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Profiles

"Open-Minded & Accepting" - The Poker Community Perfect Fit for Openly Gay Pro Ryan Laplante

Derrick Oliver-Dewan

Article by Derrick Oliver-Dewan

Like most poker ‘young guns’ these days, Ryan Laplante lives and breathes cards, studying and working on his game to the point of racking up more than 3,300 online tournament cashes in his career so far, and he’s only 24.  Like most online superstars, he’s gearing up for three weeks of day and night competition at the upcoming World Championship of Online Poker in September, where he expects to play an incredible 1,500 events. But, unlike most poker pros, Laplante is openly gay.
 
“I feel as though the poker community is one of the most open-minded and accepting industries you can be involved with,” says the Brainerd, Minnesota native. “It’s filled with many kind, intelligent and hard working individuals and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
 
Despite calling a male dominated, seemingly macho and high testosterone industry his vocation’s home, Laplante says there have only been a few minor incidents involving recreational players and a few ‘bad apples’, who have since apologized.
 
“Being openly gay in this community is much easier compared to high school or even my experience at a rural college.  As a whole, it’s very accepting and open-minded and because of that I’ve ran into almost no issues at or away from the table.”
 
Laplante admits the gay community is fairly small in poker, about 30 players that he knows of, but says it’s a close knit group and they do come together regularly on poker forums to discuss a variety of issues. He points to the success of Vanessa Selbst, another openly gay pro and perhaps the most feared player on the planet, as inspiration for his own career path. Selbst just captured her third bracelet at the World Series of Poker, winning Event #2, the $25,000 buy-in Mix Max No-Limit Hold’em event, for a whopping $900,000. She’s won well more than $10 million in her career, making her the winningest female player ever.
 
"I think Vanessa showed from the start of her career that you can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or a woman and be very successful and well-received in this industry. I didn't know about Vanessa when I joined the community as an out gay man over six years ago, but as I learned about her and followed her success it gave me hope for my own future in the game.”
 
Laplante is finding his own success in poker, and then some. Not even at his 25th birthday yet and he’s already earned more than $1 million bluffing and check raising opponents worldwide. He’s made three final tables and pocketed more than $300,000 at the WSOP, the biggest and baddest series of poker tournaments in the world. This summer, he cashed six times to bring his career total to an impressive 12, and he finished 5th in Event #39 for a cool $114,000 and his first six-figure score.

“Yes, it was a break out year for me and I’ve got absolutely no complaints about the past six months. I am really excited about the next six months, and the next couple of years for that matter, because I feel as though I’m really starting to hit my groove. My game is, by far, at its best ever and I’m starting to catch some good cards as well. You combine those two things and you get some great results.”
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2014 WSOP November Nine Bruno Politano Ninth on Chip List T12,125,000

by Joseph Smith Sr.

Bruno Politano is the first Brazilian to claim a seat at a World Series of Poker Main Event final table.  He will come into the final two days of the Big Poker Show in November at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino as the table's short stack with 12,125,000 in play money.  He will also bring a lot of enthusiasm and a rail that's proven to be among the most boisterous of all time even when we include Joe Hachem's infamous – “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!” –  “Oi!, Oi!, Oi!” – support group at the 2005 Main Event final table.

Politano's resume includes three prior WSOP cashes for a total of $25,404.  The biggest win before the 2014 Main Event's award of $730,725 for making the November nine was $47,493 he collected for third place in the 2013 Brazilian Series of Poker Main Event.  His first WSOP cash was for $2,548 when he finished 148th in a $1K No-Limit Hold'em event in 2011.  He collected some prize money during two events in the 2014 WSOP, 17th in event #39 yielded $20,148 and 135th in event #58 provided another $2,708 in prize money.

