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2008 Review 6: The Final Chapter, November & December
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
In the last in our series of nostalgic glances over the year that is dwindling, we come to the present with a look at what November and December had to offer.

November: If there was one story that was to dominate a whole month, then the month was to be November, and the story the November Nine. For the first time in history the WSOP delayed its final table; to a very mixed reception. The final table turned out to be fantastic, seeing Peter Eastgate become the youngest player to ever win a WSOP Main Event, however the coverage itself fell under attack for being sparse and not edited well, surely giving organizers food for thought before next years final. On the legal side of things November saw a "midnight drop" which pushed through the highly controversial regulations for the enforcement of the UIGEA essentially bring an end to the struggle for its overturning. In Europe, both the Hungarian and the Polish stops of the EPT attracted good crowds, with Will Fry taking the former title and Joao Barbosa taking the later.

December: December bought snow on Sin City, and further good fortune to David "Chino" Rheem who cleaned up at the Doyle Brunson 5 Diamond Classic, taking after 151 hands of heads-up play the title and the $1.5+ first place prize. Earlier in the month, it was the time for the Italians, as unknown Salvatore Bonavena took the EPT Main Event Title in Prague, making him the first Italian to ever win an EPT Main Event. On yet another continent, it was Australian Martin Rowe who was making the headlines, as the Aussie Millions Tourney was taken down by him. As the month drew to a close the live tournaments became a little light on the ground – however as the slumber begins to lift, the sense of activity just around the corner is getting stronger and stronger.

Here's to a great 2008, and an even greater 2009!

2008 Review 5: Fall Frolics
Monday, December 29, 2008
Continuing in our 6 part review series of the year of 2008 and what it held for poker players and enthusiasts alike.

September: September was probably the most internationally packed month of the whole of 2008; tournaments across the globe kept us entertained, and it was difficult to remember what continent we were on. The second ever World Series of Poker Europe was a great show, in which Sherkhan Farnood became the first Afghan to win a bracelet, Jesper Hougaard became the first player to ever win a bracelet on both sides of the Atlantic, and the 19 hour long main event final table which took 484 hands was won by John Juanda and went down in history as the longest final table seen at a WSOP event – although this wouldn't actually take place until the beginning of October. In Barcelona, Sebastian Ruthenberg took the top EPT prize, and in South Korea 2 legs of the APPT were played out. In America the WPT Borgata Open was won by Vivek Rajkumar, and in the legal world the Governor of Kentucky seized 141 domain names, starting a controversy that would go on for months.

October: If September was a month for international poker jet setting, then October is its twin brother; two suits of the same deck. October saw that spectacular John Juanda WSOPE win in London, and in the same city the EPT's Main Event £1,000,000 first place prize was won by Michael Martin. In the EPT London £1 Million Showdown, it looked for a while like Juanda might really make it his month, but he was curtailed by Jason Mercier at the last hurdle of the £20,000 buy-in event. Stateside, the WSOP Circuit got underway and the Horseshoe Southern Indiana was the setting of the $5,000 84 person entrant tournament – it was won by Samuel Oberlin.

2008 Review 3: Summer Begins, May & June
Sunday, December 28, 2008
As the temperature began to get warmer, so did the goings on in the poker world. As we near the time that a fresh page is being turned in the annals of poker, let's see what the highlights were from May and June of 2008.

May: The big news of May was the announcement from the World Series of Poker that there was a change to the Main Event play. In a highly controversial move, the decision was made to delay the WSOP Main Event Final Table until November in the hope that this would drum up more interest in it. Meanwhile, the World Open IV saw Marty Smyth and Neil Channing fight it out until the title finally went to Smyth, as did the quarter of a million dollar prize. The Latin American Poker Tour started its maiden journey in Brazil with 314 players and 19 year old Julian Nuijten winning the pot. Towards the end of the month, the LAPT stopped off in San Jose where 398 players turned out and Hungarian Valdemar Kwaysser won the event. The first Borgata Deep Stack Poker Tournament, $500,000 guaranteed attracted an enormous 775 strong field, and was won by Schuyler Twaddle. The last weekend of May however saw the beginning of the heat really being turn up – the WSOP got underway.

June: June was WSOP, WSOP, WSOP; a series to be dominated by pros, and full of surprises, from the first bracelet won by Nenad Medic it was a month of excitement and fun. Some of the records broken in the 2008 WSOP included the biggest field ever; event number 2 attracted nearly 4,000 players, the largest number of championship events to ever be included in the series, and the first year to see 2 siblings win. The only news to tarnish the good mood of all was the tragic passing of 80 year old John Bonetti. John Bonetti, despite only staring in poker at aged 55, had won three WSOP bracelets and had sat at 19 WSOP final table.

