Sunday, May 31, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 4: Wave Upon Wave of Demented Avengers March Cheerfully Out of Obscurity Into the Dream

Pink Floyd, 'Animals' (1977)Always been a Pink Floyd fan. Animals, that 1977 LP featuring a suite of Orwellian-themed tunes about pigs, dogs, and sheep, was probably the last album in the oeuvre that I got to, having been too distracted by the sounds surrounding the icy waters underground, the lunatics on the grass, lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, and hands that felt like two balloons.

Even after I finally picked up Animals, for some reason it took me awhile to get into it, but eventually I did, and over the years it has become the one Floyd record I tend to listen to the most. Might be because the cuts rarely turn up on the radio -- I think the last time “Dogs” was played was when Johnny Fever played it on WKRP back in 1978 -- thus making it more inviting to pop onto the turntable (or, as is more frequently the case today, to dial it up on the iPod).

Been listening to Animals a lot this week, mostly while running at the fancy fitness center where I’m staying. Still doing my regular two miles a day on the treadmill, usually doing so a couple of hours before I go to the Rio. Most days I’ve had Animals on the iPod. Maybe it’s ’cos I’m so immersed in poker at the moment, but seems like just about every lyric on this LP can be applied to the game in some fashion.

You Have To Be Trusted By the People That You Lie To

Isaac HaxtonThe $40K event swiftly made it from 23 players down to the final nine yesterday. Change100 and I were on the case, along with Mickey and Dave (two terrific field reporters for PokerNews), and we covered the proceedings fairly comprehensively. Justin Bonomo held his chip lead for a while, then slipped back after Alec Torelli then Isaac Haxton took over the top spot.

Haxton, looking less like Joey Ramone and more like Rivers Cuomo with his newly-cropped hair, made some good moves during the day, including showing a bluff or two. He also ran well. He rivered an unlikely runner-runner straight versus Ted Forrest in a hand in which he’d been betting the whole way with nothing, then backed into something good there on the end. Then he got paid handsomely on a hand in which he flopped a set of sixes versus then-chip leader Torelli’s top pair of queens.

I remember last summer that Haxton was at the first final table I covered, that $5,000 Mixed Hold’em event that Erick Lindgren ended up winning. He was the short stack at that one, though, and busted within the first orbit in ninth. (Bonomo was at that final table, too, now that I think about it.) So I’m looking forward to seeing how Haxton does today having the early advantage against Vitaly Lunkin, Lex “RaSZi” Veldhuis, Greg Raymer, Alec Torelli, Justin Bonomo, Dani “Ansky” Stern, Noah Schwartz, and (a now short-stacked) Forrest.

Ha Ha, Charade You Are

Tony GOne of the highlights yesterday was when Tony G (who ended up bubbling the final table in 10th) doubled up early on with pocket tens versus Veldhuis’ king-queen.

After winning the hand, the G was joking in a light-hearted fashion about Veldhuis having called his all in with K-Q. “Now, king-jack, that would have been nice," he said. “That would have been a Ralph Perry.”

Of course, Tony G was referring to that hand from the 2006 Intercontinental Poker Championship in which Ralph Perry gambled with K-J against him, then the G dressed him down afterwards for his “disgraceful” play. Safe to say that’s probably the most-watched Tony G hand on YouTube.

You Better Watch Out, There May Be Dogs About

SheepAlso going on in the Rio yesterday was the first of the two Day Ones for the $1,000 buy-in “Stimulus Special” no-limit hold’em event (Event No. 4). Sounds like they have reached their 6,000-player cap for that one, so the parking lot was packed when I arrived about one o’clock yesterday. As was the Amazon Room, natch.

Not surprisingly he most-frequently referenced animal at the Rio yesterday was the donkey, although I found myself thinking more often of sheep. Those that know the Floyd tune know how it operates as a cynical treatise on the ill consequences of “following the herd.” It also rocks.

There are certainly some good players among the Event No. 4 field -- some “dogs” among the “sheep,” so to speak. They’ll emerge eventually. But for this weekend, anyway, we’re definitely hearing more bleating than barking.

You can follow today’s events -- including hand for hand coverage of the $40K final table -- over at PokerNews’ live reporting page.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 3: Sleepers

SleepersAfter nearly a week in Vegas, my internal clock has finally completed the shift to the Pacific time zone and I am getting decent rest each night. So I was wide awake and ready to rumble yesterday as I returned to the Rio to help report on the World Series of Poker for PokerNews. I continue to help report on that Event No. 2, the $40,000 buy-in “Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em Event,” which I will be sticking with this weekend on through to tomorrow’s final table.

The bloggers were again situated in the same spot there in the corner of the Media Box, not too far from the “Orange” section located in the front left quadrant of the Amazon ballroom. That’s where the 89 players reassembled to begin play just after two o’clock Friday afternoon.

It was a good day, reporting-wise. Although we did get some good feedback on the first day’s reporting, I think we all felt the second day went much more smoothly all around. Which is to be expected. I know I felt more relaxed with the writing side of things, kind of settling back into that groove from last summer.

Was looking back through the live blog for Day 2 of the event. A total of 66 players were eliminated from the event on Friday, leaving just 23 to come back and play down to the final table today. We actually were able to report elimination hands for almost every one of those 66 bustouts (all but six, I think), which is kind of remarkable, actually. I remember last year for most events we weren’t really able (or expected) to report every elimination hand until we got down to the last three tables or so, if then.

There’s a lot else in there, too, from yesterday. Let me share just a few other extracurricular items that didn’t necessarily make it into the blog but might be of interest:

How Am I Doing?

Doshi SureshOne phenomenon that seems to take place at every WSOP tournament -- even a relatively prestigious one like this here $40K NLHE event -- is for a player to make an especially deep run who obviously had little expectation of doing so. Yr basic “sleeper” story, if you will. Being a reporter on the sideline, I sometimes will get to interact with such a player as he or she checks in with us regarding his or her current status in the event.

This is always kind of fun and inevitably makes me want to pull for the person to succeed. Yesterday the player filling that role was Doshi Suresh, who lives in Las Vegas and who until this week only had a couple of small cashes in a WSOP Circuit event four years ago. In fact, the buy-in for this tournament rivals his total career tourney earnings (just a little over $60K).

Before play began yesterday, Suresh -- stylishly dressed in a suit and tie -- came over to ask where he stood among the 89 remaining players. He had an above average stack, which put him about 40th or so. He also wanted to know how many places paid (27) and what the payout was for 27th. He checked back with us a couple more times during breaks as the day wore on. He seemed surprised when I told him with 36 players left that he was still in good shape (about 15th), his expression communicating a kind of reserved excitement about the prospects of actually cashing in this sucker.

He made it, and in fact to start today is sitting in right in the middle of the pack in 11th place with 23 left. After play had ended on Friday and all of the players had gone, a couple of gentlemen approached my station and asked if I perhaps knew if a player named Doshi Suresh was still in the event. When I told them he’d made it to the cash, both were ecstatic. “How much... how much?” they asked. “What is the least he can win?” I told them he’d guaranteed for himself a payday of $71,858 thus far, and their smiles widened.

I’m romanticizing all this a bit, I’m sure. Couple of Suresh’s backers, no doubt, gleefully learning they actually were looking to get something back on a highly uncertain investment. Still, kind of cool to witness.

A Different Kind of Sleeper Story

ZZZWe had a one-hour dinner break last night (as opposed to 90 minutes). I believe there were 44 players still in the event at that point, and 43 of them made it back for the first hand of the new level following the break. The only empty seat belonged to Ted Forrest. At first it was thought maybe he misunderstood the length of the break, but after an hour had passed -- and a good 20% of his stack had been blinded off -- people started to worry.

At one point Layne Flack was in the area -- not sure exactly why, but he was enjoying goofing around with the head-turning Lacey Jones while she was trying to do her one-minute update video for the WSOP website. Flack wandered over and started to say how he needed a cell phone... did anybody have a phone he could use? Eventually we figured out he was looking to call up to Forrest’s room to see what was up.

