“It’s About Time”: Martina Navratilova Reflects on Roger Federer Confirming to Play in Dubai


It has been more than a year of inaction for Roger Federer now. He last played at the Australian Open 2020, where the Swiss maestro saw a straight-set loss against the Serbian Novak Djokovic. It was a tough series for him where he had to test his physical limits in 2 five-setters.  The 20-time grand slam champion later in the same year underwent double knee surgeries. All of this kept him away from the tennis court even after various countries lifted lockdown and the sport made a much-awaited return. However, the latest news is a big positive for the Federer camp. Martina Navratilova reflected on the comeback of Roger Federer The Swiss great will make his return to the ATP Tour at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. Also, the latest development suggests that he can then play an ATP 500 tournament in nearby Dubai.  In a recent interview, a jovial Martina Navratilova learned the news and reacted with some humor. The 18-time women’s Grand Slam champion expressed, “I think he just wants to stay in Burj Al Arab again, but amazing! “It’s great to see Roger back, it’s about time for him sitting for over a year. So I’m glad he’s healthy and playing again.”  That he is coming back with an ATP 250 will ensure that he does not have to put too much pressure on himself for advancing deeper in the event. Prior to this, there were headlines that alleged Roger was fit enough to return for Australian Open 2021 and that he decided against it because of family reasons. Can the Ninjafed make a successful return? Roger Federer gestures to the spectators before hitting signed tennis balls into the stands during the 2019 Hopman Cup. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)Well, it might be an ATP 250, but it has participation from some of the best ATP players. The 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem, the ATP Cup 2021 hero Andrey Rublev, and of course King Roger himself will stay in the highlight of the event. Apart from these names, there are six players from the Top-20 that’ll make the competition juicier. From Roger’s Swiss companion Stan Wawrinka to Roberto Bautista Agut, Gael Monfils, and others, it will not be an easy draw for the legendary 39-YO. However, the rusty Federer is also the mighty Federer, and he has always dominated all the aforementioned names with his stinging play. Also notably, his participation in the Dubai event will depend on how his body reacts to the Qatar event. The event will kick off on March 8th and the world will cheer for the arguable GOAT. READ MORE- Why is Roger Federer Considered the GOAT?

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Sohail hints at managing Shaheen’s workload during PSL 6


Karachi: Lahore Qalandars captain Sohail Akhtar has said that they will try to manage Pakistan’s leading pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi’s workload during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) season six.
While talking to media in a pre-tournament presser, Sohail revealed that the star pacer won’t be overburdened and will be provided rest when needed.
“He is an asset for Pakistan and we will try to manage his workload properly by giving him rest whenever it is needed and possible by the team,” he said.
Sohail emphasized that in the last season, their spin attack was weak and after Rashid Khan’s arrival in the side, the attack is now strengthened.
“Rashid Khan is the top bowler of the world. With his arrival our spin attack has also got some much-needed experience and it has made our bowling attack a top class one,” Akhtar said.
Meanwhile, Sohail is confident of doing well this season too as they were the runners-up in PSL 2020. “We played good cricket last year. We came so near to the title but couldn’t finish well. This year, we will try to overcome our all shortcomings and give our best. the Qalandars are positive and focused about the upcoming tournament.”
Read: Lahore Qalandars appoint Shaheen Shah as vice-captain for PSL 6
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Pumaren resigns as Adamson coach, focuses on councilor duties

Former Adamson coach Franz Pumaren. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines — Adamson University has parted ways with head coach Franz Pumaren, the school announced Tuesday.
In a statement, Adamson said Pumaren will no longer return as coach of the Soaring Falcons to focus on his duties as councilor in the third district of Quezon City.
“As Adamson University understands the desire of Coach Franz to give full-time service to his constituents in his district in Quezon City, we announce with a heavy heart that Coach Franz will cease mentoring the Adamson Falcons effective this current year,” the statement read.
“The whole Adamson community would like to thank Coach Franz Pumaren for his unselfish sharing of his time and talent with the Adamson Men’s Varsity Team, masterfully lifting once again the standing of the Falcons in the prestigious UAAP League.”
Pumaren, who steered La Salle to five UAAP championships, returned to coaching in the collegiate ranks with Adamson in 2016.
He guided the Falcons to three Final Four appearances.
“His unique brand of coaching has carried the Falcons through several respectable finishes in the last five UAAP seasons which were considered by the Adamson community as the most electrifying Falcon seasons by far,” the school wrote.
“To Coach Franz, we will forever be grateful. We could not have pulled off the Falcon’s comeback in the UAAP podium without you.”
Mike Fermin has been tapped as the Falcons’ interim head coach.

