As I mentioned yesterday, I did indeed make it a priority to fill the rental’s tank with gas. Actually took a couple of visits to Terrible’s as the lot was too packed with cars on the first try and I did not relish sitting in the heat for even 10 minutes to wait for an open spot. But I did fill the tank, probably for the last time until I head back to the airport in a couple of weeks. And after sleeping late both yesterday and this morning, I feel more or less replenished energy-wise, too.
I did make it to the Rio briefly yesterday, although didn’t look in on any of the poker happening. Following the reports I saw that the $50K played all of the way down to 26 players, meaning the tension is rising considerably there as only the top 16 get paid. Doyle Brunson was among those eliminated on Day 3, and was tweeting a short while ago that he felt he’d only brought his “B” game to the event.
Noticed as well that a woman other than Vanessa Selbst won the first bracelet in an open event in six years as Dana Castaneda won Event No. 54, another of the $1,000 NLHE events.
Several women have made final tables this summer, and while I don’t have current numbers I know that WSOP Communications Director Seth Palansky tweeted a week-and-a-half ago that women made up 4.1% of the entrants through the first 39 events. That would represent an increase in women participating from recent years. For instance, I see in a post I wrote during the summer of 2011 the percentage was about 3.2% through the first 29 events.
I imagine Castaneda’s win won’t hurt that upward trend. Incidentally, there were two women among the 132 who played the $50K Poker Players’ Championship, Jennifer Harman and Vanessa Selbst. Selbst busted Day 1, while Harman got knocked out yesterday along with Tex Dolly.
Like I say, though, while I was at the Rio briefly, it wasn’t to follow any poker. Rather I was there to visit with Reading Poker Tells author Zach Elwood (@apokerplayer on Twitter) over a mid-afternoon lunch. I reviewed his book a while back on Betfair Poker and have mentioned it here from time to time. Like many who have read it, I found it especially insightful and well presented, and am liking hearing other good reviews of it since I wrote mine.
Zach has been in town for a few weeks playing some events and in the cash games while promoting his book. He’s done really well, in my opinion, when it comes to making those who would be most interested in his book aware of it.
Among our topics of conversation was the relative importance of tells in poker, something which I think Elwood addresses well in his book when he points out that “tell-reading is only a small part of playing great live poker.”
I mentioned how when I played that Golden Nugget event a couple of weeks back I couldn’t honestly remember any instances where my decisions were affected by having noticed an opponent’s tell, and that more often I was thinking of others’ betting patterns. He made a great point that when it comes to tells there is a big difference between tourneys and cash games, namely, that in tourneys many players are less likely to reveal them.
He also shared a neat story with me about interacting some with Bill Perkins over recent months, including recently during Perkins’s deep run in the “One Drop High Rollers” event where he finished third.
Zach had analyzed some earlier video of Perkins from High Stakes Poker and the two had gotten in touch afterwards. Edwards has probably improved as a player in several ways over the last couple of years, and while I didn’t get a chance to see any of the tournament last week, I don’t think it is too farfetched to say he might have benefited from Zach’s analysis and advice, perhaps in a hand or three.
After we parted, I joked on Twitter that while I enjoyed our meeting, I didn’t want to say more and give away any “post-meal tells” (an allusion to Zach’s “post-bet tells” category). “I soul read you for IBS” he replied. (I am glad to report his read of my gastrointestinal system was incorrect.)
Will be back over there later this afternoon for Day 1 of the $2,500 2-7 Triple Draw (Event No. 59). Having memories of one of my favorite events I ever covered at the WSOP way back in 2008 when F-Train and I were on this same event. John Phan won it and David Sklansky took sixth, and a couple of months afterward I wrote a post here about the contrasting styles of those two.
As always, head over to PokerNews to follow along.
Yesterday I was back on Event No. 55, the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship, which ultimately ended up drawing a bigger than expected field of 132. I sincerely thought the turnout might be down from last year’s 108 given the fact that both the $111,111 buy-in One Drop High Rollers event and the $25K NLHE 6-max. had just completed in the days leading up to the PPC. But such was not the case.
They played down to 78 players last night in this deep-structured tourney. I was working with Donnie and Chad yesterday, and at one point Donnie noted how the tournament is especially fun to cover given the fact that there isn’t this rush toward the final table that marks even the large-field, lower buy-in events. There’s a lot of play early, but there’s a lot on the line, too, as only the top 16 make the cash.
It’s almost as if the “bubble” in the event begins relatively soon after the tournament starts. There are several levels early on where one could reasonably say the tourney plays like a deep-stacked cash game. They start with 150,000 chips and tiny blinds and limits, so the threat of elimination on Day 1 isn’t really that great and there were very few instances of players being all in and at risk. Indeed, only a handful of players failed to survive Day 1.
But once we got about halfway through Day 2, there were numerous players who had gotten short enough that even the limit games presented situations where they could find themselves all in by the end of a hand. That said, since the game isn’t strictly no-limit even those with the super short stacks had legitimate opportunities to work their way back into the mix and avoid elimination -- i.e., they could find spots in which their risk was less and not necessarily have to rely on winning a few flips in a row to double up multiple times and get back to a workable stack.
So like I say, it’s a little like they’re on the bubble from about 100 players all of the way down to 16, if that makes sense. If it doesn’t, then let me refer back to the fact that I’m running on fumes at the moment, intellect-wise.
John Juanda provides the most ready example of what I’m referring to from yesterday, having slipped all of the way down to less than 4,000 (not even a single big bet) at one point after dinner, yet somehow worked himself back up over 120,000 with less than an hour to go, then doubled that before night’s end to be sitting with an average stack.
The highlight of Day 2, though, was Doyle Brunson’s survival in a late-night situation that saw him all in a NLHE hand with pocket jacks on a 10-3-9 board versus Cole South’s set of treys, then the turn and river bringing two more tens to enable Tex Dolly to survive. Kind of reminded me a little of Brunson’s “miracle” stories with regard to his health and survival from over the years such as are included in his autobiography. He returns today to a stack of 265,000, which is just a little above the average as well.
