Thursday, October 23, 2014

Two More for the PHOF

I mentioned a few weeks ago when the nominees for this year’s Poker Hall of Fame were announced how this year I was not part of the panel of media who voted along with the living PHOF members. I had that privilege to cast a ballot for the previous four years, actually. Was honored to have had the chance to take part and happy to step aside to allow others the chance to do so.

Today the WSOP announced Daniel Negreanu and Jack McClelland had been voted in, with Negreanu a “first-ballot” Hall of Famer as he just turned 40, the minimum age for induction.

As I didn’t participate this time, I’m not 100% sure on what the instructions were for those who did. In the past, we’d receive the ballot with the 10 nominees listed and vote according to a “10-point must system” meaning we had 10 points we had to assign to one, two, or three candidates. So we could give all 10 points to one nominee, split the points among two or three, or even vote for no one (I think).

Then the points were all tallied and the two candidates who received the most total points were elected. I believe at some point early on there was talk about a candidate needing enough points to exceed a minimum overall percentage to make it (as in the Baseball Hall of Fame), but if I’m not mistaken they just take the top two point-getters, however many points they happened to get.

Like I say, I don’t know if they used the same system this year, but if they did I have to imagine everyone had to have given Negreanu some of their points, perhaps even most of them. And I’d guess many of the living PHOFers likely cast votes for McClelland, as well as some of the media.

Negreanu’s poker résumé is so extensive it goes without saying he was a shoo-in and much deserving. McClelland recently retired at the end of last year after four decades in poker, a time that included serving as a tournament director since the 1980s in various poker rooms (including at the WSOP).

I was at McClelland’s last tourney, actually, the WPT Five Diamond at the Bellagio last December, where there were some nice moments of recognition for him at the final table. His contributions to poker are harder for those who came into the game more recently to appreciate, but he’s clearly had a significant influence that many have regarded as especially positive.

There will be a ceremony at the November Nine to recognize Negreanu and McClelland. Perhaps next summer the WSOP will consider my Poker Hall of Fame idea to construct some sort of temporary “Hall” in the halls of the Rio.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

“I Hate Trusting Anybody”

Ben Bradlee, the longtime executive editor of The Washington Post who became a nationally-known figure for his role managing the paper’s reporting on Watergate, has passed away at age 93.

Like most, my knowledge of Bradlee and his career has been mostly confined to that period during the early 1970s when he guided Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting on the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up, although as the many remembrances being published this week show his influence and significance in journalism extends well beyond that important period in American history and politics.

If you’ve seen the 1976 film All the President’s Men, you’ll recall Jason Robards played Bradlee -- excellently, as Robards was in everything. In fact he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for what was really a small part, though perfectly pitched with the gravitas appropriate to someone in Bradlee’s position of authority.

I liked the character of Bradlee -- both in the film and in real life (in the context of reading Watergate, where I’ve mostly encountered him). Via Robards he comes off as partly a parental figure, partly a tough-minded coach, possessed of both the relevant experience and unassailable intellect to make sound decisions. I think I like the character so much mainly because of my own experience both as a teacher and as an editor, roles that require not just being able to pull out the red pen and use it unhesitatingly, but to be willing and able to assume responsibility for others when required.

I also like the character for all the great lines he delivers, such as the one that punctuates the scene when Bradlee gives the pair the go-ahead to run their story:

The line “I hate trusting anybody” doesn’t appear in Bernstein and Woodward’s 1974 bestseller, I don’t believe, although the sentiment is there in the way the authors present their editor. And Bradlee articulated the same position again and again in various contexts subsequently, such as in 1995 when he told 60 Minutes “I just do not believe the first version of events in this city,” referring to the nation’s capital and how inside the Beltway people “don’t tell the truth a hundred different ways.”

Not accepting what you are told (or what you see) at face value is obviously a skill great poker players cultivate, their training to do so advanced by the consistency with which opponents “don’t tell the truth a hundred different ways.” Inspiring such skepticism and inquisitiveness -- something I like to think I’ve been able to do here and there as a teacher and perhaps outside of the classroom occasionally, too -- is a good legacy to leave.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Professionals Leave the Table

Today Full Tilt Poker announced they aren’t renewing sponsorship contracts with Viktor “Isildur1” Blom and Gus Hansen, thereby jettisoning the last two sponsored pros from the site. Also gone (apparently) is the name originally given to the site’s “power trio” of sponsored pros -- Blom, Hansen, and Tom Dwan -- shortly after the launch of FTP 2.0 in November 2012: “The Professionals.”

