The World Poker Tour (WPT) L.A. Poker Classic has been a part of the WPT since the tour’s inception, but in recent years, it has become almost an outlier. It is one of the few WPT Main Events that still costs $ 10,000 to enter and is also one of the few that is a good, old freezeout, rather than a re-entry tournament. The WPT L.A. Poker Classic Main Event finished its Day 2 on Sunday and with 111 players remaining, it is Day 1 chip leader Nick Maimone who held onto the top spot for a second straight day, finishing the night with 567,400 chips, the only player above the half-million mark.
My colleague Earl Burton was dead on when he said yesterday that because of the late entry possibilities on Day 2, “There’s a good possibility that the 2017 field will eclipse that of last year (515 players), but it will be a stretch to see it go much further.”
In addition to the 498 players who started on Day 1, another 23 entered the tournament on Day 2, resulting in a field of 521 players, just beating out last year’s total and, as Earl put it, not going much further.
Literally one fewer player would have put the total prize pool below $ 5 million. As the tournament did get to 521 players, the prize pool ended up at $ 5,001,600. 66 players will make the money with the winner taking home $ 1,001,110.
Maimone readily admitted to WPT.com that the poker gods smiled on him at a couple key points.
I got very fortunate in a couple of hands,” Maimone said. “I got pocket queens against ace-jack on a jack-high board to bust a guy. In one of the biggest hands of the day, I had queens against ace-queen on a Q♠-8♠-2♥-2♣-2♠ board.
On the latter hand, Maimone knocked out Stefan Schillhabel. They four-bet up to 20,000 chips pre-flop and after the flop came down, Maimone bet 13,000 and was called by Schillhabel. Another bet and call on the turn and when the river produced the third Two, Maimone bet enough to put Schillhabel all-in. Schillhabel called instantly, but his Deuces over Queens full house was destroyed by Maimone’s Queens over Deuces.
“Nothing he can do, I was very blessed there,” Maimone said.
He also noted he got lucky late in the night when he raised pre-flop with just J-7 and was called by Jordan Cristos. Maimone flopped two pair and the two men got all their chips in. Cristos had pocket Aces and couldn’t catch any more cards.
“There wasn’t really much else I could do,” Maimone said. “He had aces and I held.”
Day 3 has just gotten underway at the Commerce Hotel & Casino as the remaining players set their sights on at least making the money.
2017 World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic Main Event – Day 2 Chip Leaders
1. Nick Maimone – 567,400
2. Matt Berkey – 493,100
3. Mohsin Charania – 435,400
4. Daniel Strelitz – 410,000
5. Bryce Yockey – 354,800
6. William Vo – 350,000
7. Antonio Esfandiari – 349,300
8. Daniel Lawrence – 317,200
9. Igor Yaroshevskyy – 314,400
10. Mike Sexton – 270,400
So how much of a break did the WPT staff and professional players get after the crowning of Darren Elias for his victory in the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic late Friday night before they had to jump back into action? How about just a scant few hours as Saturday saw the start of one of the venerable tournaments on the WPT circuit, the WPT L. A. Poker Classic at the Commerce Casino in Bell Gardens, CA.
The first leg of the WPT “California Swing” (with the other two events being the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star and the WPT Rolling Thunder at Thunder Valley Casino), the LAPC has been a part of the WPT schedule since the origination of the circuit. It’s roll of champions lists such names as Anthony Zinno, Phil Ivey, Michael Mizrachi, Antonio Esfandiari and Gus Hansen, who won the inaugural WPT event way back in 2003. The $ 10,000 event (and it has remained that since the beginning) usually draws the crème of the poker world and the 2017 version hasn’t disappointed.
From the opening call of “shuffle up and deal,” the potential dangers were obvious around the room. Just the former champions of the WPT – including former World Champion Joe Hachem, eight-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Erik Seidel, Mohsin Charania and former WPT LAPC champion Sean Jazayeri – would have presented a daunting task, but adding in such players are Aaron Massey, Ari Engel, Justin Bonomo, Dan Heimiller and Faraz Jaka and the minefield became even more treacherous. This wasn’t even broaching those that were on the way to Cali for the tournament and taking full advantage of the late registration period (such as Elias, jetting from Canada to the West Coast after winning on Friday).
