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Long Shots for 2011

by Jennifer Mason |  Published: Mar 01, 2011


Just as the winter period has kept players in this time zone indoors recently, so the poker world in general has gone into something of a traditional hibernation over Christmas. Midway between World Series frenzy and coinciding with pesky public holidays with their associated family commitments, there are few large-scale events at the end of a calendar year, and all eyes are on upcoming changes to major tours, as well as the ever-fluctuating player allegiances and political manoeuvres across the pond and in Europe.
This lull in the annual cycle of live and online poker provides an opportunity to pause for breath and speculate on the year ahead. However, instead of musing on upcoming innovation, as is the norm, it’s much easier to guess at what won’t happen.
The seniors’ WSOP event probably won’t switch to eight-game in 2011, Marcel Luske’s Twitter posts won’t make any more sense, and Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth won’t be jumping back on the UB bus. Those are easy ones; there are a few question marks still hovering over some of the most popular poker phenomena of the last few years which have caught the poker playing public’s interest enough to earn the title of the coming year’s long shots.
There’s nothing like a cloak of secrecy to put the finishing touches to popular TV series’ outfits. High Stakes Poker season seven has donned an effective one, creating enthusiastic speculation around the new series, taped in December and airing in 2011.
Listed top among the long shots for the New Year is the appearance on season seven of the Full Tilt pros whose action-generation in previous shows launched a thousand forum threads. Although most of the confirmed players have been confirmed via their own tweeting, the radio silence from Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey, and Patrik Antonius speaks volumes to the Internet poker pundits, who cite the new PokerStars sponsorship of the show as throwing a competitive spanner in the works. It would of course be a sensation should they all turn up on TV after all, but it looks like fans will have to content themselves with the likes of Doyle Brunson, Phil Laak, Jason Mercier, and Antonio Esfandiari this time round.
With three whole days off, perhaps Dwan and Antonius could have found a gap in their schedules to carry on the first official Durrrr Challenge, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say a conclusion to this one-on-one poker marathon is itself a 2011 long shot. Attention focused on the 3/1 $500,000 challenge offered by Dwan (just a dollar’s profit needing to be shown to win the bet after 50,000 hands) has shifted to the new heads up war between Dwan and Dan “Jungleman12” Cates, and it’s their graph virtual railbirds are checking regularly.
They started this second challenge back in August; at time of writing the most recent heads-up hands were played just weeks ago. Meanwhile the Antonius match, already having racked up 40,000 hands, seems to have been put in the deep freeze with the laconic Finn down $2 million.
Back in May 2010, when Antonius revealed that experiencing continual “run-bad” (see Antonius feature in this issue) was making a sabbatical seem appealing, Brian Townsend was tipped to be second in line, but it was Cates who put up the half million and has since taken a lead of about that amount after just under a third of the stipulated hands have been played. So in 2011, in order of likelihood, from most to least likely: Cates vs. Dwan ends within 12 months, Antonius vs. Dwan ends within 12 months, Townsend vs. Dwan to get underway.
For Americans, high rollers or not, playing online is unlikely to be something done in a legalised, federally regulated environment in 2011. The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), supporting US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s bill, ran out of time this year — the proposed bill is dead and the 2011 Republican-controlled House of Representatives may present an even greater challenge to their cause.
PPA executive director John Pappas told the Bloomberg channel in December, “I don’t know how any member of Congress — Republican or Democrat — can be happy with the status quo.” Individual states forging ahead with their own bills doesn’t quite cut the mustard, according to Pappas, and the safeguards and revenue he sees as coming with federal legislation show the way forward. “Let’s bring this onshore, let’s make a US industry, let’s protect the consumer, but let’s also create jobs, create revenue… because prohibition doesn’t work.”
The fact that the hurdles put in front of Americans wishing to play online poker at the moment have failed to trip up the majority of enthusiasts leads to the final long shot of the New Year.
If online gaming has survived the recession and brought unexpected numbers to Vegas in the summer and more expected profits to operators over what, by anyone’s standards, have been a tough couple of years financially, there’s no way it will be doing anything other than very well in 2011.
Many brick and mortar casinos saw stocks rise at the end of the year (heralding overall recovery stateside, perhaps?) but they’d suffered along with everyone else as people kept a tighter hold on their wallets. Whatever happens in 2011 — online poker may get tougher, sites merge, liquidity drop on some as others become even larger — it’s more than unlikely that it will dwindle and fade away — it’s almost impossible. I’d sooner bet on Boris Becker winning the Poker Triple Crown (EPT, WPT, and WSOP titles), Greg Raymer gracing the front cover of Men’s Health, or Theo Jorgensen’s dad beating Gus Hansen in a boxing match. ♠

Jen Mason is a part of She is responsible for its live tournament coverage in the UK and abroad.