27th seat in WSOP TOC to be decided via SNG

by , Jun 8, 2010 | 9:52 am

Voting for the WSOP Tournament of Champions closes on June 15, and the final seat in the 27-player field will be determined in a nine-person tournament on June 10th. The nine players taking part in the tournament June 10, with the winner playing the $1,000,000 TOC June 27 are:

Tom Dwan
Andy Bloch
Michael Mizrachi
Sorel Mizzi
Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier
Liv Boeree
Paul Wasicka
Gus Hansen
Don Cheadle

The tournament will be filmed for the online version of WSOP Academy, with commentary provided by Ali Nejad and Phil Hellmuth. You can also follow the action as it happens on WSOP Academy’s Twitter. More information can be found at WSOP.com.

22 Comments to “27th seat in WSOP TOC to be decided via SNG”

  1. DanM

    Hmm, interesting. Not sure what to make of it. I understand why this is “good for TV” … even though it seems like it will be limited to closed-circuit TV … but there sure is a lot to groan about here. I’ll hold off on griping for now (until I think about it a bit more) … but I sure ain’t looking forward to talking to any two-bracelet holding friends who won’t be happy to see Don Cheadle getting to play.

  2. BJ Nemeth

    Two-bracelet winners clearly weren’t eligible for this sit-n-go; it’s obvious they were inviting players who didn’t have any WSOP bracelets, so weren’t eligible to be voted in.

    If the TOC system requires sponsor exemptions (and it does, if we want a prizepool, and we do want a prizepool), then I think this is a great way to handle it. Except for Don Cheadle, that is. Restrict it to great, popular players or those with recent high-profile success, and this is a great format.

    I know I sound like a TOC kiss ass, but I honestly think that Harrah’s is doing a lot of things right with this. (Though Don Cheadle should not be on that list.)

  3. BJ Nemeth

    Before anyone points out that Michael Mizrachi now has a WSOP bracelet (from the $50,000 Poker Players Championship), the criteria here is that he didn’t have a bracelet in time to qualify for the TOC ballot.

    I just scanned the single-bracelet winners on the TOC ballot, and as expected, didn’t find Michael Mizrachi’s name.

  4. DanM

    i agree. that’s why i’m not griping (yet, lol). I totally get what they’re doing here, think conceptually it’s all great, and think it’s fair the way they’re creating the all-star concept.

    Presumably in the next year or two, we will end up with a “Top 20” who aren’t so ho-hum 2005. I’m willing to give them a break on that for now.

    I even think it’s cool the way they’re doing the qualifying spectacle itself. (Curious who is filming it … the 441 group or PokerPROductions.) I mean it’s not like Annie Duke personally made a phone call and got Don Cheadle into the TOC. She (presumably) just got him into a sit-n-go where he can beat 8 of the world’s top players to qualify for the TOC. If he manages to win that, then you actually do have an extra-interesting element to the TOC itself.

    I think what’s rubbing me slightly the wrong way is the inbred nature of it, with WSOP, and WSOP Academy. Maybe next year we’ll have a sponsor’s exemption for WSOP-brand Energy Drinks? or WSOP fold-up poker table tops? That’s still all better, I guess, than awarding a seat via a Jack Link’s beef jerky eating contest.

    I’m still not voting for the TOC, however, until they allow me to enter “bonus code: Pokerati” somewhere on the ballot.

  5. Kevin Mathers

    I don’t think either, since it’s going to be for WSOP Academy viewers only. There appears to have been a couple open spots on that list of nine. If Vladimir Schmelev won the 50k, there’s no chance he’s part of the field. It’s encouraging that most of the names aren’t part of the early days of the poker boom. If this was 2005, does James Woods get to be a part of the field instead of Don Cheadle?

  6. DanM

    lol, that’s pretty funny, kevin. remember the days when hollywood celebrities just got seats into the media tournament? (i sat next to james woods in that event in ’05.)

  7. BJ Nemeth

    For a long time, the media event was called the media-celebrity charity event. They were as much a part of it as the media was.

  8. BJ Nemeth

    WSOP Academy doesn’t bother me as a sponsor at all, even with ties to the WSOP. Do you think there’s a possibility for corruption? I don’t understand your complaint here.

    It’s no different in my mind than the WSOP Europe pitching their own website (WSOP.com) as opposed to BetFair.com. Again, I don’t see any problem there.

  9. Kevin Mathers

    I don’t see any issue with WSOP Academy either, if this is how they’re going to attract people to their site, that’s cool with me.

  10. BJ Nemeth

    FYI, Annie Duke apparently had little or nothing to do with Don Cheadle’s invitation. Here’s what she said on Twitter:

    “Obviously, I love Don Cheadle but I think it is ridiculous he is playing in the 9 handed tourney for a spot in the TOC. Should all be champs”


  11. DanM

    huh. funny. i’ve had coffee since i first commented, so feelin’ a little less grumpy … and now i think i want cheadle to win! would be pretty fun to see who bitches the loudest if he happens to luckbox his way through the sit-n-go. (i think one of my best friends in poker might actually have a chance of winning that contest.) also wonder if allen kessler has approved the SNG blind structure.


    Who was responsible for inviting these players? WSOP Academy? Ben Affleck has accomplished more as a Poker Player than Cheadle.

