Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Galfond's Game Plan

I written here before a couple of times about Phil Galfond, usually in response to some of blog posts he’s shared over the years -- few in number, but always thoughtful and worthwhile.

I happened to have helped cover his bracelet win way back in 2008 when he won his WSOP bracelet in a $5K pot-limit Omaha event (and before he was on most folks’ radar). Here’s a post from 2012 where I’m reflecting on one of his blog posts and also tell a little about that ’08 final table, titled “Human Interest.”

Galfond’s got people reading him again with this manifesto-like post from earlier today indicating his intention to start a new online poker site under the branding of his instructional site, Run It Once, sometime during the first quarter of 2017.

It’s a short piece (less than 500 words), presented under the title “A Poker Site Should.” Using anaphora by repeating the title throughout (I’m getting to recall a rhetorical term learned long ago), Galfond provides a list of qualities and characteristics he believes an online poker site should provide to players.

He speaks of how a site should cater to a variety of player types (casual players, “semi-professional” players, pros), give priority to software and user experience, be “transparent” with its intentions, be fair to all and vigilant to keep things safe, be willing to evolve with the game and market, and above all understand the need to keep players happy and (therefore) coming back.

Near the end he talks how an online poker site “shouldn’t obsess over where poker was five or ten years ago.” A good point, something most who were playing online poker five or ten years ago and who are still around the game today have a hard time with as well.

In some ways it amounts to a wish list, describing a kind of situation and site that hasn’t ever really existed and possibly cannot, or at least not on anything more than a very small scale.

It’ll be interesting, though, to see both what Galfond is able to do and whether or not the site has any sort of meaningful impact on the present state of things for online poker. Hard not to take that name -- Run It Once -- and apply it to this endeavor, insofar as I imagine this isn’t the sort of thing Galfond (or most) would want to try a second time should the first go-round not work out.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Captive Audience

Did something kind of unusual on the plane ride back from Barcelona yesterday.

It was about a nine-hour flight, perhaps a little more, starting in the morning and ending around dinner time. Sleeping wasn’t an option, really, although I don’t ever do that well trying to sleep on planes. If it’s a redeye I’ll usually can at least rest my eyes for an hour or two, but in truth I never really zonk out, even if I happen to have a row on which to stretch.

I started out watching one movie -- David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence -- which I hadn’t seen before. I’m up on practically all early and mid-period Cronenberg, and also being a noir fan I ended up enjoying this one, even if it turned out to be a little awkward watching certain scenes there in an aisle seat where those behind me could watch as well, if they wished.

Against Cronenberg’s earlier stuff, of course, it played as a little more restrained. Meanwhile when compared to the noir tradition the story, situation, and characters followed, it read as a modern, more graphic update. Certain elements of the latter act (in particular William Hurt’s character) seemed over the top, but by then that fit well enough in the somewhat stylized world being presented.

Finishing that as well as the in-flight meal, I scrolled around and dialed up another movie to watch -- The French Connection (which I have seen, long ago) -- but within 10-15 minutes I couldn’t keep focused on it and switched it off, opting for some music instead. Then after sitting there a bit I pulled out my laptop.

During a conversation with Jack (my buddy and blogging partner) early in the two-week poker festival I’d brought up this draft of a novel I have. Same Difference had been essentially written well prior to my getting into poker (and starting this blog in 2006), and I only published it in 2009. Meanwhile this new novel was written subsequently, the first draft of which was completed around three years ago. I revised it a couple of times -- the file is marked “3rd draft” -- but hadn’t opened it back up since earlier this year.

I opened it there on the flight and began reading. Got through the first several chapters and kept going, then eventually was approaching the midpoint. Finally at some point I realized I was ready to read the whole sucker, and doing some math realized I’d be able to finish it before we landed which I did. Was perhaps seven hours of reading, I think -- the book’s novel-length but on the shorter side (around 70,000 words).

I don’t think I’d ever read it through in one sitting like that, and it was satisfying to do so. Like the first novel it’s essentially a murder mystery, although not a detective novel and draws much more on my own experiences than did Same Difference which is set in New York City in the mid-1970s. This one is also set in the past, with the story starting in 1979 and ending in 1980, but takes place in a setting essentially pattered after my hometown with a boy protagonist/narrator of my same age then.

I tinkered just a little as I went, but not much as the draft had been pored over many times already. I remembered certain sections I’d cut, glad they were gone in this version. A couple of plot points have been altered from the initial version, too, though a lot of it is still there.

The experience made me eager to begin the process of publishing it, something I’d like to before the year ends. In fact, I have another creative project of sorts I’m going to “publish” (so to speak) later this week, in fact, that falls under the same heading of me wanting to share something I’ve done rather than keep it to myself. For a couple of reasons, I’ve been feeling a lot of this “life-is-too-short-to-wait” pressure over the last few weeks, which is partly why I want to move ahead with these things.

Traveling will inspire that feeling sometimes. While in Barcelona I had a conversation with Brad (also my buddy and also my blogging partner) about watching movies on planes. On the surface, it seems less than ideal to watch these things on relatively small screes on the backs of passengers’ seats. But as Brad pointed out, the audience is uniquely captive, free from the endless distractions that mark our lives when we aren’t 30,000-plus feet in the air.

Coupled with being away from loved ones (if you’re traveling alone), that can make viewers especially receptive emotionally (we agreed), causing us to be more readily affected by certain films -- something both he and I have experienced before.

I can’t say A History of Violence moved me too deeply, although it had its moments. Meanwhile it might have been that being on the plane, all alone and in a relatively unique state of mind, affected me as I read through my novel again.

Doesn’t matter, I guess. Same difference, as they say.

Gonna get moving on this thing. More to come.

Image: “Plane” (adapted), Alper Çuğun. CC BY 2.0.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Hogar, Dulce Hogar

Home safe and reasonably sound. Was a fine, direct flight of nine-plus hours, plus some driving at the end. And now I’m pretty knackered.

Was still reflecting on that wild finale on Sunday during my travels today.

I mentioned yesterday how infectious Sebastian Malec’s enthusiasm was, and affecting his emotional reaction to winning at the end.

From the reporting side of things, all of that helped distinguish the final table from most, and as I said made it more memorable. It was also a bit hectic to chronicle as it went by, with Malec’s high-energy and constant talking actually sometimes creating a wall of static through which a reporter had to fight in order to get to the action.

There was also the desire to share some of that dialogue amid the hand reports, too, which was challenging sometimes since there was so much of it. In retrospect, it really was one of those “had to be there” kind of situations, where going back and looking at the archived live stream -- available over on YouTube -- gives you a better idea of how manic it all was.

