Five Thoughts: Team Germany, Negreanu's Good Heart, and More

Posted at 10:10 2013-02-17 by Rich Ryan

During the coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker on ESPN, we were introduced to a young man named Dutch Boyd. He was pictured as young, brash, and ambitious. When Boyd finished in 12th place ($80,000), the cameras followed him as he left the table and hugged his friend Brett Jungblut. “We are gonna like take over the poker world, baby,” he said.

And thus, “The Crew” was born.

In subsequent years, ESPN would focus some of its coverage on Boyd, Jungblut, Scott Fischman, and other members of The Crew. In 2005, they were interviewed by Rolling Stone, which referred to them as “Poker’s New World Order.” Even the most casual poker fans can recall watching this trio on television, but what were their actual results?

Boyd has never earned more than $1 million in a single year and has amassed only a little more than $2.1 million in career tournament earnings. Jungblut has $446,520 in career tournament earnings, and Fischman has bested both of his friends, earning over $2.7 million. These numbers are OK but certainly not amazing. The Crew certainly hasn’t taken over the poker world.

Now, a new poker crew is devleoping. In January alone, the players earned nearly as much as the aforementioned "crew" earned over the past decade. This crew is quiet, does’t seek attention, and crushes souls in high-roller and super high-roller action. This crew is Team Germany.

1. Meet Team Germany

When Erik Seidel was eliminated from the 2013 Aussie Millions $25,000 Challenge, he stood up from the table and smiled. He shook Philipp Gruissem’s hand, then Igor Kurganov’s, and then left the television set to give Lynn Gilmartin and interview before collecting his money.

Gruissem and Kurganov, two Germans, shared pleasantries then sat down to play heads up for the top prize of AU$275,000. The two did not make a deal, and when the cards were back in the air, you could cut the tension with a knife. Despite being good friends, neither player wanted to lose to the other.

In the final hand, Gruissem moved all in on a board of {k-Spades}{10-Hearts}{4-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}{3-Hearts}, and Kurganov quickly called. Gruissem showed {k-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds} for kings and tens, but Kurganov had that crushed with {q-Hearts}{10-Spades} for trip tens. Gruissem gave his friend a hearty clap on the back and immediately ordered beers for himself, the other Germans on the rail, and, of course, Kurganov.

“It’s his turn,” Gruissem told Gilmartin after the match, grinning.

Gruissem was referring to the £20,000 High Roller at EPT London in 2011, where Gruissem bested Kurganov heads up.

Seidel was the only non-German to cash in the $25,000 Challenege. Niklas Heinecker finished fourth and Fabian Quoss finished fifth. In the $250,000 Challenge, Sam Trickett was the only non-German to cash. He won, earning AUD$2,000,000 (his fifth-career seven-figure score), Tobias Reinkemeier finished second, Quoss third, and Kurganov fourth.

Kurganov also cashed in the $100,000 Challenege, finishing second for AUD$610,000.

Heinecker is an honorary member of Team Germany – he tends to forgo traveling in order to crush $25/$50 online, winning over $1.9 million since the start of 2011 – and the main members of the team are Kurganov, Quoss, Gruissem, and Reinkemeier. Here’s a look at each of their high-roller (tournaments with more than a $10,000 buy-in) résumés since 2011:

Igor Kurganov

Venue Tournament Place Prize (USD)
2013 Aussie Millions $25,000 Challenge 1st $290,317
  $250,000 Challenge 4th $527,849
  $100,000 Challenge 2nd $643,976
2012 Master Classics of Poker €10,000 High Roller 2nd $113,427
2012 EPT Sanremo €10,000 Eight-Max 7th $42,480
2012 WPT Paris €15,000 High Roller 2nd $65,266
2012 Deep Stack Extravaganza $10,000 High Roller 1st $128,520
2012 Monte-Carlo® Casino EPT Grand Final €25,000 High Roller 1st $1,425,874
2011 EPT London £20,000 High Roller 2nd $497,499
2011 EPT Tallinn €10,000 High Roller 3rd $58,210
2011 EPT Grand Final €10,000 High Roller 2nd $182,560
Total     $3,975,978

Tobias Reinkemeier

Venue Tournament Place Prize (USD)
2013 Aussie Millions $250,000 Challenge 2nd $1,319,623
2013 PCA $25,000 High Roller 7th $129,940
2012 WSOPE €50,000 Majestic High Roller 5th $260,930
2012 EPT Barcelona €10,000 High Roller 3rd $147,021
2012 GCOP €10,000 High Roller 2nd $115,382
2012 Monte-Carlo® Casino EPT Grand Final €100,000 Super High Roller 2nd $1,404,750
2012 EPT Berlin €10,000 Eight-Max 5th $60,398
2011 EPT Grand Final €10,000 Main Event 57th $29,685
2011 WPT Vienna €10,000 High Roller 2nd $148,662
2011 Aussie Millions $10,000 Main Event 17th $69,232
Total     $3,685,623

