Posts Tagged ‘WSOP’
Instead of facing a trial that could have sent him to prison for 20 years, a champion of the World Series of Poker Circuit and smaller tours plea bargained his way down to only an eight-year sentence after pleading guilty.
Poker player Travell Thomas stood in the courtroom of U. S. District Court Judge Katherine Polk Failla on Thursday and received his punishment after pleading guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges in November 2016. According to U. S. News and World Report, Thomas tearfully stood in front of the judge and spoke about how his “gambling was out of control” as he operated the $ 31 million debt scam. “I would spend days at the casinos,” the site reports him as saying, “I wouldn’t even change my clothes.” He also said that federal authorities “saved his life” when they arrested him because he couldn’t gamble anymore.
The story, as well as Thomas’ clean record, had an impact on the sentence, but Judge Failla stated that Thomas “preyed on financially distressed people.” “A lot of the money that was taken went to him and his enjoyment,” Failla stated in court as she handed down the sentence. Assistant U. S. Attorney Edward Imperatore added in more evidence, citing greed as the factor that saw the profits from the business go to benefit Thomas, including season tickets to the Buffalo Bills, trips, jewelry, cars, gambling and other casino entertainment.
Failla did go easy on Thomas with the sentence, but stated that she needed to “send a message” to others who might want to try the same tactics. He could have faced up to 16 years because of the plea bargain with prosecutors, a slight reduction from the 20 he could have faced if he had gone to trial. Instead of the maximum, Failla sentenced Thomas to eight years and four months.
Where Thomas and his company seemed to have gone astray was in the methods they employed to get people to pay off their debts. Thomas taught his employees to threaten them with lawsuits or other crimes that the customers had allegedly committed, even lying to the customers by saying they would be federally prosecuted and that “their conversations” on the phone could be used as evidence. Additionally, according to court documents presented during Thomas’ arrest, he told employees of the company not to show their scripts to anyone outside the office as they “weren’t legal” to use.
It is a rather sorry end for one of the more colorful characters who ever came to the poker tables. He first struck on the tournament poker stage in 2006 in a $ 100 tournament at the Seneca World Poker Classic, but by 2009 he was playing on larger stages. At the 2009 United States Poker Championship, he made two $ 500 tournament final tables. With that success in his pocket, he moved up once again.
In December 2009, Thomas earned his first cash on the WSOPC in Atlantic City, which drove him into more events in 2010. Thomas won a Heartland Poker Tour preliminary event in May 2010 and, in August, won a $ 500 preliminary tournament during the PokerStars.net Empire State Hold’em Championships. 2010 was also significant because it was, according to law enforcement, about the same time that Thomas’ company began employing their questionable tactics and Thomas began taking chunks of money that eventually totaled $ 1.5 million out for his personal usage.
In 2011, Thomas would win his first WSOPC ring in taking down an event in Atlantic City and captured his second in 2013 in Las Vegas. Those two victories surprisingly were the largest wins on his resume despite being only five-figure cashes. All totaled, Thomas cashed 87 times in his tournament poker career, earning slightly more than $ 510,000 (thanks to the Hendon Mob for the statistical information). Now, Thomas is a convicted felon who will head to prison in September and, perhaps the least of his concerns, a tournament poker career in shambles.
The schedule for this fall’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) Europe was published last week; it features 11 events, five of which have a combined €17 million in guarantees. Hosting the festival will be the King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, a venue that has risen quickly in the poker world as one of poker’s premier tournament venues.
Last October, the WSOP agreed to a long-term deal with the King’s Casino that will have the WSOP Europe held there this year and in 2019. In 2018, the King’s Casino will host one WSOP Circuit stop in the spring and one in the fall and the one each spring in 2019 and 2021.
For those wondering where WSOP Europe will be held in 2018…it won’t! While the WSOP Europe was originally and annual event, it was decided in 2013 to hold it only every other year. In even-numbered years, the WSOP festival outside the United States will be the WSOP Asia Pacific.
“I’m so proud that that the WSOP Europe is coming to King’s,” said Leon Tsoukernik, the casino’s founder, owner, and CEO, in a press release. “I started off with a dream and my dream has come true and I hope poker players have their dreams come true too when they see the sheer size and facilities of King’s. With the awarding of WSOP gold bracelets, we have brought a huge piece of Las Vegas to Europe and we aim to deliver Vegas standards with this event too.”
Tsoukernik bought land in Rozvadov, a small town on the German border, in 2002, and in 2003 opened King’s Casino. An avid poker player himself (he won the 2016 EPT Prague Super High Roller Event), Tsoukernik took his casino into the direction of poker full-bore in 2009. It now has the largest poker room in Europe with 160 tables.
“WSOP Europe has struggled to find a permanent home since debuting in 2007 because we could never really find the venue or partner to replicate what we have in Las Vegas,” WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said in the same press release. “But I truly believe in Leon’s vision, his passion and King’s Casino to execute the best WSOP Europe to date. We are bullish in this becoming the European equivalent of the WSOP in Las Vegas, something we have always dreamed of doing when we first began our foray into Europe a decade ago.”
2017 WSOP Europe Schedule (dates indicate starting flight days)
Event #1: October 19-21 – €1,100 Monster Stack No-Limit Hold’em – €500,000 Guarantee – re-entry next flight
Event #2: October 23-24 – €550 Pot Limit Omaha 8-Max – re-entry
Event #3: October 25 – €1,100 Super Turbo Bounty No-Limit Hold’em – re-entry – €500 bounty on every player’s head
Event #4: October 26 – €1,650 No-Limit Hold’em 6-Handed – single re-entry
Event #5: October 27-31 – €550 Colossus No-Limit Hold’em – €2,000,000 Guarantee – two starting flights per day – one re-entry per flight
Event #6: October 28 – €2,200 Pot Limit Omaha 8-Handed – unlimited re-entry
Event #7: October 31 – €1,650 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better – re-entry
Event #8: November 1-2 – €1,100 Little One for One Drop No-Limit Hold’em – €500,000 Guarantee – re-entry
Event #9: November 1 – €25,000 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller – re-entry
Event #10: November 3- €111,111 High Roller for One Drop – €10,000,000 Guarantee – re-entry (111 player cap)
Event #11: November 4-5 – €10,300 WSOP Europe Main Event – €4,000,000 Guarantee – single re-entry
I have a great life, no doubt about it, but damn if I’m not looking at Maurice Hawkins right now and feeling a bit envious. Hawkins may not be a household name in the poker world, but few players can match what he has been doing over the last few years. On Monday, Hawkins tied the all-time record by winning his ninth World Series of Poker Circuit ring, taking the title in a $ 365 buy-in event at the Palm Beach Kennel Club.
Hawkins is now tied with Alexandru Masek for the all-time WSOP Circuit ring lead, but Hawkins dominates in prize money, $ 1,366,228 to $ 711,761.
Hawkins is also the kind of poker player that people either love or hate. He is a talker at the tables, to put it lightly. He’s the kind of guy that would be perfectly cast as a character in a poker movie. But he doesn’t care what people think; he is who he is and he loves playing poker.
“I’m a good dude,” he told WSOP.com in an interview after his latest win. “Most people are pompous assholes. And I really don’t give a damn if they like me or not. We’re from two different places. I’m not taking anything from them, but I’ve earned everything I’ve gotten in my life. If they don’t like me, they can really kiss my ass. I would rather be under-respected and overpaid than over-respected and underpaid.”
Damn, man. I need to live my life by that last sentence. That’s some insightful shit right there.
He continued, “People didn’t like (Charles) Barkley on the court. People didn’t like Dennis Rodman on the court. I’m not here to be your friend on the felt. Now if I catch you at a bar, it’ll be a different scenario, you know?”
This isn’t the first record Maurice Hawkins has set, either. He has been on a sick roll lately. In 2016, he became the first person to win three WSOP Circuit Main Events in a single year.
In April of last year, he won a $ 365 Monster Stack No-Limit Hold’em tournament at the WSOP Circuit Horseshoe Council Bluffs (Iowa) stop, earning his fifth ring. He entered the Main Event the next day and won. That same month, he won the Main Event at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina. Then, in November, Hawkins won the Palm Beach Kennel Club Main Event for his third Main Event victory of the year and eighth overall WSOP Circuit ring.
Only two other players have ever won three WSOP Circuit Main Events, but they didn’t do it all in the same calendar year: Blair Hinkle and Chris Ferguson.
Hinkle won his in 2010, 2013, and 2014, all, interestingly, at Council Bluffs. Ferguson won two Main Events in 2005 and one in 2007 and against much smaller fields than Hawkins did.
