Poker News Round-up
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Poker News Round-up: Week #52
Review of The Year 2007 Part I
The first big tournament of the year saw Gus Hansen win the Aussie Millions in Melbourne. Hansen has built a reputation for playing bad hands well, in turn inspiring millions of bad hands to be played badly, but turned over the best possible starting hand when his pocket aces beat Jimmy “Gobboboy” Fricke heads up to take the title in January. 2006 had been a bit of a quiet year by the Dane’s own high standards but he saw in the new year in style with the biggest tournament cash of his career for US$1.19 million.
January also saw the long running Neteller saga begin when Canadian founders Stephen Lawrence and John Lefebvre were charged with money laundering.The passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act had already made it illegal for third party payment processors to handle transactions with online poker sites, but the extra bad news for players was that all deposits held by Neteller were frozen pending further investigation by the authorities.
The trade dispute between the US and the World Trade Organisation also started to heat up as the WTO affirmed that America had a case to answer against Antigua. The UIGEA had prevented US citizens from using offshore gaming sites, in breach of agreements that had already been made as part of the General Agreement on Trade in Services and a legal case that would play out for the best part of the whole of 2007 was underway.
February saw the EU join Antigua in making a claim against the US, but the legal wrangling making the biggest headlines involved reigning world champion Jamie Gold. Since winning the biggest tournament of all time in the summer, Gold had been facing the threat of losing half his winnings to Bruce Crispin Leyser. Presumably not thinking that he was actually going to hit the jackpot for $12 million, Gold had promised Leyser half of any of his main event winnings before the event started in exchange for work Leyser was doing to attract customers to Gold’s sponsor site. Leyser then watched with delight as Gold defeated a field of 8773 players, but his half of the money didn’t subsequently materialise. The matter was dragged through the courts, eventually being settled in February when the judge decided there was sufficient evidence to support Leyser’s claim. Exact details of the settlement were never disclosed but it’s generally thought that Leyser got his half of the money.
A quiet March was most notable for the start of the fight back against the UIGEA when Al D’Amato was named chairman of the Poker Players’ Alliance. The former senator set about lobbying influential contacts at Capitol Hill in an effort to highlight the injustices of the act.
Congressman Barney Frank then joined the battle in April with his Internet Gambling Enforcement and Regulation Act designed to eventually have the UIGEA overturned. By the end of the year Frank had garnered over 40 co-sponsors of his new bill, many of whom had actually voted for the UIGEA in the first place but had been enlightened by Frank’s campaigning.
The European Poker Tour, which had been steadily growing in stature since its inception, held its grand finale in Monte Carlo in April with a massive €6,636,400 prize pool up for grabs. Young American Gavin Griffin was not an especially well known player outside of America despite being a WSOP bracelet winner, but made his mark in Europe in style with a first place worth €1,825,010. Sporting a pink hairstyle in support of a breast cancer research charity, the coloured hair went on to become a theme for the rest of the year as Griffin turned out in a variety of garish styles for future tournaments.
As players prepared for the forthcoming World Series Of Poker, America turned its back on the rest of the world in May during the continuing WTO dispute. Having been found guilty by WTO panels and subsequently losing all appeals, America announced that it would simply refuse to co-operate following judgements that it was acting in contravention to commitments it had made under the GATS. The move threatened to completely undermine the authority of the WTO and even though a solution was found before the end of the year, the refusal to comply left a sour taste in the mouth.
The WSOP is where the big stories of the year are created and event number one created a stir by generating the youngest ever bracelet winner in the form of Steve Billirakis. Jeff Madsen had set a new record in 2006 but his mark did not last long as Billirakis swept all before him at the age of just 21 years and 10 days.
Phil Hellmuth doesn’t like to be out of the headlines for long and eleven days into the series, he made a splash by winning his eleventh bracelet as he beat a field of 2628 runners. Having previously been tied for the most bracelets with legendary Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan, Hellmuth now stood alone as the holder of the most bracelets of all time – something he wouldn’t be slow to remind people of in the following weeks. The win was actually seen by very few people though as the final table was held inside a tiny tent within the Amazon Room whilst Harrah’s experimented with selling coverage as a pay per view event.
Another experiment for this year was the use of the poker pavilion, a tent erected outside to accommodate the overflow of players from the Amazon Room during busy tournaments. Hot, windy and decidedly smelly, it was a highly unpopular choice to be seated in and has rightly been scrapped for 2008.
Next up to hit the headlines was Kassem “Freddy” Deeb who came back from the dead more than once to win the $50k HORSE event in remarkable circumstances. Having suffered a bad beat, Deeb demonstrated the value of clear thinking over tilting by walking away from the table for several orbits to gather his thoughts despite his stack not really looking healthy enough to allow for such a tactic. Deeb kept his head upon returning though and ended up walking away with the coveted title and $2.27 million.
It was starting to look like a barren series for the British contingent as attention was turning to the forthcoming main event at the beginning of July, but then all of a sudden an Englishman was guaranteed a bracelet with chips still in play as Ram Vaswani and Andy Ward faced one another heads up for the limit hold’em shootout title. Vaswani came from behind to win that event, then another Englishman put in a big performance when Jon Kalmar made the final table of the main event. Kalmar could not compete with the eventual winner Jerry Yang though who had God on his side to summon forth fortuitous cards at the right time for the former refugee. $8.25 million better off, Yang pretty much then disappeared from the poker scene for the rest of the year.
Part II to follow...
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