"What hath God wrought."
It's what I wished I'd been quick enough to say that night in Las Vegas.
I was in the seven seat and on the heater of my trip. It was one of those gorgeous nights where nothing goes wrong, aces hold up, draws get there, and the other players are either scared or vindictive enough to try to make moves.
The guy in the two seat was playing badly. He'd just come over from a different game and it was obvious he was playing on the last money in his pocket. He wore a hooded sweatshirt, a flat-billed cap, and a pair of dark shades.
He hadn't been sitting at the table for a full orbit and had yet to play a hand with me when he came in for a raise. I called in position and flopped open-ended. When he made his continuation bet, I made the call. He checked the turn and I checked behind. The river paired me and he checked again. This time I bet out. He scowled and folded, saying as he mucked his cards, "If I were you, I'd kill myself."More in this Poker Blog! -->
I was actually surprised at how speechless I was. I'd heard and read the same phrase before, but it had never been directed at me. If it was an attempt at tilting me, it was fruitless, as I was running well and in a good mood. If it was an attempt at bravado, whatever he gained was short-lived. He busted soon after and I never saw him again.
Still, I had no response. Yet, today, I still think about that guy, not because he was a good poker player, but because he didn't think twice about throwing out a line like that after playing his hand the way he did and losing.
I was me and I didn't want to kill myself. This guy, however, seemed pretty sure of himself.
And he's not alone.
Several months ago I spent a lot of time reading 2+2. While I got a lot of enjoyment and a sense of community from reading poker blogs, I felt like there were a lot of other voices and ideas in forum communities. I never posted on 2+2, but spent a lot of time lurking around the legislative and online poker forums.
One day, there was a particularly good post about the legal implications of the NETeller pull-out and what it meant for online poker players. It stretched down the page longer than the average forum post, but was insightful and I felt more educated for having read it.
The very next post in the thread spanned five letters: TLDNR.
I looked at the acronym and felt old. I had no idea what it meant. I checked in with Google and discovered the acronym stood for "Too long, did not read."
I sighed. A lost, illiterate soul, I figured. That was until I scrolled down further and found several people offering a heartfelt, "LOL" about the "TLDNR." I scrolled down a little more and found several people asking for a summary of the post.
Before long--much like seeing a new car for the first time and then seeing it eight times in the same day--I started seeing the same acronym and the same tired requests for summaries in posts all over 2+2.
It was not a lost, illiterate soul. It was a growing subculture that lived under a banner of "I don't have time for your shit. Either give it to me or get the fuck out of my way."
My work has offered me both the privilege of seeing some of the best things about poker and the sickness of seeing some of the worst. I've written in depth about the good things I've seen. Whether to protect my tenuous position in the industry or out of some hope I was wrong, I've never written much about the young guns.
I've been back from the World Series for a couple of weeks now and hoped it would be enough time to cool me off. Human Head might say it's given me time to get properly indignant, like a reformed smoker or drinker who spends hours telling you how you're killing yourself. I'm not sure either has happened. I'm not properly cool, nor am I indignant (even if I'm coming across as such). I'm just worried.
See, if you didn't know, "What hath God wrought" were the first words Samuel Morse sent across telegraph lines. It was a form of communication that required shorthand like SOS, 73 (best wishes), and 30 (the end). There was an economy of time based on how slow the new fast process was.
Once an indispensible form of communication, the Pony Express and other advanced systems of communication sent Morse shorthand the way of the dodo a long time ago. Now we live a century later and have more ways to communicate than we need. People like me like to think we've gained a lot more knowledge through technology. However, there are a lot of folks out there that may be suffering the opposite effect. Today, short-hand is not because of a literal lack of time. It's laziness and a feeling that our time is much better spent doing something other than actually communicating.
Now, you'd think this is the middle of a long rant about the kids refusing to read anything that takes more than five minutes to shove in their brain. However, it's not. The refusal to read is a mere symptom of a larger problem.
I need to preface the following with a pretty obvious statement. There are some damned good kids out there playing poker today. By that, I don't mean they are just good poker players. They are good people. The most obvious example is Jason Strasser. If you don't know him, look him up. The kid is ten years younger than I am and more mature by just as many. He knows his place in poker and he's finding his place in the world.
One night, he and I stood at the literal crossroads in the Amazon Room at the WSOP. We had a discussion that lasted longer than it should've based on how long he had during his tournament break. However, during that time, Strasser managed to reveal a lot about himself. Despite being wildly successful in poker, he's leaving the life for a while to try out a life on Wall Street. As we parted, he said something to the effect of, "I will still be able to play poker in three years. If I wait on Wall Street, I may miss that opportunity." Though Strasser has made more money in poker than he stands to make on Wall Street in his first year, he's looking for something else for a while.
Strasser is just one example. There are several other young guys out there who have made an honorable life for themselves in poker or businesses surrounding poker. Eric "Rizen" Lynch, Nat Arem, and Luca Pagano come to mind, as well as several others you likely have never heard of. However, for every one of the good kids, there seems to be five others who have fallen victim to the TLDNR culture.
Now, you might think this is a rail-job on poker. It's not, per se. I see it everywhere. It just so happens that most of the kids I meet, I meet at the poker tables.
Unlike naming the good kids above, I'm not going to call out names on the bad ones. If you're not part of the world, you wouldn't recognize the names anyway. If you are part of the world, you know who I'm talking about. But what am I talking about? I'm talking about a subsection of the 19-28 year olds who believe that they are entitled to whatever they can win, borrow, or steal. Their grasp on morality, etiquette, and the golden rule is as weak as their handshake. If there is a gray line, they are happy to cross it if they believe they can benefit from it financially. What's more, they feel more than entitled in doing so.
In most industries, these traits will get you fired, get you arrested, or turn you into a pariah fast enough. Only in the entertainment industry and poker can you be an immoral, egomaniacal kid and find quick success. And the success, it can get you high faster than any drug. I can't speak personally about the kind of success the kids are having these days, but there was a year or two when I was playing the biggest games online. When I was winning, I thought I was King fucking Kong. I discovered quickly enough that success can be fleeting. I figured it out before I went poker-broke, thankfully. Still, I know what winning feels like and, like Chris Rock says, "I understand."
I was fortunate enough to have a few things on which to fall back. I'm not sure that a lot of the younger folks do. Many of them are winning insane amounts of money right now. Many of them are buying $30,000 watches, $100,000 cars, and who knows what else.
I don't begrudge their winning. For their sake, I hope it continues. However, it might be good if they look around and see what guys just a few years their senior are in the middle of right now. Like, without naming names, one known pro standing on the rail at the WSOP and repeatedly pestering another known pro because the latter is into him for more than a hundred grand and refuses to pay back the money. Or another known pro who is well-known for his big cash play who is spending more time hawking a D-list energy drink at the WSOP than he is playing poker. Why? Well, you can guess the rumors. That's not even to mention the Vinnie Vinh and Eskimo Clark stories.
As you might imagine, though, I'm not writing this entirely out of an altruistic worry for the up-and-coming generation. I mean, really, as a poker player, I should be happy if these guys continue to play and refund the poker economy. My greater worry is this: in ten or fifteen years, if nothing changes, a majority of the poker world will be made up of the kind of people I'm talking about. They are people who don't think multi-accounting is wrong because other people do it. They are people who believe collusion is okay if they can get away with it. They are people who think it is okay to borrow money and disappear. They are the people who feel it is completely appropriate to write (a honest to goodness line from a poker forum), "I would have put up the money to abort you."
