Friday, November 29, 2013

Meals and Deals

Still in holiday mode around here after yesterday’s marathon of football and repeated helpings of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and everything else. Even had a full serving of sushi near night’s end to add a weird (though delicious) twist to the gourmandizing extravaganza.

Got two of three games correct yesterday, having gone with the Steelers in the nightcap and endured that painful almost-but-not-quite finish for Pittsburgh. Feel good about the pick even if it didn’t work out, as it seemed like a reasonable gamble to go with the visitors.

Speaking of taking gambles, this week over on the Learn site I’ve been exploring the topic of final table deal-making, partly inspired by the preponderance of deals I saw being made during the recently concluded MicroMillions 6 series on PokerStars -- the deals, of course, often being proposed and agreed to primarily to avoid taking gambles late in a tourney when the stacks are shallow and the pay jumps steep.

The MicroMillions series can be especially interesting when it comes to final table deals because many of the players involved in the discussions aren’t necessarily that well versed in the nuances of final table deal negotations. With such low buy-ins (many of the events are just a couple of bucks or thereabouts to play), there are a lot of players making the final tables who’ve never come close to winning, say, $1,000 in a single tournament (or more). So it stands to reason some might not have ever dealt with dealing.

Watching some of the discussions take place, I started thinking about how it might be somewhat useful to give a little primer on the process, and so ended up writing a three-parter this week on Learn talking about final table deals, how they work, and some of the pros and cons for making them.

The first part mainly just introduces the topic, then in the second part I spent some time explaining the what “chip count” (or “chip chop”) deals were and what a deal based on the “ICM” (“Independent Chip Model”) method of assigning cash values to stacks was. That latter discussion took a little while to get through, but I hope it comes off as easy enough to read and ultimately helpful.

Then in the third part I got into some of the reasons why people want to make final table deals as well as reasons why others do not. Again, it goes on a while, in part because I spend some time talking about both a wild heads-up deal in Macau from a year ago and the famous story of Moneymaker offering a deal to Farha in the 2003 WSOP Main Event (and Farha refusing).

But like I say, I hope the articles end up being of use to someone who might eventually find him or herself at the final table of a MicroMillions event (or some other tourney) and thankful for having had an introduction to the whole process of such deals.

Here are the links to those three articles:

  • Let’s Make a Deal: Introducing Deal-Making in Tournaments
  • Let’s Make a Deal: “Chip Count” and “ICM” Deals
  • Let’s Make a Deal: Reasons For and Against Final Table Deals
  • Have a good weekend, all. I’m off to see if there’s anything left on that carcass in the fridge.

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    Thursday, November 28, 2013

    Thx

    Quick one today just to deliver thanks once more to everyone for stopping by.

    It’s already shaping up into a fun day at Chez Shamus. Not even halfway through the first game of the NFL triple header, and Vera and I have already enjoyed a big meal of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and brussels sprouts.

    Speaking of the NFL, I keep making my picks even though I’m essentially out of contention in the yearly NFL “pick’em” pool. Two weeks ago I was chirping here a little about having followed nine weeks of mediocre picking with a best-of-the-week showing after hitting a couple of upsets.

    The next week I was back to so-so status, but last week I again tied for first by getting nine correct out of 13 (not counting the 14th game, the 26-26 tie between Minnesota and Green Bay). Enough to keep me wanting to submit picks, although being 11 games off the leading pace means all I can realistically hope for is perhaps to lead another week or two as the gap is much too much to narrow.

    Doing what I can, actually, to take a little bit of a break from poker, as it has felt I haven’t really had one for most of the year, especially since the summer and the WSOP. Will be picking back up the poker thread next week as I’ll be heading out to Las Vegas to help cover the World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Five Diamond Classic at the Bellagio that starts up at the end of next week.

    For now, though, gonna focus on the football. Thanks again!

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    Wednesday, November 27, 2013

    You Have to Play Good to Run Bad and You Have to Run Bad to Get Good

    About three years ago in this space I recommended a not-so-well-known “poker novel” by Rick Bennet titled King of a Small World. First published in 1995, the book smartly integrates poker into its plot and several themes, using the game to shed some light on the human condition and relationships while also providing a lot of genuine insight into poker, too.

    I picked the book back up again recently while thinking about perhaps adding it to my “Poker in American Film and Culture” syllabus. I continue to teach the course each semester and every time I do I tend to swap various readings in and out of the list of assignments.

    I’ve never included Bennet’s novel, in part because it was out of print back when I started teaching the class. But it’s available on Kindle now and used copies are easy enough to track down, so I am considering assigning it, perhaps in the spring.

    You can read that earlier post for a brief overview of the book and a full review. However, I did want to share one passage from it that struck me during this revisiting of the book, one that I didn’t discuss in the earlier post. (Indeed, I’m discovering there are a number of thought-provoking passages that I didn’t talk about in that post from three years ago.)

    The main character and narrator, Joey Moore, is a poker player and frequently draws analogies between the game and various conflicts and other events in his life, using lessons he's learned at the table to help him understand and explain the world he inhabits. These comparisons are deftly drawn by Bennet, not overwhelming the story at all and like I say giving the reader much food for thought both about poker and other matters of importance.

    During the first third of the novel Joey is involved in a cash game and interweaves a digression covering a few different ideas, including one exploring how “poker’s an emotional challenge” thanks in large part to the fact that all are susceptible to runs of bad luck.

    Joey has a distinction to draw, though, regarding how bad luck differently signifies for good and bad players.

    “Here’s a truth,” he explains. “You have to play good to run bad (because a bad player will lose his money eventually anyway, so bad luck just costs him time at the table, not actual money in his pocket) and you have to run bad to get good (because as long as you’re having good luck, you won’t bother developing the skill to win with average luck).”

    From there he explains how his poker education has primarily come “during extended bad runs.” He also points out that “I never had really good luck when I was learning, so I didn’t get seduced into bad habits.”

    I think most of us who’ve played poker for even a little while have come to understand the first part of Joey’s truth, that in order to “run bad” one has to be a good player, as it requires a certain measure of skill to put oneself in a position to suffer the misfortune of not earning one’s supposedly deserved rewards at the table. For example, it’s an oft-repeated maxim that you can only suffer a “bad beat” (really) after having played a hand well.

    Less obvious (I think) is the second part of Joey’s truth that says “you have to run bad to get good.” Most of us understand that we probably learn more when we lose, especially when those losses come as a result of our mistakes and we’ve found a way to identify those mistakes and thus take a first step toward avoiding them in the future. But that’s not really what Joey’s saying -- he’s pointing out we have to “run bad” (be unlucky) in order to “get good” (or be inspired to work on our games).

    I’m probably oversimplifying the idea, and in fact the more I think about it, the more I believe there’s something more to learn from it. In any event, it sure makes for a nifty, paradoxical-sounding poker proverb.

    Like I say, King of a Small World is full of such moments, and I’m enjoying rereading them and thinking about perhaps sharing them with a group of students to discover their thoughts about Joey’s various “truths.”

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    Tuesday, November 26, 2013

    WSOP Europe and WSOP Asia Pacific To Alternate Years

    The World Series of Poker yesterday announced a change of plans regarding the WSOP Europe and WSOP Asia Pacific events, or at least a move away from the pattern of offering both series on an annual basis.

    As you’ve probably heard, both the WSOPE and WSOP APAC will henceforth be staged on an every-other-year basis, alternating back and forth. Thus the WSOPE will be taking a year off in 2014, with the WSOP APAC happening in October of next year (and featuring 10 bracelet events). Then the WSOPE will return in 2015 with the WSOP APAC stepping aside. No word at the moment on how many events will be included at the 2015 WSOPE or when (or where) it will be held.

    Numbers at the 2013 WSOPE last month weren’t stellar, with some small fields and the Main Event slipping from 420 entrants to 375, kind of settling back toward where the ME field sizes began at the WSOPE when it began when 362 entered in both 2007 and 2008. The 2013 WSOP APAC in Melbourne (the first year of the series) also featured some events with small turnouts, although a healthy 405 entered the Main.

    There was some talk earlier in the year that having the WSOP APAC (in April) come so close on the heels of the Aussie Millions (in January) might have affected turnouts somewhat as some players chose one over the other, with most choosing the Aussie Millions. Having the WSOP APAC in October again puts it within three months of the Aussie Millions (in January), although this time the WSOP series will come first.

    Some immediately began talking again about the whole WSOP Player of the Year debate in response to the announcement, an issue of importance only to a very small percentage of players, though nonetheless one that gets an inordinate amount of attention from forum posters and media folks.

    The news made me think back to what WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said back in May 2012 when the WSOP APAC was first announced, in particular the suggestion of a “goal... to establish the worldwide grand slam of poker.”

    That thought seemed to suggest further expansion, with perhaps a fourth location for a WSOP series in the works and a global schedule rivaling other “grand slams” such as the one in tennis with its four “majors” in Australia (the Australian Open), France (the French Open), England (Wimbledon), and the U.S. (the U.S. Open).

