Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Playing By the Book, Playing By Feel

Almost exactly two years ago I wrote a post here about the 27-game winning streak of the Miami Heat which had just been snapped, in particular focusing on Shane Battier’s level-headed comments afterwards which evoked the idea of an intelligent poker player recognizing he’d been on the good side of variance for longer than should be expected.

“What’s amazing is that we’ve avoided that for so long,” said Battier, referring to the “garden-variety road loss” to the Chicago Bulls they had just suffered. “That was my first thought after the game,” he said, that the Heat had “avoided a loss like this for a long time.”

This afternoon I dialed up Dan Le Batard’s show on ESPN on which Battier was a guest host, and I found him thoroughly entertaining with his commentary and various anecdotes. When talking about his playing days (he retired last year), he once again evoked that same balanced, even intellectual approach to the game.

Early during the first hour, Battier referred to his lengthy NBA career and how even though he was a gifted player he wasn’t necessarily the most skilled or physically imposing. “You don’t play 13 years in the NBA at 215 lbs. as a power forward without having a few tricks in your bag,” he said.

Among those tricks was to study his opponents, in particular the players he’d be matched up against, and even crunch numbers in order to determine the best percentage plays over the long term. “I play basketball like blackjack,” he said at one point, using an analogy to explain his approach. “There’s a ‘house’ way to play it, and a ‘feel’ way to play it. I tried to play basketball like a game of blackjack -- by what the book says.”

Battier elaborated on that idea again during the second hour as they brought up a statistic regarding Kobe Bryant who in “iso situations” (one-on-one) versus Battier shot only 34% during his career, his lowest versus any defender who had played at least 350 minutes against him.

“That makes me blush,” said Battier, earning a round of laughter from the others as he joked about having a plaque made to commemorate the accomplishment. Then he offered to explain how exactly he had managed to be such a strong defender against one of the game’s best offensive players ever.

“Most of that probably happened during the first half of my career when I didn’t know what the heck I was doing,” he begins, sounding a little like a lot of professional poker players who started out their careers running especially well, thereby enabling them to stay in the game longer than they might have otherwise. And, importantly, to gain some experience to help them learn the game better, thereby helping them later in their careers.

“It wasn’t until the later half of my career when I was introduced to basketball analytics [that] I understood what was a good shot, what was a bad shot, what was inefficient... what a player’s weakness actually was,” Battier continued. “I didn’t know for the first six years. The first six years defense was all about heart and toughness and grit.”

I add the italics in the last sentence to indicate how Battier pronounced those words through clenched teeth, kind of exaggerating their importance. It was after those first six years he was traded to the Houston Rockets, got introduced to a couple of people in their organization with knowledge of advanced stats (including Daryl Morey, the team’s GM who is well known for such knowledge), and from that point forward used that information to help himself perform at a level that might well have been above what he would have otherwise.

Interesting to hear Battier talk about basketball in this way, and again to evoke ideas that so closely mirror how we hear poker players -- good ones, especially -- talk about like variance, understanding probabilities (versus playing by “feel”), assessing opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, and so on.

Good stuff. And -- again, I shake my head -- coming from a Dookie! (I evoke my own irrationality in the face of such a logical thinker.)

Here is a short video of Battier discussing the same subject (and from which the image above comes), titled “How Analytics Made Me a Better Basketball Player.”

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Regional Finals, Final Tables, and the Coming Final Four

Not unexpectedly, both my Heels and my NCAA bracket crumbled, and now I semi-dread the inevitable happening a week from today, namely a Kentucky-Duke final. (Others feel similarly?) Some exciting games, though, particularly in the regional finals.

Meanwhile I watched some poker on the computer this weekend, too. On Saturday I frequently dipped in and out of the EPT Live stream of the final table over at EPT Malta, including some of the seven-hour long heads-up battle between the two Frenchmen, Valentin Messina and Jean Montury that Montury ultimately won.

They ended up playing 148 hands total against one another, with the lead swinging back and forth in what turned out to be a hard-fought duel. What stood out the most, however, was the emotion Messina showed during his all-ins in the latter stages (such as pictured above in a screenshot from the stream).

Was hard not to be affected just a little watching him, something mentioned both in the commentary and in the PokerStars blog recap of the final table. The latter includes a nice picture of Montury consoling Messina after the final hand, as well as a good description of the scene by Howard Swains -- check it out.

Then on Sunday I followed a random tweet alerting me to the fact that Barry Greenstein had found his way over onto Twitch, and once on his channel I discovered him playing what turned out to be the priciest play money tournament ever on PokerStars, a 1 billion-play chip tournament that attracted 31 players.

Interestingly, Greenstein’s fellow Team PokerStars Pro Chris Moneymaker also took part, and the two of them ended up making it all of the way to heads-up against one another. Decidedly less emotion was on display for that heads-up match, although it was clear both were battling just as earnestly until Greenstein ultimately emerged the victor, winning 13.95 billion play-chip first prize while Moneymaker picked up 9.3 billion.

Obviously the kitty there was not as significant as what Montury and Messina were playing for (Montury won €687,400 while Messina took away €615,000 following a heads-up deal). Even so, from the rail both were interesting finishes to follow. And I guess the parallels help point up how poker can be meaningful at a wide variety of stakes, high to low.

I guess in both cases I wasn’t necessarily rooting for either player to win, but rather just to see a well-competed contest, which turned out to be so in both cases. Meanwhile we’ll see if that NCAA tournament comes down to the predictable heads-up next Monday, too, where (if does turn out to be the Wildcats and Blue Devils) I guess I’ll also lack any specific rooting interest.

Go Michigan State! Go Wisconsin!

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Four for Urbanovich

Have mentioned here before how once a week I compile a report on the latest Global Poker Index rankings -- both overall and Player of the Year -- for PokerNews.

Since the overall rankings reflects results going back as much as two years, there usually isn’t too much dramatic movement at the top. A player winning a tournament earns a decent number of points and can move up even hundreds of spots down below, but among the top 10, anyway, the players are pretty dug in. Indeed, this week the top 10 players are the same as from a week ago, with Ole Schemion in the top spot for a 14th straight week.

Meanwhile the POY race is a bit more volatile, especially as we’re still early in the year and players are just starting to gather points. Those doing well at the first big festivals of 2015 -- the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, EPT Deauville and EPT Malta, the WPT stops and WSOP-C stops, and others -- are the ones populating that list right now.

