Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How Many Will Play the WSOP Online Event?

This Thursday the World Series of Poker will be staging its first ever online event, a $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament to be run on the WSOP.com site in Nevada (Event No. 64).

I believe it is supposed to be a two-day event, even though the structure sheet suggests it is a three-day affair. I think the plan on Thursday is to play down to a six-handed final table, then have those players come to the Rio on Saturday to finish things out in person.

The rules for the event provide more details regarding it, along with some other confusing things like one line stating “There is no buy-in or entry fee required to participate in the tournament” (Section I, Rule #7). I think that’s referring to the six players coming to the Rio on Saturday not having to buy in again, but it’s an odd line.

Before the WSOP I was asked to predict how many would play the event, and having little clue what to guess I said 1,116. The guesses of my colleagues at PokerNews ranged from as low as 500 to as high as 2,000.

Meanwhile the BLUFF guys also tried to predict this one, with Kevmath going with 725 as their low and Paul Oresteen saying 4,300 to be the one outlier guessing a big turnout.

If I had a chance to revise my guess today, I’d aim lower with my prediction. How many do you think will play?

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Monday, June 29, 2015

No Time to Read, Must Comment

Continuing to follow that “battle of Hastings” I discussed here late last week. Find myself still checking that 2+2 thread about it fairly frequently while also reading some of the commentaries such as the thoughtful one contributed by the Australian player James “Andy McLEOD” Obst yesterday over on the Calvin Ayre site (presented as an interview, though in fact an essay by Obst).

No major advances occurred over the weekend, really. In fact, the most noteworthy recent developments concern how certain high profile pros have been reacting and responding to the story.

Speaking of the 2+2 thread, I noticed today someone chiming in some 1,500 posts into it with one of those amusingly oblivious posts that often come up deep in an active discussion, saying essentially (I’m paraphrasing) “I heard something about this but haven’t read -- what’s this all about?” The question earned the derision it deserved, as well as a pointer to the “Cliffs” of the discussion that appear as the thread’s initial post.

Such a contribution is a bit like the daydreaming student who suddenly becomes aware of the possibility that something either in the discussion or the teacher’s incessant yammering might in fact be important for him to know. He thrusts up his hand and shamelessly asks for a recap, insensible to the fact that he’s distinguishing himself as an obstacle to actual dialogue.

Saw someone tweeting something similar today about not having followed the story, though nonetheless being eager to share a position regarding it, namely, that whatever it was about, it likely confirmed other theories this person has advanced in the past about online poker.

Sort of thing happens a lot online, of course. Read the comments to any post or article, and you’ll frequently find many only responding to the headline, leading photo, or whatever text or picture might have successfully baited the person to click over to the page.

That’s a different kind of non-contribution, perhaps even more frustrating for those who are actually engaged with the story and trying to find something constructive to take away from what is happening. Kind of a like a movie review by a person who is only acquainted with the title, perhaps has seen a trailer or has a general idea of the plot, and has picked up on the fact that others are talking about it and so feels compelled to talk about it, too.

Some time ago I got on a kick of listening to a lot of film-related podcasts, including a couple focusing on low-budget, “exploitation” and cult fare for which discussions about the making of the films can be as interesting (or more so) than discussions of the films themselves.

One such podcast was devoted to the whole “video nasties” phenomenon that arose in the U.K. during the mid-1980s, going through and reviewing all of the films that were put on the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) list -- 72 in all. (Here’s a link to the show’s website, if you’re curious.) Each episode opens with an audio clip of Mary Whitehouse, the activist who led the charge against the video nasties, in which an interviewer is asking her if she herself had in fact seen any of the films she was petitioning to have banned.

“I have never seen a video nasty,” she responds. “I actually don't need to see visually what I know is in that film.”

What a line, eh? Seems to imply she was able to “see” the movies in some manner other than “visually.” (Whitehouse, incidentally, is one of the three targets in Pink Floyd’s brilliant track “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” from the 1977 LP Animals.)

It’s a quote those who have studied the whole “video nasties” story enjoy bringing up when criticizing the movement to stop the sale of what in truth was a pretty arbitrary compilation of videos, representing as it does a kind of bald-faced, strangely unembarrassed hypocrisy.

That’s the example I think of when someone butts into a conversation the person hasn’t been following, only to deliver judgments and conclusions about what the person thinks might be at issue.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

On the “50/50”

Was looking this afternoon at the structure sheet for that new DraftKings-sponsored “50/50” event on the World Series of Poker schedule for tomorrow (Event No. 55).

You’ve no doubt been hearing about this one -- the first time, I believe, that the WSOP has featured a “sponsored” event like this, with the daily fantasy sports site having paid to have the tournament branded with its name in the event’s designation.

The structure sheet isn’t that interesting for the most part, given that it is identical to the other $1,500 NLHE events on the schedule. It’s the line about the payouts that is notable, reflecting that “50/50” idea also in the event’s name.

There’s a somewhat popular DFS format called “50/50” in which half the entrants make the money. The times I’ve tried it, it has always been a “double-or-nothing”-type payout with all of the cashers winning an equal amount. I put “double-or-nothing” in scare quotes because in truth winners don’t exactly double their buy-ins because of the juice taken.

For example, in a 10-player $50 buy-in “50/50” event on DraftKings, the top five players each win $90 and the bottom five win nothing. I’ve occasionally played these, which aren’t so bad for casual, novice-types like myself who isn’t really willing to put in the time required to try to build top-flight line-ups.

Speaking of, I was mentioning here many months ago how I had won a couple of freerolls on what was then a new DFS site called Fantasy Draft. Things never really seemed to get off the ground over there, and so I barely visit the site these days, but I did happen to play a small buy-in MLB contest with a guaranteed prize pool this week.

I hilariously picked a starting pitcher who gave up eight earned runs in less than three innings of work, sending me to the bottom of the leaderboard. I think I finished something like 34th out of 35. In fact I think I only beat a dude who forgot to fill in a line-up.

I still made a profit, though -- as did the non-line-up guy -- because so few players had entered and the top 50 were guaranteed to make the money. (Wished afterward that I had entered 10 line-ups.) It was way better than a “50/50” -- it was a “100/0”!

The WSOP’s version of a “50/50” event will similarly feature the top 50% of players making the cash, but that’s where the similarity ends. As the structure sheet spells out, after 10% of the buy-ins are taken out for entry fees (7%) and the tournament staff (3%), the remaining prize money ($1,350 per player) will be divided as follows: “Payout - 25th-50th percentile = $1000, 10th-25th percentile = $1500, Top 10% = Standard percentage payout with remaining prize pool funds.”

