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  1. [caption width="640"] The World Poker Tour Season XV broadcasts begin Sunday on Fox Sports (WPT Photo/Joe Giron)[/caption] Fret not poker fans. New episodes of the World Poker Tour are coming to Fox Sports Regional soon. Really soon actually. Beginning this Sunday, March 12, Fox Sports Regional will begin airing 27 episodes from Season XV of the World Poker Tour. This marks the beginning of a five-year extension that WPT signed with Fox Sports in late 2016. “Thanks to our award-winning production team, the World Poker Tour continues to raise the bar as the premier name in internationally televised gaming and entertainment," said Adam Pliska, CEO of the World Poker Tour. "Season XV of the World Poker Tour promises some truly legendary moments, including the first-ever King of the Club series and the second edition of the prestigious WPT Tournament of Champions.” The action kicks off with the first episode of the WPT Choctaw final table. A total of nine events will hit the airwaves this season. Along with Choctaw, viewers will see the final tables from the Legends of Poker, Borgata Poker Open, bestbet Bounty Scramble, WPT Montreal, Five Diamond World Poker Classic, LA Poker Classic, Bay 101 Shooting Star and the debut of the Tournament of Champions. As well as the Season XV episodes, the ClubWPT.com 'King of the Club' series will make its TV debut. The two 'King of Club' episodes feature six different ClubWPT.com qualifiers playing for a piece of the $37,500 in prize money. All of the familiar faces from previous WPT seasons will be back. Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, who have been in the broadcast booth since the beginning, are both back calling the action together in all but one episode. Raw Deal analyst Tony Dunst fills in for Sexton for one event - but we won't spoil why.Lynn Gilmartin is also back as WPT anchor this season. Episodes air each Sunday at 8/11 PM local time with repeats throughout the week
  2. [caption width="640"] Daniel Strelitz beat out a stacked final table to win the World Poker Tour LA Poker Classic (WPT photo/Joe Giron)[/caption] Former World Poker Tour One to Watch Daniel Strelitz lived up to the billing Thursday night in Los Angeles. The 27-year-old overcame a final table that included a poker living legend and two other WSOP bracelet winners to take down theWorld Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic and walk away with just over $1,000,000 in prize money. It took just seven hands to go from six players to five. The action opened with Strelitz raising to 85,000 from the button. Action folded to Richard Tuhrim in the big blind and he moved all in for 545,000. Strelitz called and showed [poker card="kc"][poker card="qc"] but was behind Tuhrim's [poker card="as"][poker card="7s"]. The [poker card="7d"][poker card="4c"][poker card="3d"] flop didn't change anything and neither did the [poker card="9h"] turn but the [poker card="kh"] river gave Strelitz top pair and sent chess prodigy Tuhrim to the rail in sixth. The next elimination came in a blind vs blind battle almost 60 hands later. Action folded to Jesse Martin in the small blind and he moved all in for 745,000 and Jared Griener called from the big blind. Martin showed [poker card="qh"][poker card="6c"] and Griener tabled [poker card="8h"][poker card="8s"]. The board ran out [poker card="kc"][poker card="ks"][poker card="4d"][poker card="4h"][poker card="ah"] to eliminate Martin. Coming in to the final table all eyes were on WPT commentator Mike Sexton. Just a few short months after winning his first WPT title in Montreal, Sexton was at the LAPC final table seeking a second victory but it was snuffed out by Strelitz. Sexton moved all in from the button for 670,000 and action folded to Strelitz in the big blind. He called and showed [poker card="ad"][poker card="7s"] while Sexton showed [poker card="kd"][poker card="kh"]. The [poker card="ac"][poker card="js"][poker card="7c"] flop was bad news for Sexton though and neither the [poker card="9c"] turn or [poker card="as"] river were any help and Sexton was out in fourth. Three-handed play lasted 65 hands. Strelitz opened to 225,000, Simeon Naydenov called from the small blind but Jared Griener moved all in from the big blind for 1,755,000. Strelitz got out of the way before Naydenov called and showed [poker card="8s"][poker card="8h"]. Griener had [poker card="ad"][poker card="qd"] and needed help. The [poker card="as"][[poker card="9c"][poker card="8d"] flop paired Griener's ace but gave Naydenov a set of eights. The [poker card="js"] turn gave Griener extra outs to a straight but the river was the [poker card="qc"] and he was out in third place. When heads-up play began Naydenov had 8,475,000 in chips to Strelitz's 7,150,000 but a key full house over flush hand early on changed the dynamic and paved the way for Strelitz's win. On the 38th hand of heads-up action, Strelitz raised to 260,000 and Naydenov called. After the [poker card="qs"][poker card="7c"][poker card="6s"] flop, Naydenov check-raised to 975,000. The [poker card="8h"] turn got Naydenov to check, Strelitz bet 1,350,000 and Naydenov raised all-in to 3,860,000. Strelitz called and showed [poker card="5h"][poker card="4s"] tor a turned straight while Naydenov had [poker card="kc"][poker card="qd"] for top pair. The [poker card="4d"] river changed nothing and Strelitz picked up his third elimination of the final table to win the first major title of his career. Final Table Payouts Daniel Streliz - $1,001,110 Simeon Naydenov - $672,190 Jared Griener - $431,340 Mike Sexton - $300,690 Jesse Martin - $230,380 Richard Tuhrim - $191,490
  3. [caption width="640"] Ryan Franklin added a Sunday Major title to his impressive resume (WPT photo)[/caption] Longtime online poker tournament specialist Ryan 'HITTHEPANDA' Franklin took down the PokerStars Sunday Million for a cash prize of $159,701 with fellow veteran Anatoly 'NL_Profit' Filatov of Russia finishing second for $112,069 and #400-ranked 'vip25459' placing third for $78,646. 'Alexey5758' was awarded $55,192 in fourth place while 'fatboi' of the United Kingdom walked away with $38,732 in fifth place. There was a heads-up final table chop in the Stars Sunday High Roller as 'fish2013' took home $59,662 for the win and 'WATnlos' earned $53,566 in the runner-up position. Belgium's Gary 'quiditbear' Hasson (ranked #92 worldwide) placed third for $37,322 in that event. The Sunday Warm-Up was won by 'anti-VGKC' who received a cash payment of $42,180 upon reaching a two-way deal. Peru's Diego Ventura (ranked #68 worldwide) captured an outright victory in the Sunday 500 for $37,333 and Brazilian Dennys 'dennysramos2' Ramos looked to move back into the Top 100 with a win in the Sunday Supersonic for $30,263. Online poker tournament specialist 'Chelsea72' came out on top in the $2,600 buy-in Super High Roller on Partypoker, cashing in for $46,857 while 'NoSaalt' finished second in that event for $34,634. The $530 buy-in High Roller was won by 'SentimenTODO23' who was awarded $31,848 with the runner-up 'josef_shvejk' of the Russia (ranked #9 worldwide) taking home $31,720 following a two-way negotiation. The $320 buy-in Baby Whale tournament on 888poker was won by 'Eat1ngAndWIN' for a cash prize of $21,500. 'RakDoll' was the winner in the Mega Deep event and collected $19,114. PokerStars Sunday Million $200 + $15 NLHE 5,914 entrants $1,182,800 paid out to 1,052 spots Ryan 'HITTHEPANDA' Franklin - $159,701.07 Anatoly 'NL_Profit' Filatov - $112,068.64 vip25459 - $78,646.26 Alexey5758 - $55,191.57 flong78 - $38,731.85 (fatboi) s0nny_bLacCk - $27,180.86 AchoBogdanov - $19,074.77 BongadasVN - $13,386.22 (RomeuRato) cojones2010 - $9,394.15 PokerStars Sunday High Roller $2,000 + $100 NLHE 155 entrants $310,000 paid out to 20 spots fish2013 - $59,662.21 WATnlos - $53,566.43 *2-way deal Gary 'quiditbear' Hasson - $37,322.48 raidalot - $28,444.32 Apotheosis - $21,678.08 enigma2018 - $16,521.38 flong78 - $12,591.33 (fatboi) iamivar - $9,596.14 gorodski - $7,313.45 PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up $200 + $15 NLHE 1,479 entrants $295,800 paid out to 251 spots anti-VGKC - $42,180.32 Vanad3784 - $35,434.86 *2-way deal Futti18 - $23,341.48 Dominic 'BounatirouIMO' Nitsche - $16,782.74 PataNegraXD - $12,066.92 Maui2waui - $8,676.22 Gustavo '22ehnutzz' Mastelotto - $6,238.27 w3c.RaY - $4,485.36 WATnlos - $3,225.01 PokerStars Sunday 500 $500 + $30 NLHE 412 entrants $206,000 paid out to 55 spots Diego Ventura - $37,333.38 Zluka2010 - $27,441.19 joselo29 - $20,170.24 shushko19 - $14,825.82 AppelKruimel - $10,897.50 Jon 'apestyles' Van Fleet - $8,010.04 Flat - $5,887.64 pappadogg - $4,327.62 zÿax - $3,180.96 (OMGpou) PokerStars Omania High Roller $500 + $30 PLO Six Max 208 entrants $94,500 paid out to 23 spots Fresh_oO_D - $17,020.91 chico134 - $13,586.03 sadface11 - $10,844.40 Riphraph94 - $8,656.02 C Darwin2 - $6,909.25 anonymstruts - $5,514.98 PokerStars Sunday Supersonic $200 + $15 NLHE Six Max Hyper Turbo 895 entrants $183,260 paid out to 101 spots Dennys 'dennysramos2' Ramos - $30,263.33 isistar185 - $21,540.22 Steve 'Mr. Tim Caum' O'Dwyer - $15,331.76 --KarlsenA-- - $10,912.74 (andersfk) BobbyW519 - $7,767.41 masatotan - $5,528.63 partypoker Super High Roller $2,500 + $100 77 entrants $192,500 paid out to 13 spots Chelsea72 - $46,857 NoSaalt - $34,634 TheTryangle - $25,599 JeanClaude1970 - $18,922 WelshWizard - $13,986 (the beej) Patrick 'pleno1' Leonard - $10,337 mwhldwn - $7,641 ACHSO8000 - $6,607 partypoker High Roller $500 + $30 372 entrants $200,000 paid out to 63 spots SentimenTODO23 - $31,848 josef_shvejk - $31,720 *2-way deal PhileasFogg - $19,244 (hellohellohello) jaimelaviande - $13,965 Chelsea72 - $10,135 McDlsiLDrOoN - $7,355 Anatoly 'NL_Profit' Filatov - $5,337 Batdog666 - $3,873 888poker Baby Whale $300 + $20 NLHE 210 entrants $100,000 paid out to 27 spots Eat1ngAndWIN - $21,500 trino11 - $15,500 AsaNisse4 - $11,750 tigerhooods62 - $8,750 888tonkaaaa - $6,000 nelisschuif - $5,000 TylerRM - $4,000 88TIGER889 - $3,000 888poker MEGA DEEP $200 + $15 NLHE 389 entrants $100,600 paid out to 56 spots RakDoll - $19,114 TrollKnost8 - $14,084 IceStream - $10,563 koenigskebap - $7,545 CraiEvryTime - $5,030 Imyurfriend - $3,521 GramNaKartke - $2,515 (ksieciunio) ckb4714 - $2,012
  4. Earlier this summer Adam Pliska’s phone rang. On the other end of the call was an executive recruiter. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. They call every now and then. This wasn’t just some cold call gauging the 45-year-old’s interest in looking for another job though - they had a legitimate offer and were hoping to convince the World Poker Tour President and CEO to take his talents elsewhere. Pliska politely listened to the caller’s pitch and then even more politely told him he wasn’t interested. THE ORIGIN OF IT ALL Orange, California is about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles and has just about 140,000 people who call it home. Adam Pliska grew up in Orange, the son of a sheriff and a homemaker, and it’s where the foundations for the rest of Pliska’s life come from. He has two sisters, 10 and 11 years older than him, and by the time Pliska was eight years old, they were out of the house. Family friends probably expected the youngest Pliska to grow up and take on a law enforcement career. Not only was his father a sheriff, but his grandfather was the Captain of the Newport Police Department and his great-grandmother was the first policewoman in Orange County. The first time somebody asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, Pliska said he wanted to be a priest - for rich people. “I was six, and I said, ‘because I believe rich people have problems that other people don’t know that they have’,” said Pliska. Barely into high school, Pliska inherited a ‘56 Chevy after his uncle passed away. It was going to need gas and insurance. His parents made it clear they weren’t going to be the ones paying for that. “So, I do what all kids do. I go out and get a job. I literally got turned down at Subway. I got turned down at a place called Spires (a family restaurant),” said Pliska. “I decided, ‘Okay, I better start my own business’. I started printing t-shirts for the sports teams.” Adam Pliska the brand-building entrepreneur was born. [figcaption=https://www.pocketfives.com/profiles/admin/albums/article-images/596123-adam-pliska-final-table.jpg]Pliska has been with the World Poker Tour since 2003.