Friday, May 30, 2014

Trying to Find a Final Table

Still doesn’t feel like the World Series of Poker has really gotten going as yet. I don’t say that because I’m not there -- it’s the rhythm of these early events, I think, that seems somehow out of whack.

Event No. 1, the $500 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em event, was supposed to be a two-day affair, but they stopped the event shy of a finish with the final two players coming back yesterday to finish their heads-up battle.

Meanwhile, Event No. 2 is a “mixed-max” event, meaning there’s no final table per se since the tourney concludes with heads-up matches. And Event No. 3, the $1,000 pot-limit Omaha event, rushed down to the final nine yesterday and then continued on, stopping with six players left to continue on today’s scheduled final day of play. (Pic above from PokerNews from the start of things in that one today.)

In other words, it’ll be Saturday before there’s an actual “final table.” In fact, I guess given how the schedule is being maintained it may be even longer until there is an event in which they specifically play down to a final nine (or six or whatever the format is) and thereby have a final day of play devoted to an “official” final table.

I know in some ways it’s probably better to stick to playing a set number of levels and ensuring against inordinately long nights, but I’m in that camp that misses being able to count on “final table days” in WSOP events.

Sure, they’re good for family members and friends wanting to rail players, but they also help create excitement among the rest of us following the action as fans. Also a little better for the poker news cycle, I’d say, as morning stories about the action to come can focus on upcoming final tables, with player profiles and such (not that that is such a huge issue).

I guess I’ve been conditioned a little by poker television, where “the final table” is often presented as the sole focus of an event with the long lead-up to that point often omitted almost entirely from the narrative.

We’ll see how it goes from here, final-table-wise. In any case, follow them updates of all the events on PokerNews, which continue along regardless of where the action starts or stops.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Four-Way Stop in the Canada Cup

See the final hand of that Canada Cup event at the Playground Poker Club? Hear about it?

I know we’re all locked in on the World Series of Poker getting underway this week, and so I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of you missed this one. But check it out... it’s worth it.

This was a PokerStars event, a $3,000 buy-in tourney that drew 578 entries which meant a bit of an overlay as it had a $2 million guarantee. They’d played down to a final table yesterday, and with four players left a player from Toronto named Robert Notkin had the chip lead.

I believe Notkin is just a part-time player. He hasn’t many results, and from what I remember hearing on the PokerStars.tv live stream he seemed to be playing the amateur’s role when at the feature tables.

I remember James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton talking at length on one of the latter days about how many of Notkin’s relatives were heading to Montreal to watch the tourney once the elder player got a big stack and appeared headed for the final table, with Stapes noting the irony of his last name and the number of kin coming to see him.

Anyhow, I wasn’t watching the final table yesterday, but woke up today to see the tweets and some reference to what had happened. Here the video of the entire final table -- jump ahead to the 8 hour, 46 minute-mark or so for the start of the final hand:



For those not wanting to watch a video, you can read Lane Anderson’s write-up of the tourney and final hand over on PokerNews.

But really, you should watch. Impossible to do so without a big, dumb grin. Four started the hand, and just one survived. Nuts!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cards, Bills in the Air

The WSOP is well underway with the first three events now in action and one -- the $500 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em (Event No. 1) -- careening toward a finish later tonight. Found that amusing the WSOP’s firing one-dollar bills into the air to rain over the first event’s players yesterday (pic of the resulting scramble at left via PokerNews).

Event No. 2 earned most of the attention yesterday, of course, a $25,000 buy-in “mixed-max” NLHE event that ended up drawing 131 entrants.

The tourney attracted all the big names as the first high-profile, high buy-in event of the summer, and it seems likely that Friday’s tourney-concluding heads-up matches will provide some of the bigger first-week headlines. Indeed, when it comes to those WSOP Fantasy pools I was discussing yesterday, most of the top finishers in Event No. 2 will likely have been drafted.

It’s the only $25,000 buy-in tourney on this year’s schedule, and indeed $25K is a fairly unique buy-in at the WSOP that has only cropped up three times before.

  • 2013 - No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed (175 entrants)
  • 2011 - No-Limit Hold’em Heads-Up (128 entrants)
  • 2010 - No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed (191 entrants)
  • The field of 131 for the Mixed-Max tourney probably represents a number somewhat below expectations for the event, although a $3.11 milly prize pool is nonetheless notable (and will be one of the bigger ones all summer).

    By the way, check over at PokerNews each morning for recaps and “What to Watch For” articles, of which I’ll be writing some this summer. Still feels like the WSOP hasn’t quite gotten started, though, perhaps because the Casino Employees isn’t an “open” event and the $25K Mixed-Max is kinda sorta exclusive, too, in a way.

    In other words, everything still feels up in the air.

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    Tuesday, May 27, 2014

    Action Seekers: The WSOP $25K Fantasy Draft

    Was following that $25K Fantasy Draft last night, the one organized by Daniel Negreanu. This is the fourth year running for the WSOP fantasy league, meaning it has developed a tradition of sorts as a kind of “preseason”-type bit of hype-building to occupy poker fans eager for the World Series of Poker to get started.

    Had a little bit of an extra interest in the proceedings this time around thanks to the “Team Media” entry among the 12 teams, one managed by my friends and colleagues Donnie Peters and Rich Ryan who drafted players for a team backed by some poker pros with deeper pockets than theirs.

    Was a little surprised Donnie and Rich were willing to spend more than half of their allotted $200 salary for Phil Ivey, ultimately bidding $101 to obtain him. They then spent another $66 on Stephen Chidwick, leaving themselves just $33 with which to fill their last six spots. In the end they wouldn’t even use all of their salary, picking up several players for the minimum $1 to round out the team.

    Rich wrote in detail today in his “Five Thoughts” column about the pair’s thought process for bidding on selecting players, including reporting which eight players they ultimately picked. Here’s a link to a Google doc with all 12 teams’ rosters and showing how much was paid for each drafted player, and here is the website where the scoring will be tracked once everything gets uploaded and cranked up.

    Going “all in” (so to speak) on Ivey hinged somewhat on his big bracelet bets, I believe, including a much-rumored multi-year one that ends in 2014.

    Last year Ivey was the most expensive player selected in the $25K Fantasy Draft (with Daniel Alaei’s team spending $110 for him), and he ended up only finishing 63rd of the 112 players taken in points earned. But in 2012 Ivey was also the most expensive pick (going for $99), and ended up earning the most points of anyone for Brian Hastings’s team.

    At first glance it feels like an especially high variance strategy to have bet so much on just a couple of players, but in the end having just about any eight players all whom will be playing many events and who all can be expected to do well -- which “Team Media” has, I think -- gives a team a shot.

    The 96 players taken by the 12 teams this year will all earn a little extra attention as the WSOP progresses. Might be interesting also just to see how many undrafted players finish ahead of these 96 in the overall POY race.

    I was joking with Rich how the whole idea of selling action for a fantasy team that will be made up of players themselves selling action -- not to mention in a lot of cases selecting each other for their own fantasy teams -- gives me a little knot between my eyes.

    Kind of what poker is, though, a game existing at the center of a complex knot of negotiations mostly confined to the table but capable of extending well beyond it, depending on how the players play it.