In a game that is so great on so many levels, they are the people who represent everything that's wrong with it. It would be different if they were dinosaurs we were sending out to pasture (pardon the mixed metaphor, but it sort of fit, I think). However, they're not. They are Generation Next.
Maybe my worry is unfounded. Maybe I just haven't met enough of the Jason Strassers and Eric Lynchs to make me believe it's all going to be okay. Over my few years in the business, I've put my faith in a few of the young guns. Out of four I honestly, truly believed in, two have held my faith and two have broken my heart. I'm tired of putting my money in on coin flips.
And, of course, I hope to be wrong. I hope the above is just the late-night ramblings of a guy who needs a serious break from everything. Poker has been so good to me and it's a game I hope to play for the rest of my life. I hope poker's success live and online will continue unabated for as long as any of us care to play. I simply hope that there are enough good people out there to keep an eye on a generation in which I've lost a lot of faith.
The thing about the poker world is that it lets anybody with money in. There is not a sign at the door, a test to take, a guaranteed mentor to follow, or a list of terms and conditions anybody has to sign. Even if there were, most of the people I'm talking about would just scroll to the bottom and sign their name without reading.
I figure I've run the risk of offending some folks with this post. I've nearly deleted it twice now. However, I finally decided that no one I'm talking about will have read far enough to see any of this.
And if they did, it will just have been to scroll down far enough to comment, "TLDNR."<-- Hide More
Updated with important NETeller release form information below
Updated AGAIN with even more important information below
Just got this e-mail from Neteller:
"The NETELLER Plc Group has announced that the distribution of funds to its US members will begin on July 30, 2007.
You are receiving this e-mail because our records reflect that you are a US member who may request funds from NETELLER. As of July 30, you will be able to make a request for funds on NETELLERâ€™s website by signing in to your account. In the meantime, you should visit our online FAQs for more information about the distribution plan.
Please note that US members will not be able to request funds from the NETELLER website after January 26, 2008.
NETELLER Plc Group"
THERE'S MORE!More in this Poker Blog! -->
When I logged in they asked me to sign this release before releasing my funds:
You and NETELLER Plc Group (each, a "Releasing Party") mutually release, waive, and discharge each other (each, a "Released Party") from any and all manner of actions, causes of action, suits, promises, damages, judgments, executions, claims, counterclaims, demands, and any other form of liability whatsoever, in law or equity, known or unknown, that the Releasing Party ever had, now has, or hereafter can, shall, or may have against the Released Party from the date You opened Your Account to the Effective Date with respect to Your request to receive funds under the Distribution Plan and Your Account.
The additional definitions below apply to this release:
"You" or "Your" refers to you and any of your assigns, heirs, executors, agents, or anyone else acting on your behalf or in your capacity.
"NETELLER Plc Group" means NETELLER plc and its predecessors, successors, present and former affiliated companies, subsidiaries, assigns, officers, directors, stockholders, employees, and agents.
"Your Account" means your online stored value account with the Neteller plc Group, or any of them, which holds electronic money.
"Distribution Plan" means the distribution plan announced by NETELLER Plc Group on 4 June 2007 pursuant to agreements with the United States Attorneyâ€™s Office for the Southern District of New York and Navigant Consulting, Inc.
"Effective Date" means the date on which You successfully withdraw funds from Your Account under the Distribution Plan."
Update: Note this first. We ain't lawyers. However, after reading over the waiver and the writings of people smarter than us, it appears the NETeller release is a sort of sly attempt on NETeller's part to get as many of us as possible to sign-off on not suing them for breaking the Terms of Service to which we all agreed when we signed up for an account. In short, they know they are breaking the terms of service and that any of us could try to sue them.
You should know that you do not have to sign this waiver to get your money. You can deny acceptance of the waiver, move on to the next step, and withdraw your money.
By signing the waiver, you are basically giving up your right to sue NETeller at a later date. In exchange, NETeller is agreeing to not sue you at a later date. I'm not sure how many people have to worry about NETeller suing them. I'd guess the answer is none, but who knows. If you think NETeller is going to sue you for something, sign the waiver and be happy that you're getting the money. For what it is worth, I didn't sign the release and my transfer (for no small sum of money) seemed to go through just fine. I don't plan on suing NETeller for anything, but I didn't see any reason to sign off on anything when it wasn't necessary to get my money. I probably will talk bad about NETeller at cocktail parties, but litigation seems ike a fruitless endeavor.
Also, for what it is worth, I didn't receive the e-mail G-Rob mentioned above. However, as I've been waiting for this day for six months, I was sort of eager and went straight to NETeller on my own. --Otis
Update #2: How could this update be more important than the ones that came before it? Well how about this? My money--every last dollar and penny of it--hit my back account in less than 24 hours. The case may not be closed, but I'm done thinking about it. I think my wife needs a new kitchen. --Otis<-- Hide More
Perhaps the reason "you can't always get what you want" is that few, if any, of us have any idea what it is we're after. I had this Latin teacher back in high school who, so exasperated by my distractions, later chose to ignore me completely. But I'll always remember what she said to a student who responded to a question about what he wanted in life by saying, "I want to be happy".
"Happiness is not a goal," she said, "you HAVE goals and happiness does or does not happen along the way".
As much as I quarreled with that woman, I've never forgotten that.
So, do I play poker to win?More in this Poker Blog! -->
It is fair to say that in my current life, my poker nights are an anomaly. I'm a suburban dad, average in almost every respect, except height and hair. I have a wife and two kids, two cars and a two car garage. I have a steady job and a pretty regular schedule. I am, in a word, dull. Norman Rockwell would be bored. Ned Flanders thinks I'm a pussy. I told a pretty co-worker my age this morning and she said, "Jesus Christ..IS THAT ALL?"
At poker, on the other hand, I've been playing worse and worse. Hell, I can't catch a break. I've lost my last 3 online tournaments to flush draws. I lost at the Gaelic game last week because when I went in ahead I was outdrawn and when I went in drawing I missed. That's poker and the feeling is universal, but perhaps that's the...um..draw.
IS IT COINCIDENCE that as my professional status and my life at home are far better than a year ago, and my poker game has tanked at the same time? Last year I couldn't lose. There was, very briefly, talk of me ruining the underground market because my streak was so hot. Meanwhile, I was very unhappy at work and I spent painfully few moments at home.
Now I'm always home and back in the job I thought I wanted (though I'm learning I'm no more happy at work) and I can't play poker for shit.
Granted, I don't like losing and it seems so rediculous to even ask, but is it POSSIBLE that the losing is part of what I LIKE about the game?
I don't have a snappy answer. I just wonder at the possibility.<-- Hide More
There's a neat New York Times story about computer "bots" playing poker against Phil Laak in this morning's paper. Here's a link
If you prefer a hard copy, as I do, check out the section below the fold in the "Business Day" section.
For the record, Laak was evidently one of 2 pros to play against a new computer poker design. He won 2 of 3 games but git creamed on one day. He claims the computer program is better than most human players.
