Archive for the 'World Series of Poker' Category

26
Nov
10

More from me elsewhere

You may have noticed a lack of updates on Six Seven Suited recently. This is because I have moved a lot of my poker articles to Suite101.

Click here to read my thoughts on the safety of live poker in the light of recent events in Berlin, Cannes and Barcelona.

And if you want to scroll through my November Nine articles, you can find them here.

Happy reading,

 

Tom

29
Oct
10

Filippo Candio v Joseph Cheong – Capturing the Moment

Recently I wrote a piece about the balance between entertainment and information in televised poker, but now I feel it is time to look into another facet of broadcasting the game – the ability for television to completely alter our reaction to certain events.

Cast your mind back to July. The World Series of Poker was in full swing and likeable Californian Joseph Cheong was in cruise control at the head of the field. Then came a hand with the unknown young Italian Filippo Candio: Cheong set Candio all-in with aces on a flop of 5-6-6, and the 5-7 of the man from Cagliari made a straight on the river.

The vast majority of commentators were observing from behind computer screens, unable to make it to Las Vegas to give the action any sense of perspective. Their attitude towards Candio was far from complimentary.

While not going quite as far as basing their entire criticism on the player’s nationality, a subliminal xenophobia was present as criticism after criticism was levelled at the ‘Italodonk’. How could an intruder into the American-dominated World Series get away with such an inexcusable play and damage the hopes of one of America’s own?

Filippo Candio

This attitude was preserved – albeit less vocally – throughout ESPN’s World Series coverage. Judgement of Candio’s earlier televised plays was clouded by the one hand to follow, and moves which might otherwise be considered brave were deemed a sign of poor play by those keen to vindicate the opinions they had developed with minimal evidence.

Then, this week, the 5-7 hand was shown, in the full context of the day’s play. A clearly tired Candio had – a few minutes earlier – played a hand against Cheong where an innocent mistake cost him 1 million in chips on the turn and the ensuing tilt a further 2 million on the river.

The Sardinian was noticeably shaken by the incident, with the frustration arguably multiplied by his limited grasp of the English language and a related inability to fully express his concerns. Parallels might be drawn with Nikolay Losev, the Russian pro who suffered a meltdown after a run-in with Brandon Cantu in the 2008 Main Event.

Scotty Nguyen

Plenty of players – many far more experienced than Candio – have suffered blow-ups deep into the main event: Scotty Nguyen in 2007 and William Thorson the year before to name but two. To expect faultless play for eight straight days from a 26-year-old in his first ever World Series is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

Even if ESPN had wanted to present Candio as a villain, they would not have been able to. No amount of editing could have disguised the moment his heart sank as Cheong turned over his aces. Seconds later and the unmitigated joy he felt when the four of clubs hit the river is surely what televised poker was made for.

The romance of sharing in the happiness and good fortune of an individual to whom we had no prior emotional attachment captures the essence of televised sport in all its glory, be it a World Cup Final, tennis Grand Slam, Super Bowl or World Series of Poker. The difference in this case? Candio wasn’t even celebrating a victory, the river merely kept him alive in the tournament.

Imagine the reaction if he wins the whole thing.

26
Sep
10

World Series of Poker Europe Main Event – Day 2

The moment the clock struck midnight to signal the close of play, Phil Ivey got up from his seat and made his way out of the media spotlight.

He raced up the stairs of the Empire Casino, stepped out into Leicester Square, and disappeared into the cold London night.

Day 2 of the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event was mixed at best for Ivey, who is looking to add to the bracelet he picked up in a $3,000 H.O.R.S.E event in Las Vegas this summer.

Phil Ivey

The eight-time bracelet winner began the day well, racing into an early chip lead as his stack shot up to the 300,000 mark. He has since slipped back a little, but still sits comfortably in the top 10.

He is joined there by Andrew Pantling and David Peters, who both final-tabled the £2,500 6-max tournament won by Phil Laak, but the man everyone is chasing at the moment is Swedish sensation Viktor Blom.

The man believed by many to be online genius/maniac/degenerate gambler (delete as applicable) Isildur1 has amassed a monster-stack of 443,200 chips, a mere 1,100 ahead of Serbian pro Bojan Gledovic but a massive 70,000 clear of the rest of the stacked field.