As we moved into the second hour of play without Forrest, we’d just started to get to the point where darker thoughts began to creep into our minds about the missing player. Something had to have happened. We’re approaching the money bubble of a poker tournament in which 27 players are looking to divide up an $7.7 million prize pool here. Had to be something serious, right?

Not really. He had been sleeping. Had settled into the comfy hotel bed for a power nap and didn’t hear the alarm. “Are we in the money?” Forrest asked, rubbing his eyes as he rapidly walked back to the table. Change100 wrote the post about Forrest’s adventure and return, giving it the inspired header “Run, Forrest, Run!”

Moneymaker Misses the Money

Chris MoneymakerNot long after Forrest returned, he began getting involved in pots right away and ended up building a nice-sized stack by night’s end. He’s currently in second place with 2.58 million, just behind Justin Bonomo who has 2.67 million.

Some of those chips Forrest accumulated came from Chris Moneymaker’s stack. Moneymaker started the day with 805,000 (2nd of the 89), and while he never really increased his stack he was sticking around the 600,000-700,000 mark for most of the day until things fell apart for him after the dinner break.

A huge hit came when Tony G won an all-in race versus Moneymaker with A-K versus Moneymaker’s pocket queens. The flop was safe, but a king rolled out on the turn, prompting a Tony G fist pump as he exclaimed “Yeah baby. Feel the powah!” A much-deflated Moneymaker simply stated “you are blessed, sir,” resigned to losing yet another late-tourney race.

Not long after that hand, Moneymaker got it all in with pocket tens only to run into Forrest’s K-K. Moneymaker actually walked away from the table as soon as he saw Forrest’s hand, and was passing in front of us in press row on his way out of the Amazon Room as the community cards were being dealt. Might have been a good thing he left, as both a king and a ten flopped. Would’ve been too much to bear, probably. If the case ten had come, they’d be chasing him down the hall to return, but it didn’t, and Moneymaker was out before the cash.

I was saying yesterday how I couldn’t help but pull for Moneymaker to do well in this one, a sentiment shared by a number of others with whom I spoke. His was the biggest “sleeper” story of them all, really, and we all continue to be affected by it. Additionally, I think a lot of us still identify with him somewhat -- even having scored the big 2003 ME win, he continues to be the underdog. And most of us know what that’s like, I think.

You gotta know ESPN was hoping Moneymaker would make this televised final table. Greg Raymer is still there, and he has a lot of chips, too. Probably doesn’t matter, though, which nine emerge from these 23 -- it’s going to be a stacked FT, no doubt.

* * * * *

Another great shot by B.J. NemethI’d said yesterday I wanted to pass along some links to other sites for following the WSOP. Turned out I was much too busy during our short break last night to do so.

Today I’m thinking I don’t even want to get too involved with trying to compile such a list. Most of you reading this blog know where to go for yr WSOP info, anyway. However, do allow me to point you to one site some of you may not know about -- the photo blog that B.J. Nemeth is compiling over on PokerRoad.

I’m seeing B.J. each day and watching him work as he seeks out the best shots, attempting to narrate via pictures what’s happening at the Rio. That photo above is a greatly reduced shot of one of the tables at Event No. 2 yesterday -- click on the picture to go to the PokerRoad site, then scroll down to see the full image. And go ahead and bookmark B.J.’s page now, why dontcha?

While yr at it, make a note of PokerNews’ Live Reporting page, too (where I’ll be).

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Friday, May 29, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 2: Back in the Saddle

Back in the SaddleWas talking on Tuesday some about the debate regarding the decision to kick off (essentially) this summer’s World Series of Poker with that $40,000 buy-in “Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em” event (Event No. 2). While doing so certainly meant we’d be seeing a lot of big names and probably some better-than-average poker right off the top, was it wise, overall, to begin this way?

Would the $40K event be able to match the hype suggesting that we should expect the single greatest collection of no-limit hold’em players ever to compete for a WSOP bracelet? Would it necessarily create a let down (of sorts) once the event ended and most media types went away until July when the Main Event begins? Would it negatively affect turnouts for subsequent tourneys, given that a number of players were necessarily going to start out the WSOP $40K in the hole? And what if the turnout for this one fell short of expectations -- would that stifle early momentum for the Series as a whole?

As we reported over on PokerNews sometime during the middle of the afternoon yesterday, a total of 201 players ended up playing the $40K. Felt a bit anticlimactic at the time, although to be fair, earlier this month WSOP officials were projecting only 150 entrants in that WSOP Staff Resource Guide. Easy to say this morning, but 201 seems just about right, all things considered, and I’m going to guess officials are probably pleased they did manage to cross that 200-player mark.

Covering the WSOP, the Sequel

Covering the WSOP, the SequelOur coverage of the day’s play over on PokerNews went reasonably well, I think. Kind of a challenge on the media side, too, to kick things off this way with what will ultimately be one of the more closely watched events of the Series.

Even with a relatively small field of 201, it is still a mighty trick to provide something resembling comprehensive coverage of what is going on, regardless of how big or small your crew happens to be. Some, I know, would like hand-for-hand accounts from every table, but that just ain’t gonna happen. And until the WSOP decides to issue name tags or create some other process by which all players are immediately identifiable, there is always going to be a lot of extra energy expended on Day Ones just trying to figure out who the heck is in the seats.

Of course, in this particular event, we had some advantages that we won’t have in later events. I’d estimate the members of our crew collectively were able to identify a good 75-80% of the starting field of Event No. 2 by sight, including several of the online pros whose faces -- and real names, even -- aren’t as widely known. Lists of starting seat assignments were distributed for this one, although like any such product created by humans, they weren’t error-free. But we had a nice head start, and it helped. Gonna be a bit harder once we get to those 2,000-plus player donkament fields, for sure.

Was fun to get back into the reporting. I was stationed in a corner of the media press box, on the front row, although now and then I’d climb out of my perch and get out on the floor to gather my own hands and/or color. For various reasons -- including the fact that for some events I’ll be working with fewer colleagues this time -- I’ll probably be doing a lot more of that this summer that last.

One big difference for me this year was the fact that having done it before, I was missing that large supply of adrenaline that comes from novelty. Our day began about 11 in the morning, and so once we crossed midnight and into that 14th hour, fatigue was setting in. Don’t really remember that being the case last year, when everything was brand new and thus stimulating enough to keep all systems on high alert until well after I’d pulled the rental car out of the Rio parking lot during the wee hours each morning.

The Moneymaker Effect, the Sequel (?)

Chris MoneymakerThen again, as any poker player well knows, there’s a certain novelty to every tournament -- or session, or hand -- that keeps us engaged, curious, even fascinated. I, for one, am fairly intrigued by the fact that Chris Moneymaker is near the chip lead heading into Day 2.

“Moneymaker's here? Really?” I recall hearing someone say that early on Wednesday afternoon, expressing incredulity that he would be part of the elite field. But there he was. And he more than held his own. I didn’t see much of Moneymaker’s play yesterday, but did notice his stack steadily growing from beginning to end, ballooning from the 120,000 with which they started up to the 805,000 he had accumulated by the end of the night.

As players were bagging their chips about 1:30 this morning, I was watching Moneymaker seal his bag, write the amount on the side, then drop it on the table. He started to step away, but then reached over and picked it up once more, holding it aloft with one hand and cupping the other underneath as if to estimate its weight. He might have just been making sure the bag was fastened properly, but to me it almost seemed like the 2003 WSOP Main Event champ was taking a moment to appreciate an especially productive day’s work.

That sort of thing is important, you know. Being able once in a while to have the sense that you’ve done something well -- to take pride in your own achievements, regardless of what others might be saying about you. ’Cos really, in the end, that’s all that matters. As the existentialists will tell you, you make your own meaning.

I’ll admit I’m pulling for Moneymaker to keep it up today. And as some of us were discussing up in the media box yesterday, it would certainly be interesting should he actually go deep or even take the whole thing down. How would that play, ultimately, both in the poker community and elsewhere?