Thus it wasn’t too much of a surprise this week to be reporting a new POY leader, Poland’s Dzmitry Urbanovich, although it was notable to see he’d jumped all the way from No. 17 to No. 1 this week. And that he’d leapfrogged way ahead of the chase pack, suddenly turning up with a little over 2,380 points, more than 600 ahead of nearest challenger Joe Kuether.

Knew Urbanovich had been winning side events in Malta, and at the time of that report and the latest rankings he’d in fact won three different ones.

The €25,500 High Roller had gotten some news earlier in the week, with Urbanovich topping a tough field of 68 entries to win a €572,300 first prize. A few days later he bested a 156-entry field in the €1,100 NLHE Turbo to win another trophy and €35,200. Then the day after that he won a third event, the €5,200 NLHE Turbo that drew 55 entries to claim a €110,000 first prize.

At the time Urbanovich had additionally cashed in two other events -- final tabling both including finishing runner-up in a stud event. Then today came the news that he’d won a fourth side event in Malta, the €220 Crazy Pineapple Turbo tournament that drew a field of 56 to earn Urbanovich a modest €3,260 first prize.

Even with the small fields in a couple of the events, winning four tournaments in a single series is remarkable. Indeed, Chris Hall reports it represents a record for the EPT.

Some feat, and again suggests something about how winning begets winning in poker.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Heart vs. Head: Top Seeds Collide

Gearing up to watch some more basketball this evening, further energized to do so because (1) my UNC Tar Heels are still in action, playing a Sweet Sixteen game tonight against the West region’s top seed, Wisconsin, and (2) I’m still alive (I think) to cash in the tourney pool.

Of course, if I’m going to be at all realistic regarding both of those points, I’d have to admit that the prospects for Carolina aren’t so sanguine (they are six-point dogs) and my prospects for getting into the money in the pool aren’t so bright, either. That’s because I have Dook losing this weekend, undefeated Kentucky getting knocked out in the semis, and Arizona winning the sucker.

That is to say, I have a chance not unlike the player with nothing but an inside straight draw with one card to come can still win versus an opponent’s two pair.

If I could redo my bracket I would have Kentucky beating Dook in the finals. They are the two strongest-seeming teams right now (by a lot), and in truth if I hadn’t been more governed by my heart than my head when filling it out originally, I’d have done it that way in the first place.

But I don’t want to see Kentucky run the table. And it goes without saying what my feelings are about the Blue Devils.

I used to enter a pool each year with a lot of fellow UNC grads, most of whom every single year would pick UNC to win it all and Dook to lose in the first round. It was a fun pool to play because of the huge edge many who played automatically gave the rest by picking according to what they wanted to see happen as opposed to what they thought might actually play out.

If you think about it, though, all NCAA pools are probably affected similarly -- if not so severely -- by participants’ being overly influenced when picking games by their desire to see a certain outcome in the actual tournament than by the desire to win the pool.

Incidentally, I picked the Heels to lose last round, but since I have Wisconsin winning tonight, it’ll be a win-win!

Says my heart, anyway. My head insists it’s a lose-lose.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Will Someone Please Give Me Back My Freedom Not to Gamble!

Like some who read this blog, I dialed into that House hearing that took place during the late afternoon and early evening today, the one held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations to discuss that proposed Restoration of America’s Wire Act.

The hearing had been scheduled earlier in the month then delayed. I wrote something here at the time about it, in particular regarding the rumored list of witnesses almost all of whom were virulently anti-gambling in pretty much all forms, with the online version considered especially grievous. (Also wrote about RAWA during last December’s lame duck session when its proponents were hoping it might sneak through.)

Had the sucker on while working in the kitchen preparing dinner, an Irish pot pie with lentils, carrots, and turnips that turned out nicely. Thankfully the hearing ended before we sat down to eat, as much of the testimony and answers from the witnesses was sadly stomach-turning.

The hearing -- like most on the Hill -- was obviously primarily a bit of theater that allowed most involved to pretend to engage in a “dialogue” about the idea represented by RAWA, namely, to prohibit all forms of online gambling in the United States. It’s a truly radical idea, the consequences of which would not be insignificant should the bill become law. And so John Kindt (a business prof. with a long history of raving testimony comparing gambling to drugs), Les Bernal (director of the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation), and Michael Fagan (not the guy who broke into Buckingham Palace back in the 1980s, but an adjunct law prof. with experience prosecuting money-launderers and racketeers) were there voicing fairly radical views about the widespread harms of gambling and the need for government to protect us from ourselves.

The testimony of these three was often so out-to-lunch it was hard not to crack wise in response. Bernal in particular went on a rant about “government-sponsored internet gambling” (even pounding the desk and repeating phrases as he did) that seemed to want to suggest that by not prohibiting gambling, governments were somehow requiring people to gamble.

For example, Bernal characterizes those who argue in favor of “states rights” on the issue of online gambling as adopting a position that “state governments should be allowed to force casino gambling and lottery games into every bedroom, dorm room and smart phone in their communities, even though a strong majority of individuals in states don’t want it.” Such is part of his larger characterization of a “predatory” government looking for ways to exploit its citizens.

Of course, what Bernal is saying is patently absurd. States that have passed laws allowing their citizens to gamble online in a regulated environment (as in a licensed casino) are obviously not “forcing” these games into citizens’ lives.

At one point Bernal tossed out a statistic that 5% of the population has had their lives “turned upside down by gambling,” a stat gleaned, incidentally, from an NIH study speculating (without supporting data) that both “pathological and problem gambling may affect up to 5% of Americans” (italics added). But of course he turns the idea of prohibition upside down when he weirdly suggests that government should enact a law to take away a freedom in order to give citizens the freedom not to do something.

Kindt meanwhile maintained regulation to be simply an entirely impossible goal, utterly ignoring the evidence of states having successfully managed to do just that and instead citing sources dating back to the 1990s as support. Fagan likewise looked not at regulated online gambling but unregulated examples as providing evidence of online gambling having financed terrorism.

Not everyone testifying was as crazed-sounding or illogical as these three often were. Parry Aftab of Wired Safety was again a balanced witness who suggested regulation a much preferable alternative to prohibition, while the R Street Institute’s Andrew Moylan pointed out how federal bill like RAWA would wrongly usurp states’ rights.

