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Found 12 results

  1. [caption width="640"] Art Papazyan won the first two World Poker Tour events he ever played to permanently put himself on the poker map.(WPT photo)[/caption] As the final days of 2017 slowly tick by, it's time to take a look back at the year in poker. Over the last 10 days of the year, PocketFives is taking readers on a trip back in time to recap the last 12 months in a fun and unique way. So far we've gone over the top five off-the-felt news stories of 2017, broken down the top heaters of the year, and introduced you to the game's newest characters. Next on the list of PocketFives end of the year rankings belongs to the game's rising stars. Art Papazyan and Steffen Sontheimer had their heater, resulting in a breakout year coming full circle. #5 - Vivian Saliba In a year of players becoming their own brand, Vivian Saliba established she is on her way to becoming an established name on and off the felt. The 24-year-old Brazilian became an 888poker ambassador and the face of Brazil’s ever-growing poker love affair. Saliba earned her stripes by cashing in big buy-in events including the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha WSOP event along with the Main Event. With a brand ready to push her toward a global audience, Saliba should play more global events in the new year to push her newfound star higher than it already is. #4 - DJ Alexander For a player who didn’t win any major tournaments the entire year, DJ Alexander left a major footprint in every part of the country where he played. With over $700,000 in tournament earnings won on smaller tours coming into the year, Alexander wasn’t well known by the main viewing population but is now a face fans won’t soon forget. Alexander started his campaign by placing fourth in the WSOP Circuit Main Event at Choctaw. A few months later, Alexander exploded on the World Series of Poker stage with his true breakthrough score. In a field of 7,761, Alexander took second in Millionaire Maker and earned $754,499 for his amazing run. That was the start of Alexander’s major tournament run as he cashed in anything and everything in the latter part of 2017. After Millionaire Maker, Alexander made the final two tables in Little One for One Drop, the SHRPO Championship, and WPT Choctaw, The peak of Alexander’s string of four straight top-15 finishes came in August when he made it to the WPT Legends of Poker final table. Under the WPT lights, Alexander’s charisma popped as he hung with the likes of Phil Hellmuth and JC Tran. Coming into 2018, Alexander has a chance to ride his wave of momentum and capture the big win that he came close to many times this year. #3 - Alex Foxen When the whole poker world was watching, Alex Foxen put on one of the best final table performances of the year. Foxen surged from the back of the pack to second place and over $1 million in the WPT Five Diamond Classic to put a bow on his strong campaign. During 2015 and 2016, Foxen was a face seen deep in multiple major events, including WPTs at Borgata and Seminole, but never managed to get over the proverbial hump. In 2017, there were no bounds stopping Foxen. He cashed 13 times at the World Series of Poker and made a strong push for Player of the Year with two final table finishes. The first step in Foxen’s rise to prominence was when he came back from a single blind to win the SHRPO Big 4 $2,650 and over $200,000. Jason Koon and Faraz Jaka saw up close how talented Foxen when he defeated them at the final table. Soon, the whole world witnessed it as he overcame a record-setting field at the Bellagio. Foxen’s first seven-figure score is a tad bittersweet as he fell shy of a WPT title but his reaction afterward was of a player proud of his hard work paying off in a great way. Come next year, expect to Foxen deep in more than a few major events as he pursues his next set of challenges. #2 - Art Papazyan Sam Panzica was regarded for his skills a few years before he won two WPT titles in Season XV. Anthony Zinno already had a WPT title before he won back-to-back in Season XIII. As early as the first quarter of 2016, Art Papazyan was a security guard and a college dropout. Now, he’s a two-time WPT Champion. Papazyan grinded his way through the cash game world of Los Angeles to the point where he earned the nickname of 'King Art' on the Live at the Bike show. Games in the neighborhood of $50/$100 were within Papazyan’s range. He was already a winning player enjoying life. Papazyan is the first to admit he’s not a tournament player but his overall poker skills proved able to transfer over in well-structured events. In his first ever World Poker Tour event, Papazyan beat Phil Hellmuth heads up to win Legends of Poker in his hometown. Given the chance to chase the elusive WPT Player of the Year title, Papazyan traveled to WPT Maryland where he won title #2. Combined, Papazyan earned over $1 million for the two wins and has a wide gap between him and the field heading into the second half of Season XVI. Although he had the bankroll to do so, Papazyan chose not to play this year’s WSOP Main Event. Now, Papazyan is in prime position to win one of the most sought-after individual player awards in poker. At 25 years old, Papazyan has a lot of poker left in his career and only he knows just how many tournaments that will include. Regardless, Papazyan’s run in the latter half of 2017 is forever etched in history as his star rises among the public. #1 - Steffen Sontheimer The latest in the line of the German factory of excellence, Steffen Sontheimer went from having under $500,000 in live earnings to being crowned the ever first Poker Master. In fact, Sontheimer didn’t have his first six-figure result of the year until April. It was at the PokerStars Championship in Monte Carlo where Sontheimer final tabled the €100,000 Super High Roller. Then, Sontheimer went to Las Vegas for the summer and crushed everything in his path. Call it a heater or a game solve, Sontheimer consistently fared well in $25,000 and $100,000 buy-ins, notching 10 top-10 finishes between April and December, not counting Poker Masters. It was the Poker Masterswhere Sontheimer left his biggest mark. His skill and run good wrecked the best players in the world for a week straight and earned Sontheimer almost $2 million. The whole poker world looks forward to his encore next year.