    Monday, May 26, 2014

    2014 World Series of Poker Schedule (Day-by-Day)

    The 2014 World Series of Poker starts tomorrow, if you can believe it. That picture is from the start of 10-handed play at the WSOP Main Event final table last year, not too long before Carlos Mortensen went out and the November Nine was set (click it to embiggen). Seems like it was just a few weeks ago.

    As I’ve done the last several years, I’m posting here a daily schedule for all of the bracelet events as a kind of reference. I’ve done this before for myself, mainly just so I have a ready place to check just to see what’s coming up on a given day since the schedule gets pretty thick, pretty fast. This year the 2014 WSOP Media Guide actually included something similar, although with the “Deep Stack” tourneys and satellites mixed in, too, so I thought I’d still sort out just the bracelet events here.

    I mentioned on Friday how I’ll be following it all from afar this time around, although I will be charged with a lot of daily recapping and so on that’ll probably make it even more important for me than usual to have an idea what the whole schedule is on each given day (since I won’t be locked in and covering just a single event at a time).

    Times are Pacific, natch (and p.m., unless noted). And the links take you to the structure sheets for each event.

    Tuesday, May 27th
    12:00 -- #1: Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em ($500), 1/2
    4:00 -- #2: No-Limit Hold’em / Mixed-Max ($25,000), 1/4

    Wednesday, May 28th
    12:00 -- #3: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #1: Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em ($500), 2/2
    2:00 -- #2: No-Limit Hold’em / Mixed-Max ($25,000), 2/4

    Thursday, May 29th
    12:00 -- #4: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #3: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #2: No-Limit Hold’em / Mixed-Max ($25,000), 3/4
    4:00 -- #5: Limit 2-7 Triple Draw ($10,000), 1/3

    Friday, May 30th
    12:00 -- #6: No-Limit Hold’em / Shootout ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #3: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #4: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #2: No-Limit Hold’em / Mixed-Max ($25,000), 4/4
    2:00 -- #5: Limit 2-7 Triple Draw ($10,000), 2/3
    4:00 -- #7: Razz ($1,500), 1/3

    Saturday, May 31st
    11:00 a.m. -- #8: No-Limit Hold’em / Millionaire Maker ($1,500), 1a/3
    1:00 -- #4: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #6: No-Limit Hold’em / Shootout ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #5: Limit 2-7 Triple Draw ($10,000), 3/3
    2:00 -- #7: Razz ($1,500), 2/3
    5:00 -- #8: No-Limit Hold’em / Millionaire Maker ($1,500), 1b/3

    Sunday, June 1st
    12:00 -- #9: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #6: No-Limit Hold’em / Shootout ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #8: No-Limit Hold’em / Millionaire Maker ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #7: Razz ($1,500), 3/3
    4:00 -- #10: Omaha Hi-Lo ($10,000), 1/3

    Monday, June 2nd
    12:00 -- #11: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #8: No-Limit Hold’em / Millionaire Maker ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #9: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #10: Omaha Hi-Lo ($10,000), 2/3

    Tuesday, June 3rd
    12:00 -- #12: Pot-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #9: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #11: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #10: Omaha Hi-Lo ($10,000), 3/3
    4:00 -- #13: 2-7 Draw ($10,000), 1/3

    Wednesday, June 4th
    12:00 -- #14: Omaha Hi-Lo ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #11: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #12: Pot-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
    1:00 -- #13: 2-7 Draw ($10,000), 2/3

    Thursday, June 5th
    12:00 -- #15: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($3,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #12: Pot-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #13: 2-7 Draw ($10,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #14: Omaha Hi-Lo ($1,500), 2/3
    4:00 -- #16: 2-7 Draw ($1,500), 1/3

    Friday, June 6th
    10:00 a.m. -- #17: Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #14: Omaha Hi-Lo ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #15: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($3,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #16: 2-7 Draw ($1,500), 2/3
    4:00 -- #18: Razz ($10,000), 1/3

    Saturday, June 7th
    11:00 a.m. -- #17: Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 2/3
    12:00 -- #19: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #15: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($3,000), 3/3
    2:00 -- #16: 2-7 Draw ($1,500), 3/3
    2:00 -- #18: Razz ($10,000), 2/3
    4:00 -- #20: No-Limit Hold’em / Shootout ($3,000), 1/3

    Sunday, June 8th
    11:00 a.m. -- #17: Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 3/3
    12:00 -- #21: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #19: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #18: Razz ($10,000), 3/3
    2:00 -- #20: No-Limit Hold’em / Shootout ($3,000), 2/3
    4:00 -- #22: H.O.R.S.E. ($10,000), 1/3

    Monday, June 9th
    12:00 -- #23: No-Limit Hold’em / Turbo ($1,000), 1/2
    1:00 -- #19: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #21: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #20: No-Limit Hold’em / Shootout ($3,000), 3/3
    2:00 -- #22: H.O.R.S.E. ($10,000), 2/3

    Tuesday, June 10th
    12:00 -- #24: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($5,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #21: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #23: No-Limit Hold’em / Turbo ($1,000), 2/2
    2:00 -- #22: H.O.R.S.E. ($10,000), 3/3
    4:00 -- #25: Omaha Hi-Lo/Stud Hi-Lo ($2,500), 1/3

    Wednesday, June 11th
    12:00 -- #26: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #24: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($5,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #25: Omaha Hi-Lo/Stud Hi-Lo ($2,500), 2/3

    Thursday, June 12th
    12:00 -- #27: H.O.R.S.E. ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #24: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($5,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #26: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #25: Omaha Hi-Lo/Stud Hi-Lo ($2,500), 3/3
    4:00 -- #28: Pot-Limit Hold’em ($10,000), 1/3

    Friday, June 13th
    12:00 -- #29: No-Limit Hold’em ($2,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #26: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #27: H.O.R.S.E. ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #28: Pot-Limit Hold’em ($10,000), 2/3
    4:00 -- #30: Stud Hi-Lo ($1,500), 1/3

    Saturday, June 14th
    12:00 -- #31: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #27: H.O.R.S.E. ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #29: No-Limit Hold’em ($2,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #28: Pot-Limit Hold’em ($10,000), 3/3
    2:00 -- #30: Stud Hi-Lo ($1,500), 2/3
    4:00 -- #32: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($10,000), 1/3

    Sunday, June 15th
    12:00 -- #33: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #29: No-Limit Hold’em ($2,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #31: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #30: Stud Hi-Lo ($1,500), 3/3
    2:00 -- #32: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($10,000), 2/3
    4:00 -- #34: Stud ($1,500), 1/3

    Monday, June 16th
    12:00 -- #35: No-Limit Hold’em / Eight-Handed ($5,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #31: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #33: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #32: No-Limit Hold’em / Six-Handed ($10,000), 3/3
    2:00 -- #34: Stud ($1,500), 2/3
    4:00 -- #36: 2-7 Draw ($1,500), 1/3

    Tuesday, June 17th
    12:00 -- #37: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #33: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #35: No-Limit Hold’em / Eight-Handed ($5,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #34: Stud ($1,500), 3/3
    2:00 -- #36: 2-7 Draw ($1,500), 2/3
    4:00 -- #38: Stud Hi-Lo ($10,000), 1/3

    Wednesday, June 18th
    12:00 -- #39: No-Limit Hold’em ($3,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #35: No-Limit Hold’em / Eight-Handed ($5,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #37: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #36: 2-7 Draw ($1,500), 3/3
    2:00 -- #38: Stud Hi-Lo ($10,000), 2/3

