Archive for July, 2016
After a few weeks off with the conclusion of the 2016 World Series of Poker – that is, everything but the “November Nine” – the tournament poker world is swinging back into gear as the month of July comes to a close. One tournament in Florida has become the de facto kickoff to the second half of the tournament season while a second event in Oklahoma draws a strong contingent of players competing for a major tournament circuit title.
In Florida, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL, has opened up the doors on their 2016 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open. Now in its fourth year, the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open has hosted a series of events that bring the players back after a little break from the WSOP with what can only be called a “major” Main Event. Although preliminary events for the SHRPO have begun already, everyone’s eyes are on this year’s Main Event.
The path to becoming the “big event” to bring everyone back to the tables after the WSOP has been a tricky one for the SHRPO Main Event and the officials of the Seminole Tribe in Florida. In its first year in 2013, the buy in was $ 5000 and featured unlimited rebuys for the three Day Ones that constituted the opening action. That tournament would crush the $ 10 million guarantee, creating a prize pool of $ 11,920,000, and Blair Hinkle would go on to take the inaugural championship and the $ 1,745,245 first place payday.
In 2014, the Seminoles tried to catch lightning in a botte again and came up a bit short. Setting the same guaranteed prize pool as 2013, “only” 1499 entries were received by the close of registration, setting the Seminoles in the precarious situation of being slightly more than $ 2.5 million under the guarantee from simply player entries. To their credit, the Seminoles ate the $ 2.5 million shortfall and paid the $ 10 million guaranteed prize pool, with Dan Colman defeating Mike Leah to take the championship and its $ 1,466,710 windfall.
After coming up short, the Seminoles made some changes to the 2015 tournament. Officials reduced the guaranteed prize pool to $ 5 million and made the tournament a traditional freeze out event rather than a reentry free-for-all. Colman was back to defend his title but he would come up short in third place after falling at the hands of Brian Phillis. Phillis would enter heads up play against Omar Zazay as a massive chip leader but, after grinding it out for more than 100 hands, Zazay would emerge as the champion and the $ 1 million winner.
This year’s event will feature the same format as last year, with the $ 5 million guarantee, the buy in and the freeze out format all staying the same. What officials with the Seminole Tribe hope is that more than the 907 runners that came to the line last year will show up for 2016. After having to pay slightly less than $ 500,000 to cover the guarantee from 2015 (and the big shortfall from 2014), the SHRPO Main Event is hoping to revert to its inaugural success.
Almost 1500 miles away from Florida, the World Poker Tour has already kicked back into its Season XIV schedule with a stop in Oklahoma. The WPT Choctaw is into its Day 1B action in its $ 3500 Main Event and the players are definitely showing for the tournament. The $ 3 million guaranteed prize pool has already been dwarfed by the 989 entries that have currently been received (unlimited entries are allowed in the tournament and registration does not close until the start of Day 2 on Sunday) and, if the numbers from 2015 are achieved, a prize pool of more than $ 4.1 million will be created. Players such as Phil Hellmuth, Darren Elias, Tom Marchese, Cate Hall, Ari Engel and Faraz Jaka have been spotted in the tournament room for Day 1B of action in the tournament, with everyone looking to be the person to capture this latest championship on the WPT circuit.
This doesn’t even touch the other major tour and its upcoming season. The European Poker Tour is still more than two weeks away from the kickoff of their Season 13 schedule in Barcelona, Spain on August 16. With both a High Roller (€10,000) and Super High Roller (€50,000) on the schedule, the Main Event (a €5000 tournament) may seem to be an afterthought, but the players will certainly flock to the Mediterranean coast for all the festivities at the Casino Barcelona.
The players have gotten their rest and are now ready to make the charge to the end of 2016. Many Player of the Year races can be affected by the results in the second half of the calendar year, which makes these and other tournaments incredibly important. For now, however, we can welcome poker back into action as the world’s best players (and some amateurs making their name) leap into the fray once again.
The two Day Ones for the World Poker Tour’s Season XV stop at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Oklahoma are in the books. Coming through the larger of the two, Michael Hahn ended Day 1B with a sizeable chip stack of 370,000 chips to pace the field heading to Sunday’s Day 2 action. With more than 1000 entries already received in the $ 3500 buy in tournament (easily outpacing the $ 3 million guaranteed prize pool) and late registration not ending until the start of Day 2 today, the tournament promises to be entertaining throughout the upcoming week.
