Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hard-Boiled Poker 2009 Year in Review (3 of 3)

We are almost there. The last day of the year. How are things stacking up for you, in terms of your win/loss total for 2009? Don’t do anything silly today to try and manipulate it into something you like better.

Me? I might play a little today, but I have a lot of other writing to do, including finishing this here recap. Following Part 1 (Jan.-Apr.) and Part 2 (May-Aug.), here’s the rest of the story:

September

I Get Up, I Get DownIn UIGEA news, a lawsuit brought by the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) that challenged the law’s constitutionality was dismissed. This story was strangely spun by many (in particular, iMEGA) as good news because in rejecting the case the 3rd Circuit District Court made reference to the fact that individual states get to say what is and what is not unlawful internet gambling.

Fact was, this distinction had been noted in the UIGEA all along (i.e., this new case didn’t really change anything on that front), something I pointed out in “iMEGA Suit Claiming Unconstitutionality of UIGEA Dismissed.”

During the first part of September I was occupied with helping cover PokerStars’ World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP), and so there were a few posts this month reporting various happenings there. In the last one of those posts, I was inspired to comment on the repeat successes of guys like Daniel “djk123” Kelly, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, and Yevgeniy “Jovial Gent” Timoshenko in “PokerStars WCOOP Concludes: It’s a Skill Game, Jo.”

Was watching the U.S. Open in there, too, and in “Matching Up Poker and Tennis” I attempt to draw an analogy that addresses the old luck-vs.-skill debate in poker. “The Poker Hall of Fame: Will Anyone Be Worthy?” notes how the new voting procedure appeared to guarantee that either no one or just one person would get in this year. And “When Winners Lose, and Losers Win” relates the story of that wild hand at EPT Barcelona between Tobias Reinkemeier and Roland de Wolfe in which de Wolfe mucked a winner.

As far as my own play was going, I was running good in August and early September, partly evidenced by “Shovels, Clovers, Valentines, and Squares” in which I tell about flopping a straight flush. Then hit a bad patch, some details of which I shared in “I Get Up, I Get Down.” I also see that I began and ended the month with a couple of posts about stack sizes in PLO: “Topping Off” and “Don’t Want No Short People ’Round Here?

September also saw the Kahnawake Gaming Commission issue its so-called “final decision” on the UB insider cheating scandal, which I talked some about in “Final Decision on UltimateBet: None of My Business.” And, as you’ll recall, soon after came “The Sebok Surprise” in which the well-liked pro signed on with the beleaguered site.

October

The balloon we thought was carrying a boyThe month began with the conclusion of the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event, in which Barry Shulman enjoyed a couple of fortunate hands against Daniel Negreanu heads up to take it down. Talk about that some in “End of Story: 2009 WSOPE Main Event Concludes.”

Then our attention gradually turned toward Vegas and the upcoming conclusion of the WSOP Main Event. On October 7 I noted there was just “One Month Left to Hype the November Nine.” I think Harrah’s, ESPN, et al. ended up doing okay during those next few weeks to get us all (and others) interested in the sucker come November. Case in point, a week later in “That’s the Way We Do It” I admit how I was starting really to get into the ESPN broadcasts of the Main Event. And near the end of October I was marveling with everyone else at that hand in which Phil Ivey mistakenly mucked his flush, giving Jordan Smith an undeserved pot in “Not Exactly Ivey League.”

These posts from October all have self-explanatory titles, I think: “PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge Debuts,” “The Poker Hall of Fame: Sexton Selected,” and “Kentucky Still Hoping to Be Master of Your Domains.” Well, maybe I should explain that last one. Had to do with the still-ongoing appeal of the appeal, now being considered by Kentucky’s Supreme Court, in that case regarding the commonwealth’s desire to block or seize domains hosting online gambling sites.

Then there are some posts in there with titles that definitely need explainin’. “Playing As If Your Life Depended On It” made references to both Tommy Angelo and The Seventh Seal. “Up, Up, and Away!” concerns our friend “balloon boy” (remember him?). And “Call and Response” does a little theorizin’ about the significance of blogs, Twitter, and how we use this here interweb to relate to each other.

Early in the month I made it to the movies to see a decent comedy called The Invention of Lying. I reviewed that one over on Film Chaw, then wrote about it here, too, in “First, the Invention of Lying; then, the Invention of Poker.” That post caused me to evoke James McManus’ new book (which I was reading at the time), Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker. I’d eventually review it here in “A Good Read: McManus Tells the Story of Poker.” Soon I’d additionally get the chance to review Cowboys Full more formally over on the Betfair site, where I’d also interview McManus.

November

WSOP Main Event final table, heads upFirst half of November was all about the WSOP Main Event final table. Exciting stuff, I’d say.

In “Post-Production is 20/20” I talked some more about Ivey’s mistake versus Jordan Smith, including sharing Barry Greenstein’s thoughts on the matter. Then in “Kopp Busted!” I talked about seeing ESPN’s coverage of another crazy hand, the one in which Billy Kopp lost it all to Darvin Moon with just a dozen players left.

Then we finally got there. In “2009 November Nine Just Hours Away... Time for Special Tactics!” I talked a bit about Phil Hellmuth saying he’d coached Jeff Shulman to employ a “special tactic” to “shock the world.” Then I gave an overview of the nine players at the final table in “2009 WSOP Main Event Final Table: Welcome Back, November Nine.”

Discussed that bizarro Hand No. 90 in which Darvin Moon made the big bluff then folded for next-to-nothing to Steve Begleiter in “Moon Begs the Question... WTF?” Wrote about the heads-up match a bit in “Comeback Kid Cada 2009 WSOP Main Event Champ,” then a few days later offered “Kudos to Cada: WSOP Champ on Letterman.” A final November Nine post, “Looking Back: 2009 WSOP November Nine on ESPN,” includes a list of the 32 (of 364) final table hands that made it into the two-and-a-half hour long ESPN broadcast.

You’ll recall it was just a few days later we learned “Pollack Moves On, WSOP Commish Seat Open.” Harrah’s still hasn’t filled that seat, and toward the end of the month I asked “Does the WSOP Need a Commish?

Let’s see... the weird-ass juxtaposition of the month award goes to the post “The Sklansky Minute and John Cage’s Indeterminacy.” (See that one for yourself, if yr curious.) And “$1,356,946.50” relates how I happened to have been railing Isidur1 and Patrik Antonius when I saw them play the biggest pot in online poker history.

As the month concluded, we American online poker players were all fretting about the upcoming December 1 deadline for enforcement of the UIGEA. I wrote “The Door is Closing: Hoping for UIGEA Delay,” then the next day (Thanksgiving) got to say “Thankful, I Am” as we’d heard that indeed there’d be a six-month postponement of the deadline.

December

Full Tilt: Admit OneMonth began with that House hearing on online gambling, discussed in “Talking Online Poker: House Hearing Today.” Then everybody put the subject on hold. ’Cos, you know, there was shopping to do. Oh, and that health care thing.

Read a couple more poker books near year’s end, both autobiographies. I’d review Doyle Brunson’s The Godfather of Poker over at Betfair, but also wrote a piece here -- “Doyle Brunson’s Confessions” -- in which I talked about how the book reminded me more than once of St. Augustine’s autobiography. (Not saying Doyle’s a saint, haha!) I also wrote here a “Poker Book Review: Victoria Coren’s For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair With Poker” -- a funny, even “literary” book I’d think should appeal to any poker player who likes good storytelling.

