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Tikay's Table Tales

by Tony Kendall |  Published: Aug 01, 2005


You Boys Fancy a Bracelet?
May saw the final flurry of activity on the European poker circuit before the big boys flew off to Vegas, chasing that elusive bracelet. It's an odd world that sees macho, egotistical gamblers busting a gut for a bracelet. Ask any of them to wear a bracelet in any other circumstance and you'd get a seriously odd look. But this is a World Series of Poker bracelet, so that's OK then.

Blackpool was an eye-opener. After months of half-empty festivals, we arrived at the Grosvenor Sandcastle to find "sold out" notices up most nights, and even the Omaha rebuy event managed 116 runners.

But, the main oddity was the continuation of a trend that has seen the so-called lesser names monopolise main events at this year's festivals. Can you put your hand on your heart and say you know all of the following guys: Mick Fletcher (Blackpool), Andy Church (The Vic), Marcelo Fogliato (Jesolo), Steve Bovis (Luton), Karl Moller (Stockholm), Woody Deck (Brighton), Brandon Schafer (Deauville), and Gilles Haddad (Paris)? I rest my case. But, these guys all have one thing in common: Each of them has won a festival main event this year. What's more, in doing so, they all had to fight off competition from the established names.

So, where were the big boys? Well, with the exception of The Hendon Mob, by and large, all the names you'd expect to be present, were present. Noah Boaken, Dave Colclough, Julian Thew, Rob Hollink, and Mick Cook all managed a festival main event win apiece, but that's as far as it goes.

Now, let's go a little further down the field. Andreas Krause has made no less than eight festival finals, Stuart Nash has made seven, Peter Davidsen six, and Ian Woodley five.

So, what's happening? Where were the Devilfishes, the Joe Grechs, the Garry Bushs, and the Roy Brindleys? Well, I'll tell you where they were. They were sharing tables with these "unknowns," scratching their heads and wondering what happened to the poker hierarchy as we used to know it. Week after week, comp after comp, these big boys are being turned over. The also-rans are running them ragged, and that, surely, is half the fascination of tournament poker!

Vienna was much the same story. We had Joe Grech, Dave Colclough, Richard Gryko, Lawrence Gosney, and many other "names," but they barely managed a final between them.

Paris? You got it – same story. The big guns were there, led by such notables as Pascal Perault and Isabelle Mercier. Still no lollipops, though, and the money went to the so-called also-rans.

Then, it was Barcelona, and the PartyPoker World Heads-Up Championship. Surely, a big name would pull this one off; there were, after all, enough of them. How about this for a roll call of names: Ivo Donev, Pascal Perault, Xuyen Pham, Mickey Wernick, Dave Colclough, Devilfish, ActionJack, Julian Thew, Carlo Citrone, Luca Pagano, the Hendon Mob, John Kabbaj, Noah Boaken, Alexander Kravchenko, Rob Hollink, Bruno Fitoussi, Isabelle Mercier, Steve Vladar, Bengt Sonnert, Padraig Parkinson, and Rory Liffey.

Who won it? Peter Gunnarson, from Sweden. Peter who? Gunnarson. Look him up. His previous European tournament winnings amount to, er, €2,889. Now look again at the massed ranks of big names he had to beat.

So, what can we deduce from this? Well, the big boys aren't happy – that's a given! Are these new kids on their block all improving rapidly? I don't think so. Are the big names going downhill? Not at all. Is the ratio of luck to skill in poker more biased to luck than most of us would readily admit? Could be, it could just be. But who's going to admit to that?

Step aside lads. Make room for the foot soldiers. It's our turn now.

So, what's going to happen in Vegas? Moneymaker in 2003 was a huge shock. Raymer in 2004 was not far behind. Will 2005 see a return to the established hierarchy winning the main event? I don't think so. My guess is that the trend will continue, and we will see another surprise winner – a surprise winner who'll have to go home and explain to his wife why he's wearing a bracelet. Then again, who's to say that there won't be a female winner this year? Just imagine the headlines that would produce, not to mention the bruised masculine egos! Let's hear it for Lucy Rokach and Isabelle Mercier. A woman wearing a bracelet – now there's a thing!

Tikay is the presenter of Poker 425, and a partner in