Monday, December 31, 2012

Hard-Boiled Poker 2012 Year in Review (1 of 3)

At the end of 2011, I was expressing uncertainty over whether or not I was going to continue with the same new-post-every-weekday schedule I’ve followed for quite a while now. I kept on thinking out loud about “scaling back” during the year, too. As I’d always been more of an online player than live, my poker playing had already been scaled back (by necessity) post-Black Friday. Made me wonder if I’d have reason to keep writing so frequently about poker going forward.

But the end of 2012 has arrived, and somehow I never did slow my posting pace. For the fifth year running, I continued to post each weekday, plus on the weekends, too, such as when away on various tourney reporting trips. Added up to 281 posts, including this one.

As I’ve said before, that’s a damn lot of scribbling. But as I’ve also said before, quantity ain’t necessarily quality. Always cringe a little at writers boasting of having written so many thousand words, as if they’re accumulating poker chips or something. Writing more words isn’t hard. Writing more words worth reading is.

All of which is to say, for those who’ve stuck with me over the years -- as well as the new readers who’ve only found the blog over the last 12 months -- thanks a ton for reading. And I hope that somewhere in all this scribbling there has been something worthwhile for you.

I had considered handling this “year in review” business in a single post today rather than divide it up as I have done in the past. But in the name of keeping things a manageable length, I’m scrapping that ideer and again presenting my recap of 2012 in three posts. Here’s January through April...

January

The year began with my being unable to resist sharing the news that I’d won Pauly’s Pub “Pigskin Pick’em” football pool, something I vainly discussed in the first post of 2012, “Page 2 of 366; or, Following the Crowd.” Came up short in the pool this year, by the way, ultimately finishing five games back after making a lot of chancy choices yesterday in an effort to close the gap. Ended up only picking 166 of 256 games correctly, with the two co-leaders getting 171. Looking back, I see I somehow got 180 of 256 a year ago to win the pool by three games, although I think the difference can probably be explained by there having been more “chalk” last year and more surprises in 2012.

Was soon after writing about “A Cure for Pokeritis (1912),” a 100-year-old poker movie. Actually in that post I was pointing to a column I’d written for the Epic Poker League blog about the film which just a few months later was scrubbed from the internet entirely (more on that below -- see March). Then came a post asking “New Jersey to Join the Online Poker Race?” (today that seems closer to happening), a topic that came up again a couple of weeks later in “Patchwork Poker.”

Along the way came a post comparing “The Hunger Games and Poker Tournaments,” then another one called “The Hangover’s Game of Chicken” in which I talked about a non sequitur from the film in poker terms. I wrote one of several 2012 posts about my noodling around with a small roll online in “Still About Even.” (I’m still noodling... and still about even.) And in “A Thousand Words (or So) About Bill Simmons,” a post that among other things addresses that issue of prolixity I bring up above.

As the month came to a close, I found myself posting more than once about my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class. I reported on a conversation I had with another college teacher who’d also taught a poker-themed course (in probability) in “Teachers Talking Out of School.” And I shared a crazy “Stranger Than Fiction” story from my class in which we played a hand of poker that both defied probability and uncannily resembled a famous poker hand from the movies.

February

I began 2012 dropping various hints about a new novel on which I was working, also brought up in post titled “On Endings, Wished For and Otherwise.” Just to report back on that project, I did manage to finish an initial draft of the sucker during the year, and am now moving into the final edits and revising with an eye toward publication in the spring. This’ll be my second, following Same Difference. (And no, it isn’t a sequel.)

Of course, the sordid story of Full Tilt Poker (Version 1.0) continued to dominate headlines during the year. Still is, really. In fact just yesterday Matt Glantz was tweeting to an oblivious-seeming Phil Gordon regarding FTP’s implosion, and at one point Glantz referred to “the way u orangutans managed to drive that cash machine 6ft under.” An apt characterization of what happened, I’d say.

I couldn’t avoid writing about FTP a lot during 2012, including in February referring to a Glantz-authored post about the issue in “A Glantz-ing Blow: Making Noise About Full Tilt’s Silence.” In another post titled “Playing By a Different Set of Rules” I juxtaposed the FTP saga with an anecdote from an 1899 collection of poker-related tales titled Queer Luck. Later in the month I shared another story from the same collection in a post titled “Crossing the Boarder-Line of Dishonour” and in that instance let the reader draw the FTP connections. The topic also came up in a short one about Daniel Negreanu’s FTP-directed vitriol, “Kid Poker Not Kidding Around,” and another about Doyle Brunson with the self-explanatory title “Daniel Damns, Doyle Defends.”

Meanwhile the Super Bowl came along to distract us all, and I wrote about the wild ending of that game between the New York Giants and New England Patriots in “Logic and Emotion, Poker and the Super Bowl.”