[/figcaption] THE VISION When the World Poker Tour launched, one of the company’s first full-time employees was a Berkley Law School graduate named Adam Pliska. He served as General Counsel, working closely with founder Stephen Lipscomb to help the company navigate its first few years of existence. The mentality of the company at that time, when poker was booming and money from online poker sites was keeping everybody flush, was very different from the one that exists today. That change was largely driven by the lessons Pliska learned along the way. “When I started as (general counsel) of the World Poker Tour, I was 30 years old or something like that. You get caught up in ‘this is how you make money and you do this and money flows’. It’s over time that you start to care about people and the brand. I care about this brand,” said Pliska. “You have to think about the long term. So, I spend a lot of time looking at that model and persuading people that over the long term this is what you get; the result is the brand.” Pliska has quite literally seen it all with the WPT, and he vividly remembers a time when the company wasn’t viewed so favorably by the players. Over the last eight years, and through a pair of ownership changes, he’s worked hard to make sure that the paying customers - the players themselves - feel like the WPT is listening to them and that they ultimately get something out of their experience, whether they’re playing every event on the schedule or just one. “You’ve got to remember, there are 50,000 people coming to World Poker Tour events. How many of them are not cashing? A lot of people. More than 60% of the people that play in the tournament has never played in a (WPT) main tour tournament. That’s an amazing thing,” said Pliska. “But that’s the whole story of the World Poker Tour. If you just want to go to a big event, go to the World Series Main Event … but there are other things that are important, and that’s what the World Poker Tour stands for - your personal growth in poker. We just want to capture and put it in ways where people walk away and feel like it’s important to them.” Pliska has overseen international expansion of the tour, including recent WPT events in India, China and Japan, the acquisition and rebranding of the DeepStacks Poker Tour as well as a new TV deal with Fox Sports. Not everything the WPT touched has turned to gold though. In 2010 the WPT introduced the Royal Flush Girls as part of broadcasts and in 2013 they announced the creation of Alpha8, a series of tournaments with buy-ins of $100,000 or larger and in. Alpha8 struggled to find any traction while the Royal Flush Girls concept has been subject to criticism from players and media alike. In both cases, Pliska says he learned more about what the WPT is, and where it needs to be in the modern poker landscape. “There were successes and there were elements of mistakes. The mistakes were that we didn’t put enough time thinking about our wrangling abilities. We had 50 at one event and we had six in another,” Pliska said of Alpha8. “We’re not great high roller wranglers. Our specialty is to create places where people came at any time in their journey and make sure they feel comfortable and have a good experience.” While Alpha8 quietly went away after filming just one episode in what would have been its third season, the Royal Flush Girls concept is still part of the WPT, but it has undergone a transition since the press release announcing the creation of the RFG described them as “sexy, fun and approachable”. The group is now known as the Royal Flush Crew and includes a male member, Brenden Johnson. And rather than serving as eye candy, the crew is being integrated into broadcasts and live events in a much different way. “The thought process at the time was we should be more like sports and sports have cheerleaders and those kinds of things, but yes, I have really positioned that differently over time,” said Pliska. The current plan calls for the Crew to bring value to the broadcasts and live events that all players can take advantage of. “What do (the Royal Flush Crew) you do besides be a face that people go, ‘Oh, I can go up to you and take pictures?’. We all have to ask ourselves, what are we giving? The players are giving us their time - what are we giving back?” said Pliska, who expects the Crew members to have an area of expertise that they can share with players. “So now we’re looking for people who can bring something. Maybe you can do yoga. Maybe you can do some workout. It doesn’t have to be physical.” Pliska points to planned TV segments on getting in shape, healthy eating and even mental health, all hosted by members of the Royal Flush Crew who carry a passion for the subject matter as well as opportunities for players to attend events during WPT tournaments geared around the same concepts. He likens the redevelopment of the Royal Flush Crew concept to other elements of the WPT. “Raw Deal wasn’t exactly what it was before. The anchor position started off in one way and evolved a little bit over time,” said Pliska. “I actually see this really taking a future and really representing the family element in a way I’m really happy about.” [figcaption=https://www.pocketfives.com/profiles/admin/albums/article-images/596122-adam-pliska-wpt-standing.jpg]Pliska has overseen two ownership changes and an evolution of the TV product since taking over as President and CEO in 2009.[/figcaption] THE MENTOR While in high school, Pliska had a small part in Teahouse of the August Moon. That piqued his interest in production, so he signed up for a stage production course at a local community college. As that course was wrapping up, he agreed to be an usher in their stage production tribute to Lassie. A number of Hollywood heavyweights came to the show. Dee Wallace Stone, who was starring in E.T. at the time, got a little lost so Pliska helped her out. “I walked her into the green room and I saw this guy, Al Burton,” said Pliska, who was impressed by the way everybody in the room reacted to Burton, a TV show producer. “He was such a likable person and all of these people liked him and they got along well. He treated them with respect. They enjoyed being there. It wasn’t about egos. I remember thinking, ‘I wish I could be a part of this’.” A security guard told Pliska he had to leave. Thinking quickly on his feet, Pliska told Burton, who was the producer of TV shows Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, that he was with the school newspaper and asked for an interview. Burton agreed and told Pliska to come to his office later in the week. There was a problem, though. Pliska wasn’t actually with the school newspaper. “I remember the day I went there. Leonard DiCaprio was there, he was on Lassie at the time. Scott Baio had been in and I was so nervous, (Burton) said ‘What can I do for you?’,” remembered Pliska, who told Burton he had just three questions for him. Burton was one step ahead already though and Pliska remembers the next few minutes vividly “You know what? I”m going to take a guess, and I don’t want to offend you, my guess is that you’re not necessarily associated with the school newspaper, you just wanted to get in my office and you wanted to make a connection and if that’s true, tell me,” Burton said. Pliska copped to it and told Burton he just wanted to get his foot in the door somehow. The ploy worked and Pliska started working with Burton right around the time he began producing Charles in Charge. Burton eventually became a mentor to Pliska. “He gave me so much of my foundations of the business world, because my father was a civil servant, so I really had no context,” said Pliska. “Al Burton used to have this expression, he said, ‘Okay, I’ll exploit you for your own good’. And he did. I got paid very little money, but I learned so much." Along with learning about business, being mentored by Burton also introduced Pliska to futurist Alvin Toffler and eventually to doing business with one of the world’s richest people, Carlos Slim. Now that he’s in a position to do so, Pliska works as a mentor to multiple people. “To me, mentoring is so important because it absolutely has a chance to not just change one person, but an entire family. It completely changes trajectory (and) allows people to think,” said Pliska. THE COMPANY YOU KEEP Considering his tenure with the company and his position at the very top of the corporate ladder, it’s surprising to realize that in this era of tireless self-promotion, Pliska isn’t the face of the company. That’s by design. Mike Sexton, Tony Dunst, Vince van Patten and Lynn Gilmartin have all held visible positions in the broadcasts. Matt Savage has been out front within the poker industry as the person players can talk to about operational issues. Being in the position he’s in now allows Pliska to drive the vision while allowing his staff to execute. “Steve Lipscomb and I are still incredibly close friends. We talk about this all the time, that one day, no one will know who you are,” said Pliska. “But this brand will mean a lot to people for a long time because it touched so many people. So Adam Pliska doesn’t need to have that brand, but feeling like you made an impact and you helped shape a culture, that’s incredible.” Being the CEO of a poker company and not being a poker player - now or ever - isn’t the only way in which Pliska is a walking contradiction. The SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills has a cocktail named for him, but he doesn’t drink. To be fair, he did drink when chef José Andrés created it, but a milestone birthday and a chance encounter with a poker player at a WPT event changed all of that. “At 40, I got this point where I said my motto, which is ‘life is edited’. You want a good script? Edit it. You want a good story? Edit it. If you want good friends, edit that too,” said Pliska. “I took my own advice. I was 40 and I said, ‘You know what? You’ve got to live a healthier life and I did. I just cut (alcohol) out. I started to exercise, started to try to maintain my energy level and I think it helped.” Eight months before his 40th birthday, young poker pro Thuy Doan walked up to Pliska at the Legends of Poker and asked for some advice. “She came up to me and said, ‘I’m starting to get some attention. Would you mind helping me with some media stuff and how to present myself?’,” said Pliska. “I said, “Okay, why don’t you come to Borgata?” Doan went to Borgata and while there slipped and ended up in hospital. Pliska met her there and was bedside with her when the doctor told her the fall wasn’t random, the cancer she thought she had beaten had returned. And it was aggressive. “I’m sitting there with this 20-something-year-old girl, her step-father is driving seven hours from Virginia. It was one of the most impactful things of my life,” recalled Pliska. “I became friends with the family. I ended up staying at their home several times. On my birthday, she asked me to come in. She knew I’m a history buff, so she checked herself out of the hospital. They took me to Monticello. That was the last time she went out. It was my best birthday ever.” Doan passed away in September 2011 and her death had an immediate impact on Pliska. “I did a lot of reflection after she passed away and I looked at the things that were extraneous and I decided to cut it out,” said Pliska. “You know what? It is the greatest thing. It just makes you clear on what it is that you love. So I attribute a big part of that to a lot of lifestyle changes for me.” [figcaption=https://www.pocketfives.com/profiles/admin/albums/article-images/596121-adam-pliska-wpt-family.jpg]Pliska often refers to the WPT employees under his charge as the "WPT family" and uses that as a guiding principle in running the business.[/figcaption] THE FAMILY Growing up in Orange, California, working in Hollywood for a powerhouse producer, traveling the world while running the WPT and a life-changing friendship with a poker pro have all helped Pliska frame how he runs the company. “I think to me, the family approach is the only way I know how to run a company,” said Pliska. “That means you’ve got to be honest with each other and when you’re falling, you’ve got to be able to go, ‘Hey, I gotta talk to you’. We do that with each other.” It’s not the lovey-dovey approach that it might sound like. For Pliska, it helps build a sense of personal responsibility and accountability within the walls of the WPT offices. It also allows those entrusted with doing right by the business, to make a mistake once in awhile and know it’s not going be the end of the world. “You have to put an element that’s in real families. You’ve got to make people feel like if you screw up, if you make a mistake, you’re still here. Because of that, we can really get people to be at their very best,” said Pliska. The phone calls from recruiters are going to continue, especially as the business he runs now continues to grow, but they’re likely wasting their time. Pliska seems intent on continuing to serve as the leader of the WPT family and hopes that, more than anything, becomes his legacy. “If I go back 14 years or so, and I look back and what’s the most important thing, if someone says what did you do with your career? I hope somebody will say I showed that you could be serious about business and respect your colleagues that work there.” Photography courtesy of the World Poker Tour, Joe Giron and Patrick Ecclesine.