    Thursday, June 19th
    12:00 -- #40: No-Limit Hold’em / Heads-Up ($10,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #35: No-Limit Hold’em / Eight-Handed ($5,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #37: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #39: No-Limit Hold’em ($3,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #38: Stud Hi-Lo ($10,000), 3/3
    4:00 -- #41: Dealer’s Choice / Six-Handed ($1,500), 1/3

    Friday, June 20th
    12:00 -- #42: Pot-Limit Omaha / Six-Handed ($5,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #39: No-Limit Hold’em ($3,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #40: No-Limit Hold’em / Heads-Up ($10,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #41: Dealer’s Choice / Six-Handed ($1,500), 2/3
    4:00 -- #43: Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3

    Saturday, June 21st
    12:00 -- #44: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #40: No-Limit Hold’em / Heads-Up ($10,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #42: Pot-Limit Omaha / Six-Handed ($5,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #41: Dealer’s Choice / Six-Handed ($1,500), 3/3
    2:00 -- #43: Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3

    Sunday, June 22nd
    12:00 -- #45: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #42: Pot-Limit Omaha / Six-Handed ($5,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #44: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #43: Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
    4:00 -- #46: The Poker Players Championship ($50,000), 1/5

    Monday, June 23rd
    12:00 -- #47: No-Limit Hold’em / Ante Only ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #44: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #45: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
    2:00 -- #46: The Poker Players Championship ($50,000), 2/5

    Tuesday, June 24th
    12:00 -- #48: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #45: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #47: No-Limit Hold’em / Ante Only ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #46: The Poker Players Championship ($50,000), 3/5

    Wednesday, June 25th
    12:00 -- #49: No-Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 1/4
    1:00 -- #47: No-Limit Hold’em / Ante Only ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #48: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #46: The Poker Players Championship ($50,000), 4/5
    4:00 -- #50: 8-Game Mix ($1,500), 1/3

    Thursday, June 26th
    12:00 -- #51: No-Limit Hold’em / Monster Stack ($1,500), 1/4
    1:00 -- #48: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #49: No-Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 2/4
    2:00 -- #46: The Poker Players Championship ($50,000), 5/5
    2:00 -- #50: 8-Game Mix ($1,500), 2/3
    4:00 -- #52: Limit Hold’em ($10,000), 1/3

    Friday, June 27th
    12:00 -- #53: Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($10,000; $1K for women), 1/3
    1:00 -- #49: No-Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 3/4
    1:00 -- #51: No-Limit Hold’em / Monster Stack ($1,500), 2/4
    2:00 -- #50: 8-Game Mix ($1,500), 3/3
    2:00 -- #52: Limit Hold’em ($10,000), 2/3
    4:00 -- #54: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo ($3,000), 1/3

    Saturday, June 28th
    12:00 -- #55: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #49: No-Limit Hold’em ($5,000), 4/4
    1:00 -- #51: No-Limit Hold’em / Monster Stack ($1,500), 3/4
    1:00 -- #53: Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($10,000; $1K for women), 2/3
    2:00 -- #52: Limit Hold’em ($10,000), 3/3
    2:00 -- #54: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo ($3,000), 2/3

    Sunday, June 29th
    12:00 -- #56: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/3
    12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold’em / Big One for One Drop ($1,000,000), 1/3
    1:00 -- #51: No-Limit Hold’em / Monster Stack ($1,500), 4/4
    1:00 -- #53: Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($10,000; $1K for women), 3/3
    1:00 -- #55: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #54: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo ($3,000), 3/3

    Monday, June 30th
    12:00 -- #58: No-Limit Hold’em / Mixed-Max ($1,500), 1/4
    1:00 -- #55: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
    1:00 -- #56: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/3
    1:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold’em / Big One for One Drop ($1,000,000), 2/3
    4:00 -- #59: Omaha Hi-Lo ($3,000), 1/3

    Tuesday, July 1st
    12:00 -- #60: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
    1:00 -- #56: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold’em / Big One for One Drop ($1,000,000), 3/3
    1:00 -- #58: No-Limit Hold’em / Mixed-Max ($1,500), 2/4
    2:00 -- #59: Omaha Hi-Lo ($3,000), 2/3
    4:00 -- #61: Stud ($10,000), 1/3

    Wednesday, July 2nd
    12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em / Little One for One Drop ($1,111), 1a/4
    1:00 -- #58: No-Limit Hold’em / Mixed-Max ($1,500), 3/4
    1:00 -- #60: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
    2:00 -- #59: Omaha Hi-Lo ($3,000), 3/3
    2:00 -- #61: Stud ($10,000), 2/3
    4:00 -- #63: 10-Game Mix ($1,500), 1/3

    Thursday, July 3rd
    12:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em / Little One for One Drop ($1,111), 1b/4
    1:00 -- #58: No-Limit Hold’em / Mixed-Max ($1,500), 4/4
    1:00 -- #60: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
    2:00 -- #61: Stud ($10,000), 3/3
    2:00 -- #63: 10-Game Mix ($1,500), 2/3
    4:00 -- #64: Pot-Limit Omaha ($10,000), 1/3

    Friday, July 4th
    1:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em / Little One for One Drop ($1,111), 2/4
    2:00 -- #63: 10-Game Mix ($1,500), 3/3
    2:00 -- #64: Pot-Limit Omaha ($10,000), 2/3

    Saturday, July 5th
    12:00 -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event ($10,000), 1a/9
    1:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em / Little One for One Drop ($1,111), 3/4
    2:00 -- #64: Pot-Limit Omaha ($10,000), 3/3

    Sunday, July 6th
    12:00 -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event ($10,000), 1b/9
    1:00 -- #62: No-Limit Hold’em / Little One for One Drop ($1,111), 4/4

    Monday, July 7th
    12:00 -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event ($10,000), 1c/9

    Tuesday, July 8th
    12:00 -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event ($10,000), 2a & 2b/9

    Wednesday, July 9th
    12:00 -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event ($10,000), 2c/9

    Thursday, July 10th
    12:00 -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event, 3/9

    Friday, July 11th
    12:00 -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event ($10,000), 4/9

    Saturday, July 12th
    12:00 -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event ($10,000), 5/9

    Sunday, July 13th
    12:00 -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event ($10,000), 6/9

    Monday, July 14th
    12:00 -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event ($10,000), 7/9

    Monday, November 10th
    TBD -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event ($10,000), 8/9

    Tuesday, November 11th
    TBD -- #65: No-Limit Hold’em / Main Event ($10,000), 9/9

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    Friday, May 23, 2014

    World Series of Poker Tips and Take-Aways

    I mentioned about three weeks back how my plans this summer will be a little different from the past half-dozen. After spending either all or most of the last six WSOPs out in Las Vegas, I’ll be sticking close to the farm this time around. Am working with PokerNews again, but will be doing so from home by writing articles and helping in other ways besides live reporting.

    As the kickoff approaches (the first events come next Tuesday) and folks start tweeting about their trips into the Nevada desert, I’m starting to feel a little misgiving about not going out. Gonna miss reuniting with everyone and working alongside all of the great folks.

    I’ve said it before here in various ways, but when it comes to work environments, those summers at the WSOP have been among the best I’ve had the good fortune to experience. The hours are crazy long, and there’s a significant degree of monotony when it comes to certain elements of the job. But the excitement of being part of it all is real, as is the level of mutual we’re-all-in-this-together support among colleagues and others that exceeds any other work situation I’ve known.

