Friday, January 29, 2016

Slow Roll with a Side of Schadenfreude

This morning I woke up to review some of what happened at the Aussie Millions Main Event while I was sleeping. There was still a couple of hours of play left to go, so I also turned on Jason Somerville’s Twitch stream to catch the end of Day 4 and see them play down to the final seven-handed table.

Reading back through Twitter, I saw the buzz about some of the excitement from earlier in the night, and later ended up going back to watch a few of the earlier hands. Probably the most talked-about moment involved a hand between Mikel Habb and Samantha Abernathy. Habb was eliminated in 15th in the hand, while Abernathy made it to Saturday’s final table.

In the hand Daryl Honeyman opened with a raise from UTG, and Habb -- who’d just won a hand and was chatting a bit -- made a just-over-the-minimum reraise the small blind while claiming he meant only to call. It was enough for Somerville to entertain the idea of an angle, a thought encouraged when we were shown Habb had pocket kings.

Abernathy then pushed all in from the big blind with a pair of sixes, forcing a quick fold from Honeyman. At that Habb took nearly a half-minute before calling, going through what appeared some theatrics as he held his head in his hands, then stood up for a while as if in deep thought over what to do.

Somerville described the show as a “slow roll,” and it was kind of hard not to think that to be an apt descriptor. The flop and turn changed nothing, but a six dramatically fell on the river -- a “six for justice,” said Somerville -- and Habb was eliminated.

The fact that Habb was standing with two fingers held up high (for victory?) when fifth street fell only seemed to add an extra layer of schadenfreude to the whole scene.

To give Habb a little bit of the benefit of the doubt, when watched out of context, it wasn’t wholly clear if it had been an out-and-out slowroll, or if perhaps he really was wondering about putting in the last of his stack with pocket kings. In fact, just looking back a little on the stream seemed to support the idea Habb was tighter than usual (but that tight... right?).

A little earlier there was a hand in which Habb had opened from the cutoff with A-Q-suited and was called by both Tino Lechich (button) who had K-J and Dylan Honeyman (big blind) with J-5 of spades. The flop came Q-4-2 with two spades to give Habb a pair of queens, but when checked to he checked as well. Lechich then fired a bet, then Honeyman raised with his flush draw. At that Habb folded his top pair, top kicker, with Somerville kind of amazed that he’d given up his hand.

You could tell from Habb’s table talk afterwards -- which included him telling everyone what he’d had -- that he was probably not as seasoned a player as the others, with the fold further underscoring the impression that he was playing especially tight, too. He talked a lot, actually, and in ways that caused him to stand out considerably from the rest of the players.

In any event, the back-and-forthing over Habb this morning reminded me how easy it is in poker to become conspicuous simply by playing in an unorthodox way, not following the usual etiquette or customs of the table or poker room, and/or perhaps being unsure about rules or the order of play.

I’m not referring to Habb at all here, but merely to the interesting and sometimes intimidating subculture of poker that can make things strange and potentially uncomfortable for newcomers. Meanwhile from the spectators’ point of view, such out-of-the-ordinary occurrences (like, say, slow rolling, intended or otherwise) tend to make the “show” a lot more interesting to watch.

Looking ahead to these several final tables coming up from Melbourne -- the $100K, the Main, then the $250K after that -- we probably won’t be seeing as much non-standard stuff going forward, although the poker should be on a high level. Will be watching for sure, either live or scrolling back on the stream.

Images: twitch.tv/jcarverpoker.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Campaign Strategy and Button Mashing

Tonight comes another of the Republican presidential candidates’ debates, the seventh one so far. This one is in Des Moines, with the Iowa caucuses -- the first votes of the major parties’ primary season -- just a few days away on February 1.

The GOP debate would’ve been in the news this week, anyway, but is getting some extra attention thanks to current frontrunner Donald Trump’s announcement earlier this week he wouldn’t be participating due to his ongoing feuding with the host network, FoxNews.

The decision by Trump not to debate has inspired some discussion of campaign strategy, with pundits sharing all sorts of ideas regarding whether his non-participation will amount to a positive or a negative for Trump both in Iowa and going forward.

I find these discussions interesting to follow mostly because of how much time I’ve spent reading about and studying Richard Nixon’s various campaigns from the first 1946 Congressional campaign all of the way through his last 1972 run for reelection.

The “game” (as it were) has changed markedly, of course, with all of the old strategies mostly being inapplicable to today’s political landscape. That said, there are still analogues here and there, including the role of debates and whether they are good or bad for particular candidates.

Nixon, of course, famously welcomed the opportunity to debate John F. Kennedy in 1960, having experienced much success doing so versus various (less savvy) opponents in earlier campaigns. Then later in both 1968 and 1972, Nixon chose against participating in debates with Democratic candidates versus whom he was ahead in the polls, with most seeing those decisions as correctly made as far as risk-versus-reward was concerned.

As if to inspire such comparisons even further, at this very moment I’m seeing Evan Thomas, author of the recent Being Nixon: A Man Divided, popping up on FoxNews being asked what he thinks Nixon would think about Trump not debating. (Thomas unsurprisingly says he thinks Nixon would approve.)

Regarding Trump’s “strategy” (or lack thereof) as it relates to his decision not to attend the Iowa debate, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight tweeted a comment a couple of days ago that perhaps betrayed his own online poker-playing background:

“Still not sure if Trump is the most brilliant political tactician of his era or just a guy randomly mashing buttons,” opined Silver.

The comment evokes the idea of an amateurish or untutored poker player making what seem “random” decisions that don’t add up to a coherent understanding, contrasting that with a knowledgeable player (or “tactician”) whose unorthodox moves you’d have to trust as being part of a larger, complex design.

“Button-masher” perhaps seems to fit Trump (here involved deeply in his first serious political campaign) more readily than does “brilliant political tactician,” but I think like all of the candidates he probably falls somewhere in between these two extremes.

As did presidential candidates in earlier decades, too, for that matter.

Images: “Press this button,” Howard Lake (adapted). CC BY-SA 2.0 (top); @NateSilver538 (bottom).

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Partial Information Game of Divided Attention

I’ve been spending a little bit of time off and on over the last couple of days watching Jason Somerville’s live streaming from the Aussie Millions over on his Twitch channel. Was up late last night doing other work, and so since the live stuff essentially happens overnight for those of us on Eastern time (and 16 hours behind Melbourne), it provided me a chance to keep the stream on as background.

Because I wasn’t wholly focused on watching the action, I was often just relying on Somerville’s (invariably good) commentary on hands, occasionally clicking on that tab to look up from my work and watch whenever it sounded like something interesting was going on. After a while I realized my own method was kind of emulating that of the players themselves who were playing at the feature table there on Day 2 of the Aussie Millions Main Event.

