Principled Padraig and The Dangerous Dane

News from the front – Some Europeans will have to reconsider residency after the long haul stay involved in attending tournaments in Reno, at the Bellagio, and Binion’s World Series of Poker, all in a row. Many players left town immediately following the Poker Million final and are not due back until June, they go bust, or when the Devilfish breaks Doyle Brunson, which means anytime now. If it wasn’t ballsy enough for the Bellagio to run their big tournament immediately before the long hallowed time frame of the World Series of Poker, they’ve gone one step further. $25,000 will be deducted from the prize pool of the Bellagio’s two smaller no limit hold’em events and the winners will be forced to play in the $25,000 WPT final event next week. While the winner of one of these events would be a favorite to pony up the cash anyway, poker players notoriously hate being told what to do with their money. This wrinkle, which was sprung on at the last moment, has caused the Irish team to refuse to play in the events as a matter of principle. At last check, WSOP final tablists Padraig Parkinson and Scott Gray were insisting that they had traveled 3000 miles for no other reasons than to catch up on their reading, bet baseball, and buy Liam Flood eighteen boxes of Kem-cards. Surindar Sunar was so angry he reportedly made seventeen rebuys at the bar. Poker players are an ornery lot, to be sure. Tom Gibson headed a thirty strong list for the pot limit Omaha cash games, and after six hours Bellagio management was still insisting it was far more important to open yet another 4-8 limit Hold’em table. Binion’s may not be nearly as glamorous anymore, but at least there the Europeans will always be first class citizens.

Excited? – Criticisms aside, you can’t help but get excited about the $25,000 buy in WPT final beginning on Monday, April 14th. While the prize pool will fall decidedly short of the WSOP big one, the quality of the field will be such that dead money will be the people who only have one silver bracelet. European definites include Peter “The Poet” Costa, Devilfish Ulliott, and Gus Hansen, who have all qualified via winning tour events over the year. Big names in town who have every shot if they care to dive in and gamble include Surindar Sunar, John Duthie, Julian Gardner, and Noel Furlong. Surindar has been showing particularly good tournament form of late, and it’s believed in all circles that his regime of the past few years that saw him concentrate nearly exclusively on cash games is past, and a man who is in my book one of the top tournament players in the world may have been sharpening his tournament game these past few months for just this event.

Double D… Nobody in the world currently has as much gamble as the Dangerous Dane, 29 year old Gus Hansen. If you don’t know who he is you better learn fast, because Gus ain’t going nowhere. When he exploded onto the scene about one year ago, world class players were falling all over themselves to get in his game. Several million dollars later, however, the word has come down from on high. Gus is no value. Quite the contrary, apparently. In winning the WPT tour event at the Commerce last month, his second tour victory, Gus was at a second day table with Erik Seidel, Carlos Mortensen, and Andy Block, all of whom had big stacks. Typical before the flop action was raise by Seidel, call by Hansen, call by Mortensen, and call by Andy Block. That went on for eight hours and Gus ended up with all the money. Before he turned to poker Gus was regarded as one of the best backgammon players in the world, and as of late he is reportedly slaughtering the poker world in private backgammon propositions. Chip Reese had Gus out to his house a few months ago “to watch some sports on TV”. Reese’s living room is said to be more equipped than the Bellagio sportsbook, with dozens of smaller televisions lighting up one giant wall and surrounding one massive screen. Hundreds of thousands may have changed hands. The impact that Gus is making of late smacks quite distinctly of the old Huck Seed, and those with a memory know that those shoes aren’t easily filled.

Irish Easter – Here on the mainland, everybody is gearing up for the Irish Open, which will without any doubt be the biggest tournament in Ireland since Amarillo Slim, Jack “Treetop" Strauss and company made a transatlantic trip in 1982 for the Irish Open inaugural. Trivia buffs will remember that that event was won by none other than “The Gentleman” himself, and if you don’t know the story which saw Liam defeat Gabe “Kotter” Kaplan in the final I’m sure all you need to do is ask (and have three hours to spare!) Hotel reservations are already tripled from last year, so contact Liam quick if you want a bed. The action is always good in Dublin, but more important is that it feels like being with friends and family, especially if you’re a total stranger. I still remember being introduced to Kevin O’Connell, who instead of a handshake proffered me a stiff shot of Paddys. If you’ve been checking out the betting markets on Betfair, you’ll notice the parity in the prices, which shrewdly illustrates that in Ireland, most of the people you’ve never heard of can play. I mean they can all play, and pay particular attention to Shawn Tobin and young Steven McLean, who with all due respect to the older generations, is already light years ahead of his father and grandfather. Notwithstanding that fact, I make all of the Hendon Mobsters good value at 40-1, but Ram Vaswani is an absolute steal at that price. If Crazy Horse is on his game, he’s a 15-1 shot and no more. But hey. That’s what makes horse racing, and I can put my money where my mouth is. So can you.