2016 WSOP November Nine Set

July 19, 2016

2016-wsop-main-eventWhat began with 6,737 players is now down to just nine players as the 2016 WSOP November Nine is complete. Come late October/early November, the finalists will play for over $25 million in prize money, including the winner’s $8 million payout.

Cliff Josephy, a two-time WSOP champion, leads the field with 74,600,000 chips. Josephy won gold bracelets in 2005 and ’13, and he’ll be searching for a third-career victory.

The player who’s second in chips, Qui Ngueyn, isn’t quite as experienced as Josephy. Nguyen, who has $52,986 in career winnings, has 67,925,000 chips and will look to add a significant amount to his live tournament earnings.

Gordon Vayo, third in chips with 49,375,000, is an experienced player with $974,714 in winnings. The San Frandisco resident is looking forward to practicing for the event over the summer.

“I played well, sure, but I’ve never ran this good in a tournament in my life,” said Vayo. “I’m going to do a lot of playing, and run simulations. I have some friends that are really good poker players and hopefully they can emulate some of the styles of these guys and we can run some good simulations to prepare.”

Here’s a look at all of the players’ chip totals along with the payouts that they’ll be competing for.

1. Cliff Josephy, 74,600,000 chips: Josephy has the best track record at the 2016 WSOP with wins in a 2005 $1,500 Seven Card Stud ($192,150) tournament and 2013 $3,000 NL Hold’em tourney ($299,486). The New Yorker is the oldest-remaining player at 51.

2. Qui Nguyen, 67,925,000 chips: The 39-year-old Las Vegas resident has one of the smallest tournament resumes, with $52,986 in live winnings. But his chip count is looking good in comparison to the field.

3. Gordon Vayo, 49,375,000 chips: Gordon Vayo, a 27-year-old from San Francisco, has $974,714 in tournament earnings. With 21 WSOP cashes, he has plenty of experience in big tourneys at the Rio.

4. Kenny Hallaert, 43,325,000 chips: A native of Hansbeke, Belgium, Hallaert makes this two years in a row that a Belgian is on the Main Event final table. Former Hasbro executive Pierre Neuville, a.k.a. the “Serial PokerStars Qualifier,” finished seventh last year ($1,293,293). As for Hallaert, he has $1,317,530 in live tournament earnings thanks to a large number of cashes.

5. Michael Ruane, 31,600,000 chips: A native of Hoboken, New Jersey, Ruane has $44,962 in live tournament winnings.

6. Vojtech Ruzicka, 27,300,000 chips: Ruzicka is the first Czech to make the final table since Martin Staszko, who finished second in the 2011 WSOP Main Event ($5,433,086). Ruzicka won the 2013 EPT Deauville High Roller along with $426,907, and he has $1,149,027 in overall winnings.

7. Griffin Benger, 26,175,000 chips: Champion of the 2014 Shark Cage tournament ($1 million) and an online poker whiz, Griffin Benger is looking to add to his storied poker career with another huge cash. The Toronto resident has $2,395,406 in career earnings along with a 2013 EPT Berlin High Roller title.

8. Jerry Wong, 10,175,000 chips: Wong had his biggest cash ever in 2013, when he took third in the PCA Main Event and earned $725,000. The Brooklyn native is already guaranteed to pass this amount.

9. Fernando Pons, 6,150,000 chips: Pons, who qualified via 888, was shortstacked throughout the final day. Nevertheless, the Palma, Spain resident snuck onto the final table and has the smallest chip count.

2016 WSOP Main Event Final Table Payouts
1st. $8,000,000
2nd. $4,658,452
3rd. $3,451,175
4th. $2,574,808
5th. $1,934,579
6th. $1,463,906
7th. $1,250,000
8th. $1,100,000
9th. $1,000,000

Jeopardy Champ Alex Jacob Plays in 2016 WSOP

July 13, 2016

alex-jacob-2016-wsopLong before he won the 2015 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions and $250,000, Alex Jacob was a highly successful poker player. And Jacob returned to his roots this summer by playing in the 2016 WSOP.

The day trader hasn’t played in the event since 2012, spending most of his time studying the stock market. But Jacob made a solid run in the $1,500 Millionaire Maker, placing 52nd and earning $21,635. He also competed in the 2016 WSOP Main Event, surviving deep into Day 2 before busting out.

