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Oh Ivey, Where Art Thou?

Phil Ivey

When it comes to poker rooms, it seems that no room has grown faster in the last year than the one at Aria. There is no doubt that one of the reasons players flock to the 24-table room is the wide range of limits, from $1-$3 no-limit hold’em to the highest stakes imaginable. There is even a special area where the high-stakes games are held — known as Ivey’s Room — which will be celebrating its one-year anniversary this weekend. Phil Ivey’s namesake room has slowly replaced Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio as the place to go for high-stakes poker. Unfortunately, when it comes to high-stakes poker, Ivey has been conspicuously absent, which has left many wondering whether or not he’ll actually take part in the anniversary festivities?

Speculation on Ivey’s whereabouts began at the World Poker Tour $25,000 World Championship, which got underway last weekend with 220 players. The field was full of the biggest names in poker, with a few exceptions. While some Full Tilt Poker pros like Erik Seidel, Erick Lindgren, and Allen Cunningham entered the event, others were suspiciously absent. The absentees included Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Patrik Antonius, Tom “durrrr” Dwan, and of course, Ivey.

The most plausible explanation for the absences is that the events of online poker’s Black Friday and Full Tilt’s subsequent delay in paying their customers has inspired these players to avoid the poker spotlight. With the 2011 World Series of Poker just a couple of weeks away, fans can’t help but wonder whether this unprecedented hiatus will continue. For Ivey, specifically, that hiatus will be tested this weekend because he is set to participate in the Aria’s 2nd Annual Ivey Invitational.

For those who may not be aware, Saturday, May 21, 2011, marks the one-year anniversary of Ivey’s Room and the folks at the Aria have decided to celebrate by throwing a freeroll. The invite-only tournament will be hosted by Shannon Elizabeth and allow participants to compete for a $250,000 first-place prize. In addition, the eventual winner will square off against Ivey in a heads-up match. Whoever manages to win will score another $250,000!

“We have been extremely pleased with the success of The Ivey Room since its 2010 debut,” Bill McBeath, president and COO of ARIA said. “It has quickly become the foremost room for high-stakes action. We are grateful to have a long-standing relationship with Phil as he remains one of the elite players in the world of poker.”

Last year, the event proved to be a tremendous success. Invitees were able to make money by either making the final table or knocking out a bounty, the largest of which ($100,000) went to 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event final tablist Chino Rheem for knocking out Ivey. The top prize of $250,000 went to winner Larry Litton who advanced to a heads-up battle against Ivey. Unfortunately for him, Ivey proved to be too much to overcome. Later that night, pros like Jennifer Harman, David Benyamine, Eli Elezra, Tim Phan, and Doyle Brunson immediately christened Ivey’s Room with the first high-stakes games.

You can check out a video of the Ivey's Room opening below.

“I am honored that Bill and the entire team at ARIA have decided to place my name on their one-table high-limit room. With its recent opening in December, ARIA has established itself as a leader in the gaming industry and I look forward to playing at ARIA’s Poker Room soon,” Ivey said during last year’s event.

Anticipation for this year's invitational is at an all-time high, but it seems that the poker world will have to wait and see whether Ivey surfaces this weekend.

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