July 30, 2012
The story of former pro surfer Kristin Wilson, who is originally from Florida but now resides in Costa Rica, has been circulating around the online poker community lately. This entrepreneur has created a somewhat ingenious business that assists poker pros with relocating to Costa Rica, a place where they can play online poker legally and continue making a living post-Black Friday. Wilson’s relocation service, which is located in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, is called Poker Refugees, and thus the poker players that use her service are also referred to as poker refugees, and there’s about 150 US poker players who now reside in Costa Rica for the sole reason of playing online poker.
Other industries that are illegal in the US are also deemed acceptable in Costa Rica, for instance, stem-cell treatments. Therefore, the small Central American nation has become a key destination for medical tourism. Costa Rica has found a niche as a country that can when the US says cannot.
Most of the poker refugees are in their 20s, so relocating isn’t too much of a hindrance, though many admit that they are unhappy about being forced to leave their homes in order to make a living in the industry they have chosen. Some who have children have even left their families behind and liken their lives to that of a corporate executive who has to travel for business, home on the weekends and holidays. Some on the other hand enjoy the oceanfront office with a beautiful view of the Pacific.
Wilson’s relocation service ensures that the players who relocate to Costa Rica have accommodations to ensure they don’t fall privy to the somewhat less-developed Costa Rica with a backup generator in case the power goes out and a back up Internet in case one loses connection. She says, “These guys play anywhere from four to 24 games at one time,” so if they lose signal or power, they could lose thousands of dollars very quickly.
Hopefully with all the advancements that are being made within the US on both intrastate and even federal levels, these poker refugees will be able to move home or stay in Costa Rica by choice, not as their only option to make a living playing online poker.
July 30, 2012
After Full Tilt Poker redefined online poker with Rush Poker, which everyone loved, there was a gaping hole when Full Tilt shut down abruptly. So PokerStars came in with Zoom Poker and it was a big success. Now the iPoker Network has stepped on the high-speed poker bus and offers Speed Hold ‘em. Online poker players who play at iPoker Network sites such as Titan Poker, William Hill Poker, Winner Poker, Bet365 and others will now be able to enjoy the fast-paced poker variant.
Speed Hold ‘em will allow players to play three times as many NLH hands and immediately fold and be dealt into a new hand should the player not like his hand. No more waiting for the hand to play out after folding—instant new hand with a much faster rate of play.
Another plus to Speed Hold ‘em is that players can also earn three times as many loyalty points as normal paced online poker, so if you can keep up, this type of poker can be very advantageous to online poker players. And unlike other styles of poker, it is exclusive to the Internet because of the computerized fold/deal system that keeps the game moving so fast.
Currently the iPoker version of Speed Hold ‘em is only available for NLH, but PLO is expected to be available in the future. Also, the game is only available via the downloadable software, not in-browser. You can find Speed Hold ‘em in the main lobby under the “Speed Poker” tab.
July 25, 2012
“I’m in the minority, being a family man in poker,” said Jeremy Ausmus in an WSOP interview after he wound up in the October Nine for the Main Event. The 32-year-old professional poker player, who will be 33 by the time the final table plays out, will sit down on October 29th with 9.8 million chips, the smallest stack of all. Originally from Colorado, Ausmus now resides in Las Vegas and actually has a college degree (most good poker pros end up dropping out of college to play poker)—a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University.
Ausmus is married, and him and his wife have a 20-month-old daughter and another on the way. Ironically, the child is due November 3rd, just four days after the final table is expected to wrap up. But as we all know, the exact time a baby chooses to arrive is unpredictable. Let’s hope that there’s not an early arrival that would prevent Ausmus from fulfilling his obligation and dream of completing the World Series of Poker Main Event. When asked what the plan is if she goes into labor during the final stint of the Main Event, he says, “I guess she’ll want me to play poker. I’m sure.”
He says after playing 300 hours of poker throughout the WSOP (he played in 28 or 30 events this year), he’s ready for some time off and won’t be playing the typical 30-40 hours per week that he usually does. He has a trip to the East Coast planned but will be visiting the Bellagio about four times per week to play cash games between now and October 29th. Bellagio cash games has become his preferred place to play since Black Friday.