If you’ve watched any of the streaming, you know to what I’m referring. The action was on a half-hour delay, necessitated by the fact that the the hole cards were being shown. That meant most of those around the table were often looking at their phones at Somerville’s stream, taking advantage of the fact that they could learn more about how their opponents were playing by seeing their hole cards from earlier hands.

In other words, just like my own attention on the action was divided, so, too, was the attention of the players only partly on what was happening at that moment and otherwise focused on what went down a half-hour before, as revealed by the stream.

Somerville’s commentary was also sometimes incorporating the players’ discovery of each other’s hole cards from earlier hands. “It looks like Jeff Gross just found out he successively avoided Julius Colman’s set right before the break,” Somerville once noted as a new hand was being dealt, and when I looked up I saw Gross looking down at his phone while chatting with Colman about the hand.

Indeed, a half-hour before Gross had folded ace-queen following a 10-J-4 flop after Colman had bet (see the pic above), saying as he did he suspected Colman had pocket jacks. Now, watching the stream (see at left), Gross was discovering Colman indeed had a set, though with pocket tens.

I got to thinking about how it is a bit of work for the players to catch those moments on the stream, and of course if they’re involved in a new hand that distracts them further from following the action from a half-hour before. Also, it was clear that while most of the players at the table were checking their phones, not everyone was, and so that added another variable when it came to the information-gathering.

Would probably be best just to have the stream running on a screen near the table, much like the tournament clock. Not saying it’s a must (nor wanting to reengage the same old arguments about fairness and televised/streamed poker), although perhaps for final tables -- like, say, at the WSOP Main Event -- it should be considered.

Some tournament should try it, at least, just as an experiment. I’m sure it would get some attention, anyway. Or at least whatever attention most of us had left to give it while we were doing other things.

Images: twitch.tv/jcarverpoker.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Drawing Dead

Last week we were discussing that story from the Aussie Millions of the woman having to leave a preliminary event early as she was about to give birth, and her husband being allowed to take over her stack. This week comes a story of a dead man playing poker at his own wake.

No shinola, it must be added (again).

You might have seen this item, currently being passed around and turning up on a few different sites. According to the story, a fellow named Henry Rosario Martinez of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico died last week at the age of 31. His family and friends then arranged to celebrate his life by playing poker at the funeral home, a game the deceased apparently enjoyed.

The unexpected twist, though, was the family having the funeral home prepare the body as though for an open-casket wake (embalming and dressing the corpse), then seating it at the table as well. There’s a short news clip from Noticias SIN reporting on the event, if you’re curious.

It sounds like some sort of odd one-off curiosity, although from reading around this sort of death-related theater-slash-rite isn’t that unheard of. There have been several other examples over last few years, enough for the practice to have picked up a name -- muerto para’o or “dead man standing.” Surfing around turns up various stories of the dead being posed sitting on a motorcycle, in a boxing ring, and even dressed as the Green Lantern.

Seem to be no end of puns for this one. Dead button. Dead man’s hand. Dead money. Will go with drawing dead, I guess.

All clichés, of course. Or, what George Orwell (who is dead) once described metaphors like these that are -- technically, he said -- dead.

Image: Ace of Spades Death Card iron or sew on Patch AKPT1071, Amazon.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Panthers Keep Pounding

Eight days ago I sat on my couch to watch the Carolina Panthers’ first playoff game, a division round matchup versus the Seattle Seahawks. Like all Panthers fans, I greatly enjoyed the first half during which our team dominated while storming out to a 31-0 lead.

At the half I moved to a new location. We had a visitor and while Vera entertained I parked it in a different room to watch the second half. Needless to say, things weren’t as comfortable in that environment as I watched Seattle come all of the way back to make it 31-24, with the Panthers having to recover an onside kick attempt by the Seahawks at the end to seal the win.

The comeback inspired a strategy article for PokerNews, titled “Football, Poker, and the Challenge of Trying to Keep a Big Lead.” It’s a theme I’ve written about before in various places -- that is, the strange discomfort experienced by some players when playing “from the front.”

Carolina obviously adopted a highly conservative strategy on both sides of the ball during that second half, going with run plays and low-risk passes on offense while mostly sticking to preventing long pass plays on defense while allowing short-to-medium gains that helped Seattle put together drive after drive.

In yesterday’s conference championship game, Carolina found itself in a similar spot by the half, up 24-7 and fairly dominating the Arizona Cardinals (surprisingly, I thought, given how evenly matched the teams appeared to have been). The second half then saw the Panthers adopt a different approach and remain more aggressive both offensively and defensively, and the result was another almost identical half, score-wise, as the final ended up 49-15.

I also adopted a different strategy yesterday, remaining right there on the couch from start to finish with no dramatic moves to watch from different locations. Like the Panthers, I decided to stick with what was working. Was a hugely satisfying game for Panthers fans, of course, and a nice finish to a home season that saw them win all 10 of their games at Bank of America Stadium.

Two whole weeks, now, to do whatever I have to do before Super Bowl L -- or, rather, Super Bowl 50 (as no one seems to want to hang that “L” on the sucker). Two weeks until I get right back on the couch again and stay put.

Photo: “Panthers iPhone Wallpaper,” Shea Huening (adapted). CC BY-ND 2.0.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Best of Luck to Everyone

The Panthers are in the NFC Championship game this Sunday, and I can hardly bear making myself even think about it.

I’ve been a fan since the first year of the franchise, and can safely say my rooting interest in the Panthers has been greater than for any other pro team in my lifetime. In other words, it is impossible for me to be at all objective about the team and/or what might happen on Sunday in their game versus the Cardinals.

I think it’s fair, though, to suggest both games Sunday will feature evenly matched teams, and whoever happens to win the games will then be evenly-matched in Super Bowl 50 two weeks later.

Both games feature the top two teams in each conference, with the No. 1-seeded Denver Broncos hosting the No. 2-seeded New England Patriots in the early game, then the top-seeded Panthers hosting the second-seeded Arizona Cardinals in the nightcap. Both games have had lines of around three points favoring the home teams, which is generally the number of points allotted for home-field advantage, meaning the sportsbooks are essentially calling the matchups even.

You can reasonably argue in favor of one team or another on Sunday, but I think most rational-thinking people would admit that with the match-ups this close (on paper, anyway), it’s hard to guess what might happen. Even rabid fans of one of the teams involved (like me) have to admit as much. A couple of coin tosses.