Looking Ahead

The start of the 2009 WSOP scheduleAs this is a four-day event, we believe the plan today will be to play down to the money -- i.e., to 27 players -- which could mean a relatively shorter day for those us assigned to the event. On Saturday they’ll play down to nine, then Sunday will be that final table, the only bracelet event other than the Main Event that will get the full ESPN treatment.

The only other event on the schedule today is Event No. 3, the $1,500 buy-in Omaha Hi-Low Split-8-or-Better event. They’re projecting 916 entrants for Event No. 3 (in that Staff Resource Guide). I’ll go ahead and take the under on that one, although there were quite a few O/8 cash games going in the Rio last night, perhaps suggesting the game’s rising popularity. (They were able to finish up that Casino Employees Event last night, with Andrew Cohen winning the first 2009 WSOP bracelet.)

I guess I’ll go ahead and make some Fantasy Poker picks for Event No. 3 (in that Full Tilt Poker contest thingy I was mentioning yesterday), although it’s going to be hard to find 15 players among the 300 from which to choose who will even be entering this one.

How did I do with my picks for Event No. 2? Let’s see....

Of the 15 players I chose, four did not enter the event: Jacobo Fernandez, Cole South, John Phan, and Mark Vos. Of my remaining 11 horses, only three busted (Andy Bloch, Phil Hellmuth, and Greg Mueller), meaning I have eight players still in the running, four of whom were on my “A” team. Here’s who I have left, with their chip counts in parentheses: from my “A” team -- Phil Galfond (443,000), Nam Le (359,500), Sorel Mizzi (431,000), and Kirill Gerasimov (149,000); from my “B” team -- Justin Bonomo (738,000) and Antonio Esfandiari (292,500); from my “C” team -- David Benefield (70,500) and Brian Townsend (609,000).

The average chip count heading into Day 2 is about 271,000, I believe, so of these only Gerasimov and Benefield are hurting at the moment. Bonomo is near the chip lead, and if I had to pick one of these guys to make the final table, he’d have to be the one (with Galfond my second choice).

Am going to try to post another little something later in the day pointing you guys to some of the other sites I’d recommend following if yr interested in all things WSOP. Gets harder and harder for me to keep up with all of the blogs and podcasts when faced with these fourteen-hour work days, but I do have a few faves I am going to still try to check in on now and then, and wanted to pass those along.

Besides, of course, PokerNews’ live reporting, which cranks back up this afternoon. See you over there!

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 2: The World Series of Poker, Where Fantasies Come True

The World Series of Poker, Where Fantasies Come TrueThat $500 buy-in Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em event (Event No. 1) got things going yesterday, with 81 of the 866 entrants making it through to the money and today’s Day 2.

That event was scheduled to be a two-day event, with today being reserved for the final table. What I’ve heard is that despite having 81 left, they will be trying to end that sucker today. PokerNews is covering the event, as it turns out, so our guys who’ve been assigned to that one may be in for a long (if not particularly intense) day of reporting.

Kind of an early indicator, actually, of an issue that is going to come up fairly soon, I think -- namely, not being able to play down to the final nine before the day a final table is scheduled. Will probably talk more about that here in the coming days, but we’ll put that issue aside for now.

I’ll be heading back over to the Rio in a couple of hours to help cover Event No. 2, the $40,000 buy-in “Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em” event. It’s the 40th annual World Series of Poker, by the way, despite the fact that you’ve heard (and yr gonna hear) people constantly refer to it as the 40th anniversary. First one took place in May 1970, 39 years ago. There’s been 39 of them. This here is the 40th one. Are we clear?

So I suppose when they try to bring the $40K event back next year, they’ll call it the “Special 40th Anniversary” event? Actually, I kind of doubt they’ll be doing this again. Guess it all depends on what actually happens over the next few days.

Gonna be working the event today with Change100 and Tom B. Tom was telling me yesterday about this Fantasy Poker thing over on Full Tilt Poker where you can pick players whom you think will do well in each of the events. If you open the Full Tilt Client, go to the “Requests” tab, and then click on “Check My Promotions (Internet),” a web page opens up listing various items. Down on the bottom right is “Fantasy Poker.” Click that, then click “Go to Fantasy Poker,” and you’ll figure it out from there.

Yeah, I know. Kind of complicated, getting to this here fantasy. I’d give you a link here, but you have to access it after having logged in over on the Full Tilt client. You can get to it a little more quickly, I think, via the Cashier page, too.

Anyhow, there are something like 300 players listed -- all of the many Full Tilt pros are in there, as well as most of the other usual suspects (and a few not-so-usual ones). From the list you pick five players each for your “A” team, your “B” team, and your “C” team. Basically you’re looking to choose players whom you think will cash in the particular event. If one of your “A” players cashes, you win triple their actual winnings in “Fantasy Dollars.” Then, if a “B” team player cashes, you get twice that in Fantasy Dollars, and if a “C” team player does, you get the actual amount in Fantasy Dollars.

What can you get with Fantasy Dollars? I ain’t completely sure. Entry into freerolls, I think. Some Full Tilt Poker gear, maybe. Haven’t really explored the fantasy that far, to be honest.

I went ahead and made my picks for Event No. 2. My team “A” is Jacobo Fernandez, Phil Galfond, Nam Le, Sorel Mizzi, and Kirill Gerasimov. My team “B” is Andy Bloch, Justin Bonomo, Antonio Esfandiari, Greg Mueller, and Cole South. My team “C” is David Benefield, Phil Hellmuth, John Phan, Brian Townsend, and Mark Vos.

Top 15 selected players in Full Tilt Poker’s Fantasy Poker contest for Event No. 2, 2009 WSOPOne of the tricks here is to pick players who are actually going to enter the event. (No Fantasy Dollars for you if yr player isn’t entered.) You can also peek at the “consensus picks” for each event, if yr looking for ideas about whom to select. On the left see the 15 most frequently picked players selected for “A” teams just a few hours before Event No. 2 begins.

No surprises among these 15, I guess. Hmm... I’m noticing that of these most picked players, I’ve only picked Hellmuth for any of my three teams. Going against the grain, I am. Let’s just hope Jacobo actually plays the event today. He cashed seven times at last year’s WSOP, so I’m banking on him having the necessary roll.

Should be a lot of familiar faces there today, as well as a few we’ve never heard of before. Might be one or two who emerge from this event as new stars in the poker world. Still a wide, wide range of numbers being thrown out as predictions for the number of entrants, with some continuing to predict well under 200 while others want to argue for as much as 400 or more. As long as registration is open today -- should be for the first two one-hour levels, if we follow last year’s form -- the buzz will continue to be about the number of entrants.

Then we’ll get down to some poker. Some good poker, I’d imagine, for this one. Most of those who come out today may not appear on people’s “A” teams, but they all better bring their “A” games.

See you this afternoon and evening over at PokerNews’ live reporting.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 1: It Gets Real

Theory and PracticeAnother fun day yesterday. Ended with a couple of hours of socializing at the bowling alley over at the South Point Hotel and Casino with AlCantHang, the Poker Shrink, California Jen, Benjo, FerricRamsium, Pokerati Dan, Change100, Dr. Pauly, Dave King, Tom Bostic, and a few others.

Made it back home by midnight and so am reasonably rested (I think) for the upcoming grind. Before that the day had been taken up with a few more setting-up-shop type activities (got the rental car, finally got the friggin’ internet connection working here in the home away from home, etc.). Then spent part of the afternoon with about two-thirds of the PokerNews’ staff enjoying some delicious BBQ over at Lucille’s in Henderson. Big fun reuniting with a few more of the crew, as well as meeting some new folks. We talked a little shop, too, but the day was more devoted to pleasure than business.

That’ll change today, when we have some more preparatory meetings. Then work really begins in earnest tomorrow.

