- Andrew Feldman, ESPN.com
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The World Series of Poker Academy, the exclusive education partner to the WSOP, announced on Tuesday that it will fill the final seat in the 2010 Tournament of Champions. The Academy, known primarily for its live, hands-on poker seminars held across the country, will hold a single-table "sudden-death playoff" tournament on June 10 in which the winner will earn a spot in the 2010 Tournament of Champions and be part of the elite 27-player field on June 27.
The Tournament of Champions is a freeroll event featuring 27 players. Twenty spots were selected by public vote, five were automatic invites (previous TOC and main event champions) and two sponsor exemptions were added to the field. The WSOP Academy holds one sponsor exemption while the other sponsor exemption will be awarded on the WSOP's online poker site available to players outside of the United States.
Tom Dwan, Andy Bloch, Bertrand Grospellier, Gus Hansen, Sorel Mizzi, Michael Mizrachi, Liv Boeree, Paul Wasicka and Don Cheadle will compete in the event, which will be filmed and utilized by the WSOP Academy. None of the players are eligible to be voted into the TOC field by the public because they did not have a bracelet prior to the start of this year's WSOP. Cheadle, an actor and the only non-professional poker player on the list, is a renowned philanthropist who has used the WSOP as a platform to host fundraisers for his charity, "Ante up for Africa". Fans can follow the action live on June 10 from the WSOP Academy Twitter feed.
"We're very excited to be part of this prestigious event," said Jeff Goldenberg, CEO of the WSOP Academy. "These nine players are champions in their own right, despite not being given the opportunity to be voted in by the fans. We're giving them a shot to be part of the TOC and cannot wait for June 10.
"We'll be using the footage from this event on the soon-to-be-released WSOP Academy Online. Fans everywhere can watch as nine extremely talented players battle it out for one of the most sought-after seats ever given away. The WSOP Academy is very happy to be part of this opportunity."
Hand-by-hand commentary will be done by Ali Nejad and 11-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth. The two will break down all the action for WSOP Academy customers and show how the best in the world approach a sit-and-go tournament. With the chance to make poker history, the pressure will be on.
"This will be one of the most intriguing events we've ever put on," said Goldenberg. "The players were thrilled to be given this opportunity knowing what's at stake and we hope our fans will enjoy the coverage. While the WSOP Academy is primarily known for in-person education, we're ready to expand to the online realm and believe this tournament will be a perfect addition to our already entertaining offerings."
Besides this tournament, the WSOP Academy and its roster of professional poker players and instructors have been keeping busy at the WSOP connecting with their fans. Every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., players like Hellmuth, Annie Duke, Doyle Brunson, Greg Raymer and Mark Seif have been part of free WSOP Academy seminars, poker IQ clinics, book signings and autograph sessions. Their newest creation, the "Mind and Body Academy," will take place on July 4 featuring mindset coach Sam Chauhan and nonverbal tells expert and former FBI agent Joe Navarro.