Monday, August 03, 2015

The Mistake Is Still There

I am so ready for football. Neither the MLB nor golf is doing it for me these days. I again kind of wish the World Series of Poker would fill this dead period in the sports calendar somehow -- ideally with televised coverage of the conclusion of the Main Event, with the November Nine becoming the August Nine (or something). But that ain’t happening.

Without any games yet to watch, I’m finding myself diverted by the various off-the-field stories swirling about as the season nears. Speaking of, I was diverted a little this afternoon listening to Chris Mortensen, ESPN’s longtime and much respected NFL reporter, talking to Dan Le Batard on his radio show about having been thrust into the middle of this “Deflategate” story involving the defending Super Bowl champs New England Patriots and their quarterback, Tom Brady.

Brady, as you’ve no doubt heard, has been suspended for four games by the NFL following a lengthy investigation into allegations that footballs used by the Pats in the AFC Championship game versus the Indianapolis Colts were underinflated. That investigation culminated in the so-called “Wells Report” in early May that concluded “it is more probable than not” than a couple of equipment assistants for N.E. “participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referees,” and also that it is “more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities.”

Five days after that report was released, the NFL announced Brady’s suspension, with the NFL Players Association promptly appealing it. The team was also fined $1 million and lost a couple of draft picks, penalties which were not appealed.

Thanks to the somewhat absurd procedure previously agreed to by the NFLPA, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell -- who handed down the suspension -- was the one getting to hear the appeal, and last week he upheld the ruling that Brady would be suspended for four games. Now it sounds like Brady will be trying to take the NFL to court over the matter.

Anyhow, backing up to the beginning of all of this there was an article by Mortensen on ESPN on January 21 -- after the AFC Championship game and before the Super Bowl -- appearing under the headline “11 of 12 Pats footballs underinflated.” The article remains on the ESPN site, including the much repeated statements that “The NFL has found that 11 of the New England Patriots’ 12 game balls were inflated significantly below the NFL’s requirements” and that “The investigation found the footballs were inflated 2 pounds per square inch below what’s required by NFL regulations.”

For a few days there, “Deflategate” was all anyone was talking about. In fact the story more or less eclipsed all of the talk about the upcoming game between the Pats and Seattle.

That “Wells Report” in May clarified that apparently neither of those statements were correct. Problems with both are outlined in detail over on the NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk site, if you’re curious. Balls were underinflated, it seems, though not as drastically as those inaccurate statements suggest.

But since the statements were referenced so much from January to May (and then even after May when they were shown to be incorrect), they affected how most viewed the whole episode. And since the NFL often operates like a political candidate insofar as it tends to lean this way or that according to how the public appears to stand, it’s reasonable to think the punishment and denial of the appeal were influenced (indirectly) by the way Mortensen’s report was taken to be true. (That the sources for his reporting -- undisclosed, of course -- no doubt emanated from the NFL itself, provides further reason for outrage among conspiratorial-minded Pats fans.)

Anyway, I didn’t mean to get carried away with summarizing all of that. Mainly I just wanted to respond briefly to Mortensen’s strange self-defense on the DLB show today, where he explained how he had compiled information from multiple sources to deliver his statements about the number of footballs that had been inflated “significantly below” the required levels. When asked what needed to be corrected in his article, Mortensen answered “What needs to be corrected has been corrected,” adding “I didn’t correct it on Twitter, which was a mistake by the way.”

But the article hasn’t been corrected. That’s a screenshot of the opening of it above, captured today (click to embiggen). The mistake is still there.

Later Mortensen gets asked “Is there a need to retract the original story?” and after answering no, he defends using the adverb “significantly” as a judgment call (which is fair) but repeats that “the two pounds PSI, that was obviously an error and clarified and corrected.” Again, it is strange to hear him insist the article has been corrected when it hasn’t been.

