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Empire Strikes Back: Polk and Fee Take Tag Team Event

Doug Polk (left) and Ryan Fee


  • Doug Polk and Ryan Fee won the Tag Team Event for $76,679 and a gold bracelet apiece.

Doug Polk and Ryan Fee started out laughing at the event, and when it was all over, they were laughing their way to the winner's circle as owners of two gold bracelets and $76,679.

Official Final Table Results

PlacePlayersPrize (Per Player)
1Ryan Fee, Doug Polk$76,679
2Niel Mittelman, Adam Greenberg, Gabriel Paul$31,583
3Marvin Rettenmaier, Mohsin Charania$33,229
4Christopher Godfrey, James Dempsey$23,639
5TJ Shulman, John Gale$17,059
6Owais Ahmed, Adam Owen, Benny Glaser, Bart Lybaert$6,246
7Robert Altman, Reuben Peters$9,282
8Michael Padula, Marco Caruso, Daniel Urban$4,668
9Jonathan Little, Larry Little, Rita Little$3,575

Polk said when he and Fee first heard about Event #61: $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold'em at the 2016 World Series of Poker, they chuckled about it on an online stream they did, calling the idea “ridiculous.”

Nonetheless, the two members of the “Evil Empire” crew decided to enter the event for the sake of their coaching site, UpswingPoker.

“We thought it would be really good to help promote our coaching site,” Polk said. “We're the two content guys, and if we teamed up, it would be a cool story.”

“Especially if we won,” Fee added.

“And then we won,” Polk finished with a laugh.

That they did, topping a field of 863 teams in what proved to be a successful return of an event that hadn't been on the WSOP schedule since 1983, though it was then “Mixed Doubles” and required a two-person team with one male and one female player.

Fee and Polk registered late and bagged just 22,000, one of the shorter stacks at the end of Day 1, splitting the playing duties about evenly. Fee was the one who took the reins for the first half of Day 2, running it up to 110,000 before handing things over to Polk for the final six-to-seven hours.

Polk crushed it, turning that 110,000 into more than 1.2 million and the end-of-day lead with the official final table of nine teams set to return for Day 3. The man once known as “WCGRider” wanted to continue his rush on Day 3, but more pressing matters were at hand – he needed to get seated for the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop, which limited him to just one hour at the start of play.

“I didn't want to register late for the One Drop when there was a perfectly capable player here that could also win it for us,” Polk said with a smile.

Fee was doing his job just fine, navigating his way to heads-up play, where faced off with the team made up of Niel Mittelman, Andy Greenberg, and Gabriel Paul. The three players were rotating fairly often, offering different looks to a man who had plenty of experience playing heads-up poker online.

Fee noticed right away that Paul was the savviest of the bunch when it came to heads-up poker, and that's the match-up where Fee ran into a snag. He three-barreled a board of {j-Diamonds}{8-Clubs}{6-Diamonds}{k-Hearts}{j-Spades} after three-betting preflop from the big blind, with his last bet an all-in shove to put Paul at risk.

Paul mustered the courage to call it all off with {a-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds} and he was right, as Fee had a total airball with {5-Clubs}{2-Clubs}. That pot gave Paul's team a lead of nearly 4-1.

“That was a good spot to go for it, so I just put all the money in,” Fee said of the huge hand. “That's what I thought he had, so I was like, there's no way he can call here.”

“Great spot to go for it,” Polk chimed in sarcastically.

Needles aside, the confidence each player had in their partner was a key part of the duo's victory. Fee noticed many players playing differently than they normally would because of the responsibility aspect of the tournament. Players were often serving as caretakers of chips – as Polk put it, nobody “wanted to be that guy.”

That wasn't an issue for Polk and Fee.

“I feel like it's one of those things where being a better team in terms of skill is a huge advantage,” Polk said. “I know if he punts it off, it's probably at least somewhat reasonable usually. Whereas with weaker teams, there's a lot more pressure to just not screw things up.”

After the disastrous bluff, Polk, who had been waiting by the rail as he was on a 15-minute break from One Drop, quickly moved into Fee's seat. He promptly doubled up with top pair, calling off with {k-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds} on a board of {k-Hearts}{5-Hearts}{2-Spades}{7-Spades}{3-Hearts} when Paul check-raised all in on the river.

“Don't try to make Doug fold top pair,” Fee said. “Big mistake.”

Polk ceded the driver's seat back to Fee, celebrating loudly on his way back to One Drop. About 50 hands later, Fee put a bow on things against Paul, whose team had apparently decided he was indeed the one best served to battle it out with Fee as he played the majority of the last few hours.

Recreational and professional players alike seemed to thoroughly enjoy the event – see the video below from the PokerNews video team – and that was a sentiment echoed by Fee after he and Polk collected their newly-won bracelets.

“I'm not big on tournaments, I really prefer cash games, but I would do this again,” he said. “I would for sure do this again.”

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