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September 3, 2015

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For pros, fantasy poker is part of the fun at the World Series of Poker

High stakes league adds extra interest to the tournament series

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Sam Morris

Phil Ivey is introduced before the Final Table of the 2009 World Series of Poker on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009, at The Rio in Las Vegas. Ivey is the prized possession in a fantasy poker league at the 2010 World Series of Poker.

Forget fantasy baseball or football.

A different fantasy sport is sweeping through the Rio this summer. It’s none other than fantasy poker to coincide with the 2010 World Series of Poker.

“It keeps things interesting,” said poker pro Andy Bloch. “You see people at the final table and you have a rooting interest. You can cheer them on and win some money.”

Bloch and a handful of other big name pros in the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship — including Barry Greenstein, Howard Lederer, Eli Elezra, Erick Lindgren, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Galfond — started a league a few days before the World Series kicked off.

The rules aren’t much different than an everyday fantasy sports league — albeit on a slightly larger scale. The buy-in for the competition was $25,000.

With eleven players participating, the winner will receive $200,000 at the end of the summer. Second is good for $50,000 and third will get their money back.

The league held an auction-style draft at Lederer’s Las Vegas home where each team could spend $200 to fill their eight-man roster. Phil Ivey, whom many consider to be the best poker player in the world, went for the highest price at $103 to Bloch’s team.

“I actually thought he might go for a little more,” Bloch said. “I looked over the results from previous years and there were only a handful of people who averaged more than 50 points a year based on this system, so I wanted to get one of those players.”

The scoring system is simple and applies to all 57 events at this summer’s World Series. Teams receive 100 points whenever one of its players wins a tournament, 10-90 points for a final table depending on where the player finishes and one point for any in-the-money finish.

“You want people who are going to be good in the mixed games, the 5:00 events, the shorter field events and the 10K events because those will have shorter fields,” Greenstein said on a recent video blog. “People who are good at no-limit hold’em are almost worthless.”

The league has been the most popular topic of conversation at the tables of the Player’s Championship, which played down to 54 participants after more than 10 hours of play Sunday.

Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, who doesn’t even have a team in the league, spent time negotiating side bets on the fantasy league during play Saturday. Most of the high-stakes pros have action on the league in one way or another.

It’s a perfect reflection of the World Series, where poker sometimes becomes a sideshow to prop betting. Saturday’s most interesting bet, for example, was probably between 2004 Main Event champion Greg Raymer and pro Ted Forrest.

Forrest gave 3-to-1 odds at $100 that Raymer couldn’t toss an empty water bottle into the trashcan from his seat. Raymer missed both tries and coughed up $200 to Forrest.

Still, the most popular bets remain related to tournament performance. That’s why the fantasy league is such a natural fit.

“With so many events, it’s a lot of fun,” Bloch said. “It’s a long time and like a baseball season almost, you have a lot of games and a lot of chances.”

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