Dwan left the band in December 2013. I wrote here then how the occasion inspired “thoughts of how the whole idea of poker celebs -- that different class of poker ‘professionals’ -- once such a very effective construct of online sites and abetted ably by the TV shows the sites sponsored, seems like something from an earlier era.”

Today’s news moves the needle even less. Hansen has long remained a figure of interest to many thanks to his win in the very first televised World Poker Tour event way back in 2002, his high-level involvement with FTP as a member of Team Full Tilt, and his continued participation in the “nosebleed” stakes games on the site where he’s reportedly lost over $20 million, including more than $17 million on the site during the last two years (according to High Stakes DB).

Blom, too, has fascinated many ever since the mysterious “Isildur1” showed up to challenge all of those Team Full Tilters and the rest of the world in late 2009. I’ve written here many times about Blom, including how intriguing it was to report on him at the WSOP. High Stakes DB shows Blom sitting around break-even during his almost two years playing on FTP 2.0, having been up nearly $6 million during the first six or seven months before falling back down to where he was on the site back in November 2012 (down a few milly).

The last post I wrote here about Hansen was in January 2013 when just a couple of months after FTP 2.0 went live he fired off some tone-deaf tweets in defense of Howard Lederer that were dismissive of just about the entire online poker community. The title of that post, “Ungrateful Gus; or, Hansen on High,” suggests how his thoughts were received here. The last one I wrote about Blom was right about the same time, the title of which was a response to enthusiastic tweets from the FTP account reporting his presence at the high-stakes tables on the site: “Blasé About Blom.” Again, the title is an indicator of the attitude expressed in the post.

Today the dissolution of “The Professionals” altogether brings a different thought to mind about the significance of sponsored pros to online sites. I actually think they can serve a great purpose, even today, not just in helping attract players and building sites’ presence, but in helping to advocate for poker, generally speaking. The Team PokerStars Pros are an obviously well managed example of this, with players all over the world doing a lot to help explain and promote poker to wider audiences in their respective countries.

I’m realizing today, though, that FTP’s “Professionals” idea -- a dim echo of Team Full Tilt from the start -- had very little to do with establishing and strengthening connections among members of an online poker community. Rather, its whole ethos was to emphasize the impassable distance between Hansen, Blom, and Dwan and the unwashed masses.

The spectacle of watching “The Professionals” play for high stakes was mildly diverting for some, but hardly inspiring for most, particularly given the seeming apathy -- or even antipathy (in Hansen’s case) -- they appeared to have for the poker community as a whole.

In fact, the news of the end of the “The Professionals” makes me think of what a table full of amateurs might say to each other after a pro player finally gets up to leave after having made things difficult for them for the previous several hours.

“Glad he’s gone.”

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Peru, Day 4 -- A Grand Final

The final day of play in the LAPT Peru Grand Final Main Event took a while, starting at noon on Sunday and lasting until just about 9 p.m. before Oscar Alache of Chile came away with the victory following a three-handed deal. Was kind of a neat way to end Season 7 for the tour, with eight players from eight different countries (seven of them in Central or South America) vying for the last title of the year.

Heads-up between Alache and the 65-year-old Uruguyan Daniel Campodonico was kind of curious, actually, with both players almost always just limping in from the button, the other almost always checking, followed by a lot of passive play postflop. The only variation would come with open-raises all in, although the key hand of the match saw a limped pot produce a check-bet-shove-call sequence.

Alache had flopped two pair with 7-3-offsuit, Campodonico a flush draw, and the two pair held to give Alache a big lead before he finished things off. There had been room for some postflop play, if the players had wanted to engage in such -- there were about 70 big blinds in play for a lot of their duel -- but neither chose to do much other than call or check or shove.

Third-place finisher Jerson Backmann actually won the largest share of the prize pool thanks to the three-way deal, though. When the final three went off to discuss a possible deal, I joked with Sergio Prado (blogging for the PokerStars Brazil site) that they should come back and say they wanted to play it out as a Spin & Go. (Rim shot.)

All in all it was a nice finish for the season with such a big turnout and a record prize pool (for Lima) for the LAPT. There’s a lot of anticipation surrounding the Season 8 kickoff in the Bahamas -- coming just before the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure -- as well as a lot else LAPT-related to come.

Fun spending the week with so many people excited about poker, and of course to get the chance to work with such a great group of people as are part of the LAPT.

