Posts Tagged ‘Part’

Previewing the 2016 WSOP Championship Event “November Nine,” Part Three: Who Will Be The “Last Man Standing?”

 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!

Poker News Daily

Previewing the 2016 WSOP Championship Event “November Nine,” Part Two: How They’ll Line Up

 Previewing the 2016 WSOP Championship Event “November Nine,” Part Two: How They’ll Line Up

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.

Poker News Daily

Previewing the 2016 WSOP Championship Event “November Nine,” Part One: How We Got Here

 Previewing the 2016 WSOP Championship Event “November Nine,” Part One: How We Got Here

After what has seemed to be an eternity, the World Series of Poker’s Championship Event will resume action on Sunday. The 2016 “November Nine” will be reseated on the stage at the Penn & Teller Theater in the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas just over three months after they all became millionaires and they will now battle it out for the $ 8 million first place prize. But how did we get here and what can we expect when the tournament restarts. In this three-part look, we’ll examine all the pertinent information and perhaps even sneak in a prediction on the outcome.

How Did We Get Here?

Way back on July 18, there were 27 contenders that were in position to make poker history. At the start of Day 7 action back then, Vojtech Ruzika of the Czech Republic was at the head of the field, closely followed by Michael Ruane and veteran poker professional Cliff Josephy. In going from three tables to the “November Nine,” there was plenty of drama.

Other pros such as former “November Niner” Antoine Saout, Tom Marchese, James Obst, Valentin Vornicu, Gordon Vayo and Kenny Hallaert were all in the mix, but much of the attention was focused on William Kassouf and not in a respectable manner. Pushing the boundaries of table discussion to levels previously unseen in a major poker tournament, Kassouf had achieved the seemingly impossible – motivating an entire table to despise your actions AND get support from the tournament officials. Throughout the previous six days, Kassouf’s actions divided the poker community (and, after the broadcasts on ESPN of the tournament, still do), but they had pushed him into a sizeable stack of chips as the day’s action began.

It wasn’t necessarily the talk from Kassouf that had riled players – a never-ending stream of drivel that was at once allowed by the rules but continually pushed the boundaries to see what he could get away with – but it was the extreme length of time it took for him to play that bothered many. Kassouf’s “tanking” was constantly for several minutes, even for the seemingly innocuous task of mucking his cards pre-flop. Putting the two together, Kassouf boiled a recipe that made his stay at the tables – albeit a deep run – one that people won’t forget and could affect him in the future.

Josephy would move into the lead in the early action but, by the end of the first level of the day, Ruane had emerged as the chip leader after chopping 20 million chips away from ‘JohnnyBax’ (Josephy’s online moniker). Saout’s run at a second “November Nine” would be squashed in a double elimination at the hand of Kakwan Lau, who sent Saout and Adam Krach to the rail in 24th and 25th places, respectively. While this was going on, Kassouf continued talking, tanking…and winning.

After starting the day with over six million chips, within a couple of levels of action Kassouf was sitting on a stack of 15.83 million and contending for the lead. He would eventually work his way up to more than 31 million chips, pushing a resilient Josephy who had returned to the lead.  Things may have been looking good for Kassouf at this point, but the wheels were about to come off in an explosive and stunning manner.

In what has been a staple of sports sites that don’t normally focus on poker, the tournament had reached the final two tables when undoubtedly its most dramatic moment occurred. Under the gun, Griffin Benger upped the action to 875K and was three bet by Kassouf on the hijack to 2.3 million. As the remaining players got out of the way, Benger repopped Kassouf’s bet to 5.6 million and the “William Kassouf Show” was off and running.

For several minutes, Kassouf attempted to “table talk” information out of Benger, asking him his stack size and whether he wanted a call or not. As Kassouf droned on about what he was going to do with the hands, Benger suddenly snapped and called Kassouf a “bully” and chastised him for his actions on the felt. Benger’s fiery comments back at Kassouf seemed to stun Kassouf, who ultimately declared all in and a defiant Benger called and slapped his cards on their backs.

