Monday, May 31, 2010

2010 WSOP, Day 3: Groundhog Day

Groundhog DayNot a lot of time available to me to write much about the third day of the WSOP. Was there at the Rio once again to help cover Event No. 3, the $1,000 no-limit hold’em, a.k.a., one of “The Grand Games” of this year’s Series. A few quick items to pass along regarding the day, then I’m off to Peru.

Covering a tournament with multiple Day Ones is always a bit strange. You push through ten long levels on one day, then come back and you’re back to the beginning. Which gives one that Groundhog Day-like feeling that one is living the same day over and over again. But of course, every day at the WSOP ends up being unique, even if some of the day’s features seem uncannily familiar.

When we arrived, the thought was the field for Day 1b would be larger than that of Day 1a, but as it turned out that wasn’t the case. After 2,601 had come out on Saturday, just 1,744 players were there on Sunday, making for 4,345 altogether.

The day started on a humorous note as I went over and set up again in the Amazon Room, anticipating a similar beginning to the day as we had on Saturday when 60 or so tables began over there before all were eventually moved into the larger Pavilion room. Was sitting there doing some preliminary work for several minutes before I finally realized -- there were no dealers or players or anything in there to indicate a tournament was about to happen!

Figuring it was probably best to be in the actual room where the tournament I was covering was taking place, I quickly hoofed it over to the Pavilion and set up shop with Danafish. As the day progressed, we experienced a few struggles with the website which definitely made it more challenging to report on the event. Not really much to say about that situation, which many hope becomes less of a situation here soon. Go read Dr. Pauly’s imaginative take on the matter over at Tao of Poker for a few grins.

One highlight of the day was having dinner with Donnie Peters (of PokerNews), Cory Dowd (who was playing in Event No. 3), and Shaun Deeb. Chatted with Deeb a little about some of the tourneys he's played that I've covered, including EPT Kyiv -- where he won the High Rollers event -- and his recent SCOOP win in Event No. 17-Medium, the $162 buy-in pot-limit Omaha event (six max. w/rebuys) (mentioned here).

The only real drama of the afternoon and evening was wondering what would happen if the Day 1b field managed to shrink enough to get close to bursting the money bubble. The top 441 players are cashing in Event No. 3, and with 276 surviving Day 1a, that meant by no means could they allow the Day 1b field to reach 165 and the money before the end of the scheduled ten levels.

We kept wondering what the contingency plan would be should that problem arise, and from what I gathered they would have stopped the tourney before the end of Level 10 in order to prevent the Day 1b group from getting there. The lesser of two evils, I guess. As it happened, there were about 200 left when they got to the end of the night, and thus the problem was averted.

Has been nice working again with some of the reporters and Danafish these couple of days, as well as working with new people, too. And it feels a little strange to be picking up and taking off for a week right here at the start, although I am looking forward to the trip and the experience of covering a poker tournament on yet another continent.

That alarm clock up there is from Groundhog Day, of course. But that's about what time I have to get up in the morning, too, and so I better get a few hours of shuteye here if I can. Will be traveling all day and into the evening on Monday, and am at present unsure about how easy it will be for me to post once in Lima. But I’ll see what I can do to post a few updates during the week. You can check in on the PokerStars blog to see the coverage of LAPT Lima as well.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

2010 WSOP, Day 2: The Grand Games

One of these gets you a seat in Event No. 3 at the 2010 WSOPThey call them the “donkaments.” The low buy-in no-limit hold’em events, such as the $1,000 NLHE Event No. 3 to which I was assigned to help cover yesterday for PokerNews. The term is a bit of a double jibe, as I understand it, against both the potluck nature of the events and the (presumed) average skill level of those who enter it.

In the case of the $1K event, players start with 3,000 chips, with blinds just 25/25 to begin. And in fact they do get to play five one-hour levels before the antes kick in. However, the structure is ultimately fast enough that one generally does have to have things go one’s way early and often in order to get anywhere. As an indication of how quickly the pace generally goes, we started with 2,601 players yesterday, and after ten levels ended the day with just 276.

As far as the quality of play is concerned, the low buy-in does encourage a lot of folks to take shots who perhaps otherwise wouldn’t be playing in the World Series of Poker. And, yeah, you do see occasionally some not-so-smart play when passing through the tables, especially on the first day. Folks committing themselves unnecessarily in bad (or hopeless) situations, and joining the parade of “donks” that were leaving the tournament at the rate of about four per minute yesterday.

That said, I generally find myself hesitant to use that term “donkament.”

I obviously don’t use it while reporting the event, as I have no particular desire to denigrate either the event or those participating in it. And in fact, I tend to avoid using it even when speaking less formally about it to others. “What event are you covering?” I’ll be asked. “The $1K,” I’ll reply. “Ah, the donkament,” comes the usual response, the term in this case sometimes also involving a note of pity, as those events do tend to be quite arduous to cover.

Indeed, it was a pretty demanding day yesterday. We were at the Rio for about 15 hours, having arrived a bit earlier than usual to get acclimated over in the Pavilion and in the newly-arranged Amazon, and staying a little later, too, to tie up loose ends when finished.

I spent the first four hours or so over in the Amazon, where about 60 of the 270-plus tables devoted to Event No. 3 were situated. Eventually all of those were broken down and players sent to the Pavilion, where I followed them and remained for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

I began the day situated in one of the media boxes next to Nolan Dalla, the WSOP Media Director. About an hour in I remembered that when my work at the 2009 WSOP had concluded last July, I was also sitting next to Nolan in the Amazon Room as the Main Event played down to its November Nine. “Seems like we were just here,” I said to him and he laughingly agreed.

Once over in the Pavilion and all set up there with the witty Danafish (my blogging partner for this weekend), I found it a little disorienting at times to be working and moving around in such a huge room. It kind-of-sort-of felt exactly like the Amazon, but once you reached the end of a long section of tables there was another one. And another one.

The Pavilion Room, emptyThe sucker is too big to keep entirely in one’s field of vision. Someone mentioned to me when they saw that picture of the empty Pavilion Room I’d taken earlier in the week it reminded them of The Matrix.

I thought about that observation yesterday, as that “Matrix” effect is heightened a bit when one walks through the many tables full of players with hands being dealt and played, chips passing back and forth, again and again and again.

We made it through the day in relatively good shape, having endured some technical issues to survive the proceedings well enough. Both Danafish and I agreed by the day’s end it felt like we’d been there much longer than just one day. And we return today for Day 1b, where it is expected we’ll see an even larger field of runners. And we’ll do it all over again.

At one point yesterday I was able to hear a conversation between a couple of players just after the dinner break in which one revealed he’d never made it that far in a tournament before. Ended up writing a short post sharing the story. I guess in some ways the story reveals why I ain’t so quick to use the “donkament” word.

Sure, these $1K events aren’t the most prestigious (although they’re arguably among the most challenging). But I’m probably much more apt to identify with those who enter these than the high rollers over in the $50K Player’s Championship. I kind of felt glad for the guy for whom making it past the dinner break was a milestone of sorts. He had a short stack and probably wasn’t going to be making it much further, but he’d accomplished something. He’d survived to that point, and was gathering experience to help him perhaps achieve more in the future.

And for those of us reporting the event, well, we survived, too. Which’ll help us when we try it all over again today.

Okay, so they’re donkaments. But they end up being special experiences for many who play them. And there’s something pretty cool about that, something that makes me want to find a better way of referring to these events.