    Such could still happen, although this week’s announcement suggests if it does it will be later than sooner. Responding to comments on his Twitter feed yesterday, Stewart noted how the WSOP “never desired to be a tour,” but was committed to the idea of the World Series of Poker reflecting how poker is indeed a “Worldwide game.”

    Will be interesting to see over the next few years how the WSOP continues to fare as far as bracelet events outside of the U.S. are concerned.

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    Monday, November 25, 2013

    The Desire for Results

    Was listening to The Dan Le Batard Show last Friday for a short while and caught a brief visit by NBA Hall of Famer and commentator Charles Barkley.

    Barkley was only on for just a few minutes. While I had missed the discussion that just preceded his arrival, apparently Le Batard and his co-host had been talking about Robert Horry, the power forward who had a solid, long career who happened to be on seven different teams that won NBA championships -- two with Houston (1994-1995), three with the L.A. Lakers (2000-2002), and two more with San Antonio (2005, 2008). (That is Horry pictured after winning his seventh title.)

    The discussion had been focusing on Horry’s seven rings and the suggestion that players who perhaps had more individual accomplishments on the court but no titles might wish to swap careers with Horry. Barkley -- one of many great NBA players who never won a championship -- was then invited on to comment on the topic, primarily because Horry himself had made an interesting statement that he would in fact rather have had Barkley’s career.

    I don’t want to get into comparing the two players’ careers, but rather I just wished to share something Barkley said during his comment, which reminded me a little of the oft-discussed topic of being “results oriented” in poker.

    “Charles, if I give you Robert Horry’s career... seven championships... [would] you trade it for yours?” asked Le Batard of Barkley.

    “I don’t look at it like that,” Barkley began. “I tell all of these guys, basketball is what you do, not who you are. I mean, to be honest with you, I think the championships are more for the fans.... I wanted to win for the fans of Philadelphia and for the fans of Phoenix. But I still tell these guys ‘Don’t you ever let these people tell you basketball dictates what you think about yourself as a person. It’s what you do, it ain’t who you are.’”

    There were a couple of ideas overlapping in Barkley’s comment, I believe, one of which was this broader statement about self-worth and not getting caught up others’ standards of greatness when considering your own accomplishments.

    The more specific point, though, was to respond in an indirect way to the suggestion that winning a championship represented a goal that transcended all others in sports. Perhaps never winning a title has encouraged Barkley to want to speak of doing so as only part of the picture for NBA players, not the entire picture. In any case, it struck me as interesting to hear him deliberately contradict the much-repeated mantra in sports that winning is all.

    Also intriguing (to me) is this idea Barkley tosses out that “the championships are more for the fans” than for the players. There I think Barkley isn’t necessarily correct, as it’s obvious most players, coaches, owners and front office folks find championships especially important. But I realized when hearing him make that point that it evoked pretty strongly those discussions about being “results oriented” you often hear in poker.

    One way of taking Barkley’s statement is to regard it as a claim that as a player he recognizes things about the game that the fans only partly know about or don’t understand at all. There are lots of ways of measuring one’s success as a player and teammate, says Barkley, that fans don’t necessarily appreciate, and in fact the winning of championships tends to eclipse a lot of those other evaluative measures for the fans when it comes to judging players and/or teams.

    In other words, fans are (in a way) results oriented. (Which is absolutely fine, I think Barkley is saying.) Players, meanwhile, know better than strictly to judge an individual’s career based on how many titles he won.

    Meanwhile in poker the complaint about people being “results oriented” usually comes from a similar angle, with the more experienced (or skilled) player being the one pointing out how less accomplished players or observers with little understanding of poker strategy are too easily swayed by outcome of a hand to realize it doesn’t always accurately reflect the skill with which it was played.

    In poker, too, there are different ways to measure players’ worth than simply on the basis of their results. But again (to further the analogy suggested by Barkley’s comment), it takes a keener understanding of the game to appreciate that fact. (Here, I think, the criticism also often implies that those who make the mistake of judging players solely by results should learn more about poker and correct their ways.)

    Setting all of this aside, though, it’s funny how the very fact that results do signify so heavily in poker and in sports is in fact a chief appeal of both. When one team wins and another loses -- or when one player wins a poker hand and another loses -- we have something very concrete and unambiguous to help us define the experience of playing or watching. We have “closure” (of a kind). So much of life isn’t so definite, with “winners” and “losers” and the whole idea of “results” being much, much more elusive.

    It’s no wonder we get carried away with assigning importance to results in the games we play and watch. Results are something the games give us, something we desire, and something we have immense trouble finding elsewhere.

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    Friday, November 22, 2013

    Post-JFK

    I’ve been writing here off and on over the last several months about my “Nixon studies” -- that is, my research into the life of Richard M. Nixon and in particular into his poker playing and how the game of poker might be considered as a lens of sorts for understanding certain events in his political career.

    The goal of these studies -- beyond merely feeding my curiosity about American history and politics, which has been accomplished many times over already -- is to write a short book about Nixon, the poker player. His story is so fascinating and full of strange twists and improbable turns, though, it is easy to get sidetracked by other side roads along which the significance of the poker angle becomes less apparent or recedes to the point of being insignificant.

    These last couple of weeks my Nixon studies have been marked by a few detours concerning John F. Kennedy, in particular his assassination which of course happened 50 years ago today. I’ve been influenced by others’ recent references to the anniversary, as well as by the occasional television specials focused on the event that have picked up in frequency over the last couple of weeks.

    JFK of course figures prominently in Nixon’s story, with their heads-up battle in the 1960 election representing an initial setback in a political career that had to that point been characterized by uninterrupted success for Nixon, though his eight-year tenure as Vice President had slowed his momentum by then.

    For those alive on Friday, November 22, 1963 and whose memories stretch back that far, all recall vividly details of the moment they learned of what happened on Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas at 12:30 p.m. that day. The rest of us were subsequently born into a post-JFK world and in different ways gradually became aware of the history that preceded us.

    I vaguely recall learning about the man on the half-dollar coin as a child, then later about what happened to him. Eventually I came to learn about Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, and the rest. I remember my grandfather telling me he firmly believed Lyndon B. Johnson had been the responsible party. I had a paperback copy of the Warren Commission report at one point which I read through. I read other accounts, Don Delillo’s fiction Libra, saw Oliver Stone’s JFK, and like many have returned to the story again and again over the years.

    Now with YouTube and other online resources we can relive much of those crazed few days in Dallas, including lots of original TV and radio, both local and national. A place called the Texas School Book Repository figures prominently in the story of the assassination, but now we all share an enormous virtual repository where there is no end to the accounts, analyses, images, audio, video, and other materials related to the event.

    Not long ago I watched on YouTube the History channel’s JFK: 3 Shots That Changed the World from a few years back (airing again on the channel this afternoon), which over the course of three-plus hours and two parts compiles lots of primary source material without any comment other than through the editing choices and a brooding, spooky soundtrack.

    The story it presents begins the morning of the 22nd, moves to the first reports of the shooting, lingers over the delirium that followed, then during the final hour surges forward year by year and decade by decade to show the assassination’s relentless hold on our imaginations, a hold fueled primarily by unanswered questions about what happened.

    I recommend that History channel special (here’s Part 1 & here’s Part 2). It’s hard not to be moved by it. And angered and confused and frustrated and everything else. The first hour or so is especially gripping, with everything leading up to the killing tinged with shudder-producing forboding.

    I’m referring to seeing the Texas Schoolboys Choir serenading Kennedy prior to his last speech before the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce with a rendition of “The Eyes of Texas” with its ominous sounding lines “the eyes of Texas are upon you / And you cannot get away.” Or Raymond Buck, the Chamber of Commerce president, giving Kennedy the gift of a white cowboy hat. “We couldn't let you leave Fort Worth without some protection against the rain,” he tells Kennedy who then despite some goading from the crowd resists putting on the hat, perhaps so as not to mess up his hair.

    “And to protect you against local enemies,” Buck continues, “in the manner that you are protecting this nation against our foreign enemies, and to keep the rattlesnakes on Vice President Johnson’s ranch from striking you, we want to present you with this pair of boots.”

    Soon Kennedy takes the short flight from Fort Worth to Dallas, landing at Love Field where hundreds await his arrival. There’s the sequence of he and Jackie leaving the limo for a time to shake hands, the crowd swarming in a way that is unsettling. Then it’s back into the car for the last ride, and soon come the shots, those first news reports, and the initial shocked reactions.

    Watching it unfold, it is difficult not to be filled with sadness. I think of how frightening it all seems, compounded by the chaos of the error-filled hours and days following the assassination where for those who lived through it the whole pretense of civilized society must have seemed on the verge of tearing apart. It all seems impossible, the product of a mad world at once primitive and naive and complex and sinister.

    When my grandfather confidently fingered LBJ, I wasn’t old enough to understand why he might. Later I would become acquainted with the various conspiracy theories (including ones involving LBJ), although now I find that like most people the more I learn about Kennedy’s assassination the less clear it becomes.