Opined a bit on Scott Huff and Joe Sebok’s new Fox Sports show in “Poker2Nite Brings Poker to the World.” The post “Speaking of Poker: What You Can and Cannot Say, Part II” is also about their show, revisiting an old topic regarding the conflict between online poker sponsorships and television.

Mid-month saw the “2010 WSOP Schedule Announced,” inspiring a bit of photshopping (see below). In much less significant news, I finally got response to my repeated requests to UltimateBet which I related in “The Rest of the Story (UB Hand Histories).”

Of course, the big poker story in December was the ongoing Isildur1 saga, and I wrote about it a few times here.

Out of This World: The Isildur1 Saga Continues” discusses Patrik Antonius’s interview with Phil Gordon about the mystery man while also pointing to some other stories then swirling about. In “Loving Life, Defying Death” I talked about railing Isildur1 a bit while also referring back to Doyle Brunson’s book (and the weird, repeated joke of some railbirds prematurely announcing Texas Dolly’s death). “Digging for Gold (Mining Isildur1)” took up the new controversy regarding the CardRunners guys’ collecting info about the sneaky Swede. Then came PokerNews’ interview with Isildur1 in which revealed he planned to pursue a “formal complaint.” I suggested “Grab Your Popcorn (Isildur1 v. Full Tilt).”

2010: The Year We Make ContactSo that’s what’s been happenin’ here. No telling at the moment what 2010 will be like for yr humble gumshoe, but I imagine continuing to scribble away here will most definitely be part of the plan.

Big thanks again to everyone for coming around here and for all of the nice feedback. Be sure and make contact again in 2010. Have a safe and happy new year, all!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hard-Boiled Poker 2009 Year in Review (2 of 3)

Continuing what we started yesterday... It was another summer in Las Vegas for yr humble gumshoe helping cover the world’s biggest annual poker circus, and so these middle months are largely taken up with the before, during, and after of the WSOP.

May

Back in the saddleThe rumble at the start of May was that new legislation was a-comin’ that might affect Americans and their online poker, and anticipating that I wrote a post called “The States of Online Poker” that speculated some about that possibility. Then Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) delivered another bill designed to license and regulate online gambling in the U.S. He proposed a second bill seeking a delay for the UIGEA as well.

I seem to have been in another one of those funks there at the beginning of May, as in “Play the Game” I’m fretting aloud about my commitment to playing poker. By then my mind was becoming increasingly distracted by the upcoming trip to Vegas and the WSOP (as well as other matters), which might partially explain from where those misgivings were coming.

A couple of weeks before the Series began, that “Celebrity Apprentice” finale pitting Annie Duke and Joan Rivers aired, and I opined a bit about the show and its ultimate messages about poker and poker players in “Was It Good For You? (On the Celebrity Apprentice Finale).” Also appearing just before the WSOP was the autobiography of Mike Matusow, Check-Raising the Devil, to which our friends Amy Calistri and Tim Lavalli contributed mightily. It’s a terrific read, and I reviewed the book here (and also here).

There was another pre-WSOP event to talk about, the PokerListings’ Run Good Challenge, WSOP edition. I got knocked out of the first one of those early on by my buddy the Poker Grump, who went on to win the darn thing, as I related in “Grump Runs Good in RGC 3 (WSOP Edition).” There was a second tourney in which I did a little better, though still not good enough for a golden ticket into a WSOP prelim.

In the days before leaving, I had a few “state of the WSOP”-type posts. “On the Economy & the 2009 WSOP” talked some about the possible impact of front-loading the thing with that special $40K event. “On ESPN’s Coverage of the WSOP” and its sequel considered this year’s coverage and the decision to eschew nearly every preliminary event.

I arrived in Vegas the last week of May, played some volleyball -- badly -- (“Having a Ball”), then quickly found myself “Back in the Saddle” helping cover the Series for PokerNews. These last few posts in May are all taken up with that “Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em Event,” though my favorite is the Animals-inspired “Wave Upon Wave of Demented Avengers March Cheerfully Out of Obscurity Into the Dream.”

June

Mickey Doft double-checks his workBy the first week of June the WSOP was in full swing, with four, five, or even six events going on each day. I did catch some breaks here and there from live blogging, including one early in June when I had a chance to visit with Tommy Angelo, the poker coach and author of Elements of Poker. He thought we were just having a friendly meal together, but as the title of my post indicates, something more was going on: “Shamus Swindles Poker Lesson for Price of Cheeseburger.”

In “Isolation” I took up the subject of everyone IM-ing, Twittering, and/or being distracted by their iPhones, Blackberries, or other devices either at the tables or elsewhere. The post “Count On It” contains one of my favorite pictures from the WSOP, one of our star reporter Mickey Doft counting chips in a picture of himself counting chips (see above). FerricRamsium took this picture, and B.J. Nemeth took the one on the screen (for PokerRoad).

In “A Hand Worth Remembering” relates a hand I watched in which a dude tried to check-raise Carter “ckingusc” King after having folded his hand. Pretty hilarious stuff. In “Live from the Rio” I briefly relate having been a guest on the Hardcore Poker Show. Followed that with a post titled “Live from the Rio, Part II” which an overview of sorts of what a WSOP final table is like.

The title of “Does Humor Belong in Tournament Reporting?” is self-explanatory. (My answer is sure, why not? Within reason, of course.) Speaking of grins, “It Was Fun” talks about watching Shannon Elizabeth’s table having a good time during a tourney’s first day. That post got some attention from Elizabeth fans (both in the comments and on a fan site, if I recall) who liked seeing her poker-playing written about in a positive manner.

I’m seeing a few posts reflecting on the various challenges of tourney reporting. In “Land of 1000 Reporters” I revisited the issue of everyone broadcasting their progress via handheld devices at the tables. In “The Name Game” I discussed the sometimes absurd-seeming struggle to identify players. And “Seeing Is Believing” talks about the occasional awkwardness of reporting those bizarro hands that probably aren’t going to be believed by readers.

Vera Valmore arrived for her visit the last week of June, and we had a good time, including going to see “Mystère.” I ended the month revealing that a feature film was made about my exciting life back in 1973, titled Shamus and starring Burt Reynolds in the title role. If you somehow missed it, here’s that trailer:



July

'Shamus' (1973)I got a chance to play in a charity event that included a number of pros. Eventually Dan Harrington got moved to my table, although unfortunately I was in the embarrassing spot of having an “M” of around 2 when he did, as I reported in “Then Again, With the Name ‘Short-Stacked,’ This Was Bound to Happen Sooner or Later.” A couple of days later I’d get to play in another mainly-media tourney in which I'd sit with both Linda Johnson and Dennis Phillips (see “LOL Freerollaments”).

The Main Event finally got crankin’. The post “Whirlwind” talks a little about the Day 1d fiasco in which hundreds of players had to be turned away. Have another post in there called “Anatomy of a Hand Report” which tells about watching and reporting on a hand involving Terrence “Not Johnny” Chan from Day 2. I kind of dig that post as it gives a good idea what it is like to be a tourney reporter, relating all the various factors that come into play when trying to report even a single hand.

Theme (In Search Of)” begins with a conversation I’d had with Dr. Pauly. The circus would soon be over, and we were all looking for some way to assign meaning to it all. “Go With the Flow” reports on the chaos of the money bubble bursting (and the PokerNews site crashing). And “Boom, Boom, Boom” reports on the wild finish to produce the November Nine.

There’s a post that provides an annotated list of all the WSOP reports, if yr curious: “2009 WSOP, A Reporter’s Notebook.”

