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Found 23 results

  1. 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.
  2. Every player from Joe Public to Daniel Negreanu has attempted to call poker cards before they are revealed, but it so difficult that to do so consistently invites ridicule. Get it right and you look like a wizard, get it wrong and you can look like the biggest fool at the felt. Doing so may be fraught with danger, but last night on PokerGO’s High Stakes Poker, Jean-Robert Bellande managed to predict his two hole cards, drawing gasps from some of the best poker players in the world. It's time we compare JRB’s moment as some sort of poker clairvoyant to others who have managed to put their opponents on exact hands or called even more unpredictable random cards to come. What Did Bellande Do? Of all the players to take part in Season 9 of High Stakes Poker, Bellande is the easiest to watch purely for the drama and frequency with which he takes on his opponents. No one is safe from JRB until he’s folded his cards, no matter what he has. One of the most experienced cash game players at the purple felt, the Long Islander was in the mood for fun on Episode 8 of the latest season of dollar-brick action continued. As commentators AJ Benza and Gabe Kaplan described, what Bellande asked for, he got. Pre-flop, Bellande said that all he wanted was two queens. When he revealed them to the table at the end of the hand, Phil Ivey’s reaction was one of the best ever seen in the history of High Stakes Poker. As Daniel Negreanu said, "That is just creepy." https://twitter.com/PokerGO/status/1513675401893072901 Bellande calling both cards is impressive, but is it the best card-calling in poker history? It turns out that despite the impressive nature of the clip, it’s not even close. Bellande doesn’t call the suits, and although the odds are long, it’s not like he specified the exact cards. We've found even better in the archives. A History of Calling Cards Sticking with pocket queens, picking them to jump out of the pack is one thing, but what about if it’s another player’s cards? Well, there are numerous examples of that, so let’s get our head around one. Daniel Negreanu, who recently told us about the hand that changed his life, calls his opponent’s ladies out of nowhere and saves himself valuable chips by doing so. Kid Poker has enjoyed some highly intuitive moments during his career, but this is right up there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9rZQWYqgWQ Romanello Reaches Deep to Save His Stack Both our previous examples are from cash games, but what about doing it in a tournament? It doesn’t get much bigger than the World Series of Poker Main Event's feature table, where the eventual Triple Crown winner Roberto Romanello made the fold of his lifetime with jacks full. Here’s how it went down, with Mike Matusow watching along the whole time. "As the commentary went at the tie, 'If he lays this down, I'll move to a Franciscan monastery and become head chef.'" https://youtu.be/5I62m9RvvN4?t=414 Seeing Through a WSOP Main Event Champion Both those previous reads necessitate that the opponent has a huge hand, but what if the player whose cards need to be read for this sort of hero fold are more polarized? It doesn’t get much better than this ridiculous fold four years ago from Ian Steinman against former WSOP Main Event champion Joe McKeehen. The hand took place on the World Poker Tour and left the commentary team stunned. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InFMhKlDIxU As it was observed at the time, Steinman made the fold of a lifetime. The fold is only correct if McKeehen has either pocket aces or queen-ten, meaning the latter is so well disguised that Steinman’s ability to make the fold qualifies as wizardry. Sadly for him, all that hard work may have been enough to get the better of McKeehen, but Steinman would finish second in the event after leading heads-up by 2:1 in chips. Still, $201,428 and the reputation for possibly the sickest fold ever is a fine consolation prize. https://twitter.com/MattClarkPoker/status/971186130581204993 What Are the Odds? Finally, what about being able to predict all five community cards? Yes, it really has happened, and on a live stream too. Take a look at the amazing powers of American poker player Troy Clogston during The Lone Star Poker Series. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH1fq5Eb834 The reactions around the room at Champions Poker Club in Houston from the other players are incredible. They’re justified on the final two cards, due to the specific card and suit, with the [poker card="4s"] and [poker card="2h"] called out just before they land. The huge action pre-flop gives the mystic player the notion that premium cards are already in the players hands who remain interested. Choosing the flop cards, even without calling the suit, is extremely unlikely. Add in the exact turn and river cards, and it’s no surprise to see the other players get out of their seats and head for the nearest cold drink. Bellande choosing both queens to come out of the pack would be likely to happen once in 221 hands. Therefore, if Bellande called out "two queens" each time the dealer shuffled the pack, then playing 30 hands an hour, he’d only have to be at the felt for an average of less than a 9-5 shift to be proven right. There have been well over a hundred episodes of High Stakes Poker to date, so if there were two predictions in each episode, then we should have already seen a player get it right by now. Jean-Robert Bellande managed to get the better of Ivey with the pocket queens he called in pre-flop. Whether he’ll be about to see out the next five episodes of High Stakes Poker Season 9 to stay in profit by the time the curtain comes down is still up for debate, but calling cards for this kind of reaction should really catch on among the elite. Make it a prop bet, but make it happen.  
  3. In an age where the perception of poker players has changed markedly, how players look at their own future is changing. There was a time when poker players would have a bankroll and a ‘life-roll’ and would plot out a course of action tailored to improving both. From tournaments to cash games, bricks and mortar to buy-ins, poker players had a much more linear method of reinvesting their hard-earned money. In the modern age, however, poker players who reach a certain level are now far more aware of investment being key to improving their bankroll and improving their lives. One player who has taken it to the next level and improved countless others lives is Dan Smith. His charity initiative, Double Up Drive, has raised over $24.7 million for highly effective charities since 2014. Sitting Down with Smith “If I ever needed it, I’d be able to have it within a couple weeks.” We began our conversation with him by asking about how a poker player who has achieved in the game goes about investing their money outside poker. “I don’t think that it works in such a way where once you get to ‘x’ amount of dollars, you can start investing,” he says. “I think you want as much of your capital working all the time as you can. Money that’s just sitting there in a checking account or in a box is going down in valuation. As time goes on, I would put more and more money aside. I try not to cash it out unless I have a very good reason to.” Smith is mindful of the fact that losing years in gambling don’t carry over and you can’t write off expenses, so ‘ensuring that you unlikely have a losing year is your first concern’. That automatically affects what each player can gamble and then, as a consequence, invest. “Specific financial situations dictate how you manage your bankroll quite a bit,” says the man currently in 7th place on The Hendon Mob’s All Time Money List. “If you were still at $5/$10, the way you should manage your bankroll is very different to being pretty wealthy and trying to grow your wealth further. I have mostly tried to have as much of my money working as possible in liquid [investments]. If I ever needed it, I’d be able to have it within a couple weeks.” As Smith says, no player ever wants to be in a situation where they’re short of money. It can take a psychological toll. “It depends on the games you play, but if you’re a $10/$20 regular, you don’t ever want to think about having enough to be playing if you have a losing day. Generally, if the game in your casino is $10/$20 then gets kicked up to 25/50 on any given day it may well be because the game has got better than usual. Gambling on yourself in a good cash game is likely going to outperform any investments you can make.” [caption id="attachment_638167" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Smith is a former WPT champion and sits in the top 10 of the all-time money list for tournament winnings.[/caption] A Fantasy Made Real “At this moment in time, I don’t think the state of the poker game is stable.” Smith doesn’t see his charity endeavours and the growth of wealth as conflicting things. He apportions so of his money to charitable donations just as does in investments and spending money. The first time he ever made a large charitable donation, it was down to a very different kind of gamble. “I was playing high stakes Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and in this week I was wagering $120k,” he describes. “The big question that week was whether or not to play Jack Doyle, the back-up Tight End of the Colts. The starting Tight End was ruled out, so he was going to get a lot of looks for bargain pricing. I just decided I didn’t see much of a reason to hedge [with another player] and played him in the whole $120,000. I reflected that I could lose the whole $120k which would and objectively nothing would change. That inspired my $175,000 charity donation. If I donated that, I got some degree of tax break, so it got me to that $120k number.” As Smith says, everyone’s situation is going to be quite different and others will have a myriad of alternate paths to both wealth and investment, as well as donating to charity. Smith admits that he bases some of his calculations on tax adjustments, something which is going to be different for poker players around the world given gambling’s nature in some countries as a method of earnings and others, where it is viewed as gambled money which cannot be taxed. “Having an idea of where you are changes based on a lot of factors,” he admits. “For me, one of the bigger things was how big I perceive my edge to be in poker games and how optimistic I was about it going forward. At this moment in time, I don’t think the state of the poker game is stable, reliable income so I’d, in theory, adjust my investments accordingly.” Finance and Variance "It’s easy to make a number of dollars in a month or year and extrapolate that you will continue to make that sort of money." Smith adds that anyone thinking of investing or donating to charity should be ‘mindful of the distribution of resolutions’ and while some investments will reliably tick over at 8% for example, others with multiply your money wildly or go bust. Variance in investments is not dissimilar to that experienced at the poker table, and that synergy between accruing chips through risk and looking at how to maximise your money has obvious similarities for many. “I think it’s easy to make a number of dollars in a month or year and extrapolate that you will continue to make that sort of money. That’s very dangerous; games are constantly changing and variance is a bitch!” Dan Smith looks at investment as an area of skill and says while some will succeed playing it safe, others are naturally better at taking big risks. “Some people will just do their best mostly just buying index funds and not doing anything clever,” he says. “Some people are very skilled gamblers and investors. They should manage their money very differently.” When a poker player decides to invest their money, it is often because they believe themselves to be ready to take that next step in acquiring wealth upon that which they have won in the game. In finance as well as in poker, however, nothing is ever guaranteed.
