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  1. [caption width="640"] William Kassouf took down a big birthday payday (Image c/o PokerStars)[/caption] William Kassouf decided to celebrate his birthday, well, like a boss. The British poker pro took down the last-ever European Poker Tour High Roller Event after a heads-up deal with Patrick Serda. Kassouf put his table talk to good use, negotiating a heads-up chop where he took home a little over €530,000 but got the trophy and the winner photo in addition to credit as the winner. Patrick Serda took home €719,000 for second place. He may have wheeled and dealed his way to the win once it got to heads-up, but Kassouf certainly played a ton of poker to earn the win. The €10,300 buy-in High Roller drew a record-setting field of 407, resulting in an almost €4 million prize pool. When play began on the third and final day of the event, 24 players remained and Kassouf was near the bottom of the counts. He doubled up more than once to survive in the early goings. By the time the final table rolled around, Kassouf was one of the big stacks at the table. At the final table, Kassouf and Serda battled back and forth for the honor of big stack. Serda surpassed Kassouf when he eliminated Jens Lakemeier in eighth place. Lakemeier shoved all-in on the river of an [poker card="ac"][poker card="6d"][poker card="4d"][poker card="tc"][poker card="9s"] board and Serda called with [poker card="ad"][poker card="td"] for aces up and Lakemeier could only show a small pair and a busted draw. Kassouf took a chunk out of Serda, but Serda clawed back in contention when he eliminated Grzegorz Wyraz in sixth place, calling Wyraz’s all-in preflop shove holding [poker card="as"][poker card="7h"] to Wyraz’s [poker card="5c"][poker card="6c"]. Serda continued to plow through the competition, calling Paul Leckey’s three-bet shove with [poker card="as"][poker card="qc"] to Leckey’s [poker card="ah"][poker card="3s"]. His superior ace held up and the field was down to four with Serda way out front with more than double his next closest competitor, Kassouf. That lead got bigger after Viliyan Petleshkov was eliminated in fourth place. He ran pocket deuces into Serda’s pocket eights to exit. Serda was up to 13 million after that and picked up his fourth KO of the final table. With three players remaining, talks of a chop began, but Tue Ullerup Hansen wasn’t swayed by the ICM numbers and declined, willing to take his 3 million and change up against Serda’s 14 million and Kassouf’s 2.5 million. Kassouf doubled through Ullerup Hansen to get him rather short, but Serda was the one to finish him off. Serda shoved on the button with [poker card="qs"][poker card="7c"] and Ullerup Hansen called holding [poker card="ah"][poker card="jh"]. Serda hit a queen on the [poker card="qc"][poker card="6d"][poker card="5h"][poker card="tc"][poker card="3s"] board to take the action to heads-up. Outchipped by more than a 4:1 margin, Kassouf opted to take less money than an ICM chop would pay and take the winner photo to finish out the last High Roller event in EPT history. Here are the final table results from the EPT Prague High Roller William Kassouf - €532,500* Patrick Serda - €719,000* Tue Ullerup Hansen - €351,000 Viliyan Petleshkov - €283,850 Paul Leckey - €224,600 Grzegorz Wyraz - €172,910 Matas Cimbolas - €128,700 Jens Lakemeier - €93,170 * denotes a heads-up deal
  2. [caption width="640"] William Kassouf is interviewed by ESPN's Kara Scott just moments after being eliminated from the 2016 WSOP Main Event by Griffin Benger.[/caption] “It’s going to be fucking famous,” said Griffin Benger, 2016 November Niner, former #1-ranked player on PocketFives, of the hand that saw him eliminate possibly the most talked about and maybe even most-disliked player of the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event, William Kassouf. To many of the poker fans who have been tuning in to the 2016 WSOP on ESPN broadcasts over the last several weeks, Benger is the hero. To others, he’s the heel. Kassouf was the focal point of coverage over the final four weeks of 2016 WSOP coverage on ESPN. Beginning with his one round penalty for taunting Stacy Matuson and continuing through to his endless table talk and needling before having an entire table turn on the one-time lawyer, Kassouf had drawn the ire of a good number of viewers at home while some found him an entertaining part of the broadcasts. All of that came to a head on Sunday night during ESPN’s final WSOP broadcast before the final table. THE HAND Down to just two tables remaining in the 2016 WSOP Main Event, Benger and Kassouf found themselves seated together at the feature table on the ESPN main stage inside the Amazon Room. From UTG Benger raised to 875,000. Action folded to Kassouf in the hijack and, as he was prone to doing on seemingly every hand he was in, he