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  1. Every player travels to the World Series of Poker from a different road, and this year, thousands of people will make it to Las Vegas with dreams that were formed all around the world.   One such player who has endured a harder journey than most, escaping war-torn Ukraine to evacuate his family to safety, is Eugene Katchalov. We spoke to him on the eve of his poker pilgrimage to Sin City.   Escaping Ukraine   "It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions, seeing things I never thought I’d see."   Katchalov’s journey from the heart of his home country, Ukraine, to freedom on the other side of the border as bombs literally fell is one of the most incredible stories of the year. As the world reacted with shock at the war in Ukraine, Katchalov attempted to help his family escape to safety by driving through the country. This inspired Poker Twitter to reach out and help the former Team PokerStars Pro. He is immensely grateful for that support over two months on.   “I’ve been in the Czech Republic ever since we left Ukraine,” he tells us. “We spent 10 days in Budapest then Leon Tsoukernik rented four different hotels and invited over 500 refugees to stay there. I didn’t need the help personally but many of my wife’s family and friends who left with us did. Leon settled everyone in those hotels, and we rented an apartment nearby.” [caption id="attachment_638203" align="alignright" width="300"] Katchalov saw at first hand the devastation that the bombing of his home country caused.[/caption]   The time since that fateful journey has disappeared and Katchalov says that fleeing the city under attack and his subsequent efforts to raise funds for those still in Ukraine has altered his perception of time.   “The first week or two was a rollercoaster ride of emotions, seeing things I never thought I’d see. Because I have an audience on Twitter, I thought it would be good to show what was really going on. Once I did enter Europe, people offered their homes from 16 different countries for free, it’s been incredible. We were able to connect a lot of people because so many people from the poker community reached out to help.”   Clearly struck by the humanity of the relief effort, Katchalov is emotional as he says how ‘incredible’ the efforts of the wide poker world were in supporting refugees and those on the frontline.   “I started raising money for different humanitarian needs and discovered a foundation to partner with me and Luca Pagano’s esports company Qlash, to raise money. At this point, we’ve raised over $200,000 which is quite amazing. I just want to keep that going.”   Katchalov admits that he, like most of the world, has no idea how long the war will last or the devastation that will be left behind to repair. As he tells us, the kind of help that’s needed has shifted from helmets, drones and radios for soldiers in the early days of the invasion to logistics, with governmental aid focusing on the war. He hopes to raise money to help provide food and medical support for those still in Ukraine, the most affected of anyone during the conflict.   “Money can go through many different hands, so a big portion of my effort has been trying to help people I know who are on the ground. I’ve been working with different kitchens who are cooking food for soldiers and people. There’s a lot of money pouring in, but its stuck and food and clothes aren’t coming in - it’s about logistics.”   [caption id="attachment_638204" align="aligncenter" width="583"] Katchalov and his family were relived to arrive safe in Budapest.[/caption] Raising Money for Ukraine   "It’s my favorite poker series bar none, nothing compares to it."   Katchalov freely admits that his quest for glory at this year’s World Series of Poker in Las Vegas includes some motivation from him missing playing the game he loves. Over the last couple of years, he has been focused on Qlash, the esports team he runs with fellow poker pro Luca Pagano. This year, however, the opportunity to raise money was too good to miss the WSOP.   “To play the game I’ve always loved and do it for a good cause is amazing,” he says. “It’s my favorite poker series bar none, nothing compares to it. I’ve always loved mixed games and limit games and the WSOP is pretty much the only place you can play those.”   [caption id="attachment_638205" align="alignright" width="245"] Katchalov's memories of the WSOP are some of his fondest of an incredible poker career.[/caption] Everyone is excited about the potential growth that having the WSOP at Bally’s and Paris could provide this year. Katchalov is no different.   “I feel it might break records,” he says. “I’m an ambassador for the largest online site in Ukraine, PokerMatch, and they’re going to be buying a significant piece of my events and donating to the same humanitarian charity I will.”   Katchalov is hugely passionate about bringing money to the charity and has seen at first-hand the effect it can have on a country desperate for help from all corners of the globe.   “My plan is to donate at least 10% to Ukrainian charities and PokerMatch will be donating their full share to the same charity. I feel like my poker game is up there and I’m ready for any result.”   The Year Darvin Moon Busted Katchalov   "He looked at his chips and he just nonchalantly took one stack and called."   Back in 2009, the World Series of Poker welcomed a fresh-faced 28-year-old Katchalov as he ran deep in the Main Event. His memories of that event are clearly very special 13 years on.   “It was the year Ivey made the final table. When there were 50 players left, I was chip leader. I was texting Phil as we kept going back and forth at the top. Then I lost 30 pots in a row and busted and was devastated. I’d love to have another deep run in the Main Event.”   The magic of getting so close is still palpable to Katchalov after all these years.   “There are four tables left, and first place is life-changing money. You’re like ‘Oh my god.’ This was during the boom of online poker, too, so you probably stood to make as much as first place from a sponsorship with one of the major sites.”   Katchalov’s exit came at the hands of the man who would run all the way to second place, losing to Joe Cada in the hand that changed the young player’s life.   “Darvin Moon busted me!” laughs Katchalov. “I remember it too. I was kinda short with 11 blinds and had ace-ten. I shoved and he had just arrived at the table and was sitting down. He looked at his chips and he just nonchalantly took one stack and called. I think he had kings. It’s a painful memory... but it was memorable!”   Mixing It Up   "I’m planning to play mostly limit games and some of the smaller No Limit events."   Katchalov will focus mostly on mixed games in Las Vegas, and he has fond memories of winning his bracelet in Seven Card Stud, as well as plenty of other mixed game moments over the years. He feels that it is in those events where he has the biggest edge.   “I still feel like my NLHE edge is good, but in terms of mixed games, the game hasn’t advanced as much. There isn’t [so much] popularity to them, so the level of the game is stable. I’m planning to play mostly limit games, some of the smaller NLHE events where the fields are comparatively soft and of course the Main, which is a special event. I think it could reach record numbers.   Katchalov will be selling some action for the World Series of Poker events that he will play on Pocket Fives. His package goes on sale on Wednesday 25th May, just six days before the WSOP begins.   “I think it’s great that there are platforms like Pocket Fives that allow you to ‘crowdfund’ your events. It’s great to be able to give fans another reason to root for you and also to support a great cause. I’ve never sold pieces in public before. I'm looking forward to it and, hopefully, I can make lots of people some money. I’ll be tweeting about the experience a lot, especially for people who are backing me!”   After one of the hardest journeys anyone has had to make, Eugene Katchalov hopes to raise much-needed money and renew his love affair with poker in the capital of gambling, Las Vegas. There could hardly be a better player to root for at the World Series of Poker this summer... whether you’re lucky enough to get a piece of his action or not.   [caption id="attachment_638206" align="aligncenter" width="581"] Eugene Katchalov (pictured left, hiking Red Rock with Dan 'Jungleman' Cates' can't wait for this year's WSOP adventure.[/caption]                  
  2. Every year, the World Series of Poker is enormous fun for fans of the game as poker heroes such as Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and Shaun Deeb take each other on for the biggest prizes and bragging rights associated with winning the much-coveted Player of the Year title as well as individual bracelets.   This year sees the return of the $25k Fantasy Draft, where players and fans alike can invest their hard-earned money in the performances of their poker idols. But how does the $25k Fantasy Draft work and who are the best people to ask?   We’ve delved into poker’s biggest sweat in Las Vegas by speaking with Remko Rinkema and Donnie Peters, who this year are the two men behind Team Pocket Fives, as well as chatting to Jeff Platt and Brent Hanks, who both represent Team No Gamble, No Future. For the first time, investors can buy a piece of the action from both teams direct from the Pocket Fives site. Remko Rinkema can see the benefits of following the website to keep track of which players are selling their action.   “There are people who have posted action on Pocket Fives,” he says. “If we can see that a player is playing a big buy-in tournament, there’s a good chance they’ll be playing a full schedule. The staking marketplace on Pocket Fives has brought all that to one platform.”   Jeff Platt couldn’t agree more. The man who made award-winning content at the last World Series of Poker is excited about how easy it is to advertise the package.   “While it’s a thrill for us to run the team, it’s even more exciting to be able to get fans involved with the squad, via the Pocket Fives Staking platform,” he says. His teammate, Brent Hanks, agrees.   “A few years ago, Remko and I did this thing together and it dawned on both of us that we were actually sharp when it comes to the WSOP and determining the value and pricing of players. Fast forward, Jeff and I have been very fortunate to be immersed within the poker industry.”   Making the Best Picks   "Knowing how it works has absolutely nothing with winning this." ~ Remko Rinkema   The two teams know all about the process of picking players, but what strategy is the right one? As both teams confess, experience is no guarantee of success.   “Knowing how it works has absolutely nothing with winning this. We know better than anyone how it works and haven’t won a thing!” laughs Rinkema, who won a Global Poker Award earlier this year for his spectacular feature on the life of Stu Ungar told through his daughter Stephanie’s memories for PokerGO.   “It’s very different from playing a tournament or cash game,” says Donnie Peters, Rinkema’s right-hand man on Team Pocket Fives. “You’re betting on other players. It’s fantasy football transitioned to poker. They didn’t run the $25k fantasy last year because of the vaccine or mask mandates, but we’ve been doing this $25k for several years.”   As Rinkema explains, knowing that a player will put in the volume no matter what is key to making the right buys on Draft night.   “The first tier is how much are they going to play,” he explains. “Then how likely are they to stick to that schedule based on outside parameters such as cash games and skill level compared to their opponents. Anyone can win a tournament on a given day; Jeff Platt made a final table last year - that says it all.”   This theory applies to the biggest players, as the men who know poker best tell us. Volume is by far the biggest factor and while some stars of the game like Daniel Negreanu will play every game, others such as Phil Ivey might take four or five days off if a juicy cash game kicks off elsewhere on the Strip.   The Origins of the Game   "We have been in the industry and have a good feel for the WSOP." ~ Donnie Peters   The notion of playing a $25,000-entry Fantasy Draft for poker started in 2011. At that stage, Daniel Negreanu was the man behind it, but interest in the idea quickly snowballed. Podcasters Quad Jacks, who were huge in 2012 interviewed Rinkema for their show and the latter then discussed the idea with Peters on a PokerNews podcast episode.   “We thought it didn’t seem like they understood draft strategy,” says Peters. “We joked that we’d max the auction on Phil Ivey, spending 193 on Ivey then fill in the rest of our players with $1 players. Some people got wind of it on social media.”   The pair were encouraged to take part the following year, raising the money from several investors. Despite their knowledge and background in the game - both men have lived and breathed poker for well over a decade - they are yet to profit... but believe this is the year.   “The last time it was organized in 2019, I had a team with Poker Central,” says Rinkema. We were a min-cash shy of finishing in the top three [with] probably the best team ever assembled. We had Jeremy Ausmus, Dan Shak, Rob Mizrachi, Jon Turner, Stephen Chidwick, James Obst, Justin Young and Bart Lybaert was our one-dollar player.”   The $25k Fantasy Draft, or rather ‘gambling on gamblers gambling well’ as Rinkema says, is, as all four men admit, the funniest thing imaginable. Investors are betting money on poker players not only showing up with their own money, but finding ways to win. Variance is huge, and Team Pocket Fives are well aware that players ‘grind for years and never make the final table’. The variance is so high that it’s the reason never to give up. Anyone can win it.   “If you’re investing in Team Pocket Fives, you’re investing in Remko and I. We’re the brain trust. Similar to if you’re backing me in a poker tournament, you invest in me and take a leap of faith with your dollars. Remko and I lean on our expertise. We have been in the industry and have a good feel for the WSOP, we’re there every single day and have studied these players over the years.”   [caption id="attachment_638190" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Who'll pick the best team when Daniel Negreanu hosts the $25k Fantasy Draft at the PokerGO Studio at ARIA?[/caption] Fireworks Guaranteed   The $25k Fantasy Draft will be presented by Daniel Negreanu on May 30th and looks set to be held on a live stream on PokerGO too, with a live auctioneer of Tim Duckworth and an electric atmosphere in the room. With huge money on the line and poker heroes captaining many teams, Rinkema explains it can be nerve-wracking for debutants.   “It is one thing betting on fantasy football sitting behind your computer, but quite another being in a room where Daniel Negreanu bids $73 for Stephen Chidwick and I raise my hand and shout ‘$75!’ It’s quite the vibe that you’re stepping into.”   Rinkema explains that team cohesion is everything on the night when the lights are on the teams and marginal decisions need to be made. Whatever the team’s spending limit on players before the auction can change in a second if a big name goes for cheap or sleeper picks gather traction.   “It’s a really cool atmosphere,” says Rinkema. “It’s for the true hardcore. If you’re a podcast fan and love the WSOP, it’s the coolest thing ever. If you’re a true fan of the game, it’s ‘can’t miss’ content and provides an amazing sweat during the WSOP.”   Peters admits that every year, walking into the room for the Draft sends a shiver down his spine.   “You’re going up against a lot of people in the industry and you want to do well. You walk in there and its game day you got your stats, you’ve done your research, but every year people are winging it! They want to borrow your computer it’s like ‘No, you should have done your own research!’ If players don’t go for as many dollars as they think they’re worth, they go crazy."   Peters says the pair get messages from players thanking them for being drafted and promising how hard they’ll try. Not everyone ends the draft delighted with proceedings, though.   "One year Phil Hellmuth went for fourth or fifth most expensive player," recalls Peters. "Obviously, he’s the most decorated WSOP player of all time. He lost his mind that he wasn’t the most expensive player drafted that year!”   [caption id="attachment_638191" align="aligncenter" width="857"] Walking through the famous PokerGO studio doors is inspiring and daunting on Draft night.[/caption] Talking Tactics   "We know when well-known players are looking to play." ~ Brent Hanks   When it comes to individual players, how does each team decide who goes for who? In every case, the process is different, only adding to the variance across the board.   “We both have endless contact information for domestic and international players alike,” says Hanks about his and Platt’s tactics. “We know the sort of volume that goes under the radar and when well-known players are looking to play.”   This isn’t always foolproof, as Rinkema reminds us. It’s not always about the quality of the player.   “I would love to have Jeremy Ausmus on our team every year, but I have a feeling he’ll be one of the highest-priced players bid on. He plays a lot of tournaments, he’s extremely good looking; these factors are important.”   Others won’t be playing a full series, as Rinkema reveals to everyone who reads this.   “Darren Elias, I know without asking him, always takes a break to fly back to the East Coast to hang out with his family. We don’t want those family men on our team. We want dedicated grinders who do not leave the parameter of the valleys and lock in to play every single tournament. Jeremy Ausmus, by the way, big time family man.”   Rinkema has already been sharking Twitter for new names and admits to having found ‘a couple of gems’ in the hunt for a great value breakout player.   “Jason Mercier is a really good example,” says Peters. “He was crushing this thing for so long but, from 2018, hasn’t really played, so you have to find the next people who are coming up. Hanks can’t contain his excitement about the next two months on and off the felt.   “The 25k Fantasy Draft is something that Jeff and I absolutely had to be a part of,” he gushes. “It’s the perfect fit for No Gamble, No Future and what we’re trying to create for our show and brand.” “Yeah, Brent and I have been discussing innovative ways to relaunch No Gamble, No Future,” agrees Platt. “Having a $25k WSOP fantasy team is the perfect complementary piece to that puzzle.” A Rowdy Rail is Guaranteed   "Our virtual rail will only be topped by Brent’s in-person antics when one of our players makes a final table." ~ Jeff Platt   Part of the fun for Pocket Fives investors or players on each team is the guaranteed entertainment that either participation or investment in either Team Pocket Fives or Team No Gamble, No Future brings.   “Our virtual rail will only be topped by Brent’s in-person antics when one of our players makes a final table,” laughs Platt in a reference to the last time Hanks and Platt lit up Twitter after the latter ran very deep at the World Series. “We’ll have so many social media updates so that rail can really feel like they have a good sweat. We plan to feature short interviews with our squad, and love looking at our best sweats throughout the course of the WSOP.”   “Players on our team are going to get our undying support for the duration of the WSOP,” says Peters. “We’ll do almost daily podcasts from Bally’s and Paris, the podcast has nine topics going to every show with nine players on our team. It’s going to generate some major content.   Brent Hanks couldn’t agree more and is determined to bring the same party mood that he did last year to every step of the $25k Fantasy Draft.   “Not only do we absolutely love being a part of this experience, we also know our fans will have a blast alongside us. Not only will this be a fun sweat, but we fully expect to win the damn thing! When our horses make a final table, we guarantee a wild rail as we cheer our team on.”   The last word goes to Rinkema before each of the four go back to their spreadsheets, social media messages and other contacts to continue work on building the perfect $25k Fantasy Draft.   “It’s the most fun content to do during the WSOP,” he says. “There are sweats, players going deep, and having a little skin in the game every morning when you wake up to see how your team is doing is a fun way to make the WSOP even more exciting.”   The $25k Fantasy Draft takes place in less than a fortnight. Before then, you can invest in both teams right here:   https://twitter.com/golferjosh/status/1526657824532701184
  3. The notion of a poker hand representing a poker player is not a new one. For decades, ten-deuce has been known as the ‘Texas Dolly’. So-called after Doyle Brunson, the hand struck notoriety thanks to being the winning hand in back-to-back World Series of Poker Main Events in 1976 and 1977. Last week, Phil Hellmuth’s queen-four call for his tournament life - and subsequent suck-out success - went viral. Playing against Alex Foxen in the 2022 U.S. Poker Open, the so-called ‘Poker Brat’ become associated with the hole cards around the world... but how long will that last? From Will Smith-related memes to Hellmuth’s own reaction to the hand, how has a week in the spotlight given queen-four off the unlikeliest of popularity boosts? The Hand Takes Place Whichever way you look at it, Alex Foxen and Phil Hellmuth played out one of the most virally viewed poker hands in history on PokerGO during the 2022 U.S. Poker Open. With both men in the running for not only the Event title but the leaderboard victory at that stage, Foxen saw Hellmuth’s three-bet and four-bet enough to set the Poker Brat all in with a call. Hellmuth weighed things up as co-commentator Brent Hanks, working alongside Jeff Platt in the PokerGO booth, stated what every viewer was feeling. “This a guy who can dodge bullets but can’t get away from queen-four? I am shocked that he’s taking time making this decision. It is not a decision.” It was, however, and as Hellmuth declared ‘I guess I better play to win.” He put in his remaining chips, deciding not to leave himself with nine big blinds. Of course, a queen came on the flop and to add insult to injury, another queen on the river gave Hellmuth the crucial double-up. No nines arrived across the board left Foxen perplexed, and he shot a look of wonderment slowly around the PokerGO Studio. “What did we just witness? What the heck was that?” said Hanks. The whole world was about to provide a different answer to that question. Poker Twitter Blows Up No sooner had the hand played out were PokerGO themselves sharing what has become one of the most popular poker hands in living memory for people to watch. Quotes, retweets, likes and engagements alone sent the hand around the globe faster than you could locate your push-fold charts to prove the call 'wrong'. https://twitter.com/PokerGO/status/1507474159030321155 Some of the comments on Poker Twitter have predictably been brilliant. “I swear the next time I'm dealt a [queen-four], I am shoving my chips in,” said one Poker Brat fan. “Instead of calling for my 'one time' I will announce ‘For Phil!’”. Many Hellmuth supporters came out in defense not only of their man but the hand itself. “I secretly love [queen-four],” one said. “It's my oddball hand.” Another represented many dozens with their assertion that: “From here on out, the queen-four will be known as ‘The Hellmuth’ or ‘The Brat’ People will be playing it like the [seven-deuce] game. Poker rooms across America will be talking about the hand!” They already were. The Memes Take Over From the moment the clip was shot out of the PokerGO social media cannon, the poker circus that exists online was in raptures. Max Pescatori hinted that an element of jealousy would waft through high roller games everywhere https://twitter.com/maxpescatori/status/1507533575054409733 Hellmuth himself shared the effect that the internet had enjoyed having on queen-four. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1507669423636692997 Plenty of fans were on Hellmuth’s side, and more than happy to show this runaway train of a meme subject would not be stopped by anything in its way. https://twitter.com/FPLFledgling/status/1507831077762736128 When Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Poker Twitter moved at speed to appropriate the action to Hellmuth’s hand. https://twitter.com/jsmith84poker/status/1508287597067468804 While intelligent debate was thin on the ground, that didn’t mean the very best couldn’t parody it, and Phil Galfond’s post was a thing of beauty and a joy forever. https://twitter.com/PhilGalfond/status/1507837664216567808 Hellmuth even shared an amended hand ranking chart, giving new power to this craziest of calling hands. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1507667976891166720 Could ‘The Hellmuth’ Stand the Test of Time? One fan’s assertion that Johnny Chan could have prevented Hellmuth winning his iconic WSOP Main Event in 1989 really set the controls of the out of control juggernaut to ‘crazy’. “Your 1989 WSOP win showed up on my YouTube feed today,” they said. “Funny thing is if he played [queen-four] against your [pocket nines] he would have won. I think there's something magical about your hand.” Magical or not, Hellmuth didn’t win either the USPO event or any other event with the hand in question. So can it really stand the test of time? Eager to show that it might, the Poker Brat was on the road to a meet up game later in the week, and what would his first hand be? You’ve guessed it. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1509035404581736452 There’s a 'Queen-Four' Facebook group, and before long, you just know there will be t-shirts. If the hand catches on at the World Series, then the memes will all come out for a second airing. Hellmuth himself, as is so often the case, seems in charge of the hand’s destiny. Doyle Brunson played ten-deuce in not one but two vital spots. Both times he won a WSOP Main Event as a direct result, but while Hellmuth may not have the opportunity to do so, what the Poker Brat has in 2022 is a much more powerful media machine to feed. If Phil Hellmuth makes a final table at the 2022 World Series of Poker, then the Poker Brat will be waiting for two hole cards in particular to go crazy with on a live stream. Setting aside the value he’s stacking up by less experienced hopefuls presuming he is playing queen-four along the way, Hellmuth should absolutely play it under the lights. If queen-four makes it to mainstream television, we might never hear the last of a hand that is living in the moment for far longer than anyone gave it the chance of doing. All in? You'd better believe it.