In other words, while 50% of entrants will technically “cash,” half of those players actually will be losing $350 while those making the next tier will earn just $150 for their efforts. Then the top 10% -- who would otherwise be dividing up all of the prize pool -- will be paid with what’s left. Depends on how many take part, but I’m guessing something like a third of the prize pool will be used to cover those extra payouts (going to the 10th-50th percentile finishers).

While I kind of like the idea of the sorta-but-not-quite-double-or-nothing “50/50” DFS games, this doesn’t really strike me as a very enticing payout structure for a poker tournament. Then again, I guess there was no way to mimic exactly the DFS model, as they couldn’t well have hundreds of players tying for first.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Battle of Hastings

This past Sunday, poker pro Brian Hastings jumped on Twitter to allege an instance of angle shooting perpetrated by an opponent of his during a World Series of Poker event. Hastings has won two WSOP events this summer, and this incident occured at the final table of one of them, the $1,500 10-game mix.

“PSA,” tweeted Hastings. “Alexey Makarov aka Lucky Gump (I think) tried to angle shoot at 10 game FT. Floor ruled against him tho. Beware.”

Several sprang to Makarov’s defense as Hastings described a hand in which Makarov had asked for a misdeal following the awkward delivery of the first three cards in stud. Hastings believed Makarov only made the request after seeing everyone’s upcards, including the deuce Makarov had been dealt.

Before long Hastings was reporting that he “may have overreacted” and that “Alexey and I made up and are friends again.” In other words, it appeared a very minor episode and if it weren’t the WSOP where every little dust-up gets extra scrutiny, few would have noticed it.

Discussion about it, though, prompted David “Bakes” Baker -- one of those who has brought to the fore game integrity issues with the Modiano cards being used at the WSOP -- to complain that Hastings himself had been involved in some shenanigans during the weeks leading up to the series, having played high-stakes mixed games (including SCOOP events) on PokerStars under another person’s account.

“So after I FT’d the SCOOP 2k a bunch of well known pros messaged me telling me @brianchastings was behind the NoelHayes account on Stars,” tweeted Baker.

Hastings normally plays as “$tinger 88” on PokerStars, and indeed, a player registered in Ireland named “NoelHayes” had made one of the $2,100 NLHE final tables during SCOOP, finishing fourth and in fact knocking out Baker (a.k.a. “WhooooKidd”) in fifth.

Playing on a second account is of course against Stars’ Terms of Service which explicitly limits players to just one. “In the event that PokerStars becomes aware of additional accounts opened by a User,” says the applicable item in the TOC, “PokerStars may close such additional accounts without notice and may confiscate funds held in such additional accounts.”

Much noise ensued over Twitter as well as on Two Plus Two where a thread to discuss Baker’s allegation was swiftly begun. As some in the thread have noted, the story evokes a much older one involving Hastings and his huge $4.2 million winning session versus Viktor Blom on Full Tilt Poker in December 2009.

Blom -- that is, “Isildur1” (whose identity was unknown at the time) -- lost those millions versus Hastings, then the latter revealed in an interview how he had been supplied hand histories involving Blom compiled by his then CardRunners pro colleagues (something that also skirted close to crossing a line in FTP’s terms, although the site determined Hastings was not guilty of any violations). Here’s a post from then introducing that controversy, if you’re curious.

The 2+2 thread raged onward for a couple of days and more than 240 posts. One side issue brought up by some concerns the highly-publicized bracelet bets Hastings made prior to the start of the WSOP and the idea that some making those bets didn’t realize he’d been playing high-stakes mixed games online during the spring.

Early this morning -- just before 5 a.m. Vegas time -- Hastings chimed in with a fuel-on-the-fire contribution to the thread in which he pointedly avoids addressing the whole “NoelHayes” question.

After making clear “I have nothing to add to the conversation publicly” and dismissing “what strangers on the internet” have to say about him, Hastings laments “something like this being a major story in the poker world at a time in which the WSOP is in full force and we should be trying to promote and grow the game of poker, rather than drag it through the mud.”

He brings up the state of online poker in the U.S. and efforts to bring the game back, calling it “unfortunate that certain people have been on bad runs and choose to take their frustrations out outwardly” -- i.e., by criticizing his apparent multi-accounting. He adds “this will be my last post in this thread,” although he already has come back a couple of times to further the theme that efforts to uncover his misdeeds are hurtful to the game as a whole.

Needless to say, such a post was not received well at 2+2. Indeed it makes little sense as an argument, which for me comes off like Nixon in his 1974 State of the Union stressing the need to put an end to the Watergate investigations (“One year of Watergate is enough”) in order to allow the the nation and its government to start “devoting our full energies” to other important issues.

Certainly yet another story of high-stakes multi-accounting reflects somewhat badly on the game, but not acknowledging it or considering it worth looking into would obviously be much worse for poker. Compare the cheating allegation in the $10K Heads-Up event a few weeks ago (still apparently being investigated). Sure, even an accusation reflects badly on the game in general and the WSOP in particular, but the damage caused by a reputation hit hardly compares to harm caused by actual cheating.

Hard to tell, to be honest, amid all the back-and-forthing what exactly to think about what has been alleged, including whether or not some “may have overreacted” here as Hastings might have done with Makarov. Even so, it will be curious to follow where this battle proceeds next.

(EDIT [added 6/25/15, 6 p.m.]: The thread and story takes another turn, with Baker sharing a direct message from Hastings in which the latter admits to having played on Stars on the “NoelHayes” account [which some have pointed out would have to have been done from the U.S. via VPN, another big no-no]. If curious, click here.)

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dick Van Patten, a Poker Pop

Was sorry to hear the news yesterday of the passing of actor and poker enthusiast Dick Van Patten at age 86.

I have had several occasions to interact with his son Vince, both while covering him in World Series of Poker Main Events and when working with him a few times at World Poker Tour events. I have written here before about enjoying those conversations, which have pretty much all been about poker. Meanwhile I’ve always been curious to talk further with him about his tennis career (and once beating John McEnroe -- no shinola), all of those TV roles, Rock ’n’ Roll High School, and other stories from his teen idol days.

In truth, I was a little young to have followed either Vince’s tennis playing or to have noticed him on television during the ‘70s and early ‘80s (although I do remember seeing him back then in Hell Night when that slasher turned up on HBO). On the other hand, I was very familiar with his father, thanks primarily to Eight Is Enough. That show aired from 1977-1981, and I’ll bet I saw practically every episode once the repeats went into syndication in the years that followed.

I’d notice him again in the several Mel Brooks films, in particular High Anxiety (a fave), then also in some other ‘70s titles like the Firesign Theatre’s Zachariah, Soylent Green. Westworld, Gus, and Freaky Friday.