It makes me think a little of the situation that often arises in certain tournaments such as the $25K High Roller I helped cover at the conclusion the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. The players making it to the final table are all so skilled, you have to call the match-ups essentially even. With four left (for instance) a person certainly could have argued in favor of Nick Maimone, Sean Winter, Dario Sammartino, or Josh Beckley being the best of those remaining. But the skill distinction was so small between them (in my view), it was mostly negligible.

Somewhat ironically, then, luck matters more in these spots. How the cards are dealt matters more when everyone knows equally well how to play them. Maimone rivered a straight flush to beat Beckley’s turned ace-high flush, and Beckley was eliminated in fourth. Sammartino’s king-ten couldn’t outrace Winter’s pocket sevens, and he was out in third. After a heads-up deal, Maimone got dealt better cards than Winter did, and Maimone eventually prevailed.

“Good thing we made the deal,” said Winter at one point, noting how Maimone had won several pots in a row. “Nah, I’m just picking up hands,” Maimone insisted, and I don’t doubt that he was right.

With both games so even this weekend, both will probably hinge on a turnover or key play -- likely something that can be classified as lucky -- to determine the outcomes. It could go otherwise, of course, and we might see two blowouts. Even so, luck will play a role.

I’m reminded of those two earlier playoff games, the one ending on a couple of flukey penalties and a field goal to win (Pittsburgh at Cincinnati), the other ending on a missed 27-yard field goal that would have changed the outcome (Seattle at Minnesota).

I’m thinking as well of an interview I heard this week with Green Bay Packers injured receiver Jordy Nelson. He was asked about the Packers’ having successfully completed multiple “Hail Mary” passes this season, including two in short succession at the end of regulation in that wild finish versus Arizona last Sunday.

“What do the Packers know that other teams don’t know about Hail Mary passes?” went the question (I’m paraphrasing). Nelson had a great answer.

“They’re all luck.”

Photo: “www.Army.mil,” The U.S. Army. CC BY 2.0.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Aussie-struck

Starting to follow the Aussie Millions here, mostly via the PokerNews updates, as they’re covering all 24 of the events. The PokerStars blog guys will be doing their thing as well starting with the Main Event, and with Jason Somerville also streaming over Twitch there will be no shortage of updates from down under.

The Aussie Millions always coincides with the Australian Open, which like all of the majors in tennis gets a lot of coverage also on the teevee. We get a half-dozen channels all devoted to showing every match on every court, which makes it pretty easy to follow the two-week long men’s and women’s tournaments.

Of course, the time difference between here in the Eastern time zone and Melbourne affects things when it comes to following either the poker or the tennis from afar. It’s a 16-hour difference, meaning when I watch a match tonight it’ll be happening Friday morning, or a little later when I follow the coverage from the Crown they will already be into the afternoon tomorrow.

I think about all the people I was just with in Nassau a little over a week ago, and how at this moment we are now just about 10,000 miles apart yet completely in touch with one another, exchanging emails and text messages and able to talk at an instant over Skype or WhatsApp or in many other ways just as if we were in neighboring hotel rooms.

Hard not to be a little awestruck by it all, even if we now take all of this ease of communication and travel for granted.

Photo: “Location of Australia,” Ssolbergj. CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Preserving One’s Tournament Life: The Aussie Millions Pregnancy Story & A Big Hand for the Little Lady

You might have heard about this story from the ongoing Aussie Millions where a woman playing in a preliminary event went into labor and had to leave the tournament. That in itself would be a somewhat unusual situation, but the story became even stranger as tournament officials actually allowed her husband to take over her stack and finish the event for her. No shinola!

The decision did follow one of those “discretion of the Tournament Director” rules that allow a lot of leeway for those who run tournaments, in this case one having to do with permitting a player to “transfer his/her entry to another person” as long as the new player wasn’t already in the event. In other words, there isn’t really much to debate over whether or not the husband could be allowed to take his wife’s place at the table, but rather over whether or not he should have been allowed to do so.

The woman, Katrina Sheary, began a Day 1 flight in the event before having to leave, at which point her husband, Peter Sheary, took over for her. He actually managed to make it all of the way to a 25th-place finish in the $1,150 tournament, cashing for $6,495 (AUD). Should put all of that straight into the college fund, I’d suggest.

Following some of the debate over the decision, it sounds like the general consensus is that while few are especially bothered by this specific situation, many aren’t crazy about this sort of thing happening again going forward. Esteemed tournament director Matt Savage summarized that response in his tweet about it yesterday: “Wonderful story and terrible precedent.”

I fall on the side of those who like Savage wouldn’t think to allow any substitution like this, regardless of the circumstances. Also, given how many seem likewise opposed to the idea of allowing substitutions, I can't imagine this turning into a meaningful “precedent” for tournament poker going forward.

Meanwhile the whole incident immediately reminded me of the plot of the 1966 western A Big Hand for the Little Lady (one I’ve written about here before in the past).

Those who’ve seen that film know how much of it revolves around a single hand of poker that lasts nearly the entire movie. It’s the once-a-year high-stakes cash game game in Laredo, Texas, and the naive-seeming Meredith (Henry Fonda) finds himself sitting in a game amid a bunch of savvy high rollers during a stop along the way to taking his family to San Antonio to buy a farm.

A huge hand of five-card draw develops involving all of the players, but before it can conclude Meredith suffers a heart attack and becomes incapacitated. Much drama follows, ending with the men reluctantly allowing his wife, Mary (Joanne Woodward), to take over for Meredith and complete the hand. There’s a lot else going on plot-wise, including more sketchy rulings regarding what is allowed and what is not in the game, but I’ll save those who haven’t seen the film from spoilers and instead recommend it as a fun couple of hours.

That fictional “precedent” makes me think of other stories of players dying at the poker table, some of which involve some wickedly black humor regarding others’ callousness and how the importance of playing out a hand to its conclusion gets elevated above the importance of someone’s life coming to a conclusion.

How would they have ruled at the Crown in Melbourne in the case of a player dying during a hand? Would that player’s stack be “dead,” too? If so, I guess there would be a certain symbolic symmetry when juxtaposing that situation with the one in which the stack of a player giving birth was allowed to remain “alive.”

Image: A Big Hand for the Little Lady (dir. Fielder Cook, 1966).

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Three-Way Tie for Last

Saw an item this morning regarding last night’s episode of Jeopardy! Hear about this?

Heading into “Final Jeopardy” -- that game-ending last clue when players are allowed to wager whatever they like from their total on their response -- two players were tied for first with $13,800 apiece while the third had $6,000.

Players are told what the category for the final item is but not the clue itself before having to write down the amount they are willing to wager. I’m not sure what the category was, but the clue turned out to be a not-so-easy one: “A 1957 event led to the creation of a national historic site in this city, signed into law by a president whose library is now there too.”

