Okay, I need your help. We're going to have to keep this on the down-low. As you have all likely read, the G-Vegas crew is going to Vegas at the end of next month. Despite not having lived there in more than five years, I consider myself an honorary lifetime member of the G-Vegas crew, so it stands to reason that I should go as well.
There are two problems. 1) Finding a flight at a reasonable price. It will be tough, but doable. 2) Convicing Lady Luck that me going to Vegas is a good idea.
That's where you come in. I have a few thoughts on how to accomplish this mission, but you might have some better suggestions.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Option 1: The Lie
Considering we've been married for just a few months now, I'm not sure this is even a reasonable option.
"Hello, Dear, I won't be around a whole lot from June 27th to June 29th. I've got this big work thing going and it's going to keep me really busy."
Running a good bluff is hard. You have to pick the right spot against the right opponent at just the right time. Those of you who have met Lady Luck may know that she's not likely the right opponent and I can assure you this isn't the right time.
Option 2: The Beg
I'm not a proud man.
Option 3: The Trade
This one has promise. I'll simply find out what good friend she'd like to visit and I'll buy her a plane ticket there. It's tit for tat. She likes to travel. I can't imagine this would be the right occassion for her first trip to Vegas, so it's more likely she'd like to go somewhere else.
Option 4: The Kidnapping
On the evening of June 26th, I simply up and disappear. Left behind is just a note suggesting I've been kidnapped and demanding some kind of ransom. I don't think I'm worth a whole lot, so the note could ask for something like $10,000. That would be more than my wife could scrape together in a couple days (especially on a weekend) and give me plenty of time to "escape" my kidnappers by Sunday.
That's the best I got. Maybe you've got something better. I'm really thinking about going with Option 3. My G-Vegas friends can tell you that anything titled "Option 4" is a bad idea. That's a long story. A really long story, and one that should never been told. Nonetheless, something's gotta break right. And if it does, I'll be visiting Sin City for the first time in a long time.
Now about that flight...<-- Hide More
You smell that don't you? It's a combination of stale coffee, body odor, and residual cigarette smoke. It's anticipation, fear, and desperation. It's the 2008 WSOP.
Even though it's going to take us a few weeks to get on the ground there, we here at the Up For Poker Blog are excited about our friends and colleagues who are already wheels down.
The people behind these blogs are the hardest working people in poker. They give us what we can't have: an inside look at the World Series reality.
We took a little time to collect a list of the people we'll be reading over the next several weeks. You'll find the entire list on our WSOP Blogs page. We'll keep it linked in The Nuts section on the left just in case you want to use it as your portal to all the World Series news you can stomach.
If we missed your blog, shoot us a note and we'll see about linking you up.
You know, I haven't been to Las Vegas in two years. Seriously. How'd that happen?
I went from going 2 times a year to a 2 year break. I didn't see that coming.
Now, I'm booked and going back. Wanna roll with G-Rob? Here's your glorious opportunity. I'm in Vegas from Thursday June 26th until Sunday June 29th.
Before I go, some quick thoughts about the journey:More in this Poker Blog! -->
I'm a gloom and doom guy about the state of the economy. Reckless gamblers and greedy investors killed the housing market but real estate will rebound. I'm less hopeful about the oil market. If people pay $4/gallon for gasoline, they have less money to spend on anything else. That sort of thing trickles down to everything eventually. (Unlike Reaganomics, this trickle-down theory isn't based in fantasyland.)
Thus, your hero just spent $800 to get decent flights from G-Vegas to Las Vegas. That's about twice what I paid 2 years ago. It is also an affront to all that is good and decent in the world.
As a further sign of Vegas' troubles with room occupancy, I could have added a room at the MGM Grand or a dozen other strip casinos for about $45/night. That's a pretty sharp discount on a regular mid-summer rate. I declined the offer, however, and made plans to sleep on the floor of Otis' room.
Who goes to Vegas to sleep anyway?
That reminds me of a trip to Amsterdam for New Year's Even in 1994/1995.
I went with my then-girlfriend (now Wife) and two college buddies. We bought the airfare on a whim and took a train from the airport to downtown with no plan at all. That first day we crashed in the youth hostel closest to the terminal and then moved to another one called the "Sleep Inn" for the next few days.
The stay at the "Sleep Inn" was about $14 a day but putting actual clean sheets on the rubber mattress each day was another $2. Almost everyone there payed the extra $2 except my buddy Pat who considered it a needless expense. Pat took well over $1000 to Amsterdam but considered $2 for acutal bedsheets "needless."
Pat was an interesting dude.
After 3 days and nights at the hostel, we finished our trip with a few nights at the Amsterdam Hilton. Pat was happy to pay his share for that.
Badblood and I always start with a few dozen hours at the MGM Grand. It's our favorite poker room on the strip. So much so, in fact, that after our last trip together 2 years ago we actually discussed how "easy" it would be for us to make a living in that place.
The MGM Grand poker room is SOFT.
We'll probably play silly late night table games with Otis at some point. This is for two reasons:
1) Drunken late night table games are fun.
2) As we are crashing in Otis' room for our trip it does make sense that we'd at least acknowledge his existence at some point during said trip.
It should be espiecially enjoyable this time since, as Otis noted in the pevious post, he's going to be newly on the ground there and won't have the 1,000 yard stare that he usually wears after a few soul crushing weeks on the strip.
Also, evidently, Otis is on a first name basis with the devil. That should be memorable.
I'm taking about 5 times what I spent on airfare as my gambling roll this time. That means I'll probably split time at $1/$2 and $2/$5 NL. I hope to roughly double that roll on the trip.
That said, the last several times I've gone to Vegas I've done exactly that... at poker... and then given most of it back in the aforementioned late-night drunken table adventures.
Last time it was blackjack and 3 card poker with a trio of extremely drunk Irishmen.
I'd list "self-control" as a goal in this regard, but I'm trying to be at least semi-realistic.<-- Hide More
Generally, people end up in hell because the in-road has so many fun attractions along the way.
The hell-heat of the Nevada desert is the only thing that contradicts the axiom. There is nothing luring people to Las Vegas except the destination itself. I think people who routinely go to Vegas know in advance the part of their soul they will give up. It's a cross-sectioned portion, like something out of a Science and Industry museum. Everybody knows it's there, but until you see it sliced and exposed, the importance is only academic.
The last time I went to the World Series of Poker, I met the Devil. As I wrote after the fact, "The Devil knew my name. The Devil knew my patterns. The Devil knew where I was. The Devil knew Otis. And now Otis had seen the Devil."
Aside from true, irrational fear, cold is the only thing I remember feeling at the end of the 2008 World Series. I shivered and shook my way through the final day of the main event. I thought I was dying and, ever so briefly, just wished I would so the Devil could take me wherever he wanted.
I survived, but I don't know how.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I don't really make many decisions in a vacuum anymore. Once I left my parents' oversight back in 1992, I had about five years during which I got to experiment with the luxury of selfish, wanton, and irresponsible decision-making. I survived that, too, and looking back, I'm not sure how. Since then, my life has been largely governed by bosses and my love for my family. When work doesn't control my life, I do my best to follow a path that will let my wife know I love her and give my son the attention he more than deserves. The boss-control I would give up if I was able. The family, never or for any amount of anything I want.
Still, in those fanciful hours when nobody is awake but me, I think about what the Devil would want for me, where he would drag me, and how much of my soul I would lose in the process. If work didn't matter and I could keep my family, I would selfishly be packing my bags right now and burying myself at the tables in Vegas. I don't even know why. The sensible part of me knows there is little chance for success and a huge chance that if I emerged alive, it would only be as a shell of myself. It doesn't even sound like fun, and yet I think about it--because I'm sick or already more void of soul than I thought.
Beginning a few years ago, I started getting calls that would land me in Vegas for three consecutive summers. At the end of every one, I wanted nothing more than to be home. At the end of last year, I remember thinking that I'd be just fine if I never covered another Series. So, no one is more surprised than me at how conflicted I feel this week.
I've found myself surprisingly bemused as I read the run-up pieces written by all my friends and colleagues who are packing their bags right now. The veterans are, as expected, already too jaded to expect anything but the hell they are about to experience. The newcomers are rowdy and ready to jump in. I don't look forward to seeing any of the hollow eyes.
Don't get me wrong. It's not all horrible. I have many fond memories from covering the Series. The bunker mentality that sets in after a few weeks helps build some pretty good friendships. Much of it--like limetossing, late night trips to Binion's, and eating Keno crayons--has been chronicled across the ethersphere. I have to admit, I am a little disappointed that I am going to be missing most of it this year.
Well, yeah. This is something I've avoided writing about until now, largely because I've parachuted into the past threee World Series at the last minute. There was a part of me that believed there was still a chance that was going to happen this year. As it happens though, I'm going to miss most of the Series this year. The plan as it stands is to drop in on June 24, cover the $50,000 HORSE and Main Events, and get out.
As mentioned above, I don't make many decisions by myself anymore. I had grand plans for this year that involved a house with a pool, sleeping with my wife every night, kissing my kid every day, and covering the ever-lovin' hell out of 2008 Series. When it became clear that wasn't going to be possible, any excitement I had about the Series vanished. Several other things happened in the meantime and suffice it to say, I have extremely mixed feelings about the next two months.
After covering the Series for four weeks, the Series' press folks are naturally suspiscious of people who drop in for the big events. I can't count the number of times I've heard the long-haul media bitch about the short-time crews. I'm now going to be part of the Parachute Crew and I'll admit I'm not looking forward to the idea. Furthermore, regardless of its Big Picture importance, covering the Series for the full seven weeks provides context that the final few weeks can't offer. As a pseudo writer, I am a tad embarassed about my role this year. That said, I'm going to spend four extra weeks with my wife and kid. That's time that I've missed in previous years. It's time I'll never get back. It's time I plan to spend wisely. In short, the soul-vacuum writer is depressed, but the rest of me is happy.
I've spent too much time in Las Vegas to confuse it with Paradise. I know where Vegas is, I know what it is, and I know who runs the show. If I made all the decisions in a vacuum, I would grab my parchment Moleskine, a good pen, and few thousand bucks. I'd get on a plane and snort the brimstone. I'd do it for the same reason I'd cover war, death, or mini-apocalypse. Many of the stories that need to be told are in hell.
That's not my life, though. At least not right now. I'll admit, I'm in a pretty odd place mentally, but I know, despite it not being the best thing for my career (such as it is), missing 80% of the World Series is going to be a good thing in the longrun.
As I reached this point in the writing of this post, a good friend sent me a text, "When do you get to Vegas?"
The answer, for better or worse, is June 24.
Lucky in love, unlucky in cards.
