barrier in cashes with 10. [table id=124 /] The Excellence of Niklas Astedt Nobody who has been paying attention to the online poker rankings over the past three years is shocked to learn that Niklas Astedt has also found success in the Super MILLION$. Ranked #1 for 65 total weeks in the past three years, Astedt is widely considered amongst the best tournament players in the world and has proven to be a threat here as well. Astedt has made the final table five times, highlighted by a runner-up finish on October 25. Finishing one spot behind fellow Swede Joakim Andersson earned Astedt $251,336.47. Six other players have each cashed four times each. [table id=126 /] Livestreaming for the World to See With final tables packed with some of the most recognizable faces in the game, GGPoker knew they had a hit on their hands. The Super MILLION$ plays down to a final table on Sunday with the remaining nine players retuning on Tuesday to give GGPoker.tv the opportunity to stream the final table action. With Randy Lew and Kevin van der Kooi calling the action, the weekly stream has become one of the week's top options for those looking to rail some online poker heavyweight action. By the Numbers During the 2020 WSOP Online, the Super MILLION$ was one of the 54 bracelet events on the schedule. That day, Connor Drinan beat the largest Super MILLION$ field ever to win $1,435,048.71 and his first career WSOP bracelet. The tournament had 899 entries and a $8,720,300 prize pool. The Super MILLION$ was also a part of the recently completed High Roller Week on GGPoker with prize pools of $3,000,000 and $5,810,000. Despite the star-studded fields, there has been overlays in nearly 40% of the weekly events. The first five events, which ran June 14 through July 12, all had overlays, the largest coming on July 12 when 192 players created a $137,600 overlay.
  13. The recent announcement from the World Series of Poker of a hybrid online-live event that will crown the 2020 WSOP Main Event champion has drawn strong reactions from the poker community. Many players were quick to question the safety of holding a live event in Las Vegas given the current status of the global pandemic while others had questions about the confusion over the status of the title of the "Main Event champion". The new event, which has a $10,000 buy-in and will run on WSOP.com in New Jersey and Nevada and GGPoker.com in international markets, is a freezeout event similar in format to the traditional annual WSOP Main Event. With COVID-19 restrictions around the world making a traditional live Main Event impossible, the WSOP created a hybrid format The final nine players from the NJ/NV online event will travel to Las Vegas to play down to a winner while the final nine players from the international market will travel to Rozvadov, Czechia to play down to a winner. Those final two players will then meet for a heads-up match in Las Vegas with $1 million on the line. This follows a summer in which WSOP organizers held 85 bracelet events across the two online poker sites. The news was initially greeted with a mixed reaction from the poker community. Veteran pro David 'ODB' Baker tweeted his support for the idea and pushed back against some of the backlash directed at the WSOP for extending its brand even further. According to Stewart, each of the nine players who make the live final table in Las Vegas for American players will be subjected to testing prior to play. Any personnel involved in the production of the show will also be subjected to the same testing allowing the WSOP to create a "production bubble" where only those who have passed the testing will be allowed entry. Players will not be require to wear masks and plexiglass will not be in use. "There are only nine players in each bracket who are asked to voluntarily come to a live setting, where they will be protected by the most advanced Covid-19 testing prior to facing their competitors," Stewart said. "Our strategy here was intentional to keep the majority of play at home or in a controllable environment and keep the finale live environment small, manageable, and at the option of those with most to gain." Those same protocols will be used for the heads-up finale in Las Vegas on December 30. The decision to hold a made-for-TV WSOP Main Event before the end of the year lead some to wonder if a contractual obligation with ESPN forced WSOP's hand. Stewart dismissed this theory and indicated that the production costs are being absorbed by Caesars and GGPoker. "For the first time in over a decade, WSOP and its partner GG will be fully subsidizing all the costs of this production to guarantee the television coverage, given timelines and scope of programming could not be delivered in 2020," Stewart said. "Given that investment, and our $1M money added, the 51st Main Event will be a marketing expense. Which is fine with us. We are in poker for the long haul."