Festivities started on Friday at the Choctaw Casino Resort with 387 entries being registered by the end of the night’s action (the tournament featured unlimited rebuys until the start of Day 2). Despite their best efforts, players such as Brandon Cantu (who made a wild bluff on a J-10-9-5-4 board with only K-8 against Alex Yen’s pocket Aces to be eliminated), Erick Lindgren (pocket Jacks couldn’t find a third against Grayson Ramage’s pocket Queens), Pratyush Buddiga (pocket Kings run down by the flush of Matt Bond) and Cate Hall were only some of the more than 200 players who didn’t survive the action from Day 1A. Steve Gross, however, was able to make it through the minefield, bagging up 299,500 chips to head to today’s action.
1. Steve Gross, 299,500
2. Hiren Patel, 298,800
3. Marcos Exterkotter, 248,200
4. Bobby Oboodi, 232,000
5. Jeff Kester, 223,500
6. Alex Lynskey, 220,600
7. Rodney Springs, 218,300
8. Cary Jones, 209,400
9. Dustin Schooner, 204,600
10. Cord Garcia, 199,000
Several notable names bubbled under the Top Ten from the 107 players who came out of the Day 1A battles. Olivier Busquet (11th place, 198,600), Tommy Vedes (14th, 190,200) Dan Shak (19th, 163,000) and Andy Philachack (20th, 157,000) all took a day off on Saturday with their seats through to Day 2 sealed.
As per usual for multi-Day One tournaments, Day 1B turned out to be the bigger of the two starting days by far. By the end of the night on Saturday, 651 entries had been racked up to bring the total for the tournament to 1038 entries. With late registration and the reentry period closing with the start of action on Sunday, it still isn’t known what the prize pool will be, what the first place prize will be nor how many of the participants will be paid.
The players weren’t concerned with that on Day 1B, however, they were just looking to get through with a decent stack. Some of the players that were eliminated on Day 1A, such as Cantu and Hall, came back for another taste on Day 1B and fared a bit better, making it to the end with a chip stack and a chair to move to Day 2. Others, such as WPT announcer Vince Van Patten, weren’t as fortunate, heading to the rail (for the record, Van Patten’s broadcast partner and Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton also was knocked off).
When the smoke had cleared from the Day 1B fight, Hahn had amassed a humongous stack of chips good enough not only for the Day 1B lead but also a place at the top of the overall leaderboard.
1. Michael Hahn, 370,000
2. Chad Gilliam, 313,800
3. Drew Dumanski, 300,500
4. Kyle Bowker, 300,000
5. Jake Schindler, 273,400
6. Orlando Romero, 260,800
7. James Mackey, 199,700
8. Andre Crooks, 191,800
9. Jesse Yaginuma, 184,600
10. Darren Elias, 165,100
Putting the two Day Ones together show Hahn and Gilliam are in excellent shape to make deep runs in the event.
1. Michael Hahn, 370,000
2. Chad Gilliam, 313,800
3. Drew Dumanski, 300,500
4. Kyle Bowker, 300,000
5. Steve Gross, 299,500
6. Hiren Patel, 298,800
7. Jake Schindler, 273,400
8. Orlando Romero, 260,800
9. Marcos Exterkotter, 248,200
10. Bobby Oboodi, 232,000
Once again, the final numbers won’t be known for the WPT Choctaw until the first cards hit the air on Sunday’s Day 2 action. At that point, the late registration/reentry period will end and the final tallies will be made. First place for the WPT Choctaw could range in the $ 400-$ 500,000 range, meaning someone will be in store for a decent payday from a few days of work on the Oklahoma prairie.
We’ve hit the doldrums of the post-World Series of Poker season and many have used the break to recharge their batteries. Some players will be heading back to the tables when the tournament schedule cranks into full swing in August but others, even though they are highly successful, will step back and not play quite as much. It makes one wonder that, if the money is so good, why would anyone quit poker?
The question was raised after the winner of the WSOP’s $ 111,111 One Drop High Roller, Germany’s Fedor Holz, raised some intriguing questions regarding his future in the game of poker. In an interview with Lee Davy at CalvinAyre.com, Holz told the stories of how he drilled himself mentally and physically prior to the start of this year’s WSOP and was constantly attempting to maintain the mindset that allowed him to play fantastic poker (he made nearly $ 10 million in two months and was runner-up in the $ 300,000 Poker Central Super High Roller Bowl along with his WSOP win). Holz also remarked to Davy that the intensity of the efforts almost was too much.
