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$25K Fantasy Draft Recap: Grading the Best and Worst Picks

  • Mickey DoftMickey Doft
Daniel Negreanu

The fifth annual $25K Fantasy Poker draft took place on Tuesday night, May 26. It was an auction-style draft, where each team had a $200 budget to be spread across eight players. This year, 11 teams participated. The payouts aren't set yet, but are expected to be in the coming days.

As a big stat geek, I decided to do a quick overview of each team with a little overall analysis. These opinions are strictly my own, so feel free to complain about it. All thoughts are welcomed in the comments section at the bottom of the article.

1. Team Waxman

PlayerPrice PaidGrade
1. Robert Mizrachi$20B+
2. Brian Rast$15B+
3. Eugene Katchalov$42B+
4. Matt Glantz$44B
5. Erik Seidel$16B+
6. John Racener$30B+
7. Ismael Bojang$11A+
8. Brandon Shack-Harris$22A

Value: Ismael Bojang at $11 is great value. He has 16 cashes over his last two Vegas summers, including 11 in non-hold'em games.

Reach: There isn't much I don't like about this team, but if I have to be nit-pickey, it's Matt Glantz at $44. Last year, he sold for $39 and despite nine cashes and nearly $185,000 in winnings, still ranked 62nd out of 96 in terms of points per dollar (Pts/$).

Overall Grade: A-

Last year, this roster combined for 46 cashes, and that included Katchalov (one cash), who didn't play most of the summer. From top to bottom, Waxman's team can play all of the games and can do so very well.

2. Team Run it Up

PlayerPrice PaidGrade
1. Phil Hellmuth$81A-
2. George Danzer$86B-
3. Chris George$8B
4. Adam Friedman$10B-
5. Shannon Shorr$1A
6. Richard Ashby$1B
7. Bart Hanson$1B
8. Dominik Nitsche$1A

Value: Shannon Shorr and Dominik Nitsche both play a high volume of no-limit hold'em events, and paying $1 for volume is a terrific way to go.

Reach: After winning WSOP Player of the Year in 2014, George Danzer was going to be in high demand this year. He scored the most points overall last year, but even at $40 (his price in 2014) he was 30th in Pts/$. At $86 this year, it's demanding an awful lot when it's unlikely he will repeat his 2014 success.

Overall Grade: B+

It's the "stars and scrubs" approach — spending heavy on two players and filling out the rest of the roster with with players at a lower price. They paid a healthy sum for Hellmuth and Danzer, a great top two, and filled out the rest of the roster with a good combination of mixed-game players and hold'em specialists that are expected to put in a ton of volume.

3. Team Glantz

PlayerPrice PaidGrade
1. Dan Kelly$71A+
2. Paul Volpe$80B+
3. Taylor Paur$16B
4. Andrey Zaichenko$22B
5. Bryce Yockey$8C
6. Barry Greenstein$1B
7. Rep Porter$1A+
8. Darren Elias$1A

Value: Rep Porter has made a WSOP final table every year since 2011 and averages more than three cashes a year in that time. For $1, that's great value. Darren Elias at $1 is also excellent value, as he is likely to play a full schedule of no-limit hold'em events.

Reach: After going for $5 last year and finishing 73rd in Pts/$, Bryce Yockey feels like a reach, especially going for more money this time around.

Overall Grade: B+

Dan Kelly and Paul Volpe are a strong two to build around. Some might argue that Volpe at $80 is too expensive, but volume from your studs cannot be understated. Both Kelly and Volpe can play everything, and will play everything. Taylor Paur had eight WSOP cashes in 2014 and is coming off a seven-figure victory at the World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star, so expect him to play in a ton of no-limit hold'em events.

4. Team Brunson

PlayerPrice PaidGrade
1. John Monnette$41A
2. Daniel Idema$1B
3. Todd Brunson$24B
4. Shawn Buchanan$30A-
5. David Chiu$24B
6. Nick Schulman$30B
7. John Hennigan$28B
8. Frank Kassela$22B

Value: I really like John Monnette at $41. There's been a little ambiguity as to how many events he is playing, but if he plays a full schedule like I've been told, a player of his caliber with a high volume at this price is a steal.