    Twenty-five years ago Errol Morris made one of my all-time favorite films, The Thin Blue Line, about another murder mystery in Dallas. Yesterday he released an interesting short via The New York Times called “November 22, 1963” in which he invites Six Seconds in Dallas author Josiah “Tink” Thompson to talk about the JFK assassination and how with the passage of time it becomes increasingly opaque.

    To get back to Nixon, some might be surprised to learn he was in Dallas on November 22, 1963. No shinola.

    By then Nixon had lost another campaign, the one for governor of California in 1962 after which he’d famously tell reporters “You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore.” Back in private life, Nixon was working for a New York law firm that represented Pepsi-Cola. It was that relationship that brought him to a convention of American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages in Dallas, at which Pepsi was also having a corporate meeting.

    There's video of Nixon speaking in Dallas on November 21, voicing very critical, partisan opinions regarding both JFK and LBJ. He’d leave Dallas the next morning, flying from the same Love Field Airport where JFK would arrive just a few hours later. At midday -- just after the assassination -- Nixon was landing at Idlewild Airport in New York, renamed JFK a month later.

    Nixon’s presence in Dallas just prior to the assassination has predictably been folded into various conspiracy theories, with Nixon’s own inconsistent accounts of where he was when he heard the news of the assassination adding further encouragement. That’s right -- while everyone else remembers precisely where he or she was at that moment, when it came to recounting his memory of it Nixon had multiple versions of the story.

    There are other stories regarding Nixon and the assassination, including his having known Jack Ruby many years prior to 1963 (a link sometimes brought up in connection with the LBJ conspiracies). According to Oswald’s widow, Marina, he had also allegedly intended to kill Nixon back in April 1963 when Nixon may or may not have scheduled a trip to Dallas that he never took, a story Nixon alludes to in his memoirs.

    Despite my grandfather’s suggestive influence, I’ve never been that convinced by any one theory regarding what exactly happened 50 years ago today. Whether Oswald acted alone or in concert with others, there was most definitely a conspiracy in the broadest sense of the word that day -- as in many, many factors worked together to create a context in which something that had seemed impossible could come true.

    As Thompson tells Morris, “I know this happened one way rather than another. It had to happen one way, right?” And while the photos and films taken that day seem to get us closer to what that one way was (as Thompson suggests), they -- and all of the other evidence (credible and spurious) -- confuse us, too, creating a perplexing palimpsest that makes it harder and harder to see anything clearly.

    The assassination and all of the questions surrounding it have cast a long, half-century-long shadow under which we’ve all lived. Many correctly point to the day as inaugurating an era marked by violence, distrust, and uncertainty. The only world most of us have known.

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    Thursday, November 21, 2013

    Drafting Your Players, Playing Your Cards

    At the WPT event this past week in Jacksonville, the fantasy sports betting site DraftKings had a presence as the entity throwing the players’ party, sponsoring the final table live stream, and in other ways.

    It’s a relatively new partnership, just announced within the last couple of weeks, I believe. In fact, for the upcoming WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic (where I will also be) there will be some contests on the site via which players can actually win seats into the event.

    I’ve gotten an account on DraftKings and have played some free games with friends. I’ve mentioned before having played a little on Draft Day, another fantasy sports site, as well as how I find the games diverting though not nearly as engrossing as some.

    It’s kind of intriguing, though, to see how the games on these sites resemble online poker in their formats, with large field games with top heavy payouts being like the MTTs, smaller “sit-n-go” styled games with a limited number of opponents, “double-or-nothing” type games, and heads-up games, too. Even the range of buy-ins and the “rake” resembles online poker in many ways.

    There are more analogies. In the games the players (i.e., the pros making up the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL teams) kind of exist as the cards -- that is, they are the element of the game that unequivocally exists outside of the players’ control. Some of the pros are shared among fantasy players when different entrants select the same players for their teams, much like “community cards” are shared in flop games. Most teams are unique, just like in hold’em when players’ hole cards make their hands unique, although like in hold’em you’ll occasionally have players playing “hands” of identical worth.

    There’s a mix of chance and skill, too, in the fantasy sports games, and I’m convinced that those who put in the hours and genuinely research their selections in constructive ways have an edge on the average opponent, in fact a very large one. I’m also convinced the chance element introduces huge variance into the game, with players’ individual performances subject to a myriad of influences including injury, penalties or suspensions, coaches’ whims, and even the weather.

    I continue to be intrigued by fantasy sports -- especially this short-term daily (or weekly) version of it offered by sites like DraftKings and Draft Day -- which I guess is like poker but ain’t poker.

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    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    Travel Report: Season XII WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble, Day 4 -- Fast Finale

    All done in Florida and now I’m back home after a quick, uneventful voyage back. Jared Jaffee took the World Poker Tour bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble down without too much struggle yesterday after starting the final six-handed table with about a third of the chips in play.

    Actually runner-up finisher Blake Purvis did manage to challege Jaffee briefly, even seizing the lead by less than a big blind to start heads-up play. But Jaffee won the first two hands between the pair to push back ahead, then whittled away for another hour before finally using 4h2h -- our friend Poker Grump’s fave hand -- to crack Purvis’s pocket aces and secure the win.

    It took 99 hands and just a few minutes under four hours for the final table to finish up. Many spoke of it being one of the fastest final days they could remember for a WPT final.

    The length of levels were increased from 60 to 90 minutes after dinner on Day 2 and continued at 90 minutes through the long Day 3 when they played down from 26 to six. Then for the final table they reverted back to hour-long levels, then made it 30-minute levels when heads-up play began, all of which helped create conditions for that rapid finish.

    I know back during the first few years of the WPT there was much talk about the structure not allowing for enough play at final tables. I’m remembering some changes being introduced around 2007 to slow things down at the end somewhat, then in 2009 another change was made to what I believe is this current format. A little too tired at the moment to look it all up. I’ll be at another WPT event in a couple of weeks (the Five Diamond at the Bellagio) and in fact will be working with longtime WPT reporter B.J. Nemeth at that one, so he can surely fill me in on the history of these structure changes.

    Even if things got pushed along a little quickly at the end, Jaffee was certainly a worthy winner, breaking through to grab a WPT title after having made a couple of final tables and come up short before.

    Now that I’m back I’m catching up a bit on the news, including the big story regarding New Jersey imminently joining the online poker game in the U.S. with licenses being approved and a “soft” launch of some sites happening tomorrow and the official start of things cranking up next week. Something else I’m going to have to read more about in the coming days. Gonna be very interesting to see WSOP.com, Ultimate Poker, and others getting up and running over here on the east coast.

    For now, though, I’m going to try to grab some rest. Was a good time in Jacksonville working alongside friends old and new, and much thanks to the bestbet folks again for being so accommodating.

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    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    Travel Report: Season XII WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble, Day 3 -- Stacks in Jax

    Ended a little before midnight last night, which meant getting to bed a little earlier and in fact sleeping a little later, too, as we aren’t starting today’s final day of play at the World Poker Tour bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble until 2 p.m.

    They’ve reached a final table, now, with Jared Jaffee enjoying a big chip lead among the final six with 3.65 million chips, nearly 2 million clear of second-place Margo Costa who hopes to be the first woman to win an open WPT Main Event. (Van Nguyen won one in an invitational.)

    The day went well and involved some extracurricular distraction as that wild Carolina Panthers-New England Patriots MNF game played out on the television screens up above. Have to say after the Panthers’ go-ahead TD drive then the crazy finale with the picked-up penalty flag on the Pats’ final play, I was emotionally exhausted. Don’t even know how to feel after seeing my team win a couple of nail-biters like this after losing so many in similar fashion over the last several years.

    I’ve been mentioning here how inviting the bestbet Jacksonville poker room is, which seems especially well run and has been a nice stop all around for those of us reporting. The players in this WPT event have been having fun, too, with a lot of table talk and socializing and a generally positive atmosphere.

    Was thinking a little about this whole idea of trying to make sure poker is enjoyable for everyone involved after posting the second part of Josh Cahlik’s interview with 2013 WSOP bracelet winner Calen McNeil over on Learn.PokerNews yesterday.

    The focus of their discussion was “checking your ego at the door” when playing, and near the end McNeil tells a great story about playing in a WSOP Circuit prelim and finishing runner-up to an older, amateur player.

    McNeil talks about having wanted the victory but also having been truly excited for the fellow who did manage to win, and the whole discussion really highlights a nice thought about poker really can be a social game. The point reminded me a bit of Brad Willis’s opinion piece “Before the Bubble” for the PokerStars blog from the summer in which he was talking about the need for established players to be more inviting and less critical of newcomers.

    Check out the McNeil interview and read that last section in particular and see if you agree.

    Looks like they are starting to unbag and stack the chips so I’ll sign off now. Again, check the WPT site for live updates of today’s finale and also watch the live stream which will be coming with a half-hour delay.

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    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Travel Report: Season XII WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble, Day 2 -- Some Reads

    A little longer of a day yesterday for Day 2 of the World Poker Tour bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble. They played from 123 players down to 26, finishing close to 1 a.m. this morning. Cong Pham (who led at the end of Day 1a) ended the night on top after a kind of up-and-down day that saw the very active, aggressive player endure some big swings.

