Global Poker League

[SS] “Have you guys been watching the GPL?” Stan the Stat asked.

[FF] “What’s the GPL?” Figaro the Fish inquired.

[LL] “As a software developer, it means the General (or GNU) Public License to me, but that’s obviously not what Stan means”, Leroy the Lion contributed.

[RR] “My son used to play Grand Prix Legends on his PC a lot”, Roderick the Rock added.

[SS] “It’s the Global Poker League, which came from Alexandre Dreyfus’s Global Poker Index, which was the only thing that survived the Epic Poker League.”

[LL] “I’ve seen some highlights, but I don’t have time to watch full matches in real time. If only I could fast-forward the streams like a TiVo.”

[RR] “If you wait for the videos to be posted to YouTube,1 you can watch at 1.25x, 1.5x, or 2x speed”, Roderick the Rock suggested. “Just tap on the Settings gear icon and pick your favorite speed. When you pan, you can see screen thumbnails, so you can jump around pretty easily. Not exactly TiVo, but it’s not horrible.”

[SS] “Each match is much shorter than a baseball, basketball, football or hockey game. Blinds go up every eight minutes in the 6-max events and every four minutes in the heads-up events. Each player has a time bank (13 minutes for 6-max and 18 for heads-up), with just two seconds per action if they run out. When players bust in the 6-max events, their time gets split and added to the other players’ banks, but the total time available is under 80 minutes.”

[FF] “So it’s a league of individual players?”

[SS] “No, the league has twelve teams, split into two divisions. Months before the success of the WSOP team event in July, the GPL kicked off with a player draft on February 25.

A dozen teams selected four poker pros each from a pool of 203 players 2during a nearly five and a half hour snake draft. Like a Boston native selecting a preponderance of New England Patriots in a fantasy football draft, the inaugural GPL draft found several teams picking home grown talent. Because of the marketing requirement, however, these choices made much more sense than drafting the Patriots third-string running back. And those teams proved just as competitive.

Mustapha Kanit had the honor of being the first player selected, by the Rome Emperors. Most of the other early picks weren’t surprises — the next picks were Mike McDonald, Jason Mercier, Phil Galfond, and Anthony Zinno — but Hong Kong Stars captain Celina Lin went local for Weiyi ‘Wayne’ Zhang and Raiden Kan for her 12th and 13th wrap picks. The other big early surprise3 was who wasn’t picked: former GPI #1 Vanessa Selbst fell all the way to eighteenth, where Liv Boeree happily scooped her for the London Royals’ second pick.4

Two other women were drafted — Kitty Kuo (third round pick for the San Francisco Rush) and Xuan Liu (fourth rounder for the Montreal Nationals) — but the three female team captains all added themselves with one of their two wild card picks, making a reasonable six women out of 72 players. Only two captains, Andre Akkari (Sao Paulo Mets) and Philipp Gruissem (Berlin Bears), declined to play.5

Liv Boeree selected her significant other, Igor Kurganov, in the first round and Bryn Kenny took his brother Tyler as a wild card (each team had to pick two after the draft).

Maria Ho belatedly chose the surprise Aaron Paul as a wild card6. Although the Breaking Bad actor competed in the WSOP Main Event in 2015, he did’nt cash, so he still has won three more Emmy awards than he’s had live poker tournament cashes in the Hendon Mob database.

Five eligible players in the Global Poker Index top 50 weren’t selected: France’s Benjamin Pollak (#25), Canada’s Sam Greenwood (#33), Scotland’s Niall Farrell (#41), Scott Clements (#44), and Ankush Mandavia (#45).”

[FF] “So each team ended up with six players… How did the matches work?”

[SS] “The first ‘half’ of league play ran eight weeks from April 5 to May 26 (live streamed on PokerStars TV), with each team providing a player for two 6-max matches and one heads-up match per week. The 6-max matches award 7 points for first, 5 for second, 3 for third, 2 for fourth, and 1 or fifth. The heads-up matches award 3 points per win out of three games played.

The six-week “Summer Series”, which ran from June 6 to July 9, was just heads-up matches.

The second ‘half’ of league play ran for six weeks from September 20 to October 27. The first four weeks continued what happened in the first ‘half’, but the last two weeks each had just nine heads-up matches, so each team supplied a player twice in one week and once in the other.”

[FF] “Why so complicated?”

[LL] “I agree; that was a very strange schedule.”

[SS] “Well, it was what it was. But it certainly worked well insofar as both the Americas and Eurasia divisions were competitive and playoff spots were on the line all the way to the last week, when the London Royals leaped out of last place to beat out the Paris Aviators on tiebreak to make the playoffs.”