2008 Review 2: Warming Up - March & April
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Continuing our look back on the year that's nearly passed, March and April held some fun, some frolics and a few surprises.

March: March was packed with tournaments. Early on in the month was the NBC National Heads-Up Championship at Caesars Palace, in which Chris Ferguson broke his runner-up-run, by winning. Then there was the San Jose Bay 101 Shooting Star WPT stop which was won by Brandon Cantu, whilst across the pond Michael Schulze won the EPT Polish Open. Back State-Side, Eric "Sheets" Haber took Atlantic City by storm when he won the Caesars Palace WSOPC stop, and the Wynn Classic in Vegas was taken down by Chris Moore. The Reno World Poker Challenge was won by Lee Markholt, and the in Ireland, the Irish Poker Open attracted 667 players from whom Neil Channing emerged the winner. In other news from March, the announcement of the creation of a Latin American Poker Tour bought excitement to the poker world, whilst legal moves did the opposite. March saw the Governor of Massachusetts push through a bill that would require online poker players to serve jail sentences and pay fines of tens of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile France got criticized by the EC for anticompetitive laws when it seemed likely that legislation similar to the UIGEA would be introduced.

April: The big win in April was that of the EPT season 3 Finale in Monte Carlo: Gavin Griffin walked away from that one with €1,825,010, having outlasted 705 opponents. In the legal world, Congressman Barney Frank announced that he would be taking steps to overturn the 2006 UIGEA, and establish a framework in which online gaming could operate in the US; and in the business world two thirds of the stockholders of WSOP operators Harrah's voted to accept the buy-out deal being offered by Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group together.

2008 Review 4: An End with no End, July and August
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Continuing in our review series of the year that has passed, July bought an end with no end, and August a slow month.

July: As June had a roaring end, so July got off to a roaring start. The final events prior to the WSOP Main Event showed the same high quality as those throughout June, and whilst pros continued to dominate the winner boards, one pro in particular was left disappointed. Phil Hellmuth had expressed his desire for a 12th WSOP bracelet, but it wasn't to be. Meanwhile, as the Main Event got under way, it was looking bigger and bigger. In the end the final turnout of 6,844 beat last year's field by nearly 500 players and created a first place prize of over $9 million which makes it the second biggest tournament prize ever seen. The main event was edge of the seat stuff, and the final table that emerged was surprising to say the very least. In a pro-dominated series, few were to be seen in the final table list. The delay of the Final Table play left many with a bizarre sense of loss by the middle of July, when the tournament was gone, but the end had not yet come. July also saw the announcement that the second WSOPE would be bigger than its first year, with an extra event included.

August: The end of the summer saw a quiet time for poker in the USA as everyone seemed to catch their breath after the whirlwind of the World Series of Poker. Around the world however, tournaments were still on the go, and pots were still being won. The Latin American Poker Tour saw the new Punta del Este stop and novice Jose Miguel Espinar take the $241,735 pot, whilst in Macau the Asian Poker Tour event was won by 2007 Irish Open Winner, Yevgeniy Timoshenko to the tune of $500,000. Meanwhile, on the business side of things, there was trouble for World Poker Tour Enterprises Inc., but a new broadcasting contract, a restructuring, and NASDAQ allowances, helped to see them through.

Oklahoma Hi
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
After reports this week of a low in Nevada's gaming revenue, it came as a surprise that Oklahoma appears to be going further and further in to the black – Maybe this is why Oklahoma has a poker named for it, and Nevada doesn't!

The Indian Gaming Industry Report of 2007 showed a state revenue of $2.5 billion which placed Oklahoma as the third biggest gambling state in the country, and reports are beginning to appear that make it look like 2008 will be an even better year for the state. WinStar Casino at 183,000 square feet and boasting 46 poker tables, is the biggest casino in the state, and the word from the employees is that business is as good as ever if not better; in fact some in the business have even been attributing some of the success to the financial crisis which is taking its toll on Vegas, because people are choosing to stay local rather than travel further afield for their gaming.

WinStar is not the only Oklahoma Casino expected to report increases in revenue, although some are noting a shift in emphasis of play. For example Cherokee Casino in Tulsa has been seeing a shift towards tournament entry and away from cash play in the last year. So, whilst it may be looking dreary in some parts, Oklahoma may be the next home of poker.

2008 Review 1: The Winter Months, January through March
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
As the end of the year is nigh, and the excitements of the next are just around the corner, let's have a look at some of the highs and lows of the 2008 poker year, in a six part special report:

January: January was a month of big wins and big business. The first million dollar plus prize of 2008 was won in this month, by Alexander Kostritsyn in the Aussie Millions Main Event, whilst Eric Seidel took the first million dollar exactly prize by coming in second place. On the more technical side, and the more expensive side, January saw the finalization of the Harrah's Entertainment buy-out. The deal had been in negotiations for several years, but January 28th saw the finalization of the $17 billion plus deal go through. Across the ocean, both Germany and Sweden fell under WTO scrutiny when they banned EU based online gaming providers.