    Was a day during which I found myself focusing a lot more on the actual poker than was the case during those two Day 1s, by which I mean I was thinking more specifically about strategy and how players played their hands. In fact, there were a couple of occasions along the way I’d watch a hand play out from the beginning and would successfully guess what a player held prior to my guess being confirmed at showdown.

    For example, there was one hand involving Jeff Madsen in which he was in the small blind and three-bet a middle-position raiser who called him. Madsen continued with a bet following a benign-looking nine-high flop and his opponent called, then Madsen checked the turn which paired the board with a second deuce.

    At that point I thought to myself that Madsen appeared especially strong and was checking to induce his opponent to bet. I’ve watched Madsen play before, of course, including helping cover his WSOP bracelet win this past summer, and his opponent I’d been watching enough to have some idea about his tendencies, too.

    Sure enough Madsen’s opponent bet -- in fact, he pushed all in -- and Madsen called in a flash, turning over pocket aces. His opponent had but an inside straight draw which didn’t complete, and Madsen earned a big boost and eventually made it to today’s Day 3 with an average stack.

    Now I’m congratulating myself here for having guessed correctly on this hand. I’m remembering one other where I’d done something similar, i.e., followed the action and guessed correctly a player had ace-queen before he showed it down. But I know these tiny, private feats really don’t mean a whole lot, and in fact the whole idea of trying to put players on hands while reporting on them is both a little foolhardy and probably best avoided.

    First of all, when you’re wandering around from table to table catching a small percentage of hands and writing up and even smaller fraction of them, you cannot get a feel for table dynamics, history between players, and other important factors that all matter greatly when it comes to guessing players’ hole cards. Sure, there are common denominators when it comes to betting patterns, flop textures, and so on, but in truth anyone who is not sitting at the table but just observing is operating at a significant handicap when trying to guess players’ holdings.

    Secondly, I actually trained myself more or less to stop doing this sort of thing long, long ago when I first started reporting on tournaments. I’m talking about thinking about players’ strategy and trying to guess what they have or what their actions signify.

    I think other experienced tourney reporters would probably agree that it is best simply to focus on accuracy and getting the action correct, with any sort of extraneous meditations on what a player might do -- or should do -- best left to the side. I can imagine getting carried away with that sort of speculating to the point where it could even affect your ability to focus on simply seeing what does happen.

    That said, it is important and needful for reporters to understand basic strategy, too, as that helps make what we witness make sense to us. Knowing, for instance, what “standard” raises are helps one follow the action, as is being familiar with the usual rhythm of play.

    Much more to say, but as always time is limited here so I’ll sign off so I can head back over to bestbet Jacksonville. Along with Pham and Madsen, Ryan Eriquezzo, Jared Jaffee, Matt Glantz, Corrie Wunstel, David Diaz, and Jacob Bazeley are among those still in the hunt. Check that WPT live updates page today to see who makes the six-handed final table.

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    Sunday, November 17, 2013

    Travel Report: Season XII WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble, Days 1a & 1b -- With a Twist

    “I know you guys have heard every bad beat story before.”

    So began one of the players visiting our desk early on the first Day 1 flight of the World Poker Tour bestbet Jacksonville Poker Scramble. We looked up in unison, and he leaned forward to continue.

    “But this one is different,” he insisted. “This one... has a twist!”

    That visit came a few hours into the day on Friday. As it turned out the story he told us involving his first-hand elimination had a twist, all right -- a misread seat assignment meant he’d taken the wrong seat -- but we’d still heard it before. In fact, that same day I’d seen something similar happen early in the first level with the difference of only a few small surface details.

    Influenced somewhat by that “seen it all before” feeling, I’ve decided to combine the first two days into a single travel report this morning, both of which featured Day 1 flights that went well as the 358 total entries for the $3,500 buy-in event played down to 124 players.

    While the bad beat stories have turned out not to be unique, the bestbet casino has a layout unlike any I can remember seeing before.

    From Monument Road which runs out in front of the place, the casino appears very much like a grocery story or shopping center, as though it were some local version of a Walmart (see the photo in the previous post). In fact I remember riding past it on Thursday night and when spotting the lowercase logo on the nondescript façade thinking vaguely that the place had something to do with the casino at which I’d be working -- like some local sponsor -- and not the casino itself.

    Inside the layout is entirely open, with poker tables filling much of the space, a bar and grill plus other food options in the center, and a race book in the back. Every playing area is surrounded by televisions and monitors displaying tourney clocks and lists for games. At the end of the night yesterday we were standing near our desk and guessing just how many TV screens we could see with today’s NFL games in mind. Was in the dozens.

    From all appearances it seems a very inviting place to play poker, and a popular one, too, with a lot of games and other tourneys running and a large contingent of locals filling the place. The staff has been great, helping us a lot while being especially hospitable. They’re taking care of the players, too, with lots of freebies and a Draft Kings-sponsored party last night over in one half of the room with food, drinks, and games that continued past the end of play so everyone could take part.

    Ryan Eriquezzo leads to start today’s play after having hit a couple of big hands yesterday including one in which he and two other players turned flushes -- with his being the nuts -- and another in which he flopped a set versus Andy Frankenberger’s open-ended straight flush draw and saw his hand hold up. From our group of diners on Thursday neither Marvin Rettenmaier nor Aaron Massey made it to Day 2, but both Joe Kuether and Jake Schwartz did with stacks about half the average.

    The poker world will probably give more attention to the final day of the third WPT Alpha8 event happening today a little further south of here in St. Kitts where there are 16 players left (from a 28-entry field) in the $100,000 buy-in event with the plan being to play down to a winner today. Which is fine, as the real drama here won’t be starting until later today when the money bubble bursts, then tomorrow when a smaller field plays down to a final table.

    Check the WPT site for updates on both of those events and see if any twists do happen to arise.

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    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Travel Report: Season XII WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble, Pregame

    A fun night yesterday after getting together with a group all here for the World Poker Tour bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble that begins today.

    Got to enjoy a terrific dinner at the Bella Vita Italian restaurant in Jacksonville with several WPT folks as well as some who’ll be playing in the tournament, too. Jon (who snapped that photo) and Eric of the WPT were there, as were Royal Flush girls Jeannie and Danielle. Aaron Massey, Marvin Rettenmaier, Jake Schwartz, and Joe Kuether -- all of whom will be playing in the event -- were part of the crowd, too. Also got to meet and chat some with the friendly Deb Giardina, VP of Poker Operations at bestbet Jacksonville.

    I had the Zuppa De Pesce, an enormous plate full of linguini topped with shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, and calamari. Could only really handle about half of what was served, although I did manage to save room for some cheesecake afterwards.

    At one point Jon quizzed the players about their biggest cashes, with Rettenmaier of course having the most impressive response. “One-point-two?” he said, alluding to his nearly $1.2 million win in the WPT World Championship in 2012.

    Kuether, Schwartz, and Massey all have some pretty notable scores among their results, too. Kuether has several six-figure cashes. Schwartz took runner-up in a WSOP event this summer for over $200K. And Massey -- who I remember first meeting in 2011 at the WSOP when he final tabled a $1K for one of his first big cashes of about $44K -- now is nearing $1.5 million in tourney winnings.

    There was talk about a trip to Disney World if they can survive Day 1a and thus avoid having to play tomorrow’s second and last Day 1 flight. Rettenmaier just visited Disneyland like a couple of days ago, in fact. I guess Disney World is around two-and-a-half hours from here, so that Disney double could be accomplished if the cards go the right way.

    Was a nice, relaxing pregame for what will be five solid days of reporting starting at noon today. Has been a little while since my last live reporting gig as I haven’t been anywhere since the Lima trip in July. Should be enjoyable working with the WPT crew again as well as with others like Mickey, Josh, Will, and eventually Joe Giron with whom I’ve worked many times in the past.

    Have to take care of other business this morning, though, and so will cut this little prelude short in order to get everything done. Click over to the WPT live updates for today’s Day 1a to see who comes out and who makes it through. Depending on how things go, perhaps we’ll see Mad Marvin wearing the Mickey Mouse ears come Day 2.

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    Thursday, November 14, 2013

    Welcome, Visitor!

    Am on the run today and thus not able to post too much at the moment. Spent part of the day traveling down to Jacksonville, Florida for the start of tomorrow’s World Poker Tour event, the bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble, a $3,500 buy-in tournament that will continue through to next Tuesday.

    Was trying to remember if I had ever been to Jacksonville before and could not recall. Got a friendly welcome from the shuttle driver who lives here. She overheard me telling Josh -- one of my partners in crime this week -- how I had tweeted “Touchdown, Jacksonville” upon landing then joked that those two words have been rarely used together this season. “Hey, we won last week!” interjected the driver, alluding to the Jags’ upset victory over Tennessee and I laughed, duly chastened.

    Looking back at last year, it looks like this event drew 477 entrants total (including re-entries), with Florida native Noah Schwartz taking top honors and a little over $400K for a first prize.

