The true test of a poker player is not how you react to winning, but how you react to losing. When you're winning, poker is easy. But you can't win every time; losing days are bound to happen. It's on those days when you find out what you're really made of.
What I've recently learned is that I'm ok with being card dead, and I'm ok with being outdrawn. I'm even ok with missing my own draws. But when you put two of those three together, the results on my pysche can be devastating. Monkey-tilt starts to set in.
This past Friday and Saturday, it was a combination of being run down by anyone and everyone, and not being able to run anyone down myself. Every single time I flopped a double-digit draw (for example, I hold Js9s on a board of Ks Qd 4s), I missed. Every time I held a big hand like bottom set, or a big pair, I got outdrawn by some pretty incredible draws. I kept my frusration in check when this happened on Friday, and managed to dig myself out of a $600 hole to finish up $16. When the process repeated itself the second day, my frustration boiled over -- especially since the game was as juicy as I'd ever seen it.
Before I left New York City, I did not tell my former co-workers why I was heading out to Vegas. Since many of them knew of my pokering ways, they naturally asked if I was going to play for a living. My response was always the same: "I don't hate myself enough to play for a living." This past weekend was an excellent reminder of that fact.
That's not to say I completely gave up. I took a day off, then went right back to the poker table and got $350 out of the game today. It didn't erase the losses from the weekend, but it did take the sting out of them.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The true test of a poker player is not how you react to winning, but how you react to losing. When you're winning, poker is easy. But you can't win every time; losing days are bound to happen. It's on those days when you find out what you're really made of.
Friday, July 25, 2008
It's easy to overlook mistakes when you're playing limit poker; they only cost you a few bets at a time. Yet unless the leaks that are responsible for these mistakes are fixed, the amount of money they will siphon off of your bankroll over time is quite significant.
One of the things I've added recently to my poker results spreadsheet is a column called "Donkey Play". As I'm playing a session, I try to think of all of the bets that I put into the pot (usually by calling, sometimes by betting or raising) where I didn't have the odds to chase and/or should have known I was beat and folded my hand. Then I enter the dollar amount of all of those bets as a red number in the column, and keep a running total of that amount over all of my sessions at the bottom of the spreadsheet.
The point of this is to show exactly how much money my mistakes have cost me, and to make me focus on playing optimally when I'm at the table. Deciding whether or not something is a "Donkey Play" is a highly subjective process. It's very easy to justify one's own donkey play as perfectly reasonable in light of the circumstances, but I try to take as hard (and as honest) a line with myself as I can. That's the only way to improve.
Otis wrote something today that reminded me of an aspect of working at the WSOP that I don't think I ever wrote about. After the Brasilia Room was finally opened (at the start of Week 3?), all of the Day 2 restarts were held there. In addition, the mega satellites and the nightly second chance tournament were held at the back of the room.
I never liked being in the Brasilia Room. There was a perceptible lack of energy in there, perhaps because spectators were limited halfway down the sides of the room, perhaps because there were only 65 tables instead of over 150. Whatever the reason, it just didn't feel like being at the WSOP the way the Amazon Room did.
On days that I was in the Brasilia Room, depending on which tournament I was covering I would either be at a media table in the back corner of the room or the front corner of the room. The back corner was fine with me. I could sit there in peace, converse with my field reporters as needed, and do my thing. Sitting at the front table, on the other hand, was a nightmare.
Let me set the table. As you walk down the hallway at the Rio towards the Amazon Room, the Brasilia Room is the first room that you pass in which poker is being played. When you walk into the Brasilia Room, immediately on the left is a table covered with black felt that is angled in the corner, behind which two intrepid PokerNews live-bloggers would be stationed. However, the only thing that indicated their affiliation were the media credentials hanging around their necks. Otherwise, it's just a felt-covered table in the corner. Apparently, that's the universal symbol for "Information Booth". Things I was asked:
* What tournament is this? [There were upwards of three tournaments in the room.]
* Is X still in the Y tournament? [I'm covering the Z tournament, and X could be anyone from Greg Raymer to Ron Kluber.]
* A variant on that question - Can you tell me if X is still in? He's a twenty-five year old Asian guy wearing dark sunglasses and a baseball cap.
* Can you tell me where the World Series is? [Yes, really.]
* What time does X tournament start?
* Can I register for a satellite here?
* Is this the satellite area?
* Where's the CardRunners booth? [It's the giant display halfway down the hall.]
* Do you have a rubber band?
* Is there some place I can charge my phone?
* Is this the Brazil Room?
* What's the capital of Brazil? [Note: the correct answer is Brasilia, *not* Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paolo.]
It got to the point where, on any day we were working at the front of the Brasilia Room, I would create a sign. It started as "NO QUESTIONS - PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB", but that just encouraged people to say "Can I ask a question?". Eventually the sign became: "PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB. NO INFORMATION ABOUT SATELLITES, TOURNAMENTS, CASH GAMES, FOOD, ETC." At the start of each session, I would advise my co-blogger to "tap the sign" if anyone asked us for information -- because even with that giant sign prominently displayed on the table, people still asked questions.
My standard response became, without looking up from my work, "I'm sorry, I don't work for Harrah's. You need to ask one of their representatives." One poor guy was so confused by that comment that he responded, "Why would I do that? I'm at the Rio!"
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I put in a hit-and-run session at the tables today. After an hour and a half I was up half a rack and decided that was enough. In retrospect it seems dumb. The table was soft; the lone point of aggro-donkery was a computer engineer from Oregon two seats to my right who thought he was the bee's knees. He wasn't terrible, but he was easily controllable with a timely three-bet every now and again. Otherwise it was the standard mix of too-tight locals and utterly clueless tourists. I'm getting better, and more comfortable, at winning pots with less than premium starting hands, which hopefully means my reads are improving (not to pat myself on the back too much -- correct reads against these types of players are not hard to make). Why not stay and try to win more?
The answer was simple. Combined with last night's
thorough domination luckboxery at a local home game, where I made a nice $400 score, I was happy to book the win and get that much closer to the bankroll target that will shift me up to the next limit. This is the wrong attitude. If the game is good, I should be in it.
Also, I realized today I need to learn how to play pai gow tiles before heading off to Macau.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Now that I'm once again drifting aimlessly, exercising discipline to regularly bring structure to my day is going to be key to maintaining my sanity and my productivity. I plan to set aside certain blocks of time every day for the following activities:
1. Learning Cantonese. To say that I will be "learning Cantonese" by listening to a couple of CDs and reading a small book is equivalent to claiming I'm "drinking beer" when I hit up the keg at a barbecue for another cup of Bud Light. Most likely, I will be learning how to butcher just enough words and phrases that everyone around me will make a puzzled face and then politely ask, "You speak Engrish?"
By "everyone around me", I mean "everyone around me in Macau when I'm there for two weeks in late August and early September to cover the APT and the APPT." Ni hao, bitches.
(Hmmm. Seems that ni hao is Mandarin.)
I really hate feeling like the idiot American tourist when I travel, so I always make it a point to try to pretend that I'm not an idiot American tourist by picking up a few words and phrases before I head overseas. It might not make a lick of difference to my experience or to my ability to be understood by the natives, but I feel better about myself. Here at RTFT, we are all about feeling better about ourselves.
The CDs I bought today were surprisingly difficult to find -- most of the products on the market are geared towards Mandarin. But I did spot one lonely, solitary copy of a Cantonese audio program buried behind several other books on a bottom shelf at Borders. A quick Amazon search on my trusty iPhone convinced me that this particular product didn't totally suck.
I'm sure the phrases I pick up will be useless, but at least I'll have something to do every day for the next five weeks.
2. Exercising. Before I signed on with PokerNews back in March, I solicited some advice about the gig from Change100. She told me that I would definitely gain weight during the WSOP. I laughed because I know myself -- when I'm working hard, I regularly skip meals. Sure enough, I lost almost 10 pounds during the WSOP. Time to put them back on.
There is a Las Vegas Athletic Club location about five minutes from the house. I stopped in there today and told a desk clerk I wanted to "inquire about membership". Abraham gave me a tour, pointing out all of the features of the facility that I will never use like the cardio machines and the swimming pool. He then directed me to an office where he took some personal information from me and explained LVAC's standard plan. It's a $5 enrollment fee, followed by $22 a month for no-frills access. The hitch? A 25-month commitment! The only acceptable reason for breaking the commitment, according to the contract I read, is moving more than twenty miles away from an LVAC location. If you move away and want to break the contract, you have to submit two forms of proof of your new address, your entire credit history, a full set of dental records AND a $50 fee.
This poor kid didn't have a chance against me. I pestered him several times about whether there was any option besides a 25-month commitment. He gave me what I'm sure are "standard lines" dispensed in his sales training about how "everything has contracts these days - look at your cell phone" etc. but I brusquely brushed those responses off and repeated my questions. He finally admitted that for a $99 enrollment fee and $25 a month, I could have the same no-frills access without a commitment. When you consider that (a) the only acceptable reason for breaking the contract is moving; (b) you still have to pay $50 to break anyway, which means your "administrative costs" of a contract are $5 enrollment plus $50 cancellation, versus the $99 enrollment fee and $0 cancellation of not having a contract (never mind the hassle of submitting all the necessary paperwork to cancel); and (c) you can't break if you decide after six months that you don't want to be a gym rat anymore, the choice is pretty clear.
By taking the contract you only save yourself $94 + $3/month for 25 months IF you use the gym the whole 25 months. $169 in savings, or an average of $6.76 a month. However, the downside if you stop going to the gym before Month 18, the break-even point for contract versus no contract, is anywhere from $31 to $431. If you're a hard-core fitness fanatic who has been going to the gym for years, maybe it makes sense to do the contract. For anyone else...
In the end, I didn't sign up, which I think pissed Abraham off even more. I told him I wanted to think about it, thanked him for his time, shook his (rather limp) hand and walked out. But I'll be back. I need to put those pounds back on.
3. Pokering. This should come as no surprise. Easy access to a soft 10/20 limit hold'em game should be good for my bankroll. I have a plan to step it up and try the 15/30 game at Bellagio at a certain bankroll number. This will allow me to brush all the rust off of my game, isolate and eliminate mistakes at a less costly limit, and build up my roll a bit. If my experiences in the 10/20 game last week are indicative, that step-up will happen sooner rather than later. Assuming I put in the hours. Which is the whole point of this endeavor, right?
4. Writing. Again, is anyone shocked by this?
Sunday, July 20, 2008
If you believe astronauts, Las Vegas is the brightest city in the world, a glittering lighthouse in the middle of the Mojave beckoning people ashore. Sometimes the lights are so bright, they conceal as much as they reveal.
One thing the lights conceal is that there are no happy endings in life. There are only choices, and the consequences of those choices. Some consequences may be "good" and some may be "bad"; some may be direct and some may be indirect (the opportunity cost of not making a different choice, for example); but every choice has associated consequences. The rub is that it's impossible to see all of the consequences of a choice before the choice is made.
My own choice brought me to Las Vegas. It was no secret that I wasn't happy with the direction of my life before I came to Las Vegas. I had been talking about quitting finance a second time, an industry to which I never felt like I belonged even the first time around, for over a year. To do what? Not having the answer to that question was what always prevented me from taking the leap. Then one night in late February, I spotted land on the horizon -- the WSOP and the poker media. True, the land I spotted may have been an uninhabited desert island, but I had been at sea for far too long to pass it up.
Once I finalized the decision to leave finance and to leave my home of thirteen of the last fourteen years, I charted an unerring course for that desert island. There were tasks that needed to be completed prior to landfall. They were completed. Then there was a 3500-mile journey to undertake. Eleven days later, it was in the books. Immediately following that journey, the 12-, 14-, and 16-hour days commenced in the Amazon Room and the Brasilia Room as I explored the bounds of the island. That was all well and good. It kept me totally occupied for seven weeks.
There is not much water in Las Vegas, yet I find myself adrift once again. The WSOP is over, and it turns out that the desert island is just that. It's a stop-over point on the way to somewhere else, the way Las Vegas itself was a waystation back in pioneer days. The question has once again become, "Where do we go from here?"
I don't regret my decision to work for PokerNews at all. Pauly and Otis may loathe the poker media and (rightfully) complain about how much they'd love to escape it, but the seven weeks of the WSOP were as happy as I've been, job-wise, in a long time. I was proud of what I was doing, I was happy with what I was doing, and I was committed to what I was doing, three things I couldn't say about my job in finance in New York. There are some post-WSOP opportunities to pursue. We'll see what comes of them. It's a bit unsettling to be shoving off the island again and to be so far off-shore, but I can roll with the deck for a while. I knew this was a consequence of my choice to come here. It's the other, less foreseeable consequences of my choice that have given me cause for concern.
I watched a "tv show" tonight where the main character winds up inadvertently sacrificing one thing he really wants in the process of, and as a price for, choosing to try to obtain something else he really wants, sending his sanity over the edge in the process. I wonder and worry if there isn't a similar inadvertent consequence of the choice I made, especially since I often ask for a lot from people without acknowledging what they're already giving or have given.
I hope not.
Thursday night, Wynn 9/18. An older gentleman in the 10-seat started sneezing uncontrollably. When he finally stopped, I jokingly asked him, "Do you have some kind of bird flu down there?" and laughed.
His response: "No. I have nose cancer. Don't worry, it's nothing you can catch." He was dead serious - I later heard him explain to the dealer that he has some kind of filtration problem in his nostrils, which causes the sneezing.
It's been a while since I stuck my foot that far in my mouth. Stupid cancer guy.
Saturday afternoon, Mirage 10/20. A 30-something year old guy from San Diego named Mo, Padres cap slightly askew on top of his head, was bitching about how he hadn't won a pot yet. I knew he had been in the game for less than an hour, as his was the name ahead of mine on the list. But deciding to humor him somewhat, I turned to him and said, "It's not about how many pots you win. It's about how many chips you win."
Mo gave me such a look of puzzlement and utter bewilderment that I wondered whether I hadn't inadvertently asked him to catch my fart and paint it green. He would later go on to challenge the player on his left to a 100/200 heads up match, for which he was "going to take out a marker" from the casino. He also belabored a point about ten-cent sports betting lines versus twenty-cent sports betting lines to such a degree that one of the other players at the table finally told him, "I haven't met many rich sports bettors in my life," in an effort to change the topic.
It should come as no surprise that Mo was pounding Johnny Walker all day and dusted off at least $800 into the game.
Saturday evening, Mirage 10/20. There's a television directly over the table that was showing an MMA fight. MMA fighters, like Nascar drivers and, apparently, poker players, sell ad space on their clothing. One of the fighters had a prominent ad on the rear of his trunks that I read aloud -- CondomDepot.com
Mike, a friendly regular at the Mirage who happened to be on my left, heard me and looked up at the television. "How'd you like to have that printed on your ass?" he asked.
I know at least one person who's probably in favor of it.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Yesterday was a tough day. After getting to Mirage and seeing a 6-person waiting list for the lone 10-20 LHE table, and no Omaha, CK and I hopped across the street to Wynn. There I got in a 9-18 LHE game, and she got in a 10-20 (with half kill) LO8 game.
Last time I played at Wynn, in December, the LHE game that was up was 8-16. Yesterday it was 9-18. I don't understand why rooms insist on spreading these weird limits. There are people who think that there's more action at a game like 9-18 (instead of 10-20) because 9-18 is a 3-chip game and therefore the pots "seem bigger" then they do in the 2-chip 10-20 game. That seems like a load of crap to me. Newsflash: action players aren't drawn to games because of blind structures or pots that look big. Action players are drawn to games with lots of action. You can't manufacture action, nor can you make action players out of tight-ass grinders.
At least if a room is going to spread 9-18, they could make the blinds $3 and $9. At Wynn they're $6 and $9, again I think in an effort to create more action. In addition, players and dealers find using $3 chips to be awkward at best. Too many times, players or the dealer were confused about how many chips to put in the pot for a raise or a call. Just spread 10-20 and be done with it. Much easier for everyone involved, including the dealers.
Maybe my outlook would have been different if I didn't have one of those days where I missed all my draws and then was card dead for two hours. But I doubt it.
By the end of the session, I was tilted to a level not common for me when I play live. I'm not quite sure what caused it -- whether it was just the card death, or the missed draws, or the fact that there was money to be made at the table and I wasn't making any of it, or what I ate for breakfast, or some combination thereof -- and how to avoid it in the future. At least CK obligingly got up from her Omaha game for a few hands so we could walk the floor and I could vent my frustration, which calmed me down quite a bit.
She even squeezed my hand and grinned when we passed a gaggle of Asian chicks dressed in their little "going out" dresses. Good times.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
A non-poker interlude:
I was a huge fan of Buffy (Question? Answer. Part the first.). I am a huge fan of musicals (Question? Answer. Part the second.). So when the creator of Buffy writes and directs a humorous internet-only musical starring Neil Patrick Harris -- who took self-parody to new heights in the brilliant Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle -- I feel the need to pimp it.
NOTE -- the streaming version will only be available for free through Sunday night! After that, the content will be downloadable for a nominal fee. But really, it's fantastic.
1. Poker players smell. Bad. Real bad. I've used public restrooms in New York City that smelled better than some of these players. During one of my Day 2s early on (I think it was Event #2, the $1,500 donkament), players took a vote at one point as to whether they should demand that the tournament staff require a certain player to shower during a break. Then there was the guy during Day 2 of the 10K PLO. His stench had a life of its own, extending its tendrils around anyone unfortunate enough to wander within a few feet of him and then burrowing into that new person like a tick. Ick.
2. It's all about the Benjamins. Jeff Lisandro doesn't come hang out at the Stud/8 final table for a few hours because he has nothing better to do. Either someone owes him money, or he has a piece of the action. Poker agents don't roam the hallways before televised final tables because they have nothing better to do. They're trying to snap people up to sign one-time sponsorship deals with poker sites. It's all about the Benjamins from the players' side too. Look at the whole sorry Tiffany Michelle saga.
3. Just because it's a WSOP event doesn't necessarily mean the level of play will be higher. Too many times (especially during the Main Event), I was handed a hand history ticket that just left me scratching my head.
4. There are many people who are just in it for the sake of poker. But they're the amateurs, the "one and done" crowd. They're not part of the poker machine. The poker machine is that amorphous entity that realizes that blinding off 10% of Phil Hellmuth's stack on Day 6 will seriously damage his chances of making the final table, and if he doesn't make the final table, the television ratings won't be as good. PokerGrump recently did a great job of exposing all of the hypocrisy in the reversal of Hellmuth's penalty. That's the poker machine at its finest.
5. Poker is still a great way to meet new people and make new friends. Going into the WSOP, the only people I knew at PokerNews were Shecky, Pauly, Change100 and MeanGene, all of whom are my kind of people. Coming out of the WSOP, I have added many names to that list. One person I have been especially neglectful of linking up on this site for the last few weeks is Shamus. Shamus and I covered a couple of different events together and each one was loads of fun (yes, even the Day 2s).
6. Don't eat the Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas.
EDITED TO ADD: The personal pan pizzas served in the Poker Kitchen and in the hallways at the WSOP were stale bread with cold cheese-product on top of them. Harrah's idea of "cooking" them was to place them under a heat lamp for all of about five minutes. The pizzas were, in a word, disgusting.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Good God, the UltimateBet super-user saga has taken some strange twists in the last few days, notably the connection of owner (and former Main Event winner) Russ Hamilton to the super-user accounts, and physical threats made against Nat Arem. I'm still digesting it all, but read the 2+2 thread if you're interested. And for the love of all that is holy, get your money out of there.
I really enjoyed my six weeks covering the World Series of Poker. Sure, there's a shady side of it. It's a money machine, after all. Never stand in the way of the money. If you try to stand in the way of the money, you're just going to get run over.
That said, there is a huge poker component which stands apart from the machine that was quite a bit of fun to witness -- until the later stages of the Main Event. It's hard to describe, but the deeper we got into the Main Event, the more it felt like all of the air was escaping from the balloon. The Main Event is supposed to be poker's greatest showcase, and yet all I could see on the hand histories I was given was one donkey move after another. Add to that the fact that the Rio staff started breaking down the tables in the Amazon Room as they were no longer needed, carting them, the chairs around them, and the over-table lights off to a back corner of the Amazon Room behind a screen. It's a graveyard for unused poker equipment, to be put into deep storage like the Ark of the Covenant, only to be reanimated next year. The Amazon Room started to feel very empty (and very cold, what with the lack of body heat from thousands of people).
The cash games and the satellites stopped running at the start of the Main Event. By Day 3, the poker kitchen was selling Krispy Kreme donuts 2-for-1, trying to deplete its inventory by the end of the night, when it closed. As the field shrank, so did the number of spectators. It's hard to be excited about less than 100 unknown poker players, and when you combine the reduced field and the reduced number of spectators with the vastness of the Amazon Room, it felt like I was back playing an 8th grade CYO basketball game at Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands. Sure, it was kinda cool to be playing on the same floor as an NBA team, but the 300-odd spectators were comically dwarfed by the 18,000-seat arena.
The final insult is the fact that champion won't even be crowned for another four months. Good for televsion? Sure. Good for poker? Maybe. Anti-climactic? Most definitely.
Actually played some poker today. I had a choice between a 10/20 game and a 20/40 game, but since I've hardly played any cash game poker since I got here, I opted for the 10/20. I heard some random Vegas local at the table (not a blogger, for sure) refer to 7-2 offsuit as "the Hammer". When I asked him where he had heard that, he said something to the effect of, "Oh, I don't know. Lost of hands have different names. I guess it's because people who play it hammer away at pots with it."
Grubby should set him straight.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Now that the World Series of Poker has come to a close (yes, I realize 27 players are left in the Main Event, but for all intents and purposes it's over) I thought I'd crunch some numbers for your reading pleasure.
* 55 bracelet events were held. Competing in all of them required a bankroll of $231,500. If you were to take the average number of rebuys in each of the five rebuy events, you'd need to add another $42,000 to your bankroll. Of course, this overlooks the fact that many events were running simultaneously, making playing in all of them impossible, even if you *are* a female aged 50 or over who works in a casino.
* Only one person won more than one bracelet. John "The Razor" Phan won Event #29, $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em, and Event #40, $2,500 Triple Draw. He had five total cashes during the 2008 WSOP, but that couldn't hold a candle to the ten cashes racked up by Nikolay Evdakov (a new WSOP record). Of course, Phan grossed $608,464 for his five cashes on an initial investment of $10,500; Evdakov grossed "just" $228,527 on a $51,000 investment.
* The vig that Harrah's earned on the 55 bracelet events totals $9,107,353.50. That's just their cut from bracelet events and doesn't include rake from the cash games or vig from the satellites that were running 24/7 for six weeks, never mind all of the promotional deals made with companies like Milwaukee's Best Light, Everest Poker, All In energy drink, etc. I know Harrah's has to hire a ton of extra staff for the WSOP, but they make a killing on it.
An interesting side note is that top prize at the Main Event this year ($9,119,517) is almost identical to Harrah's rake.
* The official WSOP press release puts the total number of entries for the 55 bracelet events at 58,720. I calculated the total as 58,702 and am not sure if the error is mine or Harrah's. Regardless, the total number of entries last year for all 55 events was 54,288. On straight numbers, that's an increase of 4,432 entries, or 8.1%. A little deeper digging, however, reveals some interesting facts and trends.
"Straight" NLHE events (that is, not 6-handed or heads-up format), not including this year's Event #11 and Event #52, which were both new, saw a year-on-year increase in entries of a very modest 3.8%, increasing from 35,467 in 2007 to 36,811 this year, a total of 1,344 entries. Consider that Event #2, the $1,500 donkament, got a big bump from conveniently being scheduled for opening weekend and increased 931 entries from 2007, or 31%, and that Event #54, the Main Event, saw a year-on-year increase of 486 entries. Those two event combined for an increase of 1,417 entries. That means the other 15 "straight" NLHE events ran basically flat as compared to their 2007 counterparts.
That doesn't include Event #52, the $1,500 NLHE that was billed as one of the four new events in 2008. I'm not sure what event it replaced from 2007, but it's no secret that the "donkaments" draw the largest fields. This one drew 2,693 runners. Whatever event it did replace certainly didn't come even close to drawing that many entries. The result is that the overall 8.1% increase in entries for all 55 events from 2007 is artificially inflated.
Then there are the rest of the non-mixed hold'em events. The three six-handed NLHE events saw a year-on-year increase of just 1.7%, from 3,002 entries in 2007 to 3,053 entries in 2008. (I purposefully excluded the heads-up event from a calculation of "short-handed NLHE" since it was artificially capped at 256 this year to make for even brackets.) The three pot-limit hold'em events dropped 6.6%, from 1,778 combined entries to 1,660. And the four straight limit hold'em events increased from 2,359 entries in 2007 to 2,401 entries in 2008, a very modest increase of 1.8%.
In summation: NLHE +3.8% (with the caveat regarding Event #2 and Event #54); NLHE 6-handed +1.7%; PLHE -6.6%; LHE +1.8%. It seems safe to say that for the moment the hold'em market is almost completely tapped out -- without a repeal of the UIGEA, anyway.
Everything That's Not Hold'em
So where's the increase coming from? Certainly not from seven card stud. The four stud and stud hi/lo events saw a drop in numbers since 2007, from 1,469 entries to 1,344 entries (-8.5%). This can at least partially be explained by significant increases in the buy-in for two events -- the "world championship" events. In 2007, the seven card stud world championship was $5,000, and the stud hi/lo world championship was $3,000. Those buy-ins were bumped to $10,000 and $5,000, respectively, in 2008.
As opposed to stud, the other non-hold'em games all seem to be on the rise. The three limit omaha hi/lo events saw an increase from 1,504 in 2007 to 1,621 in 2008 (+7.7%); the five pot-limit omaha events increased by an even larger percentage, from 2,017 in 2007 to 2,332 in 2008 (+15.6%).
The lowball events may not everyone's cup of tea, but they seems to be more people's cup of tea than they used to be. The three lowball events drew 628 entries in 2007; in 2008, they drew 776 entries, an increase of 23.5%. It may have helped that the Triple Draw event was not a rebuy event this year, although the buy-in was increased to offset that fact. Thre are also the "mixed" events, any event where more than one game is played. In 2007, those six events drew 2,658 entries; in 2008, 2,816 entries, an increase of 5.9%.
The long and short of it is that, at least as far as the WSOP is concerned, hold'em is flat, stud is declining (no surprise there) and omaha, lowball and mixed games are on the rise. Without the convenient scheduling of Event #2 and the addition of Event #52, the overall numbers from 2007 to 2008 would probably have been flat.
* I consumed only one Pizza Hut personal pan pizza all summer. It was during the first week. As soon as I realized that the pizzas are cooked primarily by being placed under a heat lamp for an indeterminate amount of time, I stayed the hell away. I also limited myself to four Krispy Kreme donuts all summer. I couldn't justify the $2/donut price tag to myself.
More post-WSOP thoughts are coming later this week.
Friday, July 11, 2008
670 players remain. 666 will make the money; each of the other four will go home with the worst hangover of his or her life. Iggy has been seated on Blue #2 all day, right in front of a PokerNews media table that is sandwiched between one of the tournament clocks and a six-foot tall inflatable Milwaukee's Best Light beer can.
Otis is there, sweating Iggy. Pauly is there, sweating Iggy. MeanGene is there, sweating Iggy. And I am there, sweating Iggy. I am the poker blogging youngster in that crowd, and I have been writing on this site for over four years now. Combined, we have over 23 years of poker blogging experience -- never mind the fact that some of those guys had other real writing experience prior to starting their sites.
We all nervously hold our collective breath as Iggy raises preflop and gets one caller. Both players check a queen-high flop. When a jack hits the turn, Iggy bets 8,000 and wins the pot. Whew. We can breathe again.
"He nearly gave me a heart attack," says Otis.
The hand-for-hand process is taking a while. On the next hand, two players at Iggy's table decide to take a flop of 8d 3d 6h. That provides him with the perfect opportunity to get out of his chair and come chat with us.
Iggy looks drained -- this is his second long day of poker in a row -- but barring catastrophe, he will make the money. His tight, patient style has played perfectly to the extremely slow structure of the tournament, and his image has won him a few pots when he didn't have the cards to back up his bets.
One of the players at his table is all in. His opponent, a shaggy-haired guy in Seat 1, has him covered and is debating a call.
Otis starts giving Iggy shit for getting involved in a pot this close to the money. Iggy makes some patently unbelievable comment about never playing Big Slick again, but we all know where he's coming from. We've all been in that spot plenty of times before.
"All in and call on Blue #2!" shouts the dealer in front of us. On cue, a throng of players from neighboring tables, floor staff and media (including two ESPN camera crews) materialize out of thin air. Both players are out of their seats. The all in player has pocket aces, including the ace of diamond. Seat 1 has pocket queens.
Once ESPN has established a shot of each player and the board, the floor supervisor gives a nod to the dealer, who burns and turns the ten of clubs. The ESPN camera man points the camera down at the board, focuses, then comes back up to each of the players. With another nod from the floor supervisor, the dealer burns and prepares to deliver the river.
The five of us -- Iggy, Otis, Pauly, Gene and I -- are in a tight knot, right behind the player in Seat 1. Starting a web site more than four years ago, and flying to Las Vegas in December 2004 to meet 29 other writers who loved this wacky game as much as we did, has led to this point in time for each of us.
Along with everyone else at the table, we lean forward expectantly. The river is coming.
Note: Iggy survived to the end of Day 3. He will start Day 4 with 177,500 chips and 473 opponents.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Another quickie today. Listen, they can't all be gems.
We made it through Days 2a and 2b. The killing fields of 6,844 have been trimmed to a shade over 1,300. Everyone's favorite midget (dwarf? little person?) is still alive, finishing Day 2b with a chip stack of 86,700. He's slightly below par, but he's not in the worst straits. Most importantly, despite what had to be another draining thirteen hours of poker, he was in high spirits at the end of the day.
The music to start play every day in the Amazon Room is still as atrocious as it was at the end of May. For the life of me, I can't figure out why Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" isn't in the mix.
I didn't get to play any paigow at dinner yesterday. My playing companion needed to drive someone home, so instead I drank my dinner at the hooker bar with Shamus. I'm not sure if that was Shamus' first indoctrination to drinking on the job, but if it was, he took to it like a champion.
Today would have been a great day for dinner-time drinking. With almost 2,400 players starting on Day 2b, the first six hours were utter insanity. Hands down, this was the worst day of the six weeks so far. Every member of the PokerNews team was on edge during the middle of the day. I can't fathom why, but Harrah's was double-breaking tables. The field was so big that the Amazon Room, the Tropical Room, the Brasilia Room, the tables by Buzio's seafood restaurant and the Rio poker room were all in use. Rather than just break players at the farthest satellite areas into the closer areas, ultimately ending at the Amazon Room, Harrah's started breaking tables in the Orange section of the Amazon Room first, sending those players elsewhere in the Amazon Room, then breaking players back into the Orange section from the outlying areas. As a result, the whole Orange section of the Amazon Room turned over inside of about four hours. That made it twice as difficult to track players, since each table break resulted in two sets of players getting moved instead of just one.
Aiyah. Show me the brilliance behind that move.
My favorite stunning Asian woman saved me from another meal of alcoholic self-medication by coming down to the Rio just before dinner to sweat Iggy a little bit. We went to Gaylord (no joke), the Indian restaurant at the Rio, and paid about double what the food should have cost. That's ok. It was nice to have a proper meal for a change, and the company was nonpareil.
The whole PokerNews team shares a Skype chat during the day, and there's been quite a bit of guffaw-inducing chatter on it the last few days. It helps to keep everybody's temper in check and reduce some of the stress. Hopefully those stress levels peaked today. Just a few days remain in the Amazon Room, and they get progressively easier from here on out.
EDITED TO ADD: Oh, one other thing. In the last six weeks, I have developed an uncanny ability to spot a hot Asian female railbird from seven tables away.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Day 2a is underway. The first four days of the Main Event went pretty smoothly. I think I incurred some serious camera time due to my proximity to Jamie Gold on Day 1b. He was seated right by my media table, directly in front of me and directly in line with the ESPN camera that was permanently stationed there for most of the five hours that Gold lasted before he knuckled under. Not cool.
Day 1d saw Howard Lederer at that table. Thankfully he was positioned at a seat that ensured the camera would never be pointed my way. Lederer ran so many circles around one player two seats to his right -- it was quite enjoyable to watch the Professor at work and see how that little subplot developed throughout the day. At one point, Lederer called down with deuces on the river, and they were good!
"Unbelievable!" exclaimed his opponent, Charles Yu. "How could you call?"
"What were you supposed to have?" replied Lederer. "When you tell me what you were supposed to have that had deuces beat, I'm listening. You need to know your customer." Awesome.
I did manage to incur some heat from the overlords at PokerNews for writing about Maria Ho's "hoes", when I titled the post "Ho's Got Hoes (In Different Area Codes)". (I'd link the post here, but it's easier to just link to the WCP post about it.) Something about our feed being syndicated on worldseriesofpoker.com and that title being too risque for worldseriesofpoker.com. In the end we changed it to "It's a 'Ho' Different World We Been Livin' In".
Either way, I found out at the PokerStars party at Rain last night that Maria liked the post. Excellent. Another hot Asian chick on the program. Speaking of, there was a Liz Lieu sighting last night. In the low light of the club, she didn't look so fake.
What else... oh, right. Scarf-boy Dario Minieri sucking face with Isabelle Mercier in full view of about a million cameras. (I know, I know. I thought he was gay too. He *should* be gay, anyway.) Someone mentioned to me that Isabelle wandered off the reservation a long time ago, so much so that nothing she does is surprising anymore. Interesting. I feel really bad for MeanGene. His image of her crumbles on a daily basis.
Such a strange night. But the party was fun enough for a few hours.
Shot a round of golf with Iggy yesterday, so that he could get away from the Strip for a bit while he waits for Day 2b. I managed a 44 on the front side, then completely lost my swing for three or four straight holes on the back side and finished with a 97. Lemon.
At least I got some poker in last week. A silly $45 HORSE tourney at GVR with 58 runners. I finished 6th for a little bit of cash.
That concludes this disjointed update from the Amazon Room. Tune in tomorrow to find out how my dinner-time paigow session tonight went and to hear about the continuing adventures of Ron Kluber.
Friday, July 04, 2008
I've been a delinquent blogger. Even with a day off before the Main Event of the World Series of Poker.
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were days of covering the 10K PLO tournament. The story of the tournament the first two days was Josh Arieh running away with all the chips. At the dinner break on Day 2, he had 861,000 of the 7.6 million chips, with 40 people remaining in the tournament. Then something happened -- he stopped winning pots. He couldn't win a hand to save his life after dinner. It didn't help that he made curious plays like calling off over 300,000 chips in one hand, calling a river bet, and not being able to beat top-top. In Omaha. Where you start with four cards.
Arieh wound up busting in what I can only imagine was a supremely disappointing 12th place. The final table was quite a bit of fun and ended on a hand that I'm sure had ESPN squealing with delight. Check out the PokerNews coverage of the event if you're curious.
Yesterday started the slaughter-fest (you can't spell slaughter without laughter) known as the Main Event. It was not nearly as crazy or as manic as I would have expected. Maybe the downturn in the economy has put the damper on ME hijinks? The main story of the day was that Harrah's put a green box over the part of the tournament clock that displays how many entrants are in the field. It stayed there the whole day.
I had a few drinks with Iggy and G-Money at the hooker bar during the dinner break. Iggy was 3 for 3 in spotting the working girls, but two of them were gimmes. For sport, I wound up talking to one for a while, until she asked me to buy her a drink.
"Buy me a drink or I'm leaving," she said.
"I guess you're leaving then," I replied.
At that point Iggy and G-Money had already hit the sack (LOL east-coast-aments) so I found an empty seat at a paigow table. I taught my tablemates (1) to shout paigow when the dealer hit a paigow, (2) to squeeze their cards, and (3) that a push is a win because it buys more drinking time. A good time was had by all.
I was going to get up when I was up $15 after about an hour, so I had the dealer, Maggie, color me up to a single $500 chip and three redbirds. Then I sat at the table a while longer, talking to the couple on my left. At one point I got the urge to bet the $500 chip and asked Maggie how lucky I was feeling.
"Not that lucky," she said. So I waited.
A few hands later I had her color me down to blacks. Again I had the urge to bet them all, but this time I bet only one. Mistake. I was dealt joker-8-9-10-J-Q-Q (no bonus). Oh well. I took my $95, had Maggie color me back up, and hit the cage to get some cash and find my way home for a little sleep. After all, more donkeys are showing up in the Amazon Room today.