Subject:Poker Signs Off” addressed the much-talked-about poker news blog and its decision to shut down after nine months of posting. Then in “Online Gaming in the U.S.: Reservations from the Reservations” I talked about a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in which the subject of online gambling was the focus. That post also refers to my having appeared on the podcast “Keep Flopping Aces,” co-hosted by Lou Krieger. Sadly Lou passed away earlier this month, one of several losses the poker community suffered in 2012, including that of the popular Russian player Nikolay Evdakov who died in February.

In “Recommended Reading for Poker Writers” I pointed readers to an interesting series of posts by Barry Carter. I addressed Jason Somerville’s courageous decision to make his sexual orientation public in “The Challenge to Look at Ourselves.” And the topic of online poker legislation came up again in “2013,” the title of which alludes to a target date many were then bringing up in that context.

March

On the last day of February -- leap day, in fact -- the Epic Poker League’s parent company, Federated Sports + Gaming, filed for bankruptcy. Soon it was revealed the EPL had accumulated over $8 million in debt in just over a year. At the time the filing was made public, FS+G Executive Chairman Jeffrey Pollack said the league would continue and still planned to stage its fourth Season 1 tourney and the $1 million freeroll “championship.” Thus did I title my March 1st post “Epic Limbo,” although as we soon learned this was no “limbo” -- it was the end.

Back in 2011, I’d been asked to contribute to the EPL blog. For about six months I wrote a weekly column about poker and popular culture, and when EPL went under they still owed me for a few of the last pieces, thereby making me one of the dozens of creditors included in their filing. The money I lost wasn’t that significant, but I was disappointed soon after when the entire EPL website -- including the 26 pieces I’d written -- was deleted. (See the August section of tomorrow’s post for more on that.)

More sour news followed with Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar offering a short, unenlightening interview that I discussed in “A Bitar Taste.” On 3/14 I wrote about Kate Bush and a mathematical constant in “Humble π.” In “Poker, the Antisocial Social Game” I talk about one of poker’s many paradoxes, then try to focus on another one in “What You See Is What You Get.” Erick “E-Dog” Lindgren’s gambling debts are addressed in “Hero Call.” And in “Sports Talk: Reality and Romance” I complain a little about how so much sports commentary favors talking about feelings rather than facts (something that happens a lot in poker, too).

Near the month’s conclusion an interesting poker documentary premiered, and I discussed it a couple of times in “All In: The Poker Movie Premieres Today” and “More Thoughts on All In: The Poker Movie: Building a Boom.” Meanwhile, I was writing about the lottery in “Mega Madness” and NCAA basketball pools in “Breaking Down My Broken Bracket” and “A Meteoric Rise, NCAA-Pool Wise,” further evidence that I was playing less poker and instead dabbling in other forms of low-stakes gambling.

April

Speaking of, I somehow staged a ridiculously lucky comeback in my NCAA pool to win the sucker, and so had to report on that in “Not Winning-the-Lottery Lucky, But Still...

Following the EPL fizzle, PokerListings invited me to carry my poker in popular culture column to them. It had been called “Community Cards” on the EPL blog, but we gave it a new name over on PL -- “Pop Poker.”

And while we’re on the subject of comparing poker to other parts of the culture, I wrote a post talking about the relative popularity of poker and golf, goofily titled “A Tradition That’s Totally Way, Way Different From All the Other Ones.” I also would talk more about two of my favorite poker movies in April in posts titled “Does the Kid Know Jack?” and “Selling Stories in California Split.”

The one-year anniversary of Black Friday came around, inspiring a lengthy reflection, “Black Friday Stories; or, Where Were You?” plus a second shorter one, “One Year Later.” I discussed more Epic Poker League fallout in “Epic URLs; or, Something Wicked That Way Went.” And on a happier note, a nifty video about an inventive kid and his games inspired “Take the Fun Pass.”

After a few months of silence over at Tao of Poker, our buddy Dr. Pauly popped up in April to tell us he was checking out from the poker-writing scene for a while. Readers of this blog know how much of a kindred spirit I consider the good doctor, and so I couldn’t let that occasion pass without some notice here -- “Positively Pauly” (published on 4/20, natch).

Sexton’s Scolding” addressed the WPT host’s opinions on poker player fashion. In “Developing: PokerStars to Buy Full Tilt Poker?” and “Seeing Stars, Tapie Taps Out,” I opined at length about the big story of the day. And in “Sources Are Reporting,” I opined some more about how that story was being reported.

Poker’s most popular forum went down for a couple of weeks, which caused me to exercise my own photoshop skills for a post titled “Someone Figured Out Two Plus Two.” And I offered my own thoughts regarding the passing of a controversial yet undeniably important figure in the history of poker in “‘Amarillo Slim’ Preston (1928-2012).”

Back tomorrow with May through August. Meanwhile, for those who’ve gotten all of the way to the end of this one, I’ll point you to the 2013 BLUFF Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards where you can vote for Hard-Boiled Poker for Favorite Poker Blog if you’re so inclined.

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