  2. [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
  3. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Hellmuth gunna Hellmuth and he did plenty of that in 2017[/caption] Love him or hate him, when it comes to poker there perhaps is no bigger star in the game than the Poker Brat himself, Phil Hellmuth. If there is a photo op, a name to be dropped or a bracelet to be won, Phil Hellmuth Jr., will not only make an appearance - he's likely to make a scene. Here in 2017, Hellmuth was everywhere - plugging his book, winning heads-up competitions, MCing charity tournaments and throwing his patented temper tantrums - all to the delight of both his fans and haters. So, with plenty to choose from, here is the PocketFives.com Top 5 Hellmuthian Moments of 2017. #5 - Hellmuth Spikes A Three At 2 am on a rainy night in Pittsburgh, PA, after a live stream of Poker Night in America, Doug Polk gave Hellmuth 10:1 that he can’t “straight cold” drain a 3-pointer at a random basketball court. The prop bet had Polk put up $10,000 to Hellmuth’s $1k and the next thing you know Hellmuth, Polk as well as PNIA’s Todd Anderson, Olivier Busquet, Parker ’tonkaaaa’ Talbot, Shaun Deeb and an out of costume Pete Manzinelli gathered on a blacktop basketball court as Hellmuth, a self-proclaimed Golden State Warriors super fan, attempted to join Curry and Thompson as the third Splash Brother. He was given ten dribbles. He used three. Polk filmed and Hellmuth launched the ball at the backboard. Nothing but net. The scene erupted into cheers as Polk sat stunned, having perhaps just paid for Hellmuth’s 15th bracelet and when the excitement died down, Hellmuth looked right into the camera and said “I was really worried about it when it was in the air…not!” #4 - Hellmuth Decides To ‘Burn Them’ Only days into the 2017 World Series of Poker Hellmuth just wasn’t feeling it. He’d only been in town for a few days but he kicked things off on a downswing and wanted to do something to change his fortunes. His idea: Burn his brand new golden tinted shoes. So in the back of the Rio, Hellmuth placed his shoes, deemed “hideous” by Daniel Negreanu who filmed the entire event, in a metal tub, poured lighter fluid all over them and, with the strike of a match, sent his sneakers to the great beyond in an effort to run better. “I called my dad he said ‘burn them.’ I called my mom she said ‘burn them.’ I called my spiritual guru he said ‘burn them.’” Hellmuth said. Did it work? Days later Hellmuth took 10th place in the $111,111 High Roller For One Drop for over $300,000 and finished the series with seven cashes for over $384,000…but no bracelets. #3 - Hellmuth Says Cheese For Hellmuth, it seems, the next best thing to being a champion is to be seen with one. Known for his name-dropping and his more-than-willingness to photographed with anyone with a modicum of fame, he perhaps chose the wrong champion to pose with at the World Series of Poker Europe. #1 - Hellmuth Runs It Up He may be the 14-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, but perhaps the one thing he currently covets is a World Poker Tour title to place on his mantle. In the WPT Legends of Poker Main Event, Hellmuth was on the cusp of achieving the sick brag as he battled through the massive field of 763 runners to get heads-up with the up-and-coming cash pro Art Papazyan. After a hero call gone wrong Hellmuth found himself at a 3:1 chip disadvantage but was on track to get it all back when the duo got it all in with Hellmuth holding [poker card="ah"][poker card="kd"] vs. Papazyan’s [kq][poker card="qs"]. But when the flop unfolded [poker card="qh"][poker card="th"][poker card="8c"] Hellmuth was going to need some help. The turn presented some additional flush outs with the [poker card="5h"]. But in the end, the [poker card="3s"] ended his tournament life leaving Hellmuth as the runner-up. While he didn’t get the win, Hellmuth did walk with $364,370 in prize money. Combined with his $200,000 winnings for the Poker Night In America King of the Hill competition and his 4th place in the Poker Masters Event #2 Hellmuth brought in a quarter of a million in earnings in under a months time en route to a year that found him cashing for over $1.3 million.
