Archive for October, 2016
After three and a half months of waiting, the final table of the 2016 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event – the November Nine, if you will – got underway Sunday night. Of course, Sunday night was October 30th, not November, which could be confusing, but that is because the U.S. Presidential Election is next Tuesday, the week the final table would normally take place, and thus the WSOP pushed the November Nine ahead a week. With the October shift plus having the final table broadcast opposite NFL’s Sunday Night Football and Major League Baseball’s historic World Series, it will be interesting to see if anyone actually watched.
Those who did watch saw Qui Nguyen build a spectacular chip lead heading into the second day of final table action. Let’s first take a look at what the chip counts looked like before play started last night:
1. Cliff Josephy – 74,600,000
2. Qui Nguyen – 67,925,000
3. Gordon Vayo – 49,375,000
4. Kenny Hallaert – 43,325,000
5. Michael Ruane – 31,600,000
6. Vojtech Ruzicka – 27,300,000
7. Griffin Benger – 26,175,000
8. Jerry Wong – 10,175,000
9. Fernando Pons – 6,150,000
Nguyen grabbed the lead on the very first hand of the night, getting into a raising battle with Cliff Josephy. A 1.25 million chip raise by Nguyen was followed by a 3.2 million chip three-bet by Josephy, but it was Nguyen’s 8.25 million chip four-bet that got Josephy to fold.
Fernando Pons, the amateur who essentially entered the Main Event on a whim, was the first to go, a not unexpected elimination, considering he was the short stack. On Hand 16 of the final table, he moved all-in for 4.625 million with A-6 and was called by Josephy, who had K-J. Josephy flopped a King and rivered another to knock out Pons in ninth place and regain the chip lead.
That left Jerry Wong as the short stack and guess what? He was the next to go. Wong did double-up once, but on Hand 60, his fate was sealed. Vojtech Ruzicka and Gordon Vayo both raised pre-flop before Wong moved all-in over the top for 8.5 million. Ruzicka raised again to 13.5 million, forcing Vayo out of the hand and setting up a showdown with Wong. Wong was nearly dead from the start, facing Ruzicka’s Queens with his own Jacks. And sure enough, there were no Jacks to come for Wong and he was eliminated in eight place.
Eight hands later, Vayo raised to 2.2 million pre-flop and Griffin Benger shoved for 7.325 with A-9 suited. Vayo called, flipping over pocket Tens. Benger did pair his 9 on the flop, but that was it as he was sent home in seventh place with one and a quarter million dollars. It was a hard luck final table for Benger, as he won just a single hand (when he moved all-in and got no callers) and admitted later that he had gone completely card dead.
Nguyen, in the meantime, even if he wasn’t always in the lead, was generally holding strong in the 70-90 million chip range. What got him his huge advantage was the last hand of the night. Kenny Hallaert raised to 2.3 million under-the-gun pre-flop and Nguyen re-raised to 5.7 million. Everyone folded to Hallaert who, perhaps surprisingly, went all-in for 35.625 million. Nguyen insta-called, revealing pocket Aces to Hallaert’s A-Q.
In the “thank you Captain Obvious” statement of the night, Tournament Director Jack Effel announced, “This is not a good spot for Kenny.”
Hallaert was able to flop top pair, giving him a little bit of a chance, but the next two cards were low, dashing any slight hopes he may have had as he hit the rail in sixth place. It was the largest pot of the Main Event, one which firmly established Nguyen as the man to beat today.
The second day of the November Nine will begin at 4:30pm ET and will conclude when just two players remain. Television coverage will begin at 5:00pm (30-minute delay) on ESPN2.
2016 World Series of Poker Main Event – November Nine Day 2 Chip Counts
1. Qui Nguyen – 128,625,000
2. Cliff Josephy – 63,850,000
3. Vojtech Ruzicka – 62,250,000
4. Gordon Vayo – 58,200,000
5. Michael Ruane – 23,700,000
Previewing the 2016 WSOP Championship Event “November Nine,” Part Three: Who Will Be The “Last Man Standing?”