    Meanwhile, as I also mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’m finding myself paying a lot more attention to the WSOP this time during the lead-up than has been the case the last few years. Kind of paradoxical, perhaps, but I feel like I’m more tuned in to the schedule and more ready to follow things closely once they get underway.

    Over on Learn.PokerNews we’ve been running a series of articles for players heading out to play at the World Series of Poker for the first time. I’ve enjoyed reading these and I think they contain a good variety of advice with very little overlap. Here are those articles with links:

  • Five Tips for Playing Your First WSOP Event (Rich Ryan)
  • Make a World Series of Poker Day 2? Study Those Table Draws (Rich Ryan)
  • It Gets Better: The Story of a Not-So-Successful WSOP Debut (Robert Woolley)
  • 3 Important Points to Consider When Making Your First WSOP Trip (Nate Meyvis)
  • Preparing To Play the World Series of Poker (Chad Holloway)
  • Five Tips for Playing Single Table Satellites at the WSOP (Carlos Welch)
  • Playing in the WSOP? Be Psychologically Prepared (Dr. Tricia Cardner)
  • Alson’s Advice to WSOP First-Timers: Let the Game Come to You (Peter Alson)
  • Like I say, there’s a lot of decent -- different -- tips in those articles, and a lot of them apply not just to WSOP events but to any live tournament, especially for those who haven’t experienced playing live tourneys before.

    Hard not to get excited about the WSOP while reading them, too -- even for those of us who aren’t going to be there.

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    Thursday, May 22, 2014

    Details, Details

    The day is nearly over and I’ve barely got time to post, so I’ll just share the most curious thing I saw while passing up and down the poker aisles today.

    Apparently Ben Mezrich, he of the highly-blinkered book Straight Flush that weirdly whitewashes the Absolute Poker scandal-ridden saga, is making television appearances and writing op-eds in support of online poker, perhaps not coincidentally in concert with the publication of his book in paperback. “I’m out there in the trenches trying to get online poker legal again,” he tweeted, adding an obligatory happy-face emoticon.

    A piece in the Boston Globe by Mezrich yesterday argued in favor of Massachusetts considering legislation to legalize online poker in the state. Regarding Mezrich’s op-ed, Steve Ruddock wrote an interesting response over on the Online Poker Report titled “Misinformation in Massachusetts Gives False Hope to Online Poker Expansion.” Ruddock explains how Mezrich’s op-ed appears to have been largely based on outdated information, referring in particular to a Massachusetts budget amendment that was already voted upon and rejected a year before.

    Read Ruddock’s piece for the full skinny. It looks like the Boston Globe piece was subsequently edited to remove the archaic element of the argument, and in between appearing on MSNBC and other running around Mezrich defended his editorial and its argument as still current (although now I’m having trouble finding that tweet in his timeline).

    Like I say, I’ve run out of time today to explore this further and so don’t really want to comment too much on it. After all, details are important.

    (Photo: “Goed Zoekveld” by Bart van de Biezen, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0.)

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    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

    Gentlemen Do Not Bet the Nuts

    In 1864 The American Hoyle; or Gentleman’s Hand-Book of Games by William Brisbane Dick (writing/editing/compiling as “Trumps”) was among the first titles to spell out in detail rules for draw poker. It wasn’t the very first, but it did expand significantly on the “laws” of the game, the terminology employed while playing it, and hand rankings.

    Interestingly, as explained here, straights are still up for debate. The earliest versions of poker (including the 20-card variety) didn’t count straights or flushes, and the 1864 Hoyle explains how it remained the case that “straights are not considered in the game, although they are played in some localities.” Flushes weren’t part of the earliest variants of poker, either, but here are part of the line-up of possible hands.

    Since straights aren’t universally accepted, neither are straight flushes, although a footnote to the hand rankings does explain that when they are counted they should be considered as ranking higher than four of a kind. “It is strongly urged by some experts that the strongest hand at Draw Poker should be a Straight Flush, for the reason that it is more difficult to get than four of a kind.”

    The “experts” are right. A 52-card deck produces 2,598,960 possible five-card combinations, with only 40 of them being straight flushes (1 in 64,974) as opposed to 624 being quads (1 in 4,165).

    There’s one other point made in the footnote in favor of counting straight flushes I find kind of intriguing, namely, that doing so “removes from the game the objectionable feature of a known invincible hand.”

    Without straight flushes, any hand containing four aces would be known to be unbeatable, as would a hand containing four kings with an ace. With straight flushes there still exists, of course, the “invincible” hand of an ace-high straight flush (or royal flush), which could theoretically be equaled. (This possibility is explained in the footnote.) But there’s only four of those (1 in 640,974), making it exceedingly unlikely for the invincible-hand situation to arise.

    Setting aside this quibbling, though, it’s kind of curious to think of “a known invincible hand” being an “objectionable” feature in poker. The variants popular today obviously include this possibility, and in fact it is hard to imagine poker otherwise. Players know fairly frequently in hold’em, for instance, whether or not they hold the “nuts” or an unbeatable hand.

    Still wondering why this feature of the game might be considered “objectionable,” I continued on to read the last sentence of the footnote, which does provide an explanation of sorts.

    “No gentleman would care to bet on a ‘sure thing,’” it is explained, “and we therefore think the Straight Flush should be adopted when gentlemen play at this game.”

    Ah, right. This is a “gentleman’s hand-book of games,” imparting rules both for the games and for what it means to be a gentleman.

    Now, of course, one can earn a penalty for not betting the nuts when last to act. And claiming you were just being a gentleman is no excuse!

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    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

    Skill, Luck, and Testimony

    James McManus (Positively Fifth Street, Cowboys Full) yesterday contributed a column to the BloombergView website titled “Good Poker Players Aren’t Lucky” in which he shares details of a recently resolved misdemeanor case in Idaho involving two defendants charged with illegal gambling for having played poker.

    As McManus explains, the defendants pleaded not guilty on the grounds that poker is a game of skill and therefore not covered by the anti-gambling statute they were charged with violating. A pretrial hearing was held in April to consider the defendants’ motion to dismiss the charges, with McManus himself among the witnesses who testified on their behalf.

    McManus summarizes his testimony in the column, including sharing how he introduced a couple of different studies confirming poker’s skill component. I wasn’t familiar with one of them, a 2012 study called the “Economics of Poker: The Effect of Systemic Chance,” although its methodology and conclusions seemed to resemble those of a different study put out by Cigital, Inc. that I wrote about here back in 2009, called “Statistical Analysis of Texas Hold’em.”

    The other study McManus shared was one I have read before, the one Freakonomics author Steven Levitt wrote with Thomas Miles titled “The Role of Skill Versus Luck in Poker: Evidence from the World Series of Poker.” Click here for a summary of that one, if you’re curious.

    The testimony of McManus and others proved constructive for the defendants, as the judge in the dismissed the charges late last week. Sounded like it wasn't even close, actually, either confirming the skillfulness of the defense or the luck of drawing a receptive judge. “The case nudges Idaho, and perhaps other states, closer to understanding that the skill-to-luck ratio of America’s national card game makes it much more like playing baseball or the markets than like hoping a craps or keno or lottery number comes up,” concludes McManus.

