Category Archives: WSOP

It wasn't meant to be for Ivey

If you haven’t heard, Phil Ivey finished 7th in the WSOP final. This was a huge disappointment to the vast majority of poker fans, including me. I wanted him to win it – yet it was always going to be a big ask. Firstly, he was short stacked. Does it matter if you’re Phil Ivey? Of course he has the skill to build up his stack, but we’re forgetting one more ingredient – luck.

Like many of you, I was following the coverage via various poker websites. It seems to me that this final was far more about luck than skill. The amount of suckouts was unreal. Whoever wins it this year (Moon or Cada at the time of typing) will have had huge slices of luck. Moon had it for days 1-8 and Cada for day 9. Who will get the rub of the green on day 10?

While I wanted Ivey to win, I’m now rooting for Moon, who is now the underdog. Yes he may be more lucky than good (he’s not terrible), but I like the guy – even though he knocked Ivey out. What I like most about him is his integrity. He said back in July that he wouldn’t accept a sponsorship deal from any online poker sites, and he stuck to his word. It’s quite refreshing to see, what with every other player at the table displaying logo’s of their “favorite” rooms.

Having said that, my head says Cada will win. Not because he’s probably got the better game, more chips, more energy, more desire, etc, etc – but because he’s sporting Poker Stars logos. That’s why he’ll probably win it. Poker Stars virtually own the WSOP, sending more players to the tournament that all other sites combined – and usually ending up with the winners. Maybe that’s where Ivey went wrong. Next year he should ditch Full Tilt and go with Poker Stars!

Sponsors Not Over the Moon with Darvin

I’m sorry; I couldn’t resist the title of this post. But I love the fact that the chip leader going into this year’s WSOP final, Darvin Moon, has so far spurned any sponsorship deals from the major online poker rooms, such as Poker Stars and Full Tilt. Apart from Phil Ivey, who of course is already sponsored by Full Tilt, the other players have all been snapped up – and will be showing off their well placed logos in November’s final. I mean, who wouldn’t wear a logo for a reported $100k? Darvin Moon – that’s who!

Poker Stars have benefited enormously from the WSOP, ever since Moneymaker’s 2003 win. On the back of that they had Raymer and Hachem taking it down in 2004 and 2005 with their Poker Stars apparel on full display. They know the value to be had from getting their brand associated with the winner of the WSOP Main Event. These days it doesn’t even matter if the player qualified via their site, they just want to sign them up – and will pay big bucks for it.

It seems that Darvin Moon is just an ordinary kind of guy, and very likeable. He knows that he’s guaranteed a huge wedge anyway and just doesn’t want to be tied down or associated with anything.

What I also really like about Darvin Moon is how honest he’s been about why he has reached the final table as the chip leader. Most poker players complain about being card dead or plain unlucky when they get busted out, yet when they win they put it down to superior skill. Darvin Moon just said it like it is; he got extremely lucky, and was dealt unbelievable hands when his opponents were holding very good hands. His words, not mine.

I’m hoping that Phil Ivey wins the WSOP Main Event in November, but my second choice will be for Darvin Moon.

Lunkin and the Red Army of Russia

Apart from High Stakes Poker, my favourite poker TV shows are ESPN’s coverage of the World Series of Poker. Actually, I say TV – but I should have said YouTube, since this is where I watch 90% of all poker shows. Recently a ton of WSOP 2009 videos have appeared on YouTube, and I started by watching the $40k NL Hold’em event, which was the opening event of this year’s WSOP. I really enjoyed watching it; I recommend you do the same. If you’ve not seen it yet, and don’t know the result already, then stop reading.

Even though I knew the final outcome, I was still rooting for Greg Raymer – the fossilman. Of course we only get to see selective hands, the action hands, so we can’t really make a completely fair judgement on their play. But apart from a dubious call with A8 vs. Justin Bonomo’s AJ, I thought Raymer played a good aggressive game. He’s definitely one of my favorite poker players, and seems like an all-round decent guy. He was playing for his indoor bowling alley (his winnings would pay for it), but unfortunately he didn’t quite strike it lucky (pun intended).