I've heard it quite a few times since I've found Lady Luck. Many a blogger have mentioned that my luckboxing abilities have likely diminished or disappeared since I've found love. I don't believe it, but my experience Saturday night didn't exactly assuage my fears.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Cliche #1: The Smoke-filled Poker Room
Okay, so it wasn't quite that bad. But as I entered Casino Aztar for the first time, I did have to push the smoke out of my way just so I could find the stairs to the lower level. That's where I found the poker room.
Well, actually, that's where I found a lot more slot machines, but tucked away in the corner, I eventually came upon what resembled a poker room. To be honest, it was quite a disappointment compared to the relative luxury provided by the Coushatta.
Of course, there were tables, dealers, players and chips, so I'm not sure what else I really needed. I saw they were dealing $1/$3 NL at two tables, so I got my name on the list. I also put my name ont he $2/$5 NL interest list. The woman charged with typing letters in a computer told me they would soon be opening a $1/$3 NL table. I figured i wouldn't have to wait long. (Foreshadowing...)
Cliche #2: The Local Rocks
After waiting around an hour, the new table finally opened. I grabbed the 7 seat and when we were all gathered, I counted at least three of them. Three old men with souvenir ball caps that were never in style. Each knew the dealers by name and shared an inside joke or two with the floor man.
For about the first hour, the rest of the table wasn't much more interesting than these three. Most of it was ABC poker, but I didn't have the cards to play much and I was too out of practice to start running any complicated plays. I stole where I could and took a few small pots with winners. That was it.
Cliche #3: The Calling Station
He had just sat down but it only took one hand to figure out what kind of player this guy would be.
The elderly woman to my right raises it up to $12 from early position. I look down at Big Slick (unsuited) and briefly consider a reraise. Instead, I merely call. The new guy to my left also calls as does a player on the other side of the table.
The flop comes K-8-4. I like it. No flush draw, a gutshot draw at best. It's checked to me and I lead out for $25, about half the pot. The new guy quickly calls and the other two players get out of the hand.
The turn hits the gutter, but doesn't open a flush draw. I bet $60 into a pot of just about $100. The new guy had only bought in for $200. Calling this will put him in for about half his buy-in.
He hemmed and hawed and hemmed and hawed. He counted his chips. He banged his fist against the table once or twice. And then he did exactly what calling stations do.
The river was a beautiful K. For a brief moment, I considered the new guy had only been putting on an act on the turn. Perhaps he had magically hit his gutshot straight draw with 57 and was trying to act as conflicted as possible as he made his call. It didn't take long for me to dismiss that thought.
I put him all in for his last $100. He almost immediately called but as he did so, said rather dejectedly, "Ace king?"
I nodded and flipped my cards.
"Damn," he said, "I thought you woulda reraised with that." He showed KJ. I was up to about $500.
Cliche #3: The Cold Deck
That was my high point. I spent the next couple of hours giving my profit away. Not in a single hand, but as a slow bleed.
It started with Cowboys. I raised it up to $12 UTG and got two callers. The elderly woman from before and her husband. I jokingly suggested they were teaming up on me. Apparently, the were in cahoots with the dealer, too, because the flop came down A-x-x.
The old bag checks and I toss out $20. The old man calls and the old bag raises to $50. I got all the information I needed. I throw my cards into the muck and so does her husband. The table goads her into showing AK. KK cracked by AK. That's about right.
A few hands later I waste a few bucks chasing an open-ender against a Croatian transplant donkey with a Longhorns cap and a solid Asian kid. The Asian kid hit his gutter on the turn and took a huge pot off the donkey and his two pair.
The end of the downfall was when I flopped a flush. Yep, from the big blind, I flopped a heart flush with 82. I coyly check and a pretty good player in the 9s bets $20. I smooth call, because I'm really tricky.
A 4 falls on the turn, pairing the board of A24. I check again, in the most cunning manner possible. My opponent bets $50 and I raise to $100.
I'm not even sure I finished saying raise. That's how fast it happened. And then everything stopped. I had to play it all in my head. This guy hadn't made a play at anyone all night. Would he do it to me?
What could he be holding? It's possible he has the higher flush? I suppose, but two flushes aren't all that common. Of course, he could have boated on the turn. It's reasonable he would have limped with A4, 45, 44 or 55.
"I have outs," I declared, hoping to get a read. He wasn't giving me any, so I wasn't all that worried about saying, "Well, I suppose I should say, 'I have out.'" He still didn't give anything away.
At that point, a great piece of advice ran through my head, "Never go broke on an unraised pot." Frankly, I think this advice applies to tournaments, but since our chip stacks were about the same, I was going broke if I called and was wrong.
I folded. And he showed 96h.
I suppose the original Luckbox would have called and then hit the three of hearts. I wasn't sure if I still was the original Luckbox.
Cliche #4: The Suckout
This may suggest I'm on way back. It's from the $3/$6 limit tables and it was a $169 pot.<-- Hide More
So what's the best part of the NBA Game 7 showdown between the Spurs and Hornets?
A) A close back and forth game in which the defending champs escape elimination against an exciting upstart opponent.
B) The pregame show in which Charles Barkley admits skipping out on $400K Vegas marker, admits having a gambling problem, claims he's quit gambling for good, but emphasizes that "for good" doesn't mean "for-ever"!
C) The fact that we laughed at Mr. Barkley while playing poker at GucciRick's.
D) The fact that I stayed up all night to play at GucciRick's and went to work the next day without sleep.
By now you know the details of the whole Barkley thing, but for the totally out of touch, a quick recap.
Barkely likes to gamble.
Barkley takes FOUR SEPARATE $100K MARKERS at the Wynn Las Vegas.
Barkley leaves casino without paying said markers.
Lawman come a-lookin' for Mr. Barkley.
Barkley pays $40K to cover court costs and $400K to the Wynn.
Barkely stops gambling.
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The Las Vegas district attorney says suspended NFL player Adam "Pacman" Jones has paid a $20,000 gambling debt to a casino.
The DA says that Jones found a way to pay off his debts within 24 hours of a criminal complaint being filed, and that the case is now closed.
Court documents filed Friday showed the DA was seeking a felony arrest warrant for the 24-year-old Jones unless he made good on three casino markers he received last Sept. 3 at Caesars Palace.
Jones paid a total of $21,675, including $1,675 for DA's office processing fees and penalties.
Skies are said to be clear in Vegas tonight as Jones is now less capable of "making it rain."
The closest I've ever come to taking a casino marker was in New Orleans this January when my friend, Uncle Ted, asked for a "marker" when he went to take a piss.
He thought "marker" was a device for saving one's seat.
Luckily, we were killing that particular blackjack table at the time.
I have gone broke in Vegas before. It was the first time we went and long before our gambling became the subject of a blog. I shared a room with some gangster-type from Chicago named Carmine. I only took $400 and lost almost all of it playing $5 blackjack at the Barbary Coast. I called my wife near the end of the trip to see if she'd notice me taking out another $400 from the ATM.
Um, she did.
I've almost been broke in Nassau and only a last minute rally brought me back in black. I lost all but my last $100 and used that to play $1/$2NL in the same room where PokerStars was hosting a WTP event. Luckily, I played well, avoided nasty beats, and went home nearly even for the trip.
That said, despite my two tough trips, I have my gambling under control. For now.
I'm not saying forever!<-- Hide More
Saturday afternoon, I'm heading to the "World-Class" Casino Aztar for my first foray into E-Vegas' only legal poker room. And I need your help to decide just who I'm going to be when I sit down.
Here are my options:More in this Poker Blog! -->
The Online Poker Jopker
I'll break out my Full Tilt Poker hat and my PokerStars T-shirt. I'll take my Check 'N Raise poker card capper (yeah, that's real old school). I'll talk about playing thousands of hours multi-tabling SNG's and how I can't find any real action at a live table. I'll say "lol" a lot and call my opponents donkeys.
The Sharp-Dressed Man
Think Marcel Luske. I'll probably break out my Playboy Mansion outfit. I'll be quiet and respectful, congratulating people when they win a pot. I'll be generous with my tips.
The Pro in His Own Mind
We all know this guy. Sunglasses and an I-Pod. Maybe I'll even take Lady Luck along and have her sit behind me so I can impress her with my awesome play. Despite having music in my ears, I'll still analyze every hand out loud after the cards hit the muck.
It's just me. I'll break out the official Luckbox and get my money in when I'm behind. I'll chat it up because that's what I do.
So those are the best I've been able to come up with. Add your vote in the comments or feel free to leave your own suggestion!<-- Hide More
It was two years ago this month when I first introduced you to Jena. Here's a taste:
She pressed her knee into my leg. She was sending me a message, hidden under the table from the rest of the players. It was different from when she placed her hand on my arm or whispered in my ear. I knew exactly what she was trying to tell me here, and it excited me.
It was that day that Jena learned how to wield the Hammer. It didn't turn out well for her the first time, but, like sex, it's more satisfying after you become more skilled at it. A few months later, she emailed to let me know she'd gotten better.
And now? Well, she's the female champion at the World Series of Poker Circuit in New Orleans.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Last week, she emailed to let me know she'd be in New Orleans for the length of the WSOP Circuit events and she was hoping to finally meet Lady Luck. Unfortunately, I had to let her know that we'd left Leezy-anna for E-Vegas and we wouldn't have a chance to cross paths.
When I saw another email from her, I assumed she'd be expressing her disappointment at that. Instead, it was to express her excitement at her big win! From the WSOP website (Photo courtesy: WSOP):
The "Cajun Queen Classic," which is the fourteenth event on the 2008 Bayou Poker Challenge schedule, concluded today. Jena Delk won the $200 buy-in Ladies Only No-Limit Hold'em competition. The tournament was hosted by the Harrahs New Orleans Casino and Resort. First place paid $16,700. Ms. Delk was also presented with a gold ladies pendant, presented annually to each female champion at the World Series of Poker Circuit here in New Orleans.
I'm really happy for her. She's one of the most engaging people I've ever met. I've played with her in New Orleans and Vegas, in cash games and in a tournament. She brings life to any table she joins.
I imagine she used some agressive early play to build a stack and then used her chip advantage to steal pot after pot from some more timid and inexperienced opponents. I also imagine she got lucky once or twice, as you generally need to. Now I just wish I had been there to see it!
It's worth noting that I wasn't invited to BadBlood's house because the NBA game was especially signifigant. He's a Boston native and has a lazy bandwagon interest in the Celtics. I liked the Celtics too, back in the Larry Bird days.
In fact, I had a giant life-size cutout of Larry legend all the way through college. As a youngster I shopped for the same converse shoes Larry Bird wore. I only wached games in which he played. Larry Bird was the reason I cared, to the extent that I did actually care, about pro basketball at all.
So when I went to see Badblood's new 500-inch plasma TV, I spent the game rooting, not for the Celtics, but the Cavaliers. I was rooting for their big superstar LeBron James.
