Monday, March 31, 2014

Travel Report: Season XII WPT National: Canadian Spring Championship, Day 2 -- Hurtling Through the Snow

Had snow yesterday in Montreal, and somewhat sketchy conditions for the drive over to the Playground Poker Club, particularly in the morning. But our driver, Harry, expertly guided us both to and fro yet again.

They raced from 311 players all of the way down to just 39 during yesterday’s Day 2 of the World Poker Tour National: Canadian Spring Championship at the Playground Poker Club in Kahnawake near Montreal.

They’ve played 24 levels thus far, all just 45 minutes long, which by the latter part of the night yesterday introduced a definite “turbo” feel to things as chips flew back and forth and leaders and short stacks switched places frequently.

Levels become one hour long today which ought to slow things down a little, although the average stack is still short enough to suggest our day might be a quick one as the plan is to play down to a six-handed final table.

The WPT has different tiers for their tourney, with these “National” events (like the “Regional” ones) not necessarily featuring the same structures as the showcase WPT, tourneys. A little like the World Series of Poker and its WSOP Circuit events, I suppose, to make an analogue.

At dinner last night I ate at the Rail bar while watching the end of that exciting Kentucky-Michigan game, and overheard a couple of players who had busted from the event commiserate with one another over how they had gone out.

One had made the cash, winning about double the buy-in (if he hadn’t re-entered), while the other had come up short. Soon I knew all of the details of both players’ final hands, and a little while after that they’d gotten their phones out to calculate which of the two had suffered a worse beat, percentage-wise. Funny stuff, if typical.

Lots of Canadians are playing, of course, including many from this part of the country. I’ve been praising the Playground Poker Club all week for its many amenities and expert management of tourneys, and I can see how any poker player who lives anywhere close to here would want to make it a regular destination.

Gotta run, but watch the WPT site today to see how quickly those 39 get down to a final six to set up Tuesday’s final table.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Travel Report: Season XII WPT National: Canadian Spring Championship, Day 1c -- The Bridge, Baseball, and Bieber

The third and final Day 1 flight was much like the first two, natch, at the World Poker Tour National: Canadian Spring Championship. A big boost in the number of players coming out on Saturday meant they made the $1 million guarantee and then some, with 1,079 total entries for the $1,000+$100 buy-in event (Canadian dollars). (That above of the Stanley Cup card protector was snapped by B.J. Nemeth here during play on Day 1c.)

Our commute in from Montreal was a little circuitous this morning as the Mercier Bridge -- our normal route over to Kahnawake -- has been closed to southbound traffic for the weekend. Such will be the case again today, but going northbound the bridge is open and so getting back to the hotel is easier.

In other news from the largest city in Quebec, was noticing yesterday both on the large screen TVs all around the Playground Poker Room and in some of the headlines I’ve been reading that the Toronto Blue Jays actually played a couple of exhibition games against the New York Mets over in Olympic Stadium here in Montreal, the first time they’ve had any major league baseball here since September 2004 when the Expos left.

Kind of funny to think about teams coming here right now -- amid these temps and conditions -- to play spring training games, but the first one on Friday was attended by over 46,000 I am reading, with the fans chanting “Let’s Go Expos” for much of the day.

Yesterday was able to have dinner with Anthony Charter and Lane Anderson who are part of the team behind the PokerNews Canada site. The site only got up and running very recently, and they are here covering the event while also planning to do some more tourney reporting soon.

I enjoyed getting to know them a little better and comparing notes between the Canada site and Learn.PokerNews. (I also made clear to them my envy of their continuing to enjoy life with online poker unlike most of us poor Yanks.) Check out their site if you’re interested what’s happening poker-wise north of the border (and there’s a lot happening).

By the way, speaking of the Learn site, have been running some cool strategy items lately, as well as a multi-part history of Late Night Poker penned by one of the show’s creators, Nic Szeremeta. I’ve always been kind of fascinated by this pre-“boom” U.K. show that introduced a lot of ideas soon adopted by the WPT, WSOP, and others a couple of years later. If you are interested, click here for the first part and read on through. The series will conclude on Monday.

A party for the players (and media) punctuated the evening last night, although after two straight weeks’ worth of uninterrupted work and travel your humble scribbler wasn’t really up to it and so instead rode out the night watching the end of that Arizona-Wisconsin NCAA game in a quieter corner of the Playground. Those with whom I was watching the game instantly agreed with me the refs screwed up that last out-of-bounds call (after five minutes’ worth of leveling themselves looking at replays) The charge called before that was highly sketchy, too.

Finally returned to the hotel around midnight, discovering that Justin Bieber is apparently in Montreal and staying at the hotel just around the corner (where some of our colleagues are staying). I guess Miley Cyrus played at the Bell Centre here last night, too, which may or may not have had something to do with the Biebs turning up here.

When we came back there were a number of cars and a crowd outside Bieber’s hotel, presumably teenaged girls yearning for a glimpse. Thankfully -- unlike with the bridge closing -- our route wasn’t affected.

The tourney continues today at noon local time, giving us an extra hour this morning. Looks like 311 made it through to today’s Day 2, with three more days’ worth of play to go to find a winner. Check the WPT live updates to see how it goes.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Travel Report: Season XII WPT National: Canadian Spring Championship, Day 1b -- Bubble Hockey

Another busy, fun one at the Playground Poker Club in Montreal yesterday reporting on the second Day 1 flight of the World Poker Tour National: Canadian Spring Championship. There were a few more entries yesterday than for Day 1a, and more are expected today as they shoot for the 1,000-entry total to make the event’s $1 million guarantee.

I was mentioning yesterday how well run the event has been, with the support from the staff being especially helpful for those of us reporting. There have been other nice amenities here, too, including our set-up being right next to a “players lounge” that includes refreshments, a big screen TV playing Rounders on a loop, and bubble hockey (of which we’ve taken advantage during breaks).

There’s also no shortage of sports on TV here, too, and they even turned some of the screens away from hockey last night to show the exciting NCAA games. Got to see my bracket at last crumble to dust last night as all four games went the wrong way for me, so I won’t be making any late run to comeback to win the pool this year as happened for me a couple of years ago.

There are a few “names” in the field, including Antonio Esfandiari who has busted both Day 1 flights. Was kind of a highlight yesterday watching him play a hand versus an opponent who raised him all in to force Esfandiari to fold, with lots of entertaining table talk happening both during and after the hand. It was clear the other players got a big kick out of playing with Esfandiari, and he, too, clearly enjoyed all of the banter.

Meals here at the Rail (the poker room’s restauarant) have been good as well, with many good dishes from which to choose. Am thus following up some good eats down in Viña del Mar, Chile with another week’s worth of decent dining.

