I do apologise for taking a break from this blog, and temporarily turning it into the monthly word rather than weekly. I have been busy undertaking an exciting journey, which began as follows…
Having written part-time for a website called Somuchpoker during the last two years or more, I have had the fantastic opportunity to write about poker, which has been a serious hobby of mine since 2010. This hands-on experience of journalism has been a great addition to the skills learned during my studies, and right at the end of my second term, I was offered another great opportunity.
The website I write for, which targets an Asian audience was invited to send two people to provide coverage of the World Poker Tour (WPT) events which were set to take place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Fort Lauderdale, just outside Miami. Flights and hotel costs were all covered by WPT, who treated us wonderfully while we were there.
On the first day, I walked into a casino for only the second time in my life. That may seem strange given my enthusiasm for poker, but I have always lived some distance away from the nearest casino and for the most part, have been happy enough playing my poker online. Despite not having any great interest in casinos, Hard Rock was an impressive spectacle. As soon as I walked in, there was a wall of rainbow-like illumination from the hundreds of slot machines which pinged and buzzed with activity as I walked past. We eventually found our way into the poker section, and walked into a large hall which had press tables at one end and around a dozen poker tables at the other.
Only two tables were occupied at this point, as the $25,000 buy-in High Roller event was down to the last dozen or so players, but we had the potential for an exciting story as Jason Mercier, holder of five World Series of Poker titles, a European Poker Tour title and winner of this same event in 2015 was still in the hunt. By the time the final table got underway the following day, Mercier was still going strong and our hopes of a big name player taking the High Roller title were given a further boost as he got down to the final two players. At this stage, which we call ‘heads-up’ in the poker world, he only had to defeat experienced pro Justin Bonomo to claim the title, and he went on to do just that, winning the 1st prize of $794,600.
The second day provided no major stories, but we were there covering proceedings all day as a relatively unknown player won the $3,500 buy-in event. Then came the $10,000 event, and once again we had an interesting story developing, as the 2013 world champion Ryan Riess was gaining the upper hand on the final table. He also went on to deliver the story we hoped for, winning the event for $716,088. With the open events concluded, all eyes turned to the special invitational event. The Tournament of Champions had a $15,000 buy-in fee, and was reserved only for those who had won a WPT event in the past. The WPT trophy which awaited the champion was impressive to say the least.
The Tournament of Champions lasted three days in total, and there were plenty of big names involved. Ryan Riess was joined by Yevgeniy Timoshenko, Mike Sexton, Erik Seidel, who is the holder of eight World Series of Poker titles, Dominik Nitsche, who has three, Michael Mizrachi, who also has three, and Scott Seiver, who has one. All players were of course holders of a WPT title too, and so the quality of play within the field was high. Sponsors of the event had thrown an extra $100,000 and a car into the prize pool, which was already over $1,000,000 creating some added value for those involved. By the end of the second day, we had our final table set, with Mizrachi and Seidel both still in the tournament.
For once, we had to settle for a slighty lesser known player winning the top prize as Daniel Weinman defeated Michael Mizrachi heads-up, and Erik Seidel could only manage 4th place. But still, the tournament made for great viewing and capped off a great week of WPT events.
Alongside the many hours of reporting we had put in over the course of six days, we found a little time to enjoy an ice hockey game courtesey of WPT and were even given a free bottle of champagne each. With the final event wrapped up and an unforgettable time spent attending one of the world’s biggest poker events, it was finally time to head to the airport. My journey back was not quite as smooth as I had hoped though, as delays to my first flight caused me to miss my connecting flight, and I had to spend 12 hours stuck in Newark airport. It took a total of 29 hours from leaving my hotel to arriving home, but it was all worthwhile.
Myself, Loic and Lars who worked for another poker website stopped to take one last photo before sharing a taxi back at the end of the final day.