Worth a read...
The World Series of Poker is an immature phenomenon. Like me, its history spans more than three decades. Like me, it is still trying to figure out its place in the world. It doesn't know if it is still simply a gambler's convention. It wants to be something far greater. It wants to be a cultural mainstay, something along the lines of the ball-oriented World Series or the Superbowl. It's somewhere in between and its adolescence is not the easiest of times in its existence. Like any kid moving into adulthood, there's the acne, the hair in places where there was no hair before, and certain atavistic urges that are impossible to explain.
There are a lot of people wishing the WSOP would either grow up or fade into obscurity. Then there others who believe we're seeing a natural process. Whether Darwinism or the hand of an unseen power takes over, what happens with the World Series will happen regardless, and there's not much you or I can do about it.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Part of the World Series' immaturity is its discomfort with the impossible-to-balance relationship between its desire to be well-marketed and the media's natural desire to cover the World Series like a sporting event. In the past three years, the media rules at the World Series have changed three times. Every change has been driven by both Harrah's desire to carefully control the perception of its product and every media outlets' financial interests.
I have been one to criticize Harrah's heavy-handed and jack-booted efforts to control the flow of information from the Amazon Room to the outside world. I think Harrah's did a better job this year of allowing media to do its job. It still was far from perfect and some legitimate media providers got caught up in a few messes. I think this year was better partially because of the leadership provided by John Caldwell and his entire PokerNews crew. Unlike last year's CardPlayer exclusive coverage, Caldwell and PokerNews spent less time protecting their exclusivity and more time actually covering the tournament. The result was better live coverage and an atmosphere of fairness that allowed the media to work as well as they could in the tricky poker tournament world environment. I hope Caldwell and PokerNews get the gig again in 2008. They proved they could do the job and they helped the rest of us prove we could do our jobs without getting in the way of the exclusive provider.
For a long time, I also criticized the general concept of "exclusive providers." It's money-driven, to be sure. I always said, "You don't have an exclusive provider for football games or baseball games, why should you for poker?" Without anyone ever actually pointing this out to me, I decided the answer was simpler than I was making it out to be. In short, the whole of the media can watch a baseball or football game from the press box and get a better-than-average sense for what happens. They can spot the personnel changes, the ground-outs to first, and the grand slams in the bottom of the ninth. In poker, the whole of the media can't watch the same playing field at the same time unless there is a camera on every table. It's logistically impossible. There simply isn't enough space.
Now, a lot of the above is, if you will, Inside Baseball. The people reading on the outside don't care how they get the information, as long as they get it and they get it accurately. What's more, if members of the media start working to work within the rules rather than trying to get around them, they can be just as successful as before. There were many outlets that did just that during the 2007 World Series--the most successful in my opinion were PokerListings, Gutshot, and, sorry about this, the PokerStars Blog. It was a lemons-to-lemonade scenario and it worked out as best it could.
With all of that said--and what a hellish preamble it was--there remains an immaturity to the media situation that is still to be resolved. When there is such a thing as exclusive internet coverage, exclusive radio coverage, and exclusive TV coverage, there is still a certain care given by those providers to protect the game that pays them. I kept a close eye on PokerNews and Bluff Radio during the whole of the World Series to see if they either unfairly slanted their coverage or left out unseemly aspects of the poker world. All in all, I think those outlets did the best job they could. The stories about Vinnie Vinh and Eskimo Clark appeared in PokerNews where warranted and I think the editorial decisions were pretty well-founded.
Here's the thing, though. PokerNews, Bluff, and a majority of the poker media are poker people writing and broadcasting for poker people. Their job is to tell poker people what's going on in the poker world. Yes, their jobs are dependent on whether poker people think they are doing a good job, but they don't have to worry as much about actively offending Joe Public or bringing down the wrath of Suzie Homemaker with their coverage.
ESPN is different.
Now, I'm not going to be too critical of ESPN, because I think the network and its crack team of producers put out one of the best poker broadcasts on the market. Furthermore, they are shooting in HD this year and the product already looks amazing. They are also very good storytellers. Overall, I think ESPN has been good for poker and for that I can't and won't try to fault them. Still, there's still a bit of journalist left in this old boy and I fear ESPN has not yet figured out they are missing a fleet of boats when it comes to the World Series of Poker.
I'm not going to call ESPN out yet, because the producers are still going through tapes and putting together their season of coverage. However, I'm willing to make some predictions about what we won't see in the final cut of the 2007 WSOP coverage.
I predict we will see scant if any reference to the fact that Vinnie Vinh repeatedly showed up for Day 1 of events but failed to show up for Day 2. The oft-repeated and basically confirmed rumor was that Vinh was a hopeless drug addict, hopelessly broke, and hopelessly in debt to a collection of thugs who sought to put Vinh into tournaments in hopes of getting re-paid. Pauly did a lot of good reporting on the issue, but I doubt ESPN will. If this were the Superbowl, there would be a five-minute magazine-style piece bumping in between coverage on the exclusive network.
I predict there will be no coverage of the story of Paul Eskimo Clark's repeated physical collapses during two tournaments. Both tournaments were interrupted in ways that were disruptive to the event. Clark, despite actually failing to the point that he urinated on himself during a final table, refused to leave his seat and stay in the hospital. Several stories went around about why. Some said he was on a romantic quest to win a bracelet or die in his chair while trying. Other stories said Clark owed people way too much money to get up and give it up for the year. If this had been baseball's World Series, we would've seen a feature piece about a player fighting physical adversity or a darker story about the player choosing to fight debt over the cause of preserving his health.
Now, sure, I'm writing here without any knowledge of what ESPN will do. Last year, the network felt forced by PokerNews writers Amy Calistri and Tim Lavali to discuss the 2006 Color-Up Scandal. There is nothing pushing ESPN to discuss the above stories. A good excuse will be that neither story was necessary to tell the tale of the World Series, that neither story was relevant, and that those stories all happened when ESPN wasn't around. All of those excuses fly, I suppose, but I'm waiting for the day when poker has grown enough that ESPN feels comfortable telling both the good and bad stories that surround poker. I'm not trashing ESPN. I think they are pretty good people overall and I enjoy their broadcasts. I just wonder how long it will be--if ever--that poker gets a real sport's treatment instead off World's Strongest Man coverage.
There was somebody from ESPN--and I'll just let you guess who--who in a private moment made a comment that drove it home for me. This person was talking about Tiffany Williamson's improbable run during the 2005 World Series. The quote: "Tiffany Williamson is so bad, she makes Ted Lawson look like Johnny Moss."
After I finished laughing, I wished I had heard that quote on TV. First, because it's funny as hell. Second, because it's true.
Truth is all I ask for.
[Note: I should note here that all of the above is in reference to ESPN's broadcast coverage. Its writing online, headed up by Andrew Feldman, is much more brave. Of course, ESPN.com had a problem with Pauly, so maybe not quite as brave as I would like yet.]
Finally, I have a few notes here and nothing much to do with them. They are also stories that you won't see on ESPN, however even in my addled post-Series mind, I don't think these belong on TV. They are just stories that don't have a place anywhere or even deserve their own blog post. They are good, bad, interesting, and boring. I just need to clear my notebook and start thinking about something else. For lack of somewhere better to put them, I'll drop them here.
