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Best of Gary Trask

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A betting preview of the 2009 World Series of Poker

22 May 2009

The verdict is in and the evidence is rather convincing. Poker is a spectator sport.

Sure, there are many out there who would argue that not only is poker not a spectator sport, but that it's not even a "sport" to begin with. But try telling that to the ESPN executives who have made the game a staple of its broadcast schedule and have seen its World Series of Poker ratings rise in recent years.

And aside from TV coverage, there's also the fact that thousands of people flock to the Rio in Las Vegas each summer to watch the WSOP in person. In fact, there were hundreds of people who stood in line for several hours last November to get a seat inside the Penn & Teller Theater for the Main Event's final table. And once the action began, the atmosphere was electric.

So if poker is indeed a spectator sport, that usually means one thing to a degenerate like me. You should be able to bet on it. And thanks to our friends at Bodog, WSOP proposition bets are ready and available.

So, with the 2009 WSOP set to begin later this week we broke down the many betting options and came up with what we feel are some rock-solid picks. We took an "imaginary" $1,000 and placed six bets. And keep in mind we're already playing with the house's money after our profitable November Nine predictions last year, which included cashing in on Peter Eastgate as the winner at a sweet price of 5-to-1.

Now, on to the 2009 WSOP selections:

1. Will a player win two or more bracelets in the 2009 WSOP?

Yes: +130
No: -180

Well, if history has anything to do with it, the "yes" bet here is a no-brainer. Because when John Phan captured two different events last year it marked the ninth straight year that the WSOP saw a player win more than one bracelet in a single year. Phan joined Tom Schneider (2007), Bill Chen (2006), Jeff Madsen (2006), Mark Seif (2005), Ted Forrest (2004), Chris "Jesus" Ferguson (2000, 2003), John Juanda (2003), Phil Ivey (2002) and Scotty Nguyen (2001) as players that have managed to double-up in a single WSOP.

A wise man once told me to "never bet against a streak." Let's give that theory a go here and bet that the WSOP multiple bracelet streak continues in 2009.

Play Yes -- $200 to win $260

* * *

2. Will Phil Hellmuth win his 12th bracelet at the 2009 WSOP?

Yes: +300
No: -500

Hellmuth

We're willing to bet that Phil Hellmuth will get that long-awaited 12th bracelet this summer. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

In case you didn't notice, Phil Hellmuth enjoys the spotlight. He's also fixated on making even more poker history than he already has (see the No. 11 on the side of his patented black baseball hat, which signifies his record-number of career bracelets). And with this being the 20th anniversary of his landmark win in the 1989 Main Event, don't put it by The Poker Brat to have a huge 2009 WSOP, especially since his record for being the youngest Main Event champ in history was erased last year by Eastgate.

Hellmuth earned $357,359 at last year's WSOP and at one point he was so sure that he was going to win bracelet No. 12 in the $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. event that he made a surprise call to his parents in Wisconsin the morning of the final day and flew them out to Vegas so they could be there to see it. He ended up finishing third, but the moral of the story is that Hellmuth can practically taste No. 12. We're willing to bet he gets it this year.

Play Yes -- $150 to win $450

* * *

3. Which of these poker authors will win the most money during the 2009 WSOP?

Doyle Brunson -- 7/2
Phil Hellmuth -- 5/2
David Sklansky -- 12/1
Barry Greenstein -- 5/1
Mike Caro -- 12/1
Phil Gordon -- 10/1
T.J. Cloutier -- 6/1
Daniel Negreanu -- 3/1
Johnny Quads Wenzel -- 10/1

While we're expecting at least one bracelet from Daniel Negreanu this year and we think he'll be a major factor in the Main Event, we're going to go with Barry Greenstein here at what we think is a very generous price. He's won a bracelet in three out of the last five WSOPs and last year he cashed six times for $768,461, which helped him place second to Erik Lindgren in the Player of the Year race.

In his career, the "Ace on the River" author has 37 WSOP cashes worth more than $2 million, which is better than every one on this list except Hellmuth, Brunson and Cloutier. Plus, he plays in a lot of events and he's a threat to win every one of the high buy-in events. Go Barry!

Play Barry Greenstein -- $100 to win $500

* * *

4. How many of the living eligible WSOP Main Event champions that have been invited to play in the Champions Invitational Event on May 31 will participate?

Over 18.5: -120
Under 18.5: -120

Nobody has ever confused me with a math professor, but all that's involved in taking a position on this wager is a little work with the pencil and eraser and some common sense.

Here we go: There have been 39 Main Events and eight of the former champs have passed on to the big poker room in the heavens above. And of the remaining former champs, two (Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson) have multiple wins. So take those facts into account and we have 25 eligible players for this new Champions Invitational.

We've been told that 1970 champ Bobby Baldwin will be out of the country and has sent word that he won't be playing, so that drops it to 24. One of those remaining 24 is Russ Hamilton and – for obvious reasons – we're guessing he won't be making a public appearance any time soon, particularly in the poker world. That leaves us with 23 possible entrants.

We have been told that all of the living past champions have confirmed that they will attend – except for Mansour Maltoubi, Hamid Dastmalchi, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and Noel Furlong. We Googled Maltoubi and Dastmalchi and learned that they both live in Iran and hardly ever travel to the U.S. Assuming they don't make the trip that leaves us with 21 possibilities. We think it's a safe assumption to make that "Jesus" will be there and just hasn't go around to confirming his appearance so that leaves us with Mr. Furlong as a key piece in trying to figure out this wager.

