This Week in Poker History April 7th – 13th

History of Poker Online

If you’re a fan of obscure poker history than this week’s column will be right up your alley.

In this go-round we’ll start off with some more results from the first running of the Jack Binion World Poker Open as we build towards the Main Event which will be in next week’s column.

From there we’ll fill you in on some pre-poker boom game theory talk from veteran poker columnist Lou Krieger; bring you an unearthed interview with Phil Hellmuth and John Bonetti; talk about some WPT stock advice from CNN in 2005; and detail the early warning signs that Black Friday was on the horizon plus a whole lot more.

April 2000: Even more results from the inaugural WPO

For the third straight week I’ll be breaking down some of the key moments from the inaugural Jack Binion World Poker Open, this time focusing on a win by Phil Hellmuth as well as a solid few days of work by Sam Grizzle.

The WPO was an important tournament series and its immediate success right out of the gate was likely a catalyst for the ambitious endeavor that was the World Poker Tour, as it proved there was a thirst for tournament poker outside of Las Vegas.

On April 7th Phil Hellmuth wins the $1,000 No Limit Holdem tournament was the headline that greeted the poker world. A few days later Hellmuth finished in 3rd place in the $1,500 PLO tournament as well.

  1. Phil Hellmuth Jr $53,932
  2. Hasan Habib $26,966
  3. David Pham $13,483
  4. Max Stern $8,090
  5. Billy Williford $6,068
  6. Sam Grizzle $4,719
  7. Roger Van Driesen $3,371
  8. Paul Kroh $2,697
  9. Chris Tsiprailidis $2,157

Just a few days after Hellmuth’s victory, Sam Grizzle followed up his 6th place showing in the $1k NLHE event with a victory in the $1,500 Limit Holdem tournament. Grizzle and Hellmuth would later became famous for their dustups, culminating with a WSOP showdown that caught the attention of the ESPN cameras.

  1. Sam Grizzle $52,962
  2. Layne Flack $30,453
  3. Keith Yarbrough $15,889
  4. Don Pittman $9,269
  5. Kenny Goldstein $7,282
  6. Pat Heneghan $5,958
  7. Russ Bouffiou $4,634
  8. Danny Cottle $3,310
  9. Jim Meehan $2,648

April 10, 2000: Pre-poker boom game theory

Game theory and poker have become nearly synonymous in recent years, but their relationship goes back much further than the poker boom, as game theory and poker have been discussed together for decades.

Lou Krieger talked about the connection in this column from 2000. In his column Krieger notes that game theory’s mainstream application to poker dates back to 1981 when Nesmith C. Ankeny authored Poker Strategy: Winning With Game Theory.

Just two years later David Sklansky talked about game theory in his book Winning Poker, Krieger noted. Of course, there is also some seriously out-of-date components to Krieger’s article, considering he says the following:

“When all is said and done, you probably won’t use game theory all that often in the heat of battle. And the more you play and the better you become at reading your opponents — by putting him on a hand or picking up tells — the less you’ll have to rely on game theory.”

John Bonetti and Phil Helmuth

I recently wrote a profile of the late John Bonetti and in my research I came across the following interview on that featured Bonetti along with his longtime friend Phil Hellmuth.

The interview is intriguing as it provides a look at the personal relationships amongst some of the older poker pros, and the Hellmuth and Bonetti relationship is easily one of the most intriguing.

As the interview details, Hellmuth, who was in his 20’s when the pair first crossed paths, was the poker mentor of the much older Bonetti, who was in his 60’s at the time. Meanwhile, as Hellmuth was teaching Bonetti the finer points of poker, Bonetti was teaching Hellmuth the finer points of life.

The interview is a long read, but it’s a good read.

Also from the archives…

April 13, 2005: CNN Money says “dump” WPT stock

CNN must have seen something nobody else saw, as they were telling people to dump their World Poker Tour stock back in 2005, during the height of the poker boom!

Of course, the WPT had a couple more good years in them, and selling in 2005 would have been a bad play, but if you held too long it would have been far more costly, as the WPT was barely solvent when it was sold to Party Gaming in 2009.

April 9, 2010: Feds investigating Full Tilt a year before Black Friday

For those of you who think Black Friday just appeared out of nowhere, and nobody could have ever predicted such a thing could occur, I present to you exhibit A from April of 2010, a full year before Black Friday went down.

In an article at by Michael Kaplan, it was made very clear that the feds were investigating Full Tilt Poker, particularly Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson.

The article makes it perfectly clear what was going on, and seems to have stumbled upon the Black Friday investigation a year before the story broke:

“FBI agents or prosecutors have spoken to at least two people involved in disputes with Full Tilt, paying special attention to the possibility of money-laundering violations.”

Happy birthday to…

  • UK Poker Pro James Mitchell was born on April 8th; Mitchell won the 2010 Irish Poker Open.
  • 2000 WSOP Main Event Champion and outcast of the poker community Chris “Jesus” Ferguson was born on April 11th.
  • Sports bettor and poker player Haralabos Voulgaris was born on April 7th.

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