Poker News Round-up
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Poker News Round-up: Week #01
The year started with a bang and just ten days into 2008 Bertrand Grospellier had earned himself two million dollars as winner of the Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure. On the other side of the world the Aussie Millions was running concurrently and in their main event Alexander Kostritsin kick started what would become a significant year for Russian poker. Russians would record significant results throughout 2008 but perhaps none were as fortunate as Kostritsin who was the beneficiary of an uncharacteristic mistake from the legendary Erik Seidel who stuck all his chips in after mis-reading his hand.
There had been much debate for a while about who would become the first player ever to win WSOP, EPT and WPT titles and in January we found a winner of that triple crown at the WPT Borgata Winter Open. At just 26 years of age Gavin Griffin completed his hat-trick having previously also won the EPT grand final in Monte Carlo and become the youngest ever WSOP bracelet winner at the time in 2004.
February saw an even younger player hit the big time when 18 year old Michael McDonald won Dortmund’s EPT main event. Being unable to play WPT or WSOP events in America this represented a rare opportunity for the young Canadian to hone his live tournament skills, and he took his chance superbly to earn nearly a million Euros.
Phil Ivey is a regular sight at WPT events but despite several final tables, he had not managed to convert one into a win until the eighth time of asking. At the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles he finally managed to break his duck and add yet another title to move within sight of the $10 million mark for tournament earnings.
The following month fellow Full Tilt pro Chris Ferguson picked up a nice win for his first place at the National Heads Up Championship in Las Vegas, but it was a relative unknown who collected the biggest win of the year to date. Canadian Glenn Chorny hit the jackpot in Monte Carlo with victory in the EPT grand final for a little over two million Euros, but it wasn’t long before a bigger prize still was won elsewhere.
April’s WPT grand final at Bellagio looked destined to be won by Gus Hansen who arrived at the final table as chip leader then eliminated the first four opponents in the space of just 22 hands. Heads up against David Chiu the wheels came off though and a six to one chip lead was lost as the American staged a remarkable comeback to claim victory for $3.3 million. That month was also good for Erik Seidel who made amends for his Melbourne meltdown by winning a first WPT title at Foxwoods.
It was around this time in April when the first rumours started to circulate that the WSOP final table was going to be delayed until November, although Harrah’s officials were quick to deny that any such plans were in place. By May it had been confirmed that the final would be played out in November after all, and the debates started to rage about the pros and cons of leaving Las Vegas in July without a winner.
When the WSOP did get underway it didn’t take long for it to be christened “year of the pro”. Nenad Medic, David Singer, Erik Lindgren and Mike Matusow got the ball rolling and the name had stuck even before the likes of Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein and JC Tran also weighed in with bracelets of their own. As has become customary for the past few years, someone even took home two bracelets and this year it was the turn of John Phan who claimed wins in no limit hold’em and deuce to seven triple draw. Seeing as the main event would not reach a conclusion until four months later the blue riband event of the summer became the $50,000 HORSE with the newly added Chip Reese trophy. Scotty Nguyen emerged as the winner, but controversy followed when the tournament was later broadcast on television. Seemingly always with a beer in his hand, Nguyen’s dark side came out as he acted obnoxiously to other players and venue staff and even tried to instigate some collusion with Erick Lindgren.
Not content with having taken the WSOP by storm, John Phan continued his great form with a final table appearance at the WPT Bellagio Cup in July then outright victory at the WPT Legends Of Poker one month later to bank another million dollars. Two WSOP bracelets, one WPT title and two other WPT final table appearances in one year ranks as one of the hottest streaks in tournament history, rivalling Daniel Negreanu’s 2004 results.
By September all eyes were on London where another four bracelets were up for grabs at the WSOP Europe, with Phil Ivey reputedly in need of one of them to avoid booking a big loss on side bets. He was looking good for the HORSE title at one point but some optimistic play by Sherkhan Farnood was rewarded and it was the Afghan who took home the title instead. The main event seemed to take an eternity to find a winner but after a gruelling 19 hour final table John Juanda was eventually crowned champion to give him his fourth WSOP bracelet.
Throughout the year another story of cheating had been developing, similar to that which was discovered on Absolute Poker in 2007. Sister site Ultimatebet was also accused of having superusers and as further information came to light over the course of the year the evidence became damning. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission’s final report on the matter was released in September which confirmed that cheating had taken place over the course of four years for many millions of dollars. Perhaps the most shocking part of it all was the naming of former world champion Russ Hamilton as being instrumental in the fraud, but despite the wishes of many it seems that he remains a free man for now.
After the WSOPE London remained the place to be for poker in October whilst the EPT took place, where Michael Martin collected the million pound first prize. A newly added high roller event saw John Juanda nearly triumph again but he had to take second place to Jason Mercier who was having a storming year after also winning the EPT San Remo in April.
Whether the delayed WSOP final table was a success or not is still open to debate but by November we had plenty to talk about as the youngest world champion of all time was crowned. Peter Eastgate of Denmark and Ivan Demidov of Russia saw off the North American challenge on Sunday night then returned to battle it out for the title the following day. The 22 year old Dane kept up the pressure and kept hitting his hands to eventually land the $9.1 million first prize and break Phil Hellmuth’s record as the youngest main event winner. It was close but no cigar yet again for runner up Ivan Demidov who also finished third in the WSOPE main event, but he can take plenty of pride in his achievements during 2008.
Fellow final tablist David Rheem showed that he is no flash in the pan by following it up with a WPT title in December at the Doyle Brunson Five Diamond Classic, whilst back in the UK another player was rounding off a great year of his own. Having already won the $10,000 pot limit Omaha WSOP title, Marty Smyth was already having the sort of year most people only dream about but further success came with the Poker Million title which he had narrowly missed out on in 2007 and 2006.
The big buy in events come thick and fast these days and it is only a matter of days until the first million dollar prize of 2009 is awarded. Any small hopes of having the UIGEA overturned in 2008 never materialised, but the poker industry is rebuilding nevertheless. After the initial hit to attendances at the WSOP in 2007, 2008 saw players returning in greater numbers and there’s no reason to believe that there won’t be an increase in numbers this year. But what else can we expect to see in 2009? By the end of the year there’s a pretty good chance that the all time money list will have a new leader if any one of Phil Ivey, Allen Cunningham, Phil Hellmuth or Daniel Negreanu has a good year. It is of course not entirely impossible that Jamie Gold might also post some good results, but we have seen little evidence in 2008 to suggest that might be likely. In fact the former world champion does not have a single recorded cash to his name for the calendar year.
Russian players seem to be increasingly appearing on the tournament circuit, and we could well see more big results from them in the coming year. A few years ago many people would have struggled to name a single Russian player but the likes of Demidov, Kravchenko and Gerasimov are appearing more and more frequently with plenty of their compatriots ready to join them.
And finally, our own domestic tours haven’t received a mention yet but both the GUKPT and GCBPT are going from strength to strength with many top players from the UK and often even further afield turning up to play. Greater experience of playing deep stacked live tournaments can only mean that the chances of someone bringing a bracelet back to these shores from the 2009 WSOP are better than ever this year.
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