We get the inside scoop on the legendary Premier Poker League: “While the Premier League is still primed for fast-paced action, there are several reasons why it continues to endure”

We go behind the scenes at the best PartyPoker Premier League yet!

In June, the PartyPoker Premier League V returns to our screens, and having seen all the action first hand at Vienna’s Montesino, we can unreservedly say it’s going to make for essential viewing.

The previous four incarnations have always boasted charismatic line-ups, throwing talkers like Phil Hellmuth, Tony G, Luke Schwartz and Daniel Negreanu into the mix. But what makes this year’s event so impressive is the sheer strength in depth of the 16 player field.

‘This is the year the Premier League has really gone to the elite level,’ said esteemed commentator Jesse May. ‘It’s as if we wrote a list of the top players in the world and they all came.’

Alongside familiar faces like Tony G, Phil Laak and Yevgeniy Timoshenko, debutantes included the French phenom ElkY who organisers have been chasing for years. Another new face was poker’s all-time money winner, Erik Seidel, who was combining his league appearance with a visit to his daughter at Edinburgh university. ‘It’s the first year they’ve ever invited me, and it sounded like it would be fun,’ said Seidel.

This was also the first appearance for Patrik Antonius. ‘They proposed it to me and I thought why not? And the buy-in was big enough to give me a little bit of motivation,’ the cash game legend said. Ever the master of the understatement, he was referring to the $125k buy-in. On top of that there was a juicy overlay of $200k. ‘The added money is huge,’ said tournament director Matt Savage.

Where in the world?

The extra juice was possibly responsible for the biggest star name of all, Tom Dwan, signing up to play. Like Antonius, Dwan is notorious for giving live events a wide berth and has barely been seen on the live circuit since the collapse of Full Tilt. But it says something about the quality of the Premier League that he actually left the Big Game in Macau to join the fray.

But in typical Durrrr fashion (he lost his passport last year), getting to Vienna proved difficult. ‘He missed his helicopter from Macau,’ divulged PartyPoker’s press guru Warren Lush grimly. At least Durrrr’s Twitter revealed he wasn’t planning to miss out: ‘Now in HK airport trying to figure out what to do to make the premier league,’ he tweeted.

Fortunately the solution was easy, Sam Trickett would simply take Dwan’s place in Group A, Dwan would move to Group B and the show would go on.

What do points make?

Historically, made for TV sit-and-go formats have been more miss than hit, with the whole thing descending into a coinflip farce. While the Premier League is still primed for fast-paced action, there are several reasons why it continues to endure. Not least is the fact the eight players, from each of the two groups, have to play each other four times due to the league format.

‘You get meta-game dynamics and the strategies of the league table,’ said May. For stats-obsessed players such as tournament destroyer Timoshenko, the points system opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

‘Once we get to heat three and four, I’m going to study the points log closely and figure out what needs to happen for me to reach the finals, figure out who I can and can’t go after,’ he said. ‘All those edges add up in a tournament as big as this, playing against players as talented as the players in this field.’

Going up in smoke

Another unique attribute of the Premier League format is how much more hand history  information players have access to compared to any other tournament. As soon as play stopped for a break there’d be a flurry of activity as the players rushed to view the hand updates, which were being regularly posted on the PartyPoker blog with a 15 minute lag.

In one corner Phil Laak would be glued to his laptop screen, while next to him Durrrr would be eagerly trying to find out whether he’d won his flopcolour prop bet. Meanwhile across the room Vanessa Selbst and Timoshenko would be engrossed in conversation about the minutiae of a specific hand. On top of this, each player was invited to commentate on a heat involving the other group, giving them a chance to see how their rivals played. It’s a twist that Jesse May describes as one of the greatest things about the League.

May was particularly looking forward to shooting the breeze with Luke Schwartz. ‘I’ve gotten a chance recently to do more commentary with Luke and to me he’s one of the greatest minds in poker. He’s so raw and so natural.’

Suffice to say when we tried to collar Schwartz about anything to do with the league the response was more raw than anything else. ‘Nah, can’t be bothered to talk to you guys. Anyway, I’m pretty out of it,’ the bad boy of UK poker told us before walking off. Ten minutes later Schwartz was trying to punch his mate Sam Trickett in the face. We wonder if that will make the final edit?

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