I wasn’t paying any attention at all to televised poker in the 1990s, so I missed Dick Van Patten having prefigured his son’s later career as a commentator when he teamed with Jim Albrecht from 1993-1995 for ESPN’s telecasts of the WSOP Main Event final table. You can hear him in this clip of the final hand of the 1995 WSOP ME won by Dan Harrington, when there were no hole cards and the scene was considerably more modest than is the case today:

The New York Times obituary mentions Van Patten’s poker playing in passing, noting how a People magazine profile “said that Mr. Van Patten’s only vices were twice-weekly poker games and regular visits to the racetrack.” However, according to the accounts of most -- including Vince -- both cards and the horses were pursuits to which he was especially dedicated.

Several of the stories circulating today repeat an anecdote both father and son would later laughingly tell, one from the days when the teenaged Vince would participate in his pop’s poker games. As the story goes, at a late hour the boy would ask if he could go to bed, and his father would tell him to “shut up and deal.”

He played the family patriarch in Eight Is Enough, and the obit describes him as having been a “father figure” on the set, too. While my memory of the show is now admittedly dim, it’s hard not to think of him similarly, an image enforced even further in the poker world where his son serves as our primary link to him.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Winner’s Photo

The event attracted a whopping turnout. Together they built a sizable prize pool, promising a big score for the winner.

After the call to shuffle up and deal, cards went in the air. Play was fast and furious from the start, with many notables in the field.

In one hand the dealer burned and turned the river, completing the board. The big blind checked, and his opponent went deep into the tank before emerging to fire another barrel.

Soon he was firing another bullet, too, still battling for the coveted title.

Practically down to a chip and a chair, he gamely fought his way back to avoid being the bubble boy, then won a huge pot to send the last woman standing to the rail.

The chips continued to fly back and forth across the felt as the field whittled further. When the final table began he was short-stacked, but after picking spots carefully he chipped up to move within striking distance of the lead.

Before long just two remained. The heads-up duel was long and grueling, a back-and-forth, push-pull affair as the lead swung to and fro.

Finally there was a shove and a call. It was a classic race, a coin-flip situation. He stood up, addressing the poker gods as he did.

“One time,” he said.


Monday, June 22, 2015

The U.S. Open, the WSOP, and Player Complaints

The U.S. Open concluded late last night -- late for us on the east coast, I should say, as it was held out in Washington state at the much-talked-about Chambers Bay course in University City -- ending somewhat dramatically with a surprising three-putt by Dustin Johnson on the last hole to give the 21-year-old Jordan Spieth a second straight major title.

It was a stirring finish, but I was fascinated as well by all of the complaints from players (and others) about the Chambers Bay course during the four days of the tournament. If you followed the U.S. Open you likely heard those complaints, too, so I won’t rehearse all of them here. If you haven’t heard about them and are curious, see this story from yesterday on ESPN which collects many of the criticisms, or this one from today in which some of those who played can be found listing all of their issues with the course.

The state of the greens received most of the attention -- that pic of one of the greens was posted to Instagram by the player Ian Poulter (whose frustrations are included in the second article listed above). Comments by other players that it was like putting on broccoli or cauliflower were humorous. And Johnson’s three-putt -- even if not directly consequent to the poor greens -- seemed to put a somehow appropriate punctuation mark on the gripe-filled week.

The complaining reminded me more than once of what has been happening at the WSOP this summer, where a lot of players have been similarly outspoken about various aspects of the series with which they haven’t been satisfied. Such criticisms are not atypical, mind you, but have perhaps been coming with a bit more frequency and volume than has been the case over recent years.

I’m not going to rehearse those complaints, either, which have involved the playing cards, structures, scheduling, communication issues, media coverage, the POY formula, among other issues. Matt Glantz summed up a few of the criticisms in a piece for BLUFF last week the headline for which -- “Matt Glantz Says the World Series of Poker is Losing its Luster” -- indicates the position being advanced.

To explore the comparison a little further, both the U.S. Open and WSOP enjoy a special place in the respective fields for those participating in each. “If this was a regular PGA tour event lots of players would have withdrawn and gone home on Wednesday, but players won't do that for a major,” wrote Poulter of the U.S. Open. That sounds a lot like players complaining about the WSOP, yet still playing because of its “major” status.

Some have responded to players’ complaints about Chambers Bay with the very logical observation that since everyone plays the same course, all are equally subject to the conditions (good or bad) which means the integrity of the competition is not affected. The fact that Spieth -- who just won the last major at the Masters playing on the immaculate Augusta course -- came out on top again would seem to support that position.

That said, when the deficiency of those conditions rises to the level of potentially affecting the integrity of the competition, that’s the point at which the willingness to accept such problems begins to break down. That’s where the piling on tends to start, too, whether justified or not.

From afar, players’ complaints about the new Modiano cards being used this year are the ones that most directly concern the issue of game integrity. Late last week poker pro and bracelet holder David “Bakes” Baker posted a thorough summary of the problems with the cards and how easily they can be marked.

The WSOP announced plans to replace the decks a few days ago, although I think they weren’t introduced until yesterday (for Day 1 of the $50K PPC, but not for other events). Kind of recalls a similar announcement at the beginning of the 2007 WSOP following the fiasco of the “Poker Peek” cards that trucks carrying new decks were on the way.

In any case, I found the whole analogy regarding players’ complaints at the U.S. Open and the WSOP curious to consider, as well as how both examples offer us a lot to think about with regard to the staging of high-level competitions, issues of game integrity, and the way groups tend to respond to undesirable stressors.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Was the Webster-Clay Hand Misreported?

One of the most famous hands of poker played during the 19th century was one involving a couple of U.S. statesmen, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay.

Both men served as representatives in the House, as senators, and as Secretary of State. Both also came close to becoming president, too. Clay would run three times without winning, while Webster turned down a chance to be William Henry Harrison’s vice-president, then Harrison would die just a month after being elected. And both were well known to be avid poker players.

Clay, in fact, was credited by some of his contemporaries as having invented poker, although such appears to be mostly an exaggeration of his having been one of poker’s more prominent enthusiasts during the game’s earliest decades. Joe Cowell, for instance, in Thirty Years Passed Among the Players in England and America -- a book published in 1844, the year of the third and last of Clay’s unsuccessful presidential runs -- refers to poker as “exclusively a high-gambling Western game, founded on brag [and] invented, as it is said, by Henry Clay when a youth.”

The story of the hand of five-card draw has been told and retold many times over, and in most versions picks up the action during the draw when Clay takes but one card while Webster stands pat. The two then bet back and forth until each has contributed $2,000 to the pot, with the betting concluding when Clay calls Webster’s final raise.

Webster then turns over a pair of deuces, which turns out to be a winner as Clay has only ace-high.

Writing about the hand in Poker: Bluffs, Bets, and Bad Beats (2001), Al Alvarez attempts to explain why exactly both players would risk such fortunes on such weak hands.

“What made these two shrewd operators go on raising and reraising each other?” Alvarez asks. “The only answer can be that each somehow sensed that the other was weak, that each had some small, unconscious physical tell -- a flicker of the eyelid, an odd inflection of the voice, a slight hesitation when he handled his chips -- that showed the other player that the pat hand and the one-card draw were both bluffs.”

It’s a sensible explanation, to say as Alvarez does that “each smelled the other’s weakness and was determined not to blink.” Meanwhile John W. Keller, author of A Game of Draw Poker (1887), offers a different explanation, presenting his interpretation as representative of what most card players of his era believed regarding the hand -- namely, that the hand wasn’t so much an illustration of a couple of famous poker players bluffing one another, but rather the whole story was one big bluff.

After expressing cynicism about Clay and Webster and the pair’s repuation as “redoubtable warriors in terrific poker battles,” Keller refers specifically to the fact that Clay calls Webster’s final raise while holding just ace-high. Keller thinks such a “play would indicate that he was ignorant of Poker,” and adds that “Poker players of to-day do not accept this story as true.”

Such a conclusion makes me think of those too-crazy-to-be-believed hands that sometimes really do happen in poker tournaments, and when tournament reporters share them those reading the accounts unsurprisingly respond with doubts about the accuracy of the reports.

I’m remembering writing a post here six summers ago from the 2009 World Series of Poker, one titled “Seeing Is Believing,” in which I discussed this very phenomenon -- that is, having to report on hands in which the action is so strange it necessarily threatens credibility.

Was the Clay-Webster hand -- one of the most famous from the game’s first 100 years -- misreported? Some think so.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Are We Playing for Again?

It’s been a while -- five years now -- but once upon a time I had a full-time job that had nothing to do with poker whatsoever. For a long time, too (a decade, in fact).

Won’t go too much into specifics, but I will say that part of that job involved serving on lots of committees. And therefore attending lots of meetings. With agendas.

Yeah, it was as fun as it sounds.

In those meetings we’d discuss all manner of things that needed to be done to improve our place of employment for everyone involved, including us. However, we were only employees, and in truth in most cases we didn’t have the political power or tangible resources to make those changes we were discussing happen.

As a result, many of the meetings followed a similar trajectory, starting out sticking closely to those agenda items which would inspire all sorts of suggested courses of action, with discussions often building into grand, detailed plans resulting from the push-and-pull of our debates.

Then would come the inevitable “existential” moment. Usually that moment would come just before the meeting’s scheduled time of concluding, and right after someone brought up the troubling truth that when it came to the thing we were discussing, we technically had no real means to make it happen. Then someone would ask the question.

“What exactly are we doing here?”

Usually just asking the question was enough to send us all back into our individual caves of despair. What we had been discussing, we all were forced to realize, was entirely abstract -- a theory that could never be put into practice.

I thought about that just a short while ago when noticing an exchange of tweets between Paul Volpe and Mike Gorodinsky, the two players currently sitting atop the 2015 World Series of Poker Player of the Year race “powered” this year by the Global Poker Index.

“Hey @WSOP @WSOPTD what exactly are the added incentives for POY these days?” tweeted Gorodinsky, currently second in the POY race. “I’d also like to know if there is any incentive,” replied the current POY leader Paul Volpe.The person manning the @WSOP account quickly answered the question.

“It is a permanent banner hung from the WSOP annually,” was the reply.

Had to chuckle at that, and as I say, it made me think back to those committee meetings where so often we fooled ourselves into thinking we were discussing something concrete before finally realizing there wasn’t much at stake at all. It also made me think a little of the anticlimax associated with the announcement of the Colossus first prize a couple of weeks ago.

Volpe expressed some disappointment, saying the WSOP was “giving no incentive to go to Europe and try and win it,” and Gordinsky said “agree 100%.”

Soon, though, WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart (@wsopSUITd) jumped in to clarify that in fact there is a trophy to be won as well, plus a $10,000 buy-in to next year’s Main Event. “But honestly,” Stewart added, “w/winner traditionally having earned high 6 to 7 figures, is prize the motivation?”

Never mind problems with the POY formula, it is hard to say exactly how much those in contention for the POY prize are valuing it. However -- unlike was the case in so many of those committee meetings -- at least they are playing for something.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

“Trust everybody, but cut the cards”

Found myself earlier today involved in one of those click-click-click loops that might’ve begun as “research” but devolved into the usual mix of curiosity and voyeurism internet surfing usually represents.

It wasn’t fruitless, however, as one of the items I ended up lingering over had to do with the origin of that often-cited pokerism “Trust everybody, but cut the cards.”

I’ve always liked that quote because of pithy way it combines both the social or “community building” aspect of poker and the fact that at its core poker is a game of self-interest. We have to “trust” others to some extent if only to get a game going, but once hands are dealt we necessarily are each looking out for number one.

You’ll see vague references to the quote as being an “old cowboy saying,” which is probably more or less a correct way to refer to the origins of a lot of similar folklore surrounding the game. In this case, though, the phrase actually should be credited to the American satirist Finley Peter Dunne.

Dunne became an editor at the Chicago Times in the 1880s, and not long after created a character named “Mr. Dooley” who would author short pieces that served as an entertaining brand of social commentary. In some respects Dunne was following the tradition of the old 18th century essayists Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, and Samuel Johnson. He gets compared to Mark Twain a lot as well, of course, having been a contemporary whose concerns, use of humor, and even worldview tended to overlap with Dunne’s.

The stories touched on a wide variety of subjects, all told from the point of view of Dooley, a pub-owning Irish immigrant. In 1899 a collection of the stories was published as Mr. Dooley in Peace and War, and there would be about a half-dozen more such compilations as Dunne would ultimately write over 700 “Mr. Dooley” stories. It was Dunne’s character of Dooley who uttered the phrase, although I’ll need to click around some more to figure out the exact story in which it appeared.

The sentiment it expresses I’m also seeing linked occasionally to the famous “Prisoner’s Dilemma” puzzle I once took a crack at discussing here.

That gives me an excuse to point you to a neat article by Robert Woolley from a couple of days ago over on PokerNews titled “Got GTO? The Connection Between ‘A Beautiful Mind’ and Perfect Poker” in which he shows the recently-deceased John Nash’s relevance to game theory and poker -- check it out.

Meanwhile, thanks for clicking over here again. If I pinpoint the story in which Dunne’s Dooley utters the phrase, I’ll come back and share it. You can trust me.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

All-Star Voting Royally Skewed

Major League Baseball’s All-Star game is scheduled for Tuesday, July 14 this year. That’s also the last day of the summer portion of the World Series of Poker -- that is, the day they’ll play down to a final nine in the Main Event.

It’s been a while since I’ve paid much attention to the MLB All-Star Game. Back in the day as a kid I remember looking forward to it every year -- even mailing in ballots -- and then always rooting for the National League which enjoyed a lengthy streak of victories, as I recall.

I continued to follow the MLB into adulthood, albeit less intensely, though by the late 1990s my interest had begun to fade. As far as the All-Star game goes, I remember staying up to watch 11 innings of the 2002 game only to watch it end in a tie after both teams ran out of players, which for me (and I imagine for many others) made that the last All-Star game I bothered to watch all of the way through.

I could be bothered to watch the game this year, though, at least the first couple of innings. That’s because one team’s fans -- the Kansas City Royals -- has done a great job of stuffing the ballot box thus far. In fact right now Royals players are leading for eight of the nine positions for which fans get to vote.

Below is a shot of the latest update of the AL voting totals:

Only Mike Trout of the Angels has one of the outfield spots at the moment -- the rest are all KC.

Something similar happened in 1957 when Cincinnati fans voted seven different Reds into the NL starting line-up. The MLB took voting away from the fans the next year, not giving it back until 1970.

You can now vote online -- up to 35 times per email address, in fact -- and as this Washington Post article spells out that’s a big reason why Kansas City fans have been successful thus far.

The Royals are leading their division currently, although all of their starters are hardly having seasons worthy of earning the All-Star nod. In fact one of them, Omar Infante, who is leading among second basemen, is batting .204 and is currently ranked dead last in the league in “OPS” (on-base % plus slugging %).

Still, I’m kind of pulling for the Royals all to get voted in, just for the sake of anarchy. Kind of reminds me of the time online voters chose Tom Dwan as a Poker Hall of Fame nominee (back in 2009). Like MLB Commissioner Ford Frick did back in 1957, though, when he took a couple of Reds off the NL team in order to give Willie Mays and Hank Aaron spots, the WSOP took Dwan’s name off the ballot.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

The $50K at the WSOP

This year at the World Series of Poker the $50,000 “Poker Player’s Championship” (Event No. 44) has added a couple of new games -- 2-7 no-limit draw and Badugi -- making it a 10-game mix.

The $50K event was first introduced at the WSOP in 2006, then the highest-ever buy-in for a WSOP event. It was played as a H.O.R.S.E. tournament that year, with the final table being no-limit hold’em only (amid some controversy). The late Chip Reese topped a field of 143, including going heads-up with Andy Bloch for an incredible 268 hands -- before winning the title and $1,716,000 first prize.

In 2007, the $50K event was again a H.O.R.S.E. event (this time with the rotation continuing through the final table, too). Freddy Deeb won that year, earning $2,276,832 for besting 148. Then in 2008 came Scotty Nguyen’s victory in the $50K H.O.R.S.E., the one remembered chiefly for Nguyen’s drunken behavior at the final table. There were 148 in the event again that year, with Nguyen earning $1,989,120 and the new “David ‘Chip’ Reese Memorial Trophy” (pictured above) for the win.

In 2009 there was a dip in the number of entrants in the $50K H.O.R.S.E. as only 95 played, with David Bach winning to earn a $1,276,802 first prize (though I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it that year). (A special $40K NLHE event at the start of that year’s WSOP might’ve affected the turnout for the $50K event a bit.)

Then in 2010 the $50K it became known as the “Poker Player’s Championship,” adding three more games to the mix -- no-limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, and 2-7 triple draw -- making it an 8-game mix. As in 2006, though, the final table was made NLHE-only. A total of 116 played and Michael Mizrachi won (with his brother, Robert, also making the final table), earning $1,559,046 for the victory.

Brian Rast won the $50K PPC in 2011, topping 128 players including Phil Hellmuth heads-up to win $1,720,328. The final table was NLHE-only again that year, but in 2012 the 8-game mix was played through to the very end with Michael Mizrachi winning the event for a second time (while I was covering a different event). There were 108 in the field that time, and Mizrachi won $1,451,527.

That was the year the $1 million “Big One for One Drop” debuted, which didn’t necessarily affect the field size for the $50K but did grab a lot of the spotlight away from it.

The PPC remained an 8-game mixed event the next couple of years, with Matthew Ashton topping 132 to win in 2013 (for $1,774,089), and John Hennigan beating a field of 102 in 2014 (for $1,517,767).

There were some on Twitter over the weekend talking about the addition of 2-7 NL Draw and Badugi to the $50K as if the change had been unknown previous to a few days ago, when the structure has been out for quite some time.

Some seem to believe the addition of the two games might affect the turnout this time, although I can’t imagine there are that many players versed enough in the 8-game mix to play a $50K event who would be dissuaded from playing by the addition of those two games -- both of which are already part of the rotation in many big mixed games.

Wouldn’t be surprised to the see a smaller field, though. The $50K remains my favorite event to follow of all of them, though (aside from the Main, of course).

(EDIT [added 6/21/15]: For more $50K PPC history and numbers, check out “Stats and Facts: The Prestigious WSOP $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship.”)

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Long-Term vs. Short-Term Success in the NBA Finals

Got back to the farm from Savannah in decent shape earlier today after a very fun, quick visit.

Yesterday afternoon Vera and I took one of those trolley tours around the city, then ended up walking even more as we explored just about all of the 22 different squares contained within the very pedestrian-friendly city. Had to laugh at one point about how convenient the city happens to be laid out, something I greatly appreciated thanks to my notoriously bad sense of direction. Was easy to stay oriented the entire time, given all those friendly right angles.

Did manage to watch Game 4 of the NBA Finals last night back in the Nixon room, which I realized today kind of illustrated in miniature a truth about the difference between short-term and long-term success.

After losing two of the first three games of the finals, Golden State coach Steve Kerr went with a smaller starting line-up last night, a move many had been discussing as a possibility before the game.

The argument against changing the line-up was essentially rooted in the team’s overwhelming success during the regular season and previous playoff series, a sample size considered large enough to support the argument that a change wouldn’t be welcome. But recognizing the match-ups presented by Cleveland and the potential advantage that could come from the change, Kerr opted to make the move.