    Speaking of Schwartz, Michelle Orpe has been doing a weekly interview series over on Learn.PokerNews called “Orpe’s Top Ten” in which she’s talked to numerous poker pros about how they got started. They’re all pretty cool, but Schwartz took a lot of time and thought with his responses, making his interview worth checking out if you’re curious. (More good interviewees coming soon, too.)

    Have now checked into what will be the home-away-from-home for the next several days, waiting at the moment to connect a little later with some of the others who’ll be helping me report on this one, including the aforementioned Juice Box Josh as well as Milkshake Mickey. I’ll likely be sending along a few brief reports here as we go, so more to come from the Sunshine state.

    Meanwhile, I noticed this morning a milestone of sorts arrive for Hard-Boiled Poker. When logging into Blogger lately I’d been seeing this figure for “pageviews” (somehow a single word in Blogger’s vocabulary) creeping closer and closer to the 1 million-mark. Finally today it got there, and after tweeting a screenshot earlier I got a lot of very nice replies in response.

    In truth, the tracking of hits only goes back to May 2007, which is about a year after I started the blog. The traffic wasn’t all that heavy during the first 12 months of posting, though, so I’ll guess the actual crossing of the million-view milestone wasn’t that long ago (like just a few weeks at most).

    I know “hits” doesn’t always equal reads -- and in fact more often than not equals “hit-and-runs.” But I’m grateful nonetheless to have people continue to stop by and thus that number of views continue to go up. Thanks again for all those nice messages on Twitter today, and thanks to you, too, for coming around today to add one more to the total.

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    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    Singles Remind Me of Kisses, Albums Remind Me of Plans

    Last night Vera Valmore and I went to see Cyndi Lauper perform in Charlotte. The show was part of her “She’s So Unusual 30th Anniversary” tour and featured her and her band playing her entire 1983 debut LP start to finish in order.

    Ton of hits on that record, as anyone who was alive and listening to the radio or watching MTV back then well remember. In fact it wasn’t until the seventh song of the show that a tune came up that wasn’t immediately recognizable, and I never owned the LP.

    I think my favorite performances of the night both came early. “Money Changes Everything,” the Brains cover with which the album opens, provided a great, loud, rocking start. I also dug the performance of her Prince cover, “When You Were Mine” (originally on Dirty Mind, a record I once wrote about on another blog), which ended with a nifty psychedelic swirl of overlapping melodic vamps.

    Was definitely interesting to hear the entire album performed in sequence and thus necessarily be made to think about the old LP format as used to exist as a medium for popular music. Made me think a little of the Cheap Trick show in Las Vegas from a few years back Vera and I saw, the one where they played the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper from beginning to end.

    Has become a trend lately for a lot of acts who initially made their mark during the era of the long player, this idea to build live shows out of performances of entire albums. I like it. I think the first time I ever saw a band do such a thing was in the late 1980s when I saw Hüsker Dü on their very last tour when they played every song from what would turn out to be their last release, the double-LP Warehouse: Songs and Stories.

    I remember hanging around after that show with a buddy and being surprised when Grant Hart came out to chat with those of us still there. I asked him why they’d decided to play all 20 tracks of Warehouse straight through, and he just said something about the songs being new and how they’d wanted to play them all. The band would break up for good about 10 months later.

    A woman at the show last night came wearing a Lauper-styled red-and-orange wig and carrying a copy of the LP, which really did look like a relic of sorts and again reminded me of the fun of collecting vinyl (something I’ve written about here before).

    I still like the full-length albums. Still have almost nothing but albums on the iPod, with just a couple of odd, orphaned tracks on there that don’t come as part of a collection of songs by the same artist presented in a deliberate order. I suppose I was mostly conditioned to listen to -- and to collect -- music that way, regardless of the genre. Sort of like preferring a certain game variant or tourney type, perhaps, within which to play.

    Got home late and then was up following last night’s Super Tuesday into the wee hours. Had the teevee on with the sound down and at one point settled on a music channel airing a marathon of Lady Gaga vids. Wasn’t listening, but the visuals recalled how once upon a time Lauper’s image and sound seemed unusual, though today that’s hardly so.

    (Trivia challenge for 1980s pop music fans to identify the title source.)

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    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Pool Talk

    I haven’t been writing much about the NFL pool this season because it’s mostly been a sad, slow descent to the bottom of the rankings for my team, More Cowbell. Actually to be more accurate it was a sharp drop during the first few weeks and a lot of floundering afterwards, putting me an unthinkable 15 games behind the leader heading into last weekend.

    But yet, I write about the pool today, which signals something good must have happened to mark Week 10. Yes, I am once again illustrating that maxim regarding poker players and gamblers that they are always more likely to want to share their stories when it involves them winning than when it involves them losing.

    The stories themselves can be equally dubious. Winners might well exaggerate the amount of their winnings. Or minimize them. “Beware, above all, the man who simply tells you he broke even,” writes Anthony Holden in Big Deal. “He is the big winner.”

    Of course, losers will also make false claims about “breaking even,” with some qualifier (e.g., “just about,” “more or less”) generally operating as a tell introducing a hint of doubt regarding their accuracy. Some will exaggerate their losses, too, or at least the degree of unfairness they endured in order to have ended up a loser.

    I have been guilty of all such disingenuous self-assessments. However, my picks this year have been so consistently poor I generally haven’t been able to muster enough energy to build any arguments about how Fortune and its whims have been unreasonably biased against me.

    But as I say, this week something changed. Hitting 10 of 14 picks during another week full of NFL head-scratchers meant I’d somehow made more correct picks than anyone in the pool for Week 10. Sure, I missed four games, but that included two that absolutely none of us -- a group of 50-plus -- got right. No one chose Jacksonville to beat Tennessee, and no one took St. Louis over Indianapolis.

    Speaking of the entire pool going in one direction with regard to picking certain games, I’ll admit with a few of my picks I deliberately chose to go against the grain, if only because being so far out of the money has made it all but necessary to do so.

    I had three such picks this week, the most foolhardy being Dallas to beat New Orleans, which wasn’t going to happen in a 100 hundred tries. But I also took the 0-8 Tampa Bay Bucs to win their first last night (they did). And I’m most proud of taking my Panthers to top San Fran, a game I knew they had a legitimate chance to win. Of course, they had to recover a couple of their own fumbles late to make it happen, but thankfully the ball bounced favorably (for once... or twice).

    A couple of years ago I wrote happily here about winning the pool and how in the final week I’d avoided thinking about which way others were picking when making my final week’s selections. Playing from way, way behind, it now seems impossible to make picks without thinking of everyone else. I suppose the dynamic vaguely resembles a table full of tight players and me being as loose as can be, free and willing to try plays others cannot.

    But being so short-stacked in terms of correct picks notched thus far, I’m mostly just playing for pride now. And for the stories, true and embellished.

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    Monday, November 11, 2013

    More Stories to Share

    Have a busy week coming up here, one which will involve me getting out of the house, to the airport, and down to Florida for a quick trip to the World Poker Tour bestbet Jacksonville Fall Scramble that begins on Thursday. That’s a $3,500 buy-in event with a $500K guarantee that’ll probably bring out a decent-sized crowd.

    Today I wanted to direct your attention to a few new items over on the Learn.PokerNews site where we are starting to involve more contributors and have a greater variety of content.

    Josh Cahlik has been penning some interesting pieces lately, including “A Beginner’s Guide to Selling Tournament Action” (a good initial primer) and one called “Play and Learn: Exploiting a Tight Image” which details some of what he experienced during his deep run in that Casino Employees Event last summer.

    I found myself thinking further about Ryan Riess’s post-WSOP Main Event comment about being “the best player in the world” and decided I had more to say about it after posting some thoughts here last week. In something called “On the Champ Saying He’s ‘the Best Player in the World’,” I talked about how it maybe isn’t such a bad thing for the WSOP ME winner to be emphasizing how skill played a role in his win, especially when considering how the tournament -- and poker in general -- plays to the larger, mainstream audience.

    Finally, I most wanted to draw your attention to a piece provided today by Zachary Elwood, author of Reading Poker Tells. He offered some sound “Poker Tell Advice for Beginning Poker Players” that highlights the need to worry more about your own tells (and trying to minimize them) as opposed to searching your opponents for tells.

    Elwood, you might know, was called on by Amir Lehavot during his preparations for the November Nine, something Elwood wrote about on his blog last week. As part of that work, he also did a lot of study of other players at the WSOP Main Event final table, and today offered a lengthy breakdown of some of his ideas regarding fourth-place finisher Sylvain Loosli, if you’re curious.

    The Learn site has gotten me thinking a lot lately about my own learning of the game, including the sorts of content I loved reading and listening to and watching as my interest and knowledge grew.

    For a lot of us those days are long gone, or at least the newness of the game has receded into the past. But the learning obviously has not, and I think that is a big reason why the game continues to interest me. The stories players tell about their experiences remain interesting, too, and always seem to contain something not only new and entertaining, but instructive, too.

    That was always the most fun way to learn anything, I think... via stories in which some lesson or idea was conveyed in an pleasurable way.

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    Friday, November 08, 2013

    The Post-Main Event Study Continues

    A little bit pokered out here so am going to try to keep this end-of-week post on the short side. Still following with interest a lot of the post-Main Event discussion continuing to circle about.