  4. Hosted by PocketFives President and Editor in Chief Lance Bradley and poker writer Matt Clark, The Fives runs each week and covers the latest poker news, preview upcoming events, and interview players and industry leaders. DOWNLOAD THIS EPISODE IN ITUNES Tune in this week as PocketFives President & Editor in Chief Lance Bradley listens in absolute estonishment as poker writer extraordinaire Matt Clark makes the case for Art Papazyan as the "new Phil Ivey". Is the two-time World Poker Tour winner really following a path just like the one that has made Ivey one of the most successful poker players ever>? The guys also talk about Jason Koon joining partypoker as an ambassador and Clark tells a story about a budding bromance between Olivier Busquet and Sam Grafton.
  5. [caption width="640"] Mike Sexton looks to defend his WPT title in Montreal starting on November 10[/caption] It was roughly one year ago when poker legend and former World Poker Tour commentator Mike Sexton bested the field of 648 players at the Playground Poker Club in Montreal to win the partypoker.net WPT Montreal Main Event for over $317,000 US and his first WPT title. On Friday, November 10, the WPT is set to return to the scene of last year’s historic tournament for the sixth WPT Montreal at the beloved Playground Poker Club. The five-day $3,850 CAD Main Event features a $2,000,000 CAD (over $1.5 million US) guarantee and will be both filmed for television as well as live streamed around the world. The Montreal stop has been a staple of the WPT since its initial appearance on the schedule back in Season XI. The tournament was the first time a WPT Main Event was held on Canadian soil since 2008 and in a gripping conclusion, Canadian Jonathan Roy bested countryman Pascal Lefrancois to take home the inaugural WPT Montreal title and a career-high cash of $779,210 USD. Joining Roy, popular pros Jeff Gross and Gavin Smith made appearances at the 2012 final table. In fact, WPT Montreal has a healthy history of final tables full of poker’s brightest minds. The year after Roy’s victory saw, Lily Kiletto and Mukul Pahuja, who won the WPT Season XII Player of the Year that year, playing for the title. Pahuja final tabled the same event the very next year, joining Main Event mainstay Kevin McPhee and, the eventual winner of WPT Montreal in Season XIII, Jonathan Jaffee. Season XIV’s Final Table featured the first player not hailing from Canada or the U.S. when German phenom Rainer Kempe finished in third. Then, again, just last year, Sexton’s victory was over hometown favorite, Canadian Benny Chen, perhaps best known as the gold bracelet winner in the WSOP’s inaugural 2013 Millionaire Maker. WPT Montreal's frenzy of action begins with three Day 1’s, November 10-12, with re-entries being allowed on subsequent days. Players have the ability to fire secondary and tertiary bullets in additional Day 1s even if they survived their first with the largest surviving chip stack of any day moving forward to Day 2. There is plenty of opportunity for players to show up early and satellite into the Main Event as well. On November 9, Playground Poker Club is offering three different mega-satellites. This includes a massive 20-seat guaranteed tournament for $385 + $35 CAD at 8:00pm local time. As the Main Event begins, there are additional times to win your way in on both Day 1a and Day 1b. In total, 50 seats will be guaranteed to go to live qualifiers. There's little question of if WPT Montreal will be big – but how big will it be in Season XVI? Certainly, there will be plenty of notable names in the field vying for the massive guarantee. One player to keep an eye on that has confirmed his attendance is current WPT Player of the Year points leader Art Papazyan. Papazyan has a huge lead in the POY race after winning a pair of WPT events this season, but if he wants to keep those who would usurp his claim to the WPT POY crown he needs to keep on cashing. Joining Papazyan will be the reigning, defending WPT Montreal champion himself, Mike Sexton. The WPT Montreal Main Event kicks off on November 10 and plays to a final table of six players which will be live streamed on November 16.