Regarding his failing to issue any kind of correction over Twitter, that he seems desirous to defend as an oversight caused by a lack of familiarity with social media. I was just writing on Friday about how Twitter remains for me a kind of ephemeral way of communicating, which tends to make me a lot more forgiving of mistakes, lack of clarity, or other faux pas occurring there. But as I mentioned, Twitter is still a form of communication, and obviously journalists still must adhere to the same ethical practices regardless of the medium they are using for their reporting.

Mortensen almost sounds unaware of the fact that his article wasn’t corrected. Or perhaps it was corrected somewhere else (in another article? over the air on ESPN?) and he’s operating under the assumption that covers it (when, of course, it doesn’t).

Almost sounds like a poker player recounting a misplayed hand who having figured out his mistake early on, begins incorporating self-censure when telling the story of the hand thereafter (“I checked, but I meant to bet half the pot. Anyway he checked, too, and the turn came...”). However, by telling the story in that way he makes the error less apparent to himself, to the point where the correction becomes more obvious to him than the original mistake.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Ten Thousand Tweets

Was noticing over the last several weeks that the total for the number of tweets I’ve sent from @hardboiledpoker was approaching 10,000. Today I got there, with the tweet I sent to announce this post being the one.

It actually has taken me a while finally to reach that milestone after first noticing I was getting close. It took me a little over a month to get from 9,900 to 10,000 tweets. I first opened my Twitter account on April 9, 2009. That was 2,304 days ago which means I’ve been averaging sending out a little over four tweets per day over the last six years-plus.

Went back today to find my first tweet, pictured above. You can see before I even get to the end of that one how I’m distracted by the medium itself, self-reflexively counting down the characters at the end.

Seeing my reference to an article about Twitter by Otis (Brad Willis), I was curious to track it down once more. I headed over to Rapid Eye Reality, the blog Brad started way, way back in 2001 (about five years before I began Hard-Boiled Poker), and found his post dated April 9, 2009 titled “Much Atwitter About Nothing.”

He begins engagingly -- as he always does -- suggesting “Twitter is the Keanu Reeves of the internet.” Then he proceeds to list by category those who were then complaining about Twitter:

  • Advertising and branding people who can’t figure out if it’s important
  • Hipsters who have to hate anything a lot of people like
  • Companies that feel like they have to use it but don’t know why
  • People who don’t know what a Twitter is and are afraid to put one in their pants
  • “My favorite criticisms,” Brad continues, “are those who use Twitter to talk bad about Twitter,” following that with a list of examples I won’t cut-and-paste here, because you’ve been reading the same kinds of statements about Twitter on your feed for the last six-plus years, too.

    “As far as I’m concerned,” Brad says, “you’re better off wringing your hands about Keanu Reeves.” That is to say, in his estimation, Twitter was hardly something to get too worked up over. Sure, like Reeves (then), it was a conspicuous part of our cultural landscape, something hard to avoid if you wanted to. That said, it was (at least then) something more or less innocuous -- an occasionally entertaining diversion.

    “I use Twitter the same as I use the blog,” he concludes. “It’s a way to communicate. If you’re in the business of communication, you should know Twitter. If you don’t, you’re behind.”

    I feel like over the years I’ve mostly thought of Twitter in a similar way, simply viewing it (and using it) as another way to communicate, although I’ve always been more inclined to express opinions here on the blog than over there. Even though I agree Twitter is real, actual communication, it still feels ephemeral to me, despite the fact that I can search back through all 10,000 of my tweets if I wish, as well as the tweets of others. And while I generally like Twitter, I do sometimes experience a kind of Twitter weariness such as I was describing a few months ago in “Time for a Twitter Break?

    If you’ve read any of those 10,000 tweets of mine and looked at the photos and other silliness I’ve broadcast there, you’ve perhaps gotten to know me a bit, much as have those who’ve read what I’ve been posting on this blog over the years. And if that’s the case, thanks for following and responding and communicating with me along the way.

    See you on Twitter, then. And definitely not on Facebook. Speaking of, the occasion of tweet #10,000 is reminding me of tweet #5,000 (pictured at left).