There are six of these $1,000 no-limit hold’em events on the WSOP this summer. I think I’m assigned to at least of couple of them. I believe I’ll start thinking of these events as “The Grand Games.” That distinguishes them from the other bracelet events, but also suggests something that better evokes how, in fact, these events are a pretty good time for most of those taking their shots in them. (Can throw in the Ladies’ and Seniors’ events into this category as well, both of which also cost a grand to play.)

So... coverage of this first of The Grand Games continues over on PokerNews’ live reporting page today.

By the way, this will be my last day for a little while at the WSOP, as I travel to Lima, Peru tomorrow to help cover that LAPT event. Hope to continue posting updates of what I’m up to while there over the next week, but we’ll see how that goes. In any event, there will be a brief interruption in the WSOP stuff here for a short while.

Wish me well as I go check out what that other hemisphere is all about.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

2010 WSOP, Day 1: Exile on Hotel Rio Drive

Welcome to the WSOPTap, tap, tap. Is this thing on? Ahem. Welcome, everybody!

It’s the 41st World Series of Poker... actually the 40th anniversary this time, as the first one took place in May 1970. Just seven people gathered around one table at Binion’s Horseshoe for that one. This year there were more than 700 in Event No. 1 yesterday. And there might be 7,000 in the Main Event.

Once just a sideshow, the WSOP is now a full-blown spectacle. A curiosity become a circus. And here I am, among the performers, witnessing all the actors and artists doing what they do once again.

I’ll be here for the first three days this year, then next week am taking that quick trip down to Lima, Peru for the LAPT event. As I’ve done the last couple of summers, I’m planning to keep a running journal of sorts here at Hard-Boiled Poker to go along with my reporting elsewhere.

I’ll be over on the PokerNews’ live blog later today, reporting on Event No. 3, the $1,000 no-limit hold’em event which sounds like it’s gonna attract more than 6,000 to play these two Day Ones today and tomorrow. Will be parked there in the massive Grand Pavilion ballroom, then, for most of the day.

Figured out yesterday that in terms of square footage, the Pavilion is almost exactly the size of a U.S. football field (no shinola). Which means I’ll probably be feeling like I’ve been running back kickoffs for 12-plus hours later this evening when the shift ends. Definitely looking forward to the action starting, though -- to get that ball and go!

Even though I wasn’t on the schedule yesterday, I ended up spending a good portion of the day at the Rio, getting there around 11-ish and not getting back to the home away from home until early evening.

The last two summers I’ve rented a car while here. This time around I’m holding off doing so until after the trip to Peru. Even after I return I may resist renting one until Vera comes to visit, as there are shuttles to the Rio as well as a driver on staff for PokerNews who is around to cart us to and fro if needed.

Without wheels of my own, then, you could say I was kind of “exiled” there at the Rio. Although it was certainly an enjoyable exile, full of things to do and see.

Among the day’s highlights was getting to reunite with several other media types like Dr. Pauly. The good doctor -- in mourning over the death of Gary Coleman (Dr. P’s longtime avatar on Stars) -- brought a copy of my novel, Same Difference, for me to sign. I told him I’d used up all the words in writing the sucker, but eventually came up with a few more to add to the first page. I should mention that Pauly’s book, Lost Vegas, will be surfacing in mid-June. I'll be keeping an eye out for that, and plan soon to challenge him to come up with something witty to write on the first page of my copy.

While spending time there in the media room I also enjoyed hanging out with fellow PN scribe Snoopy, Matt Waldron (of WPT Magazine, Life’s a Bluff, and more), Pokerati Dan, Jon Katkin (writing for Pokerati this year), and others.

'Exile on Main Street' by The Rolling Stones (1972)Later on I’d visit a bit with Benjo, here again to write about the WSOP on Winamax, Wam-Poker, and on his own blog, “Las Vegas Off the Record.” Benjo and I primarily discussed Exile on Main Street, a fave of his and in fact the only Stones record I presently have on my iPod.

I’ve covered this before here (more than once, actually) -- in the Beatles-versus-Stones battle, I early on went in the direction of the former, although did always like that stretch of Stones records that began with Between the Buttons (in ’67) and culminated with Exile, with Exile being really the only Stones album I’ve consistently revisited over the years.

If you can read French -- or at least have enough to muddle through like me -- you can check out Benjo’s breakdown of the recent reissue of Exile in which he advances a persuasive thesis for why he thinks Exile is the “best rock ‘n’ roll record of all time,” one he would carry “to the proverbial desert island... or at least in the car when driving to the Rio all the days and nights for the next seven weeks.”

Chatted some as well with California Jen and few other PN peoples, including our photographers Flipchip and Jonathan Boncek. Saw Joe Sebok, sitting at the PokerRoad tables, and we talked about the recent end of “Poker2Nite” and his future endeavors. And I got to meet and visit with some other folks for the first time, too, such as Bernard Lee (of ESPN and Foxwoods).

Doyle Brunson, talking about David 'Chip' Reese before the start of Event No. 2 at the 2010 WSOPLee and I talked some there at the start of the $50,000 buy-in Player’s Championship. That’s Doyle Brunson on the big screen, talking some about his good friend David “Chip” Reese for whom the Player’s Championship trophy is named. Last year’s winner David Bach preceded Brunson with a short speech as well, and he, too, said some nice things about the much loved and respected Reese and how honored he was to have won the trophy bearing his name.

The setup for the $50K was actually quite ideal, given the new layout at the Rio. While the Casino Employees event continued over in the Pavilion, they had the entire Amazon to themselves for the $50K. And since there ultimately weren’t more than 15 tables needed for the event -- a total 116 players entered that one -- there was a lot of space available for the players and all of the media there to cover the action.

As I say, I got back to the home away from home by early evening and rested up for these next couple of days. You can follow the action over on the PokerNews site, or, alternatively, check out the site where the live updates are also appearing, linked from the Tournaments page over there.

Okay, it’s time to go rip this joint. And round and round and round we’ll go.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 WSOP: Where to Go

2010 WSOP Media RoomBeen spending the afternoon hanging around the Rio, moving in and out of the media room (pictured), the Amazon Room (vacant thus far today, but readying for the big $50K Player’s Championship in about a half-hour), and the Pavilion Room, where the field of 721 at the Casino Employees event has been cut in half after four-and-a-half hours of play.

Getting reacquainted with where everything is and where to go. All pretty familiar, but a few new corners to turn here and there.

Here in the media room, a fairly steady stream of media types have been stopping by to pick up their credentials, with a few parking it with their laptops for some early reporting. Have seen a number of familiar faces and had some nice reunions here over the last couple of hours.

Seeing these folks is reminding me that there are a number of sites to follow when it comes to all things WSOP. There is, of course, the official WSOP site, where one can find the live updates (via PokerNews), but also a ton of other content, including B.J. Nemeth’s photographic chronicling of the Series.

Other sites I’ll be checking in on regularly over the next seven-plus weeks include Bluff Magazine, CardPlayer, ESPN Poker Club, Full Tilt Poker’s Poker from the Rail, Poker Road, including Ben Conoley’s blog, “The Small Stakes,” Pokerati, the PokerStars blog, Snoopy’s Black Belt Poker blog, Tao of Poker, and Wicked Chops.

And, of course, PokerNews’ live reporting, where I’ll start jumping in tomorrow helping with coverage of Event No. 3, the first of the big $1,000 no-limit hold'em events. Potentially looking at 6,000-7,000 runners in that one.

