Friday, May 31, 2013

Chad is Champ; or, Has Everybody Heard About the Bird?

If memory serves, I believe I was first introduced to the “bird shirt” at the World Series of Poker a couple of years ago.

I’m hardly the kind of person who gets too uptight about fashion decisions. Nor am I that well-versed when it comes to making judgments about clothing choices. But even I instinctively understood the garment to be one of the most hideous imaginable.

However, my colleague and fellow blogger Chad Holloway felt differently. He not only would wear the bird shirt with confusing, strangely-placed pride but somehow successfully encouraged others to don the sucker at times while covering that year’s Main Event. Later we all got a kick out of occasionally spotting the bird shirt flying through the background during ESPN broadcasts.

Moving forward, I’d seen this week that Chad and a couple of other PokerNews guys had entered Event No. 1 of the 2013 World Series of Poker, the $500 Casino Employees Event, and that both Chad and our buddy Josh Cahlik had made it through to yesterday’s second and final day of play. In fact, they both had decent-sized stacks to sit near the top of the counts with 55 left.

That made me much more interested in checking out the coverage yesterday than I would’ve been otherwise. So I dialed up the Live Reporting page on PokerNews during the afternoon, and before long saw Day 2 photos of both Chad and Josh had been posted.

First I spotted the one of Josh, looking appropriately serious and engaged. I looked a little further....

And there it was. Staring up out of the photos as if to prove -- defiantly -- that it was not extinct, no sir.

That’s right. I’m talking about the bird shirt.

I couldn’t help but grin.

As the night wound down I kept refreshing the updates to see that Josh was in fact chip leader with about 15 left and Chad just a few spots back. I’ve worked with both numerous times over the last few years, both at the WSOP and at other events, and so was both excited and eager to see how things might play out for them last night.

Almost exactly a year ago I was in Punte del Este with Josh, waiting in long lines as we battled with great difficulty to get back to the States thanks to some canceled flights along the way. Have to say I feel an extra kinship with Josh as he not too long ago completed an English degree, our shared major giving us some common ground that will sometimes filter into our conversations.

Josh is also a creative type who has recently launched plans to make a feature film for which he’s written the script. The project -- titled Multiplex -- sounds pretty cool, actually, and he’s got a Kickstarter going to help get it off the ground. I’ve contributed a few bucks to it, and it looks like he’s more than two-thirds of the way to his goal at the moment -- check it out.

Josh ended up making it all of the way to 12th last night for a $5,010 cash, which I’m assuming will help out considerably budget-wise once shooting gets underway for Multiplex later in the summer. Meanwhile, Chad kept hanging around and was still there by the time the final table started with an above-average stack and in third position.

I lasted a little while longer -- it was already midnight here on the east coast -- before hitting the sack. Then later on during the night I got up and rechecked things to see Chad was still in with four left. Went back to bed and woke up this morning thinking about the tournament.

Still in bed, I had several of those weird half-dream half-waking visions flitting through my brain before I became fully conscious, several times imagining that I was checking the PokerNews app on my iPhone to see the results. You know what I’m talking about, how you’ll sometimes lay there thinking-slash-dreaming about getting up and taking a shower or doing whatever you are about to do?

A couple of times I saw other, less familiar names listed as having won, with Chad going out in fourth or third. Then once I saw he’d won. Then I finally got up to check for real, and damned if he didn’t get there. Chad had really won -- no shinola -- the bird shirt still staring dumbly, only now looking up out of a winner’s photo.

I checked my Twitter feed to see a lot of congratulatory tweets heading in Chad’s direction as the tourney had only ended an hour or two before. I also saw Chad’s tweet saying “Today a dream of mine came true.” I chuckled again, thinking about my own weird waking dreams of the tourney’s conclusion.

Chad and I were just up at Foxwoods covering the WSOP Circuit event that took place there in April. Like me, Chad’s a big fan of poker history and that always gives us lots to talk about. He’s also a solid player who plays pretty much year round and has had some success before, so I wasn’t too surprised to see him do well in the event.

But we all know how poker tourneys go, and how even when the favorites win there’s always an element of surprise. Unlike in most sports or games there’s so much uncertainty and chance involved no one can ever be assured of anything.

All of which is to say I’m happy for Chad and still shaking my head a bit to think that he actually managed to emerge from the 898 who entered to win a WSOP bracelet. Hard to believe, really. Kind of like that shirt.

Good thing Chad now has that piece of jewelry to wear so as to distract us.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Confounded by the Mad Genius of Poker

I’ve always liked Mike Caro as both a personality in poker and a good dispenser of strategy advice. I have a few of his books and like many players benefited from some of the ideas he’s shared over the course of more than three decades’ worth of writing about poker, highlighted early on by a contribution on five-card draw to the original Super/System in the late 1970s.

Caro is most famous for his Book of Poker Tells, a book which I read long ago although have to admit never really gleaned too much from as far as help at the table goes. (I’ve always been more of an online player than live, anyway.) I appreciate the book’s historical significance, though, and think that when you step back and consider Caro’s overall contributions to the game via his writings and ideas, they are substantial.

The “Mad Genius of Poker” is still writing, of course. His style tends toward what I would call “revelatory” in that he’s almost always aiming to produce these big “a-ha!” moments in his readers when it comes to explaining various ideas or frequently-encountered actions or situations at the table.

If you follow him on Twitter, you know that pretty much once a day he tweets links to pieces he has written -- many old, some new -- pointing to his always-under-construction website called “Poker1.” His tweets always come in the form of initiating that gesture to reveal of some hidden nugget of poker wisdom, with the articles then continuing in a similar vein.

For instance, today he tweeted “Astonishing poker truth about how to play aces in hold’em,” with a link following. Yesterday he tweeted a link to an article about “a common notion” in poker that turns out (he says) to be “horribly wrong.” That’s his favored and most frequently inhabited rhetorical position, namely, to function as a kind of poker detective who has unearthed the meaning of clues the rest of us have failed to notice.

As I say, I like Caro’s writings and style, and I think a lot of times the ideas he’s sharing are quite good and useful. Even in those instances when I don’t want to follow him down a particular path of reasoning, I still usually find what he’s saying to be interesting and thought-provoking in a constructive way.

Like I say, a lot of what Caro points us to in those tweets are pieces he’s written in the past. As far as new stuff goes, he does regularly contribute a column to Poker Player Newspaper, and usually there is also talking strategy or theory. However sometimes he branches out to address other topics, as he did a couple of weeks ago in an article in which he addresses “rampant” cheating in online poker and his considerable efforts -- unsuccessful thus far -- to do something about it.

“Time to go public,” Caro begins, again taking the position of someone who knows something the rest of us don’t, and who is now setting the stage for the sharing of his knowledge. He refers to his having been conducting a “behind-the-scenes campaign to protect online poker” from cheaters, noting that his campaign has failed.

“I believe that cheating is so rampant that many honest players, with superior skils, have no chance whatsoever of winning online,” states Caro. Knowing that some -- most (?) -- readers might respond skeptically, he then asks for patience while he explains why he believes what he does.

Unfortunately, Caro immediately becomes opaque again, vaguely referencing his study of “computer code” and other data connected to the “operations structures of five major poker sites” (identifying none). He’s done all of this work covertly, he tells us, “working secretly with these online poker sites and entities” like some sort of poker spy on a classified mission. Highlighting his investigation is anecdotal evidence of having lost while playing online poker at a higher rate than he believed to be “mathematically possible.”

The references to his losing session are as unclear as everything else, I’m afraid. So is the chronology, as it seems as though he’s referring to a session that took place at least six or seven years ago, possibly longer. I say that because after reporting his suspicions to the site and being told no evidence of cheating could be determined, he suggests his complaint to have been somehow uncannily prescient since cheating “scandals... eventually rocked the industry years later.”

Caro says his efforts to help the industry develop more accurate methods to detect cheating have been “stonewalled by mysterious forces deep within these organizations.” In other words, while he’s been given privileged access to sites’ “operations structures” where he has been “working secretly,” there’s still an inner circle deep in there somewhere where Caro hasn’t been allowed. No one seems interested in his new system, called Caro’s Online Poker Solutions (COPS), a name which he himself admits “probably is too cute by half.”

He concludes the piece by asking readers to help him and his colleague, Bill Handy, with their efforts, although once more he remains frustratingly imprecise about what exactly he wants others to do. He then signs off by saying he’ll “be adding more detail” on his website “in the near future.”

