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Views: 1633
Date Posted: Jul. 22, 12:22am, 1 Comment
As we have reached the end of the summer portion of the World Series of Poker, I thought I would share 15 impressions of the WSOP experience as an independent media member.

1. The World Series of Poker is a powerful brand - Despite dire predictions for the series as a result of massive online poker concerns, the WSOP set records in many events and experienced average improvements in number of entrants and prizepools of 8%. The six week series distracted the poker world from their online concerns while creating a new crop of poker heroes. The true test will likely be next year when over a year’s worth of reduced online poker options and the trickle down effect will have played out more fully. Not without fault or room for further improvement, give the WSOP credit as they continue to tweak their schedule and offerings each year taking in player and industry feedback.

2. The mothership has landed - The ESPN/PokerPROductions team put together a much improved and professional featured TV table. More work needs to be done on where to place it so it doesn’t negatively affect the Amazon room flow and dynamic, but it was a big step forward overall. Similar, if lesser treatment, needs to be done for the secondary and tertiary featured tables.

3. Celebrations and bringing attention to yourself is down - There was a very noticeable trend to players bringing less attention to themselves by their costumes and garb, or more importantly by their demeanor at the table. Wins were celebrated more calmly, and bad beats were handles more maturely.

4. Kudos to the Poker Kitchen - Although they could tweak the pricing and offerings a bit, the Poker Kitchen works remarkably well during the series. You can get a quick meal, from great salads to sandwiches, soup, pizza, Mexican and even good sushi from Sen of Japan. I can admit I miss the days of of the press room having catered food for media, I can live with my daily $10 voucher to pick a meal during the long hours in the Amazon and Pavilion rooms.

5. Cash games, Satellites and Deep Stacks blow up - With no significant U.S. internet poker options, live satellites, daily tournaments, and cash games at the Rio were bustling the entire series like never before. Hundreds and thousands participated in the cavernous Pavilion room but better effort next year could go to defining, differentiating and marketing these parts of the overall WSOP experience to casual fans and players.

6. Less festive Vegas - The party options for those not privately partying or celebrating a big win were very limited this year. In the current murky environment, none of the traditional blow-out parties were in evidence around the Main Event. Even the parties that were held were less lavish and much mellower than in years past.

7. Meetings and Interviews are always a challenge during the series - Each year I try to arrange a number of meetings and interviews that fall through for multiple reasons. Vegas is such a frenetic environment during the WSOP and players and industry players are constantly making and breaking arrangements as conditions or their mood changes. For instance, three of my arranged interviews were canceled because the players were no longer in the mood after busting prematurely.

8. Figure out the smoking area - The area just beyond the exit leading to the Taxi stop and parking area has become a gross transition not only to the heat but all the individuals who congregate to grab a smoke. This could be significantly improved.

9. Poker swag is a good thing - Poker players and fans like mementos of their WSOP experience. The reality is most poker players head home with nothing more than a lighter wallet. This year, Dearfoam slippers stepped up in a big way to give away many thousands of quality slippers to players, staff and media. If the glory days of poker vendors and promoters giving away a lot of poker swag in the Poker/Living Expo it would be nice to build on the Dearfoam experience this year for people to return home with some tangible association with their experience.

10. Strides made in the established media realm - The hardcore established poker media can feel very tight knit and exclusive to the independent members. This year I was able to meet and befriend a number of the main players, gaining new perspectives on their particular poker voices in the industry. This was the first year that media who had never met me knew of me as Zimba, the guy who blogs, tweets and creates interesting poker content.

11. No gambol once again - I was a huge disappointment to the mighty gambling machine that is Las Vegas because I abstained from any gambling endeavors despite railing friends playing poker and Pai Gow.

12. Epic Poker League could be epic - I had the opportunity to speak with Annie Duke one night for over a half hour and Michael Craig who leads their poker content team for an hour on what the EPL wants to do and accomplish. Based off the history of previous attempts, I was a skeptic previously. There are some great aspects to this effort that could finally create a PGA type league that has player’s interests at heart; rake-free tournaments, valued added to tournaments, transparent and fair qualification process, players share 5% of gross profits, and a promising GPI dynamic tournament player ranking system. The FS+G see themselves as a social media marketing company more than a poker company and will move along the lines of Zynga to monetize the concept. The are close to announcing a a major TV partner that will bring the EPL serious credibility and visibility. They have partnered with the Heartland Poker Tour and are looking at other opportunities to expand their brand and reach in the poker world. The first of four scheduled tournament series begins in August.

13. Streaming and expanded near-live coverage is the future - We live in a here and now world. Although I haven’t seen any ratings numbers yet, the streaming and ESPN coverage was universally hailed and appreciated in the poker community. I’ve always disliked the decision to create the November 9 and long delayed ESPN episodes as sapping the momentum of the Main Event. I think this years near live coverage experiment from Day 3 on can show the way to replace that flawed model in the coming years and usher in a new more competitive, vital and youthful coverage of the series to fans and casual watchers around the world.

14. Big names need to prosper - As I discussed in my last blog, for the health of the WSOP and poker in general "big" online and live poker players need to go deep and do well in the tournaments. Poker will never reach its potential if no-names win most of the tournaments each year, especially the Main Event.

15. Roll Call - Lastly, and most importantly, I wanted to share a list of poker friends and acquaintances who I enjoyed meeting and talking to on my 2011 WSOP ME trip. Relationships made and kept will always outlive any media coverage of a tournament.

Media (will use their Twitter handles)

Poker Players (ladies first, of course)
Danielle Andersen
Mary Ann Hisel
Jen Shahade
Katie Stone
Kara Scott
Laurence Grondin
Carol - the lawyer
Vanessa Peng
Annette Obrestad

Gui Guignac
Brian Hastings
John Wray
Jeff Miller
Frank Rusnack
Benny Spindler
Troy Gamble
Joe Ward
Shane Schleger
Micheal Berra
Taylor Caby
Cole South
Lee Childs
Sol Bergren
Jason Rosenkrantz
Dave Rogowski
Mickey Petersen
Ryan Daut
Raymond Davis
Johnathan Little
Scott Montgomery
Olivier Busquet’s manager Arie
Views: 1622
Date Posted: Jul. 19, 7:38pm, 0 Comments

Late last night, I tweeted about how disappointed I was in the potential  “November 9” makeup.

To be exact, I said “If Devo, Collins or Lamb don't make ME Final Table, I'll doubt I'll even watch it. #Starpowerisgone #Pokerneedsmarketableplayersattheend

Most of the recognizable names were eliminated on Day 6 and 7 (Erick Lindgren, Allen Cunningham, Eli Elezra, Jean-Robert Bellande, Sorel Mizzi, Aaron Jones, Sami Kelopuro, Tony Hachem, Joseph Cheong, Christian Harder, Peter Feldman, Steve Brecher, David Bach, John Esposito and the heart warming last couple standing of David Sands and Erika Moutinho) and there weren’t any big draws amongst the final 22 players. That isn’t to say that there aren’t great players remaining or that they don’t each have a compelling story to tell. Certainly Ben Lamb is a great story as the current Player of the Year points leader after a tremendous series, but who in the general public had heard of Ben Lamb before this year. No disrespect to any of the remaining players, but if our collective goal is to grow poker, then having a final table of previous unknowns doesn’t help our cause.  While I’m happy for them, I’m sad for poker as a whole.  

In these distressing times with uncertain legislative support for online poker, we want as many eyeballs witnessing our game. We want as much of the general public to embrace and support our efforts to return online poker, and poker in general to its rightful place in the United States. I appreciate that a couple people responded last night that there were good players and potentially good stories to come out of the remaining players. I even liked the one suggestion of creating 30 minute bio shows of all nine players. Although I doubt that would ever fly, maybe a one hour preview show giving background on all nine might. But bottom line, I don’t think you can take nine unknowns and sell them to the public beforehand. To me it is not enough that hardcore fans are passionate about the game it has to appeal to the casual fan or those who aren’t even fans.

The WSOP Main Event is our Super Bowl and we want it to be seen by as many people as possible. Tweaking the presentation and schedule can help incrementally, but having star power makes a bigger difference.

It’s well established that celebrity sells. If you look at pro sports, the biggest franchises (i.e. Yankees/RedSox, Boston/Lakers,  Cowboys/Steelers) always pull the biggest ratings. The biggest individual stars always increase ratings (i.e. Tom Brady/Manning, Lebron/Wade, Jeter/Rodriguez/Pujols). When big poker stars like Ivey, Dwan, Brunson, Hansen, Antonius, Seidel, and Ferguson don’t go far, it hurts poker. When Negreanu, Hellmuth, Lindgren, Cunningham and Elezra go far, but miss making the November 9, it hurts poker. It’s not that you need a table full of poker celebrities, but the overall viewing experienced is enriched by having the magnetism and personality of an established star. Even one of the large crop of online whiz kids that are taking over in the live tournament world would bring their own following and personality. Each has seen the bright lights before and realizes that poker is more than just playing well. It is a performance. When poker is on TV, it is entertainment.

Those in the know realize the variance of tournament poker. Those in the know realize that no matter how well you play you need considerable luck to get through a field of 6,865 players. But those not in the know are confused when no recognizable top player can make the final table. It undermines the credibility of the game when every player at the end has never made it there before. It takes away from the image of the game if previous winners can’t get back there again. Where are the dynasties? Where are the power franchises? Where are the great stars exhibiting their dominating ways?   

If our collective goal is to grow the popularity of poker, then we naturally want some of the games bigger names to participate. It both legitimizes the Main Event as the biggest stage of poker and draws people in for the charisma and appeal of poker’s bigger names.

Each year, ESPN and the WSOP tweak the TV coverage and schedule of the tournaments with one goal in mind. They want to improve the Nielsen ratings. Having more players and rake is appreciated and a sign of a positive poker economy, but increased ratings and improved demographics translate directly into much more money for themselves and poker in general. Historically, TV poker hasn’t been a big relative draw. The ratings for the WSOP have never been huge.  

ESPN has covered the World Series of Poker for many years. In fact, ESPN has a deal to air the WSOP through 2017. Each year since the Moneymaker boom of 2003, they have made adjustments to try to improve the ratings. Some of the biggest changes arrived in 2008, after a down year in ratings when Jerry Yang won. ESPN and the WSOP decided to delay the final table play out four months until November so that people wouldn’t know in advance of the close-to-live TV coverage who won.  They shifted the final table venue to the more dramatic and larger venue of the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio. The Nielsen ratings for the Peter Eastgate win improved 46% over 2007 for the final table to 2.4 million viewers (1.9 Nielsen rating). The 2009 WSOP coverage improved 7-9% with Phil Ivey joining the Joe Cada-won final table, but drifted badly in 2010 when Jonathan Duhamel won.   

For the 2011 WSOP, long time production partner Poker 411 was replaced by Poker PROductions, who produce many of the made for TV poker shows like High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark. A more professional and sophisticated featured table was created with “the mothership” design. New announcers and 30 min. delayed live ESPN2 and streaming coverage was initiated to give more immediate coverage and help “get younger.” On ESPN, regular coverage will be limited to the $50k Player’s Championship and expanded coverage of the Main Event to focus on the two marquee events with the greatest concentration of big names, celebrity and drama.

Examining the final 14 players in the Main Event, there are five players from USA, and one each from the Ukraine, Ireland, Costa Rica, Germany, S.Africa, United Kingdom, Czech, Canada and Belize. The one positive might be that the international draw and appeal could increase, but none of those players are established stars in their respective countries yet.

Given the choice, every fan would construct their own ideal final table made up of their favorite players. I know mine would include many of my poker pro friends in the poker world. But in a desire to appeal to the widest demographic, I feel strongly that televised poker and thus the overall image in the general public’s eye will continue to struggle when established charismatic stars don’t make the final table of our greatest tournament.

Views: 1576
Date Posted: Jul. 14, 7:32am, 3 Comments

Chalk this blog up to something that I thought I would never write; a personal live tournament report. I’m an amateur poker player who stopped playing no limit hold’em regularly a couple years ago. I’ve concentrated my play on low limit PLO cash games online. With that said, I specifically planned my WSOP Main Event trip so that I could participate in the media event as it’s a nice opportunity to interact with all the WSOP staff and assorted media involved. I had only played the media event once previously, back in 2007, when I arrived late, blinded down, and didn’t win one of the 3 or 4 hands I played.

This year, I believe there were 17 starting tables - 10 handed. Each player started with 10,000 chips and rapidly increasing blinds every 15 minute levels. Naturally, any play in the game would have to be early, with winning flips and push/fold the dominate mode for the tournament the further we went. The entire tournament was played in a very fun environment with a lot of table talk and razzing on big hands. All tournament participants received a free pair of Dearfoam slippers and a copy of Annie Duke’s “Decide to Play Great Poker.”

My starting table included the ever-talkative and aggressive David Tuchman. He is well known for commenting on Live at the Bike and now is a WSOP commentator on ESPN and ESPN3. He dominated the early action as he was using regular pre and post flop aggression to win a number of pots early. With his extra chips, he was able to make a loose call of a push by our table bounty (winning some $290 headphones) when his Q,2  hit a two against the bounty’s Q,J. The more chips he had, the more pressure he applied to the table, seemingly playing over two-thirds of the pots. Only Jess Welman from Bluff Magazine seemed to tangle with him and she suffered some hits and was eliminated by Lizzy Hairston. Lizzy was constantly running in and out as she was handling ESPN interviews going on in a nearby room.

I was knocked down to about 6,300 early by Lizzy when I flopped two pair and led out from the big blind. I got two callers. The turn completed a flush, and I led again, getting one fold, but an all in shove by Lizzy Hairston. I folded and went into a patient mode since I no longer had any real play left.

Although I don’t recall the exact order of hands, I did get lucky to win some races or being a slight dog when I was the smaller stack and lost ones when I had the bigger stack. I was able to double through David Tuchman a couple times, once with 9’s vs. his 2’s and once with Q,J vs. his A,8.  I lost Q’s three-way to A,6 and K,7, shorter stacks all in. I also was forced to call a reraise all-in with K,Q and was shown A’s.

After a couple hours of play, there was a dinner break where a limited buffet was served of pizza, pasta and salad was served to all media and top WSOP staff. The camaraderie was quite apparent as most of the assembled media and staff had been working closely together for the last 6 weeks.

Taking over Jess Welman’s seat was an Australian PokerStars team pro who was quite freely expressing his knowledge of the game by his play and talk with David Tuchman. Fortunately he was on the opposite end of the table and I was able to avoid tangling with him. The other seats of bustouts were filled by a couple Italians and a nice Frenchman. I was able to win a number of pots uncontested to build my stack with the ever growing blinds.

After about three hours, our table broke when we were down to three tables. At the next table I had WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel on my left, Lon McEachearn two to my right. Lon chose the surprising approach to blind down to nothing, going all in with 1.5 big blinds and I happened to have A,K that hand. The eliminations were coming fast and furious now and I never got called on my selective shoves, building my stack significantly. At eleven players, there was a three way all-in where David Tuchman essentially tripled up with 6’s against 8’s and Q’s when he hit his set to eliminate two players and bring us into the final table and into the money/prize arena.

At the final table, Annie Duke was there with a nice stack. I’m not sure of her media role, but she kindly donated the free books and had been promoting Epic Poker League during the WSOP. There were a couple PokerNews interns and reporter who were being loudly cheered by their many co-workers with Kristy and XXX posing for camera etc in background. The final table moved swiftly and I picked my spots carefully to chip up with uncontested shoves. I chose to lay down a couple A,X hands to smaller shoves when it seemed smarter to not risk losing significant portions of my stack. I even lay down A,10 suited in the blinds with a shove and call before me. David Tuchman busted in 6th when his 4’s that he shoved pre-flop were called by Annie Duke’s A,Q that hit the flop.

When play got to three handed a local guy named Boomer shoved his stack with A,Q and Annie who was busy complaining about being late to a dinner reservation called with K,10. She won that hand and had a 2.5-1 chip lead over me heads up. I had had a very nice and informational conversation with her only the night previously at the Rio hooker bar, so I joked with her about that encounter. Although she had seemed disinterested at the final table, playing on her iPad most of it, she took the heads-up seriously and laid down several hands to my pre-flop shoves. A few hands later, she moved all in and I made the tough call with A,2. She turned over K,7 and won the hand to take the trophy.

The second place prize was a 32” Vizio flat screen TV. Knowing that she had been playing on an iPad most of the final table, I tried to arrange to swap prizes, but she insisted she wanted to donate hers to a charity poker event of hers coming up. The TV was going to be difficult to get home and I had really wanted to get something my kids would appreciate, so I started to negotiate with the third place finisher. He was thrilled to take the flat screen and give me his Xbox Kinect, which was pretty close to the same value but much easier to get home.

Although it was a bit of a lucky blur to make it through the five hour tournament and finish in second, I was proud of how I played and didn’t really question any of my moves. It feels really nice to know I am returning home with a good story to share with my family and something to give my kids that represents the hard work I put in that they sometimes have a hard time appreciating.  

A special thanks to @Kevmath, @Marie-Lizette and @Casinocityvin, media friends who stuck around to support me in the event. We headed over to the Gold Coast for bowling and pitchers of beer with many of the same media and WSOP staff. Nolan Dalla was in rare form giving away hundreds of dollars in freerolls for people trying to pick-up difficult splits. Thanks to @pokerlawyer, @dmoongirl, @writerjen and @pkrgssp for your twitter congratulations as I really enjoyed meeting you all, if briefly, in Vegas this year. This was the first year I got to know a number of the established poker media, even if I was only there 10 days. I met @pauly, @f-train, @shortstackshamus, @whojedi, @alcanthang, and a host of other very established members of the poker media who’s work I’ve enjoyed over the years.

It’s now 5 a.m. and I’ve finished packing and about to head to the airport. I’ll be back home in a few hours and back to my more normal WSOP coverage and blogging soon. Goodnight all.

Views: 736
Date Posted: Jul. 12, 10:05pm, 0 Comments

Day 2A began with 2,490 hopefuls who survived either Day 1B or 1D. The "shuffle up and deal" honor was given to the Caesar's Entertainment dealer of the year winner.

In early going Shannon Elizabeth and Liv Boeree failed to join the 822 survivors from Day 2A who are already on to a combined field Day 3. Cliff Josephy, Todd Terry, Tony Dunst, Joe Sebok, two-time main event final tablist Jeff Shulman and 2011 bracelet winner Eugene Katchalov also saw their Main Event dreams come to an end. At the break we learned that Barry Greenstein and Daniel Alaei also joined the rail.

After the first two levels of the day, blinds will move to 400/800 with a 100 ante as the green 25 chips are raced off. Over 500 players have been eliminated in the first two levels. Kevin Saul is one of the chip leaders with 280,000.

Other notable decent stacks:

Patrik Antonius 220k
Sam Simon 170k
Justin Bonomo 165k
David Chiu 147k
Jeff Madsen 143k
Dan Kelly 135k
Victor Ramdin 130k
Jamie Gold 130k
Phil Laak 126k
Robert Varkonyi 118k
Todd Brunson 115k
David Williams 115k
John Racener 108k
Matt Matros 106k

Ben Lamb continues his torrid run in the 2011 WSOP. He is currently over 300k and applying pressure on a shorter stacked Phil Hellmuth in the Player of the Year leaderboard. For instance, if Lamb finishes better than 138th, and Phil Hellmuth is unable to make the money, Lamb would take the lead in the Player of the Year race.

Overheard at the tables as I walked around "If you ever want to win a prop bet, ask a guy what is the national sport of Canada. It's not what you think. Originally it was lacrosse until in 1994 they added ice hockey over people's objections."

Also overheard at the tables "Why are New Yorkers always so angry? They realize the light at the end of the tunnel is New Jersey."

There seem to be fewer hats and costumes today. I saw that the Santa Claus, one of the cow outfits, one buffalo head, and one squirrel head were still in the field.

Announcers came back after the break to ask if players recognized a player who was lost and didn't know where to find his seat., nothing. Next they asked what tables had an open seat, nothing. Then they asked does anyone have a seat with a black sweater on it. Bingo, the guy is back at his proper seat, looking confused and bemused as the Amazon room broke into applause.

Near the dinner break I walked up to a table in full debate about some poker player. I first heard "that guy likes to start companies that catch flying knives." When I listened a bit more, they were discussing Dan Fleyshman, the entrepreneur, poker player and CEO of the defunct poker room (now affiliate) Victory Poker. Three players were spouting out their opinions, rumours heard, or personal experiences with Dan. Everyone loves to give their two cents regarding well known people. The resulting conversation ranged from "He's a good guy" to "I heard he was a scumbag and crook." I shudder to think what people would say about me if I was well known.

One late level three bust out was Brad "Yukon" Booth. He was featured in a very candid CardPlayer article detailing his struggles the last few years with being cheated, big debts and losses playing poker. He has been trying to pay people back while he remakes his poker career. He had high hopes that he could make a deep run to give a big boost to those efforts. Unfortunately for him, he will need to find poker salvation at another poker tournament.

Players are now on dinner break with the average at over 72k. While the field was larger today, the pace of bustouts was quite a bit quicker too. The blinds will move to 500/1000 with a 100 ante after the dinner break.