took his time with his decision before he re-raised to 2,300,000. Once action was back on Benger, Kassouf began the table chatter that helped make him one of the most unforgettable characters in WSOP Main Event history. Benger remained quiet, ignoring Kassouf and instead responded with another raise, this time making it 5,600,000. At this point Kassouf went into the tank and again, began talking. “It’s one of these coolers again, really? Back to back? If you got it, you got it, right? A big hand here. I don’t think I can pass. If you got me beat, you got me beat. It’s poker isn’t it?,” Kassouf said. “I can’t call; it’s either all in or I pass. What do you want me to do? You want me to go all in or fold? Talk to me. You don’t say anything, I might have to ship it here.” Kassouf continued, “Do you want to gamble? I’m not into that. I’m here to win it. I’m not laddering. Play for the win, right? You doing the same? Or you’re going to wait for the next pay jump at 15? $90K is $90K, right? That’s the Main Event for the next nine years.” At this point Jerry Wong called clock on the talkative British pro. This finally caused Benger to stir and speak for the first time in the hand. “You’re just an abusive person, man. It’s not funny. It’s not a game. You’re being abusive to me,” said Benger. “You’re being abusive. It’s called verbal abuse. What you’re doing to me is verbal abuse.” Kassouf, with action on him, attempted to defend himself, but Benger had heard and seen enough. “You’re a bully. It’s rude, it’s mean,” Benger said. “It’s not called speech play. It’s being called a bad person. You should really check yourself. Check your privilege.” Kassouf looked to the floor person for some assistance and again Benger stepped in. “He’s not your dad. He’s not going to help you. Stop, no one is going to help you,” Benger said. “The bet is 5.6 million chips. That is what the bet is.” This seemed to give Kassouf the information he needed and the talkative British pro moved all in for 13,450,000. Griffin snap-called and happily turned over his hand. Griffin: [poker card="ac"][poker card="as"] Kassouf: [poker card="kc"][poker card="ks"] The board ran out [poker card="th"][poker card="8h"][poker card="3d"][poker card="6c"][poker card="td"]. Kassouf was eliminated in 17th place. Benger went on to make the November Nine. THE AFTERMATH The confrontation wasn't a long time coming as Griffin hadn’t played much with Kassouf prior to Day 7, but he had heard stories about his behavior at the table and his treatment of other players, most notably Matuson on Day 5. “I’d never played with him before. I’d heard peripherally and overheard some of the controversies towards the feature table about what he was doing it was just, it really sickened me,” said Benger. “The thing that made him so dangerous as far as what kind of person he was at least pretending to be, was that he’s someone that is really, really good at bullying. When he suddenly feels any bullying back, he creates this victim mentality kind of barrier where he’s just like, ‘Why are they freaking out? I’m just doing my table talk thing.” Benger may not have known that the hand was coming, but he was preparing for a bigger confrontation with Kassouf from the moment they were seated together. “I needled him at one point, when he first got to the table because I wanted to be combative. I felt really sort of like, there’s this expression that I always hear that I always like to say, ‘Demons run, when good men to go war’. That’s what I felt,” said Benger. “When I got to the table, I wasn’t going to let him run amok with his thing.“ “He was counting out chips, and then looking like he wanted to four-bet and he was taking his time over it, ‘I really have got a big hand here’ and everything. I was looking at the TD and said, ‘you know how many miles from here to Hollywood?’,” said Kassouf. “I knew he was Hollywooding, he’s not really going to four-bet me or come over the top. He’s only pretending that he has got a big hand, but he hasn’t. I know he’s going to four bet, I know he’s got a big hand. I’ve got a monster hand. I’m hoping he’s got ace-king or queens, one of the two.” Kassouf’s read was incorrect and Benger was more than thrilled to show his hand on poker’s biggest stage. “It felt really good (to turn the aces over). I don’t like this expression, I feel like it triggers a very vitriolic thing, but he got what was coming to him. I really feel that way, I genuinely do,” said Benger. “I really hope that’s not the way he lives his life normally, because he’s really fucking good at, pretending to be at least, a bad person and I sincerely hope that’s not the way that he lives his life. I’m sure he said ‘That’s not the way I normally am’ or whatever and that it’s his schtick, but it’s not okay.” Benger’s read on Kassouf apparently extends beyond the table as Kassouf, moments after