The eventual winner was Vitaly Lunkin, and what a deserving winner he was. I was very glad that he won over Haxton, who would have been a very lucky winner in my opinion. When heads up, and when all the money went in, Linkin was ahead almost every time. Haxton sucked out quite a few times, and I think he was trying to be just a little too aggressive. This might explain why Lunkin slow played Aces twice. Of course, we only get to see selective hands, and you’ve got to admire Haxton’s aggressive heads-up play, which I’m sure serves him well, and maybe the editing by ESPN didn’t do him any favors. But overall the best player won the WSOP bracelet.

You might be wondering why I prefer a Russian to win over an American, but I like to see good poker, that’s all. However, I have noticed that Russians are now becoming very successful in the poker world, and have some fine players. With the online poker restrictions facing ordinary Americans, courtesy of the UIGEA, the red Army of Russia will surely continue in their march towards poker success. They are free to play poker, while ordinary, law-abiding Americans, are being made to feel like criminals for wanting to play the game they love. Poker has always been symbolic to America, so this is a good enough reason on its own, why the powers that be in American politics, should overturn this ridiculous legislation.

Would Julius Caesar Slow Play Aces?

Phil Hellmuth made quite an entrance to this years WSOP Main Event. He came dressed as the former Roman emperor, Julius Caesar, surrounded by a string of beautiful women in white toga-like dresses, and rose pettles were thrown at his feet. It was ridiculous, absurd, and comical! He was clearly embarrassed by the publicity stunt – and if you missed it, here it is:

It’s unlike Phil Hellmuth to play up for the cameras (cough!), but he was here with a purpose. “I came here to conquer like Caesar!” said Hellmuth as he entered the Rio. “I’m here to win my 12th bracelet.” Well he didn’t really conquer did he…finishing 400th of somewhere (I’m not 100% on the exact placing). To be fair, he made the money, but I wonder how the models who accompanied him in his entrance took the news – “400th? I thought he was the emperor of poker”. Of course they probably don’t know about variance.

Phil got busted slow playing Aces, by just flat calling an early position raiser, and allowing two more players to see a flop. All his chips went into middle on the flop, when he was behind (see official WSOP site for more details) to two pair, then a straight. Basically he tried playing too cute and I often here professional poker players say the biggest mistake amatuers make is slow playing big hands. Well I can’t wait to see the ESPN WSOP shows, especially when Hellmuth gets his balls busted. Can’t wait!

Are there too many WSOP events?

The $10k Main Event kicks off today, over a month after the first WSOP event of this year’s series. I must admit that I’ve got a bit bored with the coverage and I believe there are far too many events – particularly hold’em events. Here’s a list of the hold’em events at this year’s WSOP, not including the main event:

No-Limit Hold’em (Event 4) $1,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 7) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 9) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 11) $2,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 13) $2,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 15) $5,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 19) $2,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 22) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 24) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 28) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 32) $2,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 34) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 36) $2,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 39) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 41) $5,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 51) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 52) $3,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 54) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 56) $5,000

Note: One of these (event 52) is a triple chance, two are shootouts (22 & 41) and three are six handed max (9, 19, 56).

I know the lower buy-in events are very popular, but do we really need so many of them? Do we need them at all? Personally I think its ridiculous having so many WSOP hold’em events. It devalues the series, which should be more exclusive in my opinion. If it was like this in the 1970’s then Doyle Brunson would probably have a lot more than 10 WSOP Bracelets.

But anyway, now the warm ups have finished – it’s time for the BIG ONE! Good luck to all the players lucky enough to have a seat!

WSOP 2009 Online Satellites

Every poker player in the world wants to play the WSOP main event, but the only stumbling block is the $10k buy-in. Like most people I can’t find a spare $10k and even if I could I wouldn’t want to blow it on one tournament. So the only way is to try my luck in the online WSOP satellites. I’ve been playing online poker since the early days (Planet Poker) and although I’ve always wanted to play in the WSOP, I’ve never really tried to qualify before. This year is different – I want a seat and I want it bad!