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    Thursday, July 30, 2015

    Back When Everything Needed Explaining

    There’s a new thread on 2+2 decrying the level of play at the conclusion of the 1987 WSOP Main Event as evidenced by 43-minute video of the final table you can watch on YouTube.

    It’s an interesting final table, with Bob Ciaffone, Howard Lederer, Dan Harrington, and eventual winner Johnny Chan among the final six. If you click on the link to watch, you’ll see the first few minutes taken up with introductions of the scene and players, then a quick primer on how to play no-limit Texas hold’em.

    Those little instructional segments continued to appear as part of the ESPN broadcasts of the WSOP up through the start of the “boom,” although looking back I think by 2005 they’d already dropped them. At least I don’t see it at the start of the first episode from that year’s Main Event.

    By the way, I was just distracted by that opening show from the 2005 ME, highlighted by Jennifer Harman losing with queens full to Cory Zeidman’s straight flush (a river one-outer), some laugh-out-loud hilarity from Brad Garrett, Greg Raymer’s red-hot start where he picked up hand after hand and was consistently paid off, and 90-year-old Victor Goulding making quads in one hand then a little later being given a 10-minute penalty for cursing (no shinola).

    (Also interesting, both John Duthie and Vicky Coren are shown playing hands in the episode, yet neither are identified. In fact, Coren is sitting next to Goulding and was involved in his quads hand -- was Victor v. Victoria.)

    The instructional segments went away, of course, as more and more started playing poker -- many playing no-limit hold’em exclusively -- and it became apparent such explanations were mostly superfluous. Watching those segments today sparks a bit of nostalgia, while also calling to mind the effect they had back when we first saw them.

    For those of us who already knew what a flop, turn, and river were, the segments were perhaps a bit tedious to sit through, but I’m realizing today how they might have served as confidence-builders to some (or many?).

    Hearing someone explain something that you already know all about produces at least a couple of by-products, I think. One is a kind of self-affirmation, especially when the explanation checks out in all particulars with your own understanding. A second is the suggestion that someone actually needs the explanation -- i.e., that there are those whose level of understanding doesn’t match your own.

    In other words, while the how-to segments might have been designed primarily to help non-players understand the game they are watching, and secondarily as a way of encouraging some of them to give the game a try, they also certainly provided a measure of encouragement to those already familiar with the game.

    And as far as the level of play (by some) in those old shows is concerned, that, too, was certainly encouraging to many as well.

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    Wednesday, July 29, 2015

    Learn, Chat, and Play with the Non-Pros

    Post-Black Friday, I kept Full Tilt Poker on my laptop even though as an American I was no longer able to play real money games on the site. I occasionally goofed around a little with play money on there, although my main purpose for not deleting FTP was the fact that I still had money left on the site (even if my balance was no longer showing it).

    A full two-and-a-half years after Black Friday, I submitted a petition to get my balance back, then in June 2014 (more than three years after BF), I finally received the cabbage.

    Incidentally, I vaguely suspect that getting that transfer of my FTP funds from the Department of Justice might possibly have precipated my Fifth Third Bank account -- which I’d had for nearly 11 years -- being suddenly closed four months later with zero explanation. (Would be a suitably nutty postscript to the absurd funds-retrieval saga, if so.)

    Meanwhile at some point a while back I got a new laptop, and didn’t bother to download FTP this time as I had little reason for it. I still enjoy play money games, but have always like PokerStars better, anyway, and so when I do play I just do so on PS.

    All of which means I’m not really in the loop so much anymore when it comes to the news like that from a couple of days ago that Full Tilt Poker -- or just “Full Tilt” (as they style it now) -- has made some fairly significant changes to the client affecting their cash games.

    For starters, it sounds like there is no lobby anymore and thus no way for players to choose particular tables. Rather, they choose their game and stakes, then get seated automatically.

