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Shaun Deeb is known as a master of mixed games. He’s won four World Series of Poker bracelets, each of them in a different variant. His first was in Pot Limit Hold’em, his next came in Seven Card Stud. In 2018, when he won WSOP player of the year, he took home two titles - one in PLO and another in No Limit Hold’em. It doesn’t matter the game, Deeb loves it: 5-Card Draw, Triple Stud, H.O.R.S.E… …"Contra." "Contra." Not a poker variant, but the popular run-and-gun shooter first produced by Konami in the late 80’s during the quarter arcade boom. The game was an early success but really took off in popularity when it was then brought over to Nintendo Entertainment Systems in 1988. For Deeb, playing "Contra" on his NES eventually became one of his early video game go-to's and helped open him up to the world of gaming. “I always loved video games,” Deeb said. “When ‘Fortnite’ got big there was a whole poker contingency [that played]. We had a group, about 10-15 guys from poker - a couple who had never played video games - we got on every morning, it was fun. Bunch of shit talking, played props and stuff…I mean, I love gambling and video games, it’s a great combination for me.” Enter Nelson Laffey, careerist collector of all things “nerdy” from video games to "Magic the Gathering" to "Pokémon" cards. Deeb and Laffey first met while playing poker in New York. They quickly bonded and discovered that they have more in common than just poker. Deeb heaps praise on the “really, really sharp” Laffey calling him “pretty much the most knowledgable guy” in the collectibles sector. [caption id="attachment_636114" align="aligncenter" width="618"] World Series of Poker 2018 Player of the Year Shaun Deeb.[/caption] “I just happened to run into him at a casino, he’d just gotten into poker and we became friends right away. Now, we hang out all the time and he’s one of my closest friends,” Deeb said. “He has always been big into Magic [the Gathering] and Pokémon and stuff and he approached me a couple of years ago. He said ‘hey listen, I’m buying these games, you should give me some cash, we should be partners, and I’m going to buy us a bunch of stuff.’” That “bunch of stuff” turned out to be vintage, factory-sealed video games. Convinced, Deeb cut Laffey a proverbial check, and off Laffey went, determined to succeed in his quest. They scooped up all the titles they could find that kids from the ’80s and '90s obsessed over: “Final Fantasy”, “Double Dragon”, “Deja Vu”, “Street Fighter II” and, of course, “Contra.” In total, according to Deeb, the investment brought in roughly 100 pieces. But the crowning piece, that title that brings their whole collection together, is a top-graded, third-print copy of the Nintendo classic “The Legend of Zelda.” “It is arguably my favorite piece in my collection,” Laffey said. “It’s arguably going to be - if not is - the most coveted piece throughout the entire lot. I don’t think I’ve ever met somebody that says I don’t like ‘Zelda.’” Laffey’s suspicions are easily confirmed. A recent post on TMZ.com shows that a factory-sealed copy of “The Legend of Zelda”, donated to Goodwill in Connecticut (very similar to the graded copy in Deeb and Laffey’s collection), recently sold for a record $411,278. Deeb explains that after building up the collection over the past few years, a message from end boss Cliff Josephy connected him with Ken Goldin. Goldin, a former online grinder and PocketFiver who played under the name ‘isuck123’, is the founder of Goldin Auctions, an online auction house specifically tailored for collectibles, sports cards, and memorabilia. Goldin says that the red hot video game collectibles market which has “really popped in the last 12 months” is a product of when a portion of “hundreds of millions of video game players became nostalgic...it set up a new collectibles market.” Titles like “The Legend of Zelda” along with “Pokémon”, “Super Mario Bros.” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” are currently sitting at the top of the heap for investors. A look at Goldin Auctions sees a top-graded copy of “Zelda” currently sitting with a bid of $75,000 - with roughly two weeks left to bid. [caption id="attachment_636109" align="alignleft" width="279"] In April 2021, a factory-sealed edition of "Super Mario Bros." sold at auction for $660,000.