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Five Thoughts: Ivey Returns to the World Series of Poker

Phil Ivey

It’s finally here. After weeks and weeks of anticipation, the 2012 World Series of Poker is once again in full swing. For the 13th year in a row, the WSOP opened with the $500 Casino Employees Event, which attracted 732 runners, creating a prize pool of $329,400. On Monday, Chiab “Chip” Saechao emerged victorious, and became the first bracelet winner of 2012.

While Saechao was battling at the final table, all eyes were on the first open event of the 2012 WSOP; Event 2: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em. Dozens of familiar faces were spread over three rooms in the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, but one player sitting in the Tan section of the Amazon Room drew everybody’s attention.

1. Phil Ivey is back

One year ago, during the $25,000 Heads-Up Championship, Phil Ivey shocked the world. He announced through his Facebook account that he was going to boycott the 2011 WSOP, and that he had filed a lawsuit against Tiltware.

I am deeply disappointed and embarrassed that Full Tilt players have not been paid money they are owed. I am equally embarrassed that as a result many players cannot compete in tournaments and have suffered economic harm.

I am not playing in the World Series of Poker as I do not believe it is fair that I compete when others cannot. I am doing everything I can to seek a solution to the problem as quickly as possible.

The news was jaw dropping to say the least. One of the most popular players in the game (and arguably the best player in the game) wasn’t going to play in the biggest and most important tournament series in the world. Rumors swirled about where Ivey actually was during the summer. A few reliable individuals said that he was in Ireland at some point, attempting to single-handedly broker a deal between Tiltware and potential buyers. If this is true, his attempts were obviously unsuccessful — we’re still waiting for someone to purchase FTP’s assets and finally pay the players.

The WSOP moved on without Ivey, and it took a week or two, but we finally let go of the issue, until the Main Event arrived.

Ivey owns the Main Event. He’s finished 23rd or higher four times in the last decade, including a 10th-place finish in 2003 ($82,700), and a seventh-place in 2009 ($1,404,014). Assuming that Ivey has played the Main Event every year since turning 21 in 1997, his ROI is over 1200%. Despite these mind-blowing numbers, however, Ivey did not enter the 2011 Main Event.

When the WSOP concluded, Ivey was still nowhere to be found until the 2011 PokerStars.net APPT Macau rolled around in November. He entered quietly and busted quietly, but his return sparked an argument within the poker community — by playing this event, was Phil Ivey being true to his word?

APPT Macau was not a WSOP-sponsored event, but Ivey was still playing when “others cannot,” and some people took offense to this. It’s nearly impossible to blame him for both FTP and Groupe Bernard Tapie’s mistakes however. GBT had an opportunity to end this mess and resurrect FTP, but their plan was allegedly flawed, and the Department of Justice would not accept it. Ivey is one of the two or three most well-known Team FTP players; however, so it’s easy to deflect blame to him rather than some suit we’ve never seen before.

Following APPT Macau, Ivey made appearances at the Aussie Millions, the L.A. Poker Classic, and the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino EPT Grand Final. It was clear that he would return to the WSOP in 2012, but for how many events? During the 25K Fantasy auction draft on Saturday, PokerNews’ Remko Rinkema asked Daniel Negreanu about Ivey, and how many events he’d be playing. Negreanu didn’t give a direct answer, but he did tell Rinkema that he and Ivey were willing to bet anyone that one of them would win a bracelet in 2012. He also said that they had already booked some big action.

Even still, when Ivey sat down in the Tan section of the Amazon Room yesterday for Event #2, I was more excited than I should’ve been. He’s back. The most feared poker player in the world is back. The eight-time bracelet winner (watch your heels, Phil Hellmuth) is back. The man who’s number three on the all-time money list is back.

Phil Ivey is back, and he returned to play a measly $1,500 no-limit hold’em tournament. That smells like a large schedule to me.

2. Auction Recap

The folks over at QuadJacks did a nice job covering Negreanu’s 25K Fantasy auction on Saturday. Some of the participants did a nice job as well, while others made a few costly mistakes. For starters, both Team Sorel Mizzi and Team Robert Mizrachi still have money to spend. Mizzi and Mizrachi saved $7 and $9 respectively, and unfortunately the money doesn’t carry over to next year. Instead of drafting Alex Kuzmin, who went for an ungodly $23, Mizzi could’ve possibly picked up George Lind III who went for $30. And, instead of spending $7 on Mike Matusow, Mizrachi could’ve spent some of his savings and snagged Michael Binger who only went for $10.