Free from the attention of the TV cameras (which were largely focused on Ivey and table-mate Gledovic) and surprisingly free from any patches from online cardrooms, Blom seemed at ease, sharing jokes with the rest of his table.

A couple of big pots probably helped, including a superb read to all-but knock out Heather Sue Mercer, and a set-over-set encounter which saw him get the better of Jason Gray. But unlike last year, when a huge bluff-gone-wrong saw him eliminated from the tournament, Blom has been playing impeccable big-stack poker to increase his lead.

Elsewhere, a number of big names remain in contention for the penultimate World Series bracelet of 2010.

Barry Greenstein

Barry Greenstein, Hoyt Corkins, JP Kelly and Greg Mueller are among the bracelet winners remaining, while 1996 World Champion Huck Seed will be coming back for day 3, as will Daniel Negreanu, still in the hunt for a third successive final table in this event.

They will be joined at the felt by reigning Aussie Millions champ Tyron Krost, triple-crown winner Roland de Wolfe and November Niner John Dolan in what remains an incredibly tough field.

Unfortunately some other stars of the game did not make it to midnight with their chips intact. Dolan’s November table-mate Filippo Candio fell by the wayside, as did reigning champion Barry Shulman and bracelet-holders Mike Matusow, Praz Bansi and Phil Laak.

With a field so strong, it is near-impossible to centre in on one table as the toughest of them all, but table 13 is definitely staking a claim for that particular title:

Table 13
Seat 1: John Eames (152000)
Seat 2: David Baker (207000)
Seat 3: Vincent Chahley (122400)
Seat 4: JP Kelly (84900)
Seat 5: Rudy Blondeau (166700)
Seat 6: Huck Seed (147600)
Seat 7: Barry Greenstein (175300)
Seat 8: Thomas Bichon (257700)
Seat 9: James Bord (195000)

Sports bettor Bord, cheered on by friend and event 4 third-place finisher Andrew Feldman, will have his work cut out if he wants to make his second World Series of Poker final table.

Play is set to kick off again at noon today, and it will be interesting to see who emerges at the top once the money bubble has burst. Will Blom hang onto his lead? Will Ivey still be up there? Will Negreanu keep up his phenomenal main event run? We’ll have to wait and see.

20
Aug
10

Televised poker: light entertainment or overblown reality show?

This week saw the second week of World Series of Poker Main Event coverage on ESPN.

The broadcaster had altered their coverage for the earlier events, adding a breakdown of position for each hand, and this was met with a mixed reception. Much of the criticism initially concerned the confusion which might arise in describing the blinds as “late position”, perhaps a mistaken attempt to simplify the concept of position for newcomers to the game.

While a small percentage of ESPN’s audience may be watching the World Series in an attempt to improve their game, they are almost certainly in the minority. A larger proportion of the viewership will be comprised either of those who already have a firm grasp of the game, or those who watch it purely for entertainment purposes.

WSOP presenters Norman Chad (l) and Lon McEachern

Those in the former category will be eager to point out the flaws in the approach – notably the fact that position is fluid and changes after the flop (an issue belatedly addressed after being ignored in the Players’ Championship coverage). The latter group, meanwhile, may be confused to the point they stop watching, reluctant to leave their comfort zone of watching the big pots and remarkable stories develop. Perhaps unsurprisingly therefore, the detailed positional analysis was gone by the time the main event shows came around, a simple ‘UTG+1’ in-hand graphic a tiny reminder of what we were missing.

This makes some sense, as it is no secret that footage of the World Series of Poker has in recent times begun to cater to a more mainstream audience. Hand analysis has taken something of a backseat as the programme becomes a platform for Norman Chad’s schtick, book-ended by fairytales and sob-stories which would make Simon Cowell blush. Detailed hand analysis has become the domain of podcasts and instructional videos, only occasionally creeping into even the more serious shows.

Indeed the mainstream appeal of World Series coverage is demonstrated by the fact that the programme goes out at prime-time in America. This is in stark contrast to British shows: in particular, the enduringly-popular Late Night Poker has remained late-night, failing to extend its appeal beyond the poker enthusiasts drawn to the show when it first came out.

