Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hard-Boiled Poker 2013 Year in Review (Top 50 Most Viewed Posts)

Was writing yesterday about moving and the way it kind of forces a person to undergo a kind of involuntary self-assessment shaped by one’s material possessions.

Look at all of these things you have. What do these things say about the kind of person you are? How do they reveal your personality and character? Your likes and dislikes? Your thousands of idiosyncrasies, some shared with others, some entirely unique? Even the way you pack, unpack, and subsequently arrange (or rearrange) your stuff reveals what is important to you and what is not.

I mentioned also yesterday how the year coming to a close perhaps intensified some of the usual ideas and emotions moving inspires. In other words, as I spend this morning continuing to reorganize everything on this last day of 2013, I’m consumed by thoughts of how I’ve spent the last 12 months (and beyond), what modest successes I’ve managed to achieve, and the many other goals that remain unrealized.

I’ve concluded the last several years with a few posts presented under the heading of “Year in Review” in which I’ve gone through the blog month-by-month and linked back to posts as a kind of “best of” compilation. The task of pulling together those posts has always begun with me initially fighting through a thick fog of self-loathing, battling through the mechanical work of cutting-and-pasting links and writing up summaries, then feeling a temporary moment of satisfaction at having given myself a job and completed it.

I began Hard-Boiled Poker in April 2006, and starting in 2008 I imposed upon myself a schedule to post every weekday, something I’ve managed to continue for six full years now. I also have routinely done daily “travel report” posts whenever taking a tourney trip, which means I’ve been posting on the weekends occasionally, too. Once again, then, there’s a lot of friggin’ posts to get through when it comes to this business of reviewing it all. For the year I’ve written 284 posts total, including this one.

I’ve decided this year to test a different method for the “Year in Review.” Instead of spreading the summaries over several posts, I’m just going to go with this single end-of-year entry so as to get the old out of the way and start the new year with the new. I also thought it might be more interesting this time to look into which of those 280-plus posts in 2013 proved the most popular in terms of page views.

Here’s a list, then, of the 50 most viewed posts I scribbled for Hard-Boiled Poker in 2013:

1. 2013 WSOP Main Event Final Table Hole Cards (Complete) (11/6/13)
2. Exploring Obsessions in Alan Zweig’s Vinyl (1/16/13)
3. Strip Poker: An Exposé (5/3/13)
4. Men, Women, and Poker in A Streetcar Named Desire (3/1/13)
5. On Backing, Tracking, and Whether Tourney Reports Are Lacking (4/2/13)
6. Nothing Funner: New Trailer for Poker-Themed Runner, Runner (6/6/13)
7. Bret Harte’s “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” (3/29/13)
8. Put Your Funds on Lock Poker (And Throw Away the Key) (4/29/13)
9. Wanna Buy Some Play Chips? (10/15/13)
10. 2013 World Series of Poker Schedule (Day-by-Day) (5/29/13)

11. Raymer (and Media) Caught in a Sting (3/18/13)
12. PokerNews Introduces My Stack, New Chip-Reporting App (5/6/13)
13. What If Farha Calls? (1/24/13)
14. Lock’s Stock in Peril (5/9/13)
15. Duke on Decisions (4/23/13)
16. Entrants Lists and the WSOP (6/12/13)
17. Travel Report: 2012-13 WSOP-C Harrah’s Cherokee Main Event, Day 2 -- Giving Away Chips, Rocks (4/15/13)
18. An Academic Study of Online Poker Forums (2/26/13)
19. On Lindgren and “Rehab” (1/7/13)
20. Bags of Dreams (8/14/13)

21. Paul Newman and Poker (4/12/13)
22. 2013 WSOP, Day 25: Is That Who I Think It Is? (6/23/13)
23. Our Turn to Make Full Tilt Claims (3/14/13)
24. Ungrateful Gus; or, Hansen on High (1/3/13)
25. Stirring the High-Stakes MTT Pot (3/7/13)
26. U.S. Online Poker 2.0: Ultimate Poker Deals First Hand (4/30/13)
27. Hellmuth Wants to Draw Line in Sand (10/22/13)
28. More on Mario Puzo (4/24/13)
29. Poker and the Boy Scouts (4/26/13)
30. Chop Talk (10/7/13)

31. Correcting the Zoom (1/25/13)
32. What the Winner Said (11/7/13)
33. Epic Anniversary (3/1/13)
34. Linking Out (6/3/13)
35. Lou Reed’s Poker Face (10/28/13)
36. Seven Years of Good Luck (4/28/13)
37. Two-and-a-Half Years Later (Withdrawing from Full Tilt Poker) (10/3/13)
38. An American in Cuba: The Place of Poker in Havana (3/15/13)
39. Public Concerns (5/7/13)
40. 2013 WSOP, Day 21: Min Cash, Max Fun (6/19/13)

41. Two Thousand Posts Later (8/7/13)
42. A 100-Year-Old Poker Movie: A Cure for Pokeritis (3/22/13)
43. Poker Among the Ruins (9/24/13)
44. The Absent-Minded Poker Player (12/27/13)
45. Poker in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (4/19/13)
46. The Congressman Who Wrote a Poker Book (3/8/13)
47. Poker Geography (4/18/13)
48. 2013 WSOP, Day 43: Folding Kings (7/11/13)
49. Falling Out of Sync (8/9/13)
50. On Philip K. Dick's Time Out of Joint (2/12/13)

I wasn’t too surprised to see “2013 WSOP Main Event Final Table Hole Cards (Complete)” top the list, although I didn’t expect to see that one about Alan Zweig’s documentary Vinyl be the second-most viewed post written during the year. You could say both of those posts highlight similar themes, including collecting, organizing, and the quality of being obsessive. I guess I like them being the most popular 2013 posts, as they are both representative of the blog as a whole.

I like seeing certain other posts on this list, too, including the ones about films and literature, ones addressing various controversies and other interesting items from the world of poker, and a few sharing some diverting anecdotes from the tourney trail. I probably would’ve included most of them had I written the same sort of posts as before and done my own selecting of faves to highlight.

As I say I’m in a mood to change things around here in the new year, and so can’t promise I’ll stick to the same stubborn schedule of posting going forward. Incidentally, Vera has named our new farm “Flying Change Farm.” A flying change is a lead change in dressage in which the horse makes the switch in between strides. It also has some obvious connotations relating to the change we’re making with the move. It is possible I might be making some changes mid-stride around here, too, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, many thanks again for stopping by here at Hard-Boiled Poker during 2013. And a Happy New Year to all!

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Moving and Stuff

I’ve mentioned here a couple of times over recent weeks how Vera and I have gotten ourselves a farm on which to live and keep Vera’s horses. The move has been a long time coming, the culmination of years of talking and planning and looking and finally finding. Even once we found the right place it still took a few months to get everything in place.

And it’s great. Well worth it, we already know.

We’re already mostly moved in, although we’ve still got a few items left to go. The last few days especially have been filled with lots of to-and-fro-ing as we gradually trucked everything to the new place. For others Boxing Day was the 26th, but for us boxing day was really the 27th as we spent something like 12 hours straight that day filling an endless-seeming supply of cardboard cubes and taping them shut.

I’ll probably be writing more here about country life before too long. While neither of us ever were especially “city,” this move does represent a change of sorts as we’re now pretty well isolated. From our old place it was a five-minute walk to grocery stores and restaurants, but here it’ll be a decent-length drive to get anywhere.

Today, though, I’m more preoccupied with the whole process of moving and getting settled. Vera and I have done this together perhaps eight or nine times overall, although the last time we did was several years ago.

