Weekly Poker Update: December 14, 2020

Weekly Poker Update Text and WSOP Main Event Image

The World Series of Poker has proven itself to be nothing if not persistent this year. For much of the year, there was doubt as to whether the venerable tournament would even have some sort of iteration in anything other than an online poker format, considering the impossibility of staging live events. Yet it seems like, for the last third of the year, it’s been all WSOP all the time.

First came the aforementioned online version of the event, featuring a wide range of bracelets being handed out and a Main Event taking place in September. Then came the announcement that there would be a hybrid version of the Main Event (again), featuring some online and some live play. That particular event really picked up a head of steam this past week.

World Series of Poker Main Events

For those who are just tuning in, there are both international and United States versions of the World Series of Poker Main Event taking place. International players got started at the end of November and now have settled on a final table, which takes place on Tuesday in the Czech Republic. A total of 674 entrants were involved over several starting flights online, all of whom were whittled down to a final nine.

As far as that group is concerned, Brunno Botteon of Brazil is the chip leader. Interestingly enough, Botteon made a lot of noise in this summer’s online WSOP event, making three final tables. He’ll battle to come out on top of the rest on Tuesday, with the winner guaranteed over $1.5 million.

Pro Poker Player Brunno Botteon

Meanwhile, it’s now time for the United States portion of the event to get underway. On Sunday, the preliminary flight was scheduled for the $10,000 buy-in event. It’s important to remember that participants had to be located within either Nevada or New Jersey to take part.

The US event will eventually be shaved down to a final table, one that will be held at the Rio in Las Vegas. After that, the United States and international winners will meet in a head-to-head Holdem battle to decide the whole shebang. At that point, there will only be a couple days left in the year, so we can assume that will finally round out the World Series of Poker action in 2020.

All kidding aside, an article promoting the event on the USA Today website was interesting more for what it omitted than what it included. Nowhere in the article was the online version of the event that took place in the late summer even mentioned. Casual fans were led to believe that the WSOP was somehow saved by the late arrival of the hybrid format.

What’s problematic about the format is that the event’s organizers went through a lot of hoops promoting the legitimacy of those earlier tournaments and the bracelets awarded from them. Yet here it was like they didn’t exist. For those who performed well in them, including Stoyan Madanzhiev, the earlier Main Event winner, that is an unfortunate slight.

There are differences of course. The big one is that, for these latest events, there is no rebuy available. In other words, if you get eliminated in the preliminary flights, there is no way for you to return and have another chance of winning it all.

By the end of this week, the international winner will be determined. Because of the tough circumstances in the world, that final table will be mitigated to some extent. Peiyuan Sun, who would have been eighth in the chip count, has decided against the trip to get to the final table.

When you sum it all up, there is no doubting that this is not the World Series of Poker that anyone envisioned. It’s unusual, disjointed and, some would argue, redundant. And to be clear, there is no guarantee these final tables will take place in a live setting for sure until the players are seated and the cards are dealt.

But the bottom line is that this latest version of the most hallowed of all poker events is bringing a lot of unexpected year-end action to the table. And that can’t possibly be a bad thing.

Negreanu Continuing to Fade

A six-figure session win would seem to be a cause for celebration. Yet for Daniel Negreanu, it was the poker equivalent of a guy hanging off a ledge able to get one more finger’s worth of support. In his Grudge Match of the Century against Doug Polk, he’s going to need a lot more where that came from before he has hopes of winning the thing.

Pro Poker Player Daniel Negreanu

Earlier in the week, Polk had pushed his lead over Negreanu to the precipice of the million-dollar mark. Negreanu’s bounce-back effort brought the margin back to under $815,000. That is still a substantial amount.

The pair has now played over 10,000 hands since this head-to-head real money Texas Holdem battle began. That means they are around 2,000 hands away from the first cutoff point of 12,500 hands, at which point, the player trailing—which will almost certainly be Negreanu—can concede. But that isn’t a likely outcome, which means this match will probably go the distance to 25,000 hands.

The idea behind playing so many hands was that, after that length of time, the luck of the draw would have evened out in terms of players getting heaters or bad beats. But most observers have been in agreement that Polk has seen the cards go his way the vast majority of the time.

Whether that changes throughout the second half of this marathon of a matchup remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain, Daniel Negreanu definitely needs a hot streak of his own to make this match competitive enough to where he can possibly jump into the lead.

More High Stakes Poker Info

We’ve talked sporadically in this column over the past few months about the return of the popular High Stakes Poker show on the PokerGo network. As the weeks have progressed since the announcement that the show would be returning, news has been trickling in about the details. Now, we know a lot more as the show prepares to make its return on Wednesday, including the participants and the hosts.

Most of the poker world has to be happy to hear that AJ Benza and Gabe Kaplan will be returning to the duties that they held back in the show’s television run. Their chemistry was undeniable, and Kaplan is particularly beloved in poker circles.

In addition, the list of names announced in terms of the players who will be taking part was quite impressive as well. Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Rick Salomon, and the aforementioned Doug Polk will be in the middle of the action. That should certainly lead to some fireworks, as they try to recapture the cash game feel of the original.

For those who’ve been missing the interaction between players in a live table setting, high stakes poker should be just what the doctor ordered. Let’s hope that it acts as a bridge to perhaps return to more televised poker in the future, instead of just in the streaming realm.