“It’s what Kassouf has been waiting for this entire tournament – having a hand and getting action – but this time it’s going to cost him potentially his stack,” commentator Norman Chad remarked on the ESPN broadcast. With the editing of the WSOP broadcasts, the fans saw what Chad saw – that Benger held the cooler, pocket Aces, to Kassouf’s pocket Kings and was an overwhelming favorite to win the hand. After five cards came – none bigger than a ten – Benger rocketed into contention as Kassouf left in 17th place.

It was anti-climactic after the Benger/Kassouf clash. Benger would ride that hand to a seat in the “November Nine” and Josephy would continue as the chip leader in the event. By the time that Ruane took down Josh Weiss in tenth place (the most unfortunate place to be…the WSOP Championship Event final table “bubble boy”), the field was set for more action…that had to be delayed until this Sunday.

So how do they line up for the action on Sunday? In our next part, we’ll break down the table lineup and offer some insights into the player’s. On Sunday, we’ll offer some predictions as to who might walk away as poker’s next World Champion and ambassador for the game.

Poker News Daily

2015 – The Year in Poker, Part 3: The Weird World of Poker Off The Felt

 2015 – The Year in Poker, Part 3: The Weird World of Poker Off The Felt

As we enter the final week of the year 2015, it is time to take a look back at some of the great moments of the past year and maybe even some of the less popular times.

If there is one thing that is known about the world of poker, it is that there can be some weird, wild and abnormal news that comes out regarding the game. Whether it is involving the players or a particular game or situation, the game of poker always seems to provide fodder. A quick look over the last 12 months will give everyone a chance to remember these times.

In a case that would take up much of the early half of 2015, businessman/high stakes poker player Paul Phua and his son were denied the right to return to the poker tables by a Las Vegas circuit court judge in January. Citing the charges against Phua and his son, Magistrate Judge Bill Hoffman called Phua “a danger to the community, especially the casinos” in denying the two men the right to gamble in a Las Vegas casino. What made this particularly rich is that, in some ways, the federal agents investigating the Phua case were somewhat more criminal than Phua was.

As more evidence came out during the discovery phase, the methods that federal agents used to infiltrate Phua’s villas at Caesars Palace in July 2014 came under fire. By cutting the internet capabilities of the villas that Phua was in, federal agents were able to enter and clandestinely video that there “might have been” a massive bookmaking ring being run out of these villas for the 2014 World Cup. When they obtained the warrant to raid the villas, these federal agents didn’t inform the judge granting the warrant that their methods might have violated privacy laws, which would have seen the judge prohibit them from using the videos to obtain search warrants.

This situation would eventually rise up to crush the government’s case. Twice in the case – in February and again in April – two judges saw that the evidence uncovered through the usage of the warrant obtained by the illegal interruption of internet service should be inadmissible and, in June, U. S. District Court Judge Andrew Gordon agreed, tossing out virtually the entire case against Phua (his son, by this point, had pled guilty to return to Malaysia). Lacking any evidence from federal prosecutors, the judge then summarily dismissed all the charges against Phua, who also returned to Malaysia where his mother was ill.

In February, poker professional/maybe online poker room operator Bryan Micon had his own travails, this time with the state of Nevada and the Gaming Control Board. Micon, who was one of the major proponents of the Bitcoin-currency online poker site SealsWithClubs, was the subject of a raid by NGCB authorities and Nevada law enforcement, who cuffed Micon and ransacked his house for eight hours and removed several computers and pieces of electronics. After being released, Micon immediately shut down SealsWithClubs and, along with his wife and daughter, jetted off to Antigua, where he reopened another Bitcoin-dependent site, SwCPoker.

Charges of illegal gambling were levied against Micon in April, basically giving the NGCB their first chance to enforce their regulations protecting their online poker industry. After first valiantly saying he would fight to the end, Micon quietly came back to the United States in June and plea-bargained to a lesser charge to stay out of jail. In November, that plea deal took effect, with Micon given two years’ probation and a $ 25,000 fine. Micon is reportedly serving that time in Nevada and, once the legal situation has been settled (his probation is ended), he will return to Antigua.