  4. The World Poker Tour is making some changes. Season XX of the WPT marks the end of their longtime WPTDeepStacks brand and the launch of WPT Prime, the tour’s new signature global event brand that will marry the “experience of a WPT Main Tour Stop with affordable buy-ins”. Action clocks, winner trophies, and complete coverage from the WPT digital content team will follow WPT Prime when it makes its debut in Asia later this year. Additionally, WPT Prime Main Events count towards the WPT Season XX Player of the Year race. “Our continues efforts to improve the WPT live tournament experience will benefit more players than ever during Season XX,” said Cathy Zhao, Senior Director of WPT Global Tour Management. “WPT Prime is the embodiment of our goal to provide the best possible poker tournament experience to players everywhere, and our strong relationship with our global partners will elevate the WPT experience around the world.” The first of three WPT Prime events kicks off in Vietnam at the Crown Poker Club in Hanoi. The series takes place from May 19-30 and is headlined by a VND25,000,000 (~$1,100 USD) Main Event, which begins on May 26. From there the WPT travels to Cambodia and the NagaWorld Integrated Resort in Phnom Penh. There, in partnership with Connaissance Management, the series will take place from August 11-23 with a $1,100 Main Event which kicks off on August 18. The World Poker Tour likely expects this to be a rather large tournament with their last Main Event held in the region, back in November 2019, shattering its $250,000 guarantee with a prize pool of more than $725,000 and being dubbed the largest live poker tournament in the Kingdom of Cambodia. The third WPT Prime event in Asia this year will be in Taiwan at the Chinese Texas Hold’em Poker Association in Taipei from November 11-21. There the Main Event will take place starting on November 17 and come with a TWD30,000 buy-in (~$1,050). “In celebration of our 20-year anniversary, we are thrilled to be able to deliver the high-quality WPT Prime experience in the Asia Pacific region,” said Angelica Hael, WPT VP of Global Tour Management. “As we announce more of our Season XX events around the world after a tumultuous period, we are absolutely delighted to be back in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Taiwan. Now that international borders are opening up, the incredible hospitality of Crown Poker Club, NagaWorld Integrated Resort, and Chinese Texas Hold’em Poker Association will once again be on display for regional and global players.” WPT Prime, as well as the Main Tour, host Player of the Festival competitions where the leaderboard winner will earn a trophy and additional prizes. But before WPT Prime can take off, WPTDeepStacks still needs to hold its final events. The final three events are right around the corner including WPTDeepStacks Amsterdam which starts on March 29, WPT DeepStacks Sydney on April 7, and the final event, WPTDeepStacks Thunder Valley in Northern California on April 28. After that time, the WPT Prime brand will take over.
  5. After nearly two years away, the Global Poker Awards returned on Friday night, celebrating the people and events who made headlines in the poker industry in 2021. Hosted by Jeff Platt and Drea Renee, the awards show was a little like the game of poker itself - fun, casual, and packed with moments that keep you wanting more. Sure, it was clunky at times but also a very touching show. The broadcast was packed with heartfelt speeches from award recipients and an overall genuine sense of elation among those enjoying the opportunity to get back to celebrating the game in person, 23 months after the last awards ceremony. A number of the awards were announced ahead of the ceremony including those handed out to Ali Imsirovic (GPI Player of the Year), Nadya Magnus (GPI Female Player of the Year), and David Mzareulov (GPI Mid-Major Player of the Year) for their achievements on the felt. Maria Konnikova was honored with the GPI Award of Merit for authoring her book The Biggest Bluff. Veronica Brill was acknowledged with the Charitable Initiative Award this year for spearheading the effort to help fellow player K.L. Cleeton purchase the much-needed special transportation so he could make it to Las Vegas to participate in the World Series of Poker. Kevin Mathers (aka @Kevmath) was rightly recognized with a Service to Poker Award for his varied and non-stop contributions to the game for the better part of a decade. Finally, the GPI looked back on the life of one of poker's ultimate ambassadors, Mike Sexton, and bestowed his legacy with the 2021 Poker ICON award. Adam Friedman took down the trophy for the stacked category of Best Final Table Performance with his historic back-to-back-to-back victories in the World Series of Poker $10,000 Dealer’s Choice. Another too-close-to-call category was the GPI Breakout Player of the Year in which popular French poker pro and content creator Johan Guilbert was recognized. A pair of Fans Choice awards grabbed the spotlight including Doug Polk winning Best Hand of 2021 for his incredible fold to Phil Hellmuth on High Stakes Poker. Also, professional poker pro and content creator from Japan, Masato Yokosawa, topped the tough category of favorite Poker Personality. When the top 100 players were asked who the Toughest Opponent in the game was in 2021, they selected Ali Imsirovic, sending him to the podium to accept his second award of the evening. Here’s a look at the rest of the 2021 GPA Recipients: Best Event 2021 World Series of Poker Main Event Best Streamer Benjamin ‘Spraggy’ Spragg Best Vlogger Brad Owen Best Twitter Personality Jaime Kerstetter Best Industry Person Matt Savage Best Tournament Director Paul Campbell - Aria Resort & Casino Best Podcast Poker In The Ears - James Hartigan, Joe Stapleton Best Broadcaster Jeff Platt Best Media Content: Written Lance Bradley - Isai Scheinberg: His Company, His Legacy, and How Black Friday Impacted Both Best Media Content: Video Remko Rinkema/Run It Back for PokerGO Best Media Content: Photo Enrique Malfavon for PokerGO - The WSOP Main Event Bubble Best Live Reporter Christian Zetzsche, PokerNews Fans Choice Best Trophy Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup
  6. The New Year poker doldrums are coming to an end and the 2022 tournament schedule is about to heat up. A wave of big-time tournament series are on the immediate horizon and with them, some of the best players on the planet will be getting back to work, hoping to start the year off on the right foot. Upcoming events include the World Poker Tour Lucky Hearts Poker Open at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida, the Los Angeles Poker Classic held at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, and the return of the PokerGO Cup at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. All of these series are sure to draw big fields and massive prize pools. Over on PocketFives Staking, some of those players are giving fans a shot at jumping in on the action by offering shares of their upcoming tournaments. So, if you are looking to add some excitement while following the results, check out some of our upcoming featured events. WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open Main Event This tournament - this entire series actually - is going to be a blowout. Poker in Florida has seemingly been unimpacted by current conditions and last year the LHPO Main Event turned into one of the biggest live fields in WPT history. In addition to Daniel Weinman and Josh Arieh having offered action (both are currently sold out), two-time WPT champion Sam Panzica opened up just a few shares in a special “for the fans” offering. https://twitter.com/PocketFives/status/1483933546137985025?s=20 Additionally, WPT Instructor Katie Stone is headed to the East Coast and will be playing in a number of side events (many of which have sold out) and the Main Event. The Main Event kicks off on Friday, January 21. LHPO $25K High Roller Arieh may be sold out of his Main Event, but the reigning 2021 WSOP Player of the Year is also going to be firing in the $25,500 NLHE High Roller on January 24. Plus, there’s minimal markup for the four-time bracelet winner on this one. Joining Arieh is German high-stakes savant Rainer Kempe who is offering action in the NLHE High Roller as well. Kempe's resume is a long one and includes a win in the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl for $5 million and more than $27 million in career earnings. By all accounts, he is one of the most respected players in the game. https://twitter.com/PocketFives/status/1483928956642361344?s=20 PokerGO Cup - Feb 2-10 The PokerGO Cup returns to the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas (and the PokerGO Studio) in the first week of February and four-time WPT champion Darren Elias has his sights set on playing nearly every No Limit Hold’em event on the schedule. https://twitter.com/PocketFives/status/1483937330247487493?s=20 Elias has packages available for two $25K’s, the $50K, and the $100K event. Elias is coming off a 2021 in which he won an Aria $10K High Roller for $169,600 and also had two runner-up high roller finishes for a total of nearly $825,000 and he's gearing up for a big year in 2022. READ: For Darren Elias The Motivation and Pressure To Execute Is All Self Imposed The PokerGO Cup is one of the most sweatable series in the immediate future with every final table being broadcast on the platform. Looking for more? There’s low-stakes action available for the upcoming LAPC and the return of the Wynn Millions series in March. Check out all of the upcoming action over at PocketFives Staking. [stakingupcoming]
