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Travel Report: EPT10 Deauville Main Event, Day 3: Winner, Winner… and Dinner

Date: Thu, Jan 30, 2014 Internet

Have finally sorta kinda caught up with everything else and am writing this post late Wednesday night having returned to my room following the Global Poker Index European Poker Awards dinner that took place in one of the ballrooms of the Casino Barrière.

Looking back, the awards ended up kind of dominating the day, although there was some interesting poker during today’s five 90-minute levels. The 137 who started the day played down to just 41, with real estate agent Ekrem Sanioglu who’s from Turkey but considers France home leading the way. Eugene Katchalov (whom I spoke with back at the start of the tournament) has been building since Day 1 and is currently in second position.

Today got to talk with both Zimnan Ziyard and Julien Brécard during the course of the day, both friendly fellows and solid players. Ziyard had a challenging day, starting near the top of the counts and battling hard to survive the night, while Brécard managed to nurse his short stack into the money and then some before busting late in the day.

Like I say, though, the awards kind of eclipsed all. We were treated to a nice three-course meal starting with a pastry-style smoked salmon and squid ink dish with coconut milk, rack of lamb with garden veggies and potato cake, and a raspberry chocolate pastry. There was champagne and wine for those who partook, too.

The awards began to be handed out during dessert, with Joe Stapleton and Gaëlle Garcia Diaz hosting. The awards included categories like Rookie of the Year, Internet Player of the Year, Best European Event, and so on. (I missed the earlier presentations of all the GPI-related stuff.)

There was a grab-bag category for Poker Industry Person of the Year that kind of awkwardly shoehorned in a couple of media guys (and friends with whom I’ve worked over the years), Marc Convey and Lee Davy, another good guy Neil Johnson who is the EPT tourney director, and Edgar Stuchly who is President of the EPT. Johnson won that one, which I think might have made him the only American to take a trophy at the GPI EPA.

Probably the most meaningful awards given during the night were the Rob Gardner Memorial Award given to the Frenchman “Big” Roger Hairabedian and the Lifetime Achievement Award given to the much-loved Hendon mobster Barny Boatman (pictured at left).

I remember talking with Jesse May about the late Gardner and his important contributions to early televised poker (see Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview I did with May a while back).

There was a nice moment at the end when a “Jury Prize” was awarded to the EPT dealers who travel throughout the tour and really are especially good.

Although this is the 13th year for the EPAs, I think it was the first time they’ve managed to have the ceremony at an EPT stop, which made it kind of a special occasion. Was fun to be there and watch what is really a huge and varied community come together and enjoy recognizing the achievements of several.

Back at it at noon Thursday. There’s the High Roller starting up, too, which will earn some of our attention as well. Check over on the PokerStars blog for more today from “Dough-ville.”

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Travel Report: EPT10 Deauville Main Event, Day 2: A Bond Between a Book and a Poker Tournament

Date: Wed, Jan 29, 2014 Internet

Little time to scribble this morning, I’m afraid. We had a less lengthy day and night yesterday for Day 2, but with no dinner break we ate afterwards -- another big steak-centered meal for your hungry scribbler -- and so ended up not getting to sleep until late. Then my morning was eaten up by a lot of pre-work work, living me little time even to reflect on the day, let alone write about it.

I did want to point folks to one post from yesterday, one focusing on Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel Casino Royale, the first of the Bond books and one poker fans well know about thanks to the poker-themed 2006 adaptation starring Daniel Craig. (Photo to the left by Neil Stoddart of the PokerStars blog, by the way.)

Why did I write about the novel? Well, Fleming had spent some time visiting the casino in Deauville a couple of decades before when younger, and his experiences gambling and watching others gamble inspired a lot of the plot and setting of Casino Royale. In fact he sets the story in northern France in a fictional seaside city named Royale-les-Eaux, which more or less combines elements of Deauville and nearby Trouville.

I read the book recently and so wanted this week to share both the Deauville connection and some of its insights about gambling. The game is baccarat in the novel (as well as the spoofy 1967 film), but there are still some decent points made by Fleming about the psychology of the gambler that apply pretty readily to poker. (Dostoevsky it ain’t, but it’s still thought provoking.) And he seems very interested in making a willingness to gamble an important part of Bond’s character as he introduces him, a trait that gets picked up in future stories and of course in the films.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the novel as a great one, but there are some decent passages amid the page-turning action. Bond plays three different games in the novel, you might say -- baccarat versus Le Chiffre, intelligence-based warfare versus the Soviets and SMERSH (the counterintelligence agency), and the romance-based game versus Vesper Lynd.

There’s some heavy-handed talk of women in the book that reads a little weirdly today (and might understandably put off some). There’s also something kind of odd about the way the story resolves (I’m realizing in retrospect), with Bond not even really being responsible for doing anything more heroic than getting lucky at baccarat and defending himself against would be assassins (getting lucky there, too). In a way he mostly functions as the center of attention while others direct the more meaningful events of the plot.

