Monday, August 31, 2009

The Hard-Boiled Poker Radio Show, Episode 18: Gun Shy Gambler

The Hard-Boiled Poker Radio ShowHope everyone had a good weekend. I know I did. Needed it, too, after a fairly exhausting week of work and “real” life stuff. Week began with that marathon sequence of plane rides back home from Kyiv, so it took a few days for the body and mind to resume all the normal rhythms. Wasn’t ’til Friday that I was back in sync, to be honest.

What did I do? Played some poker. Missed out on that “WCOOP Bloggers Freeroll” thing that happened yesterday over on PokerStars -- a freeroll satellite that awarded 18 seats into a World Championship of Online Poker event. Got the email but somehow overlooked the details and so never registered.

PokerStars' World Championship of Online PokerI did, however, get an invite to another freeroll happening this week, something called the “PokerStars WCOOP Journalist Event” which is also going to be awarding some free tickets into WCOOP events. Will try to make that one. Would be very cool to sneak my way through and somehow land a free seat.

Meanwhile, I’ve been playing pot-limit Omaha, mostly six-handed, and doing fairly well. In addition to collecting some cabbage, I managed yesterday to reestablish my Silver Star status on PokerStars for September. Have maintained that for the most part all year, and with it have been trading FPPs for cash whenever possible.

A live action shot of Shamus recording the Hard-Boiled Poker Radio ShowAlso this weekend I pulled together and posted a new episode of The Hard-Boiled Poker Radio Show, this one called “Gun Shy Gambler.” Show starts with a reading from the John Fox book Play Poker, Quit Work, and Sleep Till Noon! (1977). You might recall I wrote something about that book about a month ago. The excerpt is a funny anecdote in which Fox tells about a scheme he came up with to gather statistical data at the poker tables. It is called “Counting Beans,” and yes, the title is meant literally.

The rest of the show is taken up with an episode of the old time radio show The Lone Ranger. A pretty good one, involving a gambler who becomes gun shy after having killed a man, then is forced to deal with his problem when the brother of the man he killed returns to confront him. There’s some card-playing, too, in there.

You can download the show by clicking here. Or just play it right here, if that’s how you roll:

By the way, I have been chatting with someone about the possibility of having the Hard-Boiled Poker Radio Show start airing on one of these internet radio networks. Would probably start out going back to the first episode and playing the old shows -- sort of like putting them into syndication -- then add new ones when the time comes. We’ll see where that goes. I’ll certainly let you know about it here if and when that happens.

'Humanoids from the Deep' (1980)One other bit of extracurricular activity this weekend was my first post over on FilmChaw, the movie blog established by our friend and esteemed author of Stupid/System, Julius Goat.

Ever since I saw the 1980 film Humanoids from the Deep, I knew I had a desire to respond. Thanks to Monsieur Goat for affording me the opportunity to do so. Lot of good writers and cool stuff over there at FilmChaw, so if you are into movies (both good and bad), check it out.

Let’s all have a good week. Fall is almost here. Our high temperature today is in the sixties, if you can believe that. Time for football. And the WCOOP! I’ll be doing some writing over on the PokerStars blog for that, recapping a few events and helping live blog the Main Event at the end. And if this freeroll thing works out, maybe I’ll be playing in the sucker, too. A massive schedule -- 45 events! -- this year, with satellites running ’round the clock, natch. For the complete sked and a ton of other info, go to PokerStars’ new WCOOP website for the skinny.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Cheap Trick Getting Better All the Time

Cheap Trick playing the Beatles playing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band“This next one is from our new album. It just came out this week, and the song is called ‘Surrender.’”

Recognize that, don’t ya?

I like all sorts of music, tending most often to listen to jazz (from Birth of the Cool through ’70s fusion), funk/R&B, so-called “classic” rock, prog rock (with a special affection for German “Krautrock” of the 70s), various ambient/electronic stuff, and what might be called Beatlesque pop.

Regarding the latter, I chose that adjective “Beatlesque” to distinguish a certain kind of popular music -- that kind with connections to Vaudeville/Tin Pan Alley in which the goal is to create those little three-minute pleasure-producers that often combine sweet melodies and singalong lyrics -- from other chart-topping (i.e., also “popular”) varieties.

The Beatles as Sgt. PepperThe Beatles (about whom I’ve written here more than once) transcended genres, sure, but they are their own genre, too. And I have a soft spot for those bands whose ethos tends toward the “Beatlesque.” Which would include acts like XTC/Dukes of Stratosphear, Robyn Hitchcock, Todd Rundgren/Utopia, Klaatu, Belle and Sebastian, Tears for Fears, the Smithereens, Electric Light Orchestra, and others I’m not remembering at the moment. Even Radiohead or Coldplay could be said to fall into the category now and then. In fact, given the extent of the Beatles’ influence, you could probably take just about any popular act from the ’70s onward and find at least one tune that lands them at least temporarily in the category.

The ’70s, of course, is where that quote from above comes from. 1979, specifically, from the Beatlesque band Cheap Trick’s Live at Budokan.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post here about Cheap Trick praising their early career. I still think their first four studio albums, plus the endlessly fun Live at Budokan, are about as good as it gets when it comes to power pop drawing from both the early (“red album”) and late (“blue album”) Beatles modes.

The irony of Cheap Trick’s career, I suppose, is that when they finally fully acknowledged their “Beatlesque” identity and recruited George Martin -- the Beatles’ producer -- to take the helm on an album (1980’s All Shook Up), they kind of lost their way a bit. Still managed to churn out a few modest pop gems here and there, but never (to me) managed to produce anything quite like the consistently enthralling (and rocking) pop suites of their early records. The rock critic Ira Robbins feels similarly, and has written eloquently in many places (including Cheap Trick liner notes) about the band. Here’s his overview of their career.

Now, thirty-plus years after those early days, Cheap Trick is still kicking. And they’ve returned to acknowledging unashamedly their Beatle-ness. In that post from a couple of years ago, I mentioned how the band had performed in its entirety Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band a few times that year in order to mark the 40th anniversary of the LP. At the end of the post I mentioned how cool it would be to hear the performance. I did end up seeing some YouTube clips of it with so-so sound, but hadn’t really come across a decent audio recording out there.

Now there is one. It just came out this week.

Cheap Trick, 'Sgt. Pepper Live' (2009)A new CD and a DVD of the show have been released, featuring the entire Pepper album, plus a track from the show’s first act when they played non-Pepper Beatles stuff. And it rocks. If you like Cheap Trick and/or the Beatles, pick it up. You won’t be disappointed.

The releases come in time for Cheap Trick’s revival of the Pepper show next month -- in Las Vegas, in fact. I remember all summer hearing the ads for the new performances. There will be nine shows (Sept. 13-15, 17-19 and 21-23) at the Las Vegas Hilton. (More info here.) Wish I could go, but there’s no chance I can escape the “real” life (again) and get over there.