Our 2014 Main Event's short stacked player began the journey to the November Nine on Day 1C as part of the prevailing insanity of the largest ever WSOP Main Event Day 1 flight at 3,768 players.  Politano finished this grueling day with 66,800 in chips.  Day 2 pushed the stacks to 72,400 and Day 3 he made it into six figures at 110,000.  Day 4 saw a startling advance in chip strength when Politano finished with 2.289 million in play money.  Day 5 produced a more than double resizing of the chip stacks and the 5.475 million landed him in the 4th spot on the chip leader board.  When the dealing was done on Day 6 the chip stacks contained 11,625 million in checks, good for 6th on the leader board of 27 remaining players.  Day 7 brought a modest increase to 12,125,000, a seat at the November final table and the short stack label.

Every tournament final table has a player that is short stacked.  Most of them are just happy to be at the final table which generally means some serious money.  If you're going to be the short stack can you think of a better time or table than the WSOP November Main Event final table?  Politano will have about 30 big blinds at the current levels when play resumes in the fall.  His uber-Brazilian aggressive style of play will probably produce either chips for his anemic stack or a quick exit to the condolences of the anticipated hundreds of rail birds cheering him on.

The 31-year-old Politano plans to play in the EPT and the WSOP Australia during the long break as he tunes his game for the upcoming uphill challenge.  He also signed with 888POKER as their fifth 888POKER Ambassador for the online casino website.  Sounds as though the Brazilian has things well in hand to perhaps win the race to that elusive gold bracelet.  Can he win?  Ask him, he'll quickly tell you he not only can win, he will win.

This concludes our November Nine bios and overviews.  Looking forward to seeing everyone in November, Flipchip.    

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Poker Says Goodbye to Tony Korfman (1942-2014)

by Joseph Smith Sr.

The poker sphere lost one of the last old-school characters last Monday,  August 8, 2014.  Following a routine hip surgery, Tony Korfman succumbed to life-ending complications.  He was a man of many talents – author, casino executive, and poker player _ whom lived most of his adult life at his home in Boulder City, Nevada.  

The Bronx, New York native  is a graduate of The University of San Francisco.  In 1966 he married his lifelong wife, Linda, in Carson City, Nevada.

His career in executive casino management included the CEO position at The Gold Strike Casino and the Edgewater in Nevada.  He is listed as a working author of five books on Amazon.  Of Note, the 'how to gamble' series of books have one thing in common, thay all include the word 'humorous' in the title.

Tony Kaufman's poker resume shows a documented career earnings record of $355,320.  This includes the $217,503 he collected in the 2007 WSOP Seniors Event #41 when he finished in second place.  The photo with this article shows him at play in that event on Day 2.

At the poker table he could be one of the funniest people you had ever played with and never knew what he would say next.  He could also be one of the most abrasive, berating individuals you had ever run across.  There seemed to be no static state with Tony Korfman, he attacked life with a passion.

Having photographed Korfman on numerous occasions I always knew that going to his table would be an experience.  The other players would be close to tears from laughing so hard or plotting his demise.  The poker world truly lost one of the last of the true poker characters when Tony Korfman left us.

A Celebration of Life will be held for Tony Korfman this Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 2 PM at the Boulder Creek Golf Club,  1501 Veterans' Memorial Drive in Boulder City.

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2014 WSOP November Nine Martin Jacobson Eighth on Chip List T14,900,000

by Joseph Smith Sr.

Martin Jacobson is one of the five non-US players at this year's World Series of Poker Main event final table scheduled for November 10-11 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.  Traveling all the way from his current home in London, England, the Stockholm Sweden native stands in the second spot on the all-time WSOP Swedish poker player winner's list behind behind Chris Bjorin.

Jacobson, a 27-year-old single professional poker player, is the class of the 2014 WSOP November Nine and the only player with more than $1 million, $1,224,706 to be exact, in WSOP earnings.  He has 15 previous WSOP cashes and played in 27 events during the 2014 summer WSOP which yielded 3 cashes and includes the Main Event final table finish.  He has also accumulated $4,807,316 (does not include any 2014 ME winnings) career tournament winnings even though his success in the 2014 Main Event is his first ever WSOP Main Event cash.