  4. Today, Daniel Negreanu is known as one of the most popular players in poker, a de facto spokesperson for many in the game. Known as ‘Kid Poker’, Negreanu has appeared in movies, televised poker games, podcasts, radio shows and live streams and played at the top table for over 20 years. With hundreds of thousands of followers on his social media channels alone, Negreanu is perhaps the most popular mainstream player poker has seen. Back in 1999, Negreanu was a comparative unknown. Identified as ‘Kid’ - “not 'The Kid', that was Stu Ungar’s moniker” - the Canadian was a young man who was starting to become successful. Despite this, he had never played poker on television, so when he sat down at the final of the U.S. Poker Championship in Atlantic City, it was his first time playing under the glare of television lighting. Some hands give a poker player the confidence to walk that little bit taller. Heads up with John Bonetti, Daniel ‘Kid Poker’ Negreanu was about to play the hand that would change his life. The Young Buck Rises Through the Herd "I knew of John Bonetti; he was a big star at the time." Back in December 1999, while the world was petrified of Y2K and just a fortnight away from a new millennium, Negreanu was ploughing through the field in the U.S. Poker Championship. A year earlier, Negreanu had played events at Foxwoods, in Atlantic City and in Las Vegas leading up to the WSOP where he won his bracelet. Now was the big one - a first TV appearance at a final table. “I was making a name for myself,” he describes. “In 1999, capping that off with a televised final, I went from the young rookie to the established threat, a real pro on the tour." There wasn’t the wall-to-wall poker coverage in 1999 that there is today. Other than Cardplayer Magazine and the odd ESPN appearance, players only had forums that were in their infancy with which to spread the word about their skills. It made the biggest tournaments all the more important. There were only two $10k buy-ins - the WSOP Main Event and the U.S. Poker Championship. Making it all the way to the final two, Negreanu was taking on someone he considered something of a mentor. “I was 25 years old, a young buck on the scene,” says Negreanu. “I was travelling the poker circuit and knew of John Bonetti; he was a big star at the time. I took a liking to him. He had a mafia vibe, but he was a jokester, always having fun.” It was Negreanu’s first time on television, and he looked the part. Introduced to the poker world on ESPN, he was wearing what he called his ‘Andre Agassi tracksuit’ and topped off the look with an earring and Nike hat. That was very much Negreanu’s self-styled image back in the 20th century. “I always wore a tracksuit for tournaments, and I got a little fanny pack for all my money and stuff. I had my cash, wallet, room keys, poker notes, results - it was before cell phones were a thing! I was oddly really comfortable immediately on camera. When I was a little kid, I always wanted to be an actor. I didn’t feel nervous. I remember that being strange." The Protégé Takes on The Master “I talked about taking big risks. This was an opportunity [where] I can win - I’m drawing live.” Thanks to his first bracelet win in 1998, Negreanu had made his name among his poker peers already but winning a huge tournament on TV would mark a major breakthrough. The final table went well, Negreanu eliminating third-placed Jason Viriyayuthakorn to send play heads-up. Against Bonetti, however, things weren’t going to plan. “We got heads up and I started to feel like the underdog against him. I felt like he was playing better than I was. Sometimes you can just tell; the guy was winning all the pots in the trenches, digging out these situation shots, I was getting outplayed. I made a strategy shift. I understood that if I wanted to win, I’d have to take some risks.” Pre-flop: Daniel Negreanu: [poker card="Qs"] [poker card="9s"] John Bonetti: [poker card="Ac"] [poker card="Tc"] Negreanu raised the button with his suited cards and Bonetti called with ace-ten. Flop: [poker card="Ts"][poker card="5s"][poker card="3c"] “I bet the flop, he shoved and I relaxed that in that moment.” Negreanu was a 45% shot to win the hand with two cards to come, so it was a huge decision for his stack. But of course, he didn’t know that. It was at that moment that Kid Poker had to have a conversation with himself about that change of strategy. Such alterations are easy in theory, but it always comes down to whether you can commit the chips to the decision. “I talked about taking big risks,” Negreanu smiles. “This was an opportunity that no matter what he has I can win - I’m drawing live. I called. We were basically even in chips, he had three or four big blinds left [over].” Turn: [poker card="Ah"] Suddenly, Negreanu went from near a coinflip to being a worse than 4:1 dog in the hand. It’s easy to presume that any emotions Negreanu felt at the time were heightened due to his age, but that’s not the case. “I have them even more now!” he laughs. “The turn was the ace of hearts [made me] little anxious, like ‘Oh sh**, did I screw up? He turned aces and tens.... then I hit a spade.” River: [poker card="8s"] On seeing the fifth spade to complete his flush slide into the river position on the felt, Negreanu stood quickly, turning to his opponent, whose face fell. In that instant, it is as if the jovial, chatty nature of Bonetti is transferred like a baton between relay runners. The passing of the torch. “I busted him on the very next hand,” says Negreanu. I still have the check (pictured below), it’s on my wall. After I got that money, I jumped right into an $800/$1,600 game. This is before wiring money. I won some more and on the way home, I’m carrying the check, while in my bag was a pile of laundry and under that, all the money. I’m going back to Vegas literally advertising what I’d won.” [caption id="attachment_638113" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Daniel Negreanu's famous winners check for winning the 1999 U.S. Poker Championship still takes pride of place in his home. (courtesy of Daniel Negreanu).[/caption] Life Is Never the Same “I didn’t care about money that much, back then, or now, or ever.” That hand didn’t just change Negreanu’s life. It changed Negreanu. Unafraid of strolling through the airport with a bag full of dollars for a journey back home, life was never going to be the same again. His old life simply didn’t exist to return to. “It put me front and center in the poker world,” he tells us. “When you win a big buy-in tournament with a $210,000 top prize... that was a lot of money back then. It brought me more into the mainstream. I started to write for Cardplayer as a result and became a voice in the game. I didn’t care about money that much, back then, or now, or ever. I just enjoyed winning. I’ve always felt, if anyone ever took the money, it would be fine. I’d just win more anyway.” Negreanu says he has 'never thought' about what might have happened if Bonetti's two-pair held and he came second, but the Canadian certainly had his fair share of moments that didn’t go right. "The year Carlos Mortensen won the [WSOP] Main Event, I came 11th and was chipleader with 12 left, losing a key hand. If I’d won that hand, who knows? But everything seemed to work out pretty good.” To say the least, that is an understatement. Daniel Negreanu, the most well-known poker face on the planet for the last two decades sits third on the all-time money list. On losing or painful moments, Negreanu is philosophical. “Any time you have a breakdown in life, it’s an opportunity for a breakthrough. Going broke or having traumatic losses drives me to be better. Just in the last couple of years, I went through - from a luck perspective in all-ins - the worst period in my career. It’s been really difficult. My wife always says I’m resilient.” Winning at Life “I got the wife I always wanted, I have the life I always wanted.” Negreanu is a major part of poker history but you get the impression that he hasn’t lived in the past for one day in his life. His passion for the game of poker is rooted in tournaments thanks to his formative years. “Cash games are a job; you punch in, punch out, you win money, but there’s no leaderboard, no point to it,” he says. “Ever since I was a child, I created my own tournaments. I created leaderboards with my wrestlers. I’d create a bracket of 16 of them, roll a die and keep track. The guy who won the tournament got 50 points, second place got 40, I’d keep a record. My Mom would be like ‘What are all these papers?’. Today, that love of playing with a leaderboard in mind is part of what brings Negreanu back to the table. “I just played the U.S. Poker Open because there was a Player of the Series award,” he says. “What PokerGO is doing in the studio is really fun; they create a system so that by the last event, which is worth a lot more, a whole bunch of people are in the running. That’s what gets me to go. That’s why the World Series of Poker is the most fun for me.” Negreanu admits that he has changed hugely in the last two decades, not just in how he behaves, but in his own perception of himself, and how much he cares. “In your twenties, you definitely care what other people think. No doubt, it matters. In your thirties, you care but a little bit less. You realise not everyone is going to like you. In my forties, I give zero f***s. I got the wife I always wanted, I have the life I always wanted. I am the authentic version of myself. I always had a cinematic view of things and how to sell it, but as you get older you realise that what sells is authenticity.” The life and soul of the table in 1999 was a man called John Bonetti, who sadly passed away in 2008. In the penultimate hand of the U.S. Poker Championship, Bonetti’s enthusiasm for the game was infectious and you can see how his flair rubbed off on the ‘Kid’ sitting opposite him at the felt. You can watch the hand that changed Daniel Negreanu’s life right here: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_U_lRqEJHI[/embed]  
  5. In the first of a new feature series on Pocket Fives, we look back at a pivotal poker hand during the career of some of the best players on the planet. This week, four-time World Poker Tour Main Event winner Darren Elias casts his eye back on a crucial hand that led to him winning the WPT Borgata Open, where he won a huge pot from the chip leader at the time, Kane Kalas. The hand in question came at a final table that would prove to be the setting for Elias’ first major tournament poker title. Back in September of 2014, Elias was one of 1,226 entries in the $3,500 WPT Borgata Open Championship. With a prize pool guaranteed at $3 million and eventually reaching over $4 million, Elias went into the hand in question behind only Kalas as the top two had a clear lead over the field. It would be a hand between the two that would change the course of poker history and in particular that of Elias. Before the hand took place, Elias was well aware of the threat that Kalas posed. “I’d played with Kane in one other tournament before,” says Elias. “That Borgata Open was a six-day marathon, so I had played with him for a couple of days and recognized him as a competent player and someone who knew what was going on. He’d identified the dynamics with ICM where we’re playing for a lot of money with big pay jumps and he was playing well with the chip lead.” Kalas may have had the lead, but the hand in question was about to change all that. Pre-flop: Darren Elias: [poker card="Qh"][poker card="6h"] Kane Kalas: [poker card="Th"][poker card="4h"] Flushing From the Flop As Elias describes, Kalas, who had entered the final table with 14 million chips, miles clear of Elias in second place with 8 million, had a huge lead over the rest of the field. Starting out with roughly half the chips in play gave Kalas the ability to raise with a very wide range of hands to put pressure on every player. That was going through Elias’ mind when Kalas raised from the small blind with Elias in the big. “There are all kinds of ICM dynamics where he’s trying to pressure me in the blinds and I called pre-flop with my suited hand in position knowing that he’s going to be very wide,” says Elias. Flop: [poker card="Kh"][poker card="5c"][poker card="2h"] That flop gave both players a flush draw, but Kalas had two hearts that were ten-high, with Elias holding a queen-high flush draw, with the king one of two hearts on the flop. At that point, Kalas c-bet a million chips into a pot of 1.35m and Elias just called, making the pot now 3.35m. “I still put him on a very wide range,” says Elias of his thoughts at that point. I think he’s c-betting with almost his entire range.” Both men give each other a long look at this point, but Elias explains that he wasn’t necessarily going for a ‘staredown’. “I’m trying to get all the information I can, but at the highest level, these players are pretty well adjusted at guarding themselves against tells,” he confesses. Despite admitting that ‘I’m always looking to see if there’s something I can pick up’, in reality, the magnitude of the moment was prevalent at that stage. “It’s a big final table; I’m focusing and trying my hardest. It looks like I’m staring intensely, but I’m just trying to play my game.” [caption id="attachment_638090" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Darren Elias (front right) playing for the biggest top prize of his poker career to date.[/caption] Drawing on the Heart "I want to give him the rope to bluff if he has the naked ace of hearts." Turn: [poker card="8h"] When the flush draw came in on the turn, Elias didn’t put his opponent on a flush. “This is going to be great for Darren Elias; I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t double-up here.” Said the late Mike Sexton, legendary former WPT Main Event winner and a cornerstone of the brand’s on-screen coverage for many years. Darren Elias, however, had a lot to do to make sure he got full value on the hand. “I put him on a lot of bluffs that contain one heart, maybe some top pair type hands, but he’d probably slow down. He is most likely bluffing or has a flush or very strong hand when he bets the turn.” Elias remembers the moment on the turn specifically very clearly and says he ‘never’ wants to be bluffing that spot. “It’s an ICM nightmare to shove and I want to give him the rope to bluff if, say, he has the naked ace of hearts. We want to give him that chance to hang himself on the river. If I do shove that turn, I probably always have the nuts and I’m unbalanced. My hand might seem vulnerable if a heart comes, but I still feel pretty safe on the turn with one to come to be trapping.” Kalas bet 1.7 million and Elias called. River: [poker card="Tc"] With the made flush, Elias obviously wanted Kalas to shove the river, which he did. That’s a function of what Elias would want with his range, not just the hand he had. “If I had a king, I should never shove the turn. If I’m to shove the turn with my flushes there, it decapitates my range where I don’t have a lot of strong hands on the river.” Kalas shoved, Elias called and the New Jersey man took the pot and grabbed the lead in the process. With first place worth over $840,000 and second place paying $500,000, it was a vital pot in terms of equity. “You’re a bit handcuffed when there are two big stacks and you’re in second. That flipped the stacks, now I’m in first and there are a lot of other smaller stacks. It really shifts the table dynamics opened up the table, I’m able to open more bet more, pressure more.” The Mistakes That Stay With Champions "When I’ve made an error, it’ll bother me for months or even years." Elias went on to win, of course, and his landmark win at what he considered his home casino was his first major tournament victory. “I had my whole family there which was great,” he tells us. “My fiancée at the time was there, so was my Dad, and we went over to a bar and had a few too many beverages. Something like that gives you confidence in being able to execute on a big stage. That’s always something on my mind, being able to execute in big spots.” Elias clearly enjoyed a mental boost by making his moment in the spotlight count and has gone on to win three more WPT Main Events, a feat that has not been equalled by any player at the time of going to press. Despite that, the now four-time WPT champion confesses that the mistakes he has made in tournaments ‘eat me up’ far more than any victories might linger in the memory. [caption id="attachment_638091" align="alignright" width="650"] Darren Elias stares down Kane Kalas on his way to toppling the overnight chip leader on the home straight.[/caption] “Any time I get to major spots at a big final table, you don’t get the opportunity to play these high stakes games against those sorts of players too often. When I’ve made an error, it’ll bother me for months or even years. To be a professional poker player, you have to be tough on yourself and identify mistakes and make changes going forward, but at some point, you have to forgive yourself and move forward. You walk a fine line.” The win represented a huge return on Elias’ investment at the time. Costing $3,500 to enter the event, the man who was born in Boston and raised in Erie, Pennsylavania had almost all of his own action, so took home the majority of his $843,744 top prize. It didn’t change which tournaments Elias played, but it allowed him to have bigger pieces of himself in $25k and $100k high rollers. “You always want to have a pulse on how you’re doing with your bankroll and adjust your pieces accordingly, taking bigger shots when you’re doing well, so it definitely helped in that regard.” The hand that changed Darren Elias’ life may have been something of a cooler but it was worth a lot of money and propelled him to win that first major title. “It was worth a lot to me in my career,” he admits. “I’m not sitting around thinking about the hand, but I can go back to that vivid memory. I’m always looking forward to the next tournament. Most of the time, it’s the ones where I made mistakes that stick with me more than the flush over flush cooler for all the money!” Elias will continue to play WPT events and says he’ll wait for his career to be over before he even considers his legacy. He has other achievements to accomplish in poker in the years to come, including winning a WSOP bracelet, something he has never done. We wonder if he’s happy being among the best players never to win a bracelet. “I’d like to win a bracelet,” says Elias. “It’s that list you want to be on but don’t want to be on. The World Series can be tough for me with a family, I can’t be out there for two months. I usually go back and forth and play a dozen events, especially the $10,000 2-7 single draw - it’s one of my favourite events. It doesn’t get a ton of players and I’ve got third twice. That’s probably my best shot at a bracelet. Eventually, I’ll break through at the World Series!” It seems like only a matter of time before Darren Elias’ next big victory on the world stage. The man whose mistakes drive him on will always enjoy the memory of that infamous flush over flush cooler that pushed him forward in his career. You can buy some of Darren Elias' action in the $50,000-entry Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on April 6th. Watch the hand that changed Darren Elias' life right here: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8OkgXhxLA0[/embed] You can buy some of Darren Elias' action in the $50,000-entry Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on April 6th.