After getting home, I opined a littled “On Shulman’s Spite” -- i.e., Jeff Shulman’s announcement about throwing the WSOP bracelet in the garbage, should he win it. “An Application to Consider” proposes an iPhone app for tourney reporting, an idea I wouldn’t be surprised to see happen at the 2010 WSOP. And “A Sporting Chance for Poker” reports on how that European Poker Tour event that had been scheduled for Moscow had been shipped over to Kyiv, Ukraine.

Had no idea at the time that I’d be shipping myself to Ukraine, too, in just a few weeks!

August

EPT KyivHaving settled back home for a while, I was getting a little abstract (perhaps) there at the start of August in posts like “On First Choices, Second Guesses.” Was also reflecting some on the state of journalism circa 2009 in “Time Is Money, So Can I Afford to Pause to Reflect?

Was back into playing online a lot, and fully committed to pot-limit Omaha again. I read Jeff Hwang’s terrific Advanced Pot-Limit Omaha, Volume I which inspired me to think out loud a bit in “To Pot or Not to Pot, a PLO Predicament.” Speaking of poker books, I wrote “On Poker Books” the next day and discussed how book-reading in general has become a relatively antiquated activity.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) proposed a bill in the senate that offered to license and regulate online poker specifically (and not online gambling in general, as Frank’s bill does). Wrote on that (with some skepticism) in “On the Menendez Bill (S. 1597); or, Be Careful What You Ask For.”

In “The Writer’s Life” I noted that I’d been invited to go to Kyiv, Ukraine to help cover that EPT event later in the month. Wrote a little more about that in the next post, “Destination Kiev... and the Book Is Out!” (As these posts suggest, I wouldn’t learn the preferred spelling of the city’s name until I got there.) I also announced in that post how I’d finally published my hard-boiled detective novel, Same Difference, which you can read more about and even purchase by clicking here.

The last part of August was taken up with my Ukraine trip -- a terrific experience all around, and I remain grateful for having gotten the opportunity to do it. Here are my travel reports from Kyiv: “Arrival,” “Day 1a,” “Day 1b,” “Day 2,” “Day 3,” “Day 4,” “Day 5,” and “Looking Back.” Clearly all of my creative energies were being taken up with reporting from the event, as I had none left for post titles.

Nor have I much energy for more recappin’ today, so come back tomorrow for September through December.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hard-Boiled Poker 2009 Year in Review (1 of 3)

Hard-Boiled Poker 2009 Year in ReviewWait a minute. You telling me it is almost 2010?! What happened here?

Quite a lot, in fact. Been another busy year at Hard-Boiled Poker.

As far as playing goes, it was mainly a lot of low-stakes pot-limit Omaha online, where I’m ending the year a winner though not as big a winner as in ’08. I did play more live poker this year than ever before, including a lot of limit hold’em during my time in Vegas (a short trip in April, and a summer-long sojourn during the WSOP). Also played in a few live tourneys, including some charity events where I was lucky enough to sit at the table with folks like Dan Harrington, Linda Johnson, and Dennis Phillips. And speaking of lucky, I also managed to win a live tournament -- the media event at EPT Kyiv.

Yeah, that’s right. I’m undefeated outside the United States in poker tourneys.

That trip to Kyiv, Ukraine to cover the EPT event was a big highlight of the year, for sure. So was the opportunity to cover the 2009 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas from late May to mid-July for PokerNews, my second summer out there. In addition to all that live blogging, I was also fortunate to be invited to write various other poker pieces for different outlets as the year went along. And this was the year I managed to publish my first novel, Same Difference, a hard-boiled detective story set in 1970s New York City. Still waiting for that to appear on Amazon (soon, I’m told), but you can check it out (and even buy it) by clicking here.

So a lot of playing, and a lot of writing. 291 posts’ worth here on Hard-Boiled, where I managed to publish a post at least once per weekday, and more often at times, too. As I did at the end of ’08, I thought I’d run through a recap of the year, again splitting it up into three posts. This one covers January-April.

January

In January I starting runningLooking back, I’m seeing how I began the year full of uncertainty about my own game and where I wanted to go with it. Posts with titles like “False Start” and “Leaving the PLO Party” make it sound like I was getting tired of PLO and remaining stuck in the same low-stakes groove. Am having those feelings a little bit again this year, with thoughts of different games or higher stakes again creeping in as the new year approaches. Of course, while I played a lot of LHE during the first part of ’09, I’d end up settling back into the PLO groove as the year progressed. Perhaps it’s more groovy for me than I thought.

The slightly-crabby self-analysis continued in a post called “Level Zero Thinking at the Micro Stakes.” That one got a number of hits, actually, probably from folks who found something familiar in the experience of playing against seemingly unthinking opponents. Another post that got some attention was “A Game for All Situations” in which I suggested that while poker certainly provides numerous analogues to certain other aspects of life, simply proclaiming that “poker is like life” usually isn’t saying all that much. Had another one in there called “On Being Results Oriented” which further reflected the influence of Tommy Angelo on my thinking.

In non-Shamus news, I noted how John Caldwell had stepped down as Editor-in-Chief over at Poker News (“Poker News News”). Caldwell’s spot would be ably filled by Haley Hintze through the late summer, at which point Matthew Parvis took the helm. On the last day of George W. Bush’s presidency (January 19), the finalized regulations of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 went into effect (“The UIGEA Era Begins”), although banks were still not required to implement them. I also wrote a post compiling some of the various applesauce we were witnessing over at UltimateBet, titled “The UltimateBet Follies (Winter 2009 Edition).”

Finally, January saw me sticking with a couple of resolutions. One was to do more running, which I alluded to a bit in “Going the Extra Mile” and “Running in Place.” I was running a couple of miles every day until May this year, then Vegas happened and I never did quite get back on track (so to speak). I also started 2009 with a plan to do more frequent podcasts, and produced three episodes of The Hard-Boiled Poker Radio Show in January. That, too, slowed down as the year progressed, although I did manage to crank out ten shows by year’s end (making a total of 20 thus far).

February

What we talk about when we talk about pokerI mentioned Tommy Angelo, who remained on the brain as February began. A post titled “What We Talk About When We Talk About Poker” commented on the unceremonious closing of a Two Plus Two thread about Tommy Angelo’s book Elements of Poker, ultimately drawing a distinction between what might be called the Angelo Approach and the Malmuth Mindset.

Speaking of Two Plus Two, a link from that forum to the post “The (Unexpected) Return of the Prodigal Son” helped make it the single most clicked-on post of the year on Hard-Boiled. The post wasn’t that special, but it reported on yet another bit of account-compromising on yet another site by Josh “JJprodigy” Field.

Looking at stories from the world of online poker, the post “Milestones (in Cluelessness)” discussed folks at the micro tables incredibly folding their hands and saving their pennies rather than have a shot at the hundreds of dollars being given away by PokerStars as part of its 25 billionth hand promotion. Also, I shared everyone’s enthusiasm when over on Full Tilt Poker we saw Patrik Antonius and Tom Dwan finally square off, writing about it in “Watch & Wondurrrr: The Tom Dwan Challenge Has Begun.” Of course, that enthusiasm waned after a while. (Indeed, they still aren’t even two-thirds of the way through the challenge!)

Toward the end of the month came a post called “The Games of Life” in which I reflected a bit on the value of games to the elderly. It was just a coincidence that I would be writing about zombies in the very next post, “Speaking of the Dead: An Afternoon with George Romero.” I had a chance to attend an event with the Night of the Living Dead director and so shared some thoughts from that.

