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  1. Dominykas Mikolaitis entered the final table of this week’s GGPoker Super MILLION$ with a hefty chip lead, one that he leveraged to take home his first career Super MILLION$ title and the $428,624 first-place prize. Just because the grinder from Poland held a considerable chip advantage, it was by no means a sure thing that he’d make it to the end. In his way this week were a pair of former #1-ranked online pros in Yuri Dzivielevski and Andras Nemeth, the current #5 ranked player in the world in Dalton Hobold, and Stephen Chidwick, one of the most feared high rollers in the game today. Thirty minutes into the final table, with the blinds at 30,000/60,000, Andras Nemeth opened the button to 132,000 holding the [poker card="ks"][poker card="qc"]. In the small blind, China’s Weiran Pu three-bet shipped their final nine big blinds with the [poker card="as"][poker card="6s"]. Nemeth made the quick call and the flop came [poker card="qd"][poker card="jh"][poker card="6c"], giving both a pair but putting Nemeth in the lead. The [poker card="kc"] turn gave Nemeth top two, and added a gutshot straight draw for Pu. However, the river was the [poker card="5c"] and Pu was the first player of the day to hit the rail, finishing in ninth place for $53,578. It was one trip around the table before ‘Pandora-box’ opened from the hijack to 126,000 with the [poker card="ac"][poker card="kc"]. Mikolaitis, on the button, put in a three-bet to 354,000 with his [poker card="as"][poker card="4h"]. When the action folded back to ‘Pandora-box’ they decided to flat call leaving themselves 1.5 million behind. The flop came [poker card="kd"][poker card="8c"][poker card="3h"] giving ‘Pandora-box’ top pair. They checked it to Mikolaitis who put out a 150,000 bet. ‘Pandora-box’ called and the [poker card="2d"] arrived on the turn, offering Mikolaitis a gutshot straight draw. ‘Pandora-box’ checked again to the chip leader who fired 288,000 into the pot of 1.2 million. ‘Pandora-box’ just called yet again and the [poker card="5h"] appeared on the river, giving Mikolaitis his runner-runner straight. ‘Pandora-box’ checked a third time but this time, with the nuts, Mikolaitis went big and moved all-in. After a few moments, ‘Pandora-box’ called off their final million and was eliminated in eighth place, good for $69,482. Just five hands later, former #1-ranked Yuri Dzivielevski raised the button to 120,000 with his [poker card="ah"][poker card="kd"]. Nemeth folded the small blind and Mikolaitis defended his big blind holding the [poker card="ac"][poker card="7c"]. Mikolaitis outflopped Dzivielevski on the [poker card="qd"][poker card="7h"][poker card="4h"] flop, and the action checked thru. The turn was the [poker card="as"], hitting Dzivielevski but giving Mikolaitis two pair. Mikolaitis checked it over to the Brazilian who bet just over 240,000 with top pair. Mikolaitis put in a check-raise to 600,000 and Dzivielevski called, with just under 1.4 million behind. The river was the [poker card="js"] and once again Mikolaitis went for it all and moved all-in. Dzivielevski took nearly three minutes and eventually clicked the call button. Dzivielevski fell in seventh place and added $90,107 to his Super MILLION$ earnings. Brazil’s Dalton ‘morgota’ Hobold had been hanging on to his short stack for most of the final table, but eventually, with the blinds at 35,000/70,000, picked up a hand he could fight with. After ‘OPPikachu’ opened from the cutoff to 189,000 with the [poker card="ac"][poker card="6d"] it folded to Hobold in the big blind with [poker card="jh"][poker card="js"]. Hobold moved all-in for 538,000 and ‘OPPikachu’ made the quick call putting the Brazilian at risk. The [poker card="as"][poker card="7d"][poker card="4d"] flop put Hobold way behind and looking for one of the final two jacks in the deck. The turn was the [poker card="qd"] and the river came the [poker card="7s"] sending Hobold to collect his $116,854 sixth-place prize. As Mikolaitis extended his chip lead, building his stack to over 12 million, Stephen Chidwick slipped to just under 10 big blinds. After Mikolaitis opened from under the gun to 140,000 with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="9c"], Chidwick moved all-in for just over 640,000 holding [poker card="ac"][poker card="8h"]. Both blinds folded and Mikolaitis made the call, looking to take out the always dangerous Chidwick. The flop came [poker card="9h"][poker card="8c"][poker card="5c"] giving both players a pair. The turn was the [poker card="jc"], adding nut flush outs for Chidwick. But the [poker card="7d"] was a brick for Chidwick and the all-world pro ended up in fifth place for $151,541. With the blinds up to 40,000/80,000, ‘Memukul’ raised from the small blind to 200,000 with his [poker card="9c"][poker card="9h"]. Nemeth, in the big blind with just 10 bigs, moved all-in holding the [poker card="ac"][poker card="4c"] and was snapped off by ‘Memukul’ putting the two-time