Weekly Poker Update: July 19, 2021

Weekly Poker Update July 19, 2021

The last year or so hasn’t been the best for the reputation of Daniel Negreanu. To casual fans, Negreanu, “Kid Poker,” has transcended the game of poker as one of the few players who are known outside the diehard fandom.

But the results over the last extended stretch have not been what you might expect from such a well-known real money poker player.

Negreanu Needed One

Negreanu has lost a series of high-profile head-to-head battles lately to arch-rivals, including the so-called “Grudge Match of the Century” to Doug Polk and to Phil Hellmuth in a High Stakes Duel, the latter of which featured Negreanu getting swept three matches in a row.

In tournament play, there have been a lot of frustrating near-misses and even an unfortunate dustup with a plexiglass divider.

But this past week provided Negreanu with the best outcomes he has enjoyed in quite some time. It came during the PokerGo Cup, a series of high-stakes events held at the ARIA in Las Vegas.

During the first week of the event, Negreanu had posted some solid finishes, but nothing that would have anticipated his sudden burst this week, especially since the gods of poker luck have seemed to be frowning on him so much lately.

Aria Las Vegas PokerGo Cup 2021

On Tuesday, he put it all together for his first tournament victory in eight years or so, capturing an event in the PokerGo Cup that required a massive $50,000 buy-in.

That win vaulted him up the Cup standings, but he still needed to show big in the final event of the series the next day to be the top Cup performer. That final tournament was a $100,000 buy-in no-limit Hold’em event promising over $1 million to the winner.

Negreanu was looking good as the event progressed, eventually working his way into the final four out of an original field of 23. But he hit a roadblock when his pocket aces were outflanked by Sam Soverel’s pair of eights, which became a set after another eight came on the turn.

That hand sent Negreanu packing, and what was worse for him is that it came against the one guy who could catch him for the overall championship.

Sam Soverel, needing a win in the event to claim the overall title, forged a massive lead heading into the final two. But that’s where Negreanu’s luck finally began to turn in a positive fashion. Cary Katz uncorked a furious rally to overcome Soveral and pick up the win.

That was all Negreanu needed to stay on top and claim the crown. The extra $50,000 that he earned for winning was nice, but for a guy with over $42 million in career earnings, it wasn’t the real draw.

Instead, it was the fact that Negreanu could once again make a case for his poker preeminence after coming out on top against some of the very best high rollers in the world.

Phil Chimes In

While his longtime rival Daniel Negreanu was walking the walk, Phil Hellmuth was busy talking the talk. Phil, the “Poker Brat,” has been known to shoot his mouth off from time to time.

But he can do so now from a pretty high standing, with his recent head-to-head success against both Negreanu and Antonio Esfandiari silencing some of the persistent critics who have claimed in the past that the hype doesn’t match the game.

Hellmuth sat down and spoke to CBS Sports as a way of promoting the World Series of Poker. It should be noted that it’s a good sign that CBS is giving early press to the event. Remember that they’re taking over the broadcast rights to the WSOP this year.

So, the fact that they’re trying to throw a spotlight on one of the main draws a few months before the fact can only be a positive.

Pro Poker Player Phil Hellmuth

As for Hellmuth’s quotes, there was nothing too surprising, although his detractors probably found a lot to debate and criticize. He basically said that he felt that he deserves to go down as the greatest player in the history of poker in terms of tournament play.

And it’s not because he’s just imagining it; Hellmuth feels like he has the record to more than back it up.

If you’re judging by performances on the biggest stage, you certainly have to give Hellmuth his due. He leads the World Series of Poker in all-time victories and final tables made.

And the margin in both categories is so substantial that it’s hard to imagine anyone approaching those numbers anytime soon, especially with how balanced the talent is in the game these days.

Hellmuth also detailed what he plans for this time around in terms of his 2021 World Series of Poker schedule.

Hellmuth basically rattled off a number of different poker formats that he plans to be attacking when the action starts later this year. And perhaps not surprisingly, he gives himself a pretty good chance in every one of them.

Whatever you think about Phil Hellmuth’s talent, it’s hard to argue against his ability to stay so relevant in the poker world over the past few decades. And it’s also hard to argue against the fact that he comes into this year’s WSOP riding high.

We’ll see if he stays above the fray or gets knocked off that pedestal.

Poker Frustration in Massachusetts

While this item comes from Massachusetts casinos, it’s a scenario that is playing out over many states in the US. Earlier this week, it was reported that many poker players have lodged complaints with Massachusetts gaming officials about the fact that poker has not yet returned to any of the state’s casinos.

Gaming officials began to wonder why that was the case themselves, since they had already given the go-ahead for the game to legally return to Bay State casinos weeks earlier.

The officials from the three state casinos did not comment on the complaints. But there is no doubt that the poker rooms would have opened up again by now if the casinos had thought it was financially prudent to do so.

After all, they had quickly reinstated most of their other offerings once the state told them it was fine.

Massachusetts Encore Casino

You’re seeing this play out in other states as well, where casinos are all back to normal with the glaring exception of no poker rooms returning.

It basically comes down to numbers. Until these casinos have a stark financial incentive to do so, it’s possible that they see the return of poker as something that’s not worth the trouble.

After all, those Massachusetts casinos have been posting good revenue numbers in recent months as many of the final health and safety restrictions have been lifted.

Poker had been kept off the gaming menu in many states when casinos opened back up last summer because of the problems of instituting social distancing for poker players at a single table. In many cases, states only allowed four players or so per table.

Instituting the costly protocols needed just wasn’t worth their while.

Remember that poker only brings money to the casino in terms of the rake. Players win and lose money with each other as opposed to all the other casino games where the casino is the house.

When players lose in games unlike poker, all of that money goes to the casino. But when players lose at poker, they lose money to one another.

Casinos understand the popularity of poker, but they also know that it’s popular in part because good players know that they have a legitimate shot of carving out a profit, something that is very difficult to do in house edge games like blackjack or roulette.

And because the players know that, they want poker the most, even though it’s relatively unprofitable for the casinos. It becomes a kind of frustrating cycle where the players’ and casinos’ needs do not align at all.

What’s encouraging for Massachusetts casinos is that the players are speaking up and making their voices heard. It will at least let the casinos know that the status quo of casinos slow-playing poker’s return is unacceptable.

It will be interesting to see how those casinos respond in the coming weeks and months.

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