Now that I think about it, the Beatles were pretending to be another band, too, when they did Sgt. Pepper, putting on the costumes and making like they were someone else. Maybe it is this “role-playing” idea that further fascinates me here, since I, too, am so frequently playing a role (as the poker player and reporter, Shamus)? Maybe that’s why I’m digging this new release so much?

Cheap Trick performing 'Sgt. Pepper'Nah. No need for psychological self-scrutiny here. I know why I like Cheap Trick’s Sgt. Pepper Live. Same reason why I like their early records so much.

It kicks ass!

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Make a Point to Double-Check, Double-Check to Make a Point

Chinese Poker Lite for the iPhoneThis summer at the WSOP I finally got around to learning how to play Chinese Poker. A few of us on a break dealt out some hands and I received a quick tutorial. Didn’t take long to see why the game can be so addictive. One of the field reporters had the Chinese Poker application on his iPhone, too, which I thought about adding to mine. But since it wasn’t a free app -- and because I’m cheap -- I passed.

There’s now a free version of the app, which I grabbed before my recent trip to Kyiv, Ukraine and enjoyed playing during random moments along the way. Took me about a hundred hands to realize I wasn’t playing very smartly, and so started looking further into strategy.

Tom Schneider made a couple of Card Player videos a while back in which he talks about Chinese Poker. The first covers basics, like how to deal and some of the default strategies for building hands and avoiding getting scooped. That first one also talks about scoring and points work, which is simple but not obvious to a newcomer:

In the second video, Tom gets into explaining royalties and how they might affect one’s strategy. He also talks about some of the variations like deuce-to-seven in the middle.

These vids were recorded right near the end of the WSOP Main Event. You might recall that Schneider made it all of the way to Day 7, ultimately busting in 52nd place. In fact, I’m remembering that after he busted I ran over during the dinner break and joined Tom and crew while they ate dinner, and sure enough Chinese Poker was being played at the table.

This is also making me recall a very funny story involving Tom from right there at the end of the WSOP that I don’t think I shared here. Story also has to do with my iPhone, as it happens, which I had only just picked up in May right before going out to Vegas.

Long time readers of the blog know about how I met Tom a couple years ago (via his old podcast, Beyond the Table). He and I have been in contact ever since, and this summer had talked a few times and exchanged text messages now and then. So when he was making his deep run in the ME, it wasn't unusual for me to send him a text message wishing him well. Sent during the morning before Day 7, actually.

We got to the first break that day and as I often did took a moment during the break to fire off a text to Vera Valmore: “hey mama... first break about to end... day goin’ well xxx.”

That is to say, I thought I’d sent a message to Vera. It was later that afternoon Tom finally busted, then sometime after that he sent what I assume was a text to all of his contacts passing along the news that he was out.

That’s when I realized -- my earlier message... I’d sent it to Tom, not Vera! I had a feeling as soon as I started texting with the iPhone that at some point I would probably make that mistake. The message app opens to the last person you texted, so if yr not paying attention, it isn’t that hard to send a message to the wrong person. Finally I had done it.

Sent Tom another text, explaining the mix-up. “Disregard the ‘mama’ and ‘xxx’ and replace with ‘dude’ and a high-five” I said.

Funny stuff. Tom got a big laugh out of it, and referred to me as “mama” from that point forward. That was the night I met ’em all for dinner, and then later in the evening had the chance to play for an hour or so with Tom, Julie, and others in the Rio poker room. Got to play both Badugi and deuce-to-seven triple draw for the first time ever live. A highlight of the summer, for sure.

So the moral of the story here is always double-check, whether when setting your hand in Chinese or sending a text to your buddy. In the former case, you might accidentally kiss yr money goodbye. In the latter, you might accidentally kiss yr buddy.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Talkin’ About Poker on TV

Getting back into the swing of my other “real” life here. Returned immediately to the other job yesterday, the one where I tend not to share with anyone details of my poker-related shenanigans.

Makes for the occasionally curious moment when, say, someone asks “What did you do this summer?” To which I’ll answer vaguely about having “done some writing,” perhaps mentioning my novel, and quickly turn the conversation back around. “What did you do?” I’ll ask.

Funniest exchange yesterday had to have been when a colleague was asking me about the NFL preseason, in particular about how a certain team had been doing. I confessed I hadn’t been following. “You didn’t see the game?” he said. No, I didn’t. “Didn’t you even read about it in the sports page?” he continued. Hadn’t gotten around to it, I said. Been busy. He was incredulous.

“What, have you been out of the country?”

Adrian Schaap and Michael Meyburg at EPT KyivI immediately thought of a particular hand from Day 4 of the EPT Kyiv Main Event, one involving the Dutch player Adrian Schaap and the German Michael Meyburg. There were 13 players left. Meyburg had raised from the cutoff and Schaap called him from the button. The flop brought two aces. Meyburg checked, Schaap bet two-thirds the pot, Meyburg check-raised a little over twice what Schaap had bet, then Schaap went all in.

Meyburg went into the tank, then started questioning Schaap. The whole time the Dutch player sat motionless with his arms folded and eyes closed (see picture).

I felt a little like Schaap when my colleague asked about my recent whereabouts. Just smiled and shook my head non-communicatively. Wouldn’t have been socially acceptable to stand with arms folded and eyes closed, I guess, but that’s how I envisioned myself responding. Like Meyburg, my colleague folded, and the conversation moved elsewhere. In other words, the game continued.

Since I have been out of the country, it’s taking me some time to get caught up once again with what seems like an abundance of poker-related news items that have broken over the last week or so.

WSOP on ESPNA lot of the news has been TV-related. ESPN has decided to ink a new deal with the World Series of Poker, guaranteeing it will continue covering the Series through 2018. That announcement comes as ESPN has begun airing its 2009 WSOP ME coverage.

Not overly surprised by this news, actually, though it wasn’t that long ago -- say the fall of 2007 -- that it seemed as though some were starting to worry that ESPN would lose interest in the WSOP. The vibe has clearly changed since then, with ESPN’s commitment to poker further evidenced by the launching of that new internet-based poker show called “Inside Deal” which I keep hearing is terrific though have yet to get the chance to watch.

NBC’s “Face the Ace” has faded a bit into the background, where it will necessarily remain since subsequent episodes will be aired sporadically on random Saturday afternoons. The new show on the G4 network called “2 Months, $2 Million” has begun to air as well. That’s the one following the adventures of four online players (Jay Rosenkrantz, Dani Stern, Emil Patel, and Brian Roberts) over a couple of months this past summer. A good buzz going around that one, though I’ve yet to see it. Oh, and I guess there is something about yet another poker show, sponsored by PokerStars, that will be airing on the Fox network, too.