  14. When the COVID-19 outbreak forced the postponement of the 2020 World Series of Poker live events early this year and pushed WSOP organizers to offer 85 online bracelets in its place, many believed that was it for WSOP events for the year. Not so fast. On Friday, the WSOP announced a hybrid online-live Main Event to take place on WSOP.com inside the United States and on GGPoker.com in international markets. "There must be a World Champion in 2020," said Ty Stewart, Executive Director of the World Series of Poker. "Poker’s history is too important. It’s a unique format for the Main Event, but this is a unique year. We want to keep players’ health and safety top of mind and still deliver a great televised showcase for the game we love." The buy-in for this event (on both platforms) is the traditional $10,000 and just like every other WSOP Main Event in history, players can enter just once. Players on WSOP.com and GGPoker will each play down to a final table of nine players before pausing to play a final table live. Players on WSOP.com will reconvene at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas while players on GGPoker will meet at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech. Each of those final tables will play down to a winner and each winner will travel to Las Vegas in late-December to play for the title. The International Tournament, for players outside of the United States, gives players three starting flights to choose from; November 29, December 5, December 6. Players who make it through their starting flight will advance to Day 2 on GGPoker on December 7. The final nine players will then travel to King's Casino to play down to a winner on December 15. Players in New Jersey and Nevada, where WSOP.com is available, have just a single starting day, December 13 with the tournament pausing after approximately 12 hours of play before continuing on December 14. That final table takes place December 28 in Las Vegas. Both tournaments will pay out players according to a regular payout structure with the final two players playing for $1 million provided by the WSOP and GGPoker. This tournament is a continuation of the partnership between the WSOP and GGPoker which was first showcased with a WSOP Super Circuit Online series in May and then the 54 WSOP Online events this summer. That series culminated with Stoyan ‘Nirvana76’ Madanzhiev winning the $5,000 buy-in Main Event for $3.9 million. "We’re very happy to continue to deepen our relationship with WSOP," said Steve Preiss, GGPoker Head of Poker Operations. "It was a huge summer of record-setting action on GGPoker and we’re excited to offer players access to the biggest tournament of all." The ESPN broadcast of the heads-up portion on December 30 will feature Lon McEachern and Norman Chad in the commentary booth. With travel restrictions and casino availability constantly in flux due to COVID-19, the WSOP has contingencies in place which could include playing the final tables online or at another venue. Players traveling to play either final table will be subject to local COVID-19 testing policies.
  15. Those patiently waiting for the results to be made official can finally rest easy. Dan 'SmilleThHero' Smiljkovic topped the PocketFives Monthly Leaderboard for October beating out his nearest competition by 171 points, leaving no need for a recount. Smiljkovic, the #1-ranked player in Austria and #15 in the world, cashed 151 times and earned $188,130 in the process. His ascent to the top of the October leaderboard began on October 8 when he finished runner-up in the Natural8 $840 High Rollers Marathon event for $14,348 and 190.3 points. The next day he earned his biggest points when he scored 260.04 points for beating out 587 other runners in the Natural8 $125 Daily Special. On October 15, he won the PokerStars Bounty Builder $109 Event for 250.6 points and a $8,447 payday. All told, Smiljkovic accumulated 2,858 points via his 20 qualifying cashes. Coming in one spot behind Smiljkovic was another Austrian, 'Grozzorg'. Three huge scores put the #2-ranked player in Austria (behind Smillkovic) into contention for the October title. The biggest score, both in dollars and points, came on October 5 when they outlasted 589 other entries to win the $400 Sunday Forty Stack on GGPoker. That victory came with a $39,172 score and 471.00 points. One week later, 'Grozzorg' fell one position short of a win but still earned $24,250 and 360.70 points for finishing as the runner-up in the GGPoker Bounty Hunter Series Event #6. One week later, 'Grozzorg' beat out 572 other entries to take down BHS Event #74 ($215 Eight Max No Limit Hold'em) to add another $8,643 to their bankroll and 239.37 points to their total. Julio Cesar 'jucetoor18' Torres broke the streak of Austrian players after earning 2,256 points to finish in the bronze medal position. Torres, the #4-ranked player in Mexico, bubbled the PokerStars Sunday Million final table on October 11 for a $5,497 score and 251.19 points. He followed that up by taking down a pair of bounty events on back-to-back days to earn the bulk of his month's points. The first came on October 14 when he topped the 651-player field in GGPoker BHS Event #58 to win $9,483 and 312.49 points. The next day he binked Event #68 of the PokerStars Bounty Builder Series to take home $16,860 and add 307.41 to his total. October PocketFives Top 10 [table id=118 /]
  16. For years, Daniel Negreanu has been obsessed with the Rocky movie franchise and as the Doug Polk vs. Daniel Negreanu Challenge became official, the six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner immediately painted himself in the same light as Rocky Balboa: the plucky underdog with nothing to lose taking on the champ. That iconography might work for Negreanu, but this challenge isn’t Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed. Polk can’t be Creed. Creed was the reigning and defending heavyweight champ when his originally scheduled challenger, Mac Lee Green, had to pull out of a championship fight after breaking his hand. That fight was born out of necessity and convenience for Creed, not some long standing feud between two pugilists coming to a head in dramatic fashion. Rocky director John G. Arvidsen won an Academy Award in 1976 for his work on that film. Eight years later he directed another box office hit that, while it didn’t win him any more Oscars, might be a better cinematic fit and provide a stronger analogy for personifying the role of Polk in what we’re going to see play out over the next few months. The Karate Kid. For the seven of you who haven’t seen it: the film centers around two characters who develop a dislike for each which, through a series of smaller confrontations, turns into a deep-seated hatred. They decide to settle their differences one-on-one (kind of) at the All Valley Under 18 Karate Championship. Narrative-wise, one of them is a bully, angry at the world and looking for somebody to take out his aggression on, while the other is an innocent combatant, forced to stand up for himself and his ideals after growing tired of the other’s act. But which one is Polk? The answer isn’t as clear as it might seem. Thesis: Doug Polk is Johnny Lawrence Anybody who grew up in the 80s and saw The Karate Kid in theaters or rented the VHS tape from their local video store will tell you that Johnny Lawrence, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed, two-time defending All Valley Under 18 Karate champion, is nothing but a bully with a chip on his shoulder. Polk, once considered the best Heads Up No Limit Hold’em cash game player in the world, a three-time WSOP bracelet winner, and one of the best content creators in poker (some of which is centered around Negreanu), carries a similar chip. He’s told anybody and everybody that this is his arena, he’s not looking to make friends or build a legacy, he’s only looking to "back up the fucking truck" and show absolutely no mercy. Lawrence first encounters the story's hero, Daniel LaRusso, at the beach. Recently dumped by Ali Mills, Lawrence confronts his ex-girlfriend in an ill-fated attempt to win her back. Things get heated and after her ghetto blaster is destroyed by Lawrence in a fit of rage, LaRusso appears ready to intervene only to have Lawrence beat him up and leave him laying face down in the sand as Lawrence and his friends from the Cobra Kai karate dojo ride off on their awesome dirt bikes. Polk’s vendetta against Negreanu dates back to October 2016 when Negreanu gave an interview to Rikard Aberg where he claimed that higher rake leads to softer games. From that interview, the "More Rake is Better" meme was born and Polk continued to push it via his YouTube channel and social media. The taunting from Polk - and his team - reached a peak in June 2018 when Polk entered the Super High Roller Bowl and ended up seated next to Negreanu on the feature table. Polk removed his button-up shirt to reveal a black t-shirt with an image of "More Rake is Better" on a billboard. Polk busted the tournament in short order, but got the opportunity to humiliate Negreanu in front of a large audience. Two days later, the actual billboard appeared outside the Rio Hotel & Casino where the 2018 WSOP was underway. Following the initial confrontation, Lawrence and his Cobra Kai friends spend the next few weeks tormenting and attacking LaRusso which ultimately lead to LaRusso’s handyman/friend/sensei Mr. Miyagi walking into the Cobra Kai dojo to lay down a challenge on behalf of LaRusso. Lawrence’s sensei, John Kreese, is ready to have the throwdown then and there. Kreese: You get your boy on the mat or you and I will have a major problem. Miyagi: Too much advantage ... your dojo. Kreese: Name a place. Miyagi: Tournament. Kreese: You’ve got real nerve old man, real nerve, but I think we can accommodate you. After a quick negotiation, the pair agree to fight at the upcoming All Valley Under 18 Karate Championship. Like Lawrence, Polk seemingly never turned