    Over on the Full Tilt blog, Dominic Mansour, Managing Director at Full Tilt, likens the procedure to seating in live games where players get on a list or “tell the poker room manager what game they want to play and the poker room manager will take them to a table with a free seat so they can start playing right away.”

    In a video about the changes, it is explained that “online ring game lobbies can all too often look like fast-moving spreadsheets, which can be a little confusing” -- which is kinda true, actually, even for some of us with lots of experience on the sites. (Such is why filters are needed on Stars.)

    Relatedly, when games become short-handed reseating automatically occurs to merge the tables, which I guess could be said partially to resemble what happens in live rooms as well. In any case, the major difference here is not being able to select particular opponents against whom to play, although I guess players can still choose not to play against certain players by simply getting up after being seated with them.

    Another big change is the removal of all heads-up games, which according to Mansour had become “adversely affected by the minority of experienced players who targeted ‘weaker’ opponents rather than take on all challengers” -- i.e., by the practice of “bum hunting.” He also argues that heads-up games were “intimidating and confusing” for new players, who maybe couldn’t figure out why people were sitting out and opponent selecting.

    They’ve also gotten rid of higher-stakes non-hold’em offerings like stud, draw, and mixed games, although the comment from Mansour regarding that change doesn’t specifically address why. “The new structure will present a clean offering for all players and we consider these ring game changes to be key to Full Tilt’s ongoing commitment to provide a level playing field and attracting and retaining more casual poker players,” he says.

    I used to think a lot about the “ecology” of online poker, although never really felt as though I had too much insight into how it all worked (despite occasionally opining on the subject). Clearly Full Tilt is responding to its having slipped traffic-wise since the site’s relaunch in November 2012, falling well behind other second-tier sites like 888, partypoker, the iPoker network, and Winamax, and the still-U.S.-serving Bovada (Bodog).

    These changes seem designed to focus on promoting the segment of the player pool (recreational players, including new ones) where the potential for growth still exists while diminishing the importance of serving full-timers or professionals. I suppose I get it, although for those who are fans of the site and long-time players on it, I can’t imagine they are all that enthused by such radical moves.

    Thinking back to the original Full Tilt Poker and its launch more than a decade ago, it’s a 180-degree turn away from the “Learn, Chat, and Play with the Pros” campaign of old, as well as a distancing from the faint echo of that idea demonstrated by “The Professionals” campaign that arose with Full Tilt 2.0 and has since been abandoned.

    I guess trying to sell amateurs on the idea of playing with pros was always sketchy as a marketing strategy, even if learning from the pros and chatting with them might have once seemed an attraction. Now it seems there is a desire to sell the idea that the poor newbie will be protected from the pros so as to be able to learn, chat, and play exclusively with those on their own level.

    Or maybe just to chat and play, and not learn so much.

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    Tuesday, July 28, 2015

    Still the Same

    Since moving to the farm a little over a year-and-a-half ago, Vera Valmore and I have finally gotten ourselves settled (more or less), having established various routines to help maintain everything while constantly dealing with new challenges, most having to do with repairs to the barn and/or frequently used equipment. I’ve never in my life spent so much time with hammers, wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers.

    It is no longer the case that everything is new to us. The routines are becoming more and more familiar, and while repetition can induce tedium, there is also a kind of pleasure that can come from it, too.

    One practice we established early on was to keep a radio playing in the barn day and night. Don’t know if the horses care one way or the other about the music, but after dealing with a skunk who tried to take up residence in there we read that the noise helps keep them away. We still see skunks about now and then -- in fact, about a month ago we saw a troupe of five of them slinking across the back yard, closely bunched as though they formed a single, frightening-looking mega-skunk. But we’ve seen no Pepé le Pews in the barn, thankfully.

    We started out playing a classical station, then at some point early on switched it over to the local classic rock one -- you know, the one that plays a rotation of a few hundred songs we’ve all been hearing for years and years. Some tunes I like, some I don’t, and quite a few I’m ambivalent about even if they manage to enliven in a dim way that nostalgic part of the brain that makes things that are familiar seem pleasurable.

