Jim Harbaugh Hanging with Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan

November 28th, 2016

hellmuth-harbaughYou might know Jim Harbaugh as the football coach who’s been screaming up and down the sidelines at Michigan, San Francisco, and Stanford for the past decade. But it turns out that Harbaugh has a lot of celebrity friends that he hangs out with too, including some poker pros.

ESPN recently did a report that mentioned Harbaugh’s experiences with noted poker pros Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth.

“Whether he’s in a high-stakes Las Vegas poker room with Johnny Chan or building a bamboo home in rural South America (yes, he has done both), Harbaugh’s relentless quest to find an edge never ends,” wrote ESPN’s Dan Murphy.

It appears that Harbaugh is especially tight with Hellmuth because the two hang out together and text each other.

They met when Harbaugh, a coach at Stanford University, sat courtside next to Hellmuth at a basketball game. Given that not many celebrities make their way to Stanford games, Harbaugh asked Hellmuth if he’d like to hang out on the sidelines of Cardinals football games.

The Poker Brat couldn’t resist the chance to spend time with more celebrities, so he gladly hung out in Harbaugh’s locker rooms in Palo Alto and, later, San Francisco.

Even though Harbaugh is now college’s highest-paid football coach ($9 million) with the Michigan Wolverines, the two still text and meet up. For example, Hellmuth went to Harbaugh’s national signing day event last February and flew with him and Desmond Howard to watch the Super Bowl.

Some of the texts that Hellmuth has sent Harbaugh even wind up in the latter’s press conferences. For example, Harbaugh once told the media that San Francisco “may be ahead in the chip count, but we don’t have a seat at the final table” following a 9-2 start.

Hellmuth told ESPN, “He [freaking] loved it. The next week there were all these poker analogies in his press conference. I said, ‘This is awesome.’

It’s doubtful that we’ll see Harbaugh grinding on the poker tables any time in the near future. But it’s still cool that he spends time in poker rooms and is friends with Hellmuth.

Daniel Negreanu Clarifies Role with Vegas NHL Team

November 27th, 2016

daniel-negreanuThere was exciting news in the hockey world this week as Las Vegas’ new NHL team revealed their name, the Golden Knights. This further drives home the fact that Vegas will soon have its first major professional sports franchise.

As we discussed last year, Daniel Negreanu was one of the biggest supporters of bringing an NHL team to Vegas. Due to the 6-time WSOP champion’s heavy involvement, many wondered if he would have a permanent role with the team.

After all, he was involved with team owner’s Bill Foley’s group and their efforts to being hockey to the desert. Negreanu, a Canadian-turned-long-time-Vegas resident, even helped lead a season ticket drive to show the NHL that they were serious.

The ticket drive was a huge success, tallying over 10,000 people who said they’d purchase season tickets. This is over half of the Golden Knights’ new T-Mobile Arena, which seats 17,500 fans.

Thanks to all of these efforts, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman awarded the city a hockey franchise in June.

But as for Negreanu, it appears that his involvement with the franchise was merely to promote the team and bring hockey to Sin City.

“I was heavily involved with ticket sales and a group of 75 of us who were basically trying to prove to the NHL that hockey would work in Las Vegas,” Negreanu told PokerNews. “I helped to do that. As far as investing in the team, I’m just going to be a supporter, a fan.”

The 42-year-old poker pro grew up in Toronto and has been a Toronto Maple Leafs fan his entire life. So it’s little surprise that he’s already lined up his season tickets for the Golden Knights.

“I bought four seats for myself down low and I also bought 12 seats for kids that I’m mainly going to donate to a school called Cambeiro Elementary, which is a very underprivileged school,” said Negreanu. “The kids are on assisted lunches and don’t have a lot of opportunity. I thought it would be good at a grassroots level and they would enjoy the game.”

The Golden Knights are set to start playing in the 2017-18 NHL season. And when this happens, you can bet that Negreanu will be attending as many games as his poker schedule allows for.

Macau’s Tom Hall Wins $950k Weight Loss Bet

November 22nd, 2016

tom-hall-weight-lossBack in September, Macau-based poker player and businessman Tom Hall made a $1 million weight loss bet, where he had to drop from 115kg (253 pounds) to 103kg (227 pounds) in two months. Hall must be quite wealthy because an added stipulation of the wager was that he couldn’t buy any wine bottles, cars, watches, luxury items, or electronics worth over $100.

This proved a manageable bet for Hall since he completed it and won $950,000. The reason why he earned $950k instead of $1 million is because his betting partner asked for a buyout, and wasn’t given much leeway.

In the end, Hall dropped from 253 pounds to 225.4 pounds. He also avoided the temptation of buying all of the luxury items that he’s so used to.

This seemed like an easy wager overall for Hall since he only had to put up $100,000 against the unnamed bettor’s $1 million.