It’s kind of a baffling column, really, and like some of his “new/old” strategy pieces it’s hard to tell whether he wrote it recently or perhaps is sharing an idea he had many years ago. The fact that his follow-up PPN column appearing on the website this week doesn’t even address the same topic also makes it hard to figure out where Caro is coming from or where he is going.

It makes me think of a professor I once had in grad school who one day began a lecture saying “On September 16, 1958” (or some other date well in the past). As he paused before continuing, all of us in the seminar took the opportunity to jot down in our notebooks the words he just uttered. “On... September... 16... 1958....”

Finally he continued. “I had an idea,” he said.

He went on to explain the idea he’d had on September 16, 1958 was about the reading we’d been assigned that day, giving away with his opening the fact that he was reading from decades-old lecture notes. We all looked up at each other grinning, having been duped into thinking the date he’d referenced was somehow important enough for us to be writing down.

Sure, cheating in online poker is obviously an important issue worth talking about. But I don’t think Caro’s favored “revelatory” method really works so well with this particular topic, especially when he doesn’t ever quite get around to revealing anything at all.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

2013 World Series of Poker Schedule (Day-by-Day)

It’s here. The 44th Annual World Series of Poker finally begins today. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I’ll be heading out to Las Vegas again in a few weeks (in mid-June) to join PokerNews once more to help out with their coverage of all 62 bracelet events. This will mark my sixth year going out.

Speaking of traditions, I’ve gotten into a habit each year of posting a day-by-day schedule of the WSOP events spelling out what is happening every day and also including links to structure sheets. I’ll post a link to this post on the right-hand column and leave it there all WSOP, making it handy for referencing. Kind of helps me get oriented each day just to see what new events are starting and at what stage the ongoing ones are.

Such a complicated thing, this schedule. At least as tricky to construct as that chip stack pictured above, that feat accomplished by Bryan Devonshire late in the WSOP Main Event a couple of years ago (picture by Jay “WhoJedi” Newnum via Tao of Poker).

All times are Pacific Daylight Time, and all are in the p.m. except where noted. Links to structure sheets appear wherever a new event begins. The schedule is always subject to change, but the WSOP pretty much always sticks very closely to the syllabus throughout.

Wednesday, May 29th
12:00 -- #1: Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em ($500), 1/2
5:00 -- #2: No-Limit Hold’em / Eight-Handed ($5,000), 1/4

Thursday, May 30th
12:00 -- #3: No-Limit Hold’em (“Day 1a”) ($1,000), 1/3
1:00 -- #1: Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em ($500), 2/2
2:00 -- #2: No-Limit Hold’em / Eight-Handed ($5,000), 2/4
5:00 -- #3: No-Limit Hold’em (“Day 1b”) ($1,000), 1/3

Friday, May 31st
12:00 -- #4: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #3: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
2:00 -- #2: No-Limit Hold’em / Eight-Handed ($5,000), 3/4
5:00 -- #5: Omaha / Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($2,500), 1/3

Saturday, June 1st
11:00 a.m. -- #6: “Millionaire Maker” No-Limit Hold’em (“Day 1a”) ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #3: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
1:00 -- #4: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #2: No-Limit Hold’em / Eight-Handed ($5,000), 4/4
2:00 -- #5: Omaha / Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($2,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #6: “Millionaire Maker” No-Limit Hold’em (“Day 1b”) ($1,500), 1/3

Sunday, June 2nd
12:00 -- #7: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/3
1:00 -- #4: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #6: “Millionaire Maker” No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #5: Omaha / Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($2,500), 3/3
5:00 -- #8: Eight-Game Mix ($2,500), 1/3

Monday, June 3rd
12:00 -- #9: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout ($3,000), 1/3
1:00 -- #6: “Millionaire Maker” No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #7: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
2:00 -- #8: Eight-Game Mix ($2,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #10: Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3

Tuesday, June 4th
12:00 -- #11: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($2,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #7: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
1:00 -- #9: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout ($3,000), 2/3
2:00 -- #10: Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #8: Eight-Game Mix ($2,500), 3/3

Wednesday, June 5th
12:00 -- #12: Pot-Limit Hold’em (1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #9: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout ($3,000), 3/3
1:00 -- #11: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($2,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #10: Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
5:00 -- #13: Seven-Card Stud Hi/Low Split-8 or Better ($5,000), 1/3

Thursday, June 6th
12:00 -- #14: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #11: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($2,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #12: Pot-Limit Hold’em (1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #13: Seven-Card Stud Hi/Low Split-8 or Better ($5,000), 2/3

Friday, June 7th
12:00 -- #15: H.O.R.S.E. ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #12: Pot-Limit Hold’em (1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #14: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #13: Seven-Card Stud Hi/Low Split-8 or Better ($5,000), 3/3
5:00 -- #16: Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em ($10,000), 1/3

Saturday, June 8th
12:00 -- #17: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #14: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #15: H.O.R.S.E. ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #16: Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em ($10,000), 2/3

Sunday, June 9th
12:00 -- #18: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/3
1:00 -- #15: H.O.R.S.E. ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #17: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #16: Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em ($10,000), 3/3
5:00 -- #19: Pot-Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 1/3

Monday, June 10th
12:00 -- #20: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #17: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #18: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
2:00 -- #19: Pot-Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 2/3

Tuesday, June 11th
12:00 -- #21: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($3,000), 1/3
1:00 -- #18: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
1:00 -- #20: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #19: Pot-Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 3/3

Wednesday, June 12th
12:00 -- #22: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #20: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #21: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($3,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #23: Seven-Card Stud ($2,500), 1/3

Thursday, June 13th
12:00 -- #24: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #21: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($3,000), 3/3
1:00 -- #22: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #23: Seven-Card Stud ($2,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #25: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($5,000), 1/3

Friday, June 14th
10:00 a.m. -- #26: Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 1/3
1:00 -- #22: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #24: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #23: Seven-Card Stud ($2,500), 3/3
2:00 -- #25: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($5,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #27: No-Limit Hold’em / Mixed Max ($3,000), 1/3

Saturday, June 15th
11:00 a.m. -- #26: Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 2/3
12:00 -- #28: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #24: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
2:00 -- #25: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($5,000), 3/3
2:00 -- #27: No-Limit Hold’em / Mixed Max ($3,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #29: H.O.R.S.E. ($5,000), 1/3

Sunday, June 16th
11:00 a.m. -- #26: Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 3/3
12:00 -- #30: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/3
1:00 -- #28: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #27: No-Limit Hold’em / Mixed Max ($3,000), 3/3
2:00 -- #29: H.O.R.S.E. ($5,000), 2/3

Monday, June 17th
12:00 -- #31: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #28: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #30: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
2:00 -- #29: H.O.R.S.E. ($5,000), 3/3

Tuesday, June 18th
12:00 -- #32: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($5,000), 1/3
1:00 -- #30: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
1:00 -- #31: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #33: Seven-Card Razz ($2,500), 1/3

Wednesday, June 19th
12:00 -- #34: Turbo No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/2
1:00 -- #31: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #32: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($5,000), 2/3
2:00 -- #33: Seven-Card Razz ($2,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #35: Pot-Limit Omaha ($3,000), 1/3

Thursday, June 20th
12:00 -- #36: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #34: Turbo No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/2
1:00 -- #32: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($5,000), 2/3
2:00 -- #33: Seven-Card Razz ($2,500), 3/3
2:00 -- #35: Pot-Limit Omaha ($3,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #37: Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 1/3

Friday, June 21st
12:00 -- #38: No-Limit Hold’em / Four-Handed ($2,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #36: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #35: Pot-Limit Omaha ($3,000), 3/3
2:00 -- #37: Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #39: Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 1/3

Saturday, June 22nd
12:00 -- #40: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #36: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #38: No-Limit Hold’em / Four-Handed ($2,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #37: Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 3/3
2:00 -- #39: Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #41: Pot-Limit Omaha / Six-Handed ($5,000), 1/3

Sunday, June 23rd
12:00 -- #42: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/3
1:00 -- #38: No-Limit Hold’em / Four-Handed ($2,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #40: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #39: Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 3/3
2:00 -- #41: Pot-Limit Omaha / Six-Handed ($5,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #43: 2-7 Draw Lowball (No-Limit) ($10,000), 1/3