    The strategy debates are especially interesting, and I think part of what makes the WSOP Main Event fun to watch. Who played the best? Who was the least impressive? Who was the most lucky cardwise? Who was least?

    The evidence with which to form such opinions is fairly comprehensive, although not entirely so. After all, we know what some of the players had on all of the hands, but not all of them.

    Speaking of, I had a chance today to go back over my post from a couple of days ago -- “2013 WSOP Main Event Final Table Hole Cards (Complete)” -- and fill a couple of gaps here and there, meaning right now it’s as complete a record as it gets with regard to players’ hole cards as they were shown during the broadcasts on ESPN and ESPN2. (And in some cases, there might have been errors even there, as the showing of the cards wasn’t always perfectly executed.)

    Spectators of other sports engage in debates, too, but in poker just about everyone who does so is usually also a player. There’s an interesting overlap, then, in the experiences of players and spectators, which makes can the post-game stuff even more involving.

    That’s not to say most who opine about how the players performed at this year’s WSOP Main Event have ever experienced anything close to the pressure and uniqueness of that particular experience. But most have faced analogous challenges at the tables and thus can address the decision-making with a least some empathy and even understanding than is necessarily the case when, say, a non-football player comments on a football game.

    I find watching the WSOP Main Event final table educational, much more so than is the case with the edited, packaged shows leading up to the November Nine, although those, too, can occasionally provide some momentary insights. I also find these post-Main Event discussions enlightening, too.

    In fact it doesn’t matter too much how knowledgeable about poker the discussants are, really, because even those debates can reveal certain things about how players think about the game. A particular exchange may not explain much at all about what the players themselves were up to in a given hand, but it still communicates something about how those engaging in the discussion view certain situations and decisions.

    Maybe it’s the academic in me, relishing the questions and further inquiry and not being bothered by a lack of definitive conclusions about the “text” presented to us by the WSOP Main Event final table. Here’s to the continued annotations upon it!

    (Groovy final table pic above by Joe Giron for PokerNews.)

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    Thursday, November 07, 2013

    What the Winner Said

    I might have mentioned here before how I’d covered new World Series of Poker Main Event champion Ryan Riess in a couple of WSOP Circuit events during the 2012-13 season.

    He had a big score early in the season at an event I did not cover, the WSOP-C Horseshoe Hammond Main Event in October 2012 where he won nearly $240,000 for finishing runner-up. He then traveled to many subsequent WSOP-C stops, earning a number of small cashes leading up to the WSOP this summer.

    I believe it was at the Harrah’s Cherokee stop where I first began to notice him, mainly because he’d come over to chat with Rich and myself during breaks a couple of times. He struck me as a friendly guy and from what I could tell a decent player -- i.e., at a table full of non-pros in that Cherokee ME, he was stood out as perhaps a little more comfortable and seasoned as a player.

    Thus when the WSOP Main Event reached its fifth day or so during the summer and I saw Riess still among the field, I wasn’t too surprised having known a little of him before. I also wasn’t surprised when he made it to Day 7, then battled with a short stack before finally accumulating some chips to take to the final table.

    I watched the coverage this week and like everyone else saw that ESPN profile in which Riess spoke of himself as being the best player among the final nine. And of course I saw the short interview with Kara Scott after his win in which Riess responded to her question about his confidence going in by proclaiming “I just think I’m the best player in the world.”

    Was kind of funny to hear, especially since I’d already formulated that image of Riess that didn’t really fit with such boastfulness. Of course, my image of him was based on incredibly slight information, and thinking back I found myself tempted to reinterpret his giving us updates on his chip counts at Cherokee. Sure, he was friendly and likable, but was he also self-promoting some, too? (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)

    I also followed what struck me as a kind of crazed reaction on Twitter to Riess’s bold self-assessment, something Rich wrote a little about in his “Five Thoughts” piece this week. The forums -- where every new WSOP Main Event winner is necessarily a loser until proven innocent -- have likewise predictably taken the statement and run wildly with it.

    Riess appeared on Fox News yesterday morning and did well fielding some artless questions from Shepard Smith who was more nitwit than wit during the short segment. Smith asked Riess about the statement, in fact, and Riess explained a little how it hadn’t been an off-the-cuff remark, but an idea he’d been articulating for several months.

    “Yeah, I said that before this tournament started,” replied Riess. “I started saying it in March and I was practicing for this tournament and it worked out. I proved myself.”

    Shepard continued with jokes about putting it all on black and so on. Shepard even had a heads-up game queued on his monitor to play with Riess, but he screwed that up to add a little more awkwardness to it all. Finally Shepard signed off with a cynical-sounding “Congratulations on your big money and on being the greatest player in the history of the world,” and a smiling Riess thanked him.

    The last player to win a WSOP Main Event and then afterwards even entertain the subject of being the “best player in the world” was Jamie Gold, of course, who even before he won the Main Event back in 2006 was appearing on CardPlayer’s The Circuit podcast as the chip leader talking excitedly about how great he was. I remember Gold telling Scott Huff and Joe Sebok how he had accumulated so many chips that he -- all by himself -- was making the tournament go faster than it was supposed to, thus causing tournament staff great consternation as they tried to adjust the schedule to handle it all. (Anyone else remember that?)

    Then Gold won and afterwards continued with similar statements about his greatness on an appearance on Rounders, the Poker Show (precursor to the Two Plus Two Pokercast) and elsewhere.

    One of the active stories at the time of Gold’s win was the whole “ambassador of poker” mantle given to the WSOP Main Event winner, with the Moneymaker-Raymer-Hachem triumvirate having established a lot of expectation in that regard. Gold, meanwhile, was talking during the WSOP Main Event about how he wasn’t interested in serving such a role, something I wrote about here way back in 2006 the day after he won in a post called “Assessing the Gold Standard.”

    Then came the legal squabbles and other ugliness regarding his deal with Crispin Leyser and other missteps, with Gold more or less removing himself from consideration as an “ambassador” in the eyes of many, deservedly or not. In truth I always thought Gold really did give at least some effort toward promoting the game in those couple of years after his win, not that he had to. See this post about Gold, “Starting Again,” I wrote during the 2008 WSOP for more on that thought.

    Don’t really see Riess as following Gold’s path, though. The whole “poker ambassador” thing has changed a lot over these last several years -- the change starting, really, with Gold’s win -- and I don’t think the poker community looks to the WSOP Main Event winner as having as much of an obligation in that regard as once was the case.

    So I’m not really thinking too much about Riess being a representative of the game going forward. Nor am I bothered that much at all by a poker player exuding confidence, particularly after having experienced some success at the tables. As I more less tend to do with all of those who win the WSOP Main Event, I’m pulling for Riess to handle it all as well as he can going forward, and I’m pulling for poker to do well, too, although I don’t necessarily think those two things are that closely related so much anymore.

    Meanwhile, kind of funny to think about Riess doing a Muhammad Ali after his win, yea? I mean he’s given us all something to talk about, that’s for sure.

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    Wednesday, November 06, 2013

    2013 WSOP Main Event Final Table Hole Cards (Complete)

    “We had a technical error,” explained Lon McEachern somewhere around 2:30 a.m. my time, Tuesday morning, as the final table of the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event continued six-handed.

    McEachern was explaining how on the previous hand -- one on which a short-stacked Amir Lehavot had shoved all in and gotten no callers -- the graphics showing players’ cards afterwards had incorrectly displayed what Lehavot and Sylvain Loosli (who folded the big blind) had (Hand #150). McEachern paused a moment, then added one last comment regarding the error before moving on.

    “For those keeping logs at home.”

    Ha. What kind of maniac does something like that? Keep logs of poker hands off of a television show. Nuts!

    Not going to preface this with too much more other than to say after making a similar post last year chronicling all of the hole cards from the marathon 2012 WSOP Main Event final table, I hadn’t really intended to do so again but somehow here we are.

    As those who watched the show know, ESPN displayed hole cards after each hand of the players who were still involved, which this year always meant only two players’ hands were shown.

    They missed a few more hands this time than they did last year, both because of the occasional “technical error” and a few instances of not getting back to a hand quickly enough after a commercial break or simply not picking up the hole cards. In those cases you’ll see below an “X” representing cards that were not shown.

    Like last year, I’m following the hand numbering from PokerNews’ live reporting. The winner of the hand is listed first. And of course, any mistakes in the transcribing here are all mine.

