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Archive for December, 2010

Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #5 Sorel Mizzi

December 30th, 2010 No comments
Sorel Mizzi

Sorel Mizzi made headlines in 2010 by winning the Bluff Player of the Year, but was also mired in controversy

2010 was a tale of two stories for Sorel Mizzi.  The first story comes from his play in the live tournament  circuit, where if there was an award for “player of the half-year,” Mizzi won it in a landslide.  It’s hard to quantify exactly how good Mizzi’s first five months of the year were, other than to say that it was so good that he had the Bluff Magazine Player of the Year honor virtually locked up by the time that the calendar got to May.  Let’s take a look at the results from the first 5 months of the year:

January – Mizzi finished 5th in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $5k Heads-up event, and 13th in the $5k prelim.  Then 3rd in the Aussie Millions Main event.

February – 2 final tables at the L.A. Poker Classic (a 2nd and 6th place finish) and 2 more at the Wynn Classic (a 6th place finish and a win in the $2k event)

March – Mizzi won TWO events at the EPT Snowfest at Hinterglemm.

April – Mizzi wins the $7,200 Buy in Main Event East Coast Championship at Borgata, and min-cashes at the NAPT Mohegan Sun Main Event.

May – A runner up at the WPT Rendez-Vous á Paris in France at the £25,000 Buy-in High Roller Event.

All told, the first 5 months of the year accounted for 10 final tables, with 4 of them resulting in Mizzi winning the tournament.  The sum total of his cashes was nearly $1.5 million by May, Read more…

Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #6 Frank Kassela

December 29th, 2010 No comments
Frank Kassela

Frank Kassela's Two WSOP Bracelet wins, and 3 final tables made him the 2010 WSOP Player of The Year

I’m hesitant to call Frank Kassela’s 2010 a “breakout year” because as it turns out, he’s been playing solid poker since 2003.  A regular at final tables in tournaments around the U.S. for the last 7 years, Kassela had his best professional year yet in 2010 and on the World’s biggest stage.  The Tennessee native has been at the World Series of Poker a number of times in the past, and is no stranger to WSOP final tables. In fact in 2005, he shipped in pocket Aces with 4 players remaining in the $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em event, and got a caller in Johnny Chan with Q-Q.  But Chan spiked the Q, and found a way to use those chips to collect his 10th WSOP Bracelet as Kassela exited the tournament in 4th place.  5 years later, Kassela started the WSOP strong as he finising in 10th place in a $1,500 buy in Limit Hold’em event when his pocket tens failed to hold against Terrence Chan’s Ac-Jc.  But the final table bubble was just a precursor to the best WSOP performance of the year, and an important stepping stone to becoming the 2010 World Series of Poker Player of the Year. Read more…

Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #7 John Juanda

December 29th, 2010 No comments
John Juanda

John Juanda had a fantastic year, even if most people didn't notice

There are few players in the game of poker that have been as consistently awesome as John Juanda, and yet still managed to escape the attention.  The Team Full Tilt Poker Pro has racked up incredible results in his poker career, amassing an impressive list of victories and final tables that make him the envy of every poker player.  For me, Juanda embodies the “true poker professional.” He’s never really sought out to create a “poker personality” or be at the front of the cameras.  Juanda has very quietly amassed 6 figure earnings in every year since 1997 (except 1999 when he only hit $91k despite 2 WSOP Final Tables), and coming into 2010 had eclipsed the $1 million earning mark in 4 years (2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008).  Juanda has tons of hardware to his name, including 4 WSOP Bracelets (including 1 in the WSOP-E Main Event), 6 WPT Final Tables, and an Aussie Millions win in their Million Dollar Challenge.  Coming into 2010, Juanda was ranked 8th on the All Time Money List in tournament earnings, and that’s not including how much Juanda has won at the tables playing ring games as one of the most well respected cash gamers in all of poker.  So when Juanda had another monster year, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, and the fact that it flew mostly under the radar should come as even less as a surprise.  But that doesn’t mean that Juanda’s year wasn’t one of the top stories of 2010.  In fact, 2010 was one of Juanda’s best ever, which makes him an easy add to this list. Read more…

Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #8 Phil Ivey

December 29th, 2010 No comments
Phil Ivey

Phil Ivey captured bracelet #8 in the 2010 WSOP

In my opinion, placing Phil Ivey on a poker list has nothing to do with “how much did he win?”  It does however have everything to do with “Where did he finish this time?”  There are very few people that are going to argue the fact that Phil Ivey is the greatest living poker player on the planet.  There are still a great number of people who will conjecture that Ivey is probably the greatest player to have ever played the game, and they can make a compelling argument.   Ivey is at the top of the leaderboard when it comes to money earned in the career tournament earnings category and finished the year with another “ho-hum” $1.6 million in earnings in 2010.  But the most compelling story over the 10 years that Ivey has played at the summer series in Las Vegas has been how many championships Ivey will win at the WSOP, and in 2010, we saw him increase that number by one, making him one of the best stories of the year. Read more…

The Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #9 Jonathan Duhamel

December 28th, 2010 2 comments
Jonathan Duhamel

Jonathan Duhamel's win in the 2010 WSOP Main Event makes him one of the top stories of the year.

Here’s the deal, if you win the World Series of Poker Main Event, you’re going to be one of the top stories of the year.  Years from now, when people begin to recount the championships that players have taken home, people will remember them by who won the Main Event that year.  It’s the tournament that matters most among poker tournaments, and it’s the one that gets the most attention every year.  As such, Jonathan Duhamel gets added to the list as one of the top stories of 2010.