The Milwaukee's Best marketing campaign got out of control
There is a marketing wizard somewhere at Miller Brewing who is currently trying to spin the results of his idea in the best way possible. This person decided it was a good idea to put a bar--a bar!--within the stands of the ESPN final table. This might have been well and good if the drinks costs as much as they did at any other bar in the Rio. Instead, beers were $2.50 and sometimes free-daddy-free. The result was poker hooliganism. Drunks shouted at the players and generally made asses of themselves on a regular basis. You know me. I'm all for a good bender. However, there is a certain decorum that goes along with final table play in poker tournaments. The day the PGA allows free beer to be served to the masses on the 18th green at the Masters, I'll go for an open bar at the final table of the World Series. Until then, keep your underdressed hostesses and cheap beer somewhere else.
Gus Hansen and Devilfish make over-sexed pigs look like Casanova
There are a lot of pigs in poker. I am probably among them. However, the stories about Devilfish and Gus Hansen and how they treat women are more than even I could stomach. If I had only heard these stories once, I might have been able to brush them off. However, having witnessed some of it myself and having heard story after story repeated ad nauseum, I'd caution anyone to not allow their daughters, wives, or girlfriends (age 16-40) to be alone around the Great Dane or the Devilfish.
Many of the big-name stars use same traveling masseuse
(and it's not the one many of you would guess)
Toward the end of the Main Event, I ended up sitting at the bar with Dan from Pokerati. We were relaxing after a long day and generally minding our own business. Eventually, we noticed a 40-something lady sitting on my left. She had been the source of a lot of speculation among many members of the media for the past several weeks. After a few beers, Dan and I got to chatting with the lady. If her story is true--and based on what she said, I have no reason to disbelieve her--she is the traveling masseuse to the stars of poker. What's more, she is a fixer and tends to facilitate a lot of the things...well, a lot of the things you don't see on ESPN. Around 4:30am, she left to tend to one of poker's biggest names. The stories she told us in the interim were the kinds of things you won't see in print. She claimed to have been offered $750,000 to write a book, but refused based on principle.
I'd buy it.
Bicycle Card Company's PR disaster
The first day of the World Series was marked by the biggest public relations disaster of the year. This year, Copag cards were out and Bicycle cards were back in. The company had put together a marketing campaign for the ages to surround its new cards. Initially designed to make it easier for payers to determine their pocket holdings by only looking at the corners of the cards, the design ended up making it nearly impossible to know what one was holding without picking the cards all the way up and staring at their faces very carefully. Within 48 hours, all of the new cards were gone. While the cards' designer updated his resume, Bike's PR team went into damage control mode. It was a valiant effort, to be sure. I don't have a lot to say on this other than Bicycle's attempts to re-woo the media were long-lasting. Within a few days, every member of the media had a brand new set-up of plastic cards (not even available to the public!). A few days later, we all had brand new t-shirts. A couple of weeks later, we all had a second t-shirt and a stainless steel coffee tumbler.
32-way chop at Venetian
Having played a few single-table winner-take-all satellites at the WSOP, I know the process of convincing people to make a deal. It's generally a lot easier when there are two players left. I played in a 140 player multi-table event at Caesars in which a deal was only possible after we hit four players. So, I was a bit incredulous when I heard about a 32-way chop in one of The Venetian's deep stack events during the World Series. Three days after it happened, it was the stuff of legend. I was hearing about it all over town. The Venetian impressed just about everybody with its $500 deep stack tournaments. Winners were pulling in $50,000-$70,000 at a time--not bad for a $500 tournament. Finally, I found a guy who was involved in the chop and was able to confirm it. Apparently, the top four players took $11,000 a piece and the remaining 28 got $7,500.
Mr. Surgical Mask
This was the greatest maybe-urban-legend of the entire World Series. I heard about the guy from three different dealers and five different players. I never saw him myself, but I'm not going to say he didn't exist. Apparently, late one night, a guy showed up at the $500-max $2-$5 game in the Amazon Room. He was from "out-of-town" and wore a surgical mask while he played. He claimed to have lost $25,000 that night. Not at the tables. Not in the pit. Not by getting rolled by a hooker. He claimed it fell out of his pocket. That was one story. However, as the story went on, the guy apparently pulled out $500 and bet it blind. And then did it again. Then again. Then again. By the end of the story, Mr. Surgical Mask had tilted off $20,000 at a $2-$5 game.
And I picked that night to go to bed early.<-- Hide More
Let's face it. Unless you are part of the full-time poker world, are from Phoenix, or read Pokerati, you probably hadn't heard of Tom Schneider until this year. Hell, I bet only 10% of the people who read this blog actually know who he is now. Yet, Tom Schneider is the 2007 World Series Player of the Year. There's no taking that away from him. Further, there is no taking away the check he earned for getting there. Tom will hold the title--much better than the nickname "donkeybomber" he carries around with him--until at least summer of 2008.
And there's a damn good chance when the next person wins it, Tom will fade back into the same obscurity in which he wallowed up to this point.
Is it right? No. Is it how the New Poker World works? Sadly, yes.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Donkey Bomber: Bracelet Boy
Tom Schneider is the only person who won more than one bracelet in the 2007 World Series of Poker. It remains to be seen how much--if any--of donkeybomber we will see on ESPN or whether Tom will ever be able to parlay his achievement into a sponsored poker career. My guess is that the chances of either happening in any great amount are pretty slim.
That's the biggest shame about this. From what I can tell and from all the people I've spoken to, Tom is more than just a great poker player. He's also a damned nice guy, a pretty good poker commentator, and stands a good chance at making any potential sponsors a lot of money--given that he gets the chance to enter as many events as sponsored players do.
I think Tom is deserving of much more than he has received in the poker world. Because he is a chubby white guy who doesn't make it on TV doesn't mean the guy doesn't have a lot of poker skill. As the only man to win two World Series bracelets this year, he should be turning down sponsorship offers right and left instead of having to use his body-billboard space to pimp his own book. Of course, sponsors don't pick people up for poker skill. They pick people up to get their pictures in magazines and on TV with the sponsor's logo attached. If Tom had a set of perfect C-cup breasts or had once read the news during a bad year of Saturday Night Live, he would've been wearing an online poker site logo after his first bracelet. Instead, he was working overtime on Bluff Radio to work on his name ID during the main event.
In interviews with Tom, I heard poker commentators say much of the above about Tom--he's not a sexy bitch or a celebrity, and thus shouldn't expect to be handed a sponsorship deal just because he won Player of the Year. In a perfect poker world, winning POY should at least get a guy a one-year deal with somebody. I mean, in the name of Johnny Moss, there are people with open-ended deals who have never won a major event, let alone a bracelet. Let alone two bracelets. Let alone Player of the Year.
Next year I recommend Tom shave his legs, wear a short skirt, and yell a lot at the tables. Either that, or he's paying his own fare for another WSOP.
What of the Year?
Tom Schneider is more than a victim of his sex and age. He's also a victim of a victim of a flawed Player of the Year calculation system. A lot of people (me included) didn't think this year's method of point-assignment was anywhere close to correct. Because of that, Tom's achievement didn't get nearly as much attention as it should have.