Was a fun trip all around, and unlike a year ago I think I managed to remain relatively illness-free start-to-finish. Very glad to reunite with Vera and our four-legged friends on the farm, of course. That pic above is our buddy Shakan, a horse we board, standing before a cloud that uncannily echoing his shape. More soon.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 12 -- Exponentially-Growing Happiness

Most of these tournaments we cover tend to run together, with most ultimately not standing out too starkly in the memory even just a few weeks on, let alone years later. Somehow I think tonight’s finish to the European Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event will ensure this one will stick in the memory a little more successfully.

They pretty much raced down to heads-up in the sucker, leaving just two players from the 1,785 who entered -- Uri Reichenstein (originally of Israel, now Germany) and Sebastian Malec (of Poland). Reichenstein is in his late 20s, has a ton of big online wins, and fits the mold of the very solid, smart young player. Malec, meanwhile, is just 21, and qualified for the €5,300 buy-in Main via a €27 satellite online.

Malec is also clearly an intelligent player, and in fact it wasn’t that surprising to see these two emerge from the final group to make it to heads-up. Malec didn’t necessarily stand out all that much prior to it getting down to two, but afterwards he did. I mean that literally, too, as in he was standing for a lot of the time while playing, particularly after he made an incorrect hero call of a big river shove by Reichenstein to give the latter the chip lead.

His nervous energy made watching and reporting on him a little stressful, I have to admit. He chattered nonstop, mostly to himself and occasionally to Reichenstein. He’d rock back and forth on his feet while standing and added tons of extra movements to every action. Meanwhile Reichenstein couldn’t have been more stoic and serene, and when Malec occasionally did engage him in conversation, he was very cool and classy with his responses (I thought), making him a likable character in the developing drama.

I found myself liking Malec a lot, too, though, despite all of the talking and near-mania of his behavior. When heads-up first began, he said something to Reichenstein about the “glory” of winning an EPT title, asking him whether he wanted heads-up to be short or last a long time. They were very deep to begin, with Reichenstein on about 100 big blinds and Malec on 70 or 80, so a long duel was a possibility.

Reichenstein said he didn’t care much one way or the other about the length of their match, he just wanted to win. But Malec was firmly on the side of wanting it to go on for a while. He referred to how special it was to get to that point and how he wanted it to last as long as possible.

Then, much later in the match, Malec uttered a line amid the chatter that really stood out -- so much so that my colleague Howard quoted it in his recap of the night:

“My happiness grows exponentially the longer we play,” he said.

You don’t hear that kind of stuff at the poker table very much. Heck, you don’t hear it much anywhere at all, with reference to any profession or recreation or activity in which we engage.

But if you think about it, there are certain things in our lives (hopefully) that do give us happiness, and for which the longer we experience them the happier we grow. I’m mostly thinking of friendships and our relationships with those we love, but there are other things we do that we really like to do, and which keep giving back to us over and over in greater degrees.

One of the things I like to do is to watch other people be happy. And so when Malec won and his joy was such that he couldn’t avoid letting the tears flow, it was hard not to enjoy that. A lot.

Check Howard’s recap for more on what happened, and you can also read the account of the last hand in the live updates. Really, though, you ought to watch the last half-hour or hour of the EPT Live broadcast to get a better idea of what a spectacle it all was. I’m thinking I probably will be doing that myself again once I’m home.

Flying tomorrow. Was a great time and ended on a genuine high, and getting to experience it with friends made it even better. Talk again from the other side of the Atlantic when I’m back on the farm.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 11 -- Learning Games

Was a nice morning and early afternoon today, as I had a chance to visit the pool for a short while and also to go for a longish walk along the coastline to see all of the beachgoers. Saw a bunch of dudes gathered around a table playing some sort of dice game at one point (and snapped the pic at left).

When I tweeted the photo earlier today, Remko Rinkema shot back that “Looks like they have a lot of skin in the game,” reminding me of one of my other favorite Remko quotes: “Imagine how much funnier I am in Dutch.”

They had a cup they used to shake up the dice, and one had drawn lines on a sheet of paper for tallying the score. Anyone know what game they might be playing? (Click the picture to embiggen.)

Speaking of not understanding games fully, I had a couple of funny things happen in short succession while helping cover Day 2 of the €10K High Roller at European Poker Tour Barcelona, both suggesting something similar -- and perhaps not so obvious when looking at these tournaments from the outside.

In order to get to the High Roller tables in the back right of the spacious tournament room one had to pass through a few dozen other tables in the front, and early on there was a pot-limit Omaha hi-lo tournament happening. It was a smallish side event with a 72-player cap and a €550 buy-in.

As I was passing through, that tournament was going on break and I noticed lingering at one of the tables two seated players, two more standing up, and the dealer engaged in an animated conversation while pointing to a set of community cards on the board. From the looks of things, one of the players had just lost the hand, but had questioned the result afterwards.

“You use three of these and two of these,” another player was saying, pointing first to the board cards then to the player’s hole cards. The player was nodding, and before I got out of earshot I heard him express his appreciation.

A little later I was back on the other side of the room with the High Roller, and noticed a couple of people near the edge of the playing area but didn’t pay them too much mind. Then someone came up behind me and after greeting me in Spanish had a question for me.

“What is the short stack?” he asked. Thinking initially he was one of the group I had seen observing the tournament, I asked him what he meant. Was he asking who was the shortest stack in the room at that moment with about 150 players left or what size stack at that point in the tournament qualified as “short”?

He clarified that he was asking the latter. The blinds were 2,000/4,000, and I’d just reported a couple of hands in which players with 10-12 big blinds had shoved all in. “About 40 or 50 thousand,” I said. “That’s when people are going all in,” I added, using my hands to mimic the gesture of pushing chips forward.

He nodded. “Good,” he said. “I have to wait.”

I watched him then proceed back over to the edge of the tournament area and take a seat behind a stack of about 110,000.

It wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on. They were about 30 eliminations off the money, and he was trying to gauge whether or not he could fold his way into the money. Indeed, over the next hour-plus he mostly did just that, but alas went out a few spots shy of the bubble bursting.

It had been amusing to see the player in the Omaha hi-lo event being confused about the rules. It was more surprising to encounter the one in the €10,300 high roller inquiring about short-stack strategy as the bubble approached.

