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Poker News | World Poker News

Professional Poker League Debuts at the Venetian

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The new Professional Poker League (PPL) is the talk of the town in Las Vegas, and has the poker world buzzing. Sixty-four of the game's leading players participated in the PPL's inaugural draft on Sat., Oct. 7 at the Venetian hotel and casino, which is hosting the league. The PPL will be run like other professional sports leagues, with weekly television coverage of all events. Poker fans are welcome to attend the television tapings at the Venetian, which has built a new theater for the events.

The much-anticipated identities of the sixty-four participants in the league, who will comprise eight teams of eight players each, were revealed Saturday night at the draft. Each team has two co-captains, who chose their players from a roster of forty-eight players. The co -captains are:

Team 1: T.J. Cloutier and Dewey Tomko

Team 2: Chip Reese and Eli Elezra

Team 3: John Juanda and Erik Seidel

Team 4: Barry Greenstein and Phil Ivey

Team 5: Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and Ted Forrest

Team 6: Daniel Negreanu and Jennifer Harman

Team 7: Mike Sexton and Cyndi Violette

Team 8: Doyle Brunson and Todd Brunson

Participants were grouped into pools, with each player receiving a numerical ranking, much the way tennis players are seeded, although the criteria for the rankings is not clear in this case. The team leaders, who did not receive numerical rankings, chose their players from these pools.

Pool A:
16)Danny Alaei
21)Joe Cassidy
30)John D'Agostino
25)Michael Gracz
36)Tuan Le
23)Michael Mizrachi
27)Nick Schulman
47)David Williams

Pool B:
29)Josh Arieh
14)Antonio Esfandiari
33)Layne Flack
41)Tony Guoga
15)Kenna James
12)Phil Laak
38)Mike Matusow
26)Gavin Smith

Pool C:
20)Chad Brown
44)Paul Darden
46)Phil Gordon
40)Chip Jett
6) Gabe Thaler
48)Amir Vahedi
18)Lee Watkinson
10)Robert Williamson

Pool D:
3) Annie Duke
37)Clonie Gowen
32)Linda Johnson
9) Isabelle Mercier
43)Evelyn Ng
34)Esther Rossi
13)Vanessa Rousso
39)Jennifer Tilly

Pool E:
2) Patrik Antonius
4) David Benayamine
24)Humberto Brenes
22)David Chiu
19)Martin Deknijff
5) Gus Hansen
42)Liz Lieu
17)Carlos Mortenson

Pool F:
45)Mike Caro
8) Hoyt Corkins
11)Freddie Deeb
28)Jack Fox
1) Chau Giang
31)Men Nguyen
7) Scotty Nguyen
35)Mimi Tran

Team co-captains had to be very selective in their choices, as they were allowed to pick only one player from each pool. Prior to the draft, groups of eight players had been named in categories such as Young Guns, Personalities, Talented Players, Women, Internationals, and Legends. Most of the players in the "Legends" category became team captains, and there were more than eight female participants, so these categories were later dropped in favor of the more generic "pools".

The draft played out before an enthusiastic audience. When all was said and done, the teams looked like this:

Team 1:
Co-Captain- T.J. Cloutier
Co-Captain- Dewey Tomko
1) Chau Giang
16)Danny Alaei
17)Carlos Mortenson
32)Linda Johnson
33)Layne Flack
48)Amir Vahedi

Team 2:
Co-Captain- Chip Reese
Co-Captain- Eli Elezra
2) Patrick Antonious
15)Kenna James
18)Lee Watkinson
31)Men Nguyen
34)Esther Rossi
47)David Williams

Team 3:
Co-Captain- John Juanda
Co-Captain- Erik Seidel
3) Annie Duke
14)Antonio Esfandiari
19)Martin deKnijff
30)John D'Agostino
35)Mimi Tran
46)Phil Gordon

Team 4:
Co-Captain- Barry Greenstein
Co-Captain- Phil Ivey
4) David Benyamine
13)Vanessa Rousso
20)Chad Brown
29)Josh Arieh
36)Tuan Le
45)Mike Caro

Team 5:
Co-Captain- Chris Ferguson
Co-Captain- Ted Forrest
5) Gus Hansen
12)Phil Laak
21)Joe Cassidy
28)Jack Fox
37)Clonie Gowen
44)Paul Darden

Team 6:
Co-Captain- Daniel Negreanu
Co-Captain- Jennifer Harman
6) Gabe Thaler
11)Freddie Deeb
22)David Chiu
27)Nick Schulman
38)Mike Matusow
43)Evelyn Ng

Team 7:
Co-Captain- Mike Sexton
Co-Captain- Cyndy Violette
7) Scotty Nguyen
10)Robert Williamson
23)Michael Mizrachi
26)Gavin Smith
39)Jennifer Tilly
42)Liz Lieu

Team 8:
Co-Captain- Doyle Brunson
Co-Captain- Todd Brunson
8) Hoyt Corkins
9) Isabelle Mercier
24)Humberto Brenes
25)Michael Gracz
40)Chip Jett
41)Tony Guoga

The instituting of the league is a plus for everyone involved, as participants stand to benefit from ancillary marketing deals such as poker fantasy camps and, presumably, team logo gear. Fans will have opportunities to interact with the pros, and to play in open events to be held at the Venetian as well. Thanks in part to the efforts of Barry Greenstein, the players' contract with the PPL is not exclusive, thus allowing them to play in other high-profile events such as the WPT Championships and the WSOP.

Pokerworks.com's own Tony G (Guoga) reports in his blog that the league "gives players that have skill a legitimate chance to make money with out having to buy-in - basically the same as the PGA or NBA with the draft. Up for grabs in Season 1 is 17 million to the 64 players in the original draft."

In his blog at fullcontactpoker.com, Team 6 co-captain Daniel Negreanu outlined his strategy for selecting his team. He writes that it "shouldn't be based solely on who you think the best player was, but more so, it's important to pick the player that sticks out in a group....The PPL game structure will likely be one that benefits those players that excel in cash games, while those that do well in tournaments but poorly in cash games dropped considerably on my depth chart."

At the conclusion of the draft, poker players at the Venetian had the fun of participating in a bounty tournament, with many of the PPL players staying to participate in that event as well. Watch for more news of the PPL and upcoming events and television schedules in this space.

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