down an opportunity to troll Negreanu. This summer, Polk picked up his anti-Negreanu cause in earnest. Negreanu, playing WSOP bracelet events on WSOP.com, exhibited some less-than-perfect behavior and threatened a livestream viewer while offering him free dental work along with a rectal exam. That got his Twitch account suspended and gave Polk all the ammunition he needed to go back on the attack. After some back and forth, Polk challenged Negreanu to battle. The Cobra Kai Dojo philosophy is built around the motto, "Strike first. Strike hard. No mercy." And over the last four years, Polk has continued to strike at Negreanu and shown absolutely no mercy in his attacks. Thesis: Doug Polk is Daniel LaRusso The movie opens with Daniel LaRusso and his mom moving cross-country from Newark, New Jersey to Reseda, California to chase down an opportunity at a better life. Polk is originally from Pasadena, California and while the drive to Las Vegas, where Polk now resides, isn’t a long one, he did have a short stint in Wilmington, North Carolina while in college. That’s where he discovered a real love for poker and eventually dropped out to pursue the game full time. LaRusso arrives in Reseda knowing nobody and gets invited to a beach party by another kid in the apartment complex he just moved into. At that party he sees another kid - Lawrence - angrily confronting another partygoer and destroying her property. In an effort to keep the peace and hold the bully accountable, LaRusso steps up and intervenes to stop Lawrence from ruining the party for everybody. In 2016, in the wake of PokerStars’ decision to suddenly take away benefits from SuperNova Elite players, Negreanu, a Team PokerStars Pro at the time, appeared on a podcast hosted by Rikard Aberg to make the case that business decisions made by PokerStars which appear to be unfriendly towards players are actually good for them. This is where Polk first stepped up on behalf of the poker community and called Negreanu out in a video on his YouTube channel. LaRusso found another opportunity to antagonize Lawrence after he showed up at the school Halloween dance. That’s where he spots Lawrence and his Cobra Kai cronies dressed as skeletons and when he realizes Lawrence is in a toilet stall he decides to take a shot at embarrassing him in front of the entire student body. LaRusso hooks up a hose above the stall and turns the water on, drenching Lawrence in the process. LaRusso, dressed as a shower, flees knowing they’ll be looking for him. The Cobra Kai eventually catch up to LaRusso and the five of them kick the everloving crap out of LaRusso before Mr. Miyagi appears and saves the day. The kid from New Jersey was going for laughs, but ultimately ended up battered and bruised after learning an expensive lesson. The Super High Roller Bowl is one of the marquee events on the poker calendar. In 2018, Polk showed to the $300,000 buy-in event hoping for a chance to make another point in his ongoing battle against Negreanu. That moment came when the pair wound up seated next to each other on the feature table. Polk took off his button-up shirt to show the world the "More Rake is Better" shirt hoping to get under Negreanu’s skin and get a few laughs along the way. Negreanu ended up winning a huge pot off Polk that day and Polk was eliminated not long after. Negreanu finished second in the tournament for $3,000,000. Polk got some laughs in the moment, but after losing the $300,000 buy-in and paying whatever the billboard outside of the Rio cost him, it was really just a costly piece of his entire campaign. As the karate tournament progresses, LaRusso makes his way through a number of competitors, including members of Cobra Kai who had been part of the 5-on-1 assault on him. Serendipitously he ends up in the final against Lawrence with far more than a title on the line. Polk’s path to the battle with Negreanu included no other required battles, but to make sure he was ready, Polk spent the past six weeks taking on all comers on WSOP.com and America’s Cardroom to make sure he was free of any ring rust before sitting down with Negreanu. The Cobra Kai Narrative Both of those thesis are based on the original interpretation of the movie where LaRusso is the good guy and Lawrence is the bad guy. Starting in 2013, when How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson first floated the idea, there has been plenty of discussion that maybe, just maybe Lawrence was in fact the hero of The Karate Kid. That narrative shift is a big reason why YouTube created the Cobra Kai show, which is now on Netflix, exploring where Lawrence and LaRusso wound up after the tournament. There is definitely a segment of poker fans who consider Polk to be the hero of the story thanks largely to his anti-hero, anti-establishment ideals that Lawrence carries with him in Cobra Kai. There’s also a group of fans who see Polk the same way that Cobra Kai paints a modern-day LaRusso: the successful and arrogant man who refuses to grow up.