Jesse May, the voice of UK poker

Even newer shows seem confined to the graveyard slot of midnight-1am, and broadcasters in this country seem more content with sticking to a moderately successful format than they do gambling on a style with a proven track record abroad. Something of a middle-ground has been established in some cases, with the enigmatic Jesse May recruited in an effort to provide larger-than-life American ‘excitement’ in the form of a raised voice and confused cries of ‘Holy Toledo’, but by-and-large the more subtle, low-key approach has been retained.

It is tough to gauge where we can go next in terms of televised poker, particularly with no noticeable intentions to replicate the grandiosity of the successful American format. Perhaps this goes hand-in-hand with the way poker is received in the UK, where there are few ‘celebrities’ in the game to draw an audience in the same way as Phil Hellmuth or Daniel Negreanu have done across the pond. Or maybe there is a fear that elevating poker beyond a diversion restricted to aspirational Euro-casinos or seedy backrooms may threaten the enviable tax-free status of the game.

Either way, for the time being we can be grateful for the choice we are afforded, allowing us to watch one of many British poker shows one week, and US-produced World Series or WPT broadcasts the next. Just think: it could be far worse.

20
Jul
10

World Series of Twitter?

A few eyebrows were raised when ESPN chose not to provide a live stream of this year’s World Series of Poker main event. After all, they had done so for some of the earlier events, and it goes without saying that the demand for the main event would have been far greater.

But maybe they knew something the fans didn’t. This year news of every bet, every knockout and every chip-count was available quicker than ever, and I’m not just talking about the oft-inaccurate Pokernews updates.

No, I’m talking about Twitter, which has grown in scope over the last twelve-to-eighteen months to the extent that if there is a major event in sport, politics, entertainment or pretty much anything else, there will be a way of following it on the social networking site.

Twitter was integral to media coverage of the 2009 Iranian elections

In the same way the recent general election in the UK was dubbed “The Twitter Election”, it is reasonable to describe this year’s World Series as the event which finally brought top-level poker in line with the twitterverse.

There were a handful of updates last year from the official World Series of Poker Twitter account, and its involvement in proceedings had grown incrementally by the time the World Series of Poker Europe came about, but the idea of bringing the competitors’ own accounts to the fore only really took off this year.

Pokernews has arguably had a significant role in this, tracking the tweets of various top pros regardless of whether a major tournament is taking place. Of course, not everyone will be interested to hear about Evelyn Ng’s love of Glenfiddich or Daniel Negreanu’s opinions on The Real World, but even in circumstances like this there are some fans who are happy to find a personal connection with people whose careers they have followed on television for years.

But the role of Twitter is not limited to Pokernews, especially during the final stages of the World Series. Every morning, anyone following @WSOP could get a rundown of the Twitter accounts of those players remaining in the tournament. This has been beneficial in two ways.

Firstly, it has brought a number of poker’s lesser lights to the public’s attention. Only a handful of big-name professionals (i.e. those who fans have regularly seen on television) made it to the final three tables: Michael Mizrachi, Hasan Habib and Phil Hellmuth’s former nemesis Adam Levy to name but three.

Yet what of the lesser-known players with a role to play? Players like internet pros Matt Affleck, Joe Cheong and Jason Senti, who are relative unknowns unless you happen to play regularly at their stakes online.

Thanks to this easy access to their feeds, poker fans worldwide could choose a player to root for without simply picking a name out of a hat. They could sweat every hand and feel every bad beat, feeling a genuine sense of sympathy for someone they wouldn’t recognise one week or even one day ago. And for the more fickle among us, the nature of Twitter allows you to follow someone for the duration of the event and then – when they are knocked out – unfollow them and find a different horse to back within seconds.

Matt "mcmatto" Affleck was tweeting regularly throughout the main event

The second way in which Twitter played a huge part concerns the speed of updates. Instead of constantly refreshing Pokernews or WSOP.com, going several minutes with no news and then being greeted with five or six updates simultaneously, you can ensure every available update comes your way as soon as is humanly possible.

