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Best of Dan Podheiser

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Top 10 storylines to follow during WSOP Europe

28 September 2015

World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) kicks off next week at Spielbank Berlin, and the 10-bracelet event series promises to add plenty of intrigue to what has already been an exciting 2015 WSOP.

The WSOP has run every summer in Las Vegas since 1970, but Caesars Entertainment launched WSOPE in 2007 in an effort to spread the World Series brand further across the globe. The WSOP then expanded its bracelet events to the WSOP Asia Pacific (WSOP APAC) in Melbourne, Australia in 2013 and 2014. WSOPE and WSOP APAC now alternate every year, serving as the platform to determine the WSOP Player of the Year. The WSOP then concludes its bracelet tour by coming back to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in November to play the final table of the 2015 Main Event.

There are several interesting storylines to follow when the 2015 WSOPE begins on Oct. 8. Here are the top 10 to keep an eye on.

10. Will the Main Event field size continue to decrease?

Both the WSOPE and WSOP APAC have run ~$10,000 (WSOPE buy-ins are paid in euros, while WSOP APAC buy-ins are paid in Australian dollars) buy-in Main Events each year since their inceptions. But since 2011, when the WSOPE Main Event drew a record 593 players, the Main Event fields have decreased every year – all the way down to just 329 entries in the 2014 WSOP APAC.

Outside of the WSOP Main Event, which annually has one of the softest poker tournament fields because of all the recreational players it attracts, most $10,000 buy-in poker tournaments are incredibly competitive and stacked with professionals. The WSOPE Main Event is no exception. Casual players simply don't feel the need to travel to WSOP events outside of Las Vegas, and certainly aren't willing to pony up $10,000 for a tournament more than once a year (assuming they've already played in the Main Event over the summer).

I predict this year's WSOPE Main Event field will be somewhere around the 300-player mark, and that size will remain stable for the foreseeable future.

9. How many players will the Oktoberfest draw?

The WSOP made history this summer with the Colossus, a $565 buy-in tournament that drew a record 22,374 entries, including 14,284 unique players. The Oktoberfest, a €550 buy-in tournament with four starting flights, is the European version of the Colossus.

Of course, don't expect anywhere near 14,000 people to show up for the Oktoberfest. Caesars and WSOP officials would likely be thrilled if this tournament received 1,000 total entries, much less individual players. In fact, I'll set the over/under on this tournament right now at 950 entries.

8. Will anyone break Konstantin Puchkov's record for cashes in one year?

Puchkov cashed a record 12 times during the 2012 World Series of Poker, but amazingly, only one of those cashes came during the WSOPE. His 11 in-the-money finishes at the WSOP that year is also still a record.

In the hunt to either tie or take over Puchkov's overall cash record this year are Joe Kuether, Mark Radoja and Eric Baldwin, who each cashed a whopping 10 times at the Rio this summer. Other players in the running are Mike Leah (nine cashes); Antonio Esfandiari and Shannon Shorr (eight each); and Max Pescatori, Stephen Chidwick, Mike Watson, Taylor Paur, Jeremy Ausmus and Brian Hastings (seven each).

7. Will Anthony Zinno break An Tran's record for final tables in one year?

Nobody has had a better year on the felt than Zinno, who currently leads the 2015 Global Poker Index (GPI) Player of the Year rankings. The Boston-based pro made five final tables this summer at the WSOP, including a win in the $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha High Roller event for $1.1 million, and just recently took down the Borgata Poker Open Heads Up event.

Zinno, who ranks third in the GPI WSOP Player of the Year standings, would need to make another final table at WSOPE to tie An Tran's record of six, which he set back in 1992. He has 10 chances to do it.

6. Will anyone break Annette Obrestad's record for youngest bracelet winner?

Before Annette Obrestad won the 2007 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event, she was already an online poker legend known as "Annette_15." When she took down that tournament just 10 days before her 19th birthday, she became one of the most well-known poker players in the world.