  6. Back in 2009, the youngest player to win the World Series of Poker Main Event triumphed on the biggest stage of all. Beating the logger and amateur poker player Darvin Moon to the title, 21-year-old Joe Cada captured the imagination of the poker world as he won over $8.5 million and the title of world champion. It was undoubtedly a monumental moment in the career of the now four-time WSOP bracelet winner, but more than that, it was the hand that changed Joe Cada’s life. The Teenage Busboy A year before the poker world changed and Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event, Joe Cada lived back in Michigan, where he was brought up and still resides. Aged 14, he was a bus-boy in restaurants, earning $15 an hour with tips. It gave him an early discipline and as the ‘super shy kid’ grew up, he found poker online. “I had mental health issues growing up as a teenager,” admits Cada. “I was a depressed kid and kept to myself. Poker was my outlet and it really opened me up as a person.” Depositing for the first time, Cada was only allowed to put down $50 on the site. He told his Mom that instead of heading out to parties and drinking, he saw this as his form of entertainment, a budget akin to heading to the cinema. “It was my $50 and I had a job. I'd started working at a really early age. I asked her to have trust in me that this wasn’t going to be a problem. Telling your Mom that you’re going to gamble online at a very young age especially when they’ve seen people go through struggles. I was lucky that my Mom trusted me.” Cada was given the go-ahead to play online and immediately treated poker very seriously. Within six months of that first deposit, he’d turned it into hundreds of thousands. A Piece of the Action “If you’d stayed in the league and won, we would have had a piece of you!” Cada knew he was going to play at the 2009 World Series of Poker when he was 18 years old in 2006 as Jamie Gold scooped up the $12 million top prize. Three years later, the young man had quit his job, moved into his own home and had one question - how much of his own action to take on. “I had a ton of success on Full Tilt Poker, winning almost every major, and was probably in profit by $550,000-$600,000. That gave notice to ‘Johnny Bax’, who went through the numbers.” Cliff Josephy, otherwise known as the aforementioned ‘Johnny Bax’, bought half of Cada’s action, but as Cada tells us, he very nearly gave half of his Main Event action away before he even arrived in Vegas. “My brother’s buddy got me to join this league back in 2009. After the first few tournaments, I was overall first. It was a 50/50 split if you won; you played for half of it and the rest of the league split the other 50%. I stopped going and played bigger, it was more a thing to get together with friends. I didn’t take the league that seriously. I ended up going out there and winning it! They were a little bitter, like ‘If you’d stayed in the league and won, we would have had a piece of you!’” Everyone around his home town knew of Cada’s success at the game and expectations were thought the roof, apart from his own. “I wasn’t as optimistic,” he laughs. “I knew what tournaments were like and thought I may win the Main Event one in 1,000 shots.” Cada travelled to Vegas and felt the responsible thing to do was to give back and accept Josephy’s offer. “At the World Series alone, the variance is a lot. I could afford it, but it would have been a big hit. I felt like if I won, what was the difference between $8m and $4m. It was never a concern to me. I always treated poker with a big responsibility and never put my back against the wall.” During the World Series, Cada went out to eat with Josephy and a bunch of other players. “He singled me out, saying something like ‘Hey Joe, you better win something otherwise we’re in for a bunch of money, I got the most faith in you of anyone here.’ I couldn’t believe he said that out loud. I’d been with him a month leading up to that event. He really is a legend.” The Hand That Made Poker History “I thought he had pocket queens - it was hard to see across the table.” As Cada made his way through to the final table, he took all before him. All except a logger called Darvin Moon. “Before the final started, he said something I’ll never forget. He said he didn’t want to take last place, but he didn’t want to take first place either. He didn’t want the million-dollar sponsorship deal with PokerStars and that resonated me in a way. He didn’t want the attention and it felt like he played the heads up like he didn’t care if he lost.” Cada had played with Darvin for a few days leading up to that final table. His mental notes were to play very fundamentally and let his opponent make mistakes, not getting too tricky or three-betting light. Heading into the final duel, Cada was confident of victory. He puts that down to the fortune he’d enjoyed in reaching that stage, combined with his experience with playing heads-up at the time, and the 2:1 chip lead he began the final battle with. “I couldn’t have been more wrong. I played the heads-up match like it was a cheap sit ‘n’ go and I didn’t make the adjustments I would normally make. Starting our match, he outplayed me, bloating the pots real big and putting me in tough spots. Before I knew it, he was a 2:1 chip leader.” Cada fought his way back into contention and before the final hand took place, felt like he had the momentum, having worked a deficit of 2:1 into a similar chip lead. With all the money piled on the table in bricks of dollars, Cada felt Moon wasn’t in it to play a long game. Pre-flop: Joe Cada: [poker card="9d"][poker card="9c"] Darvin Moon: [poker card="Qd"][poker card="Jd"] “When I opened nines on the button and he re-raised me, I thought it was the aggression factor. Nines is a good hand heads-up. I made it 3 million and he made it 8 million. He’s playing about 60 million effective. I could call, but nines are very exposed and there could be overcards and you could be guessing. If he folds, he chips down a bunch, I chip up. It’s more hand protection.” Darvin Moon was going nowhere and made the call. When he did so, he surprised Cada. “I thought he was going to fold,” he says. “Once he called quickly, I thought he had pocket queens - it was hard to see across the table. It took me a second to realise that he had called with queen-jack. If you wait for a better spot, sometimes you can blind down and never get that shot.” As the famous commentary from Lon McEachern declared: “Phil Hellmuth’s record as youngest Main Event champion stood for 19 years. Peter Eastgate’s record could be wiped out in one.” Flop: [poker card="8c"][poker card="2c"][poker card="7s"] As the flop fell, Cada jumped out of his seat, and was enveloped by his support group on the rail, with Josephy front and center. Darvin Moon was the polar opposite, stoic in his seat with his gigantic arms folded across his barrel chest. Josephy told Cada ‘Relax, relax’ as Cada’s supporters chanted ‘Joey, Joey’ around the Thunderdome. Turn: [poker card="Kh"] Cada was one card away and Josephy told him that he was going to be the ‘Main Event champion’. Cada was overwhelmed. “Poker was my career and that spot was a cumulation of the whole build-up, thinking ‘It can be all over, I don’t have to stress any more’. But Moon looked the opposite of bothered. “He didn’t care. He was so happy, we both were. I didn’t like attention but nor did he.” Time seemed to stand still. As Cada’s rail leaned closer to the table, the river card confirmed victory. River: [poker card="7c"] Sharing an exultant moment in the face of Josephy, Cada’s rail jumped towards him, but overcome with relief, Cada pulled away, wanting to speak with Moon instead while his supporters went wild in the stand. [caption id="attachment_638137" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Joe Cada's moment of glory under the lights at the Rio will live in WSOP fans memories forever.[/caption] The Late, Great Darvin Moon “He was a champion in everyone’s eyes.” Approaching Moon, Cada embraced him and congratulated him on how he played. “I felt he deserved to be where he was at.” Says Cada of his heads-up opponent in 2009. “It’s a tough moment for anyone to come that close. I put myself in his shoes for a second and realised the tournament wasn’t all about me or him. I never want to be the person celebrating in someone’s face. It’s hard not to get excited at that time, but that’s not who I was as a person, and I wanted to pay respect to Darvin. “You played a hell of a match, seriously, all the props in the world.” Said Cada to his opponent. Moon hugged him and raised the arm of the new world champion, still the youngest ever to achieve it. Cada let Moon hail his victory, but when his arm was released, grabbed Moon’s arm and raised it aloft too. When we ask him why, there is a moment’s pause. “He was a champion in everyone’s eyes, so he deserved to have his hand raised too.” Says Cada simply. Moon, tragically, passed away in September 2020 after complications following surgery. He was just 56 years old. “It’s super sad,” says Cada. “It’s so tragic. I went out with him a few times after the [Main Event]. We did this thing in Pittsburgh for Poker Night in America and after the streamed session, we went out to a Penguins game, got to go out on the ice and went drinking. He was a super friendly, nice guy. It was hard to hear about the surgery and the complications and how awful it was.” After Moon’s tragic death, Cada admits to feeling lost at what to do, not knowing the right way to reach out to his family or even knowing how to do so. He felt sad about his one-time opponent’s passing and wishes he’d paid his respects at the time. [caption id="attachment_638140" align="aligncenter" width="1158"] Darvin Moon (left) was just as much of a champion in Joe Cada's eyes (right).[/caption] A Lifetime of Change “I didn’t play poker to get rich, I played it to have fun and compete.” After winning the Main Event, Cada felt that it hindered his ability. Before it, he had worked all hours studying and playing the game. That all changed after November 2009. “I was battling every day non-stop. After winning it, though, the greatest thing it gave me was a sense of balance. I realized I didn’t have to play 90-100 hours a week, I wanted to see the world.” If you asked anyone about Joe Cada before the 2009 Main Event, Cada admits they’d have called him ‘The quietest kid in the world’. Now, he is approached by strangers and has spoken about the game on TV. “From when I was 21 compared to now, I’m a much better poker player, but I don’t feel as confident playing the biggest games now. When I was a kid, I was willing to play anyone for any stakes. I don’t have that same mindset now. I don’t want to risk what I have or get in over my head chasing giant buy-ins. I can play the stakes I like and be comfortable the rest of my life.” Cada regularly takes long breaks from poker, a month or two away from anything to do with the game. But then he’ll jump back in and loves the competitive edge the game provides him. While he’s played in high roller events, he prefers the social elements that more accessible tournaments provide. “I love meeting all sorts of different people, and I’ve always had fun with poker. I’ve realized that when it stops being fun, I’m not in the right spot. With the WSOP launching online in Michigan, it’s really become fun again. That’s what poker has always been to me. I didn’t play poker to get rich, I played it to have fun and compete.” Cada achieved both when he won the biggest tournament in poker 13 years ago. The World Series has since left the Rio, and this year, thousands more poker players will take on the greatest Main Event in the world at Bally’s and Paris on the Las Vegas Strip, many of trying to eclipse Cada as the youngest-ever winner. Cada says he hopes to spend time in the broadcasting booth this summer and at WSOP events in the future. This year, as every year, however, he’ll be back in Vegas playing the tournament where he made his name. At multiple stages, a young 21-year-old is bound to tell Cada what he once told Peter Eastgate over a decade ago, that his record as the youngest ever winner is going to be beaten ‘this year’. One day, just like it did for Joe Cada in the hand that changed his life back in 2009, that declaration will be transformed into truth. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SXTois83Xc        
  7. Accusations of cheating, threats to name and shame parties and the possibility of a poker ‘blacklist’ being made public - the Easter weekend was never going to be a quiet one for poker players. This weekend saw Alex Foxen - himself a controversial figure at times in the past two years - openly state that Ali Imsirovic is a ‘known’ cheater on the high stakes elite circuit. In shocking revelations on Twitter, Foxen went into detail about one specific hand in the recent $250,000-entry Super High Roller Series Europe Main Event in Cyprus, then added details of the Bosnian’s alleged use of RTAs in online games. What Did Alex Foxen Accuse of Ali Imsirovic? In an explosive post that went viral in minutes, Foxen’s words about his fellow poker player have shocked many to the core. Seldom has a current elite poker player been so openly accusatory of another who plays in the same nosebleed tournaments or cash games. As a result, the blowback from what Foxen has said is likely to be felt for months. The Twitter thread put out by Foxen covers a specific hand which Foxen believes is proof that Imsirovic is cheating in live poker games. In it, the Bosnian is accused of looking at or in the direction of Paul Phua’s cards at the recent final table in Cyprus. It also alleges irregularities relating to the Bosnian’s play online, stating that he is banned by GGPoker for multi-accounting and using RTA (Real-Time Assistance) during games. “Ali is known as a cheater to almost all in the high roller community.” Foxen says. That sensational opinion, however, is backed up by others in the industry. Here’s the original thread made by Foxen. https://twitter.com/WAFoxen/status/1515900587522637824 Poker Players Line Up to Comment Foxen’s comments could easily come across as inflammatory, especially given the American’s polarizing opinions on vaccines and the COVID-19 pandemic overall. Foxen could be seen as the worst whistleblower to step forward with his reputation among some for being that of a chaos theorist. But his staunch defense of his thoughts on the topic, along with his follow-up that he has 100% proof he is 'unable to release' suggests others agree with him. Ryan Leng said: “I’ve known for a while about high stakes cheating but never been in the position to officially out someone. Long before “Covid” I was hearing rumors of Ali (and others) cheating. These “rumors” were coming from extremely reputable sources.” Jason Wheeler was one player who leapt into the debate to suggest that the time has come for poker to put together an independent ‘advisory board’. “[We] need a group above the sites for it to work. A players council or poker advisory board consisting of players and industry and site exes...almost like a union for the players in a sense. leaving it to each site simply doesn’t work. i.e. [GGPoker] is not one site. It’s a bunch of agents, affiliates and skins. i.e. [you] get banned on one skin under one agent, [you] pop up under new account under another agent/skin. also ban from one site not enough of deterrent to the offenders. still other sites, live venues etc. any framework would need to apply across, so what is realistic?” Wheeler wasn’t the only player who had more questions than answers. Chase Bianchi queried Foxen’s own actions in a final table where he was playing against his then-fiancée and now wife Kristen Foxen (nee Bicknell). Others were happy to put up a popcorn GIF and sit back to watch the fireworks. Ian Simpson, who was a long-term sponsored player for Unibet until recently, expressed his thoughts at agreeing with Foxen. “Nice to be able to agree with someone who I’ve otherwise had some animosity with,” he said. “One potential problem however would be if someone got banned for a nonsense reason, or imagine if someone in poker security had a grudge against someone. They could cause big problems for them.” Radio Silence from Imsirovic While there has, as yet, been no comment at all from the 2021 PGT Player of the Year Ali Imsirovic, others who have been speaking of him for much of the last two years stepped in to comment. PokerGO’s commentary team of Brent Hanks and GPA award winner Jeff Platt have consistently praised Imsirovic for his above the rim plays. But while there is no categorical condemnation of the Bosnian, both men’s replies to the topic do not suggest the claims are entirely baseless. Hanks quipped a reference to his own commentary of Imsirovic in recent years. https://twitter.com/BuffaloHanks/status/1516071518517616648 Jeff Platt credited Foxen for bringing the subject up and announced his disappointment. https://twitter.com/jeffplatt/status/1516087387583045638 He’s not the only one. Justin Bonomo, who has played plenty of High Roller and Super High Roller events over recent years, decided to risk the reactions of poker players by posting a thread on the subject. In it, he says that “someone whose first name starts with the letters ‘Ja’ was the biggest offender online and that he’s been told that “the evidence goes far beyond hand histories and is completely irrefutable.” https://twitter.com/JustinBonomo/status/1516089106987556864   On a subject that clearly has a lot more to it than the surface information already gathered, the initial dive into the murky waters of high stakes poker looks likely to leave few at the rail dry.  
  8. The recent Hustler Casino Live poker stream made stars of non-poker players and showed that even global legends like Phil Hellmuth and Tom Dwan were beatable over a short period of time at a lively table. With online legends such as YouTube sensation 'MrBeast', chess superstar Alexandra Botez and cash game player extraordinaire Alan Keating all taking their seats, it would be easy to fade into the background. One player who was never going to do that, however, was video gaming legend Ninja, a.k.a Tyler Blevins. Hitting the Heights in the Hustler Game “It gave me a lot of confidence and I played better throughout the night.” Sitting down in the $100/$200 no limit hold’em game, the Fortnite legend made a neat profit, running up a return of $144,300, including in this dramatic hand. https://twitter.com/Ninja/status/1521188485406740480 After the event, Blevins told us that the reaction to the hand, via Twitter, Tik Tok and other social media outlets has been incredible. “I haven’t been part of a moment like this for a while!” he said. “I got really lucky that I was next to Hellmuth. He was helping me with some decisions I was making. I almost never called on a draw, and I was proud of myself. He was giving me a lot of positive reinforcement after some of my plays. It gave me a lot of confidence and I played better throughout the night.” After the game, Blevins took to Twitter and offered up the most meme-friendly image of the year so far in poker. https://twitter.com/Ninja/status/1521213789307240449 Hellmuth and Blevins got on like a house on fire and the feeling was mutual as we found out when we reached out to Hellmuth this week. The Poker Brat confirmed to us that the two men will meet up again soon. “We got to talking before we started - he told me about his charity events and I thought it was incredible,” says Blevins. “Then he told me what he was known for. I was like ‘Don’t worry about it man, I blow up all the time too!’ It was a match made in heaven being next to each other.” Ninja's Plan Works Out “I’ve found a new passion because win or lose I was having so much fun.” If the other players expected Blevins to arrive simply hoping to have fun, they would have underestimated the gaming legend. “I was going there to not lose,” he says. “I told my friends I was trying not to be the first one out. In the back of my head, I was like ‘I could win this’. There were players who could throw off Phil, and Alexandra was one of those. Every time that happened, I thought I could do well if I got reads on people and played smart.” It turned out that Blevins did exactly that. Winning six figures, he may have fallen slightly short of the $400,000 in profits that both Botez and Jimmy ‘MrBeast’ Donaldson took home, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless. “Keating and Mr. Beast were going all-in [a lot]. I was sitting there thinking ‘One of these guys is going to bluff me.’ If I played an elite table of eight or nine other players, I’d probably get torn apart, but it would be a learning experience. I’ve found a new passion because win or lose I was having so much fun that night.” [caption id="attachment_638172" align="aligncenter" width="992"] Ninja always wears a smile at the poker table and his personality seems made for the game.[/caption] Blevins and His Background in... Poker? Blevins may be known by his hot-shot Fortnite nickname Ninja, but he actually played poker long before he picked up a game controller and slayed his way to notoriety. When he was a teenager, poker was on TV all the time. The boy who would become probably the most famous gamer in the world idolised Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson among others. However, his early plans to play the game ran into trouble. “We took apart the ping pong table and bought legitimate poker chips,” he laughs. “We’d have $5 or $10 buy-ins with all of our friends. Back in the day, I’d make stupid calls for a straight or flush draw even if it wasn’t open-ended.” Blevins showed none of that naiveté on the Hustler stream, perhaps because of the memories of his first experience playing poker as a youngster. “There was a year or two when I was paying attention and I was never good at it!” he describes. “I was lucky and would always go for the draws. I’d need one club and call 500 chips - you don’t do that! I won one out of ten matches and thought I was good enough. I played online for a bit and got slammed.” Back in the Game "I don’t consider poker gambling." Over a decade may seem like a long time to take a break from the game, especially as it was during that era that poker experienced its biggest period of growth in poker. During that time, Blevins became ‘Ninja’, crushed Fortnite and changed gaming as an industry. Put simply, Ninja is the most popular streamer in history in the most definitive video game of recent times. It’s his competitive edge that he believes has drawn him back to poker. “I’m well off, but I don’t not like losing money,” he admits. “I don’t like gambling that much. I have fun and don’t consider poker gambling. I’m definitely looking forward to playing more now.” Blevins has a renewed passion for the game he moved away from as a youngster. In fact, he is already playing online, but you won’t be seeing his trademark blue hair and wide Detroit smile on any avatar...yet. “I’m going anonymous for now,” he says with a smile. “I’ve already made an account on a poker website and I’m up like $2,500 right now. I bought in for $1,000 and I’m up to $3,500 playing some $10/$20. It’s so cool.” Which Fortnite Players Could Play Poker? [caption id="attachment_638171" align="alignright" width="400"] Ninja has plenty of offers to get right back into the poker action.[/caption] "He probably plays a little bit like Phil Hellmuth." If you watch Fortnite, then you’ll know that Ninja is great friends with many other players on the hugely popular video game. In sheer numbers, Ninja’s followers are in the millions across YouTube and social media channels. His videos have piled up total 2.49 billion views on YouTube alone. But who else from his world could join the poker party? “I think SypherPK and CouRageJD could play,” he says. “I know CouRage plays poker and Sypher is very analytical, although he might be an overthinker. He probably plays a little bit like Phil Hellmuth. I was watching [Hellmuth] all night and I don’t think he got in unless he was sitting very pretty. He was very methodical in the hands he played, and I could pick out a couple of Fortnite players who are like that.” Blevins has had some great feedback from the poker community, with Hellmuth one of many looking for Blevins to bring his ‘Ninja’ skills back to the felt very soon. It very much sounds as if the gaming legend is just as passionate about doing so as his new poker peers. “I’m very content and able to take the experience. I really felt like I did well because of my experience in gaming. Let’s say I’m very happy right now.” Could Ninja play at the World Series of Poker? We wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen, and whether he wins or loses, one thing is guaranteed. The man known as Ninja will always play with a smile on his face.  
  9. Nine years ago, a 22-year-old Michigan State graduate called Ryan Riess won the World Series of Poker Main Event for over $8.3 million. At the time, he was six months out of college, having spent the last months of his studies alternating between poker dealer. Just a few weeks later, the final hand of the 2013 WSOP Main Event saw the Riess' life change forever. Between winning a World Series bankroll with the last money to his name and today, a decade of growth, fatherhood and memories have seen ‘Riess the Beast’ become one of the most well-respected poker players on the planet. This is the story of the hand that changed Ryan Riess’ young life. Coming into the WSOP With Momentum “It was all the money I had to my name. I chopped it three ways and won $270,000.” Having momentum in poker is something that is spoken about often, and it was one of the main contributions to Riess’ success at the Rio nine years ago in November. After graduating in business at Michigan State, Riess decided to play a WSOP Circuit event in Hammond in October 2012. The cost was not only out of his usual bankroll, but everything he had. “It was a $1,675 buy-in and it was all the money I had to my name,” the 2013 world champion told us. “I chopped it three ways and won $270,000. That was my first ever live tournament cash and how my poker career started.” Two months earlier, Riess had started playing poker full-time. After winning some small cashes in tournaments around Los Angeles, Riess took that momentum into a World Series where he played everything he could afford. “I had a bunch of smaller cashes and was about breakeven - expenses are high - then played the Main Event. I sold pieces to family and friends and swapped pieces. I had a little over 50%, which was good. I had a lot of momentum but was still relatively new to tournament poker. I was starting to become friends with people on the circuit; we were all young at the time and learning together.” Kicking off his Main Event on Day1a, Riess had players such as Mike Matusow and T.J. Cloutier at his table. Despite this, he bagged up plenty of chips, more than double that which he started with. “I was very naïve, which was a good thing. I put my head down; I wasn’t following the other tables or live updates and never thought about how much money I was playing for, so was never scared.” Believing He Could Win “Looking back, I don’t think I was the best player in the world.” Riess may have been a long way off from winning, but that was all to change. In the middle period of the Main Event, he admits that he sat on less than 30 big blinds for “two or three days” but a pivotal coinflip went his way when his pocket nines survived against Rep Porter’s suited king-jack. “The atmosphere was electric,” laughs Riess. “Others might have thought I was trying to run the table over, but I wasn’t; I kept getting good hands. If I lose that hand, I have nine big blinds left. I won the flip and that propelled me to having 50 big blinds and I had a lot more flexibility with my stack.” After Riess won the Main Event, he would state that he was ‘the best player in the world’, but he concedes this wasn’t actually the truth. It was more about the belief he needed to have in order to accomplish his dream. “I think in order to win something, you have to believe it before and then work tirelessly,” he says. “Looking back, I don’t think I was the best player in the world. I wasn’t even in the top 1,000. But I truly believed I was at the time and I think that gave me a chance to win. If I didn’t believe I was the best, I probably shouldn’t even have registered the tournament in the first place.” Winning that hand against Porter would see Riess make the final table, but he was far from the chip leader, who was JC Tran. A host of other more experienced pros were at the final table. “Tran was really unlucky at the final table after coming in as the chip leader and not being able to get much going. I thought the best player at the table was Marc Etienne McLaughlin,” says Riess. “He was very good, very aggressive and I tried to bluff him in a hand on TV when I turned two jacks into a bluff and fours spades almost counterfeited his two spades. He eventually got coolered and that gave me energy because I found it hard winning pots against him. David Benefield is a world class player and he got short and was handcuffed, too.” Benefield and Riess were the only two not to wear sponsorship patches at the final table. “I’ve never accepted any sponsorship deal or worn patches. I turned down a lot of money, but I didn’t want them to say you have to do this interview at this time, wear this shirt, do this social media post. I didn’t want anything to cloud my judgement. I thought the responsibility of what I’ve have to do would be greater than the value of what they were offering me. Maybe if I’d worn a patch, I’d have had to have done other stuff, wouldn’t have studied as much and not won.” Taking on Farber for the Win “As a poker player, that’s the dream. It’s the Super Bowl of our sport.” Riess had never played against Jay Farber before that year’s Main Event, nor did he feel they’d played any significant pots against each other until they were the only two players left. Suddenly, though, one of them was going to win $5.1 million and the other would take $8.3m and become champion of the world. “We started with around the same chips and I just decided to be aggressive. We played around 90 hands and I was raised all 45 buttons. I was very inexperienced. Looking back, I’d fold or limp some hands, but I wanted to put pressure on him. He was only three-betting me with really good hands.” Riess was forcing the action, but admits that while he wanted to raise in order to see flops in position with almost his entire range, he was also getting the run of the deck. “In heads up poker, so much comes down to hand distribution,” he says. “If Jay had my hands and I had his, if it was switched, he probably would have won.” Pre-flop: Ryan Riess: [Ah][poker card="Kh"] Jay Farber: [poker card="Qs"][poker card="5s"] Before the flop, riess raised his 45th and final button, and almost immediately got raised all-in by Farber. Riess snap-called and one of the fastest final all-in and calls in Main Event history saw the two men on their feet. Riess admits that he was surprised to see what Farber had shoved with. “I was surprised to see that hand specifically. Maybe if the hand happened again, he might just call, but I was raising every button and I just happened to have it. He might have thought he was getting run over at the table, but I was just getting the cards. Heads up, if you’re losing it can be demoralising. I’ve lost to people heads-up, I actually played Koray Aldemir, our newest world champion - and I was losing pots, got frustrated and ended up doing things out of character. It’s emotionally draining to lose hands heads-up.” Headint to the embrace of his friends and family, Riess was ‘pretty confident’ but knew that anything could happen. He was a 65% chance to become the world champion and the moment was catching up with him. Flop: [poker card="4c"][poker card="Jd"][poker card="Td"] “The flop was really good for me,” Riess says. “He couldn’t hit his queen any more, because it would give me a straight so it was the best flop I could have asked for without flopping a pair. After the flop, having all my friends and family around me gave me such good vibes.” Turn: [poker card="3c"] “Tears already in the eyes of Ryan Riess.” Said the commentary team as the moment that would change Riess’ life played out. The emotion of the achievement that he was about to claim was monumental. [caption id="attachment_638157" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Hunched on the floor of the Rio, Ryan Riess is hit by the emotion of what he might be about to achieve.