Long day of travel ahead. Talk to you again from the farm.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Peru, Day 3 -- Muy Rápido

An unexpectedly fast one yesterday at the Latin American Poker Tour Peru Grand Final. Not sure why I always come to these events anticipating days to last longer than they ultimately do, but one of these times I’ll remember that on the LAPT the pace is pretty much always muy rápido.

We had 45 players to start the day and had to play down to eight. Settled in thinking it would take us deep into the night to get there, but they managed to work all of the way down to that goal in just under six one-hour levels.

Was a wacky day, really, with the player who started it in 41st place out of 45 -- Jerson Backmann of Mexico -- ending the day with a big chip lead. Another one, Argentina's Jose Torre, was in 44th position, and he made the final table, too, with a middle-of-the-pack stack. Meanwhile Nacho Barbero's quest for a third LAPT title came up short as he busted in 17th.

The early finish allowed us finally to break free from the casino and head a few blocks away to enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant called Punto Azul where I enjoyed a delicious dish of fettuccine full of seafood with the black squid ink adding some extra flavor and character.

Having to be muy rápido with posting today as the final table is drawing near. Check the PokerStars blog today for updates, and while you’re watching the NFL perhaps look in on the LAPT Live stream as well.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Peru, Day 2 -- Nacho with Chips

It was a long one yesterday -- another noon-until-after-midnight shift -- and it’ll be another long one today, as well. The field of 692 entries in the LAPT Peru Grand Final has now played down to 45 players, which leaves a lot left to take care of before the final table can be determined for Sunday.

Kind of incredibly, Nacho Barbero is leading heading into play today. Barbero has won two previous LAPT Main Event titles, one of only two players to achieve the feat along with Fabian Ortiz. He won them both during Season 3 -- back-to-back in fact -- and as it happens his second victory came here in Peru in 2010, my first trip to help cover an LAPT.

Nacho ended the night with a ton of chips, but came perilously close to busting in 104th on the stone cold bubble when he was all in with A-K versus an opponent who’d five-bet shoved on him with 10-8-suited. The flop brought a flush draw to his opponent, and after the turn both the ten and eight were still live, too. But Barbero faded the river, and after the bubble burst picked up some big pots to cruise out in front of the pack.

Nacho recently ended his tenure as a Team PokerStars Pro -- a mutual decision between Stars and the Argentinian -- which perhaps might add a little extra intrigue to his doing well in this first tournament after that event. He’s got a lot of other interests, I know, including running what I’ve heard is an excellent restaurant in Argentina, but poker is likely going to remain a central focus for him for now.

Besides reporting on Nacho at night’s end (evidence of which can be found in the picture above), I had fun writing up a post about Leandro Csome, a.k.a., “Peluca,” after he happened to be the one knocking out the 104th-place finisher and thus bursting the money bubble. That event reminded me also of the LAPT event here in Lima from back in Season 3, and a funny story involving Csome that happened as the bubble neared in that event.

The dealers are here and the bags full of chips are starting to be distributed to the six tables. Soon the players will come and cards will be in the air again. As always, head over to the PokerStars blog to follow the action, and when you’re done with the EPT Live show from London perhaps dial up LAPT Live -- it’s only in Spanish or Portuguese, but as everyone knows poker has its own language anyone acquainted with the game can follow.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Peru, Day 1b -- Sweet October Miracle

All goes well in Lima. The turnout turned out better than anticipated, with 692 total entries -- way over the 557 from a year ago. The prize pool is also up over $1 million, a first for the LAPT here in Peru.

I continue to eat very well, even if I’ve been confined to the Atlantic City Casino each day thus far. Such will likely remain the case at least until Saturday when we’re hoping possibly to have a shorter day and thus a chance to enjoy a nice dinner elsewhere.

Still, I can’t complain. I can also confidently state I’ve eaten more octopus this week than I have all year. I also ordered a dessert the name of which provided the title above, discussed further here.

Had a chance yesterday to chat with Thomas Lamatsch who is serving as the Tournament Director here this week. Thomas is usually to be found on the EPT, but is filling in for LAPT TD Mike Ward who had to miss this one. It’s a first trip to Peru for Thomas, and we had a fun conversation comparing the tours and talking about the future of poker.

Another highlight yesterday was talking to the newest Team PokerStars Pro Online member, Celeste “LadyMace86” Orona of Argentina. The announcement of her joining the team was made during the day yesterday, and she took some time during the dinner break to chat about her background.

Her story kind of reminded me a little of my own, at least with regard to her leaving a comfortable, “normal” career path (in her case working in the corporate world) and trying something new with poker. Come to think of it, so did Thomas’s tale, particularly when he speaking of how friendly and supportive everyone is here on the tour.