Super MILLION$ champ at risk. The board ran out [poker card="7c"][poker card="3s"][poker card="3h"][poker card="7d"][poker card="8c"] shipping the pot to ‘Memukul’ and, for the second week in a row, Nemeth finished just short of a third title. Nemeth earned $196,525 for his fourth-place run. The three-handed battle took some time with both short stacks hanging around as Mikolaitis looked for a way to continue to add to his chip lead. Eventually, it was a clash between those two short stacks that got the tournament to heads up. With the blinds up to 70,000/140,000, ‘OPPikachu’ open-ripped his final 1.5 million from the small blind with the [poker card="as"][poker card="3c"]. ‘Memukul’, in the big blind, took a moment but made the call holding the [poker card="kh"][poker card="5s"]. The flop came [poker card="kc"][poker card="tc"][poker card="7d"] giving ‘Memukul’ in the lead in the hand. It was a lead they didn’t surrender as the turn came the [poker card="4d"] and the river came the [poker card="2d"]. ‘OPPikachu’ bowed out in third place, good for $254,861. Mikolaitis started heads up with a better than 2:1 chip lead but it wasn’t long before ‘Memukul’ climbed into the chip lead. From there the pair traded the chip lead back and forth. Eventually, Mikolaitis grabbed the chip lead and didn’t let go. The blinds were at 100,000/200,000 when ‘Memukul’ limped the button holding [poker card="ac"][poker card="jd"] and Mikolaitis ripped from the big blinds with the [poker card="ah"][poker card="5d"]. ‘Memukul’ made the call for it all. The flop came [poker card="td"][poker card="4h"][poker card="2h"] keeping ‘Memukul’ in the lead but offering Mikolaitis a gutshot straight draw and some backdoor options. When the [poker card="3h"] hit the turn, ‘Memukul’ was left with only chop outs. The [poker card="kc"] completed the board, and the tournament, as ‘Memukul’ - who started the day ninth in chips - finished in second place for $330,514 and Dominykas Mikolaitis took home his first Super MILLION$ title for $428,624 GGPoker Super MILLION$ Final Table Results Dominykas Mikolaitis - $428,624 ‘Memukul’ - $330,514 ‘OPPikachu’ - $254,861 Andras Nemeth - $196,525 Stephen Chidwick - $151,541 Dalton ‘morgota’ Hobold - $116,854 Yuri Dzivielevski - $90,107 ‘Pandora-box’ - $69,482 Weiran Pu - $53,578
  2. The schedule for the 2022 World Series of Poker has finally been unveiled and with it, the dream of winning a WSOP gold bracelet has awoken for players around the world. With 88 live events held at the WSOP’s new home on the Las Vegas Strip, plus an additional 14 online bracelet events for players in regulated states, the schedule has been hailed by most as a towering home run (potentially the only home run we’re going to see for quite some time). More baseball analogies: the schedule covers all the bases. Whether you are a weekend warrior or a super high roller, a first-timer or a POY-seeker, the 2022 WSOP schedule “has something for everyone” from the Opening Day $100,000 Bounty High Roller straight through to the $1,000 Super Turbo NLHE. No matter when you make your way to Las Vegas this summer, there’s going to be something to get geeked up about. That being said, there are some standout events worth taking a closer look at and, potentially, planning your own personal bracelet chase around. So, here’s a breakdown of some of the high points of this year’s schedule to help you refine when you are going to take a couple of extra vacation days in hopes of making that WSOP deep run. READ: World Series of Poker Announces Complete 2022 Schedule Big Field, Small Buy-in ($1K and Under) These events, commonly referred to as “bracelets on a budget”, offer recreational players some of the best opportunities to get involved with the World Series of Poker. Especially for those players making their first trip to the summer series. Ten years ago, it would have been insulting to insinuate that a bracelet could be won for under $1,000. This year, there are 22 events that have a buy-in of $1K or less and another, the One More for One Drop, that is $1,111 with the $111 going to charity. A few of these are restricted registration events, like the Casino Employees and Seniors Event, but the majority of them bring the energy and excitement of a WSOP event for a lower price tag to everybody. But with that, these events also bring larger fields and, traditionally, a little more chaos. Expect lines to buy-in, lines for the restroom, and longer lines for everything they have lines for. Still, there are a number of events in this schedule of $1Ks and under that should get special consideration. Must Play - $500 The Housewarming In the tradition of the 2019’s Big 50 and last year’s The Reunion, The Housewarming is that low buy-in ($500), mega-field event that everyone is going to fire in if for no other reason than the prize pool is going to be massive (a $5 million guarantee) and everyone is going to want to see the WSOP’s new spot. Yep, there will likely be some frustrations with