Anyhow, I don’t mention much of those personal thoughts about the book in the post, but rather stick to sorting out the Deauville connection and also making the discussion relevant the ongoing tournament. Check it out and let me know what you think -- either about the post, or anything else to do with Bond, Casino Royale, and/or poker.

More today on the PokerStars blog. Click over to follow along.

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Travel Report: EPT10 Deauville Main Event, Day 1b: One More Step

Date: Tue, Jan 28, 2014 Internet

Yesterday I titled the post “Déjà Vu,” then went and helped report on the second Day 1 flight of the EPT10 Deauville Main Event for the PokerStars blog. And it goes without saying that multiple Day 1 flights always carry with them that inexorable sense of covering the same ground again, so there was a little bit more of that “haven’t we gone through these steps already?”

Speaking of, I managed to find a way in the blog to share a funny story from the last trip here, the one involving myself, my friend Yorkshire Pud, and some wet cement. Click here for the full account from a year ago, then you can read “Following in our footsteps” to read the sequel.

Another highlight yesterday was getting to chat with Jan Heitmann, the German pro, who besides being a great player is also another one of those great reps for poker (in my opinion). He hosts poker shows in Germany and does a great deal, I think, to help bring the game to larger audiences, something in which I’m becoming more and more interested.

The weather thus far has been essentially as it was a year ago, and the same, too, as what I experienced many years back when living in Lille -- cold, windy, gray, and wet. Might be a little warmer than last year, but still not the kind of stuff you want to be caught outside in for long.

Meanwhile, we’ve eaten especially well so far, including enjoying a fairly lavish meal of coquilles Saint Jacques meunière (scallops in fried butter) on Sunday, followed by steak last night. Enjoying a better-than-average breakfast buffet spread each morning, too, all of which is adding up to my starting to feel the need to find some légumes or just switch to salads here if I want to avoid any food-related comas before the week is out.

Am fairly written out and so will be keeping these posts brief this week. Follow the PokerStars blog for more on how the tourney is going and other features along the way from Deauville.

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Travel Report: EPT10 Deauville Main Event, Day 1a: Déjà Vu

Date: Mon, Jan 27, 2014 Internet

The first of two Day 1 flights is in the books at EPT10 Deauville, with a relatively small turnout of 234 players working their way down to 134 by night’s end. Expect many more to arrive tomorrow, though probably not enough to reach last year’s overall total of 782 entrants.

Been thinking back a lot to a year ago since arriving on Saturday morning. Kind of marveling at how fast the time goes -- it genuinely feels like I was just here -- while also thinking how the more of these trips a person does, the smaller the big, big world feels.

My flights which began on Friday were all relatively stress-free. Both were late by over an hour, but with a day to spare before work began on Sunday I hadn’t much reason to fret. Met up with Chris Hall and Sarah Grant for a nice dinner Saturday night, but otherwise took it easy, catching up on lost sleep from Friday night.

Was fun yesterday working alongside Rick Dacey and Howard Swains for the PokerStars blog where we’re doing various features and other interesting items to complement the PokerNews live reporting. A highlight today was talking to the very friendly Eugene Katchalov about his remarkable transformation via exercise and eating well into an incredibly fit and healthy person. Click and read (and marvel at the “before” and “after” pics, too).

Have a few more Deauville-related feature ideas in mind, the sort of pieces that work better during early stages of a tournament when the movement of chips is less vital to track than is the case later on.

Looking forward to those, but also have to admit I’m missing the farm after two weeks’ worth of helping care for the horses, Sammy and Maggie. Hate not being there, but glad to be helping here.

Check in over at the PokerStars blog to read what we’ve written thus far and ongoing reports from EPT10 Deauville all week.

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Gonzo Gareth

Date: Fri, Jan 24, 2014 Internet

Writing hastily today from the Philly airport, taking advantage of a pause between flights to France where I will be helping cover EPT Deauville next week. I had to take the opportunity to pop online to read one particular tournament recap from last night, one I hadn’t had a chance to call up yesterday.

The report was for Event No. 3 of the just-begun Tournament Championship of Online Poker (TCOOP) on PokerStars, a $215 buy-in turbo “knockout” event which attracted just under 5,000 entrants. I’d railed the end of the sucker once I’d become aware that a fellow blogger, Gareth Chantler, had managed to find a seat at the final table.

I follow Gareth on Twitter and so had seen his occasional updates regarding the event in which references to his “running hotter than the sun” began to pick up the deeper he got in the event. Being someone who has watched countless tourneys online, it was fun to observe one with a genuine rooting interest for a change.

