Thursday, September 03, 2015

Bright Ideas: Some Recommended Reading

Wanted today just to point to a few items over in the PokerNews Strategy section published this week that I think are especially interesting, for different reasons.

One is Bob Woolley’s lengthy response to the recently-revised Poker Tournament Directors Association rule book, titled “New Poker Tournament Rules You Need to Know.”

Bob (a.k.a. the Poker Grump) highlights 14 of the new additions/edits to rules for comment, serving both to inform readers of the rules and to give us something to think about when judging the changes as positive or otherwise. In most cases, Bob is in favor of what the Poker TDA has done, although there are a couple of exceptions. Check it out.

Another article I enjoyed was Nikolai Yakovenko’s discussion “Game Theory Optimal Solutions and Poker: A Few Thoughts.” It’s another long one, but well worth it if you’re at all interested in learning more about what “GTO” really is and what it has to do with poker.

Nikolai keeps it interesting throughout, and the discussion at the end about three-handed play between Daniel Negreanu, Dan Colman, and Christoph Vogelsang at the conclusion of the 2014 Big One for One Drop is enlightening, not to mention a helpful example with which to highlight some of the article’s main points.

Finally, I also liked Carlos Welch’s article from yesterday titled “Note to Self: If You’re Gonna Lose a Flip, At Least Lose It Right.” Carlos explores an interesting theory in that one, namely that since position is so important in poker, if you’re going to lose chips it is better to lose them to players on your right against whom you’ll have position and thus a better shot subsequently at getting those chips back.

Like the other two articles, there’s some genuinely original thought going on in Carlos’s article as he pursues this idea, the kind of thing that is sometimes hard to come by these days when it comes to poker strategy.

Indeed, for me all three of them feature actual “light bulb” moments. Check ’em out and see if they do for you, too.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Reentry or No Reentry?

Yesterday the tournament director Matt Savage tweeted to his followers a fairly straightforward question, presented as having to do with a bet between himself and Allen Kessler.

“Do you prefer reentry or no reentry in your poker tournaments?” he asked.

I replied “no reentry.” Scrolling through others’ answers, it appeared responders were divided between preferring reentry, not liking reentry, or wanting to ignore the question and propose other options (e.g., single reentry or other qualifications).

I was answering as a player. I have always preferred freezeouts to tournaments that allow multiple entries. I think the main reason for me has to do with bankroll management and being on the nitty side. It’s not that I’m unwilling to fire more than once in a reentry, but I just feel more comfortable knowing at the start how much I am in for.

I think I also just prefer how the game is played when there is no possibility of coming back after busting -- both as a player and when following or reporting on events. In one unlimited reentry event a couple of years ago, I recall reporting “bustout” hands for the same player six times (no shinola). Talk about Groundhog Day. In such an environment, it’s like nothing that happens prior to the close of the reentry period has much meaning at all.

Reentry tournaments remind me of back yard wiffleball games as a kid and the “do over” play. You know, the old “I wasn’t ready” plea that seemed like it would come up at least once every game. They also remind me of all the challenge flags in the NFL, something I’ve complained about here before as making it necessary to withhold response to any play until after the opportunity to call it back has passed.

Of course, we could step back even further and talk about the culture as a whole as one constantly in the process of appealing every decision or judgment, never seeming to settle on anything in a satisfactory way. In this postmodern world, there’s always another perspective, another version of the “truth” to challenge the one that had been previously accepted.

That 72-event EPT Barcelona festival from which I’ve just returned featured a few reentry events scattered in the mix, but the great majority (including the Main Event) were freezeouts. In other words, in most cases if you wanted to buy back in and play more, you entered a different tournament.

I’m aware, of course, of how reentry events (in some cases) give players with bigger bankrolls an edge, and also how they can be especially advantageous for those staging the tournaments for potentially producing a lot more rake per player. I’m also aware of how in some cases making tournaments reentry genuinely adds to the fun, as in the case of the media event last week where having reentries meant no one had to leave within the first hour.

