Yesterday we revealed that PartyPoker.com’s Premier League Poker is back. Here the voice of poker, Jesse May, looks ahead to the action. If you disagree with his form guide, feel free to leave a comment…

Yes, the Premier League. The highlight of my poker year. A gold star on the poker calendar. Interesting storylines, dramas, and match-ups. Oh yeah, and some of the best poker you have ever seen. Of course what makes the Premier League great is that the players face each other again and again. Last year, the first time Devilfish faced Hellmuth it was highly entertaining. By their fourth meeting, zoo keepers needed to be on hand. So many essential conflicts, and of course the one essential question – who in the world is ready to beat Phil Hellmuth?

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Jesse May: looking forward to Premier League Poker

Here’s my form guide – with all odds supplied by www.partybets.com.

1 Devilfish, 5-1
Oh, the relationships they wrought. The tangles between the Devilfish and Phil Hellmuth were legendary. By all accounts, Hellmuth trounced the Devilfish, sent him packing. Yet there were so many glimmers that the Fish is not ready to pack it in, and you know revenge is on his mind. There was the heat when the Devil finally got the money all in with pocket aces against Hellmuth’s two nines, only to see the nine cruelly spike the flop. And then there was a later heat when the Devilfish, coolly placed on Hellmuth’s left, tortured him for the better part of four levels before blowing up and out. Since the recording last year, while Phil Hellmuth secured his eleventh WSOP bracelet the Devilfish also had a great year, with his biggest tournament cash ever for coming third in a big one at the Bellagio. The two have reportedly not eaten dinner together since. Call me crazy, but I think this is the year the Devilfish does hit. He beats himself, the deck, Phil Hellmuth, and the rest to secure the points lead for the final. And of course in the process he will break several place settings of Mother’s best china.

2 Roland de Wolfe, 6-1
I don’t think a bigger action junkie has ever existed. I mean there was Stu Ungar and now there’s Roland de Wolfe. Roland has a need for gamble all the time. He lives on it. It must be big and there must be lots of it. During the first Premier League, what went on at the poker table was only a microcosm of Roland’s week, as he had side bets, Chinese Poker, cash games, and just flat out gambling twenty-four hours per day. And I think Roland will be the first to tell you that he can play better poker. Or that he can come up with the strategy it takes to win the Premier League. In one of his heats, Roland lost half his stack with the king-three under the gun and the rest with the king-three under the gun two rounds later. Yet in between he played some of the best poker of the series. If this is the year of Roland taking it seriously, then look for De Wolfe to go from relegated to a deep spot on the final table in his second crack at the Premier League.

3 Marcel Luske, 6-1
The Flying Dutchman has the potential to be one of the brightest stars in the Premier League II. Like turpentine, Luske is the perfect antidote to the loud swirling paints of “camera on me“ Hellmuth and crew. First of all, Luske always wears a suit. And aside from the Devilfish, Marcel has the best singing voice in the Premier League. And he is not scared to use his voice at the table. The beauty about Luske is he has a game that has actually been underexposed on European television, if such a thing can be believed. Luske went on a huge run at the turn of the century, garnering European player of the year and about a dozen European titles, that was hardly captured on the little screen. It was two deep runs at the WSOP, finishing final two tables in 2003 and 2004, that made Marcel a big name in America. The last twelve months have seen Marcel spending most of his time on the other side of the table, heading a business related to poker. Is he rusty? Judging by his performance in last month’s Irish Poker Championships, not much. And Marcel’s soft guy with the steel interior figures to pay big dividends this year.

4 Phil Hellmuth, 6-1
Phil Hellmuth didn’t win the Premier League title last year, losing out in the final. But the final was the only thing he didn’t win, as he dominated the proceedings so thoroughly as to make a case for being the best player to ever sit in the one-seater format. Hellmuth came away with four heat wins out of six tries. Hellmuth’s game is based on his reading ability, an ability that comes to the fore every time he can get another player to open their mouth. And with his antagonistic table personality, Hellmuth has absolutely no problem in that regard. He winds up players with the greatest of ease, and his feud with the Devilfish has only set this up to be another fantastic event. Unfortunately for Phil, every player has it in for him. It will not be easy to be Phil this Premier League season, yet finishing him off is even harder. A firm fourth in the table.