  17. Hosted by Lance Bradley and Donnie Peters, The Fives Poker Podcast runs each week and covers the latest poker news, preview upcoming events, and debate the hottest topics in poker. Lance and Donnie remember the late Sam Grizzle to kick off this week's episode of The Fives. The 67-year-old poker legend passed away following a stroke in mid-October. The upcoming Doug Polk vs. Daniel Negreanu challenge is sure to take the poker world by storm and Lance and Donnie preview what the potential outcomes are and what - if anything - it settles between the two. While that challenge promises to hold the poker world's attention over the coming weeks and months, both guys discuss how the latest Galfond Challenge match featuring Phil Galfond and Chance Kornuth has yet to really garner the same type of following as the now legendary battle against 'Venvidi1993' did earlier this year. They also discuss the return of live poker to Atlantic City, the strong turnout at the Venetian in Las Vegas for the Venetian DeepStack Showdown, and the possibility of online poker foe Sheldon Adelson selling his US-facing operations and what that might mean for the future of regulated online gaming in the United States. Subscribe to The FIVES and never miss an episode - available everywhere you enjoy your favorite podcasts. Subscribe: Apple Podcasts * Google Podcasts * Stitcher
  18. Every day for the past three weeks, Cord Garcia, winner of the Colossus event at the 2015 World Series of Poker, has rolled out of bed, gotten himself ready for the day, and then put in a full day and night of nothing but cards. He’s been hustling, grinding, gambling even, but what he wasn’t doing was playing poker. Garcia is working alongside Steve Aoki, DJ Skee, and Dan Fleyshman in a new sports card shop in Hollywood, CA and getting the doors open has consumed him for the past few months. All of that effort turned into a reality on October 1 when those doors opened for business and Cards and Coffee became the latest shop to enter the booming sports card industry. The journey to the store opening began back in August 2019, when entrepreneur and social media star Gary Vaynerchuk reached out to Fleyshman to invite him to go to the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. The NSCC is an annual event built mainly around the sports card industry. Vaynerchuk just wanted his friend Fleyshman, who first cut his teeth in the sports card industry when he was a teenager, to come out to Chicago for one day and check things out. “He was only supposed to come out for a few hours and he ended up staying the whole time,” Garcia said. “He completely fell back in love with (sports cards) and Gary Vee had him convinced at the end that this was more than just a fad.” Over the next few months, Fleyshman closely followed the sports card industry and began to accumulate a collection focused on some of the National Basketball Association’s top and up-and-coming players. Like a lot of pre-teens who loved basketball, Garcia dreamt of playing in the NBA. He knew that working his way through high school and college ball to earn one of the 500 roster spots available in the NBA each year was already a long shot and at 12 years old realized that there was an issue he couldn’t fix, no matter how much he loved the game. “I wasn’t going to be six foot (tall) and there was only one person in the league that wasn’t six foot,” Garcia said. “I pretty much knew my NBA dreams were shot and that was luckily right when I found poker.” Yeah, Garcia started playing poker before he was a teenager. By the time he was 15 years old, almost all of his energy was devoted to poker. That investment has paid off with more than $2.8 million in lifetime tournament earnings, with the biggest score - $638,880 - coming from his win in the then-record-setting Colossus tournament in 2015. Through all of that, Garcia remained in love with basketball. After spending a day earlier this year driving around L.A. area card shops with Fleyshman buying up as many Kobe Bryant cards as possible, Garcia thought maybe there was an opportunity for the two to get into business together and put a bunch of their passions to work at once. “I was like, ‘Why don’t we open up a card shop and just crush?’ And you could just see the money signs in his eyes. He’s like ‘yeah, yeah’ and just gets all giddy,” Garcia said. He kept pushing, hoping to get Fleyshman to partner with him. “He said ‘It’s a great concept, but typically I like these things to happen organically’.” Ten minutes later, Fleyshman looked down at his phone to a text message from Vaynerchuk. “You should open a card shop in LA. Call it Cards and Coffee”. The opening of the store was the culmination of a friendship that really didn’t start until 2017. Garcia has been aware of Fleyshman since 2010 when the entrepreneur launched online poker site Victory Poker. Garcia appeared on Fleyshman’s radar in earnest in 2015 when Garcia beat out 22,373 other entries in the Colossus to win his first - and only - WSOP bracelet. About two years later, Garcia reached out to Fleyshman. “Like most of the people in the poker industry, in my class or my tank, we’re all lost in the sauce. We’re playing tournament to tournament, trying to get back make-up, trying to pay this bag, trying to pay that bag, trying to get ahead,” Garcia said. Things hadn’t been going well for Garcia and he was looking for somebody to put him in the WSOP Main Event. There was some interest from people who had bought pieces of him before, but Garcia was disappointed to find the best