Phil Ivey v. Manig Loeser: Ivey's back!

Jon Pill
Posted on: June 17, 2021 10:16 PDT

The WPT Heads Up Championship kicks off at Noon PST tomorrow. The first sixteen matches will play out over Friday and Saturday in simultaneous pairs with coverage online in English and Chinese. Ivey's match will be at 1 PM Pacific Time.

All eyes are currently on the admittedly important Tom Dwan v. Doug Polk match. But in all the excitement to see these two heads-up powerhouses play, the hype machine has passed over what might be an even more exciting game: Phil Ivey v. Manig Loeser.

But if you don't let the dazzle blind you, then any match involving Phil Ivey should rightfully be top billing for any event he's in. Especially when it marks Ivey's return to the live tournament circuit. Here's what you need to know about the match tomorrow.

The return of the (Poker) King

Tom Dwan wasn't the only player to vanish after Black Friday. Plenty of people saw the writing on the firewall when the DOJ seized the PokerStars and Full Tilt websites. Just like Dwan, Ivey went West. He crossed the Pacific to play in the high stakes private rooms of Macau.

However, unlike Dwan, Ivey kept a moderately public profile. He still cropped up from time to time in Vegas. His baccarat shenanigans during that time made major headlines in New Jersey and old England. His antics were powerful enough to be the subject of an upcoming Hollywood movie starring Akwafina.

With the pandemic shutting down live games planetwide, Ivey had to make some changes. That meant stepping away from poker for bit. During his hiatus, he landed a sponsorship deal with Poker King. Dwan joined him in that venture too. This is definitely a factor in why both of them have seats in the rarified 32-person field.

Ivey's deal with Poker King is not exclusive. He also fronts for Virtue Poker.

His break from poker hasn't been absolute. This match isn't the only toe he's dipped back into the water this year. He came back to the tables for the latest season of High Stakes Poker. Plus he has appeared in online events for both Poker King and Virtue Poker. In the near future, he'll be making an even more substantial return in September, when he says he will be playing the WSOP. But the WPT Heads Up Championship in Cabo will be his first major live tournament back on the grind.

When weighed against the star power of Phil Ivey, Manig Loeser might seem like small fry. But don't be fooled, his surname is ironic. He has over $11 million in live tourney wins, and a little under $2 million more online at PokerStars and Partypoker.

Ivey might be top 10 in the Hendon Mob rankings, but Loeser is still top 100. Ivey is at his best when he's swimming with other sharks, and Loeser should be an excellent opponent to bring out his best.

As an enthusiastic — if poor — chess player, I'll be rooting for WFM Alexandra Botez to take the tourney down overall. But I hope its Ivey she gets to play in the final.

Featured image source: Flickr by WPT