The Weekly Round-up – 14 June 2021:

Polk vs. Dwan $25k WPT Heads-up Championship R1 Draw

The Tip Top Fox brings you the top poker and gambling industry stories of the week; Polk Vs. Dwan In WPT Heads-Up Championship; Former WPT Champion Embezzles $22M; Ivey Gives Candid Interview; David Peters Wins Back-to-Back USPO Titles

WPT $25K Heads Up Championship: Polk Vs. Dwan In First Round Draw

The announcement of the upcoming World Poker Tour 2021 Event Schedule for North America back in early June saw the inclusion of the upcoming special invitational $25,000 WPT Heads Up Poker Championship Presented by Poker King, running 18-22 June.

The 32-entrant field has now been announced in full and the star-studded lineup will feature the likes of Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, Tom Dwan, Stephen Chidwick, Nick Petrangelo, Wiktor “Limitless” Malinowski, and Nick Schulman, to name but a few.

While the field may be small, it is packed with talent, and the tournament will feature some of the games’ top players including multiple WPT former champions and seasoned high stakes poker professionals.

However, by far the most exciting development was the first round draw, which threw up several match-ups that will have fans of televised live poker salivating in excitement.

WPT $25K Heads Up Championship Draw

Several notable players will butt heads in the opening 16 match-ups, but the one that promises to be the most exciting one by far is Tom Dwan vs. Doug Polk on 19 June.

Polk has already been making headlines after besting Daniel Negreanu heads-up for $1.2 million over 25,000 hands in their highly publicized grudge match, which concluded in February. While Dwan has had a rather quiet 2021 so far, many are expecting the face-off between the two to be the highlight of the opening round.

Dwan and Polk have never faced each other heads up before, although they did both feature in the most recent season of High Stakes Poker (Season 8) over on PokerGO. However, the two do have previous, with Polk challenging Dwan to a $5M heads-up match on his YouTube channel back in 2017.

Other highlights of the first round include Dan Smith vs. DJ and record producer Steve Aoki. On paper Smith has the edge with over $37M in career tournament winnings, but Aoki is a keen player with an appearance on Poker After Dark under his belt.

Ten-time WSOP bracelet winner and poker legend Phil Ivey will take on top German poker professional Manig Loeser, and the UK’s Stephen Chidwick faces off against Andrew “Luckychewy” Lichtenberger, also on 19 June, while on 18 June Nick Petrangelo will take on Wiktor Malinowski.

This invitational event will be a first-of-its-kind event on the Poker King platform and will be live-streamed across WPT platforms including Twitch, YouTube, and the WatchWPT app


Former WPT Champion Sentenced For $22M Embezzlement

Dennis Blieden at the WPT Tournament of Champions Season 2017-2018. Image courtesy of WPT
Dennis Blieden at the WPT Tournament of Champions Season 2017-2018. Image courtesy of WPT via Flickr

Former World Poker Tour Champion Dennis Blieden has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this week. According to a news article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati native Blieden was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison for embezzling a sizable $22M from his former employer.

Blieden made poker headlines back in 2018 after winning $1M for taking down the WPT LA Poker Classic Main Event. Twelve months later Blieden made headlines again, this time for being indicted by the FBI for wire fraud and identity theft.

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a press release listing the numerous allegations against him at the time of his arrest in November 2019.

According to the DoJ indictment press release, in his role as vice president of accounting and finance for StyleHaul Inc – a Los Angeles-based digital marketing company representing “influencers” on YouTube and Instagram – Blieden managed company finances.

However, Blieden had a severe gambling problem and abused his position to embezzle $22 million from the company to finance his high-stakes addiction. StyleHaul shut down US operations in March of 2019, coinciding with Blieden’s indictment. The company relocated to London but later went into administration.

Where The Money Went

Blieden faked wire transfers to Western Union, claiming to pay off legitimate client debts while transferring the money to his own personal bank accounts. In addition, Blieden also falsified a lease on a fake California property, siphoning off more cash when he claimed this was rented for business purposes.

The money went to pay off $1.2M in gambling debts to other poker players, and over $1.1M in credit card debt. In addition to this, Blieden also purchased over $8.4M in cryptocurrency, with the rest used to pay for personal expenditure and poker buy-ins.

In a letter written to the judge, Blieden explained sizeable gambling debts were the motivation behind his crime:

“Being so deep in debt with no way to pay, I felt I just needed a larger bankroll and I could make everything right. My plans were to take some money, gamble, pay off my loans, then put back the original amounts I took from StyleHaul back without ever being detected.”

Dennis Blieden

Unfortunately for Blieden, this was not the case, with StyleHaul beginning an investigation into Blieden’s fraudulent financial activity in early 2018.

According to court documents, Blieden had already embezzled more than $15M at the time of his $1M WPT win, a fact he claimed made his gambling addiction worse as it gave him recognition and validation from the poker community. In a letter Blieden wrote to the judge he referenced his WPT win:

“This, looking back, had a huge impact on me mentally and was no doubt an accelerant in my gambling. I was now outwardly validated within the poker community and from my peers as being a professional gambler, so I did everything I could to keep that reputation alive.”

Dennis Blieden

Owing to the global Covid-19 pandemic, Blieden’s case was delayed for 18 months. The 31-year-old was facing a possible 22 years behind bars, but after a guilty plea deal, United States District Judge André Birotte Jr. sentenced Blieden to six-and-a-half years in federal prison and ordered he repay the $22,669,979 he stole.