Monday, June 24th
12:00 -- #44: No-Limit Hold’em ($3,000), 1/3
1:00 -- #40: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #42: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
2:00 -- #41: Pot-Limit Omaha / Six-Handed ($5,000), 3/3
2:00 -- #43: 2-7 Draw Lowball (No-Limit) ($10,000), 2/3

Tuesday, June 25th
12:00 -- #45: Ante Only No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #42: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
1:00 -- #44: No-Limit Hold’em ($3,000), 2/3
2:00 -- #43: 2-7 Draw Lowball (No-Limit) ($10,000), 3/3
5:00 -- #46: Pot-Limit Omaha High-Low Split-8 or Better ($3,000), 1/3

Wednesday, June 26th
12:00 -- #47: One Drop High Rollers No-Limit Hold’em ($111,111), 1/3
1:00 -- #44: No-Limit Hold’em ($3,000), 3/3
1:00 -- #45: Ante Only No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #46: Pot-Limit Omaha High-Low Split-8 or Better ($3,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #48: Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($2,500), 1/3

Thursday, June 27th
12:00 -- #47: One Drop High Rollers No-Limit Hold’em ($111,111), 2/3
12:00 -- #49: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #45: Ante Only No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
2:00 -- #46: Pot-Limit Omaha High-Low Split-8 or Better ($3,000), 3/3
2:00 -- #48: Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($2,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #50: 10-Game Mix / Six-Handed ($2,500), 1/3

Friday, June 28th
12:00 -- #47: One Drop High Rollers No-Limit Hold’em ($111,111), 2/3
12:00 -- #51: Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($10,000; $1K for women), 1/3
1:00 -- #49: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #48: Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($2,500), 3/3
2:00 -- #50: 10-Game Mix / Six-Handed ($2,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #52: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($25,000), 1/3

Saturday, June 29th
12:00 -- #53: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #49: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
1:00 -- #51: Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($10,000; $1K for women), 2/3
2:00 -- #50: 10-Game Mix / Six-Handed ($2,500), 3/3
2:00 -- #52: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($25,000), 2/3

Sunday, June 30th
12:00 -- #54: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/3
1:00 -- #51: Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($10,000; $1K for women), 3/3
1:00 -- #53: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #52: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($25,000), 3/3
5:00 -- #55: The Poker Players Championship / 8-Game Mix ($50,000), 1/5

Monday, July 1st
12:00 -- #56: No-Limit Hold’em ($2,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #53: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #54: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
2:00 -- #55: The Poker Players Championship / 8-Game Mix ($50,000), 2/5

Tuesday, July 2nd
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 1/4
1:00 -- #54: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
1:00 -- #56: No-Limit Hold’em ($2,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #55: The Poker Players Championship / 8-Game Mix ($50,000), 3/5

Wednesday, July 3rd
12:00 -- #58: The Little One for One Drop No-Limit Hold’em ($1,111), 1a/3
1:00 -- #56: No-Limit Hold’em ($2,500), 3/3
1:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 2/4
2:00 -- #55: The Poker Players Championship / 8-Game Mix ($50,000), 4/5
5:00 -- #59: 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball (Limit) ($2,500), 1/3

Thursday, July 4th
12:00 -- #58: The Little One for One Drop No-Limit Hold’em ($1,111), 1b/3
1:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 3/4
2:00 -- #59: 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball (Limit) ($2,500), 2/3
TBD -- #55: The Poker Players Championship / 8-Game Mix ($50,000), 5/5

Friday, July 5th
12:00 -- #60: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
1:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 4/4
1:00 -- #58: The Little One for One Drop No-Limit Hold’em ($1,111), 2/3
2:00 -- #59: 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball (Limit) ($2,500), 3/3
5:00 -- #61: Pot-Limit Omaha ($10,000), 1/3

Saturday, July 6th
12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 1a/9
1:00 -- #58: The Little One for One Drop No-Limit Hold’em ($1,111), 2/3
1:00 -- #60: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
2:00 -- #61: Pot-Limit Omaha ($10,000), 2/3

Sunday, July 7th
12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 1b/9
1:00 -- #60: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
2:00 -- #61: Pot-Limit Omaha ($10,000), 3/3

Monday, July 8th
12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 1c/9

Tuesday, July 9th
12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 2a & 2b/9

Wednesday, July 10th
12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 2c/9

Thursday, July 11th
12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 3/9

Friday, July 12th
12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 4/9

Saturday, July 13th
12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 5/9

Sunday, July 14th
12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 6/9

Monday, July 15th
12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 7/9

Monday, November 4th
TBD -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 8/9

Tuesday, November 5th
TBD -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em Main Event ($10,000), 9/9

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fantasyland at the WSOP

As everyone reading this blog probably knows, the 2013 World Series of Poker begins tomorrow. Lots of buzz building in anticipation, both for the bracelet events and for the numerous fantasy leagues folks have created as way to make the tourneys that much more interesting to follow.

Daniel Negreanu is again running a $25,000 buy-in WSOP fantasy league, I believe for the third consecutive year. The drafting of players happens tonight, warranting enough interest both in who’ll be participating in the league as well as which players will be drafted for Quadjacks to run a live stream of the event starting at 7:00 p.m. PDT.

Noting all of the interest in Negreanu’s $25K WSOP Fantasy league, I tweeted yesterday that I would be running a Fantasy Fantasy league in which participants would draft participants in Negreanu’s draft. We can assign a point system based on how well the fantasy league players in Negreanu’s league perform according to their point system. I’m hoping if my Fantasy Fantasy league catches on, people will start creating fantasy leagues in which they pick players in my league, and so on and so on.

This is an idea with a lot of potential.

Two years ago I wrote a post about the $25K WSOP Fantasy league in which I noted that first prizes awarded in some bracelet events will in fact be less than the first prize in Negreanu’s league. Thus it could happen -- although one needs to twist oneself in a fairly complicated hypothetical pretzel to imagine it -- that a player could have financial incentive not to win a tournament if doing so meant preventing a player he’d drafted for his fantasy team from winning.

But such a scenario is obviously unlikely, and in the end I don’t believe a fantasy league -- even a high-stakes one -- can affect the integrity of a tournament all that much. In other words, the existence of fantasy leagues hardly affects game play, say, the way the “fantasyland” option in open-face Chinese poker can affect strategy in that game. If you think about it, the myriad backing arrangements and other forms of staking that are such a common part of the tourney poker scene have a lot more potential to matter than the existence of fantasy leagues, I’d think.

One interesting side effect of something like Negreanu’s draft tonight is the way it functions as a kind of ersatz “all star” vote of poker players by their peers -- that is to say, a way for a certain high-rolling subset of poker players to voice their opinions via their drafts who they think to be the best players around at the moment, or at least the best tournament players who they expect to put in a lot of volume at this summer’s WSOP.

I imagine those of us who follow tournament poker relatively closely we’ll recognize the majority of the names of those selected tonight, although there will probably be some with whom we’re less familiar. All chosen will get some attention, though, and perhaps will be followed a little more closely than they would otherwise have been.

I’ll probably have to tune in later to see which players turn out to be the most coveted by the Fantasy league players as well as what dark horses emerge as “ones to watch.”

For those of you participating in WSOP fantasy leagues... who are you drafting?

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Monday, May 27, 2013

On Winners and the Image of Poker

Was somewhat diverting last week to see how that $25K World Poker Tour World Championship played out and all of the surrounding hubbub concerning the deep runs of Erick Lindgren (the eventual runner-up) and David “Chino” Rheem (who won the sucker). I actually barely followed the tournament itself, to be honest, but I couldn’t help but overhear some of the hooting and hollering that resulted from that particular pair making it to heads-up.

Both obviously occupy interesting, similar places in the poker community at present. Lindgren’s story is perhaps somewhat better known thanks to a recent BLUFF feature discussing his significant gambling debts and even a stint in rehab, as well as the openness with which his many creditors have reported on sums owed.

Rheem’s story might be a little less well known, although that absurd-in-retrospect judgment placed upon him by Epic Poker’s Standards and Conduct Committee back in August 2011 broadcast his reputation for failing to pay back debts a little more widely than had been the case previously.