Views: 711
Date Posted: Jul. 11, 11:29pm, 0 Comments

As I'm starting to feel the effects of day after day of 14 hours at the Rio, I'm going to tkae off a couple hours tonight. But I wanted to share my observations from the day so far.


One thing that has really ramped up this year from previous year from my daily wanderings amongst the hundreds of tables, is an increased unease with reporters around their table. I have to credit the Partouche Tekingmac incidents of fake blogger/reporters aiding players, but I’ve found many players paranoid when I come around table to watch the action.

A new WSOP champion will be crowned in 2011 as Jonathan Duhamel bust out midway through Day 2A. He was a classy and genuine young representative for the poker world.

This WSOP Main Event has entrants from 85 countries and over the entire series from 105 countries, as a comparison the last Winter Olympics only had athletes from 82 countries.

Carter Gill’s chipstack (no player present) has blinded down to below 20k from 49k to start the day.

I happened to walk up to Scotty Nguyen’s table just as he was all in. With a raise pre-flop, the flop came down J,9,X...and the money went all in. Scotty’s opponent, before calling the all in shove of Scotty, asked if Scotty had the other J. He then flipped over J,J for top set, a semi-slowroll when no hand could beat him. Scotty was a bit disgusted and dejected as he flipped over his J,9 for top two pair, walking away from the table before the turn and river were dealt.

One candidate for questionable choice of costume arrived on Day 1A in normal attire, only to return after the dinner break dressed as Snow White. One media member scoffed it off saying he had seen the guy dressed in a dress a couple weeks, it was just his thing. Well, for his Day 2A follow-up Richard Wyrick he dressed up as Wonder Woman. He has just bust out before the dinner break and now must do the walk of shame up the crowded Rio hallways.

Daniel Negreanu continues to hold court at “the mothership” featured table, after his double early to 70k, he had a rough level before the dinner break and finds himself back down to 46,200 with blinds 500/1000 after dinner. Sorel Mizzi is also at the featured table.

In a story depicting the roller coaster nature of the WSOP, Lee Childs of 2007 WSOP final table fame  began the day with 8,450. He shoved his first hand of the day with A,10 under the gun that was uncalled. A few hands later he got A,K and doubled up against a player with K,Q with a flush draw on the low flop. From there he steadily built his stack throughout the day to a peak of 100k, before losing several hands to fall back to average around 75k. Then right before the dinner break he played a massive pot where his J’s were bested by 4’s that flopped a set leaving him with just 3600. He doubled his next hand with 3’s that won the race against A,J. One last all in with no call left him with 9900 at the dinner break with an ambitious agenda ahead of him after dinner if he is to make Day 3.

Recent bustouts on Day 2A include Phil Gordon, Soi Nguyen, Andrew Robl, Gavin SMith, Shane Schleger, DJ Blanchard, Jimmy Fricke, Gavin Smith and Jay "SEABEAST" Kinkade.

After three levels, the average chip stack is around 77k with 1203 players remaining. The blinds will move to 500/1000 with a 100 ante after dinner. The current chip leader is Aleksandr Mozhnyako with 277,100 in chips.

Views: 681
Date Posted: Jul. 11, 6:19pm, 0 Comments

Day 1A and Day 1C survivors combined to play Day 2A on Monday. There are 2,031 players hoping to make it one day further into the 2011 WSOP Main Event. Players still have a long way to go as only 693 players will make the money on Day 4 sometime and reach the initial payout of $19,359. The eventual winner will need to accumulate 205,950,000 chips in order to claim $8.7 million prize.

The average age of the 6,865 Main Event entrants is 37.  96.5% of the field is male. 242 women entered this year.

Reigning champion Jonathan Duhamel gave the traditional introduction indicating “it was nice back” and “if you have a chance to win this tournament, it’s going to change your life.”

Daniel Negreanu is at “the mothership” featured table and just received a big ovation when he essentially doubled up to 70k. As Daniel tweeted “Over 70k now! AJ vs AhKh flop AJT two hearts. I needed to fade a K Q or a heart. Came 3d then 4c. Ya baby! Let's do this!”

There are a couple lingering stories from yesterday playing out on Day 2A. Carter Gill became all the buzz within the press corps when we heard that he had been barred from all Harrah’s properties for an incident at Harrah’s that seemingly involved his throwing out clothes out the window of a “special friend” who ultimately called her friend in security who grilled and then barred Gill from Harah’s properties. That includes the Rio where Gill had qualified for Day 2 with 49,000 chips which are now being blinded off while Gill attempts to find someone to appeal his barring.

