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: “ 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 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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