February: February was a tournament heavy month. It bought both the EPT German Open in which we saw Mike McDonald overcome the 411 strong field, making him one of the youngest EPT winners at only 18 years old, and we saw the Scandinavian Open in Copenhagen where Tim Vance and Soren Jensen battled it out for 4 hours in heads up play before the former emerged as the winner. Back State side, Phil Ivey finally was able to add a WPT title to his repertoire as he took down the L.A. Poker Classic, outlasting 665 players. It wasn't all good news for tournaments though; February also saw the WPT announcing that its production schedule would be reduced by a third in its seventh season. On the legal sides of things the battle against the UIGEA continued in America, and in Europe, both Greece and Holland were requested to lift laws controlling online gaming on the basis of free trade.

More to come…

March towards High Stakes Poker Season V
Monday, December 22, 2008
As snow falls on Sin City, and David Rheem wins the Doyle Brunson 5 Diamond Championship there is a third exciting activity taking place in Vegas right as you read this. The Golden Nugget is buzzing with poker players and camera men, sound engineers and make-up guys: why? Because the fifth season of High Stakes Poker is being filmed there. Returning to its season one location, High Stakes Poker now has a buy-in of $200,000 and no shortage of those ready to take part.

Doors opened on Friday at 12.30 and included amongst those to rock up were Giorgio Medici, Mike Baxter, Doyle Brunson, Alan Meltzer, Phil Laak, Eli Elezra, Tom “durrrr” Dwan, and Dario Minieri, and on Saturday they were joined by High Stakes Poker regular, Antonio Esfandiari.

The maiden episode of the 13 part High Stakes Poker Season V will air on March 1st 2009, on GSN, when they will also air their marquee cash game program. Other stars expected to appear in the season are Peter Eastgate, director Nick Cassavetes, David Benyamine, Barry Greenstein, Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu and others.

Good News for Gibraltar Based Gaming
Monday, December 22, 2008
For several years now there has been a battle between the European Commission and the Government of Gibraltar – the latter wanted to change their tax system and the former didn't want them too: That's put simply! In 2002 the Chief Minister of Gibraltar endeavored to overhaul their system, an action which was deemed by the European Commission to be invalid as it would put companies based in the UK at a disadvantage and for the purposes of taxes, according to the European Commission, Gibraltar should be understood to be a part of the United Kingdom. In 2004 this argument was accepted by the EU Court despite the fact that the Constitution of Gibraltar gives it fiscal autonomy – last week, this decision was essentially overturned!

After 6 years, the tax overhaul that was wanted can finally be put into motion, as Gibraltar's state aid case was accepted by Luxembourg last week. In practical terms this means that the territory of Gibraltar will now be able to take very low taxes from its offshore companies, allowing Gibraltar to maintain its position as one of the leading choices for online gaming operations.

Some of the biggest names in online gaming operate out of Gibraltar and in return around 12% of working age people in Gibraltar are involved with the online gaming industry. It is believed that the new tax of just 15% will help both sides of that equation to prosper, as Gibraltar will now be the most financially viable territory for online gaming.

Credit Crunch & Snow Reach Vegas!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Two unusual occurrences transpired recently in the Las Vegas; the first a wonderful surprise, the second a somewhat expected circumstance – none the less both slightly undermine the foundations of this town; in very different ways!

The first was snow! For the first time in nearly 40 years a snow day was declared to schools, cars were snowed in, and snowballs could be seen hurtling through the air. The second, equally as frosty, but far less welcome was the Nevada Gaming Control Board's release of revenue figures for November.

Across the state revenues were down by approximately 22% and in fact Las Vegas was one of the areas hit most hard. In October the Strip reportedly suffered a drop of some $164 million, whilst the northern part of the city lost over 34% of its revenue when compared to the same month last year. The story to varying degrees remained the same across the state, putting the annual state-wide revenue for the period of July through October down over 12%; a figure that Strip actually exceeded. The Strip saw one of the largest drops in this period – of 13.8% from last year's $2.01 billion.

Many of the Vegas hotels and casinos preempted this turn in fortune and already a couple of months ago were advertising deals and incentives for visitors over the festive period. With snow on the ground, those who chose to take advantage of these offers were in for a once in a life time treat; a Vegas winter wonderland. It is understood that the downturn in revenue is reflective of the current economic situation, and the losses suffered thus far are actually considerably smaller than those felt by other service providers, so despite bad news, the lights are still shinning and the doors are very much still open in Sin City.