Technically speaking, today is the first day of the 2009 World Series of Poker, as that Casino Employees Event, a $500 buy-in, two-day no-limit hold’em event (Event No. 1), kicks off at noon. PokerNews will report something on that one, I believe, but won’t be giving it the attention the other 56 bracelet events will receive as far as live blogging and everything else goes.

So, really, all eyes are on that Event No. 2, the much anticipated $40,000 buy-in, Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em event that starts on Thursday. Or, as Mike Matusow referred to it on the most recent episode of Wise Hand Poker (5/20/09), what “truly could be the dumbest idea in the history of the World Series of Poker.”

Matusow’s criticism is focused primarily on the timing of the event -- i.e., placing it right here at the start rather than later on. “Why, in God’s name, when you juice everybody to death, would you want to bust everybody on Day 1?” he asks. He went on to suggest it would have made a lot more sense to have positioned it after the $50K H.O.R.S.E. and before the Main Event, or really anywhere other than right off the top.

40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em eventI can see a couple of obvious reasons why the decision was made to position the $40K NLHE event at the beginning. As many have observed, the presence of a no-limit hold’em tournament in the WSOP with a buy-in that exceeds that of the Main Event does have some significance. For one thing, the Main Event is the only so-called “World Championship” bracelet event in the entire schedule for which the buy-in is not the highest for that particular game. (Was writing about that here some three-plus months ago when the schedule was first announced.)

So there’s a good reason not to have the $40K NLHE event happen too closely to the Main Event -- namely, to prevent encouraging any sort of thinking that the Main Event isn’t really “the big one.” Daniel Negreanu was asked to comment on the event on the Two Plus Two Pokercast (the 5/19/09 episode), where he was specifically asked about the possibility of the $40K becoming a regular part of the schedule. “The danger there,” said Negreanu, “is that it really does change what the Main Event is. I mean, it’s kind of silly, wouldn’t you think, to have the $40K buy-in not to be the Main Event if it [were] to happen every year. And I think it’s dangerous to do that, because then you sort of dwarf the significance of the Main Event.”

That’s one reason why this year the sucker is early, not late -- so as not to dwarf the ME. Another reason for having it early is probably tied to ESPN’s production schedule. As you know, the network is only filming four events for broadcast later this summer and fall, the $40K NLHE event, the WSOP Champions Invitational, the Ante Up for Africa Celebrity Charity Poker Tournament, and the Main Event. The first two happen right at the beginning (this week), while the latter two occur right at the end (in July). ESPN will therefore be able to do their work this week, disassemble everything and send most of the crew away for a month (save the smaller group who will remain to do the ESPN360/Bluff final tables), then come back and reshoot at the end.

So how many will enter the $40K? Matusow seems to think the turnout will be huge -- 250, easily, or maybe even more. Which will be good for the moment, but bad ultimately, says the Mouth. “They’re gonna be just horrified, because they are going to get a way bigger turnout [for the $40K event] than they thought, and all of the other tournaments are going to be way down.” Negreanu was less concerned about the impact the event was going to have on turnouts for the rest of the Series. In fact, he seemed to suggest that having it so early will mean fewer will actually enter the event, since having it later could have made it possible to have more satellites.

The number I’m hearing most often is 225 or thereabouts. That seems to be the “line” near which most over-under bets are happening. I talked about it some at the BBQ yesterday with Tom Bostic and Jeremiah Smith. You might remember Jeremiah from his deep run in last year’s Main Event, or perhaps his hosting of PokerRoad’s Cash Plays podcast. He’ll be playing in several events this summer (though not the $40K), and will be doing some blogging over on PokerNews as he goes.

We all had our ideas, but none of us really know. Indeed, with just a few short hours until the WSOP gets underway, that’s kind of how the next seven weeks exist in all of our minds at the moment. We have vague notions of how it all will happen, but the specifics are yet to be determined.

’Cause you can study and you can prepare. But then the cards go in the air.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Having a Ball

I Can Dig ItLast summer I came to Vegas and immediately found myself engaged in a sport that I hadn’t tried in at least 15 years -- bowling. Like poker, bowling is one of those games that’s not as easy as it looks, especially for the inexperienced. You think you know what’s going on, but next thing you know yr in the gutter.

I like to think I’m somewhat athletic. Am still running every day, by the way, and in fact made it down to the especially nice fitness center here where I’m staying for a two-mile-dash on the treadmill last night. It was somewhat humbling, then, when I found myself last year struggling mightily to reach triple digits at the alley down below the Gold Coast. Which I did, barely. I think I cracked a hundred once. Seem to remember ending at 99 at least a couple of times. Will have to ask California Jen to review the photographic evidence.

Yesterday it happened again. First full day in Vegas, and I’m playing another sport that I can’t even remember the last time I’d played -- volleyball. Again, we’re talking a game that looks a lot easier than it plays. And again, we’re talking another humbling (though fun) time for yr usually humble gumshoe.

It had been an relaxing day. After some early morning writing, I met Bob Woolley, a.k.a. the Poker Grump, for lunch at the Earl of Sandwich at Planet Hollywood. We had a good time chatting about various topics, including PokerNews’ planned coverage for the WSOP with which he’ll be involved, too, this summer. We also talked about Phil Hellmuth’s plan to show up at the Main Event dressed as a Roman emperor à la those eye-rolling UltimateBet print ads. I remembered that the ever-prescient Grump had anticipated this development some time ago, as he explains here. (Do not click that link if pictures of a shirtless Hellmuth make you queasy.)

The Bobster was nice enough to take me by a grocery store where I grabbed a few items. Was planning to get me a rental car yesterday, but the place I wanted to rent from was closed up for Memorial Day. (Another bit of déjà vu, there, as I’d run into that last year.) So I’ll take care of that today, hopefully. Ended up with a bit of free time during the afternoon and so ran to the MGM Grand poker room for an hour’s worth of low limit shenanigans, from which I came away a small loser. Then Haley carried me over to the condos where some of the PokerNews folks were joining their neighbors for some beers, barbecue, and the aforementioned volleyball.

It was great reuniting with Mickey (one of the PN reporters, back for more), as well as meeting Tom Kinsman and Tom Bostic. Tom K. has been doing video stuff for PN for a while now, and was here last year, although I hadn’t really met him before. Tom B. is joining PN this time around as a live blogger, having done a lot of stuff for other pokery outlets over the last few years. Cool guys, all.

They were momentarily short a body over at the net, so I jumped in and ended up playing three games. Figured out quickly there were certain maneuvers for which I was passable (setting, blocking), others for which I was miserable (digging, spiking). So I stopped trying the ones I couldn’t pull off, and in the end only embarrassed myself a moderate amount, I think. Our side took one of the three games, but were somehow shut out altogether in game three, at the end of which I gladly relinquished my spot to another of the rotating group of players.

There were probably 60-70 folks milling about, enjoying the balmy, not-too-hot Vegas afternoon. Saw Dr. Pauly referring on Twitter to this here complex as “stripper central,” and, yeah, he’s right. There was definitely a theme going among the several bikini-clad babes at the barbecue. Which made it easier on yr skinny, bespectacled gumshoe whenever he made another of those awkward, sprawling stabs at the ball, ’cos he knew most were looking elsewhere.

Gonna sign off today with another tip of the fedora to the good doctor -- whom I hope to see tonight following another pre-WSOP get together of PokerNews peoples -- and list links to my posts from last summer. For those who weren’t reading then, the titles are not too oblique, I hope. What I did here on Hard-Boiled was essentially to chronicle my experience helping live blog the sucker over at WSOP, so you’ll find discussions of certain events, as well as other extracurriculars along the way.

The plan this summer is to do something similar, with posts here at least once per day. Thanks again, everybody, for reading along. See you tomorrow on Day 1!

