Then again, those days also all seem far, far away. You know, back when we were still playing online poker all the time, taking part in a global community of players and lovers of the game. A time which we now must necessarily refer to as a different era.
I’m going to handle this here review business in the same fashion I’ve done in past, taking three final posts to compile references to past posts as a way of reflecting on what has been. Will cover four months per post, meaning this first one will carry us up to April 15 -- the day everything changed -- and a little after.
As I’ve been doing here since the start of 2008, I manged to post at least once each weekday during 2011. I posted on the weekends from time to time, too, such as over the summer when I again was in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. All that added up to 280 posts thus far this year, with three more to come.
I remember in those weeks following Black Friday wondering whether or not I’d see fit to continue with the weekday posting. The fact that I’ve always been able to pepper the blog with posts about my own play -- those “on the street” posts -- has made it easier to post more frequently. It has also added a certain variety to the kinds of posts I can write, making it more fun on this end, and hopefully making things more interesting on the reader’s side, too.
But as it turned out, there was still plenty about which to write. More than plenty, really.
I don’t know yet what my plan for 2012 will be. Am seriously considering scaling back just a tad, mainly because I’m also nearing the end of a first draft of another novel and would like to devote more of my limited brain power to revising that and getting it out into the world. It’s a murder mystery, though not strictly a detective novel like Same Difference. It’s also more closely matched with my own experiences than that story was, although again, as with the first one, there’s no poker.
’Cos you know, I write enough about poker as it is.
This year I began teaching a college course in American Studies titled “Poker in American Film and Culture.” I shared my original syllabus here at the start of the spring semester, although I’d revise it somewhat when I taught it again in the fall and am changing a few more things this spring. I’m planning to create a permanent page here on the blog soon where I list all of the readings and films I’ve included in the course over its several iterations.
Those SuperStar Showdowns on PokerStars I mentioned did manage to intrigue us somewhat in January. You remember those, don’t you? The heads-up matches pitting Isildur1 -- who finally confirmed what we all already knew by “revealing” himself to be Viktor Blom at the PCA last January -- against a rotating cast of opponents? The Tony G match was particularly fun, as recounted here in “A Farce, a Tragedy: Tony G in the SuperStar Showdown.”
We were also somewhat “Captivated by the PCA” in January, where my friend Change100 won the Ladies Event! Meanwhile it was less simple to meet “The Challenge to Follow the Durrrr Challenges.” There also came the announcement of the new Epic Poker League in January, considered here in a post titled “A League of Their Own.”
And speaking of poker being played in a different league, all of those six-figure tourneys at the PCA and the Aussie Millions had us scratching our heads, too, and focusing “On the All-Time Money List,” players with deep pockets “Ordering Twice at the 100 Grand Bar,” and how it was all “Hard to Relate: On the $250K Aussie Millions Super High Roller.”
One of the most viewed posts on the site this year was one from early February titled “Beyond Belief: The Bellagio Bandit” in which I discussed a thief’s audacious -- and ultimately failed -- attempt to accumulate himself a stack of chips without going through the hassle of playing for them.
Seemed like I was writing a lot about criminals at the start of the month, such as in “Two of a Kind: W. Joseph Johnston and Russ Hamilton” (about two poker cheaters, one from the early 20th century and one from the early 21st) and “A Couple of Saab Stories” (in which I discuss David Saab -- who was arrested in early 2011 in Australia for drug trafficking -- and recall some of his antics from the 2008 WSOP).
In “Sick Bet: Griffin, Qureshi, and ‘The World of Poker Players’” I wrote about what probably turned out to be the most famous (or infamous) prop bet in poker in 2011. I joined others mid-month bidding “Farewell to The Poker Beat,” the long-running poker news podcast. And I fretted about the appearance of a new movie, Unknown, in which the title character shared my name in “Hey, That’s My Name!”
My “Poker in American Film and Culture” course was inspiring some posts about our readings, including “Breakfast and Poker” (a chapter in David Spanier’s Total Poker), “David Hayano’s Poker Faces,” and “Placing Poker in American History” (reflecting again on James McManus’s Cowboys Full and the whole idea of a course such as mine).