I'm that guy. I root for the big stars. If Tiger Woods isn't playing, I won't watch golf. I watch my favorite baseball team (Cincinnati) but I'll also watch Johan Santana or Albert Pujols.
I like to watch Payton Manning.
I'm that guy. I didn't mean to be. But I am.
Except with poker. I don't give a crap about professional poker players.More in this Poker Blog! -->
That's not to say big poker players don't have an impact that matters even to a nobody like me. Otis wrote a far better piece on the "Moneymaker Effect" than I ever would or could. I can't deny his influence.
The following year, when Greg Raymer won, I thought he was a great ambassador for the game. I met him the following January while he played in the WPT in Nassau. He was gracious with his time and imparted this wisdom to me, Al Can't Hang, and BG, "Always do anything for +EV in a cash game. Tournaments are different."
That advice is smarter than it first appears.
Still, I'd argue the "Moneymaker Effect" is far more important than the player himself. How much can you tell me now about the life of Christian Andreas Doppler?
And it didn't matter whether the unknown amateur winning the WSOP was him or Joey Sixpack, the "effect" would be the same.
Famous TV Guys
Perhaps the tipping point for me is Hevad Khan. I truly hate that guy. We can, of course, debate whether or not Mr. Khan is a douchebag with or without the need for TV time, but clearly he IS a douchebag ON TV.
Further, the TV fame of idiots like Mr. Khan gloss over their actual accomplishments. Here's a youtube video of him playing 26 PokerStars SNG's at the same time.
According to SharkScope he's lost about $40K playing that way. At least we know his name!!!
I was further fascinated by an interview with Phil Gordon on the New York Times blog I saw linked over on Iggy's site.
Q: What percentage of professional poker players would you consider to be compulsive gamblers?
A: Ninety percent of the "professional players" I know have some serious "leaks" that affect their ability to hold on to their money. Whether it's playing too big for their bankroll or betting on sports or casino games, these leaks have a way of keeping many of them completely broke no matter how much they win on the tournament circuit.
That's pretty interesting I think. But this is more to my point:
Q: Typically, how long does it take players to progress from one skill level to the next (assuming they play several times a week)? How long before a new player is able to break even consistently, or even turn a profit?
A: It really depends on the player. Rapid improvement is much easier today than it was when I was learning -- the Internet completely changed the learning curve. You can play in 100 tournaments a day or more online. There are 18-year-old kids that started playing poker a year ago that have played five times as many tournaments than I have in my entire life.
Phil, I totally agree. It isn't that the "name pros" aren't that great at poker, it's that there are thousands and thousands of no-name players who are at least as good.
Who needs pros?
The Final Table Delay
This is part of the real reason Harrah's and ESPN will delay the final table of the main event in the WSOP. They need time to CREATE the kind of notoriety for those players that they can promote. They need to CREATE people for us to invest in a la LeBron.
We can be reasonable sure that, other than people who VERY closely follow the professional circuit like Otis, people will not know the names of at least 8 final table players. Perhaps none.
That's just fine with me.
Part of the beauty of the "Moneymaker effect" was to show that a nobody could win the game's biggest prize. How's he done since? Frankly, I still don't care.
I want to watch the hands played. I want to watch the strategy unfold. So, Humberto likes to say "Dee Chark!" I don't care.
I was at one of those lousy restaurants where you throw peanuts on the floor with Badblood and Otis when one of them asked this:
If a table of players from a local game was playing to my left and a table of "name pros" was to my right, which one would I watch?
I can honestly say, if the games were equally serious, I'd be happy with either one and would probably try to watch both.
LeBron, Pujols, and Tiger can do something I never can and never will. I am in awe when I see them perform.
If Chris Moneymaker can win the ME at the WSOP, so can I.
Eventually.<-- Hide More
I know a guy with a job that requires he spend a lot of time at the movies. Knowing my connection to the poker world and loose connection to the movie Deal, this friend delights in pointing out that Deal, after several weeks in the theater, still has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This makes Deal, if not the worst, at least tied for the worst reviewed movie of the year. Way to go Hollywood.
PokerNews.com editor John Caldwell asked a good question today. In his column, Caldwell points out that Hollywood blockbuster Iron Man, in most cases, did better on one screen on its opening weekend as Deal did across the country on 50 screens. So, Caldwell asks, "Why does Hollywood fail?"
I came up with a few reasons.
Five Reasons Hollywood Fails So Miserably At Poker Films
1. Hollywood doesn't understand poker
Let's face it. Hollywood knows money and little else. It thinks about what will sell before it thinks about what it understands. That's why a majority of the poker films that come out of Hollywood deal with subjects that don't fairly and accurately represent the game. One common theme in Hollywood poker films is cheating, a subject that is real but rarely as it is portrayed on the silver screen. If it's not cheating, it's a movie climax set around one of the worst coolers you'll ever see at a poker table--quads vs. quads, straight flush vs. royal flush, etc. Even The Cincinnati Kid, one of the greatest poker films ever made, ends with a sick cooler. Finally, Hollywood tends to thrust romance into just about any good story line it finds. True, heartbreak and sexual tension are universal subjects, but in the poker world, true romance is about as prevalent as cheating and occurs about as often as straight flush vs. quads. Until Hollywood can find a way to truthfully write about poker's drama and internal struggle, it will never produce another good poker movie.
2. Joe Six Pack doesn't understand poker
It's not entirely Hollywood's fault. Look at it this way. When you play poker, you're actually hoping you run into guys who don't understand their kicker doesn't play when the board runs out Broadway for a chopped pot. You fantasize about the people who flop top pair and can't understand how they could have possibly gotten away from the hand. So, it's probably a little unfair to expect Hollywood to produce movies for the relatively small subset of people who actually understand the game. Poker purists are going to hate anything that dumbs down the actual poker play, and the general public is going to avoid anything that makes them think too hard. Even Rounders had to explain poker to the audience before getting into the nitty gritty of the game.
3. Poker doesn't understand Hollywood
For Hollywood to be truly successful in making a poker movie that will actually succeed at the box office, it needs to combine the forces of good screen writers with some poker people who understand creativity. To be sure, the poker world has embraced Hollywood and done all it can to get inside it. I have a few "off-blog" stories about this very subject. The problem is that poker people can't quite understand how Hollywood works. Even people for whom I have a great deal of respect have lent their names, faces, and talent to Hollywood productions that don't even deserve the respect of getting MST3K treatment. When the producers are only looking to make a movie and the poker people are only looking to get some screen time, you're never going to see a good poker movie. When smart poker people do get involved, as happened in Rounders, you actually have a chance at seeing something happen. More often than not, however, the poker people are looking for a cameo more than they are box office success.
4. Hollywood is out of ideas
It may make me a bad poker fan, but I actually saw Rounders before I saw The Cincinnati Kid. So, when I finally saw the older of the films, I was surprised to see that the latter took a great deal of inspiration from the former. I once had an English teacher who told me all stories either come from the Bible, Greek mythology, or Shakespeare. Hollywood usually can't even bother to go back that far. That's why The Color of Money got remade as Deal. We've all seen The Color of Money and if we want to see it again, we'll get it from Netflix. Hollywood can blame the internet and the economy all it wants for sagging box office returns. Until we start seeing more originality and less cribbing from the archives, we won't see anything that impressed us as much as Rounders.
5. Individual sports movies are hard to write
Regardless of whether you consider poker a sport (I do not, by the way), when it comes to Hollywood, it might as well be. If you look back at the greatest sports movies of all times, how many of them are about golf, tennis, and bowling? Yeah, about that many. The best sports movies of all time are about baseball, football, and hockey. They are about people making it in a team environment, not competing in individual endeavor. Poker is a cerebral pursuit and one that most folks didn't play after school when they were kids. Writers can't provide the public with much frame of reference. This is not to say a movie like Stroke of Genius was a bad idea to produce. It's only to say that they aren't easy to write and make interesting.
If you look at all of the above, you might think I believe it's impossible for Hollywood to ever produce another good poker movie. Maybe it is. Rounders, at least for this generation of poker players, will be the definitive poker film. I doubt poker purists will be happy with any film that attempts to replicate Rounders, and any film that tries likely won't be a big box office success.
The problem is that Hollywood keeps trying and for every poker movie flop, producers are going to be less likely to try again. So, when someone does finally write something worth watching, getting any major studio to back it will be nearly impossible.
Still, I have some faith. The poker world is an exceptionally interesting and gritty place. If a good writer ever finds a story and can convince a studio to tell the story truthfully, there is the potential for a good film.
After all, if we do indeed take our inspiration from the fount of Shakespeare, we know the play's the thing. Without a good story that makes the viewer believe, poker is just a bunch of people playing cards. Until Hollywood figures that out, we're going to see a lot more 0% ratings on the tomato meter.
Update: For an informed look from someone who knows a helluva lot more about Hollywood than I do, check out Change100's post.<-- Hide More
Why would you ever play at Ultimate Bet or Absolute Poker ever again?
It's a serious question. I'm curious if any of our readers out there are willingly risking their money on a site where perhaps millions of dollars were won by players using super-user accounts. Those would be players who were on the inside of the code (i.e. worked for the sites) and could see your hole cards.
Short-Stacked Shamus has, as usual, a good post up about the problems at UB.
Is this just a fact of online poker? Should we accept it and simply hope it never affects us?More in this Poker Blog! -->
If I had to guess, I'd say that most poker bloggers play most frequently on Full Tilt, PokerStars and maybe BoDog. Looking around my blogroll, I don't hear a whole lot about those other sites. So why do we feel comfortable playing on those three and not others?
The definitive word on online poker cheating comes from Bill Rini. In fact, the post is called The Definitive Guide to Online Poker Cheating. He runs down the possibilities from collusion to poker bots to the inside job.
Cheating is always going to happen in poker. It goes on in live games and online. Live games have opportunties to cheat via dealer cheating, chip grabbing, and all sorts of other scams.
I guess we live with it online because we know we'll have to live with it live as well. Gambling is a business that attracts criminals. We know that. Unfortunately, I belive it's one of the reasons why online poker has had such a hard time getting a legal foothold in America.
But we choose the sites we choose because we have a much higher confidence that the site we're using is on the level. I hold PokerStars in high regard. It's the world's leading online poker room, a title it would quickly lose if a super-user scandal hit. It's in a poker site's best interest to be clean. I also hold Full Tilt Poker in high regard. Like Stars, I know people who currently work, or have worked, for FTP. You trust the people you know.
I've never played on BoDog. I'm not sure if I will. It's not necessarily that I don't trust them... it's that I don't know them.