After the first level was in the books, 320 players were on the tables with the field still growing with the likes of WPT Montreal champion Ema Zajmovic, fellow WPT Champions’ Club members Marvin Rettenmaier and Jared Jaffee and defending Super High Roller Bowl champion Rainer Kempe entering the fray. With the 30,000 chip stacks, the players were a bit cautious – none of the flailing around as in multiple rebuy events because the LAPC is a one-shot freeze out tournament – but they would mix it up when the situation called for it. By the time Level 3 began, 416 players had ponied up the “dime” to take part in the tournament.
Over the span of eight hours of action, there were those that stretched themselves away from the field. Zajmovic was able to triple her starting stack, but it was Romero (the champion of the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic in December) who was a real surprise. Late in the evening, Romero was able to rack up five times his starting stack (150,000) and, if it weren’t for Nick Maimone’s sneaky route through the field in earning six times his starting stack, would have been the chip leader. As it is, he’ll have to settle for second going to Day Two of one of the most prestigious events on the WPT.
1. Nick Maimone, 187,000
2. James Romero, 153,600
3. Sam Phillips, 143,000
4. Daniel Strelitz, 127,600
5. Marco Cavallaro, 126,800
6. Seth Berger, 115,400
7. Niall Farrell, 108,200
8. Bart Hanson, 105,400
9. Ivan Karim, 102,000
10. Jake Schwartz, 101,300
At this point, the 306 players that remain from the original 498 entries still don’t know what they’re playing for. With late registration going on until the start of Level 10 (approximately 1:45PM Pacific Time), there is plenty of opportunity for those in the area to scratch up their $ 10,000 to still get in. There’s a good possibility that the 2017 field will eclipse that of last year (515 players), but it will be a stretch to see it go much further. With that said, it is still one of the jewels on the WPT circuit and the next champion of the WPT L. A. Poker Classic will earn quite the payday for their efforts.
In what was one of the longer final days of a World Poker Tour event, poker professional Darren Elias – who just over two years ago joined the ranks of players who have won back-to-back tournaments on the circuit (Anthony Zinno and Marvin Rettenmaier) – battled through the final 22 players to win the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic late Friday night.
Elias started the penultimate Day Three in the middle of the remaining 22 players with 617,000 in chips (good for 10th place). He looked up the ladder at Ron Laplante, who held almost three times the chips of Elias (1.724 million) and David Eldridge (1.7 million) and would start the day as the chip leaders. Along with Elias, Kristen Bicknell was looking to add to her two World Series of Poker bracelets by adding a WPT title to her trophy collection.
It looked bleak for Elias at the start of the day. He would double up Manig Loeser within minutes of the opening bell to drop to only 370,000 chips, then would do the same for Paul Pritchett. After Elias opened the betting to 55K, Pritchett dropped his remaining 218K in the center and Elias had to have a look. He was live with his Q-10 against Pritchett’s A-J and found some fortune in the K-Q-2 flop to take the lead, but the ten on the turn to give Elias Queens up also gave Pritchett a Broadway straight. After the river blanked, Elias saw his once bountiful stack shriveled up to just 230,000.
Elias started his comeback by doubling through Mark Zajdner in a blind versus blind battle, his pocket Kings holding from the big blind over Zajdner’s Q-9 push out of the small blind. Elias would eliminate Danny Noseworthy in 18th place to get back over his starting stack for the day (660K) and then river a straight against Laplante to crack the million-chip mark. By the time the unofficial final table of ten was set, Elias was once again a contender in the middle of the pack behind Abdull Hassan, Laplante, and Bicknell.
After chopping a pot with Buck Ramsey when both players had pocket Aces, Elias would make his big move two hands later. After a raise to 105K from Chrishan Sivasundaram, Elias moved all in from the button for 885K. Believing himself to be priced into the call, Sivasundaram made the move and winced when he saw Elias once again holding pocket Aces. Sivasundaram could only muster pocket tens for the fight and, after the board only improved Elias in coming down 7-6-4-3-A, Elias saw his stack crack the two million mark.