  7. Alexander Yen is the newest member of the World Poker Tour Champions Club after he bested the 1,928-entry field of the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida for $975,240 and a spot on the WPT Mike Sexton Champions Cup. Like it was in 2021, the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open proved to be another strong start to the WPT season. This year 839 entries showed up for Day 1A and they were joined by another 1,089 on Day 1B for a total field of 1,928 entries and a prize pool of $6,342,400, smashing the advertised $2 million guarantee. Yen held control for the chip counts for the majority of the final table, starting the day with a healthy chip lead and maintaining it throughout the bulk of play. He lost it for just a few hands in heads-up play against former online top 5 ranked Anton Wigg but quickly retook the lead, made a great read, and flopped a monster hand in the end to win it all. At the start of the day, Omar Lakhdari was sitting fifth in chips, but the gap between him and short-stack Nicholas Vergeramo was a scant two big blinds. With 24 big blinds, Lakhdari had some room to maneuver but also needed to find a way to chip up. He battled for the better part of an hour before he made what would be his final stand. With the blinds at 100,000/200,000 (200,000 ante), Daniel Lazrus put in a raise to 450,000 holding the [poker card="9d"][poker card="9c"] from under the gun. When the action reached Lakhdari in the cutoff he moved all-in for just over 3.6 million with the [poker card="ks"][poker card="qs"]. The flop came [poker card="9s"][poker card="5d"][poker card="2s"] giving Lazrus top set but also bringing flush outs for Lakhdari. The turn was the [poker card="td"] bringing no help but keeping Lakhdari’s flush dreams alive. However, the river was the [poker card="kd"], pairing his king but ultimately losing the hand. Lakhdari finished in sixth place which was good for $208,025. Josh Kay arrived at the final table second in chips and held that spot when the blinds increased to 125,000/250,000 (250,000 ante). But everything quickly went sideways on Kay as he doubled the short-stacked Verderamo and shortly after played a huge pot against Anton Wigg where Kay’s pocket queens lost a critical flip against Wigg’s ace-king. Not long after, Kay and Wigg battled again. Kay opened from the hijack to 500,000 with his [poker card="ac"][poker card="jc"] after which Anton Wigg three-bet shipped over the top with [poker card="kd"][poker card="qh"]. The action folded back to Kay and he put in the rest of his stack, looking to double back up through Wigg. The flop came [poker card="qc"][poker card="qd"][poker card="9d"], giving Wigg trips and leaving Kay looking for help. Some arrived on the [poker card="7c"] turn, giving Kay backdoor flush possibilities headed to the river. But it was the [poker card="8s"] that completed the board, sending Kay home early in fifth place for $272,830. Four hands later, Verderamo found himself all-in and at risk. Yen opened from the button to 500,000 from the button with the [poker card="qd"][poker card="qs"]. Verderamo, took a moment and moved his short stack all-in from the big blind with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="8s"]. Yen snapped him off and the board ran out[poker card="js"][poker card="6c"][poker card="5c"][poker card="3d"][poker card="7s"], never giving Yen’s pocket queens a sweat. Verderamo laddered into fourth place and picked up a career-high $361,130 score. Three-handed play lasted nearly two hours and the blinds climbed to 200,000/400,000 (400,000 ante). Daniel Lazrus was sitting at the bottom of the chip counts and looking for the opportunity to rise back into contention with Yen and Wigg. With roughly 15 big blinds, Lazrus open-shipped his stack from the small blind holding the [poker card="6c"][poker card="6s"] into Yen in the big blind with [poker card="kd"][poker card="jc"]. Yen made the call, putting Lazrus at risk. The flop came [poker card="jd"][poker card="7h"][poker card="5h"], immediately putting Yen in control of the hand but leaving Lazrus with backdoor outs. The [poker card="5s"] turn didn’t improve Lazrus’ odds and when the [poker card="9c"] hit the river, Lazrus was eliminated in third place for $482,380. Yen started heads-up play with a better than 2:1 chip lead, but it didn’t take long for Wigg to double through Yen when Wigg’s [poker card="ad"][poker card="tc"] survived an all-in to Yen’s [kc[poker card="qh"] on a board of [poker card="ts"][poker card="8h"][poker card="6d"][poker card="jh"][poker card="5s"]. Soon thereafter, Wigg grabbed the chip lead and that marked the first time at the final table that Yen lost the chip lead. However, Yen didn’t lose the chip lead for long. He took it back and then extended the lead after picking off a big bluff by Wigg which resulted in 70% of the chips in play sitting in front of Yen. One hand after winning that pot, all the chips got in the middle. The blinds were at 300,000/500,000 (500,000 ante) and Yen limped the blind holding [poker card="9c"][poker card="7c"], Wigg made it 2 million to go with his [poker card="qd"][poker card="qc"] and Yen made the call. The flop came [poker card="td"][poker card="8c"][poker card="6c"], giving Yen a flopped straight with a redraw to the straight flush. With his over pair Wigg continued to fire, putting out a 4.5 million bet. Yen smooth called and the [poker card="6d"] hit the turn. Wigg used one of his time banks and moved all-in for his final 18 million chips. Yen quickly called and Wigg needed a queen or a six to improve to a full house and survive. The river came [poker card="4d"] shipping the pot and WPT LHPO title to Yen. Wigg settled for runner-up and $650,180. WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open Final Table Results Alexander Yen - $975,240 Anton Wigg - $650,180 Daniel Lazrus - $482,380 Nicholas Verderamo - $361,130 Josh Kay - $272,830 Omar Lakhdari - $208,025
  8. The World Poker Tour is headed back to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida this month for the launch of their 20th Season with the Lucky Hearts Poker Open. Running from January 13-26, the two-week-long festival features the first WPT event of the year - the WPT Main Tour $3,500 buy-in Championship event with a $2 million guaranteed prize pool. “Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood has been a fantastic partner for the World Poker Tour and starting our 20th season in Florida is a fantastic choice,” said Adam Pliska, WPT President and CEO. “Additionally, we cannot wait to let the poker world in on some of the special incentives we have planned for our 20th anniversary.” It was just one year ago that the Lucky Hearts Poker Open served as a return to the live poker scene for the WPT after a ten-month hiatus brought on by the pandemic. Uncertain of what to expect in terms of attendance, the event shattered expectations by bringing out 1,573 entries, making it one of the largest Main Tour fields in the history of the company. In the end, the final three players made a deal and Ilyas Muradi was crowned the winner, earning $605,000 and entry into the WPT Champions Club. The five-day $3,500 WPT LHPO Main Event kicks off on January 21 with two starting days and unlimited re-entry until the start of level 9 for both days. There are a couple of notable structure changes this year as compared to the tournament in 2021. Once again, players will start with 40,000 in chips and have hour-long levels on Day 1 and Day 2. However, in 2021, Level 1 started with 100-100 blinds and no ante. The big blind ante did not kick in until Level 3. Here in 2022, there’s a 200 BBA right off the bat with blinds at 100-200. Essentially, the first two hours from 2021 have been removed and players will be playing more meaningful pots right from the get-go. Additionally, back in 2021, Day 3 started with 90-minute levels no matter how many players were left. This year, the time remains at 60 minutes until the field has played down to 40 players. At that point, the levels are increased to 90 minutes right down to the final table. With six players remaining, we’ll see 60-minute levels and 30 minutes when it hits heads-up. However, there’s another difference and that’s this year, the Lucky Hearts Poker Open final table will be live streamed on WPT.com. Surrounding the Main Event, the LHPO is offering players a series of 31 total tournaments with $5 million guaranteed across the entire series. There are plenty of low-to-mid stakes buy-ins offered daily. Highlights of the schedule include the $1 million guaranteed $600 Deep Stack NLHE kick-off event running January 13-16, two $1,100 Deep Stack events with $100K guarantees, and a $1,700 Bounty Event with $100,000 guaranteed. For those that want to play a little higher, there’s the $5,000 NLHE event with $200,000 guaranteed on January 25. In addition to the Main Event, the tournament that is sure to draw out the big names in the game is the $25,500 High Roller with $1 million guaranteed taking place on January 24-25. “Our team is constantly striving to deliver a premier experience for poker players, and we believe the results speak for themselves,” said Jason Heidenthan, Tournament Director at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. “We look forward to being a big part of the World Poker Tour’s 20th anniversary and helping them kick things off with Lucky Hearts Poker Open in January.” To help people get in on the action, Seminole Hard Rock will be running Mega Satellites for various events every day starting on January 11. A full schedule of events is available on the Seminole Hard Rock website. Can't make it to the Lucky Hearts Poker Open but want to get in on the action? PocketFives Staking has you covered.