If I'm putting my hard earned money on the line in a game of chance, I'm sticking with those sites where I have the greatest confidence that the deck isn't already stacked against me.So why do you play where you play? And are you worried about cheating? <-- Hide More
Bobby Medford is a convicted criminal. He's guilty of extorting money from gambling operations. He's guilty of money laundering. He's guilty of conspiracy to run an illegal gambling operation.
When he was breaking those laws, Bobby Medford was the sheriff of Buncombe County, North Carolina. That's Asheville. The story of backroom kickback and illegal operations was just laid bare during a federal trial this week. The US Attorney prosecuting the case says Medford was, "Prostituting the office of sheriff."
Here's how it all went down.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Medford and three others were arrested in December of 2007. The indictment said they were using the office of sheriff to protect a Spartanburg, South Carolina company that was running illegal gambling operations in his juristiction.
The US Attorney says that company raked in $5 million in profit by running poker machines and they were placed, with Medford's knowledge, and protected from any busts with kickbacks to him and two top deputies.
Medford was elected sheriff in Buncombe County in 1994. He lost in the Novermber election in 2007.
Once the trial started we strated getting details of just how this complicated system of codenames and kickbacks really worked.
Eddie Caldwell was a lawyer for the Sheriff's Association. He testified that Medford's deputies had no oversight in ordering special stickers for gambling machines. In North Carolina, starting in 2000, they banned NEW poker machienes but grandfathered the old ones in. Medford's deputies ordered THOUSANDS of the stickers and kept them on hand for any machines that they wanted to "legalize".
Medford held an annual golf tournament to raise money for his campaign. Thousands of dollars came from video game operators and that money went straight to Medford himself. A former deputy, Lt. John Harrison, testified he kept that money in the trunk of his patrol car.
He said they didn't have a checking account for the illegal money so he'd just keep it in the trunk until Medford needed some cash and he'd hand a handful over.
In one specific case, Harrison testified a store owner wanted to change from one illegal gambling operator to another because he was unhappy with his cut. Medford, according to Harrison, allowed the change but only in exchange for envelopes with $3,000 in cash for both Harrison and Medford.
Nick Anagnostopoulos ran a convenience store in Medford's juristiction and said he had several of the illegal machines. He said Medford and his deputies would actually use his store to cash the kickback checks. He also said Lt. Harrison played the machines and was paid out but they never arrested him.
He testified that since 1999 he cashed $69,000 in checks made out to the "Medford Golf Classic."
MEDFORD ON THE STAND
Bobby Medford was the first witness called in his own defense. Prosecutors asked him if he could accound for the $150,000 dollars the gambling company claimed to have given him over the course of his years in office.
He could not.
Prosecutors asked him to account for the $30,000+ dollars that mysteriously appeared in his account in one year alone.
He could not.
Now he's going to jail.
In the poker game of life the house always wins.
Just be be careful your house isn't in the shadow of a mansion.<-- Hide More
You know Sammmy Farha. You've seen him on TV. You've probably seen him in Vegas. Hell, I'd say there's more than a couple of you who have played against him. He's poker's version of famous. So are Dan Harrington, Jason Lester, Amir Vahedi, David Grey, and David Singer.
Each one of them will celebrate an anniversary next week. It's one we should all celebrate, in fact.
Five years ago next week, Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker.More in this Poker Blog! -->
A couple of days ago, my wife and I put our kid to bed. Any parent knows what it feels like to exhale after another long day. I collapsed in my chair and looked at the woman who had once been my drinking buddy and is now the much-too-fit mother of my only child.
"I don't remember what it felt like," I said. "What was our life like before we had a kid?"
"We were never here," she smirked. And she was right. Five years ago, if we weren't working, we were out at a show, a bar, or a camp site. Still, it was nearly impossible to remember what life was like before the kid revolution on Mt. Otis.
Even if you lived the poker life before the poker revolution, I bet it's very hard to remember what it was like in the days before the 2003 World Series of Poker. Nine men sat at that final table. Many of them became famous. One of them helped revolutionize poker.
Now, five years later, it's interesting to look back and see what happened to them.
David Singer--9th place--Once a seven-card stud grinder, Singer's ninth place finish and $120,000 payday at the 2003 WSOP was, at the time, his biggest cash ever. Since then, however, Singer has become a well-respected tournament pro and has amassed more than $3.5 million in winnings. He's a red pro at Full Tilt Poker. In 2007, he final tabled the WSOP $50,000 HORSE event and won the first ever Caesars Palace Classic for $1 million.
David Grey--8th place--Unlike most people at the final table, Grey actually made more money in a previous event than he did at the 2003 WSOP final table. He won nearly $200,000 in 1999 for a victory in a seven card stud event. In 2003, he earned $160,000. Since 2003, Grey has had just one other six figure cash. In 2005, he won a little more than $365,000 for his bracelet win in the No Limit Deuce to Seven Lowball event at the WSOP. He's still a regular on the poker circuit and made it to the final three tables of the WPT Championship last month.
Young Pak--7th place--You remember him? Because I certainly don't. Regardless, he was there at the same final table with the rest of these guys. He placed seventh and won $200,000. There has been no reason for you to hear from him since. He cashed in a few more events in the following years. However, 2006 was the last time he cashed in a major poker tournament.
Amir Vahedi--6th place--Vahedi is one of those people who was around long before 2003 and will be around until someone poisons his cigar. Few people know that his final table finish was not his biggest win at the 2003 WSOP. Just a couple of weeks before the 2003 main event, Vahedi won a bracelet in another event for $270,000. His sixth place finish in the main event earned him $250,000. Today, he has more than $3 million in career tournament winnings. Just last month, he was bubbled the WPT TV table in his seveth place finish at the WPT Championship. In 2007, he cashed in 14 tournaments.
Tomer Benvenisti--5th place--I can still hear Lon McEachern saying Benvenisiti's name. Problem is, I haven't heard him say it since the 2003 broadcast. While Benvenisiti stood a great chance at becoming as big of a star as the rest of the people at the table, he simply didn't. He's still playing, though. Just last month, Benvenisti cashed in a prelim tournament at the Caesars WSOP Circuit event. He won $1,379.
Jason Lester--4th place--Before the 2003 World Series, Lester had never won more than $29,000 in a poker tournament. His fourth place finish in 2003 earned him $440,000. While his name is not held in the same reverence as many of the other people at this final table, he has managed to win more than $1.6 million in tournament poker and a WSOP bracelet in Pot-Limit hold'em. His last cash was at last year's WSOP.
Dan Harrington--3rd place--Harrington is one of a few people from the 2003 final table that needs no introduction. His books and record have come to speak for themselves. With $6 million in career tourney earnings, Action Dan has won more tournament money than any other single player at the 2003 final table. In August 2007, Harrington won more than $1.5 million in the WPT Legends of Poker event. It was his first first place finish since the year 2000.
Sammy Farha--2nd place--Farha's heads-up match with Chris Moneymaker is now the stuff of legend. It's usually forgotten that Farha won $1.3 million at that final table. Thanks in part to GSN's High Stakes Poker, Farha has become as well known for his high stakes cash play as he was for his runner-up finish in 2003. Regardless, he's still active on the tournament circuit. He won $398,560 and a WSOP bracelet in 2006 for a first place finish in the Omaha Hi-Lo event. Still, he hasn't made a major tournament cash since April 2007.
Chris Moneymaker--2003 World Series Champion-By the end of 2003, nearly everyone knew that Moneymaker had no poker past. His $2.5 million win gauranteed him a poker future. Shortly after his revolutionary win, Moneymaker earned another $200,000 in the WPT Shooting Star event. Although he has cashed a few more times since then (he has ten total cashes for around $2.8 million in live tournament winnings), he has not come close to hise 2003 success. Still, he is one of PokerStars' top pros and continues to play around the world.
Outside of the birth of the WSOP and the birth of the main event satellites, there haven't been many more important times for poker than 2003. Televised poker boomed, online poker boomed, the WSOP boomed. Everyone can say what they will about Moneymaker's talent or how the "poker boom would've happened anyway." I, for one, choose to give credit where credit is due.
It's now been five years since that May night when Moneymaker helped open the tent to everybody. Seven out of the nine people at the final table are what could still be described as "name pros." Poker, despite all the setbacks caused by the UIGEA, continues to thrive.
Next week, we can celebrate the anniversary of the day that made everything from blogger tournaments to bloggers playing in the WSOP as possible as it is today. What happened five years ago is the reason many of us can do what we do today. Whether it's making a living from poker play, poker writing, and poker affiliate deals or simply enjoying playing poker online and watching poker on TV, the 2003 WSOP played a big role in making it all happen.
That is a long way of saying, if not for the WSOP final table in 2003, we all could be trying to get on Dancing with the Stars instead of chasing gutterballs and writing about bad beats.
I think you know which one I prefer.<-- Hide More
Sometimes I look back and wonder how I became the gambler I am today. To be honest with you, I was right on that edge. I knew just enough about casino gambling to be a really good loser. I think it started when my father passed on his love of roulette. That's right... roulette!!
I loved it. There was a rush every time that wheel was spun. Then I learned craps. Talk about a rush...
Blackjack, Pai Gow, Let It Ride, Three Card Poker, Keno... I lost and lost and lost... and loved every minute of it.
And then poker came calling. It saved me.More in this Poker Blog! -->
It's a good thing online poker wasn't really around when I was in college. I first discovered it a couple years after graduating. I was living in G-Vegas and making a few bucks a month at a dealer's choice home game.
I found my rush at Ultimate Bet. I actually managed to build a bankroll by cashing in a freeroll and getting a few bucks from a royal flush. I turned it into a couple hundred dollars and thought I was the greatest player in the history of poker. In reality, I was a donkey (before they were called donkeys). But my itch was being scratched.
I truly believe the poker blogger community helped me get over my need for that rush. Frankly, chasing was the best way to embarrass myself in front of my new invisible friends. I wanted to show them I knew how to play. I started to think less about the gamble and more about how to be a winning player.
I've lost that.
I've played so infrequently over the past year that when I do play, I can last about three levels before I'm ready to push all-in on a button steal with KTo. I'm more than happy to race with pocket 3s despite an M of 12. When I lose, that's okay... the adrenaline lasts long enough for me to close down the program.
I'm a bad poker player again (some would argue I was never good, but I digress...). I doubt any bloggers worry when they find me at their table. It's not like I give them any reason to.
So where's the rush? I'm increasingly finding it at the track. Judging by the lack of comments on my horse racing posts, I'm guessing there's little interest in my handicapping. That's probably a good thing because I don't think I'm a real good handicapper, either. I've gotten just lucky enough over the years to fool myself.
But I love it. Whereas in the past, I might spend an entire Saturday playing tourney after tourney... now I'd rather handicap a card and watch the races at Belmont.
