Remember that time you four-bet pre-flop with aces, flopped your set, and got your opponent to get it all in? Remember when he shoved his chips in and then asked, "Do you have the ace?"
You probably thought, "What is this guy doing playing poker?"
We sometimes think the same thing about the search referrals we get here on the Up For Poker Blog.
Here are just a few recent questions that Google has thrown our way.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Q. Who is the High Stakes Poker guy who looks like Jabba the Hutt?
A. We here at Up For Poker are huge fans of both the Star Wars series and High Stakes Poker. So, when we saw this question come in, we wondered if we had missed a few episodes of HSP. After looking at the cast list from the past several seasons, we narrowed it down to two possibilities. The first is David Benyamine, for obvious reasons. The second is Doyle Brunson. Either way, that's just mean, and we'd dare whoever asked the question to call either of the above players Jabba to his face. And either way, if you're hoping to play poker and you don't know Brunson or Benyamine, you'd best stick to watching Return of the Jedi and pleasuring yourself to your Princess Leia action figure.
Q. Is an UTG limp raise always the nuts?
Yes. We polled every poker player in three countries. The results were staggering. No player in our millions of respondents has ever limp re-raised under the gun with anything other than the nuts. Every player indicated it would be irresponsible to play a hand in such a way that it led others to believe he might have aces instead when he actually held kings, queens, or 9c-7c. We suggest that if you are ever limp re-raised by a player under the gun, fold your kings immediately. You are behind and will never catch up.
Q. (From Sweden) How does WSOP poker works?
A. This is a tricky question and one not taken lightly. It assumes that WSOP poker (translated World Series of Poker poker) actually works. We are not ready to make that assumption. If we did, we might answer that the World Series of Poker poker takes a decades old tradition of poker mastery and devalues it by creating dozens of events that award dozens of bracelets and charges millions of dollars in juice to play tournaments with dubious structures. Of course, we wouldn't ever actually say that. We're just saying, if we made an assumption, we might think about saying something like that. In the meantime, if you're reading from Sweden, we like your women. How much for them?
Q. Suppose that you have played F five times but you don't yet know your wins and losses. Would you play the gamble a sixth time?
A. You just blew our mind, sir. We love you as a reader. We'd love for you to stay. However, we think you'd be better suited reading the "Handbook of the economics of finance" by George M. Constantinides, Milton Harris, René M. Stulz.
But to answer your question, we've played F several times. We've got a lot of experience in the world of F. We may not yet know our wins and losses, but you give us a sixth shot at F and we'll take it every day of the week. Twice on Sunday, in fact.
Would we gamble a sixth time? Silly question.
Q. Are cops allowed to bust poker games?
A. That all depends on where you live. If you live where we do, cops are allowed to bust poker games, take all the money, take all the cards, take all the chips, rummage through your house, make eyes at your girlfriend, and use your bathroom without flushing. You probably won't ever be officially prosecuted, but you'll sort of wish you had been. A real prosecution makes it feel less like a shakedown.
Q. Why is poker bad?
A. Poker is not inherently bad. It's naughty sometimes. Sometimes it's downright dirty, nasty, naughty little poker. It's not bad, though. Look at it this way: if poker was good all the time, you'd sit around wondering if you should've taken your shot at the game with the tattoos, nipple rings, and questionable grasp on hygiene.
Trust us on this one.<-- Hide More
The man sat at the bar under a cloud of tight curly hair. It was as if the hair thunderhead had sprung a storm and the downpour produced a guy with bad pickup lines. Beside him sat a pretty woman. She wasn't drinking for fun. Her order--shots and beer--had purpose. The drunker she got, the more she wanted to run naked in the hair storm.
I'll be honest, Joe Reitman's hair has always freaked me out.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Reitman looked like was wearing make-up. He threw out some line like, "If I order you one drink, I get to talk to you for ten minutes. If I order you four drinks I get you for an hour and half. If I order you more, I get you all night."
That's not a direct quote. It wasn't recorded for posterity, because the next thing anyone knew Reitman's pants were around his ankles and he was humping the girl known as Gayle in the parking lot. His bad pick-up line wasn't as bad as it seemed. He probably didn't notice the girl was about to cry. But, be honest. If somebody was pumping on you and letting that hair bounce all around your head and shoulders, you'd probably cry, too.
When I saw it happen, I turned to my wife.
"I think that's Annie Duke's boyfriend!" I said.
My wife snored.
I guess I don't keep up with pop culture well enough to know the occupations of pro players' bed buddies. That is, I didn't know Reitman was an actor.
What I'd just seen was one of his breakout performances, this time as "Bar Customer" in the 2005/2006 Showtime series "Sleeper Cell." You might also have seen him in such roles as "Hippie boy," "Radio Station Manager" and "Regulator 2."
I don't say any of the above to poke fun at Reitman. He has been married to and presumably slept with Shannon Elizabeth. Just because he played "Freshman" on 90210 doesn't mean he isn't 100 times cooler than I am.
I only bring it up because I'd honestly forgotten Reitman's name. I'd seen him around Vegas and always with Duke. As I struggled in vain to remember the guy's real name, I wondered how Reitman would feel about me Googling him as "Annie Duke's boyfriend."
I had to know, though. I've recently been watching the new-to-me "Sleeper Cell" on DirecTv's 101 network. In this episode, the boozy bitch was about to turn on her boyfriend. That Retiman's "Bar Customer" sealed the deal was almost poetic. That is, he put his career on hold to make sure we would have Shannon Elizabeth as a star. He deserved a little somethin' somethin' for his time.
In fact, he also got Duke in the settlement and that should've been enough. I've heard no rumor of their break-up, so presumably they are happy. I think we all wish them the best.
I'm simply happy I now have Reitman's name locked permanently in my memory. Never again will I think of him as Shannon's ex or Annie's boyfriend. Now, he will be Joe. Or Joseph. Or Mr. Reitman. Or, after the 2009 release of "Radio Free Albemuth," as "Prisoner #1."<-- Hide More
The poker room of the Fiesta Casino in the Ramada Herradura just outside of San Jose, Costa Rica is a six or seven table area that is just big enough to fit the players, a couple of aimless cocktail waitresses, and Humberto Brenes.
When the men get massages, they do it with their shirts off and buxom, camel-toed therapists kneading away elbow-deep at their fat-backs. Out of simplicity and in the face of a 540-1 colones to dollar exchange rate, the poker games are played with dollar-value chips. Against all better judgment, the first seat I took in the room was at a 5/10 half No-Limit Hold'em and half Pot-Limit Omaha game.More in this Poker Blog! -->
There is no excuse for a person with $2,000 in his pocket to sit down in this game. The game was populated with locals, two of which were Scandinavian transplants with a fluent grasp on the Spanish language and an apparent intimate knowledge of everyone in the room. There is no excuse for a guy who spends more time playing Razz than Hold'em or Omaha to sit in a game in which most pots were $300 pre-flop and any play after the flop would result in his stack being in the middle. I discovered, however, there was one excuse.