  6. [caption width="640"] Art Papazyan won the 2017 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker Thursday night at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles (WPT photo/Joe Giron)[/caption] The final table of the World Poker Tour Legends of Poker Thursday night in Los Angeles was a star-studded affair highlighted by Phil Hellmuth chasing his first WPT title. In the end though it was local cash game pro Art Papazyan who emerged victorious, beating Hellmuth heads up to capture his first WPT title and $668,692. Joining Hellmuth at the final table were two two-time WPT champions J.C Tran and Marvin Rettenmaier. Hellmuth started the six-handed TV final table third in chips and it took just eight hands for him to get some momentum going. He raised to 200,000 from the cutoff, Adam Swan moved all in from the small blind for 1,280,000 and Hellmuth called instantly. Swan showed [poker card="ad"][poker card="jh"] and Hellmuth tabled [poker card="qc"][poker card="qs"]. The [poker card="kc"][poker card="js"][poker card="3h"] flop kept Hellmuth in front and neither the [poker card="6d"] turn or [poker card="4h"] were any help for Swan and he was out in sixth. Just 30 minutes later, one of the two-time WPT champions at the final table was eliminated. Rettenmaier moved all in from the button for 895,000 and both Art Papazyan and JC Tran defended their blinds. The flop came [poker card="8s"][poker card="6s"][poker card="3c"], Papazyan checked, Tran bet 650,000 and Papazyan folded. Rettenmaier turned over [poker card="qh"][poker card="tc"] and Tran showed [poker card="8d"][poker card="8h"] for top set. Rettenmaier could only collect his things after the [poker card="jd"] turn and [poker card="4h"] river failed to keep him alive. The first two eliminations came within the first hour, but the remaining four players wanted no part of continuing the fast bustout trend. It took nearly six hours before another player hit the rail. Hellmuth limped from the button, DJ Alexander called from the small blind before Papazyan shoved from the big blind. Hellmuth folded and Alexander called. Papazyan turned over [poker card="ah"][poker card="6h"] and Alexander showed [poker card="ad"][poker card="2d"]. The [poker card="td"][poker card="8s"][poker card="6c"] flop made a chopped pot an unlikely scenario and left Alexander drawing to running diamonds, deuces or ten-eight. The [poker card="jh"] turn ended all drama and Alexander was eliminated in fourth place. The meaningless river was the [poker card="9c"]. One hour later the other two-time champion at the table saw his run end early. JC Tran came into the day with the chip lead but after surrendering it to Papazyan, found himself shaking hands on his way out the door a few hands later. Tran moved all in from the button for his last 3,000,000, Hellmuth called from the small blind and Papazyan folded the big. Tran showed [poker card="ad"][poker card="ts"] and found himself ahead of Hellmuth’s [poker card="kh"][poker card="qh"]. The [poker card="kd"][poker card="jh"][poker card="5s"] flop put Hellmuth ahead, but gave Tran a Broadway draw to go with his ace. The turn was the [poker card="4h"] to take away two of Tran’s outs. The [poker card="2d"] river was a complete blank and Tran was eliminated in third place. The two players were nearly dead-even in chips when heads up play began. Papazyan had just two more big blinds than Hellmuth but that didn’t make for a long battle between the two. It took just 13 hands for Papazyan, who makes his living playing high stakes cash games in the L.A. area, to finish Hellmuth off. On the final hand, facing a 3.5-1 chip deficit, Hellmuth opened to 600,000 and then called when Papazyan moved all in. Hellmuth found himself in great shape with [poker card="ah"][poker card="kd"] against Papazyan’s [poker card="kc"][poker card="qs"]. The [poker card="qh"][poker card="th"][poker card="8c"] flop changed everything though as Papazyan moved ahead with a pair of queens. The [poker card="5h"] turn gave Hellmuth a flush draw to go with his straight draw and ace. The river though was the [poker card="3s"] and Hellmuth simply stared at the board for a minute, realizing he was out in second place and denied his first WPT title. Papazyan’s win earned him $668,692 and his first WPT title. Final Table Payouts Art Papazyan - $668,692 Phil Hellmuth - $364,370 J.C. Tran - $217,040 D.J. Alexander - $161,490 Marvin Rettenmaier - $120,775 Adam Swan - $91,825
  7. The World Poker Tour heads to the West Coast to start the closing portion of Season XVI. The first tournament on the list is the prestigious L.A. Poker Classic hosted inside the Commerce Casino. One of the few $10,000 buy-in events on the WPT schedule, the schedule mainstay features a $1 million guaranteed first place prize for 2018. LAPC opens on Saturday, February 24 and, as is tradition, is a freezeout event. The final table takes place on Thursday, March 1 and airs via live stream on PokerGO. Can Anyone Overtake Art Papazyan for Player of the Year? Season XVI storylines entering the event are not hard to find. At the top of the list is current Player of the Year leader Art Papazyan. The Los Angeles local opened his WPT season by winning the Legends of Poker event at the Bicycle Casino, a few miles from Commerce, by beating Phil Hellmuth heads up. Papazyan built on that run by winning WPT Maryland a few weeks later and carries 2,400 points with him into LAPC. The lead for Papazyan shrinks