    Of course, objections against poker aren’t entirely informed by the hard-to-maintain case that it doesn’t involve skill and/or its affinity to other gambling games requires it be legislated similarly. Many people -- including legislators and other adjudicators -- don’t like poker for other reasons, too.

    It’s a game in which money is an essential element, and while most of our lives are determined by the various games we play with each other for money, a lot of people are just too darned uncomfortable with being so explicit about doing so as poker requires us to do.

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    Monday, May 19, 2014

    One More Huge SCOOP

    The 2014 Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) at PokerStars finishes up tonight with the completion of the last two-day events on the 135-tournament schedule. There were a lot of two-day tourneys this time -- 51 of them, in fact -- to accommodate the ever-swelling fields.

    The guarantees added up to $40 million for all 135 tourneys, and were bested in each and every one of them. In fact, the total of all the prize pools ended up surging way, way past that mark to total $81,222,158.66, a SCOOP record.

    The “High” version of the $10,300 Main Event also bested the previous all-time high, drawing 657 entrants, better than the 615 who played the same event in 2010, the last pre-Black Friday SCOOP.

    I’ve written posts occasionally over the last three-plus years remarking on the recovery of PokerStars following the site’s losing the ability to accept players from the U.S. In May 2012 I was already remarking on how the SCOOP series as a whole had gotten back to the 2010 totals after a one-year dip, and of course now it is bigger than ever.

    Both the SCOOP and the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) in the fall pretty clearly now rate as not just the most important tournament series when it comes to online play, but also among the most significant poker events overall, challenging the biggest live tourneys and series of the year, too.

    Hard to imagine how much bigger it would all be with the U.S. involved, too.

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    Friday, May 16, 2014

    Prelapsarian Poker

    Have been engaged pretty deeply of late in some study of poker history, including reading through one of the first extensive discussions of the game in print authored by a self-described “reformed gambler” named Jonathan Harrington Green.

    Green would write a number of anti-gambling books during the mid-19th century, all kind of straddling that line between education and exploitation that is typical of heavy-handed works of moral instruction that dwell a little too indulgently in describing the vices being warned against. This first one, not-so-humbly titled An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling, Designed Especially as a Warning to the Youthful and Inexperienced Against the Evils of That Odious and Destructive Vice, is of particular interest to students of poker’s history thanks to a 30-page excursion to introduce poker to an audience perhaps not yet familiar with the game.

    Green is mostly dealing with the earlier 20-card version of poker -- later sometimes called “Old Poker” -- that bore affinities to the French game of poque. He runs through the rules, doing so almost in spite of himself as he says he’d rather not teach his readers how to play this “immensely destructive” game he regards as but one step down a long “road to ruin” including other gambling games like faro and roulette, not to mention “the race-course and cock-fightings.”

    “I would that all were ignorant of it,” says Green of poker, the game being doubly destructive thanks both to the general debilitating effects of all gambling games and to the frequency of cheating in poker which Green says ensures “the uninitiated need never expect to win any thing.” Really, today’s opponents of gambling and/or poker have nothing on Jonathan Harrington Green, who for the entire discussion of poker relentlessly hammers away at his thesis “that the greatest villainy and rascality attend not only this, but every other game, when played for a wager.”

    Anyhow, I mainly just wanted to share one passage of Green’s that interestingly evokes a strange idea of an earlier era in which poker was free of such negative influences, a kind of idealized “prelapsarian” age in which there was no cheating, people didn’t wager inordinate sums, and everyone just seemed to have a jolly good time.

    “There was a time when this game was not so dangerous as it has come to be of late years,” writes Green. “It was then common to see men of almost all classes amuse themselves at this game; and landlords would join their guests for social amusement. Captains and other officers of packets and steamboats, generally, would engage freely in a game with their passengers for recreation. And little if anything was wagered or lost at the game, and all got up pleased, and seldom had any cause of dissatisfaction.”

    Green’s book was first published in 1843 and most of his references to the “bad” poker (marked by cheating and high-stakes gambles) seem to refer to games occurring during the 1830s, so one might presume he is speaking of the earliest days of the game when it was just being introduced and played for the first time in the American south and west.

    That said, there’s something obviously disingenuous about Green’s suggestion of things being better “back in the day” (so to speak) -- i.e., that there ever existed an earlier, “innocent” age for poker free from the various vices that would come later. Almost Rousseau-like, you might say, of him to posit the existence of an earlier “primitive” poker player free of selfish motives against whom to contrast the hopeless, “fallen” players among his contemporaries (a group to which he once belonged).

    Human nature, I guess, to believe things used to be better than they are now, in all respects, and thus to trick ourselves into remembering the past differently than it actually was.

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    Thursday, May 15, 2014

    Poker, First Hand

    There was a nice tribute a few days ago penned by Rounders co-scriptors Brian Koppelman and David Levien to their friend Joel “Bagels” Rosenberg who died last week. As they explain in the piece (posted on Grantland), Rosenberg had been a primary inspiration for the character of Joey Knish (portrayed by John Turturro), and a more general influence on the film as a whole.

    As the screenwriters tell it, they played their very first hand at the Mayfair with Rosenberg, with his character and personality clearly becoming a central feature of the place for them going forward, and still an important part of their memory of it today.

    “We tried to suffuse Rounders with Bagel’s attitude, which was wry, wise, and full of heart,” they write of their friend while relating the story of how he’d become a kind of “tour guide” for them helping them understand the life of a professional grinder -- the pre-”boom,” pre-tourney kind, that is, such as represented by Knish.

    I like especially the note regarding Rosenberg’s kindness -- yes, there are friends in poker -- with the reference to his generosity again reminding us of Knish helping out Mike after his early gutting by Teddy KGB.

    We’ve known for a long time how much of the world of Rounders and most (if not all) of its characters were inspired by the Mayfair as Koppelman and Levien experienced it during the years preceding the film’s release in 1998, just a couple of years before the club was shut down as part of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s campaign to clean up New York City.

    A similar tutelage is arguably necessary for any storyteller -- that is, to have experienced something resembling the world one wishes to create and share with others in a fictional form. And if your subject is poker and most of your themes are rooted in the game, too, it’s probably even more important that there be some actual experience with the game and the subculture surrounding it to provide the needed support for one’s tale.

    You know, first hand knowledge. The kind of thing that with poker is very hard to bluff.

    Check out the tribute and learn more about “Bagels.”

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    Wednesday, May 14, 2014

    Field Report: Poker from the Outside

    Was a day of errands and TCB-ing around here today, carrying me away from the farm for awhile. I use the “TCB” acronym (referring to taking care of business), although more often than not we’ve come to use “GSD” instead. I’ll let you guess what that stands for, with the clue that it’s inspired by the frequent and highly necessary task of stall-cleaning.

    Won’t go into particulars, but one stop today involved an interaction with someone who after discovering my work writing about and reporting on poker shared some interesting observations with me about the game. Was another of those conversations that reveal how poker sometimes plays to the larger audience of non-fanatics (or “enthusiasts” as I have taken to call this group to which I belong, and I presume you probably do, too).

    The person was a bit older than me, and after I’d told her that I frequently write about poker tournaments and professional players, even sometimes traveling to other countries to do so, this was her first response:

    “I can’t believe Phil Ivey cheated!”