  5. Sometime next spring, loyal World Poker Tour fans will tune into the WPT Choctaw broadcast on Fox Sports and might be a little bit startled, not so much by what they see, but rather what they hear. After serving as the lead commentator and de facto voice of the WPT for 15 seasons, Mike Sexton retired before the start of Season 16. When it came to filling that void, WPT executives and producers didn't have to look far. Tony Dunst, who had been hosting The Raw Deal segment during WPT broadcasts since 2010, was ready and willing to take on the challenge. So when Season 16 begins airing in 2018, with action from WPT Choctaw as the first televised event, it’ll be Dunst working alongside Sexton’s longtime broadcast partner, Vince van Patten. WORKING FOR PEANUTS Choctaw, Oklahoma is approximately 850 miles from Madison, Wisconsin, but the same city that gave the world Phil Hellmuth, is actually where Dunst’s journey to the WPT commentary booth began. It’s where Dunst grew up, and looking back now at his childhood, he knows he was different from the other kids in a lot of ways. “I was definitely a very weird kid. I would get obsessive about things to a degree that was sort of unnatural for a kid,” said Dunst. “In high school, for example, I got very obsessive about dieting and lifting, and I would eat the same 4-5 meals every day for months on end, to the point that my friends would tease me.” None of the teasing ever really bothered Dunst. He was hyper-aware that his approach to learning new things or conquering goals was different than most of his peers and he had a gut feeling early on that, even though he didn’t know which direction it would ultimately take, he was going to have a very unique career path. “Even back then, I had an ability to focus on things in a very singular way, and I also remember thinking pretty early on in life that the usual 9-5 job, with a boss, a sort of ‘more safe’ career, was not for me,” said Dunst. “I can remember thinking that at a very young age.” Like a lot of kids, he grew up dreaming of being a professional athlete of some sort. And like most kids, he eventually realized he wasn’t a good enough athlete for that to ever become a reality. He worked some part-time jobs through high school and they ended up shaping his thinking towards what he wanted to do with his life - or maybe more importantly, what he didn’t want to do. “I started working at 13, selling peanuts at the stadium, and then I worked at Subway making sandwiches and then I sold shoes in the mall,” said Dunst. “All these kinds of jobs where you’re getting $5 or $6 an hour, and being told what to do by the people above you, and I was like, ‘Man, there’s gotta be something better than this’.” Even though he didn’t want to pursue a corporate-type job, early on he toyed with the idea of becoming a stockbroker. Admittedly, Dunst says he was attracted to the risk involved, but also the potential for making enough money to afford a certain type of lifestyle. Nice suits. A nice car. All of that good stuff. LUNCH MONEY TO BIG MONEY [figcaption=https://www.pocketfives.com/profiles/admin/albums/article-images/596074-tony-dunst-wpt-main-red.jpg]After working for Subway and selling shoes, Tony Dunst decided a regular career just wasn't for him.[/figcaption] While the money would certainly have been nice, the Wall Street dream came with too many rules and too many bosses. He never really pursued it after he realized that didn’t fit with his personality. His desire for a high risk-high reward career never wavered though. “When I was 16, I was reading books about blackjack and card counting and became absorbed in the casino world and stories about gamblers,” said Dunst. “At 17, poker started to become popular, the World Poker Tour came on TV and my friends always wanted to play these home games.” With buy-ins of just $5 and $10, it’s hard to imagine these high school home games were anything but buddies just trading the same money back and forth, week after week, but Dunst figured out very quickly that he was doing pretty well in these games. Tony Dunst the Home Game Crusher was making way more money than Tony Dunst the Sandwich Artist and having way more fun than Tony Dunst the Shoe Salesman. It was 2002, and online poker was in its infancy. Chris Moneymaker was still doing the books for some restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee and the world was over a year away from the Boom. Dunst was already playing online poker though. He discovered sites like Paradise Poker and Planet Poker while looking up poker strategy online. “I had already started to buy strategy books, and was really curious as to how you win at this game. Back then most people were just playing for fun, it was just kind of a ‘mess around’ type thing,” said Dunst, who began winning online almost immediately. “Early online poker was pretty laughable at the low stakes.” Even though Dunst, by this time a senior in high school, had found an early version of his personal utopia, his parents still had expectations that Dunst would get a college education. “My parents were, of course, concerned that being a professional gambler was not a realistic career choice,” said Dunst, who attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he majored in theater arts. Dunst eventually dropped out of college to play full time. To say his parents didn’t approve would be an understatement. “They were terrified, of course, and I think a lot of players in my generation experienced that and it created some riffs in the relationships between players my age and their parents at times,” admitted Dunst. Getting his parents to change their mind wasn’t easy, but Dunst simply relied on the obsessive nature he first displayed as a teenager. That, combined with a little help from PocketFives, got them to come around. “I just kept playing for years and they just sort of grew to accept it,” said Dunst. “I eventually had such consistent success online that my mom would see the results on PocketFives and would send me a message, ‘I saw you won that tournament for $20,000. That’s great!’.” GETTING RAW It was around that time that another opportunity, one that looked and felt more like a real job than anything he’d ever really had, came along. Despite Dunst’s previous dislike of a corporate job, he pursued this one with vigor. “The last nail in the coffin was getting the job with the World Poker Tour, because then it wasn’t just ‘you’re a gambler relying on this very unstable form of income. Now you’ve turned it into a career’,” said Dunst. Dunst’s Raw Deal hosting job almost didn’t happen though. In 2010, while trying to revamp their weekly shows, the WPT put out an open casting call for a new segment. They were looking for somebody who could dissect hands on camera in an entertaining and edgy way. Dunst was definitely interested, but had a scheduling conflict that meant he couldn’t get to the live audition that the finalists were asked to attend. The WPT was keen on Dunst though, and made arrangements for him to come in a week later and audition on his own. He nailed it. “It was the first audition I ever went out for. It was the first job interview I ever had pretty much my entire adult life,” said Dunst. Hosting the Raw Deal meant being willing to critique other people’s play, a challenge he was more than willing to accept thanks his extensive playing experience. “I tried out for that job at 25, so I had already been in poker for eight years. I’d played a lot online and live. I hadn’t been that successful live but, especially in my early 20s, I thought I was hot shit. So, I probably walked in there feeling like, ‘of course I belong here’.” Over the next seven years, Dunst become a valued member of not only the broadcasts, but also of the WPT organization. Through all of it, Dunst learned that while he probably wasn’t cut out to be a stockbroker riding the subway to get to the office for 7 am, he enjoyed working with others and creating something unique. “I learned how much I enjoy collaborating with other people. I liked the social element of having a job,” said Dunst. “I enjoyed the creative process of watching this footage and saying ‘Okay, how are we going to turn a poker hand into enjoyable or funny commentary?’ How do you highlight something interesting about the decisions these people are making, be they positive or negative, and do it in a way that your casual viewer is going to both enjoy and understand.” Along with doing the the Raw Deal segments, which he shot in studio in Los Angeles, Dunst also handled commentary on some of the live streams that WPT did at various events. While it gave Dunst exposure to an even bigger audience, it also allowed him even more opportunities to work with the WPT producers and talent. “You’re working in an environment where you’re all working towards a common goal, a shared goal with your co-workers,” said Dunst. “You’re relationship with those people is going to be as important to your success in that endeavor as the product or commentary that you create.” [figcaption=https://www.pocketfives.com/profiles/admin/albums/article-images/596075-tony-dunst-playing-wpt.jpg]With nearly $3 million in live earnings, Tony Dunst brings a wealth of playing experience to the booth.[/figcaption] None of this meant that Dunst stopped playing poker though. Just the opposite. He continued to travel the world, and even began playing more WPT events. He posted his first WPT cash in the Five Diamond Poker Classic in 2011, finishing 18th in what is one of the toughest fields of the year. Then he final-tabled the Jacksonville bestbet Open, finishing fifth. He posted another pair of cashes during the next season before pulling off the dream scenario. In November 2013, Dunst, who played online under the name ‘Bond18’ made the final table of the WPT Caribbean event at a hotel named ‘Casino Royale’ - the name of the Bond film where the super spy finds himself playing high stakes poker. He went on to win the event, adding a signature win to his resume and $145,000 to his bankroll. He continued to add to that resume by making back-to-back final tables of the WPT Championship event in Atlantic City, finishing third in 2014 and sixth in 2015. All told, Dunst has cashed in 11 WPT main tour events, earning $984,779. He's also had success outside of the WPT, including a World Series of Poker win in 2016. That came just over five months after he finished runner-up in the Aussie Millions Main Event. His career earnings now sit at $2.9 million. A WISE INVESTMENT [figcaption=https://www.pocketfives.com/profiles/admin/albums/article-images/596073-dunst-punta-booth.jpg]Tony Dunst will now work alongside Vince van Patten to bring the action to life on WPT broadcasts.[/figcaption] While the Raw Deal gig helped him convince his parents that he’d made the right career choice, it also gave him valuable experience that wound up paying off later. While each segment was only a couple of minutes long, the time it took to film each one gave Dunst time to get comfortable working with the lights and cameras bearing down on him. “Speaking on camera is something that you gradually get better at over time. You learn to not let your eyes move down on a teleprompter. You speak more coherently, more smoothly. You learn the timing,” said Dunst. “It can be tempting when you first start speaking on camera, to talk really fast. You have to calm your nerves. And that dissipated over time.” Dunst isn’t quite sure how many Raw Deal segments he filmed over the years, but estimates it’s close to 150. That means there were at least that many players whose play Dunst was publicly critical of. Being candid and critical, knowing that he’d be talking to those players at some point on tour is also something he’s taking with him to his new role. “(The Raw Deal) was great practice, both the collaborative process of working with other people, but also understanding the nuance of interacting with players after you do commentary or criticism of them,” said Dunst. “That’s going to be important, because in these events, I’m in the fields, I’m hanging around at the events, I have to have relationships with these players, and then I’m expected to critique them at a very sensitive time for them.” The days of micro-analyzing and critiquing just a single hand from every final table are over for Dunst. Working alongside van Patten as commentator means he’s going to be calling the action now and making sure the viewers at home know exactly what’s happening at all times and what it means as the final table plays down to a champion. “It’s more of a play-by-play (role) now. I think it’s pretty hard to make a deep dive in strategy when we’re trying to keep the action moving on the show, and it’s just not my responsibility the way it was with the Raw Deal,” said Dunst. Stepping into a role that a Poker Hall of Famer and one of poker’s greatest ambassadors held for a long time isn’t something Dunst did lightly. Having already established himself on the broadcasts made the decision to take the new job even easier - but some kind words from Sexton also put Dunst at ease. During a WPT dinner honoring Sexton, he went out of his way to make sure the WPT staff