Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The 2,170-Player Chop

Spent a short while today finally taking some time to read about the resolution of the Borgata brouhaha from January. As you’ll recall, the first event of the 2014 Borgata Winter Open was canceled with 27 players remaining thanks to allegations of cheating committed by one player, Christian Lusardi, by means of introducing counterfeit chips into the event.

Have to use that word “resolution” tentatively, I suppose, as it seems like there will be more to come from this one, namely potential lawsuits filed by unsatisified players. In any event, about 10 days ago the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement released its “Final Order” directing the Borgata how to distribute both the $1,433,145 in prize money that had yet to be won in the tournament (i.e., the total of the prizes scheduled to go to the top 27 finishers) as well as $288,720 more in revenue the Borgata had collected from entrants.

That adds up to $1,721,805 total. Somewhat surprisingly, the DGE decided not just to award money to the final 27, but also to refund $560 entry fees to 2,143 other players “who may have been impaced by the alleged criminal conduct who were eliminated from the event” without cashing.

The refunds to eliminated players total just over $1.2 million, leaving about $521K for the final 27. The DGE directed the Borgata to distribute that money “in equal amounts of approximately $19,323 to each of the 27 entrants” who still were alive in the event at the moment it was canceled. The Borgata also issued a statement reiterating the DGE’s directive and making known its intention to comply.

Many have been critical of such a “resolution,” in particular pointing out how the final 27 players, otherwise due to play for over $1.43 million, together came away with just over a third of that total.

Today I listened to respected Tournament Director Matt Savage (not the TD at the Borgata) on the latest Two Plus Two Pokercast explaining why he found the resolution unsatisfactory and also troubling in terms of how it might affect tournament poker going forward. Savage’s point was that given such a resolution, players aware of cheating in future tournaments may well become reluctant to make their awareness known to tournament officials out of fear that they may themselves lose potential winnings should the tournament be canceled.

I said back in January that there didn’t seem to me any wholly satisfactory way to resolve the situation that would prove satisfying to all concerned, but it does seem as though there were several different ways it might have been resolved that would have been preferable to the one chosen. And as Mike Johnson and Adam Schwartz pointed out on the Pokercast, of all the possible scenarios imagined by both players and observers prior to the DGE’s order, few (none?) ever considered the possibility that nearly two-thirds of the unawarded prize money would not only not go to the players still alive in the event (and due to divide it up), but would go to eliminated players instead.

Anyhow, for more on the “Final Order” and what it lacks, check out Savage on the Two Plus Two Pokercast (he appears during the first hour) as well as Haley Hintze’s discussion over on Flushdraw.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Following the WPT Finale

Been kind of wandering in and out of the live updates this afternoon from Day 1b of the WPT World Championship at the Borgata, both on the WPT site and over at PokerNews. (Photo from PN.)

Culminating Season XII of the tour, the World Championship made a big move away from the Bellagio this year following several years’ worth of declining entries and prize pools for the tour’s signature event. Here’s how the tournament -- which had been a $25K event for the first 11 seasons -- grew and shrunk over that period (with winners and first prizes noted):

  • Season I (2003): 111 entries (Alan Goehring, $1,011,886)
  • Season II (2004): 343 (Martin De Knijff, $2,728,356)
  • Season III (2005): 453 (Tuan Le, $2,856,150)
  • Season IV (2006): 605 (Joe Bartholdi, $3,760,165)
  • Season V (2007): 639 (Carlos Mortensen, $3,970,415)
  • Season VI (2008): 545 (David Chiu, $3,389,140)
  • Season VII (2009): 338 (Yevgeniy Timoshenko, $2,143,655)
  • Season VIII (2010): 195 (David Williams, $1,530,537)
  • Season IX (2011): 220 (Scott Seiver, $1,618,344)
  • Season X (2012): 152 (Marvin Rettenmeier, $1,196,858)
  • Season XI (2013): 146 (Chino Rheem, $1,150,279)
  • Wrote something here last May about that trend, then another post in September following the announcement that this year’s finale would play out in Atlantic City rather than Las Vegas.

