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Jesse May's Premier League III preview
This article analyzing the players in the Premier League III by Jesse May was provided by PartyPoker and has been condensed due to space limitations.
Stunned. Elated. Tingles in my hands and toes. These are the feelings that I've been having when contemplating the lineup for Premier League III. All I can say, is this tournament has finally arrived.
This year, the Premier League has not just been infused with serious poker skill; it's been turbo-injected with it, and I think this is the first year where there will be absolutely no way to make the final table without playing poker a cut above the rest.
One of the things that makes the Premier League unique is the element of drama and conflict. The fact that the players are all cooped up in a hotel for eight days, all the big egos, thrown together like on Big Brother, means there is no escape. It's 24/7, what with the prop betting, the bar, the Chinese poker, the fights and the arguments. And every year people crack up.
In that vein, I've made notes on each player in a predicted order of finish. In addition, I've listed what I think will be the two biggest personal dynamics each player will have to deal with. Whether I'm right or wrong, it's no matter. I'm just glad to be able to watch it unfold.
12. Vicky Coren
Kind of lost in the blur between Vicky Coren's results and expectations is the fact that since the time when she won the half million pounds at the London EPT, she is one of the most improved players on the European scene.
She did have ground to make up, and I say that with all due respect. Vicky's a gamer; she has never shied away from the competition, and it just goes to show that the best way to improve your poker is to match up with the best on a regular basis.
Sparks could fly: Vicky vs. Andy Black. Andy made Vicky angry with his comments in the first Premier League that she didn't find out about until it came on TV. They managed to avoid each other for most of the last Premier League, but it's far from over.
Player to beware of: David Ulliott. The Devilfish has pwned Vicky in the previous two Premier Leagues. He has run her over like a train with his charming chauvinism, if you can call it that. She gives him way too much respect. The fact that she genuinely likes The Devil doesn't help one bit, and if Vicky wants to succeed in this tournament she must take an attitude of no mercy, no quarter when it comes to Ulliott.
11. Juha Helppi
This man is out of form. Pound for pound, I believe he has played the best and most consistent poker of anyone from the first two Premier Leagues, but a lot of good it will do him now. Juha has been running bad, and it's starting to affect his mind-set.
He actually believes that he will be unlucky, which is a recipe for disaster. It's a shame because when he is on, he plays this format near perfection.
Sparks could fly: Juha vs. Roland De Wolfe. This one is in the cards. The two have teased each other for years, and as long as one or the other are going well it's all in good fun. No more. De Wolfe will step over the line, and the machine will snap. Believe me, this will get ugly.
Player to beware of: Phil Hellmuth. For two years, Helppi has been playing well and pwning Hellmuth. Hellmuth has bided his time, and believe me - revenge will be served cold.
10. Andy Black
The defending champion can play. He is tight early and aggressive late, and this formula usually gets steady points. However, his Achilles heel is that he can't stay away from a battle of the egos, and there are just too many egos in this lineup for him to succeed.
I'm afraid his heart will get the better of his head.
Sparks could Fly: Black vs. Tony G. Black needs to be table captain, and almost always gets the last word in edgewise, especially against an out-of-form Tony G. Not this year. No matter who Tony G bullies, Black will try to butt in, and this year Tony G is ready for the challenge.
Player to beware of: Andy Black. This never gets old. Black has 11 players to beware of in this game, and they're all named Andy Black. Over the course of seven days, Black will crack up. It's only a question of when and how much it will cost him.
9. Tom Dwan
The buzz around the Internet phenom known as durrrr is a roar. The hype is deafening. Soft-spoken but a maniac at the table, durrrr has everyone excited to see the facets of his game.
However, every time he talks about poker or is talked about, it involves him playing a lot of pots. I am not aware that he has the desire or ability to play the tight gear, and unfortunately here it means a lot of early exits.
Sparks could fly: Dwan vs. Hellmuth. Of course you've watched the video on YouTube. We all have. But even though Dwan beat Hellmuth on the table, Hellmuth slaughtered him in the verbal. And will continue to do so. Tom might be the better player in a cash scenario, but here Phil will dominate him in the play and crush the poor 21-year-old with the abuse.