Here, you can look at how it went:

That’s right -- three incorrect answers, and all three contestants went all in with their wagers, meaning a three-way tie for last. Or first. Or whatever. Each did get a consolation prize -- $2,000 each for the two players tied for first heading into “Final Jeopardy,” and $1,000 for the other player. But none gets to come back tonight.

Seems to me that when it came to calculating that final wager, the third-place player chose the only amount that was unequivocally incorrect here -- namely, to bet all $6,000. Disregarding results, anything from $0 to $5,999 would have been better, and probably equally as good. Meanwhile the decision for each of the two players tied for first was less cut-and-dry.

Remember, you only have to win by one dollar in order to take home whatever your final total turns out to be (and to come back the next night), and those finishing second and third don’t get any of the money they’ve accumulated in the show, only the consolation prizes for appearing.

Okay all you poker players (and ICM-smarties) -- what would you have recommended here for these three players when placing their wagers for “Final Jeopardy”?

Image: 3-Way Tie (For Last) (1990), The Minutemen.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Remembering and Recovering

Today Vera Valmore and I went to the local Y (which we’ve just joined). For the first time in I don’t know how long, I spent a half-hour shooting hoops.

Had to a chuckle at that sign pictured at left, one I noticed when heading into the gym. The top one, I mean. Can’t say avoiding dunking has ever been that much of a problem for me.

Basketball has always been my favorite sport to play. I grew up with a hoop in the driveway and spending practically every single day of my childhood and right into my late teens playing. I continued to play regularly through college and grad school, often playing pickup games up to three times a week.

Over the last decade-and-a-half things trailed off considerably for me as far as b-ball goes. It’s the unfortunate transition most of us find it hard to avoid making at some point after reaching adulthood -- less play, more work. I was still occasionally jumping in games and at least shooting around up until about five years ago, but to be honest I can’t even remember the last time I even took a shot before today.

I knew from previous experience that the first shot, and likely the first several, would not be pretty. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be, though, and in fact within the first handful of shots I’d already swished a three-pointer. Even so, I was mindful of how the memory of a skill like shooting a basketball only comes back to a person in stages after a long period having not exercised it.

For me, the first part of the “recovery” concerns simply holding the ball. I don’t have to work hard to remember how I hold the ball when I shoot it, and it only takes a little more effort to remind myself how to lift the sucker up and push it toward the basket.

After that comes becoming familiar once again with gauging how much physical exertion is needed to shoot from various distances -- five feet, 10, 15, 20, and so on -- as well as sharpening the aim to make the ball go more or less straight and not to one side or the other. I found it easier to remind myself how to shoot the long ones than the middle-range ones. Even lay-ups were a little tricky, partly because one of the last things I was remembering how to do (or “recovering”) was how to move my feet and hold the rest of my body when shooting.

It reminded me a little of playing poker, which has also become something I do less frequently these days. As a result, I’m often going through a similar “recovery” period when taking those first few hands, starting with simply handling the chips and cards, then moving on to remembering strategy and trying to learn once again how to play effectively.

I didn’t get into a game tonight, which means I didn’t challenge myself to try to run up and down the court several times without interruption. I know from previous experience how that is almost an insurmountable hurdle for those who haven’t played for a long time, as it only takes a couple of times running the court for a lot of us to be left gasping for air.

That’s also a poker-related skill -- namely, stamina and the ability to focus and perform for lengthy periods -- that necessarily takes time to get back. The last session of any considerable length I have played was probably the media event at EPT Barcelona where I finished third, adding up to four or five hours of time at the tables (I think). I don’t doubt if I were to jump into a multi-day tournament with days scheduled to go ten hours-plus, I’d probably be in rough shape halfway through Day 1.

Fun to play again, though, even for just a little while. Will have to find a way to play more.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Travel Report: 2016 PCA, Day 9: The Home Stretch

Yesterday began with me doing various work in the room, then going to enjoy one last big mean with Nick, one of my blogging colleagues here at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.

We went to Olives, one of the several good restaurants in the Atlantis, and had a fairly massive lunch as we knew we wouldn’t be able to get away later for dinner, and since we were departing Paradise Island it was going to be our final table, so to speak. Beef carpaccio appetizer, steak frites for the main course, and an espresso.

Then it was down to the poker room one last time where the two of us were helping finish cover the $25K High Roller eventually won by Nick Maimone, who happens to hail from Charlotte, North Carolina -- my destination flying home and not far from where I presently live. Maimone knocked out all but one of his final eight opponents, winning nearly $1 million after making a deal heads-up with Sean Winter.

Easily the most interesting hand came right after the final four players had decided to take an unscheduled dinner break. In fact, it was the first hand back, and resulted in the knockout of Josh Beckley in fourth. Maimone and Beckley had gotten to the river without a great deal of fanfare, then after a bet from Maimone, Beckley shoved, and after a slightly odd moment or two as Maimone stood up, he called and flatly said “I have a straight flush.”

Meanwhile Beckley had an ace-high flush, and the fact that the call hadn’t come instantly led to a little bit of awkwardness thereafter, although after Beckley left Maimone explained he was trying to make sure he’d read the board correctly, it was such an unusual situation.

In any event, they were suddenly down to three, then after Maimone took out the short-stacked Dario Sammartino, a lengthy deal talk ensued followed by a relatively quick heads-up match. I was all done and back in the room by about 11, and in fact watched the end of the Main Event on the live stream to see Mike “SirWatts” Watson win that one.

The trip back was super easy (less than a two-hour flight). Rode along atop a cream-of-wheat-looking bowl of clouds for much of the latter part of the flight, along which I’d occasionally see a plane dart over top, not unlike a stingray flapping past. Can see a couple scratching the sky in that pic above (click to embiggen).

Was back on the farm by dinner time. It’s cold and wet and nothing at all like the Bahamas here. And it’s supposed to snow this weekend, they say. But I’m glad to be home.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Travel Report: 2016 PCA, Day 8: The Stingray Experience

It was one-thirty in the morning. I was more than a little fatigued, nearing the end of my eighth straight day reporting from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure at the Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas, and also the end of what was turning out to be the longest day of work out of the eight.

I followed the $25,000 High Roller field play down to just nine players from what turned out to be a 225-entry field, with 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event runner-up Josh Beckley ending the night with the chip lead. With a little bit of time left to go, I still had another hour-plus of work left to do for the night.