All of it reminded me that the stakes for which players are playing don’t automatically suggest anything in particular about their skill level or experience. These were exceptions, of course, but I don’t think it’s that uncommon to find players in low buy-in non-hold’em events who aren’t completely clear about the games they’re playing. And when you have a €10K NLHE tourney with nearly 600 entries, there are probably going to be more than few less experienced folks among the field.

One more day of poker to go here in Barcelona, with the €10K playing down from 36 players to a winner and the Main Event final table also playing out. Check that PokerStars blog all day and night on Sunday to find out how things turn out.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 10 -- Popeye & Paella

Had a short one today, working only up to the dinner break of Day 4 of the EPT Barcelona Main Event and skipping out on the last 90-minute level as I’m due to work what will likely be a late one tomorrow. Gonna be over on the €10K High Roller, and with 550-plus entries on today’s first day (with late registration open until the start of Day 2) it’s going to be an unavoidably long day.

The most interesting hand of the day I watched was between the young Belgian Anthony Chimkovitch and a Polish player named Norbert Berent. Wrote it up on the PokerStars blog with the generic-sounding title “Big-chip battle between Berent and Chimkovitch” -- click here and scroll to 5:15 p.m. if curious.

To summarize here, Chimkovitch called a raise from the blinds, check-raised the flop, barreled the turn, then bet big on the river only to see Berent raise all-in. With three spades and a pair on the board, Chimkovitch ditched his hand pretty quickly, and Berent showed his ace-high for a bluff.

In the post I began by describing Chimkovitch’s t-shirt which had a picture of Popeye, and with Berent in the role of Bluto I had Chimkovitch’s strength-representing bets expressing the sailor’s “I am what I am” ethos. Ultimately, though, Chimkovitch needed some spinach because he wasn’t strong to the finich. I liked his play on the hand, though, and his demeanor at the tables as well, and so wouldn’t mind seeing him take his run deeper if he can.

After finishing had a chance to enjoy a “real meal” somewhere other than the casino or hotel, hitting one of the places along the beach called Moncho’s. I actually remembered eating there a year ago (and not enjoying it very much), but this time was much better. My colleague Stephen and I shared a lobster paella dish, and our buddy Brad took a picture of us just before digging in. It wasn’t spectacular, but quite good and satisfying, with the on-the-way-back ice cream from Farggi rounding out a pleasant evening meal.

On the way back we watched a little beach volleyball. Check out these dudes -- no hands!

Like I say, it’s going to be a long one tomorrow. Check that PokerStars blog for updates of both the Main and the High Roller.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 9 -- Friberg Reflects

Day 3 of the European Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event went smoothly enough, ending at a decent hour. They’ve now played down from a starting field of 1,785 players to just 98. Starts to get a little more interesting from this point onward.

One of the players making it through to tomorrow is Erik Friberg of Sweden. Those with longer poker memories will remember him from the 2006 Main Event final table where he finished eighth. That was the biggest WSOP Main ever, won by Jamie Gold.

Was kind of intriguing today hearing Friberg talk to a tablemate (Felipe Oliveira) about the experience of making that WSOP Main Event final table just over 10 years ago. Oliveira asked him if he enjoyed it, and Friberg immediately responded “no.” He then explained how he’d made a couple of mistakes, he felt, partly because of the pressure of the situation and not being able to be as mentally strong as he would’ve liked.

Most interesting (I thought) was hearing Friberg say he wished there had been some kind of delay before the final table such as has been introduced and made the norm with the November Nine (in place since 2008). Even just a week, he said, would’ve helped him get his wits together and perhaps helped him to have performed better.

Of course, we can all argue how being able to handle those pressures and the stress of many consecutive days of poker is “part of the game,” so to speak. That’s what those making the final table of this event will have to handle, all of whom will be playing their sixth day of poker in either six or seven days.

Meanwhile I’m on nine straight days here, and as I’m tired I’m gonna cut it short. Talk again mañana.

Photo: courtesy Neil Stoddart/PokerStars blog.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 8 -- Double Bubble

Today at the European Poker Tour’s Barcelona stop was highlighted by Day 2 of the Main Event reaching the bubble near the end of Day 2 (faster than typical thanks to the new payout schedule in which 20% of the field cashes) and the always fun media event.

I happened to be there for the bubble hand today in the EPT Main. I was also there for the one in the media event as, alas, I was the one going out one spot shy of the cash.

In the Main Event there were 360 players left, meaning exactly 45 eight-handed tables had gone to hand-for-hand play as the top 359 made the money. There were several of us on hand to try to catch the bubble hand, although to be honest it usually isn’t that hard to witness at least the end of such a hand given how the usual procedure is to stop the tournament, get the EPT Live cameras over and ready, then deal out the hand and/or have a showdown. By then there are many reporters from multiple outlets there, too, again making it easier to get details if needed.

I was watching just a handful of tables, and somewhat uncannily was standing right beside the one where the bubble hand ended up taking place, being there from the very start to record the preflop action. The hand was a bit unusual for a bubble hand. Rather than a preflop all-in, it had lots of postflop back-and-forthing and culminated in the at-risk player calling off his remaining chips on the river. Kind of a neat hand to follow, actually -- you can read about it here.

The media tournament came later, starting after 10 p.m., drawing 40 entrants. It followed the same 20% payout scheme of the other EPT events, meaning the top eight made the money with eighth getting €25, just five euros more than the buy-in.

Your humble scribbler-slash-low-roller made it to the final nine, getting lucky once along the way when my ace-king outdrew pocket kings. I might’ve folded into the money, but took a reckless gamble in one hand to lose about a third of my stack, then lost with ace-king versus pocket sevens to finish ninth.

Good fun, though, getting to play for two-and-a-half hours or so. And it wasn’t that bad getting back to the room in time to get a decent night’s sleep, upon which I am presently going to embark.

Will probably have to write a little something next week about the big announcement today from PokerStars regarding its live events and the consolidating of all the tours as “PokerStars Championships” and “PokerStars Festivals” -- a lot of buzz about that, as you might imagine.

Photo: courtesy Neil Stoddart/PokerStars blog.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 7 -- Knowing Where to Look

Moved over to help cover the Main Event today at the European Poker Tour Barcelona festival.

It was the very big Day 1b which ended up creating a total turnout of 1,785 players (a record for EPT Barcelona) and a €8,657,250 prize pool (also a record).

I’ve written here many times before about covering Day 1s of multi-day poker tournaments (i.e., three-day or longer), and how the big field events in particular make it both impractical and unfavorable (I think) to cover things the same way as you do later on in the event. That is to say, the individual hand reports and chip counts that are important later on -- say, after the money bubble bursts and (really) once the sucker is down to just a few tables -- simply don’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things during a tournament’s initial stages.