Most distasteful was the bill’s sponsor, Jason Chaffetz (pictured above), appearing to ignore what everyone was saying while maintaining it to be a “fiction for anyone to believe” states can in fact keep citizens from gambling online on sites maintained outside the state’s borders. Chaffetz delivered that point hastily, then left the hearing before it was over. Didn’t see him drop a mic before leaving, although it felt like he should have.

I trust some members of the subcommittee did learn something yesterday, although like I say, the hearing itself often seemed more about deception than instruction. If you’re curious, check out others’ more detailed rundowns of the hearing, among them Matthew Kredell’s for PokerNews and Steve Ruddock’s for BLUFF. If you can stomach them, that is.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Joining Team Moneymaker

Had great fun last night playing a poker tournament. Feel like I haven’t been able to say that much lately.

If you happen to follow Chris Moneymaker on Twitter, you might have seen him yesterday inviting people to join his new PokerStars Home Game. He has a new website -- Team Moneymaker -- which is part of a few new projects he’s developing, among them the PS Home Game. And the good news for those of us in the U.S. who aren’t able to play real money games, his Home Game is for play chips.

I signed up during the afternoon and then participated in the first of a few tournaments Moneymaker scheduled during the evening. Eventually he got his Twitch channel up and running as well, and provided commentary and feedback as we played.

I have to say I got a big kick out of Moneymaker’s stream, especially one time when I mistyped an opening raise with pocket jacks from UTG -- making it nearly 5x the big blind when I had been aiming for just under 3x -- and a couple of minutes later Moneymaker was commenting and making a note on me about my oversized open.

There were only 17 in this first tournament (including “Money800”). I stumbled early on, with none of my steal attempts or c-bets seeming to accomplish anything other than my dribbling away chips. But then I managed to pick up some decent hands and get paid for them, and eventually made it all of the way to having a chip lead with three players left.

Ran into some hard luck at that point -- if I were tweeting my progress, my followers would’ve gotten an “Out. QQ < AQ, then AJ < A8” note like those we’re all always seeing in our timelines -- and went out in third. The buy-in was exactly 1 play chip, my prize for finishing third was exactly 3, but the entertainment derived from those two hours was considerable.

So was the instruction, as I found myself genuinely challenged by certain decisions along the way and appreciating Moneymaker’s advice to players as he talked about bet-sizing and other decisions made by others (and himself) on Twitch.

I believe his plan will be to host Home Games each Monday night at 8 p.m. Eastern time, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of hundred at least taking part -- maybe more -- by the time word gets around and some momentum is built up. If you’re curious, you can join Team Moneymaker here, then join his Home Game using the Club ID 1954662 and Invitation Code TeamMoneymaker2015.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

GPM Afterthoughts

On Friday I was noting how that Global Poker Masters event was coming up over the weekend, and indeed I ended up having the show -- streamed via Twitch -- up and running for most of Saturday and Sunday while my attention was divided somewhat by the NCAA basketball tournament.

Both events took up the majority of waking hours on both days, although the basketball featured multiple contests starting and ending (with clear winners and losers) while the team-style poker tournament was a lengthy, multi-stage competition that eventually whittled down to just two teams with Italy defeating Russia in the end.

I gave kind of a hasty summary of the GPM format here on Friday, although by the time things got going Saturday they might have tinkered further with it a bit, or at least that’s what commentators Joe Stapleton and Jesse May indicated at one point when talking about the players having made suggestions at the drawing party in Malta Friday night.

In any case, while Saturday’s sit-n-gos were easy enough to follow, I’ll admit I got a little lost on Sunday with what was happening, no doubt due in part to that aforemention division of my attention between the cards and hoops. Checking in over at PokerNews’ live reporting helped a lot, actually, when it came to sorting out how the teams were doing relative to one another as well as how the entire event was progressing toward its conclusion.

I did notice a couple of very interesting hands along the way. For example early on Saturday there was a hand that saw Dario Sammartino open with a raise with two red aces and Igor Yaroshevsky call from position with A-K. The flop then brought the case ace and what appeared the set-up for an inescapable knockout of Yaroshevsky, but the Ukrainian managed only to call a flop bet, check behind on the turn, then fold quickly to a decent-sized river bet by Sammartino.

In any tournament or session, a single hand is only a small part of the larger narrative of conflict involving many combatants. However, in this case the significance of this one hand was obscured even further by the complicated format. In other words, while in a regular tournament it would be easy enough to see how the hand might have affected the subsequent fortunes of the two players involved, here it didn’t seem all that meaningful occurring amid the early levels of one of 25 eight-player sit-n-gos played as the initial stage of a two-day, multi-stage event.

I guess what I’m saying by this observation is that while there were obviously some highly-skilled players participating and there were occasions as well for that skill to be displayed, I’m not so sure the format necessarily provided a consistent test of skill, nor too much chance to demonstrate that skill in ways that viewers could readily appreciate. (The fact that on Saturday the “hard stop” rule for the SNGs ended up encouraging a lot of gambly all-ins to conclude each of them didn’t help, either.) Contrast, if you like, those NCAA tournament games where individuals’ contributions to team goals were unambiguous, as were the results of those efforts during and at the conclusion of each contest.

There’s a lot else to say about both the event and its presentation to an audience, to which this is really just a very specific response alluding to just one small part of it. I thought it was interesting to hear GPI’s Alex Dreyfus on the stream discussing how one purpose for the Global Poker Masters event was to create a poker event that could attract non-poker coverage, thereby bringing poker to a wider audience. I’ll let others decide how well that goal was realized over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the first GPM did give us a number of things to think about, among them the idea of “team poker,” the efficacy of Twitch and other media for covering poker events, to what extent poker can hope to attract audiences (and new players) not already involved in the game, and what exactly is meant by attempts to “sportify” the game and/or its presentation.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Global Poker Masters Plays Out This Weekend

The two-day Global Poker Masters kicks off tomorrow in Malta. The European Poker Tour is there now, too, the first visit for the EPT to the island just south of Italy. They’ve got a huge series going there, with 69 events total (I believe) and the Main Event getting started tomorrow.