It has snowed some and temps are right around freezing, and thanks to the commute every morning and night we have been exposed a little to the frigid weather. But the hotel is very comfortable and as I was saying yesterday these are some fun folks with whom to work.

Back to it for one more Day 1 flight today. Check the WPT site for updates.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Travel Report: Season XII WPT National: Canadian Spring Championship, Day 1a -- Red, Yellow & Green

Another day of ninja-posting as these early starts (11 a.m.) here at Playground Poker Club in Montreal are closing the window of available time in the mornings for me to post over here.

It was a fun day yesterday for the first of three Day 1 flights at in the World Poker Tour National: Canadian Spring Championship. The tourney attracted 219 runners, 62 of which made it through the thirteen 45-minute levels. Players can re-enter once per Day 1 flight, so a number of those who busted will likely be back either today or tomorrow.

Fun again to be back with the WPT crew who are always enjoyable to work with and after so many years of doing this have their system down very well. And speaking of having a good system in place, the Playground Poker staff do a lot of things especially well here when it comes to the management of the tournament as well as making the jobs of those doing live reporting a lot easier.

For one, they track everyone all day long here, letting us know throughout the day not only who has busted from the event but also all of the seat changes along the way. It’s the kind of thing a live reporting team might dedicate one person to handling -- if they can spare him or her -- but usually cannot be done, especially on a Day 1.

That practice obviously makes things a lot easier when it comes to identifying players throughout the day, especially in a large field, low buy-in event in which a lot of local players are participating whom we might not recognize otherwise.

There are other nifty ideas in play here, including a little “traffic light”-like arrangement on a pole attached to every dealer’s chair and sitting well above the tables. The red light calls the floor over, the yellow is a request for a cocktail server, and the green announces that a seat is open and/or requests a floor person for a less urgent reason.

It’s simple, and it’s brilliant. There’s no yelling back and forth to get a floor person to a table, nor is there a lot of extraneous fuss or delays over getting servers, filling empty seats, or keeping tables balanced.

Anyhow, if I had been more efficient with my time perhaps I could write more, but that wasn’t the case. Check the WPT blog for updates from snowy Montreal today.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Talking Generational Differences in the Great White North

Rapid-fire posting this morning as we are readying for an early start (11 a.m.) for this first of three Day 1 flights at the World Poker Tour National: Canadian Spring Championship in Kahnawake near Montreal. There is snow on the ground here and cold temps here for my return visit to the Great White North (after having come to Niagara Falls just a month ago).

Got in around dinner time last night and had a fun meal at a local steakhouse with Tony Dunst, WPT Event Coordinator Bennsey Johnson, and my blogging colleages for the week, B.J. Nemeth and Ryan Luchessi.

Among the many topics of conversation was an interesting discussion of the “internet generation” -- i.e., those who are young enough to have grown up in a world in which the internet was already the omnipresent cultural force it is today -- and how they differ from those who came before.

B.J. made an interesting analogy, I thought, when he pointed out how those of us who grew up pre-internet (like he and I did) often have to “translate” online phenomena into offline approximations in order to understand them, whereas the younger generation is already “fluent” and doesn’t have to make that extra step.

Online poker perhaps provides the most ready example, as Tony and his contemporaries all took to the game -- their introduction to poker -- without having to think of it as a “version” of live poker and thus needing to adapt strategies learned in that context when playing online.

I’d go on, but we are already here at the Playground Club and readying to go, and so I’ll stop here. Follow the updates over at the World Poker Tour site today to see how things go, eh?

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why Why Zed

Flew to Montreal today, transferring through Toronto Pearson International Airport to get here. I will be here for the next week helping to cover the World Poker Tour National: Canadian Spring Championship.

These flights of less than two hours seem trifling to me now after all of the trips to other continents. Heck, the flight from Santiago to Atlanta earlier this week was about nine-and-a-half hours -- longer than the entire trip up here took, including driving to the airport.

I’ve been both to Toronto and Montreal before. The trip to Toronto was more memorable for me as it was more recent, though both were quite some time ago.

One aspect of the Toronto trip I’ve always remembered was how when Vera and I came the city was in the midst of a huge strike related to education cuts. I don’t remember the details, but all of the teachers had walked out and I think others were striking, too, with then Premier of Ontario Mike Harris the target of everyone’s anger over the cuts.

We were hanging around the University of Toronto mostly for a conference, and whenever we’d walk about we’d see lots of protestors marching and chanting. They carried signs, too, including many mentioning Harris specifically.

“Harris Doesn’t Scare Us,” read one. “Harass Harris,” another. “Spare Us from Harris,” a third. And so on.

That my last name coincided with the Premier’s gave these signs a humorous meaning, especially when captured in photos of me with a “What kind of a welcome is this?!” look on my face.

I don’t know how that situation ultimately played out. I also somehow missed during my earlier visit that the Toronto Pearson International Airport has the International Airport Transport Code of “YYZ.” And that the Rush instrumental that carries that title -- a song I’ve listened to hundreds of times -- begins with the band banging out a rhythm built upon the Morse code transmission of the letters Y, Y, and Z.

Here’s a clip from the “VH1 Classic Albums” show about Moving Pictures, the 1981 LP on which the track appears, in which the band explains the song and title (with the song taking up the second half of the clip):

So now I know. Meanwhile I’m having trouble remembering anything about my visit to Montreal (which was during the early ’90s), so I’m curious to see a little of the city while once again reporting long days from a week-long tourney. Kind of interested to see the Playground Poker Club and actually visit Kahnawake, too, a place I wrote about so many times 5-6 years ago here I memorized how to spell it.

Gotta get some sleep first, though. And probably dream of dash-dot-dash-dash-dash-dot-dash-dash-dash-dash-dot-dot.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Homer, Then Home

Home safe and sound after a long trip from Monday to Tuesday and from continent to continent. Was a great trip and I have to thank all of the LAPT and PokerStars folks for helping making it so.

I actually have only a little time here on the farm before I’ll be heading back out for another tourney journey, this time northward to the World Poker Tour National: Canadian Spring Championship happening at the Playground Poker Club near Montreal.

I mentioned a few times on the Chile trip how I’d been intending to go for a run at some point, and indeed finally managed to yesterday morning. I ran only about a mile or so on the beach, traveling first north then south through the soft sand.

It was overcast again, as it was for most of the mornings this week, although the temps were mild which made for a pleasant time out. I looked up now and then at the hotels and other tall structures as I went, again thinking about earthquakes. There were a few other runners about. And dogs, of course. And also a sand Homer Simpson passed out along one of the boardwalks.