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Addamo, Adams, and Bonomo Among Big Sunday Winners

February 16 2021
Matthew Pitt

Online poker tournaments are massive on Sundays and this fact along brings out the game’s best players. Michael Addamo, Timothy Adams, and Justin Bonomo are just three of those stellar names who managed to take down a Sunday major this weekend.
Addamo Takes Down GGPoker Sunday 500 High Rollers $5,250
Michael Addamo enjoyed a super Sunday courtesy of triumphing in the Sunday 500 High Rollers $5,250, a tournament that attracted 113 of the world’s best players to the GGPoker virtual felt.
Addamo’s first bullet didn’t go to plan and he crashed out in 76th place. He re-entered and put used his new stack to full effect.
The likes of Kristen Bicknell, Matthias Eibinger, Elio Fox, Benjamin Rolle, and Anatoly Filatov busted inside the money places but before the star-studded final table.
Austria’s “Filip1” was the final table’s first casualty. Their ninth-place exit awarding a $14,833 prize.
Alex Foxen and David Yan then busted. Yan would go on to take down Sunday High Rollers Bounty King $3,150 for $49,300 later in the evening.
The exits of Michael Zhang, Aleksei Barkov, Pascal Hartmann, and David Peters left Addamo heads-up against Wiktor Malinowski. Addamo rarely loses when he’s heads-up and that was the case again here. Addamo collected $131,187 for his victory while Malinowski banked $99,898 for his runner-up finish.
Defeating Malinowski will go some way to making up for losing a massive $842,000 cash game pot last year.
Sunday 500 High Rollers $5,250 Final Table Results
PlacePlayerCountryPrize

1Michael AddamoCanada$131,187

2Wiktor MalinowskiMacau$99,898

3David PetersCanada$76,072

4Pascal HartmannAustria$57,928

5Aleksei BarkovRussia$44,112

6Michael ZhangBrazil$33,591

7David YanNew Zealand$25,579

8Alex FoxenCanada$19,478

9Flilip1Austria$14,833

¥80 Million Gtd Asian Poker League (APL) Hits GGPoker
Adams Takes Down High Rollers Blade Prime $2,625
Timothy Adams’ latest victory came in the High Rollers Blade Prime $2,625, an event that saw 80 players buy in.
All but two of the players who navigated their way to the final table walked away with five-figures hauls. Fedor Holz and Andrii Novak being that duo.
“LeoJose” fell in seventh and was joined on the rail first by Artur Martirosian, then by Urmo Velvelt, Rainer Kempe, and China’s Kevin Pu.
This left Adams, on his one and only bullet, heads-up against Arsneii Malinov. Malinov fell at the final hurdle and scooped $36,565, which left Adams to add the $46,885 top prize to his GGPoker account.
High Rollers Blade Prime $2,625 Final Table Results
PlacePlayerCountryPrize