Day 1A saw Jacobson take a seat and play his way to the top of the day's leader board when he finished with 200,100 in tournament chips.  Day 2 added more chips to the stacks to bring the total to 342,700 and Day 3 he more than doubled the amount to 721,500.  Day 4 play pushed Jacobson beyond the million chip mark and ended with him bagging 1.594 in play money.  Day 5 saw another doubling of the bullets to 3.925 million and Day 6 was a rocket ride to 22.335 million and a finish, once again, in the top spot on the chip leader board.  The final Day 7 play saw the first finish with less than the starting amount when Jacobson finished the summer's final play day with 14.9 million in chips to place him in the #8 spot for the upcoming November final table.

A few interesting notes about this player's journey to the final table and his spot in the 2014 November Nine.  He never finished below the top thirty on the chip leader board during his seven days of Main Event play.  Jacobson's only the third player, along with Joseph Cada and Ben Lamb, to finish Day 1 as the chip leader and hang-on to claim a seat at the final table in the eight year history of the November Nine Main Event format.  During the concluded seven days of Main Event play he never had to put his seat at risk with an all-in and a call bet.

And let us not overlook one of his final hand's of the summer when William Tonking doubled through Jacobson to take down an 11+ million pot.  Had a club appeared on the turn or river Jacobson would be sitting in the third spot on the chip leader board.

Martin Jacobson's style of play can best be categorized by the the Santana song, “Smooth.”  That's how the man plays poker.  He always shows up with an 'A' game that's well developed, many layers deep and highly polished.  Even though the 2014 November Nine chip leader, Jorryt van Hoof, has a more than two and a half chip advantage over Jacobson the Swede definitely remains a contender to not only move up but to win it all.  His spot as one of the short stacks does not reflect on his abilities but rather on the turn of a single card.

Don't be more than a little surprised to watch Martin Jacobson putting on poker's most prestigious trophy, the Main Event Gold bracelet while claiming the $10 million in cash winner's prize.  As we stated at the start of this he's the class of the 2014 November Nine.  Don't expect to see him in a roller coaster ride come November.  The only part of a roller coaster he seems to understand is the long, slow rise to the apex.

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2014 WSOP November Nine William Tonking Seventh on Chip List T15,050,000

by Joseph Smith Sr.

Sitting in the November Main Event final table seat #6 is 27-year-old William Tonking holding 15,050,000 in tournament chips.  Coming to the Big Poker Show from Flemington, New Jersey Mr. Tonking is another November Nine player with no cash experience in any WSOP Main Event even though he played in the 2008 and 2013 WSOP $10K Championship.  He began the 2014 Main Event with a little WSOP prize money in his jeans from his cash in event #58 for $13,421 when he finished 77th out of 1,417 entrants.

Tonking is single and a former economics major at the University of South Carolina whom now makes his living grinding the legal online cash games in New Jersey.  His career live tournament earnings are $93,306.  Of course, we expect a number of changes in his current status after receiving the $730,725 each of the November Nine collected at the end of Day 7 for ninth place.  Tonking may also add up to $10,000,000 to his bankroll depending on his finish in November.

William Tonking's resume is short on tournament experience and not much information is easily obtainable in the public domain.  He spends his time playing cash games and most poker media believes the bulk of readers are not interested in the mundane of the daily grind so doesn't provide much coverage.  As a result we have highly skilled players such as Tonking that arrive at final tables without a virtual portfolio of facts.  Most strategist would consider this an advantage for the relatively unknown player.

This journey to the November Nine and a seat at the final table began on Day 1C.  Tonking, along with the other 3,768 seated players, had one objective in mind, end the day with chips and return to play Day 2.  That's exactly what he did finishing the first day with 45,275 in chips.  Day 2 was another grind with the chip stacks slowly going to 158,200 by day's end and Day 3 saw a modest increase to 179,000 in play money.  Day 4 completed with a comfortable 740,000 and then the million mark was topped on Day 5 at 1.295 million.  Day 6 followed with another nice increase to 5.87 million and Day 7 ended with a final table seat and 15,050,000 in chips.  An interesting fact, William Tonking along with the chip leader, Jorryt van Hoof, were the only two players of the November Nine to not finish any day before the final day in the top ten on the leader board.