It was the only game in the room.
"Let's just take it easy," a local named Alex said in English. "In eight hours we'll be playing 25/50 with $25,000 in front of us."
It seemed like hubris, but the way the game was going, the guy could've been right. Three or four of the players at the table were fairly good. Everyone else was dreadful and bordering on clueless. I, admittedly, was underfunded. It only took me two hours of seeing no hand past the flop to realize this. I catch on as quick as most husbands my age.
I turned to an American pro you know, but whose name I've forgotten how to spell and said, "Take this seat. I'm wasting it." He took the seat and didn't say, "Yeah, you are."
I took my chips to the cage where the cashier paid me in $50 bills. It wasn't dinner time yet.
It's hard being in a poker country and not being able to find a game I'm properly-funded to play. Sure, I could've sat there and played nut-only poker, but that is just about as boring as not playing at all. For the two hours I sat, I felt like a guy in the G-Vegas underground named Whitey. He plays in all the games, folds 99% of his hands, and only plays the nuts on the river. Someone once asked, "Whitey, do you enjoy playing poker?" He answered with one word.
"No," he said, and then probably folded.
I took a walk, went back to my room, and then realized I was hungry. Room service seemed like a cop-out, so I went out in search of food. There are three restaurants in this hotel. Nearly every one was empty. I went to the sushi place last. It was barren and didn't have a visible bar.
"Buenos noches, senor!" said the guy at the door.
"Just looking around," I said. Not that it mattered.
I finally wandered back to the Fiesta bar and ordered an Imperial. The Texas game was on and they were losing. Two elderly Americans sat at the other end of the bar drinking Jim Beam on the rocks. Another American, one who had announced in the elevator earlier in the day that he had gas, showed up for a second. As he walked away from the bar, he told the bartender to give me another Imperial.
"For earlier in the elevator," he said, and then walked away.
As the bartender sat my second beer on the bar, I wandered over to the poker room and saw another game getting set up.
"Dos-Cinco," the dealer said.
I laid $500 in front of the two-seat and went to retrieve my beer.
This all looks like a set-up for a story in which I won several thousand dollars, got jumped on my way back to my room, and have a black eye to show for it. That's actually what I was thinking about as I ran my $500 up to $900 in about 30 minutes. I hit a gutty, played two pair to perfection on a flushed board, and called down a bluff with third pair. The players weren't very good and I saw myself winning a ton of money and then getting killed for it.
That's not what happened, nor what this story is about.
In fact, I sat for about five hours in total. I realized half the people at the table were playing with a percent of each other. I also realized that, even if they were soft-playing each other, most of them were bad enough that it didn't matter. If I hadn't missed fourteen outs in one hand and had my kings cracked all-in against a flush draw, I probably would've hit my $2,000 goal for the night. Instead, I finished with a one dollar profit. I saved the chip to remind me of the time I won one dollar.
In fact, this story is about what happened a couple hours into my session. In a scene that smacked of Vito Corleone walking down the street and picking up some oranges, Humberto Brenes walked into the room with two sons in tow. The room got quiet for just one moment, and then half of the people stood up to kiss his ring. Or something like that.
It was hard to say how many of the people in the room respected Brenes or all he has meant to poker in this country. He is, by far, the best known Tico in the poker world and his emergence into the small poker room made it clear that everyone knew that. It was something between Norm walking into Cheers and Doyle Brunson walking into the low-limit section at Bellagio. Everyone knew him, everyone wanted him to know they knew him, and everybody played their part. Still I couldn't figure out if he was Don Corleone or Doyle to the Costa Rican poker players. I don't suppose it matters. The effect is largely the same.
In an odd coincidence, Brenes took the very seat I had abandoned earlier. He alternated between playing pots and stepping to an adjacent table to watch his sons play. I could only think, for better or worse, I am not Humberto Brenes, Godfather of Costa Rican poker.
Sometime after midnight (although I thought it was just after 11pm), I went to the cage to cash out my initial buy-in (she gave me $100 bills this time). As I stood in line, I saw a cross between bingo, the lottery, and roulette. That is to say, it was a typical roulette felt, but instead of a wheel, there was a giant spherical bird cage full of numbered balls. After spinning the thing for five minutes, the dealer let one ball fall out (black ten) and paid it off. I couldn't decide it it was more, less, or just as random as a ball on a wheel.
And again, I'm not sure it mattered.
That was all less than 24 hours ago. In about an hour, I'll venture back into the fray. If all I've been told is true about the level of play here, I should make money in the short time I have to play. And if not, for a final time, I'm not sure it matters.<-- Hide More
I've received a lot of good feedback about an observation I made a couple of weeks ago regarding the change in WSOP coverage at ESPN. That observation became even more pronounced when we saw Scotty Nguyen's performace at this year's HORSE event.
As Amy pointed out today, people were actually surprised at Nguyen being the bad boy. The surprised people are the people who don't get out much and know poker only from TV.
Let's all agree on something. At least half of the poker community is made up of people you wouldn't want to share a beer with. At least 75% of the poker community is made up of people you wouldn't want to bring home to Mom. In the poker world, the really good folks are the minority. TV can make anybody look good. It made Mike Tyson look like a bootstrapping Horatio Alger story until the whole cannibalism thing. It made Michael Vick out to be one of the best quarterbacks of his time until the whole animal massacre thing. TV can make people what it wants. It made Scotty Nguyen into the Prince of Poker and now it's made him the town drunk.
Amy wrote a great piece a few years ago titled The Death Wish that gives you some decent insight into Nguyen before televised poker made him royalty. Everyone should read it. Especially those people who don't get to hang out in the Amazon Room and see poker people as they are for real.
I've been on record for the past couple of years.
I think Eric "Rizen" Lynch is one of the best people in poker. He knows the game, he's a great person, and he has a respect for his role in the poker community.
I subscribe to Eric's RSS feed, despite my disdain for truncated traffic generation summaries. Today, I read the headline "My personal comments about the UB signing" and I was sure Eric would be weighing in on Cliff "JohnnyBax" Josephy's signing with the oft-maligned online poker site.
Imagine my surprise when I learned one of my favorite poker players is signing with the site everybody loves to hate.More in this Poker Blog! -->
If you've never been fortunate enough to meet Eric, you should know he is a guy you will like. He's friendly, humble, and a good family man. He is also a stellar poker player. I can't help but envy his ability, discipline, and balance. He, like many of you, writes a blog (Rizen Poker) and gives more insight into his game than most pros would offer.
