Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cannes Openers: 2012 WSOP Europe Underway

The 2012 World Series of Poker Europe is currently in full swing in Cannes, France, with the first three bracelets (of seven) having already been won, and one more to be claimed later tonight.

In Event No. 1, the €2,700 buy-in six-handed no-limit hold’em event, Imed Ben Mahmoud topped a field of 227 to win. Mahmoud is the first player from Tunisia ever to win a WSOP bracelet of any sort. Meanwhile runner-up Yannick Bonnet came one spot shy of grabbing a first WSOPE bracelet for France.

Event No. 2, a €1,100 NLHE tourney, drew 626 entries. Antonio Esfandiari won a third career bracelet in that one. Again, it was a Frenchman who took second, Remi Bollengier.

It looks like France finally broke through, however, in Event No. 3, the €5,300 pot-limit Omaha tourney, where just moments ago Roger Hairabedian of beat the Finnish pro Ville Mattila heads-up to win. I remember “Big Roger” as one of the more entertaining personalities from WPT Marrakech a couple of years ago. (I believe Marrakech is Hairabedian’s current home, although he was born in Marseille.)

They drew 97 entrants for the PLO event. Event Nos. 4 and 5 are underway as well, and it looks as though so far the overall turnouts are significantly lower than was the case last year.

The schedule is essentially the same except for all of the buy-ins having been increased slightly from 2011. But check out how the number of entrants fell off in the first four events (see left).

Esfandiari’s win follows his big victory this summer in the “Big One for One Drop,” the one in which he won a bracelet and that massive $18,346,673 first prize. (Yeah, I know -- he didn’t really win $18-plus million, as he was staked for much of the million-dollar buy-in.)

I remember covering a tournament just after the “Big One” in which Esfandiari was playing, I believe it was Event No. 59, a $1,000 no-limit hold’em tourney. It was Day 1, and Andy Frankenberger (who also won a bracelet this summer) was asking Esfandiari from a neighboring table if his win in the $1 million buy-in event had counted toward the WSOP POY race.

Esfandiari said he didn’t know. He then asked me if I knew, and I remember finding out (confirming with our buddy Kevmath) and reporting back that yes, indeed, the “Big One” counted.

I seem to recall some discussion after that at both players’ tables over whether or not the $1 million buy-in event should count toward the POY race. That debate was revived this week after Esfandiari won the €1,100 event and grabbed the POY lead away from Phil Ivey.

Some are arguing the “Big One” should not count. Others are suggesting as well that counting WSOPE events is not necessarily right, given that a significant number of players who played in Las Vegas over the summer don’t make the trip to play in the European events. The fact that the WSOPE also only spreads no-limit hold’em and pot-limit Omaha (i.e., no stud or draw, no mixed-games, etc.), has been brought up as well by some as a reason for excluding the Cannes tourneys from the POY race.

I don’t have a problem with counting the WSOPE events toward the POY race, although understand arguments against doing so. I do think the “Big One” probably might’ve been excluded as an utterly unique tournament (both in terms of the participants and the buy-in) that doesn’t really belong in the category of events being weighed against one another for the WSOP POY.

The POY race is still up for grabs, though, as Ivey, John Monnette, David “ODB” Baker, and Phil Hellmuth (who round out the current top five) are all in Cannes battling for bracelets along with leader Esfandiari. Those are the current standings to the left, which are being updated here as the events play out over the next week in Cannes.

That’s one reason for checking in on the coverage (on PokerNews and the WSOP site). The Main Event getting started this weekend should provide another, despite the lower turnouts and what seems a slight dip in interest overall in what’s happening at the WSOPE.

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