Player to beware of: Annette Obrestad. This is an interesting matchup - the most aggressive Internet cash player against the most aggressive Internet tournament player. The last time I looked, this was a tournament, and Obrestad will get it over on Dwan all day long.
8. Roland De Wolfe
How the giants have fallen. Two years ago the hottest poker player in the world; now just a formless mass reduced to drinking smelly bottles of wheatgrass to purge his system. On the bright side, De Wolfe is immensely talented and is able to raise his game when playing against a world class.
He plays outside the box and can utilize every gear in the book. He plays so far outside the box, there is no box. If he plays his best poker, he should win.
Right now, though, emotional odds are stacked against him. I think we are more likely to see his demons than his poker. Both make good TV.
Sparks could fly: De Wolfe vs. Nenad Medic. Medic is the person Roland once was and now hopes to become again - the hottest tournament player on the planet. It bothers Roland that someone has taken his mantle, and something Nenad casually said in one of his interviews on the Internet gave me the feeling that he has very little respect for Roland De Wolfe.
Player to beware of: Tom Dwan. De Wolfe likes to be the fanciest player making the fanciest plays, something Dwan pwns here and anywhere else. If De Wolfe tries to outplay Dwan - and you know he will - durrrr will have that extra trick up his sleeve to put egg all over De Wolfe's face.
7. Phil Hellmuth
He is the Premier League. He is Phil Hellmuth. And he got pulverized last year, laughed off the map. I saw Hellmuth just before the WSOPE, and I've been reading his blog and he is in good form.
He seems a happy man. But it's been a long time in Hellmuth years since he won anything major. If he comes in last during this Premier League people will talk. He can slay so many demons by doing well this year.
He needs to just make the final table, but I still don't see it. A little jetlag and Chinese poker distractions, and Phil will be mid table and beat in the heads-up by someone who will taunt him forever. It's part of the drama that is the Poker Brat.
Sparks could fly: Phil vs. Peter Eastgate. Hellmuth loves his records as much as he loves himself. Eastgate is the man who broke Phil's record of 20 years and who may hold it for another 20 himself. I seriously doubt Phil can sleep at night with bother for what Eastgate has done. Eastgate could be the silent assassin in such a way that a mere smirk will make Hellmuth explode, and for real.
Player to beware of: Tony G. Everybody laughed at Tony G for the way he played last year, none louder than Hellmuth. I think Hellmuth will be guilty of underestimating Tony's play this year and could pay the penalty.
6. Nenad Medic
I've never met Medic, but from what I've seen he is quite impressive. Big man, gently humble, quietly confident, and with a string of results in the last two years that could be a career. He's the kind of guy that always travels in a posse, and leads a team many strong.
He appears to have the game to succeed here, but how he will react to the verbal intensity of this group of players remains to be seen. He has a temper, I'm sure of it, and we'll just have to see what happens when he's had enough.
Sparks could fly: Medic vs. Andy Black. This has to break big and ugly. Talk about polar opposites. Medic is the embodiment of the macho man, and Black is Mr. Let's Talk It Out. He eats macho for breakfast. Nenad is a cool dude and a low boiler, but he will only take so much of Black before he's had enough. I'm predicting fists will fly by Day 5.
Player to beware of: Devilfish. I saw both these guys in the big cash game in Vegas during the WSOP. Medic was running hot and Ulliott wasn't. If Medic is guilty of underestimating the Fish, Devil will give him his due.
5. Annette Obrestad
Though some of the hype surrounding Annette_15 has blown over, there is no question in anyone's mind that she is at the top of the poker world to stay. Obrestad is just too good a tournament player, and of all the players in the Premier League, I think this format perfectly suits her strengths.
Though it appears to many that her game is based on naked aggression and little else, she has flair that is so extreme as to be borderline destructive. Look for her to play first position like it's the button and to get paid off like a clock. I'll be very surprised not to see her on the final table.
Sparks could fly: Obrestad vs. Vicky Coren. Obrestad has had a few publicized run-ins with other female players, Isabelle Mercier being a prime example. Obrestad is very confident, arrogant even, and Coren and she have absolutely no chance of getting along. I can't wait for this one.
Player to beware of: J.C. Tran. Against Obrestad you must be prepared to make the big call. Call it a hunch, but I think J.C. Tran will be her kryptonite.