Like I say, I’m off today and in fact won’t be rejoining the $50K coverage when I return, as I’ll be moving over to a couple more non-hold’em tourneys (2-7 Triple Draw and more PLO) before the Main Event event arrives. But I will be checking in over at PokerNews to see how things continue to play out in the PPC, including keeping an eye on how Brunson fares.
Okay, need to sign off and get a little rest so as to refuel for this final push. In fact, this talk of running low on fuel reminds me that the rental car is also in need of a fill-up. That’ll have to be a first order of business today, as the consequences of being stranded on the side of the road with an empty tank amid these 115-plus degree days could be especially dire.
The big board was showing 123 had entered by the time play concluded at nearly 3 a.m., with late registration continuing until they kick off today. I’d say of that field there were perhaps only a half-dozen or so players in the entire tourney whom none of us recognized.
All of the usual suspects were there, of course. I don’t even have to name them, as most anyone reading this blog knows who they are. But when the day was done, I found myself thinking primarily about one in particular, Doyle Brunson (pic via PokerNews).
Event No. 55 marked Brunson’s first event this summer. He’s scaled back his participation at the WSOP considerably over the last couple of years, only playing a half-dozen prelims a couple of years ago (plus the Main), then last year playing in just three events prior to the ME, including the $50K PPC.
Brunson turns 80 in a little over a month, which means he probably has at least a couple of decades on the next oldest player in the field. I’m guessing Konstantin Puchkov (born in 1952) might be the nearest in age to Brunson among those playing the event. Meanwhile, Brunson is more than a half-century older than a lot of the field, yet to reach their 30s.
Early in the day Josh posted about Brunson having tweeted about his numerous side bets for the event. He reported having made 28 different bets on himself in this one, including bets on him cashing, final tabling, and winning. If he were to win the event, he says, he’d earn an extra $800K on top of whatever the first prize turns out to be (probably $1.7 million or so). If he doesn’t, it’ll cost him between $80K and $140K, he says.
Brunson had a good first day, chipping up all night and building a starting stack of 150,000 up to 232,000 by bagging time, good enough to sneak inside the top 15. It’s a long event -- five days -- and still a long way until it gets down to 16 or so and the money. But Tex Dolly is off to a good start.
I reported just one small hand of stud he played with Jennifer Harman, sitting to his left, thinking as I did about the “Big Game” in Bobby’s Room and how those two had played many stud hands over the years.
While I tend not to pull for anyone in events I cover, it’s difficult not to want to see Brunson continue to accumulate and advance. I got the sense yesterday a lot of his opponents feel similarly, even if they’re trying their hardest to get his chips in order to help their own causes.
Back at it in a little while. No rest for the weary. Then again, seeing Brunson continue on down a road much, much longer than the ones most of us have journeyed tends to inspire one more than a little to press forward.
As always, head over to PokerNews to follow along.
Event No. 50 rapidly whittled down from 20 returners to a final table of six -- faster than we’d anticipated, in fact. Once we reached that stage, my blogging partner Josh and I had a decision to make.
PokerNews has been doing hand-for-hand coverage at most hold’em and Omaha final tables this summer, though have not done so for non-flop games (e.g., stud and draw variants). For the 10-game mix we had a choice, then, how to approach the reporting, and we decided to do what might be called “round-for-round” coverage of the action.
We knew reporting hand-for-hand was neither feasible nor really desirable, with the stud games in particular being too involved to accommodate that sort of reporting. But we also wanted to try to give a somewhat comprehensive report on how the final table was evolving through the various games. So we each took turns reporting on the six-hand rounds of a given game, providing successive “round reports” that highlighted the biggest hands of each six-hand sequence while updating chip counts frequently.
I liked how it all turned out, and if you read through it all you can see how Brandon Wong eventually moved from the middle to the front, then maintained his advantage to the end including through heads-up play with Sebastian Saffari.
Was kind of funny at first as I had initially drawn PLO, NLHE, and other “easier” games to cover while Josh kept getting stud/8, Badugi, and the like. But after one cycle through the 10 games we found a way to switch off after a bustout so we each ended up reporting on all 10 of the games more than once during the nearly seven-hour final table (including a one-hour break for dinner).
Boatman, of course, is one of the original “Hendon Mob” along with his younger brother, Ross, Ram Vaswani, and Joe Beevers, a group of Londoners who became early pioneers when it came to getting sponsorships for poker players while also founding the famous forum and what has become a vital database of tourney results. The Mob’s story gets covered somewhat in Victoria Coren’s For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair With Poker (reviewed here).
Lots of joy being expressed in and around the mothership last night at Boatman’s triumph, as well as over Twitter where I’ve already seen dozens of congratulatory tweets aimed toward Boatman. The 58-year-old topped a field of 2,247 to win his first bracelet and a $546,080 first prize.
Indeed, when it came to Day 32 of the 2013 World Series of Poker, the 10-game mix finishing up probably ended up below the fold (so to speak) as there were at least three other more attention-grabbing stories unfolding. Boatman’s win was one. The completion of Event No. 47, the $111,111 buy-in One Drop High Rollers NLHE event was another. And the continued playing out of Event No. 51, the $10,000 Ladies NLHE Championship (with a $9,000 discount for women) was a third.
To be honest, the One Drop High Rollers event barely registered with me these last few days, as I wasn’t assigned to it and thus couldn’t really follow it that much.
I know the turnout of 166 players well exceeded expectations and made it necessary for the event to spill over into a fourth day of play. Antonio Esfandiari appeared primed at one point to follow his Big One for One Drop win from a year ago with another in this one, but fell in fourth. It was interesting to see businessman Bill Perkins break through to take third and notch a big cash in one of these, too.
In the end Anthony Gregg outlasted Chris Klodnicki to take the title and more than $4.8 million first prize, thus again disproportionately throwing out of whack all comparisons when it comes to the bracelet events, their prizes, and their significance. Klodnicki, by the way, has racked up close to $4 million the last two summers at the WSOP without even winning a bracelet. He won $2,985,495 last night after winning nearly $900K for finishing second in the $50K Poker Players Championship to Michael Mizrachi a year ago.