World Poker TourMeanwhile, earlier in the month we all heard about struggling WPT Enterprises Inc. (owners of the World Poker Tour) apparently being sold to a group called Gamynia Limited for the relatively paltry sum of $9.075 million. Then came the news this week that Peerless Media Ltd., a division of PartyGaming (who run PartyPoker), made a “superior offer” of $12.3 million and will instead be purchasing the WPTE. Still a ways away from the $700-million figure that some say was apparently on the table some years ago when the World Poker Tour was rockin’ and WPTE’s stock was at its peak.

Folks are speculating about the significance of PartyGaming getting involved here with the WPT. (See, for example, Dr. Pauly’s commentary.) It is certainly intriguing, though I can’t help but marvel at how much less intriguing -- or even significant -- the WPT’s livelihood seems now compared to even just a couple years ago.

There was a period -- lasting, say, from December 2005 when WPT CEO Steve Lipscomb issued that “Open Letter” explaining how the WPT had yet to turn a profit and lasting through April 2007 when the announcement was made that the WPT would be leaving the Travel Channel -- that the fate of poker, generally speaking, seemed closely tied to that of the World Poker Tour. Now, with many other tours growing as well as the several other television shows that have together pushed the WPT off of our radar, whether the WPT thrives or not doesn’t seem all that important in the larger context.

That’s not to say I’m not pulling for the WPT to stick around and succeed. Of course I’d like to see the tour right itself and remain a meaningful part of the pro poker circuit. And I’m also as curious as everyone (still) to learn what exactly PartyGaming is up to moving forward.

But there is a lot else going on that makes news about the WPT’s success or failure seem less urgent right now.

Sort of like the result of a preseason game, you might say.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Travel Report, EPT Kyiv: Looking Back

Travel Report, EPT Kyiv--Looking BackAbout halfway through last week I got an email from a poker media colleague who was thinking about also doing a bit of traveling to cover a non-U.S. poker tournament. Like me prior to going to Kyiv, that’s something he hasn’t done before, and so wondered how I was finding the experience and whether or not I thought it was worth it.

I didn’t have a lot of time to respond, but did shoot him a quick email with a few thoughts, the gist of which was to say I was especially glad I’d made the trip. Sure, for a poker reporter you could look at it in a practical way as a résumé-builder. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have something like covering an EPT event successfully under yr belt. And making a little cabbage is always nice, too. But for me the benefits of the trip go way beyond career stuff or the financial aspects.

Last night Vera Valmore asked me to tell her what I liked most about the trip and what I liked least. I had many answers for the first question, and struggled mightily to answer the second. Had to settle for “not getting enough sleep” and “being away from Vera” as the main downsides to the trip. Meanwhile, had lots to say about what I liked.

Travel is something I have always enjoyed, though never really sought out to do. Have taken many trips all over the world with Vera, but chances are probably slim I’d have gone to all those places without her. So had the invitation to cover EPT Kyiv not come my way, I can say pretty confidently I probably wouldn’t have gone to Ukraine otherwise, unless it came up in some other context. (Yes, I do run good -- in many ways.)

Andreevskaya CathedralAs those who followed the blog last week probably gathered, most of our waking hours were spent at the Kyiv Sport Palace covering the event, so our days were mainly taken up either at the tourney, at the President Hotel (our home-away-from-home for the week), or making the ten-minute walk to and fro. So I didn’t really see a lot of Kyiv beyond what I experienced in those places, although on Saturday I did get to join Eric, Glo, Jeremy, and John for a long walk through the city for some sightseeing and shopping.

Still, I did get to recognize and appreciate a different culture, one that seemed to share a lot with other European cities I’ve visited. One big difference was the cost -- of everything, really -- which was very manageable compared to most other European destinations. Indeed, I spent much less than I expected to during the week, and wasn’t necessarily Hryvnia-pinching my way through the trip, either.

Exhibition CenterCertain things -- like haggling with taxi drivers over what you’ll pay them -- didn’t necessarily come naturally, though it wasn’t hard to get used to how things were done. Really everyone with whom I interacted was very hospitable and friendly, and while I can’t speak knowledgeably about the current state of Kyiv (economy, crime, other culture, etc.), it certainly seemed a safe, stimulating place to live.

The European Poker Tour -- sponsored by -- is a very impressive, well-managed operation (in my view). Of course, I haven’t really been on the “inside” for other tours besides the WSOP, and so don’t have a lot on which to base a comparison. But just about everything associated with EPT Kyiv -- the planning and preparation, the accommodations for media, the treatment of players, the functioning of tourney staff (dealers, directors) -- seemed strong evidence that those running the show really know what they’re doing.

EPT Kyiv press passTalking with colleagues who’ve covered other EPT events confirmed all of these impressions for me. There’s a ton to consider when taking a tour to different countries and venues, trying to adapt in ways that work for everyone involved. Maybe I’m still a newbie who hasn’t been to enough stops to have developed a more critical eye, but I come away from EPT Kyiv a big fan of the tour and what it has accomplished during its five-plus seasons.

You might remember the story of the power outage on Day 1b (see post), when play in the Main Event was interrupted for 20 minutes or so. Was thinking afterwards of how chaotic such an event might have been at the WSOP, and how negative the reaction would have been. Nothing like that at all at Kyiv, where everyone took it in stride and, really, it just became another interesting facet of an already interesting experience. There are probably a few ways to explain this response, but one is certainly the professionalism and care with which the EPT is run. (Not necessarily implying here that the WSOP isn’t run well -- it is -- but just to underscore my positive response to the EPT.)

Another big plus for me was working with the PokerNews group -- my partner blogger Eric (FerricRamsium), Gloria Balding (GloriaJoy) and Jeremy Firth (twitter / blog) (video), and Jonathan Boncek (photographer). Funny, smart, talented folks, with whom I’m honored to have been able to work. Here’s just one of the many vids Glo & Jeremy put together during the week, one which shows you a bit more of what there was to see when one wandered beyond the hotel and tourney venue:

I mentioned before, also, how cool it was to work with those from the other sites, too, including the PokerStars blog and the several other sites there covering the event. A bunch more quick-witted, gifted, and mutually-supportive people, making for a terrific work environment.

As far as the actual tournament went, I’ve come away a big fan of a few players, including Shaun Deeb, Andrew Malott, and Alex Fitzgerald -- Americans who made the trip and came away from Kyiv having profited. The guys who did well in the Main Event, including the winner Maxim Lykov and a few others, impressed quite a bit, too.

Dunno know how many of the 296 who entered the Main Event I’ll be seeing or running into again, but I have a feeling I’ll be pulling for all of them somehow, given how each played a role in helping form this nice memory for me.

Which was the point of this and the last few posts -- to chronicle and thus help me remember my Kyiv adventure. (Thanks for reading along!)

Welcome to the United States of AmericaBack to the usual applesauce tomorrow. Got some news coming regarding the podcast, as well as more info on the novel, too. Oh, and as I resume the “real” life I’ll probably try to play some poker in here somewhere as well, so might be talking about that, too.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Travel Report, EPT Kyiv: Day 5

Flying Home from Kyiv, UkraineBack home, safe and sound. The trip from Kyiv to Frankfurt to Cincinnati to home was relatively smooth, though took about 20 hours total and so I’m afraid I’m too sapped to write much of anything today. That’s a pic out the window from the first leg of our journey, for which we flew Ukrainian International Airlines.

