Monday, June 06, 2011

Angry Poker

Sweetie vs. Intruder CatThe 2011 World Series of Poker is in full swing now, with the first nine events having begun, seven bracelets won, and two more tourneys starting up today, the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed event (Event No. 10) and the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship (Event No. 11).

Was following coverage off and on over the weekend. That is, when I wasn’t distracted by my cat, Sweetie, screeching like I’ve never heard her do before. Sweetie is an indoor cat, and a neighbor cat that lives outdoors has been coming around to visit, disturbing her windowsill slumbers. These standoffs between the two -- just a thin piece of glass separating them from some wild, whiskery warfare -- have been riveting to watch, although I think Sweetie is starting to get a little stressed out by having to keep on her guard like that.

The poker has been fairly exciting, too. In between clicking back-and-forth between several sites to follow the action, I have also continued to dial up the live streaming of final tables that is happening over on the WSOP site.

As I mentioned last week, the picture and sound are both good, and with an announcer tableside and a view of the community cards, one can follow what’s happening well enough. Was most interested last night to watch Allen Bari win Event No. 4 ($5,000 No-Limit Hold’em), his heads-up battle with Maria Ho successfully pulling me away from the one going on between Sweetie and Intruder Cat.

I thought it was funny afterwards to see Lex “RaSZi” Veldhuis tweet that “The world just got a little angrier” as he congratulated Bari on his win. Veldhuis was alluding to Bari’s reputation as an against-the-grain type of guy (one way to put it) whose self-confidence occasionally rubs some the wrong way.

Allen Bari vs. Maria Ho, heads up, 2011 WSOP Event No. 4In an interview with Kristy Arnett of PokerNews after his win, Bari demonstrated that irascible personality a little when responding to her question about whether it would’ve been humbling for him to have lost after entering heads-up play with such an enormous (almost 6-to-1) chip lead.

“Tournaments are nonsense,” says Bari. “They’re all variance. Anybody who plays with me and talks with me knows that I know my stuff, so it doesn’t matter. This bracelet means nothing except now these randoms who all hate me won’t talk sh!t about me.”

I was thinking about Veldhuis’ comment about the world getting “angrier” when reading a couple of other items later last night, too.

There was an article over on the Fox News site from Saturday titled “Families Face Dire Straits After Online Poker Shutdown” that gave a little sketch of Brian Mogelefsky, a player who has had a burgeoning career as an online grinder abruptly altered by the events of Black Friday.

The article cites John Pappas of the PPA saying that approximately 50,000 full-time players have been “deprived” of their income. While I obviously oppose any sort of prohibition against online poker, I have to admit I’m never all that moved by this “honest living” argument some want to make when petitioning for its regulation.

Obviously only a very small percentage of those who play poker -- online or otherwise -- can be said to earn a living from it. Always seems to me this line of reasoning ignores about 95% of the real consequences of having a licensed and regulated industry. Does help highlight the whole “freedom” thing, though, as Mogelefsky’s story demonstrates.

At the conclusion of the Fox piece, we read that not being able to stay at home and support his family by the income he’s been able to make playing online means Mogelefsky “plans to attend the World Series of Poker in Vegas to test his mettle in live games.” It is this very move -- of the online poker grinder using Black Friday as reason to take a WSOP shot -- that Change100 addressed in her guest post on Tao of Poker that appeared yesterday, titled “Apocalypse Now.”

Change picks up on the “pure, unadulterated desperation” in the air at the Rio and in other Vegas poker rooms these days, with lots of players -- both in the tourneys at the WSOP and at the cash tables -- seeming as though they are playing with a lot more on the line than has been the case in the past. (EDIT [added 9 p.m.]: For another take on the more-serious-than-fun vibe at the Rio during the first week of the WSOP, see Jon Katkin's “Off to a Slow Start” over on Pokerati. And Gary Wise offers a similar sentiment in “The Ugliest WSOP.”)

Veldhuis’ tweet about Bari and the “angrier world” was partly in jest, I suppose, but it weirdly fits with the more-antagonistic-than-usual atmosphere in which poker is being played these days. Will be interesting to see how things go at the WSOP these next couple of weeks, and what it will be like there when I finally arrive on June 21.

Sweetie remains on her guardPerhaps by then the fights, lawsuits, accusations, and so forth won’t be on the front page and things will have calmed down a bit. I mean, we can only stay angry for so long, right?

Then again, Sweetie’s battle has been going on for a few days now. You tell me... does she look like she’s ready to give in?

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