Table Talk: Poker Achievements Recognized

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Join me in my new Las Vegas apartment, won’t you? The move has been completed from Los Angeles to Sin City (the reason for my column’s absence last week), and I’ve unpacked every last box. My small mini-bar is even set up and somewhat stocked. Please join me in a celebratory cocktail.

Over the past two weeks, quite a bit happened in the poker world. One of the biggest pieces of news was the announcement of dates for the 2013 World Series of Poker. Just weeks after the conclusion of the 2012 WSOP Main Event, Caesars Entertainment announced that the 44 th annual series will begin next year on May 29 with approximately 60 gold bracelet events. The Main Event will begin on July 7 and conclude with nine final table players on July 16. Though the exact schedule has yet to be announced, the dates are set so players can begin to look at travel and accommodations.

American television has embraced some poker themes of late, starting with the November 4 debut of “I Bet My Life”, a show on Travel Channel featuring Liv Boeree and Kevin MacPhee. The footage came from their EPT visit to Monte Carlo earlier in the year, and the show was a hit with US viewers. Another show is in the works, this one featuring Jennifer Harman in a series called “Sin City Rules”. The TLC network will air episodes about high-powered women in Las Vegas, and Harman is featured as a poker pro. Even “The Simpsons” animated television show addressed poker – online poker, to be exact – when an episode shows son Bart playing an online poker account recklessly and his sister Lisa saving the day with skilled play that resulted from a Jennifer Tilly instructional video. In the end, though, both players were removed from the online poker site because they were underage.

Poker was all over the world in real life as well. The Asia Championship of Poker’s Main Event collaborated with the Asia Pacific Poker Tour to host its event in Macau, and Xing Zhou won the tournament by defeating Ying Kit Chen. The heads-up match was unique, however, in that it lasted hours before the two players agreed to split the prize money evenly and move all-in blind. Each then won HKD $3,547,500, and Zhou took the title and trophy.

Another interesting tournament was the UK & Ireland Poker Tour in Bristol, England. The first online event wrapped with a live final table, at which German player Wojtek Barzantny claimed victory. Days later, the UKIPT Bristol live event played out, and none other than Barzantny won that one, too. He became the first player to win back-to-back UKIPT titles.

Then we had a World Poker Tour event in Florida – the WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble. The Main Event attracted 477 entries for the reentry event, and it attracted big names like Daniel Negreanu and Jason Mercier. In the end, John Racener just missed the final table by a few spots, and Lee Markholt was the first to exit that table in sixth place. But it was Noah Schwartz who plowed over the final table and won his first WPT title. Schwartz, a pro for more than a few years, has long been in the category of best players without a major title, but that is no more. He finally took home that WPT title in the state he calls home.

For players like Schwartz, the fight for a major poker title can seem long and daunting at times. Making final tables and seeing a bad run of cards for an early exit can be discouraging, but players like Schwartz continue to pull themselves up and get back to the tables. The skill factor keeps them at the top of their game, and tenacity leads them to try and try again. For Schwartz, it finally paid off with a big WPT win.

Then there’s Jason Somerville, who has been tearing up the live poker tournaments as well as the media. This summer, he made some deep runs in the WSOP, including a 69th place finish in the Main Event. And when Russell Thomas made that Main Event final table, he elicited Somerville’s training help. The result was a solid finish from Thomas and a series of videos entitled “The Final Table” to document the experience.

Further, Somerville came out to the poker community and became the only recognizable male player that is openly gay. His move was noted far beyond the poker media, with famed blogger Perez Hilton even congratulating him on his exit from the closet. And today, he was acknowledged by the “Out” publication in its “Out100″ list. Somerville noted to the editors that he was accepted by the poker world and gay community, and his partner has been his biggest supporter throughout the experiences. Somerville did a service to the poker world by opening a door that has long been closed.

And speaking of achievements by poker players, Doyle Brunson looks to have beat cancer yet again. He tweeted about a malignant mass that seems to be Squamous cell cancer but not dangerous for Brunson at this time. After having beaten the disease in the past, to which he attributed miracles, he is fighting cancer again. And he’s winning. Again.

On those positive notes, I’m going to try to catch up on more poker news that I missed during my move. If you can clean your glass after your cocktail, it will help keep my new apartment in order.

Thanks, and see you next week!

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