Sunday, January 11, 2015

Travel Report: 2015 PCA, Day 5 -- Poker's Past, Present, and Future

Thanks to those long days associated with covering the LAPT Bahamas Main Event during the week, I earned myself a little bit of a break yesterday by signing off a level or so early from Day 2 of the PCA Main Event.

The total turnout settled at 816 players for the $10,000 event, which means a $7,915,200 prize pool with $1,491,580 going to the winner. The top 119 get paid, so with 175 players returning today that money bubble will surely be bursting at some point in the afternoon, I’d expect.

Among my contributions over on the PokerStars blog during the day was an early compilation of observations about the differences (and similarities) between poker and the “real” world all filed under the heading “Is this the real life? A Bahamian rhapsody,” and a short item called “The hero call” in which I commented on a table featuring a player in a Batman t-shirt, another in a Superman tee sitting right next to him, and the Brazilian soccer hero Ronaldo.

Ronaldo, who plays as a PokerStars “Sport Star,” survived to Day 3 and has above average chips, and so he may well cash. He definitely plays like an amateur, but an active one seeing lots of flops and not just folding his way through the levels. And as a huge World Cup hero and one of the greats of that game, he gets a lot of attention which adds an extra layer of interest to the tournament as a whole.

Later in the evening I was able to watch almost all of the Panthers-Seahawks playoff game with the fellows, and that turned out to be much more engaging (and emotionally draining) than I’d anticipated it would be. I told everyone Carolina would lose 35-3, and so for them actually to be competitive up until that last pick-six with about six minutes to go was encouraging. And the Panthers adding the last TD at the end to make it a 31-17 final was somewhat satisfying, too.

In between the tournament and the game I was able to spend a very enjoyable, leisurely dinner with Jim McManus, the author of Positively Fifth Street and Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker, the latter being a text I assign in my “Poker in American Film and Culture” course.

Jim participated in an interesting panel discussion here a couple of days ago along with Lee Jones, Jason Somerville, and Barry Greenstein in which the group discussed poker’s colorful history, its present, and the future (with Somerville handling a lot of the contributions regarding the latter). You can read all about that here in my colleague Adam Hampton’s write-up.

Jim had played the PCA Main Event and busted on Day 2 (to the left is a shot of him playing taken by Joe Giron), and so one of the subjects we discussed was the high caliber of play these days in tournaments, especially major ones like the one he’d just played. We also covered a lot of other ground, including how my students respond to his book, his current writing projects, and some of what I have in the works for the coming year.

I delighted in talking with Jim a lot about Richard Nixon -- both his poker “career” and his political one -- and from some of his stories about Dwight Eisenhower (the best poker-playing president, Jim opines), I came away realizing I need to learn more about Ike as I further pursue my “Nixon studies.” Great fun, that.

Am following up that visit with one this morning with another favorite poker writer, Jesse May, whom I ran into earlier in the week. Hoping to write something from that meeting for the PokerStars blog as part of our Day 3 coverage today, so check out that and everything else over there (including the America’s Cup) as the reports continue from the Bahamas.

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