I was ready to begin my quest for WSOP glory yesterday afternoon on PokerStars (who send more players to the WSOP than all other online poker rooms combined), but I was somewhat suprised at the lack of response from the sit & go’s, which required a minimum 100 or 216 runners, yet were stuck around 40-50 at the time. Yes it was a Friday afternoon, but doesn’t PokerStars have a ton of European traffic or people with nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon? Clearly not.

So today was my first foray into the world of WSOP Satelittes. I was psyched and ready to “do a Moneymaker”, and after scanning the lobby at PokerStars I liked the look of the $33 rebuy main event qualifier. Rather than pay the $33 I figured I’d earn it in one of the Super Satelittes – starting with a $2 rebuy. With no rebuys and just a top up (total spend $4) I was doing okay. At the break I was in 15th spot out of 80+ runners and guess what? 15 was the magic number of qualifiers. Sadly this was at the break and after being card dead and slipping down the pecking order I fizzled out. Oh well only $4 down so far.

Next I played a $4.40 single table SNG, with one seat for the $33. I got heads up with a chip lead but got well and truly out fished. The consolation for 2nd was $3! So now I was $5.40 down and still optimistic, but enough of these Super Satelittes – let’s go play the $33 rebuy. So I did – and had a great start but I bailed out after 40 minutes having had one rebuy. I didn’t see much value in this format since there was only one (possibly two seats) available for the WSOP main event.

Having played a few more games I think the best option is to try my luck at the shootouts for the $600 satelitte, as this gives a whopping 25+ seats. I’m done with the $33 rebuy unless I win a Super Satelitte, and while my hopes have been dented thus far, I will proceed. Wish me luck!

WSOP TV Ratings

When Peter Eastgate raked the final pile of chips away from Ivan Demidov to become WSOP champion, it marked the end to a poker-filled extravaganza which began over five months ago.  It also marked the point at which people would see if the move by the WSOP and ESPN to delay the Main Event final table paid off.  Well the results are in and the move proved to be a big success!

The all-important Neilsen ratings showed that the 30 episodes of the smaller WSOP events on ESPN went up 6 percent from last year (0.90).  Regarding the main point of interest in the WSOP Main Event final table, ratings showed a big improvement from last year in the form of a 50 percent increase as 1.9 million households tuned in to watch – last year only 1.25 million households watched it.

Going further with this upward trend, ratings showed that the October 21st episode – in which the Main Event saw its field go from 79 players down to 27 – drew a bigger TV audience than did the 2007 final table.  With ratings like these, it appears clear that ESPN and the WSOP will probably keep the same format they used this time around.

But my questions is: was it the format which made this year’s WSOP final table so watched or was it the fact that poker is two years removed from the UIGEA?  After all, 2006 saw the biggest ratings ever for the final table, and WSOP in general, as Jamie Gold worked his way through the field towards $12 million.  However, the UIGEA struck later on in the year and took away a lot of the interest from the game of poker.  All this led to a down year in 2007 which made some people question whether poker had simply reached its peak and was on the way down.  

Fortunately, poker hasn’t reached it’s peak and looks poised to grow stronger than ever.  And maybe it’s a combination of both the switch and the two years separation from the UIGEA for why the WSOP ratings are on the upswing again; who knows?  Whatever the case may be I’m glad to see the promising ratings of the 2008 WSOP and hope that the game continues to grow in future years too.

Learning Poker Tells from the FBI

Most people know the FBI as the investigative unit of the US government.  Some of the various functions that the Federal Bureau of Investigation performs include protecting the US from terrorist activity, combating cyber crime in America, and preventing major white colar crime.  But the last function that people would ever expect the FBI to perform is teaching poker to people.

Joe Navarro seeks to change all of this when he heads to Caesars Palace on November 7th and 8th to teach players at the World Series of Poker Academy.  Navarro’s specialty is nonverbal communication and behavior analysis as he’s been teaching this in the FBI for over 25 years.  But lately, he’s switched his focus to teaching poker players how they can better their game through reading other players at the table.

Obviously using the ability to read players isn’t a new concept but it seems to become something new when Navarro teaches this stuff.  Joe explains that, if a player goes all-in and then proceeds to lean back like he’s casually watching a football game, he’s got the nuts. 