The EPT Kyiv Main Event ended somewhat excitingly, with the Russian Maxim Lykov -- who had ended the previous three days as the chip leader -- taking it down. The coverage went well, I think, and in the end it was a very satisfying week of reporting. Was a blast working with Eric, Glo, Jeremy, and John, as well as alongside all of the other folks there reporting for the many different sites.

Speaking of, just before play began yesterday, I was interviewed by a Ukrainian poker site called Balaganoff. Grigory, my interviewer, asked me about winning the media tourney, my visit to Kyiv, and my experiences this week covering the event. Here’s the interview, if yr curious. Starts out with a couple of minutes of montage from the media tourney, then comes me (dubbed, natch).

I’ll be back on tomorrow with a few last reflections on the trip. For now, it is time to get some rest.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Travel Report, EPT Kyiv: Day 4

Media row at EPT KyivWas a late one yesterday, with play lasting until after midnight and our wrap-up work not concluding until after 1 a.m. Ended up staying up another hour back at the hotel chatting with Vera Valmore on Skype. I guess it says something about my age to say I’m still flummoxed by the fact that it is possible to chat (with video) with someone 5,000 miles away like that.

Had thoughts of getting up and doing a little more sight-seeing this morning, but was dead to the world until 10:30 a.m., my body clock finally catching up and allowing me to have a decent period of sleep. Of course, we’ve only one more night here in Ukraine, so I’ll be having to adjust again soon.

Final table today starts at noon local time. You can follow the action over at EPT Live, if you like -- a very cool way to follow all of the EPT events. Have to say, they do a lot of things especially well on the EPT.

Gotta get to work, so no time for more today. Might not be back on here for a couple of days actually, as I’ll be in transit. Will surely have some post-Kyiv reflections to share on the other side, but I can say for now it has been a terrific week -- for lots of reasons -- and I’m really glad I decided to make the trip. (But I’ll be glad to get back home, too.)

Signing off from Kyiv. Check out the PokerNews’ live reporting page to see how the tourney plays out.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Travel Report, EPT Kyiv: Day 3

Nestegg dollsWas a relatively short day at EPT Kyiv yesterday. At least as far as the Main Event went, anyway. Turned out to be a long, long one for me. Lemme explain.

The plan for Day 3 was to play down from 68 to 32 players, making it four eight-handed tables coming back for today. (The event has been played eight-handed since Day 2, by the way, and the final table -- like all EPT FTs -- will be eight-handed, too.) “Miami” John Cernuto went out early on Friday, as did the last remaining woman, Liya (not Lika) Gerasimova.

Indeed, of our final 32 there are a couple of folks whom some of us knew previously -- such as Americans Andrew Malott and Alex Fitzgerald -- but most hail from Russia or the Ukraine and we only know them thanks to having followed them this week. Some characters and personalities among the bunch, though, so it will be interesting to see how things play out.

Will also be interesting to see how the reporting will go today and tomorrow, as the action will all be shot for broadcast in Europe. I assume we reporters will be on the floor today, but on Sunday the action will move to the main stage (where the week began with the drummers and dancers of the opening ceremony), and we may well be simply reporting from a live feed rather than actually being there near the final table. Whatever the case is, I’m sure all will go well, as tournament organizers have been especially conscientious of the media’s needs all week.

Play ended around seven p.m. or so last night, which meant we were pretty much done with the wrap-up work by eight o’clock or so. Then came the media tournament, sponsored by PokerStars. A neat bonus, as we got to play at the tables, with the EPT cards, chips, and dealers. The top three finishers would cash, with PokerStars promising to deposit into those players’ accounts according to a sked of $150-$100-$50.

It was probably about nine p.m. or so when cards went in the air. How’d it go? As my partner Eric (FerricRamsium) sez, “Ship it!”

Somehow yr humble gumshoe managed to negotiate his way through the field of 40 or so players to take down the sucker, the end coming a little after 2:30 a.m. I don’t think this quite rates me a page on Hendon Mob, but it will serve for a nice memory of EPT Kyiv, dontcha know. Indulge me a quick highlight reel.

FerricRamsium readying for battle in the EPT Kyiv Media TourneyWas at Eric’s table to start out (there’s a picture of him there, preparing for battle), and he immediately started mixing it up, open-raising most hands and quickly accumulating chips. Had the supremely bad fortune to draw pocket kings against another player’s pocket aces, though, which crippled him. He did exit heroically, however, going out with the “hammer” (7-2).

We actually had a somewhat slow structure for the beginning and middle stages of the tourney -- at least relative to how these type of events usually go -- with short increases in blinds (and eventually antes) and 25-minute levels. I could afford, then, to be choosy with my hand selection, and therefore didn’t get too randy early on. Picked up pocket kings myself before my initial table broke and they worked out much better for me than for Eric, scoring me a double up and some early breathing room.

Skipping ahead, there were a few instances where I got lucky, for sure, the most notable example coming in a hand about an hour-and-a-half into the tourney in which I’d picked up pocket queens. A novice player -- he’d told us all this was his first time playing poker -- had raised before the flop, I reraised him with position, and he called. The flop came jack-high (rainbow), he checked, I fairly confidently pushed all in, and he called me with A-Q offsuit. Looked pretty good for me, until an ace fell on the turn. I’d already mentally given up the hand when the case queen appeared on the river.

“Miracudiculous,” I said. Afterwards, I was asked by Marc Convey if I’d used my “one-time chip” -- invented by Stephen Bartley, who also made the final table last night. I could honestly say I had not, as once that ace fell it did not even occur to me that there was any way I’d still win the hand. (See here for more on the origin and history of the “one time chip.”)

My opponent actually had me slightly covered in that one -- something I wasn’t even completely sure about when I’d pushed, to be honest -- so the one-outer had saved my tourney life. Play continued, and eventually my other PokerNews colleagues -- Jeremy, Gloria, and John -- would all go out. And head out, too, except for Glo who ended up sticking around and giving me much-appreciated encouragement for most of the night.

Sometime after midnight we’d made it to the final table, at which point I might’ve been close to or even had the chip lead with about 17,000 of the 80,000 chips or so in play. I’d fall back to average eventually, though would build back up, and when Simon of PokerStars went out in fourth I believe I might have had the chip lead again.

At that point it was just me and two Russian players, one of whom was particularly strong -- the best player of the final trio, I think it is safe to say -- and soon he assumed the chip lead. The blinds/antes started going up more rapidly, and I’d become short (down to five or six big blinds) when I got lucky on a big hand versus the new chip leader. He’d limped in the small blind, and I checked the BB with 8-4 offsuit. The flop came J-7-4, he checked, I pushed, and he deliberated for a good while before calling with a seven. Another four then popped out on the turn, the river blanked, and I was still kicking.