4. Peter Eastgate
I'm proud to boast that I saw this one coming. Peter Eastgate played several times on TV before his run this year in the WSOP, and several times he displayed the raw genius that promised big things to come.
Jealous forum merchants who claim he got hit with the deck at the WSOP this year have obviously been guilty of only watching the ESPN coverage and not going through the hand-by-hand from the blogs.
The heads-up matchup lasted not two hands, as television would have you think, but over a hundred hands, during which Eastgate picked Demidov apart and then demolished him.
He's got $9 million in the bank and this Premier League is his coming-out party. I will be the second-least surprised person to see Eastgate win this. Believe me, that's what he thinks he's here for.
Sparks could fly: Eastgate vs. Tony G. This is like grade school for Tony G. He picks out the guy least likely to defend himself, and paws him like a cat with a dead mouse - just for sport. We'll find out just how much backbone Eastgate has based on when and how he chooses to respond.
Player to beware of: Roland De Wolfe. De Wolfe is the kind of guy who feels a need to put people in their place, poker wise. He wants to prove something to the world, that he can put a play on the WSOP champion. Eastgate had better be ready for De Wolfe with a plan of attack.
3. Tony G
For a man who wears his heart and soul on his sleeve, Tony G has only been a shadow of himself during Premier League seasons I and II. The picture of him from last year's final table said it all. Tony G, head in his hands, sad and embarrassed, after making an amateur mistake in the final three by turning his cards over too soon and costing himself half his stack.
Cheer up, Tony G fans! I can happily report that the man is back, full of confidence, life, and the abusive wit that makes our sides ache. When he is on, he plays his best, and he is on right now.
He played pretty much the best I've ever seen him during the recent UK Open, and even had the audacity to claim in his blog that he didn't play well. Read through the lines. He's so confident that he's underplaying his game.
Sparks could fly: Tony G vs. Devilfish. Ulliott knows just which buttons of Tony's to push. Tony knows how to abuse without getting personal; with the Devilfish, it's always personal. One fat joke too many and they may start pulling hair. Oh, it will get loud.
Player to beware of: Peter Eastgate. Tony will not be ready for Eastgate's game. Of that I am certain.
2. J.C. Tran
You've got to like this guy. If you don't know him, you are in for a treat. He's where the Vietnamese American meets the California surfer dude. His tournament record over the last three years puts every single player in this league to shame.
He is no one-hit wonder, and it is impossible for him to just be a very good player on an unbelievable run. He has so many final tables in big events over the last three years it's just mind-boggling. And now, he has started to more regularly close the deal.
Tran said something in one of his interviews that makes me think he will succeed here. He said that he used to push things too hard and has now learned how to let the game come to him.
I think that's a really good attitude for this league format. There's so many in this field who will do the pushing. Tran might just let this title come to him.
Sparks could fly: Tran vs. Tony G. Tran is friendly and easygoing. Tony G comes on friendly and then hits where it hurts. This is where the rubber meets the road. Tony will be on the guy from day one and there will be no love lost in the corners.
Player to beware of: Juha Helppi. If there is one guy who Tran could easily size up incorrectly, it is Helppi. He looks tight but he is not. Helppi will identify Tran as the guy he can pull a move on, and he is probably right.
1. Dave "Devilfish" Ulliott
I should be shot for my faith in the Devilfish, condemned for my insistence that he has the package that makes him the best player in history for this particular format. But the fact remains that the Devilfish does have it all.
When he is on his A game, he has the technical skills to slash everybody in the field. He has the verbal weapons to hammer the psychological edge, and he has the wit and camera presence to own the show. Ulliott has only one knock against him, and that's his habit of slipping into negativity when things start to go wrong.
However, the last five months he has looked the happiest that I've seen in seven years. The last two times he's played this format he turned in his two best performances ever. If he brings that attitude to the table, I honestly believe Devilfish will be the champion when the smoke has cleared.
Sparks could fly: Devilish vs. Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth has always pwned the Devilfish. If this ever changes, then all will not right with the world. The most entertaining of all the rivalries, as sure as death and taxes.
Player to beware of: Annette Obrestad. Devilfish always gets outplayed by strong females, because he shows them no respect. Liz Lieu hammered the Devilfish in Premier League I, and she's not half the player Obrestad is. Look for Annette_15 to make him feel foolish in many pots.