After a level up, Elias would finish off Sivasundaram to take over the chip lead from Eldridge, but that would be short-lived. Eldridge took a hand off Elias to reach 3.3 million and, after he eliminated Laplante in ninth place, saw his stack reach 4.475 million. When Eldridge knocked off Bicknell in seventh place to set the “official” WPT final table, his chip lead was firmly established with 5.175 million chips, roughly 2.3 million more than Andrew Chen and more than three million more than Elias.
Elias got back into the middle of the fray in doubling up through Chen. With all the chips in pre-flop, Elias was in tough shape with his pocket nines against Chen’s pocket Queens. That all changed when the 9-7-6 flop gave Elias a set to push him to the lead. Needing to dodge one of the two ladies remaining in the deck, Elias saw a trey on the turn and a five on the river to seal his double up and push him into second place behind Eldridge with 3.2 million chips.
Surprisingly, Eldridge and Elias were very active not only against the rest of the table but also against each other. After Eldridge eliminated Loeser in fifth place, Elias would take two of the next four hands with both coming against Eldridge. Once Elias sent Chen out in fourth place and dismissed Jean-Christophe Ferreira in third, he went to heads-up play against Eldridge with a slim 1.1 million chip lead.
Instead of a drawn-out affair, the heads-up match was decided in only three hands. On Hand #69 with an A-A-4-Q-Q board showing, Eldridge oddly couldn’t find a call to Elias’ all-in move (with Elias covering him) after Eldridge had started the betting with a million-chip raise pre-flop and folded his hand, leaving him with only 750K behind him. Two hands later, those remaining 750K in chips were in Elias’ hands as, holding a J-6 off suit, he was able to turn a King-high straight against Eldridge’s 10-9 (a flopped pair of tens and rivered two pair) to win the championship of the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic and tie the record for most wins by a player in the history of the WPT (three, held by Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, Chino Rheem and Zinno).
1. Darren Elias, $ 449,484*
2. David Eldridge, $ 300,982
3. Jean-Christophe Ferreira, $ 193,583
4. Andrew Chen, $ 143,199
5. Manig Loeser, $ 107,399
6. Abdull Hassan, $ 86,184
(* – Canadian dollars)
Online blackjack has been around for just about as long as online poker has and while plenty of people have been skeptical of the poker random number generators (RNGs), many more have been skeptical of RNGs used in blackjack. Online operators compete against the players, so even though the odds are in the house’s favor, there is certainly motive to cheat. And when the cards are virtual, one can never been 100 percent certain – even with all the technical verifications and certifications in the world – that there is no way anything fishy is going on.
As a way to ease this trust issue and to make online casinos have more of a “real life” feel, some sites started up “live dealer” games, which are exactly what they sound like: real human dealers are dealing real cards to players over the internet. Players still click buttons to indicate their hit/stand decisions, but the dealers on the screen really put the cards out. It’s not something I’ve ever played, but it’s a decent idea that has gained in popularity in recent years.
Even though live dealer games are partially meant to engender trust, one recent game has shown that even live dealers and/or the online casinos may try to screw customers out of their money. On January 25th, Michael Morgenstern, who calls himself a “blackjack professional,” live streamed a 75-minute session of him playing in the live dealer blackjack games of BetOnline.com. This past weekend, he posted a portion of that video that shows what looks to be the dealer cheating.
Morgenstern did not notice the problem while he was playing; it was pointed out by a viewer in the comments of the YouTube video.
In the hand, Morgenstern made the unusual decision to split Twos against the dealer’s King, something that players rarely do. This seems to be because Morgenstern was counting cards, which he indicates once the hand is over by referencing the “negative” count of the deck. He likely split the Twos because he felt the deck was in his favor.
Morgenstern busted the first of the split hands with a 25 and was then dealt a Nine on the other Two, so he doubled-down. He received a Six on his next and final card, giving him a 17 on the second hand of the split. The dealer then dealt himself an Eight, giving him an 18, beating Morgenstern (normally, the dealer would deal himself both cards when the players are dealt their two initial cards, but apparently on BetOnline, he only deals himself one card and saves the other for after all the players have acted).
What was discovered by the viewer, though, was that when Morgenstern was dealt the Six, the dealer pushed the top card of the shoe up and took the second card to give to Morgenstern. Clearly, the proper procedure was to deal Morgenstern the top card from the deck, not the second card.