He wrote a Facebook post about the matter, where he discussed why he got into the bet and exactly how he lost the weight. Here’s one excerpt from the lengthy post:

“For those that want to train and exercise more, engage a proper gym/trainer. You always get pushed harder, stretch and prepare properly (less injuries), get a varied routine so you don’t get bored and it’s also an emotional boost, having somebody there to motivate you. We all have off-days, having some bloke/lady there to kick you on the days you want to slacken off, was for me important.

“I adopted a form of “intermittent fasting”. There are several types of this, where the most commonly known is the 2 days of really low calorie intake and 5 days eating normally. I went with one version where, I would only consume solid food in an 8-hour window every day. For me, Monday’s to Fridays, I would have a protein shake and daily vitamins at 7am, bulletproof coffee over the morning (stops you getting hungry and gives you the necessary fat you need – its coffee + butter + MCT oil – sounds gross but its great), morning training, then lunch around 1 pm. Dinner at around 7pm-8pm. Would then just take the dog for an hour walk in the evening. At weekends, I would have a normal oatmeal and fruit (occasionally eggs) breakfast with the family and eat meals at usual times. Again this was part of my trying not to drive the rest of my family insane, was it a super strict adherence to the ideal? No. But to me the weight loss program was more about healthy eating and maintaining a balance in life and being something I could continue after. On school mornings when everybody is rushing around, my eating routine didn’t affect anybody else.”

If you’re looking for some real-world advice for dropping pounds, check out Hall’s Facebook post. Also, here’s a closer look at the exact stipulations from the weight loss bet:

Mike Sexton Wins WPT Montreal – Makes Huge Comeback

November 19th, 2016

mike-sexton-wpt-montrealMike Sexton has been announcing World Poker Tour events for years, seeing many players hit the winner’s circle. But this time, the 69-year-old got a chance to be a WPT winner himself.

Sexton came onto the final table of the WPT Montreal event with the chip lead, but saw this lead quickly evaporate. He still made it into a heads-up matchup with Benny Chen, winner of the 2013 WSOP Millionaire Maker.

This looked like a fairly even matchup on paper, with Chen holding 71 big blinds and Sexton having 59 bb. However, the matchup quickly turned into Chen’s favor as he took a massive lead after 90 minutes of play.

With Chen having 17,775,000 chips compared to Sexton’s 1,675,000 chips, the matchup looked like it would soon be over. But this is when Sexton mounted a comeback over next three hours hands to cut into the lead.

Chen never wilted, though, continuing to win big hands and extend his lead. After 252 hands, he maintained a 5-1 chip advantage over Sexton. But the latter was patient and eventually rivered a straight and got Chen to pay him off.

After 262 hands, it was Sexton reversing the tide and taking the lead. Two hands after this, Chen made an aggressive shove with K-J, while Sexton called with queens. He would flop another queen, while the board gave Chen nothing.

This gave Sexton his first WPT victory along with a $302,896 payout. The win also ensures Sexton a spot in the WPT Tournament of Champions.

“What an absolutely incredible experience it is to become a WPT champion!” said Sexton. “A World Poker Tour title has eluded me until now, but luckily this old guy had a bit left in the tank to make another run at one, and it feels great to have closed the deal.”

“I’ve come close two times before, reaching the final table at Bay 101 in 2011 and in Venice in 2013, so to get another shot and have it work out in my favor, it feels unimaginable, but here I am,” Sexton added.

With the victory, Sexton now has over $6.2 million in live tournament winnings.

Despite the win, it’s doubtful that Sexton will be leaving his long-time announcing position to pursue a full-time poker tournament career.

Phil Hellmuth Does Interview with Tim Ferriss

November 17th, 2016

phil-hellmuth-tim-ferriss-interview14-time WSOP champion Phil Hellmuth recently did an interview with Tim Ferriss, who’s famous for his 4-Hour series, including the 4-Hour Workweek, 4-Hour Body, and 4-Hour Chef.

Ferriss recently tweeted about the matter to gauge interest from fans:

Apparently, Ferriss must have been satisfied with the feedback because he did a 3-hour interview with Hellmuth this week for his new TV show Fear(less).

The show will be broadcast on the AT&T Audience Network in 2017 while showcasing interviews with Ferriss and “top performers, focusing on how they’ve overcome fears and made hard decisions, embracing discomfort and thinking big.”

Hellmuth’s episode will include other notable guests like illusionist David Blaine, ESPP founder Bill Rasmussen, and comedian Bill Burr.

It’s clear from the reactions of top poker pros that they are less than thrilled with Ferris’ guest choice. Here’s a look at what some of them tweeted:

Despite the negative feedback — especially regarding his promotion of UB Poker — Hellmuth does have something in common with what Ferriss wants to accomplish.

Hellmuth has had to deal with plenty of discomfort over the years due to the UB scandal and his self-promoting nature.