The winning handSoon thereafter I was heads up with Kirill, the other Russian player, and I believe I had around a 3-2 chip advantage when we started. We went back and forth some, and I chipped up a little more. Then about eight or ten hands in, Kirill shoved from the small blind/button and I quickly called with Ah8s. Kirill turned over Td2h. “Doyle Brunson,” he said with a grin. The board went 8hJs3c3dJh, and I’d won!

The whole night was a blast. The dealers were a ton of fun, and Clement, our tourney director, was terrific, too. Shaun Deeb, fresh off of taking down the three-handed High Rollers event earlier in the day, was sweating us for a while during the breaks from the PLO event he was playing. Nikolay Evdakov (who also played the High Rollers) had come over to watch as well. In fact, Evdakov had a video camera and was filming us when we were six-handed, at which point Simon delivered an uproarious monologue to the camera explaining to Evdakov how he’d spent €20,000 to enter our tourney and was looking to challenge the Russian next.

We were up early this morning, doing a little sight-seeing and shopping before going in for the noon restart. Really my only chance at seeing something other than the hotel and the Sport Palace this week, so even though I’m short on sleep, I’m pretty wired and ready to go.

As always, be sure to follow along over on PokerNews’ live reporting page as we work down to the final eight. And while yr over there check out the coverage from APT Macau, delivered by F-Train and TassieDevil, too!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Travel Report, EPT Kyiv: Day 2

Media row at EPT KyivMorning, peeps. Halfway there -- three days of play down (Day 1a, 1b, and 2) and three to go. Life in Ukraine still good. Got a better night’s sleep last night, as I think I’ve finally gotten mostly adjusted, time zone-wise. Still feels a little wild to be waking up in eastern Europe, some 5,000 or so miles away from home. Most certainly the farthest yr humble gumshoe has ever ventured.

The weather here in Kyiv has been quite mild, with temperatures in the 70s most days. Been a nice week in that respect, with blue skies and just a few clouds. Was cooler than that walking over to the Sport Palace yesterday morning -- enough so to require a jacket. Inside the arena is a bit warmer (no jacket required), and there is some extra humidity here that may affect those who don’t normally live in humid environments. Comfortable, though.

I mentioned before how there are a number of folks on media row, such as Benjo, Marc Convey, and others with whom I’ve worked and/or know from the WSOP. Forgot also to mention two other familiar faces here in Kyiv -- Kevin and Robbie from the Rio, who are here acting as tournament directors for the various events. Was cool to see them, and a little surreal seeming.

Saw Robbie yesterday and told him I’d been looking for him during the power outage on Wednesday because I wanted to ask him if flash photography was permitted anywhere inside the Sport Arena. (Inside joke, there -- those of us who’ve worked with Robbie are most familiar with his frequent admonitions at WSOP events, wryly delivered in his unmistakable baritone, that “no flash photography is permitted anywhere inside the Amazon Room.”) Told him I’d come 5,000 miles to ask him that.

Play yesterday went quite rapidly, with two-thirds of the 203 returning players being eliminated in just five 75-minute levels. Brought back memories of the final days of the WSOP Main Event this summer, when many players seemed plenty willing to gamble it up with 80-plus big blinds. I don’t think those planning the tourney thought we’d be losing players at quite the clip we did on Thursday, so they’re adjusting the schedule as we go to ensure the tourney stretches out over the scheduled five days of play.

As I say, the plan is three more days, with the final two getting covered for television. Sounds like they’ll be playing down from 71 to 32 players today, then 32 to 8, then have that eight-handed final table on Sunday. As a result we may get to enjoy somewhat shorter days today and tomorrow, meaning Eric (FerricRamsium) and I might get a chance to get out and see a little bit of the city before we leave on Monday. The rest of our crew -- Gloria, Jeremy, and John -- made it out already to shoot some video and take photos yesterday while Eric and I were at the Sport Palace.

As far as reporting went yesterday, all was fairly straightforward. Nothing nearly as exciting happened as Wednesday’s power outage. Some interesting hands here and there, but mostly just chronicling the fast pace of the eliminations and the emergence of the tourney’s big stacks.

Making that fifty-yard walk back and forth between the floor and the laptop does pose a bit of a challenge sometimes, since when sitting at the computer yr too far away from the action to know if something is happening. Also, as I mentioned yesterday, media row is separated from the poker by curtains (in that picture above, the tourney is playing out on the other side). So while we can sometimes hear announcements and such, we can’t really follow anything when on our side.

So it can be hit or miss, sometimes, as far as getting good hands goes. Of course, we’ve reached the stage of the tourney now where we know most of the players by sight, which means when we do get hands they are easier to report. A good thing, since by now just about all of the (relatively few) “name” players who made the trip are busto. “Miami” John Cernuto is still in, as are a couple of others who are somewhat known from other EPT events. But I’m meeting pretty much all of these guys -- and the one lady who is left, Lika Gerasimova -- for the first time.

There’s a €20,000 “High Rollers” event scheduled to begin today, although we’re hearing there aren’t too many players who’ve expressed interest in playing that one. I think Gus Hansen may have stuck around for it, and Shaun Deeb (who went out of the Main Event yesterday) might be wanting to play it, too, although it isn’t certain the tourney will even be played. They’ve had a few other lower buy-in side events this week -- including a ladies’ event -- although the field sizes have been fairly modest for those. We’ll see.

One tourney that will definitely be happening is a PokerStars-sponsored media tourney. We’re to play that not long after play concludes today. Ought to be fun. Will report how that goes tomorrow.

Meanwhile, see you over at PokerNews’ live reporting page.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Travel Report, EPT Kyiv: Day 1b

Benjo's photo of the tourney staff using flashlights to enable players to complete handsGood morning from Kyiv! It’s yr buddy, Short-Stacked Shamus. Or, should I say, SHФЯT-STДCКЗD SHДMЦS?

The second day of play at the European Poker Tour Main Event in Kyiv, Ukraine -- the second of two scheduled “day ones” -- attracted 167 more players, bringing the overall total number of entrants for the event to 296. I know those running the show were hoping to hit 300, but I think that had been considered a somewhat unlikely goal, so 296 ain’t bad.

There are 33 different countries represented, too, which is kind of amazing to consider, especially given the fact that players only had a couple of weeks to arrange to come to Kyiv. We’ll never know, of course, how many would have been there had this event been played in Moscow as originally scheduled. I think in fact there might have been some who came to Kyiv who might not have come otherwise, given the stricter visa requirements over in Russia.

As happened on Day 1a, there were seven one-hour levels played yesterday with no dinner break. For those of us on the reporting side, that basically translates into approximately ten consecutive hours of work -- a bit of preliminary prep, blogging through the eight hours or so it takes to play the seven levels, then doing all the recap stuff afterwards (getting final chip counts, writing wrap-ups, etc.). A long day, then, though not as arduous as some of the days we had at the WSOP.