Beat Battle Ship Becker for the Best of the Bahamas
Monday, December 22, 2008
Not that we need much incentive to pack our bags, leave the dreary winter streets, and head for the Caribbean, but just in case; here's that extra push. January will see the Caribbean Adventure, and taking part in the build up is multiple Grand Slam winner, Boris Becker. Becker dominated the Tennis world of the 1980s and 1990s, but if those were his decades for tennis, then the 2000s is his decade for poker.

Becker will be playing in 7 heads up qualifiers for the Caribbean Adventure main event online – the battleship style game has the players actually facing each other, but playing online, bringing the best of the two playing arenas together. Four of the seven to compete against the German are already confirmed as Americans and Canadians, all of which will hope to out play the ex-tennis player, to find their place in The Bahamas.

The Caribbean Adventure will run from January 5th to 10th, at the Atlantis Resort and Casino, Paradise Island. The buy in for the tournaments is $9,700 + $300, but there are still qualifiers running. Players already confirmed to be appearing include Gus Hansen, John Gale, Steve Paul-Ambrose, Ryan Daut and last year's winner, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier. Last year the event attracted over a thousand players and had a prize pool of $8,594,976.

Rheem reels it in
Sunday, December 21, 2008
In years to come when David "Chino" Rheem looks back on his poker career, already 10 years old, he will surely pin point 2008 as the year when it really all came together for him. having made it into the WSOP Final Nine when he came7th, he arrived at the Doyle Brunson 5 Diamonds Classic at the Bellagio, one of the important stops on the WSOP circuit, to see if he could improve on that positioning – and that he did.

The final table play would swing between absolute excitement in which it seemed like anyone could fall, and periods of frankly absolute dullness; this could is also true of heads up play, which took 151 hands, and lasted 5 hours – a true slog to the end.

Hoyt Corkins was first to go out with $216,795, after Justin Young called a mistake of his and out he went – Young had already doubled up through Rheem taking him to nearly 5 million. Following Corkins' elimination Rheem doubled up, and then Filippi did the same. Young had a great streak when he knocked out both of Rheem's good personal friends in one hand – Filippi went out in 5th and Sung in 2nd. Not put off though, Rheem doubled up through McNiff, crippling him. McNiff was knocked out in 3rd position with $540,440.

Going into heads-up play, most would say that Rheem didn't have a chance. Young had been dominant throughout the day and with a 6 million chip advantage, it came as quite a shock when Rheem took the chip lead though a 2 million + pot. The heads-up play dragged out, and it seemed that both were content to sit pretty; finally however Young took back the chip lead, only for it to change again some time later and build be built upon when Rheem went all in on a young 4,400,000 re-raise. Young certainly had opportunities, and it was anything but a forgone conclusion – however at the end of the day it was Rheem who prevailed taking with him the title and the $1,538,730 first place prize. Rheem's lifetime winnings are now $3,927,783.

Sung leads Classic Championship Final Table
Friday, December 19, 2008
As the Doyle Brunson Classic Championship draws into its final day, the final table is set – and it's a good one. Yesterday's day 5 play flew by – with 18 players starting and the final 6 emerging after just 3 levels of play: let's hope that today's televised final will last a little longer.

First elimination of the day yesterday was Bill Klein, just 6 hands in to the day's play. And it was destined to set the pace. Clonie Gowen was the girl to watch, doing the double whammy of Martin DeKnijff and Jack Wu who she sent packing in 15th and 14th places respectively. With just 13 remaining, Nick Schulman was falling short, and adopted an "all-in" tactic – the tactic seemed to be doing well for him, jumping up to nearly 600,000 in 2 hands; once too often he tried it though, and down he fell in 13th position taking $72,060. Gowen's luck by this stage wasn't doing too well either, and following a million hit by Steve Sung, she was able to hang on, but only till 10th place, taking with her $86,470.

9th place went to Mike Matusow, after re-raising a Justin Young 160,000 raise, and Ben Straate went out in 8th, leaving the battle on for the final table bubble boy. Chino Rheem, in middle position bet 175,000; Joe McGowan went all in, to which Rheem called. A pair of nines for Rheem and a pair of fours for McGowan, saw the Ac, As, 5h, 6s, 8h board fall in Rheem's favor:
McGowan's exit with $165,735 marked the end of day 5. The final table seat allocation and chip count is:

Seat 1: Chino Rheem -- 4,240,000
Seat 2: Amnon Filippi -- 2,750,000
Seat 3: Hoyt Corkins -- 2,295,000
Seat 4: Steve Sung -- 5,885,000
Seat 5: Justin Young -- 2,410,000
Seat 6: Evan McNiff -- 4,805,000

Final Table play will get underway at 4 p.m. today.