As far as the GPM is concerned -- a.k.a., poker’s “World Cup” (as the GPI is dubbing it) -- on Saturday there will be five rounds of play scheduled starting at 12 noon Malta time (GMT+1, or five hours ahead of me in the ET zone). Then on Sunday comes the quarterfinals, semis, and finals, again starting at 12 noon.

Each of the five rounds on Saturday is comprised of eight-handed sit-n-gos with one representative from each of the eight national teams -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States -- at each table. The structures will be fast, with every SNG due to finish within two-and-a-half hours. There will be a 30-second “shot clock,” too, to speed things up.

The players’ finishes for the day (with points given for each place) will all be tabulated with the eight teams being ranked accordingly, then the eighth-place team will be eliminated from the competition -- kind of an interesting idea which at a glance appears to make the Saturday SNGs more meaningful since not everyone automatically gets through to the “tournament” on Sunday.

But even though they start out Sunday playing something called the “quarterfinals,” it isn’t really that.

Teams are seeded according to their finishes on Saturday, then on Sunday will start with the five-person teams playing heads-up matches against each other. The top-ranked team gets a bye in the quarterfinals, with the other six remaining teams playing No. 2 vs. No. 7, No. 3 vs. No. 6, and No. 4 vs. No. 5.

Rather than just have the team winning the most heads-up matches advance from each of those three contests, they’ll again tally points, rank the six teams, then eliminate the one with the lowest points. That means six teams survive the “quarterfinals” to go on to the “semifinals.”

The six teams then pick one player from each to play a relatively deeper-stacked SNG (as the “semis”). Sounds like they can “tag” players in and out, too, if desired. I believe the starting stacks will be different, too, for this SNG, corresponding to how the six teams fared in the “quarterfinals.” (Not sure how the stack of the team with a bye will be determined.)

Once this SNG gets to heads-up, the five players from the two players’ teams then all sit down to play heads-up matches, with each match starting with stacks that equal the stacks of the two players in the SNG. Think of the heads-up match suddenly being cloned four times over. The five matches are then played out, with the team winning three or more winning the title.

It resembles in part the “Americas Cup of Poker” I had a chance to cover at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure this year (for the PokerStars blog here and here), although throws in some extra twists on the second day to divert from that formula. The whole sucker will be streamed over on Twitch, and it’ll be hard to resist dipping in over there this weekend from time to time just to see what it’s all about (while I have the NCAA on the teevee, of course).

I’m wondering what kind of stories might be produced by the GPM, aside from who wins (which I think isn’t necessarily the most compelling part of it). The number viewing the Twitch channel will be of interest, probably. So, too, might some especially compelling hands, if they arise. There could be other, unexpected stories, perhaps even including some related to this whole campaign to “sportify” poker the event is intended to highlight.

Anyhow, even if there will be a more compelling team game to keep my attention this weekend (for me, anyway), I am nonetheless curious to see what happens with the GPM the next couple of days.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Short-Stacked Again

Enjoying March Madness this afternoon, despite the fact that one of my Final Four picks has already been thrown over the side before the tournament was even three hours old.

Of course, with the two big upsets this afternoon -- UAB over Iowa State (my Final Four team) and Georgia State over Baylor -- “busted bracket” is already the theme all over. Saw a stat a short while ago that after the first three of 63 games were done, just 86,737 of the 11.57 million entries in the ESPN Tournament Challenge had picked all three winners.

The analogy between the NCAA tournament and a poker tournament doesn’t really work, unless, of course, we’re talking about a heads-up event. But those of us in NCAA pools are very much like competitors in a poker tournament, with the “stacks” (or possible points) all starting out even and then instantly beginning to differentiate with the completion of each game.

A few years ago I remember coming on here and whimpering a little about having dropped to the bottom of the “counts” after the first two rounds. But with all four of my Final Four teams still intact and seven Elite Eight teams still alive, I was short-stacked but still competitive -- kind of like being below the average in chips but still okay in terms of big blinds.

Meanwhile, just like in a poker tournament, those leading after the first rounds (or “levels”) are hardly guaranteed to win or even make the money. Picking later round games correctly earns more points as well, just like the pots later on are bigger and the significance of winning or losing has a greater impact on ultimate results.

And while my poor start doesn’t make me want to consider it that closely, it’s certainly possible to bust altogether early on if one has played (or picked) badly enough -- or suffers enough bad fortune.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Before BF

Was watching the live stream of the World Poker Tour Rolling Thunder final table some tonight being shown via the WPT’s Twitch channel -- another use of that platform in poker, incidentally, with that Global Poker Masters event happening this weekend and also being shown on Twitch coming soon as well.

It’s late and they’re still at it, with Taylor Paur (who just won the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Stars title less than two weeks ago), Jesse Rockowitz, and Ravee Mathi Sundar having been battling three-handed for quite some time.

The commentary is being provided by Kane Kalas and Tony Dunst. Earlier tonight I caught part of something Dunst said about having played online pre-Black Friday -- I think he might have been talking about playing against Paur, who has long been a successful online player. He still is, in fact, having just won the Super Tuesday back in November.

Dunst was noting how a lot has changed in poker over these last almost-four years, and thus memories of having played certain players then (such as Paur) were only of limited relevance when assessing those players’ styles today.

Reminded me a little of Dunst’s appearance in BET RAISE FOLD and the story he shared there of his life as an online grinder coming to an abrupt halt on April 15, 2011. It also reminded me of how that generation of online players -- I’m thinking mainly of the American ones, of course -- kind of split into a couple of camps post-BF, with some moving out of the U.S. and continuing online and others essentially becoming live players almost exclusively (if they stayed in the game, that is).

I suppose it’s more accurate to say that group fragmented into dozens of different directions, as in truth I’m only really referring to a small percentage of the whole. In any case, that era “before BF” continues to exert its influence, and probably will for a while longer, too.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Considering the Colossus

Got that note along with everyone else this week from the World Series of Poker about the $565 buy-in “Colossus” event that will help kick off this year’s WSOP in late May.

That’s the one featuring a big $5 million guaranteed prize pool, which means in order to meet the guarantee at least 10,000 will be playing. Which means, in turn, if that guarantee is met it’ll be the biggest field for a live tournament ever, topping the 8,773 that played the Main Event in 2006.

From this distance of two-plus months out, that total of 10,000 seems not unlikely. But it sounds like the WSOP is expecting well over that -- like 15,000 or even 20,000 -- or at least that’s what WSOP VP of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky is saying.

