Phil Ivey Is Back At The WSOP (And Playing Everything)

June 4, 2018
Phil Ivey Is Back At The WSOP (And Playing Everything)

Phil Ivey’s name resurfaced into the mainstream poker world in May when he played in the Triton Super High Roller Series in Montenegro. Ivey won a Short Deck title and then played in the Super High Roller Bowl in Las Vegas a few weeks later as the final entrant announced. The two events sparked buzz about Ivey’s 2018 World Series of Poker prospects. Those questions look to have an answer within the first week of the summer.

The return

Ivey played in the WSOP $100,000 High Roller event over the weekend, and after he busted from that event it became evident what hise summer volume will look like. He entered the $2,500 Mixed Triple Draw event on Saturday but did not advance to Day 2. On Sunday, fans were treated to a surprise when Ivey entered Day 1D of The Colossus.

A $565 buy-in is less than a small blind for Ivey in most cash games he plays in. Yet, there he was grinding away in poker’s biggest lottery. Ivey’s starting stack of 5,000 grew to 63,000 by the end of the night and he is on to Tuesday’s Day 2.

Last week’s $25,000 WSOP Fantasy Draft fueled speculation that Ivey would be playing a full schedule. Eric Wasserson, a co-captain picking Daniel Negreanu’s team, upped the bid to $50 for Ivey and won. Wasserson and Negreanu are close friends, as are Negreanu and Ivey. The small degree of separation leads to an ostensible guess that Negreanu knows Ivey’s schedule for this summer.

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The bets?

Ivey had been off the WSOP grid since 2014 when he won his 10th bracelet. Legal issues hamstrung his finances to play tournaments but he reportedly remained active in cash games in Asia.

When Ivey won the $1,500 Eight-Game Mixed event in 2014, he earned more than $167,332 first-place prize. Negreanu and Ivey made bracelet bets prior to the summer and Ivey cashed in for the pair.

Could a similar bracelet bet be on the table in 2018? Ivey’s current pace of tournaments entered suggests so.

The last major bracelet bet came in 2016 when Jason Mercier booked a $10,000 bet at 180-1 against Vanessa Selbst that he could win three bracelets in a single series. Mercier came up short but was the talk of the Rio for the full WSOP calendar after he won two bracelets in a single week.

No official details are out in the open as of yet but a lucrative bracelet bet is a likely catalyst for Ivey playing a $565 crapshoot.

In previous years when Ivey has had bracelet bets on the line, two or three tournaments played at once is the norm. Registration is open until the start of Day 2 for the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo event and odds are Ivey will play with Colossus still another day away.

Who is betting against Ivey?

Without a tweet or other form of communication, there is difficulty in pinning down who is responsible for giving Ivey the potentially added motivation to play a full schedule.

The obvious guesses are Negreanu or other members of the American high stakes community. There is a reason to believe Ivey’s tournament skills are diminished as a 41-year-old who has not played many of them in recent years. Bobby’s Room is ruthless and if they believe Ivey is a mark, they will gladly take action.

Another candidate is the group of businessmen who surround Ivey in high stakes games in Asia. Ivey maintains a relationship with Big One for One Drop participant Paul Phua, an influential member of the group who put on the biggest games in that part of the world. The businessmen love a good sweat and Ivey attempting to a win a bracelet with at least six-figures on the line could be worth the seven weeks of entertainment.

Will he pull it off?

Ivey is more than familiar with all the games the WSOP has to offer and ironically owns zero No Limit Hold’em bracelets. There are over 30 events remaining of the non-NLHE variety and if Ivey keeps up his current volume, he is a favorite to make a deep run in at least one or two.

In 2012, Ivey made five final tables in the span of two weeks. A run similar to that this summer would place Ivey immediately back into the conversation for the best all-around player in the game.

And if he wins a bracelet? We’ll see.

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