So, inside of a week or so, two people who command respect in the poker community have joined up with Ulimate Bet, a site that not only has been torn apart in recent months due to the sickening revelation that the site was in fact rigged, but also has been the subject of many our rants and raves here (see the most recent Up For Poker Ultimate Bet Cheating post).
The easist explanation for anything in the poker world is money. Why else would someone like Eric sign up with what is without question the most controversial and broken site in all of online poker? Here's the thing. In his explanation, Eric denies he is selling out.
"I've also made sure that all of the business decisions I've made in my life are things that I can be proud of, even if that's meant potentially costing myself and my family money. I am by no means independently wealthy, but I did not *need* this deal from a financial perspective...Lastly, I would proudly like to announce that a significant portion of my proceeds from my relationship with Ultimate Bet will be going towards charity.
Both JohnnyBax and Rizen are now UB pitchmen. Both assert that there is more going on behind the scenes than we know and that someday it will all make sense.
It's an odd place for a cynic like me to be. Everything in my gut tells me to stay as far away from UB as possible (haven't played there in more than a year, near as I can tell). Everything about celebrity endorsements tells me to take it with a grain of salt.
That said, when somebody I deeply respect makes a move like this, it makes me question everything.
Do I believe my gut and follow the exodus away from UB? Do I believe the people I respect that Ultimate Bet is making a real effort to make good on past mistakes?
For now, I'm doing nothing. While not the style of people who are huge successes, sometimes it pays to just wait and see.<-- 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
It was a mildly chilly night in Monte Carlo, but the northern Europeans and those who live on wind-slapped islands were smelling summer. We, a large and eclectic group of poker players, writers, and marketers, sat at a cafe table overlooking a croaking frog pond and man-made wetlands area.
At the table were two Germans. One, Jan Heitmann, was making the guys jealous and the girls swimmy with an impromptu magic act. Beside him sat Geoge Danzer. His is a familiar face on the European Poker Circuit. In fact, I thought that (and the fact he was sitting right beside me) was the only reason I knew who he was.
I'd forgotten about Dmitri Nobles.More in this Poker Blog! -->
You might have noticed we've been making a few changes around the site. We've added a section for The Nuts on the left and added some bio and about information in the "Players" section. After reviewing Luckbox's new bio and the YouTube video inside it, I remembered why I knew George Danzer. If Danzer knew I was great friends with the reason Nobles won that hand, he might not have been as friendly. It's a good thing Danzer was on walkabout when Nobles sprang from the table and yelled for the Luckbox.
Regardless, the KK vs A8 hand vs Nobles is one of the top reasons George Danzer's face is familiar to many folks. So, as expected, the story came up at the table. A friend of mine commented to Danzer that his behavior following the beat was just about as good as could be expected. Danzer, at least for one ugly moment on television, set an example for a generation of poker players.
It's been nearly two years since that sickness and Danzer barely seems like he remembers it. He does, of course. How could anyone not? For the stoic German, though, the emotion he showed on TV was as much as you'll ever see. A lot of us could learn sometime about how to take a beat and be over it so fast.
Danzer is planning a return to the WSOP this year, but first he's setting out on a personal journey. With only his backpack, Danzer is going trekking into the wilderness for a month. He'll be by himself.
"Like Into the Wild," he said.
We can only hope it ends better for Danzer than it did for Chris McCandless. Danzer's intention is to go into the WSOP with the clearest head he can.
Here's to hoping he can avoid the likes of the Nobles'-style beat. If anything, Danzer can feel good Luckbox is sitting this year out.<-- Hide More
We at the Up For Poker blog don't tell bad beat stories. There is actually a clause in our partnership contract that reqires the teller of a bad beat story to play five uninterupted hours of Razz on Full Tilt. If said player doesn't finish up for the session, he has to start over.
Because we don't tell bad beat stories, our group insurance has a variety of plans to help with our therapy. Our wives frown on the local Stress Away Spa Plan (something about them actually not being happy with the happy ending) and the Whack-a-Nun program at the local covent was discontinued after one of the sisters became obsessed with G-Rob's hair and whacking skill.
That's why our internal therapists have created The Tuff Fish Appreciation Society.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Tuff Fish (aka tuff_fish) has been around so long, he's already gone. We've been watching his instructional videos for years and have learned a lot about how to handle ourselves following a bad beat or ugly cooler. I turned to Tuff Fish a little more than a year ago after running 5c6c into TcJc on a 7c8c9c board in a $5/$10 NL game (true story). Tuff Fish (real name Anthony Sandstrom) helped me get through the tough times with one simple phrase. It's a simple manta, ohm, aum, and om that centers us during the tough times. Set over set? Kings vs. aces? Say it with us:
"Fuck me to god damn tears."
It's become the unwritten Up For Poker motto and the raison d'etre for our Tuff Fish Appreciation Society.
While Tuff Fish is no secret, we think his therapeutic powers may not be be as appreciated as they should be. For a long while, we three Up For Poker blog writers kept this therapy to ourselves. Now, if we know someone who is having a bad day, our first idea is to give'em some Tuff Fish.
This therapy program comes in three steps.
1. Get bad beat or coolered beyond all recogintion (aka "coo-barred")
2. Watch Tuff Fish videos
Or something like that.
With that in mind, we've been keeping a close eye on the poker blogging terrarium recently and noticed that a lot of the animals inside have turned on each other. Evolution is a bitch, especially when it happens so fast. The result has been a lot of negativity that just isn't doing anybody any good.
So, we now invite each and every one of you to join us in the Tuff Fish Appreciation Society. Membership is free (save the labor of signing up in the comments of this post) and it has its privileges. What might those be, you ask? Well, probably none outside of the free therapy, but it's so worth it.
Join us. Join the Tuff Fish revolution!<-- Hide More
I've never told this story in its entirety. I never will. Even if I someday abandon my 80% rule, some things about my entry into the world of the poker media will never see print. Discretion may or may not have anything to do with valor, but it certainly plays a role in the friends you make and the friends you keep.
Nonetheless, there is somebody who played a huge role in my new life who needs mentioned today. He played one of the major roles in getting me where I am--wherever that is. Sometimes I don't know whether to thank him or curse him for that, but I know I can always count on his as a friend.
In December 2004, I was getting ready to go to Vegas for the first WPBT Holiday Gathering when a comment appeared on a post in this blog. It came from someone purporting to be Lee Jones, noted author and poker room manager for the then second biggest online poker site in the world. He had a proposal for me.
