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The legendary Jesse May previews the PartyPoker.com Premier League Poker Mixed Game Championship

The Premier League Poker Mixed Game Championship kicks off in less than 24 hours at the Playboy Club in London. It’s a little awkwardly named, but a superstar line-up plus an intriguing format make it enticing. Plus, the winner has been promised an invite into the main Premier League Poker final next year, with its traditional overlay and blown out field. This one’s worth winning.

The field of twelve has been split into two groups of six, who will face each other three times in different disciplines to gain chips for the final table. The top three in each group will progress to the final, which will be played in all three games of No Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Hold’em, and Pot Limit Omaha. Each player can choose one heat to use his “double-up” card, which will gain double points for a placing in that discipline.
With no other information other than a stab in the dark, here’s my predicted order of finish for each group.

Group A

6. Matt Giannetti – It’s exciting to see the WPT Malta champion and recent November Niner back on this side of the pond. Despite his fourth place finish last week in the WSOP Main Event, Matt is one of the hottest players on the planet, and provides a nice bump to the quality of the field. He is an awesome post flop player, and he pretty much ran circles around the table with his turn and river decisions in Las Vegas. I worry for his results in this event, however. The six handed one table format, while not rocket science, is a highly specialized discipline which very few people take to their first time out. To boot, if Giannetti has any technical flaws to his game it’s in the preflop department with thirty big blinds or less, which is at least fifty percent of this Premier League. I predict Giannetti to use his double up card for the Pot Limit Omaha, but I also predict that a propensity to see flops will catch him the bagel in the first heat, and there’s no coming back from that.

5. Max Pescatori – The Italian Pirate has seen his stock explode with the online poker boom in Italy, where this WSOP bracelet holder now spends most of his time. Pescatori came up the hard way, as a long time Las Vegas grinder, and he’s a pro’s pro who can make a win in any format. Someone told me a story about Pescatori making a cold five bet shove with A-Q in a WSOP shootout event this year, and by the way he told the story Pescatori was either far more aggressive than I realized or having a day with too many meds. I have a feeling that Max will use his double up for Omaha, to keep himself in running until the end, and that strategy could make it all or nothing at the end.

4. Jennifer Tilly – I do love watching Jennifer Tilly play. Her last time out in London, she tore them a new right arm in the Big Game with a thirty hour session where she quite literally ran over the game. She three-bet bluffed Trickett on a dangerous turn and completely outfoxed Alec Torelli while winning over sixty thousand pounds. She is a player who pros consistently underrate at their peril, as in if you’ve never played her before and give her a chance to bet you off a hand, she will. Two things go against her in this Premier League. First, one of the players who gives Tilly trouble is Tony G. And I’m not sure Jennifer has ever played Omaha before. I’m certain Tilly will use her double up card first out the box, and try and coast to the final table from a good NLH effort. I like the strategy, but the asking is tough.

3. Tony G – Along with Where’s Lord Lucan and Who Shot JFK, one of the most enduring mysteries of the last hundred years is, What’s the Deal with Tony G? More to the point, is the man a player or a buffoon? Australian or Lithuanian? A nice guy or an obnoxious jerk? Quite simply, the G is all things to all men. Like most of you, I’ve been watching Tony G with rapt attention since that final table at the WPT Paris eight years ago and have still yet to figure him out. The only things I’m sure of are that Tony G is a very intelligent man, and that his game swings on a pendulum. It depends if he’s on and if he’s trying. I believe, however, and I may be in a minority here, that when he’s both on and trying Tony G is very capable indeed. The first heat takes place in the evening, so I think Tony G will be on. And I believe he’ll use his double up for NL Hold’em right off the bat, because that’s the way he rolls. Whether or not he’ll be trying we’ll just have to wait and see.

2. James Dempsey – Have you seen how skinny James Dempsey is? As Amarillo Slim once quipped, he looks like the advance man for a famine. But he can sure play some poker. Flushy, as he was once known, has gone from being a highly regarded tournament internet grinder, to WSOP bracelet holder and all around one of the top men in the UK. He will like the format. Dempsey’s specialty is the mixed games, and he’s almost certainly the only player in this group who read all the tournament rules. I imagine he’ll use his double up for the pot limit Hold’em, because that’s the way he is, and I just have a feeling his short stack expertise will take him far.