OK, we know how we got to this point and we know how the men will line up on the felt. When the cards hit the air this afternoon at the Penn & Teller Theater in the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, the 2016 World Series of Poker Championship Event will draw closer to a conclusion.
For most of the United States and Europe, the final table play will take place after dark. Beginning at 8PM (Eastern time U. S.), the players will open action on the tournament. At 8:30PM, the cameras of ESPN will come to life to bring poker aficionados the play of the final table in a “plausibly live” setting (something that has been very popular with ESPN, WSOP officials and fans alike). The ESPN broadcast will last until 11PM, at which point it will switch over to ESPN2 until most likely the final six players are determined.
Monday’s action will pick up where Sunday’s concludes, with the broadcast beginning at 8PM and being shown exclusively on ESPN2 (yes, Monday Night Football takes priority over the WSOP Championship Event) and through its WatchESPN app. Play will continue until the final three players are determined, at which point the play will stop again. The conclusion will play out on Tuesday night starting at 9PM on ESPN.
Now that we know the television schedule for the next few nights, it’s time to peer into the Crystal Ball and see just what plays out for the “November Nine” final table. Remember, these picks are for entertainment only but, if we get them all right, we’re heading out for a batch of lottery tickets!
Ninth Place – Jerry Wong
Wong is in the unfortunate place that he will be under the gun for the very first hand of play and will be in the blinds on the next two hands. He’s got an M of 6.8 and is sitting on 10,175,000 (20bb), arguably putting him most at risk in the remaining 30 minutes of the level. As such, he’s going to have to get active quick, otherwise the big stacks around him – Gordon Vayo, Kenny Hallaert, Griffin Benger and Vojtech Ruzicka – are going to chew him up.
Why do I think that Wong will go before the short stack Fernando Pons? Because I believe that Pons will be hanging on by his fingernails, looking for that next step on the pay ladder rather than playing to win the tournament. I expect that Wong is going to try to bring himself back to viability in the early going and, as such, he’ll be taking more risks. If Wong can double up and get some ammunition, the rest of the table might want to beware.
Eighth Place – Fernando Pons
If Wong is to depart in ninth place, look for Pons to be very happy to go next. With only 6.15 million to start the action on Sunday, he’s in worse shape that Wong but also understands that people are EXPECTING him to push his stack. Thus, if he can hold on for dear life for at least a couple of rotations (using up 1.45 million chips per rotation), he might be able to outlast Wong or another big clash at the table. Hey, he’s in Vegas, he’s having fun…Pons will want to get another $ 100,000 for his efforts.
Seventh Place – Vojtech Ruzicka
Whatever the order of the first two – be it Wong then Pons or vice versa (and who takes them out will be important – I see Vayo knocking off Wong and Nguyen taking down Pons) – it will be quite some time before the next elimination. Not only will the play conclude for the night with the knockout (and nobody wants that dubious honor), it will also be the last mini-jump in pay. The $ 1.25 million the seventh-place player receives will be but a pittance to the $ 2.574 million the fourth-place finisher on Monday night will get.
The Crystal Ball is a bit fuzzy on this, but Ruzicka is the name it keeps bringing up for this spot. Without Pons as a buffer between him and Nguyen and facing Benger (who I see slowly chipping up, looking for the endgame) on his right, there’s going to come a point when he challenges one or the other (don’t forget that Hallaert and Vayo will also be lurking when he’s in the blinds). Ruzicka is a solid player so I don’t see him making a mistake, but I do see a bad beat potentially sending him home.
Sixth Place – Michael Ruane
For some reason, I just don’t see Ruane gaining much traction through the play on Sunday and, come the opening of action on Monday, it looks like he’ll be the next to go. Josephy will be merciless on him (and, if he isn’t, then Nguyen will be) and the constant pushing by the big stacks could force him into a mistake. Should he finish here, Ruane has nothing to be glum about, he’s played a hell of a tournament.
