Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tis the season....my WSOP picks

The WSOP is basically Christmas for poker players, and that time of year is upon us again. I actually think this could be an amazing year for the Irish at the Series: almost everyone travelling is in with a shout and I could probably have named 26 but here are my six Irish picks to watch:

(1) Fergal "MidniteKowboy" Nealon
To say that Fergal has a good record at the WSOP is an understatement: he's cashed in every event he's played, including last year's main event. He also has a 100% cash rate in CPTs. While this may not seem significant at first sight, I believe it is as a large part of thriving in both CPTs and WSOPs is an ability to extract as many chips from the weaker players in the field while they still have them. Based in Sligo and predominantly an online player, Fergal came 3rd in ecoop v, event 7 for $45k, has won the stars 5r twice, chopped the nightly 70k for 11k, taken the full tilt bounty at the espana series for 15k. He won two ftp 2009 WSOP main event packages, a ftp espana series package, a wtp cyprus package, a pstars lapt grand final package, a ept deauville package and a ipc Galway package. I like to think my preparation for events is second to none, but Fergal is the only man who I've ever talked to who does stuff that even I don't do, which probably explains why on the few occasions he does play live, he always brings his A game.

(2) Jason "Jos" Tompkins
The most consistent player on the Irish circuit, Jason made a third last table in a mixed holdem event last year and is poised for greater success this year. His recent elevation to sponsored pro status will be a timely boost, and Jason's temperament and professionalism are second to none.

(3) Francis "Wally" McCormack
By his own admission, Wally's having a tough year so far, but by his very nature he's a streak player. Although he's not had a good year to date, he's still playing brilliantly. He can't keep running horribly forever, and no better place to turn it around than the WSOP.

(4) Dave "Halibut" Callaghan
Most people are filling their picks lists with players who specialise in games other than holdem. That's fair enough since there's intrinsically a much better chance of winning one of those events if you enter due to much smaller fields. But that's kinda beside the point: in terms of glamour and prestige, holdem is still where it's at, and it's arguable that one holdem bracelet is worth any number of other ones. Heard of Thang Luu? Well, if you're one of these "the other games are where it's at" people you should have as he won the Omahi Hi/Lo last year. And the year before.

That said, it would be churlish to ignore the claims of genuine contenders like Dave. A PLO specialist, Dave final tabled the PLO event at the WSOPE in 2007. Dave was one of the group I travelled with to my debut EPT, San Remo 2009. The group also included Marty Smyth, John O'Shea, Rob Taylor and Donal Norton. It wasn't a particularly successful trip, none of us even made day 2 of the €3500 main event and I was the only one to survive day one of the €2k event, and my impression of Dave at the time was he didn't take tournaments very seriously. However, in the last year, his attitude has clearly changed, and with two seconds and a third already this year in big PLO events Stateside, Dave is bang in form.

(5) Cat "oneillcat" O'Neill/Rob "IrishRobbie" Taylor
One entity in most people's minds so I'm grouping them together

As far as I know, Cat is the only Irish female player travelling. A phenomenal domestic deep-runs-to-events-played ratio shows how consistent she is, and as a WSOP debutante she will hav the advantage of being unknown and her game totally misunderstood by most of her competitors.

Rob's had a quiet year live so far, but then people thought he had a quiet year last year too and he still finished third ranked player in Ireland. Rob also has run deep in the main event before and is preparing very professionally for this series.

(6) Padraig "Parky" Parkinson
The legend of Irish poker always prepares and performs well at the WSOP. In fact, he's cashed every year since 2005, and last year finished 14th in the PLO 10K event, showing up several of the young guns who seem to think PLO is exclusively a young man's game.

And now my 6 foreign picks:
(1) Fabrice Soulier
I played with Fabrice at this year's Deauville EPT and wasn't overly impressed, but it was holdem and Fabrice is an all gamer rather than a specialist. At last year's WSOP he notched up 7 cashes (including a top 50 finish in the main event). Not as flashy as French compatriots like Elky, he is more consistent and has cashed at every series since 2005. The fact that he plays all the games makes him a strong bracelet contender.

(2) John Eames
A familiar face on these shores, this is John's first WSOP as he only just came of age. Ranked in the top three in tournaments in Europe last year, it's a mystery as to why he isn't sponsored already. Plays a very different game from the rest of the young English lads (who frequently refer to him jokingly as "the nit"), has a tremendous temperament and professional approach and it will be no surprise to me if he does well.

(3) Jeff Lisandro
Another other game specialist. Primarily a cash game player but comes out once a year to play the WSOP and has a phenomenal record. His all round ability was proven last year when he cashed in 5 different games. Particularly good at all the stud games: last year he won bracelets in seven card stud, seven card stud hi/lo and razz.

(4) Steve Gross
The best online mtt player in the world currently, he's made the transition to live better than most online players, notching a win this year in the $5K PCA 6 max. Two WSOP cashes ad three the year before, his prospects are hampered only by the fact that he's an NLH specialist and NLH are the hardest bracelets to win.

(5) Phil Hellmuth
I'm going with the often maligned Hellmuth mainly on a "horses for courses" basis. Although he seems to be past his best and primarily a media phenomenon these days, there's no one better at rising to the challenges of playing so many events in seven weeks. The WSOP is a marathon not a sprint and Hellmuth's record in this particular marathon is second to none.

(6) Phil Ivey

My own preparations for Vegas are continuing apace. I'm borrowing an idea from my running days: the taper. The basic idea is that as you prepare for a (very) long race, you reduce the amount of training in the last few weeks dramatically. Any training you do in that period doesn't contribute much to your fitness on the day, and by tapering you ensure you hit the start line fresh, rested and raring to go. Never done that with poker before buy Scotty Nguyen for one recommends it and if it's good enough for Scotty....

With that in mind I'm planning to reduce the amount I play online in the next two weeks. I'm not going cold turkey or anything, still planning to play the nightlies on Bruce most nights, but I will be playing less and giving some focus to some other poker-related projects I'm working on.

I did play a bit this week though, and took down the $30 rebuy on Bruce on Thursday night and the $6K shorthanded on Sunday night. I also won a WSOP main event package on Stars: nice to have that out of the way before I travel. My only live outing was in John Scanlon's new place in Santry. Great game with a very welcoming atmosphere and some colourful locals. Highlight of the night was my mate Andrew getting 800 yoyos into the middle with jack high in a 1/1 cash game against a Chinese gentleman with no fold button. Good night's craic with some familiar faces like Rob Taylor, Andrew and his Celtic bookmakers compadre Victor, Vera and Eddy the Eagle. I'd heartily recommend the club.

I also played a couple of Bruce challenge headsup matches against Gerard Colleran (who beat me to claim a very easy $60) and Tiernan O'Malley who also gave me a great game. I wish the lads every success at the tables on Bruce and remember, to get a chance to play me and claim an easy 60 bucks, you just have to sign up to Bruce using the Doke10 signup code with your 1st real money deposit you'll be automatically issued with a ticket.


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