Moving always forces a person to reconsider his or her relationship to possessions, large and small. I always think of the George Carlin bit about “stuff” in which he expounds hilariously -- and insightfully -- on the wise observation that “a house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”

There’s also that whole “this is your life” game that goes along with packing and unpacking all that stuff. I’ve had a few of those moments over the last couple of days where I’ve lingered over this or that item as it reminded me of a past experience.

The long path through graduate school and a teaching career has been heavily documented -- to absurd lengths, really, and I’m thinking already of a first use of that fire pit that was left for us here on the farm by the previous owners. So, too, are there a myriad of reminders of various highlights from this second career, the one in poker that more or less began right here on this blog.

So there’s the invitation to scrutinize one’s own materialism (or lack thereof). And there’s the memory lane stuff. But moving to a new place also engenders thoughts of the future, too, and the new projects and paths that lie ahead. The fact that our move is coinciding with the end of the calendar year is probably further heightening that tempation to make resolutions.

You know, about all the new stuff I’d like to do.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

The Absent-Minded Poker Player

By now the story of the poker player who left a brown paper bag containing $300,000 in cash in a Las Vegas cab has no doubt made it to your usual news feed, whatever that may be. This is one of those that quickly spilled out from under the usual “poker news” heading and into mainstream reporting, in fact.

I imagine I wasn’t the only one having conversations with family members about it during the Christmas visits. The story was one of those “page two” items in our local papers around here where all of the “weird but true”-type stuff usually lands. I was asked if I knew who the player was -- “a famous 28-year-old professional poker player, whom officials weren't publicly identifying” -- and I said no but I imagined the answer to that question would be coming sooner than later.

The angle highlighted most prominently, of course, was the cab driver’s decision to return the money to the office of his cab company and their ultimately successful effort to get the cash back in the owner’s hands. The company then rewarded the driver $1,000 for his action. Not a bad fit at all for the “’tis-the-reason-for-the-season” narrative.

Meanwhile, within the poker community it sounds like a couple of less crucial subplots are occupying the thoughts of those responding to the story.

There’s the “how much did he tip?” question which makes the story into a version of the tourney-tipping debates that come up now and again regarding the relative generosity or stinginess of those earning big tournament paydays. The lucky player apparently tipped the cabbie $5 for a relatively short trip, but there’s no postscript as of yet noting whether there was any additional tipping after getting his cash returned.

Then there’s the question of who exactly the “famous 28-year-old professional poker player” actually is. I was amused yesterday by some of the guesses as well as 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event runner-up Jay Farber’s impatient denials after several seemed sure he must’ve been the one.

Sort of interesting to follow the latter discussion, in particular the sleuthing some are employing when narrowing down possible candidates. On one level it’s just another bit of problem-solving, not unlike that which poker itself provides for us in the form of considering available (and incomplete) evidence in an attempt to guess opponents’ possible holdings.

But there’s also that sense of schadenfreude that characterizes a lot of railbirding happening here, too, I think, wherein people want to know where to direct their derision. After all, if one of the great pleasures of watching poker is to witness players make especially clever strategic decisions, a close second has to be watching them mistakes, too, right?

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Art of War

Enjoying a little down time here over the holidays, including spending some quality hours with my four-and-a-half-year-old nephew as I mentioned I would be doing last post.

He and I did manage to get in a few rounds’ worth of “War” when he wasn’t busy playing Skylanders. He mastered the rules for “War” very quickly, including sorting out how the face cards rank and how jokers were wild. He’s also figured out how to save out an ace or joker for himself to use at key moments, such as when “battles” arise, being very creative in the way he’ll innocently slide the card out from under the pile.

We laugh about his not-quite-allowed-within-the-rules strategy of choosing cards to play, both acknowledging it fully. It’s interesting, actually, to observe how besides being pretty quick to understand games, he’s competitive, too, wanting to win but seemingly a good sport when losing. A little later we played Tic-Tac-Toe on a stocking stuffer wooden game and I couldn’t help but laugh when he left me an opening to beat him once, then shot a hand down over the spot where I was about to make my last move.

Those who are parents know a lot more than I do about how this process of learning games works with children, including the usual milestones of understanding how to play them, what winning and losing is, and eventually what it means to play by the rules and the importance of doing so. My understanding is my nephew is still probably a year or two away from reaching that last stage, as that doesn’t necessarily come (for most) until kids get to be primary school age.

Was kind of marveling, though, at how the moment he noticed he’d left me that opening to make three across he slapped the hand down -- entirely instinctive, that, and something we adults can identify with whenever we make a mistake and think initially of trying to correct it.

I’m thinking it won’t be that long before my nephew and I start talking about poker hands and how three of a kind beats two pair. Then after that we’ll get out the chips, too. That’s when I’ll definitely have to watch out to make sure he doesn’t keep an ace or joker hidden in his tiny sleeve.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Time Is Here Again

Had a fun day yesterday visiting with family in a couple of different locations, and today am looking forward to another round of visiting including hanging out some with my super-smart nephew who’ll be turning five in February.

Was teaching him some card games the last time we got to spend extended time together, including “War.” Might have to break out the cards again today although I have a feeling he’s going to be plenty occupied with other presents.

A big part of the fun yesterday was watching several young children of cousins giddy with joy over various presents they’d received. One two-year-old darling received a toy nurse’s set with various plastic items like a stethoscope, a thermometer, and a reflex hammer. Big grins watching her administer a check-up to my septugenarian father who was a patient patient.

Christmas is most definitely a kid’s game. Like poker, I guess. Here’s hoping you get either to spend some time with a kid today or at least be able to relax and perhaps feel like one for a while. Speaking of, I think I see a spot over on the couch and I believe there’s some basketball to watch a little later.

O-U-T spells out.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

OFCP at the WSOP?

A quick hello here mainly to wish all a happy Xmas eve as Vera and I are about to go spend time with folks today and tomorrow.

I think I might’ve mentioned here at some point how we’ve bought ourselves a farm on which to keep Vera’s horses and are preparing for the move in the coming days. That to the left is an early present from your humble scribbler to his beloved, something I think will be getting a lot of use once we make the move. (I’ll have to start signing off as “Old McShamus.”)

Meanwhile, I was intrigued by the Twitter discussion yesterday regarding Open-Face Chinese Poker and the possibility of it being added to the 2014 World Series of Poker schedule as a bracelet event. Ended up posting a little summary of the discussion over on Learn.PokerNews this morning, including adding a poll question at the bottom about it. Take a look and perhaps click “yes” or “no” at the end, if you like clicking things and I know you do.

The most interesting part of the debate, I think, is how some are arguing OFCP isn’t really “poker” because it doesn’t involve betting (in the traditional sense) or appear to provide opportunities for bluffing. I think both counts might be debated somewhat, although I tend to agree that the game strikes me as being a lot more like gin rummy or even spades or hearts than it does poker, even if it does involve making poker hands.

I probably lean toward the group who oppose making OFCP a bracelet event, especially so soon after being introduced to the majority of those who play it. I do like the game, and in fact not long ago downloaded the “ABC Chinese Poker: Open Face” app which I’ve enjoyed playing quite a bit. If you have the app, find me and let’s play -- I’m “ShortStackedShamus” there in the Game Center thingy.

But like I say, I’m dubious about OFCP’s inclusion as a WSOP bracelet event for most of the same reasons others have voiced. I also am not sure adequate tournament rules have been devised for the game yet, either, another reason to think twice about adding it at the WSOP.

Anyhow, check out that summary of yesterday’s debate and let me know what you think about it all. Meanwhile, we need to load up the wheelbarrow with gifts for our travels today. Enjoy the day, all!

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Monday, December 23, 2013

The Way the Football Bounces

Still on a high after the Panthers’ big win yesterday versus New Orleans, with that last lightning-quick winning TD drive having played out so quickly I’m still not even sure it happened.

