Calling the Clock: Moans & Groans From the WSOP; Controversy in Aria High Roller, and Much More

TAGs: Calling the Clock, Editorial

Lee Davy brings you his normal weekly round up of news and views from the world of poker, including all the moans and groans from the 46th Annual World Series of Poker, a funny story from the $25k Aria High Roller, a change of direction for Maria Ho, and much more.

Calling the Clock: Moans & Groans From the WSOP; Controversy in Aria High Roller, and Much MoreNot even Matt Salsberg could have written the script for the opening scenes of the 46th Annual World Series of Poker (WSOP).

We have had complaints, cheating scandals, and even a starring role from Hollywood’s very own: Mr. James Woods. A man so famous there is even a high school named after him in Quahog.

Let’s start with the complaints.

Everyone knows that social media can be a tool. And that can be a good thing. Other times, not so much. Especially when that tool is a chainsaw, and it’s being used to tear your company to shreds.

The chainsaw rip chord was pulled as soon as the first card was dealt. Players were in revolt over the decision to drop PokerNews as the official live reporting outlet. PokerListings came to the WSOP’s rescue with a well thought out piece explaining that the task is a poisoned chalice. It’s a simple case of a lack of manpower v logistics. As events fade away, so did the complaints.

Then came The Colossus: the greatest tournament in the world. Players flocked to Las Vegas in their droves. 5,664 of the eventual 22,374 participants were playing in a WSOP event for the first time. From the point of view of attracting recreational players to the game, it was a huge success.

So what went wrong?

Registration was a nightmare. There wasn’t an adequate system in place to get people in, without the need to stand in an airport security style line, then there was the lack of supervisory presence during that wait, which led to a lack of communication.

Once in, there was further outrage when the payouts were announced. The top prize would be $638,880. Social media went berserk – mainly professional players – all complaining about Caesars take, and the lack of a million dollar prize pool.

Players were given one last thing to complain about when the payout process couldn’t handle the outpouring of happy winners. Busted players stood in line for several hours before receiving their money. Days after the event, the lines were still slow.

So it wasn’t a great start for a team who had done tremendous work in hosting a world record event. Will we ever see the event again? It depends if Caesars can get their act together. We are not talking about unsolvable problems. These were shortcomings that would have reared their head on any risk assessment. The main question isn’t ‘will we ever see the event again?’ It’s ‘will anybody come?’

Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, news emerged from the prestigious $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Championships that one of the players might have cheated his way to the final eight spots.

The focus of everyone’s beady eyes is on the Moldovan player Valeriu Coca, after Connor Drinan tweeted that he felt he had been ‘super-used’ during their earlier encounter. Drinan held conversations with the other players left in Coca’s wake, who also believed that there was something amiss during their matches.

The WSOP were made aware of the allegations, and increased scrutiny was placed on Coca. This scrutiny revealed that Coca had been banned from a Czech casino for bending aces and kings to help him win in cash games. He was banned from that establishment.

It’s believed that Coca may have used ink to mark cards, and then use specially made sunglasses to see the backs of his opponent’s cards before making his decisions. It’s felt he marked aces, kings and queens, and then played accordingly.

The WSOP confirmed that an investigation is underway, but initial testing of the cards found nothing amiss.

Coca would eventually lose out to Keith Lehr in the semi-final. Lehr would defeat Paul Volpe to win the bracelet. Lehr has himself been a target of cheating accusations in his past.

So that’s the shit out of the way, now onto the good stuff.

At the time of writing the WSOP has handed out 10 bracelets, and there has been some wonderful stories amongst them. Here is the quick fire run down for you.

Brandon Barnette took the top prize of $75,704, and the first bracelet of the series, after topping a field of 688 entrants in the Casino Employee Event. The first open bracelet would produce a final table of such quality, you will be hard pressed to see it emulated for the rest of the season. Michael Wang defeated the likes of Bryn Kenney, Artur Koren, Greg Merson, Jason Wheeler, Amir Lehavot, Joe Ebanks and Byron Kaverman on his way to his first gold bracelet.

Robert Mizrachi equaled his brother’s haul of three gold bracelets, when he took the top prize of $255,022 in the first Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) Hi-Lo event of the series, and Nick Petrangelo maintained his stunning form by winning the bracelet in the first Shootout event.

Cord Garcia broke his WSOP duck by cashing for the first time in the record breaking Colossus. He won it, taking home the top prize of $638,880, and John Reading adapted faster than anyone else by winning the inaugural Hyper Hold’em event.

Tuan Le did the unthinkable and successfully defending his $10,000 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball Championships. It was the first time since 2009 that anyone had done that, and then we had our first non-American bracelet winners.

Germany’s Paul Michaelis beat Tom Marchese to win the first Pot-Limit Hold’em (PLH) event, and Max Pescatori became the first Italian in history to win three WSOP bracelets with victory in the $1,500 Razz event.

One man who hasn’t won a bracelet yet, but is making all of the headlines, is the Hollywood star James Woods. Academy Awards nominee, Woods, defeated Doug Polk in a six hour heads-up battle to take his place at the final table of the Shootout. Unfortunately, Woods finished seventh for $28,832, but then went on to finish 37th in the Hyper Hold’em event.

Lichtenberger and Silver Win Big at The Aria; Imposter Revealed

The Aria are taking advantage of the deluge of WSOP players, with a series of $25k High Roller events. The first two have gone the way of Max Silver and Andrew Lichtenberger, but once again controversy reigned as a daily deep stack player was accidentally handed a $25k seat by mistake.

The player took his seat, and promptly eliminated three players before his ruse was detected. The player was asked to kindly leave the casino, and news has not yet emerged as to what fate awaits him, or what form of recompense awaits the three players who were sent to the rail prematurely.

APPT Macau & Eureka5 Hamburg News

Las Vegas is not hogging all of the live poker action. The Asian Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) brushed aside any potential Chinese legal issues to carry on regardless with their event in Macau.

Two big winners to speak of.

Tony Cheng topped a field of 493 entrants to win the first prize of $325,700 in the HK$23,000 Main Event, and Yu Liang defeated a field of 105 entrants to capture the first prize of $321,477 in the HK$100,000 High Roller.

Over in Germany and the Eureka Poker Tour was testing the water in Hamburg for the first time. By all accounts it was a great success. Tom Holke defeated 581 entrants to win the top prize of $119,807 in the €1,100 Main Event, and Tobias Peters defeated a field of 81 entrants to take the top prize of $41,330 in the €2,200 High Roller.

A Change of Direction For Maria Ho

Maria Ho has decided a change of direction is in order after deciding to call time on her two-year association with the Heartland Poker Tour (HPT), to work on a new TV project called Poker Night: The Tour.

Ho will team up with David Tuchman to host the show produced by Ultimate Poker’s former Director of Content and Pro Marketing, Dustin Iannotti. The show will focus on the lives of poker players when they are not playing poker. The home of the TV show is yet to be disclosed.

Time, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Someone has just called the clock.


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