Thursday, June 18, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 22: The Name Game

Hello, My Name Is 'None of Your Business'Yesterday I was writing about players happily broadcasting their progress to the world from the tables via their iPhones, Blackberries, and other such devices, thereby supplementing whatever coverage might otherwise be provided by those of us covering the events. Then I went back to the Rio to help cover Day 2 of Event No. 34 ($1,500 No-Limit Hold’em), and ended up dealing with what might be described as the opposite situation -- namely, a player who didn’t want his progress to be reported by anyone whatsoever.

What happened? Basically we had a player who simply did not want to tell us his name. And we tried. More than once. But for some reason -- be it personal, some sort of superstition, or whatever -- he just wouldn’t give it up. He hadn’t made any significant cashes previously, so no one knew him. And while some deductive work helped us narrow down the possibilities to about a dozen different possible names for the guy, there really wasn’t much way to confirm who the hell the dude was.

Guy wasn’t obligated to tell us anything, of course. You do have to give a name when registering for the events, and you are made to show a photo ID to get your chips. But you don’t have to tell anybody else nuthin’, if you don’t wanna.

This happens every once in a while -- a player refusing to reveal his name, thereby making it especially difficult to report anything specific about him (hands, chip counts). In some cases it is possible to find out a player’s name in other ways, particularly if the player has done anything at all in the past poker-wise and thus might be recognized by others or have a picture or two floating around the intertubes. Usually not knowing who one person is doesn’t really matter that much in the long run, but when the field begins to shrink, not having one player identified kind of causes other problems that can affect the coverage as a whole.

So that was one little fly in the ointment that caused a bit of irritation for us during the last few hours of play as the field shrunk from 50 to 40 to 30 to the 21 players that are returning today. Had one another sort of funny problem that had to do with player names yesterday, too.

Event No. 34 is one of those massive-field tourneys, with 2,095 players having entered and 216 scheduled to get paid. When the bubble burst yesterday afternoon, they had been playing hand for hand on 25 tables or so for about four or five hands’ worth. 217 players were left, and as it happened two busted on the same hand, meaning those two split the 216th place prize money. (That actually means both won less than the $1,500 buy-in.)

Now those of us covering the tourney would like to report who the “bubble boy” is -- or, in this case, who the two players were who went out there on that last hand, and thus were the first to cash. (The actual “bubble boy,” in fact, had gone out in 218th place, and was long gone by the time they actually made the money.)

Of course, during hand for hand play, no one is allowed between the ropes, including media. Thus the only possible way to report the actual bustout hand of the bubble boy is if it happens to occur on one of the outer tables, and there happens to be a reporter standing nearby, or if a reporter is able to get details of the hand second-hand from another player who saw the hand go down.

Again, not a big deal, really. But there’s also the issue of reporting the guy’s name. Or in this case, both of their names. Usually all of those who cash in a given event report to a desk there in the room where they were playing, get entered into the “system” (the big database Harrah’s keeps for all of its accounting), then go to the payouts office to get their cabbage. However, when two players are due to split the money as happened yesterday, the “system” cannot handle the entering of two names onto one line, and so those players’ names are not entered and instead their cases are handled “manually” (whatever that means).

We got one of the two players’ names who went out there on that hand -- the first one -- but not the second one. And it wasn’t until the very end of the night, after 3 a.m., that I went over to the payouts office to try to track down the name of the other fellow.

I won’t bore you even further with more trivia about my quest other than to say I failed to get the guy’s name. I talked to several friendly people as I got redirected around, finally talking to one woman whom I genuinely thought was going to be able to help me. That is, until she asked me the question “What was the player’s name?”

That’s what I’m trying to find out, I said. “We need to have the name to look him up, though,” she explained. I smiled, said thanks anyway, and shuffled out.

Walked back into the desolate Amazon Room, completely empty save the few cash games that were going over in the Red section, thinking about how much simpler this reporting thing would be if somehow player names weren’t sometimes made to be such a mysterious matter.

People occasionally want to compare the World Series of Poker or other poker tournaments to sporting events, with the coverage most resembling that done by sports reporters. It is very much like that, for sure. But is there any sport where the players aren’t readily identified for anyone who happens to be watching? Where the reporters have to either know who the players are already, or ask them who they are, or engage in other types of detective work to uncover what is really the most vital piece of information one can provide about those playing?

I know many poker players probably would object, but I’ve always thought having some sort of ID system in place at the WSOP would be especially beneficial, enhancing the coverage tremendously. I wouldn’t suggest players do something as fashionably-damaging as wear nametags -- hell, I wouldn’t like that either. But perhaps do something like assign each a number and, say, hang it on the backs of chairs while they play. (Or something else similarly inconspicuous.) But I know that’ll probably never happen. Or that some other change will take place that will render that idea obsolete.

In any event, we definitely know all 21 players’ names today, and so will be reporting on how each of them fare during today’s final day of action at Event No. 34. Come follow along.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pauly was right- you are a damn good writer Shamus.

On tracking down players: I remember getting pretty mad a couple of years ago at reporters not being able to find somebody, and then I visited during the series. Now I don't know how you identify anybody at all- they don't even look like their internet pictures!


6/18/2009 2:26 PM  
Blogger change100 said...

In a PLO event a few days ago we had a guy who actually made the money who would only identify himself as "Dr. Kegel." He even wore a black silk cape that said "Doc."

After some brain-racking we figured out it was that dude who used to call himself "Prince of Docness." He's even on Hendon Mob with a long poker C.V. as... Prince of Docness.

6/18/2009 5:02 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I guess calling those players "Douchebag" wouldn't be ethical, huh?

6/18/2009 5:58 PM  
Blogger Rosie said...

Well, I'm not sure I agree, certainly with Pokerpeaker.
Why should he tell you? To make your life easier? If he has a wife/sponsor/employer that perha-s hes concerned wouldn;t be overly impressed to google and find them in a tourney,or if they just aren't interested in having the conversation then they're under rightly under no obligation.

Or maybe I'm crazy. Maybe douchebag is fine?

Still loving your work btw :0)

6/18/2009 6:18 PM  
Anonymous Arctic Ghetto said...

I know the guy. He is a drifter from the high plains.

6/18/2009 7:53 PM  

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