    I mean, I own exactly zero Bob Seger LPs. I feel like once I might have had a cassette of Against the Wind, but that was very long ago. If we were to apply the “VP$IP” stat from poker to him and his oeuvre, I voluntarily play Bob Seger -- my current VPBS -- is exactly 0.0. Yet I know every note and lyric of at least a dozen of his songs, thanks to their inclusion on that endless loop of tunes I heard in my childhood and have continued to hear over the decades since.

    If you ever listen to the “classic rock” station where you live -- probably in the car, I’d imagine, which for many is the only place they are exposed to FM radio anymore -- you’ve probably heard some of the same drops my station includes in between songs touting their playlist as “timeless” and “the best music ever made.”

    I suppose just by the evidence of playing music first written and recorded 40 years ago or more, the “timeless” claim is being aggressively proven by the mere fact of these stations’ existence. However, the argument about it being “the best music ever made” is obviously one with which many people -- especially those outside of the (now aging) target demographic -- would take issue.

    (Speaking of, search online about “classic rock” and you soon learn the term “demographic cliff,” used in concert with the idea that the first audience for such music is dying out. As Mick Jagger -- who turned 72 over the weekend -- once sang, what a drag it is getting old.)

    Something occurred to me this morning while feeding the horses to the accompaniment of Leon Russell’s “Tight Rope” and Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock,” though -- something that might help explain from where this “best ever” claim might be coming. Those of us who grew up listening to just a few radio stations or watching three television networks or going to the same few movies that played for weeks at a time in the local theater shared a lot of the same cultural experiences, with these various artifacts helping provide odd little touchstones that significantly shaped the way we learned how to relate to others, for better or worse.

    Meanwhile now people experience popular culture much differently, in more fragmented ways that among other things can involve a lot more consumer direction (if the consumer desires such freedom of choice, that is). The phenomenon is more complicated than that, of course, but it starts to explain at least one difference between the present and the past, and also the source for that insistence by some that what came before represented the “best” cultural products “ever made.”

    I guess the Seger song that best emblematizes the mass psychological experiment of “classic rock” is about has to be “Still the Same.” You know it, the one addressed to a gambler -- a poker player, presumably -- who “always won every time you placed a bet.” Of the gambler, Seger sings “you always said the cards would never do you wrong.” And like the old card player in “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers, Seger’s understands the importance of knowing when to walk away: “The trick, you said, was never play the game too long.”

    But while he never plays a particular game too long, he’s more or less stuck in his role, not unlike a song being played over and over and over again. As the chorus explains, the gambler is a lot like those poker “lifers,” destined (doomed?) to keep “moving game to game.”

    Because (the song concludes) -- like that playlist of “Dream On” and “More Than a Feeling” and “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Magic Man” and “The Joker” I can count on hearing every time I go back into the barn -- “some things never change.”

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    Monday, July 27, 2015

    Rebozo, Abplanalp, Nixon, and Poker

    Those who are aware of Richard Nixon’s poker playing might know about his having played while a Naval officer stationed in the south Pacific during WWII, including perhaps the curious detail that money won by Nixon from those games of draw and stud would later be used to help fund his initial Congressional campaign in 1946.

    Once he’d begun his political career, Nixon continued to play poker with fellow Congressmen in weekly games, and would keep playing in those games -- albeit less frequently -- during his two terms serving as Dwight Eisenhower’s vice president (although he never played with Ike, himself a skilled player by most accounts).

    After losing the presidential election to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and then also the race for governor of California two years later, Nixon and his family moved to New York where he worked in a law firm over the next stretch -- the “wilderness years,” as this period out of the public spotlight is sometimes called.

    Nixon joined several prominent men’s clubs in and around New York, more than likely playing poker occasionally when visiting them. That said, he was kept busy doing quite a bit else during that time, including frequently traveling abroad, and once the campaigning for the ’68 election began in earnest, he likely played very little.