To be fair, there is no perfect system and no matter how you calculate POY, there is always going to be somebody bitching about how they had a better year. Every year has had its calculation problems. This year, I think, was the worst in recent memory.
The two best years to look at in terms of different methods of calculation are 2005 and 2007. In 2005, there was a weighted system based on number of entries and finishing position. This year, there was no weighting, but the $10,000 championship event and $50,000 HORSE events were excluded. Neither method is fair to the players.
The biggest failure in the 2005 Player of the Year award was it weighted the size of the field too heavily. If you won the main event, you automatically got the same number of points of someone who won three bracelets in events with fewer than 100 players. That's obviously more than a little screwed up. The 2005 system assigned more weight to a field of 5000 than it did a field of 2000. Think on that for a second while I trash the 2007 so-called solution to the problem.
The people behind the 2007 Player of the Year award decided to exclude the Main Event and the $50,000 HORSE World Championship. Without any independent verification, I can only assume the Main Event was excluded because of its size and the HORSE event was excluded because its buy-in was too huge to be considered an open event.
Let's get this straight: It is ridiculous not to consider the Main Event and HORSE events in Player of the Year awards. If the main event is considered to be the world championship and the HORSE event is meant to determine the best all-around player, excluding those events from Player of the Year makes the award rather meaningless.
To solve the problem, one has to first either include the HORSE event or exclude most of the Championship events that include re-buys. The $5,000 PLO re-buy event cost some players as much as an entry to the HORSE event, so to include one and exclude the other doesn't make sense. The abililty to buy into a tournament does not indicate poker skill, but punishing players for being able to buy into an event by not awarding them POY points is not logical or fair. That is, if Freddy Deeb can make it through one of the toughest fields in history but not get POY points for it, it would make Tom Schneider's POY carry less importance. That is, in part, what happened this year.,
Even though Tom won two bracelets and Player of the Year, his POY award comes with an asterix and I think that probably bothers him as much as anybody else.
Re-Scoring the World Series Player of the Year
So, how should the Player of the Year be calculated? I think the solution is pretty simple. You take an amalgam of past calculation methods and apply them fairly across the board. I'd call this the Otis System, but I can't really take credit for it. It's simply the common sense approach to POY point assignment and is based on past years' systems, minus the poor judgment of people making the rules.
First, we include every open event. That excludes the Ladies, Seniors, Media, and Casino Employee events. If anyone is barred from playing because of sex, age, or profession, it doesn't count. What's more, we don't factor buy-in or prize pools into the equation. Poker bankrolls do not equate to poker talent. The only thing that matters is finishing order weighted on the number of entries.
The Points-Per-Place is a fairly arbitrary number, but it seems like people in the past have wanted to award 100 points for a bracelet, so I'm happy to start with that number. Here is a modified version of the 2005 point system (modified because I think some of the 2005 system gave too little credit for some final table spots and too much credit for squeaking into the money).
In the money (Top half) 10
In the money (Bottom half) 5
Now, this is where it gets important. In past years, the size of the field could multiply your points-per-place by up to three times. I think that's obscene. The most a place should be multiplied by is two. Further, while I think the weighting of a field is important, I don't think it should be so complicated that a place-point is mutipled by .1 for every hundred or so players in the field.
When I explained this to Mrs. Otis, at first she gave me a look and said, "Why? Isn't it harder to beat a field of 6000 than it is a field of 2000?" At first I balked and thought, "Hell, maybe I am wrong. It does follow logically that it's harder to beat a field off 6,000 than it is one of 2,000." Then I changed my mind again and stood my ground. Here's why:
Despite what my wife would have me believe, size matters. However, there are a ton of other factors that come into play. Is it a no-limit or limit tournament? Is it a specialty game or standard hold'em? As the title "Player of the Year" would suggest, it doesn't matter whether you're the best for one day or one tournament. Thus, the ability to wade through the $1,500 no-limit events or the $10,000 event but cash nowhere else should not carry a 3x weight. It also doesn't make sense to not give the larger events a few extra points. In the past, the weighting system has been too complicated, but that's not un-fixable. What's more I think it can be simplified.
I don't think there are many reasonable people out there who will argue with me. It simply doesn't take any measurably greater skill to beat a poker field of 6,000 than it takes to beat a field of 2,100. It certainly isn't something that can be quantified by a simple decimal-pointed multiplier. However, I think there is a much greater difference between a field of 500 and 2000. I don't want to be crude, but when it comes to breasts, there's small, average, large, and big. Once you get past big, they're still just big. Sure, there might be different cup sizes, but it terms of breasts, they're just big. Your average joe on the street isn't going to be able to tell the difference between EE and GG breasts. They're just big. So are poker tournaments.
Sure, we could make it a lot more complicated and break down every event by its game, limits, etc. We could assign values based on those factors. However, if we're looking for a simple and fair way of assigning value, size is pretty easy. I think World Series of Poker fields can be broken down into three sizes. There are the 500 and smaller fields, the 500-1500 fields, and 1500+ fields. Using these categories both takes into account size and types of games as far as the World Series is concerned.
0-500= These events usually are made up of big buy-in or specialty events that draw smaller fields. The field of players is either wealthier or more talented at specific games than other fields.
500-1500=This is where most of the fields fall in terms of numbers. If you're playing an event with a $2,500-$5,000 buy-in, you're probably playing in a 500-1,500 sized field.
1,500+ = Ordinarily, if an event has more than 1,500 people, it's a cheap no-limit hold'em event or the main event.
Now, assigning a multiplier to the field size is a bit arbitrary, as well. However, I think this is likely the most fair.
Size of Field Multiplier
0-500 = 1.0
1500+ = 2.0
Tom Schneider actually asked his readers to come up with something like the above and then apply it to the people who might have stood a chance at winning POY this year. Using my scale, here's how Tom's selections would've fared this year.
Tom Schneider: 275
Jeff Lisandro 212.5
Robert Mizrachi 227.5
Phil Hellmuth: 320
Freddy Deeb: 120
As much as I hate to admit it, my system takes Tom's possibilities and awards Poker Brat Phil Hellmuth Player of the Year. Frankly, I don't think it would be far off. Out of everyone on that list, Hellmuth had more cashes and won more money than anybody but Deeb (who is only on the list because he won the HORSE event). Is Hellmuth a better player than the others? That's up for debate. Did he have a better year than the others? That depends on how we define greatness. If it is by bracelets, then no. If it's by consistency an winning, I think the answer is yes. No one can deny Hellmuth's talent. Like Schneider, Hellmuth was also victimized by this year's scoring system.
The Real Player of the Year
Left unapplauded in all of this is the man who likely deserves a little more attention. You won't know who he is until ESPN broadcasts the final table of the main event. He is either the perfect example or the fy in the ointment of my system. I'll leave it for you to decide.
Alexander Kravchenko is a humorless Russian who cashed as many times as Hellmuth, won as many bracelets as Hellmuth, made as many final tables as Hellmuth, and won more money than Hellmuth and Schneider combined. However, you don't see him popping up on many a list. Kravchenko won a Omaha 8/b bracelet, bubbled the final table of a HORSE event, and took fourth in the main event. That's not to mention his cashing in Pot-Limit Hold'em, SHOE, and Stud 8/b events. Under my scoring system, he would edge Hellmuth by about 25 points.