    Just like those first prizes listed above, the total prize pools went up and then back down in the WPT World Championships during those first 11 years, too, with last year’s total of $3,540,500 marking the lowest for the tourney since Season I’s $2,691,750. It peaked in Season V with a mind-boggling $15,495,750 prize pool.

    Besides moving to the Borgata, this year’s tourney also sports a lowered $15,000+$400 buy-in. Also, as has been the case in recent years, re-entry is an option for players, with one re-entry allowed today for those who busted on Day 1a.

    They set a $5 million guarantee on this year’s WPT World Championship, and while yesterday’s modest turnout of 105 players for Day 1a led some to think that mark wouldn’t be hit today, a bigger field for today’s Day 1b has brought the total up to 318 with a couple more levels’ worth of late registration still available. They are still therefore a few away from hitting the guarantee and may miss it -- in any event, they’ll certainly be close.

    There was a little bit of debate today on Twitter comparing the WPT World Championship with the recently finished Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown in Florida, a $3,500 buy-in event that also had a $5 million guarantee. With three Day 1 flights and re-entries allowed (with “best stack forward” an option, too), that one drew 1,795 total entries to make a prize pool of $5,788,875 with the Canadian Eric Afriat winning to claim a $1,081,184 first prize.

    The two events seem fairly different and hard to compare, although both did draw lots of big names and as happened at the Seminole Hard Rock, this week’s WPT World Championship will almost assuredly feature well known players at its final table.

    The WPT generally speaking and its World Championship in particular still carry a little extra prestige that distinguishes this week’s tourney from the one in Florida, too. That said, the last couple of EPT stops bookending it -- Sanremo finished Sunday, the Grand Final in Monaco starts Saturday -- reminds us how EPT titles are now probably just as coveted if not more.

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    Monday, April 21, 2014

    Queen Victoria!

    Was simply a terrific day here on the farm yesterday where Vera and I hosted family for an Easter meal and a very relaxing time amid perfect spring weather.

    Would eventually turn on NBA playoff basketball to watch my Bobcats play their first playoff game in several years, hanging tough for two-and-a-half quarters before fading versus the Miami Heat. Charlotte’s a huge underdog, obviously, even to take a game off the defending champs. And speaking of pulling for underdogs, like a lot of you I followed closely the delayed online stream of the final table at EPT Sanremo, enjoying watching Victoria Coren Mitchell’s come-from-behind win to grab the title (photo by Danny Maxwell for PokerNews).

    Coren Mitchell had begun the penultimate day of play 16th of 16 in chips on Saturday, then managed to squeak into yesterday’s final table still on the short side and in fact eighth of the remaining eight to start play. Thus did it seem reasonable to think she probably wouldn’t be getting too much further. Even she consistently downplayed her prospects pretty much the whole way this weekend, demonstrating what Rick Dacey on the PokerStars blog styled “the power of positive pessimism.”

    She didn’t really begin to build a stack, either, until after there had been a few eliminations, then took the lead with three left after a hand in which both she and start-of-day chip leader Jordan Westmorland flopped trip tens, but she had him outkicked.

    That hand saw Coren Mitchell having to call a Westmorland river shove after having led out, a call that had to be made but was nonetheless still difficult. And while she’d been dealt some good cards in that hand as well as in the final one in which she flopped two pair with Q-J to crack runner-up Giacomo Fundaro’s pocket aces, she also made some good decisions and savvy plays throughout the final table.

    Today on Learn.PokerNews Nate Meyvis talks about one small hand from early on that showed Coren Mitchell playing smartly postflop. There were other good hands for her, too -- including an inspired four-bet from the hijack seat at seven-handed when she was holding 7c5h after Fundaro had defended his small blind with a reraise (and happened only to have had 10d2h).