    All of you know I am good friends with Mark who teaches and owns a substantial portion of the Academy and I cannot believe he had anything to do with who was playing. If he did as a friend Im just going to shake my head!

  13. Kevin Mathers

    I guess they threw in Cheadle as the “amateur” for training purposes? It makes zero sense to have him in the field when there’s other people who could be considered.

  14. Ty Stewart

    As the TOC locks into the new format – it’s hard to argue Don Cheadle has been an “All-Star” for Poker. Ante Up for Africa has painted the game in an elusive positive light and inspired numerous additional charitable events since its inception. Don’s clout and friendships with A-list celebrities who come to play AUFA at the WSOP propel poker into the mainstream media every year. And by the way, as evidenced by performances in NBC Heads Up and other televised events…the guy can play a bit.

    Instead of a sweepstakes entrant from a sandwich shop (which didn’t seem to discount Mike Sexton’s win in the last TOC) WSOP Academy is using the exemption seat to create tutorial content that will engage players and broaden interest in the game. The presence of an Academy-Award nominated actor from the summer’s biggest blockbuster, whose knowledge base of poker is likely closer to most of the people who will be using the service seems reasonable. For one of the nine spots.

    When a major film star loves the game enough to come play, against stacked odds, to try and beat out 8 world class players, and then best an additional 18 world class players, all for the chance to cash and make a donation to charity…seems that’s something to celebrate.

    I applaud WSOP Academy for creating a great concept to build more buzz for the TOC and poker in general…and thank every player in Thursday’s “playoff” who graciously gives their time and talents.

    It’s going to be fun to watch.

  15. Kevin Mathers

    Ty, I hope he’s besting an additional 25 world class players and the winner from the UK.

  16. Ty Stewart

    If that means you’re rooting for him – great. I meant as Don’s intent is to play for charity – and the final 9 of 27 “cash” in the event – anybody in the field needs to beat 18 players/online qualifiers/hollywood actors to cash.


    Ty there is some validity to what you said but asking players like Nam Le to agree may be difficult. No doubt Don has helped the image of poker so has Vanessa Shannon and all those stars at the LAPC celebrity event.

  18. BJ Nemeth

    Ty — Your first two paragraphs defended your point well. I disagree, but you defended your point well.

    In the third paragraph, you went too far, and weakened your own position:

    “When a major film star loves the game enough to come play, against stacked odds, to try and beat out 8 world class players, and then best an additional 18 world class players, all for the chance to cash and make a donation to charity…seems that’s something to celebrate.”

    You should have stopped typing before that. None of this has any relevance to the event.

    Don Cheadle isn’t doing anything extraordinary, or taking on any risk. He’s being invited to a fun freeroll event that most poker players would kill to be a part of — even if they had to donate the money to charity. Meanwhile, if Cheadle is to be “celebrated” for donating any winnings to charity, should we chastise the other players for not doing the same? The charity defense has no place here.

    WSOP Academy is putting up sponsorship money, so they get a sponsorship exemption. I applaud them for using it the way that they are. (As opposed to a random sweepstakes by Subway, for example.) If WSOP Academy wants to give Don Cheadle a seat, then that’s their right.

    But I don’t think the “He’s doing it for charity” argument is going to hold much weight with critics — this isn’t Celebrity Jeopardy. I suggest that you stick to your first two arguments in the future, which are stronger.

    Your last paragraph also goes too far. “…and thank every player in Thursday’s playoff who graciously gives their time and talents.”

    Again, these players aren’t making any sacrifices. There’s nothing gracious about agreeing to participate in a televised million-dollar freeroll — every poker player on the planet would leap at the chance. Did you really have to twist any arms to get any of these players to participate?

  19. Ty Stewart

    I guess if I take to posting, I should be willing to be publicly chastised. 🙂

    But I don’t know you are acknowledging something I feel passionately about.

    There may not be arm-twisting, but these players are giving up something….(and therefore being “gracious”)

    Their personal intellectual property. Something, which I believe has a lot of value…and will always respect.

    While players will not be featured in advertising or promotion, the event is being taped for viewing by WSOP Academy subscribers.

    Therefore, each players presence strengthens a new commercial initiative (the wsop academy)….with no guaranteed compensation to them. My appreciation is magnified even more by the potentially competitive dynamics (e.g. most players primary sponsor have their own tutorial sites and/or affiliates) in a world that increasingly promotes vertical, political fiefdoms.

    Some would argue that a Durrrr in the US, Elky in France or Liv in the UK bring as much interest to the event as some of the players who will be voted in. It would have been reasonable and understood for any of the playoff invites to decline or feel that having to compete for a seat for a one in three chance of cashing was not an equitable exchange.

    In a world of million-dollar coin-flips, I felt proud that each would honor the re-introduction of the event via their willingness to battle it out, old school for the last exemption. For these players, I don’t think its just about money.

    Kick out my soapbox, but the buzz for the TOC has increased given their participation in the playoff. And I’d rather acknowledge it than take it for granted.

  20. Kevin Mathers

    Looks like Dwan decided to pass on the opportunity or something came up, and Gavin Smith has taken his place.

  21. BJ Nemeth

    We’ll be discussing the change (theorizing) on today’s episode of “The Poker Beat.”

  22. Kevin Mathers

    Dwan’s got 64k (top 10 stack) in the 10k 2-7 NL event starting in a couple of hours.