Ausmus is not a rookie. He’s been playing poker since college when he watched Rounders. He began reading books on how to make a living playing poker, traveling to a casino in Colorado on the weekends, and building up his game from there. In recent years, there aren’t really any happy endings for the short stacked player in the final nine, but you never know. Anything can happen in poker.
July 24, 2012
An actuary by day, 24-year-old Russell Thomas from Connecticut, USA likes to play cash games, but has warmed up quite nicely to tournaments, especially the 2012 WSOP Main Event. Thomas will be sitting at the table when the October Nine* reconvene. Unlike many other young poker players, Thomas did not drop out of college to pursue his poker dream. In fact, he graduated college.
Fourth-stacked with 24.8 million chips, Thomas plans on taking full advantage of the three-month break between now and October 29th by playing in live tournaments in order to improve on his tournament game.
Like fellow October Niner Greg Merson, this is not Thomas’ first time cashing at the WSOP Main Event. Last year, he finished 248th. He also final tabled a 6-handed NLH event in 2010, finishing fifth and earning $84K and has one other WSOP cash under his belt. Not known as a passive player, Thomas was chip leader when there were 20 left in the Main Event this year, and he was responsible for knocking some pretty impressive competition.
Thomas will sit down with his best friend, Jesse Sylvia later this fall to compete for the most prestigious title in poker that just happens to accompany an $8 million prize and a diamond encrusted gold bracelet designed by renowned jewelry designer Jason of Beverly Hills.
*The nine finalists are referred to as the “October Nine” because the WSOP is on a break as of last week until the final table reconvenes on October 29, but formerly these nine players have been known as the November Nine for when the final table play resumed in November in previous years. This is the first year that the WSOP Main Event Final Table will be carried out in October (due mainly to the upcoming presidential election).
July 24, 2012
2012 WSOP Event #57 $10,000 NLHE Six Handed gold bracelet winner Greg Merson will sit down at the final table of the Main Event on October 29th with 28.7 million in chips—the third largest chip stack. After finishing fifth in Event #28 and cashing with $70K, Merson was obviously determined to continue on and go for the gold, but it wasn’t easy getting to where he is now.
After 11 14-hour poker sessions in two weeks time, the 24-year-old poker professional originally from Maryland but residing in Toronto since Black Friday, was just about spent, down to his last few chips when he had to endure an hour and a half dinner break during the main event showdown, missing his much anticipated flight home. He said, “I was basically out of the tournament. I had to wait an hour and a half thinking I was just going to come back to bust out, because at that point you just don’t have enough chips to do anything.”
He persevered though and managed to work his way back up to a spot at the final table. If he wins, he stands to earn more than $8.5 million, but must share 40% of his payout with his good friend who sponsors his tournament buy-ins. His winnings will be at least $750K if he cashes in ninth place. He’s already landed $1,136,197 for Event #57.
Regarding this deal, Merson says, “I don’t feel bitter about that at all, that I have to write him a huge check. He’s one of my best friends, and he’s one of the main reasons I’ve gotten to this point in my career. He made me a lot better, he taught me a lot about being a professional, and he’s opened a lot of doors for me. So I can’t be too upset about that.”
Merson has actually cashed in the Main Event before. In 2009, he came in 639th place and landed double his buy-in. He’s come a long way though, dropping out of college twice to pursue poker and is now number 7 on the WSOP Player of the Year Rankings. Depending on his performance in October, he could own the title before it’s all said and done. And while despite his success at live tournaments, he still considers himself more of an online player. He won’t be able to deny his multi-talents if he wins the 2012 WSOP Main Event.
July 20, 2012
First there was Peter Eastgate in 2008, who took the title of youngest WSOP Main Event champion away from Phil Hellmuth, who held the record at 24 years old since 1989. Eastgate was just barely 21, but not nearly young enough because the title was swiped from him only a year later by Joe Cada, also 21, but closer to his 21st birthday than Eastgate had been.
