Saturday, November 28, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Day 2 -- Part of the Crowd

It was a third straight long day behind the laptop, and now the 426-entry field is down to just 32 players at the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final in São Paulo.

There’s still a lot of extracurricular activity happening all around the featured tournament, with workshops, numerous side events, and the start of the Brazilian Series of Poker Main Event which like others in this BSOP Millions festival promises to feature an enormous field.

I’ve had a few conversations over the last few days both with Brazilians and others about the thriving poker scene here in Brazil. Everyone has been very friendly all week and especially accommodating of my sad lack of Portuguese, and I’ve enjoyed having these discussions and at least getting to know a bit about poker’s place in the culture, even if I haven’t gotten to explore much else as yet.

While São Paulo is kind of a central hub, there are numerous large cities (many nice vacation destinations, too) where poker is continuing to grow, and just the sight of something like what is pictured above makes it hard to deny poker’s prominence here.

You can click that photo to see a larger-sized image, one taken by the great Carlos Monti (in the center below). That was taken in the middle of a weekday, by the way -- not a holiday or on the weekend. Squint your eyes and see me all of the way in the back against the wall. I’m to the right of the “Azul / Blue” sign, behind the computer, arm up and apparently scratching the back of my neck.

There are a 151 tables in the Golden Hall here in the World Trade Center São Paulo complex, and there have been many times when every single one of them has been in use.

The body clock is completely thrown off now, as I find I’m waking up early despite the late finishes. Still, I can’t help but be energized by the atmosphere, and with several big names from the LAPT still among the Grand Final field I’m as curious as anyone to see what happens over the next two days.

Check the PokerStars blog for more reports on the Grand Final.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Day 1b -- Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic, Rast

Was another long one yesterday at the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final here in São Paulo, where Day 1b played out and we weren’t finished until about 4 a.m.

The day was a lot of fun, though, for a few reasons. One was the fact that Reinaldo had the NFL games streaming on his iPad all day. They began just after play started at 3 p.m. here, and ended just before they bagged and tagged. That and also getting to enjoy a delicious dinner of picanha with Rei helped simulate the Thanksgiving experience somewhat I was missing back home.

Had a couple of fun conversations yesterday, one with Brian Rast who is here playing his first ever LAPT event.

Rast has been spending a lot of time in Brazil over the last five-plus years, having first come down in 2010 and then meeting his eventual wife who is from Paraíba. He hasn’t played a lot of poker here, though, and so this is a somewhat new experience for him. Carlos our photographer snuck a photo of us talking -- that’s me above asking Rast what it feels like to win $7.5 million in a poker tournament as he did in early July. (Spoiler alert: pretty damn good.)

A little later I also had the opportunity to talk with a very friendly fellow named Cristiano Torezzan who teached applied mathematics at the University of Campinas, the huge state-run university system here in Brazil. He has a elective course he’s been offering there since 2013 called “Poker Basics” which uses poker to teach about decision-making, math-related concepts, and other interesting metagame matters.

We also talked about my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class, and shared a lot of notes on what it’s like “teaching poker” in a college class -- that is, using the game to explore other non-poker ideas as well as to teach non-poker “basics,” too. Only a little of our conversation made it into the post I wrote about him and his class. You can check it out, though, to learn more about his interesting course.

Gotta sign off quickly again here as we’re less than a couple of hours away from cranking back up again. There are 202 players left from what turned out to be a bigger than expected 426-entry field. Head to the PokerStars blog and peruse around to see what else happened the last two days and to follow what happens going forward.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Day 1a -- Late to Bed, Late to Rise

I was speaking confidently yesterday about how thanks to my personal internal clock still being on Eastern time -- i.e., three hours behind the time here in São Paulo, Brazil -- the 3 p.m. start to Day 1a of the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final and 3 a.m. finish wouldn’t be too much of a problem for me.

Of course, once we actually got to 3 a.m. this morning and play finally wound down for the night, such enthusiasm had diminished somewhat as tiredness began to set in. Was actually pushing 4 a.m. before getting back to the room, and it took another hour after that to wind down and get some sleep.