William Tonking could be the little known sleeper in this field.  A few more chips would certainly help his cause but he comes with enough ammo to do well in the battle and could even win the war.  He has demonstrated the ability to put it all in even though failure means a final walk to the parking lot.  When the Day 7 ten-handed final table was looking for the bubble he went all in with a J – 9o and never broke a sweat.  We're looking for this player to move up the board before the 2014 WSOP November dealing is done.   

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2014 WSOP November Nine Billy Pappaconstantinou Sixth on Chip List T17,500,000

by Joseph Smith Sr.

A nine time world foosball champion best defines the stage for our bio of William Pappaconstantinou.  Traveling all the way from Dracut, Massachusetts, the 29-year-old has career poker earnings of only $16,379, most of which came from a cash in a WPT event.  None of the earnings came from WSOP events, in fact, Pappaconstantinou's WSOP earnings are zero and his WSOP experience prior to the 2014 Main Event are non-existent.  His poker table experience is headed by a continuing stint working as a poker dealer at a Salem, New Hampshire charity poker room, Rockingham Park Poker Room.

This unlikely WSOP Main Event final table player appears to be perfectly suited to compete with the other eight members of the 2014 November Nine.  During my brief conversation with Billy Pappaconstantinou I got the definite impression that he hadn't quite fully realized he now has a 1 in 9 chance of banking $10,000,000.  He will be coming to the November final table with the 6th largest chip stack at T17,500,000 and will occupy seat #1.

William Pappaconstantinou's journey to the 2014 World Series of Poker final table is almost as unusual as the player himself, an individual that never finished high school and has never held a driver's license..  He started this WSOP adventure in Canada teaching a man how to play championship foosball.  The foosball player he was coaching took an interest in Pappaconstantinou's dream of playing in the WSOP Main Event and sponsored him for his trip to the Big Poker Show at the Rio in Las Vegas.

Pappaconstantinou began his Main Event with the Day1B crowd and finished with 68,775 in chips.  Day 2 saw his total climb to 104,900 while Day 3 was not re3corded.  Day 4 was the start of his climb to nose bleed levels when he finished with 757,000 in play money.  Day 5 the climb into the rare air of the stratosphere produced a day's total of 3.37 million in chips.  Day 6 Pappaconstantinou finished in 4th place on the chip leader board with 15.64 million in his stacks.  Day 7 locked up his November Nine position and seat at the Main Event final table scheduled for November 10 and 11 with 17.5 million in tournament chips.

What an amazing adventure for this New Hampshire poker dealer.  Billy Pappaconstantinou is considered to be the only amateur at the 2014 Main Event final table.  He plans to spend his break time pursuing his world class level of play in tournament foosball.

When questioned about his success at this year's event the personable  player summed up his feelings about his journey with, “This isn't realistic to me,” followed by, “I'm just a poor kid dealer trying to live a dream.”  When asked if he thought he had a chance to win it all he responded with exactly the right statement, “We all have a shot.”  

We wish you all the luck at the 2014 World Series of Poker's November final table so your first time living the dream can become a reality.  

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2014 WSOP November Nine Daniel Sindelar Fifth on Chip List T21,200,000

by Joseph Smith Sr.

Dan Sindelar grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and went on to attend the University of Nebraska until his junior year when he discovered his talents at the poker table could no longer be denied.  It was goodbye to the college degree leading to an 8 to 5 job and hello Vegas.  After a brief stay in Council Bluff, Iowa near the river casinos and poker rooms the then 22-year-old Sindelar made the move to Las Vegas.  During the ensuing years since he's racked up career poker earnings of $527,779.