Forced to choose, though, I’m going with “no reentry.” And I’m sticking to that choice, too -- i.e., there will be no reasking or reanswering.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Volem Dormir

That to the left is a photo of a building located not far from the Casino Barcelona, snapped during a brief walk on Friday morning over in the nearby Barceloneta district. It’s an apartment building with bedsheets hanging out of the windows, all bearing messages complaining about noise and expressing the need to sleep. (Click to enlarge.)

Stephen Bartley wrote a little something about the messages in a post on the PokerStars blog last week. We had noticed during late dinners how there was a ton of activity late at night, even after midnight. The beaches were full of people, as was the boardwalk and many of the establishments near this building.

As Stephen wrote about, there were demonstrations Friday and Saturday night, which if I follow things correctly were conducted by the locals protesting what the influx of partying tourists has done to their sleeping patterns. I would see some of those protests walking back to the hotel around 2 a.m. that night -- lots of cars blaring their horns cruising up and down the avenue, with a heavy police presence all about.

Reading around I see the whole “Volem Dormir” (“we want to sleep”) campaign has been around for a while now, with the bedsheets a not uncommon sight around Barcelona recently.

Sleep was what I sought during my long voyage home yesterday, although it proved as elusive for me as it has been for the tenants of that building in Barceloneta. Even so, some four thousand-plus miles later I’m safely back home on the farm, not a bad place at all to recuperate from such a long and intense trip.

The flights back were fine, although as I’d picked up some sort of sinus-related bug those last few days I wasn’t necessarily feeling my best near the end. In fact it still feels a little like I’ve got a cotton ball stuck in one ear, which is a little worrisome. But things are finally starting to loosen up I think, and I’ve got the requisite meds to get me back on the mend.

Wanted to doze during my trip home, but on the long flight from Barcelona to Philly I was seated next to an extremely chatty retiree on his way home after visiting a sibling in Spain. By the time we landed I knew most of the pertinent details of his lengthy biography, plus had received some advice about cooking for women. “It’s best to have a signature dish,” he explained, noting his was salmon with a side of asparagus.

“The key is the Hollandaise sauce.”

With my voice mostly shot from the sore throat, I confined myself to responding with eyebrow raises and nods. He also recommended Listerine for my cough. “Twice a day... will knock it right out.”

On the shorter flight home from Philly I did have a row to myself and stretched out a bit, although the pressure in my noggin’ made it impossible to sink into anything close to slumber.

What a start to the EPT season it was, really, with record-breaking fields all around and some genuinely interesting stories surrounding the event, including with the way the high rollers and Main played out. Malta comes up next in late October, and it’ll be interesting to see if the momentum continues there.

Meanwhile my momentum has slowed to a crawl. If you don’t mind, I’m just gonna put the seat back a little here and try to relax. You can keep talking, if you want.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 13: The Stand-In

A few quick thoughts about the final day yesterday at the European Poker Tour Barcelona festival where John Juanda ended up winning the Main Event, Mustapha Kanit won the High Roller (after an unusual deal was made), and five other side events wrapped up.

The media room was full of apprehension both Saturday night and early Sunday about how long things would go on the last day. Most felt the Main Event would end at a decent hour, with tourney staff also predicting a pre-midnight finish. But the High Roller was a wild card, with 30 players returning and a potential to go much longer.

As it happened, the €10K High Roller finished up first thanks both to the fact that things moved more quickly than anticipated and to an unique finish. With three left, Kanit, Kuljinder Sidhu, and Nick Petrangelo decided on a deal to chop the remaining prize money and end things right then and there, with chip leader Kanit getting the trophy and designation as winner.

Have to say Kanit is becoming kind of a favorite to watch for me, having seen him win a couple of huge ones -- this and the €50K One-Day Super High Roller in Monaco in May -- as well as take down the SCOOP High Main Event where the Italian plays as “lasagnaaammm” (a way-better-than-average screen name).

Kanit is fun to watch, both for his play and the entertainment he provides. In Monaco, Nick Wright wrote a piece highlighting Kanit’s jovial demeanor at the tables. In Barcelona, Kanit’s multi-colored sport jacket was a highlight of a piece by Howard Swains about some of the fashion on display.

