5 Poker Rooms that Closed (for Good) in 2020


2020 was a rough year for poker. From temporary closures to plexiglass partitions to the cancellation of numerous tournaments, live poker took a hit. While we hope that most rooms will return to business as normal at some point in 2021, we want to take a moment to note the rooms that fell by the wayside last year. Here are a few of the poker rooms that closed in 2020.
Poker Rooms Closed Permanently in 2020
The Mirage
The Mirage Poker Room in Las Vegas fell upon hard times long before 2020 came around. The room repeatedly saw its square footage reduced along with its import to the casino. First opened in 1989 by Steve Wynn (later acquired by MGM), the Mirage was a major center of poker action. Its 19 tables hosted the likes of Jennifer Harmon, Daniel Negreanu, and Layne Flack. The Mirage is even mentioned in that greatest of all poker movies Rounders as “the center of the poker universe.”

By the time we visited the Mirage back in 2018, the room, while still nice, had lost a lot of its luster. Down to 12 tables, most of the celebrities and high rollers had migrated to greener pastures at the Bellagio, Aria, and the like. The tournament that we played there was the definition of bingo poker, with blinds doubling rapidly almost from the start. Nonetheless, it is always sad to lose a poker room with such a storied past.

Mandalay Bay
MGM announced the closing of poker rooms in three of its casinos in November 2020, and that was it for poker at Mandalay Bay. Mandalay Bay’s poker room had been open since 1999 and featured 10 tables. While it was a relatively sleepy room, the number of tables lost to the pandemic are mounting.
Excalibur
The Excalibur poker room was the third MGM Las Vegas poker room that closed permanently in 2020. The smallest of the three, with only seven tables, it will nonetheless be missed.

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Harrah’s Philadelphia
The closure of the Harrah’s Philadelphia poker room is a notable loss in the Mid-Atlantic. At 28 tables, Harrah’s poker room was the second largest in the area (after Parx). Harrah’s, owned by Ceasar’s Entertainment, opened the poker room in 2010 and branded it a World Series of Poker room. The casino had recently undergone renovations and the room was bustling in the months before the pandemic.
While most Pennsylvania poker rooms have reopened at this point, tournaments have generally not resumed. Once poker rooms are allowed to fully open again, Harrah’s impact will definitely be felt. The loss of one of the few large tournament venues in the Philadelphia area will definitely have an impact.
We want to take a moment to note the rooms that fell by the wayside last year. Here are a few of the poker rooms that closed in 2020.Click To Tweet
The Poker Room at One Lafayette
The Poker Room at One Lafayette, commonly known as Hampton Falls Poker Room was our poker home away from home. As such, its 2020 demise hit us hard. Hampton’s Friday afternoon tournament had one of the best structures that we have ever had the pleasure to play. The room hosted a number of great tournaments each week, was player-friendly, and had both excellent dealers and professional floor personnel.
Upstairs at Hampton Falls
Sadly, Hampton Falls was sold early in 2020 with plans to merge operations with The Brook across town. Then the pandemic hit and Hampton Falls abruptly closed along with the rest of New Hampshire poker (for a time- most New Hampshire rooms have reopened, at least for cash games). Those of us who loved Hampton Falls were thus robbed of a final good-bye.
Encore Boston Harbor?
While Encore Boston Harbor has not officially declared their poker room closed permanently, the signs are not good. While other New England poker rooms were reopening last summer, Encore quietly shipped its poker tables and chips out west, repurposing the poker room’s space for slot machines and table games.
To be fair, Massachusetts has not yet permitted poker rooms in the state to re-open. However, there has been much back-channel talk by former employees and those in the know indicating that Encore felt that poker detracted from its offerings and would not return, even once permitted.
When it opened in 2019, the Encore Boston Harbor poker room took the New England poker scene by storm, averaging the most cash action and busiest poker tournaments in the entire region. However, Encore management soon soured on poker, complaining that the extremely popular tournaments led to too much congestion in the parking lot without enough of a return to the property.
Fingers crossed for an eventual reopening, but we fear that poker at Encore is gone for good.
Future Poker Room Closures
As the pandemic progresses into a second year, we fear that poker room closures will begin to multiply. Currently, there are only a couple of venues offering poker tournaments in all of New England. As we have stated before, live poker tournaments are our game of choice. We worry that we may see far fewer tournament options in the future than we have had available to us in the past, in New England and beyond.
Fingers crossed for a full and lively return to live poker as soon as it is safe.
If you are looking for a resource on what poker rooms are currently open, Paul is updating such a page over at Advanced Poker Training.

