Year in Review: WSOP takes on Europe again

John Juanda
Juanda caps off the 2008 WSOPE with a Main Event win.

This is the ninth 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.

This installment takes a look at the goings-on in September, from the WCOOP at PokerStars to Kentucky's move to seize online gambling site domain names.


WCOOP on PokerStars

The seventh installment of the World Championship of Online Poker kicked off in early September at PokerStars. The WCOOP was a success, with 22,873 unique players from 119 countries participating in the 33-event schedule.

The total prize pool across all the events was a stunning $39,958,000, the largest of all time for an online tourney series.

Several new events were added to the schedule for 2008. A $10,000 High Roller No-Limit Hold'em event went off early in the schedule and drew 321 players, including winner dorinvandy.

The high-roller theme continued with a Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em event sporting a $25,000 buy-in; stevesbets defeated Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier heads-up to take home top honors.

Several well-known players claimed WCOOP bracelets this time around. Tom Schneider, the 2007 WSOP Player of the Year, took down the first-ever WCOOP No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw tournament, while Shaun Deeb won the Pot-Limit Omaha with Rebuys event.

Topping them all was online pro Carter "ckingusc" King. After a final-table appearance at the WSOP, King came out on top in the WCOOP Main Event for a score of $1,265,432.23. We caught up with King after his win for an interview, which you can check out here.

WSOP Europe

The World Series of Poker Europe returned to London for the second consecutive year, and Europe turned out in force once again for a shot at gold bracelets on home turf.

Despite entering the final table eighth in chips, Jesper Hougaard became the first player to win bracelets in America and Europe when he took down Event 1, ₤1,500 No-Limit Hold'em. The Dane topped a field of 410 players to win his second bracelet of the year. His first came this summer in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event in Las Vegas.

More history was made in Event 2 when Sherkhan Farnood became the first Afghan to win a WSOP bracelet. The £2,500 H.O.R.S.E. win marked Farnood's fourth WSOP final table, including last year's WSOP Europe Pot-Limit Omaha event, where he finished in sixth place.

Event 3, £5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha, marked another win for Denmark as Theo Jorgensen of Copenhagen took down the crown for his first WSOP bracelet. The Dane claimed gold despite stiff final-table competition from Jason Mercier, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Max Pescatori, Erik Friberg and heads-up opponent Sorel Mizzi.

"It's not so much that it's a bracelet or EPT or WPT. I mean I've come fourth, eighth in finals before when I've had big situations, so it's nice to win this one!" Jorgensen said.

The WSOP's stay in London ended with John Juanda outlasting Daniel Negreanu, Scott Fischman and Ivan Demidov at the final table to win the £10,000 Main Event and claim his fourth gold bracelet.

The final table took more than 19 hours to finish, setting records for most hands (484) and longest time played (19 hours, 10 minutes) at a WSOP final table.

EPT Barcelona

Sebastian Ruthenberg topped his WSOP Seven-Card Stud win with a No-Limit Hold'em victory at the EPT Barcelona, topping a field of 619 players to grab the hefty €1,361,000 first prize.

"My year [has been] really amazing. I don't know what to say except I am a huge luckbox," Ruthenberg told PokerListings.


The APPT rolled into Macau in early September with not one but two events. The first was won by 22-year-old American Eddie Sabat. He parlayed a $100 satellite win on PokerStars into 3,540,040 HKD (nearly $500,000).

"This has been an unbelievable journey, and I really don't think I will realize what I have just accomplished until I go to bed and wake-up in the morning. It's like a dream right now," Sabat told the Macau Daily Times.

Days later, tournament stud Nam Le took down the High Roller event. The 25-year-old Le bested a final table that included the likes of 2008 LA. Poker Classic runner-up Quinn Do, 2007 APPT Macau runner-up Zhong Wei "Ivan" Tan and 10-time WSOP bracelet winner Johnny Chan.

"What made it really tough is that you've got a lot of good players in this event because it's a$20k buy-in, but at the same time it was really tough for me because I didn't know most of them," Le said. "There are some really talented players over here on this side of the world which I'm not too familiar with and it seems like I had to do a lot of figuring out."

South Korea played host to the APPT's second tournament of the season in September as well, but it was Japan that claimed all the glory at Paradise Walker Hill Casino in Seoul.

Yoshihiro Tasaka emerged victorious over fellow countryman Hidenari Shiono in heads-up play to cap off a 13-hour final table and take home the $128,216 top prize.

WPT Borgata Open

The shortest final table in World Poker Tour history went down in Atlantic City, and Vivek Rajkumar emerged unscathed as the newest WPT millionaire. Despite facing stiff competition from WSOP bracelet holders Mark Seif and Dan Heimiller, Rajkumar finished off the final table in a mere 48 hands to win $1,424,500.

"All the way from 10-handed to heads-up I just had a rush of cards. When I had the best hand I held up; when I had the worst of it, I sucked out," Rajkumar said. "I tried to play as little as possible, but sometimes luck is on your side and you win."


Humans are dead!

After the installation of PokerTek poker tables at the Excalibur casino in Las Vegas in late August, September saw the introduction of the automated poker tables in two more locations in the United States.

The Trump Plaza casino in Atlantic City, N.J. kicked off its PokerTek era with a series of $1,000 freerolls twice a day for a week before enacting a full tournament schedule with its 12 PokerTek tables.

French Lick Resort Casino in French Lick, Ind., also installed a completely automated poker room at the same time as Trump Plaza. Dale Nachreiner, director of table games for the casino, praised the tables for attracting poker players of all skill levels.

APT signs three ambassadors

The Asian Poker Tour moved in September to sign three highly successful poker players to serve as ambassadors for the tour. The trio of J.C. Tran, Nam Le and Quinn Do signed on to represent the fledgling tour around the world.

Le and Do immediately made good on their deals; Do finished in third place in the APPT High Roller event in Macau, while Le went on to win the same tournament. Tran didn't enjoy the same level of success in Macau, but he was coming off a successful WSOP that saw him claim his first gold bracelet.

Kahnawake hammers UB

The long-awaited resolution of the UltimateBet super-user scandal finally came in September. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission's investigation of the site revealed that 1994 WSOP Main Event champion Russ Hamilton was the main person responsible for multiple cheating incidents at UltimateBet.

Hamilton's unethical methods cost UltimateBet players some $6.1 million, which KGC ordered the site to repay to players. It also levied a $1.5 million fine against the poker room for failure to implement and enforce measures to prohibit and detect fraudulent activities, and announced it was in contact with law enforcement agencies and would be cooperating fully with any prosecutions stemming from the investigation.

Legal issues

Ky. governor seizes gambling domain names

In what surely ranks as one of the strangest cases in online gambling's short history, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear requested, and was granted, permission from the state's court system to seize control of the domain names belonging to 141 online gambling operators.

"Unlike casinos that operate on land or on riverboats in the United States, these operations pay no tax revenues, provide no jobs and yield no tourism benefits," Beshear said at a Monday afternoon Capitol press conference, according to the Associated Press. "They are leeches on our communities."

Although the court granted the governor the authority to seize the domain names under the state's antigambling laws, the matter went to appeals court and was not settled before the end of the month.

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