Poker News Round-up
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Poker News Round-up: Week #23
The World Series Of Poker is underway. Last Friday 451 players put up $5,000 to enter the first event of the series which was the world championship mixed limit hold’em. Straight away an interesting story was thrown up as Steve Billirakis became the youngest ever winner of a WSOP bracelet, beating Jeff Madsen’s record from last year. Due to the minimum age requirement of 21 he is in fact almost as young as a winner could possibly be at 21 years and 10 days. His title and first prize of over half a million dollars is especially remarkable seeing as he had never played limit until the day before the tournament. Realising he may need some idea of how the limit game plays, he logged on for some practise online and apparently sat in for only two orbits before being satisfied that he had it worked out. Also in this event, Kirk Morrison continued his fine recent form with a seventh place, and Mark Teltscher and Stuart Rutter became the first Brits to cash.
A new type of playing card called PokerPeek made by Bicycle were introduced featuring a jumbo style central area on the face with the rank and suit repeated in much smaller form in each corner, allowing players to peel up less of the card to see what they have. These cards were supposedly developed with input from some of the world’s top pro players, but it would be interesting to know who those players were as they went down like Bernard Manning at Shilpa Shetty’s birthday party. Numerous player complaints led to the new PokerPeeks being removed from play after just three hours, and trusty old style KEMs were brought back to the tables. Some optimistic eliminated players even tried to claim their buy in back over the card fiasco. In hindsight perhaps a trial run prior to the WSOP might have been prudent instead of testing a new product at a world championship event. The cards haven’t been the only grumble either. Already there have been instances of extra chips being accidentally introduced during colouring up of small denomination chips, and players complaining that their stacks from the previous day were short when they returned to play. It’s never going to be easy keeping tournaments of these sizes error free but then again this is supposed to be the most prestigious series of tournaments in the world and it seems some lessons from last year have still not been learnt.
The casino employees played out event number two and then on the Saturday half of Vegas decided to play in event number three, the $1,500 no limit hold’em. There have been many debates as to the number of main event entrants this year, but the various reasons that may affect the field for the big one certainly didn’t seem to apply to the first of the smallest buy in tournaments. Once no more alternates could be seated, a total of 2998 players had been registered for this event, surpassing the number of runners seen in the main event as recently as 2004. There were so many players that the event was delayed for over an hour due to long queues, some players had to be seated outside in a tent, and there were not enough KEMs to go around so the pesky PokerPeeks made a surprise comeback.
In this event Richard Williamson III, who many readers will be familiar with as captain of the USA team that competed in the Poker Nations Cup, sadly had to abandon his stack to be blinded away as his health deteriorated during the event. Hopefully his decision to not push himself too hard in this event in the hope of recovering to give his all in later events will pay dividends.
Roland de Wolfe made a good early run but ended up exiting in 105th place, and whilst a few other Brits made the money, the paid places were dominated by Americans. Top of the pile was Ciaran O’Leary, originally from Ireland but now resident in Seattle, who picked up $727,000 and the third bracelet of the series.
Michael Spegal managed to get to play poker on his wedding anniversary and repaid his wife’s understanding by taking down event four, $1,500 pot limit hold’em, for a prize that should cover a meal and some earrings a few times over of a quarter of a million dollars.
Event five was a $2,500 Omaha/Stud hi/lo tournament that threw up some big names at the final table including Chris Ferguson, Annie Duke and David Benyamine. Eventual winner Tom Schneider is no stranger to final tables though having made two at the World Series in previous years, and is also the author of a poker book. His reward for overcoming the more recognised pros was $214,000 and a coveted bracelet.
Next up in event six was a $1,500 limit hold’em tournament which was again dominated by American players. 87 of the 90 players who were paid were from the USA, and highest of all was Gary Styczynski who pocketed $281,000. This event was the subject of the first ever WSOP webcast, where viewers could see the players’ hole cards ‘as live’, but with a small delay to prevent any possible compromising of security. This feature could become popular with players who wish to get a handle on how their opponents are playing by spending their lunch hour observing how certain hands were played.