Hard-Boiled Poker at the 2008 WSOP:

Day 1: Dawn
Day 1: “We're In For Six Solid Weeks of Poker”
Day 2: Time Flies
Day 2: Live from the Rio
Day 3: First Final Table Delivers
Day 3: Who Will Wear the First Bracelet?
Day 4: The New & Improved Mixed Hold’em Event
Day 4: Into the Fire
Day 5: Five for Five
Day 5: Storytelling
Day 6: Lights, Camera, Action!
Day 7: Last Night’s Final Table
Day 7: And He Rested On the Seventh Day
Day 7: Mixed Event Look-In
Day 8: Shootout!
Day 8: Keep Up the Pace
Day 9: Running Well
Day 10: Final Table Fun
Day 10: Let’s Make a Deal
Day 11: Escape!
Day 12: Omadraw!
Day 12: Buffets, Bustouts, and Bullsh*t
Day 13: Birthday
Day 13: A Big Hand for the Little Lady
Day 14: Reporting from the Eye of the Hurricane
Day 14: Postscript
Day 15: R & R
Day 16: Year of the Pro?
Day 16: Rebuy!
Day 17: Laughs & Lightning Bolts
Day 17: Brasilia
Day 18: Bluffs & Boasts
Days 19-20: Catching Kings, Z’s, then a Break
Day 21: No Expectations
Day 21: Tigers & Grizzlies
Day 22: Be the Ball
Day 23: Sweat
Day 24: Lowball
Day 25: More Clichés Than You Can Shake a Stick At
Day 26: Cowboy Hats, Cigars, and Draw Poker
Day 27: Cheers
Day 28: Horsin’ Around
Day 29: Love
Day 30: Long Night’s Journey Into Day
Day 31: Kafkaesque, It Was
Day 31: Tell Everyone You Know and Duplicate
Days 32-33: The Beginning of the End
Day 34: Three Tales
Day 34: The Last Final Table
Day 35: The Big One
Day 36: Starting Again
Day 37: Pop Stars, Sexual Puns, and Magic Swords
Day 38: Living the Dream
Day 39: Taking Shots
Day 40: “Seat Open!”
Day 41: Chuck Norris Doesn’t Dodge Bullets; Bullets Dodge Chuck Norris
Day 42: Bubble Go Pop
Day 43: Whirlwind
Day 44: IGHN
Day 45: From the Bleachers
Day 46: Whoopee

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Wake Up

After a day’s worth of flying -- had a lengthy layover at Dallas/FTW (FTW!) -- I landed at McCarran International Airport in Vegas at about 10 p.m. last evening. Garry from PokerNews met me at the baggage carousel, and when my overstuffed bag finally turned up it felt a little like I’d won at roulette. Felt like I’d won again once we made it to my digs for the summer, a sweet suite not far from the strip.

Gonna be meeting up with the Poker Grump for lunch today where I expect to offer him expert advice regarding his upcoming WSOP bracelet chase (on June 11). Will probably go ahead and get me a rental car today and take care of some of the setting-up-shop stuff here this afternoon. Even though public transportation is cheap and not too hard to negotiate, I think I want to have the car at least for the first part of the summer for the sake of convenience. Easier for grocery runs, meeting people in Henderson, etc.

Otherwise, today is somewhat free for me, agenda-wise. Probably will meet up with some PokerNews folks later in the afternoon for an informal reunion. Tomorrow is another, similar get-together, then on Wednesday we’ll be having several meetings of the photographers, the field reporters, and the live bloggers. Despite the last-minute nature of things, it looks like we’ll have a nice-sized crew here, with a lot of folks back from the last year (or two).

Actually didn’t sleep that well last night at all, though I’m not really fatigued this morning. (As my horoscope said yesterday, I project magnetism and energy, and the only thing that can stop me is fatigue.) Must be enjoying some of that travel-induced adrenaline that clearly helped fuel our friend B.J. Nemeth in his mad dash across the country with his dog, Rhapsody (followed by hundreds on Twitter). He made it an hour or two after I did.

Hit the hay around midnight, had three hours of dreamless bliss, then three more hours of tossin’ and turnin’ as thoughts of the many tasks that lay ahead came to me one after another. When I finally woke up for real about six this morning, I had a moment where I hadn’t quite realized I wasn’t home, but some two thousand-plus miles away.

In a strange-but-not-so-strange place. The home away from home.

How does it feel?

Feels like there’s lots of good reasons for getting up. Getting to it.

Feels good.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

“Use today’s New Moon as a new beginning”

Finished ninth (out of 25) in that there Run Good Challenge 3: WSOP Edition yesterday afternoon.

I played fairly well, I think, though probably missed a couple of opportunities along the way. Ran fairly good, too, winning a coin flip versus Michele Lewis and being lucky enough to draw A-K versus Iggy’s A-Q (and having it hold up) in another all-in.

Got to the final table short-stacked, though, and when Dan Skolovy of Poker Listings put in a small raise from middle position I decided to shove my miserable little pile of chips (about seven BBs worth, I think) from the button with pocket treys. Alas, Dr. Pauly was waiting in the big blind with cowboys, and so dutifully reshoved, pushing Dan S. out. No trey came, and I was on the rail. Big congrats to TripJax and Matt Showell (of PL) for winning the WSOP seats! (And thanks again, PokerListings, for setting it all up.) Looking forward to covering you guys, as well as the Poker Grump.

My flight leaves this afternoon, and with just hours to go, I still have the majority of my packing to do. Last summer I took about three times too much of everything, so I’m gonna try to be more selective this time around. Might send along a few tweets today @hardboiledpoker chronicling my progress across the continent, if anybody is innersted.

I am confident, however, that I will not come close to matching the 124 highly entertaining tweets B.J. Nemeth sent over the last 31 straight hours as he drove 1,630 miles from Atlanta to Arizona. One highlight from B.J.: “I’m in Albuquerque! If there's anything I learned from Bugs Bunny, it’s that one wrong turn here can lead to disastrous/hilarious results.”

Time is short, then. Allow me to conclude this here WSOP prelude by sharing with you my horoscope for today, as read to me by the lovely Vera Valmore (who will be coming to see me soon for a week-long visit in June).

I’m a Gemini, of course. Had to be, right? What with my double life and all, as “Shamus” and as “not-Shamus.” Apparently we Geminis are looking at a five-star day here (out of five). To be more specific...

“You project magnetism and energy. Use today’s New Moon as a new beginning, making a resolution in any area you feel necessary. The only thing that can stop you is fatigue.”

Good enough. Will try to remember to get some rest. See y’all on the other side!

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Friday, May 22, 2009

On ESPN’s Coverage of the WSOP, Continued

ESPN360.comFollowing up on yesterday’s post regarding ESPN’s coverage of the World Series of Poker comes the good news. Yesterday came the announcement that 24 of the preliminary events will be streamed live on either ESPN360 or Bluff.

Of the 24 events on the schedule, 19 are hold’em (one limit, three pot-limit, 14 no-limit, and one mixed limit/no-limit). Three more are pot-limit Omaha events, and one is the $2,500 buy-in PLO/PLH mixed event. I recall there was a similar principle of selection followed last year for the televised final tables, with stud and draw games being excluded entirely.

It’s understandable, for instance, why they wouldn’t want to show a draw event where no cards are seen until the showdown (if then), although I remember saying on the blog last summer how cool it would be to have, say, a Daniel Negreanu or Mike Caro or Billy Baxter or some other old schooler do some commentary for such an event.

Actually, now that I look back I’m recalling a small furor that arose after the final table of the $5,000 Deuce-to-Seven Single Draw w/rebuys event went down without being streamed live. The reason why people were griping was because the final table for that one included Jeff Lisandro, Mike Matusow, Tom Schneider, Erick Lindgren, Barry Greenstein, Tony G, and David Benyamine.

The WSOP put out a press release shortly after that, explaining how “draw poker of any kind is a difficult sell for both viewers and spectators.” So none of that is going to go out on the intertubes, nor will there be any stud events. There will, however, be coverage of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E., the lone televised event to feature games without flops. So there will be some pictures to go along with PokerNews’ live blog.

ESPN360.com provides free access to their live streaming coverage of sporting events if you happen to be accessing the web via one of ESPN360’s affiliated internet service providers. Here on my home computer, I apparently do not. As I recall, the word was last summer a lot of other folks didn’t have access to ESPN360, either. Which is a damn shame.