He also knows how to think big and aim for the stars, whether it’s all the WSOP bracelets that he’s won or his sponsorship deals.

Is Poker Missing Heroes and Villains?

November 13th, 2016

poker-heroes-villainsGiven that online poker traffic has slowed in recent years, there have been many talks about what poker needs to do to reach a boom period again.

Of course, there’ll never be a boom again like the one that lasted throughout the mid-2000s. But poker could stand to have another injection of popularity, and ESPN writer Arash Markazi thinks that this could come from having more heroes and villains.

This may seem like another half-baked way to artificially create more excitement in poker. But according to Markazi, the real problem lies with how little emotion occurs during poker’s biggest events. Here’s one excerpt where he writes about what it was like during the Main Event final table:

“Michael Ruane, 28, had the most boisterous section, with many of his friends dressed as pro wrestlers from the 1990s. Las Vegas resident Qui Nguyen, 39, had a ton of local support as they chanted, “Who win? Qui Nguyen!” each time he collected chips. And those cheering for Kenny Hallaert, 34, mixed in some European soccer chants. But people watching a crowd filled with friends and family is only interesting to a certain point.

“I knew I wouldn’t have any real connection to the “November Nine” coming into the final table, but the truth is I had no real connection to them after watching them play for a dozen hours either. It’s inherently hard to connect to people that don’t say anything, or show any emotion.”

To be fair, Markazi also points out how the players were largely silent because of the amount of money on the line. Even still, he has a point in that the Main Event could use more personality.

Some would say that we had more than enough personality from William Kassouf, who was a poker villain in the biggest way. The only problem is that Kassouf busted out in 17th place, eight spots before the final table was formed.

jamie-gold-wsopIt’s been a long time since we’ve had somebody as loathed by the poker world as Jamie Gold make it onto the WSOP’s main stage.

“You need to have players talking to have heroes and villains,” Gold told ESPN. “Once you take away the character side of it, you’re killing the entertainment value and the reason why advertisers, sponsors and viewers would want to watch. I wasn’t that special, but I had an opportunity to create a character by speaking.”

As Markazi points out, the one saving grace about a monotonous WSOP final table is that TV viewers get to hear Lon McEachern and Norman Chad’s banter. But when you’re watching the event live, it’s just not very entertaining.

There’s no quick fix for this problem because you can’t force players to be more sociable at the table — especially when they’re battling for so much money. But it would certainly been nice from a viewing perspective to see somebody like Kassouf go a little further.

Doyle Brunson Wins $300k on State Election Betting

November 12th, 2016

doyle-brunson-election-bettingAnybody who follows Doyle Brunson’s Twitter account knows that he’s a die-hard Republican. And it appears that he followed the election action close enough to make informed bets that netted him $300,000 in profits.

As you can see, Trump also managed to get in a comment about Donald Trump winning the 2016 Presidential Race.

Like many Republicans, Brunson didn’t see Trump as the ideal candidate to run for the party. However, he was pleased that the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton didn’t win.

Of course, Brunson is also fearful of what a loose cannon like Trump could do in office, which prompted this tweet:

As for the details of his political bets, here’s a look at what Brunson had to say about his wins:

During his post-election tweets, Brunson also had a brief exchange with his friend and follow poker pro Daniel Negreanu:

As passionate as Brunson is about politics and the Republican party, it’s good to see that at the end of the day, he can still talk sensibly with his friend, Negreanu.

But Brunson couldn’t resist taking a jab at California after the election:

Doug Polk Breaks Down William Kassouf WSOP Controversy

November 8th, 2016

william-kassouf-pokerIt’s been over 3 months since William Kassouf annoyed players in the 2016 WSOP Main Event with his “speech play.” But the controversy has been given new life thanks to ESPN’s recent broadcast of the Main Event.

This prompted high stakes pro Doug Polk to do a video segment on the issue. Polk opened the video by saying that players should be allowed to talk during hands because poker is a social game.

“You can’t just say ‘oh you can’t talk because you’re annoying or we don’t like what you’re saying or you’re talking too much,'” said Polk.

The WSOP champion believes that there needs to be a clear line for what is and isn’t allowed on the poker table.

“I think the line is when you’re insulting people or being abusive to people, I think that you’re stepping over the line and now you’re being intrusive to other people,” Polk explained.

He points out how WSOP rules state that you can’t talk to opponents in an effort to manipulate their decisions.

“I think that if we look at Kassouf’s decisions, I think that the ones where his opponent’s all-in, he’s trying to talk to them or trying to talk about the hand, I think that’s completely okay.”

Polk adds, “However, decisions where his opponent is all-in and he’s trying to get them to make a certain decision…whether that’s okay in poker, that can to either way. When you do have rules in place that specifically outline in these scenarios, as a tournament, you have to follow that direction or why have the rules to begin with.”

