Negreanu Talks Potential Banning of Players From WSOP

February 23, 2015

We all know (and many love Daniel Negreau), his game and his ability to talk about pretty much anything and everything relating to poker. Now, when it comes to this specific situation, there’s not much of a surprise that Negreanu was an open book to talk about one particular issue that may be coming up in the very near future. The issue? Well, Negreanu chose to put together a list of players who may potentially be banned from playing in the upcoming World Series of Poker, and explained his reasoning both for and against the players being able to play in the largest and most popular tournament series out there today. Negreanu did this write up recently in his blog at Full Contact Poker, and gave the full breakdown, so we of course had to check out what he had to say about it all.

Negreanu started out by talking about how the WSOP was around the corner, and that the “rumor has it that we may see some faces we haven’t seen there in a while.” He went on to state that he has “always been of the position that, unless people have been found to actually cheat at poker, they should be allowed to attend.” While considering this, Negreanu went into a list of six players who he believes may end up playing in the 2015 World Series of Poker, and then gave his opinion about whether or not they should be able to play, and this is when it really starts to get interesting.

Now, as for the players who should be banished from the World Series of Poker, Negreanu believes there are two who make the cut here. Those two players who he names are Mansour Matloubi and Russ Hamilton, and both have won World Championships before, with Matloubi doing it in 1990 and Hamilton doing so a bit more recently in 1995. Basically Negreanu stated that these two players are going to be “grouped together” due to the fact that they are “guilty of the same crime”, which apparently is using a “‘God mode’ program.” This program allowed them to see the hole cards of their opponents. Both players were higher-ups at Ultimate Bet during the mid-2000s. The case hasn’t been “rule on in the court of law”, as Negreanu puts it, but he still believes the “evidence is overwhelmingly one-sided that, at the very least, these two men were involved in cheating players out of millions.”

It’s a pretty strong argument from Negreanu, but obviously the call isn’t completely his to make. It’s going to be interesting to see how things play out for these two over the next few months leading up to the World Series of Poker.

Now, when it comes to Chris Ferguson, who won a World Championship back in 2001, Negreanu isn’t quite as strong about his opinion. He does note that while Ferguson was a board member during everything that happened on Black Friday to Full Tilt Poker, and that he disappeared completely without making a statement, he doesn’t believe he should be banned, it seems. Negreanu didn’t clearly state that fact, but he ask if his “behavior and lack of willingness to stand responsible for his role in the crash of Full Tilt warrant a WSOP ban?” Negreanu stated he didn’t believe so, and while he’s “not pleased by how he handled things, Chris has never cheated anyone at the poker table (to his knowledge).”

When it came to Howard Lederer, he stood behind similar opinions to the ones he gave about Ferguson. He stated that for many years, Lederer was an “integral part of operations at Full Tilt before stepping down at some point before Black Friday.” Negreanu went on to talk about how many people “assume he was still running things, and Howard certainly played a part of the ‘guy behind the guy'”, but he does not believe he should be banned. He stated that regardless of how you feel about Lederer as a person, that it’s “clear that he should have every right to play in WSOP events.”

Negreanu went on to talk about two players who he’s been very harsh on before in Annie Duke and Jeffrey Pollack. He actually wasn’t nearly as brutal as usual, and he chose to group those two together, due to their “association with the Epic Poker League.” As you likely know, this tournament series defrauded players out of a “guaranteed million dollar freeroll”, as stated by Negrenau. While he explains the fact that this is wrong on many levels, including to “not even acknowledge this debt or make strides towards making the players whole”, he also vouches for it not warranting a WSOP ban. He cites the fact that there are plenty of poker players playing in the series who owe money to others and have no intention of paying.

Out of this entire list (except for Pollack, who has never played in an event), none of the players have cashed in a live event since 2011. It’s going to be interesting to see what would happen with whether or not these players would be welcomed back by the poker community, but apparently there’s a chance that we may find out this year at the World Series of Poker.