I left the iPod in the hotel room and so was left with my own thoughts as I ran. I found myself thinking a little more specifically about being in another part of the world so far away from home, more than 5,000 miles in fact, kind of imagining the map and the long, slinky Chilean coast against which the Pacific meets. And a tiny little speck of me moving slowing along it.

We’ll see if I manage to do any running at all this coming week. Am doubtful, in part because I’ll be staying some distance from the venue, which’ll add some extra time the the front and back of each of the long days.

Gonna sign off and enjoy these hours here with Vera and all the animals. It may or may not be true that I sent her a message during the week asking “how are Samalam, the Magster, Sweetums, Lilypoo, Big Moe, and Frecklepants?”

The traveling is great fun and I’m grateful for the chance to do it, but really I’m a homer.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Chile, Day 4 -- Crashing and Barking

The fourth day -- final table day -- was the shortest, as often happens on the Latin American Poker Tour (and elsewhere). The long, three-hour final table bubble the day before at Viña del Mar had created several short stacks, and indeed most would bust early as eight players quickly became five and then two.

The rapid pace slowed a bit at five-handed as the remaining players took a half-hour to discuss a deal that never materialized. Then after one more knockout a deal was swiftly reached, with two more busts happening immediately thereafter to set up heads-up play between Rodrigo Perez of Chile and Mario Lopez of Argentina with Perez enjoying a better than 3-to-1 chip lead to start their duel.

Looked for a moment like heads-up play might only last a single hand as both players were dealt aces and got all of Lopez’s stack in straight away. But Lopez had the better kicker and his hand held up, and soon he drew even and then pulled ahead of the Chilean.

They’d go at it for about an hour-and-a-half before Lopez finally finished the deal to pick up the $22K or so that had been set aside for the winner after the four-way deal. In the end both he and Perez walked away with about $120K each from the $915K-ish prize pool. (Melo the muscle man, referenced yesterday, finished third.)

After all the loose-end-tying was done, Sergio and I again were able to enjoy a very nice dinner in which I again went for the seafood dish -- swordfish, this time -- followed by a super sweet ice cream-based dessert dish featuring several kinds of chocolate.

During dinner I checked the scrolling score updating the UNC-Iowa State NCAA tilt, thereby learning the Heels’ season has concluded. I had hastily filled out a bracket on Thursday morning and in fact had UNC losing their first game to Providence (which nearly happened), so for them to get as far as they did wasn’t too disappointing. And, of course, there was the added pleasure of seeing that Dook fell dramatically to Mercer in their first tourney game, which was delightful.

Got to bed at a decent hour although didn’t sleep all that well, mostly just from being restless about another long bit of travel coming up today, I think. While laying awake for part of the night I realized there had been two constants when it came to the soundtrack of my week in Chile, essentially playing at all times although I hadn’t always noticed thanks to other distractions filling my noggin’.

One was the waves, constantly crashing against the shore not too far from my hotel. Earlier in the week I managed to fashion a Pablo Neruda post along the way, noting the Chilean poet’s preoccupation with the ocean. It’s hard not to be so preoccupied with the soothing ambient noise filling all of the quiet spaces up and down the long Pacific coast.

The other was the sounds of dogs barking. As I have already mentioned this week, they’re on every corner, on the beach, everywhere. Often laying about and restful, sometimes they’re spurred to comment on goings-on around them.

One day this week I laughed when seeing a runner on the sidewalk with a leashed dog passing the same canine quartet I’d photographed the day before. All four suddenly sprang into action to chase the intruders to the next intersection, seemingly barking notice that the block was theirs.

The dogs’ night barking wasn’t so bothersome, really, and while it wasn’t so permanent as the sound of the waves it was still a frequent accompaniment.

Am heading to the airport later this afternoon for another overnight flight back, and so may do some more walking -- and perhaps even running, too -- before I leave. One last chance to commune a little with the waves and the dogs.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Chile, Day 3 -- Rumbling Along

There’s a shot to the left of my walk in each day from the hotel to the casino. I may try to go for a run along this sidewalk tomorrow morning as I don’t fly out until Monday night. Have seen plenty of others doing the same this week, along with all of the dogs about.

Kind of an oddly-shaped day in terms of the poker pacing for Day 3 of the Latin American Poker Tour Chile Main Event.

They started with 32 and raced down to nine in less than four hours. With the schedule calling for them to stop at the eight-handed final table, it appeared that the day wouldn’t be lasting much longer. Which after three straight 12-hour-plus days seemed like a good situation.

But nine-handed play managed to last three full hours of play with a 75-minute dinner break tossed in the middle, so that ended up keeping us into the evening, then after a dinner that began around 10 p.m. it still turned out to be kind of a late one.

At last I was able to enjoy an actual dinner, and took full advantage having a delicious salmon dish while talking about progressive rock and poker in Brazil with Sergio. We also talked a little about the earthquakes that regularly hit Chile, something I’ll admit I’ve been vaguely thinking about from time to time while in my fourth-floor hotel room or on the third floor of the Enjoy Viña del Mar Casino.

The LAPT stop in Chile was canceled back in 2010 after the huge earthquake hit about 175 miles south of Viña del Mar, an 8.8-magnitude monster that is one of the largest ever recorded, causing billions in damages and resulting in more than 500 deaths. That was late February that year with the tourney having been scheduled a couple of weeks later, I believe.

Others who’ve come for the stop have experienced earthquakes as well, including a minor one a couple of years ago happening during the week of the event. I can only say that I’ve experienced an earthquake one time before and in an almost trifling way.

Apparently one did hit northern Chile during the day on Saturday (we are far south), and indeed from reading around they are so frequent it seems like the chances are actually better to feel one than not to if visiting for more than just a few days. Will be just fine with missing that part of the Chile experience if I can.

Sergio’s countryman Jefferson Melo leads to enter the final table (pictured at left, as photographed by Carlos Monti). He’s led to end Day 1a and Day 2 as well, and has thereby been able to pose for some all-timer chip leader photos. With bodybuilding as his hobby, it’s hard not to avoid the puns describing Melo bulking up his stack as he muscles his way to the top of the counts.

Check the PokerStars blog for reports, and watch the new LAPT Live feed (in Spanish and Portuguese) over on

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Chile, Day 2 -- Teach and Learn

Just a couple of quick notes to share from Day 2 of the Latin American Poker Tour Chile Main Event, both tourney-related.

They played down from 195 players to just 32 yesterday, and it took from noon to midnight once again for the day’s play to complete. Along the way I had a chance to chat with Ken “Teach” Aldridge, here amid a first-time visit to South America.