busting, defended his actions not only in that hand, but also throughout the 2016 WSOP Main Event. “He kept on saying I was being abusive. I was just doing my standard speech play to get a read off him, to give off tells for myself that I was weak, that I only had jacks or queens which I want him to think I have,” said Kassouf. “ Benger realized his actions in the hand may have also shown a side of him that many aren’t used to seeing, one that might not make him any fans. “Yeah, my dark side came out a little bit. My friends call my dark side ‘Gator’. So they said Gator got out of the cage there, out of the swamp a little bit,” said Benger. “It’s not really something I like to do very often.” Benger also knew that this hand would be the highlight of the broadcasts and be something that poker fans and fellow players are talking about for a long time, even if, absent the table talk, the hands really just played themselves. “I think it might become the most famous World Series hand ever. Think of one that’s more famous? Connor (Drinan) running aces into aces? Shit happens. This one, with the context and the build up…,” said Benger. “I don’t think I outplayed him. I think he got coolered.” Kassouf left the Rio, knowing full well that the coverage of his play and this hand was going to be something that left the poker world talking and while he obviulsy would have loved a run into November, he was comfortable with the way it ended. “I won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s the way I play. I play within the rules. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. I’ve been here pretty much ever year,” said Kassouf. “It’s my first cash in the WSOP, so I’ll take that. I’m the one who’s going home laughing, rather than all these other Americans. I say, ‘Well played. Thanks for coming to all the 6,720 out that have parted their way with $10,000. Thanks for that, to boost the prize pool’.”
  3. [caption width="640"] Fedor Holz had many millions of numbers to crunch in 2016[/caption] Many are reflecting back on the year and suggesting 2016 is a year we might want to forget. Do not let the celebrity deaths or endless talk of politics keep you from remembering some of the happier storylines the past year had to offer though. It was a memorable year in poker with countless tournaments, feuds, prop bets, cash games, and big stories. We can’t count all of big headlines of 2016, but we can relive a few of the biggest stories in this year-end edition of Number Crunch. 10 - Number of cashes for Chris Ferguson at the 2016 WSOP. The Full Tilt Poker co-founder had been absent from poker’s biggest stage since 2011, but both he and Howard Lederer decided it was time to return to the tables this summer. Not only did Ferguson return, he cashed every couple of days. Extra security appeared to be added when he final tabled one event, but other than some verbal barbs, there were no serious altercations for the man many consider to be partially responsible for the downfall of what was once one of the biggest online sites in poker. Ferguson won over $250,000 over the course of the summer, while Lederer failed to cash at all. 15 - Number of seasons Poker Hall of FamerMike Sextonhas co-hosted the World Poker Tour alongside Vince Van Patten. Sexton’s list of WPT accomplishments are not just behind the commentator’s desk. He is now a member of the WPT Champion’s Club too, taking down this season’s fall Montreal event for over $450,000. Sexton final tabled the Bay 101 Main Event in 2011, but exited in sixth place. This time around, he was around to the very end, but instead of toasting the champ, it was the Champ getting toasted. 17 - Finishing position in the WSOP Main Event for William Kassouf. The Brit may not have made the November Nine but, like a boss, his personality loomed large over the ESPN coverage of the tournament this year thanks to his endless table banter and altercation with Canadian pro Griffin Benger. His table talking sparked many online debates about table etiquette, with top pros both condemning and commending the behavior. Kassouf did not go quietly into the night after his finish though. He was back in the news in December after agreeing to chop the European Poker Tour Prague High Roller event, taking less money than second place, but taking home the trophy and posing for the winner photo. 