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Five Thoughts: Greg Merson is World Champion, and Full Tilt Poker is Back

In Episode #126 of the PokerNews Podcast, all four hosts chose Greg Merson to win the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event. During the next 36 hours, there were only two minutes during which I doubted my pick: when Merson doubled through Andras Koroknai to take the chip lead, and when Merson’s kings were cracked by Jesse Sylvia’s ace-king.

The reason I doubted my pick during the epic Koroknai hand was because the Hungarian had been running really pure in the tournament – just ask Gaëlle Baumann.

When Merson’s kings were cracked three-handed, Sylvia grabbed all the momentum, but Merson never let it faze him.

“This is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity,” Merson said after winning. “You just can’t give up.”

The Maryland native didn’t give up. After the hand, Merson stormed back, grabbed the chip lead and won, becoming the 2012 World Champion and the 2012 WSOP Player of the Year.

1. #WeNeedIt

When the {7-Clubs} completed the board on the final hand of the 2012 WSOP Main Event, Merson’s rail tried to storm the stage and mob him. A security guard attempted to stop the overly excited group, but none would’ve obliged if Merson himself had not halted them. The World Champion wanted to shake Sylvia’s hand before celebrating.

And thus, a new poker ambassador was born.

About a half hour after the final hand was dealt, the media gathered around Merson on the confetti-covered stage for a brief press conference. He admitted he doesn’t really enjoy playing tournaments, but said he’s ready to be a face for the game.

“I’m ready to go to Macau,” he said with a smile. “That’s what I’m looking forward to the most: getting into the biggest cash games in the world.”

Merson added he’ll piece himself out if he has to, but that it’s always been his dream to compete at that level.

Merson became the first player to ever win both the Main Event and the Player of the Year. Likewise, he was the first player since Chris Ferguson in 2000 to win a bracelet in the summer prior to winning the Main Event. Merson now has over $9.85 million in career live tournament earnings – although friend and backer Anthony Gregg will receive a nice portion of his Main Event win – which puts him 20th on the all-time money list.

By all accounts, it appears as if Merson is going to be a fantastic ambassador for the game. Even if he doesn’t plan to play in every tournament, he’s not going to disappear from the circuit completely. He’ll come to understand the importance of maintaining his image, and there may be enough value in super high rollers to get him excited.

More importantly, Merson is a great kid. He’s polite, friendly, grounded, and will go out of his way to do the right thing. The Sylvia handshake is a perfect example of this.

Congratulations on the victory, Greg. Thanks for being unafraid to wear your emotions on your sleeve, and good luck moving forward.

2. Full Tilt Poker is Back

At 7 a.m. EST, Full Tilt Poker re-opened its virtual doors for real money players. A few minutes later, the site’s official twitter handle sent the following:

Full Tilt PokerWe're back. Real money has launched at Full Tilt Poker http://t.co/AXmKWGhs #FullTiltPoker

In countries not named the United States, France, Spain, Denmark, Estonia, and Belgium, poker players rejoiced. Here are a few “@ mentions” I cherry-picked:

Marcus FewellIT'S BACK #FullTiltPoker
Tim Duckworthcurrently playing for REAL MONEY on @FullTiltPoker … feels surreal!
Jesse AlgrantiFeels good to be back! #FullTiltPoker
Darren Rudolph@FullTiltPoker real money play is back. GOGOGO :D
Shannon kReally Great to have @FullTiltPoker back!!

This is undoubtedly a monumental day, especially considering that 18 months ago some thought Full Tilt was gone forever. While players in the U.S. may never see real-money games on Full Tilt again, the rest of the world is once again able to experience some of the greatest software in the history of online gaming. Likewise, this is the first step to removing one of the largest and ugliest black eyes from the face of the industry – the next step is paying back all of the players.

That includes American players. Here’s lookin’ at you U.S. Department of Justice.

Within ten minutes of the grand relaunch, over 10,000 real-money players were logged in. Gus Hansen, who heads The Professionals, sat down to play $10/$20 Pot-Limit Omaha and $1,000/$2,000 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw. Rush Poker ring games were buzzing with activity. All was right once again in the online poker world.

Best of all, players can transfer money to and from PokerStars. That’s revolutionary.

There are a few kinks, and Shyam Markus will be answering countless emails the next few days, but I’m confident management is doing everything in its power to make this process as smooth as possible.

Full Tilt Poker is back, and it feels so right.