[/caption] An early edition, factory-sealed copy of the original “Super Mario Bros.” for NES has a bid of $400,000, while a near-pristine copy of “Sonic the Hedgehog” is sitting with a bid of $120,000. Deeb and Laffey’s lot is being sold as individual pieces, some this month (September 18 is the final chance to bid) and others in November, to allow investors and collectors to pick and choose what they’d like to add to their own collection. Deeb is excited to see what the collection fetches, however, investing in video games has become more than just a transaction for him. He’s discovered an investment of passion, one that connects him to his childhood and something he plans on continuing to pursue. “I love the games, it sucks to get rid of them but I know that the market’s really hot and so we’re going to unload our games and try to buy more. We’re trying to make a profit, but we love the games. I remember as a kid playing Contra and my wife used to play Zelda so it’s been really cool to have them in our collection.” Deeb enjoys video games, and clearly enjoys gaming in general but when it comes to what’s next for the investment, he insists that will be his partner’s call. “It’s a booming industry and with so much inflation going on, I’m so happy that I had part of my net worth tied into these games. And, you know, if we make money that’s cool. If we lose a little, no big deal…,” he said. “But I think we’re going to make a lot of money.”
This week the World Series of Poker Main Event, in all its glory, returns to the Rio for what is strongly rumored to be the very last time. Thousands of players - both pros and recs - will pony up the $10,000 buy-in in hopes that after more than two weeks, it will be they who will stand alone, earning life-changing prize money and be crowned the new World Champion. The Main Event is one of the most unique tournaments in all of poker. The payday alone is enough to bring out the masses. But when you add the prestige and tradition of the Main Event bracelet, just playing in the event has become part of the poker dream. And if we’ve learned anything over the 16 years that the Main Event has taken place at the Rio it’s that the spotlight of the Main Event is likely to feature players the greater poker world does not yet know. Perhaps it will be a young up-and-coming grinder who will take center stage or perhaps a recreational enthusiast who was bought in by their family looking to take their once-in-a-lifetime shot. This tournament has proved it’s impossible to predict what will happen and who will emerge, that’s what makes it special. That’s also why picking players who will go on deep run in the Main Event is equally impossible to predict. But that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Whether you are drafting a team with some friends, playing a little fantasy poker, or getting a little side hustle down on PokerShares you’re going to want to check out this list and consider adding them to your squad. We’re taking into account recent momentum, proven ability to navigate large-field tournaments, and the last half-decade of Main Event results. We’re also looking to see who’s already turned up at the WSOP this year and who may just sit out until 2022. So, enjoy. Here’s a special super-sized, special edition of First-Round Picks for the 2021 World Series of Poker Main Event. #1. Niklas Astedt Main Event Cashes: 2 Main Event Earnings: $59,420 The former longtime #1-ranked Niklas ‘Lena900’ Astedt is in Las Vegas and ready to make a run at the Main Event. Generally considered one of, if not the, greatest online poker player of all time, when this large-field tournament destroyer is in the field it makes him simply unable to pass up. The truth about Astedt is that he doesn’t have a lot of history with the WSOP, just seven total live cashes at the Las Vegas series. However, two of those came in the Main Event (2016, 2019) and he just made the money in the $10K Six-Max this year. Don’t be surprised if when the field narrows, Astedt is in the mix. #2. Paul Volpe Main Event Cashes: 5 Main Event Earnings: $635,129 Three-time WSOP bracelet winner Paul Volpe is no stranger to making deep runs in the Main Event. He has five Main Event cashes in the past 10 years including finishing in 192nd in 2011 ($47,107), 142nd in 2018 ($57,010), and 29th in 2016 for $216,211. His deepest Main Event run was back in 2012 when he finished in 20th place for $294,601. The fact is that in the Main Event (or any tournament, really) Volpe is as good a bet as there is. #3 Yuri Dzivielevski Main Event Cashes: 2 Main Event Earnings: $317,079 The current #1-ranked online player in the world, Yuri Dzivielevski, has been grinding the entire 2021 WSOP and has racked up six cashes to date. However, that’s just momentum headed into the