Some may know of “Teach” from his World Series of Poker bracelet win back in 2009 or his runner-up finish in a World Poker Tour event in 2011. He’s collected a number of other cashes and deep runs over the last five years or so, and is an easily recognizable figure thanks to the bright yellow jacket and cap he’s always sporting.

I was kind of surprised to see him here, mostly because the number of U.S. players making the trek down for LAPT events has shrunk dramatically after Black Friday. Some events only get a couple of Americans total; I believe about six played this one.

Read my interview with Aldridge to get to know him better. I especially like his perspective on what he’s doing in his early 60s traveling about playing poker. As he explains, the game has become an avenue for him to meet others and experience the world, something I can identify with greatly.

In fact, I’ll admit I can identify with even more with “Teach,” and not just his background as an educator. As it happens, he and I were born in the same North Carolina town, and he still lives not far away so we have a number of other common touchstones.

As it happened, Aldridge and David Williams both made the cash and then busted on the same hand last night, finishing 43rd and 44th, respectively.

I also enjoyed dinner last night with LAPT President David Carrion, LAPT Tournament Director Mike Ward, LAPT Poker Manager Thomas Koo, and and LAPT Event Manager Maria Paula Montero. There was shop talk about building tours and the impressions afforded by tourney turnouts, prize pools, and other factors -- all kind of fascinating to learn about and consider.

Back to the grind. Check the PokerStars blog for updates as usual.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Chile, Day 1b -- Chile Dogs

Once a tournament gets underway and the successive days begin to play out, a routine develops for those reporting on it whereby all is generally divided into work or not-work. And for me the not-work also gets taken up with some work, too, sometimes, which kind of closes the window of opportunity for sightseeing or other extracurriculars even more.

Yesterday’s second and final Day 1 flight at the Latin American Poker Tour Main Event in Viña del Mar, Chile followed the pattern of the first with 10 one-hour levels making for a noon-to-midnight workday. There was a bigger field as expected, and in the end 609 total entries which is actually a nice-sized turnout with the upped buy-in from last year.

On the reporting side of things, a highlight was chatting with David Williams about his decision to make his first LAPT trip among other topics. We talked a little about the 10-year anniversary of his runner-up finish in the WSOP Main Event in 2004, too, and he expressed some amazement that a decade has already past.

Kind of amazed at that myself, thinking how it didn’t seem that long ago that I watched along with everyone else that year’s episodes on ESPN along with the comprehensive coverage of all the preliminary events, too, that ESPN tried that year.

Williams made it through the day with an above-average stack, as did a few other notables here on the LAPT. 195 return to start play on Day 2 which will no doubt be another long one as the plan is to play all of the way down to 32. The final table comes Sunday.

Walking back late last night with Sergio, I couldn’t help but chuckle at all of the dogs hanging out on the street sidewalks. They are everywhere, with most seeming to be without owners. I snapped that photo up above on the way in one day, a group of them hanging out as though chatting about the weather.

Gotta cut it short again as it’s been hard day’s night and I’ve been working like a dog. Go sniff around at the PokerStars blog if you’re curious to read more about what’s happening in Chile, and follow the links to watch the live stream, too.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Chile, Day 1a -- Reporting from the Rail

Some quick hit blogging here once again during the dinner break at the Latin American Poker Tour Chile Main Event.

Yesterday went well, though by night’s end I was about as tired as I could be after the travel plus having to take care of a lot of extra duties surrounding the full day of tourney work.

The Grand Ballroom in which the tournament is being held is nicely laid out, comfortable both for players and media alike. The turnout for the first of the two Day 1 flights on Wednesday ended up settling at 237 entries altogether after the re-entries ended after the dinner break.

The buy-in was upped this year from the $1,100 of a year ago (when there were 1,024 entries), to $1,700 this time (putting it more in line with other LAPT events). So the overall number entries is expected to be down a bit, and in fact there are a number of concurrent events happening this week which will likely be having an effect as well.

Still, it’s a pretty exciting time on the LAPT after having completed a successful sixth season and finding itself as popular as ever in this part of the world. The tour is growing into something starting to resemble the template set by the bigger (and senior) European Poker Tour, from the various accommodations provided to the broadening of the coverage.

Just 74 made it through the 10 one-hour levels yesterday, with the Brazilian Jefferson Melo ending the night with a little under 200,000 chips. There are more entries today (registration is still techincally open as I write), and I’d suspect tonight’s leader will have passed Melo.

I’d mentioned how Lynn Gilmartin was playing her first LAPT this week, and yesterday she battled through the dinner break only to have the misfortune of running pocket kings into pocket aces to bust (reminding me of a similar tourney experience from a while back). A highlight of the day, though, was interviewing Lynn for the PokerStars blog, which I got a kick out of and I think she did, too.

Also enjoyed talking to Carter Gill yesterday, who I mentioned before has been a hugely successful tourney run on this continent of late, including winning the LAPT6 Grand Final in Uruguay and final tabling the LAPT6 Panama event before that. Gill was friendly and humble, and while he, too, busted before the day was out he was back at it again today.

Have to sign off, but check the PokerStars blog for more scribbling and also the great pics from Carlos Monti, a.ka., the Fisherman, who snapped the one above yesterday morning.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Travel Report: LAPT7 Chile, Pregame -- Poker by the Pacific

We’ve already gotten well underway here at LAPT7 Chile at the Enjoy Viña del Mar Casino and Resort (pictured at left), as I’m stealing just a few moments here during the dinner break to post a quick update. We’ll call this a “pregame” to the regular daily reports I’ll start submitting tomorrow.

Had too much to do this morning and in fact I’m still in need of chasing missed sleep which I look forward to doing this evening. Meanwhile had a nice breakfast today with Sergio who runs the Portuguese blog for PokerStars, then also have enjoyed reuniting with the rest of the LAPT staff, the Codigo Poker guys (who do live updates), and several of the players, too, as today’s first day has progressed thus far.

Last year they had a whopping 1,024 entries here, but with the buy-in tripping up to $1,700 from the previous $1,100 that overall total might go down some but the prize pool could still be a big one.

For those who might be curious there is a live stream happening from the tourney’s start which is somewhat like what you find at the European Poker Tour. The commentating is either in Spanish or Portuguese, but even if you don’t speak either you can obviously follow the action pretty well.

Thus far today Carter Gill -- who is red hot in tournaments on this continent at the moment -- started out on the featured table. Then David Williams and Nacho Barbero moved on there, and it sounds like after the break Lynn Gilmartin’s table will be there. So click those links and take a look.

