World Series of Poker
Fantasy Poker Pro-spective
Who Would the Game’s Top Players Pick for Their Own Fantasy League Teams?
by Chad Holloway
Are you aware of the fantasy poker leagues that develop around the World Series of Poker? If so, do you play? What is your impression of fantasy poker? These are just a few of the questions I posed to various poker professionals leading up to the 2009 WSOP. As you might expect, the responses varied from “never heard of it” to “actively participate,” but there was one common theme: An underlying confidence that they could make a difference in the fantasy poker world.
“I participate in one every year. It’s organized by ESPN’s Andrew Feldman. I love it. It’s a ton of fun and I take it seriously, sometimes making big side bets.”
With such an enthusiasm for fantasy poker, which pros would the two-time bracelet winner choose for his fantasy roster?
“Chris Ferguson because he is such a threat in virtually any tournament. He is so good at so many games. He is my clear favorite. Howard Lederer again because he can play any game very well. Finally, Ted Forrest because he is a beast and can play any game.”
Although he modestly does not put himself at the top of the list, Seif believes he has a great deal of fantasy potential. “When I play my ‘A’ game, no one, I mean no one, wants to see me at their table…and I will be playing almost all the events this year.”
Too Much on My Plate
Not all the pros are fantasy aficionados like Mark.
Although he doesn’t participate in a league, Lynch, who has an impressive nine cashes at the WSOP, including a 24th place finish in the 2006 Main Event, does have a plan if and when he does: “I think a good strategy involves picking people who are likely to put in a lot of volume and are good at a wide variety of games. The no-limit hold’em fields are all pretty big and it can be tough to consistently go deep in those, but the guys who are consistently playing the 200-300 person fields and perform in the 2-7, Stud and Omaha events will tend to produce more consistent results from year to year. If I were building a team I’d be looking for guys who play lots of events in a variety of games and play them all well. I definitely wouldn’t pick someone who has a history of only playing a handful of events regardless of how great a player they are.”
Not only does the hectic event schedule keep a lot of pros busy and away from fantasy poker, but the lucrative cash games do as well.
“I am aware of these leagues, but do not participate,” says 2004 World Champion Greg Raymer. “For the time spent on it, I would rather play a cash game.”
Still, Greg says he’d be a good pick if he decided to draft a team.
“I will again, as usual, be at the WSOP for the entire time, and will likely play in another couple dozen events, which is typical for me. As such, I am a good pick for somebody’s team, as I not only play all the games, but actually play all the games rather well. Hold’em is not even in the top half for me, especially as compared to the competition.”
Although he doesn’t dive into the fantasy pool, Raymer is quick to offer a few names he believes can be fantasy studs.
“If I were picking a fantasy team, my top pick would be Chris Ferguson. One of the best tournament players of all time, and he plays more events at the WSOP than anybody. He gladly multi-tables the WSOP and has been known to be entered into as many as three tournaments at the same time. Andy Bloch is a great pick for many of the same reasons, as is Barry Greenstein.”
Fun to Watch
There are numerous poker professionals who are familiar with and even enjoy fantasy poker, but some have no fantasy experience whatsoever – at least as far as poker goes.
Tiffany Michelle, the last women standing in the 2008 WSOP, is one of these players. “Nope, never heard of fantasy poker leagues,” she admits. However, after a quick explanation, Michelle makes a case for her fantasy prowess: “Of course, I’ll be playing the WSOP this year. I already won my Main Event seat and will be playing about thirteen of the NL events…I’m fun to watch and follow and ya never know what’s gonna happen.”
Another popular woman on the tournament circuit, Maria Ho, known as the “Femme on Felt,” is impressed by the fantasy poker trend.
“I am aware that there is such a thing as Fantasy Poker leagues but other than that I don’t know too much about them. I know what fantasy baseball and football leagues are kinda like so it’s cool to know that people follow poker so much that they actually have leagues for the WSOP.”
Between her hostess and on-camera interview duties for worldseriesofpoker.com, Ho will attempt to play in 22 events, giving her strong fantasy potential. On top of this, Ho believes she has what it takes to make a statement in fantasy poker: “Readers should choose me to be on their fantasy poker team because I know I have what it takes to break through in these tourneys and I have a lot of experience playing against big fields and against fields primarily composed of amateurs and inexperienced players. I will be the secret weapon and dark horse for any fantasy poker league team!”
So what makes these pros, who know nothing about fantasy poker, so sure they can make a difference? Maybe it’s the fact that most poker pros are confident and unwilling to admit defeat.
On the other hand, there are players like Alec Torelli who remain humble, especially when it concerns fantasy poker.
“I’m not aware of the fantasy leagues but from other similar sports I can infer what it means. I will be playing [the] WSOP this year although I might not be your best draft pick. To be honest, if it’s based on points earned from tournament cashes they shouldn’t [pick me]! I’m not planning on playing all the events and mathematically it won’t give me the best chance of accumulating points. I would seek more of a ‘rat racer’ profile that’s going to grind every tournament.”
Whether they’ve drafted a team of their own or not, it’s clear that pro players recognize and appreciate the growing popularity of fantasy poker, while doing their best to secure a roster spot for themselves in leagues across the world!