Table Talk: The HPT Raymer Rampage

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You may have to pry this wine glass from my fingers this week. I’m a little… well… hiccup. Thursday in America is our Thanksgiving, a day that we are supposed to reflect on things in life for which we are grateful. While we do some of that, we also devour food and wine as if it is the last day we shall ever eat or drink. And yes, I am guilty of it, too. Hiccup.

The last week in poker was a busy one. One of the big stories featured Howard Lederer. His legal counsel filed a motion with the US District Court to dismiss the civil complaint filed against him regarding Full Tilt Poker.

On the other side of the complicated Lederer coin, Las Vegas poker player Nick DiVella posted a petition online to obtain signatures that will be presented to the Aria Poker Room. The goal is to have Lederer barred from playing there, though Aria management may be tough to persuade since the former FTP boss has yet to be convicted of anything.

Speaking of the DoJ, the Poker Players Alliance met with them to discuss the status of US players who are still awaiting repayment from their Full Tilt accounts. That meeting was rather unsuccessful and produced no positive answers, but days later, the DoJ announced that it will be hiring a claims administrator by January 2013. That person will oversee said repayments, though the timetable for such a process is unclear.

Several tournaments completed in various parts of the globe over the past week. The Latin American Poker Tour served up its Season 5 Grand Final and saw Jordan Scott take it down for $168,210. Emil Olsson won the WPT Copenhagen stop for $229,938. And veteran player Randy Holland won the L.A. Poker Open in California for $110,000.

One of the big wins of the week took place on a live tournament series that is best known in the United States. The Heartland Poker Tour has been gaining steam over eight seasons as it travels from small casino towns in places like Iowa and Indiana to cities like Reno and Las Vegas. Players are drawn to the HPT for a number of reasons, like its $1,600 Main Event buy-ins and television coverage of final tables. But the HPT is more than that, as the HPT crew and staff are friendly and fun, and well-known players like Greg Raymer and Gavin Smith tend to show up to participate.

That took the HPT to the final stop of Season 8 last week at the Belterra Casino Resort in Florence, Indiana. There were 283 players in action, and the prize pool settled near $400K. One player – Greg Raymer – headed to the final table on the short stack but immediately doubled up and climbed into the lead, ultimately taking down the tournament for $106,029. The bigger news, though, was that this was his fourth HPT win. And even bigger than that, it was his fourth win in less than six months.

Most poker fans know Raymer from his 2004 WSOP Main Event victory for $5 million. Not many know that he had poker accomplishments on his résumé prior to that time, and he had many since. He made a final table at the WSOP the year following his Main Event win and finished 25th in that year’s Main Event. He finished third in the 2009 WSOP 40th Anniversary special event for nearly $775k. And in addition to many other deep tournament runs, he is a skilled mixed game cash player.

In 2011, he began playing events on the HPT because they were only several days and kept him fairly close to his home and family in North Carolina. And in 2012, he started winning those events. In July, he won the HPT event inNew Mexicofor almost $72k. In September, he won his second HPT title inMissourifor nearly $122k. And the next month, he won the Iowa HPT Main Event for more than $72k. On November 19, he won the aforementioned fourth title, not only setting an HPT record but dropping jaws around the poker world.

Raymer is a math-based player and will say that the odds were on his side, though he will admit to being a skilled player. While excited about the wins, he chalks them up to the frequency with which he plays HPT events, the size of the fields, etc. But I’m going out on a limb to say that it’s more than those factors. Greg Raymer is a skilled player who reads his opponents exceptionally well. Greg Raymer is more confident than his calm demeanor lets on. Greg Raymer is one of the most underrated players in the poker world, as one of the hardest working. And Greg Raymer is one of the best players in the game.

Just cheers and compliments were conveyed to Raymer this week via social media outlets like Twitter, and the poker media properly documented the accomplishment. But, as always, a player like Phil Ivey will always receive attention that Raymer will not. Ivey is mysterious, while Raymer is honest and upfront. Ivey jets around the world on private planes and spends millions in casinos, while Raymer takes a two-stop flight to Raleigh on a major airline and spends his money on his wife and daughter. Ivey will continue to garner kudos for everything he does, but hopefully, Raymer will start to receive the credit he deserves for his study of the game and the resulting accomplishments. The respect that Raymer constantly gives to the game, the media, and poker fans will hopefully, in my opinion, translate into respect from the poker world for Raymer himself.

Now, to begin to treat the hangover that will inevitably result from great food and copious amounts of wine. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you around these parts next week.

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