1Timothy AdamsCanada$46,885

2Arsenii MalinovRussia$36,565

3Kevin PuChina$28,516

4Rainer KempeGermany$22,239

5Urmo VelveltEstonia$17,344

6Artur MartirosianRussia$13,526

7LeoJoseBrazil$10,549

8Andrii NovakUkraine$8,227

9Fedor HolzAustria$6,416

Other GGPoker Highlights
Shankar Pillai – first-place in the High Roller MILLION$ for $207,692Gabriel Schroeder – first-place in the GGMasters High Rollers $1,050 for $140,355MonkeyD93 – first-place in the Global MILLION$ for $112,712swedishdream – first-place in the Bounty Hunters HR Main Event $525 for $95,817*Sami Kelopuro – first-place in the High Rollers Sunday Blade Opener $5,250 for $57,374L1mpFold – first-place in the GGMasters $150 for $54,631David Yan – first-place in the Sunday High Rollers Bounty King $3,150 for $49,300*Joseph Cheong – first-place in the Sunday Bounty King $315 for $44,349*Ami Barer – first-place in the High Rollers Blade Mulligan $2,625 for $43,288Michael Zhang – first-place in the High Rollers Blade Opener $2,625 for $39,752Andras Nemeth – first-place in the High Rollers Blade Bounty King PLO $3,150 for $35,513*spera91 – first-place in the High Rollers Marathon $840 for $33,695Joao Caetano – first-place in the Sunday High Rollers Fifty Stack $500 for $31,657Boris Kolev – first-place in the Sunday Forty Stack $400 for $30,214Bruno Botteon – first-place in the Sunday high Rollers Bounty Special $840 for $29,113*Dante Fernandes – first-place in the Bounty Hunters Sunday Special $210 for $25,808*Babyccino – first-place in the Sunday Main Event $200 for $24,254Anton Wigg – first-place in the Sunday High Rollers Fast $525 for $13,780
*includes bounty payments
Justin Bonomo Binks the partypoker High Roller Big Game
Justin Bonomo
Justin Bonomo, fresh from his recent Super MILLION$ victory, continued his impressive run of form by taking down the High Roller Big Game at partypoker. Bonomo came out on top of a 127-strong field in the $2,600 buy-in event to get his hands on $79,128.
The final table was brimming with the world’s top poker talent, as you’d expect from such a prestigious tournament.
Tomi Brouk busted in ninth and won $8,739, the tournament’s last four-figure prize. Ognyan Dimov, Roberto Romanello, and Pedro Garagnani were the next players to fall by the wayside. Niklas Astedt and Team partypoker’s Kristen Bicknell followed suit.
Ukraine’s Pavlo Kolinkovskiy’s elimination in third-place, worth $34,935, left Bonomo and Ali Imsirovic heads-up for the title. Bonomo got the job done and secured the $79,128 top prize, leaving Imsirovic to bank $79,128.
High Roller Big Game Final Table Results
PlacePlayerCountryPrize

1Justin BonomoCanada$79,128

2Ali ImsirovicMexico$50,916

3Pavlo KolinkovskiyUkraine$34,935

4Kristen BicknellCanada$24,702

5Niklas AstedtSweden$18,330

6Pedro GaragnaniBrazil$14,667

7Roberto RomanelloUnited Kingdom$12,398

8Ognyan DimovBulgaria$10,539

9Tomi BroukFinland$8,739

Jamie O’Connor Takes Down Big Game
Jamie O’Connor turned $530 into $41,417 by winning The Big Game. O’Connor was a guest on Leigh Wiltshire and Des Duffy’s APAT Show while he was grinding this event but chatting didn’t put him off the grind.
O’Connor defeated Rui Da Silva heads-up to lock up the top prize and resign Da Silva to a $28,678 consolation prize.
Two other players saw their bankrolls swell by five-figures. Fourth-place finisher Joel Nystedt scooped $13,158 with Joao Gaspar reeling in a $19,868 prize for his demise in third-place.
The Big Game Final Table Results
PlacePlayerCountryPrize

1Jamie O’ConnorUnited Kingdom$79,128

2Rui Da SilvaCroatia$28,678

3Joao GasparMalta$19,868

4Joel NystedtAustria$13,158

5Dwayne SluisNetherlands$9,177

6Fahredin MustafovBulgaria$7,273

7Justin OuimetteCanada$5,843

8Joakim AnderssonSweden$4,737

9Jamie NixonUnited Kingdom$3,844

Other Highlights From partypoker
LivviG – first-place in the $320 The 300 for $19,962*BeastFromDaEast – first-place in the $109 Weekender for $17,563*Andreas Puntigam – first-place in the $55 Mini Big Game for $17,155freestylee – first-place in the $111 One Shot for $13,848*youngblood – first-place in the $215 Warrior for $13,450*EZfold55 – first-place in the $55 Gladiator for $12,138*
*includes bounty payments
partypoker MILLIONS Online Schedule Features MEGA High Roller and $5m GTD Main Event
Peter Traply Nets Sunday Super Sonic Top Prize
Peter Traply
Peter “Belabasci” Traply triumphed in the PokerStars $215 Sunday Supersonic and banked a cool $20,378. That only tells part of the story, however, because the Sunday Supersonic is a hyper-turbo structured tournament meaning Traply’s victory only took one-hour 13-minutes for an hourly rate of $16,750, which is nice work if you can get it!
Runner-up “mindreader007” and third-place finisher “acesdesigner” were the two other finalists whose $215 swelled to a five-figure score. Second-place weighed in at $14,591 with the third-place finisher collecting $10,448.
$215 Sunday Supersonic Final Table Results
PlacePlayerCountryPrize

