For the past month, most of the oxygen in the poker world has been sucked up by the World Series of Poker online event. It took place from July through the first week of September, stirring up both acclaim and controversy. It was a noteworthy occasion, considering that this was the first effort to hold the WSOP all online because of the inability to hold it live.
World Poker Tour Events
Next to the World Series of Poker, however, the biggest brand name in terms of poker events has to be the World Poker tour. And they have also taken things online, enjoying similarly impressive player engagement as the WSOP.
Two of the more high-profile events in the World Poker Tour online edition took place this past week. First up was the main event. The buy-in was $10,300 for this no-limit Texas Hold’em event.
The high price of entering certainly didn’t scare away the faithful. 1,011 entries eventually took a crack at it. With the size of the field, the guaranteed purse for the field of $10 million actually rose to just over $10.1 million, with the winner looking at a cool payout of over $1.5 million.
The competitors at the final table were mostly those with long track records of big-money tournament success. Not surprisingly, the momentum swung wildly as the final nine took their shots at each other. Damian Salas had the lead at the beginning of the action, but the proverbial deck was shuffled on the leaderboard quite a few times after that.
Interestingly enough, the pair that would eventually end up as the final two, Phllip Mighall and Teun Mulder largely stayed out of the knockout hands that reduced the field. Mighall was responsible for two eliminations, including that of third-place finisher Salas, and Mulder just one.
When he knocked Salas, Mighall had benefitted from an extremely lucky river card that turned him from big underdog to winner. In the hand that eventually decided the Main Event, he also pulled one out. Initially, he sat with an off-suited 7-10 while Mulder rocked a pair of aces.
Mulder still could have pulled it out of the fire if the river had produced another ace or something to match the revealed cards on the board for a full house. When that didn’t happen, Mighall was able to celebrate. It was his first ever career title and his career bankroll took a 150% or so jump to over $2 million.
Steve O’Dwyer Goes Head-to-Head
While Mighall’s win was a career-best, Steve O’Dwyer is no stranger to big victories. He came into the World Poker Tour’s heads-up championship with a very impressive 28 career titles and over $31 million in tournament earnings. But even though he had cashed in many times, a win in either the World Series of Poker or the World Poker Tour had always eluded him.
That all changed by the end of the head-to-head action this past week. Not that it was an easy journey for him, as the event drew 166 entries to slightly boost the guaranteed $500,000 prize pool. For those who don’t know, head-to-head action takes place in a way where you have to start even each matchup, meaning that it is a great test of consistency and stamina.
O’Dwyer passed those tests with flying colors. His savvy in the final match was key, as he bluffed his way to a lead over his combatant Artem Akhmetvaleyev. Heading into the final hand with almost double the chips of his foe, O’Dwyer was ready to lay the hammer down.
A suited ace-king gave O’Dwyer the impetus to go at the hand aggressively, while Akhmetvaleyev stuck around with an off-suited seven-eight. Akhmetvaleyev then took the lead after the flop gave him a second eight and didn’t help O’Dwyer. But O’Dwyer didn’t budge and got a king on the turn to send him into a solid lead.
This is one of the best players of his era, even if he might not have the signature win to show for it. The proof is in the bottom line, as O’Dwyer sits 10th all-time in tournament earnings. The win this week just adds to his impressive legacy.
The Show Must Go On
Back in the poker boom of the “oughts,” poker shows stuck to the tried-and-true format of tournament play. In other words, the players at the final table had been whittled down from a much larger grouping. This way of doing it meant that there would often be somewhat unknown players going in front of the big lights.
The end result was something that felt as if you were getting a sneak peek at a hidden world, and it was highly entertaining.
Well, it looks like the world of High Stakes Poker might be back. Top pro Nick Schulman recently tweeted out confirmation of the show’s return in 2020. Perhaps that means Schulman has already participated in a taping.
There’s no other news, such as if it will be indeed hosted by Game Show Network once again, as it was originally or not. Nor has any other player came forward and confirmed their participation.
But if it is true, it would be great if there was one specific person involved: Gabe Kapler. The former Welcome Back Kotter star did a wonderful job co-hosting the original High Stakes Poker. Kapler is now 75 and has been keeping a low profile lately, but It just wouldn’t seem right if he wasn’t the one calling the action.