Twelve of the 24 events that will be streamed live are scheduled for ESPN360 (including the $50K H.O.R.S.E.). The other dozen will be shown over on the Bluff site. I’m not certain, but I think this means the rest of the world may get to see these final tables no matter what affiliations yr ISP’s do or do not have. (Kevmath, do you know?)

By the way, these live streams don’t use hole card cameras, of course, but do show every hand, just as those of us sitting tableside will be seeing.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is the second of the two events scheduled for PokerListings’ Run Good Challenge 3: WSOP Edition. The event kicks off over at PokerStars at 2 p.m. Eastern. There were 25 runners out for last Saturday’s event, so I’m assuming there will something in that neighborhood again this time. The top two finishers win spots in $1,500 WSOP preliminary events.

Unfortunately, there will be no live streaming of the final RGC 3 event anywhere. However, I do have an exclusive preview of the event. Click below to watch. Speaking of running good, it is my plan to run exactly like Bugs Bunny does in the latter part of this, one of the best poker/gambling films ever made:

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

On ESPN’s Coverage of the WSOP

Watching the WSOP on ESPNOn this week’s Two Plus Two Pokercast, hosts Adam Schwartz and Mike Johnson asked Daniel Negreanu for his thoughts regarding the schedule that ESPN has announced for its 2009 WSOP coverage.

If you haven’t heard, ESPN has decided to cover just three events aside from the Main Event this year, and two of those aren’t bracelet events. There will be a couple of hours devoted to that “WSOP Champions Invitational,” a couple more showing the “Ante Up for Africa Celebrity-Charity Event,” then two hours showing Event No. 4, the $40,000 buy-in “Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em” event. The remaining 26 hours will all be covering the Main Event.

Negreanu expressed regret that ESPN will not be covering the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. (which he helped create). He noted how in 2006, the inaugural year for the event, the final table was played as no-limit hold’em. A few complained about that endgame switch -- I seem to remember doing some whimpering on here about that, too -- and so in the following year it was decided to keep it H.O.R.S.E. to the end. Negreanu believes that’s why ESPN has chosen not to cover the event this year -- that is, because Omaha/8 and the stud games don’t play well on TV -- and he is probably right.

Obviously there has been a move away from showing non-hold’em events, generally speaking. In fact, ESPN’s coverage of the WSOP over the last few years has been the only place where one can see non-hold’em events, so it’s too bad (for some of us, anyway) that we’ve now come back to all-hold’em-all-of-the-time when it comes to the WSOP.

But what we’re also seeing this year is not just a move away from non-hold’em events, but from the entire preliminary “season” altogether. Just one bracelet event! In other words, ESPN seems to have decided to go back to 2003 (and before), when the Main Event was the World Series of Poker.

Various factors are often discussed to explain the “boom” which so markedly changed both the WSOP in particular and poker’s popularity, generally speaking. The 1998 film Rounders, starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, is usually cited by a lot of players as having been an introduction of sorts to the game of Texas hold’em. It was also 1998 when the first online poker site, Planet Poker, began dealing real money games. Would take a while for the online game to gather momentum, but within a few years both PartyPoker and PokerStars would be attracting players in significant numbers.

In 1999, Late Night Poker debuted in the U.K.. Its use of under-the-table cameras to show players’ hole cards helped change the way poker was shown on TV. In 2002, the World Poker Tour started filming its first final tables, using the “lipstick” or “hole card” cameras, and when the WPT show debuted on the Travel Channel in the spring of 2003, it was a hit right away.

By the late summer of 2003, when ESPN began showing its seven one-hour programs devoted to the 2003 WSOP Main Event, all of the various factors were in place to help create the “boom.” And lighting the fuse was the terrific “reality TV” plot of the amateur Chris Moneymaker, the Tennessee accountant who qualified for the ME via a $40 satellite on PokerStars, and who improbably took the sucker down.

In terms of poker on television, it has never been as good as ESPN’s coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker. Of all the factors that contributed to the “boom,” I’d cite those seven one-hour programs, shown on Tuesday nights during August and September (as I recall), as the most influential.

The 2004 World Series of Poker on ESPNIn 2004, ESPN decided to expand its coverage of the WSOP from seven to 22 hours, with the majority of those hours being devoted to preliminary events. While nine hours went to showing Greg Raymer’s run through 2,576 total entrants to win the Main Event, there were 13 hours devoted to 13 different preliminary events.

And they showed everything -- not just no-limit hold’em. Four of those 13 hours covered four different preliminary NLHE events. There was coverage of pot-limit hold’em and limit hold’em events. Two different seven-card stud event final tables were shown, as well as two different pot-limit Omaha final tables. The razz event which T.J. Cloutier won was shown, as was the no-limit 2-7 Draw event won by Barry Greenstein. They even showed the final table of the ladies’ event that year.

ESPN’s interest in preliminary events continued in 2005. The overall coverage expanded to 32 hours that year, with the first six hours covering WSOP Circuit events. Then one-hour shows covering 14 different preliminary events were aired. They got rid of razz, no-limit 2-7 draw, and the ladies’ event, and stuck mainly with hold’em, save a couple of PLO events and one seven-card stud. Then they gave 12 hours to the Main Event.

Now, after a few more years of tinkering, ESPN has moved back to where it was before, with the focus almost entirely being on the Main Event.

Here’s how the hours of coverage of preliminary bracelet events & the Main Event compare. The chart doesn’t include coverage non-bracelet events like the WSOP Circuit events, the Tournament of Champions, etc. Also, the chart is only referring to broadcasts on the ESPN network, not the pay-per-view final tables or streaming web ESPN360 stuff:



For those of us who are poker players/fans, we certainly would like to go back to 2004-05 and see more preliminary events. And something other than no-limit hold’em.

But I think ESPN would like to go back to 2003 and somehow reignite that boom.

“What story do you think they [ESPN] prefer to tell, if they could script it themselves?” asked Johnson of Negreanu on the Two Plus Two Pokercast. “The ‘Chris Moneymaker any man can win a million dollars’ story, or ‘this is a skill game, and we want to see the big name pro players playing at final tables’? What story do you think they prefer to see?”

“I think that’s pretty clear,” answered Negreanu. “The Cinderella story has sort of been done. It’s done almost every single year because of the size of the Main Event. It’s just more compelling drama when you have players that you already have a genuine rooting interest for [being shown]. When guys like Hellmuth and Matusow make a deep run, that’s going to help the ratings.... The way it used to be, [there were] seven pros and one Cinderella, but these days it’s more like seven Cinderallas and a guy you might have heard of and, oh, that guy who won an online tournament.”

Negreanu’s implication is that ratings go down when audiences don’t recognize the players. Which makes sense. And also perhaps helps explain why ESPN would want to show even more of the Main Event leading up to the November Nine. By showing so many hours, they guarantee themselves the ability to show those familiar “name pros,” but they also are better able to try to highlight (and perhaps make stars of) the unknown players who eventually make it deep in the event.

I don’t think ESPN necessarily doesn’t want a “Cinderella story.” Indeed, as Negreanu implies, they are probably going to get one, whether they want it or not. They just want whatever story is going to make the most people watch.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Praise the Lord Admirals

Lord Admiral chipsI mentioned a while back how the chefs over at Poker Soup had invited me into their kitchen a few episodes back (episode 15). I had a lot of fun chatting with them about poker, podcasts, and the upcoming WSOP. Am gonna swing me a decent headset here soon and perhaps might join them again at some point this summer when I’m out in Vegas helping cover the WSOP for PokerNews.

During our conversation, the subject of the old Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio show came up. We all agreed it was a terrific show -- really the first poker podcast of any note, having started way back in November 2004 and run up through August 2006. There was some talk when I was on there of trying to get the Lord Admirals on Poker Soup, and sure enough this week they were able to do so, having Cincinnati Sean, Brent Stacks, and Headhunter Mark on for the first hour or so of episode 18.

