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Howard Stutz

Odds against a repeat WSOP Main Event champ

28 May 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada –- Peter Eastgate did the math. The odds aren't in his favor.

In November, the Danish-born Eastgate became the World Series of Poker's youngest-ever champion, besting a field of 6,844 players to win $9.15 million in the tournament's No-limit Hold'em Main Event.

World Series of Poker officials expect at least the same number of entries to ante up $10,000 when this year's Main Event begins July 3.

Even at 22, with his poker career in its infancy, Eastgate knows winning the game's ultimate prize for a second time is a long shot.

"Say I play (in the event) every year for the next 50 years, the chances of me winning it one more time is a 100-to-1 shot," Eastgate said in an e-mail interview from his home in Odense, Denmark.

ESPN poker commentator Norman Chad said a repeat World Series of Poker Main Event champion might be an extinct species.

"I think the odds are better of landing a Kia on Mars," Chad said. "Like Peter, there are many up-and-coming young poker sensations. The odds are stacked against anyone repeating."

The late Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, the late Stu Ungar and Johnny Chan are the only players with multiple Main Event titles. When Ungar won his third crown in 1997, he beat a field of just 312 players.

For Eastgate, who survived a four-hour heads-up final table with Russian Ivan Demidov to win the championship, the victory set his career in motion.

Before winning the Main Event, Eastgate, a European Internet poker sensation, had just two live poker event cashes under his belt totaling roughly $62,000. His prize for the Main Event stabilized his bank account.

"(The win) was life-changing, obviously," Eastgate said. "I get to travel the poker circuit worldwide and my bankroll has reached a status of 'set for life.' "

Eastgate plans to enter the first major event of the 2009 World Series of Poker today at the Rio, a special $40,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em event that signifies the tournament's 40th anniversary.

By the time he sits down to defend his World Championship bracelet in early July, the World Series of Poker will have held 57 events over a 50-day span, including 10 different $10,000 buy-in events and seven $1,500 buy-in no-limit hold'em events. A $50,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event, which mixes five different poker games, will take place June 26.

Tournament officials hope the 2009 World Series of Poker will eclipse the records set a year ago for entries (58,720) and prize money awarded ($180.7 million).

Eastgate's victory in 2008 may be a reason for the growth.

Chad, who has been part of ESPN's World Series of Poker coverage since the network first started airing the tournament in 2003, said Eastgate's win could have the same impact as Chris Moneymaker's 2003 Main Event victory.

Moneymaker, a Tennessee accountant and an unknown Internet poker player, is credited with fueling the poker boom. He beat a Main Event field of 839 players. The next year, the number of entries leaped to 2,576.

"Moneymaker brought in the players who thought, 'Hey, if he can do it, why can't I?' " Chad said. "Peter's win has a chance to bring in the younger players from around the world. They will see him in the same way average players saw Moneymaker."

Eastgate is already feeling the heat. During online games on the PokerStars Web site, the World Series of Poker champion knows he's targeted.

"I am being hunted by everyone who plays above $5-$10, because they think I am a bad player," Eastgate said. "My results have proven them right so far. I've lost a bunch."

With his curly blonde hair, Eastgate resembles a California surfer. He barely looks old enough to gamble legally. Because he's only been playing live tournament poker since he was 21, observers haven't had enough time to judge his game skills.

During last year's final table, he was barely audible.

"He's very quiet at the table. I still don't know much about him," Chad said. "If I bumped into Peter at the Rio, I'd probably hand him my valet parking ticket. There's a lot we don't know about him yet."

Eastgate said his success at the World Series of Poker has put him into more cash games and tournaments. However, he called his results "catastrophic." He's done better in online tournaments, winning $343,000 in a January event.

"I will practice my game in tournaments," Eastgate said. "If I practice game selection better, I am sure I can scout out games I can beat."

His reign as world champion will be the tournament's shortest ever. Last year, the World Series of Poker had the final table of nine wait four months to play in November. Play at the final table was taped for same day coverage on ESPN.

Eastgate, who began the final table in fourth place, said the wait gave players more opportunities for endorsements. The public, he said, also seemed to like the idea.

"Peter has served as our reigning champion this year with good style and quiet dignity," World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack said. "We're proud of him."

Eastgate said he plans on participating in as many hold'em events as possible, leading up to the Main Event. Other poker variations, such as seven-card stud and Omaha, don't interest him.

"I've tried (those games), but I suck terribly," he said.

Odds against a repeat WSOP Main Event champ is republished from