Rousso and Liu End Sponsorship Deals

February 16, 2015

Both Vanessa Rousso and Xuan Liu are known as big names in the poker world today, and it’s for good reason. Now, both Rousso and Liu, who are two of the biggest female poker pros in the game today, have decided to end their sponsorship deals with their online poker sites. Recently, we’ve seen that poker pros can have trouble keeping their sponsorships with whichever site they are with, and there are quite a few different reasons for this happening. For Rousso, she’ll be parting ways with PokerStars, and she was one of the Team PokerStars Pros on the site. Liu will be parting ways with 888poker. Let’s look at each one more in-depth.
The end of the sponsorship deal for Rousso was one that came in an announcement from PokerStars. She had been with the site since 2009 and was one of the biggest names both in the online poker world as well as in the live poker action. She plays under the name “LadyMaverick” and earned over $700k in the PokerSTars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) and also finished second in the National Heads Up Poker Championship back in 2009 in the live poker game. On top of that, she managed to take down the European Poker Tour’s Grand Final High Roller Championship in 2009 as well. She’s obviously done very big things in the past, including that massive 2009 where she won more than $1.2 million. Since that point, though, she’s dealt with a bit of a downswing.
In the last three years, specifically for Rousso, she’s won right around $44,000 from poker tournaments in that run. She’s still made quite a bit of money since her career began back in 2005. She’s brought home a total of $3.5 million, and 2005 was when she made her first ever tournament cash that year. Rousso has still had some impressive runs, but she hasn’t had much to say about the ending of her sponsorship deal through social media, which is just the opposite of Liu.
While Liu and 888poker have parted ways, she took to Twitter to talk about her time with 888. She stated that she was “very grateful to have been given the opportunity for a year but will no longer be an 888poker ambassador.” The pro actually made the announcement just before starting a tournament in Perth, Australia in the Australia New Zealand Poker Tour Main Event. She’s doing quite well in that tournament as well, and at the last check she was down to the final 36 players of action heading into Day 3. Many gave their kind words to Liu, including Sofia Lovgren who tweeted out, “Sad news, Xuan. Always a calss act and an inspiration for me!” Jackie Glazier, who is another 888poker player posted on Twitter to Liu, saying “I’m sure new adventures await you in 2015. You are an amazing ambassador of the game and inspiration to many.”
Since 2007, Liu has been great on the tournament poker circuit, racking up over $1.5 million. She hit six-figure paydays in both 2011 and 2012, but since that point she’s had a bit of a downswing as well. From 2013 and 2014, she’s won just over $115,000. With the stories of both players being interesting situations that are actually pretty similar, it makes you wonder how much the recent play factored into the decision on both, and it could be the reasoning for the sides parting ways.
Late last year, PokerStars decided to part ways with quite a few of their top pros, largely due to the impact of Black Friday. A few of these players included former World Champions, such as Joe Cada. There were only five United States based players left on the roster, which included Chris Moneymaker, who was a former World Champion, as well as Poker Hall of Fame member Barry Greenstein, Vanessa Selbst, Jason Mercier and Eugene Katchalov. The fact that each player remains active on the EPT could help their case, and may have explained why Rousso was the “odd player out.”
As for Liu, it’s tough to figure out what happened there, with the exception being the fact that her contract just recently ran out. This leaves just Lovgren, Glazier, Burno Politano, Nico Villa Lobos and Bruno Kawauti as the only ambassadors remaining for 888poker. In 2014, the site cut ties with J.C. Tran, simply stating that his one-year contract he received after being a part of the 2013 WSOP November Nine was up.
The two moves seem to be just the way that online poker has started to go. Instead of focusing on the big-named poker pros who take in the high stakes, they are focusing in on the recreational players. This has led to the sites trying to pull in more of these recreational players, instead of the big-named sponsorship tournament players. There is definitely a good chance that we could see both of these players come back with another online poker site and land a new sponsorship deal sooner than later, so be sure to keep your eye out for their names.