Just yesterday I was mentioning what is essentially my most remarkable achievement as a “writer-player” in poker, namely luckboxing my way to winning a media event in Ukraine several years ago. Another third-place finish in a WSOP Media Event remains memorable to me as well, thanks largely to my having claimed a trophy for the effort which I just repositioned on my bookshelf at home following a recent move.

But really, as someone unlikely to enter even modest-sized buy-in events any time soon, such trifling finishes will likely together represent the pinnacle of my own tourney triumphs. Thus do I get an especially big kick out of seeing my poker blogging brethren breaking through for big scores, which is why I followed the end of TCOOP Event No. 3 intently last night as Gareth pursued the footsteps of James McManus, Change100, and Chad Holloway to take a turn at becoming the subject of a tournament story rather than the author.

Gareth ended up making it to three-handed and then agreed to a chop that guaranteed him more than $97K -- even more than Chad earned for his bracelet win last summer! He’d make it to heads-up before being bested for a second-place finish. Exciting stuff.

Then I saw Gareth send the above tweet. Sure, he was going to be featured in the tourney recap... but he was also going to be the one writing it!

This morning Brad Willis who heads up the PokerStars blog tweeted “Gave ‪@GarethChantler assignment to cover poker tourney last night. So, he PLAYED it, finished 2nd for nearly $100,000 & then wrote the piece.”

Gareth had a ready response for Brad: “In my defense I thought it was a Gonzo assignment.” (For those unfamiliar with the variety of reporting pioneered by Hunter S. Thompson and his ilk, here is the Wikipedia explanation of “Gonzo journalism.”)

Like I say, I was intrigued to read how Gareth would be writing up the story of what is easily the most exciting tournament he’s ever played. And he did not disappoint, including a priceless (and inspired) “brief, exclusive interview” with the runner-up.

Read and enjoy Gareth’s account here: “TCOOP 2014: K_Heaven07 ascendent in Event #3, $215 NLHE Turbo, Knockout.” Impossible to do so without grinning, I promise.

(Talk to you next from France!)

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From the Farm to France

Date: Thu, Jan 23, 2014 Internet

About to hit the road again, returning to Deauville, France for a second straight year to help cover the EPT stop. I fly out tomorrow, and with one long layover and losing a bunch of hours it’ll be Saturday before I arrive -- in time, though, for the Sunday start of the Main Event.

Am looking forward to returning to Deauville after last year’s trip which was the first time I’d been back in France after having lived there for a year with Vera some time back. We were in Lille, which is also in the north and which bears a lot of affinities with Deauville, thus filling last year’s trip with a great deal of déjà vu for your humble scribbler.

The headlines these days out of Ukraine are making me think of the first time I ever traveled to report on an EPT event, the one in Kiev (or Kyiv, as we found ourselves spelling it while there) that happened back in 2009. That was kind of a one-off occurrence, with a stop that had been originally scheduled to happen in Moscow getting rebooked for Ukraine at the last minute (also a reason why I happened to be asked to step in to help with the reporting).

That was a memorable trip for me for a number of reasons. At the time it was the longest distance I’d ever journeyed (by a long shot) to cover a poker tourney. And while Vera has had a chance to travel in Russia and surrounding countries, I’d never done so and thus it was kind of fascinating to spend even a short while in that part of the world.

That trip stands out for one more reason in my memory, too, as I happened to win the Media Event in a tourney that took five or six hours to complete. Indeed, I used to joke for a long time about how I was undefeated in tourneys outside the U.S. (no longer the case today). I wrote trip reports from Ukraine here, if you’re curious.

Of course, now I am seeing the frightening footage and am reading the reports of the massive protests happening in Kiev currently (and spreading elsewhere). They’ve been going on since December, although turned violent this week with some protester deaths amid an escalation of the conflict with the Ukrainian government. Seeing the reports, I’ve attempted in vain to recall the streets I walked when I was there over four years ago, trying unsuccessfully to match my dim memory with the chaotic-seeming images from the past few days.

Am certainly hoping the tide turns in a more peaceful direction there soon. Meanwhile, I’m glad to be traveling and meeting up with friends and others who’ll be converging on Deauville over the next week. Am torn somewhat as I really don’t want to leave Vera and the horses. The farm is so calm and quiet, making it that much harder to leave it -- even just to go to the grocery store, never mind travel over the ocean.

But it’s good to see the world some, too. More to come.

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Distant Replay

Date: Wed, Jan 22, 2014 Internet

Was up late last night doing work with the teevee on and got caught up in a couple of these “Top 50” shows on the MLB Network. Decided it was kind of a brilliant format, given how mesmerized I was as they carried me forward 10 items at a time from commercial to commercial, working their way through their lists.

