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Five Thoughts: Third Week of the 2011 World Series of Poker

Sam Stein

We’re now three weeks into the 42nd Annual World Series of Poker (crazy), and during the past week Sam Stein vaulted into the lead for WSOP Player of the Year, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier won the first live stud tournament he’d ever played, Badugi was played for the first time at the WSOP, and a whopping 3,752 seniors packed into the Rio for the Seniors Event, making it the biggest one-day starting field in the history of the WSOP.

Oh yeah, and Phil Hellmuth finished runner-up in Event #33: $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better, keeping his non-hold’em bracelet count at zero — and my bold prediction from last week alive.

Let’s check out what happened this past week.

1. Daniel Idema is pretty good at limit hold’em

Last year, at the 2010 WSOP, Daniel Idema finished runner up in the $10,000 Limit Hold’em Championship event. He was heads up with Matt Keikoan and actually had a 16:1 chip lead at one point during heads-up play. Keikoan stormed back, however, winning the bracelet and eliminating Idema in second place, which was good for $263,244.

Idema returned to the final table of the Limit Hold’em Championship event with a vengeance this year, besting players such as Nick Schulman, Justin “Boosted J” Smith, Barry Greenstein, Richard “Quiet Lion” Brodie, and Isaac Haxton. Idema defeated Matthew Gallin heads up to win his first WSOP bracelet, and $378,642. He also finished 23rd in a $1,500 limit hold’em event at the start of the 2011 WSOP, which was good for $6,096, putting his lifetime WSOP limit hold’em earnings at $647,981.

The Vancouver resident, and brother of TwoPlusTwo Pokercast’s Adam Schwartz, has to be recognized as one of the top limit players in the world after these two deep runs. Maybe next year he can go Jeffrey Papola on us and add a third-place finish.

2. Andy Frankenberger is on a sick heater

According to the Hendon Mob Database, Andy Frankenberger’s first major live cash was in January 2010. He finished 21st in a $1,000 no limit hold’em event at the Borgata, taking home $2,411. Since then, he’s won a Venetian Deepstack event ($162,110), the 2010 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker ($750,000), finished fifth at the 2010 WPT Festa Al Lago ($161,200), and just a few days ago won his first WSOP gold bracelet in Event #28 ($599,153).

Frankenberger was also named the WPT Player of the Year and is in 20th place in the race for WSOP Player of the Year with 240 points.

“It’s really just a shock to me,” Frankenberger told our own Kristy Arnett at his bracelet ceremony. “When the cards all came out and I had won, I couldn’t believe it. Only at that point did I allow myself to think about the enormity of what it meant to beat such a large, talented field.”

In less than two years, Frankenberger has hurdled to the forefront of the poker world, winning nearly $2 million. If he’s fortunate enough to put together another deep run at the 2011 WSOP, he could become the second player to win both the WPT and WSOP Player of the Year titles – Daniel Negreanu was crowned both in 2004.

3. Sam Stein is on an even sicker heater

Speaking of the WSOP POY race, Sam Stein (385.75 points) is second in the standings behind Phil Hellmuth (393.75 points). Stein final tabled the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship event, finishing third for $264,651, then bested a 685-player field in the $3,000 Pot-Limit Omaha event a couple of days later, winning his first bracelet and $420,802. Before the 2011 WSOP, Stein's best finish at the Series was 10th in last year’s Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship event ($44,010).

Stein’s 2011 started with a bang – he final-tabled the PokerStars Carribbean Adventure Main Event, finishing fourth and banking $1 million. With over 20 events left at the WSOP, Stein will have plenty of chances to surpass Hellmuth in the POY race and add to his more than $1.7 million in cashes this year. Like Frankenberger, Stein’s a fairly new face, but that’s because he’s only 23 years old. He jumped on the scene immediately when he turned 21, cashing eight times in 2009 for over a quarter of a million dollars.

Confidence is crucial in tournament poker, and right now Stein has every reason to feel like he can crush any field he enters.

4. The success of the Seniors Event is exactly why we need regulated online poker

Amazingly, the Seniors Event attracted 3,752 runners this past weekend – the most players ever for a tournament with only one starting day. The hallways of the Rio were filled with scooters, cowboy hats, and suspenders, and before the tournament started, the line at the Sau Paulo Café stretched for nearly 50 yards with patrons in need of a hearty breakfast before a few hours of grinding. After three days of play, James Hess, who was barely eligible to play at 50 years old, took the event down. He earned $557,435, and of course, the gold bracelet.

The massive field size for this event once again proves that there is a market of 50+ people in the United States that enjoys playing poker. If this market can be tapped into, there is a potential for a second poker boom because (1) this demographic tends to have more free time, and (2) as the years pass, this demographic will become more technologically savvy, making it more likely for them to access online poker. However, if online poker isn’t legitimate (backed by government), then the 50+ crowd won’t trust anyone with their money.

The capital is there for the raking, but only time will tell if the market can be targeted successfully.

5. Devilfish gave Sam Grizzle a run for his money

I didn’t think the Sam Grizzle interview could be topped. I was wrong. Check out Sarah Grant’s interview with Dave “Devilfish” Ulliot.

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