So why did he wait four years to return to poker’s biggest stage?

“I kind of lost my enjoyment for the game,” said Jacob of his decision to quit playing. “I was burned out. I felt like I wasn’t playing well and wasn’t enjoying it really.”

After landing a job as a day trader at a proprietary Chicago company, Jacob began putting time into another passion of his – trivia. This culminated in six straight victories on Jeopardy! before he finally lost. He also won the aforementioned 2015 Tournament of Champions, hauling in $400,000 total from the famed game show.

“It’s always been a hobby, something I’m interested in and good at,” he said. “I’m really good at recalling facts and I love to learn new things.”

Jacob said that he built his Jeopardy! skills the same way that he did his poker skills – by working hard and putting hours in.

“I guess putting in work really,” said Jacob. “I put in work toward poker and I put in work to prepare for Jeopardy!. It’s not just something where I fell out of bed and knew every fact. I really had to work.”

Despite now working as a successful day trader and having triumphed in Jeopardy!, Jacob admits that he missed what poker has to offer.

“I missed it a little bit,” he explained. “I kind of hated not playing the Main those years, but I was kind of new at this job and didn’t want to take a lot of time off.”

Having now played the 2016 WSOP Main Event, it’ll be interesting to see if Jacob keeps returning to the game that initially made him famous.

Brian Rast Wins 2016 WSOP Poker Player Championship and $1.3m

July 7, 2016

brian-rast-wsopBrian Rast triumphed over an elite 91-player field to win the 2016 WSOP Poker Player Championship and $1,296,097. The 34-year-old now has three gold bracelets and over $17.7 million in live tournament winnings.

It wasn’t easy for Rast to claim victory in the $50k buy-in Poker Payer Championship, given that he was often the final table player with the lowest chip count. Nevertheless, Rast did everything within his power to come back and win.

The toughest stage of the event for Rast was when he was facing a 4-to-1 chip disadvantage to Justin Bonomo in heads-up play. Rast fought back to grab the lead, but Bonomo seized the lead back. This left both players in a back-and-forth battle that finally ended with Rast getting a full house to trump Bonomo’s straight.

“This final table was really tough,” said Rast. “I was really low on chips for a lot of it. The heads up match was a really long battle. And, it was definitely satisfying. I would agree it was both my toughest and most satisfying win.”

With the victory, Rast now joins Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi as the only person to win the Player Championship twice. Rast claimed victory in 2011 and this year, while Mizrachi did so in 2010 and ’12. Other players who’ve won this event include David Bach, Freddy Deeb, Scotty Nguyen, Matthew Ashton, Johnny Hennigan, Mike Gorodinsky and Chip Reese. The latter passed away, which is why the WSOP honors this tournament’s winner with the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy.

Now a two-time winner of the Player Championship, Rast knows that he holds a prestigious place in history. However, he’d also like to be known for his willingness to play any high stakes game.

“For me I play so much poker, I play for really high-stakes all the time,” said Rast. “So, I’m not always playing tournaments – I’m mostly a cash game player. But since I play the biggest cash game limits in almost every game, I think that does say something professionally. Tournament results have a lot of luck involved. I was blessed to run really good in events that were so big. There are plenty of other great players who weren’t as fortunate. While I feel I played well, that’s not all of that and I realize it.”

2016 WSOP $50k Poker Players Championship Final Table
1. Brian Rast – $1,296,097
2. Justin Bonomo – $801,048
3. Eric Wasserson – $545,772
4. Michael Mizrachi – $380,942
5. Wil Wilkinson – $272,558
6. Ray Dehkharghani – $200,027
7. Tommy Hang – $150,672
8. Daniel Alaei – $150,672
9. Elior Sion – $116,571

No 2016 WSOP Bracelets for Phil Hellmuth – But He Feels Great

June 30, 2016

phil-hellmuth-2016-wsopThe first couple weeks of the 2016 WSOP were tough for Phil Hellmuth because he failed to even register a cash. But his results have picked up lately, with three cashes, and he feels great moving forward.