Now, look at it a little closer. Helmuth may have had six cashes this year, but every one of them was in a Hold'em event. Schneider may have won two bracelets, but he only had three cashes, not one of them was in a field of more than 670 people, and the closest he got to a hold'em game was the H of the HORSE event in which he took fourth. All the while, Kravchenko was successful across just about every discipline (where were you in triple draw, Ivan?).
This is not to say Kravchenko is better than Schneider and Hellmuth. It's only to say, under my system and a little bit of logic, Kravchenko had a better year and, thus, should've been named player of the year.
The fact that anyone is arguing about this is another good case that the game has arrived. If there are reasonable people discussing the various merits and talents of players, it's a lot closer to two Boston fans sitting in a bar and running over stolen base and pitching stats.
The World Series of Poker is trying, too. It spent most of the summer sending out various lists of records and superlatives for the media to publish (most cashes, most bracelets, number of times players took a piss next to Pauly, etc). That's really where it gets confusing.
Hellmuth holds tons of records for numbers of bracelets. Schneider won more bracelets than anybody this year. Kravchenko? Well, he's a Russian guy who had a damned good year at the World Series. Much like Tom's pained life in the world of unfair anonymity, my next door neighbor will likely never know the Russian's name. Hell, I've almost forgotten it already.
And he should've won Player of the Year.<-- Hide More
Remember that movie, they turned it into a TV Series, about the alien guys who had bald spotted heads? I don't remember if the movie had the same central conceit, but the series was about an alien cop and his human partner. Essentially it was just another Hill Street Blues but with bald spotted heads.
Anyway, I apologize if my posts here become less useful and more introspective but as the Larry tells Owen, "Write what you know".More in this Poker Blog! -->
I've mentioned the change at work a few times. It means I report to the office at 4AM on weekdays and I'm usually in bed by 7. The good news, besides missing all that damn prime time TV, is I'm spending a lot more time with the wife and kids. I think by spending more time at the house I've realized just how little I was there over the past two years. Turns out, I enjoy my family. That, again, is the good news.
The unfortunate side effect of the early slumber and the renewed domestic fervor is a sort of distance from my very good friends. I ping BadBlood on the girly online message device sometimes but it's usually so early he hasn't logged on as yet. I haven't played at the depot with Mark in a while. I've sent Otis some phone and text messages but he hasn't replied to any. It's as if I've reunited with one family and shed it's surrogate.
THE ALIEN PLANET
I think that's why I enjoyed my last poker game so damn much. I wasn't with my good friends because of vacations and lakes and Vegas but at least I was with a bunch of interest-sharing oddballs. That's my favorite kind of person. As my close friend Uncle Ted (Who has moved to Boston so, alas, I never see him either) said at Bonnaroo, "Thank God for creative ridiculous people"!
There's one dealer who can drink a jaeger bomb every 5 minutes and never show a buzz. I've seen the same guy get hammered after about 4 beers. Who gets more drunk off of beer? See? That's odd.
There's this guy named "Slow" who I wrote about before. On Saturday he moved his stack over to table 1, my table, then went to play pool for a solid 3 hours. I left before he ever played a hand. One interesting thing about Slow, he has no concept of that invisible personal space. If Slow has something to say, he'll likely say it 2 inches from your nose.
The host of the game, Mr. Gaelic, has built this automobile cockpit in front a giant plasma TV. He's got the pedals and the wheel and the gears and all for some racing video game. I particularly enjoyed watching one 60+ year old woman drive her Caddilac in circles for a solid 20 minutes.
I'm not sure I'm really "friends" with any of those folks, I don't know any of them well away from the felt. But it's nice to have wierdos to visit.
By the way, until I started the title of this post, it never occured to me that the show "Alien Nation" was a BLATANTLY obvious play on "alienation". I mean how incredibly freakishly obvious is that?
I think I may be stupid.
On the bright side, I've met a lot of very happy...very stupid people.
I can live with that.<-- Hide More
Poker is a lot more fun when you're winning. For a while there I thought I was bored with the game itself. Now it seems I was just tired of losing so damn much.
So here's a different story my friends: It seems that even a dumbshit like myself CAN win sometimes.More in this Poker Blog! -->
SETTING THE DECK
As you know, I've been playing a lot less. This from a man who used to play as much as 5 times a week. There were times I'd be so anxious to play I'd leave home early and just sit around at the game, waiting for the other players to arrive.
I've been that guy counting the other players as they trickle in and forcing the action once there are enough to start. I'm the guy who turned into a foaming lunatic on those nights when I'd have to wait 30 minutes for a seat... DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM??!!
That wasn't the worst part. I had a nasty ego about the game itself. I thought, "I'm too good to lose to THESE PEOPLE!". Imagine my surprise when it started to happen!
Just 2 years ago I was anchor of a very highly rated show. I thought the ratings were solely my doing. When things went wrong, I told the producers "Just blame it on me... they can't touch me".
I was wrong about that too.
The Gaelic game is the perfect game for my state of mind. Inside a cavernous building, it used to be used for some explosive industrial storage, there are three big tables and at least enough people for 2.
There are serious players there, like Wing the Pro and Candi Girlover, but most are there to gamble and drink. I've been both in the past and was a little of both tonight.
Early on, I tried to correct what I think have been my biggest flaws of late. (I mean at poker, of course, not my weight, my bad temper, my tendency to mock the less fortunate, etc.)
Normally, I go straight to the iPod and tune out the table. This time I kept it low and on one ear. I WANTED to hear the jabber of the game. I decided to treat that as PART of the game.
Not only did it keep me more involved in the flow of the game, thus staving off the boredom during long stretches of shit cards, but it actually helped tune my reads... like the guy who would audibly groan (an ACTING tell in this case) when someone called, or bet into, his monster hand.
I flopped two pair on him and raised his smallish flop bet. When he goaned, and twisted his face into a grimace before pushing all in, I saved myself some chips by folding. He later said he flopped a set and I totally believe him.
I correctly read players with pocket aces twice and safely folded away. I dumped OESDs and decent flush draws when I could tell I was drawing slim.
I think a hole in my game was ASSUMING I was so good at reading players that I could just DO it without any real work. But even with familiar players, even with so many tells that are practically universal, it pays to start each game with an ALMOST blank slate. Let your sensitivity to each player refine itself through the course of each new session.
Ok... I only won about $150. I had a better night going but dumped some off on a poor read late. Still, a win IS a win.
That's not the best part.
I had FUN.
I think it's easy, especially now during the big WSOP, to lose sight of the thing that brought us, most of us anyway, to the game.
I just like to hang out with degenerates sometimes. I like to talk about lowbrow crap. I like to hear the buzz of people enjoying a win and surviving a loss. I like poker. I like the game.<-- Hide More
Check out this little article over at ESPN.com and on the right side, you'll see a video box. Click on "All In Access: Blogger Mania" and see one of our own (with some curious facial hair).
Once the World Series main event gets this deep, my time to play poker is nil. So, to stay in action, Pauly and I spend ten minutes a night in what Pokerati has dubbed "The World Series of Lime Tossing." It's about the only way I can get in action.