offers he was getting saw him earning only 30% of any returns. “So I reached out to Dan and I was like, ‘Yo man, I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but I can win’,” said Garcia, who has never been short of self-confidence. The now 30-year-old didn’t just want a one-and-done staking deal though. He felt Fleyshman could offer something that no other backer he had spoken to could: a path towards being financially steady. “I told him, ‘Look man, I know how to win, (but) I have no exit strategy. Do you have any interest in doing business with me? I see what you do business-wise, I’m into a lot of it, but I don’t have the resume or credentials to get in those doors’.” Serendipitously, at that moment Fleyshman was in Vegas to play the Main Event. The pair met the next morning for breakfast and that’s where things got real. Fleyshman agreed to put Garcia in the Main Event and invited him to move out to Los Angeles with the promise of getting him into some local games but also with the understanding that Garcia would learn as much about entrepreneurship as he could. Garcia put all of his worldly belongings into two suitcases and headed out to L.A. He found a friend with a room for rent for $800 per month. “I gave him $1,600 and I would Uber in everyday to Dan’s Elevator Studio, one of his companies, I would just sit in. He basically ran a little mini Shark Tank. People would come in and they would ask him to scale their business or pitch him and I just got to be a fly on the wall,” Garcia said. At first, Garcia sat there and didn’t say a word. The more meetings he sat in on, the more comfortable he became in that environment. Soon, he was asking questions and working to understand as much as he could about how business worked all with an eye towards creating a path outside of poker. That path eventually begins with Garcia’s management role with Cards and Coffee. The store sits in the heart of Hollywood and acts as a storefront of sorts for DJ Skee’s Dash Radio, an online radio broadcast company. As celebrities, rappers, musicians, and athletes come to Dash for an interview or to promote their latest projects, they have to make their way through Cards and Coffee to get to the elevator. Throughout the month of September, Garcia had his head down getting the store ready for customers. The inventory includes a huge selection of rookie cards and chase cards of some of the biggest current stars in the NBA, NFL, and MLB alongside a vast collection of old school stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mickey Mantle, and Michael Jordan. As the official opening date neared, Garcia suffered through the anxiety comes with being anywhere near a new business. “I told Dan three weeks (before opening), ‘Man, we need another month’ and he was like “No, we’re opening on the first’,” Garcia said. “We opened on the first and I was really worried. We were in there the night before until 4 am, getting shit ready and we were opening in six hour hours and still needed to sleep. I was super stressed.” ‘We opened, and then I realized, yeah, we were behind but it was going to be that way even if we opened up in a month,” Garcia said. Opening a retail business in the middle of a pandemic sounds like a recipe for disaster. Thankfully for Garcia, the foot traffic the first few days eased any concerns he had. A strong social media build-up coupled with their location meant there was a line out the door on opening day. Having customers coming in the door is only one part of the plan. Built off of Fleyshman’s extensive experience in social media, The Coffee Breakers is the online extension of the business. Rather than just offering collectors your standard click and buy option, collectors can gamble on buying a piece of a high-end box of cards or an individual pack of cards and have that pack opened on a livestream. It ties in the sports collecting side with the gambling side. Garcia hopes to use some of his online poker experience to help innovate the concept and make The Coffee Breakers the top destination online for breaking. “I think that the store being here in five years would be a good start obviously. I would like to be the number one breaking place in the industry for sure. After that, I just want to grow with the market,” Garcia said. Ensuring that type of growth means that Garcia’s days of going from tournament stop to tournament stop are over. This isn’t any sort of retirement, however. He just plans on picking his spots and making sure that he’s able to balance the needs of his new role as a businessman with his love of poker. “I don’t know exactly, maybe it’s once a month I go to the best tournament in America, or in the world maybe. Scale down the volume for sure is the short answer, but I’ll always play poker,” Garcia said. “I’m going to come to Vegas every summer, I want to play the Main Event every year. I still have some goals in poker, but I’m with poker being my primary source of income, now secondary or third even. Hopefully I’m doing well enough to where it bumps out at the top five eventually.”
  19. 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.”
  20. [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.
  21. [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.
  22. [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.”
  23. [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.”
  24. [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.
  25. [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.
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