Note: This is the final presentation of Weeks 48 and 49
Beginning on May 24, NBC’s Poker After Dark brings back two weeks of cash game action that is sure to delight. The game will run for two consecutive weeks, and will feature many of the biggest names in the game today. Taking part in this epic battle are Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Patrik Antonius, Howard “The Professor” Lederer, Eli Elezra, Ilari “Ziigmund” Sahamies, and Phil Ivey. The minimum buy-in for this game is $100,000, and the game will begin with blinds at $200/$400 along with a $100 ante.
The players will draw for seats to begin play as is customary, but midway through the session they will redraw for seats so that viewers see them in different seating positions for one week than for the other. This can create an entirely different dynamic at the table midway into the game depending on who is sitting on a player’s left or right.
This game marks the debut of Sahamies on Poker After Dark, and fans of “Ziigmund” are in for a special treat. A native of Finland, Sahamies is best known for the high-stakes cash games that he plays online, and for the wild bankroll swings that he has experienced since he emerged on the high-stakes scene. He finished among the most successful online players for 2009, and for those who haven’t had a chance yet to see him play, he is reason enough to tune in this week and watch.
Dwan has successfully transitioned from dominating online cash games to dominating live cash games in a very short period of time, and is one of the most feared and respected players in the game today. Just 23 years of age, he has rocketed to fame perhaps quicker than anyone in recent memory, leaving many of the game’s best players in his wake while creating a fan base of astronomical proportions. He has become a player that other players worldwide want to emulate, and one way they do this is to watch him play at every opportunity.
Antonius is another player with a huge fan base, and had a very successful year online in 2009. Like Sahamies and Dwan, he has mostly foregone the tournament circuit in favor of the bigger rewards available to him at the high-stakes tables, whether live or online. Perhaps no player in the game today proves that a great player on television doesn’t need to be a chatterbox to draw viewers more than Antonius. When he’s on television, people watch, and they often do so in awe of his talent.
While Lederer’s selection into this group may have some scratching their heads, people who have been around the game for a while know the he has successfully competed in high-stakes cash games for two decades. Known to have a tighter image than any of the other players in this lineup, it will be interesting to see whether he can adapt his game to take advantage of the looser, more aggressive style of play employed by the others at the table, and in doing so prove that he is still a force to be reckoned with on the high-stakes felt.
Because of his frequent appearances on television and his willingness to mix it up with anyone, Elezra has become a fan favorite. An action player known for building pots by straddling or double straddling, he is fearless when it comes to putting his chips on the line, often playing just about any two cards. It is difficult not to consider Elezra a professional player, but truth be known he is an extremely successful businessman in Las Vegas who just loves to play poker against the game’s best, and considers poker just a hobby.
If this lineup wasn’t strong enough already, Phil Ivey, the player that many consider the best in the game today, also joins the group, so get ready for action on all fronts! Now 34 years of age, Ivey won two World Series of Poker bracelets in 2009, and was also a member of the November Nine which competed for the World Series of Poker Championship, where he finished 7th. While his tournament skills may be legendary, he is equally regarded for his cash game proficiency, putting him in an extremely small but elite group of pros who excel at both.
Brief profiles of all six players follow. The match will begin airing on NBC late night Monday at 2:05 a.m., May 24, and will continue for five consecutive nights in the same time slot. A special program called the “Director’s Cut” will air late night Saturday, May 29, at 1:00 a.m., right after Saturday Night Live. This show will feature Leeann Tweeden with a behind-the-scenes look at the week with highlights and insightful player interviews and analyses. The game will resume the following week in the same time slots. Check your local listings for the exact times in your area. Viewers can also watch the game at www.nbcsports/msnbc.com/poker.
Look for the blinds to increase a couple of times over the next two weeks, and for a seldom seen triple straddle! At times there are lots of slow, deliberate decisions which create very compelling television as the players focus on the game instead of on table talk. But at other times the mood is more lighthearted with prop bets galore, some of which will leave viewers shaking their heads in disbelief. There are also some wild swings in this game, including an unbelievable comeback by one of the players. This is definitely two weeks of television that you don’t want to miss.
Dwan, Tom: (Seat 1)
· Nicknamed “durrrr” and has a huge following in the online community
· Primarily a high-stakes cash game player with remarkable success despite his young age, and is considered one of poker’s premier cash game players
· Live career tournament winnings in excess of $1.15 million
· Made two final tables in the 2008 World Series of Poker, the first he was old enough to play in
· Recently issued a $1 million heads-up challenge to anyone except Phil Galfond to put up $500,000 and play 50,000 hands at blinds of $200/$400 while playing 4 tables of NLHE or PLO at once online, saying that if his opponent finished up a minimum of $1 after rake once the hands were completed he would pay them an extra $1.5 million; if Dwan was up $1, the opponent would pay him $500,000
Antonius, Patrik: (Seat 2)
· Former male model and tennis player and a native of Helsinki, Finland now living in Monte Carlo, but also has a home in Las Vegas
· Considered one of the best short-handed high-stakes cash game players in the world, whether live or online, and is a fan favorite in the online community
· Lifetime live tournament winnings in excess of $2.86 million, and ranks #1 on Finland’s all-time money list
· Cool, calm, and calculating at the tables, with a propensity to never go on tilt
· Has appeared on Seasons 3, 4, 5, and 6 of High Stakes Poker
Lederer, Howard: (Seat 3)
· Nicknamed “The Professor,” and one of the most respected of all players among his peers
· Has won two WSOP bracelets and two WPT titles, and just missed winning his 3rd bracelet when he finished 2nd in the 2009 WSOPE PLO event
· Lifetime live tournament winnings in excess of $5.59 million, and ranks 40th on the all-time money list
· Made two final tables at the 2009 WSOPE, good for $223,000, and won the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E event at the 2009 Festa al Lago, good for another $92,000
· Highly regarded as a television poker commentator and analyst
Elezra, Eli: (Seat 4)
· A native of Israel, he served in the Israeli army in a commando unit similar to the Green Berets in the United States
· Won his first World Series bracelet in 2007 in 7-card stud hi/lo, and also owns one WPT title
· Lifetime live tournament winnings in excess of $1.94 million
· Highly successful Las Vegas businessman and entrepreneur who owns several retail establishments on the Las Vegas Strip
· Frequent player in the “Big Game” at Bellagio, but considers poker just a hobby
Sahamies, Ilari: (Seat 5)
· Known as “Ziigmund,” is a native of Helsinki, Finland, and is extremely popular in both his homeland and in the online community
· Primarily an online high-stakes cash game player who has a playing style that can only be described as aggressive and reckless
· Lifetime live tournament winnings in excess of $445,000
· Known for experiencing huge bankroll swings because of the stakes he plays for
· One of 2009’s top performing high-stakes online cash players
Ivey, Phil: (Seat 6)
· Regarded by many as the best overall player in the game today
· Winner of seven WSOP bracelets, including two in 2009 in the $2500 NL Deuce to Seven Lowball event and $2500 Omaha/7-card stud hi/lo event, and one WPT title
· Career live tournament winnings in excess of $12.82 million, and ranks 1st on the all-time money list
· Capped off a terrific 2009 WSOP by finishing 7th in the Main Event, good for $1.40 million
· One of only five players in history to win three WSOP bracelets in one year (2002)
Dennis Oehring serves as the Public Relations Coordinator for the firm POKER PROductions. Statistical information courtesy of The Hendon Mob database. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Moore.