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Neil Channing's WSOP Black Belt
When you look at his results both playing and staking others in the World Series of Poker last year, it appears everything Neil Channing touches turns to gold.
But his latest project - Black Belt Poker - still has him sweating a little.
"I must admit I have a few butterflies," said Channing, who cashed seven times at the 2008 WSOP, twice at the WSOPE in London and backed several players who made big scores.
The concept is relatively simple.
Blackbeltpoker.com is a UK-based social networking site with a heavy poker bias, where a mix of experienced and inexperienced players gather to swap strategies and pass on the benefits of their wisdom.
Plus, for the elite players, there is the juicy lure of a possible $70k sponsorship package.
Over the last few months, fifty hopeful contenders have battled it out in a gruelling "grading" process to prove their mettle and win one of the eight packages on offer.
Now the posturing is over.
The choices have been made and Channing is optimistic his team is poised and ready to take on Las Vegas and the 2009 WSOP.
"They've got 50 shots at a bracelet, which means they're going to be about 8-1 to win one I would say," he said.
Channing is already setting the pace, having reached the latter stages of the prestigious $40k Commemorative Event.
When talking to PokerListings on Day 2, Channing played down his chances in typically sardonic fashion, before busting 20th for $70k today.
But Channing's self-effacing assessment belies the extraordinary form he showed last year.
Having already picked up the Irish Open title, he took last year's WSOP by storm.
In fact, if Nikolay Evdakov hadn't pipped the Englishmen to the post setting a record with ten WSOP cashes, Channing would have made even bigger headlines.
"I always see him around," Channing laughed. "I played with him twice and he just cashes in everything. He runs so good."
The staking also went well, most notably when Irishmen Marty Smyth collected the 2008 WSOP $10k Omaha bracelet.
If the Black Belt Poker team can replicate this success, it will be another year to remember for Channing, although it seems unlikely he will be able to take another shot at a world-record number of cashes.
"I'm going to be so busy this year," he said. "I'll be watching over the team, sorting some things out for them, playing a bit, but I won't have as much time as last year."
As far as the Vegas nightlife and the myriad poker parties are concerned, Channing said he'll take a pass this year.
"If I miss two PokerStars Pros making out at a party, it will be all over the internet in minutes anyway," he joked.
"I'm just going to go swimming every day, spend some time relaxing and looking after the team. It should be a great series."
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