The Montreal Nationals won the GPL Americas division by 11 points over the L.A. Sunset, 16 over the Sao Paulo Mets, and 38 over the San Francisco Rush.
The Moscow Wolverines won the GPL Eurasia division by 7 points over the Hong Kong Stars, 11 over the Berlin Bears, and 15 over the London Royals.

The New York Rounders, who had by far the best average GPI ranking for the four players they drafted,7 outpointed the Royals but had the bad luck of being in the stronger division. The Rome Emperors and Las Vegas Moneymakers also failed to qualify for the postseason.

The playoffs will begin in the Las Vegas Cube on Tuesday, November 29 (4 teams playing down to 1, repeating the next day), with the finals on Thursday, December 1.

I don’t know if I’ll have time to watch it live on Twitch, but I definitely want to catch it at some point!”

Footnotes:

  1. The GPL, has the Global Poker League playlist (starts with Top 5 Silly Moments).
  2. The entire player pool had about $550 million in live tournament winnings; the 48 players drafted accounted for over 70% of that (over $400 million).
  3. Actually, the other big surprise happened just before the draft, when Antonio Esfandiari decided not to participate.
  4. Selbst ended up playing only three matches, so she actually didn’t drop far enough.
  5. The other player-captains are Chris Moneymaker (Las Vegas Moneymakers), Bryn Kenney (New York Rounders), Faraz Jaka (San Francisco Rush), Liv Boeree (London Royals), Anatoly Filatov (Moscow Wolverines), Fabrice Soulier (Paris Aviators), Max Pescatori (Rome Emperors), Marc-Andre Ladouceur (Montreal Nationals), Celina Lin (Hong Kong Stars), and Maria Ho (L.A. Sunset).
  6. Commissioner Kara Scott probably doesn’t have that much power and decided not to penalize the league’s first infraction. Paul ended up playing in just two heads-up matches, winning them both 2-1. He and ten other players failed to meet the six-game minimum but apparently that rule had no penalty attached to it, making it pointless.
  7. The New York Rounders’ first four picks were ranked #6, #24, #5, and #36. Every other team had at least two players out of the top 100 (the Berlin Bears were a distant second at #38, #110, #13, and #193, but the Wolverines picked up the highest ranking wild card to have #16, #42, #116, #612, and #34). Both the San Francisco Rush and Hong Kong Stars drafted nobody in the top 200 but made the playoffs. The ranking system of the GPI certainly will never be compared to the AP (college football and basketball) or ATP or WTA (tennis) for its predictive power, although much of that is because of much higher variance in poker.
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U.S. Poker Championship


[SS] “Maybe Donald Trump being President will be a good thing for poker”,1 Stan the Stat suggested.

[RR] “How so?” Roderick the Rock wondered.

[SS] “He used to own two Atlantic City casinos, the Trump Plaza and the Trump Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal even hosted the U.S. Poker Championships from 1996 to 2010.”

[LL] “Why did they kill the event?” Leroy the Lion inquired.

[SS] “Technically it’s just on hiatus, although it would need to find a new home now that the Taj has closed. But I think it’s like almost every other U.S. poker festival that’s come and gone; casinos don’t think they’re profitable. Attendance was already starting to lag despite dropping the Main Event buyin from $10,000 to $5,000.2 And then Black Friday hit. The tournament might have died anyway, but that was certainly the nail in the coffin.3

Still, it was a nice run while it lasted. Plenty of famous players did well there… Daniel Negreanu won in 1999 and Men Nguyen in 2001, while John Juanda, Phil Hellmuth, Dewey Tomko, Erik Seidel, and T.J. Cloutier all made final tables.

U.S. Poker Champions

Year Winner Prize Entrants Cashed Runner-Up
1996 Ken Flaton $500,000 100 18 Surinder Sunar
1998 Ray Lamoureaux $148,000 74 9 O’Neil Longson
1999 Daniel Negreanu $210,000 70 9 John Bonetti
2000 G. Richard Tatalovich $318,000 106 19 John Juanda
2001 Men Nguyen $228,000 76 9 John Juanda
2002 John Hennigan $216,000 72 9 Erik Seidel
2003 Toto Leonidas $388,080 99 9 Erik Seidel
2004 John Aglialoro $691,096 187 18 Joe Cassidy
2005 James Caporuscio $831,532 226 18 Ralph Pecorale
2006 Alex Jacob $878,500 261 27 Jordan Morgan
2007 Adam Gerber $606,095 164 18 Louis Lee
2008 Robert Ford $221,936 52 6 Duane Hunton
2009 William Brindise $261,800 154 18 Men Nguyen
2010 Edward Gamaitoni $167,616 96 9 David Gillen