Carolina is now playoff-bound for the first time since Jake Delhomme was behind center, and folks are starting to recall to each other the big run from a decade ago that landed the Panthers in the Super Bowl where they were involved in one of the most memorable finales in NFL history. (The halftime show that year was pretty memorable, too.)

Was reading a few different pieces last week about the Panthers’ season, including an interesting one over on the Football Perspective website asking “How Good Are the Panthers?” The piece does a lot of comparing of numbers from this season and last for Carolina, ultimately concluding with the support of the stats what all of us who have been watching the games already well knew.

“In 2012, nearly all the breaks went against the Panthers,” writes the author, Chase Stuart, after having established that in most respects the team was essentially as productive in just about every area last year as it has been this time around. “On a per-play basis, Carolina was a very good team, and perhaps one of the best in the league,” says Stuart, yet somehow they started 2-8, ended 7-9, and missed the playoffs by a mile.

This year they started 1-3, are now 11-4, and with a victory next week against Atlanta can tie a franchise record for wins. And as Stuart notes, the difference can mostly be traced via a handful of plays that went the wrong way for Carolina in 2012 but have gone differently in 2013. “For the second year in a row, Carolina has found out that what happens on a few plays can make all the difference in a season,” he concludes.

I won’t specifically recite all of the plays. That stirring 14-yard pass completion from Cam Newton to Domenik Hixon in the endzone yesterday with 23 seconds left was certainly one of them. But it wouldn’t be hard to locate them among the several agonizing losses last year and the many dramatic victories this season.

As a kind of weird emblem for how things went for the Panthers in 2012, they lost the first 13 start-of-game coin tosses last year (!). Talk about bad bounces. Meanwhile I know this year they were enjoying a streak of winning eight straight coin tosses at one point (through the first nine games), which is similarly nuts. (And weirdly symbolic.)

It is uncanny the extent to which the Panthers’ results from last year to this can be likened to having played a hand exactly the same way twice, losing the first and winning the next. The same can be said for most of the league, though, with only a few exceptions. Every team heading into Week 17 can point to a handful of plays that decided their fate, just like only a few hands -- or even one -- tend to dictate a winning or losing session or tournament.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Talking 2014 WSOP (Already)

Saw that announcement yesterday regarding dates for the 2014 World Series of Poker. No schedule of events just yet -- that usually comes later, anyway -- but we did get the word that as usual things will get kicked off at the end of May and run through mid-July (from 5/27 to 7/14 this time), and once more they’ll be back at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

Was almost surprising to read in the presser that this will mark the 10th straight year the WSOP will be at the Rio, even though it’s easy enough to recall how it was 2005 that the move first occurred, with only the last couple of days of the Main Event that year (won by Joe Hachem) playing out back at Binion’s as a kind of last hurrah.

Not too much else of note in the announcement. The Main Event will again feature three Day 1 flights. The full slate of “deep stack” tourneys and cash games will be on offer again throughout the summer, with buy-ins as low as $75 for some tourneys. And of course this year will be the first for which players on WSOP.com in both Nevada and New Jersey will be able to satellite into events, a wrinkle that should get more attention throughout the winter and spring.

There are a few hints dropped about what the schedule will contain, including another one of those “Millionaire Maker” events (a $1,500 tourney with a first-prize guaranteed to be at least $1 milly), a second “Big One for One Drop” with the $1 million buy-in (already announced), and another “Little One for One Drop” (with a $1,111 buy-in and unlimited re-entries).

No indication of a total number of events, although there is mention that there will be “60+ official gold bracelet events,” thus suggesting a schedule not too different from years past.

That said, some tweets from WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart (@wsopSUITd) from about a month ago suggested the so-called “Matt Glantz” plan proposed in a piece appearing in Card Player back in June is getting some consideration. That’s the idea to jettison the mid-range buy-ins ($2,500 and $5,000) and instead have both $1,500 and $10,000 events for all of the major variants, with the latter designated as “championship” events.

“Debate. What are ‘core’ disciplines outside NLHE that merit WSOP championship event? Ten right now on the table (1/2) - Agree?” tweeted Stewart back on November 20, who then followed with “Limit HE, PLHE, PLO, O8OB, 7-Stud, 7-Stud 8OB, Razz, 2-7, 2-7 TD, HORSE. For the much discussed 1500/10k framework. Sked coming 2gether.”

I think I like the $1.5K/$10K idea well enough, although the true test of it will come via those field sizes next summer. Meanwhile, we’ll have to wait and see how the actual schedule ends up shaping up, but it does sound like we might anticipate a lot of $1,500 events, a handful of $10,000 ones (in each of those disciplines), with the non-HE games thus covered in that way and the rest of the schedule again filled with NLHE tourneys of various shapes and sizes.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Durrrration of the Poker Spotlight

Was thinking a little about that news this week of Tom “durrrr” Dwan parting ways with Full Tilt Poker 2.0. Dwan is no longer one of the site’s three sponsored “Professionals,” leaving Gus Hansen and Viktor Blom to carry forward as the site’s primary player-reps.

PokerListings got the word from an FTP spokesperson a few days ago, noting how Dwan hadn’t been part of some FTP-related recent events alongside his fellow “Professionals.”

Another story on PL referred to the long-in-limbo “Durrrr Challenge” between Dwan and Daniel “Jungleman12” Cates and what appears little likelihood of its continuance. That article included an interview with Cates who seems like he is more or less shrugging his shoulders and saying “wtf” over and again in response to questions about the status of the pair’s competition.

Like both Hansen (long ago) and Blom (more recently), Dwan had his moment of being the focus of much of the poker’s world attention for a short period just a few years back.

Dwan first got on the radar for most of us around 2008, particularly after ousting Phil Hellmuth in the first round of the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, luckily cracking the Poker Brat’s pocket aces with a pair of tens, then watching Hellmuth predictably crack up himself afterwards.

Then the “Dwan era” dawned in earnest right around early 2009 with the launching of the first Challenge (versus Patrik Antonius), followed shortly thereafter by a celebrated appearance on High Stakes Poker a month later that included one hand in particular that seemingly had everyone buzzing for months.

I wrote a post here about the hand then titled “Tom’s Adventures in Wondurrrrland” (creating the graphic to the left for the occasion). Those who saw it remember it well -- a crazy eight-way hand that saw Dwan, Barry Greenstein, and Peter Eastgate make it to the turn with Dwan holding the worst hand of the three (behind Eastgate’s trips and Greenstein’s pocket aces), yet somehow getting the other two to fold after his fourth-street bet.

It was later that year Blom emerged -- or rather, his alter ego “Isildur1” did -- to take over the poker spotlight from Dwan, but not after the then-23-year-old had somehow gotten himself nominated for the Poker Hall of Fame by some zealous visitors to the WSOP’s website.

Right around that time -- late 2009 -- Dwan became a Team Full Tilter, a designation that lasted until April 2011 and Black Friday. A relative newcomer to FTP’s shameful circle of owners and mismanagers, Dwan was more or less on the outside with the rest of us (or appeared so) in the months following Black Friday, and particularly after the amended indictment and civil complaint came in September 2011 that more specifically damned FTP Version 1.0, Dwan’s association with the site faded quickly only to be revived a year later with the FTP’s second incarnation and the “Professionals” signing.

It’s all sort of felt like an extended anticlimax after that blockbuster beginning for Dwan. All of those forces that helped create a poker celebrity of him so quickly -- the online game and televised poker, especially -- have now waned considerably when it comes to influence and image-shaping. Now we’re more or less in an era when conspicuous tourney successes seem to be the primary means to poker stardom (be it brief or lasting), with live wins much more capable of creating “stars” than online ones.