The 71-year-old Irishman is a millionaire who owns races horses, but made his money as owner of the largest supplier of floor coverings in Ireland. He won the Main Event back in 1999 when he won a $200 satellite tournament the night before the tournament started. He also finished sixth in the Main Event the first time he played in it 10 years earlier and he's a two-time Irish Open champ.

In a recent article about Furlong in the Racing Post, Roy Brindley wrote that "Furlong is a complex character who is clearly not motivated by publicity - he never does interviews… He is driven, but not by money. He has never refused to play in a charity event and always donates 100 percent of his winnings. It must be concluded that, for him, it is simply the satisfaction of victory."

Our spies in Ireland tell us he did play in the 2009 Paddy Power Irish Poker Open in March, which means he's still actively playing. So we're guessing there's a 50-50 chance Furlong shows up for the Champions Invitational. And if he does, the "over 18.5" here is as close to a sure thing as you're ever going to find. Even if he doesn't, we're still at 20 players. This bet seems almost too logical to be true and that's scary. But we're going to bang it hard anyway.

Play Over 18.5 -- $300 to win $250

* * *

5. Which of the following former WSOP Main Event Champions will win the 2009 Champions Invitational to take place on May 31st?

Tom_Mcevoy_A

Tom McEvoy told us he is "taking dead aim" at winning the Champions Invitational and that's good enough reason for us to bet it. (photo by Neil Stoddart/PokerStars)

Peter Eastgate -- 13/1
Jerry Yang -- 15/1
Jamie Gold -- 15/1
Joseph Hachem -- 23/2
Greg Raymer -- 23/2
Chris Moneymaker -- 15/1
Robert Varkonyi -- 19/1
Carlos Mortensen -- 23/2
Chris Ferguson -- 15/1
J.J. "Noel" Furlong -- 24/1
Scotty Nguyen -- 23/2
Huck Seed -- 23/2
Dan Harrington -- 23/2
Russ Hamilton -- 65/1
Jim Bechtel -- 24/1
Hamid Dastmalchi -- 24/1
Brad Daugherty -- 19/1
Mansour Matloubi -- 24/1
Phil Hellmuth -- 9/1
Johnny Chan -- 23/2
Berry Johnston -- 24/1
Tom McEvoy -- 19/1
Bobby Baldwin -- 24/1
Doyle Brunson -- 23/2
Amarillo Slim Preston -- 24/1

This is going to be a fun event to watch and for that reason alone we want some action. So, we're going to take a shot with Greg Raymer and Tom McEvoy.

Raymer hasn't cashed in a official event in 2009 but he doesn't play in a lot of tournaments so that really isn't much of surprise. But we have a sneaking suspicion he's going to be a factor here. As for McEvoy, he is the complete opposite of Raymer in that he is quite active in tournaments both live and online. As we found out when we profiled McEvoy before last year's WSOP, the 1983 Main Event champ is a true student of the history of the game and you can be sure that a victory in this event would mean the world to him.

"I am taking dead aim at winning this tournament," the 64-year-old McEvoy told us last week. "I know some of the other players won't be taking it as serious as me, so that should improve my chances."

We get a couple of nice prices on both of these players, so let's give'em a ride.

Play McEvoy -- $50 to win $950
Play Raymer -- $50 to win $575

* * *

6. Which celebrity will last longest in the 2009 Ante Up for Africa Tournament starting on July 2nd?

Don Cheadle -- 7/1
Matt Damon -- 9/1
Jason Alexander -- 9/1

charles_barkley

Charles Barkley has no shot at making any noise at the Ante Up For Africa charity tournament. (photo by Vin Narayanan/Casino City)

Charles Barkley -- 10/1
Kenny Smith -- 10/1
Montel Williams -- 8/1
Herschel Walker -- 9/1
Hank Azaria -- 8/1
Brad Garrett -- 9/1
Reggie Miller -- 9/1
Marlon Wayans -- 9/1
Sarah Silverman -- 9/1
Casey Affleck -- 8/1
Dennis Rodman -- 10/1

Not only do we want a piece of this bet because it's going to be fun to watch, but we also see some actual value. When we go to the horse track, we like handicap a race by process of elimination. In other words, we draw a big "X" through the horses in the race that we feel have no chance of winning and then we start the handicapping process from there.

In this "race" there are more than a few options we crossed off immediately. Rodman, Miller, Walker, Smith and Barkley simply have no chance. That drops a 14-horse race down to nine. Matt Damon told us at last year's event that he's really not very good and unless he's a real good actor, we believed him. Speaking of actors, Alexander and Garrett didn't exactly overwhelm us with their poker prowess when we watched them at the Main Event the last two years. We're also going to forget about Silverman since we don't think she's ever done anything funny (except for the "I'm F*cking Matt Damon" video from a few years ago) and that gets us down to five legit options – Cheadle, Williams, Affleck, Azaria and Wayans.

It appears Wayans hasn't had much luck in this event so we'll toss him aside. Cheadle has enjoyed decent success on the felt. In fact, he owns a win over Phil Ivey in the NBC Heads Up Championship. But along with Annie Duke, Cheadle is one of the organizers of this event and we think that may distract him so we're going to pass. That leaves us three and this is where things get real scientific. We think that Williams, Affleck, Azaria all have great shots at winning this bet. We're definitely going to use Affleck since he made it to the final two tables last year. But we're going to toss out Azaria solely because we always hated "Mad About You" and his character in "Along Came Polly" kind of freaked us out. That leaves us with a Williams/Affleck exacta. Take it to the window!

Play Affleck -- $75 to win $600
Play Williams -- $75 to win $600

A betting preview of the 2009 World Series of Poker is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT