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Year in Review: July sees WSOP cliffhanger
This is the seventh 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.
After the month of June was dominated by the Victor Ramdin pushed on to 64th place, while the skilled and talkative duo of Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth ended up making deep runs, finishing in 30th and 45th place respectively.
Bracelet winner and WPT champ Brandon Cantu appeared to have a solid shot at the final table before busting in 20th place after a mistimed pre-flop three-bet cost him a big portion of his stack.
One of the big stories of the Main Event was the deep run by onetime poker radio correspondent and video hostess Tiffany Michelle. Down to just a few big blinds at one point relatively early in the event, Michelle caught fire and rode it to a 17th-place finish, one of the highest ever for a woman.
In fact, only Barbara Enright, Annie Duke and Tiffany Williamson have placed higher in the Main Event than Michelle. Her performance earned her an endorsement contract with UltimateBet just two weeks later.
By July 14 the final-table lineup had been set. Peter Eastgate, Ivan Demidov, Dennis Phillips, Ylon Schwartz, Scott Montgomery, Darus Suharto, David "Chino" Rheem, Kelly Kim and Craig Marquis were all ready to keep playing, but the final table was pushed back to November in order to hype up the planned ESPN program featuring the nine players.
Bellagio Cup IV
As the WSOP Main Event wrapped up, the WPT ended its hiatus with a solid tournament turnout at Bellagio. The 336-strong field was whittled down to an all-star final table featuring the likes of David Benyamine, double bracelet winner John Phan, Ralph Perry, Gabriel Thaler, Luke "IWearGoggles" Staudenmaier and Michael "SirWatts" Watson.
In the end it was Watson who claimed victory in a heads-up match against Benyamine. Watson's Q-9 topped Benyamine's K-9 on the final hand to give Watson the $1,673,770 first prize.
"I came into this tournament after having another unsuccessful World Series but I still kept my head up and I still felt ready to go," Watson said.
WPT clinches new deal
After some speculation as to whether the WPT would continue its television run after it was dropped from GSN earlier in the year, Fox Sports Net signed a deal with the WPT to keep it on the air for at least one more season.
"The World Poker Tour has a track record as the ultimate brand name in televised poker," said George Greenberg, FSN executive vice president of programming and production. "FSN is very happy to televise such quality content and we look forward to future programming opportunities with the WPT."
"FSN and News Corporation are two incredible powerhouses in the television industry that have played key roles in the growth and popularity of televised poker," said Steve Lipscomb, WPT founder, president and CEO. "It couldn't be a better fit for WPT and our fans. We're thrilled."
High Stakes Poker returns to GSN
After rumors had swirled for months that High Stakes Poker would be canceled, GSN confirmed in late July that the popular show would be returning to the network's lineup for another season.
The groundbreaking series, which introduced cash-game poker to television audiences, has been on the air since January 2006 and has consistently been one of GSN's highest-rated shows.
Absolute, UB announce new platform
Absolute Poker and UltimateBet have been sister sites since 2006, and in July, they announced that they would be merging their networks on a new online poker platform called CEREUS.
"This is a huge landmark for our company and online poker," said Paul Laggett, Absolute Poker and UltimateBet chief operations officer.
"I'm confident that Absolute Poker and UltimateBet customers will be thrilled by the new platform, and we look forward to welcoming many new players from around the world."
D'Amato attacks cheating scandals
Despite their new network, UB and Absolute weren't able to escape their demons. Poker Players Alliance chairman Alfonse D'Amato spoke out in July on the cheating scandals that had tarred the two sites' reputations.
"Trust is paramount in poker. Sadly, this foundation has been undercut by admissions from two well-known online poker companies, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet, that cheating has occurred on their poker sites," D'Amato said.
"The recent cheating scandals underscore the need for U.S. licensing and regulation of online poker to help protect consumers. While even the most highly regulated industries are susceptible to fraud and abuse, regulation does provide assurances that when consumers are harmed they have recourse."
D'Amato also noted that the current laws regarding online gambling are ineffective and infringe upon the liberties of citizens who wish to engage in a game of skill.
U.S., Antigua continue deadlock
The United States and Antigua and Barbuda continued their struggle to come to a settlement over the two countries' online gambling trade dispute.
A July 11 deadline for resolution - the third such deadline in 2008 - came and went without any announcement from the two sides that a deal had been worked out. Antigua finance minister Errol Cort announced that it might be another three months before any compromise could be reached.
South Africa legalizes online gambling
On July 14, South African president Thabo Mbeki signed the National Gambling Amendment Act that had been passed by the parliament in May, effectively legalizing online gambling within the African nation.
Drawn up to address the need for regulation of the online gambling industry, the NGAA included provisions to protect children and problem gamblers. It also addressed the issues of advertising, money laundering and licensing of gambling providers.