Even so, I’m not too fatigued as I type this morning. The R$10,000 buy-in tournament featured a decent turnout yesterday of 132 total entries (including reentries), with a little less than half of them making it through to Friday’s Day 2. Armando Sbrissa, brother of Victor Sbrissa who actually won the LAPT Brazil Main Event here two years ago, ended the night as the chip leader.

There was a fun celebrity tournament as well yesterday that we gave some attention to in the coverage, with Brazilian footballer legend Ronaldo taking part and almost winning the sucker (he ultimately finished runner-up). Ronaldo definitely has some poker skills, having made that deep run in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event back in January (finishing 26th) and winning another celebrity tournament in Macau recently. He’ll be back at the PCA a couple of months, I’m told.

There should be considerably more entries today, perhaps even twice as many, so things should be busier and thus the day perhaps will roll on past a little more quickly. Or at least feel that way, as we’re necessarily going to be wrapping up around the same time again. Meanwhile I’m hoping to follow some NFL during the day, especially that Panthers-Cowboys game. Will feel a little strange to be away from home and not having turkey, sweet potatoes, and the like as usual.

In any case, when someone throws the red challenge flag today and they are spending time under the hood reviewing the last play, click over to the PokerStars blog for updates to see how things are going for us here in Brazil.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Pregame -- Settling In

Stuck close to the Sheraton World Trade Center yesterday, my home-away-from-home until Monday. That’s a partial shot of my view to the left, the Brazilian flag flapping in the breeze atop the Gran Estanplaza hotel across the way.

Likely will continue to stay close to the WTC for much of my stay this week in São Paulo. Not ideal for sight-seeing, although it’s good work-wise given that by being on site the journey to and from the tournament will be a short one for me each day as I help cover the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final.

I will get out some before the week is done, though, as Reinaldo and I have made plans one morning to get over to the nearby park and try to see more than just the surrounding buildings and sidewalks and bridge spanning the Rio Pinheiros.

Last night was great fun, the three-hour time difference giving me extra energy through a late dinner with Sergio, Rei, and Carlos. Had an especially tasty fish-and-rice dish -- pescada amarela em crosta de améndoas -- washed down with a can of Guaraná Antarctica, while enjoing the conversation consisting of equal parts reminiscing, catching up, and looking ahead.

I even thought I’d be staying up to catch the Warriors crushing the Lakers -- available on SporTV here -- but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open much past the 1:30 a.m. tipoff. The time difference is actually going to suit me well, given that the days will be going from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. (which for me is essentially noon to midnight).

Not sure really what to expect for the Grand Final, which sports a buy-in of R$10,000 (about $2,650 USD). I know the surrounding BSOP events are going to be swamped, with thousands playing the kickoff one with just a R$460 price tag. Will find out soon enough.

Heading down to the Golden Hall for today’s play, the first of two Day 1 flights. Check out the PokerStars blog to follow along.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Arrival -- Obrigado-giving

Earlier today a steel winged tube floated down through the gray skies enveloping southeastern Brazil, bringing me to São Paulo where I’ll be settled through the Thanksgiving holiday and weekend for the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final, the culminating stop of the tour’s eighth season.

The flights overnight were fine and I even managed to spend a few hours along the way in a restful state simulating sleep. Was still a bit lagged, though, for much of the hour-and-a-half ride from the GRU (the São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport) up at the northern top of the enormous, sprawling city down to my destination on the southern edge of SP.

We’re situated not far from the Rio Pinheiros, the tributary that winds through the city. I think the name means “Pine River,” which leads me to assume there are some pines somewhere to be seen if one were to follow the sucker long enough. But here in the heart of the city there’s nothing but concrete, metal, and glass all about.

Haven’t done much more so far than to get unpacked and cleaned up, secure some reais, and devour one tasty meat-potatoes-and-rice dish down in the food court. One thing I’ve realized already in the space of just a few hours -- I haven’t the first idea about Portuguese. That’s not entirely true. I do know obrigado, which has come in handy already after my stumbly, murmur-filled pointing somehow gets interpreted correctly.

