Friday, October 10, 2014

Ivey Loses, Spin & Go Spins, and Johnny Carson’s Poker Game

Hello, weekend (almost). Looking back on the week in poker, there were three items I wish I’d had more time to explore with blog posts, but did not. Gonna just catalogue them here to invite comment, and perhaps next week if inspired I’ll get back into issues raised by one or two of them.

One was Phil Ivey losing his case against Crockfords Casino in Britain’s High Court. The case started on Monday, then two days later Judge John Mitting decided Ivey was not entitled to the £7.7 million he’d won playing Punto Banco and that Crockfords had withheld from paying out.

In Mitting’s view, the “edge sorting” technique Ivey employed “gave himself an advantage which the game precludes.” “This is in my view cheating,” he concluded, ruling in favor of Crockfords.

Last week I was mentioning Ivey’s appearance on the 60 Minutes Sports program (which was on Showtime this week, which I don’t get) where he defended himself against accusations of being a cheater. I also mentioned there how out in the non-poker world the stories of Ivey’s suit against Crockfords and more particularly the Borgata’s still-pending one against Ivey have suggested that “cheater” label for him in the minds of some.

The Two Plus Two thread about the case indicates most in the poker world were surprised by the ruling and disagreed with it, and that’s the general tenor of response over Twitter, too. Jeff Ma, a member of the MIT blackjack team back in the mid-1990s, has written an op-ed for ESPN’s poker page defending Ivey’s play as not unethical (while expressly forgoing talking about its legality as interpreted by the High Court).

A second item popping up here at week’s end concerns those new Spin & Go games on PokerStars which I was trying out over on the play money side when they were first introduced. The new format has proven especially popular, so much so that some sit-n-go regs are not happy about the way they have affected traffic in other games. In fact, a petition “to demand a removal of these games” has been started by one disgruntled grinder -- an extreme-seeming response, to be sure.

The petition isn’t really that interesting to me, but some of the discussion that it has provoked both about the Spin & Go format and online poker in general has provided some worthwhile observations. One of the most thought-provoking came from Daniel Negreanu in a contribution to a 2+2 thread about the petition in which he points out that the full-timers (including the Supernovas and Supernova Elites) who are complaining about the way the format attracts recreational players and thus draws the “fish” away from their games are in fact themselves the greatest danger to the online poker’s survival.

“Do you know what kills games and destroys the poker ecosystem above and beyond all the things mentioned? Winning players,” explains Negreanu, who goes on to say how if the Spin & Go format does in fact deter pros from playing, that would be a positive as far as the survival of the “ecosystem” is concerned. Negreanu also says that if he were in charge of VIP systems he’d reward the losing players, not the winning ones. It’s an interesting read -- check it out.

Incidentally, with regard to “ecosystems” Darrel Plant authored an interesting article this week for PokerNews called “Circle of Life, Circle of Death: Depletion and Replenishment in Multi-Table Tournaments” that provides a nifty, math-based explanation of why poker needs new players (or at least new money). There’s also a very cool simulator embedded in the article which allows readers to input their own numbers to crunch to see how depletion and replenishment works in MTTs.

Finally, Martin Short was on Conan O’Brien’s late night talk show this week talking about a poker game he once played with Johnny Carson. Also part of the game were Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Chevy Chase, and Steve Martin, along with some big-time agents and others. Short had actually never met Carson beforehand, and so was understandably intimidated when participating in the game.

As it turns out, there isn’t too much poker talk in the story, but it’s still contains a couple of grins -- you can watch the clip here. It does make me curious, though, to dig a little deeper into Carson’s poker-playing. Indeed, his having had Amarillo Slim Preston as a guest a dozen times in the early 1970s suggests Carson had more than just a passing interest in poker.

Like I say, I might get back one or two of these items next week, and if you have thoughts to share about any of them, fire away. Meanwhile, enjoy the weekend, everyone!

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Blogger lightning36 said...

Daniel Negreanu is almost always spot-on with his observations and recommendations about poker.

I was one of the many people who started playing online poker as part of the Moneymaker Effect. It was fun, and even a recreational hack like me could sometimes make money. However, even before Black Friday took the heart out of online poker in the USA, I became disenchanted with it. Poker tracking software, collusion, nasty-ass grinders, pros, and semi-pros, cheating poker entities, and on and on. Why would a guy like me want to play in that environment?

I speculate that the entitlement issues to which Negreanu refers are largely due to the overwhelmingly young crowd that populates poker. I am reminded of the poker pros who berate recreational players, then wonder where all the easy marks have gone.

Take the fun out of playing poker and you take away the players who play it for fun.

10/12/2014 9:53 AM  

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