In March, the Tournament Directors Association – the group fronted by Matt Savage and featuring veteran TDs such as Linda Johnson and Savage himself – found themselves under fire for their 2015 TDA Summit. After the poker community learned that the Summit would be held at the Venetian – the land of anti-online poker kingpin and billionaire Sheldon Adelson – there was a vehement uprising against the TDA. Savage pointed out that, because the Venetian was willing to offer several perks to the organization to be there including some material for free, there wasn’t much of a choice.

The verbiage continued to escalate until Global Poker Index maven Alexandre Dreyfus stepped forward. In offering to support the costs of the Summit through the GPI, Dreyfus stated that the only rule would be that the conference would be held anywhere but the Venetian. Eventually the TDA Summit was held at Aria and, for the most part, was an outstanding two days of meetings for the tournament directors in the world of poker.

Online poker had its difficulties in the month of April. The online site Lock Poker disappeared from the industry after more than two years of problems in paying off players from the site. When the doors were closed in late April, it was conservatively estimated that it owed players in the neighborhood of $ 15 million. Also in April, several online poker sites – including the powerhouse PokerStars and the U. S. facing Winning Poker Network – were the victims of DDoS attacks, which flared up again from time to time as the year continued.

During the heatwave in June, Daniel Negreanu was concentrating his efforts on bringing an NHL expansion team to Las Vegas. If that weren’t strange enough, Vanessa Rousso decided to skip out on much of the World Series of Poker to compete on the reality show Big Brother (she would eventually finish third). As the month came to a close, the World Poker Tour was sold by to the Chinese conglomerate Ourgame for $ 35 million.

In mid-July, one of the venerable institutions of poker – at least since the boom of the early Oughts – shuttered its doors. Bluff Magazine, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., ended publication and pulled the plug on its website with no reason given as to the closure. Without Bluff, only the longtime poker industry standard CardPlayer Magazine and the schizophrenic All In Magazine remain in the industry.  

August brought news to the poker world that a 24/7 poker “television station” would be coming to the air in the fall. Poker Central, with an all-poker lineup and a cadre of poker professionals including Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu and Antonio Esfandiari supporting it, was looking to bring the world of poker to its fans as never before. When it dropped on October 1, however, it proved to be a little less than previously thought.

What was expected to be a 24/7 poker “television station” turned out to be a streaming channel more likely to be found on such devices as a Roku or a ChromeCast. Although Poker Central recently signed a deal with a cable provider who can push for its inclusion on cable networks’ lineups, it has yet to be actually aired over a cable or television network. Additionally, as 2016 approaches, there is talk of new programming that will be on the channel, but much of what is offered is old broadcasts of tournaments from the EPT and Europe as a whole.

In September, the long, national nightmare that everyone was waiting for with bated breath came to a close. After a long delay, Amaya Gaming and its online poker softwares for PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were licensed for operation in New Jersey’s online gaming industry. While many thought that it was imminent that the arrival of PokerStars would be the punch in the arm the New Jersey gaming industry needed, the remainder of 2015 has gone by without nary a breath as to when PokerStars and Amaya gaming will open for business.

As the needles begin to fall off the Christmas tree, the end of 2015 is beckoning. But something that will never change is the oddities that occur in the poker world over the course of a year!

Poker News Daily

2015 – The Year in Poker, Part 4: In Memoriam

 2015 – The Year in Poker, Part 4: In Memoriam

As we enter the final week of the year 2015, it is time to take a look back at some of the great moments of the past year and maybe even some of the less popular times.

For all the frivolity, riches and personalities who made 2015 a fun ride, the poker world also lost some people that will never be replaced. While this isn’t a comprehensive list (writer’s note:  Paul “Eskimo” Clark, who was not included in this list when it was initially published, passed away in April at the age of 68), it does remind us that our time is short on this mortal coil and, above all else, to enjoy those around us and our activities until our time is nigh.

That suddenness of mortality kicked the poker world in the teeth just as the New Year began. Poker journalist ‘Diamond Flush’ passed away in January after fighting cancer for many years. She was an unbiased journalist in that she neither accepted nor sought out any type of accolades for her work in the poker industry, preferring to remain anonymous to the general poker public. ‘Diamond Flush’ was remembered in a particularly surprising way, being feted at the iGaming North America awards as Operator of the Year in March. The poker world lost a great voice when it came to coverage of the industry.