3. Elie Launches Torpedoes of Truth

On Friday, Chad Elie dropped a bomb on Twitter:

Chad Elie“I never met with a payment processor"-Howard Lederer. Interesting Howard,do you not remember the MEETINGS we had?What about NYE?5hr meeting

Elie, who was recently sentenced to five months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud and operating an illegal gambling business in the U.S., is targeting Howard Lederer, Jeremy Johnson, Jason Vowell, Todd Vowell and others. According to Elie, Johnson and the Vowels “stole over 30m+ from poker stars and FT players and got away with it.”

Some of the most interesting tweets were pictures of letters and opinions from legal minds that assured Elie that processing funds, as long as it was transparent, was legal. In fact, his second tweet was this:

The circled part of the memorandum letter, which was written by SCOTUSblog creator Tom Goldstein, reads, “Transfer of funds related to on-line poker that are conducted accurately and transparently (including through accurate credit card coding), and pursuant to any license required for transferring money, are lawful.”

Elie’s first tweet is a direct response to PokerNews’ The Lederer Files, wherein Lederer says that he never met with a payment processor. Elie says that he has pictures to prove otherwise, and I’m very happy to see that important people are responding to the seven-part series. It was clear from the beginning that Lederer wasn’t going to provide a ton of new information, but I always thought that his presence would stimulate others to step forward. Elie not only obliged, but he also leaped headfirst into the conversation.

Elie has agreed to do an exclusive interview with Diamond Flush, which is great because Twitter isn’t the correct forum with which to launch these torpedoes of truth, and I hope more truths are revealed. I also hope that more individuals with information come forward. There is still so much to learn about Black Friday and the individuals responsible for the fall of poker in America.

On Jan. 3, Elie is scheduled to start his five-month prison sentence. This schedule means the community has less than two months to pick his brain. Let’s make it count.

4. Dan, Dan, Dan of the Jungle

On Sunday, Dan “w00ki3z” Cates took down the first annual All-Star Showdown on PokerStars. Cates earned $550,000 for taking down the eight-player single-elimination heads-up tournament, besting Ben “Sauce123” Sulsky in the final match. On the road to the finals, Sulsky defeated PokerStars Team Online Member Isaac Haxton in an epic, 19-hour semifinal match. Cates defeated Phil Galfond in the semis.

On the final hand, Sulsky was all-in and at risk preflop holding {9-Clubs}{9-Hearts}, and was crushed by Cates’ {j-Clubs}{j-Diamonds}. Both players flopped a set, and Sulsky was unable to make quads on either the turn or the river. Sulsky earned $250,000 for second place.

PokerStars has done a great job facilitating both the SuperStar Showdowns and now this All-Star Showdown. Unlike the independent “Durrrr Challenge” on Full Tilt, PokerStars has clearly defined event dates, rules, and structures, which are beneficial for both the players and the fans.

We’re human. We like conclusion – good or bad – and we’ve been provided that during these showdowns. With Tom Dwan and Patrik Antonius, there was no telling when the challenge would resume or end. It wasn’t fan-friendly at all.

For Cates, this cash is nice, but I’m still waiting to see some more success in the live realm. According to his Hendon Mob profile, Cates only has one live cash in an open tournament – he finished 12th in a $1,500 event during the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, pocketing $9,085.

Regardless, Cates will continue to crush online. And, with the return of Full Tilt Poker, we’ll see him back at the nosebleeds very soon. This is exciting.

We’ll keep our eyes and ears open in preparation for the next PokerStars showdown and look forward to the action. It will be hard to top this field, but knowing the people at PokerStars, the best it yet to come.

5. Seat Open With Jonathan Aguiar

The past few months have been pretty nice for Jonathan Aguiar. In July, he started his own podcast titled Occupy Poker. In September, he took down World Series of Poker Europe Event #5, earning his first bracelet and $336,661. And just recently, he joined the DraftKings.com crew and patched up Merson at the WSOP Main Event final table.

DraftKings has linked up with PokerNews, and you can check out what the same-day fantasy sports site has to offer here.

Aguiar is often outspoken on Twitter and is proud to say that both Annie Duke and Jack Effel have blocked him, but he doesn’t complain simply to complain – he wants what’s best for poker. Unlike fellow pro Daniel Negreanu, though, Aguiar has few corporate ties that bar him from speaking the truth. He is brutally honest, for better or for worse, and there are certainly a lot of people that disapprove of his “complaining.”

Whether you like it or not, Aguiar is going to continue to “occupy poker,” and he sat down with our very own PokerNews video team in the latest edition of the Seat Open series:

Follow PokerNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of PokerNews.

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