Keven Stammen joined elite company this past weekend, winning the Season XII WPT World Championship at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. It was the first time that the season-ending event took place on the East Coast; the last 11 were held at Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada.
While there was a slight overlay, which was covered by the WPT, the move made total sense for the tour and their chief sponsor partypoker. Online poker operators are still limping out of the gate in the Garden State, and there were only a handful of online satellite winners in the $15,400 buy-in event, but 328 entries for a five-figure buy-in is still very impressive. The field was more than double the Season XI WPT World Championship (146 entries), a $25,500 buy-in event.
The guarantee could’ve been smashed if it weren’t for EPT Sanremo and EPT Grand Final, and Donnie Peters has documented his thoughts about tours butting heads. I’m not sure how cooperative partypoker and PokerStars are when the latter is being blackballed in the United States thanks to the former’s lobby — among others — but both would benefit from a more practical schedule.
There are certain overhead issues that could prevent these tours from working together, of course. Booking venue space at popular properties like Borgata or the Monte-Carlo® Casino is sure to be a nightmare.
If you allow me to play Geppetto for a moment, this is what the poker calendar would’ve looked like if someone made the grave mistake of granting me total autonomy:
- WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, Apr. 10-16
- EPT Sanremo, Apr. 16-27
- PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino EPT Grand Final Apr. 29 – May 8*
- Spring Championship of Online Poker, May 4-18**
- WPT World Championship, May 19-24
- WSOP National Championship, May 24-25
- Event #1 of the WSOP, May 27
*Denotes actual 2015 schedule
**Denotes actual 2014 schedule
If venue space is available, who disagrees with this schedule? Partypoker has to swallow their pride and give PokerStars a month-long showcase, but it allows them to generate a possible 500-player field for the World Championship. PokerStars gets to crush for an entire month before going dormant during the WSOP. And the WSOP has an opportunity to increase the number of buy-ins at the National Championship and also entice European players to fly to Las Vegas for the first open bracelet event; a $25,000 buy-in tournament.
Unfortunately, we live in a world with logistics and politics, and this is an impossible feat. Still, one can dream, right?
1. Stammen and Pahuja Crowned at Borgata
The heads-up battle between Stammen, who earned $1.35 million along with a seat in the WPT Champions Club, and fellow Ohio native Byron Kaverman was quite amusing. It also could’ve lasted much longer had Stammen not spiked an ace on the river on the final hand.
According to Mike Sexton, who did a fantastic job alongside Vince Van Patten keeping the energy high throughout the broadcast, the two grew up an hour apart. I’m not sure how well they know one another, but at the start of heads-up play Stammen ordered beers for both of them.
“Byron!” Stammen yelled. “What kind of beer you want?”
During play, Stammen would simply yell “Byron” every time Kaverman picked up a pot. Kaverman remained generally silent.
With the win, Stammen now has $3.5 million in career live tournament earnings to go along with the $5.5 million he’s won online, according to PocketFives. He also has two legs of poker’s “triple crown,” winning a WSOP bracelet in 2009. After winning, Stammen skipped the celebrations to drive up the Atlantic City Expressway and hop into Day 2 of the WSOP Circuit stop at Harrah’s Philadelphia with 12 big blinds. He immediately doubled, and eventually finished 32nd for $2,903.
While quiet, Stammen comes off as a pro’s pro, taking care of his business with respect for his fellow competitors and the game. Kaverman, who now has over $2.6 million in career live tournament earnings, is cut from the same cloth, and either player would’ve made a great champion.
Stammen wasn’t the only player to receive an award at Borgata on Saturday, Mukul Pahuja was officially given the Season XII WPT Player of the Year trophy. Pahuja, who I had the pleasure of interviewing a month ago, cashed five times in Season XII, reaching three final tables and finishing eighth in a fourth event. He earned over $1.4 million, and that doesn’t include the $872,625 third-place prize he pocketed in August in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open $10 million guarantee.
Pahuja and I discussed his POY title after it was official, along with his summer plans:
Congratulations to both Pahuja and Stammen for closing out Season XII of the WPT like true bosses.
2. Vicky Coren Mitchell Becomes First Two-Time EPT Champion
Team PokerStars Pro Vicky Coren Mitchell, the first woman to ever capture an EPT title, became the first two-time EPT champion in Sanremo, winning the Main Event and banking €476,100.
Coren Mitchell started the final table as the short stack and eventually defeated Italy’s own Giacomo Fundaro heads up to earn the trophy and make history once again. On the final hand, Fundaro flat-called a preflop raise with two black aces and check-raise all in on the turn after Coren Mitchell had flopped top two pair. The river was a brick, and the Italian was eliminated.
This significance of this victory is considerable. Coren Mitchell, who recently changed her name after marrying comedian David Mitchell, is a woman. She is sponsored by PokerStars. She is an accomplished writer. She has appeared on several UK-based television shows, including poker shows like Celebrity Poker Club and Late Night Poker. And, above all, the Brits are a bit more sensible than my fellow Americans. They will celebrate their countrywoman’s successes.
