Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fantasy Poker: Handicapping the World Series

The following article appeared in the June 2009 issue of Poker Pro Magazine and on their website at

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Poker Articles - June 2009
Handicapping the World Series

Who Will Benefit From the Larger Starting Stacks?

The 40th Annual World Series of Poker, as well as this year’s fantasy poker
season, is upon us. The Series will encompass a record 57 events, including ten World Championship events, a $40,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event to celebrate the Series’ 40th Anniversary, and of course the $10,000 World Championship Main Event.
For 2009, WSOP officials have instituted a major change: “We’ve tripled the chips (in relation to the buy-in) for every event,” explains WSOP tournament director Jack Effel. “Now some people might say, ‘Oh, you must’ve eliminated levels.’ On the contrary, we’ve added levels…It’s a tough economy, so we wanted to make sure our poker players were getting the most value, but this is about making the tournaments better for the longevity.”
With more starting chips and added levels, poker skill will truly have a chance to establish itself. What does this mean for fantasy poker? Simply put, the larger starting stack and additional levels are going to favor poker professionals by allowing them more time to utilize their talents; consequently, determining which of these professionals will be the most successful is more difficult than ever, but not impossible.
Based on recent success, experience and preparation, here is a list of five pros likely to make a statement during the 2009 WSOP fantasy poker season.

Daniel Negreanu
Always one to take the World Series seriously, Negreanu has been playing the $400-$800 eight-game mix on PokerStars in an attempt to prepare for multiple events.
“I plan on getting loads of practice before this year’s WSOP and have spent almost a year planning for the WSOP 2009. I’m physically stronger than I’ve ever been, and it’s really not even close.”
Furthermore, Negreanu has revealed in his online blog that he will attempt to play almost half the events. This is a fantasy poker player’s dream as the more events played, the higher the chance of fantasy success. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Negreanu make a final table or two as he pursues his fifth bracelet.
The only downside with Negreanu, if there is such a thing, stems from his personal life. His mother, with whom he is very close, has experienced serious health complications, which could have an emotional impact on his performance. Predicting how someone will react to such a situation is difficult; however, Negreanu is a professional and highly successful player. More than likely he will use the WSOP as a chance to honor his mother by playing his best, much as Brett Favre did in the NFL when he passed for four touchdowns and 399 yards the day after his father passed away.
Negreanu is one of the world’s greatest players who consistently performs well at the WSOP. The 2004 Player of the Year has been practicing numerous games, will be playing a large number of events and will likely turn problems in his personal life into a motivating force. He is a must have in any fantasy poker league.

Huck Seed
Although he hasn’t had a strong WSOP showing since 2006, aside from a seventh-place finish in the 2008 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship, Seed is coming off a huge tournament win. In March, Seed won the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Championship on his way to becoming the all-time leader in that tournament with an 18-4 record (he has also cashed in all five years the event has been held). The Heads-up Championship has developed into one of poker’s most prestigious events, and a win there carries a lot of momentum into the WSOP.
For instance, Chris Ferguson, who took down the event in 2008, went on to cash five times at the WSOP that year, including second and third place finishes. Add to this that Seed is no stranger to the WSOP, having won four bracelets – including the 1996 Main Event – and a strong fantasy candidate emerges.
Seed is one of the most respected players on the tournament circuit today. Very few players will be entering the WSOP with a recent major tournament title and that fact alone warrants attention. If he brings his “A” game, Seed will be a force to be reckoned with both at the WSOP and in numerous fantasy poker leagues.

Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier
No one has had as much success in the first three months of 2009 as “ElkY.” He started the year by outlasting 48 players in the EPT PokerStars Carib-bean Adventure’s $25,000 High Roller event for $433,500. Over the course of the next ten weeks, Grospellier went on a heater, cashing at the L.A. Poker Classic, finishing third at the EPT Deauville High Roller deep stack event, third at the NBC National Heads-Up Champion-ship and second at the Wynn Classic Event 4, giving him tournament winnings of more than $700,000 in the first few months of 2009.
Although Grospellier only has six cashes in WSOP events, he has to be a favorite to win his first bracelet. Given his momentum, ability to focus and deep stack poker skills, Grospellier is primed to take advantage of the increased starting stacks and added levels. It wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility for Grospellier to have six cashes this year alone, making his fantasy potential hard to ignore.

David “Devilfish” Ulliott
Fantasy poker UlliotOne of poker’s most well known international stars, Ulliott has had a strong start to 2009 by winning PartyPoker Irish Poker Champ-ionship Event 2. He followed this up two weeks later with another win at the Euro Finals of Poker main event at the Aviation Club in Paris and then made a 23rd-place cash at EPT Deauville a week after that.
“It’s nice to get off to a winning start in 2009 after few tournament results in 2008,” Ulliott says. “If I was a racehorse, I’d never have been given so many chances; I would have been shot long ago.”
Like Grospellier, Ulliott will be entering the WSOP with a lot of confidence and momentum. The Devilfish, who is known for his cutthroat play, is proficient in multiple games and will likely make an impact in the hold’em and pot-limit Omaha events. There is a chance cash games will lure Ulliott away from some tournaments, but after a lackluster performance at the WSOP in 2008, look for him to concentrate and make a return to prominence.

Andy Bloch
How many times can one man play bridesmaid? Bloch came close to tasting gold last year when he finished second in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em World Championship event and in 2006 when he was runner-up to Chip Reese in the inaugural $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship. In last year’s WSOP, Bloch had five cashes (four of which were 16th-place finishes or better) bringing his career cash total
to 20.
Block was the top fantasy poker point earner in the Full Contact Poker League last year and there is no reason to believe he won’t put up similar numbers once again. Bloch is adept at multiple variations and always plays a wide variety of events. He is determined to win a bracelet and will do everything in his power to do so. All things considered, he is likely to duplicate his success and remain among the top fantasy point earners, making him a wise choice for any roster.

Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list of potential fantasy league stars. There are numerous other players who deserve honorable mention such as World Poker Tour 2009 Bay 101 Shooting Star champion and poker veteran Steve Brecher; Internet sensation and issuer of the infamous “durrrr Challenge,” Tom Dwan; new Go Daddy Girl and 2009 NBC Heads-Up Championship runner-up Vanessa Rousso; 2008 WSOP Player of the Year and bracelet winner Erick Lindgren, and odds-on non-bracelet winner most likely to win one, Patrik Antonius.
With the increased starting stacks and added events, the 2009 WSOP is shaping up to go down in history; likewise, the 2009 fantasy poker season should be the biggest and best yet.

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