EPT Christmas Break
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
As things start to slow down for Christmas, the poker world is no exception. The European Poker Tour has been on the road, visiting 6 cities this season so far, and as the sun is about to set on 2008 the last stop for this year was won by Salvatore Bonavena of Italy in his first cash win, making him the first Italian to win an EPT Main Event.

570 people turned up for the 5 day €5,250 event hosted at the Hilton Hotel Prague, and by final day the last leg was in progress. However, anyone who might have thought that it was nearly done would have been sorely mistaken. It took 12 hours for final table play to be concluded, and ultimately it was Italian vs. Italian in heads up play.

Bonavena, an unknown player until now, came into the final table with the chip lead but lost it at several junctures in the course of the day – always winning it back though. Massimo Di Cicco, Bonavena's heads-up opponent was equally unknown, and going into the heads up match was at a huge chip disadvantage, of approximately 1:3. However, the match, which took a little over an hour saw him even take the chip lead at one point. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to hold on to it though, and when he went all in on a 8h, 3h, 2h flop with Ad, 4s, it was obvious that Bonavena would call with his 8d, 7d. The turn and river came out 6c, Js and that was the end of the game: Bonavena took the title. The final table positions and payouts were as follows:
  1. Salvatore Bonavena: €774,000
  2. Massimo Di Cicco: €445,000
  3. Andrew Chen: €257,000
  4. Alexiou Konstandinos: €199,000
  5. Francesco Cirianni: €166,000
  6. Fredrik Nygard: €130,000
  7. Nasr El Nasr: €99,5000
  8. Raul Mestre: €71,800
  9. Sebastian Ruthenberg: €42,800
After Christmas there's the Caribbean Adventure on January 5th till 10th, and then the much anticipated EPT leg in Deauville, France, between January 20th and 29th.

Harrah's Main Event Final Table Set
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
It's been a fantastic WSOP Circuit stop here in Harrah's Atlantic City; it's not over yet. We started day 2 of this $5,150 Main Event with 35 still standing of the original 179, but it took relatively no time to take that number down and form the final table which will reconvene today at 2 p.m. Let's have a look at a couple of the highlights, and lowlights, of yesterday's play.

One of the first to see his dreams dashed was Dan Shak who went out in 34th place without even a cent from the $867,100 prize pool. It was Allen Bari who sent Shak to the rail and it was he who a little later would also send the Day 1 chip leader, Bill Gazes to the rail. It took a little over 3 hours to reach the magic number of 19, and it was Sam Bernstein who was the last to leave empty handed, and Chau Nguyen was the first to leave with a payout. With play down to the final 2 tables, it took under 2 hours of play to get down to the final 9. Notables to fall by the wayside included Chris Reslock, and Matt Matros.

The last female standing, Joanne Monteavaro, made it 11th place having gone all in on a pre-flop raise from Brent Roberts and come out unsuccessful. Following her departure there was just one more to go and play became a little tedious. After a stretch of card pushing, Phillip Reed and Michael Walls got in a tumble to make the end of the day a little exciting. Walls, with pocket 9s raised pre-flop to which Reed, and his pocket As, moved all in. a 6c, 2h, 2c, 10s, 2d board gave Reed the advantage, a great pot, and left Walls on his last legs which were finally knocked out from under him when a three wayer with Reed and Roberts was simply too much for him. Chip counts for today are:
Brent "Astrolux85" Roberts - 1,011,000
Allen Bari - 816,000
Tim "ttwist" Kelly - 379,000
Kyle "kwob20" Bowker - 375,000
Phillip Reed - 340,000
Dwyte Pilgrim - 265,000
Rafael Camejo - 227,000
Robert McLaughlin - 123,000
Scott Zakheim - 85,000

Norway Next to Fall?
Monday, December 15, 2008
The globe has gotten smaller and whilst in many ways that brings a positive element to life, there are downsides to it. As country after country seems to challenge its citizens in the basic rights of choosing which games that are allowed to play, one has to ask the question, “if the world was a little larger would this be happening?”

The American UIGEA has been an ongoing saga in which most of those in the know have stood anti the implementation of it on the basis of it being difficult to execute and detrimental to several parts of the economic system; however the knock on effects are to be seen in other countries that have adopted, or are attempting to adopt similar laws

The latest in this line of “copycat” countries is Norway. Norway, from whence came Annette Obrestad who took the poker world by storm by winning the inaugural WSOPE bracelet at the tender age of 18 and is reputed to be one of the best online players in the world, is in the process of introducing a bill which will block payments to online gaming sites. Very similar to the UIGEA, representatives of the banking institutions argue that the bill is unenforceable, but as in America where the bill was just last week made into law, the extent to which these cries will be heard is unclear.