Main Event where Dzivielevski is a proven large-field master. In 2019, he was one of the standout stars of the Main Event and, after being featured on the ESPN broadcast at the same table as Daniel Negreanu, he went on to finish in 28th place for $261,430. Read: Yuri Dzivielevski Enjoying Success, Freedom With Nothing Left To Prove #4. Alexandre Reard Main Event Cashes: 3 Main Event Earnings: $428,978 France’s Alexandre Reard is already having an outstanding 2021 WSOP, having won his first gold bracelet in Event #47 ($5,000 Freezeout) for $428,694. But the reason he’s such a high pick is his long history of crushing in the Main Event. In 2017, he finished in 16th for $340,000, and in 2018 he had another top 100 finish, ending in 92nd for $66,330. Having cashed in the Main in three of the last four years, Reard already knew what it took to make it deep and now he knows how to close out a bracelet event. #5. Andrew Moreno Main Event Cashes: 2 Main Event Earnings: $256,476 Andrew Moreno, the younger brother of "high-quality" poker vlogger Johnny ‘Vibes’ Moreno, is coming off an epic career score. He took down the $10,000 buy-in Wynn Millions in June for $1.46 million dollars and that was just two weeks after he closed out the $1,100 Ultimate Stack at the Venetian for $127K. Moreno has been seen in the WSOP payout lines, making the money in a number of 2021 events, and has a history of going deep in the Main Event, finishing in 28th in 2015 for more than $211,000. It seems the one-time cash game pro thrives when the stakes are at their biggest, making the Main Event a perfect situation for him. Also, Johnny’s not a bad choice either. #6. Daniel Lazrus Main Event Cashes: - Main Event Earnings: - Long Beach, New Jersey’s 31-year old Daniel Lazrus is entering the Main Event with a wave of momentum at his back. In July, he won the first bracelet of his career in the WSOP.com NLHE High Roller Championship for $205,347. Then he made his way to Las Vegas where he earned his second by taking down the massive 2021 Millionaire Maker for an even $1 million score. This would be the perfect time for Lazrus, who was leading the NLHE Player of the Year standings for a good portion of the first half of the series, to break out for his first (and possibly deep) Main Event cash. #7. Joao Vieira Main Event Cashes: 2 Main Event Earnings: $34,347 Current Online All-Time Money List leader Joao Vieira is looking to put his stamp on the Main Event. In 2019, he earned his first bracelet in the incredibly tough $5K Six-Max where he won $758,011. A great win to be sure, but Vieira is a world-class player and is looking for that televised result that will take his name to the next level. He has two previous Main Event results in Las Vegas, and a pair of cashes from WSOP Europe Main Event in both 2018 and 2019. He’s has all the skill one needs to survive to the endgame, the only question is - is it his time? #8. Kelly Minkin Main Event Cashes: 3 Main Event Earnings: $392,646 Kelly Minkin grabbed the title of Last Woman Standing in the Main Event in both 2015 and 2018, when in both years she finished inside the top 50. But one can’t help but feel like that title means little to Minkin who is pushing to always be the last person standing - full stop. In addition to her two deep runs, Minkin last made the money in the Main in 2019 and, with her doing what needed to be done in order to play this year, she’s in the perfect position to make a run at a final table...and more. #9. Adam Friedman Main Event Cashes: 4 Main Event Earnings: $373,989 Talk about a complete player, Adam Friedman proved that he's one of the best in today's game when he put on a historic performance in the 2021 $10K Dealers Choice, defeating Phil Hellmuth and winning the event for the third time...in a row. His $10K three-peat should be credentials enough to want to grab him in the Main Event, but a deeper looks shows that Friedman also crushes in the Main. He's cashing in the Main Event four times in his career with three top 200 finishes. If you add on the confidence he's going to feel heading into the Main, that makes him a top-tier choice to lead a squad. #10. Maurice Hawkins Main Event Cashes: 1 Main Event Earnings: $38,453 When it comes to the Main Event, Maurice Hawkins has the resume of the ideal player to succeed. He should be making deep run year in and year out. He’s the all-time leader in WSOP Circuit rings with 14 and knows how to battle against the type of player who comes to Las Vegas to take a shot in the Main Event. He’s a proven stack builder with more than $2.6 million in WSOP