Standing there in the middle of the tournament area, I started to imagine the players and staff surrounding me begin to move in a counterclockwise direction, as though revolving around me. Of course, what I was really thinking about was what I had done yesterday morning -- the “Stingray Experience” here at the Atlantis in which I had a chance to feed and then swim around with approximately 130 cownose stingrays in one of the shallow lagoons not far from my hotel room.

I tried during the day to explain what it was like to various people, but never felt like I was able to relate precisely how strange and fun and in a surprising way calming the experience had been. While normally a group of people do the “Experience,” I turned out to be the only one to do so at my scheduled time. “You have all 130 of them to yourself,” explained my guide,” and sure enough once I shuffled carefully out into the middle of the lagoon with my pail of crawfish, squid, and other edibles, I was easily the center of attention.

They bumped into me with their hard little noses, almost like little fists, and also nipped at my legs with their toothless gums, located underneath the stingray’s flat surface. Yes, they have their barbs -- it’s arduous to remove them, apparently, and they grow ‘em back, anyway. But I was safe from being stung as long as I moved slowly and avoided stepping on anyone, causing them to attack in self-defense.

The little brown diamonds waved around, looking as though they were flying underneath the surface of the water. To feed I grabbed a handful of chum and held it under the water, letting one glide over my hand to take what I had to offer while holding my hand flat. It reminded me a lot of feeding the horses a sugar cube or piece of apple, where it’s also recommended to keep your hand flat and your fingers out of harm’s way.

I wasn’t nervous at all, despite expecting that I would be. Perhaps it was because there weren’t others there feeding also, and so I couldn’t pick up on anyone else’s anxiety over what was going on. Once the feeding was done, I donned a mask and snorkel and swam around for a while, looking up close at several of the stingrays, the various tropical fish, and even a couple of small sharks. The snorkeling, too, was quite serene, the calm further enhanced, I think, by the necessary consciousness of breathing.

The picture of above I snapped afterwards -- alas, I have no photos from my time in the water -- and doesn’t really do the scene all that much justice, only capturing a handful of the stingrays looking like so many oversized fall leaves floating about.

Finally my time was up, and I trudged back to my room, got some lunch, and eventually began my long day. But as I say I kept thinking of the stingrays, and probably will for some time to come.

Heading back down for one last day of poker, as both the Main Event and High Roller will play down to winners. Swim over to the PokerStars blog to see how the cards and chips go round and round. Might have to take my souvenir snorkel down there to use while I’m reporting, if they start splashing around too much.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Travel Report: 2016 PCA, Day 7: High Rolling

Actually started yesterday working in the room and listening to David Bowie all morning -- the “Berlin trilogy” albums (Low, ”Heroes”, and Lodger). Then once the afternoon came I was back in the poker room here at the Atlantis helping cover the $25K High Roller yesterday at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, where the field was super-stacked as was expected.

There were 214 entries yesterday, and there will likely be a handful more to start today before late reg and the reentry period ends with the first hands of Day 2. The total will be shy of last year’s 269, but will still create a big prize pool and a huge score for the winner. From that group 106 made it through to today.

Chatted briefly yesterday with Alex Dreyfus of the Global Poker Index who showed me the 12 team logos for the Global Poker League. I believe the official announcement of that comes today. The logos did look cool, and while I’ll still mostly in the dark about what the GPL will be like, I am a little intrigued, I’ll admit.

Gotta run this morning as thanks to the encouragement of Vera Valmore I have decided to take the “Stingray Experience” here at the Atlantis, which involves wading around with, feeding, and snorkeling/swimming with around 130 cownose stingrays (no shinola!). You can read more about what it involves here.

Half-terrified, half-excited about getting so close to the stingrays. Assuming all goes well, I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Meanwhile, check out the PokerStars blog today for updates and more on Day 2 of the $25K and Day 5 of the PCA Main Event, the penultimate days for each.

Photo: courtesy Carlos Monti/PokerStars blog.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Travel Report: 2016 PCA, Day 6: Back to “Normal”

Am I already writing about a sixth day at the PCA? Have I been here that long?

After the craziness marking the conclusion of Day 2 of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event, Day 3 was a relatively “normal” day of tournament poker that saw 195 players work their way down to 73, with the jovial Brazilian Leonardo Pires accumulating chips all day to spend a second straight night as the chip leader. Have to use scare quotes with that word when used in connection with poker, of course, as “normal” here ain’t quite what most take that term to mean.

Speaking of the craziness from Sunday, check out Brad Willis’s long form treatment of the Antonio Esfandiari disqualification and all of the surrounding circumstances, titled “The Longest Lunge.”

Pires winning pot after pot at one of the central tables in the tournament area earned a lot of attention and some entertaining table talk from his opponents. Meanwhile a table over the Scotsman Martin McCormick was a nonstop barrage of bantering and badgering, seemingly fueled in part by a drink or three. He’d earn a penalty before the night ended for all of his antics, although he produced a few grins, too, among those observing.

It’s another cloudy day today, although I might stubbornly go sit poolside for a little bit here before I go in a little later to help with the coverage of the $25K High Roller, an eight-handed NLHE event with a single re-entry.

This is the last of what are three big “high roller’ events among the 104 numbered events on the schedule, the previous being the $100K Super High Roller won by Bryn Kenney and the $50K Single-Day High Roller that Steve O’Dwyer took down.

Last year this $25K event drew 269 entries (including 69 reentries). Will be curious to see how many show this time around. Looking at the other high rollers this year, the $100K SHR drew 58 entries (up from 50 a year ago), while the $50K Single-Day attracted 80 entries. (There wasn’t a $50K at the PCA last year.)

Is this really Event No. 74? Have I been here that long? And those eight-foot green moray eels over in the Dig (an underground aquarium here), are they really that long?

Slink over to the Pokerstars blog today for $25K reports and more from the Main Event.

Photo: courtesy Carlos Monti/PokerStars blog (top).

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Travel Report: 2016 PCA, Day 5: Planet Earth is Blue and There’s Nothing I Can Do

Had great fun early yesterday going on the water slides with my buddy Remko Rinkema. Nothing funnier than seeing Remko get dumped out of a tube, except maybe him coming over and dumping me after I couldn’t stop laughing.

Of course, when I woke up this morning I was initially thinking about the Esfandiari disqualification from late on Day 2 of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event, obviously the most memorable part of covering the event yesterday. Then I learned the news of David Bowie’s passing, and that has pushed aside the other story from my thoughts a bit as I ready for today’s Day 3.

I had actually been covering Esfandiari’s section yesterday, and even reported on a couple of hands and some of his table talk with fellow Super High Roller Talal Shakerchi who was seated at his table. Esfandiari was in Seat 1 and Shakerchi in Seat 8, on either side of the dealer, and so I saw them leaned back and talking to each other frequently as I passed by the table.

