Friday, March 16, 2012

Talking “English Only”

Where English is spokenWas following those MicroMillions tourneys on PokerStars yesterday. Last week I mentioned the new series of events geared toward those who play lower limits or the “micros.”

The buy-ins for the 100 events go from $0.11 to $22, with most on the lower end of that range. Setting aside the rebuy events in which one can theoretically spend more, all but a dozen of the tournaments are less than $10 to play, with most of those around $1-$5.

Would’ve loved to participate in this one, but as an American I’m necessarily on the outside looking in. The lack of U.S. players is hardly hurting the turnouts, of course, as we’ve seen time and again on PokerStars, still the biggest online poker site in the world by far.

The seven events that took place yesterday drew a total of 215,380 entrees. The buy-ins were as low as $0.11 (Event #1, a rebuy event) and as high as $10.50 (Event #5, an NLHE knockout tourney). Altogether, the prize pools for the seven events added up to $762,607.33!

Event #2, a $1 no-limit hold’em event with an extended rebuy period (90 minutes), had the largest prize pool of the seven with 44,741 players contributing a whopping $217,456.33. There were a couple of things that stood out for me with regard to that particular event.

One was the wild story of Kenny “SpaceyFCB” Hallaert of Belgium who ended up finishing runner-up behind waterbee174 of Russia. Earlier in the day on Thursday, Hallaert finished 49th in the EPT Madrid Main Event for a €9,000 cash (worth something like $11,800 at the moment). Then in the MicroMillions Event #2, Hallaert actually had a bigger score of $12,562.45! (More on the event here.)

The EPT Madrid event cost Hallaert €5,300 to play, while it only took a few bucks at most him to participate MicroMillions Event #2. Wild stuff.

English onlyThe other thing that stood out to me was something I noticed as the event was winding down. With 21 players left seated around three tables, I happened to catch chat happening at all three tables, and in each case the chat wasn’t in English. On two of the tables I saw a moderator hop on to remind players of the “English only” rule. One might have done so on the third, too, but I didn’t see. In any case, the chat essentially stopped all around from that point forward.

I noticed on one of the tables a player piped up to say something (in English) along the lines of “we’re outnumbered,” which led me to peek at the countries from which the final 21 players were. Russia had the most players left by a long shot with seven. Belgium, Germany, and Slovenia each had two players. And the other eight seats were filled by players from Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Romania.

Indeed, while English speakers live all over the world, the only country among that list with English as an official language (along with French) is Canada. The Netherlands, where a mix of languages are spoken, also has a couple of regions in which English is a “recognized” (if not official) language.

The “English only” rule is something we find in live poker, too, such as at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, a rule designed to prevent collusion. There are a lot of countries -- more than 50 -- besides the U.S. that list English as an official or “de facto” language. If there is going to be a rule confining players to a single language in their chat while playing online poker, English remains an obvious choice. (That map at the top of the post shows where in the world English is most prominent.)

Still, it seemed curious to see a tourney in which almost everyone playing -- aside from perhaps a couple at the last three tables -- were non-English speakers being told to confine themselves to English.

If they were going to speak, it would have to be in a language that was not their own. Just as the currency with which they all entered the tourney and were trying to win wasn’t their own, either.

The game sure is, though.

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