Dwan is still winning online. And he’s playing live, too, although it sounds like much of it has been at the high-stakes cash games in Macau, more or less out of the purview of those who might be curious to make him the subject of forum threads and other “railbird reports.”

I was as fascinated as everyone else by Dwan for those few months a few years ago, and am still somewhat curious about what he might do next. But his departure from FTP 2.0 and its team of “Professionals” inspires thoughts of how the whole idea of poker celebs -- that different class of poker “professionals” -- once such a very effective construct of online sites and abetted ably by the TV shows the sites sponsored, seems like something from an earlier era.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On the Fast Track at EPT Prague

Am trying to get some work done today while following the final table at the European Poker Tour Main Event in Prague via the EPTLive stream on PokerStars.tv. There are four players remaining at the moment with the German Julian Track currently sitting in first position by a decent-sized margin.

Track took the chip lead into today’s final day of play after a blindingly-fast penultimate day saw 22 play down to eight in less than two 90-minute levels. Lots of aggressive play helped increase the rapidity of the bustouts, including a kind of wild hand involving Track and Ori Hasson of Israel that gave the former the chip lead.

The blinds were 20,000/40,000, and preflop machinations between the pair saw Hasson five-bet shoving for close to 3.8 million (about 95 big blinds) with AcQd and Track calling for almost that much with TcTs. The tens held, and a little while later Hasson hit the rail in 12th.

It was the biggest pot of the tournament to that point and also the one everyone seemed to be buzzing about afterwards with many surprised that both players would commit such deep stacks with those two hands.

The hand made me think of witnessing a lot of similar decisions being made with around 100 players left in the WSOP Main Event over the years, during that nether period well after the money bubble has burst but still a long way away from the final few tables. I’m talking about those hands that see players five- or six-betting all in with A-K or J-J with stacks of 1 million or more and blinds at 4,000/8,000 or thereabouts.

I haven’t been following the action all week nor do I have much feel for how Track or Hasson had been playing hands leading up to their big confrontation on Tuesday, so there obviously could be relevant context for their decisions.

Even so, I think in tournaments sometimes there emerges this interesting kind of collective momentum that can affect players in various ways, including speeding up their play. Yesterday several had just been knocked out in short order when the Track-Hasson hand occurred, and I think when that happens occasionally players in certain situations are oddly encouraged to gamble more when opportunities arise.

The same happens with slowing down, too, as I suppose one could say is being evidenced here at four-handed with the remaining players appearing to exercise a lot of patience at present. The deep stacks make it easier to slow down, too, of course, although both Track and Hasson were mighty deep when they put their tourney lives on the line yesterday with pocket tens and ace-queen, respectively.

Will see if Track can keep it on the rails to victory later today. Click over to EPTLive on PokerStars.tv to watch, too.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Picking Your Spots, Finding Your Targets

Just wanted to post a short one today pointing to a new piece over on Learn.PokerNews by Nate Meyvis, co-host of the great Thinking Poker podcast with Andrew Brokos. Am feeling pretty good about the quality of contributors we’ve gotten over at Learn over the last couple of months, and Nate again brings some great ideas and good writing to help up the overall quality over there.

In his article titled “Seven Attention Targets for Beginning Poker Players,” Nate points out how it’s obviously good to try to pay attention at the tables -- a much-repeated maxim we’ve all heard -- but it’s also important (or more so) to be paying attention in ways that are actually constructive. That is to say, following the action and not “checking out” mentally when not involved in a hand is all well and good, but you should also be looking for some specific actions and behaviors, too, as you gather information about your opponents.

The list of “attention targets” Nate provides includes a few I hadn’t really considered before. Like I say check it out, and maybe click around a little, too, just to see what else has been happening over on the site. Still somewhat in “building” mode over there (and I expect will be for a while), but there have been several good contributions there already and I’m optimistic about what’s to come.

I’ve mentioned before here how the Learn site -- directed primarily toward newer players although also meant to be of value, too, to those with some experience -- has gotten me thinking more and more frequently about getting started with poker and the many questions I had then, as well as all of the things that made the game seem so fascinating and appealing to play, read and talk about, and watch.

Nate’s topic reminded me how in a lot of cases my own study of the game during those early days was without any real focus, nor was it even conducted with any specific goal in mind. Not usually, anyway. What I mean is I would read and watch everything without much idea how to discriminate between information that was genuinely useful or content that was without much value at all. Kind of like when you are a kid and first start recognizing songs on the radio -- you pretty much liked them all, right?

As my understanding of the game grew, so, too, did my ability to be more selective about strategy advice and to get an idea of what worked and what didn’t, or what was original and what wasn’t. I guess on one level it was good to have that open mind at the start that didn’t automatically refuse certain types of content based on received prejudices. But after a while it became apparent that not everything written about how to play poker was necessarily helpful.

I guess I’m alluding to at least three stages of learning that likely happen for most players -- an initial one in which we start playing without even thinking about strategy or the need to study, a second stage in which we get introduced to studying and want to take in everything, and a third in which we’ve learned enough to begin to differentiate between different types of study and determine which are the most useful to us.

Nate, I think, is addressing those who are moving into that third stage who know it’s good to pay attention -- and want to do so -- but are still working out where it is best to focus that attention. Like I say, check out his list of “attention targets” and see if one or more of them prove useful to you.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Racing to Year’s End

The year is coming to a close, which means we’re starting to see lots of “best of 2013”-type features popping up all over. Was reminded of that fact a couple of times over recent days.

Once was when watching NFL football last night and hearing the news that Peyton Manning had been named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated, a choice that seems to have been met with a chorus of shrugs by most. Manning is certainly having a fine year, although his selection seems to have more to do with a kind of “lifetime achievement” recognition than with his specific accomplishments this particular year.

I will say I like Manning a lot both as a player and as a spokesman for football and sports, generally speaking. Heard him interviewed again today and was reminded how effortlessly he seems to communicate all of the usual “player-speak” clichés while also coming off as astute, entirely self-aware, and even witty. His self-deprecating instinct also reminds us that when it comes to sportsmanship -- which may or may not be a criterion for “sportsman of the year,” I don’t know -- Manning is definitely a model.

Meanwhile, the player of the year races in poker are about to be decided, too. The World Series of Poker POY has already been locked up, of course, by Daniel Negreanu, but the last few tourneys of December will affect things in some of the magazines’ POY standings as well as the one kept by the Global Poker Index.

Saw some tweeting yesterday and again today regarding how the German phenom Ole Schemion -- who only just turned 21, I believe, but already has three years’ worth of big tourney finishes under his belt in numerous European events -- still has a chance of catching Negreanu in the 2013 GPI POY race if he were to finish 17th or better in the EPT Prague Main Event where Day 4 just finished a little while ago.

It looks like 22 players remain from the starting field of 1,007, with Schemion third in chips going into tomorrow and thus primed to pass “Kid Poker.”

Speaking of the shrugs that came following the announcement of Manning as the SI Sportsman of the Year, Allen Bari had a funny response to some of the tweets yesterday about the finale of GPI race and Schemion’s prospects for passing Negreanu: “Wonder if less than 4 people care.”

I suppose I find the GPI rankings and these other POY charts intriguing insofar as they do contribute additional storylines to tournament poker where the traditional narratives are so familiar it is somewhat welcoming to have some subplot to divert us now and then. The significance of such races can certainly be debated, though, as can the various criteria used to create the rankings which fuel them.

Anyhow, whoever wins the poker POYs that person could do a lot worse than to follow Manning’s example when it comes to humility. And to handling possible questions about mustaches, check offs, and/or horse mascots.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

“May All of Your Cards Be Live...”

I mentioned how this most recent trip of mine culminated with that WPT final table at the Bellagio which was a “TV” one. Not all WPT events are shot for later broadcast (on Fox Sports), but quite a few are. Since this was the first time I’d actually been present at one of these, I thought I’d share a few quick impressions.

Anyone who has attended a WPT final table that was scheduled to be televised probably will be familiar with everything I’m sharing here. That is to say, it isn’t as though anything I noticed as someone there reporting on the event is that different from what anyone else in attendance gets to see, too.

In fact, for poker fans who happen to be where a WPT televised final table is taking place, I recommend checking it out. The entire day I was thinking of a good friend of mine who loves to watch poker on TV -- still (!) -- and who is always asking me about players he sees. I realized how much of a kick he’d get out of seeing one of these shows being created.

I knew before that Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten were present at these final tables, but I hadn’t necessarily realized how they actually are commentating quite a bit as the hands go by. I know they’ll go back and do more in post-production, but I hadn’t necessarily appreciated from watching the WPT on television that some or even most of what we hear from those two comes during the actual playing of the final table.

The desk at which they sat was far enough away from the table -- and from the crowd and those of us reporting -- that you couldn’t hear every word they said. But you could definitely pick up on the excited responses as Sexton and Van Patten both reacted to a big river card or other crucial moments at the final table (of which there were several), which added an extra bit of fun to the proceedings.

Meanwhile, Lynn Gilmartin is now doing the anchoring for the WPT shows, and she, too, was shooting a lot of her segments as the final table was being played.

I’ve known Lynn for a while now thanks to her long association with PokerNews and PokerStars, and so am well familiar with how great she is in front of the camera. In fact, I’ve joined her a few times for brief vids from the LAPT -- here’s one from last year -- on which the contrast between our relative levels of ease only further underscores her skills.

Lynn was positioned at an elevated table over to the side where she could be heard introducing returns to action or taking us to commercial breaks, interspersing questions of Mike and Vince. Then we also saw WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage interviewing players to the side of the stage, too, both before play began and after bustouts.

Watching both reminded me of sitting in the press box at the WSOP while Kara Scott would shoot segments and marveling at how cool they all are, often able to move through the segments in one take and sound great doing it.

As someone who has spent a lot of time standing in front of classrooms full of students, I’m not necessarily shy about talking to groups. But the challenges faced and conquered by these folks whose jobs put them in front of the camera still impresses me, and I can’t imagine how much work it would take to get to the point they seem to be.

The play moved rather quickly without a lot of delays for setting up for certain shots or for other production-related reasons. I suppose that defied my expectations a little, too, after having worked a lot of events on other tours where there would be frequent stoppages of play related to the broadcasts being shot or streamed. By contrast, they kept things moving pretty quickly throughout yesterday, no doubt in part because of a desire not to keep the extensive crew working longer than necessary.

All of the other elements of the TV show were there, too -- the Royal Flush girls and their “bar,” the trophy presentation, and so on. There were nice recognitions of Jack McClelland made both before and after the final table as well, as this was the last event for the Bellagio’s retiring tournament director.

All of it kind of took me back to the days of being a big “poker fan” -- i.e., a decade ago when I was right there with everyone else discovering the WPT on television for the first time and becoming instantly fascinated with the show, the game, and the people who were part of it.

I know the WPT doesn’t quite occupy the central place in poker’s subculture today as it did back then. But it is still an important part of the overall scene and I think still brings a lot that’s good for the game as a whole when it comes to promoting the game to a wider audience. And they continue to put on a good show that ultimately seems more than anything to underscore that sense that poker really can be a fun time.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Travel Report: Season XII WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Day 6 -- Keeping the Beat

For the final table of the World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic in Las Vegas, the action moved out of the poker room and into one of the ballrooms on the other side of the Bellagio. As usual, the WPT had a huge set constructed for the big finale, and unlike the previous WPT events I’ve worked this one was shot for TV broadcast (sometime in the spring, I think).

The playing down from six players to a winner in Dan Smith -- a.k.a. “King Dan” -- took around seven hours or so with only a few short breaks along the way. Smith, who I mentioned yesterday on Day 5 had enjoyed some good fortune to avoid going out with 16 players left, began the day with the chip lead. He kept the lead for the first part of Day 6, but at three-handed Eddy Sabat was in the top spot and appeared in good position to win.

Smith had some more run good, though, after doubling his short stack through Sabat with AdTc versus the latter’s 8c8d, then winning another big pot two hands later against Sabat when he flopped a flush. That one saw Smith getting Sabat to call on all three post-flop streets including the last all-in push, and so Smith doubled again to take a commanding lead before winning the event a couple of dozen hands later.

The last day saw me tracking chip counts after every hand while the posts were handled by my blogging partners B.J. Nemeth (who did hand reports) and Ryan Luchessi (who posted lots of cool features along the way). Was a little like moving over from playing lead guitar to sitting behind the drums in this power trio, and while I’ll admit it took me a little while in the early going to get the beat right I got acclimated before too long and ended up enjoying the night’s work.

Was also fun to see the shooting of the WPT program, something I’d never actually witnessed before. I want to write a little more about what that was like and so am going to save discussing that until tomorrow, but I will say it’s an impressive, finely-tuned production they have in place -- not that surprising considering they’ve been at it for over a decade now.

Flights back from Las Vegas were relatively smooth though I was pretty beat once I finally got home. Will be taking a little bit of a break from the traveling at the moment, but there will be more globetrotting to come.

Getting some rest now. More tomorrow about the final day at the WPT Five Diamond.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Travel Report: Season XII WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Day 5 -- King Dan’s Two-Outer

Was a full day yesterday for Day 5 of the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic as they played down from 21 to the final six.

The tourney was relocated to the “high-limit” area of the Bellagio poker room, an elevated section in the far right corner, which took the players out of the center of the very active cash games happening at the mostly filled tables in the rest of the room.

Once the three tables played down to a final ten-handed table, the final table of that $100K high roller event the Bellagio was putting on was moved over into the same area as well, and in fact would play out long after we finished with Brian Rast winning more than $1 million for topping a small field.

Rast was one of the couple of players who had actually entered the $10K WPT event seven times (thanks to the unlimited re-entry format), and so despite finishing in 32nd and in the money, he’d lost more than $40K in that one as his cash was only for a little over $26K.

Not sure if Rast re-entered the $100K or not, but you can check out reports on the event by Eric of Poker Telegraph who was on hand to file updates on that one from start-to-finish.

The big news entering Day 5, of course, was the prospect of start-of-day chip leader Jean-Robert Bellande perhaps making the televised final table and thus adding a bit of entertainment to the proceedings later today. JRB was still leading at mid-afternoon yesterday, but had one calamitous level that took him from the top of the counts to the bottom, and it wasn’t long after they’d gone to the ten-handed final table that he busted in 10th.

It took a good while, but finally they reached the final six with Dan Smith the chip leader. Smith had narrowly avoided finishing 16th in the tournament when he’d been all in with 10-10 versus the K-K of Steven Silverman and no help had come on either the flop or turn. But a 10 fell on fifth street to save Smith, and he’d go on to carry the lead to today while Silverman would be the one to finish 16th.

“King Dan” will be joined by Eddy Sabat and Joe Serock at this final table, as well as a player named Shaun Suller whom I met a few times covering WSOP Circuit stops. Suller is a friendly guy and I overheard him telling the WPT TV crew in an interview how he planned to donate a percentage of his winnings to the Jimmy V Foundation, which gave me another reason to be glad he’d made the final table.

Meanwhile others coming up short along with Bellande and Silverman were Christian Harder, Dan O’Brien, and Will Failla.