Speaking of runners, I’m a-gonna run over to the Amazon now to see the kick off of the $50K, then probably head back to the home away from home to rest up for a long day tomorrow. More to come.

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Restart: 2010 WSOP Begins Today

RestartI am living in a hotel room. I usually live in a house. But right now -- and for the next seven weeks or so -- I am living in a hotel room.

One of the things that happens in a hotel room is that other people come into it on a regular basis to tidy up. Every day, in fact.

For many, this phenomenon is most welcomed. Most of us don’t enjoy cleaning and maintenance, and to have someone else take care of those tasks for you is quite the luxury. I’m basically in that camp, too. That is, while I don’t think I’m an excessively sloppy guy, I don’t mind at all having someone else take care of the tidying.

There’s a weird side effect, though, to this daily visit by others. Just about all the disorder I’ve created over the previous 24 hours -- all the rearranging of stuff that might be regarded as a kind of “personalizing” of the space I’m inhabiting -- gets erased, so to speak.

And so at some point each day, I return to my home-away-from-home, slip in the card key, open the door, and experience the room again as if it were the first time I’d stepped inside. Kind of a minor déjà vu that even after just a few days I’ve come to anticipate feeling.

For example, there are six large pillows on my bed. When I sleep, I need just one. So I stack five over in the corner. Then, when I’m away and the bedmaking happens, all six return to their previously prescribed positions. I come back, and eventually I remove five pillows again once again. And stack them up in the corner again. And so forth.

Welcome to the WSOPSpeaking of starting over, in a few hours, the first event of this year’s World Series of Poker will be kicking off with Event No. 1, the $500 buy-in Casino Employees Event. Later on, that $50,000 buy-in “Player’s Championship” will get going (Event No. 2). Then tomorrow comes the first of the $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em events (Event No. 3).

Hundreds will be there today playing in these first events -- probably about 900 in the Casino Employees one, and maybe 140 or so in the Player’s Championship. (What is your guess?) Tomorrow, however, we’ll be talking about thousands.

I’d mentioned before that I wouldn’t be on this weekend, but I actually will be helping cover Event No. 3 both Saturday and Sunday for PokerNews, and so very soon will be back in the thick of things.

We had some pregame stuff yesterday at the Rio -- a meeting of the PN team to go over some basics. Checked out the Amazon and the new (enormous) Grand Pavilion Room, where just about all of the poker will be played this summer.

Looks like all of the preparations have been made. The banners have been hung. The tables have all been set up, surrounded by empty chairs. Still working a bit on getting the main stage together, it appeared, but most everything looks ready to go.

Indeed, the effect wasn’t unlike walking back into the hotel room. All the order has been restored, soon to be disrupted mightily. Then restored. Then disrupted again. And so forth.

I’m planning to head back over to the Rio for a while today to witness the first bit of things getting cluttered. Might even post another little something later. Then, like I say, tomorrow I’ll be back in the thick of it for the first of the many 12-plus hour days of reporting.

Now that I think about it, I might end up needing those extra pillows after all.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fun and Games

Doyle Brunson Beer Pong Invitational IIICan’t really claim to have ever been much of a drinking game aficionado. Oh, we drank all right. But I can’t recall ever getting too competitive about it. So while I’d been exposed to certain variations of the game known as “beer pong” before, my familiarity with it was admittedly vague.

You’re throwing ping pong balls into cups. You drink if you miss? Or if your opponent hits? Something like that, right?

I’m glad to say today that has all changed. After attending the pre-WSOP Doyle Brunson Beer Pong Invitational III yesterday, I’m in a much better position to appreciate the many nuances of the game, one that like poker (and, well, most everything) cleverly -- fiendishly? -- mixes skill and luck.

And the potential to get hammered.

It was an interesting mix of folks at the Hogs & Heifers Saloon, located downtown on 3rd street (not far from Fremont). That’s the chain on which the film Coyote Ugly was based, so we’re talking about a “biker” bar where you’ll see a lot of Hell’s Angels-types and the lady bartenders hop on the bar to dance from time to time. Lots of smoke and “Ring of Fire” on the jukebox and people getting raucous. Fun stuff.

Dancing on the bar at Hogs & HeifersThrow in a number of poker people -- players and media -- and like I say you get kind of a curious mix. Doyle was there, of course, his sharp-looking pink long sleeve dress shirt contrasting vividly with all of the black being worn in the place. The Godfather of Poker was teamed with Zach “CrazyZachary” Clark (one of the “Brunson 10” pros on Doyle’s site). His son, Todd, was there, too, partnered with Brett “Gank” Jungblut.

Hoyt Corkins was present as well, and he and his partner, Steve “gboro780” Gross, made a formidable team that would eventually eliminate my buds Eric Ramsey and F-Train in the second round. Tiffany Michelle and Lisa Parsons were a team, too. Some might remember Parsons was the next-to-last woman eliminated from the 2008 WSOP Main Event (in 76th), and Michelle caught some flack for being caught on ESPN celebrating a bit at the news of Parsons’ elimination. (Michelle would go on to finish 17th.) Obviously the pair have formed a friendship since, and like everyone else appeared to be having a good time yesterday.

Other teams included Matt “All in at 420” Stout and AlCantHang, Andrew “LuckyChewy” Lichtenberger and Dan Smith, and Erica Schoenberg and Erick Lindgren. Eli Elezra was there, too, as was Chad Brown, whose partner, Vanessa Rousso, couldn't make it and was replaced by PokerNews’ Kristy Arnett. You can see the original bracket here, although there were some last-minute replacements here and there.

Despite Pokerati Dan Michalski’s efforts to rig the brackets in his favor, Tony “Bond18” Dunst and Leo Murphy ended up surviving the 32-team field to win the trophy.

The Godfather of Beer PongDoyle and Zack’s team made it to the quarterfinals. Their opponents had landed a ball in the last remaining of their ten cups, meaning they each had one chance to sink one in a remaining cup on the other end of the table -- a “rebuttal” -- to avoid elimination.

However, Zack absent-mindedly drank the last cup down before they were able to throw -- which means the game is over. Such was the rule shouted multiple times via megaphone before play began.

I did get a chance to chat briefly with Doyle after his team was ousted. Mentioned to him that I’d reviewed his book and enjoyed it, and he thanked me with a wide grin, clearly having a good time hosting this shindig.

If yr curious about what the scene was like, here’s some video from the event:

I made it back to the home-away-from-home around dinner time. Have to mention one thing I saw on the way back -- sort of an “only in Vegas”-type deal.

Was riding shotgun with some of the other PokerNews guys when at a light I noticed the hands of the dude at the wheel in the vehicle next to us. He was holding playing cards. Then he wasn’t! Then he was again.

I got the attention of Eric, Ben, and Alex -- the guy was doing card tricks in the car while driving! Just making cards appear and disappear. No passengers in the car. We were essentially his audience at that moment. It was quite a show.

Since I’d loaded up on hamburgers and hot dogs at Hogs & Heifers, I wasn’t too hungry. Thought about playing in the Mookie on Full Tilt, as it afforded one last chance to win a spot in tonight’s BBT5 Tournament of Champions. Just 24 players will be competing in that one -- not even as many as were in the Brunson Beer Pong III -- with the top three winning seats in the WSOP Main Event, and the next two winning $2,000 WSOP packages.

