One of the highlights of the World Series of Poker since 2011 has been the 25K Fantasy draft. Today marks two weeks into the seven-week series, so with things almost one-third done, it's a good time to check in on the standings in the high-stakes fantasy league.
This year, 11 teams ponied up the buy-in to draft teams of eight with a $200 auction budget. We'll check in on each team today and look at who the biggest stars and disappointments are, starting with the top squad and working our way down. Plus, we got some thoughts from a couple of team captains.
Biggest Star: As PokerNews predicted before the start of the series, Ismael Bojang has been a steal thus far, with the $11 player tallying a team-high 113 points. Bojang made a deep run in the $10,000 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Championship, scoring 81 points with a third-place finish. He also maneuvered a short stack to the final table of the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em Championship, where he finished eighth and earned 31 points.
Biggest Disappointment: Matt Glantz was the team's most expensive player at $44, and he's managed just one cash, a 37th-place finish in a $1,500 event worth just one point.
Overall Outlook: This is a well-balanced roster, with each player coming between $11 and $44. Team Waxman was predicted to be one of the stronger ones and that's proven to be the case so far. Expect this team to remain at or near the top of the standings.
Biggest Star: Mike Leah, with 194 points, has been highest-scoring player of the series. He didn't come cheap at $51, but he has proven to be well worth the price, ranking 14th in points-per-dollar. Leah has two final tables already, but a 39th-place finish in the $565 Colossus accounts for most of his scoring with 101, as he reached the massive field bonus in that event.
Biggest Disappointment: Typically a beast in the stud and H.O.R.S.E. games, David Bach has been unable to record a cash despite two razz tournaments and the $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. already being in the books. At the time of this writing, he's down to a short stack in the $10,000 Stud Championship as well.
Overall Outlook: It's amazing that this team is in second with four goose eggs on the board from Vanessa Selbst, Bach, Naoya Kihara, and Alexey Makarov. The top four players on the team have done well, but Team Kroko-Ushan will be unable to keep a spot near the top without more balanced contributions.
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Biggest Star: Phil Hellmuth leads the team with 101 points, but Bart Hanson has been a revelation. The $1 flier has netted the team 94 points across four cashes, with the biggest of those — 73 points — coming from a 27th-place in the Millionaire Maker, bolstered by a big field bonus.
Biggest Disappointment: Mixed-game experts Adam Friedman and Richard Ashby have netted zeroes, but at least they came cheap. Last year's WSOP Player of the Year, George Danzer, cost a pretty penny at $86. He's managed just one cash, a 15th-place in the $10,000 Heads-Up Championship, and will need to perform better.
Overall Outlook: Team Run It Up! has gotten big contributions from value plays like Hanson, Chris George, and Shannon Shorr, all of whom cost under $10. However, if Danzer doesn't pick it up, that would be an awful lot of sunk salary. The return of Friedman, who has been away from the WSOP but said he plans to return and play numerous $10Ks, should bolster the squad as well.
Captain's Thoughts, Donnie Peters: "It's a long WSOP. We're just over two weeks in, plus aren't at the halfway point of the events played, so there's still a lot of poker to be played. Hellmuth got off to a slow start for us, but he looks to be hitting form after capturing his 14th gold bracelet, and now we need Danzer to follow suit. Hanson has been a stud for our team. Although he only cost $1, we did our research and it's not a big surprise he's performed so well. The variety and volume of events he planned to play, couple with his skill level, made us a firm believer he was going to be a steal no matter what we paid."
Biggest Star: PokerNews questioned the selection of Georgios Sotiropoulos, though he came for just $1. The pick has proven wise, as Sotiropoulos has proven suited to the task of the massive fields in some of the early tournaments. Seventy-eight of his 99 points came by cashing the Colossus and the Millionaire Maker.
Biggest Disappointment: Jeff Lisandro came for $16, a reasonable price for a player known for mixed-game prowess (none of his six bracelets have come in hold'em). However, he's posted a bagel so far.
Overall Outlook: Team Negreanu's heavy investments in Scott Clements and Stephen Chidwick are bearing plenty of fruit with a combined 140 points. They can't expect much more out of Sotiropoulos, although the $1,500 Monster Stack could suit his talents. The studs are performing here, so it will come down to whether value picks Jon Turner, Ted Forrest, and Lisandro can get on the board.
Captain's Thoughts, Daniel Negreanu: "I think I'm going to win to it all. I really do. My team's primed and ready. We've moved up to fourth place, within striking distance. More than any other team, my guys are grinding the $10Ks. My two big horses, Chidwick and Clements, are both off the schnide. My secret superstar pick that nobody knew, Georgios, is doing great. Eric Wasserson's making a deep run in every tournament. I've also got guys that haven't gotten there yet like Ted Forrest, Jon Turner, and Jeff Lisandro. Mark Gregorich also hasn't gotten off the schnide and he will. I really think I'm the favorite."
Biggest Star: Paul Volpe and Rep Porter share the glory here. Volpe had the confidence to buy himself for $80, and his 193 points are second only to Leah. The selection of Porter, meanwhile, was lauded by PokerNews, and true to form, he made his yearly final table in the $10,000 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Championship, where he got sixth for 51 points.
Biggest Disappointment: Everyone else. The other six players on the team have combined for eight points. Dan Kelly in particular has been a drag, as he cost $71.
