The Past Week in Poker, September 13th to September 19th, 2021:

Weekly Poker Update September 20, 2021 Norm Macdonald

Given the luck factor and the fact that poker is not a game of speed or strength but one of intelligence and cunning, it’s not inconceivable for relatively inexperienced poker players to play with the best in the world and hang around, maybe even thrive, for a bit.

After a while, the skills and experience of the top players will win out. But for a short time, anything is possible.

Some Vacations Are Better Than Others

Maybe that’s what Miles Rampel was thinking when he decided, on a whim, to interrupt a Vegas vacation so that he could enter one of the Poker Masters events being held at the PokerGo Studios. Up to that point in his poker life, Rampel had been playing mostly in small-time cash games, but not the kind of heady tournament action he was seeking here. This was a $25,000 buy-in, pot limit Omaha event.

As you might expect, this was the type of tournament where the players were of the big-name variety, hardened, experienced players who don’t flinch at these kind of stakes. They likely play with them night in and night out. Surely, Rampel would be overmatched in a scenario like that. What was he thinking?

Well, whatever he was thinking, he should follow that urge more often. Rampel found himself not only hanging in there but right in the mix. He definitely received more than the lion’s share of luck on the day, but to his credit, he knew how to parlay that luck to the maximum effect at the table.

When the field had winnowed down to two, the last men standing were Rampel and Lou Garza, who had been close to winning in several other 2021 Poker Masters events and entered this day’s play with the chip lead. But Garza trailed Rampel heading into head-to-head play, and it wasn’t long before he was really on the ropes.

In the final hand, Rampel was behind coming into the flop but then took the lead when the first three community cards were revealed. Neither the turn or the flop helped Garza, and he had to settle for another near-miss. That meant Rampel, in what was essentially his first ever big-money event, took all the marbles.

Suddenly, the $25,000 buy-in didn’t look so overwhelming, at least not when you consider Rampel earned $365,000 for the win. One wonders if he’ll consider becoming more than just a hobbyist after such a promising beginning. Meanwhile, one also wonders how the rest of the vacation went after that.

Negreanu Picks Up Big Win

While Miles Rampel may have been a great story as an unknown, most of the other winners of the Poker Masters Series events to this point have been major names in the game. And earlier this week, a guy who is one of the few who could stake his claim to be the biggest name in the game picked up a victory. That would be Daniel Negreanu.

Daniel Negreanu at a Poker Table

Negreanu’s 2021 has been filled with more twists and turns then your average daytime soap opera. For much of the first half of the year, his detractors reveled in his struggles.

Most of those struggles came during high-profile head-to-head showdowns with Doug Polk and Phil Hellmuth, as he came up completely empty in those matches. And although “Kid Poker” had a solid overall record in tournament play recently, he had been devoid of victories for years.

But the tide started to turn when he captured a PokerGo Cup event back in July. It was his first high-stakes tournament win in eight years. Not only did he win that individual event, but he performed well enough to win that overall PokerGo Cup based on his finishes in all the events for a little bonus.

The Poker Masters is probably the biggest unifying event to go down in the world of poker since that PokerGo Cup, and Negreanu is right back in the thick of the action. Earlier this week, the guy who seemed like he was stuck in a losing rut in the first half of 2021 ripped off another big win in the Masters. It came via a victory in a $10,000 buy-in Texas Hold’em event.

In this one, it came down to Negreanu facing off with Nick Petrangelo, with the two players on pretty even terms heading into showdown play after all the others had busted out. The key hand was one where a Negreanu check on the turn following a big bet after the flop confused Petrangelo into thinking he was facing a bluff. Negreanu then went big on the river and took a big chunk of Petrangelo’s chips in one fell swoop.

From there, it was just a matter of keeping clear of mistakes and closing out the task. Negreanu did just that, finishing off Petrangelo a few hands later. He ended up with winnings of $178,200 for his trouble.

Perhaps more importantly, Negreanu is once again near the top of the standings for another potential series victory. At press time, Negreanu was second in the Poker Masters standings behind Lou Garza, who had cashed in four of the events, even though he hadn’t won any of them. Kid Poker was just four points behind with his one win and three cashes.

Keep in mind that this is a very tight race, with four players within 27 points of first place with a few events still to go. But if Negreanu could somehow come out on top of the Poker Masters series to double up following his PokerGo Cup win, it would be almost the equivalent of a golfer or tennis player winning two majors in a row. So much for the slump, as Negreanu is burning it up heading towards the World Series of Poker.

World Series of Poker Continues to Court Online Action

Most of the poker world has been laser-focused on the return to live action for the World Series of Poker coming up in a few weeks. But the organizers of the event seem bound and determined to keep their toes in the online pool. For example, they handed out a series of bracelets this summer in an online-only series of WSOP-branded tournaments.

This past week brought the announcement that the WSOP will add a handful of online events to be sprinkled among the live tourneys taking place at the Rio. The action will be taking place every Sunday night. As has been the case in the past, players must be located in either Nevada or New Jersey to take part in these online events.

World Series of Poker Online Bracelet

Among the many events available are several that give the top performers access to the World Series of Poker Main Event. These are the so-called “Twenty-Five Seat Scrambles.” They’ll feature $215 buy-ins, meaning that part-timers can take their shot against the pros in these events considering the relatively minor investment.

It will be interesting to see what kind of attention these online events have coming in the midst of the live-action. And it will also be fascinating to see how much overlap there is between the live players and the online action. No matter what, more bracelets being handed out is always a good thing.

RIP Norm

Most fans know Norm Macdonald as a legendary comedian who made his mark at Saturday Night Live, on his own network show, and through his stand-up work. Macdonald, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 61 following a long fight with cancer, meant something else to poker fans. He briefly took over the reins as the color commentator for High Stakes Poker years ago.

He was able to pull that off because he was an avid player himself. Macdonald even cashed in a World Series of Poker event once upon a time. This was no celebrity trading on his name to get in the best games because this cat could really play.

Macdonald’s laconic commentating style on HSP was a different take than what Kaplan offered, but it would have been interesting to see how he developed if he was given more time. The show was canceled before he could really get his feet wet. When it returned in the online sphere this past year, Kaplan was back in the role.

Still, it’s likely that poker fans have a soft spot in their hearts for Macdonald, and it’s also understandable why he was a good player. He must have been hard to read at the table with his unmatched ability to keep a straight face under any circumstance. And since his jokes often crossed the lines into tall tales, his ability to bluff his way through the action probably was pretty solid as well.

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