Kanit also had a perfect comeback versus Phil Hellmuth during the summer after the pair tangled in a hand in the One Drop High Roller at the WSOP.

After losing a pot to Kanit, Hellmuth trotted out his customary petulance. “Why do we try and bluff the amateurs?” said Hellmuth after the hand (from the WSOP update), betraying his ignorance about who he was playing against. “They are going to give you 500K with a king and no kicker.”

Kanit’s response -- not even hinting at the fact that he is anything but an amateur -- was golden: “I traveled a long way to play the tournament,” he said. “I just want to enjoy myself and play some hands.”

How can you not pull for a guy whose instinct versus Hellmuth’s applesauce is to respond like that?

Juanda winning the Main was kind of remarkable to watch play out, in part because about a week before he’d tweeted that he hadn’t played any live poker at all since the last EPT Barcelona festival a year ago. He made a couple of fortunate hands as a short stack on the final day, and apparently was super short earlier in the event, too. Quite something to see him there at the finish. (There was also a deal in that one, although they left some on the table to play for.)

Finally, I got a huge laugh out of seeing the “Challenge Stapes” segment during the stream yesterday in which I took part. The segment featured Joe Stapleton recreating a hand between Dan Shak and Kamal Choraria from last year’s EPT Barcelona, with Stapes playing both roles and me serving as a silent stand-in for both.

That just above is a photo taken during the shoot (click to embiggen). Here’s the whole segment:

By the way, you can see the original hand from last year’s EPT Barcelona here (which lasts a couple of minutes), and then the table talk afterwards starts here.

Working that 13th-straight day and reporting on the last side events, I kind of felt like a silent stand-in there, too, a sore throat keeping me from talking much and other symptoms reducing me to a kind of dummy version of my usual self. Still, it was great being there and seeing it through to the finish, especially while working alongside so many friends and great colleagues.

Talk to you again soon from the other side of the Atlantic.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 12: A New Challenge

The last day of the EPT Barcelona festival -- originally 71 events, but with an added pot-limit razz (no shinola) up to 72 -- is today, with the Main Event just about to get started and the High Roller beginning shortly thereafter. Everyone is settling in for a long one, especially with regard to the High Roller in which 30 players are returning.

My focus (as usual) will be on the many side events yet to play out, with a number of turbos on the schedule today. However, I will be watching the EPT Live stream today and keeping an eye out for the Challenge Stapes segment, in which your humble scribbler may possibly make an appearance.

They came around the night before looking for volunteers, and when no one else came forward I decided to step up.

I came in early yesterday to help with the shooting of the segment, which like going on EPT Live the day before was interesting to witness, if only to marvel at how things are pulled together behind the scenes.

Not providing any spoilers here as yet regarding what the segment is about or where I fit into it. I was just an extra (natch) and am mostly on the periphery for Joe Stapleton's hijinks. Thankfully (because of my continued sore throat) I was not called upon to deliver any lines.

Check over at the PokerStars blog today for reports on everything, and check out the EPT Live show today as well for that Challenge Stapes segment.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 11: On the Air

Gonna deliver a short post today while I have a few moments. Afraid I’ve been struck down by the “blergy,” just a couple of days from the end of my long stint here in Barcelona. Sore throat, fever, sinus stuff -- it’s taken over.

Was starting to feel it coming on while playing the media event deep into the night on Thursday, then woke up yesterday knowing I wasn’t in great shape. Have secured some meds now and they’re helping a bit, but I’ll be glad to get out from under this soon.

Dinner last night began magnificently with a satifying goat cheese salad then limped to the finish with a crayfish platter which I hadn’t even ordered, but ended up picking through anyway. Smoke all around from neighboring tables didn’t help the throat situation, either.

I described it afterwards as being like getting pocket aces early on, then going frustratingly card dead for the remainder of the meal.