With a number of players making use of phones or iPads at the table, some were tweeting the hands almost instantly. One player to make use of this tactics was Jean-Robert Bellande, with some speculating that his desire to update fans on his progress minute-by-minute affected his concentration as the sixth day drew to a close.

And indeed the impact of Twitter does not end there. In the months leading up to the final table, we will come to find out a little more about the November Nine. Profiles, articles and human interest features will flood the internet, and now – thanks to Twitter – it will be easier for us to find the articles we want to read.

As well as continuing to follow @WSOP for retweets from poker journalists, the hashtag #WSOP will lead tweeters to more information on the November Nine than they could possibly need, all available at their fingertips. In fact, were it not for Twitter I may have never discovered this brilliant article from Howard Swains.

With all this information available to poker fans, there is no excuse not to follow developments in the World Series. I wait with baited breath to find out how all this has progressed by the time we reach November, let alone the 2011 series.

07
Jul
10

World Series of Poker – Winners and Losers

So, the Main Event is upon us. That all happened rather quickly.

This year’s World Series of Poker has been unlike any other, with only one double-bracelet winner and a number of new faces bursting onto the scene.

There have been a number of talking points, not least Tom Dwan’s efforts to reshape the poker economy and Phil Hellmuth’s fruitless quest for bracelet number 12, culminating in the duo falling by the wayside just shy of the final table in the Pot Limit Omaha World Championship.

Of course, some have fared better than others in the 41st World Series, and I thought I’d take a look at the big winners and losers in Las Vegas this summer.

Winner #1 – Frank Kassela

The only man to win two gold bracelets at this year’s World Series, Kassela finally achieved the breakthrough he has threatened for several years.

The 42-year-old pro has been racking up decent results on the tournament circuit for a while, but none will be as rewarding as his victory in the Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo World Championship.

Incredibly, he followed up that result with another triumph in event #40, the $2,500 Seven Card Razz event, and came close to a third bracelet when he fought through an incredibly strong field to finish third in the $25,000 6-max No-Limit Hold ‘Em event.

Kassela’s World Series earnings this year top $1.2 million – not bad for someone who had never won more than $200,000 in one event before 2010.

Winner #2 – Allen Kessler

My second winner is the man who finished second to Kassela in that $10,000 event.

King of the min-cash, ‘Chainsaw’ Kessler is often a figure of fun around poker forum Two Plus Two. However he silenced his critics, achieving eight money finishes in this series including a $276,485 score for that second place.

If he can make a deep run in the Main Event, he will finish just one shy of Nikolay Evdakov’s record of 10 cashes, achieved in 2008. But what makes Kessler’s series even more remarkable is that his eight cashes have come in eight different variants of the game.

Winner #3 – Eugene Katchalov

The best player you’ve never heard of, Katchalov is best known for taking down nearly $2.5million at the WPT Five Diamond Classic in 2007.

Since then, the New Yorker has threatened to make a World Series breakthrough but bad luck and bad timing have stood in his way.

This year, however, Katchalov showed the poker world he is more than a one-hit wonder, reaching final tables in three $10,000+ buy-in events and falling just short in the $5,000 shootout event.

That elusive first bracelet still awaits, but this year’s performances suggest it will only be a matter of time before the 29-year-old pulls off the World Series result which those close to him know he is capable of.

Loser #1 – Chris Ferguson

The man known as ‘Jesus’ has endured a difficult World Series so far, and will need a deep run in the Main Event just to break even for the month.

Ferguson has only a handful of cashes from his 47 events, and he finds himself over $200,000 in the hole for the series, with a cash for $16,607 in the $5,000 NLHE Shootout representing a rather underwhelming highlight.

Still, at least the 2000 World Champion has his Team Full Tilt millions to fall back on. It’s a tough life.

Loser #2. Joe Cada

As the series got underway, all eyes were on last year’s Main Event champion. Sadly for Joe Cada, those eyes were soon distracted by players who actually achieved something this year.

After becoming the youngest ever world champion last year, Cada couldn’t repeat his success on the felt.

The stats speak for themselves: 3 events, 0 cashes, $29,000 in the hole.