In the United States, if a celebrity or an athlete were to win a major poker tournament, the public would ask, “Why is he/she gambling?” We’ve seen the effects of gambling in sports with Pete Rose and Gilbert Arenas, and tabloid magazines will do anything to create a negative buzz around American actors, musicians, and entertainers.
At the WPT World Championship, NFL free agent wide receiver Miles Austin was hiding from the cameras and the attention. Austin, a New Jersey native, wasn’t avoiding the spotlight to be difficult — he signed a few autographs and posed for pictures with pros like Phil Hellmuth — rather he knows the petty consequences that come with gambling in America, and he doesn’t want to be perceived as a slacker who isn’t training for the 2014 NFL season, which doesn’t kickoff until Sept. 4.
Coren Mitchell’s victory also takes a load off of the shoulders of former champions. As reporters, we will still drive the “double-winner” narrative when it presents itself, but for the last few dozen EPTs that narrative was on autopilot. At the end of each day, when the players were bagging and tagging, it was paramount that we find all of the former champions because they could be the one. Now, Coren Mitchell lays claim to that feat.
3. Ole Schemion is Ridiculous
It had almost been a full year since Ole Schemion won his last poker tournament, a $10,000 buy-in turbo event at the Season 9 EPT Grand Final, when he took down the EPT Sanremo High Roller for €265,000. The 11-month “drought,” which included five five-figure scores and seven final tables, was the longest of his young career.
The German defeated Max Greenwood heads up to take home the trophy and the cash, and the rest of the final table was filled with notables like Alex Bilokur, Philip Sternheimer, and Griffin Benger.
One week later, Schemion added yet another six-figure cash, finishing seventh in the EPT Grand Final Super High Roller for €307,000.
In fewer than four full years, Schemion has over $5.1 million in live tournament earnings, cashing in 40 events and winning 10. That’s right, 25 percent of the time Ole Schemion cashes in a poker tournament he wins. Only nine of his cashes are outside of the top nine.
Schemion just turned 21 this year, but according to him he will only play a few events at the 2014 WSOP. This is a shame, because the German wizard isn’t just a no-limit hold’em player — he has a victory in a €5,000 buy-in pot-limit Omaha tournament and a third-place finish in a €5,000 buy-in eight-game tournament as well.
The man known as “wizowizo” on the virtual felt is a complete mystery, however. His Hendon Mob profile doesn’t list a city, it simply says “Germany.” I’ve personally had one small conversation with him, and it was at the Season 9 EPT Grand Final:
Rich: Excuse me, Ole, will you be 21 this summer?
Ole (frowning): No.
Schemion has a stranglehold on the EPT10 Player of the Year award, which will net him €50,000 in buy-ins for PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker-sponsored events. He currently sits atop the Global Poker Index, won the 2013 GPI Player of the Year award, and is contending in the 2014 GPI Player of the Year race once again.
4. Mid-States Poker Tour Partners with Delta
On Friday, the Mid-States Poker Tour announced a ground-breaking partnership with Delta Air Lines. Together, the two will provide discount airfare to and from MSPT tournaments, which are now as far west as Las Vegas.
"As the tour is growing — both in the number of venues and the number of players at each stop — we wanted to be able to offer the players the option of discounted airfare," said Judd Greenagel, director of operations at the MSPT. "For the venues it shows that we are doing everything we can to get players to travel to their casino. Delta is a great fit as they can get you anywhere you need to be and at a very fair rate, and their SkyMiles Program is second to none."
The Delta discount ranges from 2% to 10% based on the Delta Booking Class purchased. More information on the discounted airfaire can be found at MSPTpoker.com.
This is a great move for the MSPT, which as already been smashing records across the U.S. thus far in 2014. Travel expenses are huge detractors for circuit grinders looking to bounce from stop to stop, and helping players deal with overhead will create more loyal, returning customers. This partnership seems so obvious, but to my knowledge the MSPT is the first poker tour to align with a major airline.
We live in a copycat world — imitation is the greatest form of flattery — so perhaps this announcement will spur other tours to follow in the MSPT’s footsteps. Both the WSOP Circuit and the WPT make countless stops throughout the U.S., and could benefit from a similar relationship with Delta or another company.
5. The $25K Draft
On Monday, Daniel Negreanu tweeted the date and time for the 2014 $25K Fantasy League draft:
Attention all $25k WSOP Fantasy players, the draft will be held at 7pm Mon, May 26th. Rules are the same as last year.Follow @RealKidPoker
If you haven’t already heard, Donnie Peters and I will be participating in the draft, thanks to a few generous investors. Last year, we consulted Team Matthew Waxman, who won ($210,000) by nearly 300 points. Waxman refused to draft Matthew Ashton, winner of the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, or else we would’ve won by even more points.
After the draft was over, Donnie, Frank Op de Woerd, and myself selected seven undrafted players, including Ashton, and paired them with Phil Ivey. That team, which you can see here, would’ve finished in third place ($35,000).
We’re obviously excited to be a part of this special competition and look forward to the festivities during the draft, which features a real auctioneer and some of the most entertaining degens in the world. We will do our best to keep our readers and fans in the loop during the auction, and maybe even feature some live look-ins so you guys can get a real feel for what’s going on.
Who are you guys eyeing for your own WSOP fantasy drafts? Let me know in the comments below!