Shortly after getting back to the media room, I was invited to come on the EPT Live stream for a stint. Wasn’t exactly the ideal circumstances for my debut on the stream, as my voice was about an octave lower than normal and my pounding head creating a lot of static when it came to trying to think and talk at the same time.

Had a blast doing it, though, and was marveling the whole time at how the entire EPT Live operation is run. Such a complicated thing, all flowing along incredibly smoothly with a team of folks behind James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton (who were at the mics when I came on). Both of the pics come from Neil Stoddart of the PokerStars blog, shot earlier in the week.

They are down to penultimate days of both the Main Event and €10K High Roller, both of which have drawn enormous, record-setting fields. Check the PokerStars blog today for updates on it all, and watch EPT Live, too, to follow the Main Event as it plays down to a final table today.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 10: Chipping Up

There were a ton of events going on at the Casino Barcelona yesterday, with the Main Event playing down from 343 players to just 110 and numerous side events going on as well.

The big €25K High Roller -- originally called a “Single Day” HR -- finally finished up on a second day of play with Martin Finger taking it down. That was the event in which Brazilian soccer star, member of FC Barcelona, and PokerStars SportStar Neymar Jr played (as did his teammate, Gerard Piqué).

I didn’t even write about that here, which was kind of a fun spectacle, really, especially when Neymar was chip leader in the tournament late in the afternoon on Day 1. You can find lots of articles about his appearance on the PokerStars blog. It’s one of those more-than-poker kind of stories, drawing a ton of attention to the EPT and poker, generally speaking, around the world.

The day ended with the media event which didn’t get started until close to 11 p.m., I think, which might have been part of the reason the turnout was on the small side. There were 21 entries (including reentries), and from that field I managed to make it all of the way to third, which meant a cash as the top four spots paid.

Played decently though made a couple of mistakes along the way, including perhaps waiting one hand too long before shoving a short stack at the end. Also was especially lucky to survive with pocket sixes versus pocket jacks during the second hour (echoing my “Getting It In Bad” post from a few days ago), which made everything after that a bonus. Had a couple of other key hands after that where I got it in with the best cards and the hands held, which was also fortunate.

Both James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton of EPT Live played. Hartigan delivered great commentary while playing at our table, especially during his bustout hand when after getting all in preflop he called the action after each postflop street -- Flop: “Not good.” Turn: “Still not good.” River: “Sh!t.”

It occurred to me along the way to tweet out updates to match the messages that fill my timeline every day. But as I have mentioned here before, I tend not to want to pull out my phone when I play, probably because I don’t play that frequently and so would rather just focus on enjoying the game as it is happening. I guess also I spend so much time reporting on poker tournaments, I like having a break from that as well.

I did snap a pic of my stack once, though (see above), when it was big enough to look like some sort of achievement.

Speaking of pictures, I realized as we got deeper that I was wanting to win not so much for the money but to get a winner’s photo taken by one of the guys here. I’d have gotten a big kick out of having Carlos Monti, with whom I work regularly on the LAPT, take such photo, and I think he would’ve, too. Or having Neil Stoddart (with whom I’ve worked on several events) or René Velli (whom I’ve gotten to know over the last couple of EPTs) snap the pic would’ve been a lot of fun as well. (For an example, see Lynn Gilmartin’s winner pic from a couple of days ago.)

I’ve written here before about how closely the bloggers and photographers work together, often collaborating when it comes to how the reporting gets done. I don’t just mean helping decide which stories get told as part of the overall chronicle of an event, but also helping come up with more imaginative or even abstract ways of communicating what is happening and giving audiences something interesting, informative, and entertaining, too.

Getting that far made my night a late one, and I didn’t get back to the room until around a quarter to three. Got decent rest, though, and so am ready to head back into the maelstrom today, again mostly to focus on the voluminous side action. Check that PokerStars blog for more.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 9: Another Day in the Bag

Day 2 of the EPT Barcelona Main Event played out yesterday. The event ended up with a total starting field of 1,694 after a few more latecomers jumped in at the beginning of play yesterday, just before late registration ended. With them that meant there were right around 1,000 to start the day, and by the time of bagging 343 players were left.

