Five Thoughts: Mercier Opens Up, Galfond Opens Up Shop and Negreanu Plays The Shill
Previous members of the World Series of Poker's November Nine have found a ton of success playing tournaments in the lead up to the final table, and this year will be no different, after a week in which two of this year's players both booked big scores.
Some of the game's biggest names also stayed the spotlight, with Daniel Negreanu talking with PokerNews, Jason Mercier promising to stream his WCOOP High Roller efforts and Phil Galfond telling the world he's ready to get into the online poker operator business.
All this and more on 888poker's foray into festivals in this week's Five Thoughts.
1. A Company Man
Daniel Negreanu is never short on opinions. That fact was once again on display in a wide-ranging interview with tournament poker's all-time leading money winner and PokerNews' Live Reporting Manager Frank Op de Woerd in Barcelona last month. The piece ran on this site this week.
Leaning towards liberalism myself, I'm often on Negreanu's side politically and on many issues facing the poker community. I believe he's a logical thinker; he does what he does and says what he says for the love of the game — A position that's always easy to support. But reading this particular interview, I began to take issue with what I see as a disturbing trend.
Whether it's ultimately a plan by Amaya's media relations department, or just Negreanu going off on his own, the biggest ambassador for the brand, and poker as a whole, seems to be turning into somewhat of a corporate apologist these days.
First, with the public relations blunder that was the last minute changes to the site's SuperNove Elite rewards program, and now, with changes to the payout structures at live events and other issues facing the company, Negreanu seems to continually be the one trotted out to explain where the company is coming from. He's the one making the excuses. No other Team PokerStars Pros seems to have anything to say on matters of corporate policy. Most seem able to simply play the game, while Negreanu plays the face of the company.
As a result of all this, Kid Poker had to face a little fire in the Op de Woerd interview, explaining where the "mind-blowing promotions" he allegedly said were coming to the site had disappeared to. Negreanu played a little semantics here, letting Op de Woerd know he never actually made any promises, the promotions could still be coming down the pipe in the near future and apologizing again for shake-ups at Amaya that may have slowed down the whole process.
The disappointing part of all this isn't that the promotions aren't here, it's that Negreanu even had to answer these questions in the first place. The fact is, if poker's greatest ambassador hadn't been put, or put himself, in the position to answer for the company's sins in the first place, he wouldn't have to be dancing around these subjects now. We all love that Negreanu shoots from the hip and tells it like it is, but I don't think anybody, outside of the people in Amaya's PR department, is enjoying this new corporate spin master side of him.
2. Stream of Consciousness
Poker fans are in for a rare treat this weekend as Team PokerStars Pro Jason Mercier is planning to live stream The PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker $102,000 Super High Roller event on Twitch.TV.
Mercier will reportedly broadcast his effort to win the biggest buy-in event in online poker history on a 15-minute delay with cards up on PokerStars' Twitch channel, a couple hours after the tournament kicks off Sept. 11 at 12:30 p.m. ET. Fellow Team PokerStars Pro Jason "JCarver" Somerville will also be on hand to provide some commentary.
Make no mistake about it, this is a rare glimpse into the mind of a master as one of the most successful players in the game tries to plow through what will undoubtedly be a tough field in this nosebleed buy-in event.
Despite a ton of prodding from the poker press, Mercier has steadfastly refused to provide advice or give interviews regarding strategy for years. This summer, he finally relented, discussing some basic thoughts about No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw Lowball just days before winning a WSOP bracelet in that discipline.
Now, it seems he's found a willingness to open up a little more and let the public inside during this prestigious event, and as poker fans and players, I can't help but think we're all going to be better for it.
- Jason Mercier, Jason Somerville Stream Largest Online Buy-in Tournament
- PokerStars' Lee Jones, Bryan Slick Talk WCOOP $102,000 Super High Roller
3. Ready To Run It
Online high-stakes legend Phil Galfond announced late last week he and his partners at the RunItOnce.com training site would be getting into the real money online poker operators game in the first quarter of 2017.
In his news release, Galfond blogged about the importance of upholding certain values as an online poker operator as the organization prepares to enter that side of the industry, adapting to the current climate and valuing players first, whether they be pros or recreational players.
With more than a decade of experience at the highest levels of professional poker, there's little doubt a real money online poker offering from Galfond and RunItOnce will consider the professional poker player in all it does. What remains to be seen is whether or not Galfond and his partners are in touch at all with what recreational players want and need from an online poker site.
Considering the fact that industry leader PokerStars appears to be struggling with changes aimed at attracting more recreational players every day, despite having a ton more experience as an online poker operator, it's hard to imagine Galfond and RunItOnce will arrive on the scene next year and immediately be any better at it.
It's also hard to imagine a brand new online poker site succeeding at all in the current political climate and state of the worldwide online poker economy.
I wish Galfond and the entire organisation the best of luck in this endeavor; I just hope they have deep pockets, a solid business plan and a real commitment to the long run here, because in this day and age, success for a new online poker operator definitely isn't going to come overnight.
4. Success Breeds Success
Congratulations to Gordon Vayo and Kenny Hallaert, who continued the long-standing tradition of November Niners and found success in the time between locking up seats at the World Series of Poker Main Event final table and playing down to a champion this week.
Vayo won the $2,500 WinStar River Poker Series Main Event, taking the most money out of a five-way chop to book a hefty $587,120 score. Hallaert went online and won the partypoker Grand Prix, getting the best of a 4,600-entry field to win $65,000.
Perhaps the only November Niner happier than these two was chip leader Cliff Josephy, who took to Twitter to jokingly remind the pair to keep using up their run good before play resumes in the 2016 WSOP Main Event at the end of October.
- November Niner Gordon Vayo Wins WinStar River Poker Series Main Event After Five-Way Deal ($587,120)
5. A Festival of Festivals
It's definitely exciting to see 888poker jump in the poker festival game. The success of the European Poker tour was built around the many events surrounding the Main Events, and PokerStars has been so successful with this festival-style scheduling, it is even expanding its offerings around the globe now.
The new 888Live Festivals that will kick off in London, England at Aspers Casino for 11 days from Oct. 13 through 23 and are promising to offer bigger prize pools than anything 888poker has done before, with an estimated $500,000 up for grabs.
A variety of buy ins and game variants will be on the schedule, from a £120 Lightening 6-Max to a £2,000 High Roller.
Plus, site ambassadors like Chris Moorman, Dominik Nitsche and Sofia Lövgren are expected to show up and will carry $888 bounties on their heads throughout the different events.
The new 888Live Festivals are starting small, with plans to offer just a couple more stops throughout the calendar year, but they're sure to be fun and a great promotional tool for the site going forward.