In fact, I was thinking today when walking around the tournament how the reporter is often better off on a Day 1 looking up rather than down -- that is, at the faces rather than the chips and cards. See who’s there, listen to what they’re saying, get a sense for the “characters” (so to speak) that will begin rounding out the cast of the narrative you’re creating about the tournament.

Eventually you begin to move your gaze downward -- namely, to the chip stacks. Of course, you’re always counting chips, even from the start. But it really isn’t until play gets a few levels in and even into the late stages of Day 1 and the start of Day 2 that the stacks matter much at all -- except, of course, to the short stacks and endangered players sitting behind them.

Later you move your focus still further downward to the table -- specifically the cards and the chips that are going in the middle, which at some point take over the narrative as the most meaningful motivator of plot. Sure, “color” will crop up here and there, and adds greatly if noticed and shared, but you can’t avoid talking about hands anymore.

By the very end you’re looking at payout schedules and filling blanks showing where players end up. You could say you begin looking away from the table entirely, toward the cashier’s desk and that last transaction made by those participants who manage to be around for the story’s final scenes and denouement (not always a “climax” to the story, as sometimes -- even often -- that’ll happen earlier than the end).

Enough abstraction. Check out the reports on the PokerStars blog where some of these high-falutin’ ideas can be shown being put into practice.

Photo: courtesy Neil Stoddart/PokerStars blog.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 6 -- Samri, Moorman, and the Kooij

A short one today as the Estrellas Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event played down from nine players to a winner in just about six hours or so.

The Frenchman Mohamed Samri ended up winning the sucker, kind of a surprise to be honest as there seemed others in the final group more likely to come out on top, including the eventual runner-up Teunis Kooij of the Netherlands and third-place finisher Chris Moorman, the British standout.

Moorman started today with the lead, and Kooij -- which we were pronouncing as though it rhymed with “huge,” often referring to him as “The Kooij” -- took it over early on. Both had big stacks and Samri was short during three-handed play, but Moorman lost a big preflop all-in with pocket sixes against the queens of Kooij, then lost the rest in the next hand to go out somewhat surprisingly in third.

Kooij had the big lead to start heads-up play, but after the last two made a deal it was Samri winning both of the all-ins to take it down. Samri had less than $4,000 worth of tourney cashes before, so the €353,220 score was crazily big for him. And Kooij had no recorded results, so it was huge for him as well. Or should I say, hooij.

Got back in the room in good enough time to give my mom a call on her birthday and assure her I was doing fine out here with the long work days and (often) short nights of sleep.

Speaking of sleep, I’m moving over to help with Day 1b of the Main Event tomorrow, which has another of those undesirable 10 a.m. starts. I’ve traded off shifts, though, so thankfully won’t be going in until later. Gonna take advantage of the extra hours here and relax some -- more mañana.

Photo: courtesy René Velli/PokerStars blog.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 5 -- La Cena

Had a relatively shorter day of work today, short enough any way to allow for a nice, slow, late dinner with most of the PokerStars blog team that made for a very pleasant end to the workday.

Had a rich tapas plate similar to one I remember enjoying last year. (In fact, I found a photo I snapped of the same dish a year ago and am including it to the left.) I also very much enjoyed passing around stories with the fellas regarding not just our poker-reporting adventures, but our non-poker lives as well (which we all thankfully have).

Such is a nice side benefit of the late, post 9 p.m. dinner -- typical in Spain and referred to as la cena. The day is essentially done and there’s no more worries to tend to afterwards (except perhaps writing a quick blog post before bed). No rush to “get back” anywhere.

There was a lot of rushing around the tournament room today, of course, as we documented the playdown from 98 players all of the way to just nine on Day 3 of the Estrellas Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event. Online legend Chris Moorman carries the chip lead to tomorrow’s finale, and would seem to be the favorite to win the sucker.

It should be the shortest day so far tomorrow, if all things play out as they should. Might even have to wait a few hours afterwards before going for la cena once again.

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 4 -- Percentage Players

Have been here since Tuesday morning and still am out-of-whack sleep-wise, so I’m cutting this entry short so as to get some snooze time sooner than later.

The bubble burst in the Estrellas Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event today, but with 695 players making the money out of 3,447, that made the event a little less climactic, particularly since the first wave of cashers were only getting their €1,100 buy-in back.

Was saying yesterday how I tend to prefer freezeouts. Not sure what to think, really, about the idea of paying a higher percentage of players in these things -- namely 20% (instead of 15%), a change the EPT introduced this season.

There were some in the €50K Super High Roller tweeting negatively about their event featuring 20% payouts, and today I heard Frank Op de Woerd interviewing EPT Tournament Director Neil Johnson about it. (EDIT [added 8/21/16]: Here’s that interview, if you’re curious.)

I’ll have to think further about it to decide what I think. Having the top 10-15% cash has always seemed like a reasonable amount, but I can also imagine entertaining arguments that such a range is arbitrarily selected -- that is, if another percentage had been adopted as the “standard,” we’d feel differently about this one.

All I know right now is my energy level has dropped to that same 10-15% range, so I’ll cut it off here and sign off. Check the PS blog. More here mañana.

Photo: courtesy René Velli/PokerStars blog.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 3 -- The Big Freezeout

Crazy huge field for the third and final Day 1 flight of the Estrellas Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event, which my colleague Jack and I helped report once again along with help from our photographer friend René.

That to the left is a pic of the registration line early in the day. Ended up with 1,755 players on this day alone, which brought the overall number of runners up to 3,447 -- a little over 150 more than what they drew for this same €1,100 buy-in event from a year ago. That makes the prize pool €3,343,590 with €423,600 up top for the winner.

It’s kind of a unique thing these days to have a relatively big field event for a relatively low buy-in and there not being any reentries involved.

Looking at this past summer’s World Series of Poker, there were seven events out of the 69 that drew larger fields in terms of entries, although four of these were reentry events. Only the Main Event, the Seniors, and the Monster Stack were freezeouts drawing more “uniques” to play -- of those, only the Monster Stack really compares (being a $1,500 event).

As a fan and reporter, I very much prefer freezeouts. As a player I do as well, although that could be in part because when I first started playing tournaments, “rebuy” events (as they were called, and for which there is a distinction) were then the exception, not the norm.

From the reporting side of things, it’s tedious enough to do multiple Day 1s, but to have the same players entering over and over and report on their bustouts time after time is more than a little absurd. I’m remembering one event from a couple of years back I covered in which a player entered seven times, and I reported five of his bustout hands.