earnings. The interesting part about Hawkins is, when it comes to the WSOP Main Event, he’s had little success. He has a top 300 finish back in 2012 and nothing since. It’s surprising but perhaps he skipped a few, took some bad beats. Whatever has kept Hawkins from making his presence felt in this event we expect to end this year. #11. Tyler Cornell Main Event Cashes: 4 Main Event Earnings: $189,499 Early in the series Tyler Cornell captured his first WSOP bracelet when he took down the $25,000 High Roller for $833,00 - a career-high score. But prior to his early WSOP win, Cornell already had a stellar WSOP resume having cashed in the live Main Event four different times (2013, 2015, 2018, and 2019). Last year, he cashed in multiple online Main Events. First, he made the final table of the August GGPoker $5K Main Event in which he finished in 8th place for more than $328,000. Then in December, he tacked on another $35K with a deep run in the WSOP.com Main Event. #12. Faraz Jaka Main Event Cashes: 4 Main Event Earnings: $95,874 It’s hard to believe that Faraz Jaka has yet to win a WSOP bracelet, especially because of his reputation of being able to build mountains of chips in just about any tournament he plays. He has four career WSOP Main Event cashes (2014, 2015, 2017, 2019) and more than $1.5 million in WSOP earnings. If you take a close look at Jaka’s resume you can see just how many times he was on the verge of earning that career-defining score. This may be the year that this cashing machine makes headlines in the Main. Second Time Around It's one thing to make it to the final table of the Main Event once, it's remarkable to even consider doing it again (see: Mark Newhouse). While we didn't rank the following five players in our original twelve, it would be silly to sleep on any of these players in the Main Event. Phil Hellmuth Main Event Cashes: 8 Main Event Earnings: $1,333,618 Sixteen-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth has a knack for knowing how to play against recreational players. He’s the 1989 Main Event champ and has eight Main Event cashes in his career. Now, he’s only made the money once since 2015, but Hellmuth is on a heater in 2021 and this could be the year he returns with a deep run in the Main. Joe McKeehen Main Event Cashes: 2 Main Event Earnings: $7,707,826 Joe McKeehen has a reputation for being two things - one of which is being a master of navigating large field MTTs. Of course, everyone knows he won the Main Event in 2015 for $7.6 million. Since then he’s earned another two gold bracelets and made five World Poker Tour final tables. His latest WPT score took place earlier this year when he finished as the WPT Venetian runner-up for just over $490K. Of all the Main Event winners in the past 10 years, McKeehen might just be the favorite to make it back to the final table. Damian Salas Main Event Cashes: 5 Main Event Earnings: $2,493,281 Of course, Damian Salas might have something to say about which Main Event Champion is best suited to repeat. Salas, the winner of the 2020 online-live hybrid Main Event for a combined score of over $2.5 million ($1.5 million international, $1 million in the heads-up portion in Las Vegas) already had Main Event final table experience before his win last year. In 2017, Salas finished in seventh place for a $1.4 million score and he’s actually made the money in five of the last 10 Main Events which is more than enough proof that he’s always going to be a threat to make it back to a final table. READ: Desire To Remain Elite Drives New World Champ Damian Salas Cliff Josephy Main Event Cashes: 6 Main Event Earnings: $3,604,078 PocketFives Legacy Award winner Cliff Josephy is sometimes more well-known for his history of backing players during the online boom than his poker playing prowess. But make no mistake, Josephy has proven time and time again that he’s just as good at the game as those players he backed. Plus, he has a Main Event resume most would envy. He’s cashed six times since 2008 and made the final table in 2016 where he fell just two spots shy of being called a World Champion, earning $3.4 million for third place. He showed up for the Seniors Event this year, so we expect him to show out in the Main Event. Kenny Hallaert Main Event Cashes: 4 Main Event Earnings: $1,645,463 The ESPN story on Kenny Hallaert has been that he’s the tournament director who finally is getting the chance to show off what he can do on the felt. But those in the know understand that Hallaert has been beating online tournaments for years and cracked the worldwide top 20 