Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hard-Boiled Poker 2009 Year in Review (2 of 3)

Continuing what we started yesterday... It was another summer in Las Vegas for yr humble gumshoe helping cover the world’s biggest annual poker circus, and so these middle months are largely taken up with the before, during, and after of the WSOP.


Back in the saddleThe rumble at the start of May was that new legislation was a-comin’ that might affect Americans and their online poker, and anticipating that I wrote a post called “The States of Online Poker” that speculated some about that possibility. Then Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) delivered another bill designed to license and regulate online gambling in the U.S. He proposed a second bill seeking a delay for the UIGEA as well.

I seem to have been in another one of those funks there at the beginning of May, as in “Play the Game” I’m fretting aloud about my commitment to playing poker. By then my mind was becoming increasingly distracted by the upcoming trip to Vegas and the WSOP (as well as other matters), which might partially explain from where those misgivings were coming.

A couple of weeks before the Series began, that “Celebrity Apprentice” finale pitting Annie Duke and Joan Rivers aired, and I opined a bit about the show and its ultimate messages about poker and poker players in “Was It Good For You? (On the Celebrity Apprentice Finale).” Also appearing just before the WSOP was the autobiography of Mike Matusow, Check-Raising the Devil, to which our friends Amy Calistri and Tim Lavalli contributed mightily. It’s a terrific read, and I reviewed the book here (and also here).

There was another pre-WSOP event to talk about, the PokerListings’ Run Good Challenge, WSOP edition. I got knocked out of the first one of those early on by my buddy the Poker Grump, who went on to win the darn thing, as I related in “Grump Runs Good in RGC 3 (WSOP Edition).” There was a second tourney in which I did a little better, though still not good enough for a golden ticket into a WSOP prelim.

In the days before leaving, I had a few “state of the WSOP”-type posts. “On the Economy & the 2009 WSOP” talked some about the possible impact of front-loading the thing with that special $40K event. “On ESPN’s Coverage of the WSOP” and its sequel considered this year’s coverage and the decision to eschew nearly every preliminary event.

I arrived in Vegas the last week of May, played some volleyball -- badly -- (“Having a Ball”), then quickly found myself “Back in the Saddle” helping cover the Series for PokerNews. These last few posts in May are all taken up with that “Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em Event,” though my favorite is the Animals-inspired “Wave Upon Wave of Demented Avengers March Cheerfully Out of Obscurity Into the Dream.”


Mickey Doft double-checks his workBy the first week of June the WSOP was in full swing, with four, five, or even six events going on each day. I did catch some breaks here and there from live blogging, including one early in June when I had a chance to visit with Tommy Angelo, the poker coach and author of Elements of Poker. He thought we were just having a friendly meal together, but as the title of my post indicates, something more was going on: “Shamus Swindles Poker Lesson for Price of Cheeseburger.”

In “Isolation” I took up the subject of everyone IM-ing, Twittering, and/or being distracted by their iPhones, Blackberries, or other devices either at the tables or elsewhere. The post “Count On It” contains one of my favorite pictures from the WSOP, one of our star reporter Mickey Doft counting chips in a picture of himself counting chips (see above). FerricRamsium took this picture, and B.J. Nemeth took the one on the screen (for PokerRoad).

In “A Hand Worth Remembering” relates a hand I watched in which a dude tried to check-raise Carter “ckingusc” King after having folded his hand. Pretty hilarious stuff. In “Live from the Rio” I briefly relate having been a guest on the Hardcore Poker Show. Followed that with a post titled “Live from the Rio, Part II” which an overview of sorts of what a WSOP final table is like.

The title of “Does Humor Belong in Tournament Reporting?” is self-explanatory. (My answer is sure, why not? Within reason, of course.) Speaking of grins, “It Was Fun” talks about watching Shannon Elizabeth’s table having a good time during a tourney’s first day. That post got some attention from Elizabeth fans (both in the comments and on a fan site, if I recall) who liked seeing her poker-playing written about in a positive manner.