Fifth Place – Gordon Vayo
Much like with Ruzicka, I don’t see Vayo making a big mistake that will doom his tournament life, I see a bad beat that will either decimate his stack or send him home. After making it through the carnage of Sunday, Vayo will run into some brutal cards that don’t leave him many opportunities to act on anything and he’ll suffer the slow bleed of the blinds and antes rather than a strategic attack from another player.
Fourth Place – Qui Nguyen
This one will be the surprise as, with the second-place stack to start the action on Sunday, Nguyen will be leaving before heads up play. Throughout the broadcasts on ESPN and following the action online, Nguyen strikes me as an aggressive player that can be prone to a mistake here or there. The big question is will all his chips go at once or will he ship them off equally between the final three contenders? The answer to that question could be the difference maker in who wins the WSOP Championship Event.
Third Place – Griffin Benger
If he’s not the benefactor of knocking out Nguyen or taking a big portion of his chips, I can see Benger being the first man out on Tuesday night. He also has played a great tournament, but the two gentlemen left with him have a vast amount of experience that will EVENTUALLY thwart Benger. That $ 3.45 million-plus payday will help salve the wounds.
Heads Up – Kenny Hallaert vs. Cliff Josephy
By the time we’ve reached heads up action I expect that Josephy has the chip lead, probably from eliminating Nguyen but also through steady building in the previous two days with strategic attacks and no one wanting to go against the chip leader. Hallaert could be a thorn in Josephy’s side, however, as he will be a formidable opponent in what will be an epic struggle between two men who, either way it goes, will be a marvelous World Champion of poker and an ambassador of the game.
Recapping, this is the way they’ll finish in the WSOP Championship Event:
1. Cliff Josephy
2. Kenny Hallaert
3. Griffin Benger
4. Qui Nguyen
5. Gordon Vayo
6. Michael Ruane
7. Vojtech Ruzicka
8. Fernando Pons
9. Jerry Wong
Be sure to begin watching tonight at 8:30PM on ESPN (or through the WatchESPN app) and we’ll see if the Crystal Ball is in fine working order or we need to send it back to Merlin for repairs!
As expected, the second starting flight of the 2016 European Poker Tour (EPT) Malta Main Event was significantly larger than the first. 134 players competed in Sunday’s Day 1A, fewer than the number of players who survived Day 1B to make it to Day 2. Day 1B’s player total was 326, nearly two and a half times more than the first starting flight. Hungary’s Andras Nemeth emerged as the chip leader when all was said and done, carrying 192,700 chips into Tuesday’s play, the most of any player remaining in the tournament.
According to TheHendonMob.com, Nemeth has earned just shy of $ 1 million in his live tournament career. His biggest cash came back in 2009 – the second cash he has on record – when he finished fourth in the Master Classics of Poker 2009 in Amsterdam for €135,432 ($ 201,182).
After Nemeth, the top of the leader board is congested. Three players – Day 1A chip leader Dan Shak, Armin Mette, and Pasi Sormunen – all have more than 183,000 chips. There is still a long way to go in the tournament, so those numbers don’t necessarily mean anything significant, but it is clear that nobody is running away with the title just yet.
One of the oddest hands of the day came less than 15 minutes into play. It happened so quickly that PokerNews’ floor reporters had to get the story of the hand from one of the players involved, Alexander Ivarsson. Ivarsson had already taken some of Sai Wu’s chips, but he clearly didn’t expect the blow up that was to come.
Wu limped into the pot pre-flop, another player raised to 375 chips (remember, this is the beginning of the tourney – we’re only dealing with three-figure bets at the outset with starting stacks of 30,000 chips) and Ivarsson re-raised to 1,000. Wu called and the other player dropped out, bringing on a flop of A-T-5. Wu checked, Ivarsson bet 1,200, and then Wu raised it to 2,700. Ivarsson decided to re-raise her to 6,700 and she was content to just call. The turn was a Ten and Ivarsson bet 6,000, an amount which Wu called. He slowed down on the river 7, checking to Wu, who moved all-in for 13,000. Ivarsson quickly called.