Of course, I always liked Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, the tremendous sequel to the original horror classic. Wrote a sequel of my own a few days later titled “Speaking of... Online vs. Live (Part II)” in which I revisited an old theme.

March

The Recreational Poker PlayerI don’t usually try to talk about economics on Hard-Boiled Poker, because it tends to hurt my jingle-brain to do so. Nevertheless, I did start the month trying to consider the matter a bit in a post called “Economics Is Hard.” I reflected some there on how this whole economic downswing we were all talking about in early ’09 was perhaps affecting the game we love. Followed that a few days later with a post titled “The Recreational Poker Player” which got a bit of attention. That post was actually something of a revelation for me, one in which I finally managed to get a handle on what kind of player I am (at least as far as I’m capable of doing so).

The big story in early March was the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Championship, eventually won by Huck Seed. Had a few posts related to that event, culminating with one titled “Huck Lights Out Ahead of the Rest” in which I gave some details of (and a little commentary on) the super-fast structure for the sucker. Further structure geekiness came later in the month with a longish discussion of the WSOP structures, “Whatcha Gonna Do With All Them Chips? (On Changes to the Structures at the 2009 WSOP).”

In other high-stakes news, March was the month we saw Tom “durrrr” Dwan win that wild hand versus Barry Greenstein and Peter Eastgate on “High Stakes Poker.” Seemed like everyone was talking about that one for the next two weeks at least. I wrote about it here: “Tom’s Adventures in Durrrrland.”

Was still at the LHE tables in March, where I found myself one day pondering what might seem an unusual topic, “Stack Sizes in Limit Hold’em.” As anyone who plays LHE knows, certain hands occur in which one is doomed to lose -- perhaps the maximum -- despite one’s best efforts to avoid doing so. It was after one such hand I evoked Kurt Vonnegut and coined a term in a post called “The ‘So It Goes Hand’” (abbreviated S.I.G.H.).

Had another one of those “Moments of Inspiration” a few days later when I thought of a nifty feature for online play for whenever an opponent complains in the chat box that the site is rigged -- a tinfoil hat for the player’s avatar. (See post for silly pic.)

And speaking of inane-slash-paranoid chatbox banter... “I Am Irony Man” is one of probably two dozen posts that have appeared on this blog that attempt to chronicle the peculiar form of madness embodied by Phil “Poker Brat” Hellmuth. This is one of the funnier examples, relating his especially unselfconscious tirade versus Matt Hawrilenko during a heads-up limit hold’em match on UB.

Ended the month by commemorating the sixth anniversary of the groundbreaking first televised episode of World Poker Tour (March 30, 2003), “Looking Back: The World Poker Tour Debuts.”

April

Time is MoneyHad a genuine “shot in the dark” with the appropriately hard-boiled title “When You’ve Begun to Think Like a Gun.” There I make a point about aggression and using one’s chips as a weapon, although the title -- lifted from a John Cale song -- might be the best thing about that post.

During the first part of the month I got to help out covering PokerStars’ SCOOP series (the spring version of WCOOP). It was while covering one of those events I saw Daniel Negreanu complaining a bit in the chatbox about players purposefully delaying as the tourney approached the bubble. Wrote a post about it called “The Waiting Game” which got a ton of hits after Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler linked to it from Two Plus Two. Wrote a follow up a couple of weeks later, “Time Is Money: or, the Return of the Waiting Game.”

Let's see here... “Bonomo Ban No Mo’” talked about PokerStars’ decision to allow Justin “ZeeJustin” Bonomo back onto the site. And “Follow You, Follow Me” talks some about Twitter (and my having finally gotten an account -- @hardboiledpoker).

The Ever-Present Existential Struggle With Change” is not about the coins one finds in one’s pocket. Nor is it about Change100, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working both on the PokerStars blog and at PokerNews. No, talkin’ about, well, “life stuff” there, and perhaps first suggesting something in that post about a big change for me that ain’t coming until 2010. (More to come on that.)

Later in the month I made it to Vegas for a short visit with Vera Valmore, chronicled here in a series of posts. Managed to write a few posts while there: “Sleep Is for Suckers,” “Good Eats and Comfortable Seats,” and “I Would Need GPS To Find Memory Lane.” Then got home to do a formal five-episode recap, starting with “Shamus in Vegas: Episode 1 -- Prelude.”

Speaking of recappin’, that’s plenty for today. May through August tomorrow.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

The Colts Find a Fold

'Nobody's Perfect, Charlie Brown'Wasn’t able to participate in that PokerStars record-breaking tournament yesterday, as I was busy during the mid-afternoon and couldn’t be there for the start. Looks like I was one of the few online poker players who didn’t, as the $1 no-limit hold’em tourney attracted 149,196 runners. I did pick up things later in the day and noted that the population of the event exceeded that of Syracuse, New York.

There was a $300,000 guarantee -- didn’t even make it halfway to that total, so a big overlay there. The whole sucker took less than six hours to complete thanks to them five-minute levels and quickly rising blinds and antes. Top 30,000 got paid, though only the top 80 earned more than $100. Winner got $50,000. That’s a decent ROI.

Meanwhile I parked it in front of the crystal receiver to watch some NFL. Was most intrigued to see if the Indianapolis Colts, the league’s sole remaining unbeaten team at 14-0, could keep their streak going versus the up-and-down-though-mostly-down New York Jets. If the Colts could take care of NYJ, they had only the crummy Buffalo Bills -- who were getting pounded by Atlanta 31-3 yesterday -- to get past in the season’s final game to head into the playoffs without a loss.

NFLDid not get the game locally, so I ended up following the score on the iPhone. Picked up a very cool app a few weeks ago called Wunder Radio that allows you to listen to radio stations around the world. So I dialed into 1070 The Fan to hear the Indianapolis radio network’s broadcast of the game.

As anyone who follows football well knows, the Colts were up 15-10 in the third quarter when the coaching staff decided to pull quarterback Peyton Manning along with some other starters. Fans started booing. “Ridiculous!” pronounced the Colts’ play-by-play guy, criticizing their response.

I lived in Indiana for a while back in the 90s and used to listen to this same announcer a lot then. That was the pre-Manning days when the Colts were usually horrible, and I remembered how sour the dude would often get after relating yet another bad play. His distaste at the fans’ response to the decision to yank the starters yesterday reminded me of those days.

Even so, it sure seemed like the fans had a point.

The Jets immediately forced a turnover and scored a go-ahead touchdown. The Colts couldn’t move the ball with the backup QB, and New York ended up winning going away, 29-15.

Despite my spell in Indiana, I’m not really a Colts fan. Still, was disappointing to hear them laying the game down that way, not to mention how doing so affects the rest of the playoff picture. I’m sure there are several teams fighting NYJ for one of those last wildcard spots who weren’t too pleased the Jets got that win yesterday, especially the way they did.

Peyton Manning on the team's 'organizational philosophy'I listened to Peyton Manning in the post-game presser talk about how the decision to pull the starters had been in the works all along. “It was the plan,” said Manning, “the organizational philosophy that we were going with... and, as players, we support that.”

I’m a Manning fan. A hell of a QB, who is obviously smart and eminently likable. He also makes funny commercials. Not surprised at all to hear him support his coach and speak for his teammates this way. Still, that reference to the team’s “organizational philosophy” kind of made me cringe a little.

We’ve all been in those situations where we are forced to deal with a huge difference between theory and practice. Happens in poker all the time, where we begin a session or tournament or even a single hand with a “plan,” then realize how certain developments make sticking to that plan a less than desirable course to follow.