1Peter “Belabasci” TraplyHungary$20,378

2mindreader007United Kingdom$14,591

3acesdesignerBrazil$10,448

4LilharmisFinland$7,481

5Michiel “utreg” BrummelhuisNetherlands$5,356

6Felipe “ultraviol3nt” OlivieriArgentina$3,835

Dutch Star Wins High Roller Sunday Supersonic
“Daenarys T” from the Netherlands took down the $1,050 edition of the Sunday Supersonic and did so in a mere one hour and five-minutes. This meant their $24,032 prize was worth $22,251 per hour!
There were some awesome players at the six-handed final table, including runner-up Bruno “botteonpoker” Botteon and third-place finisher Benjamin “bencb789” Rolle. The day, however, belonged to former Sunday Million champion Daenarys T.
PlacePlayerCountryPrize

1Daenarys TNetherlands$24,032

2Bruno “botteonpoker” BotteonBrazil$18,451

3Benjamin “bencb789” RolleAustria$14,166

4Viktor “papan9_p$” UstimovRussia$10,876

5blackaces93Poland$8,350

6Andy “wiisssppppaa” TaylorUnited Kingdom$6,410

Other Highlights From PokerStars
13shaun – first-place in the $1,050 Sunday High Roller for $60,576Aleksei “AS Leshiy” Smirnov – first-place in the $215 Bounty Builder for $31,476*RaiseUpBlind – first-place in he $1,050 Sunday Cooldown for $29,468*yuhei33 – first-place in the $109 Bounty Builder for $29,419*Felipe “lipe piv” Boianovsky – first-place in the $215 Bounty Builder for $29,289*babecallme – first-place in the $109 Sunday Cooldown for $27,227*Black88 – first-place in the $215 Sunday Warm-Up for $17,941Artur “marathur1” Martirosian – first-place in the $1,050 Sunday Warm-Up for $17,814planty07/08 – first-place in the $109 Sunday Kickoff for $15,407Chris “ImDaNuts” Oliver – first-place in the Hotter $215 for $13,872*Dominik “Bounatirou” Nitsche – first-place in the $215 Fat Sunday for $11,782Christian “WATnlos” Rudolph – first-place in the $530 Sunday Marathon for $11,116
*includes bounty payments
Get Ready for 107 MicroMillions Events Across Only Four Days!
maestro1908 Grabs the $100,000 Sunday Mega Deep Title at 888poker
The $100,000 Sunday Mega Deep had been hitting its guarantee lately but it reverted to type on February 14 when 892 players bought in to leave 888poker nursing a $10,800 overlay.
“maestro1908” netted the $16,350 top prize after defeating the United Kingdom’s “needabridge” heads-up, leaving the Brit to bank $11,900.
The $30,000 Sunday Challenge PKO performed much better with the 335 entrants ensuring the $30,000 guarantee was beaten by $3,500. “troms18” was the last player standing, a result that saw $6,327 head to their account. Swedish star “VnilaVader” was the tournament’s runner-up; they scooped $3,464 with bounties included.
888poker Giving Away $100,000 in 24/7 Freeroll Festival All This Month

The Stars Group is a majority shareholder in Oddschecker Global Media, the parent company of PokerNews.

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European Team of the Week: Ilkay Gundogan and Lionel Messi join hat-trick hero Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang


Every week we pick 22 of the best performing players in Europe’s top five leagues and, with your help, narrow it down to the best XI.

Using polls on our Instagram stories, we pit players in each position against each other and let you decide who deserves to make the cut.
Follow our Instagram page to get involved.

Here’s what our latest European Team of the Week looks like:
GK: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)

Earned his 12th clean sheet of the season and Villa a point in difficult circumstances. Brighton were well on top and exerted pressure on his goal, but a stunning nine saves kept them at bay.

RB: Matthew Lowton (Burnley)
Undoubtedly his best performances of the season, excelling at both ends of the pitch. Lowton made three tackles, three interceptions and five clearances in a fine defensive display but really caught the eye in attack with three key passes and one outstanding volley to score at the end of a superb run.
CB: Lucas Martinez Quarta (Fiorentina)
Solid at the back and certainly didn’t deserve to end up on the losing side. Stood out with 11 defensive actions in a 2-1 defeat to Sampdoria, including five interceptions and he even managed to hit the woodwork at the other end.
CB: Diego Carlos (Sevilla)
A rock at the back as Sevilla secured a 1-0 victory at home to Huesca. Made a staggering 11 clearances in the process and was good on the ball, boasting a success rate of 92.7 per cent.
LB: Ola Aina (Fulham)
Perfect ball across for Josh Maja to score the first goal at the end of a fluid Fulham attack. He put in a shift in defence as well. No one made more than his five clearances during the 2-0 win over Everton.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan (Man City)
The Premier League’s Player of the Month continued in his rich vein of form. He was excellent in midfield and tormented Tottenham with his well-timed runs forward, bagging a brace. He sat Davinson Sanchez down before slotting home for his second goal.