Recall how the EPL placed its first Main Event winner on probation “in order to effectively monitor the personal conduct of Mr. Rheem as he works to meet his personal financial obligations as required under the Players’ Code of Conduct”? Provides a chuckle today, that, as we now understand the extent of Epic Poker’s own significant financial obligations, and the way Federated Sports + Gaming weaseled out of those obligations by taking the bankruptcy route. Heck, some of us are still receiving legal notices helping us monitor that, too.

Both Lindgren and Rheem provide a lot of forum fodder, obviously, and their performances in the WPT World Championship created another occasion for further judgments, jokes, and conjecture about the players’ backing arrangments as well as the possibility of certain debts getting settled thanks to their large scores ($1,150,297 for Rheem and $650,275 for Lindgren).

My initial reaction upon seeing those two in the top spots heading into the final table and then learning they had finished 1-2 was to think back to what I was writing about a week ago regarding “The Shifting Place of the WPT World Championship.” There I was noting how the event has become much less central on the poker calendar over the last several years, both for players and for fans.

One idea I had in mind when writing that post that I didn’t really discuss explicitly was the way the $25K WPT World Championship seems to have evolved into an event reserved for only a select few -- namely, those who can afford and/or be backed for the $25K buy-in. Thus my initial thought about Lindgren and Rheem both playing and coming away with the top two prizes was to think how that result seemed to confirm such an idea that the tournament is kind of segregated from others on the schedule, something only for those like Lindgren and Rheem who even with their debts (or perhaps because of their debts, and, of course, their skills as players) can get backers and play.

But then I had a different thought about it all, partly inspired by the EPL’s fretting over its image once Rheem won that first Main Event. I thought about how curious it is that people place so much importance on who wins a poker tournament and the way the story of that person’s triumph might reflect on the game itself.

The NBA playoffs are currently down to four teams -- Miami, Indiana, San Antonio, and Memphis -- and some commentators are already talking about how the upcoming finals will probably fail to earn high television ratings because of the absence of “big market” teams (e.g., from New York or Los Angeles). But no one is worried about the state of the game itself being negatively affected by who ends up winning in the end. Or affected at all, really.

Meanwhile in poker, discussion about how winners are perceived both within the community and beyond often forms part of the post-tourney response, particularly in the case of the highest-profile tournaments.

Such discussion always surrounds the WSOP Main Event, of course. Remember the first year of the “November Nine” (2008), when all of the talk was about how the final nine featured a bunch of nobodies? Coincidentally -- or ironically -- it was Rheem alone who initially stood out among that group as the only “pro” among them, thus causing a lot of uncertainty about whether or not the whole delayed-final table experiment was ultimately going to be “good for poker” if no one knew the players involved.

Such has been the case ever since the WSOP Main Event started to attract notice by those outside of poker. I’m thinking of the end of The Biggest Game in Town by Al Alvarez in which he reports on the 1981 WSOP. Alvarez describes one player, Bill Smith, drinking heavily throughout the tourney on his way to the final table, and quotes an unnamed poker pro worrying “If Bill ends up beating all of the nice guys, like Bobby [Baldwin], it’s going to set the image of poker back ten years.”

Smith ended up busting in fifth, leading Alvarez to say (with tongue clearly in cheek) that “the new, clean-living image of poker had been spared for another year.” That Stu Ungar would go on to win that year -- an amazing character, to be sure, though obviously not exactly a wholesome representative of the game -- perhaps provides yet another one of those hindsight-producing ironies here.

In any case, this whole idea of assigning such significance to the winner’s character or identity and its ultimate effect on the “image of poker” is curious to say the least. After all, the game attracts such a wide variety of people, and the very nature of the game -- with chance a significant element -- makes it impossible to exert any sort of control over who is going to win and thus be perceived as representing the game going forward.

Looking back, I’d say that was one of a few impossible goals the EPL was striving for during its brief, quixotic existence, i.e., to try to exert some sort of control over who the winners in poker were going to be, ensuring they be both skillful and of acceptable character. (Wrote a little on that idea way back in early 2011 when the EPL was first announced in a post titled “A League of Their Own.”) But in truth, it is foolhardy to suggest the fate of the game depends so heavily on outcomes.

So Rheem wins and Lindgren almost does. So what? Poker endures.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Love, Gambling, and Casanova

The Venetian adventurer and libertine Giacomo Giralamo Casanova’s legacy was such that to this day the mere mention of his name instantly evokes the art of making love. While Casanova lived and died just prior the advent of poker, his predilection for gambling also demonstrates the various seductions of card games, thereby suggesting more than a few connections between love and poker.

Born in Venice to actors in 1725, young Giacomo was destined to endure a childhood marked by abandonment. His father died when he was but eight, and he was sent away from his mother and siblings a year later to stay at a boarding house. Soon he became a gifted student, studying numerous subjects and earning a degree in law by age 17.

He was introduced early on to sex and romance, losing his virginity while still an adolescent. And he started gambling early, too, managing to accrue significant debts even as a teenager.

As a young adult, Casanova would begin a clerical law career and even for a short while was admitted as an abbé before scandals -- including debts that earned him a short stay in prison -- spelled the end of his association with the Catholic church.

He then tried a military career, although again his gambling helped curtail that pursuit after he lost most of his initial earnings at the faro tables. A failed try at being a musician followed before Casanova finally found himself a patron, thereby allowing him the freedom to engage with less restraint in his two favorite pursuits -- women and gambling.

Casanova’s adult years were marked by various escapades and travels throughout Europe, with numerous affairs -- some scandalous -- punctuating his days in Paris, Dresden, Prague, and Vienna. A return to Venice followed where he found himself mired in more scandal and another prison stay before embarking on another romance-filled romp throughout Europe.

As the 18th century came to an end and Casanova’s life was coming to a close he found himself alone and poor, working as a librarian in Bohemia. In his old age the longtime lover had an urge to chronicle his illustrious life, and so would spend his final years writing the 12-volume Histoire de ma vie where much of his amazing story has been preserved.

It is amid those 3,800-plus pages we learn of his prodigious sexual conquests, often cast as adventures with the author as hero while also serving as a kind of tutelage by Casanova to his reader in the art of seduction. All told Casanova recounts himself having affairs with more than 120 women, including one nun (who, he explains, propositioned him). He almost always conducted multiple liaisons at once, at apparently at one time had 20 different Parisian apartments with lovers residing in each.

And no, he never married.

His memoirs additionally relate the many different gambling games he and other Europeans of the day favored, foremost among them faro, but also including various card games like whist, quinze, basset, biribi, and primero, the latter often described as one of poker's precursors. As would be the case in the 19th century when poker came to America, cheating was prevalent in these games, and Casanova relates stories in which he, too, occasionally engages in dishonesty while gambling at cards.

In fact, the practice of deceit might be highlighted as a trait or element of Casanova’s unique “philosophy” that connects his sexual exploits and his repeated dalliances with Lady Luck.

When explaining the art of seduction to his readers, Casanova freely admits that while not all of his many brief relationships were based on lies, many at least began on false pretenses. “I have more than once deceived without the slightest qualm of conscience, both knaves and fools” he wrote, alluding to the various cons he ran throughout his life. “As to the deceit perpetrated upon woman,” he asks his reader to “let it pass, for, when love is in the way, men and women as a general rule dupe each other.”

While Casanova clearly loved women -- and at times speaks of them with a kind of reverence that reveals his having considered them equals during an era when it went against the grain to do so -- he nonetheless recognizes how oftentimes his “victories” over them hinged upon his having outwitted them in some fashion. His interactions with men, including those against whom he gambled, in many cases went similarly.

However, while he insists deceit is simply part of the “game” of love and thus shouldn’t be considered especially noteworthy, he gladly accepts whatever judgment might be delivered upon him for his triumphs over men. When speaking of men he’s successfully duped, Casanova many times sounds like he could be writing a poker strategy text in which he’s advising readers about the benefits of targeting less-skilled opponents.

“I always feel the greatest bliss when I recollect those I have caught in my snares,” he writes, “for they generally are insolent, and so self-conceited that they challenge wit. We avenge intellect when we dupe a fool... in fact, to gull a fool seems to be an exploit worthy of a witty man.”

Of course, it should be noted that on the whole Casanova was not necessarily the most successful of gamblers, his career marked by wild swings both positive and negative, with his “tilting” at the tables sometimes proceeding as far as engaging opponents in duels with pistols. And like many poker players he was susceptible to chasing losses and becoming reckless when running well. “I had neither prudence enough to leave off when fortune was adverse,” he explains, “nor sufficient control over myself when I won.”