    I had to laugh, and when she asked me what I thought I explained in a very general way some of the details of the Ivey-Borgata story, including how not everyone in poker necessarily thinks he “cheated” per se. I was reminded, though, how the Ivey story played out -- or rather, the soundbite version of it that was briefly trumpeted -- in the mainstream, and how succinct (and persuasive) was that quick-hitter that a famous poker player had been accused of cheating at cards.

    We continued to talk about poker on television, and it was clear she’d watched quite a bit about a decade ago when the World Poker Tour had first debuted and that perhaps she’d also seen the WSOP some during those first couple of “boom” years. I helped her recall the name of a favorite player of hers -- Paul Darden -- who I remembered had won a WPT way back during the first season and had been featured a lot on the show then.

    She then explained how she didn’t much care for how these days “they made it into a big 30-day tournament,” preferring only to watch the final tables. I assumed she was referring to the expanded coverage of the WSOP Main Event lasting several months from late summer to November. I know I’ve had conversations with other casual poker fans before who get lost in all of that lead-up, not knowing, really, when the sucker actually ends or caring enough to figure it out.

    She wasn’t a big fan of all of the internet players, she said, although wasn’t more specific than that. She added, too, that she liked to play poker, but didn’t feel like she was anywhere close to good enough to play in a casino. I nodded sympathetically, agreeing that “it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

    I’m sure you’ve had similar discussions of poker with “non-poker people” that revealed to you certain particulars of how the game and its surrounding subculture is perceived from the outside. I got the sense she definitely respected the skill of those who play at the highest levels. Meanwhile it was also apparent that a lot of the details of the game including the logistics of tournament poker were a bit cloudy to her.

    There was more to our conversation, which was kind of a fun one to have amid all of my running around today, but you get the general idea. I’d share more, but I need to go GSD and PDQ. Or at least ASAP.

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    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

    What Is Poker? (Talking OFCP)

    I didn’t get a chance to listen to today’s World Series of Poker Conference Call, although did follow the blow-by-blow from Rich Ryan and Kevmath over Twitter as it occurred. Besides the talk of frisbees and dog shows, there was one item that came up during the call-concluding Q&A that caught my attention.

    A question arose (I believe) regarding open-face Chinese poker and the possibility of it being introduced sooner or later as a bracelet event. It sounded like WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart addressed the issue with some reference to the history of the WSOP, adding also that while they don’t fear innovation, there was perhaps some question about OFCP even being “poker” per se. (I’m paraphrasing Kevmath’s paraphrase.)

    I remember first learning Chinese Poker and having a similar thought that the game seemed a lot more like gin or even spades or hearts than poker. Others have brought up further points to suggest that OFCP isn’t like other poker games, including the fact that no one bets (in the usual sense) nor are there really opportunities to bluff, with the latter being what some believe to be a fundamental element of the game.

    I wrote a little about this debate here back in December when the 2014 schedule was still being made and there was a lot of discussion back and forth about the idea of an OFCP bracelet event. I posted something on Learn.PokerNews as well about it, kind of summarizing the debate as it was being conducted at the time.

    Since then I read an interesting point about OFCP made by Ivan Demidov in a post he recently wrote for the PokerStars blog in which he was addressing why the game was so popular.

    “A lot of players like the fact that you never have to fold a hand in open-face Chinese poker,” says Demidov.

    It’s kind of an obvious point, but a meaningful one, I think. It’s also perhaps another reason why OFCP isn’t so much a “poker” game, as no folding makes it more like other gambling games in which the option not to play is not available. That said, it still shares a lot of affinities including the goal of making hands according to poker hand rankings.

    I liked Stewart’s response and how it showed the WSOP seriously thinks about what exactly “poker” is as well as the importance of moving forward with an appropriate reverence for the past.

    Meanwhile, what was this about frisbees and dog shows, again?

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    Monday, May 12, 2014

    Another Big One for One Drop

    Among the news items today is word regarding the upcoming second installment of the “Big One for One Drop,” the $1 million buy-in bracelet event at the World Series of Poker. A list of additional players planning to participate this time around was announced, thereby putting the highest of high rollers on the radar again for a short while with the start of this year’s WSOP just a couple of weeks away.

    The event debuted in 2012 and I remember getting the chance to help a little with the coverage of it, then watching the finale and marveling like everyone else at the spectacle of Antonio Esfandiari winning $18,346,673 playing cards (even if he only in reality won around 15% of that for himself).

    There were 48 entries in the event two years ago, creating a total prize pool of $42,666,672 (and forever throwing the “all-time money list” for tournament poker permanently out of whack). With this week’s news the “Big One” this year has 33 players confirmed to play, with a cap of 56 in place. If they make it to the cap, the prize pool will edge up very close to $50 million, I believe, with the first-place prize exceeding Esfandiari’s from two years ago.

    The 26 identified players who have now confirmed to play are Max Altergott, Bobby Baldwin, Jean-Robert Bellande, David Einhorn, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Galfond, Tony Gregg, Philipp Gruissem, Niklas Heinecker, Phil Ivey, Igor Kurganov, Guy Laliberté, Jason Mercier, Paul Newey, Bill Perkins, Fabian Quoss, Vivek Rajkumar, Brian Rast, Tobias Reinkemeier, Andrew Robl, Noah Schwartz, Erik Seidel, Vanessa Selbst, Brandon Steven, Sam Trickett, and Christoph Vogelsang.

    Three more seats will be occupied by satellite winners, and four others have committed as well to bring the current total to 33. The latter four are currently being identified only as “anonymous businessmen,” with the one added this week further described as Asian.

    The three-day event begins June 29 and will surely create some buzz, although perhaps not as intensely as was the case the first time around. There will be increased television coverage on ESPN, however, with three weeks and six hours of programming devoted to it to be shown during the latter half of July, which will help push the story of the event and whoever wins it a bit further into the mainstream.

    We’ve already become so accustomed to the “super high rollers” with $100K and $250K buy-ins, though, with the re-entry format being adopted for some having created conditions wherein individuals’ buy-ins have actually gotten closer to that $1 million mark.

    One wonders if two years from now a $1 million buy-in event is going to be enough to raise eyebrows anymore. Or if the adjective “big” is going to be enough.

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    Friday, May 09, 2014

    Transactions vs. Action

    As a sports fan, I’m prone to choosing sports radio as a kind of default option when involved with certain tasks like mowing the lawn (discussed yesterday), cleaning stalls, errand-running, and the like.

    Back in the day we were all confined to listening to the local guys yammer on about local teams. (Actually, if I think far enough back I can remember days when sports radio was a unique option on the AM dial where you were more apt to hear music or news.) But now we’ve got our smart phones and internet and can pretty much pick whatever we want when it comes to sports radio.

    It’s nonstop, too, airing round the clock with thousands of stations all running at once. It’s kind of overwhelming the actual sports about which everyone is talking, really. And the games obviously don’t provide enough to fill all that time, so other aspects of sports tend to help fill up all of those hours.

    Lately I’ve been listening more and more to Dan Le Batard’s show out of Florida, which is often quite good (and funny). Yesterday I had his show on while doing some work around the farm, and he was expressing a lot of angst over all of the NFL draft jibber jabber this week. I feel exactly the same way, not caring in the least about the draft, and so was keen to hear Le Batard express a similar view.