The press area is located right next to where the tourney is being played, which I’m told is a more convenient set-up than sometimes occurs at these non-WSOP events. Actually we’re all in the same cavernous arena that is the Kyiv Sport Palace, with huge amber-colored curtains hanging down from the ceiling separating the rows of tables at which the media works from the poker tables on the other side. So FerricRamsium and I are continually walking back and forth -- about 50 yards (?) -- between our laptops to the tourney as we gather hands and other items to report throughout the day.

Without question, the most memorable moment yesterday came when a construction crew working near the Sport Palace accidentally cut through the main power line, suddenly plunging the entire arena into darkness. At the time I was on the floor, standing in between two tables and trying to record the action at both.

On my left was Dario Minieri’s table. The Italian had been playing his usually aggressive game, opening most hands with preflop raises and watching his stack go up and down wildly. After more than doubling up early, he’d slipped up and was down around 10,000 or so (from the starting stack of 30,000), and so I wanted to keep an eye on him just in case he happened to bust.

Meanwhile, to my right I had become engrossed in a huge hand developing between another Italian player, Pier Paolo Fabrietti, and a fellow named Alexander Rykov. On the turn the board read Tc3h9dKd. Rykov bet 7,500 into what had already become about a 20,000-chip pot, and Fabrietti called. The river was the 6s, and Rykov again made a bet. Fabrietti responded by pushing all in, and Rykov thought a bit before finally making the call. Fabrietti had Rykov covered by about 10,000, and the pot was now over 100,000.

Somewhat surprisingly, the moment Rykov called Fabrietti tossed his cards to the dealer. He’d obviously missed a draw on that river and had nothing, although it was odd to see him mucking without waiting to see Rykov’s cards. (I ended up chatting about this hand some time later with one of the other players at the table, who said he most definitely would have waited to see what Rykov had before giving up like that.)

It was at the precise moment Fabrietti tossed his cards -- I want to say they were still airborne, in fact -- that the power went out. All of the players at the table instantly pulled out their cell phones and shone the meager bit of light they provided on the table. The dealer leaned forward, anxiously extending both hands out over the chips in the middle. Rykov turned out to have pocket kings, giving him a set. Wild stuff.

At other tables hands had been interrupted midway through, and so those were finished one at a time with the tournament director shining a flashlight. My buddy Benjo snapped that nifty photo pictured above, chronicling the action as we awaited the return of power. Backup generators were cranked up, and after about 20-25 minutes of darkness we were back in business.

Minieri busted soon thereafter. As did Gus Hansen, who arrived very late. He’d apparently bought in earlier, but didn’t take a hand until the middle of the fourth level, and was out at the start of level seven. There were 110 players left at the end of Day 1b, meaning we’ve got 203 total coming back today for Day 2.

The tourney is scheduled to go four more days. No idea how many levels they’ll play today or from this point forward. I did hear that the tourney will be played eight-handed from Day 3 onward (all EPT final tables are eight-handed, btw). Also, there will be television crews on hand for the last two days of play, as I believe they’ll be showing this event in Europe at some point in the near future. There’s also some sort of “EPT Live” feed available online, I think -- I’m sure I’ll learn more about that as we go.

To this point Kyiv has basically been a lot of back-and-forthing for me -- from the laptop to the poker tables and back, and from the hotel to the Sport Palace and back. So not much sight-seeing, but I’m having fun, for sure. Am still struggling to find a good night’s sleep, I’m afraid. Am usually in bed by midnight, but as my body clock still thinks that it is late afternoon, it has been taking me a few hours to shut down the brain altogether. But all in all, so far so good.

Talk at you tomorrow. Meanwhile, you can check in on us over on the PokerNews’ live reporting page. Also, Gloria, Jeremy, and John are doing some location shooting in the city this morning, so there should be some cool video from Kyiv on the site soon. Go over to later in the day for that.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Travel Report, EPT Kyiv: Day 1a

Kyiv Sport PalaceNot much time to write today, but I did want to touch base regarding the start of the European Poker Tour here in Kyiv, Ukraine.

That’s right -- Kyiv. We’re going with that spelling over “Kiev,” following the local custom. There is a bit of political context, actually, to the spelling issue, with “Kiev” connoting associations with the former Soviet Republic and “Kyiv” suggesting a break from the past. Getting a little bit of education here regarding the history and culture as we go.

The first day of the event went fairly well from the reporting side of things. There were a few challenges along the way, the biggest being some sketchy internet connectivity during the middle part of the day. Also, as might be expected, we were dealing with trying to identify a lot of relatively unknown Ukrainian and Russian players. There were just a small handful of “name” players among the 129 who came out for Day 1a (we expect quite a few more for Day 1b, including a lot of the PokerStars players). We did okay, though, and as the day wore on got to know quite a few players.

VirskogoThe day began with a nifty opening ceremony featuring a quartet of percussionists (a group called Ars Nova) and a Ukrainian dance troupe (Virskogo). Both put on raucous, exhilarating performances -- perfectly incongruous given the quiet, sober poker that followed, but pretty cool nonetheless.

That was followed by a message from Ukraine’s “Minister of Youth, Family, and Sport” in which reference was made to a recent court decision (on June 11, I believe) to include poker among Ukraine’s list of non-Olympic sports. Kind of interesting to hear that, given the fact that the whole reason the event is taking place here in Kyiv is because Russia decided to declassify poker’s status as a sport, thus subjecting it to recently enacted anti-gambling legislation. A few more remarks followed, then the cards were in the air.

Once the tourney started, it was relatively familiar territory for yr humble gumshoe. FerricRamsium and I gathered hands and reported, while John snapped photos and Gloria and Jeremy shot videos. The day was a bit arduous, as we pushed through seven levels without a dinner break. But we finished in time to grab a late dinner at the hotel restaurant and were back in our rooms before midnight.

Haven’t ventured much beyond the hotel and the Kyiv Sport Palace thus far. (Indeed, probably won’t be able to get out much at all this week, given that we’ll be working long days from now until we leave.) Have nevertheless already gotten to enjoy some fabulous eats here at the hotel. I mentioned the terrific breakfast spread yesterday. Got to enjoy another scrumptious meal last night, getting the Chicken Kiev -- spelled Kiev -- which was melt-in-yr-mouth awesome.

As I say, not a lot of time to write this morning, so I’m cutting it short. Did want to mention how cool it was to be working alongside not just my PokerNews colleagues, but the other reporters from the various sites who are here, too. Saw many of these folks over the summer at the WSOP, and it is fun to be part of the especially collegial, mutually supportive atmosphere these smart and friendly peoples help create.

