The popular World Series of Poker $25K Fantasy Draft took place at ARIA in Las Vegas, Nevada on Tuesday night — just hours before the series kicked off at the Rio. A total of 15 teams pooled their money together to participate in one of the most noteworthy events of the pre-WSOP festivities. The number represented almost a 100% increase over the eight teams who played in 2017.
Daniel Negreanu runs the league each year and took the initiative of bringing more teams into the fold by making an offer that benefits teams and charity.
There were a few teams who entered on behalf of this offer, including 2016 WSOP bracelet winner Chase Bianchi.
The draft presided in a small conference room at ARIA filled to capacity with hopefuls looking to put together the “dream team” for 2018. A diverse unit assembled with fun groups of players drafting together.
Rules for the Fantasy Draft are simple. Each team is given a bankroll of $200 to fill eight roster spots in an auction-style draft. Once a team completes their roster, they are free to leave. An auctioneer kept an order on the picks and the draft itself wrapped up after close to four hours of wagering.
Team Martins (Jesse Martin, Dan Zack, Chris Klodnicki) and Team #FTGB (Anthony Zinno, Alex Foxen, Ryan Riess) were among the think tanks.
Bianchi, long-time drafter Dan Fleyshman, and defending Fantasy League champion Mike Leah are some who bid solo in the room.
Big names go for big money
The increased player pool for 2017 led to higher demand for the best quality of candidates. Negreanu’s draft number is consistently in the neighborhood of $100 and he went for even more last night.
An early bidding war broke out between Team Go Barstool (Brent Hanks, Remko Rinkema, Eric ‘Barstool Nate’ Nathan) and Team Vanbex (Victor Ramdin, David ‘ODB’ Baker’, Mark Gregorich) for Negreanu’s services.
Go Barstool refused to back down and claimed Negreanu for a whopping $131. That number represents the most money ever spent on a player since the $25,000 Fantasy League started in 2011.
The salary cap figure put a large dent in the rest of Go Barstool’s spending ability and they went into the shadows until later in the draft.
Perennial WSOP Player of the Year contender James Obst went off the board soon after Negreanu to another extreme figure. Obst almost topped Negreanu’s record-breaking number and settled at $129 to Mike Noori. As the bidding for Obst leveled up, an ostensible coincidence took place with Obst walking into the draft room to hear his name up for grabs.[i15-table tableid=20717][i15-table tableid=19346]
Polarizing figures net $50
Phil Ivey and Chris Ferguson’s profile played a large role in how the draft shook out. Ferguson was the last player off the board in 2017 and gained Todd Brunson 188 points for the $1 investment. Brunson made sure to obtain Ferguson for the second year in a row and paid some markup with $50 delivered on the defending WSOP Player of the Year. The next pick for Brunson went to Phil Hellmuth for $71.
Ivey’s name came up halfway through the drafting period. Eric Wasserson stood as he ratcheted up the price for Ivey versus a game Noori. Based on Wasserson’s determined manner to obtain Ivey, he may have some insight into a rough idea of what Ivey’s schedule will be. Wasserson also shares a friendship with Negreanu.
Defending champion uses unique strategy
Leah won the 2017 league in his first year picking. An avid fan of fantasy spots and overall game strategy, Leah came in with a plan to defend his title. Leah shot early to grab himself and Adam Owen for a combined $163 and then sat back for almost two hours before taking another player.
“I thought correctly that the top-tier players would go for more money than in past years because there’s less to go around and there’s more competition for them,” Leah said. “We were hoping to get two of our favorite five guys for $180 and then fill out the rest of the team with sleepers. When I got myself for $77, I was hoping to fit [Obst] in. We had a $30 max bid and the guys we were saving for went past that bid.”
The sleepers selected by Leah went uncontested as he obtained Kenny Hallaert, Steven Wolansky, Mohsin Charania, Joao Vieira, and Rob Campbell for $1 each.
This group fits into what Leah believes is a well-rounded roster that can hit all of the right marks to gain points.
“I was looking for guaranteed volume,” Leah confirmed. “People that are going to be playing a ton of events, bracelet-hunting, having a chance at the big No Limit field bonuses and then also having some $10,000 Mixed events in there. We were looking for high ceilings and low floors. I think every person that I drafted or bid on was someone that I was comfortable with there.”
And they’re off…
The first event of the WSOP schedule starts Wednesday with the $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty set to offer some early points. Among the new selections for 2018 who may compete are Joe McKeehen, Ari Engel, and Jerry Wong.
Baker’s ‘ODB League’ is open for all who wish to draft a team of their own for $500 using the prices established in the $25,000 League.
The official $25,000 Fantasy League website has the complete list of all players and rosters for 2018.