Dan found us on the Lime Tossing Ledge and wrote it up for posterity. While my prop bets with Pauly and Dan show me officially down about three small bets, I managed to hustle a Brit to make up the difference. With just a few days left in the Series, my time to put Pauly in his place and run the Citrus Gambit on Dan is getting short.
Monday, however, is a day off at the World Series. I'm currently recruiting players for the WSOPgP (World Series of Pai Gow Poker). We'll see how everybody fares there.
It wasn't often that our entire extended family could get together and, frankly, it was probably the last time it ever happened. That Thanksgiving, there were 18 of us. We were all seated around my grandmother's dining room table. The spread included turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, green bean casserole and at least two jello molds.
As my grandmother said grace, she got a little emotional. She knew a gathering like this was about to become the exception and not the rule. We all bowed our heads.
"I'd like to thank God for bringing our whole family together for this dinner," she said, starting to fight back tears, "and give thanks that none of us are living in pottery."
I don't know who was first to look up, but when I did, I noticed my father trying to hold in the laughter. I think he knew it was best not to laugh at his mother-in-law. It didn't work. And soon, the entire table was laughing.
My grandmother died yesterday. I'm not sure why this is the memory that first comes to mind. Perhaps it's becaue I never got to gamble with her.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Sitting in the Keno lounge, I was sorry I didn't yet know how to play Craps. It seems my grandfather was quite the dice thrower. My family was in upstate NY visiting me at college. Perphas the lure of the Turning Stone Casino helped convince my grandfather to come.
I hadn't yet perfected my Lite Brite method of Keno wagering. It, of course, is no better than any other method that's sure to be a loser. It didn't matter, however, because I just thought it was cool to be gambling with my grandfather.
He played the $5 20-spot ticket and as the numbers came up, he missed and missed and missed. He missed every one of them. And it paid off a couple hundred dollars. I thought he was the greatest gambler of all time. Who actually wins at Keno?
We spent the next couple hours in the Bingo hall playing off his winnings. It's the only chance I ever got to gamble with him. He died a few years ago. It was a bit of a surprise.
Yesterday was not a surprise. My grandmother had been sick for years. In fact, it's probably been five years since I had a coherent conversation with her. Her mind went first and, unfortunately, her body took years to break down. It was a long time coming, but she's in a better place now. And that's not just a cliche to me.
I'm not sure how much my grandparents on my father's side gambled. I know they loved to play cards. I've been playing canasta and cribbage and gin and just about any card game you can imagine since I was old enough to understand them.
It was my Dad who first introduced me to poker. He also first introduced me to horses. And craps for that matter. There's no question that I wouldn't be the gambler today if it weren't for Dad.
Of course, I don't want to let Mom off the hook either. She once came to visit me when I lived in Lincoln, NE and we took a trip across the river to Council Bluffs and the riverboat casinos. She spent most of her time at the Wheel of Fortune slot machine and hit a nice jackpot for a couple hundred bucks.
Perhaps my luck is genetic?
Even if my grandmother wasn't a gambler, I'm sure she considered herself lucky back on that Thanksgiving afternoon. She had a big family that loved her.
And none of us lived in pottery.<-- Hide More
Confidence is king. I've got a defecit at the moment. It's strange that confidence matters in a game like poker which, ostensibly, is a combination of mathematics and luck. I suppose the value of self-confidence best illustrates the more complex nature of the game itself.
Without confidence I can't trust my reads. That makes me too lazy to make solid reads at all.
Without confidence I become passive. With my rather lackluster math skills a lack of aggression makes me shitty at poker.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Frankly... I've become too timid to play. I used the new work schedule as an excuse. I mean, I can't play much because of the new and unusual hours, but there's nothing preventing me from playing on the weekend.
I just haven't WANTED to.
I haven't had fun the last few times but I'd assume my enjoyment is directly proportionate to my success. Lately I've had very little of either one at cards.
Yes folks, I'm scared of poker.
I've lamented the more serious nature of our games before but there is another reason for my problem. The players HAVE gotten better. It's bound to happen that the people who actually ENDURE at this have had some degree of success in the past. It further stands to reason that, over time, the people who continue to have success are the better players. Thus, the best players remain.
The players who have success return
The best players have success
The best players return
I'm not one of them. At least, I'm not anymore.
So here's the question, beloved reader of mine: How do I get my confidence BACK?
Should I drop down in limits? That's not easy as most games here have a sort of default limit built in.
Should I play less often? I've already done that.
Should I read another poker book? I haven't been doing that. It's decent advice.
What's the answer dear reader?
And, of course, the possibility remains that the following is true:
Poor players suffer more losses
Frequent losses decrease confidence
I've lost confidence
I'm a poor player.
Cross posted from Rapid Eye Reality
With limited time and limited mental acuity, I don't have time to properly explain why I'm doing this. To be honest, I don't even want to explain it. It's been a few days since someone said to me, "If I were you, I would kill myself." Since I didn't agree, I vowed to live a life bent on making sure I never said anything to anyone with such vitriol. I've done such over the past few days. Now, I'm taking it one more step. I'm vowing to make sure others feel as good about their lives as I do.
A friend of mine who is with me here in Vegas is on a quest, and far be it for me not to help him. So, I ask my meager readership here to help me. Please, if you can, use your blogs to link to the following blog with the following words.
Linked words: Hairy gymnast
Please know, this is important work you're doing. Every Hairy gymnast will thank you.
It was early April in Monte Carlo, Monaco. A sport jacket was enough to shield me from the still chill in the air, and anything that Devilfish might have had on his hands as he threw his arm around me in a mutal drunkard's "I love you, man" salute. I was in a club with half-naked women and drunk poker players. It was some sort of launch party for some sort of poker skin supported by some sort of British players. The drinks weren't free, because anything being free--or even affordable--in Monte Carlo is against the principality's laws.
At some point, I saw a friend order four bottles of booze from the bar at a price that I dare not reveal. She'd put it on her own credit card and was hoping to recoup it later. I was moochinig, in part because I couldn't afford to catch a nice buzz on my own, and, in part, because everybody else was doing it.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I was running with an affable British guy named Ed. He was a world traveler turned poker guy turned security specialist. We'd done the Bahamas together and caused enough trouble in one week for an entire year. However, by April, we were feeling like a little more trouble would be okay.
Which is how we ended up in the basement bathroom of a Monte Carlo club with Joe Hachem and a bunch of other poker pros.
Me, I just had to take a leak. The poker guys, however, had other things in mind. They were engaged in a version of Liar's Poker that I'd never seen. All I know is that there were wads upon wads of American dollars and even more stacks of Euros. As we were leaving, Hachem turned to my buddy and asked him to draw a single hundred dollar bill from a stack big enough to fund my trouble-making for the rest of the year. Ed obliged and plucked a Franklin from the wad.
Hachem took one look at the serial number and said, "We're going to win."
A few shouts and taunts later, three guys were handing Hachem a bunch of Euros. Hard way to make an easy living, indeed.
A few nights later, Ed and I were closing down the wrap party when he turned to me and said, "What am I going to do with a $100 bill." He was headed back to England and would've been forced to exchange it for his own currency.
I got a deal: It cost me fifty euros for a hundred bucks and a conversation piece at my next underground game.
The hundred dollar bill was one of the old ones, the kind when Ben Franklin's head hadn't swollen, and the design looked like the hundreds Dad used to carry around.