CM: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)
Dictated the tempo of the game with his exceptional distribution. The German played 107 passes at 94.4-per-cent accuracy. He picked up an assist for the opener and then passed the ball into the back of the net with ease to get himself on the score sheet as well.
CM: Nabil Fekir (Real Betis)
Took his goal superbly, showing great strength to hold off the defender before checking back onto his weaker right foot and dispatching the finish with aplomb. He posed a constant threat with a game-high five shots in the 2-1 win at Villarreal.
FW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Vintage Messi, skipping past challenges and scoring from range. He hammered in his first in emphatic fashion, but his second was a thing of beauty, curling a sublime effort into the corner from the edge of the box with minimal back-lift. He even bagged an assist, by setting up Trincao.

FW: Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)
Reached 300 goals for club and country by scoring a brace in a 3-1 win over Lazio that fired Inter to the top of Serie A. He made no mistake from the spot and then took advantage of some suspect defending for his second. He then showed immense pace and power to assist Lautaro Martinez on the break.
FW: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Scored his first Premier League hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Leeds and even hit the woodwork. He cut in expertly to score the opener, converted a penalty and then headed home Emile Smith-Rowe’s cross.
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Lahore Qalandars appoint Shaheen Shah as vice-captain for PSL 6


Karachi: Lahore Qalandars have appointed pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi as the vice-captain for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) season six.
The 20-year-old Shaheen has been with the Qalandars since the third edition of the PSL and has emerged as the core member of the franchise.
Aaqib Javed, LQ’s director of Cricket said that Shaheen Shah Afridi is face of Lahore Qalandars. His dedication towards Qalandars’ mindset is remarkable.
“Shaheen Afridi is a world class cricketer with exceptional bowling skills, his commitment and dedication for the team is unmatched and he is keen to take the team to the next level” said Aqib Javed.
Shaheen Afridi, in his message, thanked the Lahore Qalandars management and aimed to contribute towards team’s success.
“I am thankful to Lahore Qalandars’ management for this opportunity and really looking forward to play my part in success of Lahore Qalandars team” said Shaheen Afridi in his message.
Shaheen has taken 34 wickets in 27 matches. He was Qalandars’ leading-wicket taker of PSL 2020.
Read: Multan Sultans announce Mohammad Rizwan as captain for PSL 6
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Chot on TNT coaching return: ‘It’s not going to be easy’

FILE PHOTO– Returning TNT coach Chot Reyes. TRISTAN TAMAYO
MANILA, Philippines — Chot Reyes is keeping his expectations modest ahead of his second tour of duty as head coach of TNT.
Reyes is the franchise’s winningest coach, having led Talk ’N Text to four titles during his first stint from 2008 to 2012.
“It’s not going to be easy. I know a lot of fans are saying a lot of good things, but this is not going to be a walk in the park, it’s not going to be an instant thing,” said Reyes on Monday in an episode of The Game.

THE GAME | February 15, 2021
THE GAME | February 15, 2021 | 7:30PM• Chot Reyes Returns as Head Coach of TNT Tropang Giga• The Next Chapter: Coach Chot Reyes & Coach Tim Cone• Coach Tim Breaks Down Race for NBA MVP: LeBron James, Luka Doncic, & Nikola Jokic
Posted by One Sports+ on Monday, February 15, 2021

Reyes, 57, replaced head coach Bong Ravena and active consultant Mark Dickel at the helm.
“I just want to make sure that we manage expectations because the competition as we all know is very, very tough and everyone is getting better,” added the eight-time PBA champion and five-time Coach of the Year. “So you know, simply changing the coach is not a magic formula, it’s not automatic. You really, really have to work like we’ve never worked before.”
But the pressure will be on Reyes, who will be tasked to end the Tropang Giga’s long title drought.
TNT hasn’t won a title since the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup under Jong Uichico.
Led by Roger Pogoy, Ray Parks and Jayson Castro, the Tropang Giga made as far as the finals in last season’s Philippine Cup bubble where they lost to the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings in five games.