Gonna rest a little more now, then hopefully reunite with some amigos for another meal in a while. More mañana. Or make that amanhã.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Brazil Bound

Well, this one kind of snuck up on me. Has been a busy few months around the farm, and now I’m jetting off again on another one of my superlong commutes. Heading to São Paulo, Brazil this time for the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final, my first time making it to the largest country in South America, and the fifth-largest on this here entire spinning rock.

Between the World Series of Poker finally finishing up its Main Event earlier in the month and the European Poker Tour touching down at Malta recently and Prague soon, the LAPT sneaks in this week to finish up its eighth season, which as I’ve remarked here before represents something kind of impressive in terms of having established a genuine tradition.

The tour continues to grow and evolve. This marks the fifth season I’ve had the chance to check in on it. More than once before I’d been slated to make the Brazil trip, but various snafus and scheduling switcheroos arose to nix those earlier attempts. The LAPT actually started in Brazil with the first event of the first season being in Rio de Janeiro back in 2008, and has made it back most years since.

Don’t know too much about São Paulo at present other than the fact that its not only the most populated city in Brazil, but in the whole southern hemisphere. I’ve heard about the urban sprawl and how it goes on and on and on (seriously, click that pic above), as well as about the often rainy weather and its “Terra da Garoa” nickname (the “Land of Drizzle”).

I’ll have a good bit of time between now and touchdown at São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport tomorrow morning, and a whole day tomorrow to learn more as the tournament won’t be kicking off until Wednesday afternoon.

Glad to get back out on the road, and while being away during the Thanksgiving holiday will be strange it was going to be a low-key affair for us, anyhow, likely highlighted by that Carolina-Dallas tilt (are my undefeated Panthers actually an underdog?!).

Gotta run as they’ve just announced a gate switch on me here. Talk to you again at the other end of my 4,635-mile commute!

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Friday, November 20, 2015

It Was $86, Not $39

Here’s a bit of poker trivia I had not realized until today.

Chris Moneymaker turns 40 years old on Saturday. Was reading around a little about Moneymaker this afternoon and after following a few links learned that one detail from the story of his 2003 WSOP Main Event win has long been misreported. It’s a detail I myself have repeated a few times, I know, both here on the blog and elsewhere.

It has long been passed around that Moneymaker won his $10,000 seat into the WSOP Main Event on PokerStars via a satellite, with the cost of that satellite almost always being referred to as $39. I knew that he didn’t actually win his ME seat in that satellite -- rather, he won entry into a larger satellite, and from there won his seat. But I only just found out that the buy-in for the first one wasn’t $39 -- it was $86.

First, here’s a post by Dan Goldman (former VP of Marketing for PokerStars) on his Braindump v1.0 blog from a couple of years ago in which he originally repeated the $39 figure, then was corrected in a comment by Michael Josem (who currently does PR for PokerStars).

Goldman follows up with a confirmation that Josem is right, the satellite buy-in was $86, despite everyone having repeated $39 for years and years -- including Moneymaker himself!

In Eric Raskin’s oral history of the 2003 WSOP Main Event -- exerpted on Grantland in an article titled “When We Held Kings” -- Moneymaker says that he entered a $39 sit-n-go, winning a seat into a bigger satellite from which he then won his ME seat. In fact, Moneymaker’s autobiography published in 2005 is titled Moneymaker: How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5 Million at the World Series of Poker, again repeating the incorrect detail (here rounded up) regarding the buy-in.

This page over in the “PokerStars Online Museum” further confirms both the $86 buy-in figure, noting that it “is correct and has been checked against PokerStars’ official tournament records,” as well as that “earlier reports that it was a $39 satellite were mistaken.” The $86 tourney got Moneymaker a seat in a $650 one with 67 players in which there were three ME seats awarded, with Moneymaker getting one.

Trivia, for sure, but perhaps the most interesting part of it is the fact that so many got the detail wrong for so long.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sidestepping the Spoilers

Was listening to last week’s PokerNews podcast today -- not the most recent one, but the “November Nine Recap” one in which Donnie Peters and Rich Ryan broke down the World Series of Poker Main Event final table (Episode #343).

Besides discussing all the key moments from Joe McKeehen’s dominating win, the pair got into some other related topics as well including considering suggestions for improving the WSOP Main Event going forward and whether or not the November Nine experiment has run its course after eight years’ worth of delayed final tables.

