Monday, July 11, 2011

2011 WSOP, Day 41: The Lottery

The LotteryWas another busy day yesterday at the World Series of Poker Main Event. A total of 2,809 came out on Sunday, making the overall total for this year’s ME a much-higher-than-anticipated 6,865. That’s the third-largest field in ME history, behind 2006 (8,773) and 2010 (7,319).

By the way, if you like numbers, check out Dr. Pauly’s post today, “2011 WSOP Day 41 - Main Event Day 1D: Spiderman, Big Records, Perma-Bans and 6,865,” which includes a bunch of nifty ones. See also Jess Welman’s latest “WSOP By the Numbers” for more interesting figures of note from yesterday.

Today begins the first of the Day Twos. I’m enjoying my last day off from the WSOP today (aside from Wednesday which is a day off for everyone). Gonna try to make it through the entire day without setting foot in the Rio, something I have not been able to avoid doing since I landed in Vegas some three weeks ago. A total of 4,521 players made it through to Day 2, with a little less than half of them playing today and the rest on Tuesday.

Yesterday I was stationed back in the Pavilion Room, packed from end to end. Just a couple of us were assigned to cover half the room (e.g., 100-plus tables). Was frustrating at times, as you might imagine. As I told WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla at the start of the day, there’s really no way to be comprehensive when trying to cover so many players with so few reporters. But on the good side there was no shortage of hands, anecdotes, and other items to write about.

My favorite story of the day involved the participation of an elderly farmer from North Carolina named Joe Moize. Moize is from Hurdle Mills, which just happens to be about half-hour drive from my birthplace and where I still have family.

Not too long ago -- starting around 2006, I believe -- NC finally decided to jump into the lottery game, although not without a great deal of hand-wringing and other not-so-pretty political machinations. They call it the “North Carolina Education Lottery” as the revenue produced is supposed to be earmarked to improve the state’s educational system, which has nonetheless continued to suffer cuts and other detrimental effects in recent years. And as many have observed over the years, the lottery tends to be played in higher numbers by the less educated, which has led some to view the official name of the NC lottery as containing a bit of obvious irony.

Goes without saying that poker ain’t being played in the state at all -- not legally, anyway -- aside from on a few electronic tables at Harrah’s Cherokee. Only low EV games like “Carolina Pick 4” and the like are permitted.

NC Education Lottery WSOP promotionOther promotions come and go, such as the recent one involving submitting losing scratch-off tickets for a drawing to win an entry into the Main Event. The WSOP was involved with this one in some fashion, with other prizes -- chip sets, sunglasses, other gear -- also given away. Moize won the ME seat, and so found himself Sunday afternoon sitting at a table in the Pavilion room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino with David “the Gunslinger” Bach.

Bach was the one who came over and told me the wild story of how he had busted Moize. He called it one of the strangest hands he’d ever played, one in which three aces were on board -- matching the one in Bach’s hand -- with no flush or straight possible. Moize called him down to the river before check-raising all in on the end. Bach showed the nuts, while Moize turned over Kd7d.

“He said he’d never played poker before,” said Bach to me, his genuine amazement evident in his tone. I was sorry not to have gotten the chance to meet Moize, who sounded like a friendly person who probably got a lot out of the experience. Reading around a little online, I found that he brought his wife with him and they were getting to enjoy a stay of several nights. One story also pointed out that he had in fact played poker before in his life, but it had been long ago.

In my report on the hand over at PokerNews, I pointed out how the hand showed the WSOP Main Event isn’t really a “lottery” as the super-sized fields the ME attracts often encourage people to call it. Those making the final table and winning the sucker obviously must experience good fortune along the way, but no one can win by simply having a card with his or her name on it drawn from a barrel.

In fact, that Moize happened to be knocked out by Bach -- a guy who has won the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event (in 2009), a tournament generally regarded as one of the better tests of poker ability on offer at the Series -- made the point even more obvious. The contrast between the skillful player and complete novice couldn’t have been more starkly made.

My friend Bob Woolley, a.k.a. the Poker Grump, made a similar point in a different way in a post summarizing his Day 1a experience. Like Moize, Woolley won his way into the ME, and while he stood a much better chance of getting somewhere in the sucker than did Moize, the experience of sitting at a table with top pros like Greg Raymer, Tom Schneider, Olivier Busquet, and others offered him unambiguous proof of the importance of skill at the Main Event.

That WSOP Main Event seats are given away in state lotteries shows (I think) how little state governments appreciate that fact, namely, that poker or the Main Event isn’t really a game of pure luck like the lottery. Even so, it’s all the same thing -- to many people, really -- just people placing bets and hoping certain cards appear.

But we know it ain’t that at all. The Main Event isn’t just a lottery. And really, when it comes down to it, that’s the main reason why it is at all interesting.

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Blogger SngPotheadwoman said...

This really has been a great article! Nice job man! Keep up the great work!

7/11/2011 5:29 PM  

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