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WPT GTO Trainer Hands of the Week: Battling the Big Blind

February 16 2021
LearnWPT

With a 100 big blind effective stack, you open-raise to 3bbs in the Cutoff seat and get called by the player in the Big Blind.
This scenario shows a common spot where you are in position against a tough opponent in the Big Blind on the flop after you were the preflop aggressor.
Against a less-skilled opponent automatically c-betting a standard size is often the best play. These types of opponents are less likely to put pressure on your c-bets by making moves on the flop.

Against tougher players you’ll need to focus on board texture to determine the best continuation bet sizing and identify flops where checking behind will be the best play. Generally you can use smaller c-bet sizes on dry, static flops that don’t have many equity changing turn cards. For example, larger c-bet sizing is not required on a flop of rainbow.
On more coordinated boards that still favor you as the raiser, such as with a flush draw, you can use a larger c-bet sizing. Tough opponents will have robust check-raising ranges as part of their overall Big Blind Defense strategy, so be aware of not over folding hands with too much equity when your c-bet gets check-raised.
You will often be put to tough decisions with marginal hands, with the correct decision often coming down to understanding the effects of blockers. If you hold cards that interfere with your opponent’s ability to have strong hands, you should be more likely to call down in the hand. If your cards interfere with their ability to have bluffs, you should be more likely to fold.
For more GTO hand analysis, you can play through five solved random hands from this situation.
To access the free five hands, visit this page.
Regular play on the WPT GTO Trainer will help you adjust your decisions closer and closer to GTO strategy.
You don’t have to be the world’s best player to use GTO Strategy, and thanks to the WPT GTO Trainer, now you don’t have to buy expensive software or have expert level knowledge to study GTO.
Why use the WPT GTO Trainer?
The WPT GTO Trainer lets you play real solved hands against a perfect opponent in a wide variety of postflop scenarios for cash game and tournament play.
If your goal is to be a tough poker player then you should try the WPT GTO Trainer today.
Register a free account here (it only takes your e-mail address to begin) to play hands and see true GTO strategy in real-time.
The WPT GTO Trainer has over 4 billion unique solved flops, turns and rivers that are fully playable.
As you make decisions in a hand, you receive instant feedback on the specific EV loss (if any) and Played Percentage for every action you take as compared to GTO strategy.
The full selection of scenarios for the WPT GTO Trainer are only available to members of LearnWPT, however we’re giving PokerNews Readers free access to the Trainer on a regular basis with the WPT GTO Hands of The Week.
Use this series of articles to practice the strategies you learn on LearnWPT (or at the table) and test your progress by playing a five-hand sample each week.

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Lille vs Ajax Prediction: UEFA Europa League Match on 18.02.2021


The European action returns this week, as the battle in the Europa League resumes. Ajax would have been hoping to still be in the Champions League, but a third-place finish in their group means that they will now be in the second-tier competition in the second half of the season.

Europa League Preview
Ajax narrowly missed out on qualification for the knockout round of the Champions League after finishing below Liverpool and Atalanta in their very competitive group. Their pedigree in European action ensures that they remain a side that could do well in the Europa League this season, but they will be coming up against a side that have proven throughout the season that they are growing. Ajax themselves have proven that their next wave of talented young players could be up for the challenge this season, as they are six points clear in the Eredivisie at present. They have won their last five games, which includes the 2-0 success that they recorded against Heracles at the weekend. Sebastien Haller scored the second in that win, but the former West Ham striker will not be eligible to play in the knockout round of the Europa League after an administrator error.

Lille remain in a strong position in Ligue 1 this season, as they are still top of the league despite being held in their most recent fixture. The league title remains a dream for Lille, as they are likely to be put under immense pressure by PSG in the second half of the season. However, the fact that they have lost just two games in 25 domestic league fixtures highlights that they are a side that Ajax should take very seriously in the first leg of the meeting in the Europa League on Thursday evening.
Lille vs Ajax Head To Head
These two European sides haven’t come up against each other many times in recent history. In fact, they have only played each other twice, with those meetings coming in the Champions League group stages in the 2019-20 season. Ajax won both meetings, and scored a total of five goals in the two games.
Lille vs Ajax Prediction
While the last two meetings only came less than two years ago, Lille have grown immeasurably as a team during that period. The first leg will be crucial to determine which side progresses, but we expect the French side to take a slender lead back to the Netherlands with them.
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Meet America’s 63rd National Park