They both had to have big hands then, right? Well, Ivarsson did – he had A-T, good for a turned full house. Wu, on the other hand, had just A-9 for two pair, Aces and Tens. A bluff gone bad? Probably. But man, did it leave some people scratching their heads.
The 223 remaining players from the two starting flights have gathered at the Casino Portomaso for Day 2. It is well underway already because time zones. We’ll provide another update tomorrow.
2016 European Poker Tour Malta Main Event – Day 1B Chip Leaders
1. Andras Nemeth – 192,700
2. Armin Mette – 183,700
3. Anton Bertilsson – 155,200
4. Mats Karlsson – 150,200
5. Roberto Romanello – 148,300
6. Eugene Katchalov – 143,900
7. Sarah Herzali – 142,400
8. Xixiang Luo – 139,000
9. Vicente Delgado – 133,300
10. John Gulino – 129,600
2016 European Poker Tour Malta Main Event – Combined Day 1 Chip Leaders
1. Andras Nemeth – 192,700
2. Dan Shak – 185,100
3. Armin Mette – 183,700
4. Pasi Sormunen – 183,600
5. Alex Brand – 163,300
6. Anton Bertilsson – 155,200
7. Mats Karlsson – 150,200
8. Roberto Romanello – 148,300
9. Frederik Jensen – 147,800
10. Ole Schemion – 147,500
Tomorrow afternoon the nine men who constitute the “November Nine” will reconvene at the Penn & Teller Theater inside the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to begin the work of determining poker’s next “World Champion.” The World Series of Poker Championship Event is the “holy grail” of anyone who has ever picked up two cards in Texas Hold’em and, as such, there is a great deal of attention (and will be from Sunday until a victor is crowned Tuesday) as to who will be the eventual champion. In the second part of this three-part series, we’ll look at how the players will line up and offer a bit of a scouting report on each player, giving perhaps some clues as to who will be the “last man standing.”
When the tournament resumes on Sunday, there will be 35:50 left in Level 35, with the blinds at 250,000/500,000 and a 75,000 ante. Here’s how they’ll come to the table:
Seat 1: Jerry Wong, 10,175,000 chips (8th place)
Wong has quietly made his way to this final table, but he’s going to have to catch fire if he is going to go deep in the tournament. He’s a very experienced tournament player with over $ 2.3 million in career earnings, counting the $ 1 million that he and the other “November Niners” have already received. Prior to this, his best cashes were a victory in 2008 in a preliminary event at the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods and a third-place finish at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event in 2013 (a $ 750,000 payday). With the lack of ammunition – he has two big stacks in Gordon Vayo and Kenny Hallaert on his immediate right and Griffin Benger on his immediate left – he’s going to have to see some good cards quick or find the fortitude to push on those big stacks around him.
Seat 2: Griffin Benger, 26,175,000 (7th place)
It’s been a pretty good year for Benger. After being tapped to do the commentary for the Global Poker League, Benger has made an outstanding run at the WSOP Championship Event. The work he’s done with the GPL, Benger admits, was important in giving him some insight into how the top pros play and helping him to advance to this level. It seems to have worked well as Benger has been around the top of the leaderboard for most of the last couple of days.
Benger’s work has gone across both the live and online poker worlds and at a very successful level. As a live player, Benger has earned almost $ 3.4 million, including a High Roller win on the European Poker Tour stage in 2013 for a $ 562,343 windfall, and he’s cashed an astounding 1323 times online for over $ 6.5 million in earnings. To say that this isn’t Benger’s first rodeo would be an understatement and he should be considered a “dark horse” for those with a chance to win from those at the bottom of the leaderboard.