I was writing a bit about televised poker here and there, including commenting on “Changes at ‘High Stakes Poker’” and sharing impressions as “World Poker Tour Season 9 Debuts.” And speaking of posts written before April 15 that read a hell of a lot differently post-Black Friday, I offered one titled “Man Power: The BLUFF Power 20” reflecting on the magazine’s annual list of powerful figures in poker, a list destined to become ironic-seeming in short order.
Further inspired by my American Studies class, I decided to write six posts amounting to a detailed reading of Chapter 3 of Al Alvarez’s 1983 classic poker narrative, presented under the heading “Rereading The Biggest Game in Town.” Following a “Prelude” those posts discussed “Poker’s Challenge to ‘Reality,’” “Losing,” “Playing Jimmy Chagra,” “Reality and Romance,” and “America, Where Gambling is a Form of Patriotism.”
From there I took a trip to Atlantic City to help cover a WSOP Circuit event with my buddy Rich Ryan. I reported on the trip in a sequence of posts -- Prelude, Arrival, Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 -- then wrote about playing a short low limit session at Caesars AC.
My course continued forward, inspiring posts like “Hold’em’s History Makes a Good Mystery” and “Bluffing and Nothingness,” the latter talking about the great “kick a buck” scene in Cool Hand Luke, one of my all-time favorite poker scenes in film.
What else was occupying our attentions in March? Various twitter gripes involving Prahlad Friedman, Justin Bonomo, Isaac Haxton, Joe Sebok, and Jon Aguiar, discussed here in a post titled “Ambiguous Images.” A crazy-ass -- and, of course, doomed -- new high roller series to be sponsored by Full Tilt Poker, “Another Level: The Onyx Cup Series.” And increasing attention on UltimateBet and its myriad failures as well as some “who am us”-type discussion about the poker world, chronicled here in a post “On Poker Communities.”
Funny how March looks now, ain’t it? Like the last moments of a wild, out-of-control party or something, just before the cops finally arrived to break it up once and for all.
By now in my class we were discussing poker films in earnest, and so the month of April began with various posts sharing some thoughts inspired by those discussions, including “Experience and The Cincinnati Kid,” “California Split and First Impressions,” and “Reflecting on Rounders.”
A week before Black Friday, I wrote a post titled “Some Rambling About the Rumble (Online Poker in the U.S.)” which mentioned some of the legal machinations happening in the U.S. with regard to online poker as well as the various “joint ventures” then being struck between online poker sites and land-based casinos in the U.S. The point of the post was essentially to say that it appeared likely some major shift was about to occur with regard to online poker in the States, although I had no idea exactly what.
Would like to claim now I had some foresight of what would occur seven days later, but I obviously did not. Indeed, while I shied away from being too bullish in the April 8 post -- preferring rather just to say (vaguely) “that something is going to happen, perhaps sooner than later, on the legislative front” -- I confess that when I wrote the post my mood was generally optimistic about the situation, and not at all fearful of anything close to what would actually turn out to happen a week later.
In other words -- as the blog shows -- I was as surprised as anyone, having failed like most to read how the U.S. government would be playing its hand.
I had another travel gig in April, a return to Lima, Peru to help cover a Latin American Poker Tour event. Was paired with Dr. Pauly for this one, which in and of itself would have made the trip memorable. But it was while we were down in South America all hell broke loose back home.
I filed my reports on the LAPT Lima trip here -- Arrival, Pregame, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Departure -- those posts probably sounding increasingly apocalyptic as they go. After all, it was hard not to shake the sense that we were covering what seemed like the Last Poker Tournament while among the ruins in Lima. (By the way, that pic at the top of the post is Pauly playing at being a shade at Huaca Pucllana.)
I did write one quick reaction on the night of April 15 to the U.S. Department of Justice unsealing its indictment and civil complaint targeting 11 individuals and PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/UB, a post titled “Thunderstruck: The Day It All Changed for Online Poker.” And of course there’d be more posts regarding the significance of what had happened and speculating about what was to come, including “The Game of Outlaws: Poker’s Image in America,” “The Hustler, the DOJ, and Online Poker in the U.S.,” and “Bharara’s Hammer.”
By month’s end I was marking “Five Years” of Hard-Boiled Poker. In that anniversary post I wondered a little about the whole idea of continuing the blog, my mind still somewhat clouded by the heavy Black Friday fog.
But I saw my way clear to keep it going. And so the blog -- and the game -- continued.