with every event he doesn’t cash and Eric Afriat is the first player to levy a serious challenge against Papazyan. Afriat followed up his WPT Montreal final table by winning the WPT Winter Poker Open at the Borgata two weeks ago. The 1,700 points sitting next to Afriat’s name leave him needing one more final table to come close to or pass Papazyan. It remains to be seen how seriously the real estate professional is about playing a full schedule in order to win WPT Player of the Year. Coming off of his controversial win in Fallsview, Mike Leah is a favorite to be in attendance and brings 1,050 points with him to California. Tradition of Prestige The recent trend at LAPC is for players who are under the radar by the national viewing audience standard to earn their formal breakout. Anthony Zinno’s win in Season XIII launched him into stardom as he went on to win that season’s Player of the Year honors. German Dietrich Fast earned his original seven-figure score in Season XIV by defeating a final table of former WPT POY Mike Shariati, Farid Jattin, Sam Soverel, and Anthony Spinella. Finally, California’s own Daniel Strelitz took down the first major title of his career last season. All three players earned over $1 million by overcoming respective fields of 538, 515, and 521. A similar attendance figure is expected in 2018. Season XVI Hits the Homestretch Immediately following LAPC, the World Poker Tour travels to Northern California for WPT Rolling Thunder. Only two North American Main Tour events remain on the schedule once the WPT leaves the West Coast. Papazyan’s lead is safe for now but that could change by the end of the month. The best players move to Los Angeles in one week to take their shot at $1 million and joining the likes of Gus Hansen and Michael Mizrachi as L.A. Poker Classic Champions.
  8. The World Poker Tour rolls on. Just days after Eric Afriat’s epic victory in the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open the Championship tour turns its attention north of the border to Niagra Falls, Ontario in Canada and the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic. The second Canadian stop of WPT’s Season XVI, the Fallsview Poker Classic brings with it a $5,000 CAD (~ $4,025 USD) Main Event. Unlike the recent WPT stops of the Lucky Hearts Poker Open or the Borgata Winter Poker Open, the Fallsview Poker Classic has a more compact schedule with a single starting day, February 10. Should players bust out on that starting day, it offers a single same-day re-entry to get back into the action. While the event doesn’t carry a guarantee, event organizers advertise the Main Event prize pool to be an estimated $2,055,000 CAD based on projected number of players. The first nine levels of the four-day tournament come with slightly expedited 40-minute levels and increase to the more-standard Main Event 60-minute levels thereafter. Once the final two participants are ready to determine a winner, the levels dip back down to 30-minutes. Despite the rate of play moving a little faster, players can expect to get more hands in per hour as the Main Event is once again utilizing a shot clock. The shot clock gives players 30 seconds with which to make any given decision and time extensions for those extra tricky spots. The Fallsview Poker Classic has been a staple of the World Poker Tour since Season XII when Canadian Matthew Lapossie bested 383 runners to take the inaugural Fallsview Poker Classic trophy and $342,266. After a successful start in 2014, the stop has become more popular every year since with ever-growing prize pools. In Season XIII Anthony Zinno took down the tournament helping propel him to earn Player Of The Year honors that year. Season XIV’s brought it’s own distinction of having an “all hometown” final table as six Canadian players dueled for the top prize of $383,407, eventually won by David Ormsby. Finally, last year, in Season XV, Darren Elias used the Fallsview Poker Classic to make history when he won his third World Poker Tour title, becoming only the fifth player in history to do so. Of course, if chasing history in the Main Event isn’t enough action for you, the festival comes with a pair of big-time prelims. On February 5 the $1,100 CAD event gets underway. This tournament has two starting days and wraps up on February 8. Organizers expect the prize pool to be over $1.3 million CAD. Just as the $1,100 tournament is ending the $2,500 CAD tournament kicks off. The four-day tournament is expected to have a prize pool of just under $1.5 million CAD. Finally, should you bust out of the Main Event and are looking for a "trip-saver", there’s a Shootout starting on February 11 for $1,500 CAD and an expected prize pool of roughly $132,000 CAD. Headed into the final stretch of Main Tour contests, two-time Main Event winner Art Papazyan still holds the lead in the WPT Player of the Year race. But after Eric Afrait’s victory at Borgata, combined with his prior final table in Montreal, there’s finally someone who can possibly overtake the one-time seemingly insurmountable lead held by Papazyan. With only five events left on the WPT Season XVI schedule before the season-ending Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas, everyone will be keeping an eye on if one of these two men post another big result or if someone else makes a move for the POY crown. The WPT Fallsview Poker Classic Main Event fires up on February 10 with live updates available by the World Poker Tour.