    One line in particular stood out for me from what he had to say about the overkill in coverage of the draft, an observation that kind of put it into a larger context regarding how people tend to follow sports these days.

    “Transactions have replaced action in sports,” said Le Batard, here referring in particular to the draft and side stories of trades and so on. He went on to explain how it was not just the business of sports that seem to occupy so many so much, but also fantasy sports which allow fans to play at the business of sports, building their own teams, making their own trades, and so on.

    I’ve written here before about how fantasy sports don’t really do it for me. Le Batard and I come from roughly the same generation, I think, and so we both grew up watching sports in the same way -- more focused on the action than the transactions. I’m intrigued by trades and even the business side of sports sometimes, but it is never as compelling as the games themselves for me.

    Sometimes I think with poker there’s a similar phenomenon wherein a large number of players and others -- we’ll put them all under the heading of “enthusiasts” -- get more involved with various contexts for the game than the game itself, including the business of poker, legal issues, and other dramas that arise fairly frequently thanks to the wide variety of characters the game attracts. Or it could be I just feel that way after being relatively out of “action” for so long (i.e., without an online account or a ready live venue in which to play).

    Looks like the draft is on again. At least there’s an NBA playoff game coming on in an hour.

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    Thursday, May 08, 2014

    The Grass Keeps Growing

    Before moving to the farm, Vera and I lived in a house in one of those “cookie-cutter”-type neighborhoods. It was a nice house and in a great location, within walking distance, in fact, of many restaurants, the grocery store, the post office, and so on.

    Our house greatly resembled most of the others, of course, with about 40 or so of them squeezed into a few blocks. Our yard, as it were, was really just a couple of strips on all four sides, as we were mere feet away from neighbors on both sides. We’d even had some landscaping done in front and back, which essentially wiped out almost all of the green in those places.

    In fact, it was so little grass to deal with we initially just had one of those push reel mowers. Then a family member gave us an old gas mower, with which it would take perhaps 10 minutes total to cut all the grass that needed cutting, a task that only came up a handful of times all year.

    Now we’ve moved to a place with 15 acres, most of which is not wooded. We have designated pastures for the horses, but there is still a lot to deal with when it comes to mowing. We kind of let it sneak up on us, too, as it wasn’t until late April or so that we began to work in earnest to do something about the grass growing up all around us.

    We have that same gas push mower, and just recently acquired a riding mower, too, which we’ve already put to a lot of use. (There it is, gleaming above.) I’ve also learned how to attach the bush hog to the tractor and have rumbled around on that bad boy several times as well.

    But the grass keeps growing. And fast. I’ve been joking that the more I cut it, the stronger it seems to become. It’s as though I can feel it growing behind me with each pass.

    There’s an undeniable pleasure, of course, that comes with mowing the grass, especially for those of us for whom adjectives like “compulsive” or “perfectionist” or “completist” sometimes apply to describe how we approach various tasks. There something familiar about it for me, too, like working through a “to do” list, grading a stack of papers, or moving row by row down another blog post to publish here.

    Some approach their poker-playing this way, too, pushing their way through a certain predetermined number of hours or hands or sit-n-gos, each deal like the rotating of the blade, cutting through time and space until they can say they are done. For now.

    I’ll sometimes finish a section, put the mower away, then walk back out to look with satisfaction upon the work completed.

    But I don’t look too closely when I do. Because the grass. It keeps growing. I can see it.

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    Wednesday, May 07, 2014

    Play PlaySCOOP?

    The Spring Championship of Online Poker is underway currently at PokerStars, the huge online series that is really positioned perfectly relative to the major tours’ ending and the World Series of Poker still a few weeks away.

    That scheduling ensures tourney regulars are able to get on the SCOOP train and populate those “high” buy-in events, which in turn gives the series a lot of publicity and encourages others to play in the “low” and “medium” ones (which the regs play, too). And of course there are a large number of U.S.-based pros who find it worthwhile to relocate elsewhere for the two weeks, just as many do in the fall for the World Championship of Online Poker.

    All of which keeps SCOOP and PokerStars fairly central on the poker landscape, generally speaking, even here in the U.S. despite the fact that we’re stuck on the rail.

    That said, there are SCOOP events Americans can play this time around -- “PlaySCOOP” ones in which the buy-ins and prizes are play money. No shinola!

    Like the regular SCOOPs, there are different levels of buy-ins (with play chips) for these -- in this case just “low” and “high” levels. There are 45 sets of tourneys, just like in the real money SCOOPs, with “low” ones featuring buy-ins of 20,000 or thereabouts and the “high” ones costing 2 million or so, meaning most who play the latter will have bought their play chips. If you’re curious, here is the full PlaySCOOP schedule.

    I still play sit-n-gos now and then on Stars with my play money chips, having amassed a few million prior to getting involved in real money games on the site long ago. So I’m actually thinking about playing a few PlaySCOOPs. I’ve even thought about jumping into the “Sunday Billion” one week, too -- the play money version of the Sunday Million -- although part of me can’t really imagine actually sitting through many hours of a tourney for which the prize is just more play chips.

    Maybe I’ll try either the “Ante Up” one tomorrow or the “Big Antes” event on Friday. Will have to stick to the “low” buy-in version, though, as entering the “high” would represent a treacherous lack of play bankroll management. Unless of course I can play sell some of my play action.

    Wondering... do winners get play watches?

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    Tuesday, May 06, 2014

    The Tomko Story

    Hear about this weird story involving Poker Hall of Famer Dewey Tomko and an anti-online op-ed that appears to have been attributed to him without his consent? (That’s Tomko pictured, natch -- from a Flipchip photo.)

    If you haven’t, Nolan Dalla’s blog is a good place to go for an initial introduction to the story. In fact, his blog post “Who’s the Imposter Behind the Dewey Tomko Hoax?” is itself the most interesting part of the story, as there Dalla reports on having asked Tomko directly via phone about the editorial that appeared on the Press of Atlantic City website back in March.

    The editorial speaks of the dangers of online gambling, advocating against it with some specious arguments about collusion. The piece is attributed both to Tomko and a person named Bill Byers, but as Tomko told Dalla he knows nothing about the article or why his name has been attached to it. (Meanwhile the article continues to appear on the Press of Atlantic City site without any corrections or disclaimers regarding its authorship.)

    Follow links in Dalla’s post for some more backstory to the op-ed and response to it in the poker community. Then check out Rich Ryan’s discussion of the situation over at PokerNews in his “Five Thoughts” piece published today, as well as Haley Hintze’s follow-up on the story at Flushdraw in which she does some detective work to try to start to answer the question posed in Dalla’s post title.

    There’s more to the story than is contained in all of these sources, it seems, including details regarding the apparent involvement of figures associated with anti-online gambling lobbying efforts as covered in Haley’s piece.

    Kind of funny, actually, how the big dangers some of these folks routinely list when it comes to online gambling/poker -- namely collusion and being able to misrepresent oneself online -- seem also to be tactics possibly being employed by the lobbyists as they work together to create confusion regarding who is saying what about the issue.

    (EDIT [added 5/7/14, 8 p.m.]: Well, this one got a lot twistier and odd over the last 24 hours. My original title for the post was purposely ambiguous with its reference, potentially alluding either to the Press of Atlantic City article, Tomko’s seemingly true story as told to Dalla, or the entire complicated “story” being reported on by others. More meanings seem possible now.