The night ended humorously with Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari looking like he’d be the overnight chip leader, then ultimately ending the day in second position after Nick Petrangelo (who is having an amazing year, by the way) passed him at the end, as did one other player, Amir Touma.

That led the guys working on recaps to express some misery at the necessary changes they had to make to their narratives of the day. Right around then Akkari stopped by the media room to joke that if he had known it would help, he could have written down a different total on his bag. Howard Swains wrote a funny piece recounting that story as part of today’s early coverage.

I was able at last to spend a little time this morning walking around a bit and enjoying the Barcelona sunshine, albeit only for a short spell before heading back in for today’s action. Tonight is the media tournament, which should be a fun way to end the day. There’s also another full slate of side action including an added pot-limit razz event (no shinola), to help keep things interesting.

Check out the PokerStars blog for reports as usual, and know that EPT Live is now up and running, too, which is fun for additionally following the EPT Main.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 8: All in and a Kale

Another busy one yesterday scurrying about following the various side action at the European Poker Tour Barcelona festival.

I forgot to mention earlier in the week one of the side events -- the Women’s event -- which happened over the weekend. Like practically all of the events so far, it had a large turnout (breaking a record) and so once they had played down to three players late Saturday night/Sunday morning, they stopped things and returned on Sunday afternoon to finish it out.

Was fun to see our friend Lynn Gilmartin go deep in the tournament and be one of the three to return on Sunday, then in fact win it.

Many of us in the press room have known Lynn for many years, including working with her. I’ve had the chance to do so with PokerNews and PokerStars, and on a few World Poker Tour events, too, since her move there to be their main anchor.

We had some fun together imagining headlines as she got further in the event and the prospect of her winning became more real, alluding to her always positive mindset and interest in healthy foods. This year she’s even opened a juice bar -- the Jooce Bar -- in her native Australia.

“Smoothie sailing,” was an early one, as was her motto “Life is Good” which Nick employed in his write-up of the event for the PokerStars blog. I was proud of “All in and a Kale,” too.

The first prize for the Women’s event was a little more than the buy-in for the EPT Main, I believe, after Lynn made a heads-up, and she decided to play that, too, and is doing pretty well as it begins. The further she goes, the more headlines we’ll have to conjure.

Back at it today with more side action coverage for your humble scribbler. Check the PokerStars blog for more and you might even come across a pun or three while there.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 7: Getting It In Bad

It was a fairly exciting final table yesterday in the Estrellas Barcelona Main Event, won in the end by Mario Lopez of Argentina. It’s the second time I’ve covered Lopez winning a big one, after his LAPT Chile win back in the spring of 2014.

The most interesting hand I saw yesterday involved Lopez making a huge call versus the young Jose Carlos Garcia, the young Polish player I mentioned a day ago as being unafraid to put a lot of chips in the middle with or without a hand.

In this case Garcia again made a huge overbet, shoving the river on a raggy board containing a jack, a nine, a couple of fives, and a trey (and no flush). The bet (a third postflop barrel) was about four times the pot, I believe, and more than what Lopez had left, but after tanking for five-plus minutes Lopez found a call with Q-9.

Garcia’s hand? 7-4-offsuit. He’d go out a little later in fourth.

Interestingly, all of the bustouts -- aside from Garcia’s and the final hand in which Lopez’s A-Q held against Jonn Forst’s A-6 -- featured players running into hard luck left and right.

One with A-K ran into both pocket aces and pocket kings. Pocket tens lost to pocket deuces. A-8 fell to A-7. You can read the end-of-day recap for details.

Weird, too, was how after Jonn Forst busted Knut Nystedt in third, Forst had exactly 41.1 million chips versus Lopez’s 40.9 million. They’d just colored up again and so the smallest chip was 100,000, so that meant Forst had the smallest possible lead to start heads-up play. (They did an even chop, with Lopez then winning the extra cabbage set aside.)

Back at it today as the EPT Barcelona Main Event continues, the one-day €25K High Roller plays out, and a few other side events are in action. Check the PokerStars blog for the skinny.

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