so many people vying for a seat and stress testing the new WSOP setup. But with COVID restrictions taking a back seat, everything should move a lot smoother than it did in 2021. It says a $500 buy-in but players can fire in every starting day so bring (or sell action for) multiple bullets just in case. Don’t Miss - $1,000 Million Dollar Bounty Originally supposed to take place in 2020, the Mystery Bounty will finally take place on the WSOP schedule. The concept is once you’ve made the money (on Day 2) for every player you knock out you get a bounty but you won’t know what that is until you claim that bounty and reveal it. This year, the top prize is $1 million. That’s right someone could min-cash, take out one short stack, and pull an extra $1 million. It’s been a successful tournament at the Wynn, it will be exciting to see how the WSOP promotes it and how many players this draws. [table id=292 /] The High Rollers The WSOP continues to compete in the high-roller arena, with 10 of the 88 events coming in with a buy-in of $25,000 or more. Add in the Championship Events, plus a Short Deck and Super Turbo Bounty which all have price tags of $10,000 then the schedule is more than 25% aimed at high rollers. Of course, the majority of these events will be out of the general public’s price point but from a fan’s perspective, these events are where you are going to get to watch some of the best players in the world compete. These are the tournaments that bring the superstars to town and keep them battling all summer long. Must Play - $100,000 High Roller Bounty How do you kick off a revitalized World Series of Poker in a brand new home? Entice the biggest names in the game to be there on Day 1 with a $100K bounty event where they collect $25K for every player they knock out of the tournament. It should be a fun way to kick off the series and, potentially, bring in a few recreational whales. However, the $100K price tag is steep. Looking to the PokerGO high rollers as a guide, you see $100K fields hover in the high teens to low 20s in terms of entries. However, this is the WSOP and that alone should beckon elite players from around the world to make their way to Las Vegas and into this opening-day event. Either way, this event will make for a nice one for fans to follow from the very start. Don’t Miss - $250,000 Super High Roller Speaking of elite fields, the return of the $250K Super High Roller will undoubtedly be one of the most contested of the schedule. Last year, Adrian Mateos won his fourth WSOP gold bracelet taking down the 33-entry field for a massive, career-high $3.2 million score. This event should bring out the tippity-top of poker talent, and maybe a random multi-millionaire or two, and be one of the most-watched events of the year. [table id=293 /] Championship Events The road to the 2022 WSOP Player of the Year will likely go through the Championship Events. Current reigning 2021 WSOP Player of the Year (and PocketFives own) Josh Arieh picked up critical POY points by taking down the $10,000 PLO8 Championship for $484,791 as well as a final table finish in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship. The best of the best will test their mixed game skills in some of the toughest tournaments on the schedule. Plus, don’t forget - the Main Event is a Championship Event. Speaking of which…. Must Play - $10,000 Main Event (No Limit Hold’em Championship) There was talk, prior to 2020, that the WSOP was on the verge of breaking its 2006 record of 8,773 entries into the Main Event. In fact, in 2019, when Hossein Ensan won the championship, the WSOP came up just 204 entries short with 8,569 runners. Some poker pundits event predicted that 2020 could see 10,000 runners but then, you know, there was the pandemic. 2020 was a wash. But prior to the 2021 series, there was optimism, at one point COVID seemed to be waning and once again, there was talk that the Main Event was going to be massive. But COVID came surging back and despite that, the 2021 Main Event posted an impressive 6,650 entries. So the question is - is this the year? Are players ready to return and push the Main Event to new heights? Some Main Event satellites are already running (GGPoker’s ClubGG) and COVID restrictions are easing with no proof of vaccination requirement at the time of this writing and an optional mask policy. Plus a new home on the Strip…the new era of the World Series of Poker may kick off with a record-breaking Main Event and, if so, you won’t want to miss it. Don’t Miss - $50,000 Poker Players Championship It’s always fun to watch the old-school mixed game grinders hold off the emerging stars of the game in what is often referenced as one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year. Must See - $10,000 Dealers Choice 6-Handed Adam Friedman won the Global Poker Award for his final table performance in this event in 2021 where he bested Phil Hellmuth heads-up and completed an astounding third title defense. All eyes will be on Friedman