Several important poker stories jumped into the public eye in early December, from another full slate of major poker tourneys to landmark decisions in the World Trade Organization battle over access to the U.S. online-gambling market. The saddest news of all, however, was when the poker world learned of the untimely passing of David 'Chip' Reese, one of the stalwarts of the game. It was an important month for poker, with these stories among those that grabbed our awareness:
David 'Chip' Reese Passes at Age 56 — The poker world was shocked and saddened early in the month when word spread of the unexpected death of cash-game legend Chip Reese at his Las Vegas home, following a brief illness. The Dayton, OH native was a dominant player in the biggest games in Las Vegas for decades, preferring that to the mainstream fame afforded players who frequented the tourney circuit. Reese did play some major tournaments, however, winning (among other events) three WSOP bracelets, the third and final of which was the inaugural $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship at the 2006 WSOP. The win, following a marathon heads-up duel against Andy Bloch, cemented Reese's legacy as an expert in all forms of the game and will be viewed as his crowning achievement.
WTO Awards Antigua $21M Annual Compensation in Gaming Dispute — The years-long battle at the World Trade Organization between the United States and the small island nation of Antigua & Barbuda resulted in something of a split decision. While Antigua was guaranteed some form of compensation as a result of its victory in the case, the amount of the award was subject to arbitration and could fall anywhere in a widespread range: Antigua sought $3.44 billion annually while the U.S. openly suggested that $500,000 was a fair amount. Faced with impossible extremes, the WTO narrowed the scope of its judgment to the sole area specifically defined in the complaint --- international access to Internet-based horseracing --- and awarded Antigua an annual $21 million judgment. The judgment, if acted upon by Antigua, would take the form of the country being able to manufacture goods covered by U.S. copyrights and patents, royalty-free and without fear of reprisal through international courts.
Levy Takes PokerStars.net APPT Sydney Grand Finale — The opening season of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour concluded with a mid-December event in Sydney, Australia that drew a solid contingent of big names, including several of the most famous members of Team PokerStars. Fame was fleeting, perhaps; none of the biggest names made it to the final. Instead a new big name was created, that of Australia's own Grant Levy, who became the first Aussie poker player to win a million-dollar first prize in his home country. Levy finally took down the win after a heads-up battle against Jeremiah Vinsant that lasted over 60 hands; Vinsant finally settled for $621,540 as the runner-up.
John Racener Claims Atlantic City Circuit Ring — The last World Series of Poker Circuit event of the 2007 calendar year was haled at Harrah's Atlantic City, and the winner was John Racener, a 22-year-old who's already made noise in several live stops on the tournament scene. Following two '07 WSOP cashes and an 8th-place in a WPT event, Racener broke through here for the victory and a $379,392 payday, the largest of his career. Racener's final challengers were Eric Buchman and Feming Chan, who finished in second and third, respectively.
Mattern Victorious at EPT Prague — It's common enough for international Magic: The Gathering or StarCraft players to transfer their gaming success to major poker tourneys, but backgammon? The less common road to riches was taken by Arnaud Mattern, a French gammon champ who broke through in a big way at the PokerStars.net European Poker Tour stop in Prague. Mattern's trip to the Czech Republic resulted in a €708,400 payday after he reeled in early leader Mikael Norinder, then came back from a deficit heads-up against Gino Alacqua for the win. It wasn't the first poker success for Mattern, of course, even if it was his first EPT cash; Mattern also had a triumph in the 2005 Gutshot Poker Masters to his credit.
Philachack Captures New Orleans Circuit Event — The big news through the first two days of the early-December WSOP Circuit event in New Orleans was the dominating performance of Josh Arieh, who steamrolled player after player and entered the final table with a commanding chip lead. In the end, though, it was Andy Philachack who took down the Circuit win, pushing past Arieh into the lead as the seven other final-table players exited in turn. Philachack began heads-up action against Arieh with a 3:1 lead in chips and soon finished off the win, collecting $247,860. Arieh's strong showing was worth $130,050.
EU Settles with U.S. in Online-Gambling Dispute — The WTO decision involving Antigua wasn't the only battle over online-gaming facing the U.S. in that international trade venue. Several other countries also filed claims against the U.S. in the matter, including the European, which collectively represented most European nations and whose $100 billion claim dwarfed that of Antigua, which brought the original case. However, the EU reached an agreement with the U.S. doing away with the claim in exchange for trade relief in other markets, a controversial but expedient move which still has a few small legal catches pending. News of the settlement came down just days before the Antigua decision was announced; Canada and Japan settled their outstanding claims against the U.S. in a similar manner.
Tony G Wins Inaugural Moscow Millions — PokerNews' own Tony 'G' Guoga claimed a piece of poker history in December by winning the inaugural Moscow Millions tournament, the largest-ever poker tournament held in Russia. Guoga won out over a strong but relatively unknown final table (excepting emerging Russian star Alex Kravchenko, who finished third), and then donated his $205,000 in first-place winnings for the benefit of Russian orphanages, not the first time Guoga has made such a grand gesture with tourney winnings.