Again, as in the US the EU has issues with the bill, as any law prohibiting free trade is problematic under EU trade policies, and whilst Norway is not a member state of the EU it does fall within the European Economic Area and thus falls under the jurisdiction of a certain amount of EU trade policy.

WPT Doyle Brunson Classic Championship Attracts Killer Numbers
Monday, December 15, 2008
After 2 excellent opening days, let’s have a look at the Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic and see how this leg of the WPT is playing out.

Day 1a on Saturday saw a total of 203 players register at the Bellagio; amongst them Doyle Brunson himself. The $15,000 championship event saw five levels gone through on that first day, and at the end there were plenty of big names still standing – including Mr. Brunson as well as Barry Greenstein, Erick Lindgren, Tuan Le, Hoyt Corkins, Phil Ivey, Kevin Saul, Amit Makhija and Bertrand Grospellier. Not to survive the day were John Juanda, Brandon Cantu, Theo Tran and David Williams. Fashionably late (as usual) was Phil Hellmuth who rocked up in the penultimate level of the day, but did himself proud by taking the chip lead with 188,150. In the upper ranks, were also Clonie Gowen, Kido Pham and Ryan Young.

Yesterday dwarfed Saturday in terms of numbers, when 294 showed up making the complete entry figure 497 and the prize pool $7,231,350. That prize pool will be divided up between the top 100 with the first place prize being $1.5 million. The star of day 1b has to be chip leader Paul Niemela who finished the day with a whopping 260,000 putting him well clear of her closest rival Evan Mcniff who has 190,000. Amongst the other big finishers were Carlos Mortensen, Marco Traniello, and David Benyamine. Not so fortunate from day 1b were Mark Seif, Scotty Nguyen, Sammy Farha, and Gavin Smith, none of whom will be returning today.

Today we’ll see the approximately 375 survivors of the two day ones fight it out to get through to day 3 and ultimately to the televised day 6 final on Friday.

Good Start in Prague
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
If anyone ever said that poker isn't a jetsetter sport – they'd be wrong. Having just wrapped things up in Australia, and seen Mexico come to an abrupt end, all poker eyes should now be trained on the Czech Republic where the first of two day ones at the EPT Prague stop got off to a flying start yesterday.

The €5,000 buy in event attracted 272 players at the Hilton Hotel, Prague. Amongst the most famous to be spotted were Alain Roy, Luca Pagano, Gino Alacqua, Casey Kastle, Joe Elpayaa, Sebastian Ruthenberg, Michael Martin, Arnaud Mattern, Albert Iversen , Martin Jacobson, Voitto Rintala, Johnny Lodden, Trond Erik Eidsvig and Gus Hansen although the latter turned up into the third hour of play, and was done by the seventh hour.

First notable exit of the day was Folf Slotboom who was sent out in a hand dealt by his own girlfriend, and Arnaud Mattern who won over €700,000 in this event last year was sent to the rail when after a bad start he lost a 20,000 pot.

The first three levels saw the figurative demise of 40 players but plenty more were to go. Luca Paggano, Alber Iversen, and Theo Jorgensen were amongst those who will not be returning for day 2 of play. Of course it wasn't all tears, and one of the great stories of the day was that of Frenchman Ludovic Lacay who spent most of the day battling Otto Richard. In an ongoing feud that created some of the most interesting moments of the day, the end result was the elimination of Richard and the propulsion of Lacay to chip leader, so at the end of day 1a the top to chip holders, of the 83 left, were:
1. Ludovic Lacay; 94,200
2. Dan Pedersen; 71,200
3. Constantin Cirstea; 69,500
4. Lukas Gideon Schwartz Orbach; 69,200
5. Vasilis Chantzaras; 67,700
6. Jose Luis Navarro; 63,500
7. Philip Hepburn; 62,500
8. Allan Baekke; 62,300
9. Henrik Lundstrvm; 60,500
10. Roy Von Der Locht; 58,300

Reasons for Mexican Shut Down Still Unclear
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
There were rumors galore surrounding the sudden cancelation of the LAPT Mexico stop mid game a couple of days ago; everything from terror suspects to fraud. As it turns out, however it was nothing to do with terrorism, and as far as we know, nothing to do with fraud.

Cards got up in the air on the 5th of December and the tournament looked like it was going to get off to a bright start. 242 players registered on day 1, and the $2,500 buy in tourney at the Marival Resort at Nuevo Vallarta was buzzing with excitement, not least of all because of the good numbers of pros that could be spotted around the floor. Amongst the notables, was Diego Latorre the famous Argentinean footballer as well as local Mexican TV personalities Alexis Ayala and Sergio Mayer. In terms of poker pros, relatively local Costa Rican Humberto Brenes was present as was Alex Gomes of Brazil.