in attendance knew that Dunst was ready for the new role. “He just had some very kind, encouraging words, which he said publicly in front of a lot of people,” remembered Dunst. “He said, ‘WPT has nothing to worry about - they’re in really good hands with Tony’.” While calling the action of every televised WPT final table is the nitty gritty of the job, Dunst has been around long enough to know that filling Sexton’s shoes involves much more than getting the suits of the cards on the flop, turn and river right every time. He has a legacy to live up to. “I think it adds some pressure to uphold the image of an ambassador that Mike projected so well in his time with the World Poker Tour,” said Dunst. “I think that if you’re going to have that role with the WPT, I think there is an expectation that you will always portray poker in a positive light.” With that in mind, Dunst plans on being at as many WPT events as he can - including the non-televised variety. Even making appearances at WPT National or WPTDeepStacks events is something Dunst plans to do, if only to give him an opportunity to mix it up with poker players and fans at all levels. “I think also being willing to to share your experiences in the poker world is important in this role as part of the standard that Mike set,” said Dunst. “Coming after somebody with the presence of Mike Sexton is a challenge in a way, but on the plus side, Mike himself, the WPT, the players, they’ve all helped make this transition feel pretty natural and welcoming for me.” ALL IN THE FAMILY Inside the WPT itself is where Dunst sees his third and final transition that comes with the new job. If the Raw Deal gig cast Dunst as the cool big brother in the WPT family, being the commentator means it’s time to take on something bigger. “My role in the family is a little more in a position of leadership I guess you would say now,” said Dunst. “I think that just being present for almost everything that we do is really important. Even if I don’t have a very active role in whatever that activity is, or the event is that day, being present when you’re in my position is really important.” More visibility on the broadcasts, an expectation of ambassadorship in the poker industry, and a position of leadership within the walls of the WPT is a lot for anybody to take on. When Dunst was offered the job, he embraced everything that came with it. All to live out a fantasy he had as a high schooler watching the WPT on TV while beating his friends in those $5 and $10 home games. “It’s one of, if not the best position in the entire poker industry. I watched this show when I was a kid. Back then I was like, ‘Oh I hope I can be on the WPT one day as a player’. As a host, seemed almost too good to be true,” said Dunst. “I enjoy this kind of work, I enjoy this type of role. I knew what taking it meant. And I felt like, I already live out of a suitcase and just hang out at poker tournaments all the time. So if you want to pay me to do it, no problem, man.” Photos provided by World Poker Tour and Joe Giron/
  6. [caption width="640"] Guo Liang Chen won 9,058 for taking down the WPT Borgata Poker Open Main Event Friday in Atlantic City (WPT Photo)[/caption] In yet another exciting final table in Season XVI of the World Poker Tour, Guo Liang Chen outlasted a final table that included Cliff Josephy and 2017 Winter Poker Open WPT final tablist Jia Liu. Final table play lasted for 10 hours and when the dust settled, it was Chen who earned the title after a hard fought battle. In Hand #50 of the final table, Thomas Paul was the first player eliminated of the six. Paul was short after doubling up Chen in a previous hand, and was eliminated by Chen a few hands later. Chen opened to 260,000 and Paul defended out of the big blind. Paul checked the [poker card="7h"][poker card="4c"][poker card="2c"] flop and Chen went all in. Paul called for a few blinds more with [poker card="qd"][poker card="7c"] for a pair against the [poker card="ac"][poker card="ks"] of Chen. The [poker card="js"] turn was clean but the [poker card="kc"] sent Paul out the door. In the first hand of 75,000/150,000, Josephy was eliminated by Greg Weber. Josephy started the final table as the shortest stack in play. Weber shoved with [poker card="qs"][poker card="js"] in the small blind and Josephy called of with [poker card="ad"][poker card="3h"] in the big blind for 2,175,000. The [poker card="kh"][poker card="jd"][poker card="9h"] flop put Weber in the lead and although Josephy picked up flush outs on the [poker card="jh"] turn, he was dead on the [poker card="3s"] river. It was 36 more hands before Matt Parry, who came into the final table as chip leader, was sent out by Weber. Parry opened the button to 450,000 and Weber three-bet from the big blind to 1,200,000. Parry jammed for 5,225,000 total and Weber called with [poker card="ac"][poker card="ks"] and the [poker card="ad"][poker card="qd"] of Parry was in huge trouble. A king hit the flop and Parry was dead on the turn. Three-handed play lasted for over 60 hands as Weber, Chen, and Liu traded the chip lead before Liu finally succumbed. With the blinds up to 150,000/300,000, Liu shoved the button with [poker card="qc"][poker card="jc"] for 4,175,000 and Chen called with [poker card="kh"][poker card="qd"]. The [poker card="8s"][poker card="6d"][poker card="4s"][poker card="7h"][poker card="9d"] board proved no good and Chen was heads up for the title against Weber. Chen started heads up with a deficit but battled back after calling for his tournament life on the river. Weber opened the button to 1,000,000 and Chen defended. Chen checked the [poker card="9h"][poker card="8h"][poker card="3s"] flop and then called the bet of 1,000,000 from Weber. Chen bet 1,500,000 on the [poker card="3d"] turn and Weber called to the [poker card="as"] river. Chen checked and Weber put him all in for 5,750,000. It took a moment, but Chen called with [poker card="9s"][poker card="8d"] to pick off the bluff of Weber [poker card="qd"][poker card="7d"]. Only a dozen hands later, Chen sealed the title. Weber shoved for 5,050,000 holding [poker card="kh"][poker card="9s"] and Chen looked him up with [poker card="ah"][poker card="kd"]. The [poker card="7d"][poker card="5h"][poker card="4s"][poker card="3c"][poker card="qh"] board gave Chen the title and the $789,058 first place prize and a seat in April’s WPT Tournament of Champions. Final Table Payouts Guo Liang Chen - $789,058 Greg Weber - $471,059 Jia Liu - $288,071 Matt Parry - $240,965 Cliff Josephy - $199,294 Thomas Paul-$161,247
  7. [caption width="640"] Phil Hellmuth is back at a World Poker Tour final table for the first time since 2010. (WPT photos/Joe Giron)[/caption] It’s been over seven years since Phil Hellmuth last appeared at a World Poker Tour TV final table. His bustout from the 2010 Bay 101 Shooting Star event became one of those Phil Hellmuth moments that everybody remembers. “I kind of blew that one,” said Hellmuth, who, despite all of his other success in poker, has never won a WPT title. On Thursday, Hellmuth makes his long-awaited return to WPT TV when he brings the third biggest stack to the WPT Legends of Poker final table. He’s promising not to blow this one. I'm thinking that the only thing that could stop me (Thursday) is either a super bad beat or I just get fatigued,” said Hellmuth. The 14-time WSOP bracelet winner admits that as he’s gotten older he’s recognized the long days at the table can wear on him and leave him fatigued. He’s got a strategy to deal with that though. It’s not White Magic though. It’s much simpler than that. Naps. “(The other players) fought for a 15 minute break. I went upstairs and took a nap,” said Hellmuth, who turned 53 in July. “That's what I'm going to have to do the rest of my life. I'm older now. I have to take more naps and keep myself fresh. I swear to God, if we’re in the middle of the final table and somehow I get fatigued, I will leave for 15 minutes, rush up to my room or 20 minutes or half an hour and take a nap and ante off, because it's worth it.” Throughout the last three days of the Legends of Poker, Hellmuth has had the poker community buzzing a couple of times with unorthodox laydowns - the very type of thing that Hellmuth has developed a reputation for over the last ten years his career. Late on Day 3, Hellmuth made a fold against chip leader Oddie Dardon that left his tablemates, and those following at home, shaking their heads. With the board showing [poker card="9s"][poker card="8d"][poker card="th"][poker card="5h"][poker card="9d"], Hellmuth bet 83,000. Dardon raised to 275,000, sending Hellmuth into the tank. After using two time banks, Hellmuth folded [poker card="9h"][poker card="7h"] face up. Dardon happily showed [poker card="kd"][poker card="jc"] for a bluff. For Hellmuth’s detractors - and even his fans - that was just the appetizer though. The main course and dessert came on Day 4. Early on Day 4, Dardon and Hellmuth clashed again. After a flop of [poker card="kh"][poker card="9c"][poker card="4c"], Dardon checked, Hellmuth bet 150,000, Adam Swan folded and Dardon called. The turn was the [poker card="5s"] and Dardon check-called Hellmuth’s bet of 350,000. The river was the [poker card="kd"] and Dardon used two time chips before moving all in. Hellmuth used up three time chips before folding [poker card="ks"][poker card="qh"] face up. Dardon showed just the [poker card="qc"]. The best hand Dardon could have had would have resulted in a chopped pot. “I felt in my mind like he could have king-queen of clubs, which I tied, king-jack of clubs, he could have queen-ten of clubs or queen-jack of clubs, which I have crushed,” said Hellmuth. “But I just didn't think any sane person would put that much money into not having a full house. But I'm not sure how sane he was.” A few hours later, with seven players remaining and the televised final table within reach for Hellmuth, he again made another face-up fold that most players simply couldn’t - or wouldn’t - make. Art Papazyan opened to 130,000, Hellmuth raised to 250,000 from the button. Action folded back to Papazyan and he moved all in. Hellmuth folded [poker card="qc"][poker card="qd"] face up. Papazyan happily showed the table - including Hellmuth - the [poker card="4d"]. A Poker Brat moment ensued, but afterwards he admitted that making the TV final table impacted his thinking. "Yes, I can call 1.6 million here, or I can guarantee myself top six and maybe run into two or three million without ever taking any risk,” said Hellmuth. “I fold hands nobody else folds and a lot of times, a lot of times I'm wrong, in one sense - but I'm never all in."
  8. [caption width="640"] The WPT Action Clock is coming to all Season XVI tour stops starting in Choctaw next week.[/caption] The World Poker Tour Action Clock premiered two seasons ago at the WPT Tournament of Champions and received rave reviews upon its introduction. The concept has grown as players of both the professional and recreational ranks are looking to speed up play in the later stages of tournaments. Just announced this week, the WPT is making an innovative change that officially brings the Action Clock into the full poker spotlight. Starting with the first American stop of Season XVI, the Action Clock is ready to tick at Choctaw in the first week of August. The Action Clock, which WPT is bringing in with a partnership agreement made with Protection Poker, will be in use once the respective field is one table away from breaching the money bubble in all WPT Main Tour events. From that point forward, the Action Clock will be on all tables down to the final table, where it will also be used. Players are given 30-seconds with each decision in order to maintain a reasonable pace of play. For decisions that may require some additional thought, players have the option to use one of their four time-extension chips. Each chip is worth 30 seconds of additional time given to a player. As the final three tables are reached, players will be given a maximum of six chips and then a maximum of eight chips when the official WPT final table of six is hit. Another change being made by WPT and its hosting partners is for all tables to be eight-handed once there are 10 tables remaining in play in a WPT Main Tour event. WPT Executive Director Matt Savage has been open to player feedback on the subject of faster play over the last few years and is excited to introduce the Action Clock across all WPT events. “The World Poker Tour is proud to be the first to implement the Action Clock across all of its Main Tour event. Many players, both recreational and professional, have expressed concerns that unnecessary tanking has taken a lot of the fun out of poker. Poker should always be fun, and it was a no-brainer decision to bring the Action Clock to all WPT Main Tour events following its success in the WPT Tournament of Champions and WPT500™ Los Angeles. With the Action Clock, more action equals more fun, and who doesn’t want more fun in poker?” The third running of the WPT Choctaw event kicks off on August 4 and runs through August 8. The $3,700 buy in tournament holds a $2,000,000 guarantee and had a playing field of 1,066 in 2016.