    While president, Nixon played even less frequently, with the most likely context for such games occurring when away from the White House, in particular when visiting the home in Key Biscayne, a.k.a. “The Florida White House” to which he took trips on more than 50 occasions during the five-and-a-half years he was in office.

    Nixon bought the home in 1969, not long after taking office, which was located near the residences of his two closest friends, Charles “Bebe” Rebozo (pictured with RN above) and Bob Abplanalp (below). The son of Cuban immigrants, Rebozo was a banker and businessman whom Nixon first met in 1950 (in fact they were introduced by the Congressman from whom Nixon would later by the Florida home). Nixon met Abplanalp later during those New York years. He was an inventor credited with coming up with the aerosol valve, an invention which helped him to extreme wealth.

    Both names are so unusual -- appearing as they do amid Nixon‘s already exceedingly unusual story -- they almost seem as though invented, like a couple of Thomas Pynchon characters.

    References to the trio often mention poker -- along with fishing and drinking -- as a favorite pastime. An article in Sports Illustrated from December 8, 1969 focusing on Abplanalp’s fishing exploits mentions his special affinity for poker as well as his friendship with Nixon, although doesn’t specifically refer to poker games between them.

    In January 1974, Hunter S. Thompson wrote a piece for The New York Times called “Fear and Loathing in the Bunker” in which he correctly predicts Nixon will be resigning, envisioning as he does a post-presidency scene in which card playing is one detail.

    “If I were a gambling person,” writes Thompson, “which I am, whenever possible -- I would bet that Nixon will resign for ‘reasons of health’ within the next six months.” The cited cause of the resignation isn’t accurate and it would take a couple months longer, but otherwise Thompson’s bet was a good one.

    “There will be all-night poker games on the palm-screened patio, with other wealthy exiles like Howard Hughes and Robert Vesco and occasionally Bebe Rebozo,” Thompson continues, shifting the scene southward. “And Nixon, the doomed exile, will spend the daylight hours dictating his memoirs in a permanent state of high fever and vengefulness to his faithful secretary and companion, Rose Mary Woods.” (Indeed, Nixon would spend those first years focused heavily on his memoirs, published in 1978.)

    A 1977 article in People repeats the reference to Rebozo, Abplanalp, and Nixon being “fishing, drinking and poker buddies.” And many accounts of Nixon’s first learning about the Watergate break-in while in Key Biscayne depict him relaxing following the first Moscow summit with his friends, in the midst of seeking escape in a friendly game of cards when first reading the news of the DNC break-in and arrests.

    One reporter who would occasionally accompany Nixon on the trips to Florida, Richard Beeston, would later write how “it was Nixon’s idea of relaxation to spend hours and hours aboard a small houseboat with Rebozo, a Cuban-born Miami banker, and Abplanalp, the multi-millionaire inventor of the aerosol valve, playing poker, drinking and using the below-deck language of his US Navy days.”

    “It was on such a weekend,” Beeston continues, “that Nixon first learned of the break-in.”

    If poker were played between Rebozo, Abplanalp, and Nixon, no details from those games survive. Nixon said nothing about them, and his two “confidants” were both consistently unwilling to divulge details about their friendship with the president or the time they spent with him.

    In fact, a profile of Abplanalp appearing in the March 5, 1971 isssue of Life magazine suggests that despite the inventor’s fondness for poker, he and Nixon had never played at all.

    “Oddly, according to Abplanalp, he and the President do not play cards,” it says. “Abplanalp loves poker, gin or hearts, but he says he did not know Nixon had a reputation as a poker player until he read it in Life” (referring to a famous profile of RN that had appeared about four months before).

    Any cards those three might have played would have been strictly for entertainment, I tend to think, a far cry from the approach Nixon took when winning thousands as a Naval officer some three decades earlier.

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    Friday, July 24, 2015

    The GPI Turns Three

    Saw this morning Alexandre Dreyfus tweeting that the Global Poker Index was marking its third anniversary today.