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Irving and Harden lead Nets to big win over Kings

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2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Tuesday Night


Rod Laver Arena | 11 p.m. TuesdayAndrey Rublev vs. Daniil MedvedevAndrey Rubley and Daniil Medvedev secured the ATP Cup for Russia earlier this month, with neither player losing a singles match throughout. In their three meetings on the ATP Tour, Medvedev has come out on top each time, including in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in September.This may be Rublev’s chance to finally overcome his friendly rival. He has looked particularly dominant, not dropping a set throughout the tournament. His match against Casper Ruud ended after only two sets when the Norwegian withdrew with an injury. Going into the quarterfinals, Rublev has led the field in both percentage of first service points won and second service points won, a sign of how hard it has been for opponents to break his serve.Medvedev has also been playing well, aside from a chaotic, disorganized third round match against Filip Krajinovic. He has now won 18 matches in a row, with his last loss coming in October at a tournament in Vienna. Although the fast surface fits Medvedev’s flat baseline shots, Rublev’s open stance is well suited in defense, and we’re sure to see many dynamic, aggressive point.Rod Laver Arena | 3:30 a.m. WednesdayRafael Nadal vs. Stefanos TsitsipasRafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed, has moved smoothly through the first four rounds, no surprise for a player with 20 Grand Slam titles. Although Nadal won his only Australian Open title over a decade ago, he has reached the finals on four other occasions since, and is a clear favorite in his half of the draw to do so again. Nadal’s powerful topspin shots are well-suited to clay courts where he can drag opponents around with tightly angled shots. Nadal’s ability to exploit his opponent’s weaknesses with relentless pressure can break most players on their best days.Stefanos Tsitsipas, the ATP finals winner in 2019, is a study in unpredictability. The fifth seed has a capable all-court game, but lacks the consistency to execute match after match. The 22-year-old has worked to improve this aspect of his game, but needed five sets to push back unseeded Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round. After receiving a walkover in the round of 16, Tsitsipas will be well rested and hoping for an advantage against one of the most mentally tough players on tour.

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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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Daniil Medvedev Finds Another Way of Playing Professional Tennis


At 23, Rublev is two years younger than Medvedev and grew up playing junior tournaments against him in Russia. For a long time Rublev, seeded No. 8, and Karen Khachanov, 24, the third member of Russia’s latest golden generation, were better than Medvedev. The rise for Medvedev came in 2018 and 2019, when he nearly beat Rafael Nadal in the 2019 United States Open final.“He reads the game really well,” Rublev said of Medvedev. “It’s amazing, the patience he has to stay so long in the rallies, to not rush, to take the time, because in the end these little details, they make him who he is.”Russia is the only country with two players in the top 10. Khachanov gives it three in the top 20. Aslan Karatsev, 27, another Russian ranked No. 114, came out of nowhere to make the quarterfinals here in his first Grand Slam tournament.Medvedev comes into the quarterfinal on perhaps the best roll of his career. He has won 18 consecutive singles matches. He won the ATP Tour finals in London in November, pulling off the nifty trick of beating the world’s top three players — Novak Djokovic, Nadal and Dominic Thiem — in a single tournament. For Russia at the ATP Cup, he beat Alexander Zverev of Germany, a 2020 U.S. Open finalist, in a tight, three-set match in the semifinal round.Medvedev spent his early childhood in Moscow and played few sports other than tennis growing up. He worshiped Russia’s last golden generation, which included Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who were in their prime when he was a young child. He moved to France to train as a teenager and became fluent in English and French.Medvedev could be heard screaming at his coach, Gilles Cervara of France, in French during his third-round match against Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, as he frittered away a two-set lead before recovering to win the final set, 6-0.