One of the shows was dedicated to the “Top 50 Calls of All-Time,” culling examples from radio and television over many decades’ worth of games. (Here’s a blog post someone pulled together listing all 50.) The call of New York Giants’ announcer Russ Hodges of Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ’round the world” home run to win the NL pennant in 1951 earned the top spot in that compilation.

The other list was devoted to the “Top 50 Most Infamous Arguments” which was not just compelling but also got the adrenaline going a little bit at times. The “pine tar incident” from 1983 when New York Yankees manager Billy Martin successfully challenged that Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett had too much pine tar on his bat when hitting a game-winning home run earned top honors on that list. The Royals would protest and the ruling would later be reversed, but Brett’s madman-charge of the plate still stands a fairly iconic moment in baseball history when it comes to arguments.

I realized while watching the shows that I had no particular interest in the actual rankings. That is to say, it didn’t matter much to me what famous call (for example) was considered the “top” one of all-time, what was second, and so on. Rather, my interest was piqued as a longtime fan who was more or less familiar with most of the plays being highlighted. I could remember having either seen them or replays of them -- or in some cases, having read about them -- in just about every case.

I remember the Brett homer vividly, having been a fan of his as a kid growing up. I even wrote him for an autograph, and like pretty much every big leaguer to whom I sent such letters to when I was a kid, he responded with an autographed photo.

I also remembered watching another of the “infamous arguments” on the list, one ranking around #5, I believe -- the ugly “bean-brawl” game between the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres from August 1984. It was the kind of game that really had to be seen to be believed, with several hits batsmen, multiple bench-clearing brawls, fans getting involved in the fights, and numerous jaw-dropping moments.

To give you an idea how crazy the game was, San Diego managed to have three different pitchers deliberately throw at Atlanta pitcher Pascual Perez during four different at-bats in the game. (Perez had hit a San Diego better with the game’s first pitch.) All of those Padres pitchers were ejected, as were the manager and a couple of coaches. It was basically Slap Shot from start to finish. This clip doesn’t even mention some of what happened:

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I followed the Braves closely back then thanks to TBS showing every game, and so remembered all of the players involved. I always liked the idiosyncratic Perez who once missed a start when he couldn’t find his way to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and afterwards wore a jacket with “I-285” on the back to refer to the interstate on which he had gotten lost. (Was sad to hear of his death a couple of years ago.)

After a couple of hours of these countdowns I realized the format was smartly conceived and that the MLB Network had come up with some excellent off-season programming to keep viewers tuned in.

As I say, I imagine for other “Top 50” shows the rankings would matter more to me -- e.g., shows ranking players or teams or certain, measurable achievements. But for categories as nebulous as these, I was mostly pleased just to have those nostalgia nodes in my brain be massaged as I watched and remembered the plays.

Happened to turn the television on again this afternoon during an idle moment and saw All In: The Poker Movie being shown on one of the Showtime networks we’re getting for free right now. Was right in the middle of the Moneymaker-Farha heads-up, and again I found it hard to turn away despite being so familiar with what was being shown.

Something reassuring, I guess, about reliving the past and reaffirming our memories of it, memories which become more imperfect each day.

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W.C. Fields Forever

Date: Tue, Jan 21, 2014 Internet

Early in my “Poker in American Film and Culture” course I show the students what I believe must be the oldest poker movie ever made, A Cure for Pokeritis (1912). I’ve written here about that short silent film starring John Bunny more than once -- click here for the most involved discussion of it (including clips of the entire film).

Soon after showing Pokeritis I usually share with them a clip from Tillie and Gus, a 1933 film starring W.C. Fields. Fields is one of my all-time favorites from the early era of cinema. He plays poker in several of his films, and even in ones where he doesn’t, many have titles that sound like they were somehow derived from poker (Six of a Kind, You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break).

Fields actually wasn’t that big of a poker player himself, I believe, but the game nonetheless became intertwined in some respects with the trickster persona that tied together many of his crazily-named characters like Augustus Winterbottom in Tille and Gus.

I once wrote a lengthy “Poker & Pop Culture” piece for PokerNews about W.C. Fields in which I summarized some of the poker-playing scenes in his films, including Tillie and Gus. Click and read for a more thorough discussion.

Unfortunately most W.C. Fields stuff has been scrubbed away from YouTube, or I’d include the clip from Tillie and Gus here for you to enjoy. Instead I’ll just share a few screen shots with some dialogue from the scene in which some passengers on a train invite Augustus Winterbottom to join their poker game.

“Pardon me, folks. We have a poker game going. Would you care to play?” asks a man whom we come to learn is named Mr. White.

“Poker?” answers Winterbottom. “Is that the game where one receives five cards and if there’s two alike that’s pretty good, but if there’s three alike that’s much better?”

“Oh, you’ll learn the game in no time,” assures White, not realizing he’s the one about to be hustled.