Reach: Frank Kassela was essentially a $1 pick that they they used the rest of their budget for, so don't count Kassela at $22. David Chiu at $24 is risky since he hasn't played a full WSOP schedule in a while.

Overall Grade: B

I worry a little about the volume that will be put in by the team as a whole, but it's a skilled group of guys that can play all the games.

5. Team Leah

PlayerPrice PaidGrade
1. Daniel Negreanu$96B-
2. Bryn Kenney$62B+
3. Brock Parker$26A+
4. Jonathan Duhamel$7B-
5. Eli Elezra$3B-
6. Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier$1C+
7. Randy Ohel$1A
8. Brian Tate$4B

Value: Averaging nearly five cashes per WSOP since 2011, a terrific well-rounded player like Brock Parker at $26 is terrific value. I also like Randy Ohel for $1, who likewise is a well-rounded player who should play about 25 events this summer.

Reach: Daniel Negreanu was the most expensive player drafted at $96. Nobody can argue Negreanu isn't among the best, if not the best, in the game. However, Negreanu isn't planning on playing as heavy a schedule as he has in the past, making spending $96 on him awfully risky.

Overall Grade: B

I'm a little skeptical of the volume from guys like Brian Tate, Eli Elezra and Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, but that should be balanced out from Parker, Bryn Kenney and Jonathan Duhamel.

6. Team Hastings

PlayerPrice PaidGrade
1. Brian Hastings$68B
2. Justin Bonomo$43A
3. Jesse Martin$51B
4. Greg Mueller$20B+
5. Tom Schneider$5B
6. Phil Galfond$2B
7. Ofir Mor$1C
8. John Thrower$10C

Value: Justin Bonomo has the potential to be a $60-plus guy. He plays all the games well, but hasn't reached the elite status when it comes to his draft price. This is the year that changes.

Reach: Even though they rounded out his team, the selections of Phil Galfond, Ofir Mor, and John Thrower seem questionable to me. Forget the $10 on Thrower, since it was the remaining salary available to Team Hastings, essentially making it a $1 pick. I just see other players that could be had for $1 or $2 that are more likely to play a heavier schedule and have a better chance to produce more.

Overall Grade: B

Brian Hastings is banking on himself to lead his team. I have a feeling he knows more about Mor and Thrower than the rest of us do, but until they perform, the jury is out.

7. Team Gypsy

PlayerPrice PaidGrade
1. Scott Seiver$73A
2. Allen Kessler$30C+
3. Mike Watson$32B+
4. James Obst$32B+
5. Ben Yu$9B+
6. Anthony Zinno$1A
7. Phillip Hui$1B
8. Tom Koral$22A

Value: The $22 spent on Tom Koral is misleading, as Team Gypsy used their remaining salary to lock up Koral instantly. He might have gone for $1, or maybe $10, but regardless Koral is an excellent value pick. He has 16 cashes over the last two WSOPs, and is the best mixed-game player you've never heard of.

Reach: Allen Kessler is consistent when it comes to cashing, averaging nearly five per WSOP since 2010, but at $30 you are looking for a substantial score to justify that price point. He went for $14 last year, came in eighth place in the $50,000 Poker Players' Championship for $134,101, and still was just 56th in Pts/$. That won't cut it at $30.

Overall Grade: B

If Scott Seiver plays a full schedule, he's a better pick than Negreanu at $96 and Jason Mercier at $91. That extra money allowed them to lock up a solid roster that includes mixed game players (Koral, Ben Yu, James Obst), no-limit hold'em guys (Phillip Hui, Anthony Zinno), and ones that play everything (Seiver, Kessler, Mike Watson).

8. Team Kroko-Ushan

PlayerPrice PaidGrade
1. Vanessa Selbst$21B-
2. Calvin Anderson$84B
3. Mike Leah$51B
4. David Bach$5C+
5. Jason Koon$12B+
6. Naoya Kihara$10B+
7. Viacheslav Zhukov$1B+
8. Alexey Makarov$16B+

Value: At effectively $2, Viacheslav Zhukov and Alexey Makarov could be playing full schedules and nobody aside from Team Kroko-Ushan would know. Zhukov has two bracelets, so he has the potential to be an absolute steal.

