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Player of the Year

by Tournament Reporters |  Published: Apr 29, 2009


EPT Germany, NBC Heads-Up Championship Influence Player of the Year Race
By Ryan Lucchesi

EPT Dortmund Creates a Crowd at Seventh Place

The third PokerStars European Poker Tour stop in Germany produced the second woman champion in its history. Sandra Naujoks topped a field of 667 players to take home a first-place prize of €917,000. She also was awarded 1,920 Card Player 2009 Player of the Year (POY) points, to pull into a four-way tie for seventh place with fellow EPT champions Moritz Kranich (EPT Deauville) and Jens Kyllonen (EPT Scandinavian Open), and Aussie Millions winner Stewart Scott. Naujoks defeated Holger Kanisch in the final heads-up match when her A-Q dominated his A-9. Kanisch was awarded €533,000 and 1,600 points, putting him in a tie for 13th place with Arnaud Esquevin, Peter Rho, Peter Hedlund, and Mike Sowers. The final table in Dortmund was one of the toughest of the fifth season of the EPT, with William Thorson (seventh place), Luca Pagano (sixth place), defending EPT Dortmund champion Michael McDonald (fifth place), and Johan Storakers (fourth place) posing a daunting lineup of professionals for Naujoks to defeat.

Tristan Clemencon Continues to Dominate in France

Another European poker tournament was responsible for the only other movement in the top 10 recently when Tristan Clemencon from France made his fourth final table of 2009. Clemencon finished in second place in the Paris Open of Poker €2,000 no-limit hold'em main event. He won €51,225 in prize money and 480 POY points. This gives him 1,962 points, which puts him in sixth place on the leader board. He also finished in third place at the EPT Deauville, and made two final tables at the Euro Finals of Poker in January. No other player has been more consistent in Europe in 2009, and no other player in the top 25 has made as many final tables as Clemencon has. He has won $457,454 in prize money in 2009, and made four final tables.

NBC Heads-Up Championship Gives Seed and Rousso a Boost

Rousso vs Seed at NBC Heads Up

Huck Seed won $500,000 when he defeated Vanessa Rousso in the finals of the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Seed also was awarded 360 POY points. This was the fifth cash in a row for Seed in the NBC Heads-Up event, making him the only player to accomplish this feat. Rousso took home $250,000 and tallied 300 POY points for her runner-up finish. She now has 720 points, thanks to this strong showing and her seventh-place finish in the World Poker Tour Southern Poker Championship. Semifinalists Bertrand Grospellier and Sam Farha each earned $125,000 and 210 POY points for making the "Final Four" of this prestigious tournament that features a field of 64 players. Check out the full recap of this exciting event in the cover story of this issue.

Money Leader Board

A quarter of the way into 2009, there are nine players who have won $1 million or more in tournaments this year. Here is a look at poker's 2009 millionaires thus far:

1 Poorya Nazari $3,000,000
2 Cornel Cimpan $1,703,828
3 Anthony Gregg $1,700,000
4 Stewart Scott $1,381,392
5 Sandra Naujoks $1,192,100
6 Jens Kyllonen $1,141,474
7 Moritz Kranich $1,106,820
8 Benjamin Spindler $1,100,000
9 Allen Carter $1,000,000

Cash Money

Look Out: Cody Slaubaugh

Cody SlaubaughCody Slaubaugh began his path to poker success online, and then jumped into live tournaments on the Heartland Poker Tour. He then moved into the tournament big leagues, where, in just two years, he has cashed 21 times and won more than $830,000. The bulk of his achievements can be attributed to the World Series of Poker, where he has cashed six times for $500,000. He just missed winning his first gold bracelet when he finished second to Jesper Hougaard in a $1,500 no-limit hold'em heads-up event that attracted 2,447 players in 2008. He won $389,128 in that event, the largest cash of his blooming career.

Slaubaugh experienced his first live-poker success with four cashes in Heartland Poker Tour events in 2005 and 2006. This was during the period when he made the transition from online play to live tournaments. "Those were the first live tournaments that I played. It was a lot different than online to play live, so it was good experience. Experience is everything; getting hands in live tournaments, nothing can substitute for that," said Slaubaugh. The time he spent at HPT events gave him the experience he needed in the live arena to get comfortable on the felt and develop his poker instincts and table image. "A lot of experience helped me pick up on good situations at the table and take advantage of them, regardless of what my cards were at the time," he said.

Slaubaugh now travels the tournament trail with the knowledge he has obtained from playing against a wide variety of players. He also has observed what motivates them to play the game. "The online players are all about the numbers, and they are the most aggressive, for the most part. The Heartland Poker Tour has a lot of satellite players who enter the main event, so the money means a lot to them, and they're usually not as confident. And the live players out here, you get anything and everything," he said.