Ivey Gives Candid Joey Ingram Interview

Joey Ingram interviews Phil Ivey. Image courtesy of @JoeIngram1

After several years flying distinctly under the radar, iconic poker player Phil Ivey is making an Ali-like return to the poker arena. As we reported last month, Ivey made a rare interview appearance to mark the 100th episode of DAT Poker Podcast.

Notoriously tough to pin down for an interview, Ivey holds legendary status in the poker world. This is possibly down to two high-profile court cases; one against Crockfords where Ivey had £7.7M in winnings withheld by the casino due to his use of ‘edge sorting‘, the other for $10M against the Borgata, also for edge sorting.

Now those cases are both resolved, Ivey seems to be intent on announcing his return to the arena of live poker, giving a second in-depth interview in the space of a month, this time with respected poker blogger and reporter Joey Ingram.

The Interview

Topics on the table included Ivey’s many list of accolades, including 10 World Series of Poker bracelets and a WPT Title, and the fact that Ivey is also one of the most successful players in the history of online poker.

“Things are going very well for me right now,” Ivey told Ingram. “The pandemic was very good for me personally, it allowed me to reset myself and realise what’s important and what’s not,” said Ivey in what would prove to be a candid and honest discussion of what Ivey has been up to over the last 18 months or so. Mainly yoga it would seem.

The two went on to discuss Ivey’s early poker career, reminiscing about how he got started in the game and circumnavigated the minefield of temptations that await the successful poker professional.

“I got hold of a bunch of money at a young age, I was in Vegas, you get to be part of the scene, you start going out quite a bit, things just happen really fast. You get used to a certain life and then get around people that maybe don’t have your best interests in mind…” Ivey told Ingram.

It’s an hour long podcast broaching a wide variety of topics, giving fans a chance to see beneath Ivey’s stone-cold poker face. Definitely worth a watch if you have the time.


David Peters Wins Back-to-Back USPO Events To Take Second Title

Two-time US Poker Open Champion David Peters. Images courtesy of PokerGO

US poker professional David Peters has made history, becoming the first player to win back-to-back US Poker Open (USPO) Championship titles.

With the tournament series taking a hiatus in 2020, Peters was effectively defending champion, having previously won the 2019 USPO $100,000 NLHE Event to take the title, banking $1,320,000 in the process.

Despite not playing some of the Pot-Limit Omaha and Mix game events, Peters went on to clinch the 2021 USPO Title, winning three events by the end of the 12-tournament series, which concluded on 15 June.

Peters took down the $10,000 Event #7 NLHE for $217,800 and followed this up with victory in the $10,000 Event #10 Short Deck – a poker variant he has not won a title in previously – which was good for a further $124,200.

Another final table appearance came in the $10,000 Event #8 Pot-Limit Omaha, with Peters pocketing an additional $25,200 for 8th place.

However, it was Peters’s commanding win in the $25,000 NLHE Event #11 that saw the defending champion clinch back-to-back USPO Series Titles and event titles simultaneously, Peters just having to fade a Sam Soverel victory in the closing $50,000 Event #12 NLHE.

Two-Time Champion

In addition to walking away with $832,950 in tournament winnings for the series, Peters also bagged a further $50,000 for topping the US Poker Open rankings to win his second USPO title in the space of two years.

“It’s unique, winning three events in this series and even skipping the PLO and Mixed Games. It’s pretty crazy,” Peters told the PokerGO reporting team after securing his record second US Poker Open Championship win.

“Going back-to-back makes it extra special.”

2021 USPO Champion David Peters

Those wins bring Peters’ total live career tournament winnings up to over $34.5M, putting the Ohio native at #7 on the All-Time Money List, just behind 2018 USPO Champion Stephen Chidwick.

2021 US Poker Open Leaderboard

RankPlayerPointsWinsCashesSeries Winnings
1David Peters64634$832,950
2Sean Winter48412$785,700
3Ali Imsirovic48315$482,000
4Stephen Chidwick42703$628,700
5Dan Shak37104$459,750
6Jake Daniels32312$391,000
7Sam Soverel31614$382,300
8Andrew Lichtenberger30803$308,000
9Joe McKeehen30212$302,200
10Steve Zolotow28903$289,000

2021 US Poker Open Results

EventFormatBuy-inEntrantsWinnerTop Prize
1No-Limit Hold’em$10,00095Jake Daniels$218,500 
2Pot-Limit Omaha$10,00065Sam Soverel$175,500
3No-Limit Hold’em$10,00077Joe McKeehen$200,200
4Big Bet Mix$10,00048John Riordan$163,200
5No-Limit Hold’em$10,00085Joey Weissman$204,000
68-Game Mix$10,00068Eli Elezra$183,600
7No-Limit Hold’em$10,00099David Peters$217,800
8Pot-Limit Omaha$10,00063Jared Bleznick$189,000
9No-Limit Hold’em$10,00099Ali Imsirovic$217,800
10Short Deck$10,00027David Peters$124,200
11No-Limit Hold’em$25,00069David Peters$465,750
12No-Limit Hold’em$50,00042Sean Winter$756,000

Watch The Action

Full televised coverage of all the USPO action is available via PokerGO. You can also read up on all the action as it happened via the PokerGO Live Reporting Page.

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