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Draymond Green calls out NBA double-standard after Cavaliers sit Drummond


Draymond Green says there’s a double-standard in the NBA that protects teams but alienates players when trade requests are made public.
“At some point, we need to be treated with the same respect and have the same rights that the team can have,” Green said Monday after his Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in a game in which Andre Drummond was benched while the Cavaliers look for a trade for the star centre.
Earlier on Monday both the Cavaliers with Drummond and the Detroit Pistons with Blake Griffin made it publically known that those players would not play another game until a trade can be found. The NBA trade deadline is March 25.
After watching Drummond sit on the sidelines Monday, Green called the situation “b— s—” and cited numerous examples of players requesting trades and being portrayed as bad apples for doing so — including the January fallout between James Harden and the Houston Rockets — while teams can seemingly operate at will without criticism for their actions.
“…As a player, you’re the worst person in the world when you want a different situation. But a team can say they’re trading you, and that man is to say in shape, he has to stay professional and if not, his career is on the line,” Green said. “At some point, this league has to protect the players from embarrassment like that.”

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Warriors Teammate Praises Steph Curry and Draymond Green’s Hall of Fame IQ


After a bumpy start to the 2020-21 NBA season, the Golden State Warriors are getting back in form. They made several changes to their roster in the offseason and it took some time for the players to settle in. But with the All-Star break almost here, the Dubs are looking consistent. The credit for their newfound success goes to none other than their veteran duo of Steph Curry and Draymond Green. Recently, the two stars flaunted their skills against the Cavaliers in a comfortable 129-98 victory. Curry continued his hot scoring streak with 36 points against the Cavs. On the other hand, Green handled the facilitating duties for the team as he finished the game with 16 assists. The two stars have shouldered the burden for the team in the absence of Klay Thompson. But can the Warriors go all the way and win another championship? We will find out in the coming months. Steph Curry and Draymond Green: The two pillars for the Golden State Warriors Golden State Warriors forward Kent Bazemore (26) and forward Juan Toscano-Anderson (95) and guard Stephen Curry (30) and forward Draymond Green (23) during the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Golden State Warriors at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsFollowing this sensational victory, Juan Toscano-Anderson gave an interesting post-game interview. He said: “I am a beneficiary of these guys, their hall of fame IQ. You know Draymond [Green] had 16 assists today and that’s amazing from our starting center. Last five games, he’s in double digits assists. … Either Steph [Curry] is open or Imma be open. “I’m aware that the defense ain’t gonna leave him so I just find those gaps and get those easy buckets. I know Draymond sees everything. Sometimes he sees it a little too quick before any of us see it, but it’s great to play with a guy like that.” Draymond Green has always been an amazing playmaker for the Dubs. Even during their stretch of dominance in the mid 2010s, he took on the role of a facilitator for their championship teams. This season, he is elevating his game further in that department. READ MORE | Steph Curry and LeBron James Ready to Move On From Intense Rivalry But is this enough for the Warriors to win another championship? Feel free to share your thoughts. Get notified about breaking news and watch highlights on the go; join the Arena on NBA Hoops

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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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Thurston weighing up return to Maroons


Johnathan Thurston says he’ll strongly consider joining Queensland’s State of Origin coaching staff if offered a role for the 2021 series.The Maroons legend, who made 37 Origin appearances is widely tipped to serve as an assistant under newly appointed Queensland coach Paul Green.”Once you’re in it it’s very consuming, I love the Maroon jersey everything about it, so yeah if I get asked yeah I’d certainly consider it,” Thurston said.JT toasts the aggression reignited into Origin: JT’s Roast and Toast”I’ve got to talk to the boss first because four young kids at home, eight, six, four and two this year they are. The eight-year-old is going on 18 so it’s tough times for the wife.”Thurston and Green combined as captain and coach to deliver the Cowboys’ first NRL premiership in 2015 and JT believes his former mentor will make a seamless transition into Origin.”There’s been a lot of talk about his intensity and things like that, but it’s State of Origin, it’s the best players you’re working with,” Thurston said.”It’s about making sure everyone understands their role in the team and that’s what he brought to the Cowboys. “He’s one of the best footy brains going round Greeny, so I’m predicting our boys will go back-to-back with him at the helm.”  What Origin means to QueenslandersThurston’s home town of Townsville will host the first major match of the year when the NRL All Stars game kicks off on Saturday and he’s advocating for North Queensland to stage a State of Origin match as well. “Yeah 100 percent. Not only can we hopefully attract an Origin game but hopefully we can attract teams from other codes to come and play because it’s a world class stadium it’s a world class high performance centre … so that’s what we want.”For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!

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