Talk about chronicling trivia.

Anyhow, things get a bit more interesting tomorrow with the bubble bursting and everything becoming a bit more meaningful going forward. Thankfully I’m catching a slight break with these 10 a.m. starts, as Jack is covering the start and I’m doing a little extra at the end, giving me a bit more time in the mornings for other things. I won’t go on about it, but I’m no fan of the pre-noon starting times, no way no how.

Back at it tomorrow. Check that PokerStars blogfor more on the ESPT, as well as for reports from the first €10K High Roller which should be playing down to a winner.

Photo: courtesy René Velli/PokerStars blog.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 2 -- Three Hours (and Other Threes)

Kind of a crazy day today, what with the 10 a.m. start time for Day 1b of the Estrellas Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event.

In the non-poker world, 10 a.m. would represent a late start to a person’s workday, but such is far from the case in poker. Noon has been a standard earliest start time as long as I can remember, with the monkeying around with things the WSOP did this summer to start an hour earlier therefore predictably causing an understandable rumpus.

This 10 a.m. start was a bit hard on your humble scribbler, primarily because I tend to have other work I have to do on these trips, and the mornings become the only reasonable time to get such tasks done. Didn’t get to sleep until around 3 a.m. and so had to wake around six just to have enough time to get through what I had to do in order to get to the tournament on time.

Three hours of snoozing is not enough, folks. No way, no how.

Thankfully going forward there are a couple of factors that’ll alleviate things somewhat. For one, we’ll actually have earlier end times, which makes the earlier starts less terrible to endure. Also, my partner Jack is going to get us started the next few days while I’ll come in a little later and do some extra stuff at the end, which’ll make my life a lot more sane.

By the way, here’s a funny hand I saw from the first Day 1 flight. One of those strange, did-I-really-see-what-I-thought-I-saw kind of hands.

A player limped, the small blind called, then British player Adam Owen looked at his hand in the big blind.

The blinds were 1,000/2,000, adding up to 3,000. The antes were 300 apiece.

Owen announced he was raising all in, and after the dealer counted out his stack it proved to be exactly 33,300.

The situation was three-handed. Until, that is, Owen’s two opponents successively let go of their hands. That’s when Owen decided to show his cards, turning them over one at a time.

The first one was a black three. The second was the other black three. No shinola.

Back at it tomorrow -- Day 3 here for me. Check the PokerStars blog for the reporting thus far, and keep it there to see what comes next.

Photo: courtesy René Velli/PokerStars blog.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 1 -- Lag Player

The first long day of work here at the European Poker Tour Barcelona festival was a good one, mostly focused on the initial Day 1 flight of the Estrellas Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event with a few look-ins on the early €10K High Roller (the first of several high rollers on the schedule).

I was flagging a bit by the time night fell, however, my body clock still way off thanks to having being projected six hours ahead of my usual time. I don’t usually suffer that much from jet lag, but it hit me squarely this time to increase my fatigue during the last few levels of the night.

Compounding things was the discovery near the end of the day that the tournament we’re covering is starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow rather than the typical 12 noon or 12:30 p.m. Not sure of the reason for the change, other than anticipating a big turnout and needing to plan well for available table space while the many other prelims go off all around.

There were 3,292 players in this ESPT event last year -- all uniques, as it is a freezeout, not a re-entry -- and it could be they actually draw more this time for the €1,100 buy-in event. I guess everyone all over Europe has been waiting all summer for this sucker, and Barcelona is a fairly central spot for many.

Anyhow, while I’m bummed about losing the couple of hours of sleep, our day will end earlier tomorrow (and the next two days when we’ll again have the 10 a.m. starts). It’ll all work out.

Head over to the PokerStars blog to see what’s happening both with the ESPT Barcelona event and everything else. Right now, I gotta go snooze.

Photo: courtesy René Velli/PokerStars blog.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Arrival -- Surf’s Up

That redeye flight to Barcelona was easy enough. Nine hours or so in the air, I think it was, then a short shuttle ride to the hotel which will be home-away-from-home for the next couple of weeks. Am not far from the water, and so have already gotten a glimpse of those gentle Mediterranean waves lapping up against the eastern shore.

Watched one movie on the way over, this late 1970s coming-of-age flick from John Milius called Big Wednesday. As I’ve well established here over the years, I’m kind of a sucker for all things seventies, and so found the film engaging enough, if a little empty.

It stars Jan-Michael Vincent, Gary Busey, and William Katt as three Malibu surfers, checking in on their characters’ stories every few years as they grow into adulthood. The movie fairly obviously tries to evoke an American Graffiti-like depth in its reflections on having to let go of the fun stuff that marks us during our younger years and accept the responsibilities that come with growing older, though ultimately (for me) it didn’t really give the viewer that much to ponder.

I remember first hearing about this movie when I was a teen, but never seeing it. I probably would’ve been more intrigued by it then, not now that I’m on the other side of the growing-up process being depicted.

I suppose I have kind of a been-there-done-that mindset here in Barcelona, having been here before and gone through the routines of the reporting in the past. Then again, it’s hard not to be excited by the beginning of a new festival, and of course getting to reunite with the fun folks with whom I get to work on these things adds a lot to experience.

That’s a message of Big Wednesday, of course -- that friendships transcend pretty much everything. Except surfing, maybe.

Gonna float off to sleep here now as my clock is all screwy. More tomorrow, a.k.a. big Wednesday.

Image: Big Wednesday (1978), Amazon.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Back to Barca

A quick note scribbled in the airport, letting you know I’m about to board another one of those flying tubes that’s carrying me back to Barcelona, Spain where I’ll be among the throng reporting on the first stop of Season 13 of the European Poker Tour.

This will be my third time in Barcelona. Had the great chance to bring Vera along on this trip a few years back (three years ago, I believe), which made for a fun vacation for her. Going it alone this time, as she’s hanging back to help manage the farm while I’m away.

Am curious to see how much of the city I recognize this time around. That’s one benefit of going back to these places multiple times -- they start to become familiar and thus distinct from the other stops. And, of course, sticking relatively close to the casino makes certain places (especially restaurants) even more memorable as we return to them time and again.

I’m also intrigued to see the EPT get cranked up once again, as it always seems to be growing and evolving in interesting ways.

I’ll give a shout once I get over to the other side of the Atlantic. Hablamos mañana.