Have a hectic day ahead and so am cutting things short again. Check over at the WPT site for updates later on from tonight’s final table. Should be interesting to see the staging and presentation for the TV show, as Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, Lynn Gilmartin will all be there to do their commentary as it goes.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Travel Report: Season XII WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Day 4 -- Fantasyland & BrokeLivingJRB

Not a ton of time for scribbling today, so I’ll move through this update quickly. One reason why my time is short is because after play was done yesterday I joined B.J. and our friend Shancy for a couple of hours’ worth of open-face Chinese, during which many grins were had while I also made it to Fantasyland a couple of times.

Speaking of fantasies, the 59 who returned for yesterday’s Day 4 still entertaining dreams of winning this year’s World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic and realizing a seven-figure score battled down to just 21, with Jean-Robert Bellande building a big stack to carry the lead into today’s penultimate day of play.

I’m remembering Bellande being especially short in the middle of Day 2 of the event, right around the time the re-entry period ended. He was definitely in shove-or-fold mode there for a while, but when they came back for the last level of that night he went on a rush, knocking out both Phil Hellmuth and Jen Tilly sitting next to him, to finish the day in good shape chip-wise. Then for the last two days he’s just kept on adding to his stack.

I agree with those who are entertained by Bellande and find him “good for poker” (as they say). I also dig his self-deprecating persona, especially when he retweets others’ digs at him (both seriously delivered and otherwise).

Jeremy Ausmus had an especially funny tweet yesterday (which @BrokeLivingJRB of course retweeted), in which he suggested there might be something wrong with the reporting regarding Bellande’s first-position status.

Lots of big names left among the final 21 in addition to Bellande, with Joe Serock, Dan O’Brien, Christian Harder, Will Failla, Dan Smith, Barry Hutter, and Steven Silverman among them. It’s been that kind of tourney. In fact, yesterday I went through and saw I knew by sight 40 of the 59 remaining at the start of the day, a very high percentage relatively speaking.

Also happening in the Bellagio poker room yesterday was the start of a non-WPT $100,000 event which quietly began playing out on a couple of tables in the center of the room. Ben Lamb, Joseph Cheong, Erik Seidel, Jason Koon, Ben Tollerene, Anthony Gregg, and Justin Bonomo were among the dozen or so entrants in that one.

At one point I overheard staff referring to one of the high rollers (one not listed above) and saying how he’d seen him play in a $100 tourney just a day or so ago. Reminded me a little of the story OhCaptain told me about a guy who’d busted from our $10K event showing up to play that night in an $80 tourney in which he took part. Those anecdotes illustrate how the game paradoxically is both all about money and has nothing to do with money (for some).

We’re thinking it might well be a long one today. Again, head over to the WPT site to see if JRB can maintain his frontrunner status today and perhaps make tomorrow’s six-handed final table.

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Travel Report: Season XII WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Day 3 -- Tight Fit

Down to 59 now in the World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, just 14 eliminations away from the money. There are three more days to go the six-day event, so today will probably see the field carved down to the low 20s or so, then on Tuesday they’ll play down to six and finish up on Wednesday.

I was talking yesterday about how the re-entry format and lengthy period for buying back in made the first day and much of the second kind of anticlimactic, likening it to a “regular season” and calling the period after re-entries end the “playoffs.”

I might have called that re-entry period the “preseason,” actually, with this interim between the re-entry period ending and the money bubble bursting being the regular season and play following the cashes starting being the playoffs. However we want to draw our analogies, things are getting increasingly more interesting with much more to report as the significance of individual hands grows incrementally as they go.

Nearly all 40 or so tables in the Bellagio poker room have been constantly filled for the past three days, initially with tourney players, then as the field finally got smaller (especially yesterday) with cash games filling in once the tourney no longer needed tables. Bobby’s Room -- the walled in inner room inside the poker room -- has had two or three tables going constantly, too, with Doyle Brunson (who didn’t play the tournament bearing his name), Eli Elezra, David Oppenheim, Kenny Tran, Huck Seed, and several other familiar folks among those who have been sitting at the tables in there.

All of which means the poker room has been constantly packed with people, including players, media and the TV crew, poker room staff and Bellagio servers, and others filling every inch. Interestingly, though, I’m not really sensing anyone being that bothered by the crowded quarters, and I, too, have realized ideas of “personal space” kind of automatically adjust in such situations.

It’s like we’re all at a sold out, standing room only show or something, and while there isn’t much room to move around, all seem pretty glad to be there. The fact that everyone has been especially helpful and all seem to be working together well to keep things running smoothly has gone a long way in this regard, making it a fun tourney thus far to cover. Kind of an emblem of multi-table tournament poker, I guess, a huge field all doing what they can to try to fit into just a few seats at the end.

Non-tourney news from yesterday included me winning one NFL bet (the Bengals) and correctly resisting making a second one (on the Panthers). Also I’d had ideas during the day of perhaps joining B.J. Nemeth and Jess Welman to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey (which Jess had never seen) once the day was done, but decided to go for the extra couple of hours of sleep instead. (Here is an old post in which I wrote a bit about 2001: “My Mind Is Going... I Can Feel It....”)

Sounds like from the tweets B.J.’s attempts at making Jess appreciate the film’s achievement didn’t quite land, given Jess’ tweet afterwards (“Worst. Movie. Ever.”). I imagined a scene of conflict between the two resulting in the remote control being thrown up in the air, rotating end over end in slow motion like a bone or a space station. I also thought of B.J. responding to Jess’ dislike of the film in HAL’s voice…

“Look Jess, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.”

I think Jess will soon be explaining her response to 2001 on her blog, for which we can stay tuned. Meanwhile, as always, check back over at the WPT site for updates today from Day 4 of the WPT Five Diamond.

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Travel Report: Season XII WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Day 2 -- The Playoffs Begin

Another busy one at the Bellagio yesterday for Day 2 of the World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic. They played five more 90-minute levels, with the field ultimately getting whittled down to 140 players by night’s end with Jeff Madsen leading everyone at the moment.

I’ve been mentioning how this $10,300 buy-in event features a “re-entry” format. That re-entry period lasted all of the way to the end of Level 8 yesterday, with no limits on the number of times players could enter.

Once we got into Level 9, B.J. Nemeth did some number crunching. Ultimately there were 449 total entries in the event, with 309 unique players. A little over two-thirds who participated bought in just once (216), while the rest entered anywhere from two times all of the way up to a couple buying in seven times.

At one point during the day I told B.J. and Ryan Luchessi (my blogging partners here) that until the re-entry period ended, the tourney felt a little like the regular season, with players jockeying for position but no one really being out of it quite yet, even if they bust. But once we got into Level 9 and players could no longer buy back in, it was as though the “playoffs” had begun.

Having re-entries and lots of players taking the option definitely affects the flow of a tournament from a reporting perspective, with lots of bustouts-that-are-not-really-bustouts creating a kind of ongoing sense of anticlimax. Thus it was almost relieving once players really were eliminated for good during the last two levels of the night yesterday, if only to provide a sense that we were finally moving forward with the tournament.

Of course, there are many other more relevant issues regarding re-entry tournaments and how they affect players that are being debated at present. WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage shared some thoughts about the re-entry tourneys not too long ago in an op-ed for PokerNews that begins with the question of whether or not it might be time to rethink having them.

Meanwhile, all this talk about entries makes me think of “entrees,” a word that for some reason I always want to type when I mean the former. And speaking of entrees, I am definitely eating well here.

Yesterday began with a big (and enjoyable) breakfast at the Cafe Bellagio with Jen Newell, Drizzdtj, and OhCaptain. Then it was back to the buffet once again following the end of play along with many of the remaining players. I think many tend to like these days of reasonable length (lasting around eight-and-a-half hours with breaks) with dinner coming at the end rather than in the middle.

