As the World Series Turns: djk, Alaei, Kassela Crowned, Easgate Abdicates, and the Main Event Party Starts with a Bang
It's been a whirlwind week at the World Series of Poker. Several of the summer's most anticipated events — the $25k Six-Max, the $10k Pot-Limit Omaha Championship and Ante Up for Africa — wrapped up in dramatic fashion. And while a few players were capping off impressive series on the felt, the rest were drinking away their astronomical make-up figures at the flurry of pre-Main Event parties. It's been a cross between Celebrity Poker Showdown and MTV's My Sweet 16 with a pinch of top-notch poker thrown into the mix to keep the plot flowing. All said, it was a good week not to miss.
Alaei Scoops Number Three: Daniel Alaei is one of the game's most respected young pros, and his final table appearance in the $50k Players' Championship only added to his impressive resume. But Alaei really shut the door on doubters in one of the last events of the series when he won his third bracelet in the $10k Pot-Limit Omaha Championship. Alaei flew under the radar for most of the tournament while most of the poker world was distracted by Tom Dwan's massive chip lead in the event heading into Day 3. But durrrr disposed of his chips to finish 17th, ending another tough sweat for his prop-bet opponents. After that, Alaei still had to contend with Phil Hellmuth, Danny Wong, Jason Mercier, and Ludovic Lacay to get heads up with new bracelet-winner Miguel Prouix. Alaei kept him from earning his second of the summer, locking up the victory and the $780,599. That makes this one Alaei's most profitable bracelet yet, though still not quite the windfall of his $1.4 million WPT victory.
Ante Up for Phil Gordon: The annual Ante Up for Africa event brought the stars to the Rio again, and fan favorites Matt Damon and Don Cheadle joined poker's version of gliterati on the felt to raise money for the humanitarian work in Africa. Real life pros Carter Phillips and Erik Seidel represented the real life pros at the final table while top honors went to a pair who play pros on TV. Phil Gordon defeated Shannon Elizabeth heads up to win the $130,000 first prize, all of which Gordon donated to the cause.
djk123 FTW: At the beginning of the series, we all made predictions about which 21-year-olds would make the grandest entrance. Those who picked Annette Oberstad obviously lost. If you picked Carter Phillips, you looked like a lock heading into the final stretch. But Dan "djk123" Kelly ran away with the victory,and a sweet sponsorship deal by winning one of the year's biggest events — the $25k six-max. Kelly won $1,315,518 and his first WSOP bling, which entitled him to a Doyle's Room sponsorship deal, thanks to his participation in the site's series-long contest designed to pick a new member of the Brunson 10. And despite all that, out at an Encore club later that night to celebrate, djk still couldn't produce more than a few crumpled $20s from his pockets. Gotta love a kid with skills who still rolls like a kid.
The Summer of Frank: There is no denying that the biggest surprise of the 2010 series was the blockbuster performance by Frank Kassela. With only the Main Event left to play, Kassela is the summer's only double bracelet winner. First, the Las Vegas resident bubbled the final table of a $1,500 Limit event. He ran from that elimination to late-register for the $10k Stud Hi-Low Championship, which he went on to win. And he didn't waste any time after that. Kassela also won the $2,500 Razz event and finished third in the $25k Six-Max. Talk about a stellar series! Kassela cashed for over $1.2 million and virtually locked up WSOP Player of the Year (baring a Main Event win by John Juanda.) Kassela went from a low-profile, high-stakes cash-game player to a man running around town trying to collect as many POY points as possible to make a run at 2010's year-long titles. We'll see if he can start with a Main Event cash.
Champion Down: Winning the Main Event carries with it the opportunity for poker immortality, the chance to come back every year and be treated with the respect of a past champion no matter how poor your poker game, and on top of that, a shot at megabucks in sponsorship deals. But Peter Eastgate, whom many consider to be the most talented Main Event winner in recent memory, decided he'd had enough of being a champ. Eastgate is the latest in a long line of poker players to quit the game, but his abdication of the throne is such a shock because he's giving up what is supposed to be the greatest seat in the game. Of course, Eastgate will be given a hero's welcome if he decides to return, as long as he remembers just how short the poker world's memory is.
Read more about Eastgate's decision in this edition of the Nightly Turbo.
Christmas in July: You know it's that time of year again when every poker site known to man shows up at the Rio to stake out their sections of the convention center hallway to cover with banners, ads, and if you're lucky, the entrance to a swanky players' lounge. This year, UB's is fully stocked with sweet treats while Everest's is going for a high-tech futuristic vibe. Full Tilt's still wins the contest, however, because it provided its players with free and surprisingly tasty food all summer.
Poker's Sweet 16: No, not the NBA brackets. We're talking about poker's version of the hit MTV show where bratty 16-year-olds try to outdo each other by throwing the most over-the-top birthday bashes. Poker sites pull the same stunt every summer with their Main Event parties. The PokerStars party is usually the one to beat, and this year, it has the advantage of going last and promising musical guest Snoop Dogg. So far, Doyle's Room scored big with its Blush event, Howard Lederer's charity World Series of Barbeque was a hit as always, and the Everest/Bodog party at Pure coincided perfectly with Fourth of July fireworks on the strip. Cardrunners' and 888's parties also generated positive buzz. Only UB's bash at the Mandarin Oriental earned complaints for being unnecessarily exclusive. Apparently it was such a hot ticket, even UB's sponsored pros couldn't bring in all of the guests they'd invited. Gasp! Such is the life on the poker party scene.
The Big Dance: Somewhere in all the partying, don't forget there's the year's biggest poker tournament going on too. The Main Event is the culmination of all we've been working for this summer, the game's biggest stage, the most coveted of all poker titles. The hyperbole gets a little old by this point in the summer, but the Main Event really is the most impressive collection of poker talent, absolute incompetence — and somewhere in between donkishness — ever assembled. It's expected value wrapped up in a box and tied with a ribbon for the pros who know how to wade through a football stadium full of amateurs. For those without the ear of the poker gods, it promises an extremely frustrating end to a brutal summer. To those running hot and playing tough, it's what they've been waiting for their whole lives. And to those lucky donkeys who find themselves in the right place a the right time, it's a chance to become a legend. All we can say is: Shuffle up and deal!