  9. The World Poker Tour unveiled the first half of its celebratory Season XX this week. The initial lineup includes a trio of Main Tour stops, another three WPTDeepStacks events, and an international online festival held in partnership with Poker King. The WPT will kick everything off with the return of the Lucky Hearts Poker Open Main Event. The opening event will take place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida with a $3,500 Main that features a $2 million guarantee. The Main Event has two starting flights beginning on January 21, however, the tournament takes place in the midst of a two-week-long festival at the property that boasts $5 million in total guaranteed prize money across all events. “We could not be happier to be launching our historic 20th anniversary with an amazing partner in Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino,” said Adam Pliska, World Poker Tour CEO. “We have a number of special incentives planned for the rest of the year to give the poker community amazing ways to celebrate with us.” The Main Tour doesn’t have to go very far with the next event also taking place at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL. The Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown is another $3,500 Main Event and will look to bring out the crowds like it did last year when 2,482 entries turned the event into the largest live field in the history of the tour. Last year, Brek Schutten took down the final table for a $1,261,095 payday for his first WPT title. The third Main Tour event is a return to Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. The WPT Choctaw event is in its seventh year of being a part of the WPT schedule and is a big draw for players in the area. Last year, Dapo Ajayi topped the field of 964 entries in the $3,700 event to win his first WPT title and the $588,610 first-place prize. Both April’s Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown and WPT Choctaw final tables will have the final tables paused and reconvene at the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas in Nevada on May 25 and 26 where a winner for each event will be crowned. In between Seminole Hard Rock events, the WPT Spring Festival will take place. The online poker series, sponsored by Poker King, will run from January 27 - February 7 with roughly $1.9 million in total guarantees and a Main Event of $345 on February 1-7 with a prize pool of roughly $1.25 million (depending on current currency conversions). In addition to the Main Tour, three WPTDeepStacks events will help fill out the first half. The first is WPTDeepStacks Amsterdam at the Holland Casino from March 25 - April 2 with a €1,100 buy-in. Next up, the tour pops up down under for WPTDeepstacks Sydney which will run from March 30 - April 11 at The Star in Sydney, Australia, and culminates with an AUD $1,500 buy-in Main Event. Finally, the WPT returns to Thunder Valley Casino in Northern California for WPTDeepStacks Thunder Valley from April 19 - May 1 and a $1,500 buy-in Main Event. The World Poker Tour will have more Main Tour dates announced in the near future. [table id=286 /]
  10. It was late December and 32-year-old Florida-based grinder Jake Ferro was making his presence felt at the World Poker Tour Five Diamond Main Event at the Bellagio. He was deep his second WPT Main Tour event in as many months, having just come off a runner-up finish at the WPT Seminole Rock ’N’ Roll Poker Open in November for a career-high score of $573,605. Things were looking good, he had made the final three tables and was hoping to continue to ride on his recent wave of good fortune. However, when Ferro clashed in a hand against WPT champ Pat Lyons, Ferro ended up hitting the rail in 14th place for more than $80,000. Fourteenth place was good, but not the result Ferro was looking for. He was hoping to punch his ticket into the WPT Champions Club. But what he didn't know at the time was that his 14th place finish was just what he needed to put him over the top in order to clinch the WPT Season XIX Player of the Year. Originally from New York, Ferro first started playing poker when he was 15. Back then it was just small-time cash games with his friends, maybe the occasional $5 tournament. When he turned 18, he started to make trips to Turning Stone Casino in Syracuse. That was when he started taking the game more seriously. He took a break from working at his father’s trucking business to give playing full-time a shot, but the first time around “things didn’t go so well” and Ferro went back to work in the family business. When COVID hit in early 2020, it was an eye-opening moment for Ferro. He knew he didn’t want a nine-to-five. So years after taking his first shot at going pro, he decided to try playing professionally once again. That was two years ago and since that time he’s been on a steep upswing. He finished 2021 with 35 recorded cashes, three six-figure scores, a WPT and PokerGO Tour final table, and the WPT Player of the Year title. We tracked Ferro down to talk about what the POY title means to him, his grinder mentality, and how he plans on elevating his game in 2022. —— First off, you’ve got to be on cloud nine, yea? Yeah, man. It's pretty wild. I never really even thought this. I've always had dreams of making a run like this, but so on cloud nine, really. Still hasn't hit me almost. The story is that it was a bit of a surprise for you to find out that you were the World Poker Tour Season XIX Player of the Year. How did that go down? After the Five Diamond at the Bellagio, my buddy, Jeremy - he plays in Tampa a lot, really good tournament player - was out in Vegas with me. He was like, “Bro, you’re the Player of the Year. They're announcing it on the PokerGO stream.” I'm like, "No way. I think it's just for the beginning of the year, like 2021 to 2022, I think there's another whole year left." He said, "No way, bro… you're the Player of the Year. They're tweeting it. It's everywhere." I'm like - "No way, man." Then [the WPT] called me out of the blue and said, "Yeah, you won World Poker Tour Player of the Year.” It was just really a shock to me, I don't get emotional much, but it was pretty wild to hear that. Speaking of Five Diamond, when you went to the Five Diamond in December, was Player of the Year on your mind? At any point during the year, was that a goal for you? Not at all. I didn't even think it was possible. That's why it's just been kind of a shock. If I knew it was possible, I would've definitely been looking to see if I needed to beat anyone in the Five Diamond, and what I had to do in order to actually win the Player of the Year. It might've even played a little differently. You never know. So it's just really a surprise. What kind of confidence comes along with joining the ranks of players like Negreanu, Altman, and Zinno in being named a WPT Player of the Year? I'm telling everyone - I'm more hungry than ever now. I have to back up what I just did. I can't just be a bum. I can't be a chump. I have to back up my stuff, and it's pretty wild. I looked at all the names of everyone who won World Poker Tour Player of the Year and I was just floored. As you said, all those names you just mentioned…wild, wild. And Altman, I play with all the time. Really amazing tournament player. I played with Negreanu, Faraz…played with all those guys, Really, just unreal players. And for me to be mentioned with them, it floors me. "I'm more hungry than ever now. I have to back up what I just did. I can't just be a bum. I can't be a chump. I have to back up my stuff, and it's pretty wild." For players who win a major award or title sometimes it drives them to want even more. The desire to do it again, or even improve upon that achievement creeps in. Are you having thoughts of investing even more time, more travel in the WPT, or do you have your sights set on anything else now that you've arrived at this point? Yeah. I want to back-to-back this thing. I want to go back-to-back. I will be at every World Poker Tour stop, grinding away, and trying to repeat here. After your 14th place finish in the Five Diamond, you made the final table of the $50K Poker Go Tour championship, which is crazy. But what's even crazier is, just one month prior to that, you cashed for $550 playing in the Hard Rock Weekly $180. What’s the mindset of going from a $180 daily to a $50K? So I played at Hard Rock probably four, five times a week. I played their nightly tournament, and I've done this for the past year or so. They have a good nightly. It's $180 and the winner usually takes home around $4,000. The player field is...not the best. So it's fun to mix it up with more recreational-type players. So yeah, I was playing that. Then I ended up going down to Hollywood, took 20th in their opening event for about $7,000 [$7,361], I think it was. I was going to play the [WPT Rock ’N’ Roll Poker Open Main Event] regardless, but I'm like...you know what, I'm running pretty good right now and so I decided to play the Main. I basically hit that for the $570K, and then took that out to Vegas and played the Five Diamond - hit that. At that point, my buddy, who I went out there with, is just telling me, "Yo, there's a $50K on Monday!” I'm like, there's no way I would ever play a $50,000 buy-in tournament. But I actually talked with a couple of my buddies who invest in some of my tournaments here and there. They're like, "Bro, whatever you need, we'll throw you some cash. We want a piece of it. You better go play that thing." I was still up in the air about it, but I ended up waking up that morning, feeling really good, been playing my best game, so I decided I want to play with the best in the world. It was a hell of an experience, for sure. What’s the difference in your mentality when you play in a $50K? Do you make adjustments? For sure. With these guys, these guys are world-class. I do my share of studying with the game, and I talk with really good players about the game, but these guys, it's almost like they're on another level. Like Ali [Imsirovic], I sat at his table for the last two tournaments I played, and he is just unreal with what he does at the table. I can't even really even explain it. Just be able to watch a guy like him play, and learn a little bit just by watching him. Just a really, really insane player. But yeah, the mentality in that one was, hey, I'm taking a shot, just go basically balls to the wall. If you go out, you go out, at least you took the shot. It was a fun ride for sure. I'm crazy that I made the final table. Would've liked to take that one down, but you know, it was really fun playing with those guys. You're now the reigning WPT Player of the Year. You said you want to go back-to-back, but what else are you looking forward to in 2022, when it comes to poker? You know what? I've always wanted to go to Australia, ever since I was in little kid watching Steve Irwin on Animal Planet. I've always had a thing with the animals and the wildlife out there. Always wanted to go there. I saw that the World Poker Tour has a series going out there this year. So I think that's what I'm most excited about for this year. Going out there, just having fun playing poker, and experiencing a new place that I've wanted to go to since I was a young kid.