  9. The World Poker Tour stays on the West Coast after the L.A. Poker Classic and travels north for WPT Rolling Thunder. Season XVI marks the fifth trip for the WPT to the Lincoln, CA outpost for a $3,500 buy-in event. From March 2-6, there is fierce poker competition to be had as one of the final WPT titles of the season is on the line. Building on 2017 Success Mike Del Vecchio battled through a field of 421 to claim his first WPT title in Season XV. The players who Del Vecchio defeated at the final table include Connor Drinan and Olivier Busquet. Del Vecchio joined an elite group of WPT Rolling Thunder winners led by J.C. Tran and Harrison Gimbel. Tran took down 465 entrants to win his title in Season XII and Season XV’s field was the largest since that time. Riding the LAPC Momentum From the time it was added to the WPT calendar, Rolling Thunder follows Bay 101 Shooting Star Classic on the schedule. That is no more for at least this year with the hiatus of Bay 101 for at least Season XVI. The L.A. Poker Classic wraps up on March 1 and the WPT train rides immediately for Rolling Thunder the next day. Expect to see dozens who played LAPC to catch a flight and make their way to Thunder Valley for the last California WPT event of the season. The LAPC field size should carry an indication of how many and who will play at Thunder Valley. Player of the Year Battle Builds Art Papazyan is 700 points in front of Eric Afriat for current Season XVI Player of the Year honors but that lead is on the fringe of changing. Afriat won the WPT Winter Poker Open at Borgata in January in his second final table appearance of the season. With one more WPT final table appearance this season, Afriat can tie or surpass Papazyan’s 2,400 points. The Quebec business professional is uncertain of his upcoming WPT schedule but the opportunity to win the exclusive prize may bring him out to the West Coast. New Room to Show Off Thunder Valley recently opened their brand new poker room and the glamour element should add to what is already an event with high expectations. Locals are flocking in large numbers to play satellite qualifiers, leading to more buzz for an already prestigious event. The new room features an open playing space and nearby access to all the amenities Thunder Valley is known for. Unique Format Features Six Max Action The WPT Rolling Thunder adds the shorthanded element of poker deep in their event. Once the field reaches 36 players, the field condenses to six tables of six players each. It is at this stage where the tournament switches over to 90-minute levels until the final table. Bay 101 is famous for this structure pivot and Rolling Thunder recently added it to their WPT showcase. Expect to see some fun hands and memorable moments that compare to Charlie Carrel’s elimination in a hand where Pat Lyons moved all-in blind. Where to Watch The final table streams live on WPT.com on March 6 starting at 12:30 pm PT. The six-figures in prize money, the prestige of winning a WPT, and predicted tough final table leads to what will be an exciting conclusion to what has become one of the most enjoyable stops on the WPT circuit.
