Was looking back through some old posts and initially thought I might compile a “top poker stories of 2007”-type list. Decided instead to narrow the scope a bit and just talk about stories of particular interest to players of online poker. After a bit of fuss I finally was able to isolate ten such items about which I wrote at least one post this year, and so am presenting them in reverse order of significance -- the bottom five today, top five tomorrow.
Please note that the process of selection followed here was utterly arbitrary and thus should be understood accordingly. Among the criteria I used to determine which items made the list was that I had to have written a post about the subject. Since I didn’t write about every damn thing that happened in online poker, we’re looking at a necessarily subjective enterprise here. In other words, the stories making this particular top ten all caught the interest of yours truly, an average jingle-brained sap who plays online poker. Not only are the rankings disputable, then, but the list itself is incomplete (e.g., no mentions here of Annette Obrestad playing MTTs without seeing her hole cards, the United States’ multibillion-dollar-battle with the World Trade Organization, or Mark “TheVOid” Teltscher losing $1.2 million for multi-accounting in the WCOOP, etc.).
Beginning, then, at the end . . .
10. Humans Triumph in “First Man-Machine Poker Championship”
Back in July, poker pros Phil Laak and Ali Eslami took on a limit hold ’em-playin’ computer program called Polaris that had been developed by a team of researchers at the University of Alberta. Laak and Eslami emerged from the battle as the victors, but only barely. Wrote a couple of posts about this event, one before & one after.
Relatively speaking, the story might well represent a smallish blip on the online poker landscape. But the research being conducted in the area of artificial intelligence will have its implications, perhaps sooner than later. As Jonathan Schaeffer, leader of the Computer Poker Research Group, stated in a PokerNews article about the match, “One of these days -- within 5 to 10 years -- two-person, limit Hold ’em will be solved.” Don’t believe it is overstating the case all that much to say the achievement of such a goal should have some affect on the online poker landscape.
9. Tony G Poker & Doyle’s Room Leave the U.S.
After the initial avalanche in the fall of 2006 when a number of prominent (mostly publicly-traded) sites stopped taking U.S. bets, a few sites continued to hang on until the new year before finally pulling out in the wake of Neteller’s hasty exit from the U.S. in January. Wrote a post back in February -- “Good Guys Lose Two More” -- that discussed the departures of Tony G Poker and Doyle’s Room. Another site with a modestly-sized American clientele, Full Contact Poker, would leave as well in June.
Of course, Doyle’s Room made a somewhat surprising return to the U.S. back in October. One would hope a list like this twelve months from now would contain other stories of online sites returning to the U.S. market, but something tells me that probably ain’t gonna be the case.
8. Harrah’s Says No to WSOP Third-Party Registrations
Harrah’s published its “Tournament Rules” for the 2007 World Series of Poker in February, making clear that “third-party registrations for players are not permitted unless submitted by Official WSOP sponsors.” The announcement was initially met with dire predictions of a sharp decline in the number of entrants in the WSOP Main Event (and other events as well). Such fears proved somewhat misplaced, although it is clear Harrah’s decision to bow to the pressure of the UIGEA here most certainly affected the number of online qualifiers finding their way to Vegas.
As we neared the start of this year’s WSOP, I wrote a post back in May about the rule in which I editorialized a bit about how fewer online qualifiers might affect the quality of play at the WSOP.
7. Chris Vaughn-Sorel Mizzi Account-Purchasing Scandal
A relative novice when it came to big money online MTTs, Chris Vaughn, then Managing Editor of Bluff Magazine, garnered much attention back in October when he won the Full Tilt $1 Million Guaranteed and the PokerStars Sunday Million in back-to-back weeks. Vaughn was interviewed by PokerNews, and appeared as a guest on PokerRoad Radio’s Big Poker Sundays in mid-November. During the latter interview Vaughn was asked about whether perhaps one of his backers (a group including established online whiz Sorel Mizzi) might have “ghosted” one or both of the tourneys for him, something Vaughn flatly denied. Within a couple of weeks, Vaughn and Mizzi confessed (in a two-part PokerNews interview) that Mizzi had indeed completed the Full Tilt $1 Million Guaranteed for Vaughn, having purchased Vaughn’s account once play had reached the final three tables or so. Both players were subsequently banned from the site, and Vaughn eventually lost his position at Bluff.
First mentioned the story here, then ended up commenting on it again a couple more times -- once in response to a discussion on Beyond the Table about the scandal, then in another post written after hearing more talk about it on PokerRoad Radio. Speaking of poker podcasts, Tim Peters (of Literature and Poker) made a good point earlier this week in a post where he remarked on how the Pocket Fives podcast has somehow neglected (thus far) to mention this huge story for online poker.
6. Bots on Full Tilt Poker
Rumors regarding online poker bots had floated around before, but none had been quite as compelling as the one that began when a frequent 2+2 poster started a new thread -- “NL Bots on Full Tilt” -- in which he shared fairly-convincing evidence that he had encountered four different players at Full Tilt NL200 tables whose play had apparently been managed by a computer program of some sort. Adding further fuel to the paranoia fire was the fact that by the time the news was shared, Full Tilt had frozen the accounts in question, investigated the situation, unfrozen the accounts, and announced that the evidence presented had been “inconclusive.” I wrote a post at the time -- “Night of the Living Bots” -- likening the whole saga to various horror film plots.
Come back tomorrow for the top five.
Labels: *the rumble