That's not a good thing. When I'm playing right, I know I have an edge at the poker table. At the track? The house has the edge. If I'm chasing the rush there, I know I'm going to be a loser in the long run.
So what's the answer? I wish I knew. We have a Wii now. I think I'll lay a few bets with Lady Luck on Super Mario Kart.<-- Hide More
You know, I wrote about this before. Something about a TV commercial for "Restless Leg Syndrome" caught my eye... or ear. I'm not sure which.
Anyway, the short story is that the popular drug for a new "disorder" is linked to an increased tendency to gamble. I mean REALLY GAMBLE. Like calling an all-in with a gutshot draw.
Now, the judicial system is taking up our cause...More in this Poker Blog! -->
An Oregon woman named Christine Jaeger was taking a drug called Mirapex for her "restless leg syndrome." I'm not sure whether she was taking anything for "unkempt hair syndrome" or "sometimes feels a bit grumpy syndrome" but the restless legs were enough for a trip to the doctor.
Ms. Jaeger was a bookkeeper for a small business and started writing checks to herself. Then she'd cash those checks and head for, and lose at, the Spirit Mountain Casino.
Now here's where Mirapex comes in.
Check out this warning from the drugs manufacturers, "increased gambling, sexual or other intense urges." Methinks you may already see Ms. Jaeger's line of defense forming.
The judge in this case, unmoved by the terrifying precedent (if we can excuse a defendant's actions because a drug causes "gambling urges," I shudder to think what the "other intense urges" might explain) has now ruled in Ms. Jaeger's favor.
Here's her reasoning according to the website OregonLive, "The substances she was ingesting diminished her mental capacity in some fashion," Judge Steele said. "The breach of trust and multiple criminal episodes can all be laid to the drug issue."
See? I'm not a gambler. The drugs made me do it!
I don't have "restless leg syndrome" (although I'm sure I can fake it) but I'm now considering getting my own prescription for Mirapex.
Honey, I didn't take $10K to Vegas, Mirapex did.
See you at the tables...<-- Hide More
The first year I played a World Series event, I found myself at Table 2, Seat 1. I was nervous beyond my normal "There's a good chance I'm dying" standard of anxiety. The buy-in money had come out of my own pocket, there were thousands of players in the room, and I had friends and family on the rail. Yet, despite it all, I found myself dedicating an inordinate amount of thought to one subject that had nothing to do with how to play ace-king under the gun.
Table 2 was in the farthest corner of the room. To exit the Amazon Room, a player had to wade through a deadfall of tables, chips, people, and ugly humanity. With a fresh bottle of Diet Mountain Dew in front of me and the cards going in the air, my mind wandered off to the same thought I have when I go just about anywhere.
How in the hell was I going to get to the bathroom?More in this Poker Blog! -->
I used to say, "I have the bladder of a pregnant woman." Then, my wife got pregnant and still lasted longer between trips to the head than me. The Otis family bladder is pretty legendary. It defies all marketing plans about the distance between truck stops and laughs out loud at medical studies. If you were to put my father, brother, and me in a car for a road trip to Vegas and someone offered you an over/under bet on the number of times we'd stop to use the restroom, you should take the over--no matter what the line was.
Here's a confession I think I've only made to one person in my life.
Back in the late 90s, my relationship with Mrs. Otis was only a couple of years old. I lived in Jackson, Mississippi. She lived in Columbia, Missouri. I made the drive up to my old college town about once every two weeks. I'd get off work around 6pm, grab a bag of sunflower seeds and two one-liter bottles of Diet Mountain Dew. Even if I drove like a crazy person, the drive usually took around eight hours. I could cut 20 minutes off the trip if I only stopped for gas. I don't think I have to tell you that I saved the lids off the one-liter soda bottles for a reason.
Why do I bring it up now? Well, as I might have mentioned a few weeks back, I am an occasional reader of high-stakes no-limit grinder Leatherass9's blog. He recently made a confession on his blog to which I can relate--at least to the degree that I know where he's coming from, if not related to poker and EV. Here's a quick synopsis...the guy figured out how much he was costing himself to get up and go to the bathroom. He wrote, "So it essentially cost me $100 to pee. Twice a day makes that $200 and if I play about 250 days a year (very conservative estimate) that means it costs me $50,000 a year to pee which was more than I used to make at my old job!"
While I've never been serious enough about poker to pee in a bottle (I wonder what Jim Croce would've sung about that), I have put significant thought into how urination and poker go together. See, I've never understood people who take multiple breaks during poker tournaments. I know a couple of people who will take one or two smoke breaks per level (not including the official breaks) of major poker tournament. Leaving the table for a nic-fix or to go to the bathroom requires more than a "I want it" or "I gotta go." One should take into consideration a wide variety of factors. If leaving the table, it should be done in such a way that you give up as little positional advantage as possible while not missing any of your blinds. Thus, there are only a couple of times during an orbit when you can leave the table.
During that first year at the World Series, I happened upon this way of doing things. I'm happy to share it with you now.
The Otis Strategy for Urinating During a Poker Game
That is the basic strategy. There are other factors. Here are a few more tips.
It's not foolproof, but it's as close as I've got to perfection yet.
Oh, and always wash your hands. Forget once, and your friends will never let you hear the end of it.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to see a man about a stable of horses.<-- Hide More
I'll keep this short for those of you who don't care about horse racing (and therefore, don't care about making awesome amounts of money based on my handicapping insights!).
I'm eyeing a horse you probably haven't heard of. And his name is poker-blogger worthy, Casino Drive.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Back in 2006, I luckboxed my way into a pretty big pay day in the Belmont. I keyed in on Jazil and managed to hit the win, the exacta, the trifecta and the superfecta for a $1250 payout. I haven't yet been able to repeat that success.
Jazil is the reason I like Casino Drive. You see, they're half-brothers. Better Than Honor is the dam ("mom") of Jazil and Casino Drive, as well as Rags to Riches, the filly who shocked the Belmont field in 2007. If you're keeping track, that's the 2006 Belmont and the 2007 Belmont.
Better Than Honor was sired by Deputy Minister (her "dad") who has sired 80 different graded stakes winners. Deputy Minister is also the damsire ("granddad") of Bob and John and Curlin... perhaps you remember them.
Casino Drive was sired by Mineshaft, the 2003 U.S. Horse of the year. Mineshaft's blood line runs back through his sire A.P. Indy and his grandsire Seattle Slew.
Long story short (too late), Casino Drive has the blood line. He's very lightly raced, however, winning his only start in February at the Kyoto in Japan. He won by 11 1/2 lengths.
Casino Drive will make his American debut tomorrow at Belmont in the Peter Pan Stakes. He drew the rail (not my favorite, but not terrible) in the 9 horse field and will be ridden by legendary jockey Kent Desormeaux (who, you may remember, just won the Kentucky Derby aboard Big Brown). Casino Drive is the current morning line favorite at 2/1 (coupled with his stablemate), so it's not like he's some well-kept secret.
Regardless of how he does tomorrow (not all horses do well the first race after being shipped), Casino Drive will run in the Belmont Stakes in a month. And if Big Brown has already wrapped up the first two legs of the Triple Crown, Casino Drive could get a great price and be just the kind of horse to pull an upset.
Update: Casino Drive won the Peter Pan Stakes by 5 3/4 lengths, and that was despite getting out of the gate slowly. He went off at 6/5 stakes, so my $20 win bet only paid me $45. But, I also wheeled him on top of a $5 exacta with the rest of the field and an 18/1 longshot placed. That bet paid $166.25. Not a bad day at the virtual track.<-- Hide More
This isn't the post I was planning to write this morning but sometimes we play the hand we're dealt.
I have this neighbor, we've become friends, who joins me at the gym about 5 days a week. I've learned to enjoy a good workout and I've found having a friend there with me pushes both of us to do more.
Wednesday, I heard something at the bench press that made me excited about poker.
Later, I heard something in his pickup truck on the way home that made me remember what I don't like about a ring game with strangers.
Last night I remembered what I hate about playing online and in person.More in this Poker Blog! -->
THE IDIOTS AT THE BENCH
After a quick warmup we always start with a few sets on the bench press. I went first, then my friend, then we switched up for another set.
Next to us is another bench where three men in their thirties were also trading sets. They were talking about a card game the night before. I loved every word.
"I had the Ace-high straight," said the angry one, "and some idiot makes quad 10s on the river!"
"That guy's an idiot!" said his incredulous friend.
"I mean, there is a 1 in 100 chance of that happening," continued Mr. Angry, "I win that hand 99 times."
I couldn't resist interrupting.
"Did the idiot have a set or trips? And if he had trips, weren't you at all concerned about your straight on a paired board?" I asked.
"Naw," said angry, "This guy doesn't know how to play."
I let it go but suddenly wanted very badly to work an invite to their table.
Later as my neighbor and I worked a few sets at something else, the same three people were still talking nonsense. I interjected and told them I like to play cards, my name is G-Rob, we should play sometime.
I hope to make money from them.
These people are my most profitable demo, perfect strangers. People I've played with for years have made good and proper adjustments to my strongest game, forcing me to make adjustments of my own. I dominate people who don't know me at all.
THE DRIVE HOME
So after our workout my neighbor and I climb into his truck and head back home. In fact, I was in the middle of telling him about why I talked to the poker nitwits we'd met, when someone cut us off.
It was a woman in an older model Honda Civic.
"Damned woman drivers!" he yelled.
"Yeah," I muttered back.
"Only thing worse than women drivers is the blacks," he continued.
The car kept going. My mind came to a screeching halt. All I could muster from this person I thought I knew was, "I don't know about that..."
"Look," he said, now leaning over the wheel he was gripping with both hands, "this isn't easy to say and I know it's going to sound bad... but I'm a racist."
How in the hell does a decent man react to a statement like that?
I simply said, "I'm not."
The next day, Thursday, this same neighbor called to ask if we were still going to the gym. My answer to him is the heart of this post.
The Poker People You Meet
I've made some very close, hopefully lifelong friends at the poker table. I first met Badblood while playing in Otis' garage.
I met TheMark and his brother Gucci Rick the same way. Honestly, I could spend the next 400 words listing the names of good honest people I've met, and who's company I've enjoyed. People who I otherwise wouldn't know without poker or this poker blog.
Still, the number of complete asshats in my life has skyrocketed too.
Poker, a stressful, competitive, individual game often brings out the worst in people. Somtimes it digs up the very worst in... the very worst of... people.
I've spent hours at a time sharing the felt with people who, for one reason or another I truly cannot stand. More often than not that happenes either in casinos or in casino-like underground games.
Homegames are a lot better. In fact, the two most popular homegames in town are populated ONLY with people I actually DO like.
However, if you've played in any underground room then you know what I mean. How often have you sat at a table with someone that you'd never allow in your own home? Would you want your boss to see you in their company?