to see if he can make it four in a row. [table id=294 /] Best of the Rest The best part about the series is the non-stop action. If you want to avoid the big-field, low buy-in crowds but can’t afford a high roller there is still plenty to look forward to. There are 39 different events with a price tag between $1,500 and $5,000 and span just about every poker variant you may want to play. A whole host of mixed games, a few freezeouts, and returning favorites (Monster Stack, Millionaire Maker, Closer) make up the bulk of the schedule. So, if you are looking for that sweet spot of hunting for a bracelet in a modest-sized field with a moderate buy-in, check out these events. Must Play - $1,500 Millionaire Maker A staple of the series, the Millionaire Maker continues to be a draw for one core reason - the tournament delivers on its promise to make the winner a millionaire. There’s no other tournament at this prize point the promises that, save for the Million Dollar Bounty which will make someone a millionaire. The downside, is there are two starting flights and players get an option for a single re-entry per flight meaning that someone may spend up to $6K in this one. But with 60-minute levels and starting with 250 big blinds, if you are going to fire one shot at a seven-figure score this may be it. Don’t Miss - $2,500 Nine-Game Mixed This isn’t for everybody but for those that want the experience of playing in the PPC without risking $50K, this might be the next best thing. There is a $1,500 Eight-Game Mix on the schedule as well which will scratch that itch as well. Of Note - $1,500 Monster Stack After years of people complaining that they couldn’t enter the second flight of the Monster Stack if they busted Day 1A, the WSOP (for better or worse) capitulated and will allow players who bust out from Day 1A to fire in Day 1B. [table id=295 /]
  3. The third episode of PokerGO’s latest season of High Stakes Poker continued to bring fans the nosebleed action they crave with Doyle Brunson showing off his skills over a multi-hand heater while Tom Dwan struggled to break out of his multi-episode downswing. The majority of the same cast that finished the last episode remained in play the start of the next hour. Phil Ivey, Jonathan Gibbs, Brunson, Jean-Robert Bellande, Dwan, and Patrik Antonius all sat in their same seats. Daniel Negreanu slid to the opposite side of the table with the notable absence of 2021 WSOP Main Event champ Koray Aldemir who racked up and exited in-between shows. Hot Start For Dwan After being on the losing end of a pair of six-figure flips in the first two episodes, Dwan was looking to build some momentum in order to claw back some of the chips currently sitting in other players’ stacks. Dwan started off by winning the first three hands of the night including a hand that played out like a session from when Dwan first burst onto the scene. Brunson put in a raise to $1,400 from middle position with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="td"] and Dwan, in the cutoff, made the call with the [poker card="jc"][poker card="2c"]. Antonius came along on the button holding [poker card="7d"][poker card="4d"] and Negreanu called from the small blind with his [poker card="6s"][poker card="6h"]. It was four ways to the [poker card="th"][poker card="4s"][poker card="2s"] flop and after Negreanu checked, Brunson fired $3,200 with top pair. Bottom pair was good enough for Dwan to call and both Antonius and Negreanu released their hands. The turn was [poker card="7s"] and Brunson checked it over to Dwan who took the lead and bet $8,000. Brunson made the call and the dealer put the [poker card="jd"] out on the river, improving Dwan to two pair. Brunson checked and Dwan value bet for $16,000. Brunson quickly called and was shown the winner by Dwan who dragged the $60,800 pot. DNegs Downs Dwan, Again Dwan’s resurgence was short-lived, however. On the very next hand, Dwan and Negreanu clashed again resulting in Dwan shipping another six-figure pot in Kid Poker’s directions. Dwan open-limped the $400 from early position holding [poker card="ac"][poker card="js"], bringing a raise from Antonius to $2,000 with the [poker card="ts"][poker card="8s"]. Negreanu was next to act and he flatted with [poker card="ks"][poker card="kh"]. Bellande tried to get in on the action from the big blind by calling with his [poker card="ad"][poker card="5d"] but Dwan limp-reraised to $14,000. After Antonius let his hand go, Negreanu sat stoically for a few moments before announcing a four-bet to $32,000. Dwan shot Negreanu a couple of quick glances while shuffling some of the $120,000 in chips he still had in his stack. Eventually, Dwan made the call and the flop came [poker card="jd"][poker card="tc"][poker card="4h"] giving Dwan top pair and setting him up for trouble. Dwan checked to Negreanu who when for a $20,000 bet. The pot was $88,000 at this point and Dwan had just over $100,000 behind when he announced he was all-in. Negreanu didn’t take but a