    I couldn’t resist cheekily responding by pointing out that according to the GPI’s own “Aging Factor” for which results more than three years old no longer count in the rankings, they’ll “need to pick up more points now to replace those from the start.”

    Kind of interesting to think how much the GPI has managed over these three years to locate itself near the center of everything as far as tournament poker goes. The rankings get referenced a lot in poker media, most full-time tourney players are at least aware of them (if not genuinely motivated by them), and of course the various events and partnerships (such as with the WSOP) have increased the GPI’s profile even further.

    The use of the GPI’s formula to determine the WSOP Player of the Year this time around earned a lot of cynical response (including from your humble scribbler), but setting that aside, the general ranking system has at least worked to some extent as a kind of shorthand reference indicating players’ relative consistency when it comes to tournaments.

    Think about tournament poker as it was played 10 years ago, during the height of the “boom.” How were players’ performances judged against one another then? And, concomitantly, how were online sponsorships -- in abundance then -- awarded?

    It was a fairly scattershot process, almost entirely manipulated by television exposure. That’s not to say the GPI is the best way to measure what tournament players have done and thereby suggest what they might do in the future, but at least there’s a kind of method being followed that is more obviously meaningful and less random.

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    Thursday, July 23, 2015

    Caesars’ Swoon and the WSOP

    Noticed earlier this week that Twitter-related flare-up that saw poker pro Matt Glantz tweet a list of suggestions for improving the World Series of Poker, and the initial response from WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel less than half an hour later to block Glantz. (He’s since been unblocked, Glantz reports.)

    Was kind of hilarious to see that playing out on the timeline Monday afternoon in between my reporting on the penultimate day of poker in Peru. Of course, those of us who have followed the WSOP’s various accounts on Twitter have gotten used to this sort of behavior. I’m talking about these seemingly hostile responses (or non-responses) to criticism or even just vague references that something is less than ideal.

    Goes without saying this kind of thing doesn’t help at all when it comes to promoting the WSOP as a friendly brand. In fact it almost seems self-sabotaging in a way, although obviously not intentionally.

    Was thinking again about this sort of digging-a-hole-even-deeper sort of dynamic yesterday when reading the news about Caesars’ stock falling so fast they had to stop trading for a short while.

    Caesars Entertainment Co. has been trying to deal with a nearly $23 billion debt over the last many months. They restructured in the spring of 2014, splitting into three units and moving most of the debt over into one of them, Caesars Entertainment Operating Co. Then this past January the CEOC filed for bankruptcy, which then prompted a bunch of lawsuits from creditors angry about the restructuring and viewing the whole rigmarole as having been rigged to dodge billions’ worth of debt.

    Caesars had tried to stop the creditors’ lawsuits from going forward, but a judge in June ruled against those efforts in one case, then another yesterday ruled in favor of the creditors in the others. That’s what spurred the sudden plunge in the CZR stock on NASDAQ, which hit a nadir at $3.30 per share, I believe, amid a crazy surge in trading (causing the brief halt during the afternoon).

    If you bought a share of CZR back in late February 2014, it would have cost you almost $26. It closed today at $5.14 just a little while ago.

    The WSOP and WSOP.com are not part of the embattled CEOC unit -- they belong to Caesars Interactive. That said, the news on Wednesday that the lawsuits can go forward means that the parent company might also be forced to declare bankruptcy. Which one assumes would ultimately affect the WSOP, perhaps sooner than later.

    Gotta be a pressurized place to be right now, I imagine, so like the amiable Glantz I’m inclined to cut Effel and others doing what they can at the WSOP a little slack. Still, curious to see how Caesars can avoid continuing its downward spiral, and what might happen to the WSOP if it cannot.

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    Wednesday, July 22, 2015

    LAPT8 Peru, Day 4: Into the Night

    In one sense, the last day of the Latin American Poker Tour Peru Main Event was surprisingly long.