Slaubaugh will make a full run in the WSOP once again this year, and in the meantime, he continues to post consistent results. He recently earned his first cash on the World Poker Tour with a 54th-place finish at the L.A. Poker Classic, and finished second in the $1,000 no-limit hold'em heads-up event at the Caesars Palace Classic. Keep an eye on this rising star throughout 2009, especially during the summer.

What's My Line?
Vanessa Rousso Fast-Plays 'Kid Poker' on the Way to the Finals
by Julio Rodriguez

Vanessa RoussoNot only did Vanessa Rousso make the finals of the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, she did so by facing the toughest competition that any finalist has ever encountered. Despite having more than $2 million in lifetime tournament winnings, Rousso is sometimes overlooked, and noted more for her good looks than for her poker prowess. Yet, it is impossible to ignore what Rousso accomplished over three days at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, taking down Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, former NBC Heads-Up champion Paul Wasicka, Daniel Negreanu, and the seemingly always on fire Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier.

Rousso was tight-lipped about giving away any strategy or plans for future opponents as the tournament progressed, but she had no problem sitting down with Card Player to discuss two crucial hands that she played against Negreanu in the Elite Eight portion of the tournament.

Blinds 2,000-4,000
Player Vanessa Rousso Daniel Negreanu
Chip Count About 90,000 About 230,000
Hand J 7 A-5

Rousso Gets Maximum Value With Her Boat

On a board reading J J 4 4, Vanessa Rousso open-shoves the turn for 60,000 all in. Daniel Negreanu goes into the tank before asking, "Why, oh why, would you do that?"

Negreanu makes the call, showing A-5 for just ace high. Rousso shows the J 7 for a full house, and doubles up to take a slight lead in the match.

Julio Rodriguez: You decided to unconventionally fast-play your big hands. Please explain this approach.

Vanessa Rousso:
I thought to myself, what would get me to call in this spot? I decided to make an unusual play that I didn't think anyone would make with a boat. So, knowing that he would find it strange, I decided to just straight shove the turn. I knew that if anyone would make this call, it would be Daniel, and that it was my best chance to get some more chips from him, especially if he had a weak hand, like ace high.

The other problem was that I had only 60,000 left on the turn. So if I check to him and he bets something like 25,000, and then I move in, it's pretty obvious that I have a hand, and he'll fold. By open-shoving the turn, it looks like I might be trying to get him off a chop with ace high, or maybe even something weaker. Luckily, I went with it, my read was right, and he made the call.

Blinds 3,000-6,000
Player Vanessa Rousso Daniel Negreanu
Chip Count About 170,000 About 150,000
Hand 2 2 Q 6

Rousso Makes the Same Play to Get a Hero Call

Daniel Negreanu raised from the small blind/button to 12,000, and Vanessa Rousso made the call.

The flop came 6 3 2, and Rousso checked. Negreanu bet 12,000, and Rousso check-raised to 25,000. Negreanu made the call, and the turn was the 3.

Rousso decided to check and then quickly moved all in after Negreanu bet 28,000. Negreanu tanked for about four minutes, carefully considering all of his options before calling off his last 80,000 or so.

Rousso showed the 2 2 for another full house, and Negreanu turned over the Q 6 for top pair. He needed a 6 or a 3 on the river to stay alive, but the 10 eliminated him from the tournament. Rousso moved on to the Final Four, where she beat Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier.

JR: Incredibly, just a short while after your double-up, you found yourself in a similar situation with a slight chip lead.

VR: There were two things going on in that hand. One, he was talking a bit, and I realized through the conversation that he did have a piece of the flop, even though he was trying to make it look like he didn't. So, when the turn paired the board with a 3, I'm hoping he has either trips or top pair with a 6 in his hand. I decided to check on the turn and let him believe that I check-raised the flop just to see where I was in the hand. I planned on moving in after he bet, and did so very quickly.

Here's where the second thing comes in. I knew that he would think I couldn't be making the same play twice in a row with a big hand. I felt that he thought I would change it up a bit, and would call me with any sort of hand. I also thought he was leaning toward a call because he was frustrated with himself for making the call with ace high earlier. For example, if he had folded when I had the jack, I might not have made the same play, since he would have been more likely to make another laydown and go the conservative route.

JR: Do you think Daniel's affinity for making great reads hurt him in your match?

VR: Daniel definitely prides himself on being able to make great reads, folding big hands and calling with weaker hands when he feels the situation is right. I just put myself in his shoes and made the play that I felt would work against his natural instincts.
I knew going into the match that in order to win against Daniel, I would have to get hit in the head with the deck, which certainly wasn't happening. I didn't have a pair before the deuces, so that plan quickly went out the window. The second plan was to outplay him post-flop. Essentially, I had to trap him with a big hand, but not in the usual way. I had to trap him by making plays that would disguise the strength of my hand, and still get maximum value the few times that I actually made a big hand.