Going to run again, but check in over at the PokerStars blog for more poker talk from Peru.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Peru, Day 1a -- Mata Aces, BodogAri, and More

We were nearing the end of the night yesterday when I told Sergio, my blogging colleague here on the LAPT, how it always seems to happen that Day 1a takes the most out of me. I think it has to be mostly related to the travel which usually immediately proceeds those first Day 1s, with the fact that those days are almost always noon-to-midnight (at least) and thus usually the longest ones to cover.

The field of 274 entries was decent-sized, and with a bigger Day 1b (as anticipated) the overall turnout will exceed that of last year’s LAPT Peru.

Had some fun during the day playing a poker variant called “Mata Aces” with Christian de Leon, a wacky game that sorta kinda combines elements of hold’em, stud, and even draw. It’s getting big in Mexico, and perhaps might begin to spread elsewhere as it provides a lot of action -- read about it here.

Also enjoyed chatting with Ari “BodogAri” Engel near the end of the night, a very friendly guy who’s played (and won) on just about every tour there is in addition to his considerable online success. Here’s a post sharing what we discussed.

If you’re looking for something else interesting to read today, check out Jonathan Grotenstein’s recent article for All In about Daniel Colman, titled “Silent Assassin.” Grotenstein speculates in interesting ways about the wunderkind’s motives, giving a shoutout to Hard-Boiled Poker along the way by referencing a post of mine where I was attempting something similar with Colman.

Gonna cut it short as Day 1b is drawing close. Check the PokerStars blog for reports throughout the day.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Peru, Arrival -- Holding It Together

Have made it safely to Lima, Peru, the 3,200-mile trip (or whatever it is) going about as smoothly as I could have hoped. All flights were on time, my shuttle to the hotel was waiting for me, and the accommodations very comfortable for my six-night stay here in Miraflores.

Reading material for the long flight from Miami to Lima mostly consisted of my working through a four-decade old paperback of David Halberstam’s excellent The Best and the Brightest, a book written during the early 1970s that attempts to explain how the U.S. found itself gradually getting involved in the Vietnam morass despite myriad indicators that such a course was not recommended.

The 800-plus page book is so old the binding is completely shot, forcing me to hold the sucker with both hands when reading and to use a rubberband to hold it together when I’m not. An emblem for Vietnam, that.

Besides being well written and researched, Halberstam is unafraid as well to include his own sharply-drawn judgments along the way, which both helps clarify the mistakes he’s describing while adding an extra layer of intrigue to the narrative. Despite writing so soon after (and during) the events he’s describing, he lends the story useful perspective, allowing those of us reading much later to appreciate the novel-like twists and turns that inexorably led to successive administrations’ poor decisions regarding southeast Asia.

Most of my casual reading of late has been about political history, with Nixon and Kennedy having become touchstones for me. I suppose all presidents’ stories provide seemingly endless threads of interest thanks to their connectedness with practically all aspects of American culture, but there’s something about these two in particular -- perhaps the most fascinating heads-up political opponents of the century -- that intrigues me to no end.

Will be especially busy this week and so anticipate only firing off short bursts here to share brief anecdotes, likely pointing you to the PokerStars blog as I do where I’ll be filing my LAPT Peru Grand Final reports. There won’t be any politics over there, I can assure, but a lot of interesting conflicts, negotiations, and resolutions over the cards and chips. More to come.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Perusing Peru Posts

A quick one this morning to report I’m back in an airport again, about to make another trip down to Lima for the LAPT Peru Main Event that gets underway tomorrow.

This makes my fourth time going down to Lima, I believe, where I’ve seen and reported on some interesting tournaments over the last few years. Always a fun place to go, with the cuisine a great highlight.

Yesterday I was looking back through some of my Peru posts here and found myself dwelling in particular on one particular visit, the one in April 2011 when Dr. Pauly and I were there during Black Friday. Crazy time, that. Seemed like everything was suddenly coming to an end then, poker-wise, in so many ways.

About a week after getting back I wrote one of my favorite Hard-Boiled Poker posts here about a game of Big Deuce involving myself, the good doctor, F-Train, and Reinaldo -- “2011 LAPT Lima Postscript: Plotting in Peru.”

Probably wouldn’t have predicted then that three-and-a-half years later I’d be going back to Peru yet again. I’m glad I am, though, and expect to see a decent-sized field there along with my many LAPT buds. More to come.

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