Event seven, $5,000 pot limit Omaha with rebuys, generated a large prize pool of nearly $3 million dollars for only 145 entries and also saw two Englishmen at the final table. Robin Keston arrived with a relatively short stack and exited in 9th, but Dave Ulliott must have fancied his chances of winning another bracelet, taking his seat as chip leader in his favourite event. The Devilfish hadn’t been too complimentary about some of his opponents in an interview prior to the final table and was highly unimpressed when Burt Boutin called his all in with third pair plus a straight draw and then hit his straight. Although still alive, Devilfish was always swimming against the tide once his stack had been crippled and despite a few double ups could finish no better than third. Boutin went on to win the event, claiming $826,000 and his second WSOP bracelet. In 2001 he won a pot limit hold’em event, again denying Ulliott by beating him into second on that occasion.
In his own words, Phil Hellmuth has been playing perfectly at this WSOP, although his perfect play had failed to get him into any paid positions during the first few events. As the player with the most ever cashes in WSOP events though he was bound to pick up some more money sooner or later, and in event eight, $1,000 no limit hold’em with rebuys, he added to his total with a small cash for 104th place. His total is now 58 finishes in the money, and whilst he is no spring chicken any more, he certainly has the age advantage over his nearest rivals for this record, Men Nguyen and T.J. Cloutier.
In the rebuy period of event eight, it seemed any two cards were good for a lot of players, and there was a lot of early action to bump the prize pool up. As players returned for the second day Vinny Vinh, who had accumulated a decent stack, was nowhere to be seen. Bizarrely he never showed up at all and had his stack blinded away for a 20th place finish. First prize of $586,000 was eventually claimed by Michael Chu.
Event nine, $1,500 Omaha hi/lo started off in the Poker Pavilion Tent outside the Rio, but high winds made playing conditions unbearable and the whole event had to be relocated indoors. Once things had settled down a bit, there were money finishes to be had for Peter Costa, Roland de Wolfe again and a creditable ninth place for Richard Ashby. Russian Alexander Kravchenko came out on top here to claim $228,000.
One player who will definitely not be cashing at this year’s WSOP is Full Tilt sponsored pro and author of Microsoft Word Richard Brodie. He has received a letter from Harrah’s informing him that he is not welcome at any of their properties any more because his business is not profitable. Brodie claims that he has simply been lucky recently on video poker machines, and whilst some would say that it is a casino’s right to not want to host unprofitable business, a ban from the WSOP based on the information Brodie has presented seems rather extreme. There have been rumours that Brodie lobbied Harrah’s to introduce high stake gaming machines in which he was aware of a fault in the code that permitted the machine to pay out at over 100%, but then the internet wouldn’t be the internet without conspiracy theories.
Neteller has announced that it will be able to start returning the $55 million of US customers’ money that had been seized by the US Attorney’s Office in February. The USAO investigation into Neteller is expected to conclude on 13th July, after which time customers can make a request to have their outstanding balances returned to them. $55 million could make a fair bit of interest in the right account over the course of five months, but as the money was simply frozen there will be no interest at all on balances payable to customers.
The sneaky Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act has come under fire from various sources recently such as Barny Frank and the Poker Players’ Alliance, and the latest group to voice its opposition to the bill could have the most impact yet. The Interactive Media Entertainment And Gaming Association which describes itself as an organisation motivated by the fair, equitable and rational governance of interactive internet commerce and communications has filed a lawsuit aiming to stop the enforcement of the UIGEA. Their claim is that the UIGEA contravenes constitutional rights and also creates regulatory problems for all types of internet commerce, not just gambling. The face of internet poker could once again be changed if an injunction is granted as the enforcement of the UIGEA would be halted whilst the court considers the case.
Plenty of events are either underway or ready to kick off at the WSOP, including the world championship stud event where Phil Ivey is approaching the final table in a bid to pick up a sixth bracelet. News on all events will be covered in next week’s news report, which will include the first of this year’s HORSE events.
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