Winterbottom joins three others and they cut for the deal. They explain to him that the ace is high. “You must forgive the ignorance of a novice,” he says. The others successively draw a queen, a ten, and a king. Then Winterbottom makes his cut. “Ace,” he says, showing his card so that we can see it but his opponents cannot.

When the others note they weren’t able to see his ace, he apologizes, sorts through the deck to find an ace, and shows it around.

He begins to deal a hand of five-card draw while his ex-wife Tillie (played by Alison Skipworth) -- a fellow con artist -- positions herself behind White so she can see his cards as well as those of his neighbor.

“By the way, I saw those two sailors off the ship today,” she says casually after spotting two jacks in White’s hand.

“See anybody else?” asks Winterbottom, and she looks at the other player’s nine-high hand. “Not a soul,” she replies.

They chat about other games. “I prefer Pinochle,” says White. “Pinochle?” asks Winterbottom. “That’s the top of something, isn’t it? The pinochle of a hill, for instance?”

When Winterbottom looks at his hand, he sees he’s dealt himself four aces and a deuce. “Shucks,” he says at the sight of the deuce, rapping the table with his fist as though it disappoints him.

They draw. “What happened to the two sailors?” asks Winterbottom of Tillie. “Three more sailors joined them,” she says. “Three more sailors?” asks Winterbottom, eyebrows raised. “I mean two,” she corrects herself.

There are bets and raises, with all four players staying in to the showdown. White has four jacks, the player to his left four queens, and the third player four kings. Winterbottom then turns over his four aces.

It’s a fun, goofy scene, with Fields singing “Bringing in the Sheaves” as he leaves the befuddled players adding a satisfying touch of lunacy to the proceedings.

Tillie and Gus isn’t as consistently funny as some of Fields’s other features. My faves are his great quartet of later titles You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, My Little Chickadee, The Bank Dick, and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, which verge on the surreal sometimes with the all-out wackiness of their loosely-connected, howlingly-hilarious set pieces. But Tillie and Gus still has plenty of grins throughout its short running time.

Like I say, for more on Fields and poker, see that old PokerNews piece.

(Post title from a Firesign Theatre track from their first LP, Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him.)

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Buzzer Beater

Date: Mon, Jan 20, 2014 Internet

Had a busy weekend, still dealing with moving a few last items from the old place to the new. We’ve had until the end of this month to clear out completely, and while there’s barely anything left to move it still feels like a job that is never going to end. Then comes the business of trying to organize everything in the new place, where we’ve got lots of boxes still sitting around waiting to be unpacked.

I did find time to enjoy some sports over the weekend, including watching those AFC and NFC championship games yesterday. Was disappointed my Panthers missed out on their chance at a championship, but still enjoyed both games yesterday nonetheless, with the two teams I’d wanted to win -- Denver and Seattle -- both making it through to the Super Bowl two weeks from yesterday.

Saw that wild, weird post-game interview with Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman like everyone else yesterday, and ended up writing something about it over on the Learn.PokerNews site today where I brought up some poker connections and a funny old Saturday Night Live skit, too, under the heading of a discussion of sportsmanship -- “Compete With Class at the Poker Table.”

That S.F.-Seattle game yesterday wasn’t the only exciting one I witnessed over the weekend involving a team called the 49ers. That’s because Vera and I were invited by another couple to join them to see UNC-Charlotte 49ers play a home basketball game on Saturday night when UNC-C hosted the University of North Texas Mean Green in a Conference USA tilt.

UNC-C was an eight-point favorite, but the teams played evenly through the first half, then North Texas came out strong to start the second half to bolt out to a lead of about a dozen. UNC-C quickly stormed back to cut the lead to one, but North Texas pushed in front again and appeared in the driver’s seat when they were up by six with less than two minutes left.

But the 49ers stiffened up on defense, managed to pull even at 74-74 (see scoreboard above), then successfully defended one more time to set up a possible game-winning shot.

With time winding down, UNC-C’s savvy point guard Pierria Henry drove the lane then dished the ball to big man Terrence Williams who was breaking to the basket along the baseline. There was no more than a second left when Williams caught the ball, and he immediately rose up and flushed it through for a dunk at the buzzer.

There was a delay as the refs reviewed the play, but I knew the basket was good because I’d actually snapped a photo with 0.4 left that strongly suggested Williams had gotten the ball through the cylinder in time.

Sure enough, the basket was ruled good, and a wild celebration followed.

I don’t know why I decided to snap a picture at that moment. As I was writing about not too long ago, it rarely occurs to me to take pictures, even in instances when I later wish I had done so. I had my phone out and just held it up for kicks as the clock wound down, then when Henry passed the ball I clicked.

Was kind of fun, though, to feel like I had beaten the buzzer with the photo just as Williams had with the shot.

