PokerStrategy.com Column - The Caesars Cup - Who Are The Favourites, And Who Cares?

Caesars Cup
Hellmuth & ElkY Lead The Way
The Caesars Cup at the WSOPE is billed as the Ryder Cup of poker. It is a heads-up team tournament between five players from Europe and five players from the Americas, where the best in the world are chosen by team captains Phil Hellmuth and Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier.

Of course the big difference between the Caesars Cup and the Ryder Cup is that 99% of the poker playing community do not care one bit about it.

Most players consider it to be nothing more than a made for TV tournament with recognisable names for the casual poker viewers - which is exactly what it is.

But lets pretend it isn't for a while and actually look at the two teams involved.

Team USA – (Captain) Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu and Huck Seed.
Team Europe – (Captain) Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier, Jake Cody (UK), Gus Hansen (Denmark), Dario Minieri (Italy) and Maxim Lykov (Russia).

Phil Hellmuth claims he has gone for experience over youth by picking Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan. I can’t help but think these teams were largely picked by TV producers instead of the Poker Brat himself, because surely even someone as 'old school' as Phil could not have honestly picked this team hoping to win?

Out In the Poker Wilderness

Huck Seed and Negreanu both seem like fair picks, even though ultimately they must have been picked for their marketability first and foremost. I have no problem with Hellmuth as the captain either after his rebirth at the WSOP. But Doyle and Johnny? Other than the TV circuit, they have been pretty much out in the poker wilderness for a long time now.

I am sure that certain no-brainer picks like Tom Dwan & Phil Ivey would simply not have been available for obvious reasons this year, but there is still a wealth of TV friendly US players who are crushing the game who no doubt would have accepted an invitation to play. Jason Mercier, Vanessa Selbst, Ben Lamb, and Eric Seidel all spring to mind as being very noticeable by their absence.

Experience is not an excuse in this day an age, when you consider that most online players overtake their live counterparts in number of hands played. Not only that, they also can trump them in specific experience of the format, given the Caesars Cup is a heads-up event.

Two prime examples of this is Dario Minieri and ElkY, who between them arguably may have played more hands that the remaining 8 participants combined (Dario is a really shrewd pick when you consider his heads-up SNG experience).

Caesars Cup
Team Europe Won in 2009

Team Europe Light Years Ahead

The European team is a much stronger line up in every way, and equally experienced live and online. Every single one of them has at least a bracelet, most have a bracelet and another major title, Cody and ElkY are triple crown winners, and Cody and Hansen have their bracelet in high roller heads-up matches.

All of them are equally experienced in online play, in fact most of them are known to be highly experienced in heads-up variants of online play (Elky came 2nd in the WCOOP heads-up high roller, Hansen plays heads-up cash, Dario is one of the sickest heads-up SNG grinders of all time, and Jake Cody was a heads-up cash player before he shot to stardom).

But as strong a line-up as Europe is, I cannot help but think that the teams were picked by, or at least the draft pool was significantly restricted by, TV producers. Gus is the token 'TV Pro' in the pack, and all five men represent different strong European poker demographics - France, UK, Italy, Russia, and Scandinavia.

I think both team captains, and the TV producers whom I am continually accusing of picking the teams, certainly missed a trick by not including a November Niner on one of the line-ups. The aforementioned Ben Lamb would be been a great addition to the Americas team, particularly because he is racing against Hellmuth in the POY rankings. As this is essentially a WSOP product, it seems like a missed opportunity for reciprocal marketing of both events.

We don't have to enjoy watching televised poker to enjoy the benefits it brings - namely attracting new players to the game. The Caesars Cup is not supposed to appeal to the serious poker players among us, but a few tweaks and it could have done.

Replace Doyle and Johnny with Eric Seidel and either Jason Mercier or Ben Lamb, and you would have not only had an event to appeal to the TV poker audience, you also would have got a match up that would have got more serious poker players talking. It might have even been worthy of a few side bets or a sportsbook opening a market on it.

But who cares anyway? It's just a made for TV poker tournament that doesn't mean anything anyway.


Hgh said...

After a hiatus of two years, Caesars Cup again be in play in the World Series of Poker Europe this year in Cannes.

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