28 - Number of High Roller tournaments hosted by the Aria Casino in 2016. With buy-ins ranging from $25,000 to $350,000, the Aria offered a steady supply of big buy-in small-field events for the poker elite. Not only did the events, which were frequently packaged back-to-back over a single weekend, bankroll boosters to some of the biggest names in the game, they also made Las Vegas a destination for live high stakes action again. If there were questions about whether or not the High Roller circuit was oversaturated, based on the success of the Aria’s scheduling, the answer appears to be no, at least for now 345 - Combined number of @ mentions on Twitter in the month of December for Cate Hall and Mike Dentale. In a year of many Twitter beefs, theirs took the cake, with Dentale sending 274 Tweets with her handle it and Hall sending 71 with his in a back and forth exchange that began with Dentale critiquing how Hall played a hand in the World Poker Tour Five Diamond Main Event. The trash talk escalated enough for Poker Night in America to turn it into a heads-up battle to be played out in March at Sugarhouse Casino in Philadelphia. 52,986 - Dollars in career tournament earnings for Qui Nguyen before winning the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event. Once he won the biggest tournament of the year, that number rocketed to over $8 million. He is the first amateur since Jerry Yang in 2007 to win the Main Event. 1,800,000 - Dollars Jason Merciersupposedly stood to earn after a hotly debated bracelet bet with Vanessa Selbst. As the story goes, Selbst offered Mercier 180-1 odds he could not win three bracelets in a single summer. The eventual WSOP Player of the Year certainly gave Selbst a sweat, winning two bracelets and making four final tables. He got oh-so close, finishing second in the $10,000 Razz event, but failed to cash in on many lucrative bets he would not threepeat. 4,360,000 - Approximate number of viewers who tuned in to watch David Williams compete in the MasterCheffinale on Fox. A foodie in addition to a poker pro, Williams made quite a run on the Gordon Ramsay reality show, making it all the way to the very end. Much like the 2004 Main Event though, he was a bridesmaid, not the bride, and had to settle for finishing as one of the two runners-up. 4,981,775 - Dollars won by Fedor Holz in the $111,111 buy-in One Drop High Roller at the WSOP. Shortly after accepting his bracelet, Holz announced his retirement. After all, he had a busy six weeks crushing just about everything he played and raking in over $10 million, starting with a second-place showing in the Aria Super High Roller Bowl for $3.5 million and ending with a bracelet. So far, retirement looks an awful lot like the working world for the young German though. In August he won the EPT Barcelona Super High Roller for almost $1.5 million. 10,100,000 - Dollars Phil Ivey and his friend Cheung Yin Soo have to pay the Borgata Resort and Casino according to a December ruling from a federal judge. The sum is the total of his winnings across four sessions of baccarat in 2012 and the money he took to a craps table and ran up into $500,000. Ivey and Soo were “edge-sorting”, which means they used imperfections in the manufacturer’s design of a deck of cards to determine which cards were which. While not explicitly cheating, the judge did deem the actions to be a violation of the agreement between gambler and casino and ordered the eight-figure judgment.
  4. [caption width="640"] Catalin Pop took home the first 888Live title in 2017[/caption] 2017 was a year of big fields and bigger prize pools for the popular series of 888Live Events. As the current 888Live Season comes to an end we look back on the major events and the players who found themselves fortunate enough to lift the 888Live trophies and call themselves champions. In February, the King’s Casino in Rozvadov played host to the first 888Live Festival of the year. In the Main Event, 531 entries put up the brand appropriate €808 +80 buy-in to create a prize pool of over €407,000. The broad coalition of international players included some big names and top-tier professionals including William Kassouf (23rd), Ludovic Geilich (4th) and Niall Farrell (3rd). But it was Germany’s affable Catalin Pop that outlasted them all to take home €80,000 ($86,246) and be crowned 888poker’s first festival champion of 2017. Just two months later, in April, 303 runners hopped into the 888Live Easter Edition at Aspers Casino Stratford in London generating a prize pool of £121,200 ($151,438). 888poker brought out their ambassadors to play host as Sofia Lovgren (30th) and Chris Moorman (13th) found their way into the money for the first time in the season. At the final table with five players left, local grinder Krzysztof Pregowski found himself at the bottom of the pack. He laddered up to make the final three where a deal was made guaranteeing him £15,000. Finally, he battled all the way to the winner's circle, defeating runner-up Terry Jordan for a grand total of £21,118 ($26,386). While Jordan didn’t get to take home the trophy, he was the chipleader when the deal was made and ended up celebrating with, basically, a first place of £21,000 ($26,239). 888Live Events continue to emerge as one of the premiere poker circuits of any given year. Now that 2017 is in the books, all that’s left is to wonder is...where will 888Live land in 2018?