  11. After a ten-month hiatus, the live World Poker Tour Main Tour returned to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida for the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open. After a long day of play and a three-handed deal, Ilyas Muradi took home $605,000, a ticket to the 2021 WPT Tournament of Champions, and his first career WPT title. For anyone questioning if live poker players were eager to get back in the action, the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open had the answer. Despite the state of the pandemic, playing behind plexiglass barriers, and the requirement to wear masks the tournament’s 1,573-entry field became the third-largest in the WPT’s eighteen-year history. It wasn’t just an outpouring of local players that made their way to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino as players traveled from all parts of the globe to participate in the first WPT Main Tour live event since the conclusion of WPT Rolling Thunder in March 2020. There were plenty of notable names who made a deep run in the event but fell short of the final table. World Poker Tour champions Sam Panzica (189th, $6,150) and Kevin Eyster (167th, $6,300) made Day 3 as did Athanasios Polychronopoulous (125th, $7,025), Will ‘The Thrill’ Failla (103rd, $7,880), and well-known vlogger Johnnie Moreno (93rd, $8,230). Among those joining them in the money were Jerry Wong (90th, $8,230), Alex Keating (77th, $9,885), and worldwide current #2-ranked online pro from Croatia Ivan ‘zufo16’ Zufic (31st, $23,110). The final three tables included some of the World Poker Tour’s biggest names including WPT winner Aaron Mermelstein (25th, $23,110), Scott Baumstein (24th, $27,660), WPT Deepstack Champion Justin Liberto (22nd, $27,660), and four-time WPT champion Darren Elias who finished in tenth place and earned $79,455 which brought his career WPT total to just under $3.9 million. Day four started with the final seven players grinding for two 90-minute levels before reaching the official final table of six. Andy Hwang, the final WPT Champion Club member left in the field, started the day third in chips, however, a few hours into play he found himself grinding a short stack of fewer than 20 big blinds. After a raise from Francis Margaglione in early position with [poker card="7d"][poker card="7c"], Hwang three-bet shipped his stack with the [poker card="ac"][poker card="kh"]. Folded back around to Margaglione, he made the call. The board ran out [poker card="3s"][poker card="2s"][poker card="2h"][poker card="6d"][poker card="qd"] ensuring that a new WPT champion would be crowned as Hwang exited in seventh place for $115,630. Roughly twenty minutes later, after an early position raise, Tsz Shing shipped his 22 big blind stack holding [poker card="kh"][poker card="qd"] from the button. Ronnie Bardah made the call from the small blind with his [poker card="qh"][poker card="qs"] and the early position raiser folded. The [poker card="th"][poker card="7c"][poker card="6c"][poker card="4d"][poker card="5d"] ran clean for the pocket queens and eliminated Brooklyn’s Shing in sixth place for a career-high recorded live cash of $168,990. At five-handed, Jesse Lonis put in a raise from late position with [poker card="th"][poker card="ts"]. After it folded to Bardah in the big blind, Bardah put in a three-bet with the [poker card="ks"][poker card="kc"]. With the action back on Lonis and 30 big blinds behind, Lonis four-bet shipped with Bardah snap-called. The [poker card="qd"][poker card="7d"][poker card="7s"] flop left Lonis looking for one of two outs to save him. The [poker card="3d"] hit the turn and the [poker card="jd"] completed the board and ended Lonis’ tournament in fifth place for $223,895. Margaglione started the day with the chip lead but his stack slowly dwindled during the day. Eventually, he made his move by raising from the button with [poker card="qc"][poker card="9s"] only to be shoved on by the big stack of Bardah in the big blind holding [poker card="ad"][poker card="kc"]. With just over 10 big blinds behind, Margaglione opted to make the call. The flop came [poker card="ac"][poker card="6c"][poker card="7s"] giving Bardah top pair and leaving Margaglione looking for runner-runner help. The [poker card="2h"] was of no use to Margaglione who was drawing dead to the [poker card="jh"] river. Margaglione finished in fourth place for $293,510. During a break, the final three players negotiated a deal for the remaining prize pool. Ilyas Muradi locked up $580,000 as the chip leader and Bardah, sitting in second, agreed to $566,135. Robel Andemichael secured $545,500 and all three agreed to leave $25,000 and a ticket to the WPT Tournament of Champions on the table for the eventual winner. Even though a deal was in place, the pace of play stayed deliberate. After roughly two hours, Andemichael put in a raise on the button with [poker card="ac"][poker card="9d"] and Bardah pushed his final twelve big blinds in the middle with [poker card="as"][poker card="2s"]. The [poker card="kd"][poker card="4c"][poker card="2h"] flop gave Bardah the lead, which held through the [poker card="ts"] turn. But the [poker card="9s"] river gave the hand to Andemichael which eliminated Bardah in third place for his agreed-upon career-high score of $566,135. Heads up play started with both Andemichael and Muradi practically even in chips. Another two hours passed without either player holding a significant lead. Finally, Andemichael moved all-in for his final 15 big blinds with [poker card="ad"][poker card="6d"] and was called by Muradi holding [poker card="4d"][poker card="4h"]. The board ran out [poker card="tc"][poker card="9c"][poker card="8s"][poker card="3c"][poker card="qs"] giving Muradi’s pocket fours the pot and his first WPT title. Andemichael finished as the runner-up, taking home the$545,500 he locked up in the deal. Ilyas Muradi added the $25,000 to his $580,000 portion of the deal for a total cash score of $605,000 plus a $15K ticket to the Tournament of Champions, and a date to have his name engraved on the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup. Final Table Payouts 1. Ilyas Muradi - $605,000* + WPT Tournament of Champions seat 2. Robel Andemichael - $545,000* 3. Ronnie Bardah - $566,135* 4. Francis Margaglione - $293,510 5. Jesse Lonis - $223,895 6. Tsz Shing - $168,990
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Taylor Black started the final table of the 2021 World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event with more than half the chips in play, and, in the end, topped the 716-entry field to claim his first WPT title and a career-high $1,241,430 score. With Black holding such a massive chip advantage, the Five Diamond Main Event had the makings of a rather quick final table. But instead, the deep structure allowed for plenty of play and, by the time the table became four-handed, the chip stacks nearly evened out and Black’s intimidating lead had disappeared. However, Black quickly bounced back into the chip lead, eliminated three of his last five opponents, and survived the tense, drama-filled final table that brought the World Poker Tour’s Season XIX to a close. It took over an hour for the first elimination of the night. David Kim started the final table fourth in chips but never really was able to get much going. After short stack Lorenzo Lavis doubled through Kim when Lavis’ moved all -n with [poker card="9s"][poker card="9h"] and held against Kim’s [poker card="ks"][poker card="qc"] on a [poker card="ac"][poker card="5d"][poker card="3s"][poker card="6c"][poker card="tc"] board, Kim was left with just two big blinds. Two hands later, Kim made his last stand. Black, from late position, raised to 200,000 with his [poker card="5h"][poker card="5c"] and Kim called for the rest of his chips with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="kd"] and Gianluca Speranza defended his big blind. The flop came [poker card="6d"][poker card="5s"][poker card="3s"] and after Speranza checked, Black put out a bet of 250,000 and Speranza called to create a side pot. The turn was the [poker card="ks"] and Speranza checked again to Black who fired another 500,000. After a short tank, Speranza folded and the cards were turned up, showing Kim that he was drawing dead to the [poker card="2c"] river. Kim made his exit in sixth place for $261,235. Moshin Charania was navigating the short stack, doubling not once but twice trying to get back into the thick of the final table. But soon after, it was Charania who was being doubled through by Vik Shegal leaving Charania with just five big blinds. With the blinds at 75,000/125,000 (125,000 bb ante) Charania moved all-in from under the gun holding the [poker card="th"][poker card="3h"] and Black called from the small blind with the [poker card="8d"][poker card="6d"]. The flop came [poker card="kc"][poker card="9d"][poker card="5d"] keeping Charania’s ten-high ahead in the hand but Black had straight, flush, and pair outs. The turn was the [poker card="3d"], bringing in the flush for Black and sending Charania home in fifth place for $342,645 before the [poker card="3s"] completed the board. Nearly three hours of four-handed play took place with chips being passed back and forth and the chip lead being claimed by a number of players. Eventually, the blinds climbed to 125,000, 250,000 (250,000 ante), and Lavis was sitting on fewer than 20 big blinds. Folded to Lavis in the small blind, he completed holding the [poker card="kc"][poker card="4c"] and, in the big blind, Black raised to 650,000 with his [poker card="ah"][poker card="td"] and Lavis called. The flop came [poker card="as"][poker card="qc"][poker card="3c"], giving Black top pair and Lavis a king-high flush draw. Lavis checked the action to Black who bet 600,000, and Lavis check-raised for the rest of his stack, some 