Ognyan Dimov Wins 2016 EPT Deauville Main Event

February 9, 2015

The 11th season of the European Poker Tour rolls on, and we have officially wrapped up the Deauville, France stop. The final, and most talked about event of the series, was the €5,300 Main Event. The event featured a 592-player field, and when all was said and done, it was Ognyan Dimov who got the job done and took home the nice payday of €543,700 in first-place cash. It was quite the run that wrapped up on Saturday, and with the win, it gave Bulgaria their second European Poker Tour championship. The other championship was taken down by Dimitar Danchev. His competitor was Dany Parlafes, who had a huge chip lead heading into the final table, but the Romanian was unable to bring home the first ever EPT championship to his country. It was a valiant effort though, and now we get to check out how it all played out.

When the day started, there were just six players left in the action, and everyone had their eyes on Parlafes. He had such a huge lead heading into the final table of six players, that many just expected him to continue that dominant form and take down the first ever EPT title for the country. It wasn’t meant to be though, and the action started off almost immediately after the kickoff of the final table.

The first elimination came on the very first hand, as Joseph Carlino three-bet all-in preflop over Dimov, and got a call from Benjamin Buhr. Andrius Bielskis four-bet all-in over the top at that point from the big blind, which pushed out both Dimov and Buhr. At that point, Carolina showed a-K and was up against the pocket Jacks of Bielskis. Carlino couldn’t improve on his hand, which meant that he was sent packing in sixth place.

Unfortunately, the excitement and momentum of the knockout was short-lived, as Bielskis was actually the next player eliminated. He played only 16 more hands before being sent home. He shoved over the top of a raise from Buhr, but his opponent was holding pocket Aces, against the A-3 suited of Bielskis. The board didn’t help him, which meant that we had our next knockout in fifth place.

The next up on the list was our French pro, Benjamin Pollak. Pollak saw his fate dealt to him by the original chip leader, Parlafes. The final hand featured Pollak turning a straight and calling an all-in for his tournament life. It was a brutal blow, as he saw that Parlafes had flopped the nut straight with A-K to put down the hammer. Pollak took home a nice payday for fourth place, and is fresh off of an 11th-place finish in the 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event. He’s had quite the start to the year, and will look to build on that as time goes on.

Next up was the fight to see who would play in the heads-up match. It took 20 hands after Pollak was sent home, and it was Buhr who was the unlikely player. Dimov simply completed from the small blind with pocket Aces, and Buhr looked at A-K, which led to a raise from the big blind. Dimov then three-bet, and Buhr four-bet all-in. Dimov made a snap call, and that was pretty much all she wrote. Buhr could not improve on his hand, and he was sent home in third place. This meant that Parlafes and Dimov were set for a heads-up match.

The heads up match was a serious battle, as it went on for a whopping 117 hands. Parlafes held the chip lead at the start, but Dimov chipped away over time. Around halfway through the heads-up match, Dimov actually grabbed the chip lead from his opponent, and never gave it back after that. Parlafes kept fighting to get back into it, and made a few big folds throughout.

His strong play wasn’t enough to get him the title though, and the final hand came with the blinds at 100k/200k with a 30k ante. Parlafes opened to 425k, and Dimove three-bet up to one million chips. Parlafes then moved all-in for his final 5.21 million, and Dimov insta-called with A-J of hearts. Parlafes was looking good at this point, holding A-K of clubs.

While it looked as though Parlafes was set to get a nice double-up and regain the chip lead, the flop was an immediate scare. It came down Q-3-6 with two hearts, giving Dimov his flush draw. The turn was the fifth and final heart that he needed, as the three of hearts came. The Jack of diamonds was the final card, and that was a wrap. Parlafes was our second place finisher, while Dimov took home the championship.