Casanova wasn’t uniformly victorious with the ladies, either, with a few failures occasionally damaging his status as a “player.” Most notable among these tales is his lengthy, unhappy pursuit of Marianne de Charpillon, a prostitute from France he encountered in London. In the end he’d squander many hours and significant sums over her without success, and like a successful poker player who suddenly meets with an unfortunate run of cards, his confidence was said to be shaken thereafter.

It would be around the middle of the 19th century -- well after Casanova’s death when poker had begun to emerge as a favorite card game -- that the Italian’s name would start to appear as a synonym for a well-skilled lover, as it still is today.

But Casanova’s life was more complicated than such usage might suggest. And in fact, his fascinating story provided numerous object lessons for lovers and gamblers alike.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Moneymaker

Today’s a special anniversary in the poker world, one that many have been noting had been coming for the last couple of weeks. I’m referring, of course, to it being the 10th anniversary of Chris Moneymaker’s stunning victory in the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, an event which many point to as a catalyst of sorts for the subsequent poker “boom” thanks to the way it brought together numerous influential factors -- online poker, newly-revamped televised poker (with hole cards), and the underdog story of an amateur being the pros that further inspired so many to get involved in the game thereafter.

I’ve written many times about Moneymaker and his win here before, including writing posts marking this very date and its significance, and so am not too interested in scribbling yet another, similar one today. Am also kind of running low on mental fuel, to be honest, thanks to having sat up the entire night following and reporting on an online tournament -- one in which Moneymaker himself actually made a fairly deep run, finishing ahead of about 1,500 other players or almost twice as many as he bested in the 2003 ME.

I’ve enjoyed reading some of the other pieces that have been posted this week regarding Moneymaker’s win, most particularly that cool, lengthy oral history of the 2003 WSOP Main Event compiled by Eric Raskin for Grantland, titled “When We Held Kings.”

Nolan Dalla has also been writing a series of entertaining posts over the last several days sharing his memories of that Main Event. As I talked about once with Dalla in an interview for Betfair Poker, it wasn’t that long before Moneymaker’s win that he’d become the WSOP’s Media Director, and he worked for Binion’s then, too, which necessarily put him right in the middle of things when lightning struck 10 years ago today. Check his blog for the series, to which he’s still adding.

Finally, I very much liked Brad Willis’s piece on the PokerStars blog today in which he shares a more personal account of how Moneymaker’s victory affected him both personally and professionally. In “Ten years later: How Chris Moneymaker changed my life,” Brad tells a story that is familiar to a lot of us, and in fact when I look at his next-to-last paragraph, I could almost quote it verbatim as representative of what also happened me (changing out only the original career):

“Ten years ago today, I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life working in local TV news. It wouldn't have been a bad career, and I think I could’ve done it with pride. But because of that day in 2003, I’ve seen a big part of the world, been able to report some amazing stories, and met friends I will cherish forever. And, for what it’s worth, I’ve been able to hang out with a poker hero named Moneymaker from time to time.”

All of those statements apply to me, too. Even the bit about getting to know the champ a little, as I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Moneymaker on several occasions, including about what happened on May 23, 2003. Such a friendly guy and truly a remarkable ambassador for the game -- and, if you think about it, a person who has helped define what we mean by that idea of being an “ambassador” for poker.

Of course, when I think back to 2003 I don’t remember anything at all about what happened on this date as far as poker was concerned. Like many, many others, it wasn’t until ESPN began showing its coverage of the Main Event in late August -- and I got hooked like everyone else on the weekly one-hour segments -- that I ever paid any attention to Moneymaker and his story.

If I’m adding up the dates correctly, it would have been Tuesday, October 7, 2003 when the seventh and final installment of ESPN’s coverage was shown for the first time. That was the night it all went “boom,” I’d say, and everyone finally found out about Moneymaker and the WSOP and online poker and everything else.

Still today’s a day worth noting, and enjoying the memories being shared by others regarding a life-changing event for one 27-year-old accountant and for countless others, too.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Looking Back at the OP on UB

Yesterday I listened to episode 7 of the poker podcast Life With Face Cards, featuring an interview with poker player David Paredes.

I hadn’t heard the show before -- it just debuted in April -- but I enjoyed listening, with the host David Podgurski giving his guest lots of room to discuss in detail various topics while also keeping the interview moving forward. (I hope I’m spelling Podgurski’s name correctly.) Past guests have included Dan Cates, Jay Rosenkrantz, and Dani Stern.

It helped that Paredes proved an interesting guest. I remember first covering Paredes in a tournament back in early 2010 when he final tabled the NAPT Main Event at the Venetian, finishing fifth. I’ve seen him now and then at other tourneys since, I believe most recently at the one at the Sands Bethlehem last winter.

The show reminds us all that Paredes was in fact right in the middle of things way back in January 2008 when the initial discoveries regarding cheating on Ultimate Bet first surfaced.

It was during the fall of the previous year that Paredes, a.k.a. “dplnyc21” on Two Plus Two, had compared notes with Mike “trambopoline” Fosco regarding some unusual losses both had experienced on UB when playing against the player “NioNio” from July-Sept. 2007. They noted both the player’s insanely high win rate -- more than 60BB/100 hands -- and the fact that the player was playing more than 65% of hands (well over twice that of a typical, successful NLHE player).

Using PokerTracker, the pair were able to identify other unusual patterns in the relatively small sample size of 3,000 hands or so, and decided to take their findings and concerns to the High Stakes PL/NL forum on Two Plus Two.

A little after midnight on January 8, 2008, Fosco started a thread with the title “Suspected super user on UB: NioNio” with a long post starting with a brief summary of NioNio’s unusual stats followed by about 25 hand histories.

We now know this was just the beginning, with the NioNio account being one of dozens employed by the many who used the so-called “AuditMonster” program to cheat opponents on the site. Many more threads would appear after this one, as would a more careful marshaling of evidence by numerous others to compile a more substantial (and convincing) case regarding the cheating.

It was exactly two months later on March 8, 2008 that Ultimate Bet issued its “Interim Statement” acknowledging that a cheating “scheme” had been perpetrated on the site. Of course, the recent revelation of that audio recording secretly made by primary cheater Russ Hamilton of a meeting involving himself, Greg Pierson, Dan Friedberg, and Sandy Millar, we now know definitively that the statement and other machinations by Ultimate Bet going forward were part of a new scheme to cover up as much as possible so as to minimize player refunds and enable the site to continue operating. (That first three-hour recording came a few weeks after the first 2+2 thread appeared; the second two-hour recording was from July 2008.)

And with the benefit of hindsight we also know the latter scheme in fact worked, with the subsequent signing of more sponsored pros including Joe Sebok, the continued support of spokespersons Annie Duke (until a few days ago an aggressive champion of UB, old and new) and Phil Hellmuth (a.k.a. “Completely Oblivious”). The site stumbled for a while, but recovered and in fact thrived right up until April 2011 and Black Friday, with its Full Tilt Poker-like failure to segregate player funds resulting in the loss of about $55 million worth of funds by those who continued to play on the site.

Speaking of hindsight, reading through that original “Suspected super user on UB: NioNio” thread is kind of fascinating. It begins and ends on 1/8/08, and I think might have actually been locked or even temporarily deleted amid criticisms that the accusations presented by trambopoline and dplnyc21 were without merit.

It’s interesting to see the overwhelmingly negative response to the pair’s findings. A few chimed in to agree that they, too, had played with NioNio and were suspicious, with others also saying that Fosco’s findings provided reasonable cause for suspicion and warranted further investigation. But most of those posting express serious doubts in response to the OP.

Isaac “Ike” Haxton is the most skeptical of that latter group, saying he “bet this guy is just a lucky fish” and that from what had been presented “there is no evidence this guy is anything other than a lucksack.” After speculating further regarding some of the hands that were posted, Haxton even goes on to say “you could make a much stronger case that i'm a superuser.”

(Haxton, incidentally, would go on to build a $300K bankroll on the “new UB” and Absolute only to see that money evaporate on Black Friday. I know he was trying to sell those funds off at 20 cents on the dollar about six weeks later, but I’m not sure what came of that.)

To be fair, the small sample size and selection of hands presented wasn’t nearly enough to build a convincing case, thus it is completely understandable to see posters on that day regarding the idea as belonging to the large category of “online-poker-is-rigged” arguments instinctively made by players following losing sessions or a preponderance of bad beats.