You can peek as well over at the PokerStars blog for more reporting from now through Sunday’s final. Meanwhile, it’s back to more scribblin’ for me.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Chilling in Chile

I have successfully wound my way about 5,000 miles or so south to Viña del Mar, Chile where the Latin American Poker Tour is set to kick off its seventh season with the LAPT7 Chile Main Event tomorrow.

The second flight from Atlanta down to Santiago, a red-eye that left around 10 p.m. and landed at dawn, went well and I even managed to snag a few hours sleep after watching All the Presidents Men for the umpteenth time.

Had a nice neighbor for the ride, a woman originally from Chile who moved to the U.S. as a late teen. She was heading back to visit family somewhere north of Santiago, her first trip back in a decade. We chatted about traveling, poker and gambling (the latter a predilection of her husband), and life in Chile.

Team PokerStars Pro Christian de León was on the plane, too, and we shared the shuttle from Santiago International Airport. David Williams is coming down as well and in fact was supposed to be with us, but he ended up switching plans to come a day later as the event has two Day 1 flights.

The weather greeting us as we stepped outside the airport was about as perfect as one could imagine -- upper 60s, clear and blue, with a light breeze. T-shirt weather, really, although equally comfortable in a light jacket and a far cry from the icy, wintry mix I’d left at the farm a day before.

Mountains surrounded us for the first part of the drive, then after we tunneled through a couple of them they began to receded to be replaced by ubiquitous vineyards. Eventually we neared the coast and at last the row of hotels looking out over the rocks and crashing waves where the land meets the Pacific.

Ended up resting much of the day, my repose interrupted only briefly for a short trek to snap some pics. Reunited some of the LAPT folks this evening and had a nice dinner with Reinaldo (now the media coordinator for the LAPT) before getting back to the hotel where I’m presently looking for ways to watch that NCSU play-in game that starts in about a half-hour.

More mañana.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Checking in Before Chile

Airport blogging again, this time from a quiet terminal in the Hartsville-Jackson Atlanta International airport where I have a bit of a wait. No free wi-fi here (boo), but I can make do for a short while to deliver a brief report explaining why I’m here.

This is my transfer point, and I have a few hours to kill before boarding my flight to Santiago, Chile. From there I’ll be shuttling it over to Viña del Mar for the Latin American Poker Tour’s Chile event, the first stop of Season 7 (following the PCA which gets cross-listed).

Have been to a few LAPT stops before, but never to Viña del Mar and so am curious to see some new sights as well as to reunite with the great staff, media, and the players, too, who together make LAPT events especially fun ones to cover.

I’ve already been asked if I’m a wine drinker -- alas, I’m not -- as the “Vineyard of the Sea” is a good destination for such. Am a lover of all seafood, though, and so am hoping to enjoy a few good meals amid the poker.

Am also looking forward to seeing one of my favorite poker couples, Team PokerStars Pro Angel Guillen and Lynn Gilmartin, who I know will be there. Word is Lynn is gearing up to play her first LAPT this week. Besides being a great presenter and interviewer, Lynn’s a good player, too, having a few scores to her credit. I’m remembering as well her deep run in last summer’s media event at the WSOP, where if I’m not mistaken she took third, matching the finish of another poker media type who always likes to bring that up whenever possible.

Was thinking of Lynn last night as I tuned in over at Fox Sports to catch the premiere of the WPT Alpha8 that had been scheduled and for which Lynn hosts. You’ll recall the kickoff event in that new $100K buy-in tourney series took place in Florida late last summer, and I happened to have been there to help cover the sucker. Thus was I especially curious to see the edited product, but alas bad weather caused NASCAR went late with its Sunday race and the show was preempted.

But now Lynn will be on the other side of things, and I’m already thinking I’ll have to interview the interviewer at some point this week. (That’s her, of course, with Joe Hachem from the Aussie Millions a year ago.) Stay tuned here as well as I’ll be checking in with updates and pointing you to the PokerStars blog for all of the reporting on where the chips end up in Chile.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

To the Victor Belong the Spoils

Immersed right now in basketball, in particular the college conference tournaments.

My Atlantic Coast Conference is unrecognizable right now (something I wrote about a year ago over at Ocelot Sports), having bloated to 15 teams including Notre Dame which it seems like might be a far piece away from the Atlantic.

The bracket -- with byes and double-byes -- is like an algebra final, and while I think I can figure out who plays whom from this point forward, my Heels losing this afternoon has me reduced (more or less) to pulling against Duke.

Carolina most assuredly deserved to lose their game today against Pittsburgh. They came out flat, let the Panthers build a huge 20-point second half lead, then forged a too-little-too-late comeback to make the final score seem respectable. But while certain breaks didn’t quite go the Heels’ way, Pittsburgh deserved to win and UNC deserved to lose.

I found myself reflecting a little this afternoon how in sports, for the most part, that’s how games go -- the team who wins is generally given credit for having earned it, even if luck were involved. Only on those rare occasions when an official unreasonably influences the outcome with an erroneous call do fans or players or coaches ever bother to say the winner didn’t deserve to win or the loser didn’t deserve to lose.

I mean fans will say their team should have won or lost -- but generally they will still concede the outcome as creditable.

Poker, however, isn’t always like that. Especially tournament poker, where luck can play a crucial role. I know I’ve won tournaments in which I couldn’t necessarily argue without qualification that I “deserved” to win. And, of course, I’ve lost them, too, when I felt as though I was somehow robbed of a victory by an unfortunate sequence or some other fate-tipping factor.

These thoughts were inspired, I think, by a post published today over on the PokerStars blog by my buddy (and transatlantic running partner) Rick Dacey, titled “Opinion: Giving credit where credit is due.”

In the article Rick discusses how sometimes those following a poker tournament -- i.e., the “spectators” either watching a live stream or following live updates -- sometimes unreasonably deliver judgment regarding the skill level of those involved. He brings up in particular two recent tournament winners, EPT10 Barcelona winner Sotirios Koutoupas and UKIPT4 Isle of Man champ Duncan McLellan, as having earned some ill-informed criticism based mostly on an impression that they were unreasonably lucky to win their titles.

I watched Koutoupas’s win in Barcelona with Rick, helping him cover the event for the PS blog, and knew first-hand how the Greek player had impressed us all with his play for several days in that tournament. Rick notes how some fortunate hands for Koutoupas at the final table inspired some trolling, and so he invited Team Online member Mickey Petersen to do some analysis of a few key hands to help show how such judgments miss the mark.

A similar procedure is performed with McLellan’s performance, and the whole adds up to an interesting read that includes some worthwhile poker strategy discussion to boot.

Rick’s piece won’t stop the cries of “The bum got lucky!” when the next tournament is won, but it does remind us how hard it is to make unambiguous conclusions about poker players’ skill, especially given (1) the incomplete information we generally have as observers, and/or (2) the incomplete knowledge most of us possess when it comes to understanding how the game is played.