Does this attitude make me a snob? An elitist? Perhaps. I don't think so.
I still voluntarily sit with those people I don't like
Because they can do something for me. Because complete strangers pay me off. Because I can profit from them.
I wonder what that says about me?
The Online Jerks
Nothing brings out the jerk in a person like the chat window online. I've written about it before, but it always strikes me what authentic a-holes people become when they take a bad beat from a stranger on Stars.
I don't think I'll get over that. Are people at their worst online? Or does the anonymity of online poker just show people for what they really are?
So I Went To The Gym
Honestly, I can't imagine many things a person could say me that I would find more offensive than, "I'm a racist."
I've really struggled with what to do.
I really enjoy the time this neighbor and I have spent together but I can't possibly let him think I will tolerate that kind of talk. In fact, I don't just want him to stop talking that way, I want him to stop FEELING that way. Which is part of the reason I'm still joining him at the gym.
We didn't talk Thursday about what happened the day before. Then, as we left the gym, three black women walked in past us. I felt guilty for the person I was with.
Frankly, I don't know what to do.
And that, is why I've wasted this important poker blog space writing about it.<-- Hide More
Somewhere in the middle of the Nevada desert, the folks at Harrah's rang one hella-big bell, and no amount of bitching and moaning is going to un-ring it. No matter how many times I say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," it's still going to be fixed in one way or another.
The thing is, the WSOP Final Table was broken, at least in terms of how people watch it live.
So, since I have yet to put on the yoke of perpetual cynicism, I've chosen to think about the WSOP Final Table delay in terms of what Harrah's can do now to impress the hell out of everybody.
What was broken
Though there was little real blame to assign, the 2007 World Series of Poker final table left a bit to be desired. Within 24 hours of the end of ten-handed play, 75% of the Rio's Amazon room turned into a warehouse. Hundreds of poker tables disappeared, a small gift shop materialized, and someone scattered a few television monitors and chairs around the floor. In one corner, the feature table--looking as it did for the entire month of the World Series--sat ready for the final nine. Most of the big lights in the room were turned off. It had the feeling of a giant meat locker at the end of a Texas BBQ festival. It felt used up, nearly forgotten, and cold. The fact that nine largely unknown players were competing for millions of dollars was only evident in the few people who got a seat looking down on the final table. Elsewhere in the room, a few bored people sat in chairs, watching the silent TV monitors, and shivering off the conditioned air. Most of the noise in the room came from a single drunk British guy who was soused on Milwaukee's Best (a final reminder that the bar on the edge of the TV table was probably not the best idea... and yes this is ME saying a bar should go the way of the all-in button, poker sauna, and pocket peek cards).
To repeat, the sterile and anticlimactic feel of the room was no one's fault. The Amazon room's size is necessary to accommodate the huge WSOP crowds. When play is nine-handed, the intimate feel of Benny's Bullpen just isn't possible in such a huge room. It didn't make much logistical sense for Harrah's to move out of the Amazon room, and so we were left with something that felt a little like the last gasp of someone very important.
Despite its many problems, the WSOP final table delay offers Harrah's an opportunity to change all of that. Between now and November, Harrah's has a chance to create a final table atmosphere that will be great for the players, the spectators, and the viewers at home.
WSOP Final Table Location
Harrah's officials said in last week's conference call that they have not yet decided how they plan to present the final table. The only firm decision (how firm is a question that neither I nor anybody else asked) is that the WSOP final table will play out at the Rio. Harrah's hope is that the final table will have the atmosphere of a championship NBA game, with poker's version of Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee sitting in courtside seats and fans who have a screaming interest in the outcome.
If Harrah's stays true to the decision to hold the event at the Rio, it has several choices for the exact location of final table play. The first and most obvious choice is the Amazon room or one of the other big convention halls. They are huge and can easily be customized into whatever the production team and Harrah's see fit. Two other suitable locations offer the kind of necessary space--The Penn and Teller Theatre and the Calypso Room, home of Tony N' Tina's Wedding. Though both rooms have the capacity to host the final table, they both lack a certain elasticity required to customize for the traditional theater in the round style of poker finales. Unless I'm forgetting another big room in my Summer home, those are about the only places in the Rio suitable for the final table. If I had to guess, we'll end up back in the Amazon room. It's really the only place at the Rio that makes sense.
There is, however, the possibility (albeit small) that Harrah's will change its mind and move to a different venue. There is one good reason for doing this. The Rio is a destination hotel and casino. The only way you end up there is if you intended to go there or got lost on your way to the Gold Coast or Palms. Strip casinos get walk-up traffic. They draw wanderers and Joe Sixpack in off the street. Hosting the final table somewhere on the Strip would nearly guarantee a bigger live audience than the Rio. Whether you actually want a thousand loud tourists there is another question. I have my opinion, but it only counts for enough to play the 2am at Binion's.
Still, I tried to come up with a Strip location that would draw crowds. I settled on one place that would be fairly unique: the 4000-capacity Roman Plaza amphitheatre outside of Caesars Palace. While November might be a bad month for such a thing and the weather may not agree, it's hard to ignore how neat a venue it would be for a huge production like Harrah's has planned. [On a completely unrelated note: does anyone know if this was the same outdoor venue that hosted the infamous Boom Boom Mancini vs. Duk Koo Kim fight, or was that elsewhere outside Caesars?]
The amphitheatre is a bit over the top, however. First, it's much too big. Second, Vegas is an odd place to do anything outdoors. Still, I've watched three final tables outdoors and it is possible to pull it off. Thing is, you would need that crowd to make it work. How big a crowd? Well, likely many times bigger than you're going to see at the final table.
Does size matter?
I've spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how big of a crowd to expect for the final table. Harrah's obviously wants a big event and would simply be giddy with a crowd that could fill the Roman Amphitheatre. The problem is, if Harrah's goes with something that big and doesn't fill the seats, the entire production will look silly. If Harrah's goes too small, it stands a good chance of not living up to the advanced billing (not to mention shutting people out or putting them in another area like last year). My old friend, Science, is going to have to get involved at some point and work the math. Fortunately, casino companies are good at that kind of thing and will probably come up with a good number.
I like to set lines on times, crowd sizes, durations, etc. After thinking about this for a bit, I have decided to set the O/U on the number of people seated at any one time (not including media and TV production people) watching the final table at 600. This accounts for 10-20 sweaters per final table player, 50 or so of the poker elite, and then the usual lookie-loos and railbirds who show up for these kinds of things.
The more I think about it, we need something the size of a high school gymnasium. I'm not being silly or trying to put down any efforts to make live final table attendance bigger. I'm simply saying that the seating capacity for the WSOP final table should be commensurate with the likely attendance. It should be big enough to allow everyone a clear view of the table, but not so big that the event looks like nobody showed up. Fortunately, with the right planning, construction, and foresight, such place can be created right inside the Amazon room.
It's all in the presentation
There is precious little the tournament organizers can do about who shows up at the final table. They could end up with Scotty, two Phils, and a Professor or they could end up with Dudley, Whitey, and Teddy Foreskin (three guys from the G-Vegas underground, if you were wondering). The point is, the poker is going to be the poker and there is no way to plan to make it a World Series to remember. So, Harrah's and ESPN production company 411 are going to have to do what Vegas does best. They are going to have to present the final table better than it ever has been presented.
First, as mentioned above, there will need be adequate seating for everyone who wants to watch. This does not mean, as it has in the past, two or three rows of bleachers and a bar/balcony area. This means stadium-style seating completely circling the final table and rising up so that everyone can look down on the action.
Of course, because the action is so hard to follow from a distance, there simply must be a variety of big plasma screens so the hundreds of people watching can see everything. Furthermore, the behind-the-scenes production crew should be staffed with a spot-on director who can punch with the best of them. That is, what appears on the plasmas should appear as what spectators would see if they were watching on television. Gone should be the days of seeing only the flop cam. We should see everything. That includes running chip counts on an overhead scoreboard. Impossible you say? Not at all. One perfect chip count at the beginning, an announcement of every bet, and a spread sheet and you have an accurate chip count to display for the entire event.
It can't be all technological, though. You need good people calling the good action. It's a tough job to maintain focus on the cards as well as have a good enough personality to work the crowd. Johnny Grooms, Jack Effel, and Chris Spears have done a good job in the past. We'll need to see as many people with that kind of talent to call the action perfectly and maintain a decent rapport with the crowd.
Those are the big things. There are others , but I'll save those for the day I get hired as a big time consultant.
That happens to be conveniently scheduled for the same week pigs fly and hell freezes over.
Previously:<-- Hide More
The goal of "The Nuts" here at Up For Poker is to point you in the direction of a poker blog that should be at, or near, the top of your daily reading list. (Unless it's alphabetical, in which case our latest pick will fall somewhere in the middle.)
Hard-Boiled Poker has quickly become a must-read for the Up For Poker crew. Short-Stacked Shamus consistently delivers thoughtful musings on everything poker. He's a self-described micro-limit online player, but if great writing was his bankroll, he'd be sitting at the Big Game at Bellagio.
Good times are called a "boom" for a reason. The sudden explosion (a similar metaphor) of a new business, a burst onto the scene, is a shot heard 'round the world. A bust, metaphor notwithstanding, is sometimes more subtle. Like a slow leak in an old tire.
Gambling... is not booming anymore. But is this a bust?
Who here can tell me when Texas Hold-em had its big bang?
Here are the numbers to back up your almost certainly correct guess:
2003 Chris Moneymaker wins the Main Event at the WSOP (entries: 839)
2004 Greg Raymer wins the Main Event at the WSOP (entries: 2576)
2005 Joe Hachem wins the Main Event at the WSOP (entries: 5619)
2006 Jamie Gold wins the Main Event at the WSOP (entries: 8773)
That, my friends, is a boom.More in this Poker Blog! -->
My BUST Evidence The Worm Is Turning
1. Tough times on the Las Vegas strip.
Once thought to be "recession proof," the Las Vegas strip is showing a decline in growth that was almost unheard of for the past few decades.
Newsweek reports gambling revenue has fallen just one time since 1970. That was immediately after the terrorist attacks in 2001. People were afraid of air travel and tourist desinations like Las Vegas weren't immune.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau says so far this year those same gambling revenues are DOWN 4 percent.
The number of Las Vegas conventions, by the way, is down too. So are daily room rates and average room occupancy.
2. Actual, honest to God, money problems at the casinos themselves.
First, there's the Tropicana. The Associated Press was among the first to report the company filing for Chapter 11 Bankrupcy protection.
That began when the New Jersey Tropicana lost its liscence because it "could no longer provide a first-class casino experience."
THAT was triggered by layoffs and lousy revenue in the previous year.
_Tropicana Casino & Resort, Las Vegas.