That wasn’t the illustration of the difference between short-term and long-term success to which I’m referring, though. Cleveland jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game, and I recall seeing tweets in my feed right away suggesting the new Warrior line-up was a big mistake. Kerr called a quick time-out -- they were barely two minutes into the game -- and talked to his team.

They did one of those “Wired” segments a little later sharing a snippet of Kerr’s comments to his team during that time-out. “They’ve got a lot of energy right now with their crowd,” Kerr said. “But over 48 minutes, they’re playing seven people -- they’re gonna wear down.”

It’s true -- during the first three games of the series, Golden State played 10 players each game, with Cleveland playing only eight (and in truth, only six or seven of those got significant minutes). And as it happened, Kerr was dead right about the Cavs wearing down during Game 4, as the Warriors easily pulled away in the fourth quarter to win by 21.

The game played out very much like a cash session in which a lesser-skilled player enjoys a fortunate start to win the first few pots at the outset, then gets grinded down to the felt by better opponents over the course of the longer session.

The best-of-seven format obviously favors better-skilled teams, especially those with a solid bench as Golden State has, thus making it less likely for an underdog to get “lucky” as could happen in a one-and-done format. But you can even compare short-term and long-term success in a single game, looking at the relative significance of a few plays compared to the nearly 200 possessions the two teams will have.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Nixon Room

I mentioned yesterday how Vera booked us a quick vacation here in Savannah. She found us a room in a nice bed & breakfast called the Presidents’ Quarters Inn conveniently located among all of Savannah’s pedestrian-friendly squares and not too far from the river we crossed to get here.

I didn’t pay much attention to the name of the place as we were checking in, then found it funny when the sheet of paper we were given to put in our car windshield for parking had “RICHARD M. NIXON” in large type across the bottom.

Soon, though, I realized what Vera had done. Each of the rooms is named after a different U.S. president, and knowing all about my Nixon obsession studies, she had ensured we got the Nixon room. It’s being positioned next door to LBJ’s room seems appropriate, as does the fact that the room somewhat ignominiously faces the laundry.

All of the rooms in the place have been named after presidents who at one time or another spent time in Savannah -- not in the actual Presidents’ Quarters, mind you, but in the city. The hosts didn’t know too much about Nixon’s Savannah stay, but I found this description of a visit in October 1970 including a clip from WSB-TV.

Aside from the plaque next to the door, the only other indication of the room being devoted to the country’s only president to resign the office is a small display on one wall in the room dedicated to Nixon that includes some campaign buttons and a bumper sticker (pictured at left).

I actually brought one of the volumes of Stephen Ambrose’s Nixon biography on the trip. I wonder if the caretakers will spot it on the night stand when they come in to clean the room.

Speaking of privacy, I think I better go check right now to see if the phone is bugged.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Savannah on the River

So my birthday is tomorrow, and some time ago Vera planned a secret vacation for the two of us involving our leaving today and not getting back to the farm until Friday.

One of the consequences of getting the farm, incidentally, has been it suddenly became a bit difficult for the two of us to get away like this at once, given how much needs to be taken care of day-to-day, particularly with the horses. So this is a real treat.

I say it’s a “secret vacation” because Vera managed to plan the whole thing without my knowledge, and so I had no idea where we were headed. Was guessing to friends it would either be the beach (about a four-hour trip east) or the mountains (a bit less to the west), but as it turned out we went south down to Savannah, Georgia.

I should’ve guessed that, actually, as we had been talking about the fact that we’d never been to Savannah before and had more or less planned to go, although it had slipped my mind. But once we got out on the interstate I remembered those discussions, and so had guessed correctly before we arrived.

On the way down I kept thinking of the poker scene in Cool Hand Luke when Wayne Rogers, who plays Gambler, is dealing the cards in the five-card stud game and he pitches a second seven as an upcard to Koko, Luke’s opponent.

“A pair of Savannahs,” says Gambler, describing the pair Koko has showing (and which Luke eventually gets him to fold after relentlessly raising with his king-high). Don’t know much about the origin of that poker term, other than that it is used both to describe the seven and to describe a seven hand in lowball.

Gonna cut this one short, but tomorrow I’ll share one other fun aspect of the trip Vera kept hidden. I’ll give a hint -- we’re staying in a bed and breakfast that features a particular theme having to do with U.S. presidents.

Meanwhile, we’re going to go down to do some people watching on the river.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2015

More for Hellmuth

As you’ve no doubt heard, Phil Hellmuth has won another WSOP tournament, outlasting a field of 103 to win the $10K Razz Championship (Event No. 17).

That’s 14 total (including one WSOP Europe win), and two in razz after he won the $2,500 razz event three years ago. He finished runner-up in the $1,500 razz to Ted Forrest last year, too.

Besides having the most WSOP bracelets (by four, ahead of Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan each with 10), Hellmuth has 109 cashes at the WSOP and enjoys a healthy lead on that list, too, ahead of Erik Seidel’s 90. (Seidel finished 11th in the $10K Razz.) He’s also made 52 final tables, with Men Nguyen the nearest challenger with 39.

That means of the times Hellmuth has cashed at the WSOP, he’s gone on to make the final table 47.8% of those occasions. When he makes the final table, he has won the tournament 26.9% of the time. And he’s finished second 10 times (19.2%), meaning he has gotten to heads-up 46.2% of the time he’s made the final table.

He’s also now -- with last night’s win his first cash of the summer -- 29th in the WSOP POY race, which may or may not make sense, depending on how you view such things.

Watched some of the stream of the razz final table last night and very much enjoyed hearing the strat talk of Calvin Anderson and Nick Schulman. Hellmuth had the lead and was continuing to build his stack when I watched, so it wasn’t too surprising to wake up and hear he’d won.

For something more thoughtful than just marveling at Hellmuth’s results, Brad Willis penned a good response to last night’s events at the WSOP today in which he covers both Hellmuth winning and John Gale taking down Event No. 18, the $1,000 Turbo NLHE event.

Reaching back to 2006 (when both Gale and Hellmuth also won bracelets), Brad explains “Why we should thank Phil Hellmuth and John Gale.” Check it out.

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Monday, June 08, 2015

The Strangest Race

Was listening earlier to the PokerNews Podcast where Jason Somerville, Donnie Peters, and Remko Rinkema are getting together in the Rio hallway every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to talk about what’s happening at this year’s World Series of Poker. Have started to realize listening to these guys chatting for a couple of hours three times a week has become my primary way of following the WSOP.

I’ll read the recaps on PokerNews, follow the back-and-forthings on Twitter some, and occasionally visit Two Plus Two to see what the latest gripe is. I’m also tuning into the final table live streams over on WSOP.com which have been quite good, with better production values and graphics than what has generally been the case over there in the past.