I’d had three previous shots to land a seat in earlier Invitational events. Best finish in those had been seventh (needed top two to get into the TOC). The Mookie, meanwhile, only offered one spot. There were 101 entered last night, so the odds of yr humble gumshoe getting there were pretty slim.

The MookiePlayed what felt like a smart first hour in which I’d chipped up slowly but surely without showing down a hand. Then took a horrendous hit with pocket queens when an opponent with fours flopped a full boat on me. I was probably too eager to get my chips in after the 7-4-7 flop, but I imagine they would’ve gotten in somehow anyway. A hand or two after that we were at the first break, and I was down to 700 chips or so and 79th of 80 left.

I subsequently went deep into my turtle shell, poking my head out a couple of times to double up, and somehow made it through the second hour still with chips. Won a few more hands -- including a very lucky one with pocket eights versus K-K when I was the one hitting the flop -- and with 30 to go I was in the top ten.

Ended up making the money, and then eventually got to the final table with the shortest stack. Was all in on the first hand of the final table with A-6 versus Q-J, both a queen and jack flopped, I was outta there. Was satisfying to final table, but obviously it would’ve been nice to get all of the way to the end and be playing again tonight for something more.

Today we’ve got meetings with the PokerNews crew, readying for tomorrow’s big kickoff. I mentioned before that as of now I won’t be live blogging at the WSOP until my return from Peru (I leave next Monday). But I’ll be down at the Rio some tomorrow and this weekend and will report here a bit on what I see.

Gonna go ahead and predict I won’t be reporting much more on drinking games, but one never knows.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wake-Up Call

Wake-Up CallBody still on east coast time, so I’m awake much too early here in Las Vegas this morning. Good thing, as I got a 6:40 a.m. wake-up call I had not ordered. But I’d been up for a while anyhow. First, thinking. Then, writing.

Travel yesterday was mostly painless. Am proud to report I successfully kept my pants on the entire remainder of the trip. (Explanation here.)

Boarded the plane around 11 o’clock yesterday morning. As I passed through first class to my seat, I noticed Boston Celtic legend Bill Russell sitting there talking on his cell phone, idly scratching his familiar salt-and-pepper beard. Had a cap with a little number 6 on it. I immediately decided that sharing my trip with a 11-time NBA champion meant I must be boarding a winners-only flight.

The journey was relatively smooth, made even more so by those groovy noise-canceling headphones I mentioned earlier in the week. Pretty much kept ’em on the entire way, cycling through the Bowie’s Station to Station, the Divine Comedy’s Absent Friends (a new fave), Miles’ Tribute to Jack Johnson, and a couple of soundtracks -- Koyaanisqatsi and Repo Man.

As we started our descent, I took the suckers off and the roar was deafening. No one else seemed to notice, though.

We landed a half-hour early (about 1 p.m. Vegas time), and soon I was checking in to my home-away-from-home for the next seven-and-a-half-weeks. Spent the afternoon unpacking, then went for a fun (and tasty) tapas dinner at Firefly with F-Train, California Jen, and AlCantHang.

The 2010 World Series of Poker begins in two days. Still feels like a long ways off, although that feeling will be disappearing PDQ, I think. Once we turn the corner this weekend and get to Monday (when there will be four different events happening) and Tuesday (when there will be six!), the effect will be similar to taking off those headphones. Calm suddenly replaced by a friggin’ cacophony.

The PokerNews folks are all arriving, schedules are being set, and other preparations made. At the moment, it looks like I actually won’t start live blogging until after I return from Peru (I leave next Monday), but I’m glad to be here nonetheless for all the pregame stuff. And I’ll still be at the Rio on Friday and some this weekend, too, to witness the first few acts of this year’s circus.

Will probably be heading over to that Brunson Beer Pong thing this afternoon “masterminded” by our buddy Pokerati Dan. (Had to go with scare quotes there -- sorry, Wolfman.) You can read more about this important pre-WSOP event over on Pokerati, or listen to Episode 15 of the Gambling Tales Podcast on which Dan broke it all down for Special K.

So fun now. But work to come. Soon there will be a lot of folks -- tourney organizers, players, reporters -- ordering a lot of wake-up calls. Or they’ll be ordered for them.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Flying By the Seat of My Pants

Keep Your Pants OnDoin’ a little airport blogging today. Am sitting here at my gate with my laptop, readying for the flight to Vegas.

Was just now once again going through the routine of removing shoes, emptying pockets, and so forth with which we’re all familiar. For some reason I keep making this mildly amusing mistake the last few times I’ve flown. Did it again just now.

Once I remove my belt and place it in the bin, I instinctively begin undoing my pants as well (no shinola). There I was again a few moments ago -- unbuttoned, zipper down, then realizing I’m not undressing at home.

Thankfully I’ve managed to catch myself each time -- before anyone else has had to tell me not to strip down entirely. Would make the subsequent full body scan unnecessary, though.

Lemme point y’all to a few different things elsewhere to listen to and/or read while I'm hurtling my way across the continent. Or at least to make you forget about me absent-mindedly stripping in public.

Gambling Tales PodcastYesterday I had a chance to listen to Episode 14 of the Gambling Tales Podcast on which I appeared as a guest along with Falstaff and Special K. Falstaff and I had a fun conversation about tourney reporting -- both live and online. We did it over Skype, and the quality is pretty good. Was glad to hear myself sounding somewhat coherent, too, given that I had been up for 40-plus hours or something just before we spoke (covering SCOOP). Click here to get to that episode, and you can confirm for me whether I'm making any sense.

'DUCY?' (2010) by David Sklansky and Alan SchoonmakerHave a couple of other items to share. I recently read the new one from David Sklansky, DUCY? Exploits, Advice, and Ideas of the Renowned Strategist, written in collaboration with Alan Schoonmaker. This is the book in which Sklansky offers thoughts and theories about a host of non-poker topics, including things like health care, the economy, legalizing drugs, gun control, the death penalty, and so forth. An interesting read, about which I’ll probably have more to say over here eventually. Meanwhile, I wrote a review of DUCY? for the Betfair poker blog, if yr curious.

Woman Poker PlayerFinally, California Jen and I contributed a new pair of “He Said/She Said” columns for Woman Poker Player for this month. This time we separately addressed all of this “Year of the Woman” talk we’ve been hearing in the wake of big wins by women in major events (Annie Duke in the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, Vanessa Selbst at NAPT Mohegan Sun, and Liv Boeree’s at EPT San Remo).

Click here to read what Jen said. And here’s my contribution.

Will try my best to keep my pants on for the rest of the trip. See y’all on the other side!

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Canceling Out the Noise

Got an especially nice gift the other day from Vera, her mom, and my mom. My birthday comes up in mid-June, when I’ll be away in Las Vegas helping cover the WSOP. Anticipating that trip out -- plus another excursion down to Lima, Peru the first week of June for an LAPT event -- the ladies in my life together conspired to get me an especially useful gift: a groovy set of Bose noise-canceling headphones.

If you’ve ever tried ’em, you know how well they work. Slip ’em on, and they comfortably cover yr ears and already muffle outside ambient noise to some extent. Then flip the switch. I’m sitting here right now next to my desktop computer, the hard disk of which is churning away. This I hear quite plainly even with the headphones on, but once I’ve flipped the switch -- nothing. Dead silence. I can barely hear my fingers tapping the keyboard.

Think I’ll dial up some Fela Kuti for the rest of this here post. Anyone comes knocking at my door for the next little while, they ain’t gettin’ an answer.

