American TV poker has traditionally concentrated on either intimate cash games or large scale tournaments. Meanwhile, the UK’s output has always favored the S&G tournament, where top pros gather together to play a series of single-table heats, with the top performers moving on to a grand final. This was format for the PartyPoker Premier League of Poker IV, a $100,000 buy-in contest featuring an elite group of players from around the world that concluded recording this week.
Televised poker has long been a fixture in the wee hours of British TV schedules, with innovations such as the hole-cam emanating from Late Night Poker and its ilk. PartyPoker’s Premier League is not as old as some of its contemporaries, but has quickly established itself as the most watched poker TV show in the UK and Europe. This year, the event took place at the M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas, featuring the likes of David Negreanu, Vanessa Rousso, Phil Laak, and Phil Hellmuth. Although it is yet to be televised, the final table concluded earlier this week with a victory for French cash game sensation David Benyamine.
In total, 12 players put up the $100,000 required to enter the 8-handed heats, with each player competing in four of the six total. As suggested by the title, this was a league competition and points were awarded for performance in every single-table round. The top finisher received 16 points, with 11 for the runner up, followed by 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, and 0 for the rest. Everybody knows that points mean prizes; in this case, $2,000 per point accrued.
With all the heats completed, scores were tallied up and the top four automatically progressed to the final table. Phil Laak, who won three out of the four heats he competed in, was a shoe-in for the finale. He was joined at the table by David Benyamine, internet qualifier Giovanni Safina, and loudmouth Luke “Full Flush” Schwartz. The remaining two spots were won in a 5th vs 8th and 6th vs 7th heads-up contest. Fifth place Daniel Negreanu bested last year’s winner J.C. Tran and 7th spot Roland de Wolfe won a battle of the Brits against Ian Frazer.
Phil Laak was on an incredible hot streak going into the final table and he was the bookies pick to take down the title. However, poker luck can turn on you at any moment and it was The Unabomber who exited in 6th place. Taking a race against David Benyamine with 10-10 against A-K was a stretch to far for Phil’s good fortune and he left with a total of $132,000 in prize money. Following shortly behind him was Triple Crown champion Roland de Wolfe, only the second player in history to win a WPT, EPT, and WSOP event. He was similarly unable to win a race with a pocket pair, this time 9-9 against the A-J of Daniel Negreanu.
The always controversial Luke Schwartz managed to generate a storm before he had even arrived in Las Vegas. His first flight from the UK was cancelled, provoking an expletive laden tirade which resulted in him being removed from the airport. When he eventually made it onto a plane, he snuck in first class were he slept for 6 hours before being rumbled by suspicious flight attendants. Whatever your opinion of his antics, there’s no denying his talent at the poker table, which he demonstrated to Daniel Negreanu by taking most of his chips. With a chip and a chair remaining, Daniel was dealt the killing blow by David Benyamine.
Internet qualifier Giovanni Safina made it to the tournament after investing just €100. Although he could not quite complete the fairy-tale he came awfully close, finishing up in 3rd place for total winnings of $158,000. That left the PartyPoker Premier League IV title hanging on the age-old confrontation between England and France. Going into the one-on-one battle, it was the Anglo-Saxons who began with advantage, Schwartz holding a 2:1 chip lead. However, the wily Gallic representative put his experience to good use and eventually emerged triumphant. In the final hand, both players were all-in on a flop of 5-3-Q. Unfortunately for Mr. Schwartz, his Q-2 was far behind to Benyamine’s Q-8 and could not find the cards to recover.
Given the way money was awarded across the whole league, the top cash finishers did not exactly correspond to the final table results. However, Benyamine was still the runaway winner, taking home $476,000. The full results are as follows:
David Benyamine $476,000
Luke Schwartz $258,000
Giovanni Safina $158,000
Phil Laak $146,000
Daniel Negreanu $132,000
Roland De Wolfe $114,000
Ian Frazer $52,000
JC Tran $40,000
Phil Hellmuth $38,000
Yevgeniy Timoshenko $32,000
Vanessa Rousso $32,000
Tony G $22,000