Peter Eastgate returning to action

Today's blog topic was crystal clear when I opened my first e-mail this morning with news of the 2011 WSOP Europe changing venues from London to Cannes, France. Not only that, but with the partnership formed with this new endeavor overseas, there has also been the creation of a new poker tour in France. Today's news from the WSOP is, quite simply, a big deal.

Then I got a correction of a press release I had read this morning from the National Heads-Up Poker Championships. Honestly, that release was going to make the "small blinds" section of the blog and nothing more. The release this morning was a basic announcement about the return of the event to Caesars Palace next month and mentioned a couple of familiar names who will be playing in the event.

In the second version, in bright yellow, was this line: "Also, 2008 WSOP main event champion Peter Eastgate, who left the game in 2010, is coming out of his self-imposed retirement specifically to play in this year's NHPC."

Wait. What? Eastgate is back?

It was only months ago when Eastgate put his 2008 WSOP bracelet up for sale on eBay. It was only months ago when he donated the profits from the auction of the biggest prize in the game to UNICEF. After his announcement during the 2010 WSOP that he was stepping away from the game, this move made it very clear that he wanted very little to do with poker. Now, that's not so clear anymore.

Eastgate earned an automatic bid into this 64-player invitational event by being a WSOP champion in the past three years. While most players would fight, claw, steal or beg their way to this coveted spot, Eastgate's was locked up. This is his last year of automatic eligibility and unless he does something spectacular this year either at the National Heads-Up or somewhere else, I don't believe he'll be invited back in the future.

The circumstances are anything but clear of why he is coming back to play in this event. Is he back for good? Is he going to be patched up with a sponsor? Is he covering his own buy-in? Taking one step back, this tournament was profitable for Eastgate, who finished fifth in the event in 2010. Clearly he still has the recognition of the public, who I'd assume most of which had no idea that he's been "retired" for the last eight months or so.

Perhaps this is simply his swan song; one last tournament in front of the television cameras, the red carpet and the best players in the world. Eastgate never seemed to want the spotlight that came along with his WSOP victory and maybe this appearance is his chance to say goodbye on a broader scale. Or ... maybe his return will mark a special moment in poker history, when a former champion will get back to the game in which he found great success. I guess we'll find out on March 4 just how this plays out.

Small blinds: Ben Hopkins defeated Matthew Jarvis to win the November Nine reunion (the nine players who made up the 2010 WSOP main event final table) at Foxwoods. Jarvis cashed in on all his prop bets and collected $28,000 by finishing second and lasting the longest. ... The World Poker Tour has been talking about its changes for months, and finally we'll get to see those changes on TV when the show airs Sunday night. Also airing Sunday night: the WSOP Europe main event on ESPN2. ... Congratulations to the cast of the Poker Beat podcast who recorded their last episode Tuesday. ... Alessio Isaia became the first Italian to win a WPT title with his victory on Tuesday at WPT Venice. He earned 380,000 euros. ... Bjorn Lindberg won the 10,000 euro buy-in high roller event at WPT Venice. ... PokerStars is hosting the first live "major" event in Greece on March 24-27. The event will have a 1,100 euro buy-in and have a maximum of 200 players. ... Players confirmed for the National Heads-Up Poker Championship so far include Vanessa Rousso, Phil Ivey, Andy Bloch, Doyle Brunson, Chris Ferguson, Huck Seed, Daniel Negreanu, Jonathan Duhamel and Erik Seidel. Justin Young also won his seat through a satellite. The full list will be released next week. ... Nick Grippo took down the top prize in Tuesday's FTOPS action, winning the $322 quadruple turbo shootout for $68,040. ... Everest Poker announced the Everest Poker ONE, an event taking place April 21-24 in Monaco that will have a 5,300 euro buy-in and a 1 million euro guaranteed prize pool. ... Michael Mizrachi finished 15th at the Foxwoods MegaStacks $300 event.