The WSOP 3-Bet is a three-course meal at the late night poker news kitchen.

Like an unstoppable juggernaut the 2012 WSOP started slow but is beginning to gain momentum with a total of three ongoing events currently being hosted at the Rio.

After an early setback our live update team shifted into overdrive in the late stages of the day with featured updates from the $3k Heads-Up event.

Today in the WSOP three-bet we’re highlighting a Blackjack Dealer striking WSOP gold, a couple speed bumps for the $3k Heads-Up PLO/HA event and a Twitter flame war between two online poker pros.

1) Blackjack Dealer Collects First 2012 WSOP Bracelet

We’ve always thought it a little odd that the WSOP opts to start the world’s most prestigious poker series with the Casino Employees’ event.

You could probably argue that it’s their way of giving back to the poker community but it’s still a bit anticlimactic when people have been waiting for over a year to play for a bracelet and the majority are ineligible to play the first event.

Regardless California-based Blackjack Dealer Chiab “Chip” Saechao outlasted 732 players to take down a first-place prize of $70,859 late last night.

It was the first time Saechao cashed in a major tournament and his first time competing in the Casino Employees’ Event.

Second place went to Patricia Baker, who nearly became one of the few females to win a bracelet in a non-ladies event.

Saechao was very excited about his victory, which is always nice to see.

“I plan to wear it and show it off,” he said about his new bracelet. “Not too many can come over here to Las Vegas and go back home with this.”

One down, 60 more to go.

2) $3k Heads-Up HA HA

The first day of the $3,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha event could have gone better.

First of all the event had a cap of 512 players and only 318 players showed up. That led to 60-odd players earning byes to the second round.

Byes are not unusual in heads-up tournaments but the amount in this event was.

It’s obviously a pretty huge advantage going directly to the second round and it must have been at least mildly frustrating for the players who actually had to play in Round 1.

One of the more amusing incidents of the day saw Eugene Katchalov get his opponent down to 2,000 chips to Katchalov’s 16,000 before the tournament directors walked over and informed both players they actually had a bye into the second round.

Our live update team was also unable to cover only female players as we originally intended thanks to the fact that only two women registered for the event.

Vanessa Selbst and JP Kelly are among the final 15 as Event #2 at the 2012 WSOP, $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em, plays down to a champion today.

Selbst, the last female bracelet winner in an open event, had an up-and-down day but ended on an up, winning a couple of key flips to finish with 706,000 chips – good for fifth on the leaderboard.

Right above Selbst in fourth is Brit JP Kelly. Also a past bracelet winner, both at the WSOP and WSOPE, Kelly is in great position to take down his third career bracelet with 721,000 in chips.

Out in front of the pack, however, are Jacob Bazeley and Ryan Schmidt.

Bazeley is the outright chip leader with 1,291,000 while Schmidt sits just off the pace with 1,193,000.

A WSOP Circuit regular, Bazeley has a 66th-place finish in last year’s Main Event to his credit.

Notable players to make it in the money but bust out yesterday included Paul Wasicka, Dan Smith, John Juanda, Noah Schwartz, Jason Mercier and Jean-Robert Bellande.

Phil Hellmuth also recorded his 86th career WSOP cash but busted out in 61st.

Action in Event #2 resumes and 1 p.m. from the Rio in Las Vegas. Once the final table of nine is reached, live streaming coverage will be available on WSOP.com.

The top 15 and chip counts:
1. Jacob Bazeley 1,291,000
2. Ryan Schmidt 1,193,000
3. Abdyl Konjuhi 754,000
4. JP Kelly 721,000
5. Vanessa Selbst 706,000
6. Joseph Cino 703,000
7. Kenneth Strickland 685,000
8. Kwinsee Khoa Tran 592,000
9. Brent Hanks 578,000
10. Neil Willerson 479,000
11. Kennli Nguyen 411,000
12. Richard Park 379,000
13. Andrew Badecker 349,000
14. Todd Keikoan 265,000
15. Michael Kaufman 243,000

Every year we like to think our vast global poker expertise allows us to predict precisely which players are set to light the WSOP on fire.

Every year, of course, we miss wildy. Who can predict donkaments, really? But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

In keeping with our annual tradition, we asked our international editors to fill us in on players they think are on the cusp of WSOP glory.

Today: Denmark!

The 2012 World Series of Poker is underway and for the next month and a half the best poker players in the world will convene in Las Vegas.

Every year more Danish players travel to Vegas to partake of the millions of dollars available and after a couple of lean WSOP years we can be very optimistic about the Danish contingent this year.

Danish players have had an excellent start to 2012 with three victories on the EPT and WPT and we can count on seasoned WSOP veterans Simon Ravnsbæk, Frederik Brink Jensen, Peter Eastgate, Lars Bønding and Theo Jorgensen at the tables.