I was curious to find out how the headphones work, and so over the weekend looked around some online. Vera says this is especially geeky of me. Not denying that.

I read about how essentially any pair of headphones feature passive noise-reduction -- that is, simply by covering yr ears and blocking sound waves from getting in there. That’s what I experience when putting on these without flipping the switch. Then, after I turn ’em on, I enjoy active noise-reduction, too.

This further reduction of noise is accomplished by the headphones actually creating sound waves themselves. These sound waves apparently imitate the ambient noise except for the fact that they are 180 degrees out of phase with the unwanted sound waves. That is, they have the same amplitude and frequency as those incoming waves, except the crests are where the troughs are and vice-versa.

The result is a canceling out -- “destructive interference” -- which I experience as blissful silence. And in which I can now enjoy the funky lines and rhythms of Kuti and the Africa 70. Perhaps the funk will cancel out the geek here.

(You can read a full explanation over on the “How Stuff Works” site, from which comes that graphic above.)

I also played a little over the weekend, squeezing in a couple of short sessions amid other business, including preparing for my trip to LV. Can’t say I played particularly well, although I did have other things on my mind.

I leave tomorrow, and so am trying to settle various items before I go. It has been a very busy few months -- and, I suppose, a bit stressful, given my recent decision to leave a full-time position I occupied for many years. In other words, there’s been a lot of “noise,” you might say, to interfere with my poker playing, as well as other endeavors (including writing) to which I’d like to be able to devote my concentration.

'Oops! I Won Too Much Money' by Tom Schneider (2006)Anyone who plays poker at all seriously is well aware of the importance of canceling out the “noise” when playing. I am reminded of Tom Schneider’s 2006 book, Oops! I Won Too Much Money, in which he delivers that lesson more than once.

In one chapter he talks about being in the “spin cycle” where a series of misfortunes at the tables seem to get compounded by difficulties elsewhere, too. Which makes it harder to play well, because “it’s not easy to play poker when you’ve got problems.” In another he talks about going through a divorce and how that’s not such a good time to play, either. In a third -- “Is Everything OK?” -- he discusses other kinds of “noise” that can interfere with your concentration, thus making you less likely to be successful at the tables.

Schneider additionally offers some ideas for dealing with this noise -- what might be called some “active” noise-reduction techniques. Get out of the “spin cycle” by mixing things up or altering your routines. Or at least be aware you’re in the “spin cycle” and avoid making big decisions while stuck there. Make a checklist to help ensure other, personal matters are settled before sitting down at the table, then “play in peace.” As Schneider suggests, “make sure you have the important things in life done first before you try to make money in any endeavor, because winning is more important than playing. If you continue to win you can continue to play.”

Makes sense not to be solely “passive” about knocking out the noise, but to try to take “active” steps to find out what is disturbing your thinking and cancel out that unwanted clamor with some directed, “destructive interference.” Important for success at poker, obviously, but also for any other enterprise -- like writing -- that requires concentration and focus.

Gonna think on all this some more while I pack. Gotta find ways to oppose the noise. To be opposite...

'Opposite People' (1977) by Fela KutiThem go show-ee-o, them go show
Them go show themselves clear clear
Them go show-ee-o
Them go show-ee-o, them go show
Opposite people
Them go show themselves clear, clear
Them go show...

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Friday, May 21, 2010

2010 World Series of Poker Schedule (Day-by-Day)

2010 World Series of PokerJust one short week until the World Series of Poker begins. Not much time left to get my act together. Will be heading Vegas-ward early next week and will be there when the cards start flyin’ next Friday.

Here’s a day-by-day schedule of this summer’s WSOP, noting what events are beginning, continuing, and ending each day. I like spelling this out in this way so as to have a better idea what is happening on a given day -- especially those crazy ones when five or six events are goin’ at once.

As always, these things are subject to change. In particular, the WSOP has noted that if the fields turn out to be larger than anticipated (e.g., for those $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em events), they’ll add another day of play if needed.

Otherwise, though, this is what the schedule looks like today. I’ve included links to the structure sheets whenever a new event begins.

Friday, May 28th
12:00 -- #1: Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em ($500), 1/2
5:00 -- #2: The Poker Player’s Championship ($50,000), 1/5

Saturday, May 29th
12:00 -- #3: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/4
2:30 -- #1: Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em ($500), 2/2
3:00 -- #2: The Poker Player’s Championship ($50,000), 2/5

Sunday, May 30th
2:30 -- #3: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/4
3:00 -- #2: The Poker Player’s Championship ($50,000), 3/5
5:00 -- #4: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 1/3

Monday, May 31st
12:00 -- #5: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #3: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/4
3:00 -- #2: The Poker Player’s Championship ($50,000), 4/5
3:00 -- #4: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 2/3

Tuesday, June 1st
12:00 -- #6: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout ($5,000), 1/3
2:30 -- #3: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 4/4
2:30 -- #5: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #4: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 3/3
5:00 -- #7: 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball (Limit) ($2,500), 1/3
TBD -- #2: The Poker Player’s Championship ($50,000), 5/5

Wednesday, June 2nd
12:00 -- #8: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #5: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #6: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout ($5,000), 2/3
3:00 -- #7: 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball (Limit) ($2,500), 2/3

Thursday, June 3rd
12:00 -- #9: Pot-Limit Hold'em ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #6: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout ($5,000), 3/3
2:30 -- #8: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #7: 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball (Limit) ($2,500), 3/3
5:00 -- #10: Seven Card Stud Championship ($10,000), 1/3

Friday, June 4th
12:00 -- #11: No-Limit Hold'em ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #8: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #9: Pot-Limit Hold'em ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #10: Seven Card Stud Championship ($10,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #12: Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3

Saturday, June 5th
12:00 -- #13: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/4
2:30 -- #9: Pot-Limit Hold'em ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #11: No-Limit Hold'em ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #10: Seven Card Stud Championship ($10,000), 3/3
3:00 -- #12: Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #14: 2-7 Draw Lowball (No-Limit) ($1,500), 1/3

Sunday, June 6th
2:30 -- #11: No-Limit Hold'em ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #13: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/4
3:00 -- #12: Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
3:00 -- #14: 2-7 Draw Lowball (No-Limit) ($1,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #15: Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship ($10,000), 1/3

Monday, June 7th
12:00 -- #16: No-Limit Hold’em / Six Handed ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #13: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/4
3:00 -- #14: 2-7 Draw Lowball (No-Limit) ($1,500), 3/3
3:00 -- #15: Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship ($10,000), 2/3

Tuesday, June 8th
12:00 -- #17: No-Limit Hold'em ($5,000), 1/3
2:30 -- #13: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 4/4
2:30 -- #16: No-Limit Hold’em / Six Handed ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #15: Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship ($10,000), 3/3

Wednesday, June 9th
12:00 -- #18: Limit Hold'em ($2,000), 1/3
2:30 -- #16: No-Limit Hold’em / Six Handed ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #17: No-Limit Hold'em ($5,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #19: 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship (No-Limit) ($10,000), 1/3

Thursday, June 10th
12:00 -- #20: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #17: No-Limit Hold'em ($5,000), 3/3
2:30 -- #18: Limit Hold'em ($2,000), 2/3
3:00 -- #19: 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship (No-Limit) ($10,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #21: Seven Card Stud ($1,500), 1/3