We got back from the last break of the night, and I actually caught a small hand involving Esfandiari and had gone to report it when the DQ occurred, so I wasn’t on the floor at the time. His being removed from the tournament was much bigger news than the small hand I had, so I scrapped it while the DQ was reported on the PokerStars blog:

“We've just been informed that Antonio Esfandiari has been disqualified from the Main Event. According to Edgar Stuchly, Esfandiari was removed for a serious breach of tournament etiquette.”

I heard some talk at a neighboring table that suggested a reason for the disqualification, although it was one of those weird situations where I simply didn’t trust my own ears. In fact, I didn’t even share what I’d heard with anyone until after it was confirmed that yes, indeed, I had understood what the player at the neighboring table had said.

You’ve no doubt heard about what Esfandiari did, too, along with the story of his prop bet with Bill Perkins which occasioned his transgression. If not, just do a quick search of “Esfandiari” and “disqualification” and I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough. Seriously bad judgment on his part -- piss-poor, you might say.

I have a few other behind-the-scenes tidbits related to it all -- including one very funny one -- but I think I might save that stuff until after the PCA is done. I will say the tourney staff absolutely made the right call, and also handled the business of administering the disqualification well.

But like I say, I’m thinking more about Bowie today, kind of marveling at how “alive” he seemed to many of us over such a long period. It was just a few days ago his birthday had come back around -- his 69th -- and I suppose when it comes to celebrities hearing about a birthday always puts them back in the foreground, although like I say he always seemed to be there for me.

I’m one of those devotees who has 16 LPs of his on my iPod (plus “Under Pressure” with Queen, natch), with really only the middle period of the 1990s and early 2000s not represented. Realized today how I’ve more or less internalized all 16 of those records, and in fact have probably listened to every one of them at some point during the last 1-2 years. And of course, we hear him on the radio several times a week, especially in the barn where we keep it on the classic rock station.

I very much liked his penultimate one, The Next Day (2013), and was already thinking about picking up what will turn out to be his last, Blackstar. That’s part of what I mean about him seeming “alive.” In fact, just yesterday when making a reference to glam rock to someone I evoked his name -- it seems like he’s always right there, somehow, as an example of something (if that makes any sense).

I had one chance to see Bowie back in the late 1980s for what was probably his least regarded tour, the Glass Spider one. Still there was a nice run through of various Ziggy and Aladdin Sane tracks, and while the props and theatrics were certainly overblown, it was a fun spectacle to witness.

Ziggy is probably tops for me, with the Eno trilogy close behind. Station to Station is a sleeper and in fact probably the album I’ve listened to the most times, oddly enough, followed by Aladdin Sane, Hunky Dory, Scary Monsters, and The Man Who Sold the World.

Meanwhile I’m fairly certain the early one, Space Oddity, is the one I’ve listened to the least, not ever quite getting into that early, nascent identity of Bowie’s. But the single keeps floating there as a perfect little time capsule, worth opening up and playing again and again. As I’ll continue to do, and many others who are feeling a little blue today will, too.

A little under 200 remain in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event. Again, go over to the PokerStars blog for updates, photos, and also to find the live stream.

Photo: “Bowie performing in Oslo on 5 June 1978,” Helge Øverås. CC BY 3.0.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Travel Report: 2016 PCA, Day 4: Smart Like Sotiropoulos

The LAPT Bahamas Main Event final day went relatively quickly, with 10 players getting down to one after just over six hours of play.

Georgios Sotiropoulos had the lead to start the day, and might have lost it briefly just before they got to the offical eight-handed final table when he was back in front. From there he never lost the lead again, building a huge stack and constantly pressuring the others to take down the tournament and claim the $308,220 first prize.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sotiropoulos becomes the first LAPT champion from Greece (not too many Greek players make it to South America for LAPTs). Meanwhile Andre Akkari was the first out yesterday in 10th, the last of the LAPT regs to be eliminated.

The most interesting thing about the final table was recognizing how Sotiropoulos -- who has a WSOP Europe bracelet, a Sunday Million win, and now is pushing $2 million lifetime in live earnings -- was himself recognizing the ICM implications in play when he had a big lead and was surrounded by shorties with less than a third of his chips. Smart player, and while up against some tough opponents who knew what they were doing, too, he knew exactly what to do to make his success especially likely.

That pic above (via Carlos Monti of the PokerStars blog) is from heads-up play. Sotiropoulos’s opponent at the end, Taylor Von Kriegenbergh, played a smart game, too, I thought, ably picking spots and working his way into a second-place finish despite starting the day ninth of 10 in the counts. But no one was topping Sotiropoulos yesterday.

Just got an invite to go enjoy a little water sliding, and so I’m cutting it short to do that before I go in later to help out with covering the PCA Main Event. Be smart like Sotiropoulos and head over to the PokerStars blog to follow it all.

Photo: courtesy Carlos Monti/PokerStars blog.

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Saturday, January 09, 2016

Travel Report: 2016 PCA, Day 3: Learning about Brazil in the Bahamas

I was on for most of Day 2 of the Latin American Poker Tour Bahamas Main Event yesterday, getting a chance to leave a little early again and so wasn’t there for the last few hours of play.

A ton of big names went deep in the sucker, and some are still in it with 10 left. Just looking at the last half-dozen tables or so, Aaron Massey (11th), Ole Schemion (16th), Jeff Rossiter (17th), Mike Leah (20th), Daniel Weinman (21st), last year’s LAPT Bahamas winner Josh Kay (26th), Carter Gill (31st) Marvin Rettenmaier (32nd), Michael Telker (35th), Chris Moorman (39th), Juan Martin Pastor (43rd), Yann Dion (45th), and Michael Mizrachi (48th) all lasted until the latter levels last night.

Among those left in the top 10 are the leader Georgios Sotiropoulous, Joe Kuether, Will Molson, Darren Elias, Ismael Bojang, and the last of the Team PokerStars Pros (and representatives of Latin America), Andre Akkari. A solid line-up, although as I was talking about yesterday, the PCA tends to attract pretty tough fields all around, especially in the marquee events, so it isn’t surprising to see a lot of players with plenty of past results getting back to final tables.

Speaking of Akkari, I didn’t mention yesterday how before the start of Day 1 he and Felipe “Mojave” Ramos -- a “Friend of Team PokerStars” -- hosted the first of the “Breakfast with the Pros” sessions they have scheduled prior to just about every day of play here (pictured above via Neil Stoddart of the PokerStars blog).