    2013 WSOP MAIN EVENT FINAL TABLE: DAY ONE

    Level 35
    1. Lehavot 7h 5h, Benefield Kh 4d
    2. McLaughlin Ah Ad, Tran Ks 7s
    3. Benefield Ac 6c, Loosli 9s 2s
    4. Tran Qd X, Brummelhuis Js 4d
    5. Newhouse Qs Qc, McLaughlin Ks Kc
    6. Riess Ah Jc, Tran As 2h
    7. Lehavot Ks Kh, Newhouse Ah Qc
    8. McLaughlin 5s 5h, Newhouse Qh 10d
    9. Farber Kh Qs, Tran As 9d
    10. Riess 8s 8h, McLaughlin 7d 7c
    11. Tran Js 10d, Farber 7h 6c
    12. Benefield Ks 9s, Loosli Kd Jh
    13. Brummelhuis As Ac, Benefield 10h 10d

    Level 36
    14. Benefield Ah Ks, Riess Ad Qh
    15. Tran 10c 9c, Riess Qc 10h
    16. Lehavot Ac 3c, Brummelhuis As 10h
    17. Farber Ad Kd, McLaughlin 9c 2c
    18. Loosli Ah 8c, Tran Jh 10s
    19. Tran Kd 7d, McLaughlin Ad 9c
    20. Loosli Ah Ks, Farber Jh 3h
    21. McLaughlin Ah 10d, Loosli Ks 10d
    22. Loosli Ah Ks, Lehavot Ad 2d
    23. McLaughlin 7h 7d, Newhouse 6h 5c
    24. Benefield Ah Qd, Lehavot 6h 6d
    25. Farber Ks Kh, Tran Jc 10d
    26. Tran Ks Qh, McLaughlin Ac Qc
    27. Farber Ah Qh, Tran Ac 2h
    28. Loosli Jh Jc, Benefield 4d 3h
    29. McLaughlin Ks Jh, Lehavot Ah Kc
    30. Lehavot Qs Jd, Loosli 9h 6s
    31. Tran Ad Qh, McLaughlin Ah 10d
    32. Loosli As Ad, Newhouse Jd 9h
    33. Tran Ah 10d, Riess Ks 5h
    34. Tran Kc Jc, Lehavot 10c 7d
    35. Riess Ah Qc, McLaughlin Ks 10s
    *36. Riess As Kh, Newhouse 9s 9c
    37. Farber Ac Qs, Benefield 6s X
    *38. Farber Ac Kd, Benefield Ks 2s
    39. Loosli X X, Farber X X
    40. Brummelhuis Ad 7c, Tran Qh 6c
    41. Lehavot Kd Kc, Loosli 8c 7h
    42. Farber 9h 8h, Lehavot 8c 2s
    43. Lehavot Qs Qd, Brummelhuis Ac 3d
    44. Riess Ah Qc, Tran Ad Qd (split pot)
    45. Riess Ac Ks, McLaughlin Ah 10c
    46. Riess As Jd, Loosli Qh Js
    47. Riess 4s 4h, Brummelhuis Qh Jh
    48. Tran Ah 8d, Riess 10h 4d
    49. Farber 9d 8h, Lehavot 5h 4h
    50. Lehavot 9c 7d, McLaughlin Qs 7h
    51. McLaughlin Ks 2c, Tran Qh 2h
    52. Farber X X, McLaughlin X X
    53. Brummelhuis 9h 9d, Riess Ad Qd
    54. Loosli Kh Qh, Tran Qs 5c
    *55. Riess Ac Ah, Brummelhuis 9d 9c
    56. Loosli Ks Kh, Tran Kc 10s
    57. Farber As 5h, McLaughlin Kc 5d
    58. Loosli 6s 6c, McLaughlin Kc Js
    59. McLaughlin Ac Qd, Riess Ad Jc

    Level 37
    60. Lehavot As Kd, Loosli Ac 5d
    61. Tran Jd 4d, Riess Qh 6d
    62. Riess Kh 10h, Loosli 6s 5h
    63. Riess X X, McLaughlin X X
    64. McLaughlin 10c 6c, Lehavot Ah 9s
    65. Loosli X X, Farber Jd 9c
    66. Tran Jd 5c, Loosli Kc 7h
    67. Riess Ac Kc, Farber 9d 8c
    68. Riess 10s 10d, Tran As 4d
    69. Farber Qs Jh, McLaughlin Ac Kc
    70. Loosli As Js, McLaughlin 4h 4s
    71. Tran Qs Jd, McLaughlin 10d 6s
    72. Lehavot Ah 7h, Tran Qd 10s
    73. Loosli Kh Kc, Tran Ah 5c
    74. McLaughlin Ac 10h, Lehavot 7h 6s
    75. Lehavot 5h 3h, McLaughlin X X
    76. McLaughlin As 3h, Tran Qh 10d
    77. McLaughlin 8d 7h, Riess 4s 4h
    78. Farber Ad 5d, Lehavot 7d 7c
    79. Loosli Kc Qh, Farber Kd Qd
    80. Loosli 3s 3h, McLaughlin Ah Kd
    81. Farber Qc Jc, McLaughlin X X
    82. Lehavot Ah 5s, Tran 8h 4h
    83. Lehavot Ah Ad, Farber 8h 6c
    84. Tran Kh 2s, Loosli Qc 5c
    85. Riess Jd 2h, Loosli Qh 5h
    86. Riess As Ad, Lehavot Ah 8c
    87. Farber Ad Qd, Lehavot Kd Jc
    88. Farber 4h 4c, Tran 10c 3s
    89. Loosli Kh 10d, Farber 5c 4h
    90. McLaughlin Ac Qd, Loosli 7h 4c
    91. Riess Ks 6s, Loosli Kd Js
    92. McLaughlin 10s 7s, Lehavot 4c 2s
    93. McLaughlin X X, Lehavot Qd 4h
    94. Riess Ah 7s, Tran Jd 9s
    95. Tran Kd 3c, Lehavot Qc 10s
    96. Lehavot Qh Js, Loosli Kc 8d
    97. Riess Ac 10s, Lehavot 6d 2d
    98. Farber Kd Jd, Tran Qs Js
    99. McLaughlin 3d 3h, Lehavot 9c 2c
    100. Riess 3h 3c, Farber Kh 10s
    101. McLaughlin Kd 6d, Loosli As 5c
    102. Lehavot Js 10d, Loosli As 5c
    103. Farber 9h 7s, Riess 7h 4h
    104. Riess Ac Qs, Loosli 10d 9h
    105. Farber 10s 10h, Loosli Kh 2h
    106. Farber 4s 4c, Tran Kd Js
    107. Farber 6s 6d, Tran Ac Qd

    Level 38
    108. Tran Ah Kh, Loosli Qs 5d
    109. Tran Kd Jh, Farber 6d 6c
    110. Tran Kh Qc, Loosli 9s 9c
    111. Lehavot Kh 5c, McLaughlin Jd 9h
    112. Loosli Ad 2d, Tran Ac 6s
    113. McLaughlin Ah Kh, Tran Ad 7s
    114. McLaughlin Ac 4d, Loosli Jc 9d
    115. Loosli Ac Qs, McLaughlin Ah 4h
    116. Riess Jh Jd, McLaughlin 10c 9c
    117. Lehavot Qs 9h, McLaughlin 3c 2s
    118. Lehavot 8d 8c, Riess Kd Jc
    119. Riess 3s 3d, Farber 8c 5s
    120. Loosli Ks 7d, Farber 8s 2s
    121. McLaughlin Ad 9c, Riess Ks Jc
    122. Farber 5c 4c, Lehavot 7d 2s
    123. Tran Ad Jh, McLaughlin Js 8h
    124. McLaughlin Jd 8h, Tran Jc 3h
    125. Riess As 10d, Farber Qd Js
    126. Farber Kd Kh, Tran Ah 6h
    127. McLaughlin Ac Kd, Riess As 10d
    128. Lehavot As 3d, Riess Jd 4h
    129. Lehavot Kc 8s, McLaughlin 7c 6d
    130. Loosli Qs Qd, Farber Ac 7c
    131. McLaughlin Ah Jc, Farber 4s 3d
    132. Tran Ac 5d, Loosli Ks 8c
    133. Loosli Kd Kc, Farber Ah 4h
    134. Riess 5d 4h, Lehavot Jc 8s
    135. McLaughlin X X, Lehavot 10s 5d
    136. Tran Ad 3d, McLaughlin Qs 10s
    137. McLaughlin Qh Js, Loosli 10d 4c
    138. McLaughlin Ad Jc, Loosli 10d 9c
    139. McLaughlin Qh Jh, Riess 8c 8s
    140. Farber Qd 8d, Lehavot Qc 10h
    141. McLaughlin 9s 7s, Loosli 8h 6h
    142. Tran Js 7h, McLaughlin Qs 3h
    143. Lehavot Ac Qh, Farber Kc 7d
    144. Tran Qd Jd, Loosli X X
    145. Riess Qc 6c, Loosli 10h 2c
    146. Loosli Kd 3d, Lehavot 10d 8c
    147. Loosli As 9c, McLaughlin 9s 4h
    148. McLaughlin 5h 4h, Tran 10d 9h
    149. Farber X X, Tran Qc Js
    150. Lehavot X X, Loosli X X
    151. Riess Ks 10d, Farber Ac 2c
    152. McLaughlin Ad 4d, Lehavot Qh 7s
    153. McLaughlin X X, Lehavot 8c 7h
    154. Tran Kd 8d, McLaughlin 4d 2h
    155. Farber As 10d, McLaughlin 9d 8h
    156. McLaughlin Ks Qc, Loosli 9c 7d
    *157. Farber As Ah, McLaughlin Ks Kc
    158. Riess Ac 8s, Lehavot Kc 7s
    159. Lehavot Ks Qs, Farber Kc 4c
    160. Riess Qs X, Farber 7s 4s
    *161. Farber Ks Qh, Tran Ah 7s
    162. Lehavot X X, Riess X X
    163. Farber Ks Jh, Lehavot Qs 5c
    164. Lehavot Js Jd, Riess Ac 6s
    165. Riess Jc X, Loosli 3h 2d
    166. Riess Kd 5s, Loosli 10s 4d