Okay, off to work. Back tomorrow. Head over to PokerNews’ live reporting page for our updates today.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Travel Report, EPT Kyiv: Arrival

EPT KievGreetings from eastern Europe! We made it! Was a long, long, long stretch of traveling Sunday-slash-Monday. But arrive we did around 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday, Kiev time (GMT+2).

Pardon my glee at merely having arrived, but there was a period in there when it did not appear Eric (a.k.a. FerricRamsium) and I would make it. At least not by yesterday afternoon, anyway.

Our trip included three separate flights, one to Memphis, then to Amsterdam, then to Kiev. The itinerary was well planned, but all seemed quickly to go awry when our initial flight was a solid 90 minutes late leaving thanks to a series of problems connected with fueling the sucker. Then once we landed in Memphis we sat on the tarmac an extra half-hour as we waited for a gate to free up. Hadn’t even left the continent and it seemed like we were already doomed to endure an extra day of travel for sure.

Those delays meant we were getting off that first flight a few minutes after our flight to Amsterdam was scheduled to depart. It hadn’t quite left, though, so Eric and I hoofed it. And after a wild, half-mile dash through the Memphis airport -- made all the more fun as we were each carrying a week’s worth of luggage, plus laptops, etc. -- we were the last to board before the plane took off.

“We run good,” we laughed, once safely in our seats.

Long wait in customsThe connection in Amsterdam some nine hours later was much less stressful, and we made it to Kiev right on schedule. Got off the plane, turned a couple of corners, and ran smack into an enormous, not-apparently-moving-much-at-all throng of people awaiting entry through customs (see left). Soon after taking our spots at the back of the line, our PokerNews colleagues John and Jeremy arrived, and the four of us had plenty of time to catch up during the two hours or so it took us to get to the front. (Gloria, the fifth and final member of our team, would arrive a couple of hours later.)

While waiting we spotted and waved to Benjo, Marc Convey, and a few other poker reporters helping form the madding crowd. Actually, the crowd was quite relaxed, as all appeared resigned to accept the fate of the wait. Also saw a few poker players in there, as it seemed like just about all of the flights to Kiev had landed around the same time.

Once we finally got through, the four of us shared a taxi to the hotel, making the already not too expensive trip (just 200 Hryvnia or about $25) even less so. Driver cranked his stereo. (“AC/DC, good?” he asked. “Very good,” answered Eric.) Am guessing something like 15 miles to our digs, located in close proximity to the Kiev Sport Palace where the tourney is taking place.

As the music pounded, we silently surveyed the interesting mix of architecture out the car windows, marking the somewhat chaotic-looking sprawl of the city. Some eye-catching buildings dotted the landscape, though lots of public housing in various degrees of disrepair filled the gaps, too. Lot of traffic, helping contribute to the familiar big-city smell of polluted air. Weather pleasant, though -- clear and upper 70s, I’d say.

The view from my balconyWas some time after 7 p.m. when we finally got checked in to our rooms. A humble set-up, but plenty comfortable and quiet. And a decent enough view. This morning I took some amateurish shots off the balcony, then pieced ’em together to fake this wide angle shot. Soon after taking those pics, I went down and enjoyed the awesome breakfast buffet -- a huge spread, with good, strong coffee to help stimulate yr still-a-little-tired gumshoe into full consciousness.

There’s a fitness center here, too, which I think I’ll have to try to start hitting. (Will have to be before that buffet, though.) The hotel does have wireless as well, but at a price (50 Hryvnia per hour). Am likely not to bother too much with that, I expect, since I’ll be spending most of my days at the Sport Palace, anyhow. Gonna head over there probably around 10 a.m. or so to pick up credentials and try to figure out how things will go this week as far as web access, set up, and what exactly we’ll be covering. We know we’re on the Main Event, Day 1a of which begins at noon today.

I’ll attempt to post updates here each morning before our days begin, writing them up before going over then trying to send at some point during the days. Will see if I can maybe snap a photo or two here and there as well.

Meanwhile, check in over on PokerNews’ live reporting page to see whether or not FerricRamsium and I have been able to get online. As the English version of our hotel’s greeting message says, “we hope for the fruitful cooperation!”

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Poker Is Skill, By George

Poker Is Skill, By GeorgeAs this post is being published, FerricRamsium and I are probably in the air on the last leg of our journey, heading from Amsterdam to Kiev, Ukraine to cover the initial stop of Season 6 of the European Poker Tour. Start checking PokerNews’ live reporting page tomorrow (Tuesday) for our first reports.

Am hoping to be able to post this week from Kiev, although can’t promise anything along those lines. Meanwhile, I thought I’d give y’all something to ponder. Saw this op-ed piece in Saturday’s Houston Chronicle by George F. Will which speaks in a somewhat general way about legal battles over online gambling and poker, and thought I would point you to it and make a comment or two.

You might recall Will -- a generally conservative political pundit though never hesitant to criticize either party’s policies if he feels such criticism is warranted -- was an early opponent of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. In fact, Will was probably one of the first to liken the UIGEA to prohibition, writing a Newsweek column about it in October 2006 (shortly after Bush signed it into law) which he titled “Prohibition II: Good Grief.”

Will’s new piece, titled “Internet gambling ban a raw deal for poker players,” also makes the libertarian argument against government restrictions against online gambling. Yet Will additionally makes some effort in the piece to emphasize the “poker is skill” argument, highlighting Howard Lederer as a modern day exemplar of the theory. He also reaches back to the Hungarian mathematician and founder of game theory, John von Neumann, to further Lederer’s case that poker is not strictly gambling, but a genuine test of one’s ability “to apply skill, acquired by experience.”

Incidentally, not all poker theorists blindly accept von Neumann’s poker-related ideas, the most famous of which appear in a chapter called “Poker and Bluffing” that appears in the mathematician’s 1944 book titled Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. Arnold Snyder has a lengthy section in his Poker Tournament Formula 2 which (perhaps hyperbolically) suggests “this chapter has resulted in more bad bluffs at the poker tables in the past 65 years than drunkenness, fatigue, and bad-beat tilting combined.” But Will’s use of von Neumann in his editorial seems relevant enough.

George WillThere is one problem, though, with Will’s editorial, I think, in that Will seems to be conflating two distinct issues.

There’s the issue of personal liberty, whereby any restrictions that handicap or prevent individuals’ being able to gamble online are viewed by folks like Will as a threat. Then there’s the issue of poker being different from other forms of gambling, involving a skill component in a way that, say, roulette or playing the lottery does not.

In his new piece, Will doesn’t mention either Barney Frank’s Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act (H.R. 2267) -- which seeks to license and regulate online gambling, generally speaking -- or Robert Menendez’s Internet Poker and Games of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act of 2009 (S. 1597) -- which concentrates on licensing and regulating “games of skill” like poker, chess, bridge, mah-jong, and backgammon.

It appears Will was probably inspired by Menendez’s newly-introduced Senate bill to write the new piece. But the argument he puts forth gets a little fuzzy when, on the one hand, he refers to gambling in general as “a ubiquitous human activity that generally harms nobody,” while on the other hand he highlights poker as a skill-based game that because it requires skill makes it particularly unfair for the government to circumscribe folks’ playing it.