When asked by Davy if the self-improvement was tiring, Holz noted, “Yes, it’s draining. I am super burned out right now. As soon as I busted the Main (Event), I knew I was done. I have these phases a lot. It’s very exhausting mentally. You have to keep going without showing weakness. It takes a lot of time and I am not even close to knowing myself well enough to understand how much internal energy (I am using)…I have to figure out when the best time is to take a break.”
In a discussion with PokerNews’ Remko Rinkema, Holz elaborated some more on his thoughts in saying, “To be honest, there are just too many situations in which I don’t enjoy it (poker) 100 percent. Poker gives me freedom and I don’t want to give that up. I feel like in Vegas, I give too much of it up. I’ve decided that I’m not going to do it like this anymore (play full time). I made some mistakes this year by making side bets and I will also not do that anymore.”
And this is coming from a guy who is only 23 years old and just banked in two months what it takes some excellent players an entire career to earn (players such as David ‘The Dragon’ Pham, Mike Matusow and two-time World Champion Johnny Chan haven’t made $ 10 million from tournament poker).
To be honest, just to play at the level that Holz does requires a great deal of mental effort. Especially when you’ve got six figures on the table, you really don’t want to make too many mistakes, otherwise that six figure stake is going to be gone quickly. Maintaining that mindset is paramount (as Holz shows) and it can also wear into you quickly both mentally and physically.
There is no doubt that poker is a tremendously strenuous activity, at least when it comes to balancing the financials of the situation. There are few jobs – freelance anything is potentially comparable – where you have to maintain diligence and discipline over where the money is going if you’re going to be successful in the field. If you suffer from a bad week or even something as small as a bad few months, it can be debilitating to your life and bank account.
There are some that say the best time to attack poker is when you’re young, when there aren’t the constraints of “real life” (a mortgage, car payments, family, etc.) that can gum up the works. Even when you’re young, however (and proven by Holz), you can look at a situation and say “this is just too much.” It seems that is what Holz is doing at this point in his life and deciding that, while he enjoys the freedoms that poker offers, he doesn’t want to be sitting on the tables when he’s 50 and have it be his way of making a living.
The life of a professional gambler isn’t all glitz and glamour. We can look to such people as former World Champions Peter Eastgate and Pius Heinz as examples of pulling away from the game. Despite their skills, they’ve also seen that it is very difficult to maintain that level of success and, especially in Eastgate’s case, virtually quit playing. Look back a bit further on the pantheon of World Champions to look at the tragic case of three-time World Champion Stu Ungar, whose own self-destructive tendencies arguably accentuated by the professional gambler lifestyle snuffed his life before some would even consider it started. It takes some incredible fortitude to be able to make a living gambling and, for some, it just isn’t the course.
In Holz’s case, he’s perfectly set to be able to do whatever the hell he wants to do in the future. He’s banked a crapload of money (believe it or not, he’s already ninth in CAREER earnings from tournament poker despite only playing for four years with $ 18,495,174) and would not want for anything should he decide to quit now. At 23, he can go to college (or university as they call it in Europe) and learn whatever he wants at whatever pace he wants. Holz has said that he wants to make a difference in the world and, with his intelligence and determination, there isn’t any reason to think that he won’t achieve his goals.
The big question for Holz will be whether that future is one that sees poker as an integral part of it. He’s going to play in the Celebrity Cash Kings at King’s Casino in the Czech Republic on August 15 (which will be streamed online), but he hasn’t committed to much else outside of that. “I will still be on the circuit,” Holz said to Davy. “I will play Barcelona, Aussie Millions, maybe a short Macau trip, and maybe a short Vegas trip next year, and Monte Carlo. The thing is, this freedom of just saying “no I don’t want to play for the next four months” is important. I have not had that before. In the past four years, I have taken two vacations off. There has been no relaxing, orientation. I had this goal, and I always set new goals until I got where I am.”
As far as our original question – why quit poker? – Holz seems to have answered that for himself. For literally millions, poker is a recreational activity that allows them to make a little cash on the side. It is extremely difficult to be that “professional gambler” – that is why many quit and there are so few in action (successfully) today.
With the launch of BLAST Poker this week, 888Poker has also initiated some promotions to go along with its new Lottery Sit & Go variant. Through September 19th, 888Poker is running daily freeroll tournaments to celebrate BLAST, giving players a chance to win cash prizes and BLAST Poker tickets.