That is to say, I’m not suggesting any sort of criticism regarding those who initially doubted Paredes and Fosco -- after all, if we think back, they were voicing what was really a majority view at the time.

It is amazing, really, to think about the climate of trust in which online poker operated during those years. Trust which we now know was in several cases misplaced, but then had little or no hesitation to give.

The great majority were convinced the games had to be on the up-and-up, even after the Absolute Poker scandal had surfaced in the fall of 2007. And no site would ever be so kill-the-golden-goose reckless as to cheat its own customers, right?

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Let’s Talk Player-to-Player

As I was mentioning yesterday, there’s a ton happening poker-wise these days, including the World Series of Poker inching ever closer.

The first WSOP bracelet events start in just over a week (on Wednesday, May 29). Meanwhile we’re hearing announcements practically every day from the WSOP concerning all sorts of other news, including about that Carnivale of Poker schedule of events, the 2013-14 WSOP Circuit schedule (expanded to 22 stops) and the 2013 WSOP Europe schedule in Paris, France (including seven bracelet events).

One thing we haven’t heard anything about as yet is a specific date for the launch of the new WSOP real money online poker site, something that came up in that WSOP Conference Call last week. Lots of chatter on the grapevine about that. For example, there was a brief item on Pokerfuse earlier today passing along a forum rumor that the sucker was going to launch tomorrow, but WSOP Communications Director Seth Palansky has already confirmed that ain’t going to happen.

Lots of eyes on that story, obviously, which is starting to draw some of the attention away from Ultimate Poker as far as Nevada’s newly burgeoning online poker scene is concerned. Many are assigning a lot of significance to whether or not Caesars manages to get the site up and running during the WSOP, with a failure to do so already being characterized as a big misstep before the fact. But I think it’s clear the desire to launch a site that is tested and ready is probably a higher priority at the moment than to beat a deadline, especially since Ultimate Poker has already managed to claim the title of first to the virtual felt.

As this new U.S. Online Poker 2.0 starts to reveal itself, it’s interesting to observe how differently-managed the new games are from what went before. Licensing requirements in Nevada include a number of provisions that necessarily introduce changes from what players experienced previously with online poker, one of which is to disallow sites from enabling player-to-player transfers.

Players being able to transfer money back and forth to each other was common to pretty much all online poker sites (as far as I can recall), considered by most to be an extension of sorts from the frequent practice in live poker of exchanging money, backing and/or staking, and so on. I remember when I first started playing online I didn’t think too much of P2P transfers being a significant issue, particularly since as a recreational player I didn’t engage in making transfers all that often, but was glad to have the option for the few occasions when I needed it.

Now, though, I think we all see a lot more clearly all of the potential problems that can arise from sites allowing the unrestricted transferring of funds among players, or even the ability to do so with certain limitations. I’m thinking, of course, of things like Full Tilt Poker’s multi-layered implosion (prior to PokerStars’ acquisition and rescue) and the insider cheating scandals at Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker and how P2P transfers could be said to have helped facilitate other more obviously bad (and even fraudulent) practices. The recent Lock Poker brouhaha is also highlighting potential problems surrounding P2P transfers, although there are lots of other issues are in play as well.

The always provocative Kim Lund has been inviting conversation about the topic of P2P transfers via his Twitter feed (@InfiniteEdgeKim). Yesterday morning, Kim invited such discussion thusly: “Writing something on a sensitive subject. Why should sites facilitate player-to-player transfers? I see few reasons, none good enough.”

Responses have come arguing both sides of the issue, with those in favor of keeping P2P transfers in online poker often referring to customers’ desiring having such capability while others have pointed out reasons for doing away with the practice.

I lean in Kim’s direction on this one, perhaps in part because I am a recreational player for whom P2P transfers was never a vital element in my online poker experience. But I understand the arguments of those on the other side, too. I guess removing P2P transfers entirely from the game does, in a sense, further transform online poker into something very different from the live game.

But then again, it always was a different game, wasn’t it?

So how would you respond to Kim's question? Go on, you can tell me... there are no restrictions here regarding our exchanging thoughts and ideas, after all.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

The Shifting Place of the WPT World Championship

There’s so much happening at the moment as far as the professional tourney scene is concerned -- the recent winding down of the European Poker Tour’s season in Monte Carlo, the WSOP Circuit coming to a close in New Orleans, the Spring Championship of Online Poker on PokerStars, and the soon-to-begin World Series of Poker in Las Vegas -- I’d nearly overlooked the fact that the World Poker Tour was having its big finale this week, too.

Wrapping up Season XI, the WPT is currently staging its annual $25,000 WPT World Championship at the Bellagio. The tourney has always featured a $25K buy-in throughout the 11 years of the WPT, although in recent years they’ve added the option to re-enter once.

It looks like this year they drew 146 entries total, making the total prize pool just over $3.5 million. Checking in with B.J. Nemeth and Eric Ramsey of the WPT who are there at the Bellagio this week, it sounds like there were 120 unique players and 26 re-entries, all told.

That total of 146 represent a few entries less than they had last year (152), and the lowest since the WPT’s first season. They are about to start Day 3 today, with 67 players still in the hunt.

Kind of interesting to think about how the place of this WPT World Championship within the larger context of tournament poker has shifted over the years. During its first few years the tournament was kind of a focal point, a “major” (of sorts) that was often regarded as one of the most coveted titles on the schedule each year. That doesn’t seem so much the case these days, although for the winner it still represents a significant achievement (not to mention a big lot of cabbage).

Looking back over the last 10 years, here’s a look at the turnouts and winners of the previous WPT World Championships (with their first prizes additionally noted):

  • Season I (2003): 111 entries (Alan Goehring, $1,011,886)
  • Season II (2004): 343 (Martin De Knijff, $2,728,356)
  • Season III (2005): 453 (Tuan Le, $2,856,150)
  • Season IV (2006): 605 (Joe Bartholdi, $3,760,165)
  • Season V (2007): 639 (Carlos Mortensen, $3,970,415)
  • Season VI (2008): 545 (David Chiu, $3,389,140)
  • Season VII (2009): 338 (Yevgeniy Timoshenko, $2,143,655)
  • Season VIII (2010): 195 (David Williams, $1,530,537)
  • Season IX (2011): 220 (Scott Seiver, $1,618,344)
  • Season X (2012): 152 (Marvin Rettenmeier, $1,196,858)
  • The rise in the number of entries up to a peak in 2007 obviously corresponds to the larger growth of tournament poker during those “boom” years, although the drop off since then has been much more precipitous than has been the case, say, with the WSOP Main Event or with the big season-ending events on other tours.

    For example, the EPT Grand Final, a €10,000 buy-in tournament played in Monte Carlo every year except in 2011 when it was in Madrid, has seen the following less dramatic bell curve in the number of entrants over its nine seasons: 211 (2005), 298 (2006), 706 (2007), 842 (2008), 935 (2009), 848 (2010), 686 (2011), 665 (2012), 531 (2013).

    Meanwhile the WPT has expanded considerably from just 11 stops during that first season to 24 in Season XI, with the World Championship remaining the highest buy-in event on the tour (by far).

    People still care about the WPT World Championship, I think, although nowadays it feels like both players and fans alike have their attentions divided at this time of year, with a $25K buy-in event not necessarily earning the focus it once did among all of the other smaller and larger buy-in tourneys crowding the calendar.

    There’s more to say about the various causes that have potentially affected turnouts for the WPT World Championship over the years, of course. In any case, it does appear to have shifted somewhat of late from a central position in the poker tourney landscape over to a spot somewhere on the side.

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    Friday, May 17, 2013

    Ambient Noise

    Shamus with headphones“Well, I’ve been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones.” --Major T.J. “King” Kong, Dr. Strangelove

    I’ll admit that while I’ve been busy with other things this week, I’ve continued to linger some over that Travis Makar info dump from last Friday regarding the UltimateBet insider cheating scandal, in particular those two lengthy audio files chronicling two meetings involving Russ Hamilton, Dan Friedberg, Sandy Millar, and (on one of them) Greg Pierson.

    Been snooping through the files some more, reading various articles and postings, as well as listening to still more audio regarding it all in the form of podcasts.