Just skimming through the “basics” (as well as the structure sheet) and other tips to would-be players regarding registration is a little bit head-spinning. There will be four Day 1 flights total occurring during two days of play, with flights starting at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day and each racing through ten 40-minute levels (meaning they’ll last a little less than eight hours apiece).

There is a reentry option, although players can only enter one time per flight, and aren’t allowed to reenter if they bag a stack at the end of a flight. They can, if they wish, forfeit a stack at night’s end (say a super-short one) and play a subsequent Day 1 flight, but they have to make that choice prior to bagging. After all of those Day 1s are done, they have three more days’ of poker scheduled to complete the sucker, although in the “FYI” list of items is a note that it could well extend one extra day.

Players are advised to preregister, but there are plans in place to seat a couple of “Late Waves” in each of the four Day 1 flights. I’m not even going to start to try to summarize it all -- you can read through the explanation yourself over at WSOP.com. Suffice it to say, when Palansky refers to the event as “a big operational challenge,” that sounds like understatement.

If only there were another word for “big.”

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Bracket Brooding

Was a weekend filled watching college basketball, as well as that I Hate Christian Laettner doc on ESPN last night which managed to provide some entertainment to this Tarheel despite the fact that it was impossible for the program to articulate anything I hadn’t thought or felt before.

And now with the NCAA bracket announced I’m finding myself already spending odd moments contemplating matchups and how I might fill the sucker out.

Am remembering a year ago when I was in Chile hastily filling out a sheet. Not sure having more time to look over matchups will help me too much, really -- when I won the pool a few years ago, I think I took all of 15 minutes to complete my bracket. But I like having a chance at least to fool myself into thinking I’m improving my chances.

I’ve not watched as much college basketball this year as in the past, my interest waning more and more each year because of a variety of factors. One is the “one-and-done” phenomenon that ensures I don’t even know the starting five for my own team (UNC-Chapel Hill) from year to year. Another is conference expansion and restructuring, with the ACC now bloated with 15 teams, nearly half of which weren’t in the league just over a decade ago.

The main reason, though, is the level of play, which for the most part has declined considerably over the last 10-15 years (it seems to me). Compared to the NBA -- which I much prefer to watch -- the game is so far removed, skill-wise, it has often become tedious to watch. I suppose the poker analogy would be a player having graduated to higher stakes being made to go back down a level or three, then finding it hard to take the game as seriously as before.

But the tourney does introduce some excitement, even if contrived.

The seeding of teams creates that automatic favorite-vs.-underdog dynamic that isn’t always even accurate but nonetheless adds an affecting layer of drama.

And, of course, while I don’t care for “one-and-done” among the players, the “one-and-done” format of the tournament adds curiosity with every game. Especially if you’ve tried to pick the winners.

Back to the bracket. Now how does Dook get a No. 1 seed after not winning the conference, losing in the semis of the conference tournament, and losing first-round games in the NCAA to No. 14 and No. 15 seeds within the last three years?

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Fire in the Distance

Short postscript today on the Chile trip as I continue to get readjusted back to life on the farm.

Happened to see a story tonight describing a huge forest fire raging over in Valparaiso, the ciudad herman (“sister city”) of Viña del Mar located just a few kilometers southwest down the Pacific coast. Sounds like they’ve evacuated 4,500 people already from both port cities and likely will be evacuating more soon. Click here to see some of the incredible, frightening images of the fire which contrast wildly with the serene scenes I was posting from my trip this week.

I was reminded how during the week I had heard a story related to the preponderance of stray dogs in Viña del Mar. Last year I was there during March and wrote here about all of the dogs about. Most are friendly and obviously cared for and fed, and some are even being vaccinated, I believe, although it is still a problem. I remember having read then something about how there were similar issues with strays in other Chilean cities (including Santiago), too.

This year there did seem to be even more dogs on the streets and the beach, and the story I heard that it was related to a huge fire in Valparaiso last April, subsequently called “The Great Fire of Valparaiso.” That one lasted five days, killed 15, and destroyed 2,500 buildings.

Dogs fled the city and many didn’t return (apparently), ending up adding to the already large population of strays in Viña del Mar. That was the explanation I heard this week, although I didn’t realize the fire was as recent as it was (and thus didn’t necessarily explain all of the dogs as many were there before).

Now people (and dogs, presumably) are fleeing their homes again as high winds carry the new blaze onward to threaten both cities. It’s an area somewhat prone to natural disasters, with earthquakes an ongoing threat. An earthquake forced the cancellation of the LAPT stop there once (back in Season 3), and I remember there was one in the area just after I left last year.

That said, while the high winds and dry conditions do make fires a danger (particularly this time of year), what I’m reading regarding both the investigation of last year’s blaze and the new one this week indicate both might’ve been started via human negligence.

In any event, I’m hopeful the fire will be contained soon and doesn’t grow to be as destructive the one from a year ago from which residents -- both two- and four-legged -- are still feeling the effects.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Chilling in Chile (Again)

Mentioned yesterday how I’d had a chance to dine with some of the Brazilian players and media on the last night of LAPT Chile. Started out as a small group with just me, Brazilian blogger Sergio and his girlfriend Rebeca, and Andre Akkari.

Eventually a few more showed to fill seats at the other tables we’d had the waiters at Tierra de Fuego slide together. Then we had more tables moved as more and more arrived. Eventually there were more than 25 in our party, and I joked with Felipe (another of the Brazilian media) how the building wasn’t going to be big enough for the table.

“They’ll be able to build an extension after tonight,” he grinned.

Indeed, it turned out to be quite the feast (and quite the bill). Most had steak, but since that's what I'd had the night before I went with the swordfish, which was scrumptious. As happened the night before, I found myself surrounded by Portuguese, a language about which I haven’t the first clue. Some (like Sergio, Felipe, and others) spoke some English, too, but I’d sometimes go several minutes only listening and watching.

It reminded me a little of living in France years ago where I knew some French but occasionally would be thrust into situations where I couldn’t keep up well enough to speak myself, and thus could only listen. The fact that there were so many top poker players among the group made me think about non-verbal “tells” a little, and how one can develop a kind of literacy in that realm that is analogous to learning a language.