    So because of the chip situation for much of the last couple of days, her winning was unexpected. Also the fact that the EPT had gone 97 tournaments and nearly 10 full seasons without having a two-time Main Event winner (!) made the prospect of it actually happening this weekend with Coren Mitchell seem all the more unlikely to occur.

    It had become a running gag of sorts with the PokerStars bloggers who have been more or less obligated to trot out each EPT over the last several years the fact that no one had won the sucker twice. As every Main Event wound down to the last couple of days, if there were a former champ around in the field notice had to be given regarding the “streak” and the prospects for it finally ending.

    I’ve written here before on several occasions about Coren Mitchell. She’s been a prominent presence on the poker scene for more than a decade now.

    She was a participant during Season Two of Late Night Poker back in 2000, the popular U.K. show about which we recently ran a three-part history by one of the show’s creators, Nick Szeremeta, over on Learn.PokerNews. She then took a turn as a commentator on the show with Jesse May during the show’s third season.

    It was at EPT London during Season 3 that she won her first Main Event title back in 2006, becoming the first woman to win an EPT. She’d join Team PokerStars soon after, then in early 2010 her excellent “poker memoir” appeared, For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair With Poker, a book I continue to recommend to anyone looking for interesting (and sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny) nonfiction poker writing.

    I reviewed For Richer, For Poorer for Betfair Poker when it first appeared (here, too), then interviewed the author as well. Among my questions for her was one about the book’s title, an obvious allusion to marriage and the wedding vows.

    “Well, poker is not a job for me (I enjoy it too much) and it’s not a hobby (I devote too much time to it),” she answered. “It's a way of life; I have embraced a life. In that sense, it’s like a marriage -- or like a marriage should be. For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, poker and I are together for the long haul. I might kick against it sometimes, it might annoy me, I might hate it, but deep down I will love it for ever and I never plan to say goodbye. If I ever get married, I hope I’ll feel the same way about my unlucky groom.”

    Of course, she would get married in November 2012 to the actor and comedian David Mitchell who is probably best known for his role on the British show Peep Show where he stars with his comedy partner Robert Webb (one of several hilarious productions with which Mitchell has been involved). Meanwhile Coren Mitchell has an especially large following of non-poker people in the U.K. thanks to her weekly columns in The Observer and The Guardian and her co-hosting of the popular quiz show Only Connect.

    The mainstream press across the pond have already been trumpeting Coren Mitchell’s win loudly, encouraging some to whisper about another “boom” of sorts for British poker perhaps being a consequence of her win yesterday. And as often happens when women win big tourneys -- no longer as great a rarity as back in 2006, although still noteworthy especially given the disproportionate number of women who play big buy-in events versus men -- that, too, won’t hurt going forward when it comes to promoting the game and getting women interested in poker.

    Of course, as even just that quote above suggests (I think), Coren Mitchell is a tremendous ambassador for poker, not just because of her mainstream connections and celebrity but also because she’s great at explaining why the game is both fun and worthwhile, especially to newcomers. “Queen Victoria!” tweeted a few following her win yesterday, a title she’s earned not just for having beaten the other 97 EPT Main Event champs to two-time-champ status but for her already-established position as an influential promoter of the game.

    Lots of reasons, then, why her win yesterday should rightly be considered “good for poker” (in the general sense). Inspiring, too, for those of us who like to write about poker, and who like her have a great enough love for poker and the endless stories and characters it can produce that it has become more than just a hobby but a “a way of life.”

    There are a lot of us who thanks to that love of the game are in poker “for the long haul.” It’s fun, then, to see someone else who is as dedicated to our favorite game and who does well describing what’s so good about it do well.

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    Friday, April 18, 2014

    Tanks for Nothing

    Was watching a lot of the EPTLive coverage today from Sanremo as the Main Event played down to just 16 players. Lot of big names in there, including Victoria Coren Mitchell who is short-stacked but the only one left with a chance to break the decade-long streak of no double-EPT winners ever.