Polk goes into detail with the WSOP rules, discussing things like the Jamie Gold rule (no talking about your hand) and Hevad Khan rule (no excessive celebrations), pointing out that they make clear distinctions about what’s not allowed.

He also shows a video where Kassouf clearly breaks the rules (6:45) by trying to influence a hand and disrespecting a player.

See what else Polk has to say about the matter below, and you can also watch Kassouf’s famous hand with Griffin Benger in the other video.

Qui Nguyen Wins 2016 WSOP Main Event – Completes Rise from Nail Salon

November 2nd, 2016

qui-nguyen-wsop-main-eventQui Nguyen went into the final 3 of the 2016 WSOP Main Event with the chip lead. But winning wasn’t easy as he still faced fierce challenges from Gordon Vayo and Cliff Josephy.

Both opponents would take the chip lead at various points. But Vayo would eliminate Josephy in third, while Nguyen outlasted Vayo in a marathon heads-up match to win the $8,005,310 top prize.

The heads-up match with Vayo was exhausting, as it covered seven hours and 181 hands. But with his stack dwindling, Vayo finally went all-in with J-10. Nguyen called with K-10 and flopped a king that eventually won him the hand and $8 million.

This is an amazing win for Nguyen, 39, who was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the US in 2001, when he was 24.

He found work as a nail technician at a nail salon in California, where he first picked up poker.

“It was just a job,” said Nguyen. “I didn’t like it a lot, but I needed money.”

Nicknamed “Tommy Gun” for his aggression, Nguyen would eventually carve out a living from poker.

Not long ago, he made a decision that would change his life: entering a $1,100 WSOP Main Event satellite. Nguyen won the satellite and earned the $10,000 seat that led to this big victory.

Now, Nguyen is $8 million richer and looking to give something back. He told ESPN that he’ll donate part of his winnings to homeless Vietnamese people.

“[Average] Vietnamese family makes only $200 a month,” said Qui. “They are very poor and hungry. Some families don’t even have blankets, but I will make sure that they are taken care of. Whether I finish first or last, I plan to go to Vietnam to donate money to the poor.”

Another thing that Nguyen says he’ll do is give up baccarat, a game that has cost him an estimated $250,000 over the years.

And with millions of dollars and strong poker skills, he’ll be in pretty good shape if he can stay away from the baccarat tables.

2016 WSOP November Nine Payouts
1. Qui Nguyen (USA) – $8,005,310
2. Gordon Vayo (USA) – $4,661,228
3. Cliff Josephy (USA) – $3,454,035
4. Michael Ruane ((USA) – $2,576,003
5. Vojtech Ruzicka (Czech R.) – $1,935,288
6. Kenny Hallaert (Belgium) – $1,464,258
7. Griffin Benger (Canada) – $1,250,190
8. Jerry Wong (USA) – $1,110,076
9. Fernando Pons (Spain) – $1,100,000

WSOP November Nine Down to 3 – Qui Nguyen Leads

October 31st, 2016

wsop-november-nine-2016After two days of play, the 2016 WSOP November Nine has become the November three. Qui Nguyen leads the final table with 197,600,000 chips, while Godon Vayo (89 million) and Cliff Josephy (50 million) are still alive.

Nguyen, who opened the 2016 WSOP Main Event final table in second place (67.925m), had an excellent first day and amassed 40% of the total chips.

He now has over half of the chips in play and looks poised to win tonight. This is quite a position for Nguyen to be in because, prior to the Main Event, he was grinding out a living in $1/$2 to $5/$10 games at the ARIA.

A self-described gambler, Nguyen was never afraid to push his stack advantage to steal pots. But he’s also played well enough to have the right cards when it does come to a showdown. He seems to have the right temperament on such a big stage too.

“I’m not nervous,” said Nguyen. “I’m never nervous. I’m so lucky to be here right now. Whatever happens, happens.”

A lot could happen, considering that Josephy and Vayo are skilled players. Josephy entered the final table with the chip lead (74.6m), while Vayo was third (49.375m).

Both players did what they needed to survive and reach the end, where an $8 million top prize awaits the winner.

Josephy can’t be happy about being the short stack at this point, but he’ll definitely take the opportunity to go for the largest poker prize of his life.

The two players who busted out on Day 2 include Michael Ruane (4th, $2.58m) and Vojtech Ruzicka (5th, $1.94m). They entered the final table fourth and fifth respectively in terms of chips.

With a dwindling stack Ruzicka shoved his remaining chips into the middle with A-7, while Nguyen called him with A-Q. The board blanked for both players, giving Nguyen the win and eliminating Ruzicka.

Ruane went all-in with K-Q suited, and Nguyen called with A-J unsuited. The latter won with ace-high when the board missed Ruane.

Action will resume tonight at 9pm EST, as Nguyen looks to close out the tournament and win $8 million.