There are also a few young guns that may lack WSOP experience but have the proven skills to go far.

Keep a close eye on these four young Danes when the cards are dealt this year:

Earlier this year we singled out Petersen as one of the players who would break through at the live felt in 2012.

Perhaps he read the article as a month after we published it he won his first major live tournament at EPT Copenhagen.

It wasn’t a great surprise, as he had won several major tournaments online, but he had few live results at that point.

Last year he participated in the WSOP for the first time with his best result a 15th-place finish in the $ 1,500 No Limit Hold’em for $ 27,000. He also had two other cashes.

Petersen’s clearly shown the potential is there for very big things and most opponents now know they must keep a close eye on him.

He hasn’t had much luck after his EPT win but perhaps he’s been saving it for Las Vegas.

Petersen says he expects to play about 20 tournaments ,including plenty of non-Hold’em events, and he’s a threat to go deep in any of them.

Stefan Raffay

When it comes to sparring partners to have when you travel to Las Vegas to play the WSOP, you could do a lot worse than Peter Eastgate.

The 24-year-old Raffay is a member of the Betfair camp this year along with Eastgate and the support of a previous WSOP champion can maybe give him the last nudge he needs to get over the top.

Raffay made a few nice cashes online over the winter and he also had a few solid results last year in Las Vegas including a fifth-place finish in a $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event for $149,392.

Apart from his Danish Championsip title in 2006, which he won as a 18-year-old, last year’s WSOP cash was actually his biggest win live so far.

You can expect to see Stefan Raffay play – and go deep – in most Hold’em events.
Morten Lihn Christensen

Aarhus native Morten Lihn Christensen has primarily made his presence felt online with big wins under the alias “skipper-dawn.”

In 2012 he made his breakthrough in live poker with a bang when he won WPT Vienna for €313,390.

mortenchristensen

It’s an outstanding result for a player who previously had only a 31st-place at EPT Deauville as his best live finish and who’s yet to play in very many major live tournaments.

There’s no reason to think he won’t be able to build on his Vienna success in Las Vegas.

A lucky Sam Trickett was all that stopped him in last week’s WPT season finale and we hope it’s given him a taste for more action.

It’s not yet certain he’ll play in the WSOP outside the Main Event, but we hope he tries his luck.

Thor Drexel

Maybe a Dannebrog shirt will put Thor Drexel over the top at this year’s WSOP.

Playing a decisive heads-up duel this week with Kristian Kofoed for the Danish title, the winner will get a WSOP package and the right to play in the red-and-white Dannebrog jersey in Las Vegas.

If it’s Drexel, we’re sure he’ll make the most of it.

Drexel has been around the Danish poker scene for a few years but has yet to make a really big score in a live poker tournament.

His best live result is a final table at a WSOPE event in London in 2009 fr a few thousand pounds so there’s plenty of room to improve it in Vegas.

He’s an incredibly talented cash-game player and a true tournament killer online, so we hope his Danish national success will give him a little tailwind and the courage to try out the WSOP this year.

We’ll be watching for the red-and-white jersey.

The final table of the 2011 European Poker Tour (EPT) Grand Final in Madrid was made up of an eclectic group of eight players, with seven different countries being represented and contrasting personalities making for a unique live broadcast on PokerStars.tv on Thursday. Venezuela’s Ivan Freitez entered the day with the chip lead and put on a masterful display of big-stack poker to earn the first place prize of €1,500,000 and become the first Latin American player to win an EPT title.

PokerStars Supernova Elite member Andrew Li and Team PokerStars Pro Alex Gomes were sent home within the first 90 minutes at the final table, the latter coming up short on his bid to become only the third player ever to win a WSOP bracelet, a World Poker Tour event and an EPT event (Roland DeWolfe and Gavin Griffin are the only players to win all three). Gomes began the day short-stacked and moved all in preflop with 8s-7s from the small blind. Eugene Yanayt called with pocket tens in the big blind and the board ran out Kc-5c-3c-8h-5s to end Gomes’ spirited run.

Yanayt, who also sent Li packing early on, didn’t hang onto his newfound chips for long. After losing much of his stack to Andrey Danilyuk, Yanayt three-bet shoved over a Freitez preflop raise with pocket fives and found himself up against the nines of Freitez, whose overpair held up on a non-threatening board of Qc-Ts-6d-Ac-6h. Yanayt exited in 6th place for €250,000.

Spain’s Juan Maceiras, another Team PokerStars Pro, was the next to go at the hands of Germany’s Torsten Brinkmann. Maceiras moved his short stack in preflop with Jh-10h and was called by Brinkmann’s As-Kd. The best hand held again, sending Maceiras out in fifth place with €315,000.

