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Justin Oliver - A Canadian Pro in the Business of Gold

By: Derrick Oliver

To suggest the start of Justin Oliver’s poker career has been ‘golden’ is to simply point out the obvious. The 38 year old Canadian has only been playing competitive poker for five years now and he already has a 1st and a 2nd at the World Series of Poker to his credit. You might say his whole life has been golden - literally. Oliver is the son of a very well-known businessman who deals primarily in gold and silver. A jeweler. But don’t make the mistake of calling his father the most famous jeweler in Canada.

Your rating: None Average: 3.2 (5 votes)

Internal Management Change Afoot At Poker Stars

by Wendeen Eolis BREAKING NEWS: From the Continent to the Isle of Man and across the ocean to North America, word on the street is that the latest round of musical chairs inside Poker Stars has ended with Michael Hazel, Rational Group's CFO, taking the seat at the head of the table. According to two PokerStars associates, Hazel who formerly worked for Microsoft Corporation on both sides of the pond has received the nod as new Chief Executive Officer of Rational Group (Poker Stars), a crown jewel in the expanding empire of Amaya Gaming. Earlier this week, Hazel, who was hired by PokerStars before the infamous Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act became law in 2006, served as Rational Group's Chief Financial Officer at the time the Company was acquired by Amaya. He remained in this role in the first months of the acquisition, but was known to be a contender, as was Rafi Ashkenazi, the COO, for the top job at PokerStars.

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Your Poker Mental Health: Avoiding Steaming (Tilt)

By: Ashley Adams
I meet a lot of people away from the poker table who are not serious poker players. They often want to be – but just aren’t. They are often familiar with the game, want to get better, but have never seriously considered the skills involved. The conversation often gets around to my decades of poker playing experience and what two or three things I think make someone a good poker player.
It’s an interesting question for the serious player (which I surmise you are if you’re reading this article on poker). What are the most important skills we good players develop – that the losing player doesn’t have?

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (8 votes)

2014 WSOP Fun Facts Part 3

by Joseph Smith Sr.

We begin with another archive image from the 2004 WSOP Main Event.  We see Winner Greg Raymer keeping a close watch on the table.  More importantly, we see the hauntingly intense face of Josh Arieh staring down the barrel of the camera.  This is a well documented, historic time slice of the famous WSOP tournament and you can read about it here on Wikipedia.

Although we have published most of the press releases from the 2014 WSOP we will continue to point out what we consider to be interesting and important facts from the summer event.  OK. Let's get right to it.

The range of players' ages ranged from just 21 to 93 years old.  Can anyone out there list a sport that has such an age spread among competitors?

This year's youngest player was Zachary Zaffos of Weston Beach, Florida whom turned 21 on Day 1B of the Main Event and then played on Day 1C in the Main Event making him 21 years and one day old.  The oldest player was William Wachter of Carmel, NY whom was 93-years-old.  Both of the players were eliminated on Day 1.

The oldest player to cash in the 2014 WSOP Main Event was 90-year-old Henry Orenstein.  He finished 8th in Event #61, the $10,000 Seven-Card Stud World Championship and collected $31,419.  For those wondering how tough the competition was, Phil Hellmuth finished two spots up from Orenstein in 6th place.

Mr. Orenstein is the inventor of the game changing hole cam that allows TV viewers to see a player's hole cards.  He is also a member of the Poker Hall of Fame.  In 1996 he entered the Seven-Card Stud championship and took home the WSOP gold bracelet.  Surviving the three days of intense, world class competition is quite a feat for any player, much less a 93-year-old poker player.  

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"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 Moving On Up

by Joseph Smith Sr.

Looking over the vast amount of data from the recently completed World Series of Poker reveals a few trends that point to a bright future for the world's favorite game, poker.  When you hold a poker tournament and 82,360 players from 107 countries pay buy-ins into 65 events that offer a collective $225,584,873 in prize money it's easy to see the popularity of poker.

I can trace my poker roots all the way back to Texas in the 1860's as a result of one of my distant grandfather's many documented arrest records for playing poker, owning a house where poker was being played and even one charge of accepting a challenge to a dual.  In my lifetime I've watched poker move from the smokey game rooms within one of my many uncle's East Texas homes to the world stage at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino before the cameras of the world's foremost sports network, ESPN.   

Even through the minefields of legal challenges, the moral 'right' roadblocks, cheating scandals at both the individual and corporate level and the fallout of Black Friday, poker is very much alive and well.  And for the past 45years a grand celebration is held every summer and it is called, The World Series of Poker.

For those that question the current and future state of the sport and believe the card game will eventual burn out and once again be demoted to the dingy backrooms where old men meet to tell lies and cheat read the following quote from Ty Stewart.  Mr. Stewart is the Executive Director of WSOP Poker.

“We’re humbled to have seen this kind of response to our 10th series at the Rio.  More than ever before, we embraced the challenge to have something for everyone who loves the game. With some of the biggest events ever organized it is clear poker remains strong and its best days are ahead. We can’t wait to start planning for next year.”

For the tenth consecutive year, the WSOP generated a total prize pool well in excess of $100 million, and for only the second time in its history, topped the $200 million mark.”

Additionally, in the 45 year history of the World Series of Poker more than $2 billion in prize money has been awarded to players and more than a billion of this total has come in the past 6 years.  Still a doubter of the health of poker?

The WSOP is the barometer for poker and its health and growth sustainability.  All the facts support what most all of the world's poker players have been saying for years.  “Spread it and we'll come.”  Next time you sit down to enjoy a game of poker give thanks to those that keep the game on the path to   continued success.

From a humble beginning of 8 players participating in one event with a total prize pool of $80,000 we have progressed all the way to 82,360 players participating in 65 events for a total prize pool of $62,820,873.  From where I have sat watching the action over the years this is proof positive that we're going to see the sport of poker just get bigger and better regardless of the political winds that often try to blow down the house.

And I often wonder what that grandfather of mine from more than a century and a half ago would think if I walked into the Rio with him?  Probably he would be drooling with the excitement of anticipation when he would tell me, “Get me a seat Sonny Boy, times a'wasting.”

We've included a vintage photo from our archive of WSOP photos.  This image demonstrates the incredible changes that Caesars Entertainment has brought to the famous poker tournament.  The year was 2004.  The place was Benny's Bullpen at Binion's Horseshoe, downtown Las Vegas.  The two players were a very young David Williams and attorney Greg Raymer, both relative unknowns in the poker world.  They are playing heads-up in the WSOP Main Event and only minutes away from Greg Raymer claiming the title.

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (3 votes)

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.    

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (3 votes)

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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