My New Family

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: “The Professionals”
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 Those are what the final teams looked like along with where they were picked overall. Now, before you wonder how so many great young players were picked so late, it’s important to understand that the players were all grouped together and a team could only pick one player from each group. Thus, the strategy going into picking your team 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. In that sense, I was more prepared for this draft than anyone else. I’ve done pools like this all my life and was totally prepared for the twists and turns. In the end, if you look at the core of six players that we drafted I think we ended up with the best group. Also important to understand, 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. There were six pools of 8 players in each group. The pools looked like this: Pool A:
Danny Alaei
Joe Cassidy
John D’Agostino
Michael Gracz
Tuan Le
Michael Mizrachi
Nick Schulman
David Williams Pool B:
Josh Arieh
Antonio Esfandiari
Layne Flack
Tony Guoga
Kenna James
Phil Laak
Mike Matusow
Gavin Smith Pool C:
Chad Brown
Paul Darden
Phil Gordon
Chip Jett
Gabe Thaler
Amir Vahedi
Lee Watkinson
Robert Williamson Pool D:
Annie Duke
Clonie Gowen
Linda Johnson
Isabelle Mercier
Evelyn Ng
Esther Rossi
Vanessa Rousso
Jennifer Tilly Pool E:
Patrik Antonius
David Benayamine
Humberto Brenes
David Chiu
Martin Deknijff
Gus Hansen
Liz Lieu
Carlos Mortenson Pool F:
Mike Caro
Hoyt Corkins
Freddie Deeb
Jack Fox
Chau Giang
Men Nguyen
Scotty Nguyen
Mimi Tran I had a distinct strategy going into the draft and it was one in which we would be reacting to picks being made by the other captains. I wasn’t going to fall in love with any one player, instead, I wanted to make sure we got a player that we felt was above the mean.
Pool A was just so strong that it made little sense to pick from that group early. I mean seriously, which one of those guys sucks? None, any one of those picks were fabulous. We had Daniel Alaei as our number one pick in that group, but if we couldn’t get him we felt like any of the other players were solid. So, here is who I picked and why: 6) Gabe Thaler- Without a doubt, the absolute steal of the draft and getting him allowed our team to have so much leverage. Many of you might not know Gabe, but in my opinion, and I think in the the opinion of most poker insiders who know, he was the class of his group. No disrespect to the other players in the group, but Gabe’s game is tailor made for the PPL. For probably the last 10 years or so he has not only been a professional poker player, but he plays one game: no limit hold’em cash games.
Aside from the fact that I felt like his level of skill was high, he is also well liked by everyone. Easy to get along with and an extremely hard worker. A fabulous first pick in every sense of the word. 11) Freddie Deeb- If there was one player in the world that I would say plays a game most similar to mine, this would be the guy. Freddie and I approach the game in a similar fashion and I’m a fan of his play. Not to mention the fact that Freddie, along with being a WSOP and WPT champion has been cutting his teeth in pot/no limit games across the world for ages.
From a strategic perspective, the Freddie pick was a no-brainer. By the time the 11th pick rolled around Chau Giang, Scotty Nguyen, and Hoyt Corkins were all gone from that group. Getting Freddie was a must. 22) David Chiu- Yet another truly great poker player in every sense of the world. A gentleman that is an absolute team player, David too has been a highly successful cash game player well before the “poker boom.” David is probably better known for his outstanding limit hold’em skills, but hold’em is hold’em, and David’s hold’em instincts are second to none.
The David pick was absolutely 100% forced. I had planned on picking from that group a little later on, but when Patrick Antonious, David Benyamine, Carlos Mortenson, Martin Deknijff, and Gus Hansen were already chosen by then, I felt like David Chiu stuck out like a soar thumb versus the remaining players in his group. 27) Nick Schulman- This was without a doubt the most difficult pick of the day for our team. Since I had to pick David Chiu from the previous group it left me with a dilemma I never thought I’d face. I needed a woman, as well as a player from groups A and B. I’d already decided prior to the draft that we would use our last pick on a woman, so it left me with the following dilemma:
We had Josh Arieh very high on our list. Frankly, the 22nd pick was supposed to be Josh but since my hand was forced with David Chiu I had to put that on hold.
The dilemma we now faced was this: we wanted Nick badly, but we also wanted Josh. It was highly unlikely that we’d get both. Not only that, we had John D’Agostino very high on our list as well.
It was the first time Jennifer and I had any sort of a debate during the entire draft. We changed our minds several times. After much thought, I felt like it was slightly more likely that if we took Nick first that Josh might still be there. If we took Josh, Nick was gone.
It basically came down to either having: Nick Schulman/Mike Matusow or Josh Arieh/either Tuan Le or David Williams. Matusow is a wild card in this sort of thing, but if there is anyone that can control him I figured that Jennifer and I could. When Mike plays well, we all know he is a top player.
As for Nick Schulman, you all know him from winning the WPT event in Foxwoods. What you probably don’t know is that he was cut from the same cloth as everyone on our team. He was a hustler as a teenager, starting and pool and then moving on to poker. Sound familiar?
Nick is 22 years old and has already earned the respect of his high limit peers in the Bellagio top section. Raw talent and oodles of potential. In fact, his peers in the tough pool A all had high praise for him. Many of them feeling he was #2, a close second behind Alaei.
If you see my face when I made the pick it may seem as though I was disappointed. It wasn’t that I wasn’t gung ho about Nick, but I just knew we’d lose Josh. 38) Mike Matusow- As expected, we nabbed Mikey with our fifth pick. I’ll tell you one thing, Mike seemed to be very disappointed that he went so late and that could bode very, very well for our team. Having Mike hungry and wanting to prove something is a big plus for us. He has the potential to play great for long spurts, but obviously, the big worry with Mike is the famous, “Matusow blow-up,” that we’ve seen on TV many times.
Mike doesn’t exactly fit the prototype of our team. For the most part, we have a group of mild mannered players that gel really well. When picking Mike, that’s always a concern, but I KNEW that Freddy, David, Jenn, myself, etc. all genuinely liked Mike. The greatest thing about our team is the Kum Bye Ya atmosphere. We have a great chemistry. 43) Evelyn Ng- Frankly, I had Evelyn ranked in the top end of the group for this particular format, but I did my homework leading up to the draft and was very confident that she’d be available in the last round. I was a little shocked that more women weren’t available near the end because in my opinion the margin of skill from top to bottom is similar to pool A’s.
Nabbing Evelyn, another pool player turned poker player, we ensure that the entire group has nothing but positive chemistry. Aside from that, I believe that the PPL format will be a format that is designed for Evelyn to excel. Her strengths as a poker player are better suited for cash play. Her weaknesses, possibly short stack tournament play, will not be a factor in the PPL format.
Looking at the draft picks now it’s clear to me that some of the captains were not as prepared as they should have been. Several players picked in the first two rounds would have easily been available in the later rounds, but picks were wasted out of panic.
As for me, I had faith in my system and felt like all the hard work had been done well before the draft even began. At that point, it was just about filling in the blanks. When our team assembled for dinner it was time to decide on a team name. We wanted something that best described as a group. As I looked around the table, one thought kept coming to my mind: we have the only team that is full of professional poker players. Not businessmen turned pro, but grinders and hustlers that made good. So with that, we thought, what better than simple… “The Professionals.”
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