The international WSOP events are interesting in that they allow players under 21 years old to compete for bracelets. We will likely see a number of 18-year-olds in the WSOPE fields this year, especially in the Oktoberfest and the €550 buy-in pot limit Omaha tournament. One youngin' might just break Annette's record.

5. Will Jonathan Duhamel continue his torrid pace?

Duhamel, the 2010 WSOP Main Event champion, won his second bracelet this summer when he took down the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop tournament and won $3.9 million. Duhamel had an excellent run at the World Series this summer, cashing six times. He also tore the roof off the 2014 WSOP APAC, making three final tables.

And if you think Duhamel might be rusty since his success at the Rio this summer, think again. The 28-year-old just recently won a tournament at the Borgata Poker Open and $70,990, his third tournament win of the calendar year.

Duhamel has the skills and the chops to navigate his way through any kind of tournament field, and he'll surely bring his A-game to Germany next week.

4. Will Phil Ivey show up?

Probably not. Ivey, who is tied for second all-time with 10 WSOP bracelets, says he's not really interested in playing tournaments too much anymore, preferring to spend his time playing the high-limit cash games in Asia. He will occasionally show up for tournaments, like the One Drop and the Main Event at this summer's WSOP, but that's only because of the massive prize pools in those tournaments.

The WSOPE's biggest tournament this year is a €25,600 buy-in High Roller event, which is tiny by Ivey's standards. He didn't show up to the High Roller in Australia at last year's WSOP APAC, so don't expect him to leave Macau (or Manila, or wherever he is) to try to win a bracelet in Berlin. It's just not worth his time anymore.

3. Which November Niners will make headlines?

It's too early to tell if any of the WSOP Main Event final table players will make their way to Berlin this summer to play in any of the bracelet events. They are just five weeks away from the biggest sit-and-go tournament of their lives, after all.

That said, what better way to prepare for a poker tournament than to play poker tournaments? Some November Niners – like Josh Beckley, who recently won a tournament in Florida – have been getting as many reps in as they can. Other past November Niners, like Russell Thomas, have spent the months and weeks leading up to the final table studying only game theory specifically related to the situation and the opponents.

2. Will Brian Hastings or Max Pescatori win a third bracelet?

The current list of players to win three bracelets in one year includes Phil Hellmuth (1993), Phil Ivey (2002), Ted Forrest (1993), Jeff Lisandro (2009), Walter "Puggy" Pearson (1973) and George Danzer (2014).

Brian Hastings and Max Pescatori are the two players in the running to notch a third bracelet in 2015. Hastings, who amazingly bet big money on himself to win a bracelet this summer, took down the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship before winning the $1,500 Ten Game Mix. Pescatori, meanwhile, won the $1,500 Razz and the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low 8 or Better Championship.

1. Who wins the WSOP Player of the Year?

Mike Gorodinsky, who won the $50,000 Poker Players Championship this summer, currently leads the Player of the Year standings with nearly 200 points more than Hastings, the current runner-up. Behind Hastings are Zinno, Paul Volpe and Shaun Deeb, and after that nobody is really close.

This race will most likely come down to which of those five players chooses to play the most events in Berlin. I would bet on all five of them being out there.
Top 10 storylines to follow during WSOP Europe is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
Dan Podheiser

Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

Since graduating from Emerson College with a degree in journalism in 2010, Dan has worked as the sports editor for a chain of newspapers in Northwest Connecticut and served a year as an Americorps*VISTA, writing and researching grant proposals for a Boston-based charity.

Originally from South Jersey, where he still visits occasionally to see his family (and play on the state's regulated online poker sites), Dan lives in Brighton, Mass. with his wife and dog.
Dan Podheiser
Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

Since graduating from Emerson College with a degree in journalism in 2010, Dan has worked as the sports editor for a chain of newspapers in Northwest Connecticut and served a year as an Americorps*VISTA, writing and researching grant proposals for a Boston-based charity.

Originally from South Jersey, where he still visits occasionally to see his family (and play on the state's regulated online poker sites), Dan lives in Brighton, Mass. with his wife and dog.