Friday, June 11th
12:00 -- #22: Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 1/3
2:30 -- #18: Limit Hold'em ($2,000), 3/3
2:30 -- #20: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #19: 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship (No-Limit) ($10,000), 3/3
3:00 -- #21: Seven Card Stud ($1,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #23: Limit Hold'em / Six Handed ($2,500), 1/3

Saturday, June 12th
12:00 -- #24: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/4
2:30 -- #20: Pot-Limit Omaha ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #22: Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 2/3
3:00 -- #21: Seven Card Stud ($1,500), 3/3
3:00 -- #23: Limit Hold'em / Six Handed ($2,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #25: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship ($10,000), 1/3

Sunday, June 13th
2:30 -- #22: Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 3/3
2:30 -- #24: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/4
3:00 -- #23: Limit Hold'em / Six Handed ($2,500), 3/3
3:00 -- #25: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship ($10,000), 2/3

Monday, June 14th
12:00 -- #26: No-Limit Hold'em / Six Handed ($2,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #24: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/4
3:00 -- #25: Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship ($10,000), 3/3
5:00 -- #27: Seven Card Stud Hi-Low-8 or Better ($1,500), 1/3

Tuesday, June 15th
12:00 -- #28: Pot-Limit Omaha ($2,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #24: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 4/4
2:30 -- #26: No-Limit Hold'em / Six Handed ($2,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #27: Seven Card Stud Hi-Low-8 or Better ($1,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #29: Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 1/3

Wednesday, June 16th
12:00 -- #30: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #26: No-Limit Hold'em / Six Handed ($2,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #28: Pot-Limit Omaha ($2,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #27: Seven Card Stud Hi-Low-8 or Better ($1,500), 3/3
3:00 -- #29: Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #31: H.O.R.S.E. ($1,500), 1/3

Thursday, June 17th
12:00 -- #32: No-Limit Hold'em / Six Handed ($5,000), 1/3
2:30 -- #28: Pot-Limit Omaha ($2,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #30: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #29: Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 3/3
3:00 -- #31: H.O.R.S.E. ($1,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #33: Pot-Limit Hold'em/Omaha ($2,500), 1/3

Friday, June 18th
12:00 -- #34: Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 1/3
2:30 -- #30: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #32: No-Limit Hold'em / Six Handed ($5,000), 2/3
3:00 -- #31: H.O.R.S.E. ($1,500), 3/3
3:00 -- #33: Pot-Limit Hold'em/Omaha ($2,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #35: Heads Up No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 1/3

Saturday, June 19th
12:00 -- #36: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/4
2:30 -- #32: No-Limit Hold'em / Six Handed ($5,000), 3/3
2:30 -- #34: Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 2/3
3:00 -- #33: Pot-Limit Hold'em/Omaha ($2,500), 3/3
3:00 -- #35: Heads Up No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #37: H.O.R.S.E. ($3,000), 1/3

Sunday, June 20th
2:30 -- #34: Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($1,000), 3/3
2:30 -- #36: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/4
3:00 -- #35: Heads Up No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 3/3
3:00 -- #37: H.O.R.S.E. ($3,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #38: Pot-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 1/3

Monday, June 21st
12:00 -- #39: No-Limit Hold'em Shootout ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #36: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/4
3:00 -- #37: H.O.R.S.E. ($3,000), 3/3
3:00 -- #38: Pot-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #40: Seven Card Razz ($2,500), 1/3

Tuesday, June 22nd
12:00 -- #41: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #36: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 4/4
2:30 -- #39: No-Limit Hold'em Shootout ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #38: Pot-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 3/3
3:00 -- #40: Seven Card Razz ($2,500), 2/3

Wednesday, June 23rd
12:00 -- #42: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #39: No-Limit Hold'em Shootout ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #41: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #40: Seven Card Razz ($2,500), 3/3
5:00 -- #43: H.O.R.S.E. Championship ($10,000), 1/3

Thursday, June 24th
12:00 -- #44: Mixed Hold'em (Limit/No-Limit) ($2,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #41: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-low Split-8 or Better ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #42: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #43: H.O.R.S.E. Championship ($10,000), 2/3

Friday, June 25th
12:00 -- #45: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #42: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #44: Mixed Hold'em (Limit/No-Limit) ($2,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #43: H.O.R.S.E. Championship ($10,000), 3/3
5:00 -- #46: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-low Split-8 or Better ($5,000), 1/3

Saturday, June 26th
12:00 -- #47: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/4
2:30 -- #44: Mixed Hold'em (Limit/No-Limit) ($2,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #45: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #46: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-low Split-8 or Better ($5,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #48: Mixed Event ($2,500), 1/3

Sunday, June 27th
1:00 -- WSOP Tournament of Champions (freeroll), 1/2
2:30 -- #45: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #47: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/4
3:00 -- #46: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-low Split-8 or Better ($5,000), 3/3
3:00 -- #48: Mixed Event ($2,500), 2/3

Monday, June 28th
12:00 -- #49: No-Limit Hold'em ($1,500), 1/3
2:30 -- #47: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/4
3:00 -- #48: Mixed Event ($2,500), 3/3
5:00 -- #50: Pot-Limit Omaha ($5,000), 1/3

Tuesday, June 29th
12:00 -- #51: Triple Chance No-Limit Hold’em ($3,000), 1/3
2:30 -- #47: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 4/4
2:30 -- #49: No-Limit Hold'em ($1,500), 2/3
3:00 -- #50: Pot-Limit Omaha ($5,000), 2/3

Wednesday, June 30th
12:00 -- #52: No-Limit Hold’em / Six Handed ($25,000), 1/4
2:30 -- #49: No-Limit Hold'em ($1,500), 3/3
2:30 -- #51: Triple Chance No-Limit Hold’em ($3,000), 2/3
3:00 -- #50: Pot-Limit Omaha ($5,000), 3/3
5:00 -- #53: Limit Hold’em Shootout ($1,500), 1/3

Thursday, July 1st
12:00 -- #54: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 1/4
2:30 -- #51: Triple Chance No-Limit Hold’em ($3,000), 3/3
2:30 -- #52: No-Limit Hold’em / Six Handed ($25,000), 2/4
3:00 -- #53: Limit Hold’em Shootout ($1,500), 2/3
5:00 -- #55: Pot-Limit Omaha Championship ($10,000), 1/3

Friday, July 2nd
2:30 -- #52: No-Limit Hold’em / Six Handed ($25,000), 3/4
2:30 -- #54: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 2/4
3:00 -- #53: Limit Hold’em Shootout ($1,500), 3/3
3:00 -- #55: Pot-Limit Omaha Championship ($10,000), 2/3
5:00 -- #56: No-Limit Hold’em ($2,500), 1/3

Saturday, July 3rd
2:00 -- Ante Up For Africa Poker Tournament ($5,000), 1/1
2:30 -- #52: No-Limit Hold’em / Six Handed ($25,000), 4/4
2:30 -- #54: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 3/4
3:00 -- #55: Pot-Limit Omaha Championship ($10,000), 3/3
3:00 -- #56: No-Limit Hold’em ($2,500), 2/3

Sunday, July 4th
1:00 -- WSOP Tournament of Champions (freeroll), 2/2
2:30 -- #54: No-Limit Hold’em ($1,000), 4/4
3:00 -- #56: No-Limit Hold’em ($2,500), 3/3

Monday, July 5th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 1a/8

Tuesday, July 6th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 1b/8

Wednesday, July 7th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 1c/8

Thursday, July 8th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 1d/8

Friday, July 9th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 2a/8

Saturday, July 10th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 2b/8

Tuesday, July 12th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 3/8

Wednesday, July 13th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 4/8

Thursday, July 14th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 5/8

Friday, July 15th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 6/8

Saturday, July 16th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 7/8

Sunday, July 17th
12:00 -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), 8/8

November 2010
TBD -- #57: No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($10,000), Final Table

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another House Hearing: Ways & Means (No Ends)

The House Ways and Means CommitteeSome buzz yesterday regarding this “Hearing on Tax Proposals Related to Legislation to Legalize Internet Gambling” in which the House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means discussed various topics, including proposed bills to license, regulate, and tax online gambling in the U.S. Much of that buzz seemed quite positive. That is to say, we heard a lot of “this is good for poker” talk, primarily inspired by what seemed to be a renewed, sincere focus of legislators on the subject of online gambling.