Reach: Not expected to play a super-packed schedule, Vanessa Selbst at $21 needs to pay off with a win or more than one deep run.

Overall Grade: B

Calvin Anderson and Mike Leah are among the best all-around players on the planet, so having the two of them instantly makes Team Kroko-Ushan a contender. The rest of the team isn't as strong as others, but there is potential to surprise.

9. Team Gorodinsky

PlayerPrice PaidGrade
1. Mike Gorodinsky$28B
2. Chris Klodnicki$16B+
3. Marco Johnson$44B
4. David "Bakes" Baker$45B
5. Jeremy Ausmus$29B
6. Dylan Linde$26B
7. Matthew Ashton$1C-
8. David Benyamine$5B-

Value: Chris Klodnicki at $16 could be a steal if he plays a busy schedule. His 2014 WSOP wasn't up to his usual standards, but he made three final tables in 2013. Expect Klodnicki to have another performance like that.

Reach: David "Bakes" Baker took a big hit after a sub-par 2014 WSOP, as his price fell from $73 to $45. He is still the most expensive player on Team Gorodinsky, and as such he'll be expected to perform. He'll have to return to his 2013 WSOP form, when he cashed eight times and made four final tables. Matthew Ashton went for $36 last year and was the dud of the draft, but not many knew he was planning to attend the World Cup and forego most the WSOP. While his value dropped a lot because of last year's performance, this year Ashton has said he's only playing maybe five events and focusing on cash games. That makes even drafting him a little questionable.

Overall Grade: B-

Opting to go for a more balanced team than one with one of the higher-priced players, Gorodinsky's team is filled with guys who can play all the games, but they must play a big schedule.

10. Team Negreanu

PlayerPrice PaidGrade
1. Stephen Chidwick$79A-
2. Scott Clements$70B
3. Mark Gregorich$1B
4. Eric Wasserson$22B-
5. Ted Forrest$1B-
6. Georgios Sotiropoulos$1C
7. Jon Turner$10B
8. Jeff Lisandro$16B

Value: Jeff Lisandro and Jon Turner are very good mixed-game players, and all it takes is one or two deep runs to reach value for a combined $26.

Reach: The $1 selections of Ted Forrest, Mark Gregorich, and Georgios Sotiropoulos are a bit puzzling, considering there are a few snubs that were available who are much more likely to play a heavier schedule. Maybe Negreanu knows something we don't.

Overall Grade: B-

Clements and Chidwick anchor Team Negreanu, and they are going to have to perform at a high level, especially if Turner, Lisandro and Wasserson dont exceed their value.

11. Team Fleyshman

PlayerPrice PaidGrade
1. Phil Ivey$23B-
2. Jason Mercier$91B-
3. Michael Mizrachi$15B-
4. David "ODB" Baker$35B
5. Dan Smith$18B-
6. Mike Matusow$13B-
7. Noah Schwartz$1B
8. Steve Billirakis$4B+

Value and Reach: The biggest question mark is Phil Ivey. Nobody is quite sure what his plans are for the summer. If he shows up early, it's the steal of the draft. If he doesn't arrive until later, which is what the word has been, it's hard to justify spending $23 and getting nothing to show for it for half the series.

Overall Grade: B-

Jason Mercier is the stud on this team, but at $91 a full summer slate of events should be expected. He'll be missing a stretch of events in early June for a wedding, and with the uncertainly of Ivey this summer, the team just isn't as strong as the others drafted.

Biggest Snubs

1. Jeff Madsen
2. Martin Jacobson
3. Maria Ho

Madsen and Ho play a ton of mixed games and should be a constant presence at the Rio throughout the summer, while the reigning Main Event champion Jacobson is expected to play nearly a full schedule of no-limit hold'em events. Considering some of the $1 selections that were made, some real value was missed.

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