    The EPTLive shows are terrific in my estimation, with James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton always entertaining. I like hearing Marc Convey and the PokerStars bloggers on there, too, as well as the players they recruit to come do commentary. Very easy to get locked in when watching and not want to turn away, especially as the tourneys wind down toward the latter stages.

    There was one small hand early in the day on the TV table this afternoon involving Dinesh Alt (who eventually went out in 25th place) and Raul Mestre (who survived and is second in chips overnight). Not at all a remarkable hand, but on the turn Alt tanked for nearly two minutes before folding, during which time Hartigan and Stapleton eventually had to fill the space by talking about the length of time he was taking to act -- not just on that hand, but generally.

    A little later I clicked over to the High Roller updates on PokerNews and noticed a hand reported involving Davidi Kitai and Jonathan Duhamel in which Kitai apparently spent more than 10 minutes making a river decision before folding and showing he’d had a strong hand with trip aces on a board with no flush and only one unlikely-looking straight possible. The pre-river action wasn’t described and it looked like a legitimately difficult decision, but that’s still a lot of time.

    There’s much talk these days about tanking and players taking inordinate time to make decisions, with that “shot clock” idea continuing to get kicked around with varying degrees of seriousness.

    As I was watching the Alt-Mestre hand, I realized that I actually like the way the pace of poker will alternate between fast and slow. Sure, I get impatient as the next guy when at the table. Even when reporting sometimes I dread those hands with super-long tanks that end with anticlimactic folds and therefore (occasionally) a page full of scribbles that aren’t necessarily even worth reporting.

    I’ve mentioned before here how I’m no fan of the shot clock idea in poker, and I think one other reason why I don’t like it would be the way it would eliminate this variety in the pacing of the game, which adds a kind of unpredictability to it that makes it more enjoyable to follow.

    All things considered, then, I don’t mind the tanks. I also like Stapes’s jokes during the long wait for a player to act.

    (So who couldn’t read that post title without thinking about Caddyshack?)

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    Thursday, April 17, 2014

    The New Frontier and the Bay of Pigs

    This morning I was up early feeding and taking care of barn business, and entirely at random dialed up an old Mort Sahl LP, one of about a half-dozen on my iPod -- The New Frontier (1961). I mentioned getting into these records a while back as part of one of the detours I’ve found myself going down with these Nixon studies in which I’ve been engaged.

    Like pretty much all of Sahl’s records, I believe, this one is recorded live and captures a single performance, in this case at “the hungry i” nightclub in San Francisco where Sahl frequently performed.

    “Here we are on the new frontier,” Sahl opens, getting a chuckle as he pauses afterwards. “Cuba,” he continues, and gets a bigger laugh.

    The “new frontier” of course referred to John F. Kennedy’s administration, then only a few months old, and the ambitious goals and “vigah” (as JFK would say) characterizing it. Kennedy first used the phrase when accepting the Democratic party’s nomination for president in July 1960 where he spoke of “a new frontier -- the frontier of the 1960s -- a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.”

    That same speech finds Kennedy characterizing his Republican counterpart Nixon as an unworthy successor to Eisenhower, and in fact Kennedy employs a poker reference during that section of his speech that also evokes domestic programs of the most recent Democratic presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

    “We know that it will not be easy to campaign against a man who has spoken or voted on every known side of every known issue,” says JFK of Tricky Dick. “Mr. Nixon may feel it is his turn now, after the New Deal and the Fair Deal -- but before he deals, someone had better cut the cards.”

    Getting back to Sahl, his cynical reapplication of the “new frontier” idea to Cuba refers to the volatile climate then present in the spring of 1961 and the U.S.’s perception of the danger posed by the Fidel Castro-led Communist country located about 90 miles off the shore of Florida.

    Just a little later, Sahl expresses that cynicism again when he jokingly speaks of being in Florida and residents there telling him “he’s a real threat, Castro, because you can see the island.” “I used to look and I’d say ‘Well, I still can’t see it.’ And they’d say, ‘Well, it’s right behind that aircraft carrier.’” That line gets a big laugh, too.