In March, one of the “good guys” in the game of poker and Hollywood left our embrace. The Simpsons creator Sam Simon succumbed to colon cancer at his Los Angeles home at the age of 59. While mostly notable for his efforts in entertainment, Simon was also known for his penchant for poker. He cashed 27 times in the tournament poker arena, including six times at the World Series of Poker, and earned some cash for his efforts. He was more interested in the people around the game and animals, however, and used his fortune to support charitable endeavors such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; PETA’s headquarters in Norfolk, VA, were renamed the Sam Simon Center in 2013.

The start of April brought arguably the saddest loss of the year. British poker legend David ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott played his final hand on Earth after an extended battle with bowel cancer. Only 61, the raconteur Ulliott overcame a difficult early life to become one of the “poster boys” of the poker boom, first as the overwhelming star of Late Night Poker in England and then in the United States on the World Poker Tour and the WSOP. The rakish charm of Ulliott reached everyone he touched whether they were on the felt or around the tables and his passing stunned many in the poker community.

In May, one of the poker world’s “grinders” went to the game in the beyond. Robert ‘Uncle Krunk’ Panitch passed away in his sleep at the age of 63 from a heart attack. While he wasn’t known to those whose only connection to poker is through television, Panitch was able to put together a solid career on the felt. He captured the title of the WSOP Circuit Main Event stop in St. Louis in March 2014, earning his second WSOP ring. Panitch also finished in third place in the 2013 WSOP National Championship, earning his career best $ 156,743 of his $ 469,362 in career earnings.

In June, one of the voices of the early WSOP broadcasts – and the father of one of poker’s best known announcers – laid down the microphone for the next great trek. 86-year old Dick Van Patten, who served as the announcer for the WSOP Championship Event from 1993 to 1995 and is the father of current WPT announcer Vince Van Patten, would expire having lived a very full life. Better known for his acting exploits on such television fare as Eight is Enough and his 27 appearances on Broadway, Van Patten still had a connection to the game through his previous work and his son’s connections to the business.

August brought news of the passing of one of the original wunderkinds of the online poker world. Chad ‘lilholdem954’ Batista passed away at the young age of 35 after fighting difficult health for much of his life. Once considered one of the best online tournament poker players in the world, Batista was arguably one of the people most affected by the 2011 “Black Friday” shutdown of online poker in the United States. Although he was able to go to Mexico to compete online, he never acclimated to having to leave the U. S. and his beloved dogs to ply his trade. Batista wasn’t just an online player, though; he earned almost $ 1 million from live tournament play in his career.

Another character of the game cashed in his chips in September. While some nowadays may not remember the name Ellix Powers, his run during a 2004 WSOP final table entranced a captive audience that couldn’t get enough of his antics. Giving “the business” to such notables as T. J. Cloutier, An Tran and eventual champion John Hennigan, Powers made the most out of his seventh place finish (at one point, an exasperated James McManus said he was “disrespecting” the game of poker with his antics). Powers, who passed at the age of 57, only made about $ 125,000 for his entire tournament career, but his memory will stay with many.

December would deal a double dose of sadness for the poker community. In Las Vegas, longtime poker advocate and former Poker Players Alliance Nevada state director Dianna Donofrio-Trigatzi fought to the end against cancer, something that she had been battling as she became an advocate for the game. Born in 1946, Donofrio-Trigatzi worked in the casino industry under such luminaries as Poker Hall of Famer Jack McClelland and former WSOP Tournament Director Robert Daily before embarking on her work with the PPA.

On the East Coast, the poker community was hit hard by the passing of Frank Vizza. A staple at many of the Atlantic City casinos and their poker rooms, Vizza racked up an impressive 24 cashes in a nine-year period, earning over $ 700,000 in that timeframe and perhaps even more through plying his cash game skills. His biggest achievement on the felt was a championship on the WSOP Circuit, but the record books of both the WSOP and the WPT note Vizza as a longtime participant in their events.

While they may be gone, these people would have wanted the games to go on. In their memory, we pause for a second before the next card hits the air.

Poker News Daily