July 2016

Bend It Like Benger

Bend It Like Benger

By: Paul Hewson
 
There are plenty of fine poker players in this year's November Nine, but if there's one person you know, it's Griffin Benger. He's been all over Twitch this year, commentating on the first season of the Global Poker League. Two years ago, Benger won the first season of Shark Cage for $1 million. And now he's going to be at the final table of the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event.

Benger was born to do this. The 31-year-old Toronto native is the son of Nicky Guadagni, a two-time Gemini Award-winning actress who did Shakespeare at Stratford. Benger is already a World Champion at Counter-Strike; under the username shaGuar, he was a member of the Chicago Chimera, who won first place at the CGS 2007 World Championship. Now Benger can become the second Canadian to win the WSOP Main Event, after Boucherville, Quebec's own Jonathan Duhamel in 2010.
 
Computer Love
E-sports can be a rewarding pursuit, but the $250,000 that the Chimera won in 2007 pales in comparison to the $8-million top prize at this year's Main Event. And while $8 million would certainly be the largest cash on Benger's CV, he's already won more than that playing poker. His lifetime earnings, online ($6.49M) and live ($3.40M) together, add up to nearly $10 million.

That's including the minimum $1 million Benger will get if he somehow crashes out in ninth place at the final table. But that’s pretty unlikely; Benger goes into the first day of competition on October 30 with a healthy stack of 26,175,000 chips, or about 52 big blinds. That's only seventh among the remaining nine players, but he’s comfortably in the middle of the pack, and ahead of the two short stacks: Jerry Wong (20BB) and Fernando Pons (12BB).
 
Shyam I Am
It's been quite a ride for Benger since he started playing poker online in 2006. After cutting his teeth on sit-and-goes, Benger finished fourth in the first MTT he ever played. Then he started learning poker from Shyam Srinivasan, a fellow Torontonian who went on to finish sixth at the 2014 PCA Main Event. Benger's background in sports journalism (he has a degree in broadcasting) shows he's not afraid to put in the hours to learn what poker's all about.

By 2011, Benger was making money at the WSOP. His first cash was a modest $2,676 for finishing 255th out of 4,576 players at the $1,000 No Limit Hold'em event. But it only took one year after that for Benger to cash at the Main Event. Then he did it again in 2014. With any luck, the third time will be the charm in 2016.

WSOP Update: Hats Off to Fedor

WSOP Update: Hats Off to Fedor

By: Paul Hewson
 
When you've had a summer like Fedor Holz, you deserve a vacation – or even an early retirement. Even before taking down the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop earlier this month at the World Series of Poker, Holz was busy going deep in so many poker tournaments, he was talking about making his second WSOP his last. “I felt like right in the middle, around Week 4, I was feeling ill and exhausted, because it's all very draining,” Holz told PokerNews reporter Remko Rinkema on July 9.

On July 10, Holz claimed his first WSOP bracelet by winning the One Drop, bagging the top prize of $4.98 million in the process. That brings Holz up to $14.66 million in live tournament earnings this year alone. Now he seems content to quit full-time poker altogether. “This win feels like my way out of poker,” Holz told Rinkema. “I want to do and try other things.” Last Tuesday, after he was officially awarded his WSOP bracelet, Holz made the equivalent of a retirement speech. Travelling will be the first thing on his to-do list.
 
Making It Work
Nobody said the high-stakes poker circuit was easy; if they did, they're not putting in the hours Fedor has. At press time, Holz has made the final table in 13 tournaments this year, winning five times – including three high-roller events at the Aria last month. Each of those deep runs takes a toll on both the mind and the body. In addition, Holz was involved in some side bets at the WSOP, so he crammed in as many tournaments as he could before crashing out on Day 2C of the Main Event.

That doesn't even count all the time Holz has spent training and playing poker online. By his own account, Holz has been dedicating “about 2,000-3,000 hours a year” to poker. He'd like to cut that down to a more manageable 400 hours. That still leaves time for some appearances at major tournaments, so we hopefully haven't seen the last of Holz just yet.

In the meantime, Holz will be busy counting his money. This magical summer has vaulted Holz all the way up to No. 9 on the all-time earnings list, according to Hendon Mob. Here's how the Top 10 looks at press time:
 
1. Daniel Negreanu     $32.62 million
2. Erik Seidel                $29.39 million
3. Antonio Esfandiari  $27.05 million
4. Daniel Colman        $25.34 million
5. Phil Ivey                    $23.86 million
6. Scott Seiver             $21.64 million
7. Phil Hellmuth Jr.     $20.98 million
8. Sam Trickett            $20.56 million
9. Fedor Holz               $18.50 million
10. John Juanda         $18.11 million

Summer Million Poker Open

Bodog is turning up the heat once again this summer with the return of the Summer Millions Poker Open. The felt is going to be hotter than ever because, this year, the SMPO is giving you the chance to win your share of over $2,300,000 in guaranteed prizing. Running from July 9 to July 31, the third annual SMPO promises the best poker action you’ll find all summer with over 70 events, buy-ins ranging from $5.50 to $450 and the epic $400,000 Guaranteed Main Event.
 
Qualifying events start on July 7 and run daily all the way through the main event so you’ll get plenty of chances to get your poker face on, own the felt and walk away as this year’s SMPO3 champion. Check out the full schedule of SMPO3 events, register under the “SMPO3” tab in the “Scheduled Tournaments” lobby and get ready to take part for your cut of over $2,300,000.

Embracing the Four-Colour Deck

Embracing the Four-Colour Deck

By: Paul Hewson
 
They call Mike Caro the “Mad Genius” of poker. Among his more notable acts of madness: In 1992, he organized the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut, where Caro surprised the players by introducing a four-colour deck. The Clubs were green, and the Diamonds were blue. Madness!

The experiment ended halfway through Day Three, when the standard two-color deck returned. But thanks to Caro's genius (and his entrepreneurship), the four-color deck has been gaining ground. You even have the option of using four colors when you play online at Bodog. It makes it a lot easier to quickly read your hand, especially when you have four tables open at once.
 
And Purple Horseshoes
Caro wasn't the first person to come up with a four-colour deck, by the way. The first example on record comes from 1819, when Philadelphia native JY Humphreys designed the “Seminole Wars Deck” with green clubs, yellow diamonds, red hearts and blue spades. This was a very interesting and somewhat controversial deck, with the Kings replaced by US presidents. LIFE magazine featured some of these cards on the cover of their May 30, 1955 issue.

Then you had the 1876 “Centennial Exposition Deck,” as designed by Victor E. Mauger of New York (via England). This deck used blue clubs, yellow diamonds, red hearts and black spades, and was a bit larger than most decks. The decorative Ace of spades also included the Latin phrase Nunquam Retrorsum, meaning “No Revoke.” To this day, four-colour decks used for bridge are referred to as “no-revoke” decks.
 
Four on the Floor
Getting live poker players to warm up to the four-colour deck hasn't been as easy. But progress is being made. Copag, who produced the playing cards being used at this year's World Series of Poker, developed a four-colour deck for the European Poker Tour. They gave it a test run at the 2015 EPT Malta event. The response was mixed, but the four-colour deck was better received than it was at Foxwoods nearly 25 years ago.

It seems inevitable that all poker will be played with four-colour decks at some point. More and more television shows (and internet streams) are using all four colours with their graphics. The designs themselves keep getting better, too. Mike “Timex” McDonald is definitely a fan; he sent out a tweet from Malta with the hashtag #4Color4AllEvents. With any luck, Caro will live to see his dream realized – in living colour.