After a three-hour break, Freitez completely took control of the four-handed final table. Danilyuk, who had been quiet for most of the day, moved all in preflop with pocket threes and Freitez called with Ad-9c. The Venezuelan’s chip lead would grow even larger as the board ran out Jc-7h-Td-Kh-Ah, giving him a pair of aces on the river and eliminating Danilyuk in fourth place for €400,000.

The Freitez buzzsaw continued as he knocked out Tamas Lendvai in third place with another timely ace. This time, he cold-called a three-bet shove by Lendvai and was in bad shape with Ah-9h against Lendvai’s picked nines, but Freitez found an ace on the flop and held on to pick up even more chips and leave Lendvai hitting the rail in third place.

Freitez began heads-up play against Brinkmann with roughly a 4 to 1 chip advantage. After he doubled up with Ac-5c against Freitez’s Qc-Qh, his dream of an EPT title was brought to a halt by the constant pressure of the aggressive Venezuelan. On the final hand of the tournament, Freitez opened the button with 10d-9d and Brinkmann moved all in with Ah-Kd. Freitez made a bold insta-call and again came from behind to win on a 9s-2s-5h-6d-8c board, prompting his South American rail to erupt in cheers.

Freitez won €1,500,000, a Shamballa bracelet and a ticket into Friday’s Champion of Champions freeroll tournament, which will see almost all of the EPT Main Event winners from all seven seasons battle it out for a €100,000 prize pool.

Here’s a look at the final results from the 2011 PokerStars.com EPT Grand Final:

1. Ivan Freitez (Venezuela) — €1,500,000
2. Torsten Brinkmann (Germany) — €900,000
3. Tamas Lendvai (Hungary) — €550,000
4. Andrey Danilyuk (Russia) — €400,000
5. Juan Maceiras (Spain) — €315,000
6. Eugene Yanayt (United States) — €250,000
7. Alex Gomes (Brazil) — €185,000
8. Andrew Li (United States) — €130,000

Over half the field of the European Poker Tour (EPT) Grand Final Main Event has been shown the door as both flights of Day 1 are set to merge on Monday. The final Main Event of season seven will end up being one of the richest in EPT history, as 686 players paid the €10,000 + €600 ($14,354 + $861) to enter, creating a total prize pool of €6.86 million ($9.85 million) and a first prize of €1.5 million ($2.15 million).

Leading the way going into Day 2 at the Gran Casino Madrid is Sweden’s David Sonelin with 275,900 chips. Sonelin is looking for his first major poker title, though he did take down the Everest Poker ONE High Roller Event less than one month ago, winning €75,000 ($108,352). Obviously, leading a week-long tournament after the first day does not guarantee him anything, but having a 23.5 big blind lead over his next closest competitor is a good start.

That competitor is Brian England from Hazlet, New Jersey, USA, currently sitting with a stack of 238,300 chips. England only has two recorded live tournament cashes to his credit, but like Sonelin, his biggest success occurred just last month, when he placed second in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit Main Event at Caesars Palace, cashing in for $94,944.

All told, the top five players in the chip counts all played during Day 1A. Norway’s Ole Kristian Nergard was the Day 1B leader, finishing with 198,200 chips, just 200 more than Mattias Bergrstrom and 400 more than 2008 WSOP runner-up, Ivan Demidov.

Entering Day 2, the top ten is about as international as we’ve seen, with two players from Sweden, two from France, and one each from Canada, Brazil, Norway, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Expand that into the top twenty and you add players from Iceland, Mexico, and Hungary.

Here is a look at that top ten:

David Sonelin (Sweden) – 275,900
Brian England (USA) – 238,300
Ben Wilinofsky (Canada) – 233,400
Alex Gomes (Brazil) – 225,900
Lucien Cohen (France) – 201,500
Ole Kristian Nergard (Norway) – 198,200
Mattias Bergstrom (Sweden) – 198,000
Ivan Demidov (Russia) – 197,800
Jean Noel Thorel (France) – 180,300

There looks to be some extremely tough tables on Day 2, as several will feature multiple players with top twenty chip stacks. Three players in the top twenty will be seated at table 45, two will be at table 8, three will be at table 52, two will be at table 4, and three will start at table 35.

Despite the withdrawal of PokerStars from the U.S. following the “Black Friday” indictments of April 15th, there are more players from the United States at the EPT Grand Final than any other country. Americans accounted for 18 percent of the field, followed by Spain at 9 percent, France at 8 percent, Germany at 7 percent, and Russia at 6 percent. PokerStars is the headline sponsor of the European Poker Tour and many players in the field qualified via the world’s largest online poker room.