I went to Vegas with this in mind and was nervous as hell. I stood with my cell phone in the lobby of the Excalibur hotel--of all places--and talked to Lee for the first time. His offer: blog the 2005 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and get paid for it. I didn't tell him I would've done it for free. Lee was candid enough to tell me I was their second choice after Wil Wheaton, who had quite unexpectedly recommended me for the job (something I've come to think of as akin to Kato Kaelin getting a job because Robert Redford wasn't available, but still). Lee was kind enough to not assume he could get me for pennies (in retrospect, he did--I wouldn't work for that kind of money again unless it was backstage as Norah Jones' finger masseur). Lee asked for an e-mail and a few other particulars.
I didn't have a laptop with me, so I sent everything from the Excalibur's television internet service. Somehow I ended up with the job. While on the week-long freelance gig, Lee established himself as a guy I could trust. Toward the end of the week, I saw him in frequent conversation with people I'd come to know as important within the company. At the end of the week, Lee pulled me aside and asked, in essence, "How'd you like to do this all the time?" After a few more words of advice, Lee sent me on my way. Two weeks later I'd quit my job in television and was looking for my lost luggage in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Over the past three and half years, I've seen Lee in more places than I can count. Several conversations stand out--one overlooking a nightclub floor in Monte Carlo in which he summed up the poker boom and our place in it, and one just a few nights ago in Monte Carlo are a couple that stand out.
Lee told me a while back that his time with PokerStars and time with the European Poker Tour were about to come to an end. It was not completely unexpected, but it still made me sad to see him go. Lee is always good for a calming word, solicited advice, and the occasional unsolicited entertaining opinion. He's a helluva teacher, too. It's amazing to watch players seek him out at live events. He's become an icon without trying to be.
That's what makes the next step in his life so cool. Lee is headed off to be the COO of CardRunners.com and will be responsible for the daily operation of the company. I'm impressed as hell with the young men who hired Lee. At a time in my life when I was spending three or four nights a week in a bar, these guys have put together an exceptionally cool company.
So, it's not a goodbye to Lee, but a good luck. There was a time in my life where I would've written nice things about the guy because he was an important person in poker. Now I can write this stuff because he's a friend. He's moving just 45 minutes north of my house and I hope to get a chance to sit out on his porch and pick a little before my life takes me elsewhere (if you didn't know, Lee plays some mean bluegrass and puts my abilities to shame).
So, thanks, Lee. You're good people and deserve every bit of success that comes your way.<-- Hide More
It wasn't a mutter that raised the eyebrows. It was spoken in full voice and with no small amount of disgust.
"What the fuck?"
For a moment, we bristled, looked at the six-seat, and waited for a reaction. There was none, because Vera, apparently, had heard it all before.
Someone said maybe we should tone it down out of respect for the lady. The gentlemen among us--myself not necessarily included--nodded. We weren't raised to use words like "fuck" and "douchebag" around ladies. Further, we weren't sure why we felt like the poker table gave us an excuse to break away from our manners.
As if to allay our concerns, Vera tittered. Yes, I'm sure it was a titter. And then she said, "In my life, I've heard it all."More in this Poker Blog! -->
The underground poker scene in G-Vegas is like any other city where back room poker thrives. The players are a microcosm of the world out on Haywood Rd. They are white, black, and Asian. They are rich, poor, righteous, and atheist. There are heterosexuals and homosexuals. There are straight-edge tee-totalers and people who play with substances even the wildest among us think are best left under the kitchen sink. Players range in age from 18 to 80. The only thing the local scene has really not seen much of is women in their golden years.
Until last night.
I got to the game just as it was starting. It was clear from the beginning that it was going to be a busy night. I saw several new faces. Among them was a diminutive lady. Respect dictated I shouldn't ask her age. Respect further dictates I shouldn't guess. I suppose it's best I describe her as "retirement age."
It is no surprise to see women like Vera in poker rooms, I suppose. Most of the time, however, the women are playing $1-$3 limit poker and passing the time until the early bird special at 4:30pm. This game, however, is not $1-$3 limit. To wit: When we sat down for this no-limit hold'em game, three out of ten players--this time, me included--bought in for 300 big blinds. At least a couple of the players seated at Table 1 were good, aggressive players who regularly post big wins. It was going to be a deep game with the swings you might expect.
So, why would a soft-spoken lady sit at this table? She looked like she might be more at home over a cup of tea and the Sunday crossword. As it happened, we picked seats right next to each other. And at first, I didn't think to ask. I didn't think to care. With the exception of a couple of tough spots, it was a pretty good table. It looked like I might have a rare profitable session. And really, what did I care if some lady was sitting in on a game where the next youngest woman in the room was likely 40 years her junior?
I think it was about the time the board showed JJ9-J and she called all-in against two other players (I peaked and saw her KK) that I started wondering how she ended up in an underground game in the middle of South Carolina. Her opponents were drawing dead and Vera raked in an impressive pot.
"How long have you been playing poker, Vera?" I asked
She rolled her eyes at me. I think she thought I was trying to get a read on her age. By that time, her age didn't matter to me. She was an anomaly in the game, and that was enough to pique my interest. At this point, anything that is even slightly different is reason to pay very close attention and figure out what one can.
"All my life, I guess," she said. "See, I'm Italian. In my family, we have a big meal and then sit down and play penny poker. I love poker."
Vera was pure Italian. She was from Long Island. "I made it my goal to go into Manhattan at least once a month," she said, and then confided in a curious conspiratorial whisper, "I just love Manahattan."
I tried to imagine this woman, all five-foot-one of her, stalking the streets of Manhattan all day before bellying up to a big Italian meal and a game of poker. She reminded me of my friend Chris. He died about a year ago, a Long Islander who had found a way to transform himself into a southern gentleman. Vera could've been his aunt.
And so, for the rest of the night, we boys tried to watch our tongues, but didn't feel too bad if we let loose a fuck, shit, or cocksucker. The hour grew later and later and Vera continued to sit, munching on rosemary potatoes left over from the catered meal.
"I just love potatoes," she said in the same tone. It gave me the impression that Vera was bit of a reserved heondist. She knows what she enjoys and is not entirely ashamed of treating herself to it.
Her hands look like they had molded a million meatballs as she peeled up the corners of her cards. She won and lost several hundred over the course of the night. When she left, she was either a slight loser or slight winner. It was hard to tell. Because unlike a lot of other players who sit for the first time in that game, she held her own for hour upon hour.
When she left, she inquired about the weekend hours of the room. When she heard there was a tournament, she nodded and seemed to consider whether she should play.
As she walked out, she said sotto voce, "I'll be early."