My rational mind doesn't accept good luck charms, but I have been known to assign some supernatural value to card cappers, poker chips, and even pieces of yarn. Yet, for some reason I thought holding on to Hachem's hundred would be a good idea.
I keep my money rolled around my driver's license and credit cards. A rubber band holds it all together (a PokerStars money band long given away after I got three-outered while carrying it). For the past three months, I carried Hachem's hundred in my pocket pressed up against my American Express card. Every once in a while I would show it to a friend and say, "You know who this used to belong to?"
Pretty stupid, I guess. I didn't win the money from Joe. He didn't even give it to me. It didn't come out of his $7.5 million win, as far as I know, so why I would hold onto it, I don't know. All I know is that that I said more times than I can count, "If I ever get down to the Hachem Hundred, that means I'm in trouble."
The World Series had so far treated me with such indifference that I felt like...well, I felt like the ex-boyfriend of a girl who has just become a Hollywood starlet. Yeah, I used to have sex with her, but you wouldn't know it now. She just doesn't care and all I have are late night memories to keep me company. And now she's screwing everybody. Everybody else, anyway.
Still, I survived the first three weeks without too much carnage. That all changed this week when a guy from the Seniors event three-outered me all-in with one card to come. Then I got it in good three ways in a cash game and both of my opponents caught. I wasn't down to the Hachem's Hundred, but, it was getting closer than I would've liked. Worse, I actually started blaming the Hachem Hundred for my stagnant-break-even cum loser poker play.
And, oh yes, and, I started to hate the Rio again. I realized I hadn't been more than a hundred yards outside the Rio in eleven days. I hated everybody inside it. Including myself.
I was chugging a bottle of Gatorade when the idea hit me. I would get rid of the Hachem Hundred. And I would get rid of it somewhere else.
There was a full moon when I walked outside and hailed a cab.
"Caesars," I said.
This field trip was a stupid idea, I thought as I sat in traffic on Flamingo. There was a girl hanging out of the passenger side window of a car behind me and screaming loud enough I could hear everything she said. My window was rolled up.
Who ventures out on Amateur Night? The traffic sucks, the tourists are at their worst, and every square inch of floor space in the casinos is full.
I am a masochist, I decided. It's the only explanation.
It took 20 minutes from door to door (I almost could've walked it in the same amount of time). Once out of the cab, I was certain I should turn around and go back. And I almost did, but the cab line to leave was about fifty people deep.
Every night at 11pm, Caesars runs a crapshoot $120 tournament. After less than stellar cash game results in the past couple weeks, I decided the best way to start the evening was with a little tournament action. This, I decided, would be where Hachem's Hundred left my roll.
The guy at the registration window looked at me funny as I unwrapped my bills and dug to the very bottom and pulled out the last hundred in the roll.
"Old one," he said, turning the bill over a few times.
A few seconds later I had my seat card, puked in my mouth a little bit over the 33% (33%!) juice, and went for a BBQ sandwich.
Over some exceptionally bad BBQ, I considered the play: Getting rid of a non-lucky charm in a tournament that charges 33% juice, playing a tournament with a structure fast enough to make Linda Blair's head spin in the other direction, trying to find some sense of peace by going to one of the Strip's busiest casinos.
In a word, ridiculous.
And yet, there I was in the seven seat with my 2,500 in chips at the beginning of the first thirty minute level. While a guy talked about the bondage offerings he found on Craigslist, I sat and folded, and folded, and folded. By the end of the second level, I had 1,900 chips and hadn't seen a pair. With a few minutes left before the break, I picked up 88 and raised from the cutoff. Mr. Bondage called in the small blind. The flop came down JJT. He checked, I bet about 3/4 of the pot. He called. The turn was a three. He checked, I checked. The river was another jack. He bet half the pot. I figured he could've easily slow-played his jack or cautiously played his ten. Still, I wasn't about to go into the 100/200 round with 1,200 chips and I figured there was a 33% chance he was bluffing or had a smaller pair than me. I put the rest of it in. He called with a naked ace and doubled me up.
In a word, ridiculous.
I have this picture in my head of one of those tandem bikes with an alabatross in both seats. I carry this picture around in my head when I think about my tournament performance in Las Vegas. Last year, I made two final tables in tournaments and had exactly no money to show for it. One was the 2am tournament at Binion's as featured in Snickers for Wil Wheaton. The second was the World Series of Poker Media Event.
That particular albatross is not quite as disturbing as the fact that I have never cashed in a Vegas-based tournament. I have played in two WSOP events, umpteen blogger tournaments, and a ton of side events. Sure, I've had my share of success on the underground circuit and for a long time enjoyed great success in online tournaments. However, Vegas tournaments have been a monkey on the albatross' back. Which, while being a funny picture, is not a good thing for a guy's confidence.
I thought of all of this as I sat with no chip stack and watched the players fall off one by one. A few hours later, we were down to two tables. I had survived only through the Ryan Kallberg school of push-monkey poker. The entire time, I sucked out only once, and that one wasn't that bad. The rest of the time, I'd been fortunate enough to win every race I'd run. Now, though, I was still short-stacked. With twelve players remaining (nine out of the original 140 getting paid) I was the shortest stack and predicting I would pure bubble.
Again, we were thirty seconds before the break. I pushed all-in with an un-suited AT. I begged the big blind to call. Double me up or send me home. Just don't make me go to break on the short-stack.
Now I was getting a little sick at myself. The plan was to go big or go to the cash games. Now it was after 3am and if I busted without a cash, I wouldn't have had the time to play live games to recoup my confidence.
Back at the table, I gave the old big blind the stinkeye and cursed him for folding to me. Twenty minutes later, he pure bubbled in 10th place and I was sitting at the final table.
Interesting thing about Caesar's tournaments. They have cameras tuned on a featured table and if you make it there, you are broadcast throughout the poker room and--according to people who have seen it--throughout the casino. I happened to draw the six seat, which put me right in the middle of the frame. I entertained any potential viwers by swatting madly at a housefly that had a taste for poker chips and guys who dress in what Pauly calls "Otis Shirts."
Being in the money had an odd effect on me. While making it into the cash was a great feeling, it now made the paltry few hundred bucks I'd win for ninth place seem like a worthless prize. Something in my brain turned over and I became Aggressive Otis. There were two bad players among the final nine--one lady who played aces, kings, and ace-king and a loose-weak guy who was going to have to get his chips in eventually.
I won't bore you with the details. I played well. With four players remaining, I was third in chips and...this is my favorite part...negotiated an even four-way chop that left a grand on the table for first place (bless the chip-leading German guy's heart). I should've won that, too, but my trips couldn't fade eight outs twice.
Officially, it was a third place finish. Wrapped in the rubber band in my pocket, it was a poker player's Viagra.
I'd ordered a beer after we struck the deal and the waitress brought it just as I was shaking hands with the other players. I walked around the casino drinking it and thinking about Hachem's Hundred. Without any evidence that it was lucky, I carried it around like a talisman for three months. Hachem is one of my favorite people in poker, so I guess it made sense for a while.
But as I took the last drink of my beer and headed for the cab stand, it hit me. That bill had been lucky all along.
I just had to put it in play.<-- Hide More