Unlike in France, though, here I didn’t have much chance of picking up words, except when the conversations had to do with poker in which case I realized I could follow pretty well the gist of what each speaker was saying even without the vocabulary. It’s interesting how a bad beat story transcends verbalized language, with expressions, shrugs, polite nods, sympathetic smiles and laughter, and other gestures adequately conveying all.

Got up early Thursday to get some work done before being forced to check out at noon, then spent much of the afternoon with Caue, another of the Brazilian contingent. We enjoyed a ceviche lunch at the Peruvian restaurant, Ica, where I had eaten once before last year, then explored the city a bit before he was due to leave. Caue and I had a chance back at Panama to visit the Canal together before, and again we had a good time discussing various subjects, seeing some sights, and enjoying what turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.

Was on my own near the end of the afternoon and so spent some time on the beach reading and people-watching, and also looking out on all of the cruise ships passing to and fro not far from the shore. At the center of that one to the left is El Castillo Wulff, which hangs out over the sea not far from my hotel and the Enjoy Casino Viña del Mar. (Click any of the pics in this post to enlarge.)

Eventually I caught my shuttle to Santiago, winding back through the mountains and vineyards as the sun started to set on the day. The overnight flight was about as good as it gets, comfort-wise, as I drew a row to myself and was able to sleep a little after watching an episode of Ken Burns’s The Roosevelts -- the one in which TR gets shot while delivering a speech and continues on another hour before getting medical attention.

After stopping through Dallas finally touched down around noon today, getting back to the farm an hour after that. The horses remembered me, or at least they pretended to after I greeted each with a carrot. Vera definitely did, and while it was another fun trip -- made more so by the great LAPT staff and others with whom I got to work again -- I was glad once again to be back in my home hemisphere.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Chile, Day 4: Vamoooo!

“Four left, and all three stories still in play.”

So I said to Sergio, the PokerStars Brazilian blogger, yesterday afternoon as the tournament was down to just four players.

The last day of the Latin American Poker Tour Chile Main Event this year featured one of the more exciting final tables to follow that I can remember from the LAPT. Probably only the very first LAPT Main Event I helped cover -- the one in Lima back in Season 4 in which Nacho Barbero won his second title back-to-back -- rivaled it in terms of the at-the-table drama.

There were parallels between the finishes of both events, as this one also ended up featuring an almost-back-to-back champion, with Oscar Alache of Chile winning after having just won the LAPT Peru Grand Final back in October. There was the LAPT Bahamas event in between, which technically makes Alache not a back-to-back champ. He becomes only the third player ever to accomplish winning two LAPTs so far, joining Barbero and Fabian Ortiz.

Another similarity was the presence of Barbero himself at this final table. He ended up finishing fourth, although did earn a six-figure payday thanks to a four-handed deal. The stacks were on the short side near the end and so a decent amount of luck was involved with how things played out, at least until heads-up. Still, it was something to see Barbero get that far yet again at this, his seventh LAPT Main Event final table (a record).

What helped make the final table even more exciting, though, was Renata Teixeira almost becoming the first woman to win an LAPT Main Event. She led, in fact, at the time of the four-handed deal, and after knocking out Javier Venegas in third had a slight lead to start heads-up versus Alache. She also (in my opinion) gave Alache a tougher time than did his heads-up opponent back in Lima last fall, Daniel Campodonico, but after a half-hour Alache was able to whittle away enough at her stack to take the lead, then he’d win an all-in with pocket tens versus her A-Q-suited.

I said yesterday how I expected there might be a fun rail for this one thanks to Teixeira being there as not only the last woman in the tournament but the last Brazilian, too. And I wasn’t disappointed as there were a few dozen loud supporters, many donning purple wigs to match Teixeira’s hair (that’s a picture of some of them above, taken by the great Carlos Monti). They even had a fight song of sorts they’d sing urging her on, in between the usual shouts of “Vamoooo!”

Probably the most dramatic moment happened at seven-handed when Teixeira (who started the table eighth of eight in chips) ended up all in on the turn with trip aces versus Rodrigo Quezada’s flopped flush, then rivered a full house to survive and cripple Quezada (who soon went out in seventh). The place was absolutely rocking after that fifth-street card.

Everything wrapped up by early evening, then I had a chance to go out to dinner with Sergio and a huge group of Brazilian players and media, including Teixeira. That, too, was a fun time, which I think I’ll save to write about tomorrow after getting home.

Meanwhile, I’ve only got a short while here to pack and get out of my room, with my flight not being until later tonight. Will get to explore Viña del Mar a little today, and it looks to be a sunny day for it, too. Eager to get home, but don’t mind the chance to relax a little first after that wild finish.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Chile, Day 3: Purple Haze

We’re a couple of hours away from the start of the final table of the Latin American Poker Tour Main Event. Should be a quick one (he says, tentatively), given the fact that play went fairly late yesterday and thus the stacks are relatively shallow. Should also be fun to follow as there are a few interesting storylines in play.

There are two former LAPT Main Event winners still among the final eight, with last year’s LAPT Peru Grand Final winner Oscar Alache and two-time champ Nacho Barbero both in the hunt. Also still there is Renata Teixeira, both the last Brazilian and the last woman in the tournament, which I think will ensure a fun rail when things get going today.

Kind of funny yesterday as Teixeira made it deeper in the event to see her friends expressing support online in the form of photos in which they were shown with purple wigs to match her hair color. That picture above includes a compilation tweeted out by one of her supporters (click to enlarge).

There are other interesting characters among these eight, too -- check out these final table profiles for more on each.

We did end early enough last night to get a late dinner, and in fact I had a chance to dine with Teixeira and Ale Braga (who also cashed in the event), my blogging buddy Sergio and his girlfriend Rebeca, and a couple more Brazilian friends, Felipe and Caue. I haven’t much of a clue about Portuguese, but it was nonetheless a fun time with some good eats, as the steak and company were both excellent.

Visit the PokerStars blog today to see how Alache, Barbero, Teixeira, and the others fare, and remember you can watch it on the LAPT Live stream as well.

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Monday, March 09, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Chile, Day 2: Two Team Pros Bubble

About a half-hour away from getting back to it today at the Latin American Poker Tour Chile Main Event where 32 players remain from the 410-entry starting field.

Kind of a hectic day yesterday, with rapid-fire action during the early hours as 139 played down to 57 -- two spots from the cash. Then things slowed considerably as the bubble refused to burst, with an hour of non-bustouts preceding the dinner break.