Anyhow, wanted to give Rick his due credit for a thoughtful and well written opinion. Meanwhile, I’m going to turn back to this N.C. State-Syracuse game and hope that the Wolfpack earns a well-deserved victory. After all, the last time these two played the Pack wuz robbed! (Or not.)

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

On the Bubble Boy

Earlier today I noticed Vanessa Selbst’s tweet from last night responding to the World Poker Tour having signed off its coverage of Day 2 of the Bay 101 Shooting Star by referring to the plan today to play down to the “bubble boy” of the six-handed televised final table.

Selbst humorously pointed out an unintended assumption made by the statement. “Since the WPT says it is playing down to its ‘television bubble boy’ tomorrow, just wanna say congrats to @candacepoker on her 1st WPT FT!”

Indeed, Candace Collins was among the final 36 making it to the end of play yesterday (and she’s in the top 10 in the early going today), so if she were to bubble the final table it obviously wouldn’t do to call her the “bubble boy.”

Selbst followed that tweet with another clarifying that those covering poker tournaments should stop summarily referring to poker players as male, and others chimed in afterwards to agree both with that point and to bring up other examples of poker’s male-centric culture still exhibiting several characteristics that can make the game seem less inviting to women.

I wholeheartedly agree with the larger point, as well as with the need for poker to be mindful of its long legacy of excluding women and to be especially conscious not to persist in doing so going forward, even if in unintentional ways.

Meanwhile, the initial tweet made me think about how it has been many years since I’ve actually used the term “bubble boy” to describe the last person out before the cash in a tournament. I know I used it early on in my reporting career (and here on the blog), but at some point I stopped doing so.

I didn’t stop because the term assumes that person is male. It goes without saying that I’d never been tempted to use “bubble boy” to describe a woman busting out just before the cash. Nor has anyone else, I imagine. I know I’ve seen “bubble girl” used in those situations.

I stopped because it just sounded silly. And kind of clichéd, too. There had to be a better way to describe the situation, I thought, and so I dropped the term from my poker vocabulary.

It’s sometimes hard not to use clichés, though, when it comes to reporting on poker tournaments. The “bubble” itself is a case in point. After all, when’s the last time someone wrote about a tournament reaching the money without employing that metaphor?

(Above is A young boy blowing soap bubbles, a painting created by a follower of the 17th century Dutch painter Reinier de la Haye.)

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Was following a little of this story that popped up within the last couple of days regarding a new online poker site, suddenly appearing and available to U.S. players in all states -- i.e., rogue, not regulated -- and awkwardly-named Superwins.

Kind of a minor blip on the poker radar, this, but somewhat humorous given the apparently obvious connections between the new site and the fraudulent Lock Poker site from which the great majority of players have not been able to cash out their funds for many months now, more than a year in some cases.

The new site shares all of the same promotional jibber-jabber, conditions, bonus offers, and apparently the software is similar, too. And as was quickly sorted out in the forums and by others, the site’s domain is registered to Lock’s CEO, and some inquiries have apparently uncovered that the two sites share a player pool to some extent, making Superwins a “skin” (more or less).

It appears a fairly transparent Plan B (or F or G or whatever) by Lock to drum up some capital, although the fact that the word on Superwins has gotten out so quickly would seem to have prevented the site from ever gaining any momentum in that direction. Sure, there will be some uninformed suckers depositing on Superwins, but I think we’re well past the days that a new “U.S.-facing site” (as we would call ’em) can make much if any splash.

You can read a rundown and some commentary on the shenanigans over at Flushdraw. The part of the story that was most silly to me -- and also notable to Haley Hintze who authored the Flushdraw piece -- was the lame ad/review for Superwins on the Poker News Boy website where the new room is being promoted with surprising vigor.

That PNB rates the new room 9/10 is funny enough, although we must compare their 10/10 rating for Lock Poker for some idea of the fantasies perpetrated over there (and note as Haley does how PNB is owned by a Lock affiliate manager). The review’s odd syntax, sentence fragments, and breathless tone add further grins.

In fact, the more I look at it, the more every detail seems as though it could possess dual meaning, from the “big ambitions” of the site to its list of “popular methods” for depositing. Like a postmodern palimpsest with “straight” significances and built-in parody overlapped right on top of each other.

It wasn’t that long ago, though, that we were paying a lot more attention to new sites like this. Just after Black Friday they caught the eye of many, and some (like Lock, in fact) successfully attracted business. And before that there were dozens, some suspect, many appearing legit.

I guess it is the (increasingly dim) memory of those ads and that earlier era when the context for them was different -- and knowing that context is no more -- that makes looking at this new site and those trying to promote it as all the more risible.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

More to Learn

Swamped again here on the farm and thus out of time to write much today. However, I did want to recommend some cool new posts that have appeared on Learn.PokerNews for those who might be interested.

Nate Meyvis returned today with a smart strategy piece titled “A Planning Exercise: What If I Get Ace-King?

In the article Nate recommends spending time between hands thinking about how you might play A-K should it be dealt to you -- as the title suggests, kind of a mental exercise that forces you to think specifically about your opponents and their tendencies, stack sizes, and other factors in a preparatory way.

I really like the way he explains the exercise as well as the concrete questions and issues he invites the reader to consider while thinking about how he or she might play Big Slick.

I’ve done exactly the same thing before at the tables, not necessarily thinking about A-K specifically but just how I would next play a premium hand or a hand with which I’d likely want to open-raise. But I can’t claim I ever thought too carefully about how just going through the steps of thinking ahead in this way forces you to concentrate more on your opponents, your own image, and other important factors affecting table dynamics.

Also going up today on Learn was another one by Robert Woolley, a.k.a. the “Poker Grump,” in his “Casino Poker for Beginners” series. He’s writing about buttons right now -- not just the dealer’s button, but all of the many different ones used at the table (e.g., the absent button, the missed blinds buttons, etc.), and explaining their purpose and use.

I’m finding all of Bob’s “CFB” articles enjoyable to read, and with each one am thinking to myself “I wish I’d known” as I read through them. In fact each one also tends to include at least something I still didn’t know about (or was at least a little fuzzy on), and he presents it all in an interesting and entertaining way, too. So check out all of the “CFB” articles if you haven’t already, and I’ll bet you find something interesting and informative.

And while I’m at it, if you missed Tommy Angelo’s latest about the “Cinderella Syndrome” in poker (hint: it has to do with knowing when to quit), take a look at that, too.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

The Three-Bet

The term “three-bet” (and “four-bet” and so on) has become especially common in poker these days, although that development is relatively recent. In fact, I don’t really remember people using the phrase that much even five years ago.

