Weekly Poker Update: September 13, 2021

Weekly Poker Update September 131 2021 Doyle Brunson

It might not constitute shocking news that Phil Hellmuth decided to call for a rematch with Tom Dwan in their High Stakes Duel poker series at PokerGo. But it is good news for poker fans who want to see this rivalry continue. For Dwan, it’s the chance to prove that his victory over Hellmuth in their last match was not a mere fluke.

For Hellmuth, it’s a chance to try and restart his impressive winning streak in these matches. It was up to seven before he met Dwan a few weeks back and Dwan grinded out a hard-earned win. Right after the match, Hellmuth initially demurred about whether or not he was going to give it another go.

At the time, it didn’t seem likely that Hellmuth would dare to duck Dwan, with whom he has a long and somewhat tortured history. But in Hellmuth’s defense, the pressure of keeping the long winning streak alive must have been substantial. It was somewhat understandable that he might want to take a break from it all once the streak was broken.

This week, he announced that he would indeed take up the rematch, ending the speculation. That was his right by the stipulations of the High Stakes Duel format. Again, as per the format, the purse gets doubled this time, with each competitor having to put $200,000 on the line.

The match should be scheduled pretty soon, giving fans another chance to see these two stars of the game go at it. From there, it’s most likely that the High Stakes Duel will probably rope in some other players to try it out. Mickelson and Dwan will want to leave their stamp on it so that future players will have to live up to a very high standard.

Doyle Gets a Doc

Speaking of poker stars, they don’t get much more iconic that Doyle Brunson. The 88-year-old legend is still active in the poker scene and still plays, but that’s not stopping him from getting a documentary made about him. Of all the subjects that you could pick from the poker world, Brunson would certainly be at the top of most lists.

After all, his has been a career that has bridged the worlds of poker, as he has been a major player in both bygone and modern eras. Brunson made for an amiable, adult-in-the-room presence whenever paired with some of the more hotheaded younger players during the televised poker boom of the early 2000s. But those players always held him in the utmost respect because they knew just what a storied career he has enjoyed.

Brunson can go back to the time before poker became fodder for television and was embraced by hobbyists the world over. He can bear witness to a time when poker was mostly an underground activity, often populated by shady characters. And the legitimate events there were usually weren’t on the radar of the world at large, as is the case now in the world of poker.

Brunson has remained a constant through all of that different activity. It makes sense that a documentary tying all of that together would be in demand. And this documentary is no minor operation, at least according to Brunson’s tweet announcing the project.

In that tweet, he noted that the documentarians behind The Last Dance, the highly acclaimed ESPN multi-part series about Michael Jordan’s final year in Chicago, are at the helm of this one. Considering that Brunson is kind of like the Michael Jordan of poker (or maybe we should say Jordan is the Doyle Brunson of basketball), it’s only fitting. Poker fans won’t want to miss this one once it eventually comes to fruition.

World Series of Poker Online Controversy

2020 was a sort of bizarre year in the world of poker, with most of the tournament action moving online due to unavoidable circumstances. That included the World Series of Poker, which held an online group of bracelet tournaments and even held a Main Event. That event was won by Bulgarian Stoyan Madanzhiev, who, at the time, thought his name was being officially added to the list of WSOP Main Event winners.

But in a not-so-fast moment, the WSOP then announced another Main Event for the end of 2020, one that combined online play in the early rounds with a live final table. And the insinuation was that, since that event (won eventually by Damian Salas) had the live element attached, it represented the actual 2020 WSOP overall winner. The all-online version was somewhat forgotten, much to the dismay of Madanzhiev, who made his displeasure known.

Poker Cards and World Series of Poker Logo

With casinos restrictions easing up, it became clear that the World Series of Poker Main Event would return this year in its traditional format of all live poker in person—by hook or by crook. But the WSOP folks liked the action that the online players provided and put on another online series this summer. That series even included an Online Main Event which guaranteed a $20 million purse.

Perhaps sensing that this year’s Online Main Event would be less of a big deal because of the return of the live tourney, the guarantee was 25% less than it was in 2020. But even with those lessened expectations, the WSOP still fell well short of the number of entrants needed to hit the guarantee. The end result was that the WSOP was forced to cough up over $500,000 just to fill in the gap.

On top of that, the total number of entrants was down 31% from the 2020 level. Certainly, it wasn’t a fact that WSOP organizers wanted mentioned too often. But somebody made sure to do just that.

You guessed it: Stoyan Madanzhiev. He made a somewhat sarcastic tweet mentioning all these numbers and questioning the legitimacy of the WSOP’s claim that they always had insisted that the online ’20 winner was going to be held separate from all other Main Event winners. But can you really blame the guy for some sour grapes?

You can certainly see the player’s point of view, as Madanzhiev was thinking that he’d be listed among the greats in the game as a WSOP Main Event winner. Then, the rug gets pulled out from under you and you’re handed something that amounts to a giant asterisk.

2020 was not easy on anyone, and the WSOP gets more right than it gets wrong. But this is one area where the right thing to do would be to reach out to Madanzhiev and restore some of the prestige to his victory from last summer.

Crazy Finish

The Poker Masters series got underway this past week, promising a series of high-stakes tournaments among the very best in the game. But the very first event featured a finish that no one saw coming. It proved to be that old “bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush” in poker tournament form.

When the final table was winnowed down on Wednesday night for the $10,000 buy-in Hold’em event, things were looking very good for David Peters. He held a significant edge in chips over Shannon Shorr, the lone remaining player in the field to take him on head-to-head. But there was an issue that perhaps neither player saw coming.

The length of the event was threatening to overlap with registration for the second event in the Poker Masters series, held at the Aria in Las Vegas. Neither player wanted to be left out of that next event, another $10,000 buy-in event. Considering that there is great prestige and bonus money to be had from performing well in the series overall, Peters and Shorr had a decision to make.

At first, the pair just agreed to pick up the pace of play, which led to each player going all-in on the next hand. Shorr made a flush and that cut the margin to the point that both players were pretty much dead even in terms of their chips. If anything, that made the finish seem even further away with neither player having a dominant advantage.

Shannon Shorr and David Peters

The two then agreed that they would go all-in on the next hand regardless of what cards came. So they were anxious to get into the next event that they were willing to forego control of who would win the whole thing. And considering that the first-place prize would end up being $205,000, more than $57,000 higher than the second-place purse, this was no small concession.

The deal came and it was immediate bad news for Peters when he drew an off-suited 2-6, one of the worst starting hands in Hold’em. Shorr did slightly better with an 8-10 off-suit, and he ended up winning the whole thing when the board was unimpactful. Considering that neither player ended up factoring much in Event #2, maybe the rush to get finished wasn’t such a great idea.

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