Have to say, while I found the hearing somewhat engaging, I didn’t really see a great deal to get excited about. In truth, the whole hearing struck me as a largely theoretical discussion with not a lot of practical value, particularly with regard to that fast-approaching deadline for compliance with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 -- coming on June 1, 2010.

That’s real, I’m afraid. The UIGEA is law, and banks and other financial institutions will have to comply with it in less than two weeks. The rest of this stuff has a big “what if” hanging over it.

Importantly, the point of yesterday’s hearing wasn’t to discuss legalizing the operation of online gambling sites in the U.S., but rather “proposals related” to legalizing online gambling -- primarily the idea of how to tax it. That’s what the Ways and Means Committee does. They’re all about writing tax laws. Thus, as the opening statement of the committee chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) indicates, “the issue of whether Internet gambling should be legal [was] not the subject of this hearing. That debate will take place in another venue outside of this Committee’s jurisdiction.”

Unlike earlier hearings, then, such as have taken place over at the House Financial Services Committee (the most recent being in December 2009), there was an intention yesterday to focus more on how legalized online gambling might work in the U.S. rather than to open up the question of whether or not the U.S. should get into the game and allow (with licensing and regulation) online gambling sites to operate in this country.

In other words, unlike in December, where it was H.R. 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act proposed by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) that occasioned the hearing, here it was the proposed bill of Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), H.R. 4967, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act, that was given more attention.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)Of course, as McDermott (left) pointed out in his statement, his bill “would work in tandem with the bill introduced by Congressman Frank” and is therefore meaningless without Frank’s or some other licensing and regulatory scheme for online gambling already being in place. And, really, there’s no discussing this issue without acknowledging the larger debate -- that is to say, it is of limited value to talk about how licensing, regulation, and taxation would work without having first settled the matter of whether or not legislators want to license, regulate, and tax online gambling.

So that necessarily came up yesterday, too -- namely, talk of Frank’s bill (which he also summarized) and some debate over whether or not the U.S. really wants to make it legal for online gambling sites to operate within its borders.

Incidentally, as has been the case all along, there was a lot of fuzzy language yesterday about “internet gambling” being legal or illegal. See, for example, Chairman Levin’s statement above where he says the meeting wouldn’t be over “whether Internet gambling should be legal.” To be precise, the issue concerns the legality of operating online gambling sites in the U.S., not the legality of online gambling per se. The former is clearly unlawful at present; i.e., if you are located in the U.S., you cannot legally start up an online gambling site. The latter is less clear; i.e., if you are located in the U.S., you can (for the most part) gamble online.

Anyhow, like I say, the debate over whether or not the U.S. should allow sites to provide ways to gamble online did come up yesterday, despite the Chairman’s saying it wouldn’t. It had to.

And so we heard Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) in his statement expressing horror at the notion that the country would stoop to sanction online gambling in this way, finding it “unfathomable that Congress would consider legalizing a currently illegal activity that imposes harm on the most vulnerable members of our society just to raise money for more big government spending.”

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)Goodlatte (left) also brought up the sad case of a constituent’s son who, having built a sizable debt by gambling online, took his own life, adding that “financial ruin and tragedy are not uncommon among online bettors.” Sort of recalled Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) of the House Financial Services Committee misrepresenting studies about gambling and suicide and yammering on about how “internet gambling is the crack cocaine of gambling.” Bachus had a chance last week to share that observation with ABC News, something he’s gleefully said before in committee hearings and elsewhere.

Goodlatte brought up a much more salient point when he noted that “there is also bipartisan opposition in Congress to efforts to legalize illegal Internet gambling activity” (i.e., to legalize online sites in the U.S. providing a means to gamble within a licensed, regulated, and taxed framework). That’s why I see yesterday’s hearing as mostly a theoretical exercise. We can talk all we want about how taxation might work within some sort of federal regulatory and enforcement framework, but if legislators aren’t going to vote to implement such a framework, it’s really just a lot of whistling in the dark.

As I say, there was a lot of positive reaction to the hearing. The Poker Players Alliance liked it, saying that the “hearing underscores the increasing Congressional interest in a license and regulated online gaming environment.” Michael Waxman of the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative also suggested that the “hearing showed is that there has been significant progress made in educating members of Congress about this issue,” characterizing the hearing as “a home run” (as reported by PokerNews).

I think those who want to see some sort of licensing and regulation were encouraged because despite the occasional pathos-filled non sequitur from Rep. Goodlatte, the hearing was characterized by a lot of sincere discussion about licensing and regulating online gambling.

But it’s all theoretical -- all a big “what if” -- and in fact that’s why I think the discussion went the way it did. That is to say, the only way legislators can talk directly about licensing and regulating online poker is to set the primary question of whether or not it should be done aside. As Chairman Levin made clear, the question of whether or not to license and regulate online gambling was not within the Ways and Means Committee’s jurisdiction. That’s why they could talk so directly about it. (Maddening, I know.)

Bill Rini’s piece from last week about “The Future of Online Poker” convincingly argues that any such licensing and regulation is still way, way down the road. I think the hearing yesterday, rather than providing any real encouragement to the contrary, only reinforces Rini’s argument.

Sure, there’s been some progress. But we’re still miles and miles away from anything tangible. Meanwhile, the UIGEA is right up ahead at the next intersection. Nothing theoretical about that.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Got Rhythm

I Got RhythmThe PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker concluded on Monday evening. Drizz and I did a live blog for the Main Event’s final table, which actually went much faster than it seemed like it should have.

In the live blog, Drizz made a note once they’d gotten down to three-handed (around 9:15 p.m. ET) of how ridiculously deep each player was in terms of big blinds (166, 119, and 95 respectively). Find a comfortable seat and grab some popcorn, was his advice.

Indeed, as we’d both experienced several times over during the course of SCOOP, we were expecting a long, long time of it, especially with the 30-minute levels. On top of that, the final three couldn’t come to terms regarding a deal. First awarded $1,162,350, second $851,775, and third $627,300. The trio’s discussion had been amiable, but one player preferred to play it out, and so they did. With more than half a million dollars separating first and third, it surely felt like no one would be in too big of a hurry to gamble it up.

However, it was just a few minutes later we’d see one player surprisingly bluff off his entire stack. Then after 15-20 minutes or so of heads-up the two remaining players were both dealt pocket pairs, they got it all in preflop, and BOOM we were done before 10 o’clock.

I spent another hour or so finishing up the last wrap of SCOOP (detailing all of Day 2 of the Main Event), and hit the sack. Was dead to the world just a few minutes later.

But by 1 a.m. I was wide awake. And hungry. Next thing I know I’m up making myself a roast beef sandwich.