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Borgata Brouhaha

Date: Fri, Jan 17, 2014 Internet

Reading today about this trouble at the Borgata where the first event of the big two-plus week Winter Open had to be suspended before the start of today’s third and final day of play thanks to the discovery of some sort of issue affecting the tournament’s integrity.

As Rich Ryan reports over on PokerNews, Joe Lupo. Senior VP of Operations at the Borgata, said this afternoon “we have reason to believe the tournament was compromised,” and given the importance of “ensuring the integrity of the tournament” play was halted for 24 hours.

Ryan goes on to share that someone speaking for the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement mentioned “a situation involving counterfeit chips,” and via Twitter and elsewhere one finds many more references to some shady-looking 5K chips apparently being introduced into the tournament at some point.

In fact, Luke Edwards, a player in the tourney, yesterday tweeted a picture showing some differently appearing 5K chips. Some are saying over 1 million of the phony chips made it into the event, an amount that if true would represent about 1.13% of the total chips that were supposed to be in play.

Learning that got me scurrying back to the old story of the extra chips accidentally introduced into the 2006 World Series of Poker during a color-up at some late stage prior to the final table, something like 2.4 million worth which in that tournament represented more than 2.7% of the chips in play.

There were 4,812 entries total in the $560 buy-in event at the Borgata, a tourney that had three Day 1 flights and allowed re-entries. They’d gotten down to just 27 players to start today, meaning the money bubble has already burst long ago as the top 450 finishers made the cash.

Will be especially curious to hear the rest of this story. Assuming the extra counterfeit chips are indeed the cause of the tourney being compromised, it will be interesting to find out (1) what comes of the investigation into how the chips were introduced into play, and (2) what will be done about the tournament at this late stage.

Regarding the latter, all of those entries ended up building a total prize pool of $2,325,835, thereby besting the $2 million guarantee. About $900K of that prize pool has been claimed already by players who have cashed thus far, with something like $1.43 million still left to be divided among the final 27. In other words, it’s exceedingly awkward spot to try to fix an issue such as the one that appears to have arisen.

Indeed, I can’t think of any solution, really, that wouldn’t seem unfair to someone. Can you?

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Obvious Tells Are Obvious

Date: Thu, Jan 16, 2014 Internet

I think some of you have probably seen this already, but I wanted to share it here for those who hadn’t -- a recent post by Reading Poker Tells author Zach Elwood for the popular site Deadspin called “Five of the Most Obvious Poker Tells Ever Televised.”

It’s a cool article for a number of reasons, including the fact that Zach includes YouTube clips of the hands to go along with his commentary explaining the tells on display. I also dig the inclusion of an Oreo cookie in the accompanying illustration which is even funnier when you realize Zach doesn’t even talk about Teddy KGB in the piece.

All five of the featured hands kind of fit in a similar category filled by players with huge holdings trying to mask their strength. But Zach does a neat job with each hand breaking down the different kinds of behaviors being demonstrated, adding a useful caveat that while the tells in the clips are all fairly obvious, many “are seen in much more subtle forms in more experienced players.”

I’ll let you click through to enjoy the clips and the analyses yourself, but I wanted also to mention how I like the way Zach begins the article.

Writing for the wide audience that reads Deadspin, Zach starts out noting the fact that “the poker tell is one of the most romanticized ideas in gambling.” He then points out how “in reality” tells often work differently -- “usually more subtle than they are in the movies.”

That distinction between a romantic version of poker (such as is often presented in film) and a realistic one is something I find myself going back to time and again in my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class.

We watch a lot of clips in the class and thus see over and over again what Zach is talking about with regard to the exaggerated tells. But we also address the same romance-versus-reality debate in a number of other contexts, too, such as when we read Al Alvarez’s The Biggest Game in Town and talk about the difference as representing different approaches to the game.

That’s a discussion I’ve had here before amid a long exegesis of one chapter of Alvarez’s book, if you’re curious.

Save reading my old post for later, though, and go enjoy Zach’s new one now if you haven’t already.

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Horse Play and Other Best Bets

Date: Wed, Jan 15, 2014 Internet

Full-blown farm life around here these days now that our two horses, Sammy and Maggie, have arrived. Vera has had Sammy forever -- pretty much since we’ve been together -- and Maggie for a good while, too, making it especially nice to have both of them with us... right in the back yard!

I tweeted that pic to the left a few days ago, and Dr. Pauly -- a.k.a. “Ocelot Sports” -- immediately inquired if they were race horses. No, I explained, but “you can bet on who finishes feeding first.” At that he eyed the competitors and quickly calculated money lines.

“Sammy -130, Maggie +125,” he estimated.

“Sounds about right,” said Vera after I explained to her that Pauly had made Sammy the favorite. Sammy is part-thoroughbred and has quite the appetite, even if their diets technically are such that Maggie gets fed a little more each day and night.