All was good, and by the 9th hour of play the field of 242 had been reduced dramatically, and indeed in dramatic fashion to just 89 – but the drama was just about to get started. Mexican Gaming Officials on the premises bought play to an end and despite the best efforts of organizers, no amicable answer could be reached, and so with 89 players still with chips in front of them the Latin American Poker Tour was bought to a halt. This has never happened before and the reasons for the closing of the tournament are still as yet unclear. Permission was received by LAPT's Mexican Partner from the Ministry of Interior, and the LAPT makes sure of compliance with all local laws.

Whilst lawyers representing all parties involved figure out the mess, the remaining players have been granted entry into an online free roll.

Rowe Beats All in Sydney
Monday, December 8, 2008
The final day of the APPT Sydney Grand Final at the Star City Casino turned out to be quite an event, and highly entertaining. In the end it was Martin Rowe of Australia who took the first place prize of AUS$1,000,000.

As play began it was Antonio Fazzolari who was had the biggest stack and he came out fighting – taking a number of pots at the opening of the day, it was he who took out Tom Rafferty, the first casualty of the day despite the fact that he had started the day as a strong competitor. Rafferty's exit left Fazzolari in an even stronger position and many were speculating that the game was over. It wasn't Fazzolari, but Rowe however who sent the number 8 man, Hai Bo Chu to the rail despite the fact that it was the three of them in the rumble. Next out was Daniel Kowalski, in his first real move of the day, but it wasn't to be for him, and he left in 7th place with AUS$72,800. Frank Saffioti, was a little unfortunate to go out in 6th, but that he did when he moved all in against a Jason Gray pre-flop raise, and the day 2 chip leader went out, leaving Rowe with a huge chip lead by this stage of more than a million. Next out was Timothy English, out just before the dinner break.

Following dinner, Martin Rowe, Jason Gray, Tony Basile, and Antonio Fazzolari came back to the table, but with Rowe's stack measuring 4 times that of the others' a smell of destiny could be sensed in the air. Play got off slowly with not much happening in the first hour or so, but within a quick time Fazzolari went out in fourth and Basile in second leaving Rowe with a stack of nearly 8 million against Jason Gray with just a million and a half. Despite the discrepancy, it took over 2 hours for Rowe to take down Gray, but that he did, and Rowe took the Grand Final Trophy and the million dollar first place prize.

Aussie Final Table Set
Saturday, December 6, 2008
The money bubble was finally burst – but it took quite some doing and quite some time. As play progresses at the Star City Casino in the grand finale of this year's Asian Pacific Poker Tour, let's have a look back at the highs and lows of day 2 and 3 ahead of the final table play.

Day 2 was a lengthy one, and the players actually gave out a collective shout of thanks when it came to an end – leaving only the 48 who were left in the money. Leading the pack at the end of day 2 were three Australians; Frank Saffioti, Jamie Pickering, and Brendon Edmunds, the latter of whom had earlier in the day had the prestigious title of being in possession of the biggest stack in the whole tournament. By the end of day 3 however, only one of those Aussies are still in the game. Jamie Pickering said good bye in 22nd position, taking with him AUS$15,400, Whilst Brendon Edmunds was so close to final table play, but not close enough; he left in 12th place, winning AUS$28,000.

Leading the way going into final table play is another Australian Antionio Fazzolari who came out fighting in day 3 taking out the first elimination of the day, Jimmy Wong, and remaining a threatening presence throughout. As at the end of day 2 however, the end of day 3 does show a homegrown representation seen in few other tournaments. In fact amongst the final 9 there are only 2 non-Aussies present. Daniel Kowalski of Poland is currently standing at 5th in the chip leader board, and Tony Basile of Canada is in the 8th place. After Fazzolari, comes fellow Aussies Jason Gray, and then Tom Rafferty. Trailing the pack in 9th is Hai Bo Cha with 781,000. Play will get underway at 1.30 p.m. local time, and will continue until the winner of the AUS$1,000,000 first place prize is determined.

APPT Sydney Update
Friday, December 5, 2008
There's been a whopping 3 days of first days at the APPT Sydney leg, attracting a total of 477 players. Yesterday's day 1c represented the biggest day yet with 197 entrants rocking up at the Star City Casino, and today, day 2 of the APPT Grand Final will see just 207 return.

The tournament will run until the 7th of December, when the final table will be played and the winner of the one-million Australian Dollar first place prize will emerge. Some of the biggest names to be spotted at the tables in the first days included Joe Hachem, Chris Moneymaker, Peter Eastgate, Edward Sabat, yoshihiro Tasaka, Daniel Craker, John Juanda and Van Marcus.