  10. The Global Poker Index and PokerStars presented the 4th Annual American Poker Awards on Thursday night in Los Angeles, CA. The collection of the best in the poker world offered a year’s worth of awards handed out to players, media, and everything else encompassing the game. Poker Central Wins Big Cary Katz and Poker Central lead the unofficial group category for most winners. “Dead Money: A Super High Roller Bowl Story” took home honors for Media Content of the year. Matt Berkey’s story of his road to playing the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl captured the voting audience’s attention. Katz himself took down the title of Poker’s Biggest Influencer. The development of Poker Central and PokerGO all happened under the watch as Katz as the businessman continues to grow the game through is new ventures. Poker Central wrapped up its trio of wins with the Best Podcast award. Host Remko Rinkema accepted on behalf of his co-hosts, Brent Hanks, and Will O’Connor. Young Talent Gets Their Due The new generation of poker received their fair share of accolades from the APA voting body. A pair of 25-year-old received hard-earned awards. Two-time WPT Season XVI Champion Art Papazyan collected the Breakout Player award. Papazyan’s wins came in his first two WPT events ever played. Scott Blumstein beat an elite group to score the Tournament Performance trophy. Blumstein’s win in the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event defeated Darren Elias, 2018 GPI American Player of the Year Bryn Kenney, and Doug Polk. Other members of poker’s new generation also did well for themselves. Ema Zajmovic’s win at WPT Montreal last February to become the first female champion in an open event in WPT history was recognized for Moment of the Year. Jaime Staples notched a tough group of nominees to emerge with the Streamer of the Year honors. Kristen Bicknell was formally awarded the 2017 GPI Female Player of the Year. Andrew Neeme Cleans up The new age of poker is here and Andrew Neeme is in the center of it. The vlogger shipped two wins to further certify himself as one of poker’s new-age godfathers. Neeme won the award for Video Blogger and the People’s Choice Award for Poker Personality. Over 10,000 turned out to vote for the latter award and Joe Ingram accepted on behalf of Neeme on both occasions. Telling it like it is PocketFives held their own at the American Poker Awards with site Editor-in-Chief Lance Bradley walking away with Journalist of the Year. Bradley was also nominated for Media Content of the Year for “Resilience Defined: Sheddy Siddiqui Raising His Two Boys #ForCathy.” Nick Schulman’s rousing rise to the top of the poker broadcasting ranks was made official with his win for Broadcaster of the Year. Longtime ESPN poker commentators Norman Chad and Lon McEachern received the award for Lifetime Achievement in Poker. Good day for the World Poker Tour The World Poker Tour had themselves a day with Matt Savage and WPTDeepStacks receiving hardware. The WPT’s Executive Tour Director triumphed in the Industry Person of the Year category. WPTDeepStacks completed their rise from the U.S. circuit to the global stage by taking down the Mid-Major Circuit award. Special Awards and Prizes The venerable Jury Prize went to long-time poker media member and contributor Eric Danis. Joining Danis in the achievement award section was fellow Canadian Ari Engel, who shipped the PocketFives Legacy Award. In a category where literally all nominees are a winner, Jacob Zalewski won the prize for Charitable Initiative for the One Step Closer Foundation. The foundation is a charity whose main goal is to positively impact the lives of those who suffer from cerebral palsy. To date, Zalewski's foundation has raised over $1 million. The American Poker Awards put a bow on 2017 and gave a look ahead at what's to come this year. If the this year's awards are any indication, the poker world is in for a great 2018.
  11. Season XVI on the World Poker Tour enters its last hurrah this month in Las Vegas. The race to the finish line starts with the Bellagio Elite Poker Championship from May 1-6. The $10,400 event was added in March to the WPT Main Tour calendar along with a $25,000 high roller. The Elite Poker Championship harkens back to past seasons of the WPT where multiple events were hosted at the Bellagio. Festa al Lago last ran in Season IX and the WPT World Championship moved from Bellagio to the Borgata after Season XII. The field should be strong with the summer on the horizon. The final days of the Elite Poker Championship overlap with the special edition WPT Bellagio High Roller. The $25,000 event follows up on the Rockstar Energy High Roller from March at the L.A. Poker Classic that brought in 50 runners. The Bellagio High Roller runs May 5 and 6 with the final table delayed until May 25. The final table is going to be filmed for television at the Esports Arena Las Vegas inside Luxor along with the Bobby Baldwin Classic and WPT Tournament of Champions final tables. Play for the high roller event starts with both the big blind ante and Action Clock in effect. Registration is open until the start of Level 11 on Day 2. All levels are 60 minutes and players open their High Roller accounts with a starting bank of 100,000. The $10,400 Elite Poker Championship Main Event is a six-day slog to find a winner. The structure is reminiscent of the Five Diamond Classic. Blinds are 90-minutes all the way up to the final table and registration is open until the start of Level 9 on Day 2. The field welcome to unlimited re-entries. A formal announcement awaits on whether or not the final table is to be televised or live streamed. The Elite Poker Championship could have major ramifications for the WPT Player of the Year race. Art Papazyan still holds a wide lead with 2,450 points but one more deep run from some of the contenders could put his title hopes in peril. Papazyan cashed in the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown last week to add to his point total solely earned from his two titles. Expect to see Papazyan in attendance at the Bellagio. Derek Wolters is in second-place thanks to two third-place finishes. Wolters sits on 1,850 points and WPT Winter Poker Open champion Eric Afriat is right behind with 1,750. WPT Maryland runner-up Zach Donovan did the biggest favor of all the contenders in Florida for his POY hopes. Donovan added 400 points for 10th place to move up to 1,450 for the season.
