This article appeared in the December 2010 issues of Poker Pro Magazine and Online Poker Pro Magazine as well as on their respective websites.
Highlights From the ESPN Fantasy Poker League
‘Poker Pro’ Writer Wins It!
By Chad Holloway
Earlier this year, prior to the World Series of Poker, I had the opportunity to participate in the world’s most famous fantasy poker competition, the 2010 ESPN Fantasy Poker League. The league is an invite-only affair and, given I write fantasy poker material for this publication, I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation. This year’s draft featured 12 participants: Daniel Negreanu, Eric Baldwin, Andrew Feldman, Gary Wise, Howard Lederer, Lance Bradley, Dennis Phillips, Bernard Lee, Mark Seif, Gavin Smith, Chops (from WickedChopsPoker) and myself.
The rules of the draft were simple. It was a snake draft, meaning the person with the last pick in a round (which, as the new guy, was me) would have the first pick in the next. Since there were 12 teams and eight rounds in the draft, it meant 96 players would be selected.
The scoring based on the following criteria:
1 point for making the money 2 points for making the top 505 points for making the top 20 10 points for making the final table (up to a tournament with a field size of 100 players) then one additional point for each 100 players after that, then:1 additional point for ninth 2 additional points for eighth 4 additional points for seventh 6 additional points for sixth 10 additional points for fifth 15 additional points for fourth 20 additional points for third 30 additional points for second 40 additional points for first
Double points awarded for all events with buy-ins of $10,000 or more.
The draft itself was conducted via a conference call back in May (before the first WSOP eent), where some additional rules were ironed out. Most importantly, an option to add/drop players was established. In the league, each team could drop one player any time during the WSOP and replace him or her with an undrafted player. This was a one-time option and allowed us to observe how certain players were playing, and adjust accordingly.
Below you will find the results of the draft, including the draft order, each team’s selections, and the number of fantasy points each individual player scored. If two players are listed, it means the former was dropped and replaced by the latter. (For more on the draft itself, feel free to check out Feldman’s write-up in the poker section of ESPN.com.)
Chops: Phil Ivey (63), Carlos Mortensen (69), David Benyamine (2), Faraz Jaka (59), Brock Parker (61), Abe Moussari (64), Thomas Marchese (53), Josh Arieh (3)
Negreanu: Daniel Negreanu (31), Scotty Nguyen (16), David Chiu (134), Justin Smith (22), Todd Brunson (25), Freddy Deeb/Steve Billirakis (97), Brett Richey (16), John Monnette (16)
Feldman: Jason Mercier (30), Bertrand Grospellier (17), Chau Giang (17), Scott Seiver (45), David Pham (0), Alexander Kostritsyn (96), David Sands (51), Ryan D’Angelo/Vladimir Shchemelev (35)
Wise: Allen Cunningham (2), Daniel Alaei (162), Andy Bloch (19), Eli Elezra (11), Isaac Haxton (21), Tom Schneider (7), Nick Schulman (46), Vitaly Lunkin (16)
Lederer: Barry Greenstein (11), John Juanda (223), Robert Mizrachi (125), Chad Brown (40), Matt Glantz (65), Amnon Filippi (6), Ralph Perry (0), Thor Hansen (0)
Phillips: Erick Lindgren (28), Jeffrey Lisandro (41), J.C. Tran (16), David Singer (15), Brandon Cantu (11), Greg Mueller (8), John Phan (1), Nam Le (14)
Seif: Tom Dwan (97), Phil Galfond (2), Ted Forrest (8), Doyle Brunson (0), Jennifer Harman (102), Johnny Chan (2), Mark Seif/Greg Raymer (3), Eric Froehlich (2)
Bradley: Erik Seidel (85), Howard Lederer (0), Chris Bjorin (6), Yevgeniy Timoshenko (6), Patrik Antonius/David Baker (132), Kenny Tran (0), Andrew Litchenberger (0), Dan Kelly (117)
Lee: Chris Ferguson (12), Michael Binger (11), Paul Wasicka (1), Eric Baldwin (29), Max Pescatori (11), Dwyte Pilgrim (32), Roland de Wolfe (0), Jonathan Little (46)
Baldwin: Scott Clements (25), Matt Hawrilenko (0), Justin Bonomo (17), James Mackey (0), Shannon Shorr (13), Justin Young (10), James Van Alstyne (8), Michael Katz (1)
Smith: Huck Seed (14), Gavin Smith (80), Jeff Madsen (9), Steve Sung (0), Bryan Devonshire (2), David Oppenheim (76), Chris Bell (70), Vivek Rajkumar (19)
Holloway (Team Poker Pro): Phil Hellmuth (56), Sorel Mizzi (36), Mike Matusow (9), Annette Obrestad (13), David Williams (6), Jason Somerville (149), Phil Laak/Michael Mizrachi (91 + Main Event), Amit Makhija (50)
1st Chad Holloway: 576*
2nd Howard Lederer: 470
3rd Chops: 374
4th Daniel Negreanu: 357
5th Lance Bradley: 346
6th Andrew Feldman: 291
7th Gary Wise: 284
8th Gavin Smith: 270
9th Mark Seif: 216
10th Bernard Lee: 142
11th Dennis Phillips: 134
12th Eric Baldwin: 74
*Includes Main Event points up until November Nine, but will earn more based upon Mizrachi’s finish at the final table.