I’m not sweating every event as I tended to do last year, but am still enjoying following some of the finishes. As far as getting deeper into what’s interesting about a given event or how the latest scandal is (or is not) being handled, though, I feel like just sitting in on the PNPod guys’ discussions has kept me as in tune as I want to be with the day-to-day out there this time around.

Today on the show one of the topics discussed was the WSOP Player of the Year race, which I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago is this year being newly “powered” (i.e., sponsored) by the Global Poker Index. It’s also thoroughly out of whack, predictably so as Jess Welman and others noted it would be even before things got started.

Among the strange examples Donnie cited today was the case of Cord Garcia (a.k.a. Lance Garcia), winner of that crazy Colossus (Event No. 5) that drew 22,374 entrants. Garcia also picked up a small cash in the Millionaire Maker (Event No. 16).

Garcia is one of only 15 bracelet winners thus far; however, those achievements are only enough to put Garcia in 230th place (!) in the WSOP POY race at the moment. No shinola. He earned nearly as many points, actually, for finishing 652nd in the Milly Maker (101.71 pts.) as he did for winning the Colossus (128.92 pts.). (Click the pic above to details of his current ranking.)

In fact, the current leader Paul Volpe (who has two runner-ups and a 12th-place finish already) has about five times as many POY points as Garcia. Garcia could have won the Millionaire Maker, too, and then gone on to win the Monster Stack (Event No. 28) and the Little One for One Drop (Event No. 61) and still would finish with less points than Volpe already has through the first two weeks.

That’s because (as Jess pointed out in her pre-WSOP post) all of these events feature buy-ins of $1,500 or less, and according to the GPI formula are diminished in value, POY points-wise, relative to the bigger buy-in tournaments. By a lot.

I’m of the group that tends to view the whole POY thing as a diverting bit of trivia, hardly of central significance to the WSOP. But the formula being used is so strange and non-intuitive, it’s hard to assign much importance to it at all.

The imbalance in favor of bigger buy-in events also makes it a race many players are essentially not even able to participate in, which as the PNPod guys noted is too bad for Garcia and others who might’ve earned a little more notice had their wins gotten them into those POY conversations.

Then again, I guess Garcia was in a POY conversation -- for being out of the running, that is, and not a contender.

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Friday, June 05, 2015

The World Series of Pressure

Spent a little time over the last day sifting through more regarding that cheating allegation story from yesterday, then got distracted by various other complaints arising out of the World Series of Poker regarding structures, schedules, and so on.

Every summer the WSOP tends to produce a wide-ranging mix of responses. Some observe how the tournament series brings together players from all backgrounds, skill levels, and from all around the globe in a way that adds up to a unique celebration of the game. Others are less enthusiastic about the WSOP’s effect on the game and its players, with the criticisms (naturally) often being louder and more numerous than the praises.

I don’t necessarily think this year is any different from what we’ve seen in the past, although it might seem so given the sheer number of grievances that have been tossed about over the last week-and-a-half regarding how things are going at the Rio this year.

Made me think a little of how every year the WSOP could be characterized as in fact presenting a serious challenge to poker as a whole, in a way, introducing all sorts of stressors into the community that unsurprisingly demonstrates some discomfort when trying to handle it. It’s such a huge event, and every year organizers try earnestly to make it even bigger, almost always doing so beyond the means needed to accommodate such growth.

That said, poker players are often different from non-poker players in the way they are more willing to invite pressure into their lives. Just playing a single tournament or cash session is an acceptance of risk in the hope of reward -- in other words, a willingness to tolerate the possibility of upsetting one’s status quo that many people do not possess.

The WSOP’s unrelenting pace and need to push every edge (so to speak) as it continually tries to expand is kind of analogous to a player moving up in stakes to play a level or two above his or her bankroll, thereby adding an extra layer of pressure to every action as long as the trial lasts. You could say that the WSOP -- or Caesars (and the players) -- is “taking a shot” every summer without necessarily be assured of knowing how things will go.

Most players who take shots do survive one way or another, regardless of how things go. And it’s more likely than not that the WSOP will make it through this summer, too, and continue to challenge the poker community again and again for many years after this one.

There’s always some risk of ruin, I suppose. But that’s part of what makes such challenges so interesting. And, for some, even appealing.

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Thursday, June 04, 2015

Cheating Allegations Subplot in the $10K Heads-Up

Woke up this morning kind of marveling at this story about allegations of possible cheating having occurred in the $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em (Event No. 10) at the World Series of Poker.

Saw the tweets first, then read the discussion over on Two Plus Two where two players who may have been victims -- Connor Drinan and Praytush Buddiga -- offer their input on what might have taken place. Both of their posts appear on the first page of the thread.

Had been reading before about the WSOP using new cards this year, these thinner Modiano cards that I recall some mentioned early on were perhaps more susceptible to marking than what had been used before. Dan Goldman made a reference to them in his post that I was recommending earlier this week.

The story involves a player from Moldova named Valeriu Coca who defeated both Drinan and Buddiga along with Matt Marafioti and Byron Kaverman before losing in the quarterfinals. I recognized the name immediately, realizing Coca had been at the EPT Grand Final recently, and in fact ended as the chip leader after the first Day 1 flight of the France Poker Series Monaco Main Event I covered start-to-finish while there.

Here’s my end-of-day write-up from that first day of the FPS Monaco event, featuring Coca. He’d go on to finish 73rd in that event for a small cash.

Apparently Coca’s fast start in that event prompted a Czech writer named Martin Kucharik to post an article on the Pokerzive.cz site reporting Coca’s having been banned from poker rooms in Prague for cheating, in particular for marking cards by bending corners on kings and aces. Here’s a Google translated version of Kucharik’s article, if you’re curious (clunky, but enough to get the gist).

If you read Drinan’s long post you see allegations at the WSOP have to do with card marking as well as some additional suspicions about invisible ink and special sunglasses. (Looking back at a couple of photos from Day 1a of the FPS Monaco Main Event, Coca had sunglasses on in one of them, off in another.) All pretty cloak-and-dagger, with the sussing out of the possible scheme by affected players making for an absorbing read.

The WSOP is presently looking into the matter, with VP of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky having just tweeted to Kevmath a short while ago that “preliminary testing of cards show no markings or use of any foreign solution” but that the investigation is ongoing.

The $10K Heads-Up will finish today with Paul Volpe and Keith Lehr (who eliminated Coca) contending for the bracelet. Will be curious to see who emerges as the winner there, but the outcome of this Event No. 10 subplot is easily the more intriguing story right now.

