Wednesday, July 04, 2007

2007 WSOP, Day 34: F-Bombing the Main Event

F-Bombing the Main EventGetting close to Main Event time. Day 1A is Friday. When the circus really starts. (Hey, they’ve already got the tent.)

Last week Pokerati Dan reported that 749 players had managed to sign up before preregistration closed. As of yesterday (again, according to Dan), a total of 2,552 had registered. WSOP officials have added a fourth Day 1 to the schedule, although speculation is that the move is motivated more by a desire not to put folks in the dreaded tent than by clear-cut expectations regarding the number of entrants.

Makes sense to try to be proactive about managing tourney conditions. Best to keep things civil, right?

Friday Unfettered Crudities Kickoff

So . . . what is defending Main Event champion Jamie Gold most looking forward to this year? According to a recent article appearing over on PokerListings, “The thing Gold is most excited about for this year’s event: they’ve brought the F word back in to play, with no penalty imposed for an odd, undirected outburst of cussing.”

As the Church Lady would say, isn’t that special?

“How pleased is Gold about it?” the article asks. “‘F-ing A,’ he said, to anyone who would listen. ‘I can say Holy F*** as much as I want this year. It’s F-ing great. There’s gonna be a lot of beep beep at the Main Event, I tell you.’”

Gold refers, of course, to the change to the so-called “F-bomb” rule, the source of so much discussion and controversy over the last couple of years. As a means to prepare for “a lot of beep beep at the Main Event,” let’s take a moment and look back at the old rule, then consider this new rule.

The Old Rule -- File Under Controversy Kindling

The old rule seemed to cause more trouble than it prevented. The rule had stated that any utterance of the celebrated profanity earned the player an automatic 10-minute penalty. A second slip and the player would be given a second penalty -- either 10 more minutes or 20 (depending on how the tournament director interpreted the rule). And so forth.

Probably the most well-known instance of the rule being applied occurred at the 2005 WSOP when Mike “the Mouth” Matusow found himself sitting out for 40 minutes during Day 1 of the Main Event. (Matusow would overcome that setback to make the final table.) Here’s a good summary of the Matusow episode by Tim “Poker Shrink” Lavalli. According to Lavalli, over 200 “F-bomb” penalties were assessed at the 2005 WSOP. Lavalli also recounts another infamous application of the penalty at that year’s WSOP here -- when Rafi Amit was made to sit out while heads-up against Vinnie Vinh. (While Lavalli depicts Vinh as having acted admirably in response to the situation, Lisa Wheeler’s recent PokerNews article takes a different slant.)

There were many complaints during and after the 2005 WSOP. The rule began to be enforced in other venues as well, prompting more controversies. Last fall, Michael Craig reported on his blog about Gavin Smith being assessed a penalty during the WPT Legends of Poker series at the Bike. This was during the “OE” tournament (half O/8, half S/8). After serving his penalty and then making it to the final table, Smith delivered an impromptu judgment on the rule.

“His statement was something similar to this,” writes Craig. “‘F*ck the f*cking Bike for f*cking having this f*cking stupid f*cking rule about saying a f*cking word like f*ck. F*ck you. F*ck the Bike. F*ck off.’”

(I overlaid them stars onto Craig’s text, by the way. Wouldn’t want me to affect my PG-rating, would you?)

Craig says Smith’s tirade was so funny he admits to wetting his pants. A little. “The absolute best part was that no one that was at the final table or any of the tournament directors said a word to Gavin,” notes Craig.

Of course, what Craig calls the “best part” of the story highlights what many believed to have been the worst part of the rule -- its selective enforcement. Smith wasn’t penalized for his tirade. Why have a rule if it is only going to be enforced at a tourney director’s whim?

Some, like CardPlayer’s Mike O’Malley, wrote in support the old rule (when applied consistently). In an article appearing in the December 27, 2005 issue of CP, O’Malley drew comparisons with other major sports leagues (the NBA, NHL, etc.) where the use of profanity is routinely penalized. “If a player cannot control his emotions by simply not uttering any obscenities,” writes O’Malley, “that player should be penalized.”

Writing about another noteworthy application of the rule at a Mansion Pokerdome tournament, Haley Hintze made a similar (and persuasive) point in favor of having some guidelines for conduct at the poker table: “There is no reason why organized, competitive poker should not be able to establish a baseline for acceptable social standards, and constant f-bomb uttering, despite the accidental occasional exclamation (as happened here, unfortunately), is a part of that standard.”

The New Rule -- For Unduly Callous Kibitzing

So what is the new rule that Jamie Gold says is so “F-ing great”?

