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Online Players Shine in California

Tournament players can be separated into two categories; live players and online players. These days, strong waves of savvy online players are infiltrating the live tournament circuit. Young guns that grizzled veterans have never heard of before are influencing the game all of a sudden.

Before internet poker and various computer programs, it used to take a decade or longer to build up deft skills in major tournaments. In the last five years, online players have shortened the learning curve. Some players have logged over a half of a million hands before they turned twenty-one and were legally able to set foot into a Las Vegas casino. Depending on the habits of some online pros, it is not uncommon for them to play five or six tournaments simultaneously or rack up hundreds of multi-table tournaments (MTTs) every week.

Although some online players have a difficult time adjusting from play at home on their laptops to playing under the bright lights in casinos, other online poker players have adapted seamlessly. Several online players made a run at two different tournaments in Southern California in February. The WSOP Circuit event at Harrah's Rincon outside of San Diego featured several wellknown online pros at the final table. Then at the WPT's L.A. Poker Classic at Commerce Casino just outside of Los Angeles, several other notable online players fared well in the largest $10,000 buyin event in the history of the World Poker Tour.

Shane "Shaniac" Schleger and Peter "Nordberg" Feldman are players who find themselves comfortable playing online and in a live setting. They both made the final table of the WSOP Circuit event at Rincon along with Gavin Smith, Gavin Griffith, and Davidson Matthew. Feldman eventually went on to win his second WSOP Circuit event as he took home a paycheck worth over $280K. Although Shaniac lives in Los Angeles, one of the largest hubs of poker in the country, he spends a lot of time at home playing online.

"I like online for the day to day grind, but there's nothing more exciting than being deep in a live event," mentioned Shaniac. The field at the L.A. Poker Classic was one of the largest ever for a WPT event with $2.4 million going to first place. Several online players excelled over the six day tournament such as Jason "Strassa2" Strasser, Alan "BoDog Ari" Engel, Nick "Takeover" Schulman, and Prahlad "Spirit Rock" Friedman.

On the second day of the LAPC, Strassa2 cracked Michael Binger's pocket Aces. Strassa2 flopped a set of Queens to send Binger to the rail as that hand pushed him into the Top 10 in chips. It took Binger several beers to calm him down as he recanted the bad beat to anyone in the casino who would listen as he referred to Strassa2 as "that internet player who cracked my pocket Aces."

Strassa2 finished in 12th place out of 791 players and won $91,125. That's not a bad score for someone who is still in college. Earlier in the month, BoDog Ari won a tournament on PokerStars which netted him over $80K. He admitted that he plays "up to twenty MTTs a day." That's an average of over 5,000 online tournaments a year. At the LAPC, BoDog Ari finished in 49th place and won $22,780.

JC Tran, a regular on the live tournament circuit who took second place at the LAPC, is not a stranger to online poker. He won the 2006 WCOOP main event championship a few months earlier. Since he won the largest and most prestigious online poker tournament last October, Tran has been on a tear and won almost $2 million in live tournaments. He made two WPT final tables in 2007, along with winning smaller events at the Bellagio and at Foxwoods.

After the recent success of online players at the last WSOP Circuit and last WPT events, they have proven once again that they can be a force in live tournaments.

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