Mostly recently, he took eighth place in the Event #48 $5,000 NL Hold’em tournament, earning a $46,553 cash. Hellmuth wasn’t able to extend his record count of 14 gold bracelets, but the deep run has definitely helped his mindset.

“I just finished eighth in the tournament,” said Hellmuth. “But my energy’s so good, I worked so hard to get here, I’ve been working out hard almost every day, sleeping, resting, doing everything I possibly can to play great.”

The $66k that he’s earned through three cashes will barely make a dent in his career winnings of almost $21 million. But Hellmuth certainly hasn’t lacked focus as he charges ahead for a 15th bracelet.

“I’ve been analyzing every hand I play in every tournament,” said Hellmuth. “It’s been a lot of work and a lot of frustration, and it’s unfortunate that I ran out of cards there at the end.”

Hellmuth offered some vintage Poker Brat talk on the final table, with the eventual winner, Ankush Mandavia, drawing his ire at one point.

“You’ve been doing this to me all day, buddy,” he said after laying ace-queen down face-up.

Hellmuth was addressing the aggressive style that Mandavia used throughout Event #48 to pressure opponents and force folds. And the Poker Brat insists that he just needed a little more time to catch the eventual winner.

“I’m also frustrated because I showed the ace-queen laydown, and I talked about folding tens earlier, which nobody else on the planet would’ve folded,” he said. “I’m sure of that. When I talked about that, it slowed down the action. These guys were cutting their throats all day long for no reason, playing way too fast, thinking that the math called for that. It didn’t.”

Despite busting out of Event #48 without another bracelet, Hellmuth was upbeat when describing how he feels to PokerNews.

“I have amazing energy right now, it’s flowing,” explained Hellmuth. “I think I’m going to have a really great last week and [second] half. I already thought that before, but my mind is just right now.

“It’s taken a lot longer than I wanted [to get to this point], a lot more work than I wanted, a lot more effort than I wanted, but that is why the World Series of Poker is great, because you have time to make those adjustments, time to get better, time to get your head in the right spot, and now I’m in a great place. I look forward to the last few weeks of this thing.”

Hellmuth isn’t on pace to match last year’s stellar performance, when he cashed seven times and won the $10k Seven Card Razz Championship ($271k). But with the way he claims to be making reads right now, anything seems possible for Hellmuth now.

Johnnie Craig Wins 2016 WSOP Seniors NLHE and $538k

June 21, 2016

johnnie-craig-wsopAttracting 4,499 players, the 2016 WSOP $1k Seniors Hold’em Championship became the largest seniors poker tournament in history. And after topping this massive field to win $538,024, Johnnie Craig now lays claim to the largest seniors prize ever.

Craig, a Texas native who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, battled through the loaded field over the course of four nights. And he topped Jamshid Lotfi ($332,213) heads up to complete his big victory.

“I can’t even describe this feeling, it’s amazing,” said Craig. “I had the feeling I was going to win, and it worked out.”

The 54-year-old owns a restaurant in Baytown, Texas, and runs some snow-cone stands too. In his free time, Craig plays poker with friends, but he’d never experienced anything of this magnitude prior to winning the Event #27 Seniors Championship.

“I felt really good coming into the final table,” said Craig. “I was fourth in chips. I lost a pretty big hand off the bat, but I was still in the middle of the pack. From that point on, I decided I wasn’t going to make any big moves unless I had a really big hand. I started to chip away and got the chip lead, then once I did that I began to apply pressure.”

During his 25 years in the army, Craig developed the poker skills that would propel him through the 4,499-player field. He not only played against fellow army buddies, but also read poker books to improve his skills.

“Those got me here, the boot camps made all the difference in the world,” he said. “They add years of experience to your play. I mean years of experience. Without that, I never would have made this final table.”

Now a WSOP champion, it looks like all the home games with friends and studying while on tour has paid off.

2016 WSOP $1,000 Seniors NLHE Championship
1. Johnnie Craig – $538,20
2. Jamshid Lotfi – $332,413
3. Roger Sippl – $245,389
4. Joseph Somerville – $182,536
5. Wesley Chong – $136,829
6. Paul Runge – $103,366
7. Eugene Solomon – $78,699
8. Mike Lisanti – $60,392
9. Alan Cutler – $46,713

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