Near the very end they played a voice mail from a listener referring back to Donnie’s live tweeting during the final table, and from there came a short discussion of the whole “spoilers” topic. Donnie was one of a few folks tweeting live from the Rio that night, which meant those watching the coverage on the ESPN networks (on a half-hour delay) needed to mute or unfollow those Tweeters if they didn’t want to know ahead of time what they were about to see.

I tried to mute everyone who like Donnie warned they’d be tweeting “spoilers” during the WSOP Main Event final table. It almost worked except for once when someone retweeted a knockout before it had shown up on the teevee (argh!).

I thought of that conversation again just now while watching the World Poker Tour’s live stream of the final table of the WPT Montreal event from the Playground Poker Club. There, too, one can enjoy “cards up” coverage on a half-hour delay. (Side note: The WPT stream shows all players’ hole cards, not just players voluntarily putting chips in the middle like they’ve been doing with the WSOP ME final table. The WSOP should be showing everyone’s cards, too, I think, for the sake of fairness.)

Anyhow, you run into a similar “spoiler” issue following live updates from the event on the WPT site alongside the live stream, as the hand reports are a half-hour ahead of what is being shown. They’re also tweeting live updates about the final table from @WPTLive, which means you can’t follow that and watch the stream without being told about things ahead of time as well. (E.g., that bold five-bet shove by Brian Altman with pocket fours pictured above was partially signaled a half-hour ahead of time via the Twitter feed.)

Just now on the WPT feed play was delayed for a couple of moments while Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, and Lynn Gilmartin could be heard adding some commentary for the edited version of the final table that will be shown later -- a phenomenon I wrote about here once before following a WPT final table I helped cover. Kind of wild to think of the many different ways the WPT is covering their event all at once -- live, on a half-hour delay, then yet again in a different, edited way on longer delay.

Over on the European Poker Tour, the issue is handled pretty effectively via an embargo (of sorts) on reporting ahead of the delayed live stream. That can’t prevent non-media folks from tweeting out what’s happening, but the system works pretty well. It also kind of “unifies” the coverage with the live updates, the features on the PokerStars blog, the EPT Live stream, and all of the coverage appearing on other online outlets all operating in tandem rather than one “spoiling” things for any of the others.

I really enjoy watching live streams, and I also like being on social media to share the experience (such as when the WSOP Main Event final table is playing out). Indeed, as I observed last week when discussing the slowness of the WSOP ME FT, the pace of the game with its frequent pauses makes it well-suited to be combined with something like Twitter where spectators can share impressions as they watch. But “cards up” coverage can’t be provided without a delay, which necessarily introduces the possibility for “spoiler” situations.

I like the EPT’s attempt to solve the conundrum. Is there any other way to do so?

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Poker Talk: Playing the Twitch Card

On Monday a new item appeared in The New Yorker highlighting the growing popularity of Twitch streams by online poker players, in particular focusing on Jason Somerville’s remarkably rapid ascent to become the one of the site’s top stars.

The article -- “Can Live Streaming Save the Poker Industry?” by Cameron Tung -- does a good job contextualizing Somerville’s Twitch tale within the larger narrative of online poker’s quick rise in popularity during the mid-2000s and even more sudden drop-off post-Black Friday (especially here in the United States). Somerville’s own poker career of course directly reflects that surrounding story.

Like a lot of us, Somerville first got into poker in a big way post-Moneymaker, and like a decent percentage of that group made a career out of playing online that also came to include frequent excursions to play live events. And like a relatively small percentage of that group, he enjoyed significant success both online and live, earning him some renown within the community surrounding the game.

Black Friday then forced Somerville and all other U.S.-based online poker players to reevaluate their relationship to the game, and as we know Somerville eventually found a very creative -- and ultimately profitable -- option to pursue with his YouTube vids and eventual move onto Twitch.

It’s a short, easy read and as I say presents both Somerville’s story and the overall situation vis-à-vis poker in the United States ca. 2003 to the present fairly well. The only thing I really wonder about it is the question posed by the headline (which as we know sometimes isn’t the writer’s responsibility).

