Now that the World Series of Poker is underway, I got together with some self-proclaimed poker know-it-alls to come up with a list of the people we think are the most likely to win this year’s Main Event. Naturally, as the alcohol flowed and conversation continued, we had even more fun preparing a list of the players we consider to be the least probable winners of the ME. Of course, both lists were based more on our personal opinions of players instead of their respective playing abilities which, to be honest, is why they were so much fun to put together.
As far as the five individuals we think are the most capable of winning the ME go, we think Matt Stout, Jason Somerville, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and Jennifer Harman are all great picks. They are all likeable. They are all world-class players. They are all generous in their own way. And, they all have a presence that would make the majority of us amateurs crap in our pants if they took a seat at our table not because they aren’t nice, but because most of us would probably lose our homes to them before we even realized they had the nuts and we had squat. Hell, for most of us, they wouldn’t even have to have the nuts to beat us every hand.
When it came to my group’s discussion about the players we don’t think have a legitimate shot at winning this year’s Main, I wasn’t surprised that a few of the players we chose were selected more because they are simply unlikeable instead of their playing abilities…or lack thereof. With that admitted, we don’t think Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Jamie Gold, Ben Affleck or Chris Moneymaker will be crowned champion in 2014. Out of these five individuals, only Moneymaker was chosen exclusively because of his poor playing skills. The other four were selected because of their unexemplary behavior.
Matt Stout is off to a great start this year as is evidenced by his deep runs in numerous WPT events. With minimal six-figure paydays becoming the norm for this rising poker star, it’s only natural that he’s my group’s top pick for winning this year’s Main.
Despite his proven track record, we want Stout to win for a different reason. In addition to being a kick ass player, Stout is also a man who has a charitable bent we can only hope his legions of followers and others will emulate throughout their lives. Stout recently founded the Charity Series of Poker, a non-profit designed to end hunger and help people out in other life-changing ways, and announced that the CSOP’s inaugural poker tournament will be held on July 6th, 2014, at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Nevada. Half of the money raised in each tournament arranged by the CSOP will be given to charity while the remaining funds will be distributed to the top finishers in each event. To learn more about the CSOP and the pros involved, visit the charity’s website, CharitySeriesofPoker.org., or read and listen to FTR’s exclusive interview with Stout by clicking here.
If you want to get to know Matt Stout better, check out his Ask Me Anything forum thread.
At only 27 years-old, Jason Somerville has already amassed a poker resume that many pros don’t succeed in doing over the course of their entire careers. Somerville has won a WSOP bracelet and has finished in the money in fourteen other World Series events. Somerville has also showed off his skill on the WPT and EPT circuits as well by cashing in two events on each tour.
Like Stout, Somerville has a l-o-n-g history of working with charities which is one of the many reasons why we’d like him to win if Stout falters in the ME. If Stout ends up stealing the show, we hope Somerville takes down One Drop as it would be a fitting testament to his commitment to helping others.
When he took the time to answer questions during the AMA he had with FTR last year, Somerville discussed various things about his personal life. As he responded to inquiry after inquiry, Somerville demonstrated that he is very sure of whom he is at-and-away from the felt. If you know anyone who is struggling with being comfortable in their own skin or pressured to pretend to be something they are not, have them read through Somerville’s AMA thread. It can literally change, if not save, a life.
A favorite around the world, there’s not much I can say about Daniel Negreanu that hasn’t already been discussed at length. With that said, I’ll suffice it to say that Negreanu is considered the ambassador of poker for a reason and the poker community would be hard pressed to find a better representative or spokesman. I’ll also add that during his Ask Me Anything event with Flop Turn River, Negreanu proved that he is as wise in everyday life as he is at the tables. His AMA thread is definitely worth reading if you’re looking for advice about making loans, poker or just about anything else.
With Stout and Somerville hopefully winning the ME and One Drop, my group definitively stated that it would not be disappointed if Negreanu won every other event in this year’s WSOP. Not only is he good enough to pull that off assuming he can be in multiple places at once and doesn’t need any sleep over the next six weeks or so, he’s just that likeable and entertaining.
Like Negreanu, Phil Ivey’s achievements have been widely discussed on just about every poker-related website on the Internet. So, rather than rehash what you probably already know, I’ll simply reaffirm my group’s strong belief that Ivey is the best player in the game and is a threat in any competition he’s in regardless of whether he’s playing poker or some other game he’s never player before in his life. Heck, the members of my group pretty much all agreed that we’d be nervous about playing Go Fish with Ivey even if money wasn’t involved.
If Ivey doesn’t take down the ME, we think he’s a shoe-in to win Event #41 which is the new 16-game dealer’s choice tournament. To be honest, we think he’s a sure thing to win Event #41 along with every 7 Card Stud event in this year’s WSOP even if he does win the Main.
Like the previous two players just mentioned, there’s nothing new I can report about Jennifer Harman. My group sees her as the best female poker player ever to have graced the felt and we want to see her win every single event she enters not because she is a woman, but because she is just a great role model. Unlike one of poker’s biggest assholes, Tiffany Michelle, Harman never plays on her gender or does anything to embarrass her female brethren. Thankfully, she instead behaves with class and only stands out from the men she faces in a poker room because of her play.