second before grabbing a stack of yellow $1K chips and shoving them in the middle to call. Once again, the pair ran it twice. The first board was completed with the [qh turn and][poker card="4c"] river. The second board ran out the [poker card="qs"] turn and [poker card="7s"] river and Negreanu, who is known for having a tough time on HSP, took down another monster pot, this time it was good for $272,600. As Dwan reloaded for another $100,000, Negreanu and Ivey started chatting. “You having some fun, you enjoying yourself?” Ivey asked Negreanu who couldn’t hold back his glee from winning. “Didn’t you say one time I’m the worst winner ever,” Negreanu replied. “Pretty bad winner, yea,” Ivey joked back. “I can’t help but giggle when I win a pot,” Negreanu said, clearly enjoying sitting on a stack of nearly $350,000. Jean-Robert Gets There The very next hand was the only other six-figure pot of the episode and once again Negreanu was involved. Negreanu put in a raise to $1,000 with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="qs"] as the conversation continued. After taking a verbal shot at Brunson, calling him “lousy winner” and “grumpy, grumpy, grumpy”, Bellande casually three-bet to $4,000 with his [poker card="kc"][poker card="qd"]. Back on Negreanu, he said “I’m running hot” as he splashed his chips in to complete the call. The [poker card="ac"][poker card="jh"][poker card="9s"] flop gave Negreanu top pair, but it was Bellande who was betting. When checked to, JRB fired $4,000 which Negreanu quickly called. The [poker card="4d"] on the turn changed nothing, and after Negreanu checked again, Bellande went for a large bet of $14,000 into the $16,800 pot. Again, Negreanu just called. Everything changed however on the [poker card="tc"] river, bringing in the gutshot straight for Bellande. Bellande overbet, throwing out $60,000. “That card might have saved me a lot of money,” Negreanu mused, audibly breaking down the hand. In the end, Negreanu made the correct laydown and the $104,800 pot (inflated by JRB’s final uncalled bet) was pushed to Bellande. Brunson Can’t Lose After that last hand, there were only 11 more hands shown in the episode. Doyle Bruson won six of them and chopped another one. Even if, by the show’s standard, the pots weren’t for major amounts of money, it was a long stretch where Brunson was in every pot, making all the right moves, and stacking up the chips. After five small wins, Brunson wanted to bump up the action and so he put on the straddle to $800. He turned to Bellande and gave him the old “um…Hello??” and Bellande noticed the $800 straddle was on and instantly made it $1,600 to go saying “Doyle, you don’t have to ask me twice.” Dwan was first to act and made it $5,000 to go with his [poker card="6s"][poker card="3s"], Negreanu joined in calling the $5K with the [poker card="qd"][poker card="9d"]. With $13,200 in the middle, Brunson, from the first straddle, looked down at [poker card="7s"][poker card="7h"] and made it $30,800 to continue. Bellande folded, Dwan quickly let his small suited gappers go, and Negreanu laughed as he surrendered as well. A big smile came across Texas Dolly’s face as he exposed his pocket sevens. “That’s how you feel it,” Antonius said. “That was pretty sweet there, Doyle,” Bellande said. “Still works at 88.” Brunson, Bellande, Negreanu, and Dwan all return for more High Stakes Poker action next Monday night at 8 p.m. ET, exclusively on PokerGO.
  4. This weekend, Tony Sinishtaj saw off the challenges of players such as final table chip leader Vanessa Kade, Alex Livingston and Tony Tran to claim the biggest score of his poker career so far, winning $1.65 million by taking down the Wynn Millions Main Event. In the aftermath of Sinsihtaj's stunning victory, however, he was criticized in some quarters for a winners’ photo that showed no emotion, featuring him holding the trophy and staring at the camera without the obligatory posed grin. It was on Twitter that a post by 'Cookie Monster Poker' saw an image of Sinishtaj holding the Wynn Millions trophy on their Twitter page accompanied by the comment: “Why poker is now totally non-marketable can be summed up in one picture of a player who just won 1.6 MILLION dollars.” Shared by many in the industry, some with comment, some without, did they have a point or were they way out of line? Poker Twitter, perhaps predictably, blew up in Sinishtaj's defense. https://twitter.com/3kingme3/status/1503102404018917376 The Winner Weighs In "That hand got me two-thirds of the chips in play; I thought I was going to steamroller them." When we spoke to Tony Sinishtaj, he was back in his native New York after arriving home from his lengthy 10-day stint in Las Vegas. He looks back on the final table with pride on the effort he put into what was a tough final table from the first card. “I started the final in a terrible seat compared to other big stacks,” he says. “I was healthy with 75 blinds, but the people to my left had more and I was handcuffed. I