It is entirely possible that it was a mistake, but it seems unlikely, as sliding the top card out of the way to grab the second card is not a natural thing to do. It is also obvious that the dealer makes a sort of double finger-flicking motion before sliding the top card out of the way. Internet sleuths believe that he is not just randomly flicking his fingers, but rather rubbing his finger on the card in an effort to feel some sort of marking that indicates the value of the card. The idea here is that the markings indicate that the card is an Eight, which would’ve given Morgenstern a very good 19. The dealer didn’t know what the second card would be, but he allegedly took the chance that it was worse for Morgenstern than the Eight and then the dealer would get the Eight and beat Morgenstern.
Of course, that the dealer cheated is pure speculation right now, but the video is pretty damning. A further question is: did the dealer do this on his own or did someone off camera direct him to do so? If we may further speculate, what seems to make the most sense is that someone at BetOnline told him to do that, unless there was some internal incentive for a dealer to produce losing sessions for players.
The original video for Morgenstern’s session is below. The hand in which the alleged cheating occurred begins at about the 13:30 mark. Warning: there is a lot of foul language in the video.
And here is the edited video that specifically points out the cheating. There is no audio in this one.
The World Poker Tour (WPT) Fallsview Poker Classic $ 5,000 Main Event kicks off Wednesday and will culminate on Friday with the crowning of a champion. Chances are, everything should go smoothly, but two years ago, Fallsview was the scene of stupendously poor planning resulting in ripped off and dissatisfied players. Let’s reminisce, shall we?
In 2015, Fallsview had but three tournaments, just as it does this year: a $ 1,100 event, a $ 2,500 event, and the $ 5,000 Main Event. Players could buy-in to the tournaments directly or win a seat via live satellite. The problem that emerged was not with the Main Event, but rather with the $ 1,100 preliminary tournament.
The way tournament organizers setup the event led to a massively broken economy when we really should never have to talk about the “economy” of a tournament in the first place. There were three factors that came together to create the fiasco:
1) A maximum capacity of 500 players for each of the two starting flights.
2) No alternate list.
3) Entry cards were transferable.
The first and third points are probably self-explanatory, but if you are unfamiliar with an alternate list, it is essentially a waiting list to get into the tournament. Alternates have to wait to receive chips and seat until someone is eliminated. It’s basically like waiting for a seat at a full restaurant; you get your name on the list and once your name is at the top and someone leaves, you are shown to your seat. In poker, it is a way give people a chance to play when there is not enough space in the poker room to accommodate the demand.
The problem that resulted was rampant ticket scalping, especially shortly before the start of the second flight. With the three above factors in place, people who weren’t even poker players bought entries for the tournament knowing that it would end up sold out. Then, when players wanted to register, only to find out there were no seats available, the scalpers swooped in and charged massive premiums.
At the time, PokerNews.com talked to poker player DJ MacKinnon who said, “The tournament area is next to the food court and Fallsview permits the scalpers to hound people coming off the escalator to ask if anyone wants to buy or sell tickets. The morning of (Day 1b) the cafeteria was crowded with a bunch of people near the tournament area trying to sell tickets. I know of two tickets that sold for $ 1,800 and $ 1,600 respectively.”
Scott Davies had just made two final tables at the Aussie Millions and therefore was unable to register in advance. On Two Plus Two, he called the situation “so gross.”
He then summed it up well:
Pretty awful that the casino creates perfect conditions for the scalpers. They cap the number of entries, let people buy multiple fully-transferable tickets, and then don’t take any alternates the day of the event. So it essentially cuts off the supply at the same moment demand peaks creating a black market. It literally brings out all of the bottom of the barrel scum of the earth to the poker area. These guys show up the day of the event with heaps of tickets and no intention of ever playing the event. I can’t believe the casino allows these guys to do business in their casino, they are as obvious as ticket scalpers at a sporting event/concert, and just as sleazy.
It was a situation that did not need to happen.
Fortunately, things were fixed last year as well as this year. This year, tickets were non-transferable and only one purchase was allowed per person, so there was absolutely no incentive for scalpers to buy any. Now, a better solution would have been to allow resales but control them, perhaps by linking a ticket to a loyalty card, so that transfers can only be made at face value or lower. That way, satellite winners or those who perhaps couldn’t play at the last minute could still sell their tickets. At least the scalping problem has gone away.