I suppose from the outside it just felt like another “high roller” event on the schedule, kind of a specialty tourney reserved only for a certain percentage of players at a given festival that have grown increasingly common over the last three years.
The $10K buy-in for men did its job, apparently, as after three straight years of a handful of men playing in the event there were none among the 954 who registered this time around. That result helped support what seems like a commonly-held view now that the “ladies discount” idea was probably a good one.
I chatted briefly with WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla yesterday, and at one point in our conversation I noted how no men had played in the Ladies tourney this year. “You won’t have any stories to write,” said Dalla to me, and I nodded. Afterwards I thought how I was kind of tired of writing that story, anyway, and was glad I didn’t have to this time.
Barbara Enright was among those cashing in the Ladies event yesterday, finishing 25th. The Poker Hall of Famer won the Ladies event in both 1986 and 1994 (when it was a seven-card stud tournament), won a bracelet in an open event in 1996 (pot-limit hold’em), and is, of course, the only woman ever to make a WSOP Main Event final table, having finished fifth in 1995.
Also cashing yesterday was Danielle “dmoongirl” Andersen who finished 44th. Andersen is one of the three principal figures featured in the documentary BET RAISE FOLD: The Story of Online Poker, which happens to be having its official release today.
I had a chance to view the film earlier this month, and wrote a review of it for Flushdraw a week ago. I enjoyed it very much, and appreciate the way director Ryan Firpo and his cohorts presented the world of online poker and in particular the experiences of those who have managed to make careers out of playing online.
I actually spoke at length with Firpo at one point over a year ago about the project, in particular about poker’s significant place in American culture. That point that is made early in the film with people like Dr. Pauly, Dalla, David Schwartz, and Jesse May among those helping with the explanation. So even though I’m not really directly involved in the film, I’m still kind of excited for Firpo and the others who are.
I think the film is successful in many ways, though, and spell out a few of them in the review. Andersen’s story is the most interesting, of course, getting the most attention during the film’s running time.
Incidentally, last Sunday morning I finished the last edits on my review and after it was posted I went to the Rio to get ready for a day of work. I was climbing the steps in back when I looked up to see Andersen sitting there with her smart phone as she waited to play an event that day.
I introduced myself and told her how I’d just reviewed BET RAISE FOLD and she already knew about it as someone had messaged her. Was kind of uncanny to run into her at that moment after having been watching and thinking about the movie for the previous several hours and days. She was very nice and told me a little about the whirlwind she’s experienced as the center of attention of a film of such particular interest to everyone at the WSOP.
Like I say, the film is being officially “released” today insofar as it will become available online some time this morning, so check out the BET RAISE FOLD site for information about ordering.
I’m back at the Rio later this afternoon for more mixed-game fun as I’m helping with Day 1 of Event No. 55, the $50,000 Poker Players Championship. Just eight games to deal with in that one, with Badugi and 2-7 NL Draw omitted from the mix.
The $50K event was first introduced as a H.O.R.S.E. event in 2006, subsequently being dubbed the “Poker Players Championship” and awarding a trophy in memory of the first winner, David “Chip” Reese, who died in 2007. Here are the winners, first prizes, and entrants for the first seven of them:
With everything else going on – including the final days of both the Ladies event and the $25K NLHE 6-max. -- the $50K getting started probably won’t make it “above the fold” either for the day. Should feature all the big names, though, and again I’ll be curious to see what the turnout ends up being, especially coming right on the heels of that One Drop High Roller.
Click on over to PokerNews’ live reporting today to follow it all.
They’re down to 20 now from a starting field of 372, and last year’s 12th-place finisher in the WSOP Main Event Scott Abrams leads everyone at the moment. In addition to Abrams, Robert Williamson III returns to a healthy stack, while Greg Raymer, Bruno Fitoussi, and Konstantin Puchkov are among those on the short side who’ll need to gather some chips early.
The tourney was fun to follow, although frequently challenging. Tables all start with the same game but then change games every orbit, meaning it doesn’t take long for all to get out of sync and be playing different games as you move from one to the next. Thus is it necessary when sidling up to a table first to get a peek at the stack of black, rectangular placards indicating the different games and see which was on top, then follow the action from there.
At times one could tell players and dealers were having to slow down and remind each other what the games and stakes were. There were frequent references to laminated copies of the complicated structure sheet throughout the day and night. Comments were made about certain games being mostly foreign to some (especially Badugi). I’m sure there were errors made here and there as well, although we couldn’t always pick up on those.
Scotty Nguyen busted in 21st late last night in a stud hand, for instance, and I actually think from something he said on seventh street after looking up at the placard that he might have possibly thought the game was stud/8. Perhaps he did not, though, as I’m convinced with Nguyen almost anything is possible, baby, including feinting what might appear to be the making of such a slip.
That said, I do think it’s true that even the best players can occasionally get a little mixed up by the 10-game mix.
Of the 10 games, four are flop games (NLHE, LHE, PLO, O/8), three are stud games (razz, stud, stud/8), and three are draw games (2-7 NL single draw, 2-7 fixed limit triple draw, and Badugi).
As an observer, if you don’t get a glimpse of the placard right away it’s easy to be confused by what you’re watching as a hand play out, even though the larger categorical distinctions (flop, stud, draw) are stark enough. But it can still be challenging, say, to note all of the cards coming out in a stud/8 hand and the sequence in which they appear plus catch all the bets and everything else, especially if you start out with any uncertainty about which stud game is being played.
I found myself thinking a lot about the draw games, and how from the standpoint of an observer they appear a much more abstract form of poker insofar as it is only the drawing and betting that signifies and no community cards or upcards. We know nothing of the hands, and so the decisions made regarding bets and draws come to represent the terms of conflict between players, providing evidence of certain hand strengths but no actual cards onto which the viewer can fix.