At first--especially the first time you walk into an underground room--it seems romantic, dangerous, and like you're skirting the edge of the law. After a while, though, it all becomes fairly commonplace. It's just the local card room, where eveyone does their thing and does their best to ignore the fact that their mere presence constitutes a breach of the law.
Vera, a savvy Italian from the old school, undoubtedly knows this. She knows that by going to do what she wants--what she surely feels she should have the right to legally do--she has become a witting criminal. One can't help but smile at the hypothetical mug shot and a prosecutor holding a news conference. "This," he would say, "is the face of immoral and illegal activity in your community."
It's then that you realize how ridiculous it all is--not just for the underground games, but the world at large. From the Dallas poker scene where the cops are busting up the Am Vets for penny-ante games or the poker world at large--where online companies have done more for the game than anybody since Johnny Moss and Benny Binion--that is under attack by misguided governments. Poker is an American mainstay that gives young people a way to succeed and gives retirees a reason to go out at night.
And as Vera walks out, that's when it hits me.
It's so easy to get beat down by the bad streaks, the cold decks, and the self doubt. It's so easy to wave the white flag at the government. We let it all build up and build up. It gets to the point that it's not even fun anymore. Tournament bubbles, payment processing silliness, and friends at each others throats over nothing but how the fuck you could call three bets with Q4 off. We all started playing because it was fun, because it was challenging, and because it let us win a little money while we played a game.
And so, if it's not those things, why bother playing? Well, because it can be. See, Vera loves playing so much, within two months of being a brand new state where she virtually knew no one, she had sought out an underground card room so she could play poker.
"I missed it," she said.
And we would, too. If we let someone take the game away from us, or we somehow destroy it for ourselves, we'll miss it. We live in an age where personal responsbility takes a backseat to a sense of entitlement. Sometimes it's hard to remember, it's up to us to keep the big game alive. And, something I'm still learning, it's up to us--me--to keep our personal games alive. If we take it so seriously that we can't have fun anymore, we'll lose the game.
I fell into a real rut over the last year. I let the big game problems depress me. I let my own personal game problems compound for too long. I'm not even sure I have got it completely figured out.
But I know this: When I'm Vera's age, I want to feel the drive to get out of the house and find the card room.
Because, just like Vera, I love poker.<-- Hide More
In silence, there is fear.
As players and veterans of the news business, we've never been ones to accept the old adage, "No news is good news." In the current online poker climate, players and industry types spend inordinate amounts of their waking hours waiting for something--anything!--that will lead them to some conclusion about what's really happening out there. What are the sites doing? What is the government doing? Something has to be happening.
We once had a boss who said, "There is no such thing as good news or bad news. There's just news."
And that's what everybody needs right now. They need something to think about. They need something to get their minds off the fact that they have way too much money tied up in NETeller. They need something to distract them from the possibility that their online games are going to dry up. They need something to make them feel like if they wait just long enough, everything will go back to normal and the bad dream will be over.
And thus began the rampant rumor that poker's godfather, Doyle Brunson, had been arrested.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Looking for a Martyr
Poker players, by and large, are not people who put a lot of stock into symbolism. Sure, there are poker writers like us. There are people who view poker as a life-mirror game. But, overall, poker players are pretty literal people. They know the pot size. They know the bet size. They know the odds. What they want is information and they will take it however they can get it.
Still, in this new climate of online poker uncertainty, there are a lot of symbols and ideas under attack. Personal freedom, personal privacy, a nation's view of its world, and world's view of its most powerful nation. All of these and more are on the block for review right now. Not many people would debate that Doyle Brunson symbolizes all that is poker. Chris Moneymaker may have kicked off the revolution. The balla crowd may be beating up the game from the bottom. But Texas Dolly symbolizes the game and any attack on him--real or imagined-- is going to draw more than a little attention.
It may be constructive, first, to figure out why. The obvious answer is, "Well, everybody loves Doyle." And that's true. A better answer is that Doyle's exit from the poker world in handcuffs would pretty much signal then end of everything. If Doyle were to die, he would be memorialized. If he were to retire, he would be roasted and applauded. If he were to be arrested (for anything involving the government's crackdown on online gaming, anyway) he would be martyred. That said, even in martyrdom, even Brunson would probably admit that his potential arrest would mean that the sky has, indeed, fallen.
Everyone's eyes on are the sky right now. Some people insist they see it falling. Others insist they are surrounded by a bunch of Chicken Littles. If Doyle went down, however, most people would agree, the shit would be on more than just the fan.
Even if you question that argument, ask yourself, what other rumor could spread as fast as that in the poker community? Even a rumor that an online poker company had gone to hell could easily be refuted by logging on and seeing if it were still running.
No, none of that would get alll this attention.
Doyle's rumored arrest was the thing.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
It wasn't at all hard to figure out where the first whiffs of the rumor began. Emad Tahtouh started everything off with a post to The Poker Network, an Australia-based site. In a post that was edited four times over the course of seven or so hours, Tahtouh claimed to have reliable but unsubstantiated information that Brunson has been arrested. Where he initially heard this rumor is unknown, but by 3:30pm on the day the rumor started, even Tahtouh was calling bullshit on himself. What he couldn't take back were the tons of blogs and forum posts that followed his initial cry. Most sites reported the story by way of a "Doyle Brunson Arrested?" headline with links to the offending forum post. It didn't matter that by 1pm Gambling 911 was reporting that the reports were all a bunch of "hooey." The seed had been planted. More importantly, the Google spiders had already started crawling.
Spiders, you say? Well, of course. It is no secret why Brunson's non-story spread as fast as it did. A story like this, even if it doesn't have even a lick of truth to it, is going to be searched on Google more times than we can all count on our digits. And that's traffic, baby. And traffic is the same thing as money in the online world.
While it's not an apples-to-apples comparison, consider the death of Anna Nicole Smith. The
star let died under mysterious circumstances in a second-rate casino in Florida. The ensuing news coverage eclipsed anything we would've seen if most members of Congress died. A one-time serious newsman, Wolf Blitzer dedicated the whole of his "Situation Room" program to live wall-to-wall coverage of Smith's demise. Where a sarcastic Jack Cafferty asked in his toss-back to Blitzer, "Is Anna Nicole Smith still dead?" (read: I just talked about a bunch of serious shit, now back to your fluff), Blitzer kept a straight face, as if Smith's death was in fact the international mystery he was making it out to be. Only one news person (not even really a news person) really fessed up about it. Court TV's Jami Floyd said (paraphrasing here) "Why did we give so much coverage to Anna Nicole Smith? Ratings, that's why."