Notes:

  • Baywatch actress Jasmine Bleeth, who claimed to have never played poker before, caused a stir at the inaugural Main Event when she amassed a big stack early and finished in 29th place.
  • 2002 champ John Hennigan also finished fourth in 2003 and has won four WSOP bracelets, including the 2014 $50,000 Poker Players Championship for $1,517,767.
  • 2004 champ John Aglialoro is a businessman whom CNN Money listed as the 10th wealthiest executive in 2007, when he was the Chairman and CEO of Cybex International.
  • 2006 champ Alex Jacob tore up Jeopardy! in 2015, winning six straight games for $151,802 and then taking down the Tournament of Champions for another $250,000.
  • 2007 champ Adam Gerber had just earned $248,500 for finishing second in the Borgata Open $5,000+200 No Limit Hold ‘Em two weeks earlier.
  • John Juanda reached a record four Main Event final tables, also finishing fifth in 2005 and seventh in 2002. Eric Panayiotou and Men Nguyen each made three final tables.
  • Maureen Feduniak had the highest finish by a woman, placing fifth in 1998 for $20,350. Cyndy Violette joined her at that final table, falling in seventh. Svetlana Gromenkova also finished seventh in 2007 and actually out-earned Feduniak with a $39,770 payday. Kathy Liebert finished 13th for $28,372 in 2005.”

Footnotes:

  1. { January 3, 2017 note: } This article about proposed casinos in South Carolina agrees that the Trump Presidency will be good for poker.
  2. The entry fee was $7,500+$100 in 1996 and 1999 to 2002, $5,000+$100 in 1998, $9,800+$200 in 2003, $9,700+$300 from 2004 to 2008, and $5,000+$250 from 2009 to 2010.
  3. Another factor in the demise might have been the loss of television coverage from ESPN. The tournament didn’t air at all in 2007 and 2008 and returned on the less popular Spike network.

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2016 WSOP Main Event Winner – Qui Nguyen

[RR] “Wow! That was one of the best November Nines ever!” Roderick the Rock effused.

[LL] “The very best”, Leroy the Lion extended. “Qui Nguyen kept things exciting, and he certainly deserved his victory.”

[SS] “And the pace of play was excellent”, Stan the Stat added. “Actually once the controversial William Kassouf,1 the human rain delay, busted in 17th place, the action moved along nicely.”

[RR] “Kassouf will live on forever in ESPN reruns, but I hope he never goes deep in any televised tournament again.”

[LL] “Agreed. After a while, I just hit the fast forward button every time he started talking.”

[SS] “Interestingly, this was the first November Nine where the ninth, eighth, and seventh place players going in busted out in order. Belgian Kenny Hallaert ended the run by exiting in sixth from his original fourth place. Although the table started with only five Americans, when Vojtech Rozicka left in fifth place, the remaining four were all Americans. At that point Michael Ruane was short-stacked, and his strategy of waiting for someone else to bust out so he could move up one place failed. The initial chip leader Cliff Josephy was then undone by losing a massive pot with a set of Twos to Gordon Vayo’s set of Threes, which vaulted Vayo into the chip lead.

After Josephy exited a few hands later, Nguyen simply dominated the heads-up action even though it lasted a November Nine-record 182 hands. Nguyen was the aggressor on almost every hand, picking up almost every small and medium pot. Vayo’s lead disappeared quickly, but he won a couple of big pots to get it back twice. Ultimately though, his wins became too small to stop the bleeding. He survived one all-in by backdooring a flush, but on the final hand his suited connectors were taken down by Nguyen’s dominating cards.”

[RR] “Nguyen was the most aggressive player at the table, and he pulled off more than a few good bluffs, which was great poker.”

[SS] “Surprisingly, he became the first player to win after starting second in chips”, Stan the Stat noted. “After nine November Nines the only positions that haven’t won are sixth and ninth:

Starting Position Winners
1st Jonathan Duhamel (2010), Joe McKeehen (2015)
2nd Qui Nguyen (2016)
3rd Greg Merson (2012)
4th Peter Eastgate (2008)
5th Joe Cada (2009), Ryan Riess (2013)
6th none
7th Pius Heinz (2011)
8th Martin Jacobson (2014)
9th none

Amazingly, Nguyen was also the first winner of the November Nine era who wasn’t 20-something years old. At 39, he’s the same age as Greg Raymer, Joe Hachem, and Jerry Yang, who won in 2004, 2005, and 2007. Robert Varkonyi remains the last 40-year-old to win (2002).