As Americans continue to weather the pandemic, the $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and spending bill passed by the federal government in December brought an unexpected and lasting gift: a new national park.The 5,593-page spending package included a raft of provisions authorizing little-known projects — the construction of the Teddy Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota, for one — and giving lawmakers a chance to advance a variety of long-delayed initiatives. Among them was the elevation of the New River Gorge, in southern West Virginia, to the status of Yellowstone, Yosemite and the country’s other most renowned outdoor spaces. The designation of the area — roughly 72,000 acres of land flanking 53 miles of the gorge — as a national park and preserve creates the 63rd national park in the United States and completes a multigenerational effort, started in the mid-twentieth century, to transform a tired industrial area into a national landmark.“Towards the end of this year, with these big bills coming down, I decided to strike,” said Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican and the state’s junior senator, who, along with Senator Joe Manchin III, a Democrat, introduced the New River Gorge legislation in 2019.“This was the right opportunity,” she said.A draw for rafters, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiastsThe gorge and its surroundings have been prized for decades as one of southern West Virginia’s more spectacular natural places.In 1963, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution seeking to designate the New River Gorge as a “national playground,” preparing to send the proposal to President John F. Kennedy, whose primary campaign was lifted substantially through support from West Virginia voters. But momentum to create a national recreation area stalled after Mr. Kennedy’s assassination later that year.Though the gorge remained a curiosity among rafters and outdoor enthusiasts, the area only received federal protection from the Interior Department in 1978, when it was designated a national river.Now, the outdoor offerings in the gorge have come to define the area as a premier destination for adventure sports in the East.The New River plunges 750 feet over 66 miles, resulting in long stretches of violent rapids that can reach a class five level, generally considered the most difficult that can be navigated by white-water boaters. (Licensed outfitters operate in several towns near the river, providing rentals and tours for rafting and kayaking.)The canyon walls, which soar as high as 1,600 feet, offer miles of cliffs that rank among the best in the East Coast for rock climbing. Sheer faces in the gorge made of robust Nuttall sandstone provide both traditional and sport-climbing routes across the difficulty spectrum.Bike routes are scattered throughout the park on both sides of the river, with options for both technical mountain biking and more casual pedaling along former railroad beds.A glimpse back in timeAccording to the National Park Service, geologists believe the New River — its name a misnomer used by early American explorers who often assigned the same name to any river they came upon for the first time — was a segment of the preglacial Teays River. This larger river, which traversed much of the current Ohio River watershed, was later diverted and broken up by glaciers. The age of the Teays is uncertain, but fossil evidence suggests it could be as much as 320 million years old, leaving its remnant, the New River, as quite possibly the second oldest river in the world.Beyond the millions of years of geological history on display, the gorge is also filled with signs of the region’s heritage as a major coal production hub.Miners once capitalized on the easy access to rich deposits of high-quality bituminous coal in the canyon, where the river had already shorn through hundreds of feet of rock. Especially after the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway linked the New River coal fields to markets in 1873, dozens of boom towns popped up along the river’s edge, thriving well into the 1920s.In 1963, a coal mine was still operating in the gorge, said Dave Arnold, a state tourism commissioner who operated a rafting company for more than 40 years.“In ’76 or ’77, if you were in my boat, we’d have been floating down the river and I would have been showing you, ‘here’s an old coal tipple, here’s the old hotel at Caperton, here’s this and that,’” he said.The demand for coal around the turn of the twentieth century was so high that towns existed every half mile along up the river, according to the Park Service. As the industry went into decline, however, by the 1950s many were already abandoned, leaving ghost towns scattered throughout the gorge. Additionally, logging during the late nineteenth century stripped vast portions of the gorge bare, clearing enormous swaths of virgin forest.The park contains the remnants of communities such as Nuttallburg and Kaymoor, which still stand near the riverbank and are accessible from points higher up. Seams of exposed coal are visible along some trails leading into the gorge and its towns, where abandoned mine portals and the foundations of coke ovens remain.Restoring an ecosystem with diverse wildlifeDespite the environmental degradation and pollution that industry unleashed, some unique ecological features make the gorge well-suited to a diverse combination of wildlife, which has slowly reappeared as time has passed.The river lies at the center of a migration corridor where plants and animals that typically range further north or south come together, including several federally endangered and threatened species, such as the Virginia big-eared bat and the Allegheny woodrat.According to Lizzie Watts, the park’s superintendent, the river itself is also notably warmer than surrounding areas, making it a popular warm-water fishing destination with more than a dozen public access points. The river is one of the premier spots for smallmouth bass fishing on the east coast, and muskellunge and walleye are common in the park today.