was playing pretty tight.” Despite that initial situation, a hand where Sinishtaj turned a full house with jacks over queens against chip leader Vanessa Kade, he showed his rail the hand. He thinks that hand contributed to Kade eventually losing her stack to him. “To the table, I can look like a maniac. On the six-five hand, I flopped the flush draw and turned a flush with the queen of spades. I led out pretty big and she had two red aces. The river pairs the queen and I have about a pot-sized bet behind and put her all-in. I guess she felt like I was getting out of line before that pot and I really wasn’t.” Kade called and busted and the hand gave Sinishtaj 30 million of the 43 million in play. “As the overwhelming chip leader it’s negative pressure to go from chip led to not having it and you can feel like ‘this guy is taking advantage’. I could understand her position and call; it’s a tough spot, especially since she had no idea what I had the previous hand. That hand got me two-thirds of the chips in play; I thought I was going to steamroller them. I went from 30 back down to 8 million. We played three-handed for a long time.” At the end of that epic denouement, Sinishtaj had got the better of Alex Livingston and then Isaac Kempton after initially starting the heads-up behind. As he explains, it was an epic period of 10 days for him, and it was finally over. “I played the satellite to get in, I got in. I played 1a on the satellite, I lost. I played 1b, I lost. I played 1c, I made it. There was a day off on 2a, but I literally played 10 days, with 13-hour days here and there. The last thing I want to do is take a picture.” Sinishtaj admits that the photo was not a one-off and that he has had a hard time posing for pictures ‘my whole life, let alone after 10 days of poker’. “My wife always gives me a hard time about pictures,” he says. “I don’t take good pictures, sorry, I just don’t! The person taking the picture was like ‘Smile!’ and I’m sure there are pictures of me smiling, but they picked that one. I read the Twitter stuff, my buddies sent it to me. I deleted Twitter months ago and it’s because of threads like that. Even reading other stuff about other people, I got tired of it and I’m glad I didn’t have it through this whole thing. People want to figure out what my mental state was like at the time and if I was unhappy. It was one of the happiest moments of my life! It doesn’t have to show in my face.” From Goofballs to Gold “There was a big incentive in the past to be a goofball." As Sinishtaj remarks, the life of a modern poker player is all about keeping emotion out of the game. That’s a direct flip from the past in his eyes. “There was a big incentive in the past to be a goofball,” he says. “You got an endorsement deal, you got Full Tilt Poker or PokerStars to throw you half a million dollars just to wear a patch. There were people playing the World Series in 2004 and 2005 who were making animal noises when they won a pot. You don’t see that anymore. They wanted attention, and they made more doing that than playing the tournament. I wouldn’t have done it back then, let alone now when there’s nothing on the line.” When the tournament ended, Sinishtaj says he just wanted to ‘Get outta Vegas’. He hadn’t seen his young family in 10 days and had missed his child’s birthday on the day of the final table. “I have a three-month-old baby,” he says. “My wife is there with the kids alone; obviously she wants me home and I want to get outta there. My job was done. Sometimes, your partner is like ‘It’s over for you now, get home, it’s time to come back’. When I’m at home, I’m a dad first. When I go away, I try to get into that poker mindset. You can’t be a dad and poker player at the same time; you can try, but you’ll do both poorly. We were in the process of buying a house, but this clearly makes it much easier. This is going to change my life for the better. If I could set the family up with a nice place to live and school, then I’m doing my part.” Sinishtaj’s family inspiration is not exclusive to the generation of three young children he is raising with his wife. Just before his first major win on the World Poker Tour in 2017, Sinishtaj lost his father a few months after becoming a father for the first time himself. “He was my biggest fan in poker," Sinishtaj says. "Until then, I really hadn’t won anything. I’d had a second-place to Joe McKeehen and a Circuit Main Event result for $100,000 that was my biggest score, but nothing crazy. He was always there rooting me on. I don’t remember exactly when it started but playing this tournament, I really felt his presence like I’d never felt it before at the table.” Deep into the Wynn Millions Main Event on Day 3, Sinishtaj could hear his father’s voice. It kept him grounded and inspired him to believe he was destined to win, it was a lot to deal with whilst trying to negotiate a tough field. “It was a little overwhelming to deal with while playing, but I really felt like I was going to win. When