Some of you may remember Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio, though I’m going to guess many reading this blog do not. When I first started Hard-Boiled Poker (a little over three years ago), I frequently wrote about the podcast in which two amateur players from Toronto got together weekly -- usually with others from their home game -- to talk about poker. If you’re curious to learn more about the show, here’s a post I wrote shortly after they went off the air in 2006 in which I recounted some of what I thought to be the show’s particular highlights.

It was an oftentimes very funny show (the Admirals are witty guys -- something they proved yet again on the Poker Soup show the other night) that included a lot of great poker strategy discussion, though always presented from a suitably humble amateur’s perspective. One of the neatest aspects of the show was its inclusiveness. The Lord Admirals were consciously trying to build a community with that show, a task which they achieved especially well. As I wrote in that post linked to above, “listening to the show was a little bit like being part of a ‘Card Club’ that met on a weekly basis.” Indeed, I think anyone who remembers the show knows what I’m getting at there.

Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio (November 2004-August 2006)I wrote my first post here not that long after having found the Card Club podcast, and indeed it wouldn’t be that big of a stretch to say that listening to the show might well have been part of what inspired me to start a poker blog in the first place. That’s because Cincy Sean and Stacks frequently talked about poker blogs on their show. I remember they even had a “blog of the week” feature on there for a while, and had folks like Dr. Pauly and Iggy and others on there as guests, with whom they always had interesting, entertaining conversations about poker, media, life, what have you. (For example, click here to read a summary of Sean & Iggy’s interesting discussion from the summer of 2006 about the significance of poker blogs.)

In fact part of what Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio was about was to participate in (and perhaps inspire) a kind of “alternative press” when it came to poker, something other than what you found in the poker mags or on a few online sites. Sean in particular was always arguing for the value of independent voices, talking and listening to one another, and the show both exemplified what he was arguing for as well as encouraged others to participate in the conversation, too.

Some time after Card Club went off the air, I did an interview of sorts with Cincy Sean to find out what the Lord Admirals were up to as well as to get his thoughts on some of these subjects. If you’re curious to read more about both the history of the show and these other matters, you can read that interview here.

When Card Club first went on the air, there really weren’t any other poker podcasts, although Rounders, the Poker Show (which later became the Two Plus Two Pokercast) & Ante Up! came on board shortly afterwards.

Nowadays there are dozens, more than any of us can reasonably listen to on a regular basis. Some are quite good, some less so. All owe a debt -- at least indirectly -- to Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio, the first and certainly one of the best poker podcasts in the genre’s brief history.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On the Economy & the 2009 WSOP

WSOP bannerWe’re getting close, peoples. Just a week more and satellites get crankin’ at the Rio. On Wednesday, May 27th, Event No. 1, the Casino Employees Event, a $500 buy-in no-limit hold’em tourney, gets started. Then on Thursday at noon the real World Series of Poker begins with the “Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em” event (Event No. 2), that $40,000 buy-in event everyone’s been talking about for weeks now.

Then all hell breaks loose.

One new event starts each day from Wed. through Sat. next week. Then the following week, we’ll slip into the routine of having two separate events start each day, meaning there will usually be around five or six different tournaments going on at once, with a couple of final tables each day.

Am noticing that on Wednesday, June 3rd there will be a whopping seven different events going on, including three final tables, all starting at 2 p.m. Vegas time. (I think that has to be a record.) I don’t see any other days on the 2009 schedule with seven events running. It’s the conclusion of that $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em Event No. 4, the “stimulus special,” that’s causing the pile-up there, I believe. That’s a four-day event, though really five days as it will have a couple of day ones.

So whaddya think? Too many events? There are 57 bracelets being awarded at this year’s WSOP (a new record). Is the WSOP spreading itself too thin?

Everyone’s wonderin’ about the numbers, specifically whether recent economic woes might affect turnouts. Casino revenues have certainly experienced a significant downturn. The Las Vegas Sun reported in late January that casino revenues had decreased markedly in 2008, and that the trend was expected to continue in 2009. A more recent article over on PokerNews Daily reports how Nevada has seen fifteen straight months of decline in gaming revenues (when months are compared year over year), with the drop-offs over the last six months ranging from 11.61% (March 2008 to March 2009) to 22.33% (October 2007 to October 2008).

There was another interesting article over on Poker News Daily yesterday in which Dan Stewart, the owner of PokerScout (that site that tracks traffic on all of the sites), is interviewed regarding the current health of online poker.

That article appears to have been specifically occasioned by the recent spate of overlays in Full Tilt Poker’s FTOPS XII, including an eye-popping $200,000-plus overlay in the $2.5 million-guaranteed Main Event. According to Stewart, Full Tilt’s decision to run a “mini-FTOPS” alongside the regular FTOPS -- mirroring the main events with similar events costing one-tenth the buy-ins -- appears to have affected turnouts for the big events. Says Stewart, the decision to run a mini-FTOPS was a “mini-disaster” that “cannibalized the business from the big tournaments.” Of course, Stewart also points out that Full Tilt nevertheless is doing just fine, as is the rest of the online poker world, which is “quite healthy” clicking along at an overall 30% increase in revenue over last year.

WSOP at the RioSo live casino games are hurting. But online poker is as healthy as its ever been. What about the WSOP?

There was some discussion of the economy and its possible effect on the WSOP on last week’s episode of The Poker Beat (the 5/14/09 show). The consensus there seemed to be that the currently ailing economy would not have much effect on turnouts.

John Caldwell is now a regular co-host on TPB. Unfortunately, I won’t be working with Caldwell this summer as he is no longer with PokerNews, although I’m sure I’ll see him out there somewhere along the way. According to Caldwell, the WSOP tends to thrive no matter what the economy is doing, being, as he calls it, “the exception to the rule.” He goes on to point out that “the prestige and the cachet of the event sort of insulate it from... the [failing] economy.... Now, it may be an issue in certain specific events... [but] I don’t think it’s going to be much of a factor [overall].”

Caldwell is probably right, although I do think it will be interesting to watch how the field sizes in the $1,500-$2,500 events compare to those of the $5,000, $10,000, and higher buy-in events. The smaller buy-in events are always much more popular, but I wonder if perhaps we’ll see an even more severe “class difference” happening this year, with just the same 200-300 players turning up for the higher buy-in events, while the hoi polloi stick with the smaller buy-in tourneys. (Sort of a WSOP and a mini-WSOP, in a sense.)

I, for one, am hoping for big fields and a highly successful WSOP, although I know it could turn out otherwise. Selfish, I know, as a thriving poker economy certainly is good news for someone like me.

In any event, it’s gonna be a busy time for your humble gumshoe, no matter how the turnouts turn out.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Grump Runs Good in RGC 3 (WSOP Edition)


Pictured above is an exclusive, live action photo taken during the first of two events scheduled for the PokerListings Run Good Challenge 3: WSOP Edition (click to enlarge). That’s the Poker Grump out in the lead. He’d end up taking it down, thereby winning an entry into a $1,500 preliminary event at this summer’s WSOP. The Spaceman is close behind; he’d finish runner-up. And there are F-Train, Michele Lewis, and the others trailing.

That’s me in the back with the fedora. I’d finish an ignominious 20th (out of 25 runners). Lasted into the third level, and really, all told only had a single hand where afterwards I found myself thinking if I could’ve possibly done something differently to alter my fate.

There were eight players at my starting table. Going counterclockwise, we were seated as follows: myself, Benjo, Bruechips, Dan Skolovy, the Poker Grump, Spaceman, CarmenSinCity, and Pokerati Dan. I’d played with most of these folks before in previous Challenges, having butted heads most significantly with Dan Skolovy, the strategy writer over on PokerListings.

Back last fall in the first Run Good Challenge, PokerListings Dan knocked me out of the first event in fourth when his A-J outran my pocket jacks. Then in the second event, I made it to heads-up only to fall to PL Dan again. I won the third event of that first challenge, though have to say my triumph was helped somewhat by the fact that PL Dan went out early in that one.