There are two types of daily freerolls during the promotional period:
$ 3,000 Big Bang Tournament – twice daily at 13:05 and 23:05 GMT – awards cash prizes
$ 5,000 Blast Off Tournament – once daily at 18:05 GM – awards BLAST tournament tickets
Every 888Poker players has been automatically given four free tickets for those tournaments (it is not exactly clear if it is two tickets for each type of freeroll or if all four tickets can be used in either), but players can win additional tickets. Any player who has made a real money deposit is eligible to complete 888Poker Club challenges; complete a challenge and win a $ 3,000 Big Bang Tournament ticket. Anyone who wins a BLAST Poker Sit & Go will receive a $ 5,000 Blast Off Tournament ticket.
With the latter, it sounds like someone could end up in an endless cycle of BLAST ticket winning. Picture this scenario: win a BLAST Poker game for a Blast Off Tourney ticket, do well enough in the Blast Off Tourney to win a BLAST Poker ticket, use that ticket to win a BLAST Poker Sit & Go which awards another Blast Off Tourney ticket, and so and so forth until the Earth is swallowed up by the sun.
There are also weekly $ 10,000 Lightning Bolt tournaments. Players can gain entry into these through a daily Lightning Spin. Said Lightning Spin gives players a chance to win any one of the following:
• $ 3,000 Big Bang Tournament ticket
• $ 5,000 Blast off Tournament ticket
• $ 10,000 Lightning Bolt Tournament ticket
• $ 1 BLAST Tournament ticket
• $ 5 BLAST Tournament ticket
• $ 0.10 BLAST Tournament ticket
• $ 3 Sports Free Bets
• $ 5 Casino FreePlay
As the handful of you who read my article yesterday may remember, BLAST Poker is 888Poker’s new Lottery Sit & Go. BLAST Poker games are four-handed, rather than the usual three-handed Lottery Sit & Go’s that most poker room’s offer, but the main difference between these games and others is that BLAST Poker games actually have a time limit. After a pre-determined amount of time, if the game has not ended, all remaining players will be put all-in pre-flop until there is a winner.
The time limit is determine by the value of the prize pool multiplier – the smaller the multiplier, the shorter the game. The blind levels are two minutes each and here is what the time limits will look like:
2x and 5x multipliers: three blind levels or six minutes max
10x multiplier: four blind levels or eight minutes max
100x multiplier: five blind levels or ten minutes max
1,000x and 10,000x multipliers: six blind levels or twelve minutes max
The conclusion with BLAST Poker is then, obviously, “2x multipliers? Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
In mid-May, PokerStars absorbed Full Tilt’s liquidity, ending the checkered existence of the once high-flying poker room, leaving behind just the carcass of the Full Tilt brand. On Friday, eGaming Review reported that Amaya, owner of PokerStars and Full Tilt, was eliminating “dozens” of jobs in its London office, the assumption being that these positions were related to Full Tilt operations.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. When two similar operations merge, there are bound to be employee casualties because of job redundancy. That was especially the case here, since Full Tilt’s poker software wasn’t going to be used anymore; Full Tilt is now just a skin of PokerStars, using the PokerStars platform.
When the “merger” of PokerStars and Full Tilt was initially announced in February, Amaya said:
This platform migration will allow Amaya’s development and technology teams to focus on improving one market-leading platform rather than two, leading to a better gaming experience for all; improvements and features will be delivered faster and more efficiently rather than doubling development requirements. For instance, rather than splitting resources developing Full Tilt Jackpot Sit & Go and PokerStars Spin & Go features independently, teams will be able to work together on delivering the best possible product on one platform.
Eric Hollreiser, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Amaya Inc. and PokerStars, acknowledged that the job cuts were, in fact, happening, saying that they would be balanced out by “a few dozen new roles in several offices.”
He added that the company was making efforts to place employees whose jobs were eliminated in other roles within the company – perhaps at other offices – in order to avoid laying them off altogether.
Related, Joss Wood at OnlinePokerReport.com made an interesting observation on the decision of Amaya to keep the Full Tilt brand intact, even though the poker room as we knew it was eliminated. As readers will remember, and as Wood reminds us, not long after Rational Group brought Full Tilt back from the dead, the company made it so that players could transfer money between their own accounts on PokerStars and Full Tilt. The resulting information that Rational (and eventually Amaya) was able to gather on how many players remained active on both sites, how many moved money one way or the other, how many closed one account, etc., was likely quite useful when the decision was being made on how whether to shut Full Tilt down completely or keep it alive as a skin of PokerStars.
That the Full Tilt brand still exists, says Wood, is evidence that enough players were brand loyal that Amaya did not want to get rid of Full Tilt altogether. Keeping it as just skin, though, still allowed the company to enjoy the cost savings made possible by folding Full Tilt’s liquidity into PokerStars’.