Image: “Vil.la Olimpica (Hotel Arts)” (adapted), Francesc_2000. CC BY 2.0.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Preseason Football is Like Play Money Poker

That NFL Hall of Fame Game was canceled last Sunday because of some sort of field-painting snafu, thereby delaying the start of the preseason by a few days. Such teasing perhaps increased the anticipation slightly prior to last night’s games, although truthfully the whole NFL preseason is pretty much a tease, if you think about it.

As the Carolina Panthers lined up to begin their initial preseason game last night versus the Baltimore Ravens, I was slightly excited to turn away from the Olympics for a bit and finally -- finally -- dial up the sport I enjoy watching the most. But it only took a series or two (and the subbing out of the starters) to remember these games aren’t quite “real” football. (Crazy to think how tickets for these games cost the same as regular season ones.)

In fact, it only took me until the start of the second quarter before I was already flipping back over to swimming and gymnastics.

Found myself thinking a little of play money poker games -- pretty much the only kind I play anymore online, and only rarely at that. There’s always a small little feeling of excitement when sitting down, kind of a very, very faint echo of the feeling from years ago when playing real money games. But it goes away quickly, and it’s hard to maintain focus and/or enthusiasm thereafter.

I do want to restart my play money “Home Games” on PokerStars at some point, which in way work to create a kind of interest and competitiveness that can be fun. I’ll try to get motivated in that direction sooner than later.

Meanwhile we can wait out these tedious preseason contests until September 8 when my Panthers get another crack at Denver in the season opener. The real opener, that is.

Image: “100% Genuine Fake Shop. Lol!” (adapted), Graham Hills. CC BY 2.0.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bovada Turns Ignition

So it sounds like Bovada -- the U.S.-serving online poker site (and casino and racebook and sportsbook) -- is going to shut down at the end of September.

The site has been sold to Ignition Casino, and players have been invited to open accounts over there and have their funds transferred over. There’s a casino there, too, to go with the poker room, but no racebook or sportsbook I believe. An email to players explains how Ignition’s poker room “uses the same platform as Bovada,” and so includes all the same games and tournaments.

In fact, the site looks very much like a “skin” or copy of Bovada in every respect. In other words, the move is a bit like the one the site pulled off back in December 2011 when the U.S.-part of Bodog split off and was rebranded as Bovada.

I played on Bodog back in the day, and still have an account over on Bovada although I never played any real money games there. After messing around with some small bankrolls won via freerolls on Merge sites during the year or two following Black Friday, I haven’t bothered trying to play on any of these “rogue” sites at all. Too many stories of various difficulties getting funds onto such sites and making withdrawals have been enough to discourage me -- never mind the much worse tales of scams and loss of funds (via various causes) making playing on those sites even less enticing.

Of course a lot of players have stuck with Bovada in particular over the last few years, with its traffic essentially rivaling that of the 888poker, the world’s second-most frequented online poker site behind PokerStars (that is, well behind Stars which is like 8-10 times as busy as either).

That’s including the Bodog.eu portion of the player pool, too, which I’m not sure will be the case with Ignition. That is to say, Ignition may only have U.S. players competing against each other, or at least that’s what an Ignition customer service rep told PokerNews.

Americas Cardroom (on the Winning network), another U.S.-facing site, also remains popular among a decent number of American players, despite all sorts of bugginess with its software and other issues (besides that missing apostrophe in its name).

It remains kind of curious how this Bodog-Bovada-Ignition shell game gets to continue onward while managing to escape the punishments -- and, it seems, the miscalculations that helped lead to those punishments -- that knocked their larger rivals out of the U.S. five-plus years back. Seems like this might be a step away from the U.S. online poker game (of sorts) for Bodog owner Calvin Ayre who recently has been mentioned in some of these investigative reports regarding Bitcoin (with which he seems heavily involved).

The rogue sites remain interesting on some level, I suppose, if only as a dim echo of other examples of shady, legally-dubious poker games that have constantly been part of the history of the game in the U.S. But for me the interest is essentially academic, as I’m content to watch from the virtual rail.

Image: Ignition Casino.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Canada Bill, Karl May, and Imagining the Old West

This week’s installment of Poker & Pop Culture over on PokerNews is the last of a few entries discussing “steamboat poker” during the 19th century.

The last of the characters covered in the steamboat sequence is William “Canada Bill” Jones, a hustler who was in fact better known for his prowess dealing three-card monte than for his poker playing. In fact, George Devol (with whom Jones partnered for a time) said “he was a fool at short cards” (i.e., poker).

The section on Canada Bill includes mention of one of the more famous quotes attributed to him, one having to do with it being “immoral” to let suckers keep their money, a line that comes up in Rounders (among other places).

One side road that I didn’t go down in the column regarding Canada Bill was the way he pops up in a couple of stories from the 1870s written by a popular German fiction writer named Karl May. One is titled “Ein Self-Man” and the other “Three carde monte,” and the last one gets retold early on in a later work of May’s called Old Surehand II.

The stories are set in the Old West and involve a fictional version of Canada Bill. In the stories May pits his version of Canada Bill against Abraham Lincoln, kind of staging an odd, partly humorous “battle” between the Canada and the U.S. with the two characters representing their respective nations. With both characters, May is highly liberal with his embellishing and reimagining, so much so that the characters are really only superficially connected to their historical counterparts.

May isn’t so well known in the U.S., but is very popular in Germany, having sold over 200 million books during a career that stretched from the 1870s to his death in 1912. He wrote adventure stories and novels set in various places far from Germany such as the Orient, the Middle East, and the U.S. A recent New Yorker profile of him says his “stories of the American West are to this day better known to Germans than the works of Thomas Mann.”

Among his most popular works were a series of stories and novels about an Apache named Winnetou and his friend Old Shatterhand, a German immigrant who narrates. Well after his death during the 1960s, a bunch of film adaptations of May’s writings were made, most of them of his Old West stories. Whether via his writings or indirectly through the films, May’s many “Cowboys and Indians” stories have had a lot to do with how many Germans came to view the early history of the United States and especially Native Americans.

I’m intrigued to read more of Karl May and get more familiar with this curious Europeanized version of 19th-century America. Perhaps what makes me most curious, though, is the fact that May never actually visited the U.S. (even though apparently he often told people that he had).

That is to say, all he knew of the American West he had learned from books and others’ writings. Then he transformed it into something else. As The New Yorker piece explains, May’s writings never did that well in translation among American audiences, primarily because what they were describing was too familiar, or not as “exotic”-seeming as was the case for the Germans who read him.

