Premier League Poker returns in February

The Devilfish is favored to win it this time around.

Premier League Poker will return to London Feb. 10-16 with 12 of the world's best players duking it out at the poker table for a $1 million prize pool.

Returning for another round of the Alex Kravchenko will be joining the field," said Eddie Hearn, Poker Director of Matchroom Sport.

Last year, the event was won by Helppi on his birthday, leaving a heartbroken Hellmuth waiting for the 2008 event to get his revenge.

"After winning four out of six matches in the Premier League last year, I was in massive pain when Juha Helppi beat my KK with his 8-7 off suit and made me finish third in the finale," Hellmuth said. "I told Helppi, 'I'll be back!' Now it's 2008, and here I come."

The PartyPoker Premier League Poker was developed by Matchroom Sport to showcase the abilities of each player by having them play six times in preliminary stages. The leading four players will then progress to the final table with the next four battling it out in heads-up matches for the final two seats.

This year, players will have even more of a reason to do well. Each player will buy-in for $60,000, with PartyPoker adding in $280,000 to make the prize pool $1 million, double what was up for grabs last year.

"This is one of the strongest lineups assembled in poker and with the buy-in increased to $60,000, coupled with the vast international TV distribution, Premier League Poker is now established as the world's leading televised poker event," Hearn said.

And if Helppi has anything to say about it, he plans to walk away the champion once again this year.

"It will be very hard to take this title from me," he said. "I will do anything it takes to defend it."

Despite his status as returning champion, however, Helppi is not being touted as the favorite to win this year.

A PartyPoker spokesman said, "Devilfish's recent form makes him the favorite to win, a status that he is bound to embrace much to the annoyance of Hellmuth and Tony G."

Tony G said he's been looking forward to the Premier League for months. He believes it's the best event in poker, and he's looking for a shot at redeeming himself and taking down Hellmuth this year.

"Last year was a disaster for me, and I want to prove it was a freaky event," Tony G said. "Only winning this year will make things right for me, and I want to bust Hellmuth so, so hard to get him on a boat back to the U.S."

Vicky Coren also sang the praises of the Premier League Poker format, saying it irons out the injustices of the one-table heat because you get six chances. That also means there is plenty of time for needle and history to build up between the players.

"And I enjoy the fact that these particular players are all such performers: fearsome sportsmen, with a lot of money in play, but they all seem to have a lot of fun in this event, lots of rabble-rousing speeches and messing about on the side," Coren said.

The event will be filmed for broadcast on Channel 4 in the U.K. in March.

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