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If you've followed this space for the past few years, you know I've been an advocate for the Partouche Poker Tour's efforts to grow poker in Europe. For five seasons, the PPT definitely had its share of drama, including the disqualification of a player at its main event final table, but in general, the PPT put on a great tournament that attracted players from around the world.
This year's main event had a strong turnout of 573 players, down just six players from a year ago. The attendance created a prize pool of 4.2 million euros, which is great except for the fact that players, through numerous marketing mentions and placements, were led to believe that it was a five million euro guaranteed event. For good reason, the players were upset, and they shared their displeasure in the tournament room, with the media and on Facebook and Twitter.
Prior to the start of Day 3, Patrick Partouche addressed the angry field (plenty of videos on YouTube, if you're interested) who felt the prize pool was short a significant 736,880 euros. His announcement wasn't what the players expected: He cancelled the tour. Even further, he denied that there was a five million guarantee, and at that time, the prize pool remained at 4.2 million. According to PokerStrategy.com, on Friday, Partouche released a letter changing his stance on that subject and added money back into the prize pool.
The winner of the tour's final event will now earn 1.1 million euros. At the end of Friday's action, 14 players remained, including ESPN.com's No. 6-ranked player Dan Smith. David Williams finished in 17th.
It's a surprising ending to one of the more popular tournament destinations, and if I'm an aspiring tour anywhere else in the world, I'd note that there's a new void in the tournament circuit's schedule in early September.
Around The Felt:
Borgata Poker Open: If any tournament series can truly take advantage of this new open tournament circuit window, it might be the Borgata who just opened up its tournament series with a $1 million guaranteed $560 buy-in event Wednesday. Not only did it hit the guarantee -- it crushed it. A field of 3,705 players created a $1.8 million prize pool, and first place will win $309,196. Not bad for a $560 buy-in.
The BPO main event is one of the only domestic main events during the month, and if it is moved back into August (theoretically BPO would have to time it perfectly with the WPT's Legends of Poker, too), it will be able to attract the players before they head to Europe for WSOPE or any of the EPT/UIKPT/WPT events that steal the show during September.
Action at the Borgata will continue until Sept. 21, when the WPT will crown its next champion in the $3,500 re-entry main event.
I spoke to Daniel Negreanu on the Poker Edge about the 2012 World Championship of Online Poker on PokerStars, something which I have admittedly not paid enough attention to over the past week. It remains, and probably will always remain, the largest online tournament series in the world and has the attention of all players who are eligible to play.
Just how big and important is it to the poker community? Professional players from the United States have found new homes abroad during the 65-event series, and Negreanu felt the buzz surrounding WCOOP was bigger than ever. Turnouts have been strong with 11 of the first 15 players getting more than 1,000 players. Four of those events had seven-figure prize pools. George Danzer ($320 ante up no-limit hold 'em) and Eugene Katchalov ($215 seven-card stud high-low) were two the notable winners so far, and "beardo1981" owns the biggest score to date with his $262,936 cash in Event 8. Both Danzer and Katchalov had won WCOOP events in previous years.
The $5,200 WCOOP main event has a $5 million guaranteed prize pool.
WPT Legends of Poker
Josh Hale defeated a field of 622 entries in the latest World Poker Tour stop in Los Angeles. Hale, an amateur from San Diego, entered the final table with a significant chip lead, holding nearly 40 percent of the chips in play. However, his fortune changed midway through at the final table as he became the short stack with three players left behind Max Steinberg and Raouf Malek. Steinberg knocked out Malek in third after moving all-in on the river with a 10-9-2-K-Q board, holding an ace-high straight (A-J) and being called by Malek's king-high straight (J-6).
Steinberg, a 2012 bracelet winner, held a 3-to-1 edge over Hale and was one card away from adding a WPT title to his resume when Hale caught a flush on the river to double up and take the chip lead 12 hands into heads-up play. Hale chipped away and finally won the big race, holding J-J to Steinberg's A-K to win the title. Hale's $500,000 earnings was the largest cash of his career.
"I felt pretty good about the way I was playing poker," Hale said after his victory to the WPT. "There were a couple [of] interesting tournament spots that I may have played wrong, just because I don't play a lot of tournaments. But I think my overall, fundamental poker game was good. I was never really nervous."
Here are the results from the final table of the 2012 Legends of Poker:
1. Josh Hale ($500,000)
2. Max Steinberg ($293,490)
3. Raouf Malek ($192,400)
4. Ali Eslami ($133,700)
5. Greg Mueller ($97,100)
6. Jeff Madsen ($75,400)
WinStar River Series
It's crazy to think that a $2.5 million guaranteed event gets overlooked, but that's really what happens each year with the WinStar World Casino's River Series main event in Oklahoma. Aaron Massey defeated the field of 1,396 entries in the $2,100 re-entry event to earn $651,559, the largest live tournament cash of his career.
"I would like to thank EVERY ONE of YOU who reached out to me! I am so humbled by this. I will not take this for granted in any way. #grateful," said Massey on Twitter.
Massey also finished fourth in the $1,000 re-entry event that concluded a few days earlier for $26,180.
Among the notables to cash in the main event was 2012 WSOP main event final table member Robert Salaburu (62nd), David Sands (20th) and Maria Ho (90th).
Small blinds: The International Stadiums Poker Tour, expected to debut on May 31, 2013, has been busy signing endorsers over the past few weeks. Joining the roster are Patrik Antonius, Sam Trickett and Liz Lieu. Justin Ouimette won the Canadian Poker Classic for $66,760. Ouimette finished 422nd in the 2012 WSOP main event. The first affiliate for the Nevada online poker scene received the OK from the Nevada Gaming Control Board. PokerTrip Enterprises Inc., is run by a face familiar to the poker scene -- Jon Friedberg, and will be able to direct players to eligible online poker sites in Nevada for compensation. Mikalai Pobal, 28, won the EPT Barcelona main event for 1,007,550 euros. It was the biggest tournament ever held in Spain at 1,082 players. WSOP Europe will offer seven bracelet events and 69 side events, including a 50,000 euro buy-in re-entry high roller event. Action begins in Cannes, France, on Sept. 21. October Niner Steven Gee signed an endorsement deal with PokerAce.com for the final table. Stanley Choi won the $258,000 buy-in at the Macau High Stakes Challenge for $6.4 million. John Juanda (fifth - $1.6 million), Sam Trickett (seventh - $999,184) and Phil Ivey (eighth - $822,941) made the final table.