I’m not going to say it was completely out to lunch for the Colts to pull Manning et al. and essentially hand the game to the Jets, thereby making the whole quest for 16-0 -- genuinely important to many fans (and not just Colts fans) -- seem like some sort of vain, immature desire. But I’m not going to say I liked it, either.

Lucy pulls football away from Charlie BrownI understand the need to prevent injury and the “big picture” and all that. But it seems to me like the willingness to tank this game only increases the pressure for the Colts come playoff time rather than relieves it. And having your star quarterback defending your “organizational philosophy” after a loss -- well, that sounds a bit more abstract than I’d like, too. Let’s talk about the game, and the decisions and plays we made to try to win it.

Maybe I’m missing the point. Sometimes it really is best to fold -- even if you think you are best -- in order to increase the likelihood for future, greater successes. Still, you gotta think Manning hated giving up this pot, even if it were a small one.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa Rocks

Santa RocksNo time for real posting today. I did, however, want to share with you these cool Santa rocks Vera Valmore’s mother made. Cool stuff, eh?

Perhaps later on today -- once you’ve opened all the presents and gotten bored with the football -- you can check out my post over on Betfair in which I run through the “Top Poker Stories of 2009.”

I compiled a list ranking the top ten, then added ten more stories of note (not ranking those bottom ten). Bound to have forgotten something, probably, but I think the list includes most of the biggies. (And no, I didn’t “forget” the Hellmuth as Caesar story.)

Have a great holiday, all!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

’Tis the Season

'Tis the SeasonFor online poker sites to give back, that is. Lots of bonus programs and other incentives being doled out here at year’s end, it seems.

Been playing more on Full Tilt Poker than usual, mainly because of that bonus they offered me over there this month. Am still only having limited time to play, so I’ll probably only end up earning about half of the hundy they’re giving me in ten-dollar increments as I slowly accumulate those Full Tilt Points.

I continue to play primarily the $25 buy-in pot-limit Omaha games, usually six-handed, and usually only one or two tables at a time. Meaning I can only earn FTPs at a relatively slow clip.

Full Tilt Poker game variationsI generally like the new lobby Full Tilt rolled out a few months back, although sometimes when looking for a game I find all of the little codes a bit headachy. Just a matter of getting used to them, I suppose. I have now and then unintentionally pulled up tables that feature certain variations on my desired game -- e.g., the “cap” games, the “ante” games, the “deep stack” games. And every now and then I’ll even sit down at them before realizing my mistake. (It really doesn’t take much to confuse my jingle-brain.)

I have now and then purposely played the “cap” games -- at my level, those games are capped at $10, meaning no player can put more than that in the middle on a single hand. Kind of pushes most of the play to the first two streets, as that limit tends to get reached with a raise and reraise on the flop. Basically requires everyone to play a short-stacker’s strategy, and I’ve found one often comes across one or two players at each table who are mainly just looking to gamble it up.

The “deep stack” games are the opposite, requiring at least 50 big blinds ($12.50) for the buy-in. One can also buy in for as much as $50 in these at the $0.10/$0.25 tables, so, really, if I’m a PLO25 player (as I am these days), I should be scooting back down a level rather than play these. Meanwhile, the “ante” games require everyone to kick in an extra nickel on top of the $0.10/$0.25 blinds, sweetening the pot a little more before that first action.

Otherwise, I’m strictly a PokerStars player. I do still have some cabbage over on Bodog. I like Bodog (a site supporter), but I only open it up every once in a while as their poker room traffic is usually fairly low. PokerStars, meanwhile, always has a ton of tables going, and the site remains my personal fave for other reasons as well (the interface, support, etc.).

PokerStars' Silver StarSpeaking of bonuses, I got an email yesterday from PokerStars passing along their plans to change and add to their rewards system. Once again they are lowering the requirements to reach Silver Star, making it necessary only to accumulate 750 VPPs in a month to get there. That’s down from the current 1,200, and way down from the 2,000 it was when the VIP program was first introduced back in 2006. (I don’t believe they are lowering the requirements for the other levels: e.g., still 3,000 VPPs to get to Gold, 7,500 for Platinum, etc.)

Another new feature will be something called the “VIP Stellar Rewards” program which essentially gives extra cash for playing.

To clarify, FPPs are “Frequent Player Points,” and one earns those according to how much rake is collected. FPPs can be used to purchase various items or cash, or used to enter tourneys. VPPs, or “VIP Player Points,” are earned the same way, but cannot be redeemed -- they are just to gauge where you are status-wise. However, if you move up a level, you can earn FPPs more quickly (e.g., Silver Stars get 1.5 FPP for every 1 VPP). Make sense? If not, you can read more here.

VIP Stellar RewardsAnyhow, this “VIP Stellar Rewards” thing basically gives players extra cash on top of all the other benefits of the VIP program. Starting on January 1, 2010, everyone begins a new yearly balance of VPPs. Once you reach 750 VPPs total, you can spend just one FPP and pick up ten bucks. Then, when you get to 1,500, you get another $10. And so forth according to the schedule (see the table at left). As a recreational player, I’ve earned a little over 13,000 VPPs this year. If I earn the same number next year, I’ll pick up an additional $150.

I might be encouraged, though, to pick up the pace a little -- indeed, there were a couple of months in there during which I earned 2,500-3,000 VPPs or so, so I know I can probably easy pick up more.

Definitely like the way Stars is gearing these programs toward the small-timers, giving them a little bit here and there to keep ’em playing. Seems like a smart strategy. It’s always nice to be constantly getting something back while playing, meaning that even a break even session is technically going to be a small winner.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Grab Your Popcorn (Isildur1 v. Full Tilt)

Full Tilt: Admit OneSpent most of yesterday running around seeing family and doing some last minute shopping. I did, however, try to monitor from time to time what folks were saying about the PokerNews interview with the still-unidentified Isildur1 that appeared yesterday. You know that name “Isildur” is a Lord of the Rings thing, right? This sucker is turning into a regular triple-feature.

I saw threads continuing to lengthen on the forums as the debate persists regarding what indeed might have happened prior to Brian Hastings’ huge $4.2 million winning session versus Isildur1 on 12/8/09. Still a lot of energy among the posters going back and forth with arguments over whether or not Hastings unduly benefited from information about Isildur1’s play prior to the session.

For most, the issue concerns Full Tilt Poker’s admonition, listed in its “Site Terms,” against players gaining “an unfair advantage” by “accessing or compiling information on other players beyond that which the user has personally observed through his or her own game play.” Statements by Hastings following the session alluded to his having seen reports on Isildur1’s play that had been compiled by his friend and fellow CardRunners pro Brian Townsend. (See yesterday’s post for more specifics.)

Adding to the intrigue, Full Tilt Poker’s Fraud and Security Team conducted an investigation of the matter, including interviewing Hastings, Townsend, and Cole South, and determined that neither Hastings nor South were guilty of any violations of FTP’s terms. Townsend, however, was found to be guilty of “datamining,” and has thus been stripped of his Red Pro status on Full Tilt Poker for one month.

Not the first time Townsend has violated FTP’s rules, incidentally. You might recall how late last summer (2008) Townsend admitted to having created and played under multiple accounts (though not simultaneously) on both Full Tilt Poker and on PokerStars. For that transgression, Full Tilt revoked Townsend’s Red Pro status for six months.