Harman had a challenging year away from the tables in 2013 and the members of my group would love to see her win the ME as a life-affirming testament to her ability to consistently overcome the obstacles that life has placed in her path over the years. Regardless of whether or not she prevails in the Main, we hope she takes the bracelet in Event #52, a $10,000 buy-in NLHE tourney. We also hope she crushes Tiffany Michelle whenever she has the misfortune of playing against her.
Often referred to as the “Professor,” Lederer used to be considered one of the best professional players around. When I started watching televised poker tournaments, I quickly became used to seeing footage of Lederer and normally enjoyed watching him play regardless of whether not he won a particular hand or event. Other than his musings about his childhood with his sister, Annie Duke, bringing back memories of my sister beating the crap out of me every week before we headed out on our paper route, I even enjoyed it when he reminisced.
Despite my semi-fond memories of watching Lederer play cards, I share my group’s feelings about not wanting him to win the Main Event…ever. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you know that Lederer was a big part of everything that went down with Full Tilt Poker. You’re also probably aware of the multi-part interview he gave after the scandal’s dust settled in which he contradicted himself numerous times in an attempt to exonerate himself of any culpability in the costly fiasco.
Even if we wanted him to win the whole thing, I personally don’t think that will ever happen. Why? Because he’s a liar? Because he is one of, if not THE most hated player in the world? Because he engaged in unethical behavior for his own gain? Any one of those reasons would be an acceptable answer and the result of each one is exactly why I don’t think he’ll ever win the ME – negative karma.
Lederer obviously escaped jail time. He also escaped paying huge fines as he paid only a fraction of the money that was originally sought from him as a result of the FTP scandal. He is clearly still trying to escape responsibility for his criminal actions. The one thing neither he nor any of us can escape, however, is karma and that is what I believe will prevent him from having measurable success with poker as he tries to move forward.
Like Lederer, I was introduced to Ferguson when I started to watch poker on television about a decade ago. I used to enjoy watching him play although I often wondered why he was considered one of the best players out there. I saw him make a few calls that left me scratching my head and caused me to wonder if his earlier victories happened during lucky streaks or if all of the other players in the tourneys he’d won had simply failed to show up to compete.
The thing that most endeared Ferguson to me was his ability to slice fruit with cards, a feat the members of my group and I tried to replicate when we needed more lemon and lime wedges for our drinks the other night. While we didn’t have the success at doing this that Ferguson did in various bits, we took solace in the knowledge that we don’t have to wrestle with the negative karma Ferguson generated for himself as a result of his involvement in the FTP scandal.
Just as it is with his co-conspirator, Lederer, karma is the likely culprit…or hero depending on your perspective…that will prevent Ferguson from ever winning the Main Event. His questionable poker prowess is what will probably keep him from ever being able to take down any other tournament especially since he’d be facing a new breed of player which includes true champions and positive karma generators like Stout and Somerville.
My group completely agreed with my coworker who identified Gold as the biggest asshole in poker in a recent article. In fact, anyone who remembers watching Gold on ESPN as he made his way through the field to win the ME eight years ago would be hard pressed not to agree that Gold really is an asshole of epic proportion. I’ll go one step farther and say that anyone who’s ever seen Gold play on any television program on any channel would agree that the man is an asshole, too.
Other than Moneymaker, I cannot think of a former champ who has worse playing skills than Gold. What makes me want to see Moneymaker win while hoping Gold goes bust every single time he sits down at a given table is that Moneymaker seems like a sincerely nice, humble guy. Gold, on the other hand, could take behavior and etiquette lessons from my neighbor’s five year-old son who just got expelled from kindergarten. Better yet, the five year-old and Gold could make great playmates and the kid would probably be the right candidate to teach Gold the basics of how to play poker…appropriately…or at least better than he does.
So, what’s worse? Having a string of movies no one in their right mind would pay to see or being kicked out of a casino for counting cards? If you’re Ben Affleck, you’d probably claim that both are equally embarrassing. While Affleck clearly has a penchant for picking poor movie scripts, he has a proven talent for counting cards; a talent that got him kicked out of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Vegas earlier this year.
While card counting isn’t illegal and gamblers have the right to give themselves every advantage to win in any casino game short of cheating, the practice is likely to get you kicked out of an establishment if you’re caught doing it as Affleck’s recent experience demonstrates. What my group wonders in this context is when is enough just that – enough? Affleck has an established movie career, successful wife, healthy kids and, we assume, a boatload of money in the bank. So, why would he bother trying to win even more cash by counting cards?
Even though Affleck’s ability to count cards would not benefit him in a poker tournament, his willingness to use this skill indicates that he’ll do just about anything to win as much as possible in a given contest. The problem with this tendency is that no matter what he does, it’s not probable that he will ever be a winning poker player let alone an eventual victor in the Main this year or in the future. The actor is renowned for having lost $400K to Hollywood magnate, Ron Meyer, in just one game, after all…and for being slow to pay up.
As most will agree, Chris Moneymaker’s ME win is largely responsible for America’s landmark poker boom in the early 2000s. While it was great to see an “everyday” person win, it’s not likely Moneymaker will ever be a repeat world champion. The sad fact is that Moneymaker was and has proven himself to be a one shot wonder. Given his financial background, my group hopes Moneymaker becomes a CPA so that when his winnings finally do run out, he’ll be able to start a sound accounting practice that caters to poker players and has beens around the world.
PLEASE NOTE: My opinions are mine and mine alone, meaning they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer, Flop Turn River, or any of the company’s contributors, affiliates or associates.