Monday, May 23, 2016

WSOP-Related Reads on PokerNews

A few good reads over on PokerNews today, IMHO (as they say). All have something to do with the 2016 World Series of Poker, which starts in just about a week.

For one there’s the first part of PN’s annual predictions for the upcoming World Series of Poker, where I’m chiming in along with several others. We give thoughts about 10 different questions in this part, with more to come.

We guess who will win WSOP POY, who will win various marquee events, opine about how various pros will do, and weigh in as well on this question of whether or not Howard Lederer and/or Chris Ferguson will turn up at the Rio this summer.

I’m more or less okay with my predictions in this part, though I’m less confident about some of the ones I ventured in the second part. In any case, check out “2016 World Series of Poker Predictions, Part 1: Will Ferguson or Lederer Return?” and compare your own ideas about what’s going to happen this summer.

Two good strategy articles additionally went up today, also both relevant to the upcoming WSOP.

One is by Darrel Plant, who took a close look at the structures for the low buy-in events at this year’s WSOP and saw the early levels go much faster this time versus last year. The $565 buy-in Colossus gets most of the focus, and what Darrel has to say should be pretty interesting (and useful) to those playing in that one.

See “Playing the Colossus? Structure Changes to Early Levels Make Fast Start Crucial.”

Also, our friend Robert Woolley, a.k.a. the “Poker Grump,” wrote what I think has to be the first strategy article I’ve seen that specifically focuses on seniors events such as the $1K one the WSOP has for players aged 50 and up.

Check it out: “Thinking of a Seniors Event? Tips to Make it Fun and Profitable.”

Photo: courtesy PokerNews.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

“Poker Twitter”

Spent the day taking care of the usual business while also readying the farm for a get-together tomorrow where we’ll be hosting a lot of family and friends. It’s kind of turned into an annual thing here every spring, a fun way to get everyone together, eat some barbecue, and just relax.

Had too much to do to spend that much time following the Twitter stuff today, but I noticed enough to see the some of the griping back and forth in anticipation of the World Series of Poker (which gets started in a little over a week). A lot of personal beefs being played out before an audience again, with the WSOP also getting in there and bothering people with some of its tweets, too (as they’ve done before).

You’ve probably heard our friend Kevmath has been hired by the WSOP to take over their Twitter account starting May 31, finally officially being awarded a job he’s been handling on his own for years. I don’t envy Kevmath the task he’s taken on, although I’ve no doubt he’s going to do it well.

I was thinking today about one of the conversations I was having with my buds at LAPT Panama about social media -- Twitter, specifically -- and how often those who interact on there misinterpret others’ meanings or intentions, fail to appreciate context (or irony/sarcasm), or otherwise misread each other, often leading to the spectacle-creating argument and vitriol we’re so used to seeing scroll past.

I made an observation -- perhaps insightful, perhaps not -- that since poker is a game full of misdirection and purposefully misleading plays, actions, and/or verbal exchanges, it’s only natural for “poker Twitter” (as it were) to be full of the same sort of challenges to clear, direct communication.

I’ve made that observation here on the blog before how some treat Twitter like a game, viewing others as like opponents with whom to battle over some unspecified prize. I guess this point is a slightly different one, as I don’t think everyone engaging in “poker Twitter” looks at it as a contest. Rather (I’m suggesting) I think it might be more likely than not that poker people are going to be less than direct with their communications in public (such as over Twitter), busy as they often are with building images and looking for edges.

Dunno if that point is clear or not, but I guess it can be summarized as a general recommendation to take pretty much everything you read over “poker Twitter” with a grain of salt, if you can, and not react too quickly without looking a little further into context and or intention. Also know you don’t always have to call or raise, even if you’re pretty sure someone’s probably bluffing.

I think Kevmath has good instincts in that regard, which’ll help him once the barrage of questions (and criticisms, probably) come his way starting at the end of the month.