Interestingly, Townsend’s explanation at the time concerned the fact that he had been experiencing a downswing and was thus forced to play lower stakes games than he normally did. “The reason why I created these accounts,” wrote Townsend on his blog, “was because I enjoy anonymity when playing smaller and am very prideful in what I do.” (Townsend also spoke with PokerNews’ Gloria Balding at the time regarding the issue.) In other words, it was a desire to remain anonymous and not have players whom he faced know that he was Brian Townsend -- a.k.a., the former phenom “sbrugby” who a year or so before had suddenly turned up at the high-stakes games to take on the big boys (much like Isildur1) -- that motivated him to create and use the additional accounts.

If you’ve read the interview with Isildur1 from yesterday on PokerNews, you saw that the unknown Swede is considering filing a “formal complaint” with Full Tilt Poker regarding the session with Hastings. It almost sounds as though he hadn’t contemplated doing so until after having been told of Full Tilt Poker’s policies and their potential application to his session with Hastings. He also notes in the interview that he does not plan to play on Full Tilt Poker until he hears back regarding his complaint.

Not sure how far Isildur1 will get with his query, but I’m most certainly intrigued to watch what happens next. As I noted yesterday, the “Site Terms” at Full Tilt Poker as well as similar terms that exist at other online poker sites certainly include a number of essentially ungovernable prohibitions, thus creating a lot of ambiguity among many regarding their efficacy. It is interesting to think how a person’s voluntary publicizing of information regarding his play (e.g., Hastings’ post-session interviews) can invite such scrutiny -- not to mention the potential for punishment.

In other words, as many poker players already know full well, it usually pays to keep quiet.

Such was Isildur1’s strategy until yesterday. Like most, I’m curious to hear more from the Swede, and apparently more is to come over on PokerNews. However, I wouldn’t blame him should he decide to resume his former policy of keeping mum. The safer path, it seems.

(I’m not big on Tolkein minutiae, but I guess his Isildur was finally taken down by a group of attackers after taking a less safe path.)

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Digging for Gold (Mining Isidur1)

Digging for Gold (Mining the Isidur1 Story)Was talking to Vera Valmore yesterday about the latest “big thing” in poker everyone seems to be talking about -- namely, all the speculation over whether or not Brian Hastings perhaps received a little extra assistance from his CardRunners buds that might’ve helped him in that huge session versus Isildur1 last week. You remember that session -- the one in which the senior at Cornell University took himself a little study break and ended up going back to the books $4.2 million richer. (Read more here.)

I tried to summarize the situation, including what I could remember of Full Tilt Poker’s “Site Terms” that might have been relevant here. I said I knew there was a rule against collusion, and those who do collude risk forfeiting their balance. I knew there was also something in there about using certain programs -- called “external player assistance programs” (I see now, looking at the site) -- “which are designed to provide users with an unfair advantage over their opponents.” That rule goes on to say that “Full Tilt Poker defines an unfair advantage as a user accessing or compiling information on other players beyond that which the user has personally observed through his or her own game play.”

As I explained it to Vera, some of the buzz made it sound as though it were possible that Hastings may have had some knowledge of hands played by some of his friends against Isildur1. That is, perhaps some of what they call “datamining” had happened whereby Hastings learned some things about his opponent he might not have been able to learn without assistance from another.

Hastings didn’t really say much along those lines in his 12/9/09 blog post about the session. He does mention there fellow CardRunners pro Brian Townsend’s losing session earlier in the day versus Isildur1, but doesn’t say anything about having had any inside dope regarding Townsend’s hands.

Shortly after his big day, Hastings was interviewed on a couple of podcasts, including ESPN’s The Poker Edge with Andrew Feldman and Phil Gordon (the 12/10/09 episode). At about the 10-minute mark, Gordon asks Hastings specifically about how he and his buddies had gone about analyzing Isildur1’s play, and Hastings responds by saying they had done quite a bit of study of the unknown Swede’s habits. Hastings notes in particular that Townsend had “analyzed a database of, like, 50,000 heads-up hands that Isildur1 played and constructed ranges of what Isildur1 was doing in all kinds of spots,” adding that “the three of us discussed a ton of hands and the reports that Brian made.” Hastings also appeared on Mediocre Poker Radio (the 12/11/09 episode) where he again makes reference to having watching Townsend playing that session and getting in the mood to play Isildur1 after Townsend finished.

Then, on 12/14/09, Gary Wise posted an article over on the ESPN Poker Club which made a few points about Hastings’ big win, including placing an emphasis on “the strength of the collective” -- i.e., pointing out how beneficial it can be to have fellow poker players to talk to about one’s game. Wise noted how “he, Townsend and Cole South conglomerated their hand histories, allowing them to study the mystery man's playing style,” and included that quote from the Poker Edge interview as well as support.

A couple of days after Wise’s article appeared, a thread started up over on Two Plus Two that raised the question of whether or not Hastings et al. may have violated Full Tilt Poker’s “Site Terms.” On Saturday, 12/19/09, a representative of Full Tilt Poker (“FTPSean”) came onto the thread to say that “After doing an investigation and speaking with Brian Hastings, Brian Townsend, and Cole South, the Fraud and Security team have come to the conclusion that the statement taken from the ESPN article describing the three combining their hands into a shared database was inaccurate.”

However (FTPSean goes on to say), the investigation did reveal that Townsend -- a Full Tilt red pro, by the way -- was guilty of a breach of FTP rules regarding datamining, and that the punishment for Townsend would be the loss of his Red Pro status for one month. (Townsend writes about the matter on his CardRunners blog here.) (Incidentally, Cole South came onto the Two Plus Two thread later as well to deny any wrongdoing on his part.)

I told Vera the whole thing seemed to highlight the fact that the online poker sites have certain rules that seemingly cannot be enforced. Indeed, in FTPSean’s note on Two Plus Two he begins by saying “There is absolutely nothing wrong with discussing hands, discussing opponents, or discussing strategy with other players while away from the table,” but then notes how the sort of datamining of which Townsend was found guilty is out of bounds.

Clearly there is some distinction there regarding the degree to which one takes one’s discussions of strategy while away from the tables. Less clear is how exactly one makes that distinction -- and, importantly, how an online site can effectively regulate against it.

I tried to draw an analogy with downloading music files from the web -- clearly not legal, but “everyone does it.” Vera quickly stopped me. “Not everyone does it,” she said. True. “And downloading music files can always be tracked,” she added, noting a clear difference between the sort of rule-breaking that we were talking about with regard to sharing hand histories/compiling databases and my proposed parallel.

Definitely seems on the surface to be a bit unfair to the individual who finds himself up against “the strength of the collective.” But, really, anyone who plays online poker potentially subjects him/herself to such a disadvantage, dontcha think?

Wonder what Isildur1 thinks about all of this? Sounds like we might find out, as apparently Matthew Parvis of PokerNews has scored an interview with the Swede. I imagine we’ll be seeing that appear sometime today.

Will definitely be interesting to see what else those continuing to dig deeper into this story manage to uncover.

(EDIT [10:55 a.m.]: Parvis’s blog post about the still-to-come interview.)

(EDIT [11:25 a.m.]: The PokerNews interview is now online, in which Isildur1 says he plans to make a formal complaint to Full Tilt Poker regarding the session with Hastings.)

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Rest of the Story (UB Hand Histories)

Seat open at UBBack in September 2007 -- several months after the UIGEA had become law and PartyPoker and other sites pulled out of the U.S. market -- I thought I’d open up an account over on UltimateBet in order to give myself more options for places to play. Then, about six weeks later, the Absolute Poker insider cheating scandal broke. I had an account on AP as well, and knowing that both companies were run by the same folks, I decided it best to pull my funds from both sites.