1. Luke Schwartz – Full Flush is back. And on behalf of poker fans everywhere, may I say not a moment too soon. Full Flush takes a tremendous amount of stick, but among the many criticisms that can be levelled at Luke Schwartz, no one ever questions his ability. He is a mega talented poker player with more faults than seismology. His record in television tournaments, however, is spotless. I don’t think Schwartz has ever missed a final table. Some combination of his ability to seize the moment, preen for the cameras, and put the rest of the table off their game with his mouth. Luke is one of those guys who owns Tony G by always making the value bets on the end when Tony can’t pass his hand. He thinks he’s great at Omaha, even if internet records lie. Schwartz will use his double up card for the NLH and come out of the blocks flying.

Group B

6. Andrew Feldman – Feldman made his bones in these TV tournaments, as a teenage winner of the UK Open. He’s also had success in the TV cash games, and can generally hold his own in most any game in the world. I do, however, suspect his form. Feldman was rocked by Black Friday in the way that huge changes in the poker world have left him a bit unsure about where he’s going to be finding his edge in the near future. He’s been kind of on the fence lately, dashing off to big events at the last minute and then leaving equally as fast after getting knocked out. On his day, Feldman uses his card for NLH and puts in a strong start. Here, I think he saves it for the Omaha and sputters out.

5. Sorel Mizzi – Based on skill alone, Sorel would have to be the favourite here for tournament and group. He plays every game well, and tournaments better. All around player awards and mixed game tournaments are made for this man, who surprisingly has very few results in London for the amount of time he’s spent here. I’d like to say I know the reason why, and it’s 90% the fault of John Tabatabai. One of Sorel’s best friends and chief candle burner of both ends of the wick, I think Sorel would be better served from a poker standpoint to don a wig and let no one know he’s in town. You can’t put a price on fun, but this format allows for no slip-ups and in Sorel’s case I fear the fun may cost him $25,000. Mizzi to use his double up for the PLH, by the way, because it’s his surest chance of a high placing.

4. Ben Carpenter – Carpenter is somewhere around the best tournament player on Party Poker. He’s a demon who is capable of grinding forty tables a day, and were it not for family commitments he’d likely be on the international big buy-in scene a whole lot more. He impressed in his TV debut at the 48-hour cash game, and I’m sure he’ll be up for this. Carpenter didn’t wake up yesterday morning and decide to play. He’ll use his double up for NLH because that’s his best game and he won’t lack for effort. But Ben will be in trouble in the other disciplines and in this tough group he may just bubble out.

3. Andy Frankenberger – About Andy Frankenberger, I know nothing except impressions from a conversation in Bratislava in the spring. I have heard his praises sung extensively by Mike Sexton, who should know, as he’s had a chance to watch Andy many times up close on the WPT. Three WPT final tables in eighteen months plus a WSOP bracelet, the guy is hot. Two knocks against him; unless his middle name is Sahamies, he’s never played Omaha before, and he’s unfamiliar with the one table format. Form goes a long way, though, and I think that’ll sneak him into third place.

2. Mike Sexton – Mike Sexton is a man who refuses to be past it. Why can’t he just start muttering about how lucky these young kids are and donate his money and bubble in like all the rest of the poker players his age? In fact, for a guy who the poker world knows as intimately as Mike Sexton, it’s amazing how misunderstood he is. And by that, I mean no one realizes what he’s mostly not. Sexton is mostly not a poker commentator and he’s mostly not just a nice guy who thinks every plumber from Michigan is the next great story. Those are things he plays on TV. What Mike Sexton primarily is, he is a poker player through and through, and a darn fine one at that. And as much credit has been given to Negreanu for modernizing his game to keep up with the times, Sexton is the one who has deceptively upped his aggression. He can bring it. He final tabled the World Open last year and loves the mixed games. My guess is Sexton will use his double up for the Omaha and then show the guys that it is possible to play tight in that game and grab a second.

1. Yevgeny Timoshenko – As long as I’ve watched Yevgeny, there’s really only one thing that he knows how to do and that’s win. He just wins for fun all day long. Timoshenko doesn’t fool around, he may have a few drinks when the tournament is over, but he is all business from the first card that’s dealt. Yevgeny was a guy who played the main Premier League last year and knows what great value it is. He will be super focused on getting that invite promised to the winner of this tournament. I’ve never seen Timoshenko play Omaha, but he’s probably been playing Omaha sitn’gos for a month to prepare. I think he’ll use his double up for NLH and use his points to put pressure on the others in later heats. Go for the win from the start.

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