Now comes Jake Balsiger, a senior at Arizona State, who may continue the tradition of young gun Main Event winners and take the title from Cada as the youngest WSOP Main Event Champion in the history of poker.
While he is not the shortest stacked player at the 2012 WSOP Main Event Final Table, he is the next best thing, stacked eighth with just over 13 million chips. Born in Portland, Oregon, Balsiger currently resides in Tempe, Arizona. This is his second cash this year, after placing 100th in Event #2 $1500 NLH for a few thousand dollars.
Being so young, Balsiger doesn’t have that many cashes under his belt, and he admits he never expected anything this big. In an interview post-final table determination, he said, “I entered the Main Event expecting to hopefully get some kind of cash. I end up at the final table. Unbelievable.”
He’s been dreaming of entering the WSOP ME since he was 13 when he’d watch it on TV and has been playing since he was 18, though he admits he just got good this year.
Will poker affect his schooling like it does for so many other players? he does admit that he won’t have to worry about money for a long time, “hopefully the rest of my life,” he says. “I guess I can do whatever I want,” he joked with a laugh.
As for his time off, he’s going to probably get a coach, possibly Mike McDonald and play non-stop as well as learn about his opponents.
July 20, 2012
“I am a huge, huge believer in the idea that the people in your life make you rich. If you have really good people around you and great relationships with those you care about, you just feel good. Everything just becomes more amazing,” says Jesse Sylvia after making the final table at this year’s WSOP Main Event.
Chip leader for the October Nine, Sylvia is only 24 years old and has been playing poker for only three years. He has one previous WSOP cash from last year’s series when he finished 175th place in Event #$10, a $1500 6-Handed NLH event and earned just shy of $3,000. It’s not for lack of trying though that he hasn’t had a better WSOP track record, as this is his 14th WSOP event.
From Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, Sylvia is the son of an engineer on a scientific research vessel and his mom is very creative with clothing design, landscaping, seamstress work, and floristry.
Interestingly, one of Sylvia’s best friends is actually in the 2012 October Nine alongside him. Russell Thomas and Sylvia have been friends for quite some time, and Thomas has even been something of a poker mentor to Sylvia, letting him stay at his house when Sylvia first moved to Vegas and teaching him a lot of things. Thomas, who now has a full-time job outside of poker, tells his friend that Sylvia has moved past him and is now better than him. Sylvia doesn’t agree. In fact, he admits that it’s been a long-running joke between them that they’d someday be in the WSOP, and now here they both are up against each other.
Sylvia also feels a personal connection with the two women who were knocked out in 10th and 11th place, just missing the final table nine. He says he has been teaching his girlfriend to play poker for the past five months and feels compassionate for the opposite sex when it comes to be treated equally at the poker tables.
July 20, 2012
“Whatever I do, whether it is poker or anything else, I want to do my best and try my hardest,” said Andras Koroknai to a translator in interview after the final table was set.
As the only international poker player at the final table of the WSOP Main Event, one would think that Koroknai, has got to feel somewhat outnumbered by the eight other poker players that are from various parts of the United States. On the contrary, he explained in the interview aforementioned, “I hadn’t thought about it. I honestly don’t care. I am very proud that I represent my small country.”
The 30-year-old professional player from Debrecen, Hungary has the second highest chip count at just under 30,000 chips. Koroknai has been playing poker for six years and quit his job as a self-employed computer engineer before going full-time. He has cashed in two WSOP events before, both in 2010. He cashed 339th in the 2010 Main Event and was awarded $36,473.
After the October Nine was decided, Koroknai was interviewed via a translator. He explained that his poker career was a result of an accident he had in Greece. He was injured pretty badly in a moped incident and feels very lucky that he survived. Afterwards, he was very depressed and found that poker was somewhat therapeutic. He said he played for an entire year before winning any tournaments and then began winning small tournaments. Now he plays a lot of high-stakes cash games and is very successful.