Generally speaking, people say “three-bet” when referring to a reraise that happens before the flop in hold’em. (Occasionally you’ll hear some use the term when talking about post-flop action, though not that often.) In other words, the big blind is the first forced bet, the first raise is a second bet (although that initial raise is never, ever called a “two-bet”), then the first reraise becomes a “three-bet.”

I remember a few years ago reading some discussion about the term, probably inspired by its having first become somewhat popular and a person on a forum wondering about its origin. I recall the explanation for the term connected it to fixed-limit hold’em where the first raise equals two bets, the next equals three, and so on. Even though the raises in no-limit hold’em aren’t of fixed amounts, the terminology was borrowed and used in the same way to describe successive raises/reraises.

I can’t recall the first time I heard the term, but I remember being a little confused by it initially. It’s really not obvious what a “three-bet” means if you’ve never heard the term before, but nowadays almost everyone says “he three-bet” rather than “he reraised” when discussing preflop play. I guess I’ve become conscious of the term’s less-than-obvious meaning thanks to working with Learn.PokerNews and thinking more specifically about new and beginning players who perhaps aren’t up on all of the terminology just yet.

In any event, now everyone uses the term, and in fact it seems almost weird not to. It is so common of a term there’s a clothing line named after it. PokerListings even calls its daily recap of three big stories of the day the “Daily 3-bet.”

I brought the subject up with a friend today and we speculated that the increased use of the term likely coincided with more adventurous preflop betting -- that is, with more and more three-bets actually occurring before the flop. And with all of the “light” reraising and “clicking back” (i.e., raising/reraising the minimum) becoming popular, that has given even more impetus to people using “three-bet,” “four-bet,” and so on when talking about preflop action.

It is helpful, actually, as a kind of shorthand to say “he five-bet shoved” as a way of quickly explaining how many reraises preceded the all-in bet. Or to distinguish between three-betting and four-betting (and five-betting, etc.) when discussing preflop strategy and putting players on ranges and so forth.

Still, it’s a curious term, and one that continues to have a kind of odd disconnect for me. After all, the “three-bet” is the second action (when speaking of preflop betting). Even though I understand the term, there’s a strangeness to it that I’m also always aware of when I hear or read it.

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Friday, March 07, 2014

Talking Ice, Power, and Limit Hold’em

Had a decent-sized ice storm hit us starting before dawn today with the cold temps and freezing precipitation lasting into the early afternoon.

We woke up to no power and as I write here just after dinner time we’re still without, although after successfully cranking up our generator (a must for farm living) we’re enjoying a window of a few hours of power before bedtime. That pic is of two of our barn cats, Lily and Moe, who like Vera and myself figured out how to make do.

With little time to write I just wanted to point folks to Nolan Dalla’s latest piece on his personal blog, one that focuses on limit hold’em and how it was once all the rage in poker rooms prior to the “boom” and now finds itself a threatened game not unlike five-card draw and other rarely spread variants.

Dalla titles his post provocatively -- indeed, pretty much everything he posts on his blog is provocative -- calling it “Mason Malmuth Was Right (Limit vs. No-Limit Hold’em).” The title is referring back to Malmuth’s prediction way back in the early 1990s that no-limit hold’em had little chance of catching on, something he had written in a volume of his Poker Essays.

I actually wrote a little something last summer about this very same passage in Malmuth’s book, coming in a chapter titled “The Future of Poker.” It’s one of those predictions that reads much, much differently from our perspective, of course, and Dalla offers some reasonable justification both for Malmuth’s position back then and for his underlying arguments about no-limit hold’em actually still being valid despite the fact that NLHE has not only lasted but has grown into the single most popular variant of poker played for the last several years.

I can’t delve into the entire discussion just now, but you can read what Dalla has to say and decide for yourself what you think about the points he makes. I will say that as a LHE player myself, I’ve always felt similarly to Dalla that the game is more fun than NLHE, and in fact to me provides a lot more action in the form of constant decisions and the higher percentage of hands played.

I even wrote a kind of defense of LHE for Learn.PokerNews some time back called “Limit Hold’em Isn’t Always Like Watching Paint Dry” in which I made a couple of the same points Dalla does about why LHE is fun, perhaps especially so for beginners and/or recreational players.

Anyhow, follow those links for more Friday evening reading. Meanwhile, I’m going to go try to enjoy a couple more hours’ worth of power here before we shut it down for the night. Might go check on the cats one more time, too, although I’m sure they’re doing fine.

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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Click to Confirm: Finally, Those FTP Funds

Because I just came from the Full Tilt Poker Claims Administration website being managed by the Garden City Group and the pursuit of my long lost FTP balance is foremost in my thoughts at the moment, I thought I’d share a quick update regarding that quest today.

I mentioned less than a week ago -- on “Green Friday” -- how I hadn’t been part of that first wave of U.S. players getting their funds back, but I did feel fairly confident I’d be among the second group. My confidence stemmed from another cordial and what seemed to me productive exchange over the phone with a GCG representative, with that conversation ending with a promise of an email follow-up.

Indeed that email arrived today with my correct petition and control numbers and an invitation to log in over at the site and see if the balance they had listed for me was what I had left in my account back in mid-April 2011.

I followed the instructions, corrected some contact info, then clicked through to the page showing what they believed to be my balance. And it was... correct! I actually did a faint little fist pump at the laptop, kind of a dim, gestural reprise of all those years of playing on Full Tilt.

Had to click through a few more screens, including one on which I had to give information to facilitate repayment, and I was done. No idea how long it will take, but the prospects seem better than ever that I will finally be cashing out from Full Tilt Poker.

Last night I was listening to Todd Witteles’s weekly show on Poker Fraud Alert where I heard that Chris “Jesus” Ferguson is apparently planning to return to the poker world in the near future, perhaps at this summer’s WSOP. Witteles was relating news shared by Diamond Flush in a Two Plus Two thread a few days ago.

I enjoy Witteles’s show and have found myself either listening live or seeking out the podcast practically every week lately. His take on the Ferguson news was appropriately negative -- this is a “second coming... we don’t want,” says Witteles -- and I can’t really disagree with his view.

Thinking back at the absurd spiral FTP had entered into at the time, if it weren’t for Black Friday coming when it did, we’d all have lost our FTP funds permanently. And of course if it weren’t for PokerStars striking its deal with the DOJ later, we would’ve have been SOL, too.