    Sahl also refers at the very start of the record to the Academy Awards taking place the night of his show. That got me curious to look up when exactly that might have been, and it just so happens today is the anniversary -- April 17, 1961 -- kind of a weird coincidence. Then I realized that today is also the anniversary of the start of the Bay of Pigs, the failed attempt to overthrow the Castro regime that marked a major early misstep by Kennedy.

    “The invasion of Cuba is on,” says Sahl, referring to the news of that very day. Still early, it’s clear from the way he speaks of it that the American public isn’t yet aware of what exactly is happening.

    Sahl mentions as well a speech given that afternoon by former presidential candidate and newly-appointed U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson in which Stevenson declared there was no U.S. involvement in the invasion. In the speech, Stevenson -- who lost presidential elections twice to Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 -- is essentially repeating a CIA cover story that the Cuban exiles leading the invasion were rebels operating on their own and with no U.S. help.

    “He said that Castro can look to our government for help if he’s been rejected by his own people,” says Sahl, paraphrasing from Stevenson’s speech of that day. “And uh... Stevenson should know.” (About such rejection, that is.)

    It wouldn’t be long before the invasion would fail and Kennedy would own up to the involvement of the U.S. in the plot just a few days later (on April 21). Thus was Stevenson made to look especially bad for his claim that afternoon, and in fact would consider resigning his position though was eventually encouraged to stay on. And, of course, Kennedy and his administration would take a big hit, too.

    The Bay of Pigs would set the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis that took place about a year-and-a-half later, a historical event that we discuss in my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class thanks to its frequent comparison to a poker hand full of bluffs and re-bluffs between Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev.

    Anyhow, just wanted to share that weird coincidence of having dialed up Sahl’s record on the anniversary of it having been recorded. Here is that opening to Sahl’s The New Frontier, if you’re curious to hear it yourself:

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    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    Various Views

    With Vera out of town for a couple of days, I’ve been in charge of the farm, which means feeding the horses (and our trio of barn cats), cleaning stalls, and various other daily maintenance that always seems to come up.

    I was due for a turn taking over the chores after having left Vera to handle them during my recent tourney trips. Makes for a long day since the early morning feeding comes before sunrise. That picture is from this morning, after the feeding was over and I’d let Sammy and Maggie out to spend their day grazing.

    I’ve only fired up the tractor once during the last couple of days. Last weekend I finally attached the bush hog and mowed a big section of our land.

    We have some spectacular views of the sky here, a nice side benefit from working outdoors. Unfortunately there were thick clouds the night of the lunar eclipse and “blood moon” earlier in the week, scrubbing out everything above for the entire evening. But the nights since have revealed a big round moon peeping its head up on the horizon some time after nine o’clock and tracing a splendid path overhead.

    We can see all of the stars, too, and have gotten into identifying them with the help of a handy app (Pocket Universe). Can pick out where the various planets are as well -- Saturn is right by the moon tonight -- and am starting to think a telescope would be a good item to acquire.

    Spent a little time today watching EPTLive and the action from Sanremo, as well as the live updates over on the WPT site from that stacked final table at the Seminole Hard Rock.

    But have had to give attention as well to these views all around, too. All of us here on the farm have.

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    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Three Years On

    Three years on. A few found ways to adapt, while others moved away altogether. But for many in the United States, it has been enough time to disengage entirely from what had been a daily activity -- playing poker online.

    For various reasons I have been thinking more and more about poker’s history and particularly its connection to the United States. One reason, of course, is my class. Another has to do with some reading I’ve been doing of late, including perusing a number of poker-related texts from the 1800s. A third is a big project for which I’m currently gathering various ingredients and hope to start cooking up soon.

    Poker was introduced here during the first couple of decades of the 19th century, having evolved from various other gambling games involving playing cards, most of which originated in Europe.