Now, we fast forward to the present and find the 30-year-old Sindelar has added $730,725 to his bank account after his entry and play in the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event gained him a seat at the November final table.  As a member of the November Nine he now has a shot at adding $10,000,000 to his bank account and claiming the most coveted and elusive prize in all of poker, a uniquely styled gold and diamond championship bracelet.  Dan Sindelar will then have his name added to the Main Event winner's list for all of time.

Sindelar has amassed 17 previous WSOP cashes which included 4 during his play in the 19 events he entered at the 2014 WSOP.  His WSOP earnings prior to the summer's deep run in the Main Event total $227,791.  He has played in the WSOP Main Event the past 6 years with this summer's cash being his first.

Dan Sindelar's journey to seat #7 of the November final table began on Day 1B when he held his own and finished the day with just over 40 thousand in chips.  Day 2 saw his stack grow to almost 153 thousand and on Day 3 he continued the upward climb to 421 and a half thousand in play money.

Day 4 was the start of his rise to the upper levels when he accumulated 1.62 million in chips and Day 5 pushed him into the seventh spot on the leader board with 5.24 million.  Sindelar enjoyed a most gainful time on Day 6 when he finished in the leader board 3 spot with 16.345 million.  The upper spiral continued through Day 7 as Sindelar added to his existing total and finished the play at the summer event with 21.2 million which placed him right in the middle of the November Nine field and 5th overall on the leader board.

An avid golfer, Daniel Sindelar says he spends more time on the golf course than the poker room.  The single poker professional plans to spend his time relaxing and enjoying life after what's already a major money hit.  He also added that he believes Mark Newhouse is the player to beat and indicated he will play close attention to the first final table back-to-back repeater in the last decade.

We wish Dan Sindelar all the luck and pick him as our third choice to win it all.

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2014 WSOP November Nine Andoni Karrabe Fourth on Chip List T22,550,000

by Joseph Smith Sr.

Andoni Larrabe is the first Spaniard since Carlos Mortensen won the 2001 WSOP Main Event to earn a final table seat.  The 22-year-old poker professional from Basque, Spain now makes his home in London, England.

A first appearance at the WSOP was in 2013 when the young player cashed in three events.  Larrabe entered 5 events during the 2014 WSOP but failed to cash in any of them.  His deep run in the Main Event was his first 2014 cash and the $730,725 awarded to each of the November Nine pushed the Spaniard's career earnings of $341,288 over the one million mark.

Andoni Larrabe gained the attention of the professional poker world in January, 2013 at the PokerStars' Caribbean Adventure held at the Atlantis Resort and Casino when he went heads-up with poker superstar, Justin Bonomo, and won a $5,300 buy-in event.

Main Event play for Larrabe began on Day 1B.  He continued to end each of the following days in the upper percentile of players.  The only stumble came when the final table was looking for its bubble.  He went all-in heads-up holding A--A with Luis Velador holding A–K.  The flop paired Velador's King and the turn paired the board.  Only a King on the river could deny Larrabe a seat at the Main Event final table in November.  The river was a Six and Larrabe became the youngest member of the 2014 WSOP Main Event November Nine.

During the post interview Larrabe told ESPN he was going to approach the upcoming November Main Event finish as calmly as possible and spend the long break thinking about the game ahead and relaxing.

Andoni Larrabe will come to the November final table fourth on the chip leader board holding T22,550,000 in play money.  He will be sitting in the #5 seat with Mark Newhouse (T26,000,000) on his right and William Tonking (T15,050,000) on his left.

Considering the make-up of the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event final table will the trend of having the youngest of the November Nine become the next World Poker Champion continue for 2014?  Andoni Larrabe has the chips, he has the experience and he has a seat for the party at the Rio.  A win for 2014's youngest player could be in the cards. 

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2014 WSOP November Nine Felix Stephensen Second on Chip List

by Joseph Smith Sr.