“Americans would be more likely to get the stories if they were set on another planet,” says an American publisher of May’s translated works. He adds that the books are in fact most popular among German immigrants.

Seems like it could be an interesting detour to take, reading some more Karl May and learning more about this wholly imagined Old West he created in his writings.

Meanwhile, if you’re curious to read about the actual Old West -- in particular poker playing on 19th century steamboats -- here are those Poker & Pop Culture columns:

  • Professional Card Sharps Rocking the Boat
  • George Devol, the Ultimate Steamboat Sharp
  • ‘It’s Immoral to Let a Sucker Keep His Money’
  • Image: Winnetou, Karl May, Amazon.

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    Tuesday, August 09, 2016

    Making the Case for Online Poker: Somerville On CNBC

    A post to share this clip of Twitch star, Team PokerStars Pro member, and ambassador of the game Jason Somerville appearing on today’s episode of Power Lunch on CNBC to “debate” the topic of legalizing and regulating online poker in the United States with Rev. James Butler of the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion.

    The scare quotes are deliberately included there, as we’ve become well accustomed to the these versions of “debate” that mass media presents us that aren’t really debates at all, but dim parodies of actual dialogue and reasoned discourse.

    If you’ve watched any CNN or other cable news networks lately -- or any time, really -- you know what I’m describing. Every single news item is accompanied by a shouting match between two commentators taking “sides” even in cases when the issue isn’t even especially “debatable.” Sad! (As one of the subjects often discussed such contests would tweet.)

    It reminds me of an funny track from The Credibility Gap’s Bronze Age of Radio album (from 1977) titled “Editorial Reply.” A news station allows a citizen to come on the air and offer an opposing view to an editorial calling for an increase in safe driving. The commentator is introduced as Dr. Lewis de Longpra, Executive Secretary of the de Longpra Institute of Editorial Reply.

    The editorial -- delivered by David L. Lander (best known as Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley) -- begins with the observation that the argument in favor of safe driving “completely ignores the documented value of reckless driving as a form of self-expression.”

    From there he lists several complaints sounding the theme of unwanted governmental intrusions.

    “There is no area of modern life more highly regimented and controlled by the government than life behind the wheel,” he complains. “Between speed limits, mandatory headlights, and divided highways, today’s driver is encased in a web of womb-like precaution. We believe he should once again be able to enjoy driving in reverse down a mountain road -- that driving should once again stand for freedom, dignity, and grisly death.”

    Harry Shearer, playing the part of the station’s spokesperson, frames the bit with an intro and follow-up, reminding the audience at the end that while the station may allow such demented commentary, they obviously don’t endorse it.

    “It is the position of the management that Mr. de Longpra is brain damaged,” he concludes.

    Then comes a short commercial for “Credibility Gap Potato Chips,” subtly underscoring the larger, cynical point being made about commercial news.

    To be fair, the short six-minute segment on CNBC was at least well moderated, and there was some dialogue between Somerville and Butler, at least in the form of each refuting points made by the other. (Often in these spots it doesn’t even seem as though the sparring speakers are even aware of anything the other is saying.)

    Both Somerville and Butler manage to get across their main points quickly and succinctly in the short time each is given as well. Butler overdoes the moral objection to gambling, although doesn't sound as crazed as Mr. de Longpra or other online gambling opponents from whom we’ve heard over the years. That said, his arguments aren’t really specific to online gambling (though still apply, from his perspective at least).

    Meanwhile Somerville did well, I thought. I believe he’s only actually on camera and talking for a minute-and-a-half or so (total), but still communicates several points, including the most persuasive ones that (1) the rest of the world (practically) does license and regulate online poker; (2) Americans are already playing in high numbers on unregulated sites; and (3) other forms of gambling like betting on horse races and lotteries are legal in the U.S.

    If you haven’t seen the clip, you can click over to PokerNews and watch it here:

  • WATCH: Jason Somerville Discusses the Need for Regulation of Online Poker in the U.S. on CNBC
  • On a related note, I didn’t write anything here about Jason Mercier’s appearance on “The Dan Le Batard Show” last week, a show I listen to regularly. I thought Mercier did well representing poker in that forum as well, although I was a little disheartened that Le Batard and Jon “Stugotz” Weiner seemed less inspired with their questions and general fun-seeking as they often are.

    Click here for a summary of Mercier’s appearance over on PokerNews, including a link to the show.

    Images: CNBC; The Bronze Age of Radio (1977), The Credibility Gap, Amazon.

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    Monday, August 08, 2016

    Passive Viewing

    Dipping into the Olympics here, as I imagine you have been doing as well. It appears that between the rack of channels coming in via the dish and the Roku, we can watch practically anything whenever we want, which is nice.

    Funny, though, I’m still finding it preferable in the evening simply to tune into the local NBC channel and let the network decide what events to show me and when. I suppose I fall into the large category of “passive” Olympics viewers. I’m referring to those of us who aren’t super enthused about being delivered every moment from every sport, or even that curious about any one sport in particular.

    The same is probably true for most of those who end up watching the WSOP Main Event coverage on ESPN. They aren’t hanging on every twist and turn back in July like some of us, and so it’s actually more palatable for them to watch the sucker get strung out over several months however ESPN sees fit.

    Vera is interested in the dressage portion of the equestrian events, of course (which don’t really crank up for a couple of days). And I’m dialing up men’s basketball sometimes, too, particularly when the U.S. is playing as they need earlier tonight. But otherwise, we’re content just to let it play as ambient sound-and-image, looking up whenever the announcers’ excitement captures our attention.

    Speaking of that men’s basketball game earlier, the U.S. team found itself tied 18-18 with Venezuela after the first 10-minute quarter. Was a sorta-kinda surprising start considering they’d opened up the Olympics beating China by 57 points and were expected to do something similar in their second game tonight. (The matchup with Australia on Wednesday ought to be more competitive, I’d think.)

    Even so, it felt an awful lot like a much-outclassed poker player winning a few pots early on in a session, but destined to lose it all back eventually -- and likely sooner than later. Sure enough the U.S. outscored Venezuela 30-8 in the second quarter, ultimately going on to win by 44.

    When games go in that direction, they, too, become part of the background as I do other things, only looking up occasionally to check the score and watch another U.S. fast break.

    Image: “Play the long ball,” (adapted), Craig Sunter. CC BY-ND 2.0.

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    Friday, August 05, 2016

    Live Updates: The 1973 World Series of Poker Main Event, Day 2 (Part 2)

    Day 2 (May 15, 1973)

    11:02 p.m.: That’s One Way of Looking at It

    As preparations are being made for heads-up play between Puggy Pearson and Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim Preston just now found himself engaged in conversation with an English journalist on the rail.