Hawkins and Ferguson are also the only two players to have earned more than $ 1 million on the WSOP Circuit.
In Maurice Hawkins style, Hawkins explained that no write-up of his third Main Event win was necessary, saying afterward, “We don’t need to explain who won. We all know when he got to the final table he was going to take it down.”
The 2017 WSOP will run May 30th through July 17th, meaning that there are six weekends available during the Series. It appears that the WSOP wants to have absolute poker blowouts on those weekends, packing the Rio to the gills with gold bracelet hopefuls.
Starting things off on the opening weekend is a tournament we have talked about in previous articles: the $ 565 Colossus III. Introduced in 2015 (hence the ‘III’), the Colossus is the lowest-priced open tournament in WSOP history. As such, it has attracted more players than any live poker tournament ever; in its first two years, it attracted almost 44,000 total players. It will feature two starting flights per day for three days – June 2nd through June 4th – with one re-entry permitted per flight. In 2016, the money bubble burst during each starting flight, a payout design intended to reduce the lines at the cashier.
The following weekend will feature the $ 1,500 Millionaire Maker. There will be two starting days: June 10th and June 11th, also with one re-entry allowed per flight. There will be $ 1 million guaranteed to the winner, but the guarantee will likely be eclipsed. In 2016, 7,190 entries created a $ 9.7 million prize pool and two millionaires.
The weekend of June 16th is for the more mature players at the WSOP. June 16th will be the $ 1,000 Seniors Championship for those 50-years old and up, while June 18th will be the Super Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship for players over 65 years of age. In between, on June 17th, there is just a standard $ 1,500 tourney, as WSOP organizers are making way slightly for the EDC Music Festival that weekend.
The Seniors events both start in the morning, which is just asking for me to make a joke about an early bird special, but I will refrain.
The Monster Stack, an honest-to-goodness freezeout tournament, will have its two starting flights on June 24th and June 25th. The $ 1,500 buy-in event gives players 15,000 chips to start.
The first weekend of July is the beginning of the Crazy Eights tournament, which does not actually feature the game “Crazy Eights.” It’s just named that because it has an $ 888 buy-in and the tables are eight-handed.
And then, on July 8th, the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event kicks off. There are three starting days: July 8th, July 9th, and July 10th. It will go all the way until July 17th, at which point the November Nine will be determined.
The complete 2017 WSOP schedule is expected to be released some time next month.
The final schedule is still in development, but the key dates for the 2017 World Series of Poker were announced Monday, allowing poker players around the world start marking their calendars. It all gets underway on Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 and runs through the establishment of the November Nine on Monday, July 17th.
“We want to wish everyone Happy Holidays and best wishes for a safe and successful 2017,” said WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart in a press release. “We are busy trying to finalize the entire 2017 WSOP schedule. We anticipate a similar series to last year with a few new wrinkles, but ensuring a broad array of options to satisfy every potential participant.”
May 30th is when things like satellites and cash games begin, but the actual bracelet events of the WSOP start on Wednesday, May 31st with the traditional opener, the $ 565 No-Limit Hold’em Casino Employees event.
Also back are the Millionaire Maker, Monster Stack, the Ladies Championship, the Little one for ONE DROP, and the Seniors Event. That Seniors Event – a $ 1,000 buy-in event for those 50-years of age and up – has a slot on the calendar: Friday, June 16th. For the first time, it will be a re-entry event.
Another tournament returning in 2017 – was there ever any doubt? – is the $ 565 Colossus. The incredibly cheap event compared to other WSOP tournaments, has become the largest live tournament in the world. It features a $ 1 million guaranteed prize pool and has attracted nearly 44,000 entries in its two previous years.
Like last year, to accommodate all the players, there will be three starting days for the Colossus III – June 2nd, June 3rd, and June 4th – with two flights on each, likely beginning at 10:00am and 4:00pm. It is also re-entry, allowing players to pay again to enter a subsequent flight if they get knocked out. I’m sure my colleague Earl Burton is thrilled about this.
The 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event will begin July 8th and run through July 17th before breaking until November. As has been the case the last few years, there will be three starting days. Qui Nguyen won the Main Event this year using a super aggressive style of play, winning $ 8 million.
The 2016 WSOP consisted of 69 events and brought in 107,833 entrants from107 countries, a record for the Series. Total prize pools across all tournaments amounted to more than $ 221 million. Next year’s World Series is expected to be even bigger with at least 70 events.