The topic of their talk and Q&A was the “boom” presently happening for poker in Brazil, and I have to say despite having just been to Brazil for an LAPT event and having a lot of experience covering tourneys at other LAPT stops, I learned a few things I hadn’t known before about poker in Brazil.

There were a couple of big takeaways for me besides just learning a few more details about how poker has become especially popular in Brazil over recent years, something I could readily see to be the case from my visit to the Brazilian Series of Poker Millions and LAPT Grand Final in São Paulo in late November.

One was how poker’s proponents really have managed to associate the game more readily with sports than with other gambling games in Brazil. The lack of casinos there helps in that regard, as poker is generally played in poker-only rooms or in tournament series like the BSOP.

In America that way of “marketing” poker -- or even just defending the game from its detractors -- can’t only be marginally effective thanks to a legacy lasting more than two centuries placing poker firmly alongside not just other gambling games, but other “immoralities” put under the category of “outlaw” activities. (This is why attempts to “sportify” fail to resonate that much in the U.S., and in other places, too.)

The other interesting item I learned from the talk was how the recent downturn in Brazil’s economy has encouraged legislators now to start allowing casinos and other gambling games in order to find a new revenue source. Which means poker is interestingly going to be caught in the middle somewhat between groups with interest in the new casinos and gambling and the Ministério do Esporte and other who’ll want to continue to keep poker in the “sport” category.

You can read more about the talk here “Reporting on the Brazilian ‘boom.’

Heading back over now for the LAPT Bahamas finale. It won’t be live streamed, unfortunately, but you can follow the updates from start to finish on the PokerStars blog.

Photo: courtesy Neil Stoddart/PokerStars blog.

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Friday, January 08, 2016

Travel Report: 2016 PCA, Day 2: El Nueve for the LAPT

On Thursday I had the luxury of working only part of the day, which still translated to about a nine-hour shift as I went in during the late morning and didn’t leave until around eight. My focus was on the start of the Latin American Poker Tour Bahamas Main Event, a three-day, $2,200 buy-in tournament that allowed reentries up until after the dinner break.

Was once again kind of flummoxed by the turnout for the LAPT Bahamas Main Event, although not to the degree I was a year ago.

Last year on the day before the event began I interviewed then-LAPT President David Carrion about the upcoming season, also asking him for his thoughts regarding the possible turnout for the event a year ago. He said to me he hoped the event (which had a $3,000 buy-in) would draw 250 entries, referring to the fact that it had only been announced a few weeks before and so a lot of players wouldn’t necessarily be aware of it happening right at the very start of the festival.

As the day progressed, it became obvious 250 was an especially conservative goal, and by the time they’d closed registration there were an incredible 736 entries. I almost felt like David had been sandbagging, although I think he likewise was very surprised.

This year Day 1 went similarly, with just about 200 in their seats at the start, then people continuing to arrive in droves all afternoon with many reentering as well. By the end there were 851 entries, exceeding last year’s total by a wide margin.

The lower buy-in helped, and actually means the prize pool isn’t quite what they had last year. It somewhat conforms to the new format the LAPT will be adopting in Season 9 where the Main Event buy-ins are going to be reduced a bit to $1,500. Still, it’s again a nice kickoff to the tour’s season, and again introduced a lot of players to a sorta-kinda “LAPT experience” here in the middle of the Caribbean.

Tons of top pros are in the field, suggesting another tough final table will be coming on Saturday when that trophy pictured above will be awarded (pic courtesy Carlos Monti of the PokerStars blog). Last year the American Josh Kay won the sucker, but he had to get through a final table that included Martin Finger (who finished second), Jose Carlos Garcia (fourth), Taylor Paur (fifth), Dimitar Danchez (sixth), and Mustapha Kanit (eighth). Some are remembering it as the most impressive final table of the PCA a year ago, although I think the FTs produced by the high roller events might have been even tougher.

There are a huge variety of events on the PCA schedule, with lots of lower buy-in ones (some as low as $120 or $300) that surely attract a lot of amateurs and recreational players. But generally speaking -- at least among the events with buy-ins of, say, $2,200 and above -- the quality of skill among the players here is especially high, perhaps the highest (on average) of any tournament series.

There were 220 players making it through to today’s Day 2 of the LAPT Bahamas, where I’ll be again for another one of those nine-hour “partial” shifts. Check the the PokerStars blog to find out how things go in that one as well as the in the $100K Super High Roller and Day 1a of the PCA Main Event.

Photo: courtesy Carlos Monti/PokerStars blog.

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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Travel Report: 2016 PCA, Day 1: Super High Rolling

Completed a first full day of reporting from the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure yesterday, where the focus was just about entirely on the $100,000 Super High Roller event that took up just a few tables in the front right-hand corner of the huge poker room (a.k.a. Convention Center) at the Atlantis Resort.

We were stationed in the exact opposite corner of the room -- actually, to be more accurate, just outside of the room in a back area usually reserved for the EPT Live (or, here, PCA Live) folks and the television crew shooting for the edited shows that come later. We were repositioned for this first day mainly because the set for the live streaming and TV shows was still being constructed.

I share the detail of where we were sitting just to point out that we were traversing the entire room each time we walked from our laptops to the SHR event and back, and thus necessarily saw how all of the other side events were getting impressive turnouts as the entire room managed to fill up with activity. In past years the PCA would start a little more slowly, but it looks like more players have arrived early this time around.

That may be due in part to the dozen events on the schedule for Day 1. But I’m also thinking the LAPT Bahamas event that begins today might have gotten a few extras out early this time. This will be the second year the LAPT has put on such an event at the PCA, one that serves as a “Main Event” for the tour as well as a $2,200 buy-in “preliminary” event as far as the entire PCA schedule goes. Will be curious to see if the turnout on Thursday matches or exceeds the 736 entries they had at LAPT Bahamas a year ago.

Like I say, though, the Super High Roller had everyone’s attention, and most of the usual suspects were out to participate in that one. That is Fedor Holz up above (courtesy Neil Stoddart and the PokerStars blog), just a few days removed from winning $3.4 million-plus in that $200K SHR in Manila, and a couple of weeks on from winning a $100K WPT Alpha8 and almost $1.6 million in Las Vegas.

Bill Perkins bought in three times, busting all three, and he intends to come back to try a fourth entry at the start of Day 2 before late reg closes. 2015 WSOP Main Event champion Joe McKeehen took part and did well all day, ending with a top five stack. Businessman Talal Shakerchi finished with the chip lead, with Kathy Lehne (also of the business world) in third position. Lehne took runner-up in that WPT Alpha8 in St. Kitts I covered in December 2014. (She also final-tabled the WPT Alpha8 at the Bellagio in December, taking sixth.)