Koroknai says he had a feeling when he registered for the Main Event that he was going to make it. When asked how he planned on preparing for the final table, he says he plans on relaxing and playing a lot of poker in Europe. He also plans on taking some English courses over the next three months in hopes to improve his English, a skill set that may benefit him come October.
July 20, 2012
One of the following poker players will be the next world champion of poker: Russell Thomas (Hartford, Connecticut), Jacob Balsiger (Tempe, Arizona), Jeremy Ausmus (Las Vegas, Nevada), Steven Gee (Sacramento, California), Greg Merson (Laurel, Maryland), Jesse Sylvia (West Tisbury, Massachusetts), Robert Salaburu (San Antonio, Texas), Andras Koroknai (Debrecen, Hungary), and Michael Esposito (Seaford, New York).
Surprisingly, eight of these nine world class players are from the US, which is somewhat proof that the poker industry has, despite its ups and downs over the past year and a half, has survived, even in the US after the repercussions of Black Friday.
Almost two week after play started and following more than 500,000 hands later, the October Nine have been determined, all of which are males, but had one hand been played differently, one of those seats could have been filled by a female, as 3.2% of the player field were females (211 females to be exact), but not only did they play, Elisabeth Hille (Norway) finished in 11th place and even closer yet was Gaelle Baumann (France), who finished in 10th place. This is even greater than recent years past when typically, on average, only one female casher in the Main Event. However, only one woman has actually made the final table. In 1995, Barbara Enright did make the final table.
So the stage is set, and Sylvia, who holds43.875 million chips will lead when play resumes on October 29th of this year. Koroknai, the only international player, is second in chips with 29.375 chips. Short stacked is Ausmus with 9.805 million chips.
The winner of this year’s WSOP Main Event will collect more than $8.5 and the diamond and gold WSOP bracelet custom designed by Jason of Beverly Hills.
July 6, 2012
With a prize pool worth more than $18 million on the line, Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari made history when he won the Big One for ONE DROP charity poker event at the 2012 WSOP as the crowd literally lifted him up in celebration, applauding and capturing the moment with their cameras.
Thirty-three-year-old Esfandiari won his first WSOP bracelet eight years ago in a PLH event. Since then he’s made a reputation for himself as being the life of the party all the while remaining grounded with his eye on the prize. He contributes much of his success to his life coach, Robyn Williams, CEO and founder of Choice Center in Las Vegas. Esfandiari makes healthy choices when it comes to life in terms finances, diet and exercise, his friends, and lifestyle in general. After winning the Big One, he embraced his father and brother, all of them with tears in their eyes. The world could feel the joy, and arguably no one else in poker deserves this more.
When asked how he felt, Esfandiari said, “It’s better than sex that’s for sure.”
The final table was the perfect mix of poker greats, as if set up by God himself. The $10 million second place payout went to Sam Tricket, a 26-year-old player from the UK. Coming in third was David Einhorn, a hedge fund investor and financial guru from New York. Einhorn had finished 18th in the 2006 WSOP Main Event Championship and turned around and donated every penny of his $600K winnings to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. This time, he donated his third-place $4.3+ million winnings to the nonprofit organization City Year.
Fourth place was a fitting Phil Hellmuth, who has won more WSOP bracelets than anyone else in history, landing his 12th one this year. This 47-year-old Poker Hall of Famer won $2.6+ million. And even more appropriate, Guy Laliberte, the visionarian of the Big One and creator of Cirque du Soleil, final tabled in fifth place. In sixth place was two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Brian Rast, who won 2011’s Poker Players Championship. In seventh place was Bobby “The Owl” Baldwin, owner of four WSOP bracelets and the 1978 WSOP World Champion, also a Poker Hall of Fame member and part visionary for the City Center, Las Vegas’ most expensive development. And finally, eight place went to 54-year-old Richard Yong, a poker player and businessman who is one of the most revered players in Asia.
The perfect script for the biggest story in poker history. What will they do to top this one? Who knows, but knowing poker players and their generous nature, they will. More than $10 million went to help people in poor nations get something most of us take for granted—clean water.