I’m seeing a few posts reflecting on the various challenges of tourney reporting. In “Land of 1000 Reporters” I revisited the issue of everyone broadcasting their progress via handheld devices at the tables. In “The Name Game” I discussed the sometimes absurd-seeming struggle to identify players. And “Seeing Is Believing” talks about the occasional awkwardness of reporting those bizarro hands that probably aren’t going to be believed by readers.

Vera Valmore arrived for her visit the last week of June, and we had a good time, including going to see “Mystère.” I ended the month revealing that a feature film was made about my exciting life back in 1973, titled Shamus and starring Burt Reynolds in the title role. If you somehow missed it, here’s that trailer:


'Shamus' (1973)I got a chance to play in a charity event that included a number of pros. Eventually Dan Harrington got moved to my table, although unfortunately I was in the embarrassing spot of having an “M” of around 2 when he did, as I reported in “Then Again, With the Name ‘Short-Stacked,’ This Was Bound to Happen Sooner or Later.” A couple of days later I’d get to play in another mainly-media tourney in which I'd sit with both Linda Johnson and Dennis Phillips (see “LOL Freerollaments”).

The Main Event finally got crankin’. The post “Whirlwind” talks a little about the Day 1d fiasco in which hundreds of players had to be turned away. Have another post in there called “Anatomy of a Hand Report” which tells about watching and reporting on a hand involving Terrence “Not Johnny” Chan from Day 2. I kind of dig that post as it gives a good idea what it is like to be a tourney reporter, relating all the various factors that come into play when trying to report even a single hand.

Theme (In Search Of)” begins with a conversation I’d had with Dr. Pauly. The circus would soon be over, and we were all looking for some way to assign meaning to it all. “Go With the Flow” reports on the chaos of the money bubble bursting (and the PokerNews site crashing). And “Boom, Boom, Boom” reports on the wild finish to produce the November Nine.

There’s a post that provides an annotated list of all the WSOP reports, if yr curious: “2009 WSOP, A Reporter’s Notebook.”

After getting home, I opined a littled “On Shulman’s Spite” -- i.e., Jeff Shulman’s announcement about throwing the WSOP bracelet in the garbage, should he win it. “An Application to Consider” proposes an iPhone app for tourney reporting, an idea I wouldn’t be surprised to see happen at the 2010 WSOP. And “A Sporting Chance for Poker” reports on how that European Poker Tour event that had been scheduled for Moscow had been shipped over to Kyiv, Ukraine.

Had no idea at the time that I’d be shipping myself to Ukraine, too, in just a few weeks!


EPT KyivHaving settled back home for a while, I was getting a little abstract (perhaps) there at the start of August in posts like “On First Choices, Second Guesses.” Was also reflecting some on the state of journalism circa 2009 in “Time Is Money, So Can I Afford to Pause to Reflect?

Was back into playing online a lot, and fully committed to pot-limit Omaha again. I read Jeff Hwang’s terrific Advanced Pot-Limit Omaha, Volume I which inspired me to think out loud a bit in “To Pot or Not to Pot, a PLO Predicament.” Speaking of poker books, I wrote “On Poker Books” the next day and discussed how book-reading in general has become a relatively antiquated activity.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) proposed a bill in the senate that offered to license and regulate online poker specifically (and not online gambling in general, as Frank’s bill does). Wrote on that (with some skepticism) in “On the Menendez Bill (S. 1597); or, Be Careful What You Ask For.”

In “The Writer’s Life” I noted that I’d been invited to go to Kyiv, Ukraine to help cover that EPT event later in the month. Wrote a little more about that in the next post, “Destination Kiev... and the Book Is Out!” (As these posts suggest, I wouldn’t learn the preferred spelling of the city’s name until I got there.) I also announced in that post how I’d finally published my hard-boiled detective novel, Same Difference, which you can read more about and even purchase by clicking here.

The last part of August was taken up with my Ukraine trip -- a terrific experience all around, and I remain grateful for having gotten the opportunity to do it. Here are my travel reports from Kyiv: “Arrival,” “Day 1a,” “Day 1b,” “Day 2,” “Day 3,” “Day 4,” “Day 5,” and “Looking Back.” Clearly all of my creative energies were being taken up with reporting from the event, as I had none left for post titles.

Nor have I much energy for more recappin’ today, so come back tomorrow for September through December.

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