Now it’s Wednesday morning and I’m still feeling like the body rhythms are a bit skewy. Am I tired? Am I hungry? I can’t tell.

Thankfully I’ve got one more week here to get everything back into some semblance of normal before heading out to Las Vegas to help cover the World Series of Poker once again. Will be taking off early next week, then the first events begin on Friday, May 28. I’ll be there for the start, then will have a one-week excursion down to Lima, Peru to help cover the Latin American Poker Tour event there (first week of June). Then I’ll be back in Vegas for the remainder of the Series.

It goes without saying I’m excited (and grateful) to be heading back out for a third go-round at the WSOP.

Long time readers recall my reporting on my first trip out in 2008. All was brand new, fresh, stirring.

Last year’s return tour of duty was also fun and satisfying, although necessarily the experience was different -- perhaps a little more routinized in some respects, although still pretty fascinating to be there helping chronicle the spectacle that is the WSOP.

I expect this year will be still different, with a lot that’s familiar, but a lot that will have changed, too. Mentally speaking, I’m already settling into a “go with the flow”-type, open-minded approach to it all. Not unlike a player sitting down at a table full of new opponents. The game is the same, but let’s just play a round or two and see what we’re dealing with here, why don’t we?

I mentioned rhythms above. It is fascinating how the human animal seeks out these patterns, rhythms, what have you -- almost as part of that complicated survival instinct we all possess (I’d say). That’s something I already know I’ll have to be ready for this time around, whenever something ain’t exactly as it was before (which will happen, no doubt).

My detective novel, 'Same Difference'In my detective novel, Same Difference (which has nothing to do with poker, by the way), I tried to make that facet of human nature -- the way we seek & slip into patterns -- a theme of sorts. It is at least a recurring motif, I suppose -- namely, the notion that we have these rhythms, routines, patterns that help us organize our ideas of ourselves.

In fact, the title -- which has a couple of different connotations -- is partly meant to refer to how the detective looks for patterns in people’s behavior, i.e., searches for that “same difference” coming up more than once, thereby becoming meaningful (like a clue). You know, like when we notice a poker player looking back at his stack of chips when an especially good river card lands. A new, different behavior, that when repeated becomes significant.

Anyhow, as I say, I am greatly looking forward to finding my rhythm once again when back on the WSOP beat. Who could ask for anything more?

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Checking in on the 2010 WSOP Tournament of Champions Voting

A little over two months ago, the World Series of Poker announced the return of the Tournament of Champions, this time fashioned as a kind of “all-star” event for which most of the entrants would be determined by fan balloting conducted via the WSOP website. (I wrote a post at the time discussing the earlier versions of the TOC, the first incarnation of which dates back to 1999.)

A lot of hype at the time regarding this event, a $1 million freeroll in which 27 will compete. The event will begin on June 27, with the final nine coming back on July 4 to play it out.

Five of the 27 will be the winners of the previous WSOP-sanctioned version of the TOC (2004-2006), Annie Duke, Mike Matusow, and Mike Sexton, joined by the 2009 WSOP Main Event champ Joe Cada and 2009 WSOP Europe Main Event champ Barry Shulman. Two more spots are going to go to “sponsor exemptions.” Back in April, it was announced one of those will be filled via by an online qualifier winning a seat via Harrah’s WSOP online site (on which U.S. players cannot play). Details on that here.

That leaves 20 spots to be determined by fan voting. All living WSOP bracelet holders are eligible.

Two months ago today -- on March 18 -- voting had been open for just three days. Here were the top 50 vote-getters on that day as listed in random order on the WSOP site:
Howard Lederer, Eli Elezra, Men Nyguen, Alexander Kravchenko, Jamie Gold, Dan Harrington, Erick Lindgren, Doyle Brunson, Prahlad Friedman, Erik Seidel, David Sklansky, Johnny Chan, Freddy Deeb, Tom McEvoy, David Benyamine, Jeffrey Lisandro, Jason Mercier, Antonio Esfandiari, Humberto Brenes, Annette Obrestad, John Juanda, Philip Galfond, Daniel Negreanu, Hoyt Corkins, Chris Ferguson, Alexandre Gomes, Layne Flack, Jennifer Harman, Joe Hachem, Daniel Alaei, Daniel Schreiber, Barry Greenstein, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Ted Forrest, Dario Minieri, Carlos Mortensen, Scotty Nguyen, Vitaly Lunkin, Chris Moneymaker, Amarillo Slim Preston, J.C. Tran, Sam Farha, T.J. Cloutier, Peter Eastgate, Kenny Tran, David Williams, Greg Raymer, Allen Cunningham, and Huck Seed.
About a month later (on April 16), the WSOP delivered a presser listing the current top 20 in alphabetical order. Here’s that list:
Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, T.J. Cloutier, Allen Cunningham, Antonio Esfandiari, Sam Farha, Chris Ferguson, Barry Greenstein, Joe Hachem, Jennifer Harman, Dan Harrington, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, John Juanda, Howard Lederer, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, Greg Raymer, Huck Seed, and Erik Seidel.
Unsurprisingly, all 20 of those names were among those listed in the top 50 back on March 18.

I checked back today -- May 18 -- exactly two months after I looked back in March, and here are those currently being listed as the top 50 vote-getters (again in random order):
Jason Mercier, Sam Farha, Chris Moneymaker, Doyle Brunson, Hoyt Corkins, Kenny Tran, Antonio Esfandiari, Howard Lederer, Peter Traply, Freddy Deeb, David Williams, Jennifer Harman, Peter Smurfit, Erik Seidel, Jeffrey Lisandro, Jennifer Tilly, Philip Galfond, Annette Obrestad, Alexander Kravchenko, Humberto Brenes, Joe Hachem, Billy Baxter, Carlos Mortensen, Phil Hellmuth, David Sklansky, Allen Cunningham, Chris Ferguson, Greg Raymer, Dario Minieri, Tom McEvoy, Daniel Negreanu, David Benyamine, Johnny Chan, J.C. Tran, Erick Lindgren, Barry Greenstein, Men Nguyen, Eli Elezra, Layne Flack, Peter Eastgate, Scotty Nguyen, T.J. Cloutier, Jamie Gold, Ted Forrest, Amarillo Slim Preston, Huck Seed, Vitaly Lunkin, Phil Ivey, Dan Harrington, and John Juanda.
Interestingly, the March 18 and May 18 lists are almost identical, with just four names having dropped out of the earlier list to be replaced by new ones today. Those who were there on March 18 but gone today are Prahlad Friedman, Alexandre Gomes, Daniel Alaei, and Daniel Schreiber. Those on the May 18 list who weren’t there before are Peter Traply, Peter Smurfit, Jennifer Tilly, and Billy Baxter.

I’d speculate that aside perhaps from Billy Baxter -- who may be moving up the list thanks to his name turning up on that first page of the ballot (with his seven WSOP bracelets noted) -- the top 40 or so were essentially settled within those first few days of voting and haven’t changed much since. And it is likely that of those 20 who were leading a month ago, probably 18 or 19 will be there at the end, if not all 20.

All of which is to say, while the TOC voting has attracted some interest, there ain’t been a lot of drama as far as the actual vote has gone. Not thus far, anyway. Voting remains open through June 15, 2010, and the WSOP could spice things up a little by sharing some more info during the days leading up to the closing of the ballot.

Seems doubtful, though, that we'll be witnessing any “June Surprise” as far as the WSOP TOC vote goes.

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