5 Juha Helppi, 9-1
The defending champion can play. And the defending champion does not like Phil Hellmuth. Helppi was able to stay out of the limelight and capture his biggest title through what he does best. Solid, with small flashes of the spectacular. But Juha’s ego surfaced a bit towards the end of filming last year, and he made it clear that he has never forgiven Hellmuth for forgetting to shake Juha’s hand after beating him headup for his tenth WSOP bracelet. Juha also has a love/hate relationship with De Wolfe; they’ve both said that the perfect poker player lies somewhere between the combination of the two. While no-one paid Juha any mind during season one, this year the Finn has made himself a bit of a bullseye. He gets hit hard, but his solid credentials will still keep him in the playoff zone.

6 Tony G, 9-1
Tony G was a bit of a mystery during the first Premier League. He just got beat, badly. It was a complete surprise from someone who has one of the best records going in this format. Tony got outplayed so badly that you begin to wonder if perhaps he is just more comfortable playing against weaker players and the line-up is too tough for him. He is one of the great characters and is always first in the banter stakes in my book, but the fact is that Tony G, more than anybody else, has something to prove in Premier League II. Can he hang with the best or not? Just how good is he? Does Tony G have as much game as mouth? He was co-favourite in the first Premier League. Until he shows more relating to the hands themselves, he is no better than mid pack.

7 Annie Duke, 10-1
Annie Duke’s introduction to UK television is one of the intriguing plot lines to grace the second Premier League. Her record is formidable, as she won two million dollars in a one table format in the US, convincingly thrashing Phil Hellmuth for the title. She played in the UK last year at the WSOP Europe, and was as feisty as ever. Beyond Hellmuth, with whom she has quite a rocky relationship, Annie’s main obstacle looks to be Tony G. Tony G had a very public feud with Annie’s brother Howard Lederer a few years ago which remains unresolved, and those bloodlines look set to provide her with a natural enemy in G. She is someone who needs to be heard, and the others will make it tough on her. That said, she has game, and will come with an objective to play hard and finish above Tony G. I think she gets it done.

8 Andy Black, 12-1
How many Andy Black’s are there? Certainly more than the number of heats played in the Premier League. The Irishman is such a complete wildcard that he could bring a different personality to each heat of the second season and still have plenty more in the bag. And each of those has a different poker game. The good news for Andy is that “Good Andy” is about the best player out there. “Bad Andy” and things in between are mostly for car crashes. Black amassed over 100,000 in chips during Day 1 of the main event of the WSOP this past year and still didn’t survive the day. That’s something. Black’s biggest problem during the first season was that he didn’t go all out for the win when he needed to press, preferring the fruits of third place at best. I believe Andy will come into season two with four or five game plans, use them all, display spots of greatness, and end up in a puddle on the floor.

9 Ian Fraser, 12-1
“The Razor” Ian Fraser has been exceeding expectations his whole poker career. And after a thoroughly frustrating start to his first Premier League, Ian stormed back and won more heats than anyone save Phil Hellmuth. The fact is that Ian understands this particular format like the inside of his red sports car. He is fast, aggressive, and goes for the win at all times. And with the extra bonus being paid for winning a heat here, Fraser will bounce between second out and last standing enough to secure a play-off spot. What he does from there is purely up to him, but this is one East Ender who only starts by talking the talk. He will put words to action by the end of the day.

10 Eddy Scharf, 15-1
Eddy captured second place in the inaugural Premier League because of two things. He stayed out of the fray, concentrating on his poker. And he was very underrated by the field. The German won’t have it so easy this time out. The secret is out. Survival in the heat stages is important. Also, the rule change providing more points for first place will hurt Scharf, who is a man who tries to survive to the top three at all costs and then waits to see what happens. While the two time WSOP bracelet holder’s strategy will be much the same, his results will fare slightly different. He stays out of the relegation zone, but only by the skin of his teeth.

11 Alex Kravchenko, 15-1
Fourth place in the main event at the WSOP in 2007 highlighted the murmurings that have been made for years about Alex Kravchenko. Judging by his dexterity at the final table this year, he appears tougher to knock out than a jungle Orangutan. Without knowing more, however, I fear he’s in a similar mould to last year’s Premier League Russian, Kiril Gerasimov, and unfamiliarity with the format will have Alex buried before it’s too late.

12 Vicky Coren, 20-1
It has to be said, Vicky played a stormer of a Premier League during season one. She introduced new elements to her game, ran a clever series of steals and bluffs, and trounced Andy Black in the playoffs to win her spot at the final table. Coren has acres of supporters, and a home field crowd. But she has been a bit inactive poker-wise over the last six months, and she is just a tad outgunned in this line-up. Anything but her best will not be enough here, and stiff winds early could give Vicky the tempest to blow out in a gale later on.

Bring it on!

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1 Comment

  1. I know Fish has had a good year, but I think de Wolfe now has an edge. But I’d really like to see Vicky Coren go well!