We here are no exception, to be sure. We make SEO efforts like everybody else. In fact, it could be legitimately argued that what we're doing here is the same thing that fueled this rumor to begin with. And we wouldn't argue that. Regardless, it is an interesting foundation for a debate about the free exchange of information and the risk/reward of allowing citizen journalists to influence how we spend our days. All in all, this thing was up and down in less than 12 hours. The thing about the internet, though, is that, regardless of how quick it's up and down, it's here forever. If you don't believe it, just ask John Seigenthaler Sr. A lot of people still think there's a chance he killed Robert Kennedy.
In the end, what we have here amounts to the struggles of an industry and its players. Everybody wants some news to get them through the day. There are dark hours when many of us wonder if this hobby or our jobs will even be around in a year. When we are weary, we look to our forefathers and we look for information. Sometimes, we get on such tilt that we're willing to believe just about anything--even if we did hear it from a poker player.<-- Hide More
There is no plot. It's like life. The game waxes and wanes despite my playing, sleeping, winning, or losing. It's all underground. It's all in a couple of illegal poker rooms within a 30-minute drive of my house. Online poker gives us the freedom to see thousands more hand per year. Live games, especially the ones in the illegal rooms, give us the chance to see people--nay, characters--that serve as a nucleus to a confounding human drama that surrounds the underground poker community. If it were one long story, I would write it. Instead, it's just people.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The girl with the name that means Christmas was on a flush draw. If it wasn't evident by the way she was playing her hand, it was pretty clear she needed a diamond to come off. She was singing, just loud enough for everybody to hear, "Diamonds are a girl's best friend."
Christmas lady is pretty enough, in her mid-30s, and a lover of domestic beer. She's tight, friendly, and void of negative emotion. She knows how to deal with bullshit and she doesn't care if she's giving off a tell bigger than the room. Oddly, no one noticed her singing but Snake and me, neither of whom was in the hand.
"Do you know who sang that song?" Snake asked. His voice was all New York City. We know his name because it is tattooed in the soft part of his throat, where a doctor would punch a hole for a tracheotomy. He wore a t-shirt with cut-off sleeves.
Christmas had drank more beer on this night than she usually did. Taking her eyes off the cards for a second, she laughed, "Janet Jackson?"
Snake looked like mildly disgusted. Or depressed. It was hard to tell. His face looked like it had launched a thousand Harleys and his skin looked like it rarely saw light. Prison-skin, I thought at the time.
A few other people asked "Which song?" and then ventured guesses that ranged from the inspired to the ridiculous. Snake didn't shake his head or sigh. His eyes told the whole story.
After Christmas had missed her flush and mucked, she turned to Snake. "So, who sang it?"
Snake's eyes went a little dreamy. It was the look of an old man remembering the war. The permanent paint that spanned the length of Snake's thick arms told a story of a hard life, one spent fighting and fucking and riding until it was time to quit drinking. But his eyes, they told a tale of times gone by, of lonely nights, and of the one time he cried.
"Marilyn Monroe," he said.
The players "ahhhh"-ed appreciatively and then looked at their hole cards.
A little softer, Snake said, "You wanna see her?"
I thought I knew what he meant. His life story was painted up and down his arms, on the back of his neck, on his throat. I knew Norma Jean was somewhere on his body.
Snake reached down and pulled his left pant leg up to his knee. In the shadow of the poker table, I saw her. The Blonde Bombshell, in perfect strokes, stared out from stage right on his shin. And she had company. Bogey, straight out of Casablanca, was at stage left. In the orchestra pit, near Snake's black dress sock, was Elvis.
Christmas' husband and I stared, maybe a little too long, then complimented the work. Snake said he'd had it done in Anaheim. While he talked, I wondered how a man with such a thick New York accent had made it all the way across country to California, then down to the backwoods of South Carolina to play poker in an underground game. I supposed if Snake had stripped naked, I could've read the story for myself.
It wasn't long after the shin show that Snake stood and cashed out a little bit to the good. Someone asked him to stay for a little while longer.
"Can't," Snake said. He looked a little embarassed. "Got a guy coming to wax my bike in the morning."
No one said a word, but Snake seemed like he needed to offer more. "First time I've let someone else do it in my life. Gotta supervise."
And then, "My knees just can't handle it anymore."
And that was Snake, it seemed. He'd been from one coast to another on two wheels. He'd paid people to record his life from neck to foot. Whether by choice or circumstance, Snake had found his way to a community that was neither city nor Calafornia paradise. Whether he was on the lam or just tired, Snake was now playing poker and paying people to shine his ride.
Snaked walked out and we kept playing as the Harley started in the yard and sputtered into the night.
Some of the people are just people. They are the guy who sits down and within three minutes has somehow worked into the conversation that he had withdrawn his entire lifesavings the night before Krispy Kreme went public and invested it in the next day's IPO. He's the guy who doesn't notice or doesn't care when most of his opponents roll their eyes and talk about pulling out the hip-waders.
Then there's the guy who rarely wins or stays late. He invests his first half buy-in and then leaves. He's bookish, aging, and polite. On one night, he will get lucky. It will be the night that people are astounded when he hits sets four times in an hour and draws out for a 2.5 buy-in pot with an open-ender versus top two. The same man, who no one has ever heard utter a foul word in his life, is asked, "What did you eat for breakfast this morning?"
Without a beat, the 60-ish man stacks his chips, looks up, and says, "Pussy."
Then there's the guy who calls for a jack every time he is in a pot. He has hair that looks like a bad toupee but is not. He rarely speaks and has a Doyle Brunson gaze when he looks at the table. The only other interesting thing about the guy is that people call him "Jimmy Foreskin."
"One thousand dollars," he muttered.
The Greeks had walked in several hours earlier and had been playing at different tables than I had. I had no idea whether they had collectively lost $1,000 or if the guy muttering had lost $1,000 himself.
"One thousand dollars," he said again, and then looked at his buddy across the table. "One thousand dollars tonight? We could've had women, and drugs, and...women. But, no, you wanted to play cards."
Over the course of the conversation, I gathered that the Greeks were gypsies who had spent most of their life in South Carolina. One of the group seemed like he had Americanized himself very well. The other two still seemed stuck in the world of fortune telling, spells, and the art of theivery.
"We wouldn't have spent $1,000 at Platinum," the Americanized Greek protested. "No way we spend $1,000 at Platinum."
A young American kid broke into the conversation. "Why go to Platinum? Go to Nepals. Take $40 and go into the VIP room at Nepals and you'll come out one satisfied customer."
American Greek seemed to enjoy the potential debate. "No. Platinum. It's the best." Even the kid didn't seem to want to argue the issue. It was a matter of preference. But the Greek continued. "I go in the back room of Platinum--I come in my pants."