By the end of Day 1c however a pretty ruthless elimination of well known players had been witnessed with Peter Eastgate, Joe Hachem, Yoshihiro Tasaka, and Daniel Cracker fell by the wayside. That being said, there remains some pretty stiff competition in the field including Gavin Griffin and Chris Moneymaker, although the later is way down the chip leader board according to preliminary reports. The top 10 in chips going into day 2 looks something like this:
184,000 - Jason Gray, Australia
134,700 - Gavin Griffin, USA
129,000 - Phillip Willcocks, New Zealand
123,800 - Vincent Ha, Australia
123,600 - Manish Sansi, Hong Kong
103,200 - Steven Musca, Australia
98,500 - Daniel Kowalski, UK
98,300 - Patrick Carron, USA
95,900 - Christopher Lee, Australia
95,300 - Wang Che Jung, New Zealand
In total, over 25 countries have been represented in this event; with only 48 cash positions and 3 more days of play, there is still absolutely everything to play for.
Looking at the top of the board, Jason Gray has thus far had 2 3rd place finishes amounting to $3,531 in winnings, whilst Gavin Griffin is considerably more experience with a total of nearly five and half million dollars in winnings, including 3 first place wins. This is set to be a fantastic few days of poker play!

Microgaming Going 3D
Friday, December 5, 2008
Earlier this week the online gaming software giants Microgaming announced their acquisition of the 3D poker software. The type of software being discussed has been around for quite some time, but until now Microgaming, leaders in the business have not provided it.

Playwize Plc is the source of the software that Microgaming is buying; software which allows the play of the most popular poker games in a fully 3D environment. Games on offer will include Texas Hold'em and Omaha. The 3-dimensional gaming model is already running in some casinos and has proven incredibly popular due to the high level of the gaming experience. Microgaming CEO, Roger Raatgever commented:
Microgaming is committed to delivering the latest innovation in
gaming software to provide players with advanced gaming
experiences. We are well known for our ability to stay ahead of the
competition by providing our operators with the latest thinking,
technology and game features. The Playwize acquisition brings
advanced 3D functionality to our poker portfolio which will be enjoyed
by thousands of players worldwide.
Playwize are known for their development of consol and software games for the XBOX, Playstations, and GameCube, but due to financial difficulties going back to 2006 the company has started to sell of their assets in order to pay creditors; hence the 3D software is available for purchase.

The timescale for the appearance of this software in Microgaming casinos is not yet clear, but it is believed that sooner rather than later is the plan

Next Stop Russia
Friday, December 5, 2008
It's been in Latin America, it's been in Europe, it's been in Asia, and now it will be From Russia with Love.

The first ever Russian Poker Tour has been announced following the success of the Latin American Poker Tour and the Asian counterpart. The event will get started St. Petersburg with a $5,000 buy-in tourney and will then jump to Moscow where a $10,000 buy in even twill run. The St. Petersburg event is set to run from January 25th to February 1st, and the Moscow leg from February 22nd to February 28th.

There has been a surge recently in Russian champions, and the leader boards of several major events over the past couple of years have had good Russian representation. Already confirmed to be appearing are, 37 year old 2007 bracelet winner Alexander Kravchenko, and 27 year old Ivan Demidov who made history this year by appearing in both the WSOP Main Event final table, and the WSOPE final table, where he took the second and third places respectfully.

The number of seats and exact location of the tournaments have not yet been announced, but organizers are confident that large crowds will be attracted. Satellites can already be found with prize packages of around $8,000 which covers the flights, accommodation and buy in. Just be warned; temperatures in January tend to be around the -10 mark, so don't forget to pack your thermals.

60-Minutes Attack Attacked
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The world at large became aware of the "dirty washing" of online poker as 60 Minutes aired a segment last week entitled "Cheaters". In the program the show detailed scandals with a couple of online gaming companies and as a part of the report came down also on the Kahnawake Gaming Commission who had provided both of the problem sites with licenses. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is now verbalizing its side of the story.

In particular the Kahnawake Gaming Commission has highlighted 4 major pieces of information that they claim were given to the program producers but were not included in the story. For starters, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission have said that at the time the cheating started in one of the casinos, they were not licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, and in all cases customers were fully reimbursed for any losses – this amounted to more than $20 million dollars. Furthermore, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission wanted everyone to know that steps have now been made to ensure that the sites involved in the cheating are now completely secure, and they wished that the public be aware of the fact that it was them who initiated the original criminal complaint, thus if it were not for their diligence in reporting even one of their own casinos, the damage may be even greater than it was.

It wasn't only from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission that the program received complaints; viewers also logged several grievances regarding the content of the program. As for the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, it licenses more online casinos across the globe than any other licensing authority, and through its licenses the world of online gaming has been made reliable and safe – this is not a status likely to change anytime soon.

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