    The signoff suggesting there may have been some sort of online identity-borrowing going on still seems partly possible, though it doesn’t appear today as though it was a simple case of Tomko’s name being used without his knowledge or permission. [In other words, there’s some question, it seems, regarding his “story.”]

    Today the original March op-ed was pulled from the PoAC site, but not before more complications arose suggesting that Tomko may have indeed at least had some knowledge of it and the planned attribution. For those wanting help sorting it out, check out the following posts from today:

  • The Curious Case of Dewey Tomko and the Disappearing Op-ed,” Steve Ruddock
  • Updating the Dewey Tomko Controversy -- What (Apparently) Happened,” Nolan Dalla
  • Dewey Tomko-signed Editorial Yanked from Press of Atlantic City Site,” Haley Hintze)
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    Monday, May 05, 2014

    The Marathon Match

    Thoroughly enjoyed that crazily long final chapter of Season 10 of the European Poker Tour that concluded just after six in the morning on Saturday in Monaco. I’m speaking of the Main Event that saw a final table last 18 hours or so, with heads-up between Antonio Buonanno and Jack Salter going on for something like 10 hours including the breaks.

    The PokerNews’ guys provided hand-for-hand coverage, and the live blog shows that after 74 hands at the final table six players had been eliminated. From there Buonanno and Salter would play an incredible 237 hands (!) before Buonanno finally prevailed. Made me think back to a WSOP event I covered back in 2008 in which Joe Commisso beat Richard Lyndaker for a bracelet after 209 hands of heads-up.

    Salter had the lead to start their battle and would hover between 100-120 big blinds for a long stretch while Buonanno would vary between 60-80 big blinds. Salter then opened up a larger lead as they coursed through the one-hour levels, and after getting very short (to about 12 BBs or so) Buonanno doubled up twice, then a third time to grab the advantage.

    Salter took the lead back after chipping away for several hands, Buonanno pushed ahead again, then in Hand #297 came a kind of turning point in the match when Buonanno managed to draw out runner-runner two pair, then got the young Brit (who’d flopped top pair of sixes) to call a big river bet.

    It was a hero call, and while I certainly did not watch every hand closely, it was probably the first significant misstep Salter had made in the long duel.

    After that Buonanno had about a 3-to-1 lead, and a little later Salter would face another big river bet in Hand #310, with a call this time putting him all in. Buonanno had the goods again on that one (he’d made a full house) while Salter had top pair, but after nine minutes in the tank the latter found a fold. (That is the hand pictured above.) Salter would get his chips shortly thereafter in Hand #311, however, with Kd7d, but Buonanno had As4h and when the Italian’s hand held up he’d won.

    The two combatants might have encouraged viewers to accept certain stereotypes by the way they played, as the younger Salter (with his rail full of fellow players) was the aggressor and seemingly better-skilled player and the older Buonanno (with only his wife cheering him on) more passive and appearing less likely to be able to keep up with an agile opponent. Thus while it took a long time to get there, the ending wasn’t necessarily predictable, but I think it is probably safe to say the pair were fairly evenly matched, all things considered.

    Like I say, I can’t really judge either player too closely having come in and out of the coverage -- and in fact watching the last hour of it the next day after it had ended -- but one has to give both credit for inordinate patience. And endurance, too.

    I sometimes wonder how it is that I can still find watching poker for hours on end an interesting thing to do. The EPTLive guys -- in combination with the reporting both on the PokerStars blog and at PokerNews -- help a great to keep it interesting and allow attention to be paid on a variety of levels, from casual tabs-keeping to intense scrutiny of strategic considerations.

    A good show all around. Enough to continue to keep me hooked.

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    Friday, May 02, 2014

    Great Finish at the EPT10 Grand Final

    Been watching off-and-on all day the EPTLive stream of the European Poker Tour Grand Final Main Event final table from Monaco. They’re down to heads-up, now, and as I have work to do I may just have to step away and watch the conclusion a little later.

    Kind of an interesting situation arose about an hour ago when the final two players, Jack Salter and Antonio Buonanno, discussed a possible chop although decided against. That came after an earlier discussion at three-handed also resulted in no deal.

    During the lengthy delay as the heads-up deal was considered, Salter ended up working out a deal with several friends on the rail who were willing to buy up a percentage of him and thus guarantee Salter a decent payday regardless of his finish.

    In fact, that discussion extended well after the possibility of deal between the two players had been scuttled, even reaching the point where it appeared a little unfair to Buonanno to have to sit and wait out Salter getting his situation settled before play could resume. (That is a shot above from amid the deal talk.)

    James Hartigan brought up on the stream how the situation kind of recalled what happened back at the first Main Event of Season 10 at Barcelona, when a very long four-handed deal discussion was complicated further by Tom Middleton’s side deal with backers on the rail. There, too, no deal was made between the players, although there would be a deal later at heads-up.

    I was there for the Barcelona stop, and at the time wrote about how it was good that the EPT willingly to allowed deal-making (and helped facilitate deals) and that it was good that deals were made part of the final table coverage. Keeping all that out in the open is good for the players, I think, and also is kind of fascinating to follow as a reporter or spectator.

    Today marks the last day of Season 10 for the EPT. Besides that Barcelona stop, I had the good fortune of being able to attend and report from the Deauville stop as well. Both trips were great fun, and I was grateful to be able to work alongside the PokerStars bloggers who regularly cover the EPT, Stephen Bartley, Howard Swains, and Rick Dacey. What they do is unique, I think, and valuable, too, insofar as their fantastic “feature-on-the-fly”-style really opens up what can be done when it comes to tourney reporting.

    Anyhow, even though there’s still a short bit left to go, I wanted to say well done to PokerStars and the EPT folks for another compelling season of tournaments. Click over to the PokerStars blog to check out the final reports from the EPT10 Grand Final.

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    Thursday, May 01, 2014

    Summer Plans

    May already? Really?

    The 2014 World Series of Poker is now less than a month away. I’m probably looking forward to it more this year than in the last few, partly because my plans this time are going to be a little different, WSOP-wise.

    Will be working for PokerNews once again, although this time it looks like I’ll be sticking around the farm rather than spend the summer in Las Vegas. Still seems a little hard to imagine, actually, that I won’t be there walking through the hot, hot parking lot behind the Rio each day, then making my way through the halls to the Amazon for those 12-14 hour days on the floor and behind the laptop.

    I’ll have long days here (mostly behind the laptop), helping in various ways. And I suppose there’s an outside shot I could end up in LV at some point in the not-too-distant future, if not for the WSOP then perhaps for other reasons, as I have a project in the works that might take me there (more on that soon).

    In any event, I’m already starting to pay more attention to this year’s schedule than has been the case for the last three or four years. Once things get started, I know I’ll be better tuned in to the WSOP as a whole, as my work will require me to follow all of the events as opposed to just honing in on the one from which I’d be live reporting.

    Kind of excited about it -- and grateful, also, I’ll be able to stick close to the farm to help Vera through our first summer here. But I’m also already lamenting not meeting up with the dozens and dozens of folks with whom I’ve gotten used to spending my summers, including the WSOP staff, the PN folks, and all of the other media and many players, too.

    As we get closer I’ll share more here about what I’ll be doing, including what we’ll have going on over at Learn.PokerNews as well during the summer months.

    Meanwhile... it’s May! Time to start prepping!

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