Helppi, Tran promise Premier League fireworks

J.C. Tran
J.C. Tran prepares to challenge the world's best in the Premier League.

The PartyPoker Premier League is coming back to the small screen, and two well-known players have signed on to compete.

Season 1 champion Andy Black, at the table when the series begins filming.

Helppi's interest in the game is clear: he wants to win back the title that he claimed in the first go-round. "I loaned my trophy to Mr. Black last season, but now it is time to take it back!" he said in a press release for the show.

As for Tran, he will be making his first-ever appearance in Europe as he looks to add another high-profile win to his impressive career resume.

"I've seen coverage from previous events and I'm ready for all the verbal volleys that are likely to be thrown at me!" he said in a press release announcing his involvement with the Premier League. "I have been meaning to play in Europe for a while and this prestigious event is a great way to start."

Helppi has been a force on the international tournament poker scene since the first season of the World Poker Tour, when the Finn claimed the inaugural Aruba Poker Classic title by defeating a stunned Phil Gordon heads-up.

Juha Helppi
Helppi is looking for a strong finish in the Premier League.

In the intervening six years, the former Finnish paintball champion has piled up a list of big finishes. In addition to his first-season Premier League win, Helppi has also finished second at the 2005 Grand Prix de Paris and in a 2006 WSOP $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em event (when Phil Hellmuth won his 10th bracelet).

When added to a string of wins and final-table finishes at smaller tournaments around the world, those big scores push Helppi's lifetime career winnings to nearly $2 million.

Tran is one of poker's bona fide superstars, with career earnings of more than $6.8 million. He has 23 cashes at the WSOP since 2004, including seven final-table appearances; he won his first bracelet this year in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event.

The WPT has also been good to Tran. A two-month stretch in early 2007 saw Tran make three TV tables at WPT events, including a second-place finish at the L.A. Poker Classic and a win at the World Poker Challenge in Reno, Nev.

The strength of those performances was enough to win Tran the WPT's Player of the Year award, putting him in the company of poker superstars Howard Lederer, Daniel Negreanu, Erick Lindgren and Gavin Smith. All his success recently led to Tran being named one of the Asian Poker Tour's first ambassadors, along with Nam Le and Quinn Do.

Along with their fellow competitors, Helppi and Tran will both put up an increased buy-in of $75,000 each to participate in the PartyPoker Premier League III.

With an added $350,000 in the prize pool, the total up for grabs in the league-style competition this time around will be $1.25 million. Nine more participants have yet to be named.

Whoever they turn out to be, they will have their hands full with the first two players to announce their intention to play.

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