  9. [caption width="640"] Ryan Riess captured his first World Poker Tour title on Thursday night at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Finale (WPT photo / Joe Giron)[/caption] The final table of the World Poker Tour Seminole Hard Rock Poker Finale had an amazing group of players with storylines galore; Two former #1-ranked players on PocketFives, a World Series of Poker Main Event champion, a WPT Champions Club member, one of the hottest players on the planet, and a relative unknown. In the end though it was 2013 WSOP Main Event champion Ryan Riess who outlasted the likes of Cliff Josephy, Tim West, Alan Sternberg and Jason Koon to win his first WPT title and $716,088, including a seat in the upcoming WPT Tournament of Champions. “It feels amazing. The final table was so hard, it feels really good to beat a final table with Cliff Josephy, Jason Koon and Alan (Sternberg) played great. He's very tough, very aggressive and put me in a lot of hard spots. It feels really good,” Riess said. The win marks the first for Riess since 2015 when he won a side event at Seminole Hard Rock and his first six-figure or bigger cash since taking down the WSOP Main Event. While comparing anything to that win might sound crazy, earning his first WPT title was still special for Riess. "I didn't start crying this time but I got very close. It just feels great, because I've been playing a lot of them,” said Riess. “I run really good in 10Ks and it brings all the best players out so to win the tournament with such a stacked field where all the best players in the world, minus a few that are in Macau, are all here, it feels really good.” Josephy started the final table with the third smallest stack but ended up as the first one to hit the rail. West raised to 150,000 from UTG and Josephy moved all in from the button for 1,290,000 before Alan Sternberg called from the big blind. West folded and Josephy turned over [poker card="as"][poker card="jc"] and Sternberg showed [poker card="kc"][poker card="ks"]. The board ran out [poker card="td"][poker card="ts"][poker card="5d"][poker card="6h"][poker card="3c"] and failed to save Josephy, eliminating him in sixth place. Just 20 minutes later another player found himself out of the tournament. Jason Koon raised to 70,000 from the button and Terry Schumacher called from the big blind. Schumacher then check-called Koon’s 45,000 bet after the [poker card="ad"][poker card="jh"][poker card="4c"] flop and then check-called another 225,000 bet from Koon after the [poker card="7h"] turn. The river was the [poker card="8h"] and Schumacher checked for a third time. Koon moved all in for 715,000 and Schumacher tank-called. Koon showed [poker card="qh"][poker card="td"] for a missed straight draw and Schumacher showed [poker card="ah"][poker card="6c"] for top pair to eliminate Koon in fifth. The next elimination took almost two hours and it meant the end of the line for the former #1-ranked players at the final table. With blinds of 25,000/50,000 (5,000), action folded to West in the small blind and he moved all in for 505,000 and Riess called from the big blind. West showed [poker card="kh"][poker card="jd"] and Riess showed [poker card="ac"][poker card="ts"]. The [poker card="qh"][poker card="js"][poker card="2s"] flop put West ahead before the [poker card="kd"] turn gave Riess broadway. The [poker card="7h"] river didn’t fill West up and he was out in fourth place. Riess claimed another victim just 30 minutes later. Sternberg raised to 120,000 from the button, Riess called from the small blind before Terry Schumacher moved all in from the big blind for 1,355,000. Sternberg folded, but Riess called and showed [poker card="9c"][poker card="9d"]. Schumacher needed help with [poker card="jh"][poker card="7h"]. The [poker card="ac"][poker card="6d"][poker card="5c"][poker card="kd"][poker card="4h"] runout did nothing for Schumacher and he was out in third place, leaving Sternberg and Riess to play heads up for the title. Sternberg began heads up play with a 5-4 chip lead over Reiss, but over the course of the next three hours of play, the chip lead changed five times before Riess was finally able to end it. Riess raised to 450,000 and Sternberg re-raised to 1,150,000 before Riess move all in. Sternberg called and showed [poker card="7d"][poker card="7s"] and found out he was racing against Riess’ [poker card="ah"][poker card="kh"]. The [poker card="kc"][poker card="6d"][poker card="6s"] flop put Riess ahead and the the [poker card="kd"] turn ended it all before the meaningless [poker card="tc"] river. Final Table Payouts Ryan Riess - $716,088 Alan Sternberg - $491,081 Terry Schumacher - $315,726 Tim West - $204,466 Jason Koon - $157,599 Cliff Josephy - $130,370
  10. [caption width="640"] Tony Sinishtaj beat out a talented final table to win the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown. (WPT photo / Joe Giron)[/caption] Over 3.5 years ago, Tony Sinishtaj found himself as a part of one of the most popular moments in Seminole Hard Rock poker history as the player Mimi Luu was up against in the “I Can’t Fold This” hand a the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open. Wednesday night he overcame a final table that included Dan Colman, Darryll Fish, Simeon Naydenov and Robert Mizrachi to win the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown title, $661,283 and a seat in the WPT Tournament of Champions event later this week. "It feels great. It's really hard to put into words. It's just a long time coming. I've been playing a long time and it feels great to finally, you know, put your name on the trophy," said Sinishtaj. Colman began the final table with the chip lead and quickly went to work in applying pressure. Just 20 minutes after play began, Colman opened to 225,000 from the button and Naydenov moved all in from the big blind for 1,915,000. Colman called and tables [poker card="ah"][poker card="7h"] while Naydenov showed [poker card="kh"][poker card="8h"]. The board ran out [poker card="as"][poker card="qh"][poker card="4c"][poker card="ac"][poker card="6s"] to give Colman the win and eliminate Naydenov in sixth place. Just half an hour later, Eric Beller moved all in for 2,090,000 and found a caller in Robert Mizrachi. Beller showed [poker card="ah"][poker card="7s"] while Mizrachi showed ]kc][poker card="ks"]. The [poker card="kd"][poker card="qd"][poker card="9d"] flop all but ended things for Beller and the [poker card="5c"] turn and [poker card="6c"] river sealed the deal. Four-handed play lasted three hours before Colman went from chip leader to fourth place finisher in just three hands. Colman raised to 425,000 from the button and Sinishtaj defended his big blind. The flop came [poker card="8s"][poker card="6d"][poker card="2h"] and Sinishtaj fired out a bet of 550,000. Colman raised to 1,500,000 before Sinishtaj moved all in. Colman went into the tank for several minutes before finally calling and tabling [poker card="ah"][poker card="as"]. Sinishtaj turned over [poker card="kd"][poker card="8d"] for top pair. The [poker card="td"] turn gave Sinishtaj a flush draw and the [poker card="ad"] river completed the flush to leave Colman with just 2.5 big blinds. Colman was eliminated in fourth place on the next hand by Darryll Fish when his pocket twos weren't able to hold up. It took just 20 hands to get to heads-up. After Fish button-raised to 600,000, Mizrachi moved all in from the small blind for 3,500,000. Fish called and found himself racing with [poker card="ah"][poker card="qd"] against Mizrachi’s [poker card="4c"][poker card="4d"]. The flop came [poker card="qh"][poker card="3h"][poker card="2s"] to put Fish ahead with top pair and the [poker card="8h"] turn or [poker card="9h"] river completed runner-runner flush to eliminate Mizrachi in third. Sinishtaj began heads-up play with a nearly 2-1 lead over Fish and needed just under an hour and 39 hands to wrap up the win. On the final hand Sinishtaj raised from the button to 1,250,000 and Fish called and then checked after the [poker card="8d"][poker card="3s"][poker card="2d"] flop. Sinishtaj bet 1,500,000 and Fish moved all in for 10,950,000 and Sinishtaj called and showed [poker card="kd"][poker card="qd"] for a flush draw while Fish had [poker card="as"][poker card="3d"] for middle pair. The [poker card="6d"] turn completed Sinishtaj’s flush to eliminate Fish and wrap up his first major title. Final Table Payouts Tony Sinishtaj - $661,283 Darryll Fish - $453,185 Robert Mizrachi - $293,864 Dan Colman - $217,686 Eric Beller - $164,438 Simeon Naydenov - $132,889
  11. [caption width="640"] Sam Panzica is now a two-time WPT winner after taking down the Bay 101 Shooting Star event Friday (WPT photo/Joe Giron)[/caption] When the World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star final table kicked off Friday afternoon in San Jose, California, the focus was clearly on Chino Rheem. With three WPT titles already to his credit, and over 44% of the chips in play, Rheem seemed to be on the verge of becoming the first player in WPT history to win four titles. Sam Panzica wanted no part of that storyline though and went on to win his second WPT title of Season XV and $1,373,000 while Rheem had to settle for a third place finish. With all eyes on him at the start of the day, Rheem didn’t disappoint, picking up the first three eliminations. Just 37 hands in Rheem went to work at whittling the field. Rheem raised to 225,000 from the cutoff before Rainer Kempe moved all in for 2,190,000 from the small blind. Rheem snap-called and tabled [poker card="kh"][poker card="kd"] while Kempe showed [poker card="as"][poker card="9c"]. The [poker card="7h"][poker card="6h"][poker card="3h"] flop was a great one for Rheem and when the [poker card="3d"] turn and [poker card="8s"] river failed to connect with Kempe, the German was eliminated in sixth place. Kempe was also the last remaining bounty, meaning Rheem picked up an additional $2,500 cash. Just over 90 minutes later, Rheem did it again. From the button Rheem made it 320,000 to go and Dennis Stevermer moved all in from the big blind for 1,425,000. Rheem called and tabled [poker card="ks"][poker card="9h"] but found himself behind Stevermer’s [poker card="ad"][poker card="8d"]. The [poker card="9c"][poker card="7s"][poker card="6c"] flop flipped the odds in Rheem’s favor and he stayed in front through the [poker card="4h"] turn and [poker card="qh"] river to eliminate Stevermer in fifth. Things went slightly off track 20 minutes later when he clashed with Anthony Spinella in a pot that cost him the chip lead. With 2,775,000 already in the pot and a completed board of [poker card="kd"][poker card="5h"][poker card="2c"][poker card="7d"][poker card="ac"], Spinella check-called Rheem’s 1,500,000 bet and tabled [poker card="ad"][poker card="2d"] for a river pair of aces while Rheem showed and mucked [poker card="kc"][poker card="9s"] for second pair. Following that hand, Spinella had more than half of the chips in play. Five hands after that Rheem was hard at work rebuilding his stack. Rheem raised to 325,000 from UTG and Paul Volpe called from the big blind. The flop was [poker card="8d"][poker card="7s"][poker card="4s"] and Volpe checked, Rheem bet 375,000 and Volpe responded by moving all in fro 2,975,000. Rheem didn’t hesitate to call and tabled [poker card="kh"][poker card="kd"] while Volpe turned over [poker card="qs"][poker card="js"] for a flush draw. The [poker card="2c"] turn and [poker card="8c"] river were no help for the former #1-ranked online poker player in the world and Volpe was out in fourth place. Five hands later, Rheem re-took the chip lead from Spinella. The first 54 hands of three-handed play were all about Rheem and Spinella taking turns as chip leader but once Panzica took his turn with the top spot, he never relinquished it again. Rheem’s run at history took a major hit on the 98th hand of three-handed play. Panzica raised to 500,00 from the button and Rheem defended his big blind. Rheem check-called a 500,000 bet after the [poker card="as"][poker card="3c"][poker card="2c"] flop and then check-called again after the [poker card="ks"] river. The [poker card="qs"] river got Rheem to check a third time, Panzica bet 2,100,000 and after taking some time to think over his decision, Rheem called and mucked after Panzica showed [poker card="ad"][poker card="kd"] for top two pair. A few hands later Spinella doubled up through Rheem, leaving him with just two big blinds. On the very next hand Rheem moved all in for his last 475,000 and Spinella called from the big blind. Rheem was ahead with [poker card="qc"][poker card="th"] to Spinella’s [poker card="5h"][poker card="3h"] but the [poker card="kd"][poker card="ks"][poker card="8s"][poker card="5c"][poker card="2h"] runout spelled an end to Rheem’s run in third place. Three-handed action took over 3.5 hours but heads-up play took almost no time at all. Five hands after Rheem was shown the door, Panzica picked up his first elimination of the final table. Spinella raised to 650,000, Panzica moved all in Spinella called. Spinella tabled [poker card="ac"][poker card="8c"] but found himself behind the [poker card="ah"][poker card="ts"] of Panzica. The [poker card="jh"][poker card="5h"][poker card="3d"][poker card="4d"][poker card="5c"] board kept Panzica ahead for good and eliminated Spinella. Panzica, who already has a $15,000 seat in the upcoming WPT Tournament of Champions, was given the $15,000 seat from this event as cash. Final Table Payouts Sam Panzica - $1,373,000 Anthony Spinella - $786,610 Chino Rheem - $521,660 Paul Volpe - $349,610 Dennis Stevermer - $243,090 Rainer Kempe - $188,460
  12. [caption width="640"] Conor Beresford is the current king of the UK rankings. Photo: PokerStars.[/caption] As an online poker powerhouse country, the UK continues to be in the conversation of producing some of the best poker players in the world. Just as the country itself has been a major world influence in popular culture, players hailing from UK have helped shape the modern-day poker landscape including old school veterans like David ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott,Neil Channing and Roland de Wolfe, high-rolling regulars like Sam Trickettand Charlie Carrell and even some of the most recognizable faces of the game in PokerStars Team Pro Liv Boeree and online poker legend, Chris Moorman. The current crop of Top 10 online players from the United Kingdom uphold the tradition of influential talented grinders and current at the top of the list is Conor ‘1_conor_b_1’ Beresford (6,76.34 PLB Points). Beresford is not only the #1-ranked player in the UK, but also currently sits as the #15-ranked player in the world, according to the PocketFives.com Worldwide Rankings. His last month is highlighted third-placed place finish in Event #8 of the PokerStars High Rollers Series ($2,100 8-Max No Limit Hold’em) where he took home $57,781. Beresford, constantly grinding a schedule of the largest online MTTs, cashed 30 times for four-figures or more in November and looks to out do that pace here in December already notching nine four-figure or more paydays including a sixth place finish in the PokerStars $1,050 Super Tuesday for $10,929. Despite Beresford’s amazing stats and consistency, he’s being hotly pursued by Team partypoker ambassador Patrick ‘pleno1’ Leonard (6,612.64). The former Worldwide #1-ranked superstar, currently sits as the UK’s #2-ranked player having just recently reached a new personal benchmark of eclipsing over $4 million in lifetime earnings. Leonard also did a good deal of damage in the PokerStars High Rollers Series cashing in five of the events for over $130,000. He final tabled three of the events and his largest score of the month came with his seventh place finish in Event #6 ($10,300 No Limit Hold’em - $1M Gtd) for $55,635. David ‘davaman’ Lopez (5,894.23) has ascended to the UK’s #3 spot. While there’s a pretty big gap between him and the duo of Beresford and Leonard, that could be in part due to a lighter play schedule in November. Originally from Spain, but currently playing out of London, Lopez reportedly at one point earned the title of Supernova Elite on PokerStars in only three months but