I was all in with jacks six-handed against ace-king, an ace comes then a jack. I’m all in against Livingston four-handed with king-jack on jack-three-deuce and he has jack-three; the board runs out eight-eight. The third hand of heads-up, I get aces, the kid gets jacks. The whole tournament felt that way. It’s a surreal experience to run so well in one of the biggest tournaments you’ve played.” Sinishtaj tells us ‘I truly played my best’. The day before the final, he confided in a friend that if there was one thing he wanted to make sure of it was that he wasn’t going to ‘let poor play ruin my chances’. Determined to bring his A-game, Sinishtaj felt like his Dad was out there under the lights with him when he achieved his lifelong dream. ‘And then they wanna take pictures, y’know!’ he laughs. Do Poker Players Have a Responsibility to Entertain? “I was right there with the Moneymaker Boom.” One player might occasionally say or do something that initiates a spike in growth or popularity of poker. But watching the old names on High Stakes Poker has to co-habit with looking for new heroes that come from the modern age. Poker is so much bigger than it has ever been and that juxtaposition of welcoming the new while treasuring days gone by exists within the grasp of the media as well as with players and fans. Daniel Negreanu has joined the discussion on Twitter, saying: “Lara Ni Si correctly points to a troubling trend. The no celebration, no emotion, too cool for school culture is tough to sell. That’s just an indisputable fact.” Sinishtaj agrees but says it's not his responsibility to sell the game. “Is it better if a recreational player who looks and acts like he’s a recreational player wins? Probably," agrees Sinishtaj. "It might want to make someone think ‘If that guy can do it, so can I.’ Maybe they look at me and don’t see that, but that’s not my job.” Ironically, Sinishtaj was exactly that guy more than two decades ago. “I was right there with the Moneymaker Boom”, he says. “When he won, I fell in love with the game. In 2003, I was 22 years old. Maybe you needed a Moneymaker to win to get me interested in the game. It really became my dream. I get it and understand where Negreanu is coming from, but I’m sorry that’s not me. I can’t change my personality because it might generate more buy-ins to poker. I’m not gonna be somebody I’m not. I wouldn’t know how to.” Sinishtaj correctly points out that while the Wynn Millions is one of the biggest tournaments around, the event is not televised and there are no hole cards on display to fans. “I know it’s expensive for productions teams, but if you really want to market the game, we could have played the final table at the PokerGO Studio. That’s how you market the game, the game isn’t marketed by the winner’s photo. People want to watch it and see my cards. Could one player really market the game now as Moneymaker once did? Sinishtaj laughs. “It’s definitely not going to be me! The game is not what it used to be, a lot of work needs to be put in. I’m always trying to get better because everyone else is getting better. I don’t play the small field big buy-in high rollers. To play this and win is almost unreal and there wasn’t even a chop made. I would have been happy to make one. When we got four-handed, [Kempton] politely said ‘I don’t chop’, and there was never any talk about it at all. Your opponent has to be someone like that to outright win one of these.” Sinsihtaj agrees that of the many photos taken of him during the game, the ones where he’s actually playing poker look more like the real him, saying ‘I always look better in those pictures’. Perhaps the traditional winner’s photo is a thing of the past. Tony Sinishtaj deserves his moment in the spotlight as much as the next player, whether he is smiling or not.
  5. The notion of a poker hand representing a poker player is not a new one. For decades, ten-deuce has been known as the ‘Texas Dolly’. So-called after Doyle Brunson, the hand struck notoriety thanks to being the winning hand in back-to-back World Series of Poker Main Events in 1976 and 1977. Last week, Phil Hellmuth’s queen-four call for his tournament life - and subsequent suck-out success - went viral. Playing against Alex Foxen in the 2022 U.S. Poker Open, the so-called ‘Poker Brat’ become associated with the hole cards around the world... but how long will that last? From Will Smith-related memes to Hellmuth’s own reaction to the hand, how has a week in the spotlight given queen-four off the unlikeliest of popularity boosts? The Hand Takes Place Whichever way you look at it, Alex Foxen and Phil Hellmuth played out one of the most virally viewed poker hands in history on PokerGO during the 2022 U.S. Poker Open. With both men in the running for not only the Event title but the leaderboard victory at that stage, Foxen saw Hellmuth’s three-bet and four-bet enough to set the Poker Brat all in with a call. Hellmuth weighed things up as co-commentator Brent Hanks, working alongside