Thursday, June 04, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 8: Isolation

IsolationIt was a long, somewhat arduous night-slash-morning for yr humble gumshoe. As I mentioned yesterday, there were seven different World Series of Poker events going on at the Rio, and I was assigned to the last one of the day, the $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em/Pot Limit Omaha (Event No. 10).

My event started a little after five o’clock in the afternoon, and it was past 3 a.m. by the time we were done. The tourney was tucked way back in the far right quadrant of the Brasilia room. I had just one reporter with me (Matt, who was terrific), so we were feeling pretty isolated back there, particularly during the very last level when all of the other events had already wrapped up.

Right near my station, Daniel Negreanu was seated at a table that didn’t break for the entire eight levels, so I basically got to witness fairly closely his play and all of his table talk for most of the evening. Also frequently got to experience a bit of claustrophobia as throngs of spectators intermittently gathered near Negreanu’s table. Had one elderly lady ask me if I had a piece of paper that she could take and get him to sign. Then she asked if I had a pen. Then if I had a book or something upon which he could write. I think I supplied a piece of scrap paper, but no other materials with which to bother the poker player while he was trying to play. But she succeeded in her quest, nonetheless, and Negreanu happily obliged her with an autograph.

He also was quite sociable with some of the more inebriated fans who occasionally wanted to engage him in conversation, coming over and posing for pictures with a couple of liquored-up ladies at one point. I remember somewhere in there as they were praising him one of them hollering “Hellmuth is such a douchebag!” to which Negreanu laughed loudly. “How many of those have you had tonight?” he asked. “Just five,” was the reply.

Daniel NegreanuI reported a couple of Negreanu’s hands, but didn’t overdo it as I didn’t want the blog to become All Danny All the Time. As his Twitter followers know, he had a good day, chipping up past 80,000 (from the starting stack of 7,500), but slipping at the end back to around 50,000.

Incidentally, that Rule No. 88 -- the “Approved Electronic Device Rule” -- is not being enforced whatsoever at the WSOP. Not as it is written, anyway. The rule says players can use electronic devices as long as they cannot access the internet, send text messages, or have any sort of external communication. The rule also states (in bold, no less) that “iPhones, iTouch, Treos, Blackberrys, and other similar devices will not be allowed at any time.”

In other words, it does not say the devices can be used when the player is not in the hand. It says the devices “will not be allowed at any time.” But like I say, no one is enforcing this rule at all. And if I had to estimate, I’d say at each table probably seven or eight of the nine players will pull out their iPhones or Blackberrys at some point after they have folded a hand, with some keeping them out constantly -- even, in some cases (it appears), when they are in hands, too.

I reported on one hand last night in which Chris “Jesus” Ferguson let David “Chino” Rheem steal his big blind, all the while studying his iPhone as the hand took place. After he mucked, Andy Bloch asked Ferguson what game he was playing. “Chinese,” said Ferguson. I walked behind him and took a peek over the long-haired, hat-wearing player’s shoulder, and sure enough he was assembling hands on some Chinese poker application for the iPhone. Not sure if he was playing against others or not, but I’m going to guess he was.

I actually don’t feel that strongly one way or the other about players using these devices at the tables, as long as it doesn’t obviously affect the actual play or give anybody an unfair advantage. As a reporter, I have no problem at all with people following their favorite players on Twitter in addition to (or even instead of) my reports on PokerNews. Especially on a Day 1, when we aren’t always going to be tracking chip counts for the entire field the way we will try to do from Day 2 onward, it’s pretty cool for fans to be able to follow their faves that way.

I do have a couple of issues, though, with the non-enforcement of Rule No. 88. One is simply the hypocrisy of having the rule and not implementing it. Why include it at all if you aren’t going to stick to it? The only part of the rule that I’ve seen enforced is the part where it says once players reach the money they have to put all of the devices away (even the iPods and non-internet-accessing devices). Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of words. And having a rule and not enforcing it just undermines the significance of all of the other rules, too.

Everybody everywhere is no longer looking at each other, talking to each other, experiencing each other's presenceThe other issue I have is less poker-specific and more an observation about our culture, generally speaking. I got me an iPhone a week or so before coming out to Vegas this summer, and I definitely like being in constant contact with Vera and other family and friends. But I generally keep the sucker in my pocket. Especially if I’m with others.

Seems like everybody everywhere is no longer looking at each other, talking to each other, experiencing each other’s presence. Instead, everyone is walking around with head down, busily jabbing at these little machines. Connecting with others, I guess, but not the ones right before them.

Be nice if people would look at each other now and then. Hey, we’re playing poker here! It’s a game -- we’re competing against each other. Let’s pretend we exist in the same time and place for a while. Let’s acknowledge each other’s existence. Let’s get together, people.

World can be too damn lonely a place otherwise.

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Blogger bellatrix78 said...

Just as I love when my opponents surf the web (pr0n or other), answer e-mails and watch TV, I love when my opponents are checking their cell and munching on food. As Tommy Angelo says, you need to be in the moment. The "pros" think they are being cute and are so smart that they can multitask... I'll take the reads, tyvm! Every small little edge...

Then again, I was never a very mobile person. Was one of the last people to get a cellphone and still have that old prepaid phone from Walmart from 4 years ago.

6/04/2009 3:44 PM  

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