with only a handful of scores for the month of November it looks like the pro is simply taking some time off after a month of everyday scores in October. Still sitting in the Worldwide Rankings at #40, his best recent score was a tenth place finish in the partypoker High Roller back on November 13 for $3,000. Literally right behind Lopez is the UK’s #4-ranked player Jonathan ‘proudflop’ Proudfoot (5,874.55). Proudfoot has been making waves in the Worldwide rankings, climbing just about every week in the month of November, where he currently resides at #41. Proudfoot has been putting in the time and his results have shown it. On the precipice of conquering $1 million in lifetime earnings, Proudfoot racked up 25 four-figure scores in November, not including his victory in the partypoker High Roller on November 28 for $19,734. Sitting less than 20 PLB points behind Lopez, he could, once again, climb the rankings in no time. Charlie ‘chaz_man_chaz’ Combes (5,843.76), caps off the UK’s Top 5, having recently taken down the partypoker High Roller on November 23 for $12,170. Combes is the third of the UK trio that occupies virtually the same space in the Worldwide rankings as he currently stands only 2 spots back from Proudfoot at #43 and as of now is trailing him only 30.79 PLB points, meaning things can change in a hurry on both the UK and Worldwide rankings list. Combes’ December is off to a hot start as well as the daily mid-high stakes tournament grinder has won nearly $40,000 in the first week of play. There’s a little breathing room between the #5 and #6 spots, where Owain ‘sngwonder’ Carey (5,581.54) ranks. Carey was recently featured in the PocketFives.com Milestones column for surpassing the $3 million lifetime earnings mark and he also is enjoying his highest placement in the Worldwide Top 100, currently sitting just outside the Top 50 at #51. Playing out of Glasgow as its #1 player, Ludovic ‘ludovi333’ Geilich-Jonsen (5,554.91) checks in at #7. After a light November schedule, Geilich-Jonsen emerged to cash in the PokerStars High Rollers Event #19 for over $7,800. PokerStars WCOOP Event #1 Champion‘carpediem200’ (5,426.14) checks in at #8. While still benefitting from the massive points boost a major victory like a WCOOP will give you, he’s not sitting idly by having put in a full schedule over the past two months raking in over 20 four-figure scores in that time period. Bristol’s Oscar ‘MendaLerenda’ Serradell (5,408.48), a former #2-ranked Worldwide professional, occupies the #9 spot. His victory in PokerStars Bounty Builder on November 14 for $7,297 was his highest PLB points score of November and is basically the difference between him and the #10 spot which belongs to…Chris ‘moorman1’ Moorman (5,278.54). As we previously mentioned, Moorman is one of the UK’s most popular and accomplished tournament grinders. The 888poker ambassador recently published his second book as well as took down one of the side events at the World Poker Tour Five Diamond (Event #9 $1,100 No Limit Hold’em Turbo) for $37,132. Even with all of his media duties and live play, he still finds the time to grind and add to his over $14 million in lifetime earnings. His most recent only victory came just days after his live win as he took down the PokerStars Bigger $162 for over $5,200. UK Online Poker Rankings Top 10 RANKPLAYERPOINTS 11_conor_b_16,6776.34 2pleno16,612.64 3davaman5,894.23 4proudflop5,874.55 5chaz_man_chaz5,843.76 6sngwonder5,581.54 7ludovi333r5,554.91 8carpediem2005,426.14 9MendaLerenda5,408.46 10moorman15,278.54
  13. [caption width="640"] Michael Ruane is on the verge of recording his first cash since busting from the WSOP Main Event in July (WPT photo)[/caption] For a lot of poker players, getting to the final ten of the World Series of Poker Main Event along with one their good friends sounds like a dream scenario. The two of, on the verge of winning a million dollars and maybe more, along with the chance of winning the whole thing. For Michael Ruane, that dream scenario turned nightmarish this past July when he found himself in a hand with his good friend Bryan Piccioli on the final table bubble. Piccioli was the one that was all in, but the result of the hand all but guaranteed one of the two good friends would eventually become the 10th place finisher. That was Ruane's fate as Piccioli, holding [poker card="tc"][poker card="ts"], called for his tournament life after Ruane, holding [poker card="ah"][poker card="kd"], had moved all in. The board brought no help for Ruane and a few minutes later he was eliminated in 10th place. "It was the worst. If somebody's going to win I'd rather have it be him. It was just a terrible situation because getting to the final table together with a very good friend of mine would have been awesome," said Ruane. "All of our mutual friends were on the rail and nobody knew who to root for. It was silent. It was awful." The cliche says that the day a poker player busts out of the Main Event is their worst day of the year. Ruane got to live that moment, in an extremely important spot, live on ESPN for all the world to see. As the cards were turned over and the board ran out, Ruane looked upset and some mistook that as something directed towards Piccioli. Ruane insists that's not the case. "I was immediately obviously pretty angry, just because I wanted to make the final table, but I handled it a lot better than I thought I would. It just took me an hour or two to decompress, said Ruane. "I called my brother, Sean, and we talked on the phone for a bit. I actually didn't even realize there was a pay jump between 10th and 11th." Even though the two are good friends, and saw each other later that night, the big hand wasn't brought up. Five months after that fateful day, Ruane says that he and Piccioli have yet to discuss it at all. "We saw each other that night actually, and I congratulated him and I was happy for him. There's nothing really to talk about. It's just a shitty situation, I think we both just understood that. It's just poker. It's all good," said Ruane. The WPT Five Diamond, where he's starting Day 3 with a decent stack, is just the third live tournament Ruane has played since July. As long as he avoids a monumental misstep early on Friday, he's going to record his first cash since then. He had no cashes between his fourth-place finish in the 2016 WSOP Main Event and the 10th place finish last summer either. "I'm really pumped for this tournament because I haven't played in a while. I don't really like traveling and playing live - I like playing live a lot, but only when I want to. So I don't want to just go and play," a aid Ruane, who plans on spending the holidays with friends and family before heading off to Australia and Asia for prolonged vacation. "I was in Europe before the World Series and I've been to South America, so it's kind of the next place I haven't been yet and I feel like it's a pretty good time to go in my life right now," said Ruane. "Plus, I've never played the Aussie Millions. I've got a friend that lives there and a friend in China, so it just makes sense for me to this right now."
  14. [caption width="640"] The World Poker Tour's Five Diamond World Poker Classic returns next week.[/caption] On December 5, the World Poker Tour returns to the Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas for the $10,400 buy-in WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event. The six-day affair promises to be a massive event as the tournament has made a millionaire out of every winner since 2012. Looking to take a dive into the deep end? Here’s what players need to know about the tournament itself: the Five Diamond Main Event is one of the deepest offerings on the WPT schedule lasting a full six days with Day 1 starting on December 5 and cards in the air at Noon Las Vegas time. With 90-minute levels (up until the Final Table) and 30,000 in chips, there’s plenty of room to maneuver but should the deck turn cold on you, players are allotted unlimited re-entry through Level 9. That isn’t expected to hit until approximately 5:15 pm on Day 2. Late registration runs until that time as well should your travel schedule keep you from arriving earlier or you’re simply adverse to those pesky “early levels.” One of Las Vegas’ premier poker destinations, the Bellagio Resort and Casino plays host to the tournament as it has since it’s inception as the first event of Season I when a young Danish poker player named Gus Hansen bested the field of 146 to claim the first WPT title and $556,460. In fact, it can be argued that the Five Diamond World Poker Classic is the most recognizable of the WPT tour stops due to it’s rich history of massive prizepools and final tables packed with superstars. A list of past winners of the event reads like a fantasy team of poker all-stars that includes Daniel Negreanu, Joseph Hachem and Eugene Katchalov (when it was briefly re-branded as the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Classic), David ‘Chino’ Rheem, Daniel Alaei, James Dempsey and Antonio Esfandiari. In more recent years, as the number of entries began to swell, some of the most talented rising stars helped solidify their names as top professionals with victories including Mohsin ‘chicagocards1’ Charania, Ravi Raghavan and regular high roller “King” Dan Smith. One of the players to watch here in 2017 is last year’s winner, the defending Five Diamond champion, James Romero. Last year Romero bested a record field of 791 players, including fellow final tablists Justin Bonomo and Jake Schindler to take home over $1.9 million. The victory easily represented the largest score of the young Oregonians career and it not only launched him into the poker spotlight but sent him into a year of live grinding that brought him over $200,000 in earnings in 2017. This is the final event of the calendar year, but it’s just past the halfway point in the WPT season. Still, the chances are fewer for players to catch the current runaway WPT Player of the Year, Art Papazyan. But if history is an indicator, the field is expected to be on the larger size and, with it being the first $10,000 buy-in of the season, first place could be more than double any other first-place prize this season, including the Guo Liang Chen’s $789,058 take home for his win at the Borgata Poker Open. Preliminary events are running now with a pair of $25,000 High Rollers scheduled for December 8 and 9. For those looking to win their way into the Main Event, the Bellagio is holding a series of $1,100 satellites from December 3-6. The Final Table, set to take place on December 10, will be filmed for television complete with anchor Lynn Gilmartin and commentators Vince Van Patten and Tony Dunst on hand. Additionally, every hand will be streamed live via the PokerGo app.
  15. [caption width="640"] Playing on playMGMpoker this month could send you to the WPT Five Diamond Poker Classic (WPT photo)[/caption] For November only, PocketFivers in New Jersey can win one of three $535 World Poker Tour Five Diamond super satellite tickets simply by playing tournaments on playMGMpoker.com. Players can earn leaderboard points by cashing in tournaments on PlayMGMpoker.com throughout the month of November. Points are awarded based on the PocketFives.com Leaderboard Formula and only results from PlayMGMPoker count towards the leaderboard. Points are earned only AFTER players opt in to the leaderboard. The three players who earn the most leaderboard points during this time will each win a $535 WPT Five Diamond Super Satellite ticket good for entry to the December 3 Super Satellite. That Super Satellite awards one $12,000 WPT Five Diamond package, including $10,400 buy-in and $1,600 travel, for every 24 players entered and at least one seat is guaranteed. This is the first time that New Jersey players have been able to qualify for a Las Vegas WPT event. "The leaderboard is just another way for us to give back to our loyal New Jersey community," said Lance Bradley, PocketFives President and Editor in Chief. "We'd love nothing more than for one of our members to turn that $535 ticket into a World Poker Tour title." One of the most prestigious WPT events on the schedule, the Five Diamond Poker Classic, which has a $10,400 buy-in, is set to take place December 5-10 at the Bellagio Resort and Casino. “We are thrilled with the opportunity to extend this to a national offering, with playMGMpoker sponsoring our online satellite program into the WPT Bellagio Five Diamond Poker Classic; allowing for participants in New Jersey to compete amongst the best players at an MGM Resorts Destination in Las Vegas,” said Ray Stefanelli, Executive Director of Online Gaming for playMGMpoker. Players who finish 4th - 10th on the leaderboard each receive a PocketFives hooded sweatshirt. To be eligible for this promotion you must have your PlayMGMpoker screen name listed on your PocketFives.com profile. Click here to do that (be sure to select “PlayMGM” from the list of sites). Once you've done that, make sure you visit the PlayMGMpoker WPT Five Diamond Leaderboard and click the green OPT IN button.
  16. [caption width="640"] World Poker Tour and 888poker annouunced a new global partnership that will ultimately send players to WPTDeepStacks events[/caption] A new global partnership between 888poker and the World Poker Tour will allow players from all over the world to qualify for select live WPTDeepStacks events while playing on 888poker. The WPTDeepstacks brand aims to offer players a global tour that features mid-stakes buy-ins for their Main Events with deeper, "bang-for-your-buck" structures. Now, with WPTDeepstacks partnership with 888poker, certain international stops will be augmented with even more online qualifiers. The first event players will have an opportunity to satellite into will be the Main Event of WPTDeepstacks Berlin held at the Casino Spielbank Berlin in Germany. It's a three-day, €1,500 tournament that marks the start of the Season XVI European Championship Festival. WPTDeepstacks Berlin kicks off the New Year, running from January 5-8 2018, and features a €500,000 guaranteed prize pool as well as a live-streamed final table. Qualifiers are available now on 888poker. Players can win their way into the Main Event starting as little as $.01 by clicking on the Live Events tab in the player client. 888poker is providing two options for players to help them with their shot at the big one in Berlin. First, players can opt to satellite into the $1,750 "seat-only" qualifier where 888poker will provide winners a seat in the tournament with no hotel or travel provided. Additionally, there is a larger $2,400 WPTDeepStacks Berlin package that provides not just a €1,500 ticket into the tournament, but an additional €300 to assist with accommodations as well as €250 in travel expenses. Take note: While entry to the satellite is made in USD, the tournaments entries and additional funds are in Euros. The $109 seat-only satellite runs every Monday night at 7:35pm GMT now through December 24 and awards one seat for every $1,750 included in the prize pool. The $160 package to Berlin is scheduled to run every Thursday, also at 7:35pm GMT and also through December 24. One package is awarded for every $2,750 collected in the prize pool. The €1,500 WPTDeepStacks Berlin Main Event is part of a larger festival that hopes to keep players in action all week long with 11 additional side events. The schedule includes a pair of €10,000 High Roller tournaments, a €500 Pot Limit Omaha tournament, a number of one-day NLHE Turbos, as well as the €3,300 World Poker Tour European Championship, a five-day event with a €1,000,000 guarantee that begins on January 10. The WPT European Championship event will be filmed for inclusion in WPT's televised Season XVI. WPTDeepStacks Berlin is the penultimate event in the current WPTDeepStacks Season IV one that, when completed, will have seen 28 events taking place while making a mark on five Continents. Although Berlin is thus far the only announced stop in the new partnership between WPT and 888poker, with both companies touching worldwide audiences, it is expected that more online-to-live event qualifying between the two will take place in WPTDeepStack Season V in 2018.