  12. The crazy week for the World Poker Tour continued on Friday afternoon as the $10,000 buy-in ARIA Summer Championship played down to a winner. Matthew Wantman eliminated four of the final six players to win $443,475 and his first WPT title. Wantman also earned automatic entry into the WPT Tournament of Champions that gets underway Saturday at ARIA. It took just four hands to get the first elimination. Action folded to Ryan Laplante and he moved all in from the hijack and Wantman called from the big blind. Laplante turned over [poker card="ad"][poker card="kh"] which had him racing against Wantman's [poker card="jh"][poker card="js"]. The [poker card="9h"][poker card="7h"][poker card="4c"][poker card="8c"][poker card="jc"] runout missed Laplante and gave Wantman an unneeded set of jacks to bust Laplante in sixth place. Laplante wasted no time in getting back on the horse though. The next elimination came just six hands later. Jim Collopy limped for 15,000 before Wantman raised to 65,000 from the small blind. Collopy moved all in for 540,000 and Wantman called. Collopy tabled [poker card="ac"][poker card="8d"] and Wantman was well ahead with [poker card="qc"][poker card="qs"]. The [poker card="9c"][poker card="9d"][poker card="3c"] flop failed to connect for Collopy and all he could do was watch the [poker card="td"] turn and [poker card="4d"] river miss him again to officially eliminate him in fifth place. The fast pace of eliminations continued and only five more hands passed before Wantman found another victim. From the button, Wantman raised to 40,000 and Art Papazyan called from the small blind before Kevin Eyster shipped his last 375,000 from the big blind. Wantman called and Papazyan folded. Wantman again turned over a monster, this time [poker card="qc"][poker card="qd"] while Eyster needed some help with [poker card="kd"][poker card="jc"]. The [poker card="7h"][poker card="5c"][poker card="3c"][poker card="6c"][poker card="tc"] runout gave Wantman a queen-high flush and eliminated Eyster in third. It took four hours and 140 hands to go from three players to heads up. Papazyan, who was looking for his third career WPT win, button-raised to 85,000 and then moved all in for 1,545,000 after Igor Kurganov made it 300,000 from the small blind. Kurganov called and showed [poker card="ah"][poker card="qd"] and Papazyan was in rough shape with [poker card="qs"][poker card="jh"]. The [poker card="as"][poker card="kh"][poker card="js"] flop gave Kurganov top pair and Kurganov bottom pair with players drawing to a chop with Broadway. The turn was the [poker card="7c"] and the river the [poker card="5c"] to give Kurganov the pot and send him to heads up against Wantman while Papazyan was out in third position. The players were nearly even in chips when heads up began; Wantman held 53% of the chips. Over the next two hours, Kurganov and Wantman played 53 hands and traded the chip lead a few times before Wantman finally put Kurganov away for good. Down to 18 big blinds, Kurganov shipped all in with [poker card="ad"][poker card="6c"] and Wantman called with [poker card="ac"][poker card="js"]. The [poker card="jh"][poker card="th"][poker card="ts"] flop gave Wantman a commanding lead in the hand and neither the [poker card="6d"] turn or [poker card="4s"] river changed anything to send Kurganov out in second and award Wantman his first WPT title. The event drew 192 entrants for a total prize pool $1,824,000. In 2018, the Bobby Baldwin Poker Classic, which held the same spot on the calendar at ARIA, attracted 162 players. Final Table Payouts Matthew Wantman - $443,475 Igor Kurganov - $285,650 Art Papazyan - $209,980 Kevin Eyster - $156,220 Jim Collopy - $117,640 Ryan Laplante - $89,685
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