This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of World Gaming magazine.
It’s a good thing Railbird Ronny had a chance to rest up last issue following what was a pretty quiet few months in the poker world, because since then I’ve been flying all over the globe trying to keep up with a plethora of major tournaments taking place everywhere from Las Vegas to London to Paris and of course Macau!
It’s always good to be home and the recent Asia Championship of Poker at PokerStars LIVE Macau in City of Dreams was a wonderful way to finish my journey, but let’s start with the World Series of Poker where the latest world champion was crowned at the Rio in Las Vegas on 6 November.
The WSOP Main Event is the one tournament every poker player on the planet dreams of winning and for the past six years has adopted a unique format whereby the field of around 6,500 players who take their seats in early July play down to the final table of nine, who then take a four-month break before returning to determine the winner.
The original idea was to build extra interest in the “November Nine” and it has worked fairly well in allowing the poker media to find out more about the lesser known players before the final table begins.
This year’s November Nine threw up an interesting array of hopefuls, headed by highly respected pro and two-time WSOP bracelet winner JC Tran. Tran was the chip leader heading into the final table with 38 million chips and was most astute judges’ pick for the title.
Unfortunately he was card dead the entire time, couldn’t gain any real traction and was eventually eliminated in a disappointing fifth. Also impressing during their brief stays were short stack David Benefield who was eliminated in eighth and Marc McLaughlin in sixth. Both showed glimpses of their talents but without the stacks to really go on the attack they fell much earlier than they would have hoped.
Instead, when play reached heads-up it was 23-year-old Ryan Riess from Michigan and 29-year-old Jay Farber from Las Vegas left to fight it out for the title. Riess would go on to dominate Farber on the final day to be crowned 2013 WSOP Main Event champion and take home the US$8.4 million first prize, however he also proved to be a polarizing figure with his claim that he was the best player in the world unsurprisingly not going down too well with a number of seasoned pros.
Nevertheless, with his newfound wealth it is unlikely such criticism is causing him to lose too much sleep!
It was a busy few weeks for the WSOP, with the November Nine following on almost immediately from the latest rendition of WSOP Europe. Now in its seventh year, WSOPE moved to Paris in 2013 and featured a record eight bracelet events as part of its two week schedule.
The Main Event attracted 375 runners – the third most in the event’s history although considerably fewer than the 420 who played 12 months ago – with 19-year-old Spaniard Adrian Mateos besting Fabrice Soulier heads-up to claim the €1 million first prize.
The real story, however, came in the €25,600 High Roller event which saw Daniel Negreanu claim his sixth WSOP bracelet. Negreanu has enjoyed a stunning year on the live tournament circuit, having won the Main Event at the inaugural WSOP Asia-Pacific in March to go with multiple final table appearances.
Not only did his performance in the High Roller bring him his second bracelet of 2013, it also secured the title of WSOP Player of the Year as he became the first player ever to win the accolade twice.
Railbird Ronny is glad he has wings, because it would have been an expensive few weeks had he been forced to travel by plane. Just days before the WSOPE in France, England was the place to be for the 10th running of EPT London.
This has long been one of the most popular stops on the EPT schedule and this year the event was held in the spectacular surrounds of the Grand Connaught Rooms for the first time. As usual, the event attracted a big field with 604 players descending to create a prize pool of almost £3 million.
Australia’s Jeff Rossiter, who recently finished second at the Guangdong Asia Millions in Macau for a whopping US$3.2 million, was a solid chip leader heading into the final table but couldn’t keep the momentum going as he crashed out in fifth. Instead it was Sweden’s Robin Ylitalo who cut a swathe through the final eight players to capture the title and a handy £560,980.
While London proved to be an enjoyable trip for Railbird Ronny, the highlight of the past few months was the Asia Championship of Poker as I was finally able to return to my nest in Macau.
The 12 event schedule provided plenty of highlights, with WGM’s very own Michael Mariakis doing the company proud by winning the Turbo event and Celina Lin adding to her remarkable record in Macau with victory in the HK$8,800 tournament – in the process becoming the first female to win an open title ACOP event!
However, it was the HK$100,000 Main Event everyone had come to see with 203 players taking their seat – well up on last year’s 184. Among the big names to take part were the legendary Johnny Chan, 2011 WSOP November Niner Ben Lamb, online gurus Jonathan Karamalikis and Tom Grigg, Aussie Millions champions Lee Nelson, Oliver Speidel and Mervin Chan, PokerStars pros Randy Lew and Eugene Katchalov, and Australian Poker Hall of Fame member and recent APPT Melbourne champion Billy “The Croc” Argyros.
Of those, only Lew made the money with his seventh place finish good for HK$990,000, although few will forget this final table anytime soon with the epic battle eventually forcing the tournament into an unscheduled sixth day.
The two remaining players, Sunny Jung and Devan Tang, returned to resume their battle and played on for another five hours before Jung finally took control. The final hand saw Jung five-bet shove with A-K, Tang making the call with a dominated A-Q and unable to find the help he needed.
Jung secured the prestigious ACOP title, a coveted Spadie trophy and HK$4.3 million – around US$561,000 – for his efforts. Congratulations to Danny McDonagh and the team at PokerStars LIVE Macau for another superbly run tournament series.