[/caption] “That’s when it really became real for me. It was the weight of having everyone support me. We’re that close and it was a very surreal moment. I’m glad I won, because if the river was a five, it might have been very hard for me mentally for me to sit back at the table and play my best, because in my head I’d already won.” As Jay Farber commiserated with his coaches, two men Riess himself now counts among his poker friends, Shaun Deeb and Chance Kornuth, tie seemed to stand still. “I’m friends with both of them and we talk frequently. They’re both great - he had great coaches and it’s hard to beat someone with those coaches. I just had better cards on the day. River: [poker card="4d"] Riess collapsed to the ground, his poker ambitions coming true in glorious reality. Nine years on, Riess says he doesn’t watch it back as much as he should. “It brings back such great memories. As a poker player, that’s the dream. It’s the Super Bowl of our sport. To reach the pinnacle of the game that you love is the ultimate dream as a poker player.” Pining for the November Nine Amid a wild atmosphere in the Thunderdome, Riess now believes part of that excitement came down to players returning some time after they’d reached the final table to play it down to a winner. “It was the penultimate year of the November Nine. ESPN flew out a camera crew to my home town. I thought the November Nine was awesome. I’m blessed and honored to have taken part in that. Now they don’t give the players any time at all, family doesn’t even time to fly in and players can’t get sponsorship deals or even get their hair cut!” Riess believes that if the WSOP gave players a week between reaching the final table and playing it out, it would be perfect. “I don’t think a week is too much at all. Four months was really cool, but it’s a long time, and someone’s game could do a 180 in that time with coaching and solvers these days.” Apart from the length of time, however, Riess believes that the November Nine is a concept that could do with a comeback. “I think they should give them a week. It’s the biggest event in our game, so the more hype around it the better.” A decade after he graduated, Ryan Riess is now a name synonymous with poker success and in particular, the WSOP Main Event. He came close to winning the WSOP Europe Main Event too, but despite finishing fourth, calls it ‘the tournament that haunts me most’. [caption id="attachment_638158" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Ryan Riess is now one of the most respected former world champions still playing the game. (Photo: King's Casino)[/caption] “I was chip leader with nine and six left. The moment got to me a little bit; I made a lot of mistakes. I wanted to win for the legacy of winning both [Main Events] not the money but I focused too much on how cool that would be, and I let the opportunity slip between my fingertips. If Riess had lost with pocket aces to a pair of tens, he admits he wouldn’t have minded, not being a results-oriented person at all. The fact that it wasn’t luck that he perceives was to blame is what hurt. “I make a mistake, I’m the hardest critic of myself. Martin Jacobson said ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’. You almost don’t deserve to win if you’re not trying your hardest.” A Poker Career Without Regret “My focus is my kids and spending as much time with my family as I can.” Nine years after his greatest moment, Riess looks back on his victory as a platform for sustained success and of all the many world champions there have been, few could argue he has been one of the most positive. Aside from that WSOPE near-miss, he has no regrets. His diamond encrusted 2013 WSOP Main Event bracelet sits in a bank in a safety deposit box. “It’s worth a lot of money, so I don’t want it in the house,” Reiss says with a smile. “It’s locked away and I go and look at it now and then. To be honest, I should make a replica of it with cubic zirconia instead of diamonds, but I haven’t got around to it. I have no regrets about my career. I guess I could have grinded harder if I wanted too, but I travelled to a lot of cool places pretty much up to when COVID started and now my focus is my kids and spending as much time with my family as I can.” This year will see the WSOP move from the Rio to Bally’s (soon to be the Horseshoe) and Paris, but Riess holds no fear about the event leaving the venue where he made his name. In fact, quite the opposite. “I won it the first time I played it at the Rio, so maybe it will happen again,” he says. “I’m optimistic about it - I’m sure it’ll be fun. I’ll be playing pretty much all the NLHE tournaments, $25,000 and lower. I don’t feel the need to play the $100,000 buy-ins; the bubbles are stressful, and kids are expensive!” Nine years is a long time in any poker player’s life, but from being a precocious 22-year-old winner of the biggest event on the poker calendar to a family man almost a decade later, it has been some ride for Ryan Riess. Happily, for poker fans, that ride is not finished yet. You can watch the hand that changed Ryan Riess’ life right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MAbaJ9W7Q8    
  10. This year we’re doing something a little different and breaking down our annual Poker Year In Review into three different parts - the Flop (January-April), Turn (May-August), and River (September-December). We’re wrapping up 2021 by taking a look back at some of our biggest stories, winners, and surprises that unfolded in one of the most unique years in the history of the game. January Although we were officially in 2021, some of the most important business of 2020 had yet to be decided at the beginning of January as Damian Salas and Joseph Herbert met at a mostly empty Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to play heads-up for a million dollars and determine who will earn the official title of 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. The finale was not without its detractors as an online version of the WSOP Main Event had been played out on GGPoker earlier in 2020, but Salas - who had made a previous live WSOP Main Event final table in 2017 - proved to be a worthy winner, taking home an extra $1 million and the WSOP Main Event bracelet. “I don’t play for the money, that’s not my goal,” Salas said after his win. “My basic motivation is to become better and better every day and remain a member of the world-class poker elite.” READ: Desire To Remain Elite Drives New World Champ Damian Salas While January continued to be full of interesting player news, including Chance Kornuth surrendering to Phil Galfond in the Galfond Challenge, Ilyas Muradi taking down the wildly successful WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open, and Jack Hardcastle winning the WPT Montreal Online Main Event for $447K, it was poker industry news that dominated the first month of the year. READ: Chris Moneymaker Reflects on 17 Years as Poker’s Everyman Ambassador For the fourth time in 12 years, the World Poker Tour had been sold in a deal with Element Partners, LLC for more than $78 million. “This deal will allow the World Poker Tour to do a number of things that its always wanted to do,” World Poker Tour CEO Adam Pliska said at the time the deal was announced, unable to completely expand on the nature of the takeover. “What I can say, however, is that for myself and my management team, we’re still here and it’s business as usual and we look forward to this exciting next chapter of the World Poker Tour.” That same week, perhaps one of the biggest stories of the year broke when The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission in their case against the U.S. Department of Justice, reversing a revised opinion of the Wire Act. In short, it was a big win for online poker players in the U.S., setting the stage for a potential boom of online poker in the United States in years to come taking away legal barriers for would-be states to get in on the action and even join multi-state compacts to expand the total liquidity for Americans. Almost as if on cue, PokerStars officially launched PokerStarsMI.com, becoming the first operator to offer Michiganders (and visitors to the state) the option to play online poker, legally and regulated, from inside the state. To close out the month, Brazil’s Brunno Botteon kept his 2020 hot streak in tact and ended up as the Online Player of the Month for January. February February started off with a bang. The months-long heads-up grudge match between Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk came to an end after 91 days and 25,000 hands. Polk wrote his name in the history books, soundly defeating Negreanu and walking away a winner of roughly $1.2 million. “I’m very happy that I spent so much time preparing and I felt it really ended up helping me tremendously and that I got to execute at such a high level over such a long period of time,” Polk said just moments after the last hand of the challenge. Over the course of the match, the feud between the two seemed to morph into a respectful rivalry and Negreanu gave credit where it was due when it was over. “He deserved it. He played well. I thought he made really good adjustments. I thought he improved as the match went on. I thought he got better and better and sharper, in a lot of different lines,” Negreanu said. But that wasn’t the only high-profile high-stakes poker taking place in February as Tom Dwan emerged to take a seat in the newest iteration of High Stakes Poker on PokerGO and picked up a $300,000 win. Dwan’s appearance was a thrill for fans who were equally excited to have the popular programming back “on the air”. [caption id="attachment_637576" align="alignright" width="250"] Phil Hellmuth[/caption] READ: Hellmuth Rants, Palihapitiya Wins Big On Latest High Stakes Poker High Stakes Poker wasn’t the only poker mainstay to make a return in February as, after more than a year away from Las Vegas, the World Poker Tour was back in Sin City for the first time with WPT Venetian. The final table featured the aforementioned Jack Hardcastle, as well as the 2015 WSOP Main Event champion Joe McKeehen, but it was Qing Liu who took home the trophy and the $752,880 first-place prize. Brazil’s Yuri Dzivielevski was climbing into contention for the worldwide #1 spot in the Online Poker Rankings (something he ended up holding for the better part of 2021) and he also walked away with Online Player of the Month honors for February. March Polk and Dwan weren’t done keeping the poker world entertained as the season of High Stakes Poker stretched into March and both high-profile players continued to impress. Polk made what some have called “one of the best laydowns ever” in a massive hand against Phil Hellmuth that had the poker world buzzing for days while Dwan’s domination earned him another half-million win, showing that despite not being in the public eye he wasn’t showing any sign of rust. READ: Tom Dwan, Bryn Kenney Star in Biggest Pots of High Stakes Poker S8 Another massive winner in March was Vanessa Kade. Coming off her high-profile social media clash with Dan Bilzerian, Kade took that energy into the PokerStars Sunday Million 15th Anniversary online event and walked away with the win for a life-changing $1.5 million payday. Looking to replicate the same fervor of Polk and Negreanu’s heads-up battle, former #1-ranked online pro Fedor Holz sparked a beef with high-stakes cash game crusher Wiktor Malinowski and the pair agreed to take their feud to the felt. The feud was likely manufactured, and the heat wasn’t very hot, but fans were treated to a pair of high-stakes pros dedicating some time to entertaining viewers with the four-session challenge. Brunno Botteon lost his grip at the top of the Online Poker Rankings as Bert ‘Girafganger7’ Stevens took his third turn at the top but by the end of the month he made way for the surging Yuri Dzivielevski who took control and held on it in for the next six months. In case you missed these popular profiles of some of poker’s best we talked with Alex Butcher about becoming the #1-ranked player in the United States and the work he needed to do on himself in order to get out of his own way and be open to success. Speaking of success, Kevin Rabichow opened up about what led him to switch gears from being one of the world’s top online cash game grinders to taking up tournaments and dedicating himself to success. By the end of the month, Joao ‘Naza114’ Vieira took home the title of March Online Player of the Month. April One of our most popular articles of the year was published in April when PokerStars found Isai Scheinberg agreed to be interviewed for the first time after settling all of his legal troubles stemming from Black Friday. Scheinberg stepped into the spotlight and talked about the early days of PokerStars, the beginning of the poker boom, the fallout from Black Friday, and what he’s doing with his life after selling the company for nearly $5 billion. “I valued privacy, but I was not secretive. That’s not the same thing,” Scheinberg said talking to the media for one of the very first times. “I was working hard. I was very busy and I’m not the type of guy to go out and do PR.” READ: Isai Scheinberg: His Company, His Legacy, and How Black Friday Impacted Both The heads-up craze continued in April as Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu played in the first of three High Stakes Duel matches on PokerGO. The first was, for many, the most memorable as Negreanu had Hellmuth down to a 19-1 chip disadvantage. But Hellmuth used his #WhiteMagic to spin it back up and defeat Negreanu in what was about to become a reoccurring theme for High Stakes Duel. Both PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker and GGPoker’s Spring Festival took over the online poker scene, both offering massive guarantees and non-stop action in the middle of the pandemic. One person who couldn’t get enough was former #1-ranked Niklas Astedt who couldn’t keep himself out of the headlines, taking down multiple GGSF titles and adding to his SCOOP Legacy. Speaking of former #1’s performing in the spring, Simon ‘C Darwin2’ Mattsson picked up two SCOOP titles on the same day. Plus, Chris Moorman finally added a SCOOP title to his resume, after taking home the first SCOOP in his career. READ: Joakim Andersson Ships GGSF MILLION$ Main Event for $1.5M READ: SCOOP: Series Concludes As ‘kZhh’ Wins $10L Main Event TItle, $878K With an accumulation of a massive amount of leaderboard points, high-stakes legend Sami ‘LarsLuzak’ Kelopuro took down the Online Player of the Month title in April. The 2021 Poker Year In Review continues in Part 2.
  11. This year we’re doing something a little different and breaking down our annual Poker Year In Review into three different parts - the Flop (January-April), Turn (May-August), and River (September-December). We’ll be wrapping up 2021 by taking a look back at some of our biggest stories, winners, and surprises that unfolded in one of the most unique years in the history of the game. May One of the craziest stories of the year broke in May when it was revealed that high-stakes poker pro Chad Power had been victim to a home invasion robbery of nearly $1,000,000 in cash and casino chips. However, the Henderson Police Department arrested a suspect who was charged with multiple felonies including Burglary with a Deadly Weapon, Conspiracy Home Invasion, and Theft after the suspect went out and purchased a Dodge Hellcat Charger with a $30,000 cash down payment and also purchased a 2018 Maserati Levante SUV under his mother’s name with another $60K in cash. On the felt, Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu returned for Round 2 of High Stakes Duel II with Negreanu looking to get even, however, once again, Hellmuth pulled off the win. Negreanu promised that there would be a third match sooner than later leaving Hellmuth still feeling slighted despite his back-to-back wins. “I’ve given Daniel credit the whole way from start to finish and I haven’t said one negative word about him. He was pretty condescending in the first match. I felt it was super condescending, and this match he handled himself much better,” Hellmuth said. “But even still, he’s preaching down to me about ranges, and I’m thinking to myself, I’ve just won 24 out of 26 heads-up matches against pros and they have me rated as a fucking underdog every match. It just blows my mind, but I just never quite get that respect, and that’s ok with me. I just want to keep winning.” There were plenty of other winnings taking place in May with a trio of World Poker Tour events coming to a conclusion. The pandemic had forced the WPT to delay a number of its high-profile final tables for more than a year and in the middle of the month, they gathered in Las Vegas to crown three consecutive champions. First up was Veerab Zakarian who took down the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open for $674,840. “Waiting this long, you didn’t know what to expect. You don’t know, you keep waiting for it,” Zakarian said after the tournament ended. “Most people, after the pandemic, they didn’t have anything to look forward to so I was glad to have something to look forward to.” [caption id="attachment_637581" align="alignright" width="250"] Brekstyn Schutten[/caption] The next day it was Balakrishna Patur’s turn in the spotlight as he won the delayed 2020 WPT L.A. Poker Classic for $1,015,000, defeating Matas Cimbolas in heads-up play. It was the second year in a row that Cimbolas finished as the LAPC runner-up. Finally, Brekstyn Schutten took down the largest event in the 19-year history of the WPT when he won the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown for $1,261,095. While all of that is nice, the most prestigious contest of the year came to a conclusion in May when Niklas Astedt was named, by the poker community and his peers, as the All-Time #1 Number One. For the better part of a month, PocketFives ran a social contest asking the poker community to vote, March Madness-style, to see which of the (then) 60 former worldwide #1-ranked online pros stood above the rest. The finals came down to Astedt and online great Chris Moorman with Astedt edging out Moorman with 54% of the vote. “The PocketFives rankings really motivated me over the years,” Astedt said after being crowned the winner. “I’m super happy and proud that so many people voted for me.” Speaking of Chris Moorman, he was one of three popular player profiles to be featured this month. Moorman reflected on his career and his recent winning of his first SCOOP title. READ: “Old Guy” Chris Moorman Happily Proves He’s Still Got It Sami Kelopuro had been on an amazing heater and talked with PocketFives in a rare interview on the secret to his recent success and how he planed on taking it easy after his intense grind. READ: After Winning $4.4M, Sami Kelopuro is Taking It Easy - For Now Finally, after winning the first-ever GGPoker Spring Festival Main Event, Mathias ‘KingKongJoel’ Joelsson talked about what it was like to win a seven-figure score. READ: Mathias Joelsson Has ‘King Kong’ Plans After $1.25M GGSF Score By the end of the month, another Brazilian earned themselves an Online Player of the Month title, as Dalton Hobold took the title in May. June It had already been announced that the World Series of Poker was going to be moved to the fall, but in the middle of June, the complete schedule (before the addition of online events) of the last WSOP at the Rio was announced. It was an 88 gold bracelet schedule that hoped to bring back a sense of normalcy after a year away. READ: 5 Things: The WSOP Schedule Gives Players a Comfortable Return Home While players had the WSOP to look forward to, the 2021 U.S. Poker Open was taking place in the PokerGO Studio with familiar faces winning large sums of money. Stephen Chidwick, Jake Schindler, Ali Imsirovic were all at the top of the earners list for the series but David Peters dominated them all, winning more than $2.6 million and taking home the Golden Eagle trophy. READ: David Peters, Old Guard, New Faces Shine Bright as U.S. Poker Open Hellmuth’s three-peat over Negreanu was completed earning him the $400,000 prize and bringing his series record to 6-0 and bringing High Stakes Duel II to an end with Hellmuth opting to cash out and start over in the coming months. Brian Altman also notched his third win, but for him, it was taking home his third World Poker Tour Main Tour title at WPT Tampa at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, Florida. The reigning WPT Player of the Year put himself in the race for WPT all-time title, just one behind Darren Elias’ four, and picked up $613,225 in the process. READ: WPT POY Brian Altman Writes His Own Script For Success In other WPT news, the 2021 WPT Online Series Main Event reached a conclusion as well with Christian Rudolph earning his first WPT title and $487,442. Plus, the WPT held its WPT Heads Up Poker Championship in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. An online tournament, it featured some of the biggest names in the game including Doug Polk, Tow Dwan, Sam Greenwood, Anthony Zinno, Brad Own, and eventual winner Phil Ivey who took down the invite-only event for $400,000. Another popular profile published in 2021 was on poker vlogger Jaman Burton and his recent move to Las Vegas. In it, he discusses how the social climate in St. Louis pushed him to make a move, the future of his vlog, and finding new inspiration in Sin City. READ: Jaman Burton and The Drawing Dead Find New Life In Las Vegas The string of Brazilian crushers taking down the Online Player of the Month continued in June as Geraldo Cesar Neto earned the honor for the first time in his career. July The poker world was shocked and saddened in July when six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, Layne ‘Back-to-Back’ Flack unexpectedly passed away at age 52. An outpouring of condolences for Flack’s family poured out from the poker community as a mainstay personality from the early days of the poker boom will be certainly be missed. Before that, Daniel Negreanu was back making headlines. After his loss to Doug Polk earlier in the year and then falling three times to Hellmuth on High Stakes Duel, Kid Poker’s ability to close in a big spot was being questioned by some in the poker world. He quickly responded with a victory during the PokerGO Cup series, not only winning the $50,000 NLHE event for $700,000 but, with a little thanks to Cary Katz in the final event of the series, taking the PokerGO leaderboard title and trophy for an additional $50,000 score. READ: The Anatomy- and End - of Daniel Negreanu’s Tournament Futility All month long, the World Series of Poker was running online bracelet events with some notable names adding to their poker resume including David Peters, Manig Loeser, and Chris Moorman who grabbed the victory in one of the final events of the series for his second career bracelet. But the big WSOP news was the rumor (which turned out to be true) that the World Series of Poker would be on the move in 2022, leaving its long-standing home of the Rio to set up shop on the Strip at Bally's and Paris. [caption id="attachment_637583" align="alignright" width="250"] Andrew Moreno[/caption] July also saw a pair of celebrated live wins as Andrew Moreno battled through the 1,325-entry field of the first-ever $10K Wynn Millions to walk away with a life-changing $1.460 million score. The final three agreed to chop the majority of the prize pool, creating two more millionaires as Clayton Maguire finished as the runner-up for $1.443 million and Toby Lewis grabbed the bronze for $1.235 million. Dapo Ajayi also earned a career-defining win after taking down WPT Choctaw for $558,610, making it the second time that Viet Vo would come up just one spot short in the same tournament, finishing in second place for $372,415. Brazil’s Dalton Hobold earned Online Player of the Month honors in May, in July he opened up about how he was almost scammed out his entire career by someone he trusted. READ: Rising Star Dalton Hobold Almost Had Poker Career Derailed by Scam Another month, another Brazilian at the top of the Online Player of the Month leaderboard, as Renan Carlos Bruschi took home the honors in July. August August was another massive month when it came to online poker as PokerStars announced the start of their biggest World Championship of Online Poker with $100 million guaranteed and the World Series of Poker Online kicked off on GGPoker. Both series featured poker superstars taking home titles including Christian Rudolph and Ivan Zufic taking down early WCOOP titles and Joao Simao and Samuel Vousden earning gold bracelets. It was also the month where Erik Seidel made history, taking down 2021 WSOP Online Event #11 ($10,000 Super MILLION$ High Roller) for $977,842 and his ninth career gold bracelet, tying Johnny Moss. Soon after, he talked with us about winning his ninth bracelet online made it special for him. “Winning any WSOP event is special,” Seidel said when asked where his online bracelet ranks. “This one was extra great for me because it was so unexpected. Getting through 600+ players and then the prize was close to one million, which I think is my biggest WSOP cash, felt really amazing. Might be my favorite.” READ: Erik Seidel’s Online WSOP Bracelet Victory Might Just Be His Favorite In addition to Seidel winning the WSOP edition of the Super MILLION$, a pair of perennial champions added to their MILLION$ resume. Niklas Astedt scored his third title and Michael Addamo kept the all-time wins record with his fourth. For Addamo, it was just a sign of things yet to come. READ: 50 Things To Look Forward To At The 2021 WSOP After Phil Hellmuth vanquished Fox Sports commentator Nick Smith in a bottle episode of High Stakes Duel, the re-match everyone was waiting for was booked. The Hellmuth vs. Tom Dwan hype train was rolling and the show did not disappoint. However, after seven wins in a row, Hellmuth was defeated as Dwan dethroned Hellmuth to become the new High Stakes Duel champion. READ: Three Takeaways From Tom Dwan's Victory Over Phil Hellmuth on High Stakes Duel III [caption id="attachment_637584" align="alignleft" width="250"] Brock Wilson[/caption] A pair of profiles proved to be popular this month as 26-year-old high-stakes tournament pro Brock Wilson talked about his major move from New York to Las Vegas to pursue the poker dream. Plus, Ryan Hagerty scored an online bracelet in July and sat down to talk with us about his roller coaster of a year grinding the tournament scene. A victory for Alex Theologis in the WSOP $25,000 Super High Roller Championship locked up the August Online Player of Month. Finally, after six years as the President and Editor-in-Chief of PocketFives Lance Bradley stepped away to pursue new opportunities and left by spotlighting some of his favorite stories he published over the years.