Post-dinner it would take about 40 more minutes for two to fall, and somewhat uncannily the last two to be eliminated before the money were the only two Team PokerStars Pros playing in the event, with Christian de Leon going out in 57th and Andre Akkari in 56th. (What are the odds?)

Both were their usual gregarious selves upon their eliminations, and of course everyone else still in the tournament was glad at how things turned out. There was a big, funny round of applause for Akkari when he busted, and he laughed and waved to the crowd in response to congratulate them. Kind of a fun moment following the lengthy tension of the bubble.

They raced down to just 32 after that, with Javier Venegas leading the way and Nacho Barbero with a top five stack and hopes of earning a record third LAPT title. Check in at the PokerStars blog today to see how things go, and if you’re curious you can watch the LAPT Live stream as well (in Spanish and Portuguese).

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Chile, Day 1b: An Hour Not Lost Is an Hour Gained

So, so glad to wake up this morning and discover that after decades of following Daylight Savings Time, Chile abolished it this year -- meaning I didn’t lose that hour I thought I had lost, and in fact felt like I’d gained one.

Was another long one yesterday for Day 1b of the Latin American Poker Tour Chile Main Event, as expected, wrapping up a little after midnight. A bigger group showed up for the second and last of the Day 1 flights, bringing the overall total number of entries to 410 and the prize pool up over $900,000.

That’s essentially the same prize pool as LAPT Chile had a year ago. It’s a bigger buy-in this time ($2,500 instead of $1,700), with more entries a year ago (609).

Not too much out of the ordinary to report from yesterday. No one was able to get close to the 197,500 that Nicolas “PKaiser” Fierro bagged on Day 1a, and so he’ll be the frontrunner by far to start play today with 139 players still remaining.

I remember first really noticing the Chilean when covering him playing the WSOP Main Event in the past, including in 2011 when he made a deep run to finish 34th. Fierro’s cashed in LAPTs before, his previous best showing being an eighth-place finish in Argentina back in Season 3 (before I started going to LAPTs).

The money bubble will burst today as the top 55 get paid and the plan calls for them to play down to 32. Perhaps we’ll even end before midnight tonight and I’ll gain another hour or two, but I’m nonetheless satisfied with the one I didn’t lose last night.

Head over to the PokerStars blog today to follow the action from Viña del Mar.

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Saturday, March 07, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Chile, Day 1a: Fierro in Front

It was your basic noon-to-midnight run yesterday for Day 1a of the Latin American Poker Tour Chile Main Event.

There were 155 entries for the $2,500 tournament (including reentries), and surely there will be more today. That buy-in is up from last season’s $1,700, meaning the fields will probably be a little smaller although I expect the prize pools to remain comparable if not grow larger.

Early on I had a chance to meet and talk to a Brazilian poker star, Rodrigo Garrido. I’d watched him win the Sunday Million on PokerStars just a few weeks ago, and so it was interesting to discuss that victory with him as well as other things. He was the 2014 Player of the Year for the Brazilian Series of Poker, and perhaps unsurprisingly roared out to a fast start yesterday here, becoming the first player in the room to 100,000 chips.

Another player I’ve watched win a lot online did well yesterday, too -- Nicolas “PKaiser” Fierro of Chile, who just this week moved back to the top of the Pocket Fives global rankings of online players. Whereas Garrido dominated early, Fierro won a couple of big pots late to charge way out in front and end the day chip leader among the 48 making it through to Sunday’s Day 2.

Interestingly, Fierro ended with 197,500 -- the exact amount leader Jefferson Melo ended Day 1a with here last year. (Melo ended up finishing third.)

I mentioned in yesterday’s short post there was a cash game (pictured above). Dubbed a “celebrity cash game,” it included a few poker pros -- Team PokerStars Pros Christian de Leon and Andre Akkari among them -- plus some folks from the entertainment world including television personality Otavio Mesquita and the actor Gonzalo Valenzuela (who actually final-tabled the LAPT Chile Main Event a few years ago).

They weren’t playing for high stakes, but the game was fun nonetheless. It’s one of several new ideas they’re experimenting with on the LAPT this year, with the expansion of the festival schedule (from nine to 13 events) being another.

A “mix-max” event was played yesterday and attracted a decent field of 110 players; coming up will be some non-hold’em events, too, including an intriguing sounding “Dealer’s Choice” PLO event that will allow the button to call each hand whether the game will be straight 4-card PLO or the 5-card version.

Head over to the PokerStars blog today for another round of noon-to-midnight updating and see how many and who else comes out.

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Friday, March 06, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Chile, Pregame: Action!

Just a quick dinner break post here during the first of two Day 1 flights at the Latin American Poker Tour Chile Main Event. Things have gone smoothly thus far in the Main, with some other interesting activity here in the tournament room including a cash game and a “mix-max” side event (more on that tomorrow).

I was able to get a full night’s sleep, dozing right through the music and noise filtering through my street-facing hotel window, and after completing some other work this morning made it down for breakfast and much-needed coffee to get me up and running for the day.

Looking ahead, while I’ll be eyeballs deep in work over these next five days, I do have a late flight out on Wednesday, meaning I may get to explore the city a little more than I was able to last time around. We’ll see about that then, as well as what energy I have left in the tank when I get there.

Back to work for now. Follow along over at the PokerStars blog.

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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Arriving in Viña

I’ve made it back to South America to beautiful Viña del Mar where the eighth season of the Latin American Poker Tour gets going once again tomorrow with the start of the $2,500 Main Event.

The journey down was smooth, although as often happens for me with red-eyes I failed to get much rest at all sitting upright in my seat for the eight-and-a-half-hour flight. That meant spending much of the morning and afternoon in a bit of a daze as I unpacked and readied for the next several days here -- and fighting fatigue a little as well tonight as I pen this post.

I did get out during the late afternoon and early evening, however, to wander up and down the coast-facing Ave Peru walkway.

Just perfect weather here -- right at 72°F with the sun out and a light breeze. A t-shirt is fine. The clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages competed with the seagulls’ whines overhead as I walked. There were many children laughingly bouncing around the slides and monkeybars in the playground situated nearly within the shadow of the Enjoy Viña del Mar Casino. A jazz trio plus a female lead was playing live music right beside them with a large crowd gathered to listen, adding still more to the scene’s very pleasant soundtrack.