Philipp Gruissem

Venue Tournament Place Prize (USD)
2013 Aussie Millions $25,000 Challenge 2nd $197,416
2013 PCA $100,000 Super High Roller 5th $400,700
2012 EPT Sanremo €10,000 Eight-Max 6th $53,196
2012 WSOPE €50,000 Majestic High Roller 4th $358,778
  €10,000 Main Event 29th $29,983
2012 Macau High Stakes Challenge $258,000 Super High Roller 10th $587,778
2012 Monte-Carlo® Casino EPT Grand Final €25,000 High Roller 3rd $483,213
2011 EPT Prague €10,000 Re-Entry 3rd $91,850
2011 EPT Sanremo €10,000 Eight-Max 4th $94,030
2011 EPT London £20,000 High Roller 1st $703,657
2011 EPT Barcelona €10,000 Single Reload 1st $337,838
2011 WSOP $10,000 Main Event 28th $242,636
2011 EPT Berlin €10,000 Eight-Max 3rd $95,355
Total     $3,676,430

Fabian Quoss

Venue Tournament Place Prize (USD)
2013 Aussie Millions $25,000 Challenge 5th $53,841
  $250,000 Challenge 3rd $791,774
2012 EPT Prague €10,000 High Roller 2nd $274,880
2012 WPT Paris €15,000 High Roller 1st $108,776
Total     $1,229,271

In all, these four players have cashed for $12,567,302 in high rollers alone since 2011. Despite their success, the four friends, who all live in London, don't call attention to themselves. Quoss, the oldest member of the group, is tired of media attention. After Kurganov won the $25,000 Challenge, he was telling my colleague Remko Rinkema that he doesn’t know whether or not giving interviews or taking part in other media activities is worth it monetarily.

Quoss is right — to an extent. A few years ago, these four Germans could’ve made a lot of money hamming it up for the camera. From patch deals to appearance fees, a handful of players have definitely profited from the poker boom. No one sings like the Flying Dutchman, Marcel Luske, but they speak better English than a lot of the American-born grinders you’ll find in poker rooms across the United States. They also have a great sense of humor, especially Gruissem. During the $100,000 Super High Roller at the PCA, there was a moment on Day 2 where he got up from his table to recount a hand to Reinkemeier. Gruissem, who made a straight flush with his favorite hand ({9-Hearts}{6-Hearts}), was basically shouting about the hand while two players were involved in a large pot. Reinkemeier had to quiet his friend, much to the amusement of the media members on the floor.

Team Germany isn’t going anywhere soon. The four high rollers love poker. When they’re not playing online or in the largest live tournaments in the world, they are discussing hand histories and strategy. And, while they haven't capitalized on media exposure yet, they do want to make something clear: they aren’t colluding. It’s easy to assume that with the small fields they play in, they swap pieces, but they compete as hard against one another as they do against the rest of the field.

We’ll keep an eye on Team Germany as it continues to try and conquer the world, and if the players start to warm up to the media a bit, we’ll profile them when we can.

2. Daniel Negreanu Gives Back

On Sunday, Daniel Negreanu posted a YouTube video titled “$100k in 7 Days! Let’s do this!”, announcing that he will be attempting to raise $100,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in just one week. Negreanu set up a page for fans and friends to donate, and Kid Poker plans to match any donation up to $50,000. Four people who donate $2,500 or more will win a dinner and poker lessons with Negreanu in Las Vegas.

“You can do some research on the Internet. You will find that St. Jude’s is top shelf when it comes to a charitable organization to donate to,” Negreanu said in the video. “They never, ever, turn a child away.”

Nearly half ($48,548.73) of the goal has already been matched, and among the poker players who have donated are Andrew Robl, Brent Hanks, Brian Hastings, Brian Lemke, Haralabos Voulgaris, Kara Scott, Matt Glantz, Mohsin Charania, Paul Volpe, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Randy Dorfman, Tommy Vedes, and many others.

With nearly a quarter of a million Twitter followers, Negreanu has a large influence for a poker player. Thankfully, for our industry and the good of the world, he uses that influence in a positive way. Each week, we hear about fights, scams, and other poor goings on in the poker industry. Casinos and gambling in general are strong catalysts for evil, so it’s refreshing to see one of the most popular players do good things.

Thank you, Mr. Negreanu. I have pledged a small donation, and I urge anyone who can help to do so. Like Kid Poker said in the YouTube video, the donation can be written off on U.S. taxes on April 15 next year, and St. Jude does amazing things to assist young, sick children in need.