3.8 million. With top pair, Black made the call putting Lavis at risk. The turn came the [poker card="7d"], changing nothing, and the river was the [poker card="2d"] ending Lavis’ run in fourth place for $454,590. After all that time between the eliminations of fifth and fourth place, it was unexpected that the next would take place just two hands later. After Black folded the button, Vik Shegal shoved his 7 million chip stack from the small blind with [poker card="8d"][poker card="8c"] into the small stack of Gianluca Speranza. Speranza, with less than 10 big blinds, called the shove and put his tournament life on the line with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="3d"]. The board ran out [poker card="th"][poker card="9c"][poker card="5h"][poker card="kh"][poker card="7h"] keeping Shegal’s pocket eights ahead the entire time and sending Speranza out in third place for $609,960. At the start of heads-up play, Black held roughly a two-to-one chip advantage over Shegal which he quickly extended to three-to-one. It took just 11 hands between Black and Shegal to decide the tournament as on Hand 195, it all came to an end. On the final hand, Black raised to 500,000 with the [poker card="ah"][poker card="ks"] and Shegal three-bet shoved his final 7.5 million in chips with the [poker card="as"][poker card="8d"]. Black called and the pair watched as the board ran out [poker card="kc"][poker card="tc"][poker card="6h"][poker card="qd"][poker card="9s"], allowing Black’s top pair to take the hand and the trophy. Shegal ended up as the runner-up and took home a healthy $827,620. Black ended up with a new top line to his poker resume, the second million-dollar score of his career, and a date in the future to have his name added to the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup. With the conclusion of the Five Diamond Main Event, the World Poker Tour’s season comes to a conclusion with the tour’s 20th Anniversary season kicking off on January 21 with the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. WPT Five Diamond Final Table Results Taylor Black - $1,241,430 Vic Shegal - $827,620 Gianlucj Speranza - $609,960 Lorenzo Lavis - $454,590 Moshin Charania - $342,645 David Kim - $261,235
  15. 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
  16. It was late in London. The early morning actually, and Erik Seidel, one of poker’s most iconic figures, was back on the grind. Already in the United Kingdom to celebrate his youngest daughter’s wedding, the poker legend decided to extend his stay in the UK’s capital to take care of some business. Specifically, the business of high-stakes poker. And at this moment, his deep run in GGPoker WSOP Online Event #11 ($10,000 Super MILLION$ High Roller) was taking him back to the beginning of his career. “I haven’t stayed up that late for poker since I was in my 20’s,” Seidel said, referring to the overnight hours of Day 1 of the gold bracelet event. “London isn’t ideal for me because I’m a morning person and Day One lasted ’til the next morning.” Even casual fans are familiar with Seidel’s impact on poker and his history that took him from the early days of Mayfair Club in New York to the Poker Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. His career has spanned 40 years and in that time he’s earned nearly $38 million in recorded live earnings. He’s a World Poker Tour champion and, prior to the online high roller he was playing in, had previously won eight WSOP bracelets, making him one of the most prolific players in WSOP history. Seidel didn’t know it at the time but after that sleepless night, he was just days away from adding to his legacy with WSOP bracelet #9. For a player who has experienced just about everything there is to experience in the game of poker, Seidel admits he still feels “out of [his] element online”, making his victory one of the most unique moments of his career. [caption id="attachment_636078" align="alignleft" width="300"] Seidel's online winning moment.[/caption] “I’m just never that comfortable online,” he said. “I like it, it’s nice to be able to play a tourney in bed, but I make mistakes. I had two misclicks at the final table. It’s easier for me to get distracted and there’s always that concern that I’ll lose connection.” In fact, he did lose connection at one point while playing in his hotel on spotty Wi-Fi. But, obviously, the man they call Seiborg recovered nicely. He navigated his way through the field of 624 entries, made the final table, and bested a final nine that included Rui Ferreira, Isaac Baron, Thomas Muehloecker, and eventual runner-up, Francisco Benitez. When it was all over, Seidel won more than $977,000 and made WSOP history. He earned that ninth bracelet and moved into a tie with poker legend Johnny Moss for fifth (third-most) in all-time WSOP bracelets. “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.” [caption id="attachment_636079" align="alignright" width="219"] 2007 WSOP victory in NL 2-7 Lowball for bracelet #8.[/caption] That said, as special as winning another bracelet is for him, 14 years after winning #8, Seidel hasn’t been consumed with the bracelet chase as, perhaps, some other pre-poker boom prominent players. “I can’t say I really get caught up in bracelet fever,” he said. “My focus has been much more on higher buy-in No Limit events. If you really want to rack up bracelets, you’ve got to play the high buy-in limit events at the WSOP, the No Limit fields are way too big. I play a limited amount of events at the WSOP, and I love playing them, but I’m not trying to maximize my chances by playing every event.” It would be tough for anyone to not want to push if given the chance to break into double-digit bracelets. It’s well-known that there are currently only four players with 10 or more. Phil Hellmuth is the all-time leader with 15. And then, tied for second, all with 10, are Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Ivey - a club that’s hasn’t admitted a new member since 2014. Now, Seidel is knocking on the door. At 61, he says he has no intentions of slowing down and has set his sights on playing a healthy schedule at this year’s WSOP. “I love playing, I hope I can continue competing for a while. I expect to play 20-something events at the WSOP although I’m really disappointed in the WSOP schedule this year, the big NL events that I’d love to play in are all very close to Thanksgiving. I’ll have to see if I can play them.”
  17. The World Poker Tour returns to the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas this month to bring Season XIX to a close with the $10,400 buy-in WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event. The WPT mainstay tournament will run from December 15-19 with the final table taking place at the HyperX Esports Arena located inside the Luxor Hotel & Casino. The final table will be recorded for future WPT programming to be aired on Bally Sports network. “The Bellagio holds a special significance for the World Poker Tour,” said Adam Pliska, WPT President and CEO. “The Five Diamond World Poker Classic was the first World Poker Tour event, and it seems fitting to finish our current season there before launching our historic 20th season in January.” The WPT Five Diamond has been the most consistent tour location in WPT history with the event being run every season dating back to Season I in 2002 when Gus Hansen defeated John Juanda heads-up to take home the $556,460 first-place prize and his first of three WPT titles. Since that time, the tournament has emerged as one of the most popular poker events of the calendar year. Notable players including Daniel Negreanu, Joe Hachem, Chino Rheem, Dan Smith, and Antonio Esfandiari are among those who have walked away with a Five Diamond Main Event victory. It's also been one of the WPT's more lucrative tournaments with 15 of the 18 Five Diamond Main Events awarding a seven-figure score. The last time the WPT was at the Bellagio for the event was at the end of 2019 when Alex Foxen outlasted the event’s record-high field of 1,035 runners to win his way into the Champions Club and take home a $1.69 million first-place prize. The event didn’t run in 2020 due to postponements brought about by COVID-19. This also marks an end of an era for the World Poker Tour. After 20 years, the WPT is adjusting its seasons to coincide with the calendar year. Traditionally, the WPT had started seasons in the spring and allowed them to carry straight through each New Year, well into the following months. Now, it will be easy to follow along with WPT seasons, knowing that the Five Diamond will likely mark the end of their season and a Player of the Year will be crowned before year’s end. The change kicks in immediately and the Season XIX Player of the Year race will be decided this month. Currently, there is a three-way tie at the top as three-time WPT Champion Brian Altman is playing for back-to-back Player of the Year titles. Altman is matched at the top of the leaderboard by both Rok Gostisa and Chad Eveslage, and all three players are closely followed by recent WPT Seminole Rock ’N’ Roll champion Gediminas Uselis. The tight race adds an extra layer of drama to the event as the WPT will be keeping a spotlight on the race to see who emerges at this year's POY. “We are thrilled to be able to finish our season with a showcase event with one of our longest-running partners,” said Angelica Hael, WPT VP of Global Tour Management. “From there, we are ready to head into Season XX and put an even bigger spotlight on our partners, our champions, and our tour.” Looking to get in on the action for the WPT Five Diamond but unable to play yourself? PocketFives Staking will be offering shares of some of the players in the field to help give fans an end-of-the-year sweat to follow along. Not signed up yet? Get to it right here. Past Winners of WPT Five Diamond Main Event [table id=279 /]
