The look of love: Andy Black covets his first major trophy
It has taken 20 years but Ireland’s Andy Black has finally captured a major title by winning the 2008 PartyPoker.com Premier League and the $250,000 first prize.
The 42-year-old from Dublin, dubbed the ‘Mad Monk,’ burst into tears after defeating England’s Roland De Wolfe heads-up in the event that pits 12 of the world’s top pros against each other in a unique league format.
“It has taken 20 years to finally finish the job,” said Black. “It is a fantastic feeling. I’ve been in so many strong positions before and not ended up winning that sometimes I doubted whether I could actually get the first place. Everybody was waiting for me to blow up. I see this as a turning point – perhaps now I can convert my dominant positions in tournaments into victories.”
Black has earned millions of dollars over the years on the circuit but has a reputation as a choker bar none. His most notable cash was for $1.75 million for 5th place in the WSOP Main Event in 2005 after qualifying online at PartyPoker.com. There, Black went in as the favourite to win with the chip lead only to bust sooner than expected.
At the 2007 WSOP Main Event and 2008 Aussie Millions Main Event he was the chip leader after day one only to fall away. He had similar experiences at the EPT in Dublin last year, the 2006 Tournament of Champions at the WSOP, not to forget the 2007 Aussie Millions where he eventually finished third after dominating again.
Black quit poker between 1998-2003 and started practicing Buddhist techniques of meditation and working with the mind which he credits with improving his game. Until now, however, it hadn’t given him a first place.
“The black death is over, I killed them all,” joked Andy. “I tried to blow-up but it didn’t quite work! The victory is particularly sweet as it was over eleven of the world’s top players,” he said.
Head to head: Black and de Wolfe do battle for the title
De Wolfe had a 3:2 chip lead going into the final showdown. The final hand saw Black limp in with pocket kings and De Wolfe check with Q-6 off suit. The flop came 4-8-6 with two hearts and De Wolfe check-raised all-in.
Black instantly called and De Wolfe was drawing thin. The turn saw an 8 of diamonds meaning that only a 6 on the river could save Roland. A 2 of hearts came and Black was haunted no more. The Irishman points to a hand against Juha Helppi in the league stages where his pocket sixes held up against A-J and his pocket jacks holding up against Marcel Luske in the final as key turning points.
Tony G was chip leader going into the final table after finishing top of the league. Second in chips was Black, followed by Russian sensation Alexander Kravchenko, “Flying Dutchman” Marcel Luske, Roland De Wolfe and then Annie Duke.
Play started off fast with big bets and big pots but Duke was first to go after 49 hands. The much-fancied Kravchenko raised pre-flop with 7-8 suited. Duke re-raised all-in with A-J off suit with a 7 on the river giving the Russian two pair and sealing her fate.
Final showdown: The finalists settle down to fight to the finish
Next to go was Luske, whose stack size had fluctuated wildly for a number of levels. The Dutchman went all-in pre-flop with Q-8 off suit and was called by De Wolfe with pocket sevens which held up.
Kravchenko went out fourth after his pocket queens were busted when Black hit a king on the turn to give him the higher pair. After starting the final table as chip leader, Tony G eventually went out third after he run into De Wolfe’s slow-played pocket kings. Tony held 9-7 of hearts and moved all-in with an inside straight flush draw after a flop of 5h-Qs-6h, but Roland’s pocket kings held up. It was then left to De Wolfe and Black to battle it out.
Each player bought into the Premier League for $60,000, with PartyPoker.com adding $280,000 to make the pool $1 million, up from $500,000 last year. Nine of the twelve players from 2007’s successful event returned with the new faces being “Flying Dutchman” Marcel Luske, Annie Duke and Alexander Kravchenko.
As before, eleven-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth led a top field that included Dave ‘The Devilfish’ Ulliott, Tony G, Andy Black, Ian Frazer, Roland De Wolfe, Vicky Coren, Juha Helppi and Eddy Scharf. Tony G, Andy Black, Alexander Kravchenko and Marcel Luske automatically made the final for finishing in the first four spots, while Roland De Wolfe and Annie Duke won their way through to the finale after play-off heads-up matches.
A PartyPoker.com spokesman said: “Andy is a deserved winner, he’s finally got the monkey off his back. It would have been a black day if he managed to choke again. Roland De Wolfe’s achievement was also significant. He looked down and out in the final league heat but showed true class to finish second. Everybody involved was thrilled with the event, it just continues to get bigger and bigger.”
Eddie Hearn, Head of Online Gaming at Matchroom Sport said: “PartyPoker.com Premier League Poker exceeded the hype. I have never seen so many of the world’s top players want a title so badly and Andy Black’s tears sums up just how much this event means. We are already planning Premier League Poker III where there will be a further increase to the $1 million prize fund.”
Coverage of the Matchroom Sport organized event will be first broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK in March and then distributed internationally.
2008 PARTYPOKER.COM PREMIER LEAGUE – FINAL PRIZE MONEY
Andy Black (IRE) $316,000
Roland De Wolfe (ENG) $160,000
Tony G (AUS) $136,000
Alexander Kravchenko (RUS) $92,000
Marcel Luske (HOL) $72,000
Annie Duke (USA) $58,000
Eddy Scharf (GER) $38,000
Dave “The Devilfish” Ulliott (ENG) $38,000
Vicky Coren (ENG) $34,000
Juha Helppi (FIN) $22,000
Ian Frazer (ENG) $18,000
Phil Hellmuth (USA) $16,000
All mine: Black celebrates with presenter Jesse May