_Bayou Caddy's Jubilee Casino, Greenville, Miss.
_Casino Aztar, Evansville, Ind.
_Horizon Casino Hotel, Vicksburg, Miss.
_Horizon Casino Resort, Lake Tahoe, Nev.
_MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa, Lake Tahoe, Nev.
_Tropicana Express Hotel & Casino, Laughlin, Nev.
_River Palms Resort & Casino, Laughlin, Nev.
_Sheraton Hotel and Belle of Baton Rogue Casino, Baton Rouge, La.
Meanwhile, many publicly traded casinos have also shown poor performance. The stock price of MGM Mirage, owner of Bellagio, Mirage and eight other Strip resorts, has halved, from $100.50 in October to about $49 on Friday. In recent weeks the company eliminated 440 middle management jobs to save $75 million annually. "We made a structural change in our company to become more efficient and provide the same level of service, but we did have to advance that effort because we were also seeing a softening in the marketplace," says MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman. (source: Newsweek)
3. That WSOP Main Event.
Almost certainly as a result of several major online poker rooms pulling out of the US market and fewer online satellite tournaments, the numbers went back down in 2007.
2007 Jerry Yang wins the Main Event at the WSOP. (6358 entries... 20% fewer than the year before)
So What Gives?
Both Newsweek and this great article (and from a great site) from Slate make the case that as Las Vegas diversifies into more of an overall tourist trap with less emphasis on gambling, it becomes more vulnerable to swings in the overall economy.
I'd allow for that possibiliy, but it doesn't fully account for the decline of Tropicana's other properties.
Nor does it allow for the full fallout from the UIGEA.
Forty-eight different states allow some form of legal gambling. It would take more digging to discern whether that expanded access has decreased tourism in Vegas and Atlantic City as gamblers seek out legal options closer to home.
That may be the case.
Still, wouldn't the stock price and revenue firgures for the casino chains remain steady if the revenue were INCREASING in other places to compensate for Nevada problems.
Gambling may never be a bust.
But is this the steady hiss of a slow leak?<-- Hide More
My return to the Up For Poker blog ring brought with it two claims that some people have doubted.
1) I nearly lost $500 after betting someone they couldn't blow up a soccer ball with only their mouth.
2) A defunct underground game run out of a fireworks warehouse now wears a sign titled "REWORK."
The full stories of both can be found in Naked Otis.
Well, to the doubters...here is proof.More in this Poker Blog! -->
That's B.J. Nemeth, famous poker writer and now infamously-bad prop bettor. When offered $500 on his $50 to blow up a deflated soccer ball with his mouth, he declined, and then did it anyway. He won some pride, though, which has to count for something. Just not my $500.
That's the building where I spent many a night with a motley group of poker players and rabid drunks. You can decide on your own to which group I belonged.
For what it's worth, I don't use poetic license very much. First, I'm no poet. Second, if I have to have a license to do something, I generally don't enjoy it.
The day Harrah's officially announced the much-anticipated final table delay, my IM machine and e-mail struggled under the pressure. Among those instant messages was from Up For Poker blog co-contributor Luckbox with a simple question: "Pro or con?"
I barely thought for a second before answering, "Con." CJ has since written down his thoughts about the WSOP final table delay. I guess it's up to me to take the opposing role. To be honest, it's hard to get up the energy to write with much fervor about the already-decided subject. What's more, I like to keep an open mind about things like this. Finally, I have a great deal of respect for many people in the opposing camp.
Regardless, I've been known to call myself a neotraditionalist. I'm a junkie for all things old school. I'm the old guy who just last Monday night rolled into a poker game with Pet Sounds blowing out of his speakers. More often than not, I like things the way they were more than the way they are. That in mind, you're probably not surprised to learn that I approach the WSOP final table delay--to keep it in the lexicon of you people who live in the now--with a healthy dose of "meh."More in this Poker Blog! -->
The strongest argument made so far is one that's been made by the Con-Delayers so often that I don't need to hammer on it too hard here. A four month delay multiplies the opportunity for deal-making and yes--just say it out loud--collusion by a factor of about 120 times. We'd all like to think that people wouldn't collude on the biggest poker stage in the world. I'd also like to think someone would've found a way to bust Men the Master for his widely-rumored chip dumping and collusion scheme by now. If anything, this debate will mean just about everybody in the poker media will be looking for a hand in which" X-player absolutely had to call Y-player" but did not. I'd like to think Harrah's will be on top of this, but as someone pointed out in the last few days, no one said anything about the 2 million chip disappearance in 2006 until Amy and Tim produced what was probably the most important piece of poker journalism in the past decade. [For more, read Two Million Questions]. The Pro-Delayers wave off the collusion fears. Jeffrey Pollack says, "It would be a mistake," to mess with Harrah's in this way. I'd challenge you to find an already-inclined cheater to give a diddly damn what Harrah's thinks. If they were going to cheat before, they are going to cheat now. Only now, they have four months to figure out with whom to cheat and how best to do it.
As a late night IM said to me yesterday, if the final table delay had been in place in 2006, Richard Lee would've been arrested for bookmaking before the final nine reconvened to decide a champion.
Let's just think about that for a second. It's the most important event in any given year and the 11% of the field can't show up? The Super Bowl would be played with 19 players on the field. More than five cars would not compete in the Daytona 500. It's worse in poker, though. If a player can't make it because of death, emergency, or arrest, the seat won't be filled, but the chips will remain. Think of it like this: Jeff Gordon, Kyle Petty, Dale Jr., Mark Martin, and Greg Biffle all go out and get tossed in the drunk tank the night before the 500. In NASCAR, the vehicles would remain in the garage. Imagine if their cars were put driver-less on the track. The point is that a dead stack always changes play at a table. A dead stack at the final table of the World Series of Poker main event? Please. To the people who say, "Well there is always a chance of someone dying or getting arrested on the night before the final table.": Sure there is. Now there is a chance that lasts four months. Imagine if Stu Ungar had a four-month wait between ten-handed and final table play. Hell, what about Vinny Vihn? What if he makes the final table this year?
The point is this: It's not sympathy for the person who can't show up because he is no longer breathing or is breathing in a Clark County jail cell. It's the unnecessary and distinct change in the game that would happen as a result of that player's absence.
One of the loudest arguments made by the Pro-Delayers is the ability of players to secure better and more lucrative sponsorship deals. Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack has said out loud that he would love to see poker sponsorship become a lot more like NASCAR. For the player, it seems a great thing. It's why pro players gave their blessing to hole card cameras in the first place (more on that in a second).
And so, this is what we've been led to believe is a great thing for players. A four-month delay is...Stop! Agent Time!
As a friend (who can out himself here if he likes) pointed out to me, this decision is great for the nine people who make the final table. They will have four months to get the best possible sponsorship deal. However, this friend pointed out a less obvious consequence: the final 40 or so people in the tournament are going to lose a lot of sponsorship value. I've personally witnessed what I call the WSOP Shirt Dance. As the final five or six tables start to define possibilities for the final table, the sponsors start swooping in with deals, throwing shirts on potential final table candidates. Now, the sponsors can sit back, wait, and get the most value for their dollar. The Shirt Dance will still go on, but I would predict not to as large as a scale as it has in the past. If we're to think of it in Pollack's terms, it's as if sponsors could wait until the final nine laps of the 500 before slapping the Tide or Brylcreem logo on the side of the leading few cars.
In short, Pollack is getting his wish. Sponsorship deals are becoming a lot more like NASCAR...more money for few, less money for the field.
Let's just call this what it is: a great decision for the business and marketing of poker designed to make poker a lot more like NASCAR and make a lot more money for the companies involved in putting it on. It will put a new marzipan on the same poker cake we've been eating for years.
The Pro-Delayer's loudest argument for the change is that it will give ESPN a chance to profile the final table players and turn them into stars before the final table plays out. The idea is two-fold. First, it will grow the poker audience. Second, it will boost ratings for main event coverage. I don't begrudge them those goals. Marketing is a big reason poker has become what it has.
But, let's all be honest with ourselves here. I think, as a business, poker has probably spent up the Moneymaker value. There was a time when most people (even you!) didn't know you could qualify for the World Series through an online poker site. The symbiotic relationship between online poker companies and the WSOP, combined with the revolutionary hole card cameras made poker what it is today. We can thank Henry Orentstein, PokerStars, and Chris Moneymaker for that. Still, today, is there a wide market of people who don't know about online poker qualifying? Can the WSOP fields still grow by such huge percentages? Will a semi-live final table change that? Probably not.
Listen, I applaud Pollack and everyone else for trying to grow the WSOP brand. There was a time when NASCAR had a much more limited audience than I does today. There's a reason the NASCAR explosion happened and it's marketing decisions like they have made for the WSOP final table. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to increase ratings. It will help us all. I'm all for it, in fact.
The problem is, in an effort to market poker to a wider audience, Harrah's is making changes to the game that have a chance at affecting the outcome. Nobody should be in favor of that.
Alternatives to the delay
If we all can agree that the marketing of poker is a great thing if we could somehow get rid of the delay, then I think we should be able to agree that there are better solutions. Four months is an eternity in this world.
The four-month delay serves two purposes. First, it allows people to watch a semi-live event in edited form (Pollack says, "Think the Olympics!"). Second, it allows ESPN to pump up the profiles of the final nine so Joe Six Pack will care about the potential winner in advance.
Both of these are noble goals. There is nothing worse than watching a final table of nine people you don't care about, especially when you already know the outcome. (Note: you would be surprised how many regular Joes out there get really pissed when you tell them who won the WSOP before it shows on TV).
So, what is the solution? Can we have our cake and lick the marzipan too? The answer is yes, if ESPN wants to put up the money and manpower to do it. It's not perfect, but it serves the same purpose without adding unnecessary changes to the game.
Here's how it works: The main event is scheduled to last about a week and half before final table play begins. Full coverage shouldn't start until play is down to the final three tables. At that point, ESPN records the tournament like a live sporting event. Editors work as they go for a next-day broadcast. At the same time, a features crew should already have several features in the can and ready to roll. Finally, when the final table arrives, it is broadcast live (without hole cards) on a secondary ESPN network. Then, for those who want to watch an edited version, 411 (the production team in charge of the WSOP broadcasts) does a cut for the next day.
Would it cost more? Yes. Would it be more difficult? Absolutely. Would it serve the same marketing purpose while not affecting the game? Yes.
Don't think it can be done? Well, an excellent crew out of London does it once or twice a month during the European Poker Tour. Sunset + Vine produces a live webcast of feature and final tables in the final two days of EPT events. The quality is outstanding and the product is very easy to watch. Given, they don't do a next day edit on the final table, but it is possible if people want to do it. If I'm supposed to be thinking of the Olympics, I suppose I'm allowed to point out that we get next-day edits from those production crews.