  18. New Jersey’s Orson ‘Borgotcha’ Young will have his name etched on the Mike Sexton World Poker Tour Champions Cup after taking down the final table of the WPT Online Borgata Poker Open powered by partypoker US Network for $195,748. Young started the evening second in chips, looking up only to Borgata-sponsored pro Daniel Buzgon. But after a briskly paced final table was left with only three players, Young jumped out into a chip lead that he carried to the end. With the blinds at 500K/1M (125K ante), the action folded to ‘justliberto’ in the small blind and he raised it up to 3.1 million holding [poker card="as"][poker card="qs"]. ‘DoURespectWood’ defended his big blind with the [poker card="ts"][poker card="8s"] leaving themselves just 13 big blinds behind. The flop came [poker card="ah"][poker card="th"][poker card="3c"] and ‘justliberto’ led for 1.8 million and with his middle pair ‘DoURespectWood’ made the call. The [poker card="5h"] came off on the turn and the action checked through. The river brought the [poker card="ac"] and ‘justliberto’ went for it all, and moved all-in for more than enough to cover ‘DoURespectWood’. ‘DoURespectWood’ opted for a call and was shown ‘justliberto’ winning hand. ‘DoURespectWood’ exited in eighth place, good for $24,625. Fifteen minutes later, a big flip decided the fate of Ryan ‘TheSims’ Hohner. After Buzgon opened from the cutoff with [poker card="qc"][poker card="jc"] to 2.5 million, Hohner put in a three-bet on the button to 16.8 million with his [poker card="ah"][poker card="qd"]. When it got to Young in the big blind, he four-bet shipped his big stack with the [poker card="jh"][poker card="jd"]. Buzgon got out of the way, but with so much in the middle Hohner made the call for the rest of his stack. The board ran out [poker card="td"][poker card="9d"][poker card="8s"][poker card="6s"][poker card="kh"], keeping Young’s pocket jacks in the lead the whole way and ending Hohner’s night in seventh place for $34,475. With the blinds up to 600K/1.2M (150K ante), ‘CNC_LY’ open-shipped their stack of 18 million from hijack holding [poker card="ac"][poker card="9c"]. On the button, ‘justliberto’ flatted with his [poker card="ah"][poker card="kc"] and both blinds folded. The flop came [poker card="ad"][poker card="9d"][poker card="4c"] and it looked like ‘CNC_LY’ might find a double with the dominated hand. But the [poker card="ks"] came off on the turn, putting ‘justliberto’ back in the lead. The [poker card="7h"] river, shipped the pot to ‘justliberto’ and ‘CNC_LY’ logged off with a score of $47,280 for sixth. After a break, the blinds climbed to 800K/1.6M (200K ante) and ‘justliberto’ was back to busting people. This time it was ‘betbetbet’. After ‘justliberto’ raised from under the gun to 3.4 million holding [poker card="ad"][poker card="ac"], ‘betbetbet’ raised on the button to 44.1 million, leaving themselves just a few big blinds behind. ‘justliberto’ obliged and raised enough to force ‘betbetbet’ all-in and when they called the pair watched as the board ran out [poker card="7c"][poker card="6d"][poker card="3h"][poker card="2h"][poker card="7s"] and ‘justliberto’s pocket aces brought him another big pot. ‘betbetbet’ was felted in fifth place which was good for $61,070. During the next level, blinds at 1M/2M (250K ante), ‘FitzroidPoo’ open shoved from the button with their final 18 big blinds holding [poker card="5s"][poker card="5c"]. ‘justliberto’ reshoved from the small blind holding [poker card="as"][poker card="qc"] and the race was on. The flop came [poker card="js"][poker card="9h"][poker card="4d"], keeping ‘FitzroidPoo’s pocket fives in the lead. When the [poker card="7s"] hit the turn, they were one card away from a critical double. However, the [poker card="qd"] fell on the river and ‘FitzroidPoo’ was done in fourth place for $76,830. After the next break, Young gathered some steam and sent Buzgon and ‘justliberto’ under 30 big blinds. The blinds climbed again, now at 1.4M/2.8M (350K ante), when Buzgon, who final tabled this event last year, made his final stand. After ‘justliberto’ let go of the button, Buzgon open-shipped his final 20 big blinds holding [poker card="kc"][poker card="tc"]. In the big blind, Young wasted no time in calling holding the [poker card="as"][poker card="ts"]. Buzgon was dominated, but things got worse for him when the flop came [poker card="qs"][poker card="8s"][poker card="4s"], flopping Buzgon dead to the [poker card="7h"] turn and [poker card="6h"] river. Buzgon wrapped up in third place and took home$102,933. The final hand of the tournament came quickly thereafter. The stacks close to even but Young held and advantage when, on the button, ‘justliberto’ put in a raise to 5.9 million holding [poker card="kd"][poker card="9d"]. Young put in a big three-bet to 23 million with the [poker card="kh"][poker card="qd"], which ‘justliberto’ called. The flop came [poker card="ks"][poker card="7c"][poker card="2h"] and Young bet 12.3 million and ‘justliberto’ made the call. The turn was the [poker card="4d"] and again Young led, this time for 30.8 million. ‘justliberto’, with 106 million behind, just called. The river was the [poker card="jh"] and Young shipped his larger stack and ‘justliberto’ snap-called and saw the better hand. ‘justliberto’ ended up as the runner-up for $135,930 and Orson Young is crowned a WPT champion and took home $195,748. WPT Online Borgata Poker Open Final Table Results Orson Young - $195,748 ‘justliberto’ - $135,930 Daniel Buzgon - $102,933 ‘FitzroidPoo’ - $76,830 ‘betbetbet’ - $61,070 ‘CNC_LY’ - $47,280 Ryan Hohner - $34,475 ‘DoURespectWood’ - $24,625
  19. Gediminas Uselis displayed off his skills and leveraged his years of experience at the final table of the 2021 World Poker Tour Seminole Rock ’N’ Roll Main Event after starting the day in the middle of the pack in the final table chip counts and weaving his way to his first WPT title and a career-high $778,490 first-place prize. Online grinders might know Uselis as one of Lithuania’s elite players, but he also has an extensive live resume that includes taking down the recent $1,600 MSPT event at the Venetian in Las Vegas for more than $325,000. It’s been a non-stop grind for Uselis as of late, something he acknowledged immediately after his victory. “I came here, and this [the Main Event] was the first tournament I sat down in,” Uselis said to the World Poker Tour in his post-event interview. “I didn’t sleep much, and I just kept going and going. I was playing small pots, big pots, slowly building. Slowly, nothing special.” “There was, for sure, a bunch of action,” he continued. “It was a crazy table, so I just needed to wait. I made a couple of moves because there were a couple of amateurs as well, so I was really lucky to make this final table.” The action kicked off early. With only five big blinds, Anshul Rai knew he was going to have to make a move sooner rather than later. And on the very first hand of the final table, he made his stand. From under the gun, Rai moved all-in for his final 875,000 holding [poker card="ah"][poker card="ks"]. It folded around to Harout Ghazarian in the small blind who put in a raise to 1.5 million with his [poker card="ac"][poker card="qd"], and Uselis let go of his big blind. Rai looked in good shape to double up with the dominating hand, however the flop came [poker card="as"][poker card="qc"][poker card="2s"], flipping the script and putting Ghazarian ahead with two pair. The turn came the [poker card="3c"], leaving Rai with just three outs to survive. The [poker card="2d"] river completed the board and just like that Rai was eliminated in sixth place for $170,835 and the table was down to five players. That was just the beginning some fast-paced early final table action. Clayton Maguire, who started the day third in chips, found himself slipping down the chip counts after the elimination of Rai. With the blinds at 100,000/200,000 (200,000 ante), Maguire lost back-to-back pots which led to his eventual elimination. First, he dropped an important pot to Ghazarian where Clayton held the [poker card="ah"][poker card="4c"] but Ghazarian showed down the [poker card="ad"][poker card="kc"] on a board of [poker card="kh"][poker card="9d"][poker card="4s"][poker card="3s"][poker card="ac"] for a pot of nearly 10 million. Then, the very next hand, Maguire completed the small blind with his [poker card="8d"][poker card="8c"] and Selahaddin Bedir jammed his bigger stack all-in holding the [poker card="ad"][poker card="4s"]. Maguire snap-called and was in position to score a quick double up, however the [poker card="ac"][poker card="ks"][poker card="5d"][poker card="jd"][poker card="qh"] board didn’t cooperate leaving Maguire to hit the exit in fifth place for $211,925. Play slowed down until the first break of the day and the chip stacks evened out with everyone holding on to more than 40 big blinds. But soon thereafter, Bedir found himself getting short and with the blinds up to 200,000/400,000 (400,000 ante) he made his final stand. With roughly 15 big blinds, Bedir moved all-in from under the gun holding [poker card="7d"][poker card="6d"] and when it was on Jacob Ferro in the big blind, he quickly called with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="kc"]. The flop came [poker card="qs"][poker card="jd"][poker card="2c"], keeping Ferro’s ace-king in the lead and giving him a gutshot straight draw to the nuts. Bedir was in bad shape looking for a pair or backdoor diamonds to catch up. The turn came the [poker card="5h"] and Bedir was down to his final card. The river was the [poker card="4s"] and made his exit in fourth place for $282,380. Three-handed play saw Ferro holding on to a commanding chip lead but Uselis, steadily adding to his stack. Finally, roughly 45-minutes after the last bustout, another big clash took place. Harout