    After starting at noon, the final table wasn’t over until around 10-10:30 p.m., which is about 4-5 hours longer than the LAPT final tables usually tend to go. Heads-up alone went over four hours, which had us all wondering about whether or not we might be watching one of the longest finales ever in the tour’s history.

    That said, the super-quick penultimate day that saw 32 play down to eight in the space of just four one-hour levels kind of set things up for a longer last day, given the deep stacks most of the players had coming back.

    The protracted finish ended up messing up our dinner plans -- often the last night becomes a good chance to go out for a good, final meal -- but it was fun, nonetheless, to order pizzas and have them delivered to the casino. They arrived just as Chile’s Claudio Moya won the last hand versus Lebanon’s Chadi Moustapha to take the trophy and title, allowing us to gain some needed nourishment while finishing up our last reporting duties.

    As it happened, I ended up having still other business to take care of after that, which ultimately meant I couldn’t finally get to sleep until after 2. That wasn’t necessarily ideal, as my shuttle to the airport was scheduled for 4:30 a.m. (ouch), but I was able to force myself up early enough to get showered, packed, and head back out into the night to begin the process of leaving Peru even before sunrise.

    The flights were fine and on time, although we had a weird thing happen in Miami where we almost touched down, then suddenly and without warning the plane rose back up again to circle about the airport and try the landing a second time. The audible was called because of some weather, we were told, and the second try went just fine, but it was an odd enough finish to the flight to remain lingering in the brain for a while afterwards.

    Managed to negotiate my way through to my terminal in the always-baffling Miami International Airport, then got home early evening in time to enjoy a late dinner with Vera, my day’s journey of 3,300 miles or so having come to an end.

    Was a fun time, but once more I am very glad to be back with Vera and our four-legged friends on the farm. Time to rest.

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    Tuesday, July 21, 2015

    LAPT8 Peru, Day 3: Well, That Escalated Quickly

    We are about a half-hour away from the final table getting started here at the Latin American Poker Tour Peru Main Event. That to the left is a look at the scene at present -- quiet now, though sure to enliven shortly.

    Day 3 was kind of a weird one yesterday, as they managed to hustle down from 32 players to eight in just four-and-a-half hours -- in truth just about four hours’ worth of play.

    It wasn’t as though the stacks were especially short. The calls of “all in” just kept happening over and over, seemingly every time we’d looked down from the last one. Was kind of interesting as well to see the top four players in the counts with 32 left all fall shy of making the eight-handed final table.

    The day’s final hand kind of stood as a ready emblem of the whole day, actually. They’d just redrawn for the nine-handed table, the “unofficial” final table which would play on until one more fell. The stacks were plenty deep, thanks in part to the rapid pace, and we were settling in for what often at the LAPTs becomes a lengthy final table bubble, sometimes lasting a couple of hours or more as they try to get from nine to eight.

    But after just a couple of hands one arose in which Carlos Moya defended his big blind with a call after fellow Chilean Patricio Rojas -- winner of this same event two years ago -- had made an early-position raise. The flop came 8-6-4, and suddenly all of the chips were in the middle, with Rojas showing pocket kings and Moya a flopped straight with 7-5.

    Two cards later Rojas was out, and as I say the cracking of those kings seemed appropriate on a day when those who had begun the day with the biggest stacks had all been toppled.

    Another strange bit of trivia coming out of yesterday -- the final table will feature exactly zero Peruvians, which we believe is the first time ever on the LAPT that a final table doesn’t feature a player from the host country.

    The early finish gave Reinaldo, Sergio, and myself a chance for a leisurely dinner, then I managed to get a nice, full night’s sleep. Always seems to go the same way on these trips, sleep-wise, insofar as I start out getting practically none, then by the time I’m about to leave I’m finally getting close to a regular schedule of rest.

    Head over to the PokerStars blog today to follow the action as they play down to a winner, where we’ve already gotten profiles of the final eight up there, if you’re curious.

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