Between the farm duties, starting a new semester of “Poker in American Film and Culture,” and Learn.PokerNews-related activities, I’ll admit I’ve been distracted more than a little from much else here lately.

Speaking of the latter, let me say I’m excited about the start of a new series of articles on “Casino Poker for Beginners” by Bob Woolley, a.k.a. the Poker Grump. Bob is the perfect person in my opinion to deliver this kind of advice to new players, and I’m psyched about being able to add him to the line-up of writers at Learn. See his first piece on “Getting Into the Game.” And here he gives a short intro to the series on the Poker Grump blog.

Meanwhile starting the class again is always fun, and I’m beginning to think I might try to share some of the content of the course over on Learn as well as we move through our narrative of poker’s prominent place in American history and culture. Need to ponder a little more on the best strategy for doing that, but I think it could be fun to share some of readings and clips in that way. I’ve had people ask me frequently if they could audit the class, and this could be a way to share some of what we’re doing with a wider audience.

Finally, while we’re on the subject of Learn stuff, I had the chance to read and review Tricia Cardner’s new book Positive Poker (with contributions from Jonathan Little) which I quite liked. She’s got a couple of doctorates including one in psychology, is a license psychotherapist, and a good poker player, too, which positions her well to deliver the mental game advice she does in the book. Read the review here, and if you’re further interested you can read an interview with Cardner as well here.

Like me, Cardner has taught a college course focusing on poker, in her case one on the psychology of poker. It was that class as well as her dissertation that provided the impetus for her book, as you can read about in both the review and interview.

That’s all for now as I have to go take care of my nightly duties to clean the stalls, feed and water, and take care of the barn cats, too. I keep joking with people about my stall-cleaning duties, and it’s funny how many seem to respond by saying how great it all sounds.

They’re right. It’s pretty awesome. And you don’t even have to place bets on Sammy and Maggie to enjoy watching them.

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Familiar Cast in Latest Super High Roller

Date: Tue, Jan 14, 2014 Internet

The 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure has finished, with the three headlining events -- the $100K Super High Roller, the $25K High Roller, and the $10K Main Event -- all generating a lot of excitement and interesting finishes, with each featuring final tables filled with a lot of familiar faces.

Looking at how the $100K Super High Roller finished up, the top eight finishers for that one contained exactly zero surprises. What I mean is, all eight were players we have seen doing well in high buy-in events before (and low buy-in events, too, for that matter). That got me thinking a little about the short history of these $100K-and-higher events and how we more or less see the same people participating in them every time out.

There was a double-bustout with nine players left in the PCA $100K Super High Roller, which meant only seven were present when the “official” final table began. Thus eighth-place finisher Mike McDonald did not make that photo of the final tablists above (courtesy Danny Maxwell/PokerNews). As it happened only the top eight finishers in the tourney cashed as there were 46 entries total.

Here were the final eight in the $100K Super High Roller (with payouts):

  • 1. Fabian Quoss ($1,629,940)
  • 2. Dan Shak ($1,178,980)
  • 3. Vanessa Selbst ($760,640)
  • 4. Antonio Esfandiari ($575,920)
  • 5. Matt Glantz ($445,520)
  • 6. Tony Gregg ($347,720)
  • 7. Ole Schemion ($277,080)
  • 8. Mike McDonald ($217,320)

  • It has only been a few years since these tournaments with six-figure buy-ins started popping up regularly at places like the PCA, the Aussie Millions, the WSOP (with its “One Drop” events), and elsewhere.

    Looking at these eight names and how all eight have turned up in high rollers/super high rollers frequently of late, my first suspicion was to guess that all of them had probably cashed in $100K-plus events before. I took a peek through Hendon Mob and found that wasn’t quite the case, but most had.

    Setting aside these last couple of invite-only PartyPoker Premier League tourneys with the $125,000 buy-ins in which all of the participants cash, it looks like six out of the eight cashers in the 2014 PCA $100K Super High Roller had cashed in six-figure buy-in events before.

    Winner Fabian Quoss finished third in the 2013 Aussie Millions A$250,000 Challenge to win A$750,000. Runner-up Dan Shak has cashed three times in Aussie Millions A$100,000 Challenges (winning in 2010 for a A$1.2 million prize), twice before in previous PCA $100K Super High Rollers (in fact he’s final-tabled that one three times in a row), and also cashed in the $111,111 One Drop High Roller at the WSOP last summer.

    Vanessa Selbst finished third in both the $25K High Roller and the $100K Super High Roller at the PCA this year, picking up more than $1.36 million between those two cashes. I’d thought she must’ve had a cash in a six-figure buy-in event, but I’m not seeing one among her eye-popping results (which now total more than $10 million in career earnings).

    Fourth-place finisher Antonio Esfandiari of course had the big win in the $1 million Big One for One Drop at the 2012 WSOP for a $18,346,673 prize. He also finished fourth in the follow-up $111,111 One Drop High Roller last year for another $1.4 million-plus.