Nearly every player at the table looked up from their cards, but no one said a word.
"I do! I come in my pants," he shouted, as if we didn't believe him. "Go in the back room, come in my pants. I do!"
For the first time in hours, the table was completely quiet, as if two seconds of silence could serve as a collective, "Right on, man. Thanks for sharing."
"Florida," said the first Greek. "We could've left tonight with $1,000 and gone to Florida. Women, drugs, women. And you wanted to play cards."<-- Hide More
I don't understand it, I tell myself. My kind of gamble is a semi-bluff with twelve outs twice. My kind of gamble is eating the pizza that's been sitting in the box overnight. My kind of gamble is not equipped for what's happening in the room around me.
See, it's nighttime and I've not been sleeping well. The beds and pillows are the kind that will eventually pleasure-slap me into a plane-missing coma. But for now, I need Monaco beer and 18 hours worth of work to feel at all sleepy.
But, you know, now I do feel a little bushed. I feel like I could take a little nappy nap. But I can't, because this room is just too full of action.
No, I don't get it. It's electric like a Kansas thunderstorm. It is as sick and stimulating as a bloody car wreck. And my feet and knees are throbbing, but I'm not leaving the room. Hell, no.
Because, this isn't the kind of thing you see when your home game breaks up. This isn't your drunk neighbor betting your other drunk neighbor $20 he can hit a three-pointer with his eyes closed.
And, hell, this isn't even what's happening behind me. Yeah, behind me, Greg "Fossilman" Raymer is now heads-up with Per "Nemo" Ummer. They're finishing up a $10,000 sit and go. And Raymer, he's going to win it. He's going to win like $60,000 or $70,000 and not blink.Greg Raymer faces Per Ummer in a pick-up SNG
Yeah, the buy-in to that one was merely ten grand. That's the kind of kiddie bets they were making at table five. (Later, the boys wouldn't feel enough of the action and up the buy-ins to $20,000 and $30,000).
No, right now, the action is all Chinese.
Martin de Knijff, Ram Vaswani, Erik Sagstrom, and Patrik Antonius are playing Chinese Poker, and though there is no money on the table, the ever-changing score sheet and the vast amount of attention being paid to it is indication enough that this game is off the charts.High stakes Chinese Poker
I'm not even sure what rumors to believe any more. Is it $1,000 a point? Three grand a point? I don't know anymore. I just know that this game has been going on forever. The players have ordered pizzas and they've gone through three or four sweaters a piece.
And, really, fuck this 'one player to a hand' rule. I'm not even sure who is playing anymore, because it seems everybody and their brother is setting the players' hands for them. Girlfriends are there. Wives are there. It's an ever-changing cast of charcaters where the only constant is that this ... is....fucking...crazy.Martin de Knijff and his sweater set his Chinese hand
What's crazy is that I barely understand the rules of the game. Somebody called it Rich Man's Pai Gow. And yeah, I know the concept behind all of it, but I wouldn't sit down and play for $5 a point, let alone risking my bankroll ten or fifteen hands.
Of course, these guys aren't risking their bankroll. These guys are all millionaires. In some cases, they are millionaires many times over.
What's more, these guys think they have an edge on each other. Somebody said, "Ram is the live one." And, yeah that was supposed to be the case. Ram was supposed to be the gambler among the gamblers. But, other rumors have the story going another way.
Yeah, that's the story. Ram is winning, man. Ram is winning big. And he's going to keep playing this game until this little festival is over. And yeah, somewhere down the road, Raymer is going to take a break from killing the high-stakes SNGs and he is going to start setting Ram's hands for him. Because, in the parlance of the some of the young railbirds, that's how these guys roll.
Me? Well, I want one of those pizzas with the big hunks of cheese. And I want to be setting my own hands while a line of nubile Nordic women wait in line to whisper in my ear what a fucking stud I am. And I want to drink beer while my wife sleeps in the heavenly bed upstairs, patiently waiting for me to come up and tell her I just won a couple hundred grand, but no big deal because you would've loved me if I'd lost it.
No, I don't want that. I want to stand here with throbbing feet and broken knees and live vicariously through these guys. Why? Because I'm not a gambler.
No, that's not quite right. I AM a gambler, but I'm not this kind of gambler. I'm something else that I've already forgotten about.
Now, I have to remind myself that, beyond being a gambler, I'm a writer. Or, at the very least, I have deluded myself into believing I'm a writer. And THAT is why...THAT is why, I tell myself, I am standing here at three o'clock in the morning. Because THIS is the kind of thing that people don't see.
The question is, does anyone really want to watch this? I mean, these guys are talking, but quietly. They are winning money, but the casual observer can't tell how much, because it is all on paper. Only the winners are going to tell you if they won. And, still, there will never be an accurate accounting of what's going on here.
And yet, I sit and watch. Not because I'm a gambler. Not because I'm a writer. No, I sit and watch because I can't stop.
And, that, I tell myself, is reason enough to stay.<-- Hide More
Naughty girls have more fun!
It's on my T-shirt and as good of a credo to live by as any. Of course, when you're going to class all week and spending the rest of your time in front of a computer pokering, you don't get too much time to be naughty. But I try!
I just got another "A", this time in my Advanced Concepts of Adult Health course. Now as long as I can score that A in my Molecular Biology of the Cell, I'll have a 4.0 for the semester.
Dammit! I knew he hit that flush on the river. But I can't really lay down top set. Grinding out my bonus on Absolute Poker is tough.
Maybe I shouldn't be playing poker, blogging and completing an online test all at the same time. I think SK worries I spend too much time in front of a computer, but when we get to celebrate all of my outstanding grades, she doesn't mind so much.
Ooooh, I just flopped the nut straight. Now if these boys just stick around long enough, I should get back up for the day. I suppose focusing on this test would be a better idea, but this one is pretty easy. I made a 100 on the last test in this course, so I'm not worried so much. Besides how hard is it to bet the nuts? (I just wish I had the nuts more often.)
Uh oh, SK is here. I guess I should finish this test and get moving. We're celebrating my A in Anatomy and Physiology. I'm wearing the nurse outfit I just bought, I think SK likes it.
Sorry boys, told you naughty girls have more fun!
It's fun to say you knew somebody when. As it happens, the poker pro who just won the WPT event in Paris is also a writer from the UK. I met Roland De Wolfe covering the EPT last year and had the pleasure of playing several single table satellites with him. I wonder how long it takes him to strip off the media badge and throw it in the trash.
Nice job, Roland.
There is no questiong that 2004 was the biggest year in poker history. The winner of the WSOP took home a cool $5 million. There have never been prize pools like this. In fact, I'm not sure there is a competitive endeavour in the world that gave away more money at a single event.