Me? I’m just hoping it doesn’t rain tomorrow. That’s all. No, really... no hidden message or irony. Let’s just have some sunshine!

Image: “Twitter icon,” Jurgen Appelo. CC BY 2.0.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lederer’s Mea Culpa

So Howard Lederer today -- today (!) -- issued an “apology” for the whole Full Tilt Poker 1.0 fiasco shared via Daniel Negreanu’s blog over on Full Contact Poker.

As it happens, earlier this week the player pool at Full Tilt Poker 2.0 was at last combined with that of PokerStars, both sites being currently owned by Amaya Gaming. That’s actually coincidental, though, as Lederer has no connection to the new Full Tilt other than having been among those who named the site long ago.

No, the timing of the apology rather has to do with the World Series of Poker beginning in just a week-and-a-half, or at least that seems the most likely explanation for it. Lederer is now admitting both to having made mistakes pre-Black Friday and not owning up to his culpability afterwards in what appears to be an attempt to pave the way for his return to the WSOP, something Negreanu alludes to as well in his contextual commentary on the statement.

You can read the statement yourself and decide how genuine the apology seems. You might also note how it mostly avoids any sort of particulars with regard to the mismanagement of player funds, Lederer’s own prominant role with FTP right up until and after Black Friday, and the way he still weirdly seems to portray himself as a victim of sorts while nominally accepting blame.

As far as Lederer’s playing at the Rio this summer goes, the WSOP reserves the right to refuse anyone the ability to participate in their events, and so it is technically up to them. I don’t necessarily see any legitimate argument for not allowing Lederer to play, but perhaps others might.

That said, I can’t imagine most are going to be all that enthusiastic about Lederer playing. He himself notes in his statement, “Players were not able to get their money back for a minimum of a year and a half, and, for many, it has been much longer. I’ve been a poker player my entire adult life. I know the importance of having access to one’s bankroll.”

In other words, thanks to Lederer’s own mismanagement and lack of oversight, he (and others) significantly damaged the careers of thousands of poker players -- indeed, in many cases, ended those careers altogether. Who could possibly be eager now to compete with such a person at the poker table -- i.e., to have such a person (again) do what he can to try to keep others from winning money at poker?

That’s what I think about here -- not just Lederer playing in WSOP events, but winning in them by cashing. Who could possibly be enthused by that prospect? (I even wonder how much Lederer himself would enjoy it.) Reminds me a little of what happens when men who choose to play in ladies events make the money, and the unpleasant feeling that results. What has been won, exactly?

If Lederer is not angling for a WSOP return, then, well, the gesture perhaps has some, small meaning. If he is, though, that only makes the much-delayed apology seem more empty and without significance than it already is -- another mostly self-serving act, following a long, long sequence of them.

Photo: “Sorry,” Timothy Brown. CC BY 2.0.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

On the Grind

Was a pleasant enough day of traveling yesterday, starting early in the morning and ending with me back home at not too long after 10 p.m. So glad to be back on the farm again, and to be looking at what should be a stretch of staying put for the next several weeks, too.

Between the EPT Grand Final in Monaco and LAPT Panama, the last 24 days have involved me working 16 of them and traveling another five, only being home for those three full days in between last week. That’s probably the longest, most involved stretch of tournament reporting I’ve been on for the last couple of years at least -- surely since we got the farm in late 2013.

As I was writing about last week, though, that’s nothing, really, compared to the schedules most of the others who report on and/or help staff and run these events go. Over on his blog, Will O’Connor, with whom I had the chance to work in Panama, mentions at the start of his last post how he’s already worked 100 days this year. (I believe I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of a third of that.)

It’s truly a nonstop game, both for the players and everyone else who involved in helping keep this traveling tournament poker circus going. Have been chatting with various folks preparing themselves for the seven-and-a-half-week grind of the WSOP as well, which presents its own special kind of psychological and physical challenge similar to what happens elsewhere but more intense (and, for some, stress-creating).

Unless something unexpected happens, I’ll be home again this summer, not too bothered about not being in Las Vegas although it has been long enough now I’m starting to get an itch to go, if only just to touch base with friends and colleagues whom I know will be there, even after a couple of years’ worth of turnover.

I like the rhythm of going on the road for short stretches then being able to stay home long periods, too. I suppose it resembles the rhythm of play (for many), say, at a full ring game or in a tournament, where you find yourself occasionally involved a lot but folding and watching others a decent amount, too.

For me, though, not always “grinding” allows me to miss it enough when I’m away to look forward to it when I go back.

Photo: “World Alarm Clock - Grove Passage, London,” Bob Bob. CC BY 2.0.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Travel Report: LAPT9 Panama, Day 4 -- On the Big Stage

The last day of the Latin American Poker Tour Panama Main Event turned out to be a bit longer and more exciting than I’d anticipated.

The eight-handed final table started at noon and didn’t end until after 11 p.m., which means it went on considerably longer than normally happens in these LAPT finales. And there was some intrigue, too, thanks to how things played out.

There were three Americans at this final table, something I can’t remember happening at any LAPT I’ve ever been to, and I’m sure hasn’t happened since Black Friday. One, Alcides Gomez, was the short stack and busted early, but Austin Peck (who finished fourth) and Aaron Mermelstein (who took third) both appeared as though they had as good a chance as anyone to win.

Heads-up was kind of wild, too, with Ruben Suarez (from Venezuela) and Andres Carrillo (from Colombia) battling kind of fiercely despite having shallow stacks. At one point Carrillo folded to a big Suarez bluff when calling would have essentially given him the win, something that appeared might have rattled him a little with the loud rail of Venezuelans not helping matters for him.

But Carrillo managed to hang on and eventually win in the end, prompting another enthusiastic celebration among his supporters. You can read a recap of how it all played out on the PokerStars blog.

The set-up for reporting was kind of ideal, as we were situated up on a stage looking over the final table below, making it easy both to see all of the action and to remain out of the way. Of course, if you were just passing by it might have looked like we were the show, being up on stage as we were. There a shot up top -- done in b/w by the great Carlos Monti -- giving you an idea. You can see another photo of me illustrating my partner Will O’Connor’s post-tourney recap on his blog, too.

To the left is another photo Will took of me, Reinaldo, Sergio, and Carlos -- actually four of them taken with a camera Reinaldo had. Would be a good album cover for our band, I’d think. And it really does feel like a band sometimes, and it was great fun having Will playing along as well this time.

We’d talked about playing some poker after everything was done which would’ve been fun, but things ended too late and some of us had to get up early this morning, so we skipped it.

Day of travel ahead. Was another fun trip but after working two in a row like this I’m more than anxious to get back to the farm. Talk to you again from there.

Photo: courtesy Carlos MontiPokerStars blog.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Travel Report: LAPT9 Panama, Day 3 -- Playing Sgt. Pepper

The penultimate day of the Latin American Poker Tour Panama Main Event was a quick one, with the players getting from 32 down to eight by early evening, permitting us to get away early enough to enjoy a leisurely dinner at the Sorts Hotel, Spa & Casino.

Sergio, Will, and I went back over to the Score Sports Bar for our meal, which was leisurely indeed with another lengthy wait for the dishes. During that interim I pulled out my Beatles deck of cards -- a recent gift from Vera -- and dealt a few hands of a game I’m inventing called “Sgt. Pepper.”

It’s a Badugi variant and is still in beta, although I’ll tell you instead of needing four different suits in your hand to make a Badugi, all that’s required is to have a single, lonely heart among the four cards -- the other three can be anything else -- to make what I’m calling a “Fab Four.”

One rule Sergio introduced which I like is that if two players happen to hold the same hand, the one with the lowest heart wins.

Meanwhile, when a player stands pat, that’s choosing to “Let it Be.” I want to introduce another twist allowing a player to swap hands with an opponent, a move announced with the phrase “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” although I’m not sure as yet when and under what circumstances that will be allowed.

I’m not too eager to introduce lots of wild cards into the came, although perhaps it might be worth my getting some advantage “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Perhaps there could be variants of Sgt. Pepper -- “Eight Days a Week” (in which eights or wild) or “Revolution 9” (where nines are) or “Sun King” (making kings the best card to have, not the worst).

Having a three-card hand and drawing to a Fab Four is called “Fixing a Hole.” A “Cry Baby Cry”-ing call after the third draw that turns out to be a loser is referred to as “I Should Have Known Better” (or, if it’s a particularly bad call, “I’m a Loser”). And when someone folds to your bet rather than calling, that’s a “You Won’t See Me.”

Like I say, the game is still being developed, so I welcome any ideas. I’d like to say in the end I was able to invent Sgt. Pepper with a little help from my friends.

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Travel Report: LAPT9 Panama, Day 2 -- Wingin’ It

Day 2 of the Latin American Poker Tour Panama Main Event was a fast-paced one, with 172 players managing to work their way down to just 32 in a little over nine hours’ worth of poker. That’s something like 15 knockouts per hour or one every four minutes.

A Columbian player named Anderson Blanco bagged the chip lead at night’s end, but Aaron Mermelstein of Philadelphia is close behind him and appears well positioned perhaps to add an LAPT title to his collection. Mermelstein, you might recall, won a couple of World Poker Tour events last year, and he’s obviously one of the stronger ones left in the field.

Oscar Alache is there, too, though, hanging on with a short stack. He’s won two of these LAPTs which ties the record along with Nacho Barbero, Fabian Ortiz, and Mario Lopez, so he’d be setting a new standard if somehow he was able to push back up the leaderboard and win the sucker.

Will and I held up amid the madness well, and we’re enjoying working the event along with Sergio, Reinaldo, Carlos, and the others here at the LAPT.

I mentioned before how accommodating the Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino has been. They’ve even been bringing around food and drinks for us throughout the day, which has been nice given how it isn’t always easy to break away for meals.

Yesterday chicken wings were among the offerings, and up above you can see me flexing my blogging muscles, reporting with one hand while feeding myself with the other.

Back at it today with the plan being to work down to the final eight. Check the PokerStars blog for all the action. I promise to try not to get the keyboard too greasy.

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Travel Report: LAPT9 Panama, Day 1b -- Do What You Do

The second Day 1 flight of the Latin American Poker Tour Panama Main Event went smoothly yesterday. Having fun with Will O’Connor, my blogging partner-in-crime at this one.

I was joking with him about my idea that “once I get out of blogging, I’m going to start coaching blogging,” something that Remko Rinkema and were laughing about back in Monaco recently.

I shared with Will my tweet to Remko approximating coach-speak for bloggers:

“Get out there… blog. Blog! Do what you do. Keep countin’! And stay cool even when it heats up!”

(There’s a relevant image illustrating the tweet and explaining that last line, if you click through to see it.)

After enduring a much-too-long wait for lunch at the sports bar early in the afternoon, Will and I managed to run well at the dinner break and get a quick, good meal at Fenecia. He had the risotto (which he reviews highly) while I had sushi (the spider roll), also good.

Forgot to mention yesterday how a friendly player from Argentina, Arthur “Cacho” Korn, came up to say hello and let me know he was a Hard-Boiled Poker reader. Neat to find that out, and fun as always to think about how small a world it really is.

Yesterday’s turnout ended up bringing the total field up to 553 entries, which I think is probably a good number all things considered. The Spring Championship of Online Poker is a focus for many players right now -- in fact some of those playing in this event are focused on SCOOPs as well (as shown above). There’s also the WSOP right on the horizon, for which many players are resting up.

