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WSOP -- Dwan, ElkY, Hansen, and Others Will Play for Final TOC Spot

Nine Players Will Compete for Final Sponsor Exemption


Tom DwanThe World Series of Poker finally announced today what they were going to do with that final sponsor exemption for its 27-player Tournament of Champions. The final spot will be awarded to the winner of a nine-person sit-and-go, mostly comprised of the biggest stars who have never won a bracelet.

Tom Dwan, Andy Bloch, Bertrand “ElKy” Grospellier, Gus Hansen, Michael Mizrachi, Liv Boeree, Paul Wasicka, Sorel Mizzi, and Don Cheadle have been invited to play for the final spot on Thursday in an undisclosed location.

Of that nine, only Mizrachi has won a bracelet. However, that win came a week ago in the $50,000 Players Championship, so he wasn’t eligible to receive votes for one of the TOC’s 20 fan spots for most of the voting period. All of the players are pro poker players, with the exception of the actor Cheadle, who is best known for his roles in Hotel Rwanda and Ocean’s Eleven.

The game will be filmed for use by the WSOP Academy, and the winner will play alongside 20 bracelet winners who were voted in the by the public, five automatic entries, and one online qualifier.

Michael Mizrachi“The WSOP Academy will utilize the sponsor seat at the TOC to highlight the talents of players who are champions in their own right but did not have an opportunity to be voted into the TOC,” said the CEO of the WSOP Academy, Jeff Goldenberg, in a press release.

The WSOP had originally hoped to use its two sponsor exemptions for the public, and in fact one spot will be awarded to an online winner at the WSOP’s new poker site, which is available in the UK. However, although the WSOP first said they didn’t want to use its own discretion while filling that final sponsor exemption when announcing the TOC back in March, they ultimately decided this was the best option.

“It’s kind of irrelevant now, but some of the laws, technology, or hurdles somewhere affected our intent. That said, we think this is kind of a unique way to do it,” said Seth Palansky, WSOP communications director. “It was always billed as a sponsor’s exemption, and ultimately this ended up being the most feasible way for us to give away this seat.”

There was some criticism in the poker community about some of the people chosen for the invite-only play-in table, most notably for Cheadle, the one member without any significant poker results. Even Annie Duke, who has teamed up with Cheadle for various charity events, including Ante up for Africa, tweeted after the announced: “Obviously, I love Don Cheadle but I think it is ridiculous he is playing in the 9 handed tourney for a spot in the TOC. Should all be champs.”

Don CheadleThe WSOP doesn’t appear to be overly concerned with any criticism that might come with how they choose to fill their final sponsor exemption.

“What? There is criticism in poker? I’ve never heard criticism come from the poker community,” Palansky said dryly. “We’ll take it as a great compliment that the poker community has criticism for us. I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

The event will be filmed on Thursday and released for public consumption at a later date. It remains unclear if people will have to pay WSOP Academy for the opportunity to view the action, which will be commentated on by Phil Hellmuth and Ali Nejad.

“I don’t think you’re going to get six hours of free video for this entire event. This will go into part of the training academy, and we have yet to release all the details,” said Palansky. “It’s still being worked out, but I imagine it’ll be a combination (of free and pay-to-view content).”

WSOP Academy identifies itself as the “exclusive provider of live poker training” for the World Series. It runs several instructional seminars throughout the summer.

Five players have already earned automatic entries to the Tournament of Champions, which will kick off June 27 with a final table on July 4. Those players are Mike Matusow, Mike Sexton, and Duke (the past three TOC winners), as well as Joe Cada and Barry Shulman (the reigning WSOP and WSOPE champions, respectively).

The winner of the 2010 Tournament of Champions will receive $500,000, with $250,000 going to the runner-up and $100,000 going to third place. Fourth through ninth will each receive $25,000.

Twenty players will earn their spot into the event through public vote. Voting concludes on June 15 at midnight.



almost 11 years ago

how can u win a bracelet in Tunica?


Donly Ison
almost 11 years ago

Actually, "commentated" is a word, Striike.

Maybe that's why Stephen is a journalist and you are a commentator. (Yes, that's a word, too!!)


almost 11 years ago

don cheadle? wtf


almost 11 years ago

7 hours ago
Wasicka won a bracelet in Tunica right?

Wasicka won a WSOP Circuit Ring in Tunica


almost 11 years ago

they should of gave 1 of the 9 seats to kingwalter.