Oh yeah, and the dogs were out, too. Like always.

Eventually made it over to the Enjoy to reunite with a few LAPT folks then go with Reinaldo for a nice, leisurely dinner at a place called Entre Masas located just a couple of blocks away. They’re known for their empanadas, but we instead split a couple of dishes filled with assorted meats, veggies, cheeses, olives, and more.

Have to shut it down for now as I need to try to grab some extra rest, including making up for the hours I lost thanks to traveling eastward a couple of time zones. More to come.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Maggie, the Moon, and Me in Miami

Checking in here quickly from the Miami airport where I have stopped off en route to Viña del Mar, Chile to rejoin the Latin American Poker Tour.

After kicking off at the PCA in the Bahamas in January, Season 8 continues this week with the LAPT Chile stop. This will be a return trip for me as I was able to go to Chile around this time a year ago.

Looks like nice, mild temperatures there right now, not unlike what I’m leaving at the farm today where the sun was out and the snow from a week ago has all but disappeared entirely. Meanwhile the moon has risen to chase the sun away, as evidenced in the above pic texted to me by Vera. That’s Maggie -- who more than occasionally gets referred to as “Maggie Moon Pie” -- looking on with interest.

Looking forward to reuniting once more with all of the LAPT folks. Also curious to look in on some of the side events that will be going on alongside the $2,500 Main Event that starts on Friday. Among those are included a “mix-max” event, a straight PLO one plus something described as “PLO High Only Dealers Choice 4 or 5 Cards Freeze-Out,” and a H.O.S.E. event (all with lower buy-ins). There is a $5K High Roller on the sked, too.

The eight-and-half-hour flight from here will carry me to Santiago and to dawn tomorrow, then I’ll have another hour-and-a-half ride to the coast and Viña. Will start checking back in once there as usual, while also directing you over to the PokerStars blog for reporting from Friday through Tuesday.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

RAWA Hearing Nearing

This Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) has reared its head again, with the bill having been introduced here in the new Congress. I was just reading about the hearing for the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations to discuss it that had been scheduled for Thursday morning, although it appears that has now been postponed to a later date.

RAWA is the Sheldon Adelson-backed bill proposing to rewrite (not really “restore”) the Federal Wire Act of 1961 to prohibit most forms of online gambling. That would include current state-regulated online gambling (and poker) such as we have in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, although horse racing and fantasy sports would be excepted.

The bill got some notice last December during the “lame duck” session with some thinking it could get added to the big omnibus spending bill passed then, but that didn’t happen. So RAWA got reintroduced this year in both the House and the Senate, and now it is sounding like it is getting more attention early on in the Congressional cycle this time around.

The fact that it’s the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations gives you an idea where the focus will be when it comes to this impending discussion of possibly prohibiting online gambling. The list of folks slated to appear as witnesses at the postponed hearing also suggests we should be ready for a mostly one-sided discussion of how some believe online gambling fits into one or more of those categories.

There’s John Kindt who teaches business at the University of Illinois and has been out there comparing online gambling to crack cocaine ever since the internet first became a thing. Les Bernal, the National Director of a group called Stop Predatory Gambling is another on the list. So is Michael K. Fagan, another whom I recall turned up once before as a “Law Enforcement and Anti-Terrorism Consultant” before to express reservations about one of Barney Frank’s online gambling bills in the past (back in 2010).

The only witness who won’t be opposed to regulating online gambling is Parry Aftab, a lawyer who is the Executive Director of WiredSafety.org, a group whose purpose is to increase safety online. She’s also been a witness at previous House hearings regarding such as one in which she spoke in favor of one of Frank’s bills (in 2009) and another where “internet gaming” was discussed (in 2011).

Folks have been opining lately about the prospects for RAWA, with Nolan Dalla not long ago giving 10 reasons why he thinks it could be passed and Steve Ruddock responding with 10 reasons why it hasn’t got a chance. Tend to lean toward the latter view, at least at present.

Am glad, actually, the hearing got postponed, as I’m going to be traveling and thus wouldn’t have been able to follow on Thursday. Still want to see it, even if it’s easy enough to guess how it will go. What happens thereafter with RAWA is less clear.

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Monday, March 02, 2015

Community Building at the APA

Definitely followed with interest all of the reports from that American Poker Conference and American Poker Awards from last Friday in Los Angeles. Hard to find anyone who participated in either having anything but positive things to say.

The conference appeared especially intriguing, with a day-long schedule of sessions that reminded me a little of my days as a graduate student traveling to conferences where I’d deliver papers and listen to others’.

The sessions covered an interesting variety of topics, including poker media and marketing, technology, social media, strategies to grow live poker, the current and future state of online poker (with a special session about the situation in the U.S.), and a players’ panel.

The tweets were interesting to follow, and I read a few articles summarizing some of what was said, but afterwards I thought how the whole conference would have been interesting to see online either streaming live or archived to watch later. (Donnie Peters wrote a good recap of the day over at PokerNews today that included some suggestions, and that might be another I’d add.)

The awards dinner sounded like a fun time as well. I had a chance to attend the European version of that ceremony in Deauville once, and so know a little how such things go as well as how the process of highlighting certain individuals in that way can strengthen the community as a whole. And of course I was glad for friends and colleagues whose work was being recognized.

Unlike with the conference, there was no shortage of video from the awards ceremony, and I enjoyed watching some of the presentations and acceptance speeches. Here’s a full highlight reel, if you’re curious.

Following it all in pieces as I did from the other side of the continent, the collective message emanating from the SLS Hotel seemed to be not just a well intentioned plea to grow the game, but an effective, constructive means to accomplish that goal with tangible plans and the creation of genuine incentives for doing so.

Those academic conferences I’d go to were mostly pretty positive experiences. It was always satisfying to present work and get feedback (especially when it was positive), and usually hearing what others were up to was inspiring, too. The best part, though, was meeting new people with common interests and goals, and feeling like there really was a community out there of which I was a part.

Poker does this in little ways all the time, but we don’t always notice. Heck, any time a group convenes to play the game it resembles in miniature a kind of conference the subtext of which is the livelihood of poker itself. Nice job by Alex Dreyfus and the GPI to make something like that happen in a grander, more conscious way.

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