    Level 39
    167. Farber Ac 9d, Lehavot Jh 9h
    168. Farber 9d 4c, Lehavot Qh 2c
    169. Loosli Js 4c, Farber 8s 5s
    *170. Riess Ac 10h, Loosli Qh 7c
    *171. Riess 10c 10d, Lehavot 7s 7d

    2013 WSOP MAIN EVENT FINAL TABLE: DAY TWO

    172. Riess Kd Qd, Farber 9d 3s
    173. Farber Ac Qd, Riess 10c 2h
    174. Riess Kh 10s, Farber As 8d
    175. Farber Kd 5s, Riess 10s 7h
    176. Riess Kd Jh, Farber 5h 2s
    177. Farber Kh Qs, Riess 10c 6c
    178. Riess Js 3h, Farber Kh 9c
    179. Farber Kc 9h, Riess Jc 3h
    180. Farber Kd 7c, Riess Qh 4s
    181. Farber 9d 6d, Riess 9c 2h
    182. Riess Js Jd, Farber 10h 9d
    183. Farber Qs 3h, Riess 7h 3c
    184. Riess 6s 4c, Farber Qh 2s
    185. Riess Qd Qc, Farber Ad 8s
    186. Farber Ad 9h, Riess Kh Qs
    187. Riess 7s 6d, Farber Qc 3s
    188. Riess Kh 9h, Farber 7c 2d
    189. Farber 6s 3c, Riess Jh 7d
    190. Riess 7h 4s, Farber Jc 5s
    191. Riess Ah Ks, Farber 7c 4c
    192. Farber Ah Qd, Riess 5s 2c
    193. Riess 7s 6c, Farber Jh 7c
    194. Farber Ah 7h, Riess Ks 6h
    195. Farber 6d 5h, Riess Qh 7s
    196. Riess Ah 3s, Farber 10c 8h
    197. Farber As 2c, Riess Qh 3c
    198. Riess X X, Farber X X
    199. Riess 5s 2h, Farber Jd 4c
    200. Riess 6c 5d, Farber Kd 6s
    201. Farber Qc 10h, Riess 7s 6c
    202. Riess 4h 4d, Farber Qd 3d
    203. Riess Kd 2d, Karber Ks 2c
    204. Riess Jh Jc, Farber Ac 4h
    205. Farber Kh 10c, Riess Qc 8c
    206. Farber Ad 3h, Riess Qs 10c
    207. Riess Kc 6h, Farber Ks 8d
    208. Farber 9c 2d, Riess Ks 6s
    209. Riess 10c 5h, Farber 9s 8s
    210. Farber As 7d, Riess Qd 6c
    211. Riess 9d 8d, Farber 4d 2h
    212. Riess Kd 6c, Farber 9h 3s
    213. Riess Qh Jd, Farber 8s 3h
    214. Riess 10d 8s, Farber 10c 8c
    215. Riess 7s 3d, Farber Js 10s
    216. Farber Ac Jd, Riess Ks 2d
    217. Farber 5h 4d, Riess Kh 8h
    218. Farber Ks Kh, Riess Jc 2d
    219. Riess Kd 3h, Farber Jd 9d
    220. Riess Ac Jd, Farber 5s 5h
    221. Riess 8d 2d, Farber Jc 9h
    222. Farber 10c 4c, Riess 6c 2h
    223. Riess 3d 2d, Farber X X
    224. Riess Ad Qs, Farber Kd 2s
    225. Riess Ac 6d, Farber 9s 9h
    226. Riess 10h 9d, Farber Js 5s
    227. Riess Qs Qh, Farber 9d 2s
    228. Riess 5c 3s, Farber Qs 5d
    229. Farber Jc 10s, Riess Ks 10h

    Level 40
    230. Farber Kc Jd, Riess 9c 6c
    231. Riess 4h 3h, Farber Ad 8c
    232. Farber 4c 3c, Riess Qd 2c
    233. Farber 7d 4d, Riess Kd Qs
    234. Farber 9c 7c, Riess Qs Jc
    235. Farber 3s 3h, Riess 4c 2c
    236. Farber X X, Riess X X
    237. Riess Ah 7s, Farber 8c 4h
    238. Riess 8h 2h, Farber 9h 8d
    239. Farber Qc 7c, Riess 9h 7h
    240. Farber Ah 5c, Riess 9d 8d
    241. Riess Ah 10d, Farber 6c 3s
    242. Riess 8s 3s, Farber Qh 8c
    243. Riess Qs 10c, Farber 8h 5c
    244. Farber 5d 4d, Riess 6s 3d
    245. Riess 8c 7d, Farber 10h 2c
    246. Riess Ah 8d, Farber Jc 10d
    247. Riess Kc Qs, Farber 6c 5d
    248. Riess Js Jh, Farber Kc Jc
    249. Riess 10d 5c, Farber 5h 3h
    250. Farber Ac 9d, Riess 10h 3h
    251. Farber Qs 6c, Riess 8s 7h
    252. Riess As 3s, Farber 7h 2c
    253. Farber Ah 10h, Riess 9h 5d
    254. Riess 10d 9d, Farber Qh Jd
    255. Riess Ks 9s, Farber 4s 3c
    256. Riess Kh 7c, Farber 8c 4h
    257. Riess Kh 5c, Farber 8s 5h
    258. Farber Ac Kc, Riess 9h 7s
    259. Farber Jd 9s, Riess Qs 4c
    260. Riess Kd 7c, Farber 7d 4s
    *261. Riess Ah Kh, Farber Qs 5s

    *indicates elimination hand

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    Tuesday, November 05, 2013

    2013 WSOP Main Event: November Nine Becomes Tuesday Two

    Watched with interest last night the playing down of the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event from nine players to the final two. Was interesting to see how the night went, with Ryan Riess accumulating early to lead, then Jay Farber building up to grab the top spot after knocking Marc-Etienne McLaughlin out in that aces-versus-kings hand, then the two big stacks gobble up the lesser ones to set up tonight’s finale.

    J.C. Tran began in front and Amir Lehavot had the lead briefly early on, too, but for the most part there wasn’t a lot of craziness at the top of the leaderboard as the night wore on. Overall the play appeared quite solid, too, if a little conservative at times, with both Farber and Riess playing well and appearing plenty deserving to be facing one another for the bracelet tonight.

    McLaughlin seemed to be struggling with some bad fortune even before that last cooler that knocked him out in sixth. Tran also didn’t seem to pick up too many decent starters which made it hard for him to gain momentum before he went out fifth.

    This is the third year they’ve shown the entire final table this way on ESPN’s networks. The presentation hasn’t changed much from year-to-year. I still like Lon McEachern and Norman Chad, the latter cracking me up a few times last night including when he noted how “at the Last Supper -- which was a tough final table -- nobody was wearing sunglasses.”

    Antonio Esfandiari does a nice job, too, with the explanations of the action and his reads, and in my opinion has figured out a way to be clear to a wide audience while also avoiding dumbing down the analysis. Kara Scott’s exit interviews and the other segments profiling players all worked well, too.

    Meanwhile the less said about the break segments with Phil Hellmuth the better. The very first comment he made saw him failing to recall a player’s name, misremembering the order of hands, and referring a player going all in for “eight million dollars” on a hand when he shoved for 7.3 million... chips.

    The “One Billion Hands” stuff during those segments was kind of hastily introduced as well and thus didn’t get presented very clearly. Didn’t help that during the first segment the hand discussed saw Hellmuth insisting a call was correct when the data being shown suggested otherwise, thus leaving everyone uncertain what any of it was supposed to mean. (By the way, for a more thorough and interesting discussion of the OBH stuff, check out Episode 52 of the Thinking Poker Podcast with OBH guru Dave Thornton.)

    Most disappointing last night, though, was the panda pratfall on the main stage not being shown on ESPN. It was 1:30 a.m. here on the east coast, and those of us following Twitter saw everyone there in the Penn & Teller Theater suddenly begin firing off excited messages about the person in the big panda suit (there to support Farber) rush the stage and fall face first before being escorted away. Nolan Dalla wrote more about this hilarious break in the action on his blog today.

    But for some reason ESPN -- showing everything on a 15-minute delay -- saw fit to excise that bit of goofiness while letting Hellmuth fall on his face repeatedly!

    Wrote a little more about last night’s action over on Learn.PokerNews today, including a bit of strategy talk if you’re curious -- see "The Panda and the Beast: Farber and Riess Remain in 2013 WSOP Main Event." Meanwhile I’ll be up again tonight to ride this sucker to its conclusion.

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