  12. “I feel good. Physically, I have recovered. I guess from an emotional standpoint, I don’t know that I still quite get what happened yet. Sounds a little weird but it’s still all surreal for me.” It’s been a month since George Holmes played in his second-ever World Series of Poker Main Event, the outcome of which was an experience he could have only dreamed of having. The 49-year-old father of two from Alpharetta, Georgia went on a once-in-a-lifetime run in the $10,000 televised tournament, one that turned him from an anonymous everyday recreational player into the “Home Game Hero”, battling in poker’s bright spotlight against some of the best in the business ended up finishing as the runner-up for an incredible $4,000,000 score. “But I feel good. I finally went back a week ago and kind of watched the stream of the final table. I think, for me, it’s about as good as it’s going to get as far as being able to put everything into perspective…it kind of is what it is,” Holmes said. “I’ve been, probably for the past week and a half, back in the normal swing. I came home, I went back to work the following week. I planned on working just because I enjoy what I do and it just gives me an opportunity to kind of take a step back and take my time and figure out what I want to do with all this money.” Holmes works as an executive for a company that helps merchants process payments. It’s currently offering him a sense of real-world stability as opposed to his whirlwind experience in the Main Event filled with the highs, the lows, the lack of sleep, and the pressure to perform. But Holmes, who presents as level-headed and as even-keel as they come, insists that while he’s still processing what took place, his return to reality took place rather quickly. “To know me, I’m pretty a pretty monotone, mellow person so I don’t get very high. I think coming back to Earth, for me, was a lot easier,” he said. “After the Main Event was over, it was probably eight o’clock. A bunch of my friends were still there from the rail so we went out to celebrate for a few hours. We hung out probably ’til midnight or one…we were all on a flight the next morning at six o’clock a.m. At that point, I wanted out of Vegas. “For me, a perfect stint in Vegas is three or four days. Being there for a week and a half, I mean I’m just spent and I’m ready to go. Especially with the schedule for the World Series. You don’t really get to do anything. It’s poker, sleep, get up, poker, and then sleep again and that’s basically it for a week and a half,” he said. “So, for me to come down, it didn’t take much, probably a couple of days. Physically, I was drained, I was tired. Mentally, I was spent from just sitting at the table, looking at hands nonstop. But after a few days back at home, I was fine. I was still trying to understand what all happened and I told a couple of friends this, I kind of which I could’ve experienced this somewhat from their perspective, just being on the rail. “But I was just playing, cameras in your face. Once you have that for a day or two, it’s normal. But I don’t know that I experienced it the way everyone else did. I mean, I’m hearing all these great stories, all these people that were cheering for me, but I don’t get to see any of the highs or the lows, I’m just kind of living in the moment I guess…kind of weird to explain.” One of those moments he lived in was the final hand of the Main Event, one of the most thrilling WSOP moments for fans in some time. In summary, after spiking top pair on the turn, and being checked to on the river, Holmes moved all-in for his tournament life. However, Koray Aldemir, his affable German heads-up opponent (and eventual 2021 WSOP Main Event champ) had flopped two pair and was deep in thought about whether to make the call that could end the tournament. “The longer he took told me that I did not want a call,” Holmes said. “I’m shoving, thinking I have the best hand. I would have never imagined [Aldemir] had such a miracle flop.” “But the longer he took, I started replaying things in my head like, ‘Well, maybe he has two pair.’ Initially, I thought maybe he has top pair and maybe a flush draw. We had such a great rapport at the table…he looks up at me as he’s thinking and he’s probably halfway through his tank and he’s like ‘This might be it. This might be the hand.’ “ It was the hand, Aldemir did put his chips in the middle and both hands were turned face up. Aldemir read the board instantly and knew he was the new World Champion. He threw his hands in the air, turned to his rail, and the celebration began as Holmes also stood and leaned over the table, taking a long second look at what had just happened. “To be honest, I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time,” Holmes said, reflecting on the moment. “I think I asked, because I wasn’t one hundred percent sure, if he had me covered at that point. I know I asked the dealer if he had me covered and to be honest, at that point, I did not care what happened.” --- Holmes is back home, back spending time with his family and gearing up for what is sure to be a special holiday season for his wife, 13-year old son, and 15-year old daughter. But Holmes is also back playing in the Atlanta home game he made famous on the WSOP coverage. It’s the one he’s been playing in for the better part of a decade. He’s come a long way since first getting into the game back in 1999, before No Limit Hold’em rose to power as the dominant variant of the game. Holmes says although he’s never been a serious student of the game, he’s loved poker since the moment he started playing it with co-workers regularly in 2000. Back then it was a ‘just for fun’ $0.25/0.50 game. But now he plays with a regular group of guys splashing around at $2/5. But Holmes is quick to clarify that “it plays a lot larger than a normal $2/5 game.” It’s the same group of guys who were on the rail rooting Holmes on in the Main Event, the same who are likely looking to see if some of that $4 million end up on the table in their own game, even if it is one small buy-in at a time. But Holmes insists that his newfound poker fame hasn’t changed the game in the least, “It’s a tough crew, man. I get razz no matter what.” One might think that there would be other opportunities for Holmes to flex his popular final table persona, but according to him he hasn’t received any invitations yet for shows like Poker After Dark or live-streamed games like Hustler Casino Live or Live At The Bike, at least not yet. “My phone hasn’t really been blowing up,” he said. Noting that he’s had a couple of promotional opportunities which he’s politely declined. “I get friends that ask me all the time ‘Have you had any sponsors reach out to you?’ and the answer’s been no. It’s been quiet.” But Holmes seems at peace with that quiet. He’s not the type to hit a big score, rearrange his life, and take to the circuit. But when pressed about whether a stint on a PokerGO cash game could entice him to make a trip back to Las Vegas sooner than later, a small smile appears. “That’d be interesting.” People would likely watch as Holmes understands he has fans well beyond the dozen of guys who were on his rail. His “Home Game Hero” storyline not only played well on the broadcast, but it’s the dream for a lot of recreational players who are just like Holmes. Those who were pulling hard for him to take it to the high roller pro, even as likable as Aldemir is. “I had been hearing the whole week, ‘You’re blowing up on Twitter.' And, at the time I didn’t have a Twitter account. But what I did feel, just in the Amazon room, was the love from the folks there…and it was amazing. It was absolutely amazing. Even the [media] that was there, when I busted out one of the camera guys stopped me and said ‘This might sound weird but we know your face. After a week of watching you we know your face better than you do and we just wanted to tell you from all the crew that we loved your game, we were rooting hard for you here in the room and in the trucks.’ And I thought that was pretty amazing. “I ran into a couple of folks at the airport the next morning. And when I tell you I had no regrets after that final hand, I honestly did not. But one regret would be just for the folks who were rooting for me,” he said. “There were so many folks saying ‘We were hoping you win the whole thing. We wanted you to take it down.’ And there was this story of like USA versus Germany and the UK…and that’s the only real regret I have, it’s not winning it for the folks that I didn’t know that had just jumped on and were rooting for me so hard.” In 2019 Holmes entered the Main Event and finished in 213th for over $50,000. His goal in 2021 was simply to beat his 2019 finish, which he clearly did. But where does that leave him moving forward? There’s not a lot of Main Event places he can improve to. “That’s a great question. Naturally, I will continue to play the Main Event and see how I can do. I hadn’t thought about it beyond knowing that I’m going to continue to play the Main and there are a bunch of circuit events that I will probably play one or two but I hadn’t thought much past that. I really haven’t.” “The odds tell me I should quit while I’m ahead…but I love playing the game too much.”
  13. When one thinks of the World Poker Tour it’s almost impossible not to think of Darren Elias. His success is nearly synonymous with the brand. Elias, famously, sits alone at the top of the heap when it comes to any number of World Poker Tour categories including Main Event titles (4), final tables (12), and cashes (43). However, Elias’ extensive poker resume is much more than WPT Main Event victories, and at 35 years old, it's something he’s proven year over year. Elias has excelled in 2021, picking up big-time scores in a trio of High Rollers on the PokerGO tour (totaling nearly $1 million in earnings) as well as having a breakout year playing online that saw him grab a prestigious GGPoker Super MILLION$ title for one of the biggest cashes of his career. As the World Poker Tour prepares to wrap up Season XIX with the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event at the Bellagio, Elias is headed to Las Vegas looking to add to his 2021 High Roller totals and, perhaps, pick up title number five. We caught up with him for an extended conversation about his success on the WPT, his aspirations for the World Series of Poker, balancing his home and poker lives, and the pressure he puts on himself to succeed. __ For many fans, when they first hear the name Darren Elias, they probably think of the World Poker Tour. You sit alone with four WPT Main Tour titles and Matt Savage has taken to calling you the “WPT G.O.A.T.”. How have you been so successful on the WPT? What is it about those events that play to your strengths? Yeah. I love the World Poker Tour and that makes up a bulk of my schedule during the year. I play about 50 to 60 tournaments every year, I'm pretty consistent, and World Poker Tour tournaments probably make up a dozen of those - and I do like that most are in America or Canada. I traveled internationally a lot in my early '20s playing EPTs, Macau…basically everywhere in the world, and I kind of found that I liked playing in the [U.S.] and North America. A couple of reasons behind that, and probably linked in with my success is that I like the knowledge of the player pool in these events. Most of the time these WPT events, it's the same group of guys, and each stop has its locals, but I do think knowing the players gives me a bigger edge. I wouldn't say that my results are equal to my edge, where I would say I probably over-performed on the World Poker Tour and under-performed at the World Series, luck-wise or expectation-wise, but I do love the events and I do love that they're all basically in the states. I know you plan on playing the $25K High Roller at the upcoming WPT Five Diamond but didn’t realize how many High Roller cashes you actually have on your resume. How do you differential between playing your normal schedule of events and when you jump into high rollers? Is playing higher something you continue to aspire to or are you just picking the best spots you can? Well, I would say I kind of hand pick the high roller events that I want to play and I try to pick the bigger ones, the ones with the biggest prize pools and most runners. I don't have a ton of interest in traveling internationally to play small field 100Ks or 250Ks. I mean, I've done it in the past, but for me, my biggest value is time. Especially now that I'm home with a family, I really have to pick my events that I want to go to. I probably play five to ten 25K plus events a year - maybe, 25K, 50K, 100K, something like that - and they do play differently than, like, a World Poker Tour Main Event, obviously, and you have to be sharper. I might do more preparation beforehand if I know I'm playing a tough 100K, and you have to be more fundamentally sound in an event like that because you're playing higher tier players, some of the best players in the world are in those events. In the World Poker Tour, that's not always true. When you decide you are going to play higher, do you put in extra study time? Absolutely. Yeah. I think most players would agree, at lower stakes, playing even $1Ks, $2Ks, $3,500, $5Ks, you can probably get away with not studying if you have good instincts and still win. But if you play in bigger events, these $50Ks, $100Ks, and you're playing with the elite players, you really need to put in your practice study work or you're going to find yourself in there guessing a lot, which is not the way to win. [caption id="attachment_637478" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Darren Elias, four-time World Poker Tour Main Event champion.[/caption] You just mentioned that time is one of your most valuable currencies and you’ve decided to take on a role as an ambassador for BetMGM/partypoker U.S. For some players becoming an ambassador is an aspiration, was it one for you? In the past you’ve talked about how public speaking wasn’t really your thing, do you feel any added pressure taking on this new role? I wouldn't say it's added pressure but it is something that's taken me a while to get comfortable with. It's not my natural personality to put my face on something and put it out there. It's taken some time to get used to, and the main reason of my drive behind this is, I felt so terrible for the American online poker players over the last 10 years, and I feel like this is a good opportunity. If there's anything I can do to further our cause and get bigger tournaments online in the US, get more states legalized, linked up, organize tournaments, work on schedules - anything I can do to help get online poker back in the US should be a priority. I think at this point I'm in a position where maybe I can make a little bit of difference, and that's kind of my long-term goal with BetMGM and partypoker. Speaking of online poker, you have a reputation as a live pro but this year you cracked the worldwide PocketFives Top 10 rankings, have more than $8 million in career earnings, and have both a WCOOP and Super MILLION$ title on your online resume. Where does an online grind fit into your schedule right now? I guess most of that took place this year while you were traveling abroad? Yeah. Last year I played a lot on GGPoker during COVID. I feel like I cashed for more last year than I probably did in my whole online career just because the stakes of the tournaments nowadays on the international sites are huge. That may have been kind of a one-off year because of COVID, there weren't any live tournaments and that was just a weird year. I do see myself playing a lot more online in the states, but my international, rest of the world, online career is probably drawing to a close I would say. You talked a little about how maybe variance has been on your side in WPT events, more so than the WSOP. You don’t yet have a WSOP bracelet and I wanted to know if WSOP success, outside of the money, is on your list of things you’d like to achieve? Are you thinking ‘I would like to win a bracelet’? I would like to win a bracelet, but I would say it means less now than it used to, just in how easily they're giving them away nowadays with the online events and these Flip & Gos. You can play a 50 runner, $200 event online and win a World Series of Poker bracelet and that kind of takes some of the prestige away from it. But, sure, when I go to the World Series every year I'm trying to make final tables. I'm trying to win. I don't play the full WSOP schedule where I'm in these $1,500 No Limits, battling ten-handed all day. I'm not in a lot of those, but I do play most of the $5K+. I play Deuce-to-Seven, so some of these events are smaller fields, like under a hundred players, and I am in there and I'm trying to win a bracelet. That would mean something to me, to win one of those events, the high roller 10K Deuce-to-Seven no limit, something like that. I think those events still carry some prestige, and when I'm going out there, I'm trying to win those. Where do you land on mixed games? Do you like them and are those fields you would like to be competing in? Not really. My experience with mixed games is, I don't really like the limit games. I never have. I mean, I played Limit Hold’em when I first started playing poker. I was 17, 18 years old at casinos, and I played a little bit of Stud and 08, that kind of thing, and to be honest, I find them a little boring. I'd gravitate more towards No Limit games, so I like No Limit Deuce-to-Seven. I've played Pot Limit and No Limit Triple Draw online quite a bit. I like those games, and I could see maybe down the line I play more PLO, but I really don't have much interest in limit games, so I'm a bit restricted in that regard. I'm sure if I put in the study and really tried to learn these games, then I could become a winning player, but I don't enjoy them so I'm not really devoting my time there. What are your thoughts on the WSOP moving to the Strip? Are you planning on making the quick turnaround this summer for the World Series of Poker? Yeah, I’ll be there, and I kind of don't know what to expect. I have low expectations. I'm kind of happy to get out of the Rio and erase all my memories of the World Series when I haven't done amazing. So maybe I'll get new mojo here at Ballys or whatever it's going to be called when we're there. I think it's cool that it's on the Strip. I really don't know what to expect, but I will be there and I'll be playing. You have a family with two small kids, how do you strike a balance between grinding the circuit and being present for your family? I’ve learned a lot about it over the last five years, and one important thing I found, is keeping the trips short. I can't go to Las Vegas for a month and play the WSOP and be away from my kids and my family that long. So, kind of breaking it up into shorter trips, which is one of the reasons World Poker Tour's great now. They have a Main Event, maybe a high roller, but it's one or two events. It's a week. I'm there. I'm back. I really like that, and mentally, kind of, when I'm on a poker trip and I'm there competing, battling, I'm thinking about poker and I'm 100% focused. When I'm home, I'm being dad and I'm being a husband and trying to do these duties, and I think keeping them separate has worked well for me. One more, do you put any pressure on yourself to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to WPT titles? There’s a number of heavy hitters with three titles looking to make it four, so just wondering what your state of mind is when you think about that. I put pressure on myself regardless of who's chasing me. Like, I get to these final tables or deep in these events and I feel huge pressure to execute just to do the right thing. I'm in such a good spot, usually deep in these things against weaker players, playing for a lot of money where there are big opportunities and these are kind of what I've trained and prepared for. I always feel pressure to execute at these final tables, and I don't think I'm driven too much by who's on my tail or what other people are doing, because if I mess up in one of these final tables, these big spots that you get once a year or once every other year, that's going to drive me crazy no matter who has three titles, who has four titles. I'm tough on myself in that regard, so I don't think I need any extra motivation.
  14. The World Series of Poker Winter Online Circuit returns to GGPoker this month highlighted by 18 Circuit ring events and at least $100,000,000 in total guaranteed prize money up for grabs across all events. The series runs from December 12 through January 9 and encompasses hundreds of side events as well as the ring events, 13 of which come with a guarantee of $1 million or more. “WSOP Circuit events are great, they give every player the chance to win a big prize and a gold ring while enjoying a taste of the WSOP experience,” said GGPoker Global Ambassador Daniel Negreanu. “This time around, there’s also the not-insignificant matter of $100,000,000 in prizes to enjoy as well. It might be getting cold outside but the action is just heating up at GGPoker!” The series highlights include the BIG 50 MILLION$, a multi-flight $50 buy-in that comes with a $1 million guarantee. The $100 buy-in MILLION$ Mini Main Event with $2 million guaranteed. A special $3 million guaranteed $10,300 Super MILLION$ and a $1,050 GGMasters High Roller with $1.5 million guaranteed. The series will conclude with the $525 Main Event with a massive $5 million guarantee. Day 1 flights for the Main Event begin on December 27 with plenty of additional opportunities for players to make Day 2, which takes place on January 9. Satellites for most of the major events are running around the clock in the client and, for some events, start for as little as $0.50. In total, the 18 ring events account for more than $26 million of the total series guarantee. In addition to vying for a WSOP Circuit ring, there are plenty of other incentives on the line during the WSOP Winter Online Circuit. Every time a player participates in a ring event or side event (which makes up for the bulk of the schedule) leaderboard points are awarded. The top 100 players on the leaderboard will split $100,000 in added bonus prizes. Additionally, any player who wins a Circuit Event will automatically for the live WSOP Million Dollar Freeroll in Las Vegas (tie and date to be announced). The WSOP Million Dollar Freeroll is a change of format for the WSOP that, in the past, had awarded seats to the year-end WSOP Tournament of Champions to the top 100 players on the WSOPC yearly leaderboard with two seats at each live stop being awarded to the Player of the Series and the winner of the Main Event of any given Circuit stop. But now, any WSOP Circuit win - including one of the international Online variety - earns a ticket to the year-end event. Finally, for the fans, two of the 18 ring events will be a part of the GGPoker live stream schedule with Randy ‘Nanonoko’ Lew and Kevin ‘Rotterdam’ van der Kooi calling the action. Tune in on Tuesday, December 21 to catch the high rollers in action for the $3 million GTD Super MILLION$. Then, the final table of the $525 Main Event will play out on Saturday, January 15th. For a complete schedule of events, including all Day 1 starting flights for multi-flight events, visit GGPoker. WSOP Winter Online Circuit Ring Event Schedule [table id=278 /]
  15. Daniel ‘SmilleThHero’ Smiljkovic enjoyed some of the biggest scores of his career in the month of September. His success in the month not only helped him break into the Online Poker Rankings top 5 for the first time in his career, but it also clinched his second career Online Player of the Month honors in less than a year. Smiljkovic racked up 4,241 leaderboard points in September thanks to a handful of key victories in some of online poker’s biggest series. At the end of the first week, on September 7, he took down the GGPoker WSOP Online $525 Bounty Hunter High Roller for $16,960 and 435.23 points. The very next day, he was in the winner’s circle again, this time during the 2021 PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker, earning another $61,090 (his largest cash of the month) and 591.61 by winning Event #75 ($530 NLHE). September 9 was a key date for him as he made several deep runs at the same time, earning five-figure scores and heaps of leaderboard points. It started off with a runner-up finish in the GGPoker WSOP Online $525 Bounty Hunter where he picked up $14,607. The heat continued with a fourth-place result in WCOOP Event #80-L ($019 NLHE PKO Mini Thursday Thrill) for $15,418. At the same time, Smiljkovic was battling at the final table of WCOOP Event #82-H ($2,100 NLHE) where he ended up falling in fifth place for $28,771. In total, Smiljkovic finished in the money 55 times for a total of $308,708. Not the most volume by any means, but his deep runs in large fields events was enough to help propel him to a career-high ranking of #3 in the world, as well as lift him to the top of the leaderboard. Lucio ‘Llima92’ Lima (3,866 points) also thrived in the month of September, finishing in second place while climbing to new heights on the Online Poker Rankings. Lima, currently grinding the mid-to-high stakes, put in a ton of volume last month. He amassed more than 170 in-the-money finishes, seven of which were for five figures, for a total earn of just over $394,000. His largest score came on September 16 when he took down the GGPoker $1,050 Wednesday Double Stack for $58,148 and 531.04 leaderboard points. That barely eclipsed his fifth-place finish in the GGPoker $777 Lucky Sevens on September 5 in which he earned $53,331 and 464.22 points. He also did damage during the 2021 PokerStars WCOOP. First, on September 10, he final tabled Event #85-H ($2,100 NLHE PKO) for more than $18,000 and 212.32 points. He was back at a WCOOP final table in Event #101-H ($1,050 PLO 6-Max) where he finished in fourth place for $20,090 and another 218.94 points. By the end of the month, Lima hit as high as #16 in the world, just one spot higher than his current rank of #17. Russian superstar Anatoly ‘nl_profit’ Filatov rounds out the top 3 for September with 3,565 leaderboard points. In an online career that spans nearly a decade, September was a career month for Filatov which included the largest win of his life. READ: Career Year of Online Success Takes Anatoly Filatov To $10 Million On September 21, Filatov won the GGPoker WSOP Circuit Super MILLION$ for $1.2 million, far-and-away the most money he ever won online. However, the tournament didn’t qualify for leaderboard points, missing the cut-off by a single entry. However, that wasn’t the only score that made Filatov’s fall amazing. Out of his 27 in-the-money finishes, seven were for five figures or more. Although his Super MILLION$ win was likely the highlight of his career, it’s unlikely Filatov ever had another day like September 7. On that day he finished as the runner-up in the GGPoker WSOP High Rollers for $63,252 while at the same time wrapping up a third-place result in WCOOP Event #71 High ($2,100 NHLE) for another $76,538. During both of those tournaments, he was playing on the GGPoker live stream in that week’s Super MILLION$ where he finished in third place for $250,053. All told, Filatov earned more than $1.7 million of his $12.6 million lifetime online earnings in September. September 2021 Online Player of the Month Results [table id=265 /]