In fact, of all the places the LAPT goes, Panama is the longest trip for the South American players, and so that’s always going to affect how many can come. More Central Americans can get to it, though, and a few more U.S. players, too, than usually make it down to Chile or Uruguay or Brazil.

Cutting it short to get back downstairs to Day 2. Check the PokerStars blog for more evidence of us doing what we do.

Photo: courtesy Carlos MontiPokerStars blog.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Travel Report: LAPT9 Panama, Day 1a -- My Two Balboas

Day 1a of the Latin American Poker Tour Panama Main Event was a smooth one, with a not-so-huge field and great accommodations make the reporting work pleasurable.

In stark contrast to Monaco, our media area is located right next to the tournament -- though in a separate room which allows for clearer-headed thinking while scribbling. In other words, instead of walking two full minutes (and negotiating lots of stairs) back-and-forth to file updates, it’s just a quick hop to get stuff and get it out.

I was mentioning yesterday how the Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino is a new facility and thus full of new-fangled, latest-and-greatest accommodations to make things easy. Panama is also one of those countries Americans can visit without having to fret too much about things like currency, electrical outlets and so on. USD is the commonly-used currency, accepted everywhere, and the plugs are all the same.

I have gotten back some Panamanian balboas as change, the national currency (named after a famed Spanish conquistador -- no, not Rocky) with an exchange rate of 1-to-1 with USD. And in another contrast with Monaco, expenses are much less exorbitant here (obviously), with stuff costing about what it should (i.e., nothing like those €20 cheeseburgers). Again, nice -- to give my two balboas about it.

There were 218 entries yesterday and 63 survivors, and today’s second and last Day 1 flight oughta draw at least 300 if not considerably more. Check the PokerStars blog for updates to see who comes and how many of them there are, along with pics and updates from myself and Will O’Connor.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Travel Report: LAPT9 Panama, Arrival -- Ain’t That a Kick in the Head

I write today from hot, nearly-sweltering Panama City where I’ll be situated for the next several days helping cover the Latin American Poker Tour Panama Main Event.

The flights down to Miami and then to the Tocumen International Airport in Panama were both smooth and on time. They took a little longer than I remembered from a couple of years ago, but I was in no rush.

In fact on the second leg I was able to watch all of the original Ocean’s 11, the one from 1960 starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop of the “Rat Pack” along with several other recognizables. A fun time-filler (I’d never seen it before), featuring a kind of hilarious ending that jarred with my memory of having seen the remake some time back.

Love the constant stream of hipster lingo in the flick, a lot of which overlaps with “hard-boiled”-type chatter. Dean Martin kind of steals it, I think -- I didn’t even mind hearing him sing “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” three or four times. Also dug Cesar Romero a lot as the scheme-spoiling Duke Santos.

Got my shuttle to the Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino and was checked in a little after 9 p.m. local time. The LAPT moved its Panama series to the Sortis last year, so when I came in 2014 we were in a different location. This is a brand-spanking new place, only going up a couple of years ago, and it still has that “new casino” feel.

I’m reminded a little of covering an event at the Sands Bethlehem back in late 2012 not long after it had opened up -- everything shiny and in perfect working order, and lots of examples of the latest and greatest when it comes to accommodations.

Met up with my buddy Sergio and got to meet Will O’Connor, my blogging partner-in-crime for this trip, whom I already know will help make the trip a fun one. Have been going solo on these LAPT excursions for a long while now (for the last 3-4 years or so), which makes it’s great to have someone to team up with for the long days and nights.

We three had dinner in the sportsbook here, then I was able to get back to the room at a decent hour to rest up for the days to come. Our plan here will be less elaborate than the one Danny and his boys cooked up in the movie -- just a straightforward, day-by-day accounting of what happens in this tournament over the next five days. Start checking the PokerStars blog today to see how we pull it off.

Image: Ocean’s 11 (1960), Amazon.

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