Ended up making a quick trek via the tram over to Monte Carlo after dinner to visit a short while with Absinthetics and OhCaptain who were playing in a tourney there. Handy getting from here to there on the free tram. I took that pic up above on the way over during the brief period of being exposed to the windy, cold conditions here in Vegas at present.

Should be another interesting day, tourney-wise, as the “playoffs” are now in full swing with every elimination bringing us closer to a champion. Meanwhile I am gonna enjoy a little morning football right now before play begins. Check over at the WPT site for updates to see how things progress.

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Saturday, December 07, 2013

Travel Report: Season XII WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Day 1 -- Crab Legs and Christmas Trees

Kind of a whirlwind day yesterday for the kickoff of the World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic. They played through five 90-minute levels with short breaks between each and no stopping for dinner, which made the day go by quickly.

We got our dinner, though, hitting the Bellagio buffet afterwards where my blogging partner B.J. Nemeth loaded up on crab legs as he said he would be doing all day.

“Why should I get anything else?” asked Nemeth.

We were packed fairly tightly there in the Bellagio poker room, our workstation positioned right next to Bobby’s Room with nearly all of the 36 or so tables being filled at some point with tourney players. We were almost as crowded as those crab legs on B.J.’s plate!

With players busting and re-entering throughout the day there ended up being more than 320 entries all told, although I don’t know how many individual players were actually participating. Chances are we’ll see the total entries go up significantly today through the first three levels when re-entering remains an option. There will be some new faces, too, showing up to start their tourneys today. I know, for instance, that is Phil Hellmuth’s plan.

Found myself throughout the day having flashbacks to earlier visits to the Bellagio and its poker room, including some that came early on when I was just getting started with the blog. Among those visits was one instance when I interviewed Barry Greenstein, and we actually conducted the interview in Bobby’s Room while Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Eli Elezra, and others played at the neighboring table.

Was a little starstruck then, I’ll admit, although having been around it all for so long now that feeling has gone away. I did recall it yesterday, though, especially when occasionally peering into Bobby’s Room where Doyle was there again all day along with a few more familiar faces.

Also was reminded of those days thanks to the visit of OhCaptain who got himself a media badge and shot some pictures. Was nice finally to meet him after all of these years blogging alongside one another, and I know he got a kick out of doing the photographer thing.

I’m not even sure Brunson plans to play in the tourney at all, as the games in Bobby’s Room have to be more attractive to him. He did take a break at one point yesterday, though, to go help light the Bellagio’s Christmas tree.

Meanwhile the field was full of familiar folks yesterday, with several well known (and accomplished) players seated around just about every table. The tourney should produce a talented final table, I imagine, and as we move into the next couple of days the play will become more interesting, too, especially after the re-entry period ends.

Gonna break it off here for now as I’m running to meet Jen Newell and Drizztdj, the latter another one of those whom I’ve known for years but never actually met face-to-face. Am grateful for the chance to connect with these folks thanks to the World Poker Blogger Tour having their big get together this weekend (with the WPBT tourney happening today).

Meanwhile you can check over at the WPT site later today to see how Day 2 plays out and who emerges as contenders in this week-long $10K event.

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Friday, December 06, 2013

Travel Report: Season XII WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Arrival -- Chilly Vegas

Hello Las Vegas. Again.

Arrived safely last night, kind of surprised at the chilly conditions in LV, being so used to spending many weeks here in the middle of summer when the temps are routinely triple digits. Coldest stretch in four years here currently, I read somewhere, which would matter more if it weren’t for the fact that I’ll mostly be indoors from here to next Thursday. Got down into the 20s overnight and they’re talking snow, which seems wrong here in the desert.

By the time I got to my new home-away-from-home for the next week it was past 9 p.m. here last night -- midnight my time -- and so I was already pretty tuckered. I was also in need of nourishment thanks to the fact that the nearly five-hour second leg of my trip didn’t provide a meal. Managed to feed myself and get a good night’s sleep, and after securing some caffeine this morning am excited for today’s Day 1 of the World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio where the holiday decorations are up (see above).

The tourney sports a $10,000+$300 buy-in (with re-entries available through the first eight levels). Means a somewhat different crowd will be involved with this one than was the case at the WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble a couple of weeks ago which had a $3,500 price tag. Will also be a slower event throughout with 90-minute levels from the start.

Ravi Raghavan won this event last year, topping a big field of 503 entries including a final table featuring Shawn Buchanan, Andrew Lichtenberger, and Antonio Esfandiari (who won the Five Diamond in 2010 and also final tabled in 2011). Raghavan picked up $1,268,571 for the win, the biggest chunk of a $4,879,100 prize pool.

I believe these first few starting days will feature just five levels and thus end mid-evening, which might give me a chance to do a little visiting and other extra-curriculars while here. Meanwhile, I have to take care of some last business before heading over for Day 1. Check the WPT site to follow the live updates and see who else comes in out of the cold to play today.

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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Daily Fantasy Sports Players Griping About Bad Luck

Am in another airport terminal, awaiting the first of a couple of flights today that will be taking me to Las Vegas where I’ll be helping cover the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio. Looking forward to it, but to be honest I’m also kind of looking forward simply to disconnecting for the next several hours and relaxing aboard my flights.

Was writing here a couple of weeks ago about fantasy sports and how the daily/weekly site DraftKings had hooked up with the WPT as a collaborating sponsor. In that post I was drawing a few parallels between poker (especially the online variety) and these daily games I’ve been playing occasionally on sites like DraftKings and Draft Day.

Haven’t done so well during the last few days of playing these daily games, and in fact some of the “run bad” I’ve encountered is making me think more and more how fantasy sports are not at all like poker.

About a week ago I set a line-up for a night’s worth of NBA games, then to my dismay discovered after the games had begun that my star player, James “Magical Beard” Harden, was suited up for the game -- i.e., in a suit, not a uniform. (That’s a pic of “Dr. Harden” above.) Was a last minute decision, apparently, not signaled by any of the injury update sites (or at least any I check), and thus I was essentially sunk before the night had even begun.

Then a couple of nights ago I screwed up and after having reserved a spot in a Draft Day game and set my line-up, I forgot to save my selections until just a few seconds after the deadline had passed, and thus had entered a fantasy team with no players. Oof!

Finally last night came another bad beat as I had taken Tim Duncan to fill one of my power forward positions, and in fact was doing okay and probably on my way to winning in the double-up game I’d chosen. Then came word that the Spurs-Timberwolves game -- scheduled in Mexico City, actually -- had been postponed due to a fire near the arena filling the place with smoke!

Again, I was sunk, as was everyone else who had loaded up on San Antonio or Minnesota Timberwolves players. It had been an attractive game from which to draft selections, actually, with a high over/under line of 205. But only around half the guys in our game had happened to take any Spurs or Timberwolves, and we all finished out of the money.

Such a situation is handled much like a rain-out in baseball for the daily fantasy players -- i.e., those who have chosen guys in the cancelled game are screwed, and it’s all chalked up to being “part of the game.”

But what kind of game is this?

I was trying to think of parallels from poker, and the only one I could really come up with was the situation of getting disconnected mid-hand when playing online. Or perhaps we might add a glitch occurring on the site’s side, in which case many times the site would refund entry fees or try somehow to accommodate for the disruption.

I’ve mentioned before how tough it is to bet on injuries, coaches’ whims, or other unexpected vagaries of professional sports. Hadn’t thought of an NBA game getting postponed as being a factor, too, though. I guess daily fantasy sports are still like poker insofar as they combine luck and skill, but a fire in Mexico sure is making it seem like luck matters a lot more at the moment.