“The next generation will have the opportunity to see what, in the last 150 years, it looks like when an area goes from being logged and mined to left alone,” Ms. Watts said. “The ecosystem has come back to full trees and mature forests.”As federal protections took effect after the Park Service began overseeing the area as a national river in 1978, wildlife has largely recovered, and many see an opportunity to showcase the region’s natural elegance.“To show off our rock climbing, our extreme sports availabilities in that area, is just really exciting,” said Ms. Capito of what she described as a “kind of wild and wonderful part of our state.” ‘The cream of the crop’The National Park Service, created in 1916, oversees more than 400 areas across the country, including national monuments, seashores and battlefields as well as parks, which together total more than 85 million acres.While the new title for New River Gorge does not fundamentally alter the area’s day-to-day operations, both lawmakers and the Park Service tend to view “national parks” as the crown jewels of the park system — a protection granted to some of the largest and most prized tracts of the country.“National Park status is usually considered like the cream of the crop,” Ms. Watts said. “But it really is just another one of those names.”The New River Gorge does not match the scale of many national parks in the western United States, where Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone sprawl over more than 1 million acres each.Nevertheless, officials expect the new designation to bring a substantial influx of travelers, boosted in part by a dedicated set of enthusiasts who strive to visit every national park.In typical years, around 1.3 million travelers visit the gorge, according to the Park Service’s tourism data. Based on studies of other areas that received national park status, Ms. Capito said she expects to see visitors increase by as much as 20 percent.“It does feel like the very beginning stages of transformation for the whole area,” said Becky Sullivan, the executive director of the New River Gorge Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I’ll be very, very interested to see where we are in about 10 years.”Maintaining the community and its favored pastimesAs unique outdoor attractions throughout the Appalachian region have gained more national visibility, some concern has grown over the idea of a wealthy and mobile set from out of state trampling the communities adjacent to these places.West Virginia remains the second-poorest state in the country in terms of median household income, according to data collected by the United States Census Bureau. And while tourism has brought a needed injection of wealth to areas all around the gorge, it has also changed the makeup of neighboring communities, as more people have come to visit the park or settle down near it.Interest in the natural offerings around the park has brought slow but measurable change for small towns nearby like Fayetteville. Officials say that the advent of remote work during the pandemic has only hastened a trend of properties in the area being repurposed for vacation rentals and outsiders snapping up second homes.“You cannot find a house for sale in Fayetteville, because they’re just in such high demand,” said Sharon Cruikshank, the town’s mayor. “So that definitely changed the budgeting of the town as well as the county.”When legislation was first introduced to designate the area as a national park, pushback came from some locals. Hunters have long enjoyed access to secluded sections of woods around the gorge, and with hunting prohibited in federal parks, some protested the potential loss of thousands of acres of hunting grounds.In a compromise, more than 65,000 acres of the total area were designated as a nature preserve where hunting can continue as before, and only roughly 7,000 acres directly within the canyon are officially off limits as national parkland. A provision was included to empower the park to acquire more than 3,000 acres of private land around its current boundaries as well, to expand the size of the preserve and add public hunting grounds.In a nod to tradition, the legislation also enshrines the right for visitors to continue to make use of one of the park’s most famous features — the New River Gorge Bridge — at least once a year.BASE jumping, an extreme sport in which jumpers parachute from elevated structures or cliffs, is banned in every other national park.But, since 1980, BASE jumpers have been permitted to plunge from the top of the 876-foot-high bridge and parachute down toward the river once a year, on Bridge Day, held one Saturday in October. The legislation designating the area as a national park allows that tradition to continue.As many as 100,000 people typically come to watch the jumpers plunge, according to Ms. Sullivan, providing a major boost for businesses in the region. The event has only been canceled twice, including last year because of the coronavirus.Bridge Day’s organizers advise jumpers that the only dependable way to touch down safely is to plan to land directly in the river. In normal years, hundreds do so, often multiple times that day, gliding down and softly hitting the New River’s waters.

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