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Allen Kessler Added to Growing IveyPoker Team

Ivey PokerYesterday Ivey Poker announced the addition of Allen Kessler to its roster of sponsored professional players. Kessler becomes the 31st pro to join Team Ivey since October 2012.

Nearly five months after its initial introduction, IveyPoker remains in development, with visitors to the website still only able to subscribe to an email list. The team of pros includes a number of well known, accomplished players in addition to Ivey, including Jennifer Harman, Patrik Antonius, Dan Shak, Cole South, and 2012 WSOP Main Event winner Greg Merson, as well as a host of younger players with numerous recent victories and large scores.

The choice of the Kessler as the newest Ivey Poker pro struck some as further indicating the team’s lack of rigor when selecting members.

BLUFF Magazine Poker Information Editor Kevin “Kevmath” Mathers humorously articulated such cynicism in a short sequence of tweets yesterday in which began with a facetious suspicion “there’s been a hacking” of the Ivey Poker site by Kessler to make the announcement of his signing. Mathers appended the hashtag “#JumpedTheShark” to suggest IveyPoker’s value has already waned even before the instructional site has officially launched.

“Obviously @AllenKessler takes care of the ‘Winning at Slot Machines’ section of the Ivey League training course,” added Mathers — an allusion to Kessler’s famed slots career — before offering sincere congratulations to his frequent combatant in social media and on the Two Plus Two forums.

In fact, Kessler’s selection as the latest Ivey Poker pro isn’t necessarily as surprising as it might seem, as Kessler began his poker-playing career in Atlantic City in the 1990s where he played alongside Ivey at the cash tables.

On an old episode of Bart Hanson’s Cash Plays podcast (from 2008), Kessler spoke of those early days playing with Ivey, noting that they mostly played stud/8 and Omaha/8. When asked by Hanson on the show if Kessler ever remembered Ivey playing badly, Kessler responded “I don’t remember… like I don’t remember him as that ‘Jerome’ or any of that stuff. He must have already been past that.”

Kessler was referring to the pseudonym Ivey employed when legally too young to play in casinos. Using a fake ID with the name “Jerome Graham,” Ivey was known to everyone as “Jerome” until he turned 21 in 1997, thus dating Kessler’s time at the AC tables with Ivey as having occurred afterwards.

Shortly after Ivey started collecting his first WSOP bracelets in the early 2000s, Kessler began what has since become a consistent career of recording cashes, final tables, as well as a few victories over the last decade. According to The Hendon Mob database, Kessler averaged nearly 20 cashes each year from 2004-2012, and already has eight more entries for 2013, the largest for $15,107 for winning a $500 H.O.R.S.E. event at the Borgata in January.

Kessler’s largest career score came for his runner-up finish in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo bracelet event at the 2010 World Series of Poker, good for a $276,485 payday. That was one of three second-place finishes for Kessler at the WSOP, making him one of only a small group of players (among them Chad Brown and Kirill Gerasimov) to have finished runner-up at the WSOP three times without winning a bracelet.

Despite having amassed over $2.6 million in career tournament earnings, most know Kessler less for his achievements at the tables and more for his idiosyncratic personality and frequent willingness to complain about tournament structures and rulings as well as to stir the pot on Two Plus Two by starting NVG (“News, Views, and Gossip”) threads about various controversies (imagined and real). Even IveyPoker’s press release made reference to Kessler’s unique personality in the poker community, introducing him as “one of the most peculiar yet also most experienced poker players of this day and age.”

Kessler also has a reputation — whether or not deserved — for employing a nitty style and looking to earn small cashes and avoid risks late in tournaments, compounded by the eagerness with which has been known to pursue comps, vouchers, and expense-reducing measures. Such was the cause for his having earned the ironic nickname “Chainsaw” (popularized on the old PokerRoad podcasts), restyled by some since as “Complainsaw” in reference to his penchant for voicing complaints.

Meanwhile, IveyPoker’s future plans remain uncertain. In addition to acquiring more pros to join Team Ivey, in the last six weeks the site has announced the acquisition of the already established instructional site LeggoPoker, thereby taking on its instructors Aaron Jones, Andrew Lichtenberger, and Dan Smith to help develop the site and its offerings.

Also recently announced was a new (free) smart phone app touted as an “innovative social poker game” that will include instructional content, although there, too, confusion reigns as to the timeline and purpose.

Why did Phil Ivey...?Earlier this month answers to 18 different FAQs about the forthcoming app began to be delivered two per day via the @IveyPoker twitter account. However, most of the questions chosen were not necessarily “frequently asked” (e.g., “Why did Phil Ivey create the #IveyPokerApp?”, “What other #poker professionals are featured in the #IveyPokerApp?”), and thus have the answers proved less than enlightening.

The trickle of information regarding the forthcoming app has been mostly greeted with still more cynicism, similar to the bemused response to tweets intermittently sent from Ivey’s Twitter account (@PhilIvey) account over the last two years.

The combination of having grown a huge team of patch-wearing pros and a conspicuous — if often ambiguous — social media strategy has certainly gotten the poker world’s attention over the last five months, although it remains to be seen whether or not IveyPoker will prove at all significant or influential within the industry going forward.


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