Jeff Platt in the PokerGO booth, stated what every viewer was feeling. “This a guy who can dodge bullets but can’t get away from queen-four? I am shocked that he’s taking time making this decision. It is not a decision.” It was, however, and as Hellmuth declared ‘I guess I better play to win.” He put in his remaining chips, deciding not to leave himself with nine big blinds. Of course, a queen came on the flop and to add insult to injury, another queen on the river gave Hellmuth the crucial double-up. No nines arrived across the board left Foxen perplexed, and he shot a look of wonderment slowly around the PokerGO Studio. “What did we just witness? What the heck was that?” said Hanks. The whole world was about to provide a different answer to that question. Poker Twitter Blows Up No sooner had the hand played out were PokerGO themselves sharing what has become one of the most popular poker hands in living memory for people to watch. Quotes, retweets, likes and engagements alone sent the hand around the globe faster than you could locate your push-fold charts to prove the call 'wrong'. https://twitter.com/PokerGO/status/1507474159030321155 Some of the comments on Poker Twitter have predictably been brilliant. “I swear the next time I'm dealt a [queen-four], I am shoving my chips in,” said one Poker Brat fan. “Instead of calling for my 'one time' I will announce ‘For Phil!’”. Many Hellmuth supporters came out in defense not only of their man but the hand itself. “I secretly love [queen-four],” one said. “It's my oddball hand.” Another represented many dozens with their assertion that: “From here on out, the queen-four will be known as ‘The Hellmuth’ or ‘The Brat’ People will be playing it like the [seven-deuce] game. Poker rooms across America will be talking about the hand!” They already were. The Memes Take Over From the moment the clip was shot out of the PokerGO social media cannon, the poker circus that exists online was in raptures. Max Pescatori hinted that an element of jealousy would waft through high roller games everywhere https://twitter.com/maxpescatori/status/1507533575054409733 Hellmuth himself shared the effect that the internet had enjoyed having on queen-four. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1507669423636692997 Plenty of fans were on Hellmuth’s side, and more than happy to show this runaway train of a meme subject would not be stopped by anything in its way. https://twitter.com/FPLFledgling/status/1507831077762736128 When Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Poker Twitter moved at speed to appropriate the action to Hellmuth’s hand. https://twitter.com/jsmith84poker/status/1508287597067468804 While intelligent debate was thin on the ground, that didn’t mean the very best couldn’t parody it, and Phil Galfond’s post was a thing of beauty and a joy forever. https://twitter.com/PhilGalfond/status/1507837664216567808 Hellmuth even shared an amended hand ranking chart, giving new power to this craziest of calling hands. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1507667976891166720 Could ‘The Hellmuth’ Stand the Test of Time? One fan’s assertion that Johnny Chan could have prevented Hellmuth winning his iconic WSOP Main Event in 1989 really set the controls of the out of control juggernaut to ‘crazy’. “Your 1989 WSOP win showed up on my YouTube feed today,” they said. “Funny thing is if he played [queen-four] against your [pocket nines] he would have won. I think there's something magical about your hand.” Magical or not, Hellmuth didn’t win either the USPO event or any other event with the hand in question. So can it really stand the test of time? Eager to show that it might, the Poker Brat was on the road to a meet up game later in the week, and what would his first hand be? You’ve guessed it. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1509035404581736452 There’s a 'Queen-Four' Facebook group, and before long, you just know there will be t-shirts. If the hand catches on at the World Series, then the memes will all come out for a second airing. Hellmuth himself, as is so often the case, seems in charge of the hand’s destiny. Doyle Brunson played ten-deuce in not one but two vital spots. Both times he won a WSOP Main Event as a direct result, but while Hellmuth may not have the opportunity to do so, what the Poker Brat has in 2022 is a much more powerful media machine to feed. If Phil Hellmuth makes a final table at the 2022 World Series of Poker, then the Poker Brat will be waiting for two hole cards in particular to go crazy with on a live stream. Setting aside the value he’s stacking up by less experienced hopefuls presuming he is playing queen-four along the way, Hellmuth should absolutely play it under the lights. If queen-four makes it to mainstream television, we might never hear the last of a hand that is living in the moment for far longer than anyone gave it the chance of doing. All in? You'd better believe it.
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