(EDIT [added 6/5/15]: Two relevant articles from yesterday following up on the story over on PokerNews: “WSOP Investigates Cheating Allegations in $10K Heads-Up Championship” and “Alleged $10K Heads-Up Championship Cheater Denies All.”)

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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Crazy Parallels

“When are the finals already? Or did the NBA decide to do the November Nine thing, too?”

Tweeted that last night while waiting out yet another off day until the NBA Finals finally gets started tomorrow following a seven-day gap since the end of the last round.

Really does feel like a WSOP Main Event-style delay, with all the banged-up players getting a chance to recover before the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors finally get on the court.

Today I saw ESPN explaining how the two teams’ best players -- Stephen Curry and LeBron James -- were in fact born in the same hospital in Akron, Ohio, about three years and three months apart. It’s true!

Speaking of crazy parallels, Tuan Le’s victory in the $10K 2-7 Triple Draw event yesterday (Event No. 7) was kind of nuts, given that he’d won the same event a year ago.

Earlier this week Robert Mizrachi also won another bracelet after winning one a year ago, taking down the $1,500 Omaha Hi/Lo (Event No. 3). That’s his third bracelet and 35th WSOP cash. Was listening to the latest Two Plus Two Pokercast where they pointed out only one other person has exactly three bracelets and 35 cashes -- Michael Mizrachi.

Of course that’s nothing compared to what happened tonight at the conclusion of the $565 Colossus (Event No. 5). Out of 22,374 entries, two guys rooming together in Las Vegas this summer made the final table -- and they nearly made it to heads-up.

Ray Henson started today ninth of nine, but climbed all of the way back into the chip lead for a time before falling in third. Then his roomie Cord Garcia won the sucker. (That is Garcia on the left above with Henson on the right just after the latter busted.)

Both are from Houston and have known each other for 10 years and are rooming together, which seems too wild to be true.

But it is true. All of it. No shinola!

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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The Good and the Bad (So Far)

A quick post tonight just to point you to another more considered read from someone at the World Series of Poker.

Dan Goldman is a poker player who has an extensive background that includes having been involved on the executive level at PokerStars during its early days (and into the “boom” years). On his blog, Braindump v1.0, he has shared some stories from those times that are definitely worth reading for those with an interest in the early era of online poker.

Today Goldman shares a post titled “WSOP 2015: Has anything changed?” in which he revisits a post he wrote a year ago titled “Six ways Caesars screwed up the World Series of Poker.” In the post he looks at the first week of this year’s WSOP and assesses the degree to which those items from the earlier post have or have not been addressed.

He adds to that discussion some further thoughts related to the Colossus, which is now playing down to a final table and looks as though it will be extending into an extra day tomorrow to complete. He makes some points about registration problems and payout delays (you might have read about the latter over on PokerNews), then adds “one last rant” about how the WSOP was responding to complaints and concerns over Twitter Sunday night. (I alluded to that brouhaha yesterday.)

I like how Goldman is articulating his concerns and find myself agreeing with him on most counts. So I thought I’d point you over there today for the thoughts of someone who has been a little closer to the action these last several days.

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Monday, June 01, 2015

Riding the Colossus

Over the weekend I gave some time along with many other poker people tracking how that “Colossus” (Event No. 5) was playing out at the World Series of Poker, marveling as others did at the numbers it was producing.

The name sounds like what you might call a roller coaster, and in fact there was a well known ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California called the Colossus. That was the one you see in National Lampoon’s Vacation (the “Screemy Meemy”), and I’m reading it also turns up in the classic KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, although the ride is now closed due to a fire last year.

Was a fast, wild, bumpy ride for the poker Colossus, too, the last couple of days.

I appreciated some of the things regarding the $565 buy-in event Jason Somerville, Remko Rinkema, and Donnie Peters discussed on the Friday episode of the PokerNews Podcast, in particular what they had to say regarding the Colossus functioning as many players’ “Main Event” (more or less) as far as the WSOP was concerned. It was also interesting to see the reports of poker rooms all around Las Vegas booming with business, too, as a side effect of the event bringing so many poker players to Sin City.

The final total came to 22,734 entries (about 5K over my guess), a number that includes the many, many re-entries as players could fire up to four times. I’d expected to hear something around that number (or a little less) as the total prior to players getting their refunds for unused entries, but it sounds like that total comes after subtracting those, as there were 25,571 “raw, paid entries” altogether.

As the guys on the “PN Pod” discussed -- and as many others who played the event were tweeting about, too -- there were a lot of first-time WSOP players in the Colossus. Would be interesting to know exactly how many were playing their first ever WSOP event, or even just a rough percentage. Perhaps half? More?

[EDIT (added 6/3/15): The WSOP did release further Colossus stats, noting there were 14,284 unique players and that 5,664 of them -- just a tad under 40% -- were playing in their first ever WSOP event.]

The crew’s sentiments about it shaping up to be an especially positive experience not just for the newcomers, but for the experienced players, too, were all convincing.

As you’ve surely heard by now, 22,734 entries translated to a prize pool of $11,187,000 to be divided by the top 2,241 finishers (a little over 10% of the field). They already made it to the money last night, in fact, with no less than nine all-ins during the final hand of hand-for-hand play.

Of course, if you were following things last night you know that the excitement of the bubble bursting was basically set to the side thanks to the animated response to the announcement of the prize pool, in particular to the $636,880 up top for the winner. That figure surprised many who thought first place in a tournament with that many entries and a $11,187,000 prize pool would at least pay a milly to the one managing to survive the record-crushing field.

Not having any particular skin in the game made it easier for me to be entertained watching the Twitter feed last night as people took up either side of arguments regarding “flat” payouts, the “Golden Ratio,” the relationship of rake to payouts (or lack thereof), and so on. Defensive (and in some cases even seemingly dismissive) responses from the WSOP’s Twitter feed served to add further drama.

Marty Derbyshire does a great job summarizing last night’s immediate reaction over on PokerNews, if you missed that. Jeremiah Smith also has a good morning-after piece today over at All In where he focuses on the WSOP’s not having made clear beforehand the possibility of this particular payout schedule should the event draw the 20K-plus entries they were saying they expected it would.

Sort of felt a little like watching a movie in which the “Colossus” was this awesomely big, frightening-looking creature who turned out to be cuddly and lovable, someone everyone in the story liked. Then suddenly he starts breaking things and wreaking havoc, which might well have been expected given his size, but since everyone had been lulled into thinking they’d always like everything about him they all reacted with surprise.

I’m still on the side of those thinking the event ultimately seems as though it is (or will be) mostly positive, all things considered. And perhaps after this first wild ride it will serve to teach some lessons to players and tournament organizers alike -- also a positive.

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