  5. [caption width="640"] William Kassouf is in Los Angeles for the first time, playing the World Poker Tour Legends of Poker event (WPT photo)[/caption] Eighteen months ago William Kassouf was still some random, relatively unknown British poker player who’d gotten a bit of poker fame after a hand with Vanessa Selbst. Now though, the 35 year old is a poker celebrity, playing on Poker After Dark and posing for selfies with international rock stars that wanted HIS photo. “This is how I seem to roll these days. Straight from London to Vegas, as you do, to play the Poker After Dark, $25,000 buy-in with the likes of Mike Matusow, Jean-Robert Bellande, David Williams and couple of other heroes. It was a good lineup, fun table,” said Kassouf. Kassouf was part of the lineup for PAD’s ‘Voices Carry’ week that featured other loud and brash poker players. Kassouf of course rose to this level of poker celebrity during the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event. Kassouf’s “speech play” drew the ire of other players and earned him warnings and penalties on his way to a 17th place finish. “From two years ago to now, it’s been phenomenal. Since last year’s Main Event coverage, people talked about (my) 15 minutes of fame, ‘Oh it won’t last, we’re not going to hear about him in six months’ … a year later, ‘Oh we won’t hear about him another few months’. I’ve gone a year and a half since then and here I am right now mixing it up with all the superstars, the rock stars, the celebrities, the poker heroes,” said Kassouf. Now Kassouf is onto Day 2 of the World Poker Tour Legends of Poker. While it’s his first time in Los Angeles, it’s also his first time visiting somewhere in the United States other than Las Vegas. “Thought I’d make the short trip over to LA while I’m in this neck of the woods and come play the WPT Legends of Poker,” said Kassouf. “Believe it or not, I’ve been to the US seven times, Las Vegas seven times - never been anywhere outside of Nevada. So I thought I’ve got to give this tournament a spin, Legends of Poker, I’ve heard lots of good things.” Playing on Poker After Dark afforded him the opportunity to play with some of poker’s biggest stars, a trend that continued with the Legends of Poker. Kassouf rattles off names like Scotty Nguyen and Phil Hellmuth before talking about possibly the biggest name in the tournament. - even if the poker world doesn’t know much about him. “GACKT, Japan’s #1 rock star is here. He wanted to have a photo with me. He said he watched me in the WSOP. He didn’t know I’m actually half-Japanese, half-Lebanese, and he was taken aback by that and he was buzzing,” said Kassouf. “The fact that he watched me in the WSOP last year and wanted to have a photo with me, it’s great. I put a photo with him up on Twitter and so many people are re-tweeting it all over Japan. It’s gone crazy.” Even though he’s the one being asked for photos with fans and other players, Kassouf still has a little bit of recreational player / poker fan in him. Having become a household name for poker fans around the world meant a different experience for him when he returned to the RIo this past summer. “I couldn't’ step like two minutes in the Rio without someone shouting ‘Nine high like a boss!’ or ‘The coconuts, mate! Can we have a selfie?’ So it’s great, it does get tiring after a while, but I enjoy it,” admitted Kassouf.
  6. Hosted by Lance Bradley and Donnie Peters, The Fives runs each week and covers the latest poker news, preview upcoming events, and debate the hottest topics in poker. The Fives is back with Lance Bradley and PocketFives' new Managing Editor, Donnie Peters sitting in the co-host chairs. Lance and Donnie recap the PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker and discuss how the 2018 Poker Masters might have been the breakout party for a young American pro. They also discuss the Chad Power vs. Cate Hall backing debate and talk about how William Kassouf's 15 minutes of fame might actually be up all over $100. Subscribe: Apple Podcasts * Google Podcasts * Stitcher

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