3. One Step Closer to Online Poker in New Jersey

On Thursday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed A2578, an Internet gaming bill that would bring online poker back to the state. Although some mainstream media outlets treated it like a full veto, Christie intends to pass the bill if certain changes are made. Among the changes are a tax increase from 10 to 15 percent, some of which would be used to fund gambling addiction programs in the state.

PokerStars has a vested interest in the future of online gaming in the state of New Jersey. Recently, Rational Group, the company that owns both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, reached a deal to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. According to various reports, Rational Group can still pull out of the deal if Christie doesn’t sign this bill into law.

There are still some doubters because nothing but bad news has surfaced since Black Friday, but New Jersey is seemingly all in when it comes to gaming. On Monday, Borgata announced that hotel guests will soon be allowed to gamble using televisions in their rooms. Borgata plans to expand this opportunity to mobile gaming when the technology becomes available.

Nevada has stalled when it comes to online gaming, and this is New Jersey’s opportunity to take the lead. There is language within the bill that would allow the states to take wagers from other states and even other countries if those states or countries allow it, which means that if PokerStars does come to the Garden State, that the player pool may include rest of world (ROW) players. This would be huge, and could ignite a small boom.

This is the most optimistic I’ve been in nearly two years. I truly believe that Christie will remain true to his word and sign this bill into law once the requested amendments are made. This is a great opportunity for Christie to bring economic growth to the state and to increase his popularity entering before the 2016 Presidential Election. We are very close to bringing online poker back to America.

4. IveyPoker Acquires LeggoPoker

On Feb. 6, IveyPoker.com announced it had purchased Aaron Jones’ LeggoPoker. As part of the acquisition, IveyPoker added Jones, Dan Smith, and Andrew Lichtenberger as instructors, further expanding the large roster of players.

“In my opinion, LeggoPoker is one of the best teaching sites on the market,” said Ivey. “They are a great match with IveyPoker and together we will offer a top-notch educational poker destination in Ivey League.”

Ironically, during his deep run in the 2009 WSOP Main Event, Ivey discussed LeggoPoker with Lichtenberger.

As part of this announcement, IveyPoker released this awkward exchange between Ivey and Jones. Be warned: your unintentional comedy meter might break upon pressing the play button.

Of all the business moves IveyPoker has made since its initial announcement in October, the LeggoPoker acquisition was the biggest, apart from the company’s decision to put a patch on Greg Merson. Merson proudly wore the purple crown at the WSOP Main Event final table, with Ivey and fellow team member Jennifer Harman on the rail watching. As you know now, Merson won, becoming world champion, and it gave IveyPoker a very large spotlight in its infancy.

Four months later, on the surface, all IveyPoker has done is add players. There are no videos, and there is no content. Where is the money? How are these team members profiting?

There is obviously a plan in place, and whoever is in charge of selling the plan is doing a good job. He or she is getting players to give up equity in order to have a piece of a nonexistent pie, and it seems as if each week more and more players are willing to take the plunge. Personally, I have to side with someone like Quoss on this issue. I wouldn’t be willing to wear a patch for a company that is selling me nothing but promises and future profits. Even with Ivey’s name attached to it — arguably the biggest, most identifiable name in the game — it’s not worth being freerolled.

This site has great potential, and Ivey is probably in a good position to make a lot of profit, but I would be hesitant to become a member of Team Ivey.

5. More Nate Silver, Please

Nate Silver, creator of the FiveThirtyEight blog on the New York Times and the author of The Signal and the Noise, made a well-publicized trip to Melbourne, Australia, for the 2013 Aussie Millions. While he was down under. Silver was kind enough to appear on the PokerNews Podcast, and he appeared in a video with our own Lynn Gilmartin.

Notice how he picked the PokerNews Podcast over Bill Simmons’ award-winning B.S. Report. Take that, sports guy!

Silver is exactly the type of ambassador that poker needs. It’s nice to have athletes like Rafa Nadal and Michael Phelps give our game attention, and it’s very enjoyable to cover celebrities like Sam Simon and Rick Salomon, but people like Silver actually matter in the grand scheme of society.

When celebrities or athletes play, the general consensus is “that guy makes a lot of money, so he can afford to blow it all in a poker game.” When someone like Silver plays poker, the game looks smart and analytical. Why else would one of the brightest people in the world play? You don’t see Silver at the craps table.

Smart, bright, influential people are good for poker. In a short span, Phelps is good for poker because it will bring mainstream media coverage, but Silver’s involvement in poker could be beneficial for a lifetime. If the smart, bright, influential people in the United States – or even the world – become interested with the game, and give it legitimacy, then poker will be viewed more like chess and less like blackjack.

We need the smart people in the world to see poker as an analytical game more than we need the entertainment-starved people in the world watching TMZ to make jokes about Phelps’ goatee. Silver’s involvement with poker is great, and hopefully he can be an ambassador for us for a long time.

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