Seat 3: Vojtech Ruzicka, 27,300,000 (6th place)
Fans in the United States might not know much about Ruzicka, but he’s been a staple of the European circuit for the past six years. The first player from the Czech Republic to make the “November Nine” since Martin Staszko in 2011, Ruzicka has amassed over $ 2.2 million in career earnings. When you add in his online performance (150 recorded cashes) and his $ 2.3 million in winnings there (which include a runner-up finish in the 2011 World Championship of Online Poker Main Event at PokerStars), it is easy to see that Ruzicka has a wealth of talent jammed into a very silent package on the felt.
Seat 4: Fernando Pons, 6,150,000 (9th place)
If you’re looking for someone who is having a hell of a time with their ride to the “November Nine,” this year it is Fernando Pons. He’s also one of the less experienced players in the live game in the tournament, having only 10 cashes in his career that, prior to the million-dollar payout earlier this year, barely had earned him $ 14,000 ($ 14,091, to be exact). Pons is not going to have many chances at this table, stuck between Ruzicka and the big stacks on his left (Qui Nguyen and Cliff Josephy), so he better make the most of any shot he takes. You should figure that, if Pons could make the next cash level in eighth and get something for his return trip to the Rio, that he’d be happy with himself.
Seat 5: Qui Nguyen, 67,925,000 (2nd place)
At any other tournament, Nguyen’s chip stack would be a dominant force at the tables. As it is, Nguyen sits in second place when the tournament restarts on Sunday and, on his immediate left, will be the chip leader, Josephy. But Nguyen has shown a very astute knowledge of the game and its psychology, knowing when to spring an attack and when to glide and watch the proceedings. Those will be tools that will get him far in this event.
Prior to the 2016 WSOP Championship Event, Nguyen was a recreational player working the Vegas to Southern California area. His biggest cash prior to this was at the WSOP in 2009 (a 54th place finish in a $ 1500 No Limit Hold’em tournament) and in 2007 at a preliminary event on the Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic (for $ 8655). A player with the stack of Nguyen can’t be ignored, however, but it will be interesting to see if he directly attacks Josephy or is more apt to try to take down some of the smaller stacks trying to attack him from his right.
Seat 6: Cliff Josephy, 74,600,000 (1st place)
Josephy is arguably the most notable, most experienced and most likely contender to take down this year’s title, especially with the chip stack he has amassed. Josephy has been a part of the poker world, either online or live, since 2004, garnering accolades for his abilities in teaching others to play the game. Josephy has also made some nice coin as a “backer” for a stable of players, arguably making more from the staking of players than what he has officially earned in his tournament poker career ($ 3.6 million roughly).
Don’t think that “old man” doesn’t have game, though. Josephy just doesn’t make mistakes when the tournament is on the line and, as such, he is going to be very difficult to root out of the top slot in the tournament. If he continues the roll he’s enjoyed up to this point, it will be surprising to see if anyone can take him down.
Seat 7: Michael Ruane, 31,600,000 (5th place)
If there’s something that Ruane and the two men to his left, Gordon Vayo and Kenny Hallaert, have going for them, they all have chip stacks that will prevent Josephy and Nguyen from trying to mess with them too much. Of that trio, however, Ruane is the least experienced of the bunch with only five cashes prior to this year’s WSOP and four of those cashes having come in 2011 and 2012 at the Las Vegas event. In the middle of the pack, Ruane could be a huge spoiler for someone, however, especially if he can get some more ammunition under his belt. If that ammunition comes from either Vayo or Hallaert, then he could give them some headaches.
Seat 8: Gordon Vayo, 49,375,000 (3rd place)
Vayo is one of those players who has knocked around the tournament poker world for some time, just on the precipice of making a name for himself but coming up just short on many occasions. He’s been playing poker – and making a living for himself – since he was 17 and earned more money playing online than his parents did in their jobs. Vayo has also been active since the “November Nine” was determined, taking down a nice chunk of change ($ 587,120) in winning the Winstar Casino “The River Series” Main Event (a $ 2500 tournament) in Oklahoma back in September.
