Late last year, the world’s finest players gathered together to compete for national pride and the WSOP bracelets. The third World Series of Poker Europe, presented by Betfair, was held at the Empire Casino in London’s famous Leicester Square. Almost all of the game’s elite were on hand to play for their shot at four official WSOP bracelets and huge cash prizes. Also up for grabs was the Caesars Cup, a brand new heads-up competition that pitted North America against Europe.
Betfair’s own Annette Obrestad came from nowhere to win the inaugural WSOPE in 2007. At the age of just 18, she set a record for the youngest ever bracelet winner that is unlikely to be broken. Since then, she has gone on to establish herself as one of poker’s top young talents. This was demonstrated recently by her success at the Aussie Millions, where she won a preliminary tournament and final tabled the main event. Given her prowess, it was no surprise to find her at the head of the Caesars Cup Team Europe. She picked a squad of top players from across the continent, opting mostly for pros who ply their trade online. Italian maestro Dario Minieri was joined by the Great Dane Gus Hansen and his fellow countryman, 2008 World Champion, Peter Eastgate. A pair of Finns, Patrik Antonius and Ilari “Ziigmund” Sahamies, were Annette’s final selections. Rounding out the team was John Harvey, a Scottish pipe inspector who won his place via a grueling set of Betfair qualifiers.
Team Americas’ lineup was in great contrast to Europe’s selection, with captain Daniel Negreanu opting for experience over youth. The most experienced of them all, Doyle Brunson, was a shoe-in for the team, as was heads up specialist Huck Seed and 2008 WSOPE Main Event Champion John Juanda. Big Game regulars Jennifer Harman and Barry Greenstein also made the cut, along the dominant Phil Ivey and the Poker Brat Phil Hellmuth.
The format was more than a simple heads up contest: In a best of 7 competition, play began with 4 doubles matches in which players alternated control of the action from hand to hand and sometimes round to round. As long as one team didn’t sweep all the doubles matches, the players would then move on to a maximum of 3 standard heads up games. Among the tantalizing matches on offer to viewers around the world are Phil Ivey & Huck Seed vs. Ziigmund & Patrik Antonius and Annette & Dario Minieri vs. Jennifer Harman & Doyle Brunson.
“I have fond memories of the WSOP after winning it in 2007,” said Annette Obrestad. “It is now a definite mainstay on the European poker calendar. The fields are small but extremely tough.” 2007 Main Event runner-up John Tabatabai is similarly fond of the WSOP’s regular European excursion.“The World Series of Poker Europe is my poker event of the year – small fields, tough opponents and the opportunity to win a bracelet – what more could you ask for? It’s a great excuse to socialise with my poker buddies and earn money playing poker at the same time.”
Away from the cameras, Betfair was hosting the very fist Free Million Dollar Game. This 18-man tourney was the culmination of a series of online heats that had been running since April 2009.
The bracelet tournaments were slightly altered, with a cut-price £1000 No Limit Hold ‘em event kicking off proceedings. 2008’s H.O.R.S.E event was the main casualty of the reshuffle, replaced by a £2500 split Pot Limit Hold ‘em/Pot Limit Omaha tournament. “Every year Harrah’s tweak the schedule to make improvements and this year saw the introduction of a few new and exciting events,” noted Obrestad. Returning unchanged are the £5000 Pot Limit Omaha tournament and the world renowned £10,000 WSOPE Main Event. The jewel in the crown of London poker attracted more top players than you could shake a stick at. In addition to the cadre of world class pros who competed in the Caesars Cup, Antonio Esfandiari, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, James Akenhead, Barry Shulman, Jason Mercier and many more were all on hand to compete.
The series is currently being broadcast of TV stations around the world, with the new Caesars Cup a particularly attractive prospect for the legions of poker fans. Betfair’s Annette Obrestad reported that the event was “amazing,” adding, “I don’t want to spoil the program too much but it makes great viewing.” The Main Event also received widespread coverage and ended up with one of the most highly skilled and tense final tables in tournament history.