Here’s what the new rule -- Rule No.27 in Section III (“Player Conduct and Tournament Integrity”) of the 2007 World Series of Poker Tournament Rules -- states: “Any player who directs any profane and/or abusive language at another player, dealer or tournament staff member or who makes any profane and/or abusive comments about another player, dealer or tournament staff member will be penalized in accordance with Rules No. 22 and/or 46. In particular, the use of the so-called ‘f-bomb’ and ‘c-bomb’ as well as derivatives of those and similarly offensive terms, will subject the offending player to penalties if they are directed at or refer to another player, dealer, staff member, patron or official of Harrah's or the WSOP. In Harrah’s sole and absolute discretion, it may impose at any time a zero-tolerance policy for profane language whether directed at another person or not.”

Not exactly saying that “they’ve brought the F word back in to play” (as the PokerListings article suggests). The big difference, though, appears to be that simply uttering the word doesn’t automatically warrant a penalty. Only using the word in an abusive manner toward another individual gets one a time-out.

Is the rule being applied? I’m not on the floor, so I can’t say for certain. As part of my work with PokerNews, I have, however, read thousands of postings in the Live Reports. And I have yet to see a single report of a penalty being assessed. I would imagine the reporters would probably share information about a penalty enforcement, if they witnessed one. But I’ve yet to see it. (Not saying it hasn’t happened, just that I’ve yet to read about it.)

I have, however, seen reports suggesting instances where the penalty probably should have been assessed. Here’s an example from Event No. 45, the $5,000 No Limit Hold ’em six-handed event. With about forty players left, there’s a hand (“Hellmuth Crippled”) where Phil Hellmuth flops a set of threes, gets called on the flop and turn by Theirry Van Den Berg’s queens (an overpair to the board), then loses when Van Den Berg spikes a queen on the river. Dr. Pauly reports “The F-bomb came out of Hellmuth’s mouth along with the word ‘donkey’ on more than one instance.”

No mention is made of any penalties being assessed. And, indeed, we see another of Hellmuth’s hands being reported just two minutes later, so I think it is safe to assume Hellmuth did not receive any penalty. (I’m sure Dr. Pauly would’ve told us if he had.) Perhaps Hellmuth did not use the adjectival form of the F-word to describe the donkey, and instead uttered it to the skies as a separate commentary on the human condition? (Sure.)

Like I say, the reporters could tell you a lot more accurately than I can whether or not the penalty is being applied. Seems to me the new rule simply adds a further layer of fuzziness over the old rule, giving dealers and tournament directors even more leeway to apply the rule selectively (and, thus, unfairly).

'The F-Word' by Jesse SheidlowerBefore the Main Event begins, let me propose each dealer keep handy a copy of Jesse Sheidlower’s The F-Word which compiles and defines hundreds of uses of the word. This is a terrific book, by the way, which fits perfectly on the back of your standard toilet.

Just to give you an idea, here’s a sample entry (which also, as it happens, puts us in mind of Jamie Gold):
monkey noun -- In phrase: a monkey f*cking a football, a ridiculous figure.

1968 Tauber Sunshine Soldiers 117: You know what you look like, Pea-zer, stupid? You like like a monkey trying to f*ck a football. 1977 in Lyle & Golenbock Bronx Zoo 17: Jesus Christ! You looked like a monkey trying to f*ck a football out there! 1981 Hathaway World of Hurt 47: You look like a monkey f*cking a football. 1984 K. Weaver Texas Crude 34: That guy tryin’ to change a tire looks like a monkey tryin’ to f*ck a football. 1988 Poyer The Med 422: You people cry like fifteen monkeys f*ckin’ a football.

There’s even an illustration. It’s like the Oxford F*cking English Dictionary!

Having such a volume handy would prove especially valuable to dealers and other tournament officials, I would think. As the 230-plus pages of the book prove, there are a lot of “derivatives” to consider. No single arbiter can be expected to know them all off the top of his or her head. Each time a player utters the word, the book can be consulted in order to determine precisely how the word is being employed and therefore an objective decision can be made regarding whether a penalty is warranted. What do you think?

Or they could just do this:

(Thanks, Kaja.)



Blogger Gadzooks64 said...

Wow, only 2550 for ME?

Hard to believe.

WSOP may regret not taking 3rd party registrations.

7/04/2007 4:36 PM  
Blogger Erwin Blonk said...

Harrah´s pretty much pushed for the legislation. They sponsored either Frist or Goodlatte around 2001, I guess that was when it became clear online gambling was here to stay. There was also gambling businesses being bought or sold with Harrah´s and politicians involved the day after the UIGEA was voted through.
Back then I could have exactly told you who did what when but right now I have to rely on my memory :)

So they couldn´t do much else than make this statement. They probably gambled on all the new gamblers (those that never frequented casinos but were active online) to flood the casinos. I wouldn´t say that the UIGEA is an attempt to tempt small stakes online gamblers to lose more money in B&M´s than they would online but...... well, that´s exactly what I think. Frist and Goodlatte are much more cynical than the average politician (trying to get votes knowing that their move will more than likely increase gambling addiction and not caring one bit about that) and Harrah´s I can´t really blame for taking a gamble by tweaking the system.

7/05/2007 2:23 AM  

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