Tung points out -- drawing on PokerScout as a source -- that as far as online poker is concerned, “the global market has fallen off by more than half” since Black Friday. He thereby sets up a conclusion speculating about the “market” of online poker going forward and what impact Twitch (and, importantly, legislation) might have upon future growth.

I guess the headline makes it sound like online poker (or even poker in general) has reached a kind of crisis point and is in need of “saving,” which doesn’t quite seem to describe the current situation accurately. While hardly thriving as it did before (when the number of players was doubling every year, as the article points out), the “poker industry” doesn’t seem in danger of failing altogether just yet. Nor does that seem something likely to happen anytime soon, either. (I speak largely from the sidelines, from a country not presently part of the “market” upon which we’re focusing.)

Anyhow, the article -- the second poker-related piece within a couple of months in The New Yorker (with a poem about poker appearing within that stretch, too) -- is worth a look and as I say presents poker in a knowledgeable and even favorable way via Somerville’s story.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Files Found! Poker Audio from 2004-2006

We still have this desktop PC in use that is probably more than a decade old now. We use it for a few household-related tasks, among them printing documents with the even older printer attached to it (although that is rarely needed in this mostly paperless world). It’s not even online, which in truth has probably helped add to its longevity, being isolated as it is from the scary virus-filled outside world.

As you might imagine, there are some old, old files on there, including some old audio files of poker podcasts from back when podcasts first became a thing. I’ve written about those before here, including recently. In fact it was just in December of last year I shared a screenshot of all the folders on the drive containing those old shows.

I guess I’ve got a little bit of hoarder in me, having continued to keep all those files. The only reason I downloaded them in the first place was because that was typically the method of listening to them then. We weren’t listening to podcasts on our phones quite yet, and so a lot of the time I’d download the show and listen on my computer while playing online.

Anyhow, for a long time I’ve been going back to those directories and to other places on that old PC to look for something else -- something I knew I had downloaded once upon a time, but could never quite put my finger on where it could be.

In 2005, CardPlayer sponsored live audio commentary for that year’s World Series of Poker Main Event final table. I remember listening all night and into the morning, with the sun having risen here on the east coast by the time Joe Hachem finally ousted Steve Dannenmann in a short heads-up battle to win. Shortly after that CardPlayer posted the .mp3s on their site -- one per week, I think -- eventually posting eight files which totaled something like 13.5 hours’ worth of audio. It wasn’t long after that the files were no longer available.

I was positive I had downloaded those files, and I thought I must have them somewhere but just couldn’t figure out where. Finally -- kind of randomly -- I looked in an old external drive last week and there they were, along with some other old poker-related goodies.

Among the other files there were what I believe might even be the entire run of Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio shows (from 2004-2006), a number of Ante Up! episodes from their first couple of years (2005-2006), some episodes of CardPlayer’s The Circuit from early 2006, Phil Gordon’s 2005 WSOP podcasts plus some Poker Edge shows, the old Poker Diagram podcast (anyone remember that one?), and several episodes of Rounders the Poker Show (forerunner to the 2+2 Pokercast) from the summer of 2006.

I think the latter collection of Rounders shows might include the Jamie Gold interview he gave just a couple of days after winning the 2006 WSOP -- the one I believe was later admitted into court as part of Crispin Leyser’s lawsuit against him that was eventually settled out of court in 2007. (I hope so, anyway.)

I grabbed the 2005 WSOP shows, got ‘em loaded on the iPod, and listened to the first 20 minutes today. Phil Hellmuth and Jeff Shulman are hosting, and already within that short introductory section had on Gary Thompson and Howard Greenbaum of Harrah’s, Mike Matusow (who was at that final table and destined to go out in ninth), Howard Stutz of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (then, and still), and Oklahoma Johnny Hale.

I remember lots of other guests coming and going throughout the marathon, including Puggy Pearson who would pass away the following spring. I found myself wanting to jot down some notes as I listened, thinking perhaps I’ll share some highlights here once I get through it all.

What a time that was, and it’s hard to believe it’s now over a decade ago. A time when I couldn’t get enough poker -- I’d listen, watch, or read anything. You too, probably.

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