  16. It wasn’t that long ago when poker fans were starved for content. Waiting for the next EPT live stream or setting their TiVo's to grab the latest rerun of an old WSOP episode. But that time has passed and today, we live in an era of the non-stop poker content frenzy. This week, the buffet for the eyes will only get bigger as the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, and Triton Poker all have brand new programming headed to a screen near you. WSOP on PokerGO In case you hadn’t heard, the 2021 World Series of Poker is underway and as thousands flock to the Rio to take a shot at a gold bracelet, there tens of thousands at home wanting a glimpse of the action. The live streaming for the WSOP kicks off on October 4 with the final table of Event #6 ($25,000 No Limit Hold’em High Roller) an event primed to be packed with some of the biggest names in the game. The action doesn’t stop there with 25 days of streaming to take place throughout the series - and that doesn’t include the Main Event. Final tables from all the biggest events in an effort to bring you the sights and sounds from the Amazon Room. Here’s the kicker, all that poker action comes with a price. If you want all of that, you’ll need a PokerGO subscription. Annual subscriptions are around $100, with discount codes readily available all over the internet. Sundays Are For The World Poker Tour This Sunday, October 2, Season XVIII of the World Poker Tour premiers on the Bally Sports Network with the Gardens Poker Championship final table. Chance Kornuth headlines the final six as they vie for their piece of the more than $2.4 million prize pool. “Our fans have been very patient waiting for the Season XVIII episodes and we are excited for Sunday Night,” said WPT CEO Adam Pliska “The action from Season XVIII promises to live up to the expectations of our audience.” Brand new episodes can be seen each of the next three Sundays - on actual television - with hefty three-hour episodes. The Gardens Poker Championship is the first of four final tables that can be watched through December 19. It should be interesting as it’s the first of the COVID-delayed content to come out and the whole gang - Vince, Tony, and Lynn are all back in action. While the Bally Sports Network isn’t one of the most well-known networks, a quick Google search will get you sorted out. Triton Million Charity is Waiting For Your Views Do you want action? Triton gives you action. Big time. They are also shipping out a 10-part series of their £1,050,000 buy-in Triton Million - A Helping Hand for Charity. This event was held in London in 2019. You might remember the event, the one that set the record for the biggest live tournament buy-in in history. £50,000 of every buy-in was donated to a number of worthy organizations while some of the biggest names in the game - including Tom Dwan, Bryn Kenney, Fedor Holz, and Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates - made the trip to be a part of history. You don’t remember who won? Well, no spoilers here. Go take an inside look at how some of the elite battle against each other as well as some more recreational businessmen. This 10-part series, available on the Triton YouTube channel, was previously aired on a number of large television outlets but the real plus is that it’s now available on the small screen in your pocket. Can’t wait? Here’s episode one right here:
  17. Jeremy Ausmus won the second WSOP title of his career, first of the series, as he defeated the final four opponents in Event #3 to win the $1,000-entry COVID-19 Relief Charity Event. With just five players returning to action on Day 2 of the event and the 2021 World Series of Poker, Ausmus overcame a chip deficit heads-up to overnight leader Jesse Lonis to claim his maiden bracelet and the $48,681 top prize. Ausmus Overcomes Lonis, Takes First Title of Autumn It took no time at all for five players to become four as Lonis busted Steve Gross in fifth place for $10,854 when Gross’ eight-four was crushed by queen-five when the chip leader made a Broadway straight on the river. Soon after, Asher Coniff was all-in with ace-six and Lonis was the caller again, this time with pocket sixes. The small pocket pair held to send play to three-handed and Coniff to the rail for $14,919. Lonis was running over the field, and that didn’t stop with the elimination of Mitchell Halverson in third place for $20,960. Halverson was all-in with the best hand, holding [poker card="Js"][poker card="Jh"]. Lonis called with [poker card="3s"][poker card="3h"] and would need a lot of help on the board. The flop was a safe [poker card="9s"][poker card="8c"][poker card="5s"] for Halverson, but the [poker card="3d"] turn spelt disaster and the [poker card="2s"] river didn’t save him. Heads-up saw Lonis go into the duel with a 3:1 chip lead, but Ausmus quickly doubled himself level when his pocket tens held against Lonis’ [poker card="Kd"][poker card="Jd"]. The final hand saw Ausmus all-in with [poker card="Ac"][poker card="9c"] against Lonis’ [poker card="Kh"][poker card="9h"] and when the board ran out [poker card="Js"][poker card="8s"][poker card="6s"][poker card="2s"][poker card="5d"], Ausmus won the WSOP bracelet and $48,681. Event #3 $1,000 COVID-19 Relief Charity Event Final Table Results: Jeremy Ausmus - $48,681 Jesse Lonis - $30,086 Mitchell Halverson - $20,960 Asher Conniff - $14,919 Steve Gross - $10,854 Benny Glaser Leads $25K H.O.R.S.E. The biggest event of the day, in terms of buy-in, the $25,000 H.O.R.S.E., saw a total of 78 players as registration closed with the start of play on Day 2 of the three-day event. British mixed game specialist Benny Glaser dominated much of the day, busting players throughout vital stages of the tournament. While others, such as Stephen Chidwick, were shot down outside the 12 money places. Mike Matusow was another player who at one point looked very strong, only for two hands against Philip Sternheimer and Jesse Klein to leave ‘The Mouth’ on the rail. Cary Katz was the first player to sneak into the money, with his 12th place finish worth $42,162 after Yuval Bronshtein was the bubble boy in unlucky 13th place for no return on his investment. Daniel Negreanu (10th for $46,002) and Roland Israelashvili (11th for $46,002) were both busted on the final hand of the day, with Glaser the beneficiary as his two pair aces and tens beat both Israelashvili and Negreanu’s weaker two pair hands. When play ended, some very big names were still in the hunt with just nine players remaining. Chip leader at the end of Day 2 was Glaser but plenty of big names survived, such as Jesse Klein, David Benyamine, Phil Hellmuth, and Day 1 chip leader Chad Eveslage all making the cut. WSOP 2021 Event #2 $25,000 H.O.R.S.E. Final Table Chipcounts: Benny Glaser - 2,590,000 Jesse Klein - 1,800,000 Chad Eveslage - 1,695,000 David Benyamine - 1,680,000 Phil Hellmuth - 1,640,000 Philop Sternheimer - 865,000 Ben Yu - 830,000 Matt Glantz - 410,000 DJ Buckley - 160,000 Barnett's A Bracelet Winner The first event on the schedule was Event #1, the $500 Casino Employees Event and that saw a dramatic conclusion crown Caesars Palace employee Jimmy Barnett as the winner. In an event where 419 players created a prize pool of $175,980, Barnett went into a heads-up battle against Jack Behrens with more than double his opponent’s chips and sealed the deal when his flopped flush held against Behrens’ middle pair when the chips went into the middle. Event #1 $500 Casino Employees Event Final Table Results: Jimmy Barnett - $39,013 Jack Behrens - $24,112 Danny Chang - $16,540 Leo Abbe - $11,587 Bryan Garret - $8,294 Bobby Schmidt - $6,069 Chris Minton - $4,542 Rick Cuevas - $3,478 Ronald Baltazar - $2,727 Justin Steinman - $2,191 The Reunion Gets Underway One of the biggest events of the series to look forward to for many recreational players was The Reunion, with a $500 buy-in and massive $5 million guarantee. Day 1a saw an incredible 2,649 players take to the felt in pursuit of glory, with many players simply happy to be at the felt after so long away from the action. For one player, the emotion of cashing in a WSOP event for the first time was too much to take in this heartwarming video captured by Kenna James and posted on Twitter. https://twitter.com/Kenna_James/status/1444163921712017414 It wasn’t only players comparatively new to success who were happy. Even with some long waits at registration desks, players who have seen it such as Mike Gorodinsky advocated patience and good humor as he praised the staff at the Rio who are making it so much easier for everyone. https://twitter.com/gordoMG/status/1444032253026127872 READ: 10 Do’s And Don’ts For World Series of Poker First-Timers At the end of Day 1a in The Reunion, it was Dave Alfa who totaled the biggest stack, with a massive 3,100,000 chips going into his bag. A slew of great players trail in his wake, however, with Konstantinos Gennaios (2,650,000), Ryan Leng (2,400,000), Joey Weissman (2,270,000) Ryan Laplante (1,700,000), and Cate Hall (1,500,000) all bagging up at the close of play. Others weren’t so lucky, with former WSOP Main Event legend Matt Affleck, James Romero, and Amir Levahot all cashed but failed to make Day 2. WSOP 2021 Event #4 $500 The Reunion Top 10 Chipcounts: Dave Alfa - 3,100,000 Kostantinos Gennaios - 2,650,000 Ryan Leng - 2,400,000 Joey Weissman - 2,270,000 Greg Armand - 1,890,000 Ryan Laplante - 1,700,000 David Danlag - 1,510,000 Kenna James - 1,500,000 Cate Hall - 1,500,000 Walter Atwood - 1,400,000 Heimiller, Mizrachi In Omaha 8 Top 5 A strong field of 607 played Day 1 of Event #5, the $1,500-entry Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better, with players such as Robert Mizrachi (177,000), JJ Liu (160,500), and Ari Engel (89,500) all thriving on the opening day of the three-day event. At the close of play, Christopher Stephen had the chip lead with a massive 206,500 chips, trailed by players of the caliber of Max Pescatori (37,500), Dan Zack (123,500), and Ian O’Hara (57,000) all surviving the day. WSOP 2021 Event #5 $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better Top 10 Chipcounts: Christopher Stephen - 206,500 Dan Heimiller - 177,000 Robert Mizrachi - 173,500 JJ Liu - 160,500 Anatoliy Zyrin - 143,000 Hernan Salazar - 141,000 Allyn Shulman - 134,500 Dan Zack - 123,500 Gary Kosakowski - 120,000 Frankie O'Dell - 112,500
  18. The first World Series of Poker Online bracelet on GGPoker of 2021 was won by Polish player Bartlomiej Swieboda, who came from the middle of the pack to win $161,111 in the $50 WSOP Online Event christened ‘The Return’. Unlike the events on WSOP.com, this event was open to worldwide players, which saw seven different nationalities represented between the nine players who made the final table. Heading into the final nine, it was Russian player Sergei Sitnikov who had the chip lead with a stack of 272 million chips dwarfing his nearest challenger Neville Costa (230 million). Brazilian player Matheus De Souza came into play with the second shortest stack, and he lost his stack first after moving all-in from the small blind with [poker card="Ks"][poker card="Qc"]. In a coinflip situation against Cuong Trinh, who had [poker card="9h"][poker card="9c"], the board of [poker card="Ah"][poker card="Jh"][poker card="2s"][poker card="3s"][poker card="4d"] didn’t allow De Souza back into contention, seeing him cash for $16,110. That pot vaulted Trinh up the leaderboard into second place and just a few hands later, the Chinese player took the lead. That all changed after a monumental clash between Costa and Ivan Zablyakin, however. Costa, holding [poker card="Qh"][poker card="5h"], limped from the small blind and Zablyakin checked to the flop with [poker card="Qd"][poker card="9c"]. That flop of [poker card="Jh"][poker card="2h"][poker card="Ts"] gave Costa a flush draw and Zablyakin the straight draw, leading to a bet from Costa, a raise from Zablyakin and a call from Costa to the [poker card="Kd"] turn. On the turn, Zablyakin bet again, this time calling a huge move as Costa shoved with the flush draw. The river of [poker card="7d"] meant Zablyakin’s straight survived, and Costa didn’t, leaving the event in eighth place for $21,483. It was still Zablyakin in charge by the time Sitnikov’s seat was empty in seventh place for $28,649. Sitnikov had come into nine-handed play as the chip leader but was running short when he moved all-in for a little over 16 big blinds with [poker card="Ah"][poker card="Qs"]. Called by Trinh with [poker card="Ts"][poker card="Tc"], the board of [poker card="Kd"][poker card="5c"][poker card="4c"][poker card="8d"][poker card="9h"] never looked like helping the Russian player, who went from looking extremely likely to lock up a podium place when play began to missing out on the final six. With Zablyakin and Trinh running over the table, everyone else was clinging on for dear life, and it wasn’t long before another unlucky player found their grip loosened as they flew to the rail. Alexander Jung had come into the final table with the shortest stack, but his laddering continued one more hand after his initial raise leaving just one big blind behind saw fellow short-stack Matheus Santos, move all-in with [poker card="Kh"][poker card="Qd"]. Trinh made the call with the dominating [poker card="As"][poker card="Qh"] and Jung got out of the way in a bid to leap a place. The flop of [poker card="8h"][poker card="4h"][poker card="4d"] kept Trinh ahead and the [poker card="6d"] turn changed nothing. Santos needed a king and only a king on the river, but although he saw paint, the [poker card="Js"] crushed his dreams of redemption and sent him out in sixth place for $38,204. Jung lasted one more place, but he could climb no more rungs on the ladder. Jung tossed his last big blind into the middle with [poker card="Kd"][poker card="7h"] and was called by the chip leader Zablyakin with [poker card="Th"][poker card="3s"]. Jung was hoping to hit, but sadly for him, his Russian opponent turned a three to oust him from the reckoning and leave Jung on the rail for a fifth-placed result worth $50,945. Just four players remained and at that point, Zablyakin was in charge, holding 690 million to Trinh’s 569 million, with both other players short-stacked on less than 160 million each. That situation changed dramatically after Trinh won a series of pots to close in on a billion chips at the expense of all three of his opponents, but most importantly for Russian fans, Zablyakin. Losing a vital coinflip to double-up the eventual winner Swieboda, Zablyakin shoved with [poker card="Jd"][poker card="2d"] and was called by Trinh with [poker card="6h"][poker card="5s"]. The flop of [poker card="Td"][poker card="5d"][poker card="2s"] put Trinh’s hand into the lead but opened up the flush draw for Zablayakin. Unfortunately for him, the [poker card="8h"] turn and [poker card="Ac"] river condemned him to a fourth-place finish worth $67,937. One player who had been quiet throughout was Israeli player Eran Soffer, but with the blinds escalating and both other players having at least double his chips, Soffer couldn’t wait any longer to get aggressive. He moved all-in pre-flop with [poker card="Ah"][poker card="8d"] and was ahead of his caller, Trinh, who held [poker card="Qs"][poker card="Ts"], but the exciting flop of [poker card="Qh"][poker card="Th"][poker card="9h"] changed that. Moving ahead with top two-pair, Trinh needed to fade both straight and flush draws held by Soffer, but that he did across the [poker card="9d"] turn and [poker card="3d"] to go into heads up with a massive 4:1 chip lead. Swieboda went into the final duel with nothing to lose as the massive underdog, and that showed in the early exchanges. Swieboda not only battled back but took the lead, in particular after counterfeiting Trinh’s two-pair with a better two-pair on the river to move into a 2:1 lead. Swieboda held onto the lead with a dogged determination and when the final hand played out, had even extended his lead to more than 5:1. Trinh was desperate to double back into the duel when he moved all-in with [poker card="7d"][poker card="7c"] on a flop of [poker card="3s"][poker card="3c"][poker card="2c"], but Swieboda had the easiest call of his tournament with [poker card="Kd"][poker card="Ks"] and faded both the [poker card="Ac"] turn and [poker card="8h"] river to scoop the pot and win his first-ever WSOP bracelet in style. With a massive 30,810 Day 1 entries, thanks to 24,587 unique players and 6,223 rebuys, the prize pool grew to an incredible $1.4 million, far more than the $1 million guarantee. By the start of Day 2, there were still 3,584 players in with a shout of winning the gold bracelet, but that number was whittled down to the Polish first-time bracelet winner, Swieboda. Having not cashed live since a trio of tournaments in Cyprus in 2019, the little-known Polish player won his maiden bracelet and a career-high score of $161,111. WSOP Event #33 The Return Final Table Results: Bartlomiej ‘chester20o’ Swieboda -$161,111 Cuong ‘CLVT’ Trinh - $120,810 Eran ‘Ma_Yesh_Beze’ Soffer - $90,595 Ivan ‘GangstaZab’ Zablyakin - $67,937 Alexander ‘OMGWTF!!’ Jung - $50,945 Matheus ‘tio_ricco’ Santos - $38,204 Sergey ‘sit_boom777’ Sitnikov - $28,649 Neville ‘NevSlater’ Costa - $21,483 Matheus ‘durezabh’ De souza - $16,110
  19. Every year for the past 51 years, the world's best poker players have gathered to battle for money and ego in the World Series of Poker. No matter the format, online or live, or the location, Europe, Australia, or in the birthplace of it all, Las Vegas, poker's heroes are born in the WSOP. The 2021 WSOP Online runs on WSOP.com from July 1 to August 1 and PocketFives is keeping tabs on all kinds of statistics from the action and will highlight one interesting stat or fun nugget from each day. July 30: Jason Gooch Loves The Fives (or the fifths) In 2019, Jason Gooch won the $1,000 buy-in WSOP Online NLHE Double Stack event for $241,493. Two weeks earlier, he finished runner-up in another online WSOP event. While 2021 hasn't seem him have that level of success, the Texas native has found a pair of final tables. The first came on July 17 when he finished fifth in Event #17 ($400 NLHE 8-Max). On Friday, Gooch came up with another fifth place finish, this time in Event #31 ($500 NLHE Summer Saver). He's also cashed eight other times in WSOP Online events this summer. July 29: Tony Dunst and Six Max Are a Match Made in Heaven In 2020, World Poker Tour commentator Tony Dunst beat 1,360 other runners to win WSOP Online Event #21 ($777 Six Max NLHE) for his second career WSOP bracelet. On Thursday, Dunst nearly pulled off the rare repeat. Dunst made his way through 773 entries in Event #30 ($1,000 Six Max NLHE Championship) before busting in ninth place. He also posted three fourth places finishes in three consecutive months in WSOP Circuit events online. July 28: The British are Coming! Chris Moorman won his second career WSOP bracelet on Wednesday, beating out 622 other entries to win Event #29 ($800 NLH 8-Max Turbo Deepstack). The last player he eliminated was fellow Englishmen Matthew Hunt. This is just the fifth time in WSOP that history that a pair of British players have finished 1-2 in a WSOP and the first time it's happened in a US-based event since 2007. That year, Ram Vaswani beat Andy Ward to win a $1,500 NLHE Shootout. In 2010, Scott Shelley beat J.P. Kelly to win a £1,075 NLHE event. The other two times it happened both involved one of English poker's most iconic characters. David 'Devilfish' Ulliott won a $2,000 Pot Limit Hold'em event by beating Chris Truby heads up. The very next year, Ulliott finished second to Steve Rydel in a $3,000 PLHE event. [caption id="attachment_635726" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Todd Sladek has had some real success in the $1,000 buy-in PLO WSOP online events. (WSOP photo)[/caption] The names of the $1,000 buy-in Pot Limit Omaha events in 2020 and 2021 might have different names, but that didn't seem to change much for Todd Sladek. In 2020, Sladek made the final table of the $1,000 Pot Limit Omaha High Roller, eventually busting in third place for $56,749. This year, in the $1,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship, the Chicago native made it one spot deeper, finishing runner-up to David Goldberg. No other player made both final tables. July 26: Paggeot Produces Pair of Podium Placings Corey Paggeot has had one of those weekends that poker players simultaneously have dreams and nightmares about. Paggoet finished runner-up in Event #24 ($400 No Limit Hold'em Monsterstack) on Saturday and then on Sunday finished third in Event #26 ($500 No Limit Hold'em The Big 500 Encore). No other player has managed to find the podium twice so far this year. Getting that close to a WSOP bracelet has to be a frustrating experience, but he does get to console himself with $88,792 in winnings. July 25: First Two Comma Prize Pool of the Year Unsurprisingly, the biggest buy-in event on the schedule, Event #25 ($7,777 NLHE Lucky 7's High Roller), built a massive prize pool. The 113 players, combined with the 38 rebuys the field was responsible for, produced a $1,113,927 prize pool marking the first time this year that a WSOP Online event had more than $1 million up for grabs. The 33 2020 WSOP Online events on WSOP.com had five events that hit the seven-figure mark with the biggest coming in Event #14 ($3,200 NLHE High Roller) when $1,507,840 was up for grabs. July 24: The Wait for a Double Bracelet Winner Continues There has not been a double bracelet winner through the opening 24 events, but Saturday's event had two players get really close. Carlos Welch, who won Event #8 ($888 NLHE Crazy Eights), finished 13th for $3,514. A few moments later, Michael Leib, winner of Event #10 ($333 No Limit Hold’em), busted out in 12th for $4,445. No player has even won a 2021 event and then made the final table of another event. Ryan Leng, Event #13 ($1,000 NLHE Freezeout) winner, matched Leib's performance with a 12th place finish in Event #15 ($5,300 NLHE High Roller Freezeout). July 23: Jennifer Fitzgibbon Bubbles Final Table for First WSOP Cash Bubbling the final table of any event is painful, but bubbling the final table of a WSOP bracelet event is particularly painful. Taking some out of the sting of that for Event #23 ($500 NLHE Turbo) final table bubbler Jennifer Fitzgibbon is the fact that this was her first WSOP cash. Fitzgibbon, who has been a PocketFives member since June 2019, earned a career-best $3,435 for finishing 10th. July 22: The Knockout King is Here While Anthony Kennedy was busy winning Event #22 ($600 NLHE Knockout), Daxton Lyon was busy knocking people out like some online poker version Mike Tyson in the Nintendo hit Punch-Out! With the knockout format, each time a player eliminated an opponent, they earned a $100 bounty. Nobody was busier than Daxton Lyon who was responsible for eliminating 30 opponents on his way to finishing 26th. He earned $3,000 from bounties and an additional $1,278 for his finish. The second best KO tally belonged to Kennedy with 22. July 21: Brock Lesnar Released From Cage Hits 10th Cash Michael 'BrockLesnar' Holtz joined Anthony Zinno and Ryan Depaulo as the only players with double-digit cashes this year after his runner-up finish in Event #21. He's now made a pair of final tables and has $79,823 in earnings. His summer success almost wasn't allowed to happen. In May, Holtz was banned by WSOP.com after he made a withdrawal at the cashier cage at Caesars in Las Vegas. After filling out the necessary paperwork with Caesars, Holtz had his ban lifted and he was again allowed to play. July 20: #1-Ranked Chris Basile Narrowly Misses out on #1 Bracelet Over the past year, Chris Basile has skyrocketed up the PocketFives Rankings to become the #1-ranked player in the United States. Two online WSOP Circuit wins, one in April and another in June, helped propel him to the top spot but he's also managed a couple of oh-so-close calls in bracelet events. He started the 2021 WSOP Online with a second place finish in Event #1 ($500 NLHE Big 500 Kick Off) where he earned $64,935. On Tuesday, Basile finished fourth in Event #20 ($3,200 NLHE High Roller) for $71,990. He now has seven cashes this summer for more than $144,000 in earnings. July 19: Ryan DePaulo Makes First Final Table of 2021 One after being one of the breakout stars of the 2020 WSOP Online, Ryan DePaulo made his back to a final table for the first. DePaulo, who famously won Event #12 ($500 NLHE The Big 500) while sitting in his car in a Whole Foods parking lot in New Jersey, earned $27,094 for finishing in fourth place in Event #19 ($888 Crazy Eights PLO). It was his tenth cash of the 2021 WSOP Online, but his first appearance at a final table since his win last June. July 18: 2020 WSOP.com Leaderboard Champ Shows Signs of Life Last summer, Ian Steinman won the WSOP.com Leaderboard during the WSOP Online by cashing 15 times. The highlight of those 15 cashes was his victory in Event #27 ($400 NLHE Freezeout) where he earned $110,557 and his first career bracelet. He made two other final tables, finishing fifth in Event #7 ($800 NLHE KO Deepstack) and sixth in Event #9 ($1,000 NLHE Six Max). The 2021 Series hasn't been quite as kind to Steinman but his game has started to show signs of life. After cashing in Events #7, #11, and #12, for his first three cashes, Steinman has made it into the money in the last two events, coming in 69th in Event #17 ($400 NLHE Eight Max) and then 43rd in Event #18 ($1,000 NLHE North American Open). July 17: Anthony Zinno First to Double Digits [caption id="attachment_635595" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Anthony Zinno became the first player to hit the double digits mark in 2021 WSOP Online cashes with a 40th place finish in Event #17. (WPT photo)[/caption] Just past the halfway mark of the WSOP.com online bracelet event schedule, Anthony Zinno became the first player to hit the double-digit mark in cashes. Zinno finished 40th in Event #17 ($400 NLHE Eight Max) to earn his tenth cash of the of the Series. Michael Holtz is one cash behind Zinno, with nine, and 2020 WSOP Online bracelet winner Ryan Depaulo and Martin Zamani are tied for third with eight cashes each. July 16: Allen Chang Rights a Wrong One Year Later Allen Chang topped the 498-entry field to win Event #16 ($600 Pot Limit Omaha 8 or better) for a $61,394 payday. That win allowed Chang, who won Event #5 ($1,000 NLHE Freezeout) in 2020, some level of revenge. In 2020, he made his way through 853 other entries in that event before busting in 30th place. July 15: Ali Imsirovic Still Chasing Bracelet #1 [caption id="attachment_635592" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Ali Imsirovic found his first cash of the 2021 WSOP on Thursday (WPT photo)[/caption] Over the last 3.5 years, Ali Imsirovic has risen from an unknown American online grinder to a verified poker superstar. He's won nearly $12 million by crushing the super high roller poker scene, but he has to find much success at the WSOP. In 2019, he finished runner-up in the $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty event for his best Series result. He cashed 7 times in the 2020 WSOP Online events on WSOP.com, but failed to make a single final table. On Thursday, Imsirovic, who played ever PokerGO Cup event, picked up his first 2021 WSOP Online cash, finishing 17th for $9,870. July 14: Jeff Gross - the Other One - Breaks 2021 Goose Egg There's at least a couple of Jeff Gross' in the poker world. While the partypoker ambassador is the most high profile, there's one out of New Jersey who has been fairly successful in WSOP.com bracelet and ring events during the pandemic. In 2020, Gross cashed if five WSOP Online events. He picked up 31 cashes in WSOP Circuit Online event between October 2020 and June 2021. His first 2021 WSOP Online cash came in Event #14 ($500 NLHE), where he finished 49th for $1,538. July 13: Ryan Leng is All About Equal Opportunity [caption id="attachment_635577" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Ryan Leng won his second career WSOP bracelet on Tuesday.