    Last year fifth-place finisher Matt Glantz cashed in a couple of six-figure buy-in events, the $111,111 One Drop High Roller (finishing 13th) and the $100K WPT Alpha8 Florida event (finishing fourth). Tony Gregg, who took sixth at the PCA $100K Super High Roller, won the $111,111 One Drop High Roller at the WSOP last summer and the $4,830,619 first prize.

    Like Selbst, seventh-place finisher Ole Schemion doesn’t appear to have cashed in a $100K or higher buy-in event before this week, although he did finish sixth in the 2013 EPT Barcelona Super High Roller (a €50,000 event).

    And Mike McDonald who took eighth has some final tables in €50,000 Super High Rollers on the EPT, too, plus a third-place in the recent $100K WPT Alpha8 at St. Kitts. McDonald nearly won the Main Event last night as well, finishing runner-up and taking away close to $1.1 million after a deal at three-handed.

    Not really pointing out anything particularly surprising here by observing that this latest $100K event featured a lot of the same folks we’re seeing play the others. Stands to reason that those profiting in these events will be reappearing at future $100K final tables both because (1) by winning they’re replenishing their bankrolls enough to keep participating in them, and (2) they’re good players.

    The “super” high rollers still retain my interest, even if the narratives they create tend to feature the same characters and produce similar plots. And while the high-dollar buy-ins and prizes probably create some intrigue just because money generally does interest many, it’s really the poker that draws me in, which is almost always being played at a high level at these pro-filled final tables.

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    Date: Mon, Jan 13, 2014 Internet

    I’ve been mentioning here off and on how Vera and I recently moved. We’re still in the process of making the move, actually, which is only about 15 miles but seems like a much larger step given how we’ve left the city for the country, moving to a house on a larger piece of land on which we can keep Vera’s horses.

    I’m still making frequent trips back and forth to gather the last of our stuff, which now is down to many less-than-essential items a lot of which we’ll probably be taking to the dump rather than bringing out to the new place. I’ve already written about how the move has forced me to do a lot of self-assessment as I toss out certain items and keep others, including having several instances of lingering over this or that letter or photo or notebook or other memento carrying this or that personal meaning.

    This past weekend I found an old envelope full of photographs, quickly recognizing it as representing the product of a couple of rolls’ worth of shots taken way back in my late teens, a time that well predated the advent of digital cameras. Taking pictures was more involved then, and generally speaking people were a lot more selective when it came to using up the 24 shots or whatever you got on a given roll of film.

    The pictures were mostly from a very cool trip I took with my grandfather who passed away about a dozen years ago. I can’t remember how we came upon the idea for it -- I think he might have suggested it -- but together he and I had driven across half of the country visiting various baseball parks and some relatives, too, along the way. We saw games in Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Chicago, I remember, the latter at Wrigley Field where he had gone to games back when he had been a young man in the 1930s.

    It was one of those special trips that I ended up recounting a lot afterwards to others and which after his passing I valued even more having had the chance to take. When I came across the photos, then, you might think I was excited to relive it all again.

    But I wasn’t. Not really. That’s because without even looking at the photos I remembered them and what I would be finding there.

    Don’t ask me why, but I had used up all of the shots taking pictures of odd, unlikely objects and various landscapes without any people in them. There were a few crowd shots from the ball games mixed in there, though the only people in the photos were strangers. In other words, there wasn’t much of anything in there at all that could be used to indicate that I had actually been the one taking those photos.

    That’s right -- there wasn’t a single picture of my grandfather in there, nor one of me, either.

    I guess I was thinking at the time of taking photos that were somehow more “artistic” in nature, avoiding what to my still-developing teenaged brain thought to have been the mundane business of simply documenting our trip with a bunch of “selfies.” My adult self now laments that decision somewhat, though in a way I still understand it.

    With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of social media, a whole lot of us are now constantly chronicling our lives and publishing our activities for all to see. In fact, there’s a whole generation of people now who have essentially grown up in such a world, and thus can probably access photos, videos, and other evidence of themselves and their friends and family from just about every week of their conscious lives.

    Such is not the case for those of us who are a little older. For us much of what we experienced from, say, the mid-1990s and before only remains in fading memories. It’s a little like the difference between poker players of that earlier era who only played live and kept records of their play manually and thus often in a very intermittent way and the online players who have every hand they’ve ever played stored in databases to review over and again.

    I think my favorite -- and most absurd -- photo in the bunch is one of the back of a road sign. What in the world was I thinking? What is this a “sign” of, other than a missed opportunity to capture something a little more lasting, a little more meaningful?

    Then again, I guess it is a “sign” of me in some way, too, though to read it that way requires some knowledge of context.

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