    “Listen, you play a lot of poker over there in England,” said Preston. “What do you think’ll happen?”

    The journalist responded that he didn’t know, but that he saw Pearson and Moss representing “a classic confrontation between the old sentimental hero” and “a man emanating killer death-rays.”

    “I see Johnny as the gentle giant about to do battle with Pug, who is one step removed from Cro-Magnon man,” he added. Preston shook his head.

    “Neighbor, you sure have a funny way of saying things,” he said.

    11:05 p.m.: Heads-Up Play Begins

    The two remaining players are back in their seats and heads-up play has begun. A reminder of the counts:

    Johnny Moss -- 70,400
    Puggy Pearson -- 59,600




    11:35 p.m.: Puggy Pushing

    Puggy Pearson has been the more aggressive player during heads-up play thus far, often stealing the blinds as Johnny Moss has been content to fold hand after hand.






    12:01 a.m.: Big Chip Poker

    Players have agreed to remove the lower denomination chips and just play with $500 chips going forward so as to speed up play. No more yellow and green $25 checks or $100 black and white ones.





    12:30 a.m.: Pearson in Front

    Puggy Pearson has taken a series of pots to move out in front of Johnny Moss. He now has around 80,000, while Moss has slipped back to 50,000.

    12:38 a.m.: Moss Escapes

    Puggy Pearson opened from the button for 500, Johnny Moss made it 1,000, and Pearson called. The flop came 2cJd8d, and Moss led for 2,000. Pearson eyed his opponent while rolling his cigar around in his mouth, then put in a raise to 7,000 total. Moss hesitated, then shoved all in for 33,500 total.

    That caused Pearson to think a while longer, then with what almost seemed a disappointed look he called, bringing the total pot to around 70,000 -- more than half the chips in play. Both players decided to table their hands:

    Moss: J-6
    Pearson: J-2

    “I gotta have a six,” said Moss with a chagrined look. Moss flopped top pair, but Pearson had two pair and was on the verge of winning the title and $130,000.

    The turn brought the Kd, changing nothing. Then came the river... the 6s! Moss made a better two pair, and as the crowd went wild Pearson stood with his hands in his pockets and head down, looking at that river card.

    The match is just about even again!*

    12:45 a.m.: Moss Extends Lead

    Johnny Moss now has about a 3-to-1 chip advantage over Puggy Pearson. Moss has about 96,000, while Pearson is down to 34,000.







    12:48 a.m.: Break Time

    The players are taking a short break with Johnny Moss still in front.

    1:05 a.m.: Play Resumes

    Cards are back in the air. No one who has been on the rail seems to have left despite the late hour -- in fact, if anything the crowd has gotten larger as word filtered through Binion’s Horsehoe Casino that the tournament is now down to heads-up.

    1:27 a.m.: Pearson Makes Big Call, Collects

    With the blinds 500/1,000, Puggy Pearson completed and Moss knocked the table, saying “Deal!”

    The flop came 3sQhKs. Moss checked, Puggy Pearson bet 2,000, then Johnny Moss raised to 5,000. Pearson called. The turn brought the 2d, and this time Moss led for 5,500. Pearson called.

    The river was the 6s. Moss didn’t wait long, pushing out enough chips to cover the 30,000 or so Pearson had behind.

    Pearson sat back in his chair, riffling his chips. “Well,” he said, “I don’t believe you got spades, John. I believe you got something else. Might have trips, but I don’t think you have spades.”

    After considering carefully for more than a few minutes, Pearson finally pushed his remaining chips in the middle, turning over Kh6c for a rivered two pair as he did. Meanwhile Moss turned over 9d3d for just a pair of treys, and Pearson won the big pot.**

    Puggy Pearson -- 84,000
    Johnny Moss -- 46,000

    2:00 a.m.: All Even Again

    Puggy Pearson and Johnny Moss are now essentially even with about 65,000 chips apiece.

    2:40 a.m.: Updated Chip Counts

    Puggy Pearson has regained the advantage in a big way, and now sits with about a 4-to-1 lead over Johnny Moss.

    Puggy Pearson -- 102,000
    Johnny Moss -- 28,000

    3:25 a.m.: Puggy Pearson Wins ($130,000)! Johnny Moss Just Misses Third Title

    On a flop of 2cTsQs, Puggy Pearson led with a bet of 1,500, then Johnny Moss raised to 5,000. Pearson didn’t hesitate, instantly pushing all in, and after shrugging Moss called to put himself at risk.

    Pearson: As7s
    Moss: KhJc

    Moss had a couple of live cards and an open-ended straight draw, but his outs were reduced as any spade would give Pearson a winning flush. The turn was the 6d, and Pearson was just one card away from victory. The crowd began to get louder, but was quieted down before the final card was dealt.

    The dealer then delivered fifth street -- the 5h!

    “My gawd,” said Pearson as he smiled broadly. “I’ve done it.”

    The crowd exploded with noise at the sight of the final card. Meanwhile, Moss immediately stood up to congratulate Pearson. “If it had to be anybody other than me, I’m glad it was you Pug,” said Moss, and Pearson thanked him.

    Jack Binion then brought out a silver cup filled with bricks of cash totaling $130,000, awarding it to Pearson as photographers snapped away from all angles. It’s the biggest prize ever won in a poker tournament in Las Vegas.

    Meanwhile, a stud game has started at the neighboring table. “Hey Puggy,” shouted one of the players. “Bring some of that cash over here and sit down!”

    “I’m goin’ home, boys,” answered Pearson, still grinning. “I’m all wore out.”

    *Bradshaw’s numbers don’t really add up, as he has Moss up to 96,000 after this hand even though he only put less than 35,000 in the middle on this double-up.

    **Spanier’s account of this hand is much more accurate than Bradshaw’s (as the documentary shows).

    Earlier coverage:

  • Day 1, Part 1
  • Day 1, Part 2
  • Day 2, Part 1
  • Note: All hands and other details compiled from Jon Bradshaw, Fast Company (1975), David Spanier’s Total Poker (1977), and the CBS Sports Spectacular documentary of the 1973 WSOP Main Event. Editorial judgment has been used whenever apparent discrepencies between the sources occur, and some creative license employed to fill in occasional narrative gaps, time stamps, and other details.

    Photos: “Binion’s Horseshoe Casino presents The World Series of Poker,” CBS Sports Spectacular (1973).

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