    Most who have investigated the matter with any real scrutiny have concluded the French game poque (itself linked to a few games played in other European countries) is the most likely candidate as poker’s immediate precursor. In any event, it is safe to characterize poker as an “American game” in much the same way other aspects of the culture -- and the people, too -- have roots that come from elsewhere, then grew and developed here.

    Indeed poker grew up right along with the country itself, and even before the 19th century was over had begun to be carried back out into the world as a kind of American “export.” Such became even more the case later on, especially during the latter part of the 20th century and of course during the recent “boom” years and after when all of the various tours were introduced and began picking up steam.

    I’ve had a lot of nice opportunities to visit those tours, including lately. Already this year I’ve had the chance to travel abroad on three different occasions -- to France for EPT Deauville, to Chile for the LAPT in Viña del Mar, and to Montreal for the WPT National event there.

    On each of these trips I was reminded of what an “online poker culture” was like, with players constantly engaged with the various tournaments and cash games available to them -- talking about online events, playing at the tables, and so on.

    Live poker continues to thrive here in the U.S., and is in fact as popular as it has ever been, especially on the various “mid-level” tours that continue to draw ever-increasing fields for their tourney series. And the game is obviously still played frequently in homes and among private groups, with interest in poker, generally speaking, remaining high even if the game isn’t necessarily attracting new players at such a high clip.

    But three years on, it’s hard sometimes not to think of poker as not just an “export” but another “ex-pat” like those who’ve moved out of the U.S. in order to play. As though the game -- “our” game -- is out there, traveling the world, growing on its own.

    And perhaps to return some day. Hope we’ll recognize it when it does.

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    Monday, April 14, 2014

    Rankings and Recency

    Been scribbling nonstop all day today and thus have little left in my scrambled brain to give over here, I’m afraid.

    I’ve seen the tweets today reacting to the news from the Borgata regarding the resolution of “chipgate” -- i.e., the counterfeit chip scandal from the 2014 Borgata Winter Open that saw the tournament halted with 27 players remaining. I haven’t looked closely as yet at the terms of the resolution, but from the impassioned responses I’ve seen it obviously has produced a lot of reaction. Then again, as I mentioned here earlier, it was hard to imagine any resolution that wasn’t going to be problematic.

    I’ll look more closely at it when I’ve got more mental fuel to give it more proper consideration. Speaking of being low on mental fuel, I did run an errand today and heard a little sports radio, including some commentary by John Feinstein on the conclusion of yesterday’s Masters won by Bubba Watson.

    I probably have an unreasonable prejudice against Feinstein that stems from his being a Duke grad, so take this observation for what it’s worth. He was all hot and bothered today on his radio show over the PGA’s World Golf Rankings which currently have Tiger Woods in the top spot and Watson fourth.

    Feinstein was complaining how recent winners of golf’s majors -- e.g., Jason Dufner, Justin Rose -- weren’t in the current top 10, while Henrik Stenson was ranked third without ever having won a major. And, of course, Tiger hasn’t won one since the U.S. Open in 2008.

    He went on to whine about how the PGA’s rankings are calculated, complaining how they draw from golfers’ performances over a two-year period. “They should just start from zero,” he went on, blithely ignoring the whole idea of a ranking system that didn’t overvalue what happened most recently but recognized achievement over a more significant sample size (if you will).

    The little rant recalled to me the Global Poker Index system which similarly uses not just the most recent and biggest tournaments but tries to incorporate a more comprehensive view of performance (in the GPI’s case over a three-year span).

    Not saying either system is without flaw, but it just seemed to me like Feinstein was willingly ignoring what a ranking system actually was in favor of an instinctively simple bit of airtime filler designed to sound like a thoughtful position on debatable issue.

    But what do you expect, really. I mean look at Duke... they just lost to Mercer.

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    Friday, April 11, 2014

    Ivey on the Edge

    The breaking story this afternoon in poker revolves around this new lawsuit brought by the Borgata versus Phil Ivey. Says PokerNews, the casino is suing Ivey for a whopping $9.6 million -- that is, more than the WSOP Main Event winners have been taking down over the last several years (although not this year with the new $10 million guarantee for first) -- an amount representing money won by Ivey at baccarat.