Putting it behind me, now -- and everything else for the next 10 hours or so as I wind my way westward. Talk to you on the other side.

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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Ode to the Favorite Poker Blog

Am readying here for another trek across the country, this time back to Las Vegas to help the World Poker Tour crew out with covering the upcoming WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio. Will be heading out tomorrow as the sucker gets going on Friday.

Very much looking forward to this one, both for the chance to work with B.J. Nemeth, Ryan Luchessi, and all of the other cool WPT cats, as well as to connect with many others in LV over the next week, including some of the blogger crowd who will be there for the World Poker Blogger Tour meet-up.

Speaking of the latter, I noticed yesterday how BLUFF Magazine opened up voting for its yearly “Readers Choice Awards,” and this time around the category of “Favorite Poker Blog” has at last been dropped, probably a year or two later than it might have been. (Click here if you’re curious to see the 14 categories that remain.)

A few people still do write poker blogs, although probably not enough to make a category out of it anymore. When it comes to playing a significant role in shaping the way people think and talk about poker these days, Twitter most definitely has the big stack now -- by a long shot -- with the blogs, books, forums, and even television shows having seen their chips dwindle to the point of only occasionally being able to influence the action. Magazines, too, for that matter.

I’ve written before about having lost a bit of steam when it comes to writing here everyday, my motivation affected in no small part by the lack of options for playing poker -- in particular online -- for someone not living in proximity to much in the way of live poker options. Of course, such “blog fatigue” is not at all unique to me or other poker bloggers or bloggers, generally speaking.

Might be an interesting topic to discuss with the other bloggers -- erstwhile and otherwise -- in Vegas this weekend. More likely we’ll find something else to talk about, I imagine. And report along with the hashtag #WPBT.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Oh, To Be Able to Go Back and Screw Up Again

Excited today to point everyone to a new piece on the Learn.PokerNews site by our friend Tommy Angelo, poker player, coach, and author of Elements of Poker (reviewed here) and A Rubber Band Story and Other Tales.

Tommy has started what will be a new monthly series on the site titled “Tilt for Beginners,” the idea of which is explained in this first installment, called “Where There’s Poker, There’s Tilt.”

Click the title and read and you’ll see Tommy incorporating into the article the conversation we had about his possibly becoming a contributor, including his circling around to the topic of addressing the subject of tilt as it is experienced by relatively new players. It’s an interesting point he’s introducing -- namely, that even brand new poker players can experience certain kinds of tilt even without having acquired an “A-game” yet, despite the fact that tilt is often defined as something that takes one away from one’s A-game.

Those who click through to read will see Tommy inviting readers to share their own tilt stories and questions via comments or by sending email to Learn. If you do happen to have any tilt-related stories or questions to share, by all means send them along!

This initial article and the idea of the upcoming series has gotten me thinking back to first starting out at poker -- that is, to that first wave of becoming genuinely immersed in the game and building upon an initial knowledge base to try to become a better player. Maybe I’m just being nostalgic, but back then even getting “tilted” was kind of fun, in a strange way, because like everything else there was a kind of novelty associated with it that made experiencing tilt intriguing (in addition, of course, to the negative feelings and memories associated with playing poorly after letting emotion affect one’s play).

Can you remember the first time you genuinely suffered a bad beat or some other sequence occurred in a hand or session to cause you to tilt -- that is, really tilt -- for the first time? I would guess most don’t, actually, because we probably have to endure a few instances of tilting before realizing what’s happening. (And I suppose there are a select few who never are able to recognize fully that they’ve tilted.)

Almost makes me want to go back and relive that first bad beat and/or tilty session. It’s a well-worn cliché to wish one could go back to one’s earlier days and relive them with the knowledge one has accumulated since. But it wouldn’t be so bad to go back and learn it all over again, too, so to speak, and relive what it was like to make those mistakes for the first time.

Anyhow, I’m curious to read where Tommy takes this series, as well as perhaps to read some accounts of early experiences with tilt.

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Monday, December 02, 2013

On Riverboat Ron and Success Stress

My Carolina Panthers won a franchise record eighth-straight game yesterday, whipping the undermanned Tampa Buccaneers to improve their record to 9-3. Sets up a big one next Sunday night versus division rival New Orleans who plays at Seattle tonight. If the Saints happen to lose, they’ll be 9-3 also, with two games between Carolina and New Orleans scheduled over the next three weeks.

Friends have asked me about the excitement level here in Charlotte regarding the team’s resurgence after four-plus years of disappointment. It’s funny today to look back to earlier in the season and how it genuinely appeared head coach Ron Rivera (in his third year at the helm) wouldn’t survive September after an 0-2 start.

They played the New York Giants during Week 3 at a time when it still wasn’t clear the Giants had a subpar team this year. (And when some of us might have even picked the Giants in certain pick’em pools, although there’s really no need to go back and research such things at this point.) A bye week was on the other side of that game, and most around here believed Rivera was toast should the Panthers have lost that won.

They won 38-0, then came back from the bye week to lose 22-6 versus Arizona in a dreadful performance. It looked bad, like having lost three-fourths of our starting stack by the second level bad. But we doubled up (so to speak), winning easily the next week against Minnesota. And now we’ve doubled a couple of more times and are challenging for the chip lead with the final table in sight.

So what do I say when those friends ask how we Panthers fans feel about all of this? I say we’re not getting too excited just yet. In fact, I’m personally full of trepidation about the whole situation. I look at those “Team Efficiency Ratings” from Football Outsiders my buddy Rich Ryan likes to reference in his Pigskin Diaries columns, see my Panthers now rated third in the entire NFL (behind Seattle and Denver), and I’m pretty much full of dread.

One explanation for the reaction stems from what happened back in 2008 -- the last time the Panthers were an above-average team -- when they cruised into the playoffs with a 12-4 record, then plummeted mightily in a 20-point first round loss to Arizona, the game the franchise’s former hero, Jake Delhomme, threw five interceptions and more or less bid farewell to Carolina.

Another reason, though, relates to the same irrational feeling of unease that some occasionally feel when winning at poker. I’m talking about that strange desire to protect against losing what you have already won, such as when you’re up in a cash game and start thinking about walking away a winner rather than continuing to play in a situation that is more likely than not a good one for you (as suggested by the fact that you’ve been winning). Or when a player unused to accumulating lots of chips in a tournament suddenly wins a couple of huge pots to take a big chip lead halfway through the event, then turtles up, not knowing how to proceed with the big stack.

Many who write about various forms of “tilt” talk about how winning tends to lessen one’s propensity to tilt, although it can introduce other problems. In The Poker Mindset, for instance, Ian Taylor and Matthew Hilger point out how “players are considerably less likely to go on tilt when running well than when running badly,” although other “pitfalls” such as overconfidence, unrealistic expectations, and laziness can arise to chip away at or erase entirely one’s profits.

To that list I’d add another pitfall that I guess would have to be called “contentment.” You know, the kind of feeling that causes some to become strangely passive at a time when it is probably worst to do so.

As far as the Panthers go, I’m hoping they continue to play aggressively and take those calculated, well chosen risks that have now earned Rivera the nickname “Riverboat Ron” -- a hilarious moniker, actually, for those of us who got to know Rivera as more risk-averse than Tighty McTighterson who hates entering hands with less than pocket kings -- and not revert back to the cautious, play-not-to-lose mode with which they started the season (and which I was already complaining about after Week 1 in a post titled “Passive, Not Passing”).

Anyhow, that perhaps partly explains why winning eight games in a row makes me more uneasy than going 4-4 or 0-8. Not to mention why I never rose above recreational status as a poker player, too.

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