And the year was full of amazing performances by some truly great poker players. "The Kid" Daniel Negreanu won 2004's Pro Player of the Year award from Card Player Magazine. He made 11 final tables and pocketed more than $4 million. Third in the player of the year standings is, perhaps, the poker world's most under appreciated player, John Juanda. He made a whopping 15 final tables.
But neither had the most impressive performance of the year. And both would probably agree that that award should go to Gerry Drehobl.
Who?More in this Poker Blog! -->
That's right, I'm picking Gerry Drehobl (pictured above, courtesy Las Vegas Vegas) as the winner of the 2004 Most Impressive Win award. I'm guessing most of you have no idea who Gerry is. But Daniel Negreanu and John Juanda sure do.
Let me take you back to WSOP $1000 NLHE final table. When it got down to five players, the lineup looked like this: Daniel Negreanu, John Juanda, Paul Phillips, Mike Matusow and Gerry Drehobl. The first four names made 34 final tables last year. Drehobl showed up in Vegas in an RV after playing poker for 6 months. Who do you think won?
After Phillips knocked out "The Mouth," we were down to three players in Card Player's top 25, and a guy who wouldn't have ranked in the top 500 without this win.
First, Drehobl looks at J8o in the BB and calls a modest raise from Negreanu, who's holding pocket 10's. The flop is J-8-2. Both players check, a cagey move from an amateur. The turn is a 3 and Negreanu isn't waiting any longer. He bets out, expecting a fold. Drehobl cold calls and Negreanu can't hide his shock. The river is an Ace, but doesn't fill a possible spade flush.
Negreanu checks wondering where he went wrong in the hand. Drehobl bets just enough into Negreanu's big stack that he's sure to get a call. Negreanu basically announces he knows he's beat, but figures the bet will pay off in the information he gets. After the call, Negreanu realizes he was beat from the flop and probably wonders how he misread Drehobl so poorly.
Soon, Drehobl starts seeing some premium hands as well. He raises with the Hilton Sisters and gets called by Juanda's AJo. Phillips, the short stack, pushes in with Snowmen. Drehobl has to call. Juanda is surprised because he was planning to call, but instead gets out of the way. Paris and Nicky hold up, and Phillps is out.
At this point, you have to figure Drehobl has no chance. He's at the table with the two hottest players in poker. These two pros have slaughtered fish after fish all year long. Drehobl doesn't stand a chance.
After a clash between the two titans, Juanda assumes the chip lead from Negreanu, and Negreanu suddenly becomes the short stack. Juanda is on the button and bets out with A9o. "The Kid" looks down at KQs and moves all-in. Drehobl is probably hoping Juanda's hand holds up. But then he looks down at the Hiltons again, and has to call.
Once again, Juanda gets out of the way, and when the cards are flipped, Negreanu can't believe what he's run into. He quickly calculates his odds and realizes he's way, way behind. The flop only brings one diamond and the turn eliminates any flush possibility. The Player of the Year is about to get knocked out by Dead Money, and when the river brings a 7, another giant falls.
Heads up, it's super-pro John Juanda vs. Gerry Drehobl, the man on a family vacation.
The last hand of the tournament brought the amatuer pocket K's. He bets out strongly and Juanda calls with ATo, another strong heads-up hand.
The flop is 7-Q-7. Both players check. Had Drehobl bet here, I'm not sure Juanda could have called.
The turn is a 6 of clubs, putting three clubs on the table. Drehobl has the K of clubs, but Juanda is on the nut flush draw now. Drehobl checks again, but this time Juanda bets. Drehobl cames back over the top and Juanda either doesn't believe Drehobl, or decides to risk his entire stack on a draw. Juanda re-raises all-in and Drehobl calls.
Juanda is looking at 11 outs. The 8 remaining clubs and the three remaining Aces. The river is a black 4, but it's a spade, not a club, and Drehobl completes one of the biggest upsets in recent poker memory. He slayed dragon after dragon. Had Vegas laid odds when it got down to five, I'd imagine Drehobl would have been about a million to 1.
But that's the beauty of this game we play. It's not like some scratch golfer is going to win the Masters. It's not like some weekend tennis player will win Wimbeldon. It's the only sport in the world where you and I have as much chance as anyone to wear that bracelet.<-- Hide More
Talk to world-class poker players, and I'm sure most of them would tell you that they are the best in the world. Confidence is a pretty big part of being a great player, so I can't blame them for holding that opinion. Most of them, however, would be wrong.
Measuring the game's greatest isn't easy. Should "Fossilman" Greg Raymer be considered the world's best until he gets knocked out in next year's WSOP? I don't think so. After all, the poker world hardly considered Chris Moneymaker the world's best during his 12-month reign.More in this Poker Blog! -->
If you go by career WSOP winnings, it's Greg Raymer again, but besides his $5 million check from the Main Event, he's won just $5345. And third place on the career money list? David Williams, who has cashed just once in the WSOP, finishing second to Raymer. Obviously that can't be a barometer.
Phil Helmuth and Johnny Chan each have 9 WSOP bracelets and Chan sports the most recent back-to-back titles in the Main Event. But neither of these world-class players have made much noise in recent years.
Of course, with the proliferation of poker, we now have to consider the influence of the World Poker Tour and other major tournaments. Gus Hansen has certainly proven to be the most feared player on the WPT, but is he the best player in the world?
Perhaps it's a bias of mine, but I still come back to the WSOP, and more specifically, to the big $10,000 NLHE tourney. It's the place where everyone comes to play. In 2004, 2576 players signed up for their chance at the bracelet. In 2003, just 839 people entered, and that was considered a huge field. In 2002, there were 631.
So what is this all leading to? "Action" Dan Harrington, the world's best poker player.
I'll let that sink in.
I know I'm not the only one who believes this. In 2004, Harrington topped 2572 players to finish 4th. In 2003, he beat 836 players to finish 3rd. In two years in the Main Event, Harrington has watched 3408 players get up and walk away as he kept playing. Can any feat in poker match that?
Was it really harder for Johnny Chan to win back to back in 1987 and 1988? He won a total of $1.325 million for those wins (anyone know how many players he bested?). Harrington won $1.5 for his 4th place finish this year. I don't mean to disparage Chan's accomplishment, because no one has really come close to matching it. When you win, everyone is gunning for you.
By the way, it's not like Harrington lacks the ability to close. He won the Main Event in 1995, the same year he won the $2500 NLHE tourney. He's been at the top before, and now he's poker's biggest threat to get to the final table every year.
In today's game, no one has accomplished as much as "Action" Dan on poker's biggest stage, and that makes hi mteh world's best.