Knowing PL Dan is an aggressive player, I didn’t care too much to see him a couple of seats to my left. (In fact, during previous RG Challenges we’d joked about how he always seemed to be seated on my left.) When I was in the cutoff, he’d be in the big blind, meaning it wouldn’t be such a simple matter to steal should the opportunity arise.

Still, I managed to win a few small pots early on without catching any real cards, then found it necessary to fold to preflop reraises a couple of times, causing me to slip down below the 1,500-chip starting stack. Was sitting at 1,485 near the end of level 2 when the following hand arose -- to me, the only real interesting one in which I was involved.

It folded to me sitting in the cutoff with KsJd. I decided to raise to 100 (a little over 3x). Then Benjo flat-called my raise from the button, which I didn’t care for too much.

When Bruechips folded his small blind, I knew instantly what PL Dan -- sitting there in the big blind with a below average stack of 955 chips -- was going to do. He shoved, and I had a decision. I might’ve considered gambling with PL Dan, since I know his range is very wide here, but with Benjo lurking behind (not to mention having me outchipped), I decided not to risk it. I got out of the way, and Benjo called.

PL Dan had K-9 offsuit, and Benjo pocket sixes. A jack did flop (que sera, sera). Benjo’s pocket pair held up, and PL Dan hit the rail. “Knew he wuz gonna do that” I typed, referring to PL Dan’s attempted squeeze.

Wasn’t long after that when I’d slipped down to an even 1,000 chips. The Poker Grump, our eventual champion, had been the short stack with around 650 chips, having been gutted early on when Spaceman’s AdKd outdrew his pocket kings. But then he managed to double up with pocket rockets. It was actually the second time he’d gotten ’em in one orbit, though he didn’t get any action the first time. He’d chipped up a little more to 1,675 when we reached what would prove my last hand.

With the blinds 25/50, I was sitting UTG where I was dealt JdJh. Raised to 200, and my only caller was Grump from the button. The flop came all babies -- 6d5c3d. I shoved, and PRESTO Grump called, showing pocket fives for the flopped set. No jack came to save me, and I was toast.

I shot PG an email shortly afterwards telling him he now had to take the sucker down. A little while later he sent me a reply telling me he’d fulfilled my request. Have to say I’m especially excited for him, as I would have been for anyone who had emerged victorious in this here winner-take-all tourney. Gonna definitely be fun to see how he does in the WSOP event, whichever one he chooses to enter.

We all have one more chance this Saturday in the second and final event of Run Good Challenge 3. Big thanks again to Matt S. and the PokerListings guys for hosting!

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Run Good Challenge To Run All of the Way to WSOP

Running good will get someone all of the way to the WSOPAm hoping to be there tomorrow for the latest installment of the Run Good Challenge, hosted by PokerListings. Have some running around to do this weekend myself, and in fact will be not be at home tomorrow at 11 a.m. Pacific time when the first of the two scheduled tourneys begins. But I’ll have my laptop and am hoping to find some place to log in and play the sucker. (Big thanks to Matt and the PokerListings folks for the invite!)

The PokerListings guys have set up a winner-take-all situation tomorrow, with the top prize being a seat in a WSOP preliminary event. And the second-place finisher winning a hard-luck story. Then next Saturday (May 23), there will be a second tournament in which the top two finishers will win prelim seats. Pretty cool stuff.

Click here to read more about the third Run Good Challenge. Hopefully I am able to get on there and play tomorrow, and will certainly report back here how things go.

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What the Rules Say (2009 WSOP)

2009 WSOP Tournament RulesWas leafing through the “Tournament Rules” for the 2009 World Series of Poker yesterday. When the rules for this year first went online about a month ago, much of the attention was given to the new “Code of Player Conduct” that appears as Rule No. 30 (of the 98 rules). Also getting some reaction at the time was that Rule No. 36 that “prohibits the use of obscene or foul language in any public area of the casino at any time.” If yr interested, click here to read F-Train’s overview of the new rules.

As I was looking back over the rules, there were a few that caught my eye, so I thought I’d share.

In the section covering “Player Likeness and Image” -- the one covering stipulations regarding the wearing of logos -- there is a new rule appearing at the end of the section, one that will most likely be referred to colloquially as the “Phil Laak Rule.”

Rule No. 44 states that “Players may not cover or conceal their facial identity. Tournament officials must be able to distinguish the identity of each player at all times and may instruct players to remove any material that inhibits their identification or is a distraction to other players or tournament officials. Players may wear sunglasses and sweat shirts with hoods, but may be asked to remove them if they cannot be identified by tournament officials.”

Phil Laak dressed as an old man at the 2008 WSOP Main EventFor those who don’t remember, Laak played Day 1d of the Main Event last year dressed as an old man, having had a professional makeup artist work five-plus hours help construct for him a full prosthetic mask. Laak went the entire day undetected, and ended up with a fairly intriguing story to tell afterwards about what it was like to be thought of as just another nobody chasing a WSOP Main Event dream. Kind of embarrassed tourney officials, too, I think, not to mention those of us who were reporting on the ME. I did think, however, that gsqwared did a nifty job recapping the stunt at the end of the day on the PokerNews live blog, in a post titled “The Amazing Phil Laak.”

A couple of other rules, neither of them new for 2009, also caught my attention. Both appear in the section regarding “Poker Rules” (i.e., actual play).

Rule No. 72 spells out how “In limit events there will be a maximum of one bet and four raises, even if there are only two players remaining in the hand.” That five-bet cap is similar to what one finds in a lot of live games, but online players may be more familiar with a four-bet cap (a bet and three raises). I didn’t cover too many limit events last summer, and in fact cannot remember ever reporting a hand that actually went five bets. The latter half of that sentence refers to the fact that some poker rooms allow players to continue raising beyond the cap if they are heads up, something that doesn’t happen in WSOP events -- with one possible exception, that is.

The rest of Rule No. 72 reads as follows: “Once the Tournament becomes heads-up, this rule does not apply. There may be unlimited raises at the heads-up level.” Would be interesting to see a hand go down at the end of a limit event this way, although it would take a mighty unique scenario for it actually to occur.

Finally, there’s another rule in here that is not new, but I think might get some extra attention this summer, the “Approved Electronic Device Rule” (Rule No. 88). Reads the same as last year, although officials have put in bold one sentence in particular that wasn’t in bold last year.

Here’s how that rule reads: “Players are allowed to use as approved electronic devices iPods, MP3 and other music players or noise-reduction headsets during Tournament play until they have reached the money in any Tournament, so long as the approved electronic devices can not [sic] access the internet, send or receive SMS texts and are not equipped with any type of communication device. Therefore, iPhones, iTouch, Treos, Blackberrys, and other similar devices will not be allowed at any time. Once players are in the money in any Tournament, all approved electronic devices must be removed. An announcement will be made to players once they have reached the money to remove all such electronic devices. Failure to do so will results in a penalty up to and including disqualification, in accordance with Rule 53.”

Rule No. 53 is the one spelling out the various penalties tourney officials can assess, including verbal warnings, one-hand penalties, one-round penalties (on up to four-round penalties), and disqualification. That’s the rule that also notes how the WSOP will be keeping a log of all penalties throughout the series so as to be able to impose harsher penalties to repeat offenders.

This rule stood out for me because of all the recent buzz about Twitter, with some even suggesting how players sending “Tweets” about their chip counts could somehow challenge (or at least affect) conventional tournament reporting. But reading the rule, it sounds like there really shouldn’t be any logging onto Twitter by the players during play, except perhaps on breaks.

As with the no-profanity rule, I have to wonder how strictly this rule is going to be enforced, especially if a lot of players start Twittering away from the start. If I remember correctly, there were some attempts to stop players from texting at the tables early on, but I think they basically gave up trying to stop ’em after a certain point.

We’ll see if tourney officials take a different approach to the enforcement of the “Approved Electronic Device Rule” this time around. If they do, I think they should probably anticipate a lot of challenges to the no-profanity rule as well.

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