Still, I appreciate Will chiming in, and don’t disagree with his view that Congress should not be restricting “Americans’ freedom to exercise their poker skills online.”

Interesting, I guess, that I’m now heading to Kiev, where the initial EPT stop was moved following Russia’s decision to consider poker gambling (and not a sport) and thus make it impossible for the EPT to have its event in Moscow. We go where the game goes.

In any event, I hope to talk to you soon from the Kiev Sports Palace!

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Destination Kiev... and the Book Is Out!

Destination Kiev, UkraineSorry for the late post today. Was visiting family and grabbing some R & R as I ready for the Kiev trip. I fly on Sunday and arrive Monday.

Will be a lengthy trip, with two stops along the way -- something like 16 hrs. or so of traveling time. One nice aspect of the trip, though, will be that I’ll be flying with my partner in crime, FerricRamsium, who’ll be live blogging the sucker with me next week. Once we’re there, we’ll be meeting up with the rest of the PokerNews crew.

Not sure at the moment which events at EPT Kiev we’ll be covering. Still awaiting word on those specifics. We’ll certainly be covering the Main Event, a 4700 + 300 (EUR) event capped at 600 players. I imagine we might also be blogging the three-day High Rollers event, which sports a hefty 20,000 + 50 (EUR) entry fee. (No need to cap that one.) The full schedule can be seen over on the PokerStars’ EPT site. Also, be sure next week to check in over at the PokerNews’ live reporting page to see whassup.

I mentioned before that while I’ve done some traveling around Europe, and even lived in France for a full year, I’ve never been to Ukraine and thus have only a vague idea what to expect. Vera has been to Kiev before, though it was some time ago. In fact, it was the late 1980s, when Ukraine was part of the yet-to-be-dissolved U.S.S.R.

I know Kiev (or “Kyiv”) is a huge city with a population of more than 2.5 million or something (compares to Chicago). But I’ve still got some reading up to do between now and when I land Monday. I have a few informational items I’ve printed out over the last couple of days I’m taking with me, and may hit the bookstore tonight or tomorrow to see if there happens to be anything on the shelves that might be of use.

Speaking of books...

The novel has arrivedBig thanks to everyone for the many nice comments on yesterday’s post, esp. with regard to my novel. Actually got a physical copy of the book in the mail today, and it looks terrific. As I mentioned yesterday, I spent some time with the cover design and layout, and I have to say I couldn’t be more happy with it.

Pretty amazing world we live in, really. On Monday I was on here whimpering some about how books have become less and less a part of most peoples’ lives. Monday was also the day that I published my own book. And by Friday I’m holding a copy in my hands! On the one hand, advances in technology have certainly made books less central to how we experience the world. Yet on the other hand, some of those same advances have made it easier than ever to publish a book and make it available for worldwide distribution.

I have looked over the book and have now “approved” it for distribution, but it will apparently still take 6-8 weeks before it shows up over on Amazon (and on other retailers’ sites). You can, however, go ahead and buy a copy through Lulu, if you want, by clicking here. As I was saying yesterday, it is a work of hard-boiled detective fiction, and no there really isn’t any poker in it anywheres.

At some point down the road I might say more here about the novel and maybe even try to promote it a little more conspicuously, but am gonna wait for it to be available on Amazon and elsewhere before I do that. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about it feel free to write me at shamus at hardboiledpoker dot com.

Talk to you again next week -- from the other side of the Atlantic!

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Writer’s Life

  Has been an interesting month here at Hard-Boiled Poker since
  my return home from helping cover the World Series of Poker.

  A couple of weeks ago, I had a regular freelancing gig suddenly
  evaporate. Of course, nothing in the world of freelance writing should be considered regular, so you might call the phrase “regular freelancing” an oxymoron.

Or, alternatively, you might just call the person who uses such a phrase a moron. Won’t hurt my feelings none.

But the fact was this had been a long-term, quite consistent -- not to mention highly enjoyable and productive -- stream of writing assignments that surprisingly went away when the client abruptly decided on a new direction (and some new and different writers). I’ll spare you further details, but I can’t help but share my disappointment both in the decision and (in some respects) how it all has played out.

In any event, all that wondering out loud last spring about possibly moving over into full-time freelancing has been pushed aside for now. Maybe even for good.

Meanwhile, a couple of other sideline jobs have come my way.

European Poker TourThe most notable will be my going to Kiev, Ukraine next week to help cover the European Poker Tour’s first stop of Season 6. No shinola!

You’ll recall how this event was moved to Kiev from Moscow following Russia’s having declassified poker’s status as a sport, thus making it subject to new anti-gambling legislation. Thus did all the poker rooms in Moscow swiftly close, and so Kiev it was.

Have spent considerable time in Europe before, though never made it as far east as Ukraine, so I expect it will all add up to quite an adventure. No idea at present what my access to the web will be like, so if there’s any interruption in the postings next week, you’ll know why.

I know already I will not be following the footsteps of some of my reporter colleagues and making the world traveling thing a primary occupation. But I am definitely looking forward to this trip and taste of what it is like to report on tourneys outside the U.S.

PokerStars' World Championship of Online PokerSecondly, once I get back home I’ll again be helping blog the World Championship of Online Poker for PokerStars come September, doing recaps and some live blogging of the WCOOP Main Event. Looking forward to that, too, as I enjoyed doing the same both last spring (for the inaugural SCOOP series) and for last year’s WCOOP.

Finally, I have one other bit of sideline business to report with regard to my writing career. This is kind of exciting, actually.

Some time ago I completed a novel -- a hard-boiled detective novel, natch. (I remember mentioning this in a post once a long time ago, which gives you some idea just how long ago this project has been going on.) Revised the sucker several times and sent it to a few publishers, a couple of whom expressed some interest but ended up not pursuing. Time passed, and after some encouragement from Vera Valmore I revisited the novel one last time, then decided to publish it myself. Went through and gave it a final edit, took some time with the formatting, designed front and back covers, and this week took the plunge and published it over on Lulu.

A review copy is being sent to me now, and I am going to wait until I see it and decide all is well before giving out any further details here about how to get the book. The story is set in New York City during the 1970s, and is pretty obviously influenced by the hard-boiled novels/authors I have listed in my profile here. And while I’m remembering one reference to a card trick in there, the novel has absolutely no poker in it whatsoever.

I realize I should thank everyone who has ever read Hard-Boiled Poker, especially the many who’ve sent along kind words and encouragement with regard to my writing, as that sort of thing certainly helped played a role in my decision to go ahead and push forward with the novel. Kind of satisfying to get it out there (and maybe just a little scary, too). Feel very good about doing so, though, not least because it further encourages me to get going on that second one.

So more on the novel to come. And Kiev. Stay tuned.

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