    “The Borgata lawsuit alleges that Ivey exploited manufacturing flaws in playing cards during four sessions” of the gambling game that took place back in 2012. The claim is that Ivey used a method called “edge sorting” to exploit flaws in the cards used in the game.

    Thus the Borgata is suing him, his “partner” who accompanied him during the sessions (Cheng Yin Sun), and the card manufacturers, too, with the charges including racketeering, fraud, breach of contract, civil conspiracy, and something called unjust enrichment.

    If it all sounds familiar, that’s because we all already learned about “edge sorting” thanks to a similar dispute involving Ivey and the Crockfords Casino in London involving some sessions of Punto Banco (another baccarat variant) also taking place in 2012. Only there it is Ivey suing the casino who decided to withhold £7.8 million of his winnings after they suspected him of something similar. (Of note, Ivey admitted to “edge sorting” there, but still wants his winnings.)

    I wrote about that situation here last spring, talking a little about this funny little 1966 Bond-ripoff called Kaleidoscope starring Warren Beatty with which the story seemed to evoke some parallels.

    The immediate reaction to the Borgata lawsuit is very similar to how many were responding to the earlier story regarding Ivey’s suing Crockfords, namely, folks pointing out how it seems the casino’s responsibility to protect themselves against something like “edge sorting” by ensuring the integrity of their games.

    Of course, the pattern suggested here is intriguing as well. What had seemed like a unique situation happening at Crockfords involving some poorly manufactured cards reads a little differently now that it appears the same sort of problem happened elsewhere. I suppose there’s another pattern lurking as well suggested by another “cheating” incident (this one alleged) involving the materials with which games at the Borgata are played (the earlier one involving chips, of course).

    The Crockfords case has yet to be decided, and this one assuredly will take some time in the “sorting” too (pun intended). Will be curious to see where both end up, as well as whether or not Ivey comes out ahead in both of these legal games.

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    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Teeing Off

    The Masters began today. Like happens with the Olympics I find myself keeping it on as a kind of ambient soundtrack to my work, with occasional glances up to see a shot or check who is leading.

    While the absence of Tiger Woods from Augusta was the most frequently reported story over the last couple of weeks, other articles catching my eye included several emphasizing how open the field is this year thus making it difficult to predict a winner.

    I read one pointing out how the last 24 majors had been won by 21 different players. Another noted how during the 2013-14 PGA season there have been 18 different winners in 21 total events. Rory McIlroy was quoted saying he thought up to 70 different players among the 97-player field were capable of winning. Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson said he thought about half the field had a chance (although if the greens were fast he’d reduce that number to under a dozen).

    Indeed, these stories are all kind of related to the one about Woods, as those looking to predict a winner in Tiger’s absence found themselves hard-pressed to latch onto a favorite. I’ve been noticing as well several in my Twitter timeline sharing their bets on various players to win, with all standing to earn big returns given the fact that the odds are long on everyone.

    The situation isn’t perfectly analogous to poker tournaments, but it is similar insofar as the likelihood of any single player winning is always fairly slim, and there’s also usually going to be great variety in the winners over the course of a large enough sample size.

    For example, entire summers go by at the World Series of Poker with perhaps only a single double-winner -- or even none -- among the 60-plus events. The European Poker Tour is about to mark its 100th Main Event this fall when it returns to Barcelona, and they’ve actually yet to have anyone win more than one title.

    That said, those playing in the Masters this week all represent the sport’s elite -- a marked difference from the field of pretty much any poker tournament which invariably includes a number of amateurs and part-timers with varying skill levels represented throughout.

    I think it’s probably the case with most golf tournaments and with any poker tournament that there are usually a handful who participate who have essentially zero chance of winning. But while there’s little likelihood for someone without any experience or ability to have earned a spot in the 97-player field at this week’s Masters, such can always happen with poker tourneys where anyone with enough to buy in with can play.

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