About two months later (January 2008), news of an even larger cheating scandal over on UltimateBet first appeared. With subsequent reports we learned of the jawdropping magnitude of the UB scandal. Cheaters with access to opponents’ hole cards played on the site from June 2003 to December 2007, with 32 different people -- including 1994 WSOP Main Event champion Russ Hamilton -- linked to over 100 different accounts apparently having been involved.

Those numbers came from a September 2009 “final decision” by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, an outfit “empowered to regulate and control” online gambling sites by issuing them licenses. That “final decision” reports that Tokwiro Enterprises (who now owns UB) had paid $22,054,351.91 back to players who had been cheated on the site, as well as a $1.5 million fine to the KGC. The site got to keep its license, but is now on a one-year probationary period.

Needless to say, I was glad I got off UltimateBet when I did. I probably would’ve never looked back except for the fact that later in 2008 I heard UB spokesperson Annie Duke (on Poker Road Radio) saying that anyone who had played on the site and who wanted to obtain copies of their hand histories could receive them.

As I say, I only played on UB for about six weeks, and in fact only intermittently. According to my records, I had played only a little over 1,100 hands. And at my low limits, I was fairly certain I had not been up against any of the cheaters in my games. Still I was curious to see my HHs, and so made a request. I received a couple of promises back over the following weeks, but eventually UB support stopped answering my emails and the HHs were never sent.

In September 2009 -- a couple of weeks after the KGC’s final report -- we heard the surprising news that Joe Sebok had signed on with UB as a spokesperson and “media and operations consultant.” Like Duke before him, Sebok was saying things about making hand histories available, and so I once again submitted a request. I received a prompt reply that I would be getting my HHs “ASAP,” but weeks went by and nothing came. I sent another email in late October, and it was returned as undeliverable.

I sent a brief note on Twitter stating what had happened, and Sebok -- whom I’ve met a couple of times while covering the WSOP -- ended up responding to me. He said he’d look into it, and try to ensure I got my hand histories. It took nearly a couple more months, but I finally did get an email back from the “Poker Security Manager” with a ZIP file full of hand histories.

The ZIP file contains 614 text files, some of which include just one hand and others that have multiple hands (dunno why). The histories themselves are a bit difficult to parse -- they are not the clean-looking ones you get from PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker -- but I can make out the action at least. They’ve also sent me a large number of hand histories for hands in which I was just sitting out, meaning of the 854 HHs included, there are only about 700 hands of mine in there.

Since I keep my own records for all of my sessions, I can see that a number of hands I played on UltimateBet are missing, including two entire sessions. In all, it looks like I’ve gotten back hand histories for about two-thirds of the hands I actually played on UB.

To be honest, I’m not that interested in taking it any further and trying to get the missing hands sent as well. I know this amounts to fairly minute trivia, all things considered, but for the sake of completeness I wanted to report here how my little hand history saga has concluded. Kind of silly to think it took this long (over a year) just to send me these 700 hands (and that there are still 400 or so for which I didn’t receive HHs). But I do appreciate Sebok getting involved and helping me out here.

Still no plans to revive that account, though.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

2010 WSOP Schedule Announced

2010: The Year We Make ContactThe 2010 World Series of Poker schedule has arrived. A little earlier than last time around, when we didn’t get the full slate of tourneys until late January. However, the year before that, the schedule for the 2008 WSOP did come about this time, if I recall (i.e., mid-December).

Sheesh, 2010. A little too science-fictiony, ain’t it? So tell me, are you planning to play in the WSOP this year? Will 2010 be the year you make contact?

Once again we’re looking at 57 bracelet events, matching last year’s record total. Friday, May 28th is the day everything gets started with the Casino Employees $500 No-Limit Hold’em event (No. 1) cranking up at noon. Then at 5:00 p.m that afternoon comes what is being called “The Player’s Championship,” a $50,000 buy-in event featuring the eight-game mix we’ve seen employed the last couple of years (i.e., Limit Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better, Seven Card Razz, Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better, No-Limit Hold'em, Pot-Limit Omaha, and 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball).

This “Player’s Championship” -- I can already tell I’m gonna start getting frustrated with that apostrophe being on the wrong side of the “s” -- is the new version of the $50K H.O.R.S.E. event that has been part of the WSOP since 2006, with the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy going to the winner.

Curious, I suppose, to see the WSOP start things off once more with a high-dollar event (the most expensive of the 57). Last year many were critical of the decision to have that $40K NLHE event come at the beginning of the Series as it was thought it may have a negative impact on players’ ability to participate in subsequent events. However, only 201 entered that $40K event, and one would assume the turnout for this eight-game version (a.k.a., S.P.L.E.N.D.O.R.) will be substantially less, as the highest the $50K H.O.R.S.E. ever drew was 148, and only 95 entered last year.

Later in the Series will come a $25,000 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em event (Event No. 52) which should get a lot of attention, I’d imagine.

2010 WSOP Schedule AnnouncedAlso, as was the case last year, there will also be ten different $10,000 buy-in “Championship” events this time around. I’m seeing they aren’t calling them “World” championships on this schedule sheet as in past years. (I guess they already call it the World Series of Poker.) Those ten events will be in Seven-Card Stud (Event No. 10), Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better (Event No. 15), 2-7 Draw Lowball (No-Limit) (Event No. 19), Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better (Event No. 25), Limit Hold’em (Event No. 29), Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em (with a 256-player cap) (Event No. 35), Pot-Limit Hold’em (Event No. 38), H.O.R.S.E. (Event No. 43), Pot-Limit Omaha (Event No. 55), and, of course, No-Limit Hold’em (a.k.a. the Main Event) (Event No. 57).

There are also five different $5,000 buy-in events, meaning that out of 57 bracelet events a little less than a third (17) will cost $5,000 or more to play.

On the other end of the bankroll spectrum, the WSOP has added a clutch of $1,000 buy-in events this time around. In addition to the Ladies Event (No. 22) and the Seniors Event (No. 34), there will be six different $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em events. I guess we’ll call those the Stimulus Not-So-Specials, since they’ll be coming about once per week throughout the WSOP. There are 19 different $1,500 buy-in events as well, meaning about half of the WSOP is made up of these low-end events.

Those low buy-in events will be stimulating the house, too, as the juice is a whopping 10% for all events with a buy-in of $1,500 or less (up a touch from the 9% held from those events last year.)

If you decided you wanted to enter all 57 events -- in which case you’d necessarily be a female casino employee aged 50 or older -- it would cost you a total of $267,500.

Rebuys are still out, although again there’s one of those “Triple Chance” events that sorta kinda pretends to be like a rebuy tourney. And apparently a number of these Omaha events have some add-ons as part of the deal (will have to investigate further). I’m counting 22 non-hold’em events overall (including the $2,500 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha Event No. 33), down just a tad from the 24 non-hold’em events we saw in 2009.

2010 World Series of PokerAll in all, the 2010 WSOP schedule looks a lot like the 2009 one. I haven’t really looked at the structure sheets (also released yesterday), but it appears the plan is again to go with “triple stacks” meaning players will begin with three times the buy-in in chips, and so I’m going to assume the structures haven’t changed much (or at all) from last year’s events.