In his career, Vayo has earned slightly more than $ 2.5 million, but he’s looking for that championship that will establish him on the poker map. If he’s able to work his way around a very heavy end of the table (between Seat 6 through Seat 9, almost 200,000,000 chips are sitting, almost two-thirds of the chips in play) and increase his stack, Vayo has potential to be a force on the biggest stage in poker.
Seat 9: Kenny Hallaert, 43,325,000 (4th place)
Arguably one of the most liked players on the table, Hallaert has been around the block in the tournament poker world. He finished in fifth place in the “Colossus” event at last year’s WSOP and has earned more than $ 2.3 million in his career. Like Vayo, he is searching for his breakthrough victory and he would like nothing more than to beat his countryman Pierre Neuville’s seventh place finish from last year at the minimum.
Hallaert is a very patient player but he can also be a very tricky one. That combination makes him a contender, especially if he can attack the short stacks of Wong and Benger in front of him.
In our final segment tomorrow, we dust off the Crystal Ball and see just what the 2016 WSOP Championship Event has in store for the fans. Will there be surprises? Preliminary glances towards the Ball have said that…well, you’ll just have to come back tomorrow.
The ceremony brought out many of the living Hall of Famers to welcome their new mates to poker’s Valhalla. In an especially memorable moment, the younger Brunson was joined by his father and now fellow Hall of Famer Doyle Brunson for a family photo of the occasion. The celebration was especially sweet in that it is the first time that a father and son have been enshrined in poker’s greatest lifetime achievement award.
“This wasn’t quite what I expected,” Todd Brunson noted before his acceptance speech, “so I apologize for what’s about to come,” to the laughter of the audience. Brunson then went on to deliver a solid five-minute routine that would earn a stand-up comedian his living if he had been in that arena. But there were some serious moments as Brunson thanked a few people for what they had done for him.
“First off, I’d like to thank my mother,” Brunson began. “My mother had a big impact on me not only as a person but also as a poker player. That may surprise some because my mother…hasn’t played a hand of poker in her life. But she taught me valuable lessons about life that transcended poker. The #1 thing she taught me was the value of a dollar…my mom is very frivolous, very good with money.” Brunson continued to regale those in attendance with stories about his time in the game and left the stage to raucous applause.
Both men were more than worthy of their induction into the Hall. Mortensen is the first-ever European player inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, having used his skills around the world and spread the game of poker to his fellow countrymen in Spain. He is the leading all-time money winner on the World Poker Tour and is tied for the most WPT titles in the history of the circuit (three, along with Anthony Zinno and Gus Hansen). On the World Series of Poker stage, Mortensen was the winner of the WSOP Championship Event in 2001 and, along with his win in the WPT World Championship in 2007, is the only man to win both the WSOP World Championship and the WPT version. In his career, Mortensen has won over $ 6.8 million.
Brunson might be viewed as the more traditional inductee to the Poker Hall of Fame. Brunson has had a successful tournament career, earning a WSOP bracelet in 2005, and he has finished as high as 13th in the WSOP Championship Event. Brunson also has 45 other WSOP cashes, seven trips to the WPT cash out cage and a solo effort on the soon-to-be-departed European Poker Tour to make up his $ 4.3 million in career earnings.
Where Brunson has made his money, in the true tradition of what poker is supposed to be about (to many in the poker world), is on the cash game felt. For at least 25 years, Brunson has plied his trade in the high stakes cash game arena, earning untold amounts of money from that endeavor but assuredly enough to support a very nice lifestyle. In one setting alone that has been documented, Brunson defeated businessman and billionaire Andy Beal in a $ 200,000/$ 400,000 Limit Hold’em matchup to the tune of over $ 13 million. That success was documented by Michael Craig in his seminal work The Professor, The Banker and the Suicide King.
Congratulations to both men for their induction into the Poker Hall of Fame!