And of course, he became the second Nguyen to win the Main Event after Scotty Nguyen in 1998.”

Footnotes:

  1. Kassouf incessantly engaged his opponents in table talk, even when they refused to respond to him in any way. ESPN highlighted him as the hated villain in its broadcasts as he earned a one-round penalty and numerous warnings for his antics. His departure earned loud cheers from both the rail and the players at his table.
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Poker Hall of Fame Induction 2016

[RR] “Were you surprised by how the voting went?” Roderick the Rock wondered.

[SS] “Yeah, all the polls had Hillary winning comfortably…” Stan the Stat began.

[RR] “No, not the Presidential election. I’m talking about the Poker Hall of Fame.”

[SS] “Oh. I’m not surprised about that one at all.”

[LL] “I was pulling for Chris Moneymaker, but they didn’t ask me to vote”, Leroy the Lion commented.

[SS] “I doubt he even finished in the top ten, and he’ll never get in as long as he’s grouped in the player category.

On the other hand, Carlos Mortensen was a shoo-in. He won the WSOP Main Event in 2001 and the WPT Championship in 2007 and is the WPT all-time money leader. He’s also one of only ten players who’ve won multiple WSOP and multiple WPT bracelets.”

[RR] “Todd Brunson was a bigger surprise to me. I thought Chris Bjorin might have been a better choice even though he’s relatively unknown despite being in the top ten in WSOP final tables. Even David Ulliott has had more tournament success than Brunson. But I guess Brunson’s well-known cash game success, including his battles with billionaire Andy Beal1 and on High Stakes Poker, carried the day.”

[LL] “I think it’s cool that he joins his dad in the Hall of Fame. No other relatives have been inducted, unless there are illegitimate children we don’t know about.”

[RR] “Well ‘Doyle’ sounds like ‘Hoyle’…”

[SS] “At least it was an uncontroversial election. I think the whole world can abide by the results without any worry. Unlike the U.S. Presidential election, these were both great choices:

Mortensen was born in Ecuador, grew up in Spain, and moved to the U.S. to play poker. He has almost $12 million in live tournament cashes, including three million-dollar victories.

Brunson was born in El Paso, Texas and started college before following in his father’s footsteps as a poker pro and moving to Las Vegas. He had just turned 24 when he won his first major tournament, the 1993 Diamond Jim Brady Championship, for almost $200,000. Despite career tournament earnings surpassing $4 million, Brunson is more renowned as a high stakes cash game expert where he has won many times that amount.”

Footnotes:

  1. Beal’s story was documented in the 2005 book, The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King.

Related Links:

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2016 WSOP Main Event Final Hand

2016 WSOP Main Event Final Hand

Qui “Tommy Gun” Nguyen, who was in 25th place when the field was down to 27 players, won over $8 million for the victory, while Vayo, who was once 20th out of 22, earned over $4.6 million.

The final table took a November Nine-record 19-1/2 hours, with heads up action lasting a record 182 hands as Nguyen would continually win small pots, while Vayo took down the occasional big pot to survive.

{ World Series of Poker Main Event Final Hands are brought to you by THETA Poker Pro, the strongest, fastest, and most customizable Texas Hold ‘Em app for iPhone, iPad, iPhone touch, and Apple TV. }

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2015 WSOP Main Event Final Hand

2015 WSOP Main Event Final Hand

In 2010 McKeehen won the World Championship of the board game Risk, a title that came with no cash prize.

Beckley finished fourth in the 2016 PCA Paradise Island $25,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em High Roller for $439,560.

{ World Series of Poker Main Event Final Hands are brought to you by THETA Poker Pro, the strongest, fastest, and most customizable Texas Hold ‘Em app for iPhone, iPad, iPhone touch, and Apple TV. }

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2014 WSOP Main Event Final Hand

2014 WSOP Main Event Final Hand

The final table also featured William Pappaconstantinou, a.k.a. Billy Pappas, a former world champion foosball player, who finished fifth.

Jacobson has reached three other WSOP final tables, two WPT final tables, and four EPT final tables.

Stephensen won his Main Event buyin on a $1,000 World Cup soccer bet when the Netherlands beat Australia by the exact score of 3-2 on June 18, 2014 to win him $60,000, less than three weeks before the WSOP Main Event began.

{ World Series of Poker Main Event Final Hands are brought to you by THETA Poker Pro, the strongest, fastest, and most customizable Texas Hold ‘Em app for iPhone, iPad, iPhone touch, and Apple TV. }

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