Duhamel came out on top of the second largest main event field in the history of the event.  7,319 players put up $10,000 to play for the title, and he was the only one that avoided elimination long enough to be called champion.  From the hands that I saw him play at the Main Event this year, he wasn’t the most deserving player.  But often times in tournaments, the most deserving player doesn’t win.  That’s the luck factor.  Duhamel made several questionable calls that led to several giant pots being shipped his direction as things just worked out for him time and time again. Read more…

Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #10 Daniel "Jungleman12" Cates

December 28th, 2010 1 comment
Dan Cates

The "Durrrr Challenge" between Daniel "Jungleman12" Cates and Tom "Durrrr" Dwan had countless players glued to their screens watching cash games on Full Tilt Poker

With the enormity of online poker, it comes as no real surprise that there are new stars born in the game of poker each and every day.  Many people have flocked to the internet to throw virtual cards and chips around a virtual table since Chris Moneymaker used that avenue to earn his way into the World Series of Poker Main Event, and then win the thing in 2003.  But since the internet poker boom, there have been really only a few names that I can think of that have drummed up the level of interest in a single year that we’ve seen from Daniel Cates.

If you were to search the Hendon Mob Database for Cates, you would find just 1 professional live scoe.  Cates finished in 12th place at a $1,500 buy in No Limit Hold’em event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in 2010, booking $9,085 for the cash.  He has no cashes at the World Series of Poker, no cashes at World Poker Tour Events, and no cashes at the Aussie Millions, the European Poker Tour, or any other major tournament for that matter.  The reason, he’s only 20 years old, and not old enough to play in the big tournaments yet. Read more…

Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #11 Dwyte Pilgrim

December 27th, 2010 No comments
Dwyte Pilgrim

Dwyte Pilgrim's WPT Title was a moment that changed his story from good to great.

Fair or not, there is often a distinction between the “big leagues” and the “minor leagues” when it comes to poker tournaments.  While the greater buy in tournaments garner more prestige, there are far more tournaments run throughout Casino’s globally that don’t feature buy-ins at the $1,000 and up level.  So many poker tournaments are held that have a couple hundred bucks as the entry fee, and first prize pays well under $100k.  Their tournaments aren’t necessarily on the radar of most professional poker players as the return on their investments doesn’t make them worth their time, especially since little to no notoriety comes along with the prizes.

In 2009, Dwyte Pilgrim won 2 World Series of Poker Circuit Championship Rings.  He coupled that year with a total of $332k in earnings, a very respectable number for any red-blooded human in any profession.  That total placed him in the top 300 of poker players around the globe in earnings for the 2009 year, and he began to really appear on the radar as the “King of the Minor Leagues.” Read more…

Top 2010 Poker Player Stores – #12 Vladimir Schemelev

December 27th, 2010 2 comments
Vladamir Schemelev

Vladamir Schemelev had an incredible WSOP in 2010, coming just 1 card short of a bracelet

The last few years at the World Series of Poker, there seems to have been a breakout by a player from Russia.  In 2008, it was Ivan Demidov who finished runner up in the Main Event in Las Vegas, and also final tabled the WSOP-Europe Main Event, finishing in 3rd.  In 2009, Vitaly Lunkin began the WSOP winning the $40k No Limit Hold’em event, and then finding 2 more final tables at the WSOP with a 2nd place finish in the $10k Pot Limit Omaha and a 4th place finish in the $50k H.O.R.S.E Championship, booking well over $2.7 Million between all of his cashes at the WSOP events.  But this year, it was an unknown cash specialist that took the WSOP by surprise named Vladimir Schemelev.

The first time that I saw Schemelev was at the $50k Players Championship event at the World Series of Poker Read more…

Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #13 Phil Laak and Gus Hansen win bracelets

December 26th, 2010 No comments
Laak and Hansen Win

Phil Laak (pictured left with girl friend Jen Tilly) and Gus Hansen both took down their 1st career bracelet's at the 2010 WSOP-E

The World Series of Poker events in the month of September tend to get much less publicity than the events in June and July.  It has much less to do with the fact that the September events take place in London than in Las Vegas, and everything to do with perception from poker players here in the U.S.  Many devalue the tournament series of the WSOP-Europe because it’s an “extension” of the WSOP, and no the actual Series.  But it doesn’t stop the series from dishing out their coveted bracelets, and the crème de la crème of poker turn out to play their events in stocked, albeit smaller fields.  At the 2010 WSOP-E, there were two specific stories that emerged which stood out.  Two individuals added to their already impressive poker resumes an achievement that every poker players aspires for and many were surprised that they had not yet achieved.  Bracelet’s finally found their way to the wrist of Phil Laak and Gus Hansen. Read more…

Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #14 Gavin Smith

December 23rd, 2010 1 comment
Gavin Smith

Gavin Smith winning his first WSOP Bracelet was one of the best stories of the year

When you’re able to see something in person it typically has more meaning.  I was in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker to cover Event #47, a $1,000 No Limit Hold’em Event for the Twitter Poker Tour.  One of our own was playing, and was entering into Day 1b on Sunday.  When I arrived on Saturday, I decided to check out action in the other tournaments running, and a special event had evolved at the ESPN Featured table in the Amazon room at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino.  Event #44 (a $2,500 Mixed Hold’em Event) had played down to a final table, revolving between Limit and No Limit Hold’em.  Also playing was Event #45 which was a $1,500 No Limit Hold’em Event and their Day 2 was winding down. Because a friend of mine (Alex Outhred) had a good sized stack in that event, I stuck on his rail for the remainder of the evening, and all the while kept sending glimpses over to the Featured Table where a unique event continued to unfold.  When play wrapped for the night, I finally headed over to watch and claimed a seat to witness an event that I will remember forever. Read more…