Simply put, the WSOP is either a sporting event or a reality show. If it's a sporting event, then cover it like one. If it's a reality show, then let's all call it what it is and stop being so high and mighty about it. I prefer the former, but nobody listens to me.
And why it doesn't really matter
The decision has been made here. It has the blessing of some top pros, the Nevada Gaming Commission, and, most importantly, Harrah's, the company that stands to make the most money on the deal. It's a WSOP experiment in poker like...
Like I said, not every experiment is bad. Just most of them. That's what's made me a neotraditionalist.
I actually have a lot of respect for the people behind this idea. I hope it turns out well. I hope nothing goes wrong. I just think it could be done differently and better. As we move forward, we should always be asking ourselves what is more important...the integrity or growth of the game? Moreover, is there ever a time we should put the latter before the former?
I don't think there is, especially when there are viable alternatives to serve both masters.
***<-- Hide More
POST RACE UPDATE: Big Brown. Wow.
Here is your Kentucky Derby winner.
How did I arrive at this pick? It took three easy steps...More in this Poker Blog! -->
1. It started with a text message this morning from BG:
"$21 to win on BOB BLACK JACK, $10 to win on MONBA"
With a brother named Bob, and the obvious gambling reference, BG would be crazy NOT to bet on Bob Black Jack. That's where his heart is. That means his head must be with Monba. (Full disclosure: This is only a guess at BG's motive for that pick, especially since on Friday, BG told me he wasn't actually going to handicap the card.)
2. I read off the names of all 20 horses to Lady Luck, and she selected Monba.
3. Armed with this knowledge, I did a little handicapping of the field. Here's what I figured out:
Colonel John should go off as the favorite and has a great shot at winning this race. Coming out of the 10th post, he's in much better shape than Big Brown. And in the Santa Anita Derby one month ago, he showed the 1 1/4m distance likely won't faze him. That said, I won't bet the favorite in a 20-horse Derby field.
Big Brown should go off as the second favorite. He also has a shot at winning this race, but coming out of the 20th post will be more than he can overcome. He'll expend a lot of energy to get himself closer to the rail and the four horses inside of him are too good to allow him that room. This is the best horse in the field, but he won't win.
Pyro should go off as the third favorite. It wouldn't shock me to see him win. He'll leave the gate just inside of Colonel John. The Blue Grass Stakes was a disaster for Pyro (he finished 10th) but I think the Louisiana Derby is probably a better indication of what he may bring on this day. However, he won't win.
A half-dozen other horses will be real contenders: Wood Memorial-winner Tale of Ekati, Florida Deby-runner up Smooth Air, Santa Anita Derby-runner up Bob Black Jack (who should be the early speed), Blue Grass Stakes-runner up Cowboy Cal, Illinois Derby-winner Recapturetheglory, and Arkansas Derby-winner Gayego (beware of injury whispers on this horse).
All those horses are certainly capable making this a very difficult field to break down. It doesn't take much skill, however, to list 10 horses that could win a race. What you want is the winner. And that winner will be Monba.
I anticipate Monba getting out good from the 14th post, following Bob Black Jack who may be the early leader. Look for Monba to settle in a few off the rail by the first turn. He'll be in trouble if he lets those big horses outside of him get a jump on him, but I think he'll be fine.
By the stretch, Pyro will be passing Bob Black Jack, Big Brown will be rallying from well back on the outside, Colonel John will begin his move from the middle of the pack, but Monba will be best positioned to get the win. He'll duel with Pyro, before winning by a length, Colonel John will get up for third, Big Brown fourth and Bob Black Jack fifth.
There it is. The Blue Grass Stakes winner will make it happen again.
And, since you asked, Big Brown will take the Preakness and Colonel John (after skipping the Preakness) will take the Belmont.
Place your bets!
My bets are now placed.
$10 Win #14 Monba
$10 Win #9 Pyro
$7 Win #2 Tale of Ekati
$5 Win #13 Bob Blackjack
$2 Ex #14 Monba w/ #9 Pyro
$2 Ex Box #9 Pyro, #10 Colonel John, #20 Big Brown
$2 Tri #14 Monba w/ #9 Pyro w/ #10 Colonel John
$1 Tri #14 Monba, #9 Pyro w/ #14 Monba, #9 Pyro, #10 Colonel John, #20 Big Brown w/ #10 Colonel John, #20 Big Brown, #13 Bob Black Jack
$2 Tri Box #9 Pyro, #10 Colonel John, #20 Big Brown
$1 Super #14 Monba, #9 Pyro, #10 Colonel John, #20 Big Brown
$1 Super #14 Monba, #9 Pyro w/ #14 Monba, #9 Pyro, #10 Colonel John, #20 Big Brown w/ #10 Colonel John, #13 Bob Blackjack, #20 Big Brown w/ #10 Colonel John, #13 Bob Blackjack, #20 Big Brown
$1 High Five #14 Monba w/ #9 Pyro w/ #10 Colonel John w/ #20 Big Brown w/ #13 Bob Blackjack
That's $96 dollars in bets. I planned to spend $100, but lost a few bucks on the 9th race (Oneida did pick the winner by name, however, or I would have lost even more!). Good luck at the windows!<-- Hide More
The folks running the World Series of Poker have decided to delay the final table of the Main Event for nearly four months, from July 16th to November 9th. The nine players will play down to two on the 9th and the heads-up play will be held on the 10th. ESPN will broadcast the event on Tuesday, November 11th.
And that's good for poker. It's good for the players. It's good for the fans. It's good for all of us.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Those complaining about this change are being incredibly short-sighted.
Don't tell me you buy into the "integrity of the event" argument. This is a poker tournament we're talking about, right? A tournament that survived two million mystery chips. A tournament that survived Jamie Gold. A tournment that has survived thousands and thousands of players, a percentage of whom have undoubtedly attempted to circumvent the "integrity" of the event.
Let's take some of the complaints, one by one:
Final Table Coaching
Are we really all that horrified by the idea that the final 9 will actually attempt to get better in those four months? Forgive me for liking the idea that players at the final table might all know what they're doing. I don't think it would take much work in Google to find poker blogs decrying the poor play at the final table. Now we're worried about those same players being coached?
The fact is, each player will have the same opportunity to improve their game as everyone else. It's not as if four months of coaching will turn some Moneymaker-like amateur into Eric Seidel. If you're suggesting it's not fair because an amateur can get better, but a pro can't, then you are making an argument not supported by facts.
Final Table Scouting
Again, this is a bad thing? If anything, this kind of scouting would off-set any so-called advantage the amatuers would gain by being coached. In these 4 months, I'd imagine the final 9 would have plenty of opportunity to play high-profile events. Those more experienced players would likely be better able to use information gathered in those events to pick up the tendencies of their opponents.
However, as I stated above, this is an advantage that ALL final table players would have. Not only would they get a chance to see how they made it to the final table on ESPN, but they'd have new chances to play against them or watch them play before the final table. How can something that improves the level of play be a bad thing?
Colluding, Cheating, Soft-play
I dismiss this suggestion without a second thought. From what I can tell, there were 32 hours between the time the 10th place player busted out at last year's ME and when the final table started play. That's plenty of time for someone to decide to cheat or collude. That's plenty of time for some predator to swoop in and make a play.
What if someone dies?
What if an earthquake swallows Las Vegas?
This all brings us to the reasons this is a good thing for the poker world.
Last year, the WSOP ME ended on July 17th. The world saw Jerry Yang win the bracelet on October 9th. And despite that length of time, there was no effort made to promote those people we all knew would be at the final table. Yang probably got five minutes of air time before it got down to the final two tables.
The year before, there was a month and a half between when Jamie Gold raised his arms in victory in one of the more controversial WSOP ME's in recent years and when we all got to see it on ESPN. Gold, despite his long list of flaws, was one of the more compelling champs in recent years. And he was nearly anonymous until the day it aired.
And aren't they the ones that matter?
Ask yourself, when did poker explode? It exploded when Chris Moneymaker captured the American imagination. He was the first real poker TV star. He was the everyman. Online play went through the roof. And that was good for all of us. Every schulb from Anytown, USA thought he could win the WSOP. They logged on, and they gave us their money.
Since then, I believe the poker world has failed to capitalized on the personalities who can bring even more players to the real and virtual tables. Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem? Nice guys, but have they compelled anyone to play? Jamie Gold could have been the next great villain, but the opportunity was squandered. Jerry Yang? Well... I'm not sure he helps my case.
But it's not just about the winners. It's about all 9 players. For the first time ever, we'll have a chance to delve into the stories of these players. By the time we see the final table, more Americans than ever will know who they are. And for the first time, you won't be able to jump online and Google the winner.
This change is made to increase the exposure of the World Series of Poker. It's to generate a new breed of excitement. And despite all of the selfish, profit-driven reasons of Harrah's and ESPN, this is good for us. It will help convince more people to stop being just a spectator and to start being a player. The more fish in the sea, the more we get to eat.
And what's so wrong about that?<-- Hide More
"It seems rather elitist to me for people who maybe have degrees in this field to feel that, because they've studied it, somehow they know better than the parents what is best for [their children]."
Rep. John Duncan (R)
Not to totally steal someone else's blogging style (Sorry Iggy) but sometimes politics, silly quotes, and poker go together like peanut butter, chocolate and, um, ketchup.
Now let's all agree that our good friend John Duncan of Tennessee is an idiot. But even idiots can inspire a little reflective thought. Sure, Mr. Duncan would be furious to know he's inspired reflection, but this isn't his blog.
I wondered after hearing this silly quote, in this case questioning the nerve of Doctors weighing in on reproductive health, if I'd ever be enough of an expert at anything to make John Duncan angry.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Part of the problem is a lack of focus on my part. I've been interested in poker for years and have made an effort to improve... to take it "seriously." But poker is never the sole pursuit.
For example, I used to list poker and frolf as my hobbies. I got to be pretty good at frisbee golf, at least much better than Otis. Otis could then counter-argue that he's still much better at poker.
Then I tried dabbling with writing, running (this one was very short lived), and I'm thinking of giving Jai Alai a whirl.
Check this out:
"FORT PIERCE -- The start of the Jai Alai season may have been delayed three months because of renovations, but fans will find more than just a facility makeover when they visit the fronton.
The two-month Jai Alai season begins Friday in a 34-year old facility that received a $1.5 million upgrade. Included are changes to the facade, but more importantly, the addition of a poker card gaming area that should open later this month."
Yessir, The Vero Beach Press Journal reports that Florida Jai Alai establishments have now become "Poker & Jai Alai" joints.
I think it's a pretty natural connection.
Luckily, I'm so terrible at both that I'm still qualified to give the gentleman from Tennesee advice.<-- Hide More