[/caption] Ryan Leng doesn't differentiate between live and online WSOP events. He finds success in both. At the 2018 WSOP, he defeated 1,982 other players to win Event #51 ($1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Bounty) for his first career bracelet. On Tuesday, he beat out 560 other entries to win Event #13 ($1,000 NLHE Freezeout) for his second bracelet. He's also been a winner in WSOP Circuit events - and yes, he split those evenly as well. He has four Circuit rings, two live (2017 & 2020) and another two online (2018 & 2020). He has five runner-up finishes as well, with three of them coming online and the other two coming live. July 12: Darren Elias Gets Closer to Gold [caption id="attachment_635518" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Darren Elias has dominated the World Poker Tour but can't seem to translate that success to the WSOP. (WPT photo)[/caption] Some would argue that Darren Elias is the greatest player in World Poker Tour history. He has four titles, beating fields of 162, 489, 118, and 1,226. Yet he's never won a WSOP bracelet and the closest he's ever come - a pair of third place finishes - didn't come in NLHE events. On Monday, Elias posted the best NLHE finish of his WSOP career, coming in fifth in Event #12 ($500 NLHE Deepstack) for $18,729. Prior to that, his best NLHE finish came in 2017 when he finished sixth in a $1,500 buy-in event. July 11: Roland Israelashvili Keeps on Rollin' [caption id="attachment_635504" align="aligncenter" width="799"] Roland Israelashvili continues to collect cashes in WSOP Online events. (WPT photo)[/caption] Last summer, Roland Israelashvili cashed 14 times in the WSOP Online events on WSOP.com, including an impressive six consecutive in-the-money finishes from Event #14 through #19. Through the first 11 events last year, he had cashed four times. This year, Israelashvili is ahead of that pace. On Sunday, he finished 26th in Event #11 for his sixth cash of the year. While he made two final tables last year, Israelashvili has yet to make one this year with a 15th place finish in Event #7 his best result to date. July 10: About the "World" Part of the WSOP So COVID-related travel restrictions - both in and out of the United States - are making it very difficult for tourists of any kind to enter the country. The fields in the first 10 events of the WSOP Online show this. There have been 1,377 in-the-money finishes so far and only 52 of them have belonged to non-American players. To the surprise of nobody, Canada leads the way with 17 cashes. No other country has cracked double digits. The second-best performing country is Russia with six cashes. Germany has five - including the only win by a non-American, thanks to Manig Loeser's Event #2 triumph. July 9: Poker Vlogging Kingpins Battle It Out [caption id="attachment_635479" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Poker vloggers Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen both cashed in Event #9 on Friday night.[/caption] There is an amazing level of talent in the poker vlogging world these days, and most of them will tell you that Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen are the Godfathers of the medium. In Event #9, Neeme and Owen each picked up their second cash of the Series. Owen busted in 106th and turned his $400 buy-in into $701 while Neeme went a little bit deeper, finishing 82nd for $832. Owen scored his first cash in Event #2 ($600 NLHE Monster Stack) where he finished 17th for $3,699. Neeme didn't wait long to one-up his good friend. The next night, Neeme made the final table of Event #3 ($500 NLHE Turbo Deepstack) before busting in sixth for a $14,022 score. July 8: Joon Kim Misses Out on Bracelet #2 One year and one day after winning his first WSOP bracelet, Joon Kim almost won his second. Kim, who shipped Event #7 ($800 NLHE Knockout Deepstack Freezeout) for $106,127 on July 7, 2020, found himself heads-up against Carlos Welch early Friday morning with a chance at a second bracelet and $124,369. Ultimately, it was Welch who took home the hardware and the six-figure score. Kim had to settle for runner-up status and $76,886 in Event #8 ($888 NLHE Crazy Eights). July 7: Jack McClelland Finds His Way into the Money [caption id="attachment_635458" align="aligncenter" width="940"] Jack McClelland finished 27th in Event #7 for his first cash of the 2021 WSOP Online.[/caption] Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth aren't the only Poker Hall of Famers clicking their way to WSOP success this summer. Former WSOP tournament director Jack McClelland picked up his first cash of the summer in Event #7 ($777 Lucky 7's). McClelland, who went into the PHOF in 2014 - the same year as Negreanu - finished 27th for $3,481. Last year, he cashed in Events #23 and #30. He's also managed to pick up some WSOP Circuit Online cashes over the past year. July 6: Ben Yu Picks Up Pace in Pursuit of Online Cashes Record [caption id="attachment_635390" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Ben Yu cashed in Event #5 and Event #6 to get his 2021 WSOP Online campaign started. Last year, Yu cashed 16 times. (WPT photo)[/caption] Last summer, Ben Yu cashed in 16 of the 31 bracelet events available on WSOP.com for the second-highest total behind only Ryan Laplante, who had 17. On Tuesday, Yu made the final table of Event #6 ($2,000 NLHE Deepstack) before falling two spots short of a bracelet, finishing in third place for $73,958.46. It is his second cash of the summer, following up on his 16th place finish in Event #5 ($1,000 NLHE 8-Max). He's now cashed in 106 WSOP events with 20 of those coming online. July 5: The House of Moorman Continues to Battle - Each Other [caption id="attachment_635364" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Husband and wife Chris Moorman and Katie Lindsay both managed to finish in the money in Event #5 (888poker photo)[/caption] This time last year, PocketFives took readers along for the ride in The House of Moorman series as husband and wife Chris Moorman and Katie Lindsay worked their way through the WSOP Online events in Las Vegas and then in Mexico. Earlier this year they finished first and second in an online WSOP Circuit event with Moorman getting the ring. On Monday night, they got close to duplicating that feat in Event #5 ($1,000 NLHE 8-Max). Lindsay finished 37th for $2,789.41 and a few minutes later, Moorman busted in 34th place for a $3,178.63 score. July 4: Jonathan Dokler Continues to Impress [caption id="attachment_635356" align="aligncenter" width="696"] Jonathan Dokler has cashed in three of the first four WSOP Online events. (PokerNews/Borgata photo)[/caption] Making his way through 1,715 total entries in the opening event of the 2020 WSOP Online, Jonathan Dokler wasn't exactly a household name in the poker world. Fast forward a year later and he has continued to make a name for himself by putting up solid results. In May, right before the WSOP Online started, Dokler won the WSOP.com Caesars Atlantic City Circuit Main Event for $52,761. He's since cashed in three of the first four WSOP Online events. He finished 75th in Event #1, 74th in Event #3, and then made the final table of Event #4 before busting in ninth place. His total earnings so far are $7,543.55. July 3: Field Sizes Down Year-Over-Year, But Still Massive The opening of the 2020 WSOP Online came right in the heart of the early days of the pandemic lockdown - and the field sizes reflected that. Now that live poker is back to something resembling normal, players have more options to choose and the 2021 field sizes and prize pools reflect that. The first three events in 2020 attracted a total of 4,725 entries and prize pools of $2,397,760. Both the schedule and calendar are different (outside of the opening evnet) but the 2021 numbers are 3,265 - a 30.9% decline - and $1,562,670 - a 34.9% drop. Still, as live events in Las Vegas and Florida continue to draw record turnouts, the 2021 WSOP Online events are putting together some of the biggest prize pools in American online poker. July 2: Strong Start for Kathy Liebert [caption id="attachment_635335" align="aligncenter" width="799"] Kathy Liebert cashed in Event #1 ($500 NLHE Kickoff) and Event #2 ($600 NLHE Monster Stack). (WPT photo)[/caption] Kathy Liebert, who sits second on the Hendon Mob's Women's All-Time Money List, cashed in Event #2 ($600 NLHE Monster Stack) on Friday to secure back-to-back cashes to start her 2021 WSOP Online run. Liebert finished 39th in Event #1 and then narrowly missed out on making the final table in Event #2, busting in 12th place. Her total earnings through the first two events are $8,011.66. Read: Manig Loeser Ships Monster Stack for First Career WSOP Bracelet July 1: Phil Hellmuth Keeps Cashing [caption id="attachment_635327" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Phil Hellmuth is on the verge of passing Daniel Negreanu for the all-time lead in WSOP cashes. (PokerGO photo)[/caption] There is no player more closely tied to the World Series of Poker than 15-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth. During the 2020 WSOP Online events on WSOP.com, Hellmuth picked up 10 cashes, including an 11th-place finish in the first event on the schedule, the $500 NLHE Kickoff. He didn't quite get that deep this year, but did pick up another cash with a 141st place finish for $862. That's his 165th career WSOP cash and puts him just one behind Daniel Negreanu for the all-time lead. Read: Jose Noboa Opens 2021 WSOP Online With Win, $105K Score
  20. Almost 11 months to the day after Nicolo Molinelli won his first World Series of Poker bracelet on GGPoker.com, the Italian poker pro won his second by winning WSOP Online Event #3 ($2,500 Limit Hold'em Championship) on GGPoker for nearly $90,000. Molinelli eliminated three of his final eight opponents after working his way through the 180-runner field to make the final table. Mark Radoja came to the final table with the shortest stack and after just five minutes of play, made his stand. Radoja raised to 50,000 from the button and Stanislav Kuvaev called from the small blind. After the [poker card="ts"][poker card="8d"][poker card="4d"] flop. Kuvaev checked-raised to 50,000 and Radoja re-raised for his last 7,500. Kuvaev showed [poker card="kc"][poker card="tc"] for top pair while Radoja held [poker card="ad"][poker card="ks"]. The turn was the [poker card="2s"] and the [poker card="8h"] river completed the board to eliminate Radoja in ninth. It took another 90 minutes of action before the next player was eliminated. Blinds had gone up to 30,000/60,000. Molinelli raised to 120,000 from the small blind and Kuvaev made it three bets from the big. Kuvaev then shoved for 281,775 after Molinelli clicked it back to him. Kuvaev tabled [6[6 and would need to hold against Molinelli's [poker card="ac"][poker card="9c"]. The [poker card="qh"][poker card="4d"][poker card="3c"] flop was a safe one for Kuvaev but the [poker card="jc"] turn gave Molinelli extra out to a flush. The [poker card="as"] river gave Molinelli a pair of aces and ended Kuvaev's run in eighth place. Once again, the deep structure meant that there was a wait for the next bustout. Just over 45 minutes after Kuvaev was eliminated, current #4-ranked Joao Vieira was sent to the rail. Vieira struggled to stay afloat. Alex Fortin-Demers opened from UTG+1 and Vieira called from the big blind. After the [poker card="7h"][poker card="5d"][poker card="2s"] flop, Vieira check-raised to 160,000 and then called all in after Fortin-Demers three-bet. Fortin-Demers showed [poker card="jc"][poker card="jh"] while Vieira tabled [poker card="ah"][poker card="3c"] for a wheel draw. The turn was the [poker card="7c"] and the river was the [poker card="6s"] to miss all of Vieira's outs and eliminated the Portuguese pro in seventh. Fortin-Demers carried some momentum for the next 15 minutes and in the process found another victim. Romain Dours raised to 240,000 from the big blind after Fortin-Demers had limped from the small. The flop was [poker card="jh"][poker card="7c"][poker card="7h"] and Fortin-Demers check-called Dours' bet. He then checked again after the [poker card="ah"] river and Dours bet 144,000 all in and Fortin-Demers called and tabled [poker card="8s"][poker card="7d"]. Dours showed [poker card="ac"][poker card="kd"] and was down to two outs heading to the river. The [poker card="qc"] completed the board and sent Dours out in sixth place. Exactly one half-hour later, Molinelli put another player away. Vince Cavailles pushed his last 378,500 into the middle from early position with [poker card="ks"][poker card="6h"] and Molinelli defended his big blind with [poker card="jh"][poker card="8c"]. The board ran out [poker card="td"][poker card="8h"][poker card="5d"][poker card="6d"][poker card="9c"] to give Molinelli a pair of eights which were good enough to beat Cavailles' turned pair of sixes and Cavailles was eliminated in fifth. Despite being responsible for sending a pair of players home earlier, Fortin-Demers was the next player to go. Down to just 826,050 and with blinds at 100,000/200,000, Fortin-Demers got all of his chips in against Renan Bruschi preflop. Fortin-Demers had [poker card="kc"][poker card="qh"] while Bruschi had [poker card="ah"][poker card="5h"]. The [poker card="td"][poker card="4s"][poker card="2h"] flop changed nothing and all Fortin-Demers could do was watch as the [poker card="2c"] turn and [poker card="2d"] river cemented his fourth place elimination. At this point, Molinelli was the shortest remaining stack but he doubled on the first hand of three-handed play to leave Milos Petakovic as the shortest remaining stack. Down to less than two big blinds, Petakovic was all in with [poker card="9h"][poker card="2h"] against the [poker card="ac"][poker card="td"] of Bruschi. Petakovic found no relief on the flop, turn, or river and was eliminated in third place. Bruschi began heads up play with the chip lead but with 20 total big blinds in play, it didn't take long for Molinelli to flip the script and take out his Brazilian opponent. On the final hand of the tournament, Bruschi had just 833,300 left to play with before paying his big blind. Molinelli had taken most of Bruschi's chip on the previous hand and collected the remainder by raising to 600,000 and then calling when Bruschi moved all in. Bruschi was ahead with [poker card="qd"][6] against Molinelli's [poker card="ts"][poker card="4s"]. The [poker card="tc"][poker card="8c"][poker card="2s"] flop gave the Italian top pair and as the [poker card="ah"] turn and [poker card="5s"] river completed the board, Bruschi was out in second place and Molinelli laid claim to a WSOP Online bracelet on GGPoker for the second year in a row. GGPoker WSOP Event #3 Final Table Payouts Nicolo Molinelli - $88,461 Renan Bruschi - $66,336 Milos Petakovic - $49,745 Alex Fortin-Demers - $37,303 Vince Cavailles - $27,974 Romain Dours - $20,977 Joao Vieira - $15,731 Stanislav Kuvaev - $11,796 Mark Radoja - $8,846
  21. Hosted by Lance Bradley and Jeff Walsh, The Fives Poker Podcast runs each week and covers the latest poker news, preview upcoming events, and debate the hottest topics in poker. This week on The FIVES, Lance and Jeff bring you all of the latest gold bracelet results from the World Series of Poker Online on GGPoker - including poker legend Erik Seidel's history-making ninth career bracelet win. Plus, the Pennsylvania WSOP Online series wrapped up with an interesting payout structure for its high roller, and it was a great week for poker content with the World Poker Tour's live streamed high-stakes home game. Also, following up with last week's podcast about WSOP Rule 115, there were multiple clarifications to the COVID-inspired rule leaving the guys with even more questions. Tune in! Subscribe to The FIVES and never miss an episode - available everywhere you enjoy your favorite podcasts. Subscribe: Apple Podcasts * Google Podcasts * Stitcher
  22. After each 2021 World Series of Poker Online bracelet event wraps up, the WSOP ships the event winner their gold bracelet via FedEx. The way the first nine events have gone, somebody needs to inquire about bulk shipping rates to Brazil. For the fourth time in nine events, a Brazilian grinder has managed to take down a WSOP Online event on GGPoker. Lucio Lima defeated 2,228 other players to win Event #9 ($525 Superstack Turbo Bounty NLHE) for $95,205. The final table included a pair of previous bracelet winners as well as a Polish player looking to capture the third bracelet this week for his homeland. In the end, it was Lima joining Joao Simao, Eduardo Pires, and Thiago Crema as Brazilian players who have capture gold already this summer. Action folded to Krzysztof Dulowski in late position and he raised to 700,000 with [poker card="jh"][poker card="th"] before William Romaine made it 1,995,000 with [poker card="kc"][poker card="kh"] from his direct left. Dulowski called. The flop came [poker card="jd"][poker card="8h"][poker card="6s"] and Dulowski check-called after Romaine bet 2,170,000. The turn was the [poker card="js"] to give Dulowski trip jacks and Dulowski checked to Romaine who checked behind. The river was the [poker card="7d"] and Dulowski moved all in to put Romaine to a decision for his tournament life. The American, who is residing in Mexico during this series, called off the rest of his chips only to be shown a better hand and was eliminated in ninth place. A few moments later, Lima used a dominating hand to pick up his first elimination of the night. From UTG, Japan's Daisuke Ogita moved all in for 9,124,815 with [poker card="ac"][poker card="tc"] and action folded to Lima in the cutoff. He re-shoved with [poker card="ah"][poker card="kd"], forcing the rest of the table to fold. The board ran out [poker card="qh"][poker card="js"][poker card="ts"][poker card="as"][poker card="4s"] to give both players top pair with Lima's king kicker coming into play to eliminate Ogita in eighth. With blinds of 300,000/600,000 (75,000 ante), Yngve Steen moved all in for 7,593,157 holding [poker card="7c"][poker card="7s"]. Everybody folded until Stanislav Kuvaev re-shoved for 8,965,336 on the button with [poker card="ad"][poker card="as"]. The [poker card="qc"][poker card="8c"][poker card="2s"] flop changed nothing and the [poker card="qh"] meant Steen was drawing very thin. The river was the [poker card="6c"] to give Kuvaev the pot and send Steen out in seventh place. When the final table began, Joaquin Melogno was the second shortest stack. After seeing three others bust around him, Melogno's rise up the ladder came to a halt. Melogno raised to 1,470,000 from UTG and Lima called from the big blind. Both players checked after the [poker card="qc"][poker card="9c"][poker card="7d"] flop. The turn was the [poker card="6s"] and Lima bet 4,060,000 and Melogno called. The river was the [poker card="6c"] and Lima moved all in. Melogno called off his 11,892,512 stack and tabled [poker card="jh"][poker card="js"] but Lima showed [poker card="qs"][poker card="th"] for a bigger pair to give him his second elimination of the night as Melogno departed in sixth. Kuvaev was the only player who had a shorter stack than Melogno at the start of the final table. His run lasted just five minutes longer than Melogno. Kuvaev moved all in from UTG for 11,475,993 with [poker card="ah"][poker card="qc"] before Dulowski re-shoved with [poker card="kc"][poker card="kd"]. Dulowski stayed in control after the [poker card="9d"][poker card="8s"][poker card="4s"] flop before Kuvaev got a little tease on the [poker card="qs"] turn. The [poker card="ts"] river completed the board and eliminated Kuvaev in fifth position. A battle of the blinds took the tournament from hour-handed to three-handed just 11 minutes later. Lima raised from the button to 1,600,000 before Dulowski three-bet to 6,560,000 in the small blind. Johnathon French then moved all in from the big blind for 9,820,175. Lima folded but Dulowski called and turned over [poker card="kc"][poker card="jc"] which put French in great shape holding [poker card="ac"][poker card="kd"]. The [poker card="th"][poker card="4s"][poker card="3h"] flop was a great one for French but the [poker card="jh"] spelled disaster and sent the Canadian to the river with only seven outs. The river was the [poker card="3c"] and French failed to improve and was sent to the rail in fourth. Thanks to that pot, Dulowski started three-handed play with the chip lead and almost 50% of the total chips in play. Just 12 minutes later, he was out. Anson Tsang, who won a bracelet at 2018 WSOP Europe, raised the button to 2,400,000 and Lima came along in the small blind. Dulowski moved all in for 11,794,214 and Tsang re-shoved for 50,286,066 forcing Lima to fold. Dulowski showed [poker card="kc"][poker card="qd"] which put him behind Tsang's [poker card="ah"][poker card="4c"]. The board ran out [poker card="9c"][poker card="8c"][poker card="8d"][poker card="jc"][poker card="8h"] to miss both players and allowed Tsang to take the pot thanks to his ace as Dulowski went home in third place, denying himself the chance to become the third Polish player to win a 2021 WSOP Online event. Tsang started heads up play with 58% of the chips in play and through the early hands of play, he increased that to holding nearly 75%. That was as close as Tsang got to winning the bracelet though. Over the next 17 minutes of play, Lima grinded back to even stacks and eventually took the lead. At this point both players were sitting on stacks of roughly 20 big blinds each. On the final hand of the night, Lima open-shoved for 55,468,880 with [poker card="3c"][poker card="3h"] and Tsang called for 55,281,120 with [poker card="ac"][poker card="5h"]. The [poker card="ah"][poker card="9c"][poker card="3s"] flop paired Tsang's ace but gave Lima bottom set. The turn was the [poker card="7s"] to leave Tsang drawing dead as the [poker card="td"] river completed the board and eliminated Tsang in second place and handed Lima his first career WSOP bracelet. Event #9 Final Table Payouts Lucio 'WizardOfAz' Lima - $95,205 Anson Tsang - $66,918 Krzysztof 'ZryjGruz' Dulowski - $60,634 Johnathon 'Resolve' French - $29,320 Stanislav Kuvaev - $23,741 Joaquin Melogno - $18,314 Yngve 'IAMWILLIAM' Steen - $18,390 Daisuke 'REDJOE' Ogita - $17,123 William 'BigCharles' Romaine - $16,438