As you can see, I was lucky enough to claim the 2010 ESPN Fantasy Poker League title and become this year’s champion. I readily admit that the main reason I won was because I dropped Phil Laak in favor of Michael Mizrachi after his victory in Event 2 $50,000 Player’s Championship (I did not get points for that win, however, since I picked him up afterwards). The victory was especially exciting considering it was my first year in the league and I took the title from Negreanu, who dominated in 2009.
This was not just my first year in the league, but it was also Baldwin’s inaugural outing. I had the opportunity to talk to him about our rookie experiences.
“I’m surprisingly happy with how things turned out this year,” he joked. “I wanted to draft a large selection of friends who were unlikely to score me many points. I did this for two reasons. One, as a rookie in the league, I believe this sets the bar for my fantasy abilities perfectly low, opening the door for many side-bet hustling opportunities next year. Second, I get to give my friends a hard time about their poor performance and how they let me down.”
Unlike Baldwin, ESPN analyst Wise was a veteran of the league.
“This is my fourth year in the pool, and my lack of preparation showed. I’m proud to say my team was decidedly mediocre,” Wise proclaimed. “Draft day was also travel day for me and with the preparations for the latter winning out over the former, I was woefully unprepared. I started out the Series in last place by a healthy margin, so finishing in the middle was about as good as I could have expected.”
As one of the veterans in the league, I asked what the main difference was between our draft and years past. “I like that the side action amongst the big boys has gotten bigger, because that’s going to enhance the attention the draft gets, which is good for everyone,” he said.
I can confirm that during the draft there were some hefty prop bets being made between some of the league’s heavy hitters. The wagers were pretty significant, but unfortunately I have been sworn to secrecy when it comes to the specifics. I will say that I did not make any bets, which is unfortunate considering I won!
I also asked Wise who he thinks is the best fantasy poker player.
“I think it’s probably Daniel Negreanu,” he replied. “Daniel treats the draft as seriously as any hand of poker he’s ever played. He brings a genuine enthusiasm to the endeavor of outmaneuvering the other participants, and he brings a knowledge of both live and online guys. His teams generally do really well as a result.” Given that the league has been around for a while and has developed a history of smack talk, I decided to ask both Wise and Baldwin whom they would like to see finish last in the league next year.
“Every year it’s Dan Michalski [of Pokerati.com who had been a staple of the league since its inception],” Wise said. “Dan knows his business and politics, but his dedication to those endeavors means he’ll make questionable choices come draft time. Dan exceeded expectations this year by sleeping in and missing the draft.”
While Wise targeted someone not even in this year’s draft, Baldwin went the other way and took a shot at the champ. “I would love to see Chad finish in last place next year because even though we can see in the standings he has this year locked up, he decided to add ‘possibly more depending on Mizrachi’s finish’ after his point total.”
All I know for sure is that to be the best, you have to beat the best, and in the 2010 ESPN Fantasy Poker League, I somehow managed to do just that.
Chad Holloway is a semi-professional poker player from Baraboo, Wisconsin, who specializes in Fantasy Poker. He currently writes poker material for Predictem.com, is a featured blogger at UnaBomberPoker.com and is a staff writer for PokerNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChadAHolloway.