Year in Review: Final-table delay confirmed

Marty Smyth
Marty Smyth picked up a win in the PartyPoker World Open IV.

This is the fifth in a 12-part series taking a month-by-month look at what happened with poker in 2008. The series will publish every other day until the end of the year, covering the major happenings from all corners of the poker industry.

Poker had a big year in 2007 as it bounced back from the ugliness of the UIGEA, setting the stage for an even bigger year in 2008. With December now drawing to a close, it's time to take a look back at what happened in the poker world in May.

Tournaments

World Open IV

It's not often that a heads-up match features the previous two winners of the same tournament, but that's exactly what happened at the PartyPoker World Open IV. The last two winners of the Irish Open, Marty Smyth and Neil "Bad Beat" Channing, squared off in the tournament's final matchup.

Despite his knack for running good, Channing fell in the final hand with 9-9 to Smyth's Q-Q and took home the $100,000 runner-up prize. Smyth grabbed the $250,000 for first and added another title to his resume.

LAPT

The Latin American Poker Tour started off its existence with a tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A field of 314 players from around the world dropped $2,500 each for a shot at the inaugural title on the poker world's newest tour.

In what has become a common development in today's poker world, a former professional Magic: The Gathering player took down the crown in Rio.

Julian Nuijten, a 19-year-old from Holland, walked away with more than $220,000 for besting a truly international final table. Nuijten's victory set the stage for the second leg of the tour, which would follow a few weeks later.

LAPT Costa Rica

The LAPT also hosted the second event of its first season late in May. This time San Jose, Costa Rica, played host, drawing a field of 398 players. They were all vying for a top prize of $274,103.

In the end it was 24-year-old Hungarian Valdemar Kwaysser who took down the crown, thanks in large part to a few monstrous suck-outs on his final-table opponents.

"I know I had a really lucky period today. Steven [Silverman] trapped me," Kwaysser said after the event. "But that's poker. You sometimes play perfect and don't get the results. And sometimes it's different."

FTOPS VIII

It was déjà vu all over again at Full Tilt Poker in May as the online poker room launched yet another iteration of its popular FTOPS series of tournaments.

Perhaps the highest-profile winner was Isaac "westmenloAA" Baron, who claimed victory in the series' very first event. The 20-year-old phenom turned a $216 buy-in into short-handed gold, conquering a field of 4,158 players to take home the $158,800 first prize.

That total couldn't touch the $410,780 won by FTOPS VIII Main Event winner cheesemonster, though. His victory came over a field of 4,750 and represented a respectable return on his $500 investment.

All in all, FTOPS VIII drew 38,655 players and distributed a total of $15,378,400 in prize money.

Borgata $500,000 Guarantee

During an otherwise slow month for tournament poker on the U.S. East Coast, the Borgata Casino's decision to host a $500,000 Guarantee deep stack poker tournament proved to be a sound one.

Featuring a $30k starting stack and a slow structure of the type usually reserved for tournaments with much larger entry fees, the $2,000 event drew a crowd of 775, smashing the guarantee by a full million dollars. First place alone ended up being worth $395,095 for Schuyler Twaddle, who was the top earner in a four-way chop.

"We had an overwhelming response to our first $500,000 Deep Stack Poker Tournament," said Ray Stefanelli, Borgata director of poker marketing. "The tournament attracted a mix of amateurs, professional players and bold-faced names, all of whom tried their hand at the first place prize of nearly $400,000 and the 500k Poker Champ bracelet."

Full Tilt hosts $25k heads-up tourney

David Singer
Winner!

With one of its key pros winning the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, a high-stakes heads-up tourney seemed a natural fit for Full Tilt Poker. In May the popular online poker room announced its first-ever $25,000 buy-in heads-up tournament and drew a field of 64 of the world's best players to crown a champion.

The man who emerged victorious to earn a $560,000 payday was none other than Full Tilt pro David Singer. On his way to the title, the two-time $50k H.O.R.S.E. final tablist strung along a list of conquests that included Phil Galfond, Brandon Adams, Shawn Buchanan, Brian Hastings and his final opponent Emil Patel.

WSOP kicks off

The final weekend of May saw the moment the entire poker world had waited for since the previous summer: the beginning of the 2008 World Series of Poker. The world's most prestigious poker festival was once again at the Rio in Las Vegas, and PokerListings was on the scene for every bluff, value bet and river card.

The opening weekend featured a $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em World Championship for the first time in WSOP history, as well as a $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event that drew an enormous field. Both events finished up in June, but you can go back to the live updates anytime to relive the magic.

Industry

WSOP announces final-table delay

After quashing rumors in April that it would delay the final table of the Main Event, the WSOP announced in early May that it would, in fact, implement such a delay. The change would see the final table determined on July 14, with the so-called November Nine returning on Nov. 9 to play down to the 2008 WSOP Main Event champion.

No, Jeffrey Did Not Win the Event
WSOP hopes to build interest with delayed final table, not just big money.

"Our intent is to provide an even bigger stage for our players," said WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack. "Now fans and viewers will ask 'who will win' our coveted championship bracelet instead of seeing 'who won.' The excitement and interest surrounding our final nine players will be unprecedented."

In anticipation of such a move back in April, we published a look at some other historic changes in the annals of the WSOP.

PokerStars opens Macau poker room

As part of what appears to be its plan for domination of the entire poker world, PokerStars simultaneously branched out in May into two realms that were previously uncharted territory for the online giant: live poker and the Asian market.

Much like its earlier embrace of Europe, Latin America and the whole of the Pacific Rim, the opening of the PokerStars Macau poker room at the Grand Waldo Hotel and Casino signaled that the world's largest online poker room has faith in the game's future in new territories.

"PokerStars planted the seeds and now this beautiful poker room is going to be the garden where future champions learn to play," remarked Team PokerStars Pro member and 2005 WSOP Main Event champ Joe Hachem. "I wouldn't be surprised if the next World Champion comes from Macau or elsewhere in China."

Legal Issues

PPA rallies for Rousso

In Washington state, Lee Rousso finally had his day in court - and the poker-playing community showed up to support him. The Poker Players Alliance staged a rally for Rousso on May 15, drawing support from the local population and two of poker's biggest stars, Barry Greenstein and Andy Bloch.

Barry Greenstein
Greenstein speaks up for poker in Washington state.

Greenstein told PokerListings in an interview the day before that he was attending the rally to draw the attention of those who might not necessarily be in favor of poker.

"The people I want to talk to are the people who do have a problem with gambling and poker," said Greenstein. "I want to impress upon them that ... we have to all be very careful when people are attacking our freedoms and our rights to do something in the privacy of our home."

The day marked the end of Rousso's lawsuit against the state's online poker ban when the court ruled against him. Playing online poker in Washington state remains a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Dutch govt. presses online gambling ban

Over in Europe, the government of the Netherlands pressed on with its opposition to outside online gambling operators, despite pressure from the European Union to drop the crusade.

The country's justice ministry asked banks in May to stop providing financial services to online casinos illegal under Dutch law. Only state lottery De Lotto is legally allowed to provide online gambling services within the Netherlands.

The move poised the Dutch government for a collision with the EU, which had warned some nations earlier in the year that, barring any changes to the situation, it would initiate legal proceedings to overturn their laws restricting online gambling.

South Africa approves National Gambling Amendment

While nations in the Northern Hemisphere fought against online gambling, the other side of the globe saw a push for its legalization. The South African parliament approved the National Gambling Amendment in late May, setting up regulations for the online gambling industry within the country.

The amendment to the National Gambling Act of 2004 addressed needs identified by the National Gambling Board, including the protection of players and minors, restrictions on advertising, a licensing scheme, monitoring of problem gambling and prevention of money laundering.

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