    The most recent episode of the Two Plus Two Pokercast with Haralabos Voulgaris provided some interesting discussion, with Voulgaris providing some interesting tidbits from his experience with UB and some of its principals. However, the lengthy guest spot of Scott “ElevenGrover” Bell mostly had the effect of confusing rather than clarifying (for me, anyway).

    I better liked Todd Witteles’s partial breakdown of the recordings on his Poker Fraud Alert show this week. “DanDruff” played clips (mostly from the first part of the first recording) while commenting along the way, which seemed a more constructive exercise.

    Finally I heard Witteles’s ex-cohort Bryan Micon’s latest Donk Down show on which appeared both Pokerati’s Dan Michalski and the man in the middle himself, Travis Makar. A mostly maddening hour-and-a-half, I’m afraid, with neither of the hosts having listened to the audio and even Makar saying he wasn’t completely up on what the recordings contained.

    Makar expressed a willingness to answer any questions from Micon and Michalski, but neither seemed able to come up with any and thus the show failed to add much of value at all other than to remind us that Makar has still more information (and audio) which may or may not be revealed at a later date.

    All of which is to say, the actual significance of the recorded discussions as well as all of the other newly-publicized data obviously remain in need of cogent explanation. And probably will for a good while, I imagine.

    I mentioned on Monday how the recordings uncannily recall the Watergate tapes, what with the secretive nature of the recordings being made and the discussants’ talk of covering up previous scandalous behavior while making decisions that will subsequently affect the lives of many others. The ambient noise and interruptions occasionally obfuscating certain exchanges adds further to the similarity.

    Every now and then I’ll dig around and listen to those tapes Richard Nixon had made, part of my hobby-like fascination with reading and learning more about the complicated figure. Of course, I almost never do so without also looking a transcript and usually having some sort of additional annotation to help guide me regarding who is saying what and what it all ultimately means.

    Given the historical importance of those recordings and the fact that they were made so long ago, it’s easy to locate various aids to understanding that can help make the experience of listening all the more worthwhile. Not to mention even more compelling. (By the way, if you’re curious about the Nixon recordings, the “Nixon Tapes” website is a good place to start.)

    * * * * *

    Speaking of private meetings conducted during times of crisis, I wrote a new “Pop Poker” column for PokerListings regarding Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the 1964 darkly-comic satire directed by Stanley Kubrick that is mostly taken up with a U.S. president and his advisors meeting in a “War Room” to discuss and try to deal with the surprise launch of a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union by a deranged general.

    The film actually has a couple of significant connections to poker, including the character of Dr. Strangelove (one of three played by Peter Sellars) being partly based on John von Neumann, the Austrian-born mathematician often credited with having written and co-written the works that helped inaugurate the study of modern game theory. Von Neumann wrote about poker in those seminal works, and during the Cold War especially game theory played a particular role when it came to decision-making regarding nuclear weapons.

    In fact, as I note at the end of the piece, in Dr. Strangelove the War Room itself features a large circular table around which the president and his advisor sit that was deliberately meant to look like a poker table.

    Check out the article, if you’re curious to read more.

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    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    WSOP Conference Call Means We’re Getting Close

    Listened in on that WSOP Conference Call from yesterday. I guess we really are less than two weeks away now to the start of the 2013 WSOP.

    From the hour-long call there were really only a few items that stuck out for me, the most notable being the mention of the new WSOP-branded real money online poker site soon to launch in Nevada. There were no details offered regarding when exactly the site will be going online, although it certainly sounds as though the plan will be to get it up at some point during the Series.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be heading out to Vegas again this summer around mid-June to be there for the last month or so. I’ll be spending most of my waking hours working (as usual), but I am curious about perhaps playing on a Nevada site or two while I’m out there, and I imagine the WSOP one might be one I’ll try, if indeed they get it up and running.

    This 21-event “Carnivale of Poker” series that was mentioned might be interesting. There was talk of this being a revival of an earlier run series (from 1998-2000), described in the call as having once been the “second-largest poker event in the world.” I’m one of many unfamiliar with that earlier incarnation of the “Carnivale,” although this one sounds more like just an expansion of the Daily Deepstack tourneys -- i.e., more non-bracelet events to occupy folks with a greater variety of low buy-ins (from $365 to $1,675), plus that $5K Open-Face Chinese event.

    If I followed the discussion correctly, it sounds like several of these “Carnivale” tourneys (for which winners will be awarded medallions) will play out as the Main Event winds down, which would mean unlike in past summers there will still be considerable WSOP-related action going on all of the way through mid-July.

    The other item that interested me was the reference to using RFID technology in the playing cards at a number of final tables this summer in order to be able to show hole cards (on a delay) during the online streaming. Am curious to see that used, and will certainly be tuning in from home to get an idea of it before I get out there.

    There were a number of jokes along the way, some of which landed and some falling a little short. A couple of shots were taken at Ultimate Poker (in the context of discussing the WSOP’s planned-for site). Reminded me a little of last year’s call in which there were various digs made regarding the recently-sunk Epic Poker League.

    There was a timely remark right off the top about Russ Hamilton and recording the call, and another confusing one later about the erstwhile svengali Sam Chauhan and cooking food. Something about him creating a frequency through vibration of the powerful mantras to cook up some veggie burgers, I think.

    For a more detailed rundown of the call, you can visit Flushdraw where I touched on most of what was discussed. Or if you want to listen yourself, Pokerati Dan has posted the call here.

    All in all, it sounds like the plan going forward for the WSOP in most respects is to keep things as they have been for the last several years, only with more offerings (a record-number of bracelet events, the “Carnivale” tourneys). That said, it seems every year something comes up -- usually early on -- to add new wrinkles and/or make the new year different from what has gone before.

    One of the reasons why the sucker remains interesting, year after year.

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    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    Aces All Around in Dr. Jack

    Over the last couple of years I’ve begun to amass a small collection of poker-related film clips to use in my “Poker in American Film and Culture” course. Having just ended the spring semester and now readying to teach the class once more during the summer, I’ve been revisiting some of these excerpts as I make choices about which ones to include this time around.

    I’ve had one clip for some time that I’ve yet to introduce into the course, mainly because I haven’t really thought too much about it and where it might fit into the overall narrative we build in the class. I usually try to tie these clips to certain discussions or issues that come up. For example, when we talk about the Old West and the image of the cowboy and how poker played into that image, I’ve been showing scenes from old Westerns such as Tall in the Saddle (the John Wayne film I’ve written about here before).

    But this one I have yet to find a place for, a scene from the 1922 silent comedy Dr. Jack starring Harold Lloyd. I like it, though, and so will probably try to include it somewhere this time around.

    Here’s the scene (with some extra music and French subtitles to go along with those title cards):


    Dr. Jack is one of Lloyd’s lesser-known films. Most who know of him have seen Safety Last! (1923), the one with the iconic image of Lloyd hanging from a large clock, or perhaps The Freshman (1925) which finds him attempting to earn some popularity at college by joining the football team. Those are the only other Lloyd films I’ve seen, I think, and both are highly entertaining.

    He’s good in Dr. Jack as well where he plays the title character attempting to help a sick girl whose family is being taken advantage of by a rival, unscrupulous doctor. The movie is really mostly just a series of loosely-connected gags allowing Lloyd to do his usual stunts and often impressive physical comedy, which actually makes the poker scene easy to snip out of the film and present separately.

    I could probably fit the clip in among others that demonstrate cheating being prevalent in early-era poker, although the cheating that happens here is a little different from the other examples I have. Looking at it again, I’m realizing how a poker game can be presented coherently and even with lots of nuance in a silent film. There’s something about the drama inherent in a poker hand that captures the attention, with the suspense built looking forward to the hand’s outcome having its effect whether or not we hear what players are saying.

    It’s a carefully constructed scene, if you think about it. In fact, this is probably the most elaborate poker hand I can think of from a silent film. Of course, Lloyd’s animated expressions help him carry it. Unlike his contemporary Buster Keaton -- who often gets described as “poker-faced,” actually -- Lloyd usually possesses a more dynamic countenance that perhaps for some makes him a little more “human”-seeming.

    The exaggerated reactions of the old fogies at the showdown are pretty funny, too. Everyone was so focused on their aces... they forgot to pay attention to the Jack!

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    Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    Looking at Ivey Through Kaleidoscope

    Among the poker headlines coming through the reader yesterday was a Punto Banco story. That’s right, another interesting chapter in that situation involving Phil Ivey and the Crockfords Casino in London.