Loser #3 – Yueqi Zhu

This should have gone down as a good WSOP for Yueqi ‘Rich’ Zhu. But five cashes, including a third-place finish in the Omaha Hi-Lo World Championship (netting him over $225,000) were overshadowed by one incident in the Limit Hold ‘Em Shootout.

Zhu was disqualified from the event for allegedly cutting a deal with an opponent during heads-up play on his first table, costing him $4.135, a shot a bracelet, and – most importantly – a chunk of his reputation.

Whatever the reason for the deal-making (and Zhu issued a statement claiming a floorperson refused to help out when summoned), it is the ignominy of the disqualification which will go down in poker history – a sad end to a World Series which had, to that point, been free of major controversy.

Honourable mentions:

  • Michael Mizrachi – ‘Grinder’ won the $50,000-buy-in Players’ Championship and final-tabled two $10,000 buy-in events
  • Vladimir Schemelev – little known Russian, absent from the World Series since 2007, made four final tables including a second-place finish behind Mizrachi
  • John Juanda – five cashes, four of which were for over $75,000. ‘Luckbox’ Juanda also bubbled the $25,000 event.

07
Jun
10

This is beyond fairytale, it’s inconceivable

It seems like just yesterday that Joe Cada’s pocket nines held up against Darvin Moon’s queen-jack in the final hand of the 2009 World Series of Poker main event, but now the greatest tournament in the world is upon us again.

Cada, now 22, has been fairly active in the opening events, and there have been a number of other good stories already.

Michael Mizrachi and brother Robert both made the final table of the $50,000 Players’ Championship, with ‘The Grinder’ taking home the precious bracelet and then almost repeating the feat in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud World Championships.

Michael Mizrachi has already won over $1.6million in this year's World Series of Poker

Englishman Praz Bansi followed up his third place finish at the WSOPE main event by securing his second bracelet in a $1,500 No Limit Hold ‘Em event.

Men ‘The Master’ Nguyen, second in all-time World Series cashes, won his first bracelet for seven years.

And Phil Hellmuth fell just short of a record 12th World Series title when he finished 15th in event #8, a tournament won by Canadian student Pascal LeFrancois.

But the main talking point in the series so far came in the early hours of this morning, when Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan finished second to New Zealander Simon Watt after an epic heads-up battle.

Victory for Dwan would have reportedly changed the face of poker worldwide, and not just because of the $614,248 he would have scooped for first place.

The 23-year-old, a regular in the highest-stakes cash games, made a number of bracelet bets before the series began, with a variety of top players – including Phil Ivey and David Benyamine – set to make Dwan up to $10million richer if he wins a bracelet, if reports are to be believed.

This raised, and indeed continues to raise, a number of questions.

Tom Dwan still has 40 events in this World Series to win a bracelet

First, when play got heads-up in event #11, many observers speculated whether Dwan would be willing to go all-in on a coin-flip, given that he would in theory not be flipping for a $300,000 prize difference, but rather for several million.

Secondly, it hopefully puts an end to suggestions that Dwan is a flash-in-the-pan success. His performances on High Stakes Poker and other televised cash games had already seen many doubters warm to the New Jersey resident, and his third World Series final table (all in different forms of the game, it is worth adding) hopefully demonstrate he has many strings to his bow.

And finally, Dwan’s prop-bets would seem to remove any doubt over whether some cash-game high-rollers don’t take the World Series that seriously. It has been suggested that, as the first prize money only equates to a handful of buy-ins in Bobby’s Room, the likes of Dwan, Gus Hansen and Patrik Antonius would rather forego the slog of tournaments and head to the cash games ‘where the real action is.’

If Phil Ivey’s run in last year’s main event, as well as Daniel Negreanu’s second-place finish in the WSOPE Main Event began to close the door on that myth, Dwan’s performance has slammed it firmly shut. Side-bets or no side-bets, the prestige of winning a World Series bracelet has no cash value. The action on the side may spice things up a little, but only to the point where there is absolutely no excuse not to gun for first place wherever possible.

Now only one question remains: with 40 events remaining in this year’s series, will Tom Dwan be able to capture that elusive first bracelet and pocket a little extra on the side?




Hi I’m Tom. I’m a freelance journalist, and I recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism at Cardiff University. In my spare time I like to play, watch and talk about poker. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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