People News: Neymar on, Kruse off; Esfandiari robbed; Mike McDonald wins free throw bet; Dang brothers story; New York Times “fleeing” poker players

In this column we deliver you the latest and most interesting news and gossip from our favourite poker people.

Neymar plays WSOP Online

Football player plays poker.

This should not be big news. But it is! He’s not just any football player and he’s not just playing any poker. Football superstar Neymar Jr. made his appearance at the celebrated WSOP Online tables on Natural8 to get involved in some good old online poker action.

The 28-year-old Brazilian football/soccer legend plays for the French club Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team and is known to enjoy playing poker.

He has been spotted at many poker events around the world including the WSOP in Las Vegas. Now you could find him in action in Event #79 $25,000 Heads-Up No Limit Hold’em in the WSOP 2020 Online series.

Brazil has been doing tremendously during this prestigious online series and if Neymar had won this event, he would have been the fifth Brazilian player to win a bracelet this WSOP season. However, Neymar Jr. unregistered right before the event kicked off, leaving the tournament one entry short of its 128-player proposed field.

This was very likely not the last time he kicked the ball around on the poker pitch. Keep your eyes open for this Brazilian football star at future poker events.

Seidel blinding out opponent

And while one football legend makes the news for his appearance at the virtual felt, another creates drama by not showing up.

Max Kruse might not be known very well internationally, but the German Union Berlin kicker definitely has a name in his home country. German poker fans are also aware of his love for poker. He has been playing in many events in Europe and famously came close to winning a WSOP bracelet in Las Vegas twice by finishing third in the 2014 WSOP $1,500 No Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball and 2017 4th in the $1,500 Limit 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw event.

During the 2020 World Series of Poker Online on Natural8, Kruse played event #54, the $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship, and faced poker dinosaur Erik Seidel in the round of 64. For reasons unknown, Kruse only showed up very late to the online table and Seidel had rigorously stolen the blinds in the meantime by raising every hand.

When Kruse did finally show, his stack was halved and he couldn’t turn it back around, leaving Seidel the winner of this round.

Once it became known on Twitter, drama ensued. The community started bashing on Seidel for blinding out a recreational player like this and that he should have sat out himself instead.

Erik finally got to reply to the negative Twitter storm and said it was a mistake. He said his plan was to pay his opponent his buy-in and a percentage of his winnings if he blinded out.

Of course some didn’t like this reply, saying Seidel just said that after the fact. But as we all know, Erik Seidel is one of the most respected people in poker and he would probably be the last lying about a thing like this. He even ended up calling it a valuable discussion for the poker community and that we could all learn from this.

We can probably assume that most people being outraged about this are those that would indeed do exactly the same in blinding out their opponent WITHOUT any intention of paying them back.

Esfandiari robbed

And speaking of well-liked poker legends…

Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari’s Panorama Towers condo in Las Vegas has been robbed of $1 million in cash, casino chips and other possessions, including his 2012 World Series of Poker Big One for One Drop bracelet.

Esfandiari has owned this property for a decade and has famously made it clear he’s given keys to all his friends so they can come and go whenever they liked.

It almost comes as a surprise that nothing like this has happened before. And indeed the suspect of this crime, Svitlana Silva, a 46-year-old poker dealer from Arizona, is an acquaintance of the Esfandiari family who had access to the property and had spent time there alone on several occasions.

Apparently Silva had played in some private high stakes poker game using chips and cash that originated from Esfandiari and triggered the arrest at the Aria parking garage. She had several $25,000 Aria and Bellagio chips in her possession at that time.

This is such a weird case of a brainless crime that it’s almost comical. It looks like the Esfandiaris will get their possessions back and probably will have learned to be less nice people going forward.

Thanks, Svitlana.

Mike McDonald wins $250k free throw bet

We have previously reported about the Canadian poker pro Mike McDonald and his bet to throw 90 of 100 consecutive basketball free throws.

While there were no sports to bet on during the Covid crisis, this bet was born five months ago and piqued the interest of the poker community. It was taken on by several high stakes poker players and Mike had made sure to live stream his progress on Twitch.

McDonald was allowed unlimited restarts and he had until the end of the year to complete the task with as many tries as needed. Gamblers such as Nick Schulman, Christian Harder, and Will Jaffe publicly bet against “Timex”.

McDonald tweeted last week that he completed the challenge and uploaded video proof of the act Thursday.

But, of course, controversy followed as McDonald tweeted that he completed the bet Tuesday, but was forced off the public court he was using and had to take a 30-minute break before completing the challenge. Apparently McDonald also took an entire night off in between starting and finishing the first attempt.

Nick Schulman then posted a somewhat comically upset video on Twitter making clear he was disappointed in the outcome of this but that he conceded the bet to Mike.

However, McDonald made sure to prove he could really do it, went back to the gym the very next day and sank 90 out of 100 again. He uploaded the video evidence to prove it and Schulman tweeted an apology video.

So at least we have a happy ending to this story. Good game, Mike McDonald and fair game, Nick Schulman.

The story of the Dang brothers

Many poker players would like to think they can go on forever chasing the dream of playing cards while traveling the world or optionally while staying at the home grind station.

Some poker players, however, decide to leave the poker dream and pursue different adventures. This doesn’t always have to be for negative reasons like the loss of a bankroll, fatigue or Black Friday. For many it’s just simply looking to do something else, to solve a different kind of puzzle.

In the case of the Dang brothers, Di and Hac, it was a mixture of reasons. Read their interesting story on the Washingtonian site.

The Wild Story of Two Online Poker Stars Who Traded the High-Roller Life for the Unglamorous World of Restaurants

New York Times reports on “fleeing” poker players

It’s not often that the mainstream media picks up on poker topics without any big drama triggering it. And of course, the global Covid pandemic is pretty dramatic, but the New York Times actually recently reported on the problematic poker players in the U.S. were facing to pursue their passion and indeed profession to play the WSOP online.

To read the full article by Kashmir Hill with an outside view of our industry’s most recent struggles, click here.

Cover picture by PokerStars Live