  23. It’s been nearly two years since the last live World Series of Poker took place and for poker players around the world, poker’s premier summer camp has been sorely missed. It's not just the massive amount of action, but also all of the little things that take place when one travels to Sin City to chase the glory of winning a bracelet, that makes for the total experience. With the World Series of Poker 50 days away, the PocketFives staff sat down and came up with 50 things, both big and small (and in no particular order), that we are looking forward to when the WSOP returns on September 30. 1. “Shuffle Up And Deal” Is there anything more exciting than taking your seat in a WSOP bracelet event and getting underway with the classic starting gun of “Shuffle Up and Deal!” 2. Daniel Negreanu’s poker vlogs. Over the past few years, one of the most fun pieces of content has been Daniel Negreanu allowing you to be his wingman as he chases WSOP bracelet number seven in his daily WSOP vlogs. Everything from cameos by some of poker’s biggest stars to behind-the-scenes access to his daily grind Negreanu lets those who can’t make the trip to the WSOP feel like they are part of the action. 3. The hustle back to the table. Speed walking the Rio hallway to make sure you don’t miss a hand after the break. Not only do you want to be in action, but we all know that if we miss a hand or two, somebody at the table will inevitably joke that “you got aces” upon your return. 4. The Poker Kitchen. Trying to decide between chicken strips or a pre-packaged sandwich from the poker kitchen. Complaining about the food at the poker kitchen has become as much of a WSOP tradition as the bracelets themselves. But we’d all rather eat the $18 cobb salad than getting stuck in traffic trying to get back to the Rio after the dinner break. 5. Standing in line at Starbucks behind Huck Seed. Hitting the long line at the Rio Starbucks to get some caffeine to shake off the night before and get ready for a long grind at the tables and see some of your favorite poker players doing the same thing. 6. Behold the bracelet! One can’t help but appreciate the moment when WSOP tournament director Jack Effel presents the gold bracelet to the series most recent champion. 7. Grinding for lammers. Getting your satellite grind on, grabbing pink lammers, and then wandering the hallways looking for someone who is buying into the next event to sell them to. 8. The Amazon Room. There was a time when all of the rooms had the dim lighting currently held by the Amazon Room, but whether you start there or are moved into the back ballroom as the money draws near - there’s nothing like playing in the Amazon Room. 9. Killing time in the “Mothership.” Not everything is going to go your way at the WSOP, but when you’ve busted the latest tournament and you’re ready to dive into the next one, the ample seating of the Final Table spaceship has a spot for you to watch the kind of action you are hoping to be playing in. 10. Squeaking into the money. Of course, everyone would prefer to be the big stack heading into the money bubble. But when the choice is not your own and you gotta grind out those last few big blinds to make the money, sometimes trying to survive on fumes is a game unto itself. 11. Acting like you’ve been there before. Tap, tap. Nice hand. Good luck everyone. 12. Mean mugging for poker photogs. You’re a poker player at a poker table in the middle of a poker game. Now, let’s see that poker face. 13. Friendly reunions… It’s been nearly two years since the last World Series of Poker and, for many, the same amount of time since they’ve seen some of their friends from poker player summer camp in person. Raise a glass to reunions! 14. …at the Hooker Bar. The last stop on the way out of the Rio is the iconic “Hooker Bar” where many of the WSOP’s greatest late-night stories have taken place. There’s always time for one more. 15. Getting harassed by phone charging vendors. The bad boys of the WSOP hallway will be back for one more shot at upselling you a phone accessory at four times what you can get it for online. A sight for sore eyes for sure. 16. Phil Hellmuth rants. Love him or hate him, the Poker Brat is woven into the fabric of the WSOP. The 15 bracelets are only half of what makes Hellmuth, well, Hellmuth. The other is the antics and temper tantrums that have helped make him famous. At some point during the seven weeks of action, somebody is going to do something to set Hellmuth off. And the ensuing rant about how bad his opponents play and/or how well he is playing will serve as a tell-tale sign that the WSOP is back. 17. Finding a GTO way to beating the crowds to the restroom. Maybe this isn’t something to look forward to but it’s key to make life a little more comfortable during the series. No one wants to miss a hand, what you don’t know won’t hurt you and standing in a long line to use the restroom is one of the worst ways to spend a break. 18. Mid-day table-side massages. Long days of grinding can wear a person down, luckily there’s a swarm of top-tier professionals ready to help work out the kinks while you are trying to build a stack at the table. 19. Picking up big hands in big spots. Who wouldn’t be excited to look down at pocket aces in a bracelet event? 20. Getting featured on an upcoming vlog (battling for Bradley Bucks). Whether it’s at the Rio or another one of Las Vegas’ many poker rooms, during the WSOP most of the well-known vloggers will be in action. Whether it’s Brad or Andrew, Jaman or Johnnie or another up-and-coming poker cinematographer like Mariano, there’s a chance that if you play cash games in Sin City you might just get to guest star in an upcoming YouTube vlog. 21. Kevmath’s Daily Deepstack Updates. There simply isn’t a more beloved figure in poker than Kevin Mathers and following along as the man known as the WSOP social media czar or guru navigates his way through a Michelob Ultra or two while playing in one of the Rio Daily Deepstacks gives everybody the feels. 22. Having a drink with Niall Farrell at Hal’s hallway bar. As long as it’s not the first or second level of the day, you can find Niall Farrell in one of two places. The first is the Daily Deepstack where he’s blasting away while a Corona or two deep. The other is in the hallway bar with his good friend Hal the Bartender. Either way, Niall’s a good enough sport that he just might buy you a beer and listen to your bad beat story. 23. Punting a Saturday tournament to make a Sunday LV Raiders game. Okay, so maybe this isn’t something we missed since the Raiders weren’t in Vegas in 2019 and this is the first (and only) Fall WSOP, but knowing you can get over the bad beat by watching the Raiders the next day is something to look forward to. 24. Grabbing the latest in poker literature from D&B. Seeing Dan and Byron from D&B Poker selling the latest poker books from the likes of Chris Moorman, Jonathan Little, and PocketFives’ own Lance Bradley at their booth in the hallway. 25. Sitting to the left of one of your favorite pros (or anywhere with Phil Laak). One of the best parts about the World Series of Poker is that anyone, who can pony up a buy-in, can play. That means that recreational players get to mingle with the pros and no matter the bracelet event, there’s going to be some famous poker players in the field. Don’t pass up the chance to put in a three-bet when you think Phil Laak is raising light. 26. Diving out of the way of Doyle’s scooter. It was just a couple of years ago that Doyle said he was finished playing tournaments at the WSOP. But this year, he indicated that in 2021 - he’d be back scooting around the Amazon room for an encore (and a shot at bracelet #11). 27. Suffering through a bad beat story (while still in the tournament). Bad beat stories are rarely tolerable but when you still have a shot at a gold bracelet, you can lend an ear to a friend. After all, if and when you bust, you’ll be the one telling the story. 28. Cheering on a friend making a deep run - when you have a piece of them. Poker’s an individual game, but having (and being a part of) a support system is crucial. So, enjoy the ride from the sidelines when you have a small percentage of a pal and help them keep their head on straight in the middle of a deep run. 29. Bagging chips at the end of the day. No better way to end a day of play than to find a bag in a big event. Pass the pens around and write your name clearly so friends and family can find you in the chip counts. 30. Players complaining about a live update having bad info. Poker fans around the world consume content at a gluttonous pace during the WSOP. This includes live updates from every bracelet event. Inevitably, some of the reported include mistakes. A card is reported incorrectly, either the suit or the value is wrong. Sometimes bet sizes are wrong. These mistakes happen in the rush to get information to those hungry fans. This causes players involved in those hands to take their complaints to Twitter. 31. Playing the games your local card room never bothers to offer. No Limit Hold’em may be the “Cadillac of Poker” but the game has so much more to offer when you play other variants. During the WSOP, there are plenty of other games offered (both inside and outside of the Rio) to allow you to test your overall poker skills. 32. A deep run in the $50K by Phil Ivey. With all of his court cases officially behind him, Phil Ivey has indicated that he’s planning on making a return to the Rio this year. When he does, it’s expected he’ll be firing in the biggest tournaments on the schedule, including the $50,000 Poker Players Championship where he’ll be a favorite to make a deep run. 33. Late-night cash game action everywhere in Sin City. When the World Series of Poker tournaments are taking place, the cash game action all over the city reaches a fever pitch. Not only can you find great games, at every buy-in level, in nearly every poker room on the strip but poker rooms games that don’t typically run also show up on the board. It’s non-stop cash game action during the WSOP. 34. Treating yourself to an All-American Dave meal. Sure, the poker kitchen is good for a quick bite but it’s not exactly a quick bite that’s good FOR you. All-American Dave has serviced the WSOP poker playing public with healthy meals from his food truck. You don’t have to be a baller and get the meals delivered to the table, you can simply pop out back and treat yourself to something a little healthier to help get you through the day. 35. Forgetting what day of the week it is. The grind plays tricks on the mind. Just don’t miss your flight home. 36. Calling for a card and seeing it appear. Everything seems bigger when battling for a bracelet and it just feels so good when you spike the perfect card at the perfect time to keep the dream alive for another orbit. 37. Hearing Gus Hansen announce that “It’s going to be a great fall.” While in Las Vegas throughout 2018 and 2019 Gus Hansen let it be known that “it’s going to be a great summer.” With the WSOP playing out in the fall this year, we hope to see The Great Dane keep the good times going with an appropriate seasonal motto. 38. Watching your ODB Fantasy team struggle. Despite fielding a near-perfect roster, complete with a pair of sleeper picks you stole for the cheap, your fantasy team is still going to underperform. But that’s ok because it’s all about the sweat anyway. 39. Live episodes of The FIVES from the Amazon Room. You may be stuck behind a desk for the time being but the guys from The FIVES will be bringing you all of the latest news and results from the floor of the WSOP. A great way to kill an hour and keep tabs on the series. 40. Double bracelet winners. It's almost a certainty that at least one player will go on a heater and sun run their way to at least two bracelets during the series. Can't wait to see who emerges this year. 41. Allen Kessler finishing second in something. Four times in his WSOP career, Allen ‘the Chainsaw’ Kessler has made his way through all but one player in a WSOP event only to have that one player block him from winning his first WSOP bracelet. Kessler has served as bridesmaid to Lukas Zaskodny, Brian Rast, Frank Kassela, and Todd Brunson. 42. Short stacks "struggling" to find their new table. For a lot of players, cashing in a WSOP event is a lifelong dream. Some might be willing to, let’s say, bend the rules a little bit to check that item off of their bucket list. This includes the short stack being sent to their new table only to find the open seat is about to be in the big blind. It’s at this moment that a poker player with an aptitude for numbers fails to understand the elementary school level system of numbering tables as they walk right by that empty seat before getting “lost” in the tables some 30 feet away. 43. Getting called “baby” by Scotty Nguyen. In 1998, Scotty Nguyen looked at Kevin McBride at told him, “you call, gonna be all over, baby” on his way to winning the WSOP Main Event. Since then, Nguyen has won three more WSOP bracelets (for a total of five) and has called approximately 71 million other poker players “baby” in what has become his trademark phrase. 44. Walking past a closed Hash House. Dinner breaks at the WSOP can be chaos. Some players grab Ubers or taxis and head to local restaurants, but the majority of players look for something inside the Rio. On the busiest of days, that leads to long lines at All-American Bar & Grille, El Burro Borracho, and the dim sum joint. But on your way from the tournament area to those restaurants, you’ll inevitably walk past a closed Hash House A Go Go. The breakfast spot is apparently only allowed to be open during breakfast hours. 45. Making the correct decision in a big, big spot. Sometimes you gotta risk it for the biscuit and one of the best feelings in tournament poker is making the right decision in the most crucial of spots with what feels like all the eyes in the room on you. 46. That god damned carpet. There isn’t a casino in the world that doesn’t have tilt-inducing carpet and the Rio is no exception. But over the years, players have come to know the carpet well - much like the carpet in their parent's house. You don’t like it. You wouldn’t put it in your house. But at least it’s familiar. 47. Hopping in an Uber to head to your next tournament. Busting out of a WSOP tournament is a horrible, horrible feeling for any player. Thankfully, the WSOP isn’t the only tournament series in town and the next event is just a short Uber ride away. 48.Finally making it out of the bowling alley and into the Brazilia during the Reunion. Smaller buy-in WSOP tournaments draw massive turnouts every year. While that’s great for the prize pools and the eventual winner, sometimes players are forced to start their tournament journey in less-than-ideal settings. Any available square footage gets used and in past years that has included an empty bowling alley and the area right outside of Guy Fierri’s Mexican joint. Getting moved from there to the main tournament is a welcome sight for all. 49. Check-raising the flop with air. You defended the big blind against a 3X open with [5c][8d] and the flop came [jh][7s][2s]. You checked to the aggressor and he fired out a pretty standard continuation bet. At this point you really had two choices: fold and post the small blind for the next hand, or announce “raise” and put your opponent to the test. Maybe even because you put him on Ace-King? 50. The Main Event! There’s only one, true World Series of Poker Main Event and there’s nothing like it in the game of poker.
  24. Mitchell Halverson had earned seven cashes in the 2021 World Series of Poker Online events heading into Thursday’s $600 No Limit Hold’em Six Max Championship. His biggest cash over those seven events was for $2,878 when he finished 32nd in the $888 No Limit Hold’em Crazy Eights events. Halverson scored a much more significant strike Thursday, winning the tournament to secure an $84,057 score and his first WSOP gold bracelet. The $600 buy-in tournament drew in a total of 523 unique players and 260 rebuys, generating a total prize pool of $422,820. There were still some big names left in the mix with only three tables left to go including Bryan Piccioli (who was eliminated in 18th place for $2,875), Kristen Bicknell (15th - $3,594), Jesse Sylvia (11th - $4,524), Tony Dunst (9th - $5,835) and Ryan Laplante (8th, $7,611). But it was Halverson left standing tall when the dust settled on this event after over 10 hours of play. Drew O’Connell made it to the final table with just over one big blind remaining in his stack. As the other three remaining players in the tournament were moved to the final table, O’Connell was already in the process of moving all-in three-handed on the button for his final 118,170 chips. Joshua Faris called in the small blind and Nipun Java called in the big blind. Faris and Java both checked down through the river as the board ran out [poker card="ad"][poker card="8c"][poker card="4h"][poker card="ks"][poker card="8h"]. O’Connell’s [poker card="qd"][poker card="jd"] fell short of Faris’s [poker card="kh"][poker card="3d"] and O’Connell was quickly knocked out in sixth place. The final table’s next elimination came just four hands later. Action folded around to James Gilbert in the small blind who moved all-in for his last 495,671 chips with [poker card="th"][poker card="5d"]. Gilbert’s attempted blind steal did not work out as Faris woke up with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="9h"] and made the call. Both players paired the board when the flop came [poker card="as"][poker card="kd"][poker card="5h"], but Gilbert would need help to survive. None came as the [poker card="4s"] fell on the turn and the [poker card="6h"] came on the river to eliminate Gilbert in fifth. Four-handed play lasted for nine minutes, although five of those were spent on break. Anthony Spinella folded under the gun and Halverson min-raised to 200,000 on the button with [poker card="ts"][poker card="tc"]. Faris folded in the small blind before Java moved all-in from the big blind for 2,402,264 chips with [poker card="ac"][poker card="2c"]. Halverson made the call to send the players to a flop of [poker card="kd"][poker card="9c"][poker card="7h"]. Java was looking for an ace or backdoor clubs until the [poker card="th"] fell on the turn to give Halverson a set and end the hand on the spot. A meaningless [poker card="jd"] on the river sealed Java’s fourth-place finish. Just over five minutes after Java’s elimination, all three of the remaining players had over 20 big blinds and it looked as though the fast-paced final table had settled down. Halverson folded on the button and the action moved to Faris who limped in on the small blind. Spinella checked his option and the two players went to a flop of [poker card="js"][poker card="9h"][poker card="7s"]. Fireworks went off as Faris checked, Spinella bet 142,500, Faris raised to 450,000, and Spinella moved all-in to 2,473,170. Faris quickly called with the [poker card="jh"][poker card="9c"], which was ahead of Spinella’s [poker card="jd"][poker card="7d"]. The [poker card="qd"] on the turn and [poker card="2s"] on the river brought no help to Spinella, who was eliminated in third place. Faris entered heads up play with 9,650,309 chips to Halverson’s 6,009,691. That lead only lasted for one hand as the two players got their chips all-in on the first hand of heads up play with Halverson holding the [poker card="as"][poker card="js"] and Faris holding [poker card="5d"][poker card="5c"]. The flop fell [poker card="ah"][poker card="8s"][poker card="2s"] to give Halverson a substantial lead in the hand, which he held on to when the [poker card="jh"] on the turn and [poker card="6d"] on the river completed the board. The final hand of the tournament came about 10 minutes later. Halverson limped in to 120,000 and Faris raised to 442,500, prompting a call from Halverson. The flop came [poker card="ah"][poker card="tc"][poker card="8d"] and both players checked. Faris bet 337,500 after the [poker card="9d"] fell on the turn and Halverson made the call. The [poker card="4c"] completed the board on the river and Faris put in a bet of 675,000. Halverson went into his time bank before moving all-in. Faris snap-called off his remaining 2,241,236 chips with [poker card="ac"][poker card="qc"], but his top pair was no good against Halverson’s [poker card="9c"][poker card="8h"]. The slow-played two pair earned Halverson the biggest cash of his career. Event #30 Final Table Payouts Mitchell 'franzia' Halverson - $84,057 Joshua "Kenjiboi7" Faris - $51,965 Anthony 'Nowb3Athat' Spinella - $36,363 Nipun 'javatini' Java - $25,834 James 'Danfriel' Gilbert - $18,604 Drew 'dudeguydrew' O'Connell - $13,615
  25. Brad Zusman picked up one of his three cashes in the 2020 World Series of Poker Online the $500 No Limit Hold’em Summer Saver event, earning $1,067 for 177th place. Zusman’s first WSOP cash of the 2021 online series came in the same event, only this time it was for a first place prize of $79,683 and a WSOP gold bracelet. Friday’s event brought in 632 unique entrants and had 285 rebuys to build a prize pool of $412,650. Zusman had a roller coaster ride at the final table as he started with the second biggest stack at the table and fell down to below ten big blinds before eventually clawing his way back to the top. Nine-handed play lasted for 15 minutes before the final table had its first casualty of the night. Josh King min-raised to 160,000 from the cutoff and Jason Gooch re-raised to 480,000 on the button. Zusman folded in the small blind before David Nodes moved all-in for 1,311,374 chips out of the big blind with [poker card="qc"][poker card="qh"]. King folded and Gooch quickly called with the [poker card="kd"][poker card="kh"]. The board ran out [poker card="8d"][poker card="6s"][poker card="3c"][poker card="6d"][poker card="2h"], bringing no help to Nodes who was knocked out in ninth place. About seven minutes passed before two quick eliminations occurred. Jeremy Menard was down to just 4.5 big blinds when he committed the majority of his stack with a raise to 400,000 in early position with [poker card="ks"][poker card="td"]. King called on the button with [poker card="as"][poker card="qh"] and the two remaining players saw a flop of [poker card="9c"][poker card="7c"][poker card="4h"]. Menard moved all-in for his remaining 51,476 and King made the call. The [poker card="8d"] came on the turn and the [poker card="3s"] fell on the river to keep King’s ace-high in the lead and to eliminate Menard in eighth place. Two hands later, ‘KerriP’ went all-in with their remaining 855,024 chips from under the gun with [poker card="5s"][poker card="5h"]. Mark Ioli was next to act and made the call with [poker card="ah"][poker card="kc"], prompting folds from the rest of the table. ‘KerriP’ dodged trouble on the flop of [poker card="js"][poker card="4d"][poker card="2c"], but the [poker card="ac"] on the turn left ‘KerriP’ in need of a three or five on the river. The [poker card="6s"] completed the board and locked in a seventh place finish for ‘KerriP’. Six-handed play lasted for over 25 minutes before another elimination occurred. Orson Young min-raised to 240,000 and Gooch made the call in the big blind. The flop came [poker card="qd"][poker card="9s"][poker card="2s"] and Gooch checked the action over to Young, who put in a continuation bet of 160,000. Gooch raised to 545,000 and Young called. The [poker card="kc"] fell on the turn and Gooch bet enough to put Young all-in. Young called off his remaining 1,142,272 chips with [poker card="qs"][poker card="th"] and found himself behind Gooch’s [poker card="9h"][poker card="2h"] two pair. Young was knocked out in sixth place when the [poker card="6c"] came on the river. Just under ten minutes passed before Gooch moved all-in for 2,920,773 chips in the cutoff with [poker card="ks"][poker card="jd"]. Action folded to Ioli in the big blind who quickly called with [poker card="ac"][poker card="kd"]. The flop of [poker card="as"][poker card="ad"][poker card="9d"] added no drama to the hand and the [poker card="7c"] on the turn sealed the win for Ioli. A meaningless [poker card="8s"] on the river completed the board and eliminated Gooch in fifth place. The four players left at the final table continued to play for another eight minutes until Jeff Miller moved all-in for 3,007,504 from the small blind with [poker card="kc"][poker card="6c"]. Ioli once again woke up with a big hand in the big blind with [poker card="9c"][poker card="9d"] and he made the call. The flop came [poker card="ah"][poker card="qh"][poker card="6h"] to give Miller a pair, but Ioli’s pocket nines were still best. The [poker card="2d"] on the turn and the [poker card="jc"] on the river brought no help for Miller, ending his night in fourth place. Less than five minutes passed before three-handed play came to an end. Ioli min-raised to 400,000 on the button and King moved all-in for 2,950,927 chips in the small blind with [poker card="qd"][poker card="td"]. Zusman folded in the big blind and Ioli quickly called with [poker card="ac"][poker card="kh"]. A flop of [poker card="jh"][poker card="4d"][poker card="2d"] brought in a flush draw for King, but the [poker card="7c"] on the turn and the [poker card="3c"] on the river sealed a third place finish for King. It took 90 minutes to get to heads-up play, and with both players sitting with stacks of over 40 big blinds, the stage seemed to be set for a long heads up battle. But the decisive hand came only 15 minutes after heads-up action started, including a five minute break. Ioli raised to 480,000 and Zusman re-raised up to 1,245,000. Ioli moved all-in for 7,944,932 chips holding [poker card="qh"][poker card="qs"] and Zusman made the call with [poker card="ah"][poker card="jh"]. Zusman jumped into the lead on a flop of [poker card="as"][poker card="5d"][poker card="3h"] that left Ioli in need of a queen. The [poker card="3d"] came on the turn and the [poker card="2c"] fell on the river to lock up the tournament victory for Zusman. Event #31 Final Table Payouts Brad '1badcajun' Zusman - $79,683 Mark 'victb' Ioli -$49,270 Josh 'YoelRomero' King - $34,704 Jeff 'bortzork' Miller - $24,759 Jason 'TheBigGift' Gooch - $17,909 Orson 'borgatcha' Young - $13,122 'KerriP' - $9,780 Jeremy 'g00sebumps' Menard - $7,386 David 'dave419' Nodes - $5,653
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