  17. [caption width="640"] The Bellagio plays host to the World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic[/caption] Through the recently announced partnership between the World Poker Tour and playMGMPoker, New Jersey players have the unique opportunity to satellite online into one of the most esteemed live tournaments in any given year - the World Poker Tour Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event. For the first time, New Jersey residents can qualify for the major Las Vegas tournament by winning a $12,000 package that includes an entry into the $10,400 Main Event, $1,600 in cash to help cover travel and accommodations, and the first-night-free stay at one of the flagship MGM properties, the Bellagio Hotel & Casino. Whether you are a deep-pocketed shot taker or a value-seeking grinder there are a number of ways for playMGMpoker players to earn their shot at what will likely be the seven-figure first place prize at the WPT Five Diamond. It all starts for as little as $10. Looking to work your way to the top? playMGMPoker is running $10 Daily Qualifiers into the $55 Bellagio Qualifier. The first step starts every day at 5:40pm and 8:40pm ET where the $10 tournament guarantees at least two entries into the $55 step. Roughly one out of roughly every six entries into the $10 starter tournament will win entry into the $55 Bellagio Qualifier. The $55 Bellagio Qualifier is also running every day. At 7:20pm ET, players compete to win their way into main $535 Bellagio Super Satellite to WPT Bellagio Five Diamond. With at least one seat to the main satellite guaranteed, approximately one out of every 11 participants will gain entry and get their shot at the $12,000 package. In addition to the daily $55, there is a once-a-week Turbo Qualifier taking place on Sundays at 5:20pm. The turbo takes place right before the $535 Super Satellite is set to begin. Players can win or buy their way into the to the final step, the $535 Super Satellite to WPT Bellagio. There are four more opportunities left to vie for the grand prize at 6:20pm ET on the following Sundays: November 12 November 19 November 26 December 3 Roughy one out of every 24 will pick up a $12,000 package, escape the New Jersey winter and be on their way to sunny Las Vegas for the Main Event. Whether it's daily qualifiers or buying directly into the Super Satellite, playMGMPoker has a path for those looking to make their dreams of playing the WPT Five Diamond a reality.
  18. [caption width="640"] Art Papazyan claimed victory in his second WPT event of Season XVI by winning WPT Maryland. (Joe Giron/WPT photo)[/caption] Art Papazyan came out of relatively nowhere to win the WPT Legends of Poker event to start Season XVI and claim the lead in the WPT Player of the Year race. Papazyan traveled to Maryland to play the WPT event at Live! Casino in an effort to chase points and is now a two-time WPT champion as a result. After a tough final table that saw Papazyan go up and down on his way to victory, he emerged victorious with his second WPT win in as many attempts. Timothy Chang was the first player eliminated with start of final table chip leader Tom Reynolds getting lucky to send him out. On Hand #15 of final table play, Chang was all in for 1,445,000 with [poker card="jc"][poker card="js"] against the [poker card="9c"][poker card="9d"]. The [poker card="7h"][poker card="5s"][poker card="4c"] flop was good for Chang as was the [poker card="7d"] turn but the [poker card="9s"] river gave Reynolds a full house to eliminate Chang. On Hand #71, Papazyan doubled up through Grigoriy Shvarts to pick up some much-needed chips. Shvarts raised to 210,000 and Papazyan defended his big blind. Papazyan check-called for 260,000 on the [poker card="ac"][poker card="js"][poker card="8d"] flop and Shvarts bet 500,000 on the [poker card="2s"] turn. Papazyan shoved for 1,240,000 and Shvarts called with [poker card="ad"][poker card="tc"]. Papazyan flopped two pair [poker card="jc"][poker card="8s"] and faded the river to double. Shvarts was left with under 10 big blinds and was eliminated in Hand #77 by Papazyan when his [poker card="as"][poker card="5s"] lost to Papazyan’s [poker card="kc"][poker card="6d"] as a six hit the river. Papazyan took the lead for good a few hands later when he eliminated former WSOP bracelet winner Randal Heeb in fourth place. Zachary Donovan opened to 180,000 under the gun and Papazyan made it 600,000 in the small blind. Heeb four-bet to 1,500,000 in the big blind and only Papazyan called to the [poker card="qh"][poker card="3c"][poker card="3h"] flop. Papazyan checked and Heeb shoved for slightly over 3,000,000. Papazyan called with [poker card="ad"][poker card="ah"] and led the [poker card="tc"][poker card="ts"] of Heeb. The last two cards bricked and Papazyan owned over half the chips in play heading into three-handed play. Donovan picked up some steam heading into heads up play by eliminating Reynolds. Donovan limped the button and Reynolds raised to 225,000. Donovan called and the flop came down [poker card="9d"][poker card="5c"][poker card="3c"]. Reynolds bet 400,000 and Donovan called to the [poker card="5h"] turn. Reynolds shoved for 2,090,000 and Donovan called with [poker card="9s"][poker card="7d"]. His pair led the [poker card="as"][poker card="td"] of Reynolds and the [poker card="6c"] sent out the 2017 bracelet winner in third place. Papazyan held the chip lead for all of heads up play and on the 56th hand, finished off Donovan to claim victory. With the blinds at 75,000/150,000, Donovan shoved for 2,925,000 with [poker card="ah"][poker card="4s"] and Papazyan woke up with [poker card="kh"][poker card="ks"]. The [poker card="tc"][poker card="th"][poker card="8d"][poker card="5d"][poker card="jc"] board was good for Papazyan and he claimed victory. Papazyan earns $15,000 additional for winning the event having already locked up a seat for the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions. In only his second ever World Poker Tour event, the 25-year-old Papazyan earns a special place in poker history. Final Table Payouts Art Papazyan - $389,405 Zachary Donovan - $262,930 Tom Reynolds - $168,900 Randal Heeb - $120,165 Grigoriy Shvarts - $92,015 Timothy Chang - $76,620
  19. [caption width="640"] JC Tran might have been focusing on family the last few years, but he's still got the chops to play (WPT photo/Joe Giron)[/caption] There once was a time where JC Tran one of the most feared players at every World Poker Tour stop. And he was at every WPT stop. From Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Atlantic City to Mashantucket, if there was a WPT event going on, Tran was there, usually building stacks on his way to a deep run. Between 2004 and 2007, Tran made five official WPT final tables, winning once and finishing runner-up once. He also narrowly missed out on three other final tables, posting seventh place finishes three times. In 2007 he was named WPT Player of the Year and he sits sixth on the tour’s all-time money list. These days? Tran’s more interested in free kicks and ground balls than combo draws and bluff catchers. He didn’t pivot to daily fantasy sports during the boom like some poker players did and he’s not running some sports betting syndicate out of his home just outside of Sacramento, California. “My week is usually soccer practice, soccer games, baseball practice, baseball games, getting the kids to school,” said Tran, who has two kids, a six year old and a three year old. “Believe it or not, I’d rather be out watching my kids play soccer than sweating my friend at a final table. It’s awesome. I’m that dad out there that’s screaming for my kids, “go go go”. It’s something I wouldn’t trade for anything.” When Tran got married in 2009, he knew that becoming a parent was the next logical step and that would mean playing far less poker and traveling much less. “Before we had kids, I’d go on the tour and see a lot of dads out from stop to stop to stop. I did it because I didn’t have any kids,” said Tran. “I’m okay with that, but I see a lot of father’s doing it and I’d scratch my head, ‘when do you spend time with your kids?’ and I told my wife that if we’re ever going to have kids, this is not going to happen. Poker will always be a thing for me, but I’m not going to do it on full time.” He now limits himself to events on the West Coast so that he can get back home quickly and spend more time being a father. He still plays a lot of the World Series of Poker schedule each year, but he’s managed to make that a family-friendly event. “Vegas we always rent a house, bring the family out and keep us together for a little bit out there. As far as travelling, I try to stay mostly on the West Coast. From LA or Vegas. Anything that has a connecting flight, no thank you,” said Tran. “ I love to see my kids grow up. It’s sad when you see a lot of these “poker dads”, that are out there and they blink and they’re kids are a year or two older.” This past five days he’s been in Los Angeles playing the WPT Legends of Poker event and it’s clear he hasn’t lost a step at all. Tran carried the overnight chip lead into Day 3 on Wednesday and credits his experience in playing live poker. While a number of the world’s best players have begun utilizing a game theory optimal approach to the game, Tran plans on sticking to what’s always worked for him. “I’m a live poker player, that’s what I’ve been doing for over ten years. So I stick to my live reads and my feelse,” said Tran. “It’s hard to play GTO when there’s an amateur opening for 6X or a guy that’s overbetting pot. How do you adjust to that? For live players with the live feels, you can make big laydowns or big calls that doesn’t happen with math involved.”
  20. [caption width="640"] Valentin Vornicu finally has a WPT cash to his credit (WPT photo)[/caption] When the bubble finally burst in the World Poker Tour Legends of Poker Main Event on Tuesday afternoon, Valentin Vornicu was one of the happier guys in the Bicycle Casino’s poker room. Guaranteed his first career WPT cash, Vornicu was hoping that his status as a Bike regular would help get him even deeper in the event. “Being a local here - it’s more or less my local casino - I know most of the players here. That’s an advantage too compared to somebody who travels and doesn’t know how the locals play,” said Vornicu. An advantage indeed. Vornicu has had a ton of success at the Bike over the last few years, taking down four WSOP Circuit events while cashing 16 times. He’s also won the Casino Champion award in 2016 and 2017. The WPT though is a different animal altogether. “I’d say half the guys are about the same, but in this one you see more “big name” players. You’ve got Phil Hellmuth and a bunch of high rollers that travel the bigger circuit that would not show up for a $1675, that will show up for this,” said Vornicu. “It doesn’t really change it for me that much, honestly. I’ve played these guys at the Series, at Seminole and all these other places.” While his WPT numbers are unimpressive, he did have a deep WSOP Main Event run in 2016, finishing 23rd for $269,430, and he’s coming off of a fourth-place finish in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Main Event for $79,296. Even though he might have more experience than some of the other locals still in, he’s shied away from playing WPT events over the years. “I don’t really do the WPT because, or I haven’t done it until now. I just never felt like doing it. I don’t know why. First of all, the buy-ins are really high. I’m four buy-ins into this thing and I need to get into the last 24 to make anything,” said Vornicu. “The buy-in being so high, you can easily - well not easily - brick 20 of these in a row, due to variance. That's just a lot of money right there if you think about it. So, I guess that’s one of the reasons, I don’t think bankroll wise I was able to fire a million of these a year like some people do.” All of that could change if this run turns into something more than a min-cash. The 34-year-old, who lives in San Diego, could find himself in contention for WPT Player of the Year if he wins Legends. Being in the running for that award could shift his priorities over the next few months as he chases POY points. “I know there’s a points system and all that, so it really depends on how I do here. I know pretty much half of this field by name, it’s going to get tougher and tougher as it goes,” said Vornicu. As much as he needs or wants to finish 24th or better to show a profit in this event, he’s really only focused on finishing in top spot and getting his name etched on the WPT Champions Cup. “This summer, I stayed for two months in Vegas, I played everything, every day, and I only won one tournament - it was a HORSE tournament at Aria - and that was one of the best moments of my summer, said Vornicu. “Winning a tournament, for me, it’s what I live for. I’m not here to min-cash”
  21. [caption width="640"] Sean Perry turned 21 just a few hours before the WPT Five Diamond Classic started and now he just what win the whole thing (WPT photo)[/caption] Poker history is chock full of players who have called their shot. Lex Veldhuis did a few weeks ago, Mark Newhouse wishes he didn't do it when he finished ninth in the WSOP Main Event for a second consecutive year. In a lot of cases, it's a combination of confidence, ego and a little bit of fun. So when Sean Perry said last week that he was going to win the World Poker Tour Five Diamond Classic, it was mostly met with a good-hearted chuckle or two. Perry, son of longtime Las Vegas poker pro Ralph Perry, wasn't even eligible to play in this tournament last week. He didn't turn 21 years old until Monday, Day 1 of the event. "I played on Poker Night in America the other night and telling people on the show that I was winning this. Jennifer (Tilly) just tweeted about it," said Perry. Perry says he actually started predicted victory since the summer. "I've been telling people for six months that I'm due to ship this on my 21st birthday," said Perry. "You have no idea how long I've been waiting to finally be able to play in these casinos." Perry, who grew up and lives in Las Vegas, knew there was a chance he'd be able to play the event, and once the WPT Season XVI schedule came out, he was stoked. "Once I found out it was on my birthday, I told everyone this is my tournament," said Perry. This isn't some crazy story of a kid winning the first tournament he ever played in though. He's got $110,318 in lifetime tournament earnings, all from the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida where the legal age to play is 19. He's also played high stakes cash for the last two years. "I am definitely pretty confident. I've had pretty good success so far since I left college. I'm playing pretty high cash, up to $50/$100. I've been there a lot," said Perry. The game is in his DNA. He started playing Chinese Poker against his father when he was about four years old. Since then he's been focused on his 21st birthday and properly starting his own pro poker career. "It was sick because I always said while I was growing up, 'I can't wait until I'm 21 and we're playing together'," said Perry. "I wish we got heads-up here, but we both ran pretty deep and we were sitting next to each yesterday." Ralph Perry finished 47th for $27,567 while Sean Perry continues to hang out near the top of the chip counts with just 11 players left.