Overall Outlook: Team Glantz/Volpe will surely take being in fifth with so little contribution from most of the team. Kelly will surely get going at some point, and Andrey Zaichenko is deep in the $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. as we speak. Hold'em specialists Taylor Paur and Darren Elias are wild cards, as the variance in those tournaments means it wouldn't be a surprise if they continue to brick.
Biggest Star: In the season preview, PokerNews' Mickey Doft called Tom Koral "the best mixed-game player you've never heard of." It was actually no-limit hold'em, though, where Koral scored 73 points with a 60th-place finish in the Millionaire Maker. Team Gipsy fired off their remaining $22 to lock him up with their final selection, and he has paid off already without a big mixed-game cash.
Biggest Disappointment: Scott Seiver was priciest player on the squad at $73, but he's returned just one point for that massive price.
Overall Outlook: Seiver has made his name on the high roller circuit, and Team Gipsy needs him to deliver when it comes time for the $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha and the $111,111 Big One for One Drop. Other than that, perhaps a long-awaited Allen Kessler bracelet could push them up the ranks?
Biggest Star: Phil Galfond may be an elite cash player, but the perception of him as a tournament player wasn't great, as Team Hastings got him for $2. Even at that price, PokerNews questioned the selection. Galfond has proven the naysayers wrong with a 72-point performance thus far, including a fourth-place finish in the $10,000 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Championship.
Biggest Disappointment: Jesse Martin was a high-priced acquisition at $51, as he's been an elite performer at the WSOP in recent years. He has yet to get it in gear this year, scoring just three points with a pair of cashes in no-limit events.
Overall Outlook: The chances of Team Hastings rest mostly on the shoulders of Martin, Justin Bonomo, and Brian Hastings himself. Those three represent almost all of the team's salary as Hastings went with a stars-and-scrubs approach. Hastings' prop bets and bracelet bets have been well-documented, so he doesn't need any more motivation to perform, but if the team captain can't make some hay, Team Hastings will remain sunk.
Biggest Star: Eli Elezra has spent plenty of time in front of the camera in the poker world, but he came at a bargain for just $3. He has more than justified his salary already with 46 points, second on the team behind high-priced stud Bryn Kenney's 73. Elezra sits eighth overall in points-per-dollar.
Biggest Disappointment: Daniel Negreanu was the most expensive player in the draft at $96. At the time, PokerNews called the selection "awfully risky," and that risk has yet to be justified as "Kid Poker" has just one cash for a single point thus far.
Overall Outlook: Things look grim at the moment for Team Leah, as they made a big bet on Negreanu that has yet to even come close to being justified a third of the way through the WSOP. Elezra is unlikely to keep up his pace, and Kenney isn't going to be able to do this on his own.
Captain's Thoughts, Mike Leah: "I'm happy with my guys, they're playing decent schedules. We've had a nice turnout in most of the $10Ks. Brock Parker was the stone bubble in the $10K Razz and the $10K Omaha. Jonathan Duhamel finished five from the money in two $10Ks. Negreanu was the stone bubble of an event and was three off the money in the deuce the other night. So, I've stone bubbled four $10Ks already. If not for all that, we'd be in OK shape. I'm unfortunately scoring way too many points for a different team. It's fun, it's still a long summer. But, looking at my team and the other teams, it would take something magical to get us to the money positions. We'll see what happens."
Biggest Star: Team captain Mike Gorodinsky has been almost a one-man team, piling up 93 points in two cashes, with 91 coming when he fell heads up to Hellmuth in the $10,000 Razz Championship. His investment of $28 in himself has been the team's saving grace.
Biggest Disappointment: Three goose eggs on Team Gorodinsky, but David "Bakes" Baker is the most costly, as he came for $45. Team Gorodinsky was betting on a rebound to 2013 form, but that hasn't been the case so far.
Overall Outlook: There's nowhere to go but up for Team Gorodinsky, as six players have either put up one or zero points. That's unlikely to continue, especially on a roster where the money was distributed fairly evenly across the board.
Biggest Star: Steve Billirakis leads this team with 23 points, a solid value considering he cost just $4. Billirakis had a near miss with a 12th-place finish in the $1,500 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em event for 21 points, along with two one-point cashes.
Biggest Disappointment: Jason Mercier was the second-most expensive player in the draft at $91, but Team Fleyshman's big investment has netted a single point. In a team full of disappointments, Mercier's early summer run stands out.
Overall Outlook: Mercier already missed a chunk of the summer with a trip for a wedding, and he said on Twitter he's been hit with a tidal wave of negative variance after an impressive SCOOP that saw him nab three titles just before the series. Mercier, David "ODB" Baker, Dan Smith, and Michael Mizrachi all have big potential for points, but Phil Ivey is the big wild card that could push this team way up the standings if he makes an unexpected early appearance.
Biggest Star: PokerNews graded this as the fourth-best team before the series, but nobody has played like a star thus far for Team Brunson. The closest thing has been David Chiu, who has scored 20 points with his three cashes in limit events.
Biggest Disappointment: This is one of the most balanced rosters in the league, with all but one of the players coming in between $22 and $41. John Monnette was the most expensive of the bunch, but he has managed just one point.
Overall Outlook: Team Brunson banked heavily on mixed-game specialists, so they'll be counting heavily on the remaining big buy-in championship events: No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw, Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low, The Poker Players' Championship, Limit Hold'em, H.O.R.S.E., Dealer's Choice, and the two pot-limit Omaha tournaments. If they can't bank numerous final tables in those, Team Brunson is going nowhere.