Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why I've Had It with Phil Ivey in Fantasy Poker

Back in May I told you about the 8th Annual ESPN Fantasy Poker League, which included a mix of ten players and media members including Daniel Negreanu, Matt Glantz, Andrew Feldman and myself, just to name a few. This year’s winner was none other than Kevin “KevMath” Mathers, who amassed 622 points due in no small part to adding Matthew Ashton the day before the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship—which he went on to win.

Here’s a look at the results:

2013 ESPN Fantasy Poker League Results

Kevin "KevMath" Mathers
Kevin "KevMath" Mathers

PlacePlayerScoreTop Scorer
1stKevin “KevMath” Mathers622David “Bakes” Baker w/ 235 points
2ndDaniel Negreanu564Dan Kelly w/ 160 points
3rdJosh Brikis476John Hennigan w/ 113 points
3rdJason Somerville476Daniel Alaei w/ 138 points
4thEric Baldwin462Marco Johnson w/ 163 points*
5thAndrew Feldman309Chris Klodnicki w/152 points
6thMatt Glantz297Rep Porter; points unknown
7thLance Bradley216Scott Clements w/ 92 points
8thSteve “Chops” Preiss214Mike Wattel w/ 78 points
9thChad Holloway182Should’ve drafted himself

*Only team with 3 bracelet winners – Erick Lindgren, Mike Matusow and Marco Johnson.

Last place this year? Yours truly, and I blame one man for that — Phil “Mother F***ing” Ivey. I’m about to sound off on my thoughts on this year’s league, but to give the rant some sort of coherence I’ll break it down into five points.

1. To Hell with Phil Ivey

Back in 2010, I won the 5th Annual ESPN Fantasy Poker League thanks in no small part to having Phil Hellmuth, Michael Mizrachi and Jason Somerville on my team. It was the first year I had played, and since I fancied myself a fantasy poker expert of sorts (I used to write a lot about it), the win was confirmation that I knew was I was talking about, or so I thought.

In 2011 only one man picked in front of me, and that was the inexperience Dwyte Pilgrim, who inexplicably selected Eric Baldwin with the first overall pick. The laughs were aplenty and I felt blessed to have Ivey fall to me at No. 2. I was already confident in my title defense, but what does Ivey do then? Boycotts the damn World Series of Poker. Sure, I could have dropped him and picked up someone else, but by the time his absence was confirmed it was too late. Ivey screwed me and I was angry. I ended up finishing 7th out of 11 players and had a bitter taste in my mouth

Fast-forward one year to the 2012 draft. I once again had the second pick, and while Ivey was selected first overall, I had made up my mind that I wouldn’t have taken him had he fallen given he’d done to me the year before. What did he go on to do? He made five final tables and earn 245 points, more than any other player selected. Ivey was a beast, and I couldn’t help but forgive him and give him another shot when he fell to me at No. 2 this year.

I was licking my chops at the points Ivey was sure to earn me, especially after his bracelet win at the WSOP-APAC. While I was excited to see him play nearly every event, my stomach turned each time he made an early exit. He played well over 50 events and do you know how many cashes he had? One. A single cash in Event #18 $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em for $15,544—FML.

Ivey’s great, there’s no denying it, but I’m cursed when it comes to that guy on my fantasy team. Ivey gets my blood boiling, but there is one fact that calms me down. Of Ivey’s nine bracelets – none of which are in no-limit hold’em – the largest field he defeated was 478 (2010 WSOP Event #37 $3,000 H.O.R.S.E.), while I topped a field of 898 in Event #1 $500 Casino Employees in my bracelet win. There’s really no significance to that, but somehow it still makes me feel better.

2. Where’s JC?

JC Tran
JC Tran

Up until last year, a fairly well known player has been able to make the final table, but none of them entered as the chip leader. That changed with this year when two-time bracelet winner and World Poker Tour champ JC Tran made the November Nine with the biggest stack. Given his bracelet wins, which came in 2008 (Event #44 $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em w/Rebuys for $631,170) and 2009 (Event #30 $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha for $235,685), it’s shocking that Tran wasn’t selected in our draft.

In fact, Tran wasn’t selected last year either. The last time he was drafted was back in 2011 when Dennis Phillips took him with the fourth-to-last pick (Phillips had selected him 16th overall way back in 2010). It seems Phillips, who won the league in 2011, was onto something with Tran. Unfortunately when Phillips left, Tran did the same on our poker radar. Rest assured that mistake won’t be made in the future.

3. Good Pass on Merson

Greg Merson
Greg Merson

While the entire league dropped the ball with Tran, they were spot on with the collective pass on Greg Merson. It’s not often a two-time bracelet winner from the year before – not to mention the defending Main Event champ – goes undrafted, but it seemed everyone knew Merson wasn’t going to bracelet hunt. He’s made no secret that he much prefers to play high-stakes cash games, which was evidenced by all the time he spent in Macau. Cash game players are detrimental to a fantasy team, and as tempting as Merson was prior to the WSOP, everyone managed to resist.

I’m not sure how many event Merson played (maybe one or two), but I do know he only had one cash – 167th in the Main Event for $42,990. A nice run after winning the year before, but meaningless as far as fantasy poker was concern.

4. Wrong Old Schoolers

My strategy at the draft this year was to select consistent players who have established themselves over the course of time. I ended up with a couple of old school players in Erik Seidel and John Juanda. I had the right idea, but unfortunately I chose the wrong players. Neither Seidel nor Juanda had a good summer, but plenty of old school players did including Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, Erick Lindgren, Daniel Alaei and John Hennigan, with the former three all winning gold.

I’m happy with my strategy, just disappointed in my selections.

5. Andy, Andy, Andy

Andy Frankenberger
Andy Frankenberger

I’ve talked extensively about my fantasy kinship with Andy Frankenberger. He was my sleeper pick in 2011 after finishing as the WPT Player of the Year and he promptly won a bracelet. The next year he won his second bracelet by defeating Ivey in heads-up play. While I’ll no longer have a place for Ivey on my fantasy team (provided I don’t change my mind), I will always have one for Frankenberger.

That said, this year was a bit disappointing (especially to him personally) as he managed just three cashes (none better than 61st) for $16,880. Frankenberger’s career started out as hot as any I’ve ever seen, so it’s only rational that variance would slap him in the face at some point. That may be happening now, and while I know he’s a bit discouraged, I’ve no doubt he’ll bounce back. If no one else takes him next year, Frankenberger will once again be on my roster.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ChadAHolloway for more poker articles, stories and musings from the tournament trail.

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