From the players’ view, the draw games aren’t as abstract as they do have cards to look at in their hand and thus knowledge about what cards their opponents cannot have. I think on some level there exists a great deal of overlap between the 10 games for the players as far as making hands and the application of tournament strategy is concerned.
Was a long day and I enjoyed getting a chance to work with Josh before he leaves in a few days to start production on his film, Multiplex.All American Dave for dinner, which was definitely as good as advertised by all of the players, staff, and media who’ve been championing it. I had the Dijon Almond Chicken while Vera got the Mango Wasabi Glazed Tuna, and there was a nice mix of vegetables to go along with our dishes including broccoli, asparagus, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, plus avocado slices and brown rice. Delicious.
The convenience of ordering -- they’ll bring the food right to the table, or you can walk out the back of the Rio and pick it up -- makes it a great option for players. It seems wrong, actually, that a healthy alternative such as this should be such a unique thing, but in any case it’s nice to have a not-so-difficult way to get a few veggies while working 14-15 hour days like this.
Vera and I got to pack a lot into the days she was here, and I was grateful for having a little time off to enjoy with her. Just took her back to the airport this morning, and so will be riding out these last couple of weeks solo. Hard to believe the Main Event is already right around the corner, starting a week from today (!).
Meanwhile, if you’re curious to see how the 10-game mix plays out and whether any more Badugi hands get reported, check the live reporting today on the PokerNews blog.
Can’t really write too much this morning, though, as I’ve had to deal with some unplanned stuff here at the home-away-from-home (short version: a room change was needed), and so time is tight. Thus I can’t really chronicle all that Vera and I did yesterday as we enjoyed running around Las Vegas.
We spent the afternoon shopping up at the Fashion Show Mall on the Strip, then in the early evening we were able to meet up with my cousin’s husband, Tim, who just happens to be in town this week for a conference. He also just happens to have been born in Las Vegas, having lived here as a child through the ’70s. Thus he had a few stories to tell about how Vegas was during those years, as well as some other second-hand anecdotes via his parents who had lived here from the early ’60s until their move.
Our timing was again good, as we had just walked out of Binion’s when the lighted canopy show featuring Queen’s “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” was cranking up. After that we had fun walking up and down the street, taking in all of the crazily costumed characters and other mostly-mild-but-a-little-wild mayhem.
A partial list of the cast included a couple of Transformers, KISS look-a-likes, Spider-Man, Tickle Me Elmo, Hello Kitty, people in full-feathered, head-to-toe Native American garb, other unidentifiable Renaissance Fair-looking types, lots of skin, a few pasties struggling to cover, and a band (Arena) also sweatily covering (with a little less difficulty) Van Halen, AC/DC, and the like.
On our way back through Binion’s I also showed Vera the lonely poker room (trying but not succeeding to get one table going), and the walls full of pictures of WSOP winners (through 2005) and Poker Hall of Fame members (also through 2005).
Vera is around until tomorrow, so she will get to do some more shopping today while I work. I think also we’ll try to get her over to the Rio for my dinner break tonight so we can test out that All-American Dave food everyone has been raving about at the WSOP this summer. Meanwhile, as much as the time off has been great, I looking forward to getting back on the floor to see how the 10-game mix event plays out today and tomorrow.
If you’re curious as well, click on over to PokerNews for the live reports.
As I mentioned I might do yesterday, I took her over to Red Rock Canyon, the National Conservation Area located about a half-hour west of Las Vegas. We drove the 13-mile loop that goes counterclockwise around and through the site, stopping frequently to look at the various red rock formations, stone walls, desert flora (not so much fauna), and other amazing things to look at along the way.
That photo above is of the stumps sticking up out of the sand that dot the landscape throughout the site. Perhaps it is due to having watched too many horror movies as an adolescent, but to me they resemble hands reaching up out of the earth, a prelude to a zombie-led apocalypse.
We snapped a bunch more pics, of course, and I took a few tries at using that panorama function on the iPhone. Here’s one (click to enlarge):
Last summer F-Train and I hiked the Calico Tanks route which took a couple of hours to complete. But Vera and I mostly stayed in the air conditioned vehicle, the triple-digit temps making it less than desirable to be outside of it for very long.
Had a classic rock station on the radio which at times provided a kind of uncanny soundtrack for our journey, especially when “Stairway to Heaven” and “Us and Them” were playing. Could imagine Pink Floyd having set up and playing “Live at Pompeii”-style out in the middle of it, the “black... black... black... black... and blue... blue... blue... blue...” echoing all around us.
They mentioned at one point how the show compiled bits performed over their entire career which by now must span three decades at least, and I realized I had seen at least couple of them before somewhere along the way, including the gory, seemingly botched sawing of a woman in half bit.
I guess between Red Rock Canyon and the show, the day’s theme was to challenge the senses, especially sight, with the uncommon or hard-to-comprehend.
Today the schedule includes seeing some more sights (and sites), including a trip downtown to Fremont Street where Vera has never been. We had thoughts of checking out the Librace Museum -- a site much recommended to us -- though have discovered it closed a while back.
I’m sure we’ll find plenty to see and do, however, including more visions that challenge the idea that seeing is believing.
I said yesterday how I was hoping to gather some color to report, having found myself with a day off after a week’s worth of 15-hour days reporting from the World Series of Poker.
Part of the plan also was to catch up on sleep, as I’d probably been averaging around 3-4 hours most nights during that first week. Unfortunately after finally hitting the sack around 4 a.m. Tuesday morning, the hotel phone was ringing promptly at 8 a.m. with some applesauce about the bill going forward not being paid.
“No, this room isn’t paid for,” insisted the person the other end, soon forcing me into full consciousness. Soon I was dressed and talking in person with my accuser, and while eventually all was settled (they were mistaken) I’d lost my chance to sleep away the morning.
Ended up doing some work in the room, then by early afternoon had enough energy to do some errands, including on a whim deciding to visit the Palms just to see what the poker room looked like now that they’ve moved it to a new location.
The room remains quite modest with only a few tables, although the ambience is better than it was previously. Instead of a closed in, smallish space, it now sits on the edge of the sportsbook which now features an amazing wrap-around screen that extends nearly 180 degrees left to right, positioned high on the wall overlooking the bettors (see above). Rather than being a series of connected screens, it’s one continuous one with all the games, races, and wagering opportunities on display.
It being the early afternoon, there were just a couple of $2-$4 low limit tables going, and I decided to sit down for a short while. The new screen was the initial topic of conversation, with a dealer opining that it would be fun to show the Super Bowl on it with a long, continuous, wide shot of the entire field end-to-end. I agreed it would be an interesting way to see a game.
The old timers were at the table, and I soon realized I was about to pick up some of that color I was looking for. Most played there frequently, perhaps every day, with many referring to each other and the dealers by their first names. One gregarious fellow kept starting conversations with people by asking them how old they were, which brought the whole idea of aging to the foreground as a kind of theme.
He’d bet and raise a lot, too, regardless of his hand, and the first couple of times I’d three-bet him he referred to me as “big shot” as he called my reraise. It was only after I saw him betting into a fellow on the river who’d already tabled his better hand that I realized he’d entered into the still-functioning-but-no-longer-comprehending stage of drunkenness.
At one point he was quizzing the fellow to my left about his age. “What year were you born?” he asked. “1953,” came the reply. “What month were you born in?” “September... I’ll be 60 in a couple of months.”
The interviewer was interrupted as he had to be reminded the action was on him. He folded, then continued. “September you say?! What day?” “September 21st,” was the answer.
“Ah, okay okay.” He leaned back, suddenly looking tired. “I ask because my father was born in September, too... September 8, 1932.” He’d pronounced the year like it had much more significance than anyone realized, enunciating carefully so as not to slur. Nine.. teen.. thirty... TWO!
“Why?” he asked. There was a pause suggesting my neighbor hadn’t expected the question. “Twenty more years to play poker,” he said, the inflection of his voice making it sound like he was shrugging even if he weren’t.
“Ah well that’s all right then,” was the verbalized judgment, although the questioner didn’t sound too convinced. He’d already established that he, too, was 60, and he added something that sounded like he thought that was enough life to live, although I didn’t quite catch what he’d said precisely.
It wasn’t a competitive game, and without even picking up too many hands I managed to win a dozen big bets’ worth without much trouble. One of the ladies at the other end of the table said something like “I have a rule... no set, no bet,” indicating the general passivity of all. There were various promotions -- “aces cracked,” “high hand,” etc. -- occupying everyone’s attentions at least as much as the hands being played. One Asian woman made a straight flush and got a bonus for that, putting a lasting smile on her face and faint ones on the others, too.
At another point I found myself sitting between two other elderly Asian men. The one on my left was asking the one on my right the name of a female dealer sitting at another table. He knew her, but couldn’t remember her name. The fellow on my right was the oldest of the bunch, and the most feeble, too, and had difficulty understanding what exactly he was being asked.
Finally he figured out what the question was, and eventually the pair got a floorperson to supply the missing name. A moment later, the older man on my right leaned forward to ask a question of his own.
“What... do you wanna f*ck with her?”
The one on my left acted like he didn’t hear the question. As did I, although if anyone were watching me my widened eyes might’ve given away that I had.
I thought about the dealers a little, all of whom were fine at managing the game and amiable custodians of the little social club of retirees. They knew several of these players, too, and I suppose some of these people have become somewhat significant supporting cast in their lives as well.
On the one hand, the game exhibited a desperate seeming pointlessness that’s hard to ignore, the kind of thing that made the idea of “twenty more years to play poker” a decidedly less than attractive fate to consider. But there’s also something meaningful going on, too, in the time these people share together sitting around a table hoping to pick up aces and lose with them.
In any event, was interesting to sit in on the old timers’ game for a short while. I’d like to play more serious poker while I’m here, especially after having had some success early in the trip, but as the old guys kind of helped point out, time is limited.
I’d like to take her over to Red Rock Canyon to see what I got to see last summer when F-Train and I visited there. But the temps appear unfavorable for hiking, so we may just drive through and enjoy the sights from within the comfort of an air-conditioned automobile. We might try to got to Penn & Teller tonight, too, one of those shows we’ve thought about seeing every summer but never have.
Whatever we do, I’ll be greatly valuing our time we get to spend together. ’Cos that’s where the meaning comes from in this life, I think -- the getting together -- as we each otherwise individually play our hands.
Am moving slow today thanks to a long one yesterday covering the final day of the Event No. 41, the $5,000 short-handed PLO ultimately won by longtime online star Steve “gboro780” Gross. Kind of a first big live win for Gross who’s had some good cashes but no big breakthrough tourney win on the level of a WSOP bracelet event. A nice guy and super talented player, too, so it was fun to see him get there last night.
All of the players at the final table were likable, although the greatest character had to be sixth-place finisher Nader Arfai who was entertaining his tables throughout the tournament. Arfai was on the tight side and probably didn’t stand too great of a chance to get all of the way to the end and win, although weird things happen in PLO events sometimes.
Got the sense it didn’t matter too much to Arfai, though, that he came up a few spots shy of the ultimate goal in this one. He'd gotten more than his money’s worth already, I think.
I’d overheard the 54-year-old telling others more than once how he’d been coming out to the WSOP for several years with an intention to play an event, but always was called away on business and thus never did. Thus this event was the first one he ever managed to play, and he ended up final tabling the sucker. He seemed to be having a blast throughout as well, joking around with players and dealers alike in a way that all seemed to enjoy.
He got a big grin out of Gross at one point yesterday when they were between hands and he pointed down at the felt in front of them. They’d been playing together at that table for some time, seated side-by-side in the 3 and 4 seats. Arfai was drawing an imaginary line along the top of the WSOP logo with the big chip in the middle of it separating the first two letters and the last two. From their perspective the acronym was printed facing upside down, and Arfai was moving his finger back and forth over the “W” and “S” of “WSOP.”
“I’ve been trying to figure this out all day,” he said to Gross. “What does ‘SM’ stand for?”
Gross looked up from the felt at Arfai. “Are you serious?” he said, and when Arfai cracked a grin he immediately realized he wasn’t, and both laughed.
I thought a little while after about someone pointing at the WSOP logo and asking what it stood for -- not literally, but as in what did the World Series of Poker symbolize or represent to him or her. And how depending on the person replying the answer would probably be different in every case.
For Arfai, the WSOP stood for a chance to have fun and do something that absolutely was not business (whatever that was for him). In any case, it’s always fun to see players having fun, and by night’s end there was a significant rail of supporters for several of the players, most especially for Gross, that helped cause more grins and good times. Also cool was to see second-place finisher Salman Behbehani jump in to be part of the crowd behind Gross for his winner’s photo.
That’s a couple of final tables for me now since coming out, both of which involved reporting hand-for-hand coverage, something which PokerNews has gravitated back toward doing in the hold’em and pot-limit Omaha events when circumstances allow for it.
On one level doing hand-for-hand reporting can actually be somewhat fun and even satisfying, especially when the day is done and you’ve helped produce that comprehensive chronicle of everything that happened. But as I’ve discussed here before more than once (most recently here), there are pros and cons, I think.
In any case, like I say, there will be no reporting on hands today. Gonna spend the day looking for some color instead.
So asked Shaun Deeb of me with about 40 players left in Event No. 41, the $5,000 PLO 6-max. event. I glanced at Daniel Negreanu’s table and he was still there, albeit completely obscured by his long-sleeved hooded jacket. Uncharacteristically for him, he had the hood up over his head, as photographed to the left for PokerNews/WSOP.
I jerked a thumb in Negreanu’s direction. Daniel wasn’t out. He was in, both the tourney and a large, heavy plaid cocoon.
“Keeping warm,” I said. “Good idea,” answered Deeb.
When I landed at McCarran Airport last week, I tweeted that I’d arrived, noting how my first order of business was to remove the jacket I’d been wearing aboard the plane. The hot, dry Vegas air was immediately apparent upon my first exposure outside the airport, and as usual the temps have been hovering in the 90s or low 100s for much of the time I’ve been here so far.
Several responded to be prepared to put my jacket back on once I’d made it to the Rio. It’s cold, they said. Real cold.
People have complained about it being too cold in the spacious ballrooms of the Rio where the World Series of Poker and other associated tourneys play out every single summer I’ve come out, so no one was telling me anything I didn’t already know. Sure enough, when I visited the Rio that night and entered the mostly empty Amazon room where a couple of tourneys had reached their end stages, there was a chill in the air. But I had my jacket and a sweater, and as I was writing about last week, everything seemed in its place in an almost comfortable sort of way. Including the chill.
Last night we were stationed in the far right corner of the Amazon. Again, like just about every day I’ve been there so far, the Amazon was mostly empty with Day 2s playing out in the corners and Day 3s finishing up on the main and secondary stages.
Players started complaining about the cold mid-afternoon, and after a while it became apparent that it really did seem colder than usual. I started out in a heavy shirt, then added the sweater, then added the jacket. All of the players were wrapped up in jackets and hoods, and while no one in our event had taken to wearing gloves, we were hearing stories of some in other events who had.
I’d say Negreanu finally reached a boiling point, but the metaphor seems inappropriate. After talking to the TDs about the situation a few times, he’d return from the dinner break with a digital thermometer, just to get an idea how cold it really was.
I’d mentioned to my reporting colleague Matt W. at one point that I’d guessed it to have been at least 15 degrees’ difference between the hallway and inside the Amazon. “I thought walking in I could see my breath,” I joked, and while I couldn’t actually do that, the change was so abrupt it did uncannily feel like stepping outdoors during winter rather than coming inside during summer.
Negreanu later tweeted the results of his test. I think he might’ve deleted the photo since, but I believe it read 60 degrees. Not sure if it was actually that cold in there, but the lower 60s is likely.
No one it seemed could avoid talking about the cold. Nolan Dalla wrote a humorous post about the cold on his blog. AlCantHang compiled various tweets about the situation for PokerListings -- some serious, some less so. Jess Welman earned the highest grin-producing score by making reference to the nine bracelets won by Canadians this year, as passed along by Bryan Devonshire:
“There’s a reason why Canadians are winning all the bracelets: they’re more acclimated to the weather.”
Once Negreanu busted from our event in 34th yesterday, he voiced further complaints over Twitter, and the response was that someone had apparently fiddled with the thermostat yesterday -- that is, we weren’t all imagining things -- and that it would be set at 74 going forward.
I return to the Rio today to cover the third and final day of Event No. 41, currently led by Steve “gboro780” Gross. We’ll see if it is less cold inside the Amazon today. And if not, how well people keep their cool.
A ton of familiar, top-level pros played this one, although to be honest my colleagues and I have been doing this long enough that sometimes it feels like everyone is familiar on some level. Just looking through the list of 117 players who survived to make it to today’s Day 2, I found myself thinking of how I’ve probably at least reported one hand on nearly every single one of them before (no shinola), thus ensuring their names are at least familiar to me, and for a lot of them their faces are, too.
Speaking of recognizing players, the theme of the day emerged early on yesterday after I’d made several rounds to gather names and start reporting. It was more than an hour into the event, perhaps even longer, when suddenly I realized I’d passed by a nearby table a dozen times without recognizing Sammy Farha sitting at it, playing his first event of the summer.
Every year a common question gets asked a few weeks into the WSOP: “Has anyone seen Farha?” He generally doesn’t play many preliminary events, although he always plays the Main. Last year he played just two prelims, and the year before four. Among the few he does play are always the bigger buy-in PLO events, though, and so it wasn’t a surprise at all to see him making his 2013 debut in Event No. 41.
What startled me, though, was how I didn’t trust myself initially that it was in fact Farha. That is him above, of course, as photographed by Joe Giron for PokerNews and the WSOP yesterday.
He was wearing a dark t-shirt and jeans and early in the day had sunglasses on. Later he’d remove those and occasionally wear dark-framed eyeglasses, and after being quiet for the first few hours he became more animated, eventually emerging as that Cheshire-cat-grinning, life-of-the-party character with whom many of us are familiar from his TV appearances. The fact that he began accumulating chips later on might have helped him suddenly seem more like himself, too (if that makes sense).
I realized later that while Farha looks great, he is like the rest of us a decade older than he was when he made that first, most lasting impression upon us all during ESPN’s coverage of the 2003 Main Event. We all look a little different than we did then, perhaps markedly so. I thought it was interesting, though, that I’d struggled initially to trust my recognition of him.
Soon after that I found myself doing a similar double-take with Andy Bloch. It’s been a couple of summers now since Bloch has donned his once signature big black cowboy hat and sported Full Tilt Poker logos, so like with Farha, Bloch’s current appearance doesn’t necessarily match the image with which most of us first got to know him.
After that it was Brock Parker who stymied us for a short while after having shaved his beard this week. Is that him, we asked? I covered one of his bracelet wins back in 2009, the year he won two, and like everyone else have grown accustomed to spotting his bald head and full beard in tourney fields. Took a moment or two extra, but again came recognition.
I think I might be feeling a kind of long-range effect of repeating the sequence year after year, with the Rio and specifically the Amazon Room being the only place in the world where I keep seeing a certain group of people over and over and over again. In any case, today I’ll get to see Farha, Bloch, and Parker again, along with many others for Day 2. Click over and follow along today, and see how many of the players are familiar to you.
Afterwards my blogging partner Rich and I marveled a little at how many of the WSOP Player of the Year winners seem to be thriving in 2013. In fact, four of them have won bracelets, counting 2004 WSOP POY winner Daniel Negreanu’s Main Event win at WSOP Asia Pacific. Madsen won the WSOP POY in 2006, Tom Schneider (who has won two bracelets this year) won it in 2007, and Erick Lindgren (who won a bracelet this week) won WSOP POY in 2008. Additionally, after the event completed last night, Jess Welman tweeted that seven of the nine WSOP POY winners have made final tables this year.
I liked Rich’s way of describing the trend. “Year of the Player of the Year,” he said. That pic above, by the way, is from the start of the 2008 WSOP (via Pokerati) and shows Madsen’s WSOP POY banner on the right and Schneider standing in the spot where his poster eventually would be hung that year.
I’ve been on two events thus far since I’ve arrived, won by Lindgren and Madsen. Good players repeatedly performing well in poker tournaments always inspires lots of talk about the game’s skill component, with results such as the ones we’ve seen at the WSOP this summer often becoming cited examples in a long running argument that the rewards in poker ultimately correspond to players’ relative decision-making abilities -- i.e., that poker is, indeed, “a skill game.”
Such results do not, however, work as evidence to support arguments minimizing luck’s role in the game. As dominating as Madsen was yesterday, there was a hand in which he was not involved that saw a short-stacked Scott Clements fail to earn a double-up after getting his last chips in on the turn with a 90% chance of winning only to bust in fifth.
For a good while before that hand, it appeared somewhat likely that Clements -- who like Madsen had won two bracelets prior to this event, both in Omaha games in fact -- would be the one eventually to meet Madsen heads up. Besides being the most accomplished players remaining, they appeared the strongest, too, and so it was hard not to anticipate such a conclusion.
Such is often the case, that even in tourneys where a winner’s skill appears to have been unequivocally demonstrated, one still can’t deny the chance element in poker, especially short term. Sure poker “aintluck” entirely (as the poker news site says). But it ain’t all skill, either.
By the way, that Phil Hellmuth blow-up I alluded to in yesterday’s post was in fact directed toward Madsen shortly after the latter had eliminated him.
Amid Hellmuth’s petulance -- which included him calling Madsen the “worst f***ing player ever” -- Hellmuth asked a question of the tourney’s eventual winner.
“How do you even have all those chips?”
Madsen didn’t reply, but the actual answer to such a question is always complicated, no matter how good the player with the chips is.
I’m back on another PLO event today, picking up Day 1 of the $5K PLO 6-max. (Event No. 41) on which I’ll be reporting from start to finish, an event that no doubt will have Madsen and Clements in the field. The higher buy-in will ensure a number of other strong players will be there as well when play begins later this afternoon. Click on over if you get the chance.
Was kind of an interesting scene just as the tourney reached the money bubble with 55 players remaining. Hand-for-hand play had commenced, and as it turned out it would take probably 20 hands or so for another bust to occur. PLO is definitely an action game, but without antes the short stacks can endure folding hands between the blinds for a lot longer, especially when the game is nine-handed.
About halfway through that sequence came the tipoff of Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. Nearly all 55 of the remaining players and pretty much every one of the reporters and staff as well were interested seeing how the game would play out, and so many were as much attuned to the large screen televisions on either side of the tourney as to the hands being played on the bubble.
During the break many of us assembled in front of one of the TVs, and I took a few pictures, including experimenting a little with the “panorama” setting on the iPhone:
I believe the bubble finally burst around halftime, then the game concluded just before the dinner break arrived, meaning players, staff, and reporters all continued to be distracted by the thrilling conclusion that saw Miami prevail.
I was pulling for the Spurs, and in fact threw a twenty on the money line just for kicks as a San Antonio win would give me more than three times my money back. My blogging partner Rich, meanwhile, took the less risky path of betting Miami and giving the points, and he ended up earning a small profit.
It was actually kind of a fun way to experience Game 7. Not as absorbing as watching without working, but still entertaining to be around lots of others whose attentions were divided like mine.
As mentioned, they’d ultimately play down to 19, with Jeff Madsen taking a big lead to carry into today’s final day of play. Among those cashing yesterday was Tom Schneider, his seventh cash already this summer (and we’re just now crossing the halfway mark).
Schneider went out in 60th, but his name was coming up amid table talk much later on as both Will Failla and Sexton sung his praises. The subject of the WSOP Player of the Year race came up again, too, with both of them agreeing they’d prefer the non-Vegas WSOPs not count (and thus Schneider’s stellar summer make him the current leader rather than WSOP APAC winner Daniel Negreanu).
Another player who was being talked about after his exit last night was Phil Hellmuth who finished 26th. That’s because as usual Hellmuth made his customary show of petulance following his bustout, which Rich ended up including in the report of his last hand.
I was working on another post at the time and couldn’t be too bothered to pay much attention to Hellmuth’s antics. I won’t deny that they can be entertaining, even after witnessing them dozens of times before. But these days I find myself thinking more and more how poor they reflect on the all-time leading WSOP bracelet winner.
I’ve mentioned before here on the blog that rumor that has floated around off and on over the last few years regarding Hellmuth perhaps becoming some sort of spokesperson or representative of the WSOP once its online site goes live for real money. I have no idea whether that talk has any basis in reality or not, but I can say I’d be plenty disappointed if such ever were to come to pass.
Never mind Hellmuth’s self-serving, community-destroying, decade-long endorsement of the most thoroughly corrupt online poker site ever, I can think of hundreds of others I’d rather choose to introduce new players to the game.
When the night finally ended, Sexton came around to give me and Rich a “good work today” and wish us good night. I found myself thinking again about Hellmuth and his departure.
Back at it today, where Rich and I will be seeing this sucker through and report on Day 3 of Event No. 35. Besides Madsen, Scott Clements, Ashton Griffin, Jarred Solomon, Christian Harder, and Sexton are perhaps the best known players remaining, although there are a number of other players of note still in the field including some other former bracelet winners.
Click on by and check it out, if you like, now that there’s no more basketball to distract you.
I was writing yesterday about playing a tournament downtown at the Golden Nugget, mentioning that momentary, minor feeling of trepidation I experienced sitting down to play a live event after not having done so for many months before.
Most years when I’ve come out to help report on the WSOP I felt something similar when stepping into the Rio that first day, especially early on. But I can’t really say I felt too much of that yesterday as I jumped in for my first full day of live blogging for PokerNews, helping out the team reporting on Event No. 32, the $5,000 NLHE 6-max. event.
I’ve mentioned to a few folks I’ve been reuniting with these last couple of days how it seems like the intervening months since the 2012 WSOP passed by more quickly than ever. Got to chat with both Jess Welman and Lukas Willems of the WSOP team yesterday and said as much to both of them, noting additionally how during this last year I’d been on a number of trips -- including several WSOP Circuit events -- which made coming out this year seem a little less momentous than in the past. Of course, both Jess and Lukas well knew what I’m describing, as they are both on the WSOP beat all year round.
So picking up with reporting on the second day the $5K 6-max. felt a little like stepping right back into something that hadn’t ever really ended for me. The PokerNews site had a redesign just before the start of the WSOP, and so there were a few small puzzles to solve yesterday to figure out how things were done. But none of it was too troubling, and I had both Jon and Mat to help me along the way, anyhow.
I’ve reported on this same $5K 6-max. event in the past, and it always proves to be one of the tougher events on the schedule, attracting both the toppermost tourney regs and the many online MTT and SNG grinders, too.
I remember well the 2009 WSOP when Matt Hawrilenko won this event, Josh Brikis took second, and Faraz Jaka third. There were 928 playing that year, with Hawrilenko earning over $1 million for first. The turnout slipped to 568 in 2010, though, and so for the past two years they’ve made it a $10K and drew fields of exactly 474 both times (with the winners each earning over $1 million).
Just 516 played the $5K 6-max. this year, meaning there’s a little over $600K up top for first. Of those 128 returned for yesterday’s Day 2, and 14 of them survived to night’s end, led by Jonathan Little, Allen Bari, and Vasile Buboi. Others still in the hunt include Ryan D’Angelo, Erick Lindgren, Andrew Robl, Jon Aguiar, and Lee Markholt.
There were tons of other notables among the eliminated and small-cashers yesterday. T.J. Cloutier was solidly in the mix right up until the money bubble, but he had a momentary slip-up to go out a few spots shy of the money. In his final hand, Cloutier four-bet jammed more than 60 big blinds with 8-7-suited and Mike Sowers was quick to call with his pair of kings.
“How’s that for ABC poker?” said Cloutier afterwards, as Jon reported. After losing the hand and during the counting down of chips, Cloutier expressed how he hadn’t realized Sowers had as much as he did and thus had him covered.
The table talk was generally engaging and fun for eavesdroppers. Lindgren was very chatty throughout the day and night, talking golf a lot with Craig Fishman near the end. Allen Bari could be heard occasionally sharing observations about life. Also Matt Glantz and Daniel Negreanu had a long, interesting conversation about the WSOP Player of the Year race and the inclusion of the WSOP Asia Pacific results.
Negreanu, of course, is at the center of that discussion currently as he leads the POY race thanks to his performance in Melbourne (including a Main Event win), with Tom Schneider’s second bracelet win this week putting him squarely behind Negreanu at the moment. Both Negreanu and Schneider are gunning for an unprecedented second WSOP POY title, by the way, with Negreanu having won in 2004 and Schneider in 2007.
The play was solid throughout, and obviously several steps up from what I experienced in my little tourney on Tuesday. There were a few situations like Cloutier’s bustout that perhaps appeared to ride that fine line between “move” and “mistake,” but as always I don’t think a person watching intermittent hands at a table can ever be wholly confident about such judgments.
It was a long day, and I suppose even after working a lot of events over the last several months I found myself dragging a bit as we crossed the 2 a.m. mark to work that 15th and final hour. Playing for 11 hours the day before probably didn’t help.
Will be back at the Rio today and the next several in a row, this time stepping over to join the coverage of Day 2 of the $3,000 pot-limit Omaha event in which 137 remain. Step over to the PokerNews live reporting page starting this afternoon to follow along.
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