  22. [caption width="639"] Joseph Galazzo is one of a handful of players who won their way into the WPT Five Diamond via satellites on playMGMpoker.[/caption] If you look at Joseph 'JOEYdaMUSH' Galazzo’s Hendon Mob profile, a couple of things stand out. The first, all of his cashes are in East Coast tournaments. Most are at Borgata. Some are at Parx. The second, is about a month ago he hit a $110,011 cash after posting a second-place official finish in the Borgata Fall Poker Open opening event. It was his biggest score ever. Thanks to a $535 satellite win, Galazzo has a chance to change both of these this week in Las Vegas at the World Poker Tour Five Diamond Classic. The 37-year-old, ranked #52 in New Jersey, won his seat on playMGMpoker.com. He tried working his way up through the steps, but couldn’t make it happen, so he bought straight into the Super Satellite. “I jumped right in. I tried to ladder up a couple of times, because they had those $55 ones, and I couldn’t make any tickets out of those. I think it was the third one that I played because they had five or six. Third time was a charm,” said Galazzo. The win allowed Galazzo to head out to Las Vegas for the first time in his career. “I just never felt comfortable coming out here bankroll-wise, I was just waiting for the right spot,” said Galazzo. “I had my biggest score, about a month ago at Borgata, a six-figure score, so it felt right to expand my horizons beyond the East Coast.” The boost to the bankroll was nice, but Galazzo also admitted that getting that deep in a big event came with a confidence boost that he’s hoping pays off this week. He was one of 400+ players seated at the start of Day 1 and said all the nerves were gone after the first few hands. “I have a pretty good table. I have Mohsin Charania on my left, but I’m trying not to get mixed up with him too much. Everybody else I don’t recognize,” said Galazzo, who also has ClubWPT qualifier Bill Mynatt at his table, which has made things interesting. “He’s limping a lot of pots and it’s making for an interesting dynamic, because everybody’s trying to iso him and I actually paid him off, three streets, he flopped top two on me, I had ace-king and paid him and the camera was rolling. I don’t mind - he seems like a good guy,” said Galazzo. Almost immediately upon landing, Galazzo did something that is almost a rite of passage for Las Vegas virgins. He hit up the In-N-Out burger. “It was amazing. Half the people say it was overrated and the other half say it’s the best thing,” said Galazzo. “It was definitely the best non-gourmet burger I’ve ever had. Way better than Five Guys and everything else. It was amazing. I loved it.” That wasn’t the only touristy thing he’s done since getting into town on Monday night, but he doesn’t plan on doing too much - he wants to save some for a return trip. “I went and saw the fountains at the Bellagio. I didn’t really do anything too crazy yet, I’m only here for a week,” said Galazzo. “I’m definitely coming back in the summer, I’m going to play the World Series. So in the summer I’m going to do a lot of that other stuff, going hiking in the desert.” Even though it’s six months away, Galazzo believes now is the time to make his WSOP debut. “I just feel like I’m playing really well, and it’s just such good value tournaments, not just at RIo, but also at Venetian and Planet Hollywood and just try to cash in on playing well,” said Galazzo.
  23. [caption width="640"] Players will pack the Bellagio tournament area in pursuit of the WPT Five Diamond title[/caption] Dating back to 2002, The World Poker Tour's Five Diamond World Poker Classic in Las Vegas is arguably the most prestigious event on the WPT calendar. This year, New Jersey online poker players can qualify for the event through PlayMGMPoker.com. This marks the first time NJ players can qualify for an out-of-state WPT event. The WPT Five Diamond is set to take from December 5-10 and take place at MGM property, the Bellagio Resort and Casino. Even though it's in Nevada, New Jersey players can win a $12,000 package that includes a $10,400 seat in the Main Event as well as $1,600 in cash, deposited directly into the playMGMpoker account, to help with travel expenses to Las Vegas. As an added bonus, all online qualifiers will have their first night's stay at the Bellagio included for free. Prior to this partnership, online satellites of this nature have been primarily used to qualify players into WPT events taking place at The Borgata. “The ability to qualify New Jersey online gaming players into desirable land-based Borgata poker events has been an extremely valuable resource in helping our poker network grow and succeed within the market.”said Ray Stefanelli, Executive Director of Online Gaming for playMGMpoker. With the aforementioned success, new opportunities have become available for players in New Jersey according to Stefanelli, “We are thrilled with the opportunity to extend this to a national offering, with playMGMpoker sponsoring our online satellite program into the WPT Bellagio Five Diamond Poker Classic; allowing for participants in New Jersey to compete amongst the best players at an MGM Resorts Destination in Las Vegas.” There are a number of ways for players to qualify and step into the $535 Super Satellite to WPT Five Diamonds to play for the $10,400 seat and it starts for as little as $10. Every day at 5:40pm and 8:40pm ET, players can jump into a $10 qualifier where approximately one out of every six players will win a $55 ticket to the Bellagio Qualifier for the Super Satellite. Each of these contests guarantees at least two $55 entries. Also running daily, at 7:20pm ET, the $55 Bellagio Qualifier runs. One out of every 11 entries wins their $535 ticket to the Super Satellite with one seat being guaranteed. The same tournament runs in a turbo format on Sundays at 5:20pm. The $535 Super Satellite to WPT Bellagio Five Diamond takes place on the following Sunday eveningsat 6:20pm ET: November 12, 19, 26 and the final chance on December 3. At least one $12,000 prize package is guaranteed in each tournament. In total, including the previously run Super Satellite, at least five New Jersey online grinders will find their way into one of the biggest live events of the year. Not only is the WPT Five Diamond one of the largest events, routinely awarding seven-figure first-place prize money throughout its rich history, but it's also the tournament where many top-ranked professionals made a name for themselves. The inaugural WPT Five Diamond, in 2002, saw 'The Great Dane', Gus Hansen, win his very first, of three, WPT title. Two years later Daniel Negreanu would go on to win the event for what would hold as a career-best victory for the better part of a decade. In 2006, World Series of Poker Champion Joe Hachem cemented his legacy as more than a one-hit wonder by taking down the Five Diamond for over $2.2 million. The list goes on: Eugene Katchalov, Chino Rheem, Daniel Alaei, Dan Smith, Mohsin Charania and Antonio Esfandiari all have their names etched in the WPT Trophy as victors of the World Poker Tour Five Diamond.
  24. [caption width="640"] Savage's signed suit raised thousands for those in need[/caption] From the smoldering ashes of a Matt Savage suit, something very good will rise. As the players who made Day Two of the World Poker Tour bestbet Bounty Scramble in Jacksonville took their seats in search of making the Final Table, renown tournament director Matt Savage was possibly simply searching for something to wear. Much to his dismay, but with his wholehearted consent, his cranberry suit, a debated about fashion faux pas that was beloved by Savage, was literally set aflame for a good cause. On September 19 a massive earthquake rocked Mexico, hundreds of citizens lost their lives and thousands were left without homes. Professional poker players Angel Guillen and JC Alvrado, as well as World Poker Tour personality Lynn Gilmartin, after seeing the devastation, knew they needed to do something to help. Together they started a fundraising effort to help bring much-needed supplies to the rescue and recovery efforts. However, in addition to the massive amount of need in a major metropolis like Mexico City, the trio thought that moving forward, perhaps one of the biggest challenges would be rebuilding in some of the smaller Mexican towns that were also in a state of ruin. Thus, Mexico Fuerte was born. Mexico Fuerte looks to raise funds to not only help rebuild shelters for all of those who lost everything in the Mexican towns of Morelos, Oaxaca and beyond but to do so in an environmentally friendly, sustainable way through the use of bio construction. To date, the endeavors of Mexico Fuerte have raised over $40,000 USD with their sights set on raising more so that they can bring back even more lost homes. That's where Matt Savage comes in. Always sharply dressed when at the helm of any tournament, one of Matt's more controversial choices in attire was his favorite glistening cranberry colored suit. However, not everyone was as enthusiastic about the wardrobe mainstay, including professional poker player Tom Hall. Hall, who wanted to see the suit burned on camera, offered $5,000 to Savage's choice of charity (as well as $95 to replace the suit) if he would agree to incinerate the threads. While the suit is now officially gone, the need for assistance in Mexico is not. To learn more about the mission of Mexico Fuerte visit their website at mexicofuerte.org.
  25. [caption width="640"] Jordan Cristos has a reputation for taking his time with every decision but he doesn't hate the shot clock conept any more (WPT photo)[/caption] That was WPT Champions Club member Jordan Cristos on the day that the World Poker Tour announced all of their events would feature the Action Clock after reaching the money. The clock gives players 30 seconds to act when it's their turn. The clock debuted at Choctaw in early August and it appears Cristos, easily the most vocal opponent of clock, has pulled a 180 and completely changed his tune after having played with it. “I actually liked it. Surprisingly, I liked it a lot. It was really nice to be at peace for the full 30 seconds, nobody complaining,” said Cristos, who has a reputation for taking his time on every decision. “Normally I take 5-10 seconds, most people who get mad at me, get mad in that time frame. So it was nice to just to have everyone calmly allow me to do my thing for however long it took.” Cristos eventually busted the Choctaw event in 20th place and now says he believes there is some value in having the clock in play - even if it may have cost him some equity. “I thought it was cool. There was definitely some drawbacks to it for me. I didn’t play as many hands to the best of my ability as I could have, but it kept me out of trouble in other spots. So maybe it was good,” said Cristo. “I think it’s a blessing in disguise, for me personally, and for poker.” The hand that eliminated Cristos from the Choctaw event saw him and his opponent use a combined six time extensions. Cristos had [poker card="ac"][poker card="ah"] and Josh Kay had [poker card="kh"][poker card="jc"] and the board showed [poker card="js"][poker card="8d"][poker card="3s"][poker card="7h"]. Cristos used one 30-second extension before moving all in for 1,125,000. Kay then threw all five of his 30-second extensions forward to give himself as much time as possible with his decision. He eventually called and was rewarded with the [poker card="kd"] on the river. Had the clock not been in play, Cristos thinks Kay could have found a fold. “We have a lot of history so there’s still a chance that he does call. I feel like Josh has seen enough from me in the past to know. Most other people would fold. I’m so polarized there to either a hand that does have him and a ton of combo draws,” said Cristos. “I support his call, I don’t mind it at all. I just had the blade. I had one of the hands he doesn’t see coming. I think if he had 12 minutes he could fold there, but I still think he’s going to put it in there a decent amount.” With a reputation for being slow, and having been a vocal opponent of the concept of any kind of clock, Cristos knows he’s turned himself into the villain in the argument and he’s okay with that. “I can’t blame them because I completely understand their frustrations. I just think I’m part of the minority, I’m outnumbered. I can never win the fight,” said Cristos. ”I respect their opinion and understand it and I understand I’ve gotten on a lot of people’s nerves over the years. It is what it is. I’m happy that (the clock) is here, it’s cool; I think it’s great.”
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