Navarro gets deeper into the analysis by saying, “He’s all in and he’s all spread out.  His legs are open. His arm is splayed across two chairs.  It’s what we call a ‘territorial display’.  It’s what we do when we’re strong. And still, the other guy is struggling whether to call.  I can’t believe I’m watching this.  Why would you call? All the information is right there in front of you.”

Navarro’s excellent grasp of human body language has led him to teach plenty of pros in the past and he made this clear by saying, “I’ve had many professional players in my classes and they sit there with an interest you would not normally expect to see.  They are pros, so you think they would already know everything they need to know. But they are aware that any small edge to a poker player can be invaluable.”

Joe Navarro is one of six instructors that will be at the WSOP Academy this November.  The others are Phil Gordon, Mark Seif, Paul Wasicka, Alex Outhred, and Charley Swayne.  Those wishing to get in on this poker training will have to dish out a $1,999 fee.

Ivan Demidov in Two WSOP Finals

A great deal has been made over the impact that Russian players have had on the World Series of Poker this year.  In fact I remember myself doing a post on this subject which can be seen here.  In short, quite a few Russians made some major cashes during the WSOP including Ivan Demidov who is primed to make a huge cash when he plays at the final table of the Main Event in November. 

But Demidov wasn’t quite satisfied with just one final table in the WSOP as he decided to try and go for another one in London during the World Series of Poker Europe.  Amazingly, Demidov was able to weave his way through the WSOPE Main Event field and find himself in third place going into the final table.  He is currently behind John Juanda and Stanislav Alekhin with 1,006,000 chips.  Alekhin is second with 1,278,000 chips while the well known Juanda has 1,349,000.

Juanda isn’t the only player that’s well known at the final table though as poker star Daniel Negreanu is still alive and well in fourth place right behind Demidov with 1,002,000 chips.  Being so close to the top of the final table leaderboard, many people think that Negreanu has a good chance of winning the WSOPE Main Event.  But there are plenty of other solid players near Negreanu too such as Scott Fischman who’s got 732,000 chips.

Of course there’s Demidov too who will have the rare opportunity to win both a WSOP and WSOPE title (although this has only been going on for two years now).  I’ll definitely be watching to see how he does in his bid.  Here’s a rundown of the whole final table:

John Juanda £1,349,000
Stanislav Alekhin £1,278,000
Ivan Demidov £1,006,000
Daniel Negreanu £1,002,000
Robin Keston £849,000
Scott Fischman £732,000
Toni Hiltunen £386,000
Bengt Sonnert £385,000
Chris Elliott £281,000

Is WSOPE going just a WSOP afterparty?

The World Series of Poker Europe is fully underway with the Main Event going on and there is much excitement in the poker air.  Thousands of players have shown up in London and it has been a good event for the WSOP’s namesake.  Things are going especially well since a star player in Daniel Negreanu is leading the field after three full days.  In addition to this great storyline, Negreanu has a $200,000 prop bet going with Phil Ivey that he will win either a WSOP bracelet (which is already out) or a WSOPE bracelet (he’s down to his last chance).

Going beyond just the Daniel Negreanu thing, people may also notice that John Juanda, online star Justin “BoostedJ” Smith, Mike Matusow, Andy Bloch, and Erik Seidel are near the top of the leaderboards too.  But while there are plenty of good storylines going on, I have to wonder if the World Series of Poker Europe is really coming into its own or if it is just an expansion event trying to capitalize off of the popularity of a big name.

Now the WSOPE has definitely drawn some people to its now four tournament and one Doyle Brunson vs. Annette Obrestad one-on-one matchup extravaganza.  However, I’m really wondering how much bigger things will get.  Will it just be a failed experiment by Harrah’s to further expand their already popular event? 

I hope not but I also am not sure how long it will take for people to really catch the WSOPE fever.  After all, the 1,000,000 Pound top prize for the winner has already been trimmed down to 868,000 Pounds and I’m hoping that the future doesn’t see it falling any farther.  But even more so, I’m hoping that the WSOPE doesn’t end as badly as another European expansion where the NFL tried to extend their power into the continent with the NFL Europe.  Then again, I don’t think there’s any fear about that since nothing can go as badly as the NFL Europe did.