Both Team Brian Hastings and Team Daniel Negreanu had the right strategy going into the action — spend most of your money on two great players, and fill out the rest of your team with cheaper players with a lot of upside. Unfortunately, both Negreanu and Hastings filled their teams with too many players who can only play hold’em at an elite level, limiting the amount of volume they can put in. Also, Alexander Kostritsyn just had a child, so he may miss the WSOP in its entirety. At a glance, my favorite teams are Team Jason Mercier and Team Eugene Katchalov. They’re both filled with guys who can play every game, including hidden gems like Chris Genius28 Lee ($1), John D’Agostino ($5), and Abe Mosseri ($3). I’d be willing to take 4:1 that one of those two teams ends up winning to the top prize of $178,750.
3. Casey Jarzabek vs. John Kim

On Monday, during the first few levels of Event #2, John Kim caused a stir when he tweeted the following about Casey “bigdogpckt5s” Jarzabek:

John KimWth, following a notable on twitter, he's on my table, he busts by playing A6 horribly then tweets he busted QQ<AA #keepthebackershappy
John KimSomewhat in his defense he lost a small pot to AA couple hands before so maybe he had QQ there but lost most of his chips and busted w A6
John KimActually no, it was a Q9488 board and he mucked after guy showed so he didn't even have QQ that hand #straightliar
John KimFor those tweeting at me, already outed him, it's bigdogpckt5s or whatever, Casey Jarzabek; lady that busted him willing to verify hand

I contacted Jarzabek, who informed me that Kim’s reporting of the “QQ<AA” hand was incorrect.

“The board was K88xx, and the king saved me from going broke,” he told me. “I also don’t take backing or sell pieces on TwoPlusTwo. The aces to queens hand wasn’t my actual bust out hand, but I considered it my bust out because it was for most of my chips. I guess it was misleading, but it wasn’t my intention. I essentially busted when I lost 1,500 to 1,200 chips with the nut flush draw.”

He later made light of the situation, tweeting this:

casey jarzabekMost accurate bust out hands all summer long coming lol. #itsinthedetails

Jarzabek has only posted on TwoPlusTwo six times, and his last activity came on Nov. 18, 2011. So, unless he posts under another alias, he doesn’t have any shares listed in the marketplace.

There was an issue with Owais Ahmed in April when he allegedly lied about a hand from the World Poker Tour Hollywood Poker Open Main Event. Ahmed said that he busted with aces against king-queen while another poster said it was against a set of deuces. Ahmed refutes this claim. This situation is different because Ahmed is reporting his bust-out hand directly to players who have invested in him, whereas Jarzabek simply tweeted the results. Had Jarzabeck had his own thread in TwoPlusTwo and (allegedly) misreported his hand, then that’s a bigger issue.

The Kim vs. Jarzabek drama may never be solved — it’s a simple case of he said, she said — and unfortunately for Jarzabek (if he’s telling the truth), he won’t shake this for a few weeks because everybody knows that the poker community loves a good witch hunt.

4. Brutal commentating?

During the $100,000 World Poker Tour World Championship final table, commentators Tony Dunst, Dan O’Brien, and Olivier Busquet were brutally honest — as they always are. They were unafraid to pick apart the players at the table including the eventual winner Tom Marchese, and some players took offense to this.

Frank Calo@olivierbusquet @Bond_18 Commentary was great yday but don't you think you were a bit harsh laughing at juanda/robl?
Christian HarderI am rooting for @BigCheese_poker but I am sort of cringing at this coverage. I like all the guys in the booth a lot too, just dislike this.
Josh Brikis@realcharder30 agree can't stand the bashing everyone knows everything &amp; is better than everyone, I can't imagine how hard they would bash me

The best players in the world don’t always take the standard line — if they did, then they wouldn’t be special — but is it OK to chastise them when they stray from the norm? Well, there’s a fine line between mixing it up and making mistakes. Any player can go back and say that they were trying to be creative by taking an unorthodox line when really they were just spewing.

However, you have to give credit where credit is due. Dunst, O’Brien, and Busquet were especially crushing Juanda, but all he does is win. Since 2004, Juanda has had five, million-dollar years, including 2008 when he won over $2.4 million. He may not always do what’s “standard,” but his results speak for themselves. And isn’t that what’s great about poker? Obviously there are situations where mathematical thinking trumps “feel” entirely, but there are also times where creativity and heart can separate great players from good ones.

Commentators should be critical, and they should speak openly about how they feel and what they would do if they were at the table, but there are times when you have to give the players the benefit of the doubt. This is true especially for a player like Juanda, who has over $12 million in career tournament earnings.

5. Hellmuth loses a crown

Kristy Arnett caught up with Phil Hellmuth during Event 2 on Monday, and apparently the Poker Brat needs to head to the dentist.

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