BY RUSS SCOTT
RELEASE: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2009
Phil Ivey is all smiles at the 2008 National Heads-Up Championship.
PHIL IVEY — AKA ‘TIGER WOODS OF POKER’ — AT WSOP HISTORY’S DOORSTEP
Phil Ivey says he doesn’t deserve the label branding him the “Tiger Woods of Poker.” But is he right?
Ivey’s presence at the World Series of Poker main event final table, which plays out Nov. 7-9 in Las Vegas, has created a buzz like never before. The acknowledged greatest player in the game going after poker’s biggest prize is a story line for the ages.
Media coverage of the main event no doubt will mention the Ivey-Woods comparison, and there are good reasons why:
* Both superstars are 33 years old — Woods is 33 days older than Ivey — and currently considered the best in their respective games, with the likelihood of each eventually being rated as the greatest of all time.
* Both have a huge fan base which translates into intense media exposure. Look for ESPN’s coverage of the final table airing on Nov. 10 to be the highest ranked poker show ever on TV if Ivey makes it to heads-up play.
* Both are known for their unequalled focus, intensity and drive to win. Woods, already with 14 victories in major tournaments, is on pace to eclipse Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. Ivey, with seven WSOP bracelets, is just four behind the record total of 11 held by Phil Hellmuth.
But there are differences worth noting, too. At the top of the list is demeanor.
Woods regularly slams his club into the ground or belts out foul language when he hits a bad shot, regardless of who is nearby to hear him. A good shot often prompts multiple fist pumps and vein-popping shouts of joy.
In tournament poker, players can be penalized for excessive celebration and a dirty mouth. The most you’ll see from Ivey when he wins or loses a hand is a shrug. When he busts out of a tournament, he simply gets up from the table quietly and heads for the nearest cash game.
The competition dynamic also is different.
A typical golf tournament involves about 20 hours of action spread over four days against a field of about 140 players. Many poker tournaments have five or ten times as many players and multiple 10- or 12-hour days of competition. At the extreme is the WSOP main event: This year’s winner will have outlasted a field of 6,494 and battled 80-100 hours.
Can Ivey win this world championship and claim the $8.5 million prize, pushing him way into the all-time money lead with $20.5 million? Of course he can. He has come close three times before, finishing 23rd in 2002, 10th in 2003 and 20th in 2005.
But it will take all of his skill plus a little luck. He’s starting in seventh position (out of nine) with 9.77 million chips at a table flush with quality pros. A pure amateur, Darvin Moon, has a commanding lead with 58.9 million — one-third of the total chips in play.
Oddsmakers like Ivey’s chances, too. One major bookmaker in the United Kingdom lists him as the third favorite at 5.5-1, behind Moon (2.5-1) and Eric Buchman (4-1). Meanwhile, you can bet Ivey will be the No. 1 pick among fans crowding into the Rio Casino on Nov. 7.
And what does Ivey think about a possible eighth WSOP bracelet? Back in July when the final table was set and the 115-day suspension of play began, he summed it up for reporters this way:
“To me, it’s a poker game, and I just love to play. So I’m going to do my best, trust my reads, and just perform the best I can.”
If he pulls off the victory, it might be appropriate to start calling Tiger Woods the “Phil Ivey of Golf.”
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2009 RUSS SCOTT
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