Assuming there isn’t a coincidence that news of Jesus’s plan to resurrect his poker career -- the puns are all so dangerously close here -- comes just as U.S. players are starting to get their funds back. We’ll see what happens with that. Meanwhile, keeping eyes peeled for another, long belated return in my bank account.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

On the Clock (It’s a Matter of Time)

All of this “shot clock” talk happening these days in the poker world -- and gathering a lot of momentum of late -- has been interesting to follow.

In fact, I’m finding the whole dynamic of discussion-slash-debate among players and tournament organizers that seems a constant presence in poker diverting. Seems like everything is on the table these days, perhaps more a function of social media than any specific poker-related development.

Rich Ryan reported on the vote among players that happened this week at the World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic, the one that resulted in 80% of players saying they favored the introduction of a “shot clock” on the WPT next season. We had a piece on Learn.PokerNews discussing the topic as well. That pic, by the way, is an inset from one taken at an earlier LAPC event a couple of weeks ago in which a clock was used.

I find it hard to drop the scare quotes because the term isn’t exactly descriptive. The clock being proposed would limit the amount of time a player has to act, and shooting hasn’t really been a common feature of poker since the Old West. Still, everyone knows what is meant by the idea of a shot clock in poker, and indeed the subject has been discussed for more than a couple of years now.

I personally don’t like the idea at all. I understand the problem of excessive, unnecessary tanking and definitely would encourage measures to prevent it. But introducing a shot clock -- especially a 30-second one such as was used in that A$100,000 Challenge event at the recent Aussie Millions and was being discussed at the WPT LAPC -- seems to me like it would introduce several more problems (and probably not even satisfactorily solve this one).

Looking at it from the perspective of a non-pro player, I also dislike the idea and imagine many other non-pros feel the same. While people can adapt to just about anything, my sense is facing the prospect of playing with a shot clock would prove a big turnoff to newer players.

I guess I also find the idea of a shot clock a little too great of a violation of the “natural” rhythm of the game, which like baseball contains a kind of beauty precisely because of the way it accommodates individual differences when it comes to the pace with which each person plays. (Of course, there’s a similar discussion happening in baseball, too, over whether or not some time restrictions should be introduced to shorten games.)

All of which is to say I think a shot clock in poker could be interesting here and there, but wouldn’t like seeing it become a standard part of the game. That said, it is starting to feel like the introduction of this shot clock thing in tournament poker might be only a matter of time (pun intended).

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Assigning Bradshaw and McGuire

Among the readings I assign in my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class is a chapter from Paul McGuire’s Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker.

The chapter comes from the latter part of the book when Dr. Pauly is at his most cynical regarding the commercial spectacle of the WSOP, the chapter ending with a funny punchline about Phil Hellmuth’s increasingly elaborate entrances to the Main Event up to that point (2008).

Pauly suggests Hellmuth try riding in one year on a donkey. “I can only imagine the snarky headlines,” he writes. “‘Ass Rides Ass to WSOP.’”

I assign the reading alongside another favorite of mine, Jon Bradshaw, writing in Fast Company about a much smaller World Series of Poker happening some 35 years before. I’ve reviewed Bradshaw’s book here before, an excellent example of long form journalism that includes several great essays, including the one about Johnny Moss I have my students read.

Unlike McGuire, Bradshaw is much more admiring of his subjects whom he treats almost as though they are larger than life. Both authors are insightful about the WSOP and poker’s broader relationship to American culture, and the contrast of their perspectives gives the students a lot to consider which makes the discussions especially enjoyable for me.

Some occasionally find Pauly a little snarky. But most are entertained and enjoy the inventiveness of his style. And they respond, too, to his overall point about the commercialization of the game, something which indeed reflects larger trends happening in America not just in poker but in other cultural forums, too.

Anyhow, the discussion this week reminded me of how much I enjoyed Pauly’s book. If you’re interested in the WSOP’s history -- and in particular that 2005-2008 period he covers most closely -- and haven’t read Lost Vegas before, I recommend it.

A lot has changed over the last five years at the WSOP, I think, and, of course, in poker, generally speaking and its place in the U.S. over the same period. And of course it has all changed even more dramatically since the 1970s when Bradshaw wrote about poker and gambling and the WSOP. But many of the observations made in both books still apply, too, which along with the strong writing is why I recommend both.

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Monday, March 03, 2014

Game Culture

Sunday ended up being a workday for me, although the latter part of it I spent with the laptop in my immediate view and the Oscars playing out on the television a little farther away. Watched the whole sucker, more or less. I think the last time I did that Titanic swept the statues.

I don’t get out to see too many movies these days, not the current fare at least. I’ve been watching a few these last couple of months while we enjoy some free premium channels after initiating a new satellite setup in our new place, but we’ll let those channels go soon as we don’t spend enough time watching to justify the expense.

Of the ones highlighted last night I’d only seen Gravity, and that was on a plane (as I wrote about here a few weeks ago describing my trip home from EPT Deauville) -- hardly the ideal setting to take in the effects-laden spectacle, although I did form an appreciation of the film nonetheless. Not seeing the rest I can’t really say one way or another whether the trophies were handed out in a way that was deserving.

Found myself thinking a little about how on a certain level awards shows kind of weirdly make “games” out of pursuits and entertainments that aren’t really competitions at all. That up above is a “2014 Awards Season Scorecard” put out by Yahoo, further emphasizing the “sport” of such shows. I guess the Academy Awards are really like the playoffs, complete with favorites and underdogs, significant betting on outcomes and pools, and various kinds of scorekeeping taking place throughout the night.

I remember several months back listening to an episode of “B.S. Report” and getting a little frustrated with a lengthy discussion between host Bill Simmons and a guest regarding the acting career of Jodie Foster. It is a sports podcast (primarily), and so it shouldn’t have struck me as odd to hear the discussants pursue an analogy between Foster’s oeuvre and the career, say, of an NBA player. But after a while it felt like an unnecessarily narrow method of analysis.

Her two Academy Awards for Best Actress were likened to MVP or championship seasons. A stretch of non-remarkable roles stood for a lengthy slump. Her acting skills were questioned in the same way a player’s ability is, with an argument pursued that her apparent career highlights were more the product of fortunate casting and support (i.e., being on a strong “team”) than individual ability.

And so on. It was interesting, but seemed way too easy and ultimately not that revealing. In other words, the “sports guy” was talking about something that wasn’t sports as if it were, and finally I just wanted him instead to talk about sports again.

But that’s not to say such an approach can’t be insightful, nor that it is even wrong to make a “game” out of the act of criticism or evaluating artistic performance. It might even be inevitable, the way we tend to judge pretty much anything by making comparisons or ranking or assigning grades.

Heck, as I go to hit publish I’m already imagining giving myself a score out of 10 on this post. What would you say... 6? 7?

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