While the focus was often on the hands, the table talk was equally interesting -- even more so, in some cases. Daniel Negreanu got into an extended monologue about Phil Hellmuth at one point that was obviously entertaining the table quite a bit, including a reference to Donald Trump and some of the parallels between the Poker Brat and the Donald. (You can probably imagine what they are.)

The SHRs are always interesting tournaments to be around. You get a mix of elite pros and the amateurs who are nonetheless serious and usually competitive. There’s always a relaxed feel, suggesting in a strange way a negative correlation between the size of the buy-in and the amount of stress felt by the players.

Gonna move off the SHR today as my beat now becomes that LAPT Bahamas event over the next three days. Might have to wander over there to the SHR once in a while, though, just to see who makes it through to Friday’s final table.

Meanwhile you can wander over to the PokerStars blog today for coverage of the Super High Roller, LAPT Bahamas, other side events, and more.

Photo: courtesy Neil Stoddart/PokerStars blog.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Travel Report: 2016 PCA, Arrival -- Waves About to Crash

We’re setting up here at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, readying for the start of the nine-day, 100-plus event schedule which gets going a little less than an hour from now. Lots of empty tables in the spacious Conference Center at the Atlantis, soon to be filled as things get going here shortly.

Power? Check. Internet? Check? Just waiting for wave upon wave of players to come crashing in to fill the seats, be dealt hands, and start passing chips back and forth.

First up is the $100,000 buy-in Super High Roller, with a dozen events total happening throughout this first day of the festival. Tomorrow comes the Latin American Poker Tour Bahamas event, a $2,200 buy-in affair that was especially popular last year with 736 entries and players coming from 49 different countries to compete.

The LAPT Bahamas event kicks off Season 9 of the tour, and in fact features a bigger buy-in than this year’s Main Events will have ($1,500). But here at the PCA, the event serves as an early, more-than-the-minimum prelim coming before the PCA Main and other tournaments, and so anyone who is here to play poker already will likely be jumping in tomorrow.

Last night a group of us enjoyed a delicious dinner over the bridge at the Poop Deck, where the “Fisherman’s Platter” (which I’m pretty sure I got the year before) again providing a satisfying meal. Already had the chance this morning to reunite with several buds from various outlets here.

Check over at the PokerStars blog today for wall-to-wall coverage of the $100K SHR and more.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Shamus and Shark

Well the rain mostly held off today in Nassau, although the cloudy skies meant there was no need to pull out the bottle of sunblock I tossed in the bag at the last minute before leaving home. Temps were in the mid-70s all day, but with unrelenting 20-mph winds it tended to feel a little more chilly than that.

Actually went down for a short while during the afternoon to sit by the pool, but rather than use the towel to dry off after going in, I stayed dry and used it for a blanket instead.

Was still fun wandering about the resort and checking in on the stingrays, sharks, turtles, sawfish, groupers, lobsters, and other marine life. Almost as much fun just watching the kids follow in amazement as a big school of groupers or rays whizzed past.

Kind of just sitting tight at the moment, watching the gray turn darker as the sun sets before heading out for a trip over the bridge and “off campus” to enjoy some seafood and reunite with many of the folks with whom I’ll be working over the next nine days.

Will be quite a contrast tomorrow in the brightly-lit tournament room, silently sliding around the tables where a lot of figurative sharks will be seated for the first day of the $100K Super High Roller. Steve O’Dwyer won that event a year ago, topping a 50-entry field that included 16 re-entries and taking away about $1.87 million for doing so.

That $200K event in Manila has wrapped up, the one won by Fedor Holz, and it’ll be interesting to see who from that 52-entry field makes it all of the way from the Philippines to the Caribbean to play in this one as well.

Gonna shut it down and find an extra layer to wear before heading out. Be sure to start checking in at the PokerStars blog to follow things as the first day gets going at 12 noon ET tomorrow.

Man, those winds are picking up. Hopefully all the tanks stay intact, or the Atlantis might be dealing with a sharknado.

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Monday, January 04, 2016

Back in the Bahamas

Hello from rainy Nassau!

After enduring one of the wettest months in North Carolina history -- including a day of more than two inches’ worth of rain just before the new year -- I’m now down in the Bahamas where wet stuff has followed me once again.

Was cloudy on arrival, although there was some blue up there as I made my way from the Lynden Pindling International Airport over the bridge to Paradise Island and the Atlantis, my home-away-from-home for the next couple of weeks. Will be here from start-to-finish for the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, where the 100-plus event schedule gets up and running on Wednesday.

Got checked in without any problems, but before I could seriously consider putting on the swim trunks the clouds took over, and now as the sun is about to set there’s a steady rainfall drumming down on the resort. Still, it’s nice to be landed and to have a chance to rest and relax a bit before the long workdays begin.

Everything seems familiar, in fact especially so. As though it hasn’t been a whole year since I was here. Am curious to see who comes out, how the fields shape up, and how the whole sucker plays out as usual. But I’m most looking forward to getting back together with many friends and colleages, some of whom I haven’t seen since last January.

Looking forward to the sun coming back out later in the week, too. More to come.

Image: Weather.com.

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Friday, January 01, 2016

The Future Is Now, Bro

Can it really be 2016? How is that possible? I mean I can remember reading 1984 before it was 1984. And watching (and reading) 2001: A Space Odyssey way, way before that. When I read Stephen King’s The Stand (the original version, anyway), it was set in what seemed a distant future. The story began on June 16, 1985.

As my buddy Remko likes to say, the future is now, bro.

I mentioned yesterday how my first trip of 2016 will be a return to the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Had the chance to go down there a couple of times last year -- once to St. Kitts, the other time to Nassau -- which was a nice, warm way to break up what was a pretty bitter winter for us on the farm, weather-wise.

This year has been markedly different, with temperatures in the low 70s just last week here. Believe it’s a touch warmer down south at the moment and will continue to be so for the first couple of weeks of the new year, so I’ll be packing lots of t-shirts. And a pair of swim trunks, too, for a return down a few of those water slides.

Last year while in Nassau I was writing here and on the PokerStars blog about the PCA having become kind of a central event on the poker calendar, including chatting with Jesse May about that idea. It’s not on everyone’s must-visit list, of course, although it does remain a kind of nexus for all the different tours.

It’s also been around since 2004, taking place on a cruise ship that first year, then at the Atlantis every year since. That’s long enough to give the PCA an especially lengthy history -- a tradition, even -- at least in poker terms.

I guess looking at it from this direction, 2004 doesn’t seem like the future at all, but rather a long time ago.

Photo: “Future,” Hartwig HKD. CC BY-ND 2.0.

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