Sitting in the number two spot on the chip leader board we find Oslo, Norway native Felix Stephensen.  Now living in London, England Stephensen has no previous cashes in the World Series of Poker and shows lifetime live earnings to be $22,118.  With an almost non-existent live poker resume how did this 23-year-old end up with a seat and T32,775,000 in play money in the most famous final table in Poker?

Let us examine his path to his assigned Seat #2 for the November finale of the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event.  The journey began when Stephensen developed an affinity for online poker and playing under the pseudonym “FallAtYourFeet” he has amassed more than $300,000 in earnings since 2001.

Next, we follow his journey to Las Vegas with a group of friends to the WSOP at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.  Stephensen apparently had a plan and it was to enter (and win, obviously) the Main Event because that's the only event he played during the 2014 WSOP.  He survived the inherent insanity of Main Event Day 1C to return on Day 2 with slightly more chips than his starting T30K.

Unlike the chip leader, Jorryt van Hoof, whom rode a roller coaster to his final table seat, Felix Stephensen spent the first five days of play making modest additions to his chip total.  Finally on Day 6 he got the momentum engine fired up and began his climb up the chip leader board.  Day 7 began with Stephensen in ninth place holding almost seven and three quarters of a million in chips.

Adding to his stacks throughout Day 7 he was sitting behind T14,640,000 when Tom Sarra Jr four-bet and Stephensen moved all-in only to be called by Sarra.  When the T25 million pot was pushed to Stephensen he was suddenly the chip leader with T27.86 in the WSOP Main Event.  The double up not only made him the chip leader but it guaranteed his claim to a seat at the final table and his rightful place among the November Nine.

Stephensen is a firm believer in the “Poker is a Game of Skill, “ philosophy.  Considering the young player's smooth style and more than a decade of solid experience to back up his play he could be the next World's Greatest Poker Player. 

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2014 WSOP November Nine - Chip Leader Jorryt van Hoof

by Joseph Smith Sr.

Another first at the 2014 WSOP.  For the second consecutive year we have a Dutchman at the WSOP final table and he's sitting in seat #3 behind almost 20% of the events total chips in play.  Holding 38,375,000 in play money is Jorryt van Hoof of Eindhoven, Netherlands.  The 31-year-old Dutch poker professional has 5,600,000 more chips than Felix Stephensen, second on the chip leader board.
 

Following the lead of fellow Dutchman, 2013 November Nine player and seventh place finisher, Michiel Brummelhuis, chip leader Jorryt van Hoof makes it two-in-a-row for the Netherlands.  Jorryt van Hoof arrived atop the Main Event chip leader board after a rocky start following Day 1B.  
 

On Day 2 he bagged less chips than he had at the start of the day.  Day 3 saw him add to his total play money but once again, Day 4 had him showing another loss and bagging less.  Day 5 showed a significant gain in chips.  Day 6 had van Hoof adding even more to his stacks and finishing the day among the chip leaders.  Day 7 belonged to Jorryt van Hoof when the WSOP Main Event starting field of 6685 runners was trimmed down to nine players.  They were assigned seats at the World's most famous poker table, the World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table.  Jorryt van Hoof stands above the November Nine as the chip leader.
 

Like many of today's younger players Jorryt van Hoof  began his journey into gaming playing “Magic, the Gathering.”  Following the path of his peers he began playing poker.  Jorryt van Hoof found he had a knack for the game and in particular, Pot Limit Omaha.
 

Jorryt van Hoff is no stranger to the WSOP and has cashed three times for a total of $27,956.  He has career earnings of $358,580 which does not include the $730,725 ninth place money each of the November Nine have already received.
 

Jorryt van Hoof will lead the November Nine into the Penn & Teller Theater located in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on November 10, 2014.  They will play until only two remain.  The following day, November 11, the two will play heads-up until one is eliminated and a 2014 Poker Champion of the World is crowned.  The winner will receive $10,000,000, a very special gold and diamond bracelet and perpetuity in the history of poker.   

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World Series of Poker


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