A total of 104 players will make the money, with eight cashing in the six figures. Here is a look at the top ten payouts:

1st – €1,500,000
2nd – €900,000
3rd – €550,000
4th – €400,000
5th – €315,000
6th – €250,000
7th – €185,000
8th – €130,000
9th – €95,000
10th – €95,000

This is the first time that the EPT Grand Final has been held outside of Monte Carlo. Said EPT chief executive and accomplished poker player in his own right, John Duthie, “We wanted somewhere new, dynamic and inspiring, and just knew that Madrid would tick all the boxes for the travelling poker player, regardless of age or desires. The same familiar team will be running the event and the schedule will provide something for everyone.”

Play resumes at noon CET at the Casino Gran Madrid as we advance towards the final table on May 12th.

Blanca Games, operator of both Absolute Poker and UB, issued a statement over the weekend in an attempt to clarify the activities on Friday, during which agents of the Organismo de Investigaciones Judiciales (OIJ) (essentially, the Costa Rican FBI) raided the offices of the two poker rooms.

As could be seen in a Costa Rican news broadcast, and was confirmed by Blanca Games, the raid occurred at the offices of a company called Innovative Data Solutions (IDS), the customer service center for both Absolute Poker and UB. Rumors were flying that the raids were somehow related to the April 15th indictments of eleven people involved in online poker, including Absolute Poker principals Scott Tom and Brent Beckley, but Blanca claims this is not true.

The Blanca press release read, in part, “The Organismo de Investigaciones Judiciales (“OIJ”) took action yesterday to further their investigation of Olman Rimola, the owner of IDS, Scott Tom, who was also recently named in the indictment list issued by the Department of Justice on April 15th, and a third lesser known party, Oldemar Vargas.”

A Blanca spokesperson went on to say:

“We want to correct the rumors being reported in poker circles and the wider community that yesterday’s events are related to the recent Department of Justice indictments. Our understanding is that this is not the case, and that they were driven by local investigations of a separate matter in Costa Rica that involves a concerted effort to locate and apprehend Rimola, Tom and Vargas for questioning in relation to a money laundering investigation.”

Other than what Blanca Games has said, it still is not 100 percent clear exactly what the OIJ raids were all about or if they were coordinated at all with the U.S. FBI. A.J. Green, a former Costa Rica law enforcement agent and Absolute Poker security staffer, said on the QuadJacks radio show that both the FBI and Interpol were stronger driving forces behind the raid than was the OIJ, but this may not be anything more than speculation, as there has been no other evidence presented to indicate any organization besides the OIJ was involved.

OIJ agents also reportedly visited both Tom’s and Rimola’s residences.

The PokerStars offices in Costa Rica were also raided, but as it turns out, it was a case of mistaken identity, as law enforcement officials had thought they were hitting Absolute and UB.

The past week has been rough for Absolute Poker and UB. On May 5th, Blanca Games announced that it was laying off almost its entire workforce in order to trim labor costs as much as possible as it re-focuses on its non-U.S. facing business. Then Friday brought the raids. The latest blow came yesterday, when Blanca released all of its U.S.-based sponsored pros from their contracts. These players include members of Team UB Prahlad Friedman, Eric “Basebaldy” Baldwin, Joe Sebok, Maria Ho, Tiffany Michelle, Brandon Cantu, Scott Ian, Bryan Devonshire, “Hollywood” Dave Stann, and Adam “Roothlus” Levy, as well as Absolute Poker’s Trishelle Cannatella.

Additionally, poker writer/investigative reporter extraordinaire, Haley Hintze, published on her blog last week communications between Rimola and UB COO Paul Leggett in which Rimola demanded $2.75 million owed to IDS by UB to pay IDS’ terminated employees their severance. Rimola threatened to disclose information about Absolute and UB (whatever that may be) to U.S. law enforcement officials if IDS did not receive the money by May 3rd. He also seemed to fear for his life, saying to Leggett, “Just a reminder, if anything happens to me, or people close to me, I have prepared 3 sets of this information which are in hands of 3 different lawyers, with instructions to proceed with US Embassy and Costa Rican authorities.”

The money was paid shortly thereafter, but that apparently wasn’t the end of the situation. According to the Blanca press release, some or all of those funds never made it to IDS employees.

“Blanca has terminated its supplier contract with IDS after discovering that Rimola has misappropriated millions in IDS severance payments,” the statement reads. “The company is currently exploring all legal options available to recover the lost funds. Furthermore, Blanca is cooperating fully with the local Ministerio de Trabajo (Department of Labor Officials) in Costa Rica in order to coordinate an alternative method to remit all severance payments to IDS employees, thereby bypassing the facilities of IDS and Rimola to ensure that all obligations to former employees are fulfilled.”

Stay tuned to Poker News Daily as events continue to unfold.