back in 2017. He has nearly $6.8 million in online earnings and has earned partypoker POWERFEST and multiple PokerStars SCOOP titles. In the Main Event, he always brings his A-game. He’s cashed in the Main Event four times, three of which were top 125 spots and a peak performance of sixth-place in 2016 where he collected $1.4 million. - As we mentioned, there are going to be thousands of players in the Main Event, making it tough to narrow down our picks. Players like Antonio Esfandiari, Allen Cunningham, Davidi Kittai, Eoghan O'Dea, and Jake Schindler all have stellar records in the Main Event and would have likely been in contention to make the list, but it's hard to know if they'll show. So choose wisely and enjoy the next couple weeks of non-stop coverage of the return of the Main Event. The action kicks off with Day 1A on Thursday, November 4, and doesn't end until a winner emerges on Wednesday, November 17. (images courtesy: PokerGo)
The fourth Day 1 flight of the WSOP Main Event saw over 2,500 players either qualify for or directly buy-in for $10,000 as the biggest poker tournament in the world saw its biggest day yet. With some of the best players in poker taking their shot at millions on Day 1d, there were major casualties and superstars bagging big stacks. Baker and Shak in the Mix The chip leader in the Main Event is Russian player Aleksandr Shevlyakov from Day 1c with 392,600 chips, but Day 1d’s best-performing player, Adedapo Ajayi, will be proud of the 340,900 he bagged up by close of play. With David ‘Bakes’ Baker (247,300) and Dan Shak (229,200) also grabbing top 5 stacks by the end of Day 1d, there was a lot of talented competition going on to Day 2. Others who thrived on Day 1d included James Chen (209,400), Shyam Srinivasan (206,000), and Cliff Josephy (198,600), who tweeted about his excitement at playing the Main Event yet again, the luster of the competition never losing its thrill to one of the World Series’ most respected regulars. https://twitter.com/JohnnyBaxPoker/status/1457624568303026180 Other big names made Day 2 with big stacks too. Yevgeniy Timoshenko (194,800), Nick Petrangelo (180,000), Matt Berkey (179,800), Greg Mueller (176,700), Ben Heath (176,000), Roland Israelashvili (173,700), Jun Obara (169,400), and Melanie Weisner (125,200) all making the cut. Newhouse Survives Scary Start Mark Newhouse, famed for finishing ninth two years on the trot in the Main Event, had a dramatic start to the day when he was all-in and at risk with pocket kings against two players with pocket aces. Newhouse hit a king on the river to treble up, but while that pot put him on well over twice his starting stack, he drifted a little later in the day to end on 83,000 chips. Plenty of others weren’t so fortunate to bag up a stack, with Adam Levy, Michael Ruane, Jason Somerville, Joseph Cheong, Greg Raymer, Brandon Shack-Harris, John Esposito, Joe McKeehen, Ryan Laplante, Julien Martini, Phil Laak, and David Williams all out by the end of Day 1d. With over 600 players busting and just 1,939 players making it through to Day 2, one of the players to depart was Michael Graydon, whose stirring story has been one that has resonated with so many poker players and fans. https://twitter.com/michael_graydon/status/1457482479820967936 Over 4,500 players have now played in the 2021 WSOP Main Event, so with two more Day 1 flights to come, possibly the busiest of the event so far, could we see a record attendance? That’s yet to be revealed, but what we do know from Day 1d is that some of the best players in the world are moving on to compete on Day 2. WSOP 2021 Event #67 $10,000 Main Event Top 10 Chipcounts: Adedapo Ajayi - 340,900 Zachary Grech - 318,400 Wooram Cho - 252,100 David ‘Bakes’ Baker - 247,300 Dan Shak - 229,200 Jill Sodafsky - 224,500 Alex Goulder - 218,500 Taylor Howard - 214,200 Ivan Galinec - 211,300 Mike Gao - 210,000 With so many European players now on their way to Las Vegas in order to take their seats in the WSOP Main Event, one player from Dublin wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as others. https://twitter.com/max_silver/status/1457507287900229632 Finally, with many rumors around Phil ‘The Poker Brat’s Main Event entrance this year, the man himself has dressed up for a picture of him as ‘The Greatest Showman’, but it appears that it may well have been an early bluff ahead of some genuine ‘White Magic’. Whenever Hellmuth makes a value bet on the river, we’d expect him to utter the immortal line, “You shall not pass!” https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1457579806019571713