Click here for the full schedule
, including links to the structures and registration forms, too. Hard to believe the sucker is less than five months from now. Still seems like 2010 shouldn’t be so close. Sounds too far away, like Jupiter or something.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Gambling Tales Podcast Rocks

Gambling Tales PodcastThe new Gambling Tales Podcast hosted by Special K and Falstaff is up to three episodes now. The pair is cranking them out once every two weeks, and so far they’ve created three enjoyable shows. Definitely worth adding to your queue of other poker/gambling podcasts, I’d say.

One aspect we amateur podcasters notice right away is how good the show sounds in terms of audio quality. They’ve fashioned a very nice set-up with regard to recording, and you’ll notice right from the first show how cleanly everything sounds in yr earbuds.

That’s also some rockin’ guitar in the show’s theme.

So far it appears the format is for the pair to banter a bit at the start about current happenings in the poker/gambling world, then have an interview, then come back with a segment in which they discuss some historical gambling tale or personality.

The first episode (11/7/09) was recorded back before the World Series of Poker Main Event final table played out, and so that’s the focus of their conversation at the start. They then invite long-time blogger BadBlood. He tells his story of getting into gambling and specifically poker, then shares a gambling tale involving a particular hand he once played. They then wrap up this first show with a look back to the origins of gambling, sharing references found in Greek mythology and the ancient world as well as some later precursors to gambling.

The second show (11/21/09) follows a similar pattern, with some initial discussion about how the business of gambling is being affected by economic woes, followed by an interview with Dr. Pauly. Again, Pauly is invited to talk about his first experiences with gambling, then he shares a tale not about himself but about Gus Hansen. This one concludes with some discussion of the 18th-century Venetian rake and memoirist Casanova, focusing in particular on his penchant for gambling.

The most recent “Show 003” (12/7/09) begins with some talk about the Poker Hall of Fame and Mike Sexton’s induction, then has a neat interview with David Schwartz who heads up the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Last spring I wrote a little about my visit to the CGR where I met Schwartz, who authored a terrific history of gambling called Roll the Bones. The show ends with some talk about that famous poker player Wild Bill Hickok.

Special K and Falstaff have a good rapport, and I can tell (and appreciate) how the shows have been carefully edited as well so as to make the listening even more enjoyable.

Shamus listening to the Gambling Tales PodcastHearing these first few episodes made me think a little of the old Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio show -- one which some of us recall as an early example of poker podcasting that also focused on a couple of amateur players having fun talking about current topics as well as the occasional historical item. Gotta love the whole DIY thing, as well as the fact that the GTP is looking to offer something original and different from your average poker podcast.

Cool stuff. Certainly the kind of show those of you who happen to listen to The Hard-Boiled Poker Radio Show would enjoy, I imagine. You can find the show in iTunes via a search, or click here to reach the show’s blog.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Loving Life, Defying Death

Doyle Brunson not looking backWas goofin’ around online yesterday when I saw a story about Oscar Niemeyer, the well-known Brazilian architect, who just turned 102 years old. What did it mean to Niemeyer to have reached such an advanced age?

“Turning 102 is crap,” he said. “There is nothing to commemorate.”

The article went on to clarify that such grouchiness should not be taken to indicate that Niemeyer doesn’t enjoy life -- quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just he’s too busy living to get overly worked up about yet another birthday. In addition to working on still more projects, he continues to enjoy cigars (“an old habit that I cultivate with much gusto,” he says), and at age 98 married his 60-year-old secretary.

The story made me think a little about poker’s elder statesman Doyle Brunson, who at age 76 keeps rolling along like he’s half that. I remembered a post from the first week or so of this year’s World Series of Poker where I was relating having worked a long day. As I left and was walking through the Rio hallway I heard “a faint whirring sound.” The sound got louder, then finally reached me. “I looked up somewhat woozily as the cowboy hat-wearing man on the scooter roared past, moving at what seemed to my dazed self the speed of thought itself.”

It was Brunson, of course, motoring along at three o’clock in the morning. Like I say, the article made me think of Brunson -- for a few reasons.

'The Godfather of Poker' by Doyle Brunson (2009)One was because I recently read Brunson’s new autobiography, The Godfather of Poker, in which he talks near the end about his long life.

“Different doctors have told me that my body, as badly as I’ve treated it, must be programmed to last a hundred years or more. One said 125, another said 100, so I settled on 120, which was a fair compromise.” (I reviewed Brunson’s book over on Betfair a couple of weeks ago, and wrote a bit about here, too.)

Another reason I might have thought of Brunson was because I’ve been following @TexDolly on Twitter. In between the frequent blonde jokes and, now, Tiger Woods jokes, Brunson will share other news and/or thoughts. Just a couple of days ago, he reported how he and a number of other poker people at the ongoing Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic all voluntarily had their heads shaved in support of Thuy Doan. Doan was diagnosed with cancer this fall, and after chemotherapy had lost her hair. So earlier this week Brunson, Eli Elezra, Barry Greenstein, Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, and about a dozen others got their heads shaved at the Bellagio as a show of support.

Also read something @TexDolly a couple of days ago where Brunson noted how the Five Diamond was about to begin. “It will shorten the days if I go deep in the tournament,” he wrote. “Getting old sucks!” (Why does it seem like Brunson is winking at us there?)

A third reason why the story of the 102-year-old Brazilian architect made me think of Brunson had to do with the fact that I spent a short time yesterday railing the pot-limit Omaha games over on Full Tilt Poker, in particular watching Isildur1 appearing to be reaching the end of the line with regard to his once boisterous bankroll.

During the period I was watching, he and Cole South were playing six tables of heads-up $50/$100 PLO, with Isildur1 buying in short at all six. South quickly stacked him at each table, and the pair moved to $100/$200 PLO, where they followed a similar sequence. They played a few more hands at a couple of $200/$400 PLO tables, but then Isildur1 suddenly left the scene. You can read more about this latest episode in Isildur1’s rapid fall here in Nicole Gordon’s “Online Railbird Report.” According to another report, the Swede, once up over $5 million, is now down something like $2.5 million overall.

Anyhow, during the hands the railbirds were chirping away in the chatbox throughout, excitedly firing their various commentaries and non sequiturs as the action continued.

And, as usual, there was that guy.

If you’ve railed any of these high stakes games, you know to whom I’m referring -- the one who gets a laugh out of typing “RIP Doyle” again and again. Usually gets a few reactions from others wondering if, indeed, Brunson has died. Finally everyone realizes the lame hoax and they get back to offering their unsolicited critiques.

One might wonder where the idea came from -- to joke about Brunson’s passing. The fact is, Brunson himself might well have encouraged such morbid-seeming goofs when back in January he made a prop bet that he would not die in 2009.

You might recall the story. A fellow named Mack Rawden wrote an article at the beginning of the year for the site CinemaBlend in which he listed the “100 Most Likely People to Die in 2009.” Haven’t checked the entire grim list, but I do see Michael Jackson included there.

Rawden also included Brunson at No. 16, and Texas Dolly responded by writing on his blog that Rawden was a “clown.” “I would like to lay 10-1 for any amount if anybody knows this joker.”

Eventually the two were put in touch, and a prop bet was arranged between them. If Brunson makes it, Rawden will donate $1,000 to the American Cancer Society; if not, Rawden gets $10,000.

Niemeyer says at the end of that article, “I don’t fear death,” a sentiment Brunson echoes both in his autobiography and in the way he lives his life. As the examples of the Brazilian architect and famous poker player readily teach us, fearing death is no way to live. As Socrates says in the Apology, “this fear of death is indeed the pretence of wisdom.”

No, much better to keep on building.

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