WSOP 2011 Day 3: Full Tilt Poker Fires Back & Matt Marafioti In $25K Heads Up Bracelet Fight


Although things seem to be calming down after the turmoil of Wednesday at the 42nd Annual World Series of Poker, there was still news off of the felt that garnered the attention of the poker world.
While issuing sporadic statements after “Black Friday” that seemingly have done little to salve the concerns of the American poker population, Full Tilt Poker quickly fired back with an official announcement following the release of the documents of (former?) Team Full Tilt member Phil Ivey’s lawsuit against the company. Late on Wednesday evening,’s Chad Holloway released that statement, which read as follows:

“Contrary to his sanctimonious public statements, Phil Ivey’s meritless lawsuit is about helping just one player – himself. In an effort to further enrich himself at the expense of others, Mr. Ivey appears to have timed his lawsuit to thwart pending deals with several parties that would put money back in players’ pockets.”

“In fact, Mr. Ivey has been invited — and has declined — to take actions that could assist the company in these efforts, including paying back a large sum of money he owes the site. Tiltware doubts Mr. Ivey’s frivolous and self-serving lawsuit will ever get to court. But if it does, the company looks forward to presenting facts demonstrating that Mr. Ivey is putting his own narrow financial interests ahead of the players he professes to help.”

The statement from Full Tilt Poker is a “shot over the bow” against Ivey, who has decided to sit out the 2011 WSOP due to the failure of Full Tilt Poker to pay back American players following the April 15 indictment of its owners and several payment processors. Ivey drew first blood, however, in filing his lawsuit, which is seeking $150 million from the company and the release of Ivey from his Full Tilt obligations. This is surely not the last we have heard of this spat between what has been rumored by many to have been a tumultuous relationship.

Over the first two days, the numbers coming out of the 2011 WSOP have to be settling the nerves of many in the poker community. Two tournaments, the Casino Employees Event and Event #3, the $1500 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo tournament, have seen sizeable increases over their performance last year. Although the $25,000 Heads Up Championship only had half of the 256 player field filled (128 players), the prize pool created ($3.04 million) set a record for the largest heads up tournament in history. Much of that is due to the increased buy in; the comparable 2010 tournament “only” featured a $10,000 buy in with it maximum 256 player field.

Event #1 – $500 Casino Employees Event

Originally scheduled to end during Wednesday’s action, the 77 players who started the day could not work down to a champion by the time the WSOP curfew of 3AM hit. By the time the clock struck poker’s version of the “witching hour,” there were still four players remaining. They will come back at 3PM this afternoon to determine the winner of the first bracelet at the 2011 WSOP.

Of the four men returning to the baize this afternoon, Calgary’s Jason Baker is in prime shape to possibly pick up Canada’s first bracelet of 2011. He currently sits in second place with 727K in chips, right behind Sean Drake’s 1.05 million stack. The other two members at the table, Italy’s Claudio Falcaro and Christopher Perez, have some work to do to get into the mix for the championship.
Several Canadians represented well among the 81 players who cashed in the tournament. Ontario’s John Podobnik (13th, $3924) and David Havill (53rd, $1487) and British Columbia’s Kenneth Stratton (22nd, $2581) held the Canadian banner high as they were among the few international cashers in a predominantly American field. Baker’s run at the title later this afternoon, however, could provide Canada’s first bracelet of the 2011 WSOP.

Event #2 – $25,000 Heads Up No Limit Hold’em Championship – Day 2

With 32 players returning from the original 128 players who started on Tuesday, much of the attention of the railbirds at the Amazon Ballroom in the Rio All Suites Hotel & Casino was drawn to the stars of the game. The list of prominent players – 2010 WSOP Europe Heads Up champion Gus Hansen, David Benyamine, Andrew Robl, John Duthie and Russia’s Max Lykov – ensured that there would be great entertainment over the two rounds of play on Wednesday, which would leave eight survivors standing.

Matt Marafioti

Canada’s Erik Cajelais was one of the early victims during Wednesday’s action, falling to Nikolay Evdakov, but countryman Matt Marafioti picked up the slack for Cajelais and is still alive in the tournament. He defeated Lykov in the first round played on Wednesday, then beat WSOP bracelet holder Steve “MrSmokey1” Billirakis to make the quarterfinals. Now that he’s there, the job of winning a bracelet has only gotten more difficult.

When play begins on Thursday, Marafioti will face Hansen in quarterfinal play. Hansen was the survivor of a duel with Tom “durrrr” Dwan, defeating him as the clock struck midnight in Sin City. Others still alive for the Heads Up championship bracelet and the $851,192 payday include Eric Froehlich, Yevgeny “JovialGent” Timoshenko, 2010 WPT London and EPT Deauville champion Jake Cody and Evdakov. The championship will be determined Friday, unless there is a deviation from the WSOP schedule.

Event #3 – $1500 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo – Day 1

The 925 player field for the first non-Hold’em event of the 2011 WSOP broke the record for the largest Omaha tournament in WSOP history. The field eclipsed the numbers of the 2009 event by seven players and was a 107-player increase over the combatants from 2010. Several top pros turned out for the event, including Barry Greenstein, T. J. Cloutier and Erik Seidel, who will return for Day 2 on Thursday. The true stars of the first day, however, were two Canadian players.
Sorel “Imper1um” Mizzi will start Day 2 in 11th place among the 210 players that still remain. Sitting atop the leader board is another Canadian, Guillaume Rivet, who is stacked with 71,200 in chips. The more than $1.24 million prize pool will be divvied up between the final 90 players, with the champion taking home $262,283 when the tournament’s final table plays out on Saturday.

STARTING TODAY:  Event #4 – $5000 No Limit Hold’em

The first day of play in the $5000 No Limit Hold’em event takes to the felt at noon today, with the four day tournament scheduled to end on Sunday. These mid-range buy in events arguably provide some of the most difficult fields of any at the WSOP, as they are big enough for the stars of the game to consider playing while not pricing out those unknown but skilled amateurs from participation.
Jason DeWitt is the defending champion of the event, defeating the United Kingdom’s Sam Trickett last year to capture his first WSOP bracelet and an $818,959 payday. Although there were no Canadians at the final table, there were some impressive runs among the 72 players who cashed in the 2010 tournament. Steven Goosen (32nd), Peter Jetten (37th), Shawn Buchanan (49th) and Owen Crowe (51st) all took home five figure paydays for their work in this tournament last year and surely are looking to improve on their performance in 2011.
By the end of play on Thursday, the first bracelet of the 2011 WSOP will be awarded, with the potential for a second one in the $25K Heads Up Championship if the WSOP schedule is adjusted. Many of the players, however, are just settling into the grind as the 2011 World Series of Poker begins to hit its stride.



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