Ghazarian completed the small blind with his [poker card="2c"][poker card="2s"] and Uselis put in a raise to 1.3 million holding the [poker card="ks"][poker card="kc"]. Ghazarian then three-bet all-in for more than 12 million and Uselis snap-called. There was little drama for the pocket kings on the [poker card="js"][poker card="7s"][poker card="7d"][poker card="9d"][poker card="jd"] board and Ghazarian was sent out in third place for $380,000. The knockout pushed Uselis over 30 million in chips and essentially pulled him event with Ferro headed into heads-up play. The heads-up match could have taken some time as both players started with over 75 big blinds. But Uselis quickly leveraged his experience and pulled ahead just before the next break. Immediately after the break, Uselis extended his chip lead to roughly four-to-one. But in the end, it was a cooler that cut short this battle. With the blinds at 300,000/500,000 (500,000 ante) Ferro raised to 1 million holding the [poker card="jd"][poker card="jh"] and Uselis put in a three-bet to 3.3 million with one better, his [poker card="qc"][poker card="qs"]. Ferro shipped all-in, Uselis beat him into the pot, and the pair saw the setup. There was a jack in the door, eliciting a gasp from the small crowd watching, but a queen right behind it. The board ran out [poker card="kh"][poker card="qd"][poker card="js"][poker card="6d"][poker card="2s"] ending Ferro’s run in second place for $573,605 and awarding Gediminas Uselis his first World Poker Tour title and the $778,490 first-place prize. WPT Seminole Rock ’N’ Roll Final Table Results Gediminas Uselis - $778,490 Jacob Ferro - $573,605 Harout Ghazarian - $380,000 Selahaddin Bedir - $282,380 Clayton Maguire - $211,925 Anshul Rai - $170,835
  20. 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:
  21. The World Poker Tour and 888poker are teaming up to bring online players a brand new 28 event, $3 million guaranteed WPTDeepStacks Online series to close out the year. The festival takes place from November 28 - December 20 with buy-ins ranging from $55 up to $5,200. Everything gets started this Sunday, November 28 with the $525 buy-in Opening Event and its $200,000 guarantee. “The World Poker Tour is excited to partner with 888poker again to give players around the globe the opportunity to take down a WPTDeepStacks title,” said WPT Global Tour Management Vice President Angelica Hael. Everything will culminate with the $1,000,000 guarantee WPTDeepStacks Main Event with a $1,050 buy-in. The Main Event offers players a number of Day 1 flights with the ability to play in multiple Day 1s, should a player not make Day 2 on their first shot. Other highlights of the festival include the $525 PKO 8-Max with a $100,000 guarantee, a $5,200 buy-in Super High Roller with a $200,000 guarantee, and the 888 branded Crazy 8 that also comes with a $200,000 buy-in. “This will be another fabulous festival for 888poker and WPT,” said Dominik Nitsche, noted high roller and 888poker brand ambassador. “The beauty of events like this is that they provide a genuine opportunity for casual players to win big, starting from one-cent buy-ins, all from the comfort of their own home. With an increasing number of online poker players emerging over the last year, I’m looking forward to witnessing the exhilarating action and the next WPTDS champion emerge.” Nitsche touches on the fact that 888poker will be running their traditional satellite system for these events allowing players to start grinding their way to a tournament ticket for as little as $0.01. A look at the schedule notes that this online series is unlike most of 888poker’s offerings with the elevated buy-ins, most falling in the mid-high stakes range, making the ability for recreational players to satellite in all the more important. Additionally, 888poker is running daily freerolls, offering seats to Main Event satellites. The “no-ticket-needed” daily freerolls will provide players more than $200,000 in satellite and super-satellite tickets during the month. Six of the final tables will be streamed with poker commentary veterans David Tuchman and Nick Wealthall on the call. Plus, the online stream of the Main Event final table will bring out WPT’s Tony Dunst and Matt Savage to see who will be crowned the next WPTDS champion. Check out the complete 888poker WPT Deepstacks Online schedule below. [table id=274 /]
  22. 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.
  23. David Mock was riding the wave. Mock, the 33-year-old Boston-based semi-pro, decided he wanted to take a rare shot in a Bellagio Five Diamond $10,000 No Limit Hold'm High Roller and after selling a little action, buy-in in, and grinding all day, he found himself sitting at a final table surrounded by some of the biggest names in the game. The field was packed with some of the biggest stars of the high roller scene, including the likes of Dominik Nitsche and Nick Petrangelo - both of whom made the final six. And then there was Mock, a largely unknown player to these fields, battling for the biggest score of his life. “In my opinion, anytime you’re playing poker, you can’t worry about anything,” Mock said. “You just have to feel like you’re the best player at all times. I always say I don’t go over hands in my head in the middle of playing, I don’t think about anything other than what’s in front of me. But after it was over, I was like ‘Damn...I was literally the least accomplished player at that final table.’” Mock was in a good spot, playing not only for himself but for and a few supportive backers that joined him after picking up a piece on PocketFives as well. The momentum he had after a deep run in the 2021 World Series of Poker Main Event carried over, and, in the end, Mock finished the night as the runner-up and picked up a $100,800 score, the largest of his career. “You see these guys play all these big tournaments all the time and they’re studs. Obviously, their results speak for themselves…but in the moment you’ve got to feel confident in yourself as well. I’ve played four or five $10k’s and a $25K [the PSPC in 2019] and I’m four-for-five. I’m doing really well when I play big for some reason.” Mock may not be known to the greater poker public, but the Boston resident is a mainstay of the Northeast poker scene. From the time he got started in the New Hampshire charity poker games in his late teens, he found a love for poker. Primarily a tournament player, Mock has a number of healthy scores including a final table in the 2018 Borgata Spring Poker Open Main Event for more than $70K, and an outright win in a Parx Big Stax for his previous high score of $95K. But like many pros, Mock had his ups and downs, including busting a couple of six-figure rolls, something to which he said, “I don’t plan on ever doing that again.” At the start of the pandemic, when the live games dried up, Mock stopped playing full time and took over running a small construction company with a silent partner. Still, he was playing cash games on the side, keeping sharp. But during the fall/winter, his company traditionally takes time off. This left Mock with the opportunity to head to Las Vegas for the WSOP to play in the Main Event. He had a stellar run, finding himself near the top of the chip counts on Day 2 and ultimately finishing on Day 5 in 193rd for a $44,200 payday. “It was really cool, I’m just very lucky with the poker community that I grew up with. It’s all very tight. So, to make a deep run in the Main and waking up to all the hundreds of messages from friends and family…half of them think I could cash out the $600K stack that I had because they don’t know,” he said laughing. [caption id="attachment_637511" align="aligncenter" width="400"] David Mock at the WSOP (photo: WSOP/PokerNews)[/caption] But it was that deep run that give him the idea of taking a shot in a Five Diamond High Roller. He was already planning on playing the WPT Five Diamond Main Event, but Mock, who normally plays in the $500-$3,000 range, thought maybe it was time to “strike while the iron’s hot.” At least in terms of perception. Mock knew that since he had just made a deep run in the biggest tournament of the year, selling extra action to help him take his shot would be easier. He reached out to PocketFives, posted 10%, and watched it sell out quickly allowing him to register for one of the biggest tournaments of his career. “I just figured out of all the ones [during the Bellagio’s Five Diamond], this seemed like it would be the ‘softest one’, just because it’s so close to the Main Event…even though it wasn’t. It was definitely not, but it is what is, I have confidence in myself. “I knew I’d be a dog in it, and I told people that. I don’t think I’m a dog in the Main obviously, but in this one I definitely was,” he said. “And obviously luck is a big part of it, so I ran good.” Mock did run good and so did his investors. Those who were able to grab a piece made 10x on their stake, turning a $100 investment into roughly $1K. So when Mock posted additional action for his Main Event, it sold out lightning fast with investors looking to ride the same wave Mock is on. But despite his recent success, Mock said this isn’t him stepping back into poker’s spotlight full time. He’s definitely “not mad” about his back-to-back $10K results, but he’s happy in his construction business and, he says he’s even working towards becoming a firefighter. Another profession that would afford him time to play on the side. “I love poker and I'll never not play poker,” he said. “But I don’t think I’ll ever play full-time again. There is no crossroads for me, I’m never going to be the full-time high-stakes guy. I just think taking shots when I can but I think I’m just in a good spot in life where when poker’s fun and I’m not counting on it, it’s made things a lot easier.”

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