    Recall how we heard Ivey had visited the Mayfair casino last August, transferring a cool £1 million into the casino’s bank account while accompanied by a mysterious Chinese woman (styled “a beautiful Oriental female” in most of the U.K. reports where the adjective isn’t considered non-PC the way it is in the States). Then over a couple of evenings Ivey proceeded to play high-stakes Punto Banco, a variant of baccarat, for about seven hours altogether.

    On the first night Ivey started out betting £50,000 per hand, then was allowed to increase the stakes to £150,000. After initially finding himself down nearly £500,000, the momentum swung back Ivey’s way and he ended the evening £2.3 million up. He then came back the next night and his streak continued, enabling him to leave £7.8 million ahead -- i.e., a win of almost $12 million or the equivalent of Jamie Gold’s 2006 WSOP Main Event first prize (the largest ever for the ME).

    Ivey’s session immediately made headlines in the Daily Mail, with the initial reports also noting how Crockfords had not paid Ivey his winnings right away. Then came word of the casino’s plan to investigate casino footage, interview staff, and inspect the cards and dealing shoe used during the two sessions before paying Ivey. Another item of potential interest was the fact that the woman accompanying Ivey had been banned from another London casino previously.

    Soon it became apparent that Crockfords might not be willing to pay Ivey his winnings at all.

    Crockfords did allow Ivey to withdraw the £1 million with which he’d started, but otherwise they were resisting paying Ivey the rest. By the time the situation had dragged on into the fall, it was apparent the case may end up in the High Court, and indeed last week news came that Ivey was suing Crockfords in an effort to claim his winnings in what will surely be a huge, sensational legal story.

    Then yesterday the Daily Mail reported that in response to Ivey’s lawsuit, Crockfords is now alleging that rather than having enjoyed a streak of good fortune in the chance-based game, Ivey “exploited tiny flaws in the card design” as he played, and thus was able to bet accordingly. According to the article, “the cards were flawed because of a mistake during the cutting process at an overseas manufacturing plant.”

    Thus the allegation is that Ivey somehow knew about or discovered the flaw, with his request to the dealer that the cards (while face down) be turned in such a way that would enable him to spot the distinctive characteristics more easily and thus know what cards had (or hadn’t) been dealt.

    From the outside, the casino’s case sounds sketchy, given that Ivey obviously had nothing to do with the cards being used in the game. Anyhow, it’s all very eyebrow-raising in an “international-man-of-mystery” kind of way, and the Mail and other outlets have routinely brought up by way of comparison James Bond and his game of baccarat in the original Casino Royale to help their stories more readily catch the reader’s eye.

    Another film frequently mentioned in these articles is the 1966 Bond-like comic caper Kaleidoscope starring Warren Beatty and Susannah York. Coincidentally it was last August -- around the time Ivey visited Crockfords -- when I wrote up a “Pop Poker” column for PokerListings about the film, which often gets mentioned in those “best poker movies” lists one sees popping up from time to time around the web.

    Those comparisons are being made because the plot of Kaleidoscope involves Beatty’s character, Barney Lincoln, pursuing an elaborate scheme whereby he doctors the plates from which the Kaleidoscope brand playing cards are printed. The cards are used in casinos all over Europe, and thus we see Lincoln spend the first half of the film enjoying win after win as he plays Chemin de Fer (another baccarat variant), wearing a conspicuous pair of thick-framed eyeglasses as he does to help him see the markings.

    Lincoln is eventually found out in the film, and the plot takes a turn as he gets recruited by Scotland Yard to help them capture a villainous crime lord, Harry Dominion, played in over-the-top fashion by Eric Porter. The latter half of the film features a high-stakes game of five-card stud involving Lincoln and Dominion, and does include a few interesting moments -- particularly after a deck change introduces non-Kaleidoscope cards into the game.

    If you’re curious about the film, check out my discussion over on PokerListings. There you’ll see I was kind of lukewarm on it, not really being that entertained although I can see some fans of Bond and/or Bond parodies perhaps getting into it. It’s also cool for those who enjoy swinging ’60s fashion, U.K. style.

    It’s sort of funny to compare Kaleidoscope to the Ivey-versus-Crockfords situation, since doing so invites us to imagine Ivey as some kind of supervillain-cat-burglar type breaking into card manufacturing plants and manipulating the printing process in order to set up his big score later on. Obviously that’s not what is being alleged, but still, it’s a funny image, perhaps even easier to entertain for those of us who have gotten to know Ivey as a larger-than-life figure.

    More pertinently, those of us who know Ivey and his high-roller ways also find his enjoying a winning streak of 40-50 bets’ worth at a chance-based game to be much less remarkable than is the case for Crockfords’ owners. Then again, as we’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few days with regard to the revival of the UB cheating scandal, being able to know all of the cards that have been dealt is a sure way to increase one’s chance of winning.

    Here is the groovy title sequence for Kaleidoscope:

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    Monday, May 13, 2013

    More UB Sh!t

    I have been away for the last few days, attending a dressage competition with Vera. I’ve mentioned before how Vera competes, and I enjoy getting the chance sometimes to accompany her on these trips to provide support for her.

    One of the ways I usually end up helping out at these shows involves handling various jobs associated with the maintenance of Vera’s horse. In other words, having long ago agreed to be her groom, I continue today as a different kind of groom for her.

    I’m not a rider myself, but I am qualified for several of these highly necessary tasks, including the important one of periodically keeping the stall clean. That’s right. I’m talking about being able to use a long-handled tool especially designed for digging and shoveling.

    And no, I’m not talking about shinola.

    Anyhow, being away from home as I was, I was only intermittently “on the grid” for the last several days. However, I was sufficiently connected to become aware on Friday night that Russ Hamilton’s former assistant and would-be fall guy Travis Makar had suddenly made available a host of new information regarding the extensive and widespread insider cheating scandal and subsequent cover-up at Ultimate Bet.

    I’m sure you know all about this release of information, too, including its highlight -- two audio recordings of meetings secretly made by Hamilton himself revealing details of both the cheating and the early stages of the cover-up. The recordings have been known by many to exist for quite a while, actually, but their having been made public now finally gives everyone a chance to listen and learn a lot more about how deep the scandal went and how devious Hamilton and others were.

    As I say, I was occupied for much of the weekend, unable to sit in my usual workspace in order to listen, read what others were saying, formulate thoughts and take notes, and write. But I was able to hear the entire five hours’ worth of meetings on my iPhone as I went about my work around the barn.

    Having only listened through once, I’m not ready today to offer any sort of comprehensive response to what appears on the recordings. I imagine I will eventually find the time and energy, however, to add another post (or posts) to the pile being created by others as well as the one I have built here at Hard-Boiled Poker over the years.

    We all knew Hamilton was an immoral ogre, but on the recordings he seems positively inhuman. Others on the recordings (UB founder Greg Pierson, attorney Daniel Friedberg, attorney Sandy Millar), while being badgered about by Hamilton, seem nearly as repulsive.

    I will say I thought more than once while listening about the Watergate tapes, which as someone with a special interest in Nixon I’ve listened to quite a bit over the years. The ambience and whole “we gotta contain this” purpose of the discussions almost uncannily recalls the experience of listening to those tapes, too.

    Such a mood is firmly established at the beginning of the first-released recording:

    Hamilton: “So, Dan… where are we at here?”
    Friedberg: “Well, Greg said this thing is spiraling.”
    Hamilton: “Say that again?”
    Friedberg: “This thing is spiraling.”

    I also had another thought as I listened, connecting the entire, complicated saga with what I was doing at the time. And yes, that thought was partly inspired by the sound of Hamilton visiting the restroom after the meeting concluded on the first-released recording, sounding as though he was (with great difficulty) emptying his bowels -- a hilarious coda seemed to literalize the overriding metaphor of the meeting that preceded it.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever cleaned out a horse’s stall before or not, but if you have, you know that while the first part of the job is easy enough, near the end you often find that no matter how many times you think you are completely finished, if you move some shavings or hay around a little you’ll discover -- always, it seems -- still one more little imperfect, stubborn globule in need of being removed.

    You push stuff around and dig and dig, and dammit there’s more there. Finally you just give up and stop digging, because otherwise it never ends.

    Just like with UltimateBet.

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