I spoke to Brian “Stinger” Hastings today. He’s had a good summer at the high stakes cash tables in Vegas, but his Main Event run came to an end early on Day 2. He made a couple misplays early that diminished his stack and he shipped A,K against a very loose aggressive opponent who had been opening around 40% of his hands only to run into AA.

Hastings added that he had another successful night last night at the Bellagio and was likely headed back there now where he has often been winning five times the Main Event buy-in during his sessions. Just before he left, he remarked at Dan “Jungleman12” Cates’ frustrations at the tables last night. He lost some pots early and got frustrated and started steaming and losing more and more. It must have affected his desire to play today because he has yet to show up as his 30k stack is being blinded off similarly to Carter Gill.

In the hat and costume department, the inflatable orange crowned gentleman is back. So is the guy that likes to wear ladies stuffed bras over his manly clothing. His first day’s choice was red, today is slightly less stuffed and pink. The vivid red robed man with the matching red silk lined top hat is back too. I also noticed one big USA cat-in- the-hat style hat and one guy with a hoodie with big ski goggles on receiving a vigorous massage.

Phil Hellmuth had come into Day 2 with just 11,800 chips. He insisted that he would try his best to grind the short stack, but apparently misunderstood which Day 2 he was playing and overslept. It required hotel security, who had been notified by fellow poker players to enter his room, despite the “Do Not Disturb” message to rouse and notify him. By the time he hurriedly showed up at the Rio, his stack was a measly 6,000 at the end for the first level, with the blinds moving from 250/500 with a 50 ante to 300/600 with a 75 ante.

Some non-poker celebrities faring well on Day 2A include Brad Garrett - 93,000 (155 bb), Paul Pierce - 70,000 (116 bb), and Jason Alexander - 61,000 (101 bb).

More later...

Views: 585
Date Posted: Jul. 11, 3:04am, 0 Comments

Just before the dinner break, the official World Series of Poker numbers were announced for both the Main Event and the entire 58 event series. Day 1D saw 2,809 players players,  which helped created the third-largest WSOP Main Event field ever with 6,865 entrants. The prize pool for the Main Event reached $64,531,000. The winner will take home $8,711,956. Eighth place or better will be guaranteed over a million dollars.

For the overall WSOP series, there were a record 75,672 entries in 58 events creating the largest prize pool in WSOP history, $191,999,010. That total beat the previous record by 3.7 percent in number of entrants and 2.6 percent higher in total prizepool. Over its 42-year WSOP history,  the series has now awarded more than $1.4 billion in prize money.

Former Main Event champions playing on Day 1D included reigning Champ Jonathan Duhamel, Joe Cada, Dan Harrington, Scotty Nguyen, Phil Hellmuth, Bobby Baldwin, Chris Moneymaker and Tom McEvoy.

The day was unkind to a number of notable poker players who busted early in Day 1D including Tom Dwan with two pair to a flush, Prahlad Friedman, Chino Rheem, 2010 Player of the Year Frank Kassela, William Reynolds, and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier. Later in the day Michael Binger, Antonio Esfandiari, David Williams, Shawn Sheikhan, and Jason Senti joined them on the rail. John Juanda, Alex Kravchenko and hip hop superstar Nelly also bust later in the day.

Into level 5, Maynard “Morey” Little is the clear chip leader of Day 1D with 176,000 with several players including Joe Tehan above 130k.

Tom Schneider passed along an overheard comment during the Series. A player in a cash game complaining to a dealer about how badly he deals… Dealer says to player, “If we switched seats, we would both make more money.”

In the funny hat department, I spotted a massive white puffy chef’s hat, a furry buffalo hat with horns, a squirrel hat, and a Santa Claus outfit with his furry red hat with white tip. One massive sumo-looking gentleman was wearing a rice paddy type Japanese hat.

The night crew of seven tournament directors/managers showed up in all white suits and pants.

Sometimes the most interesting stories don’t come from a poker celebrity or someone inside the ropes. Today as I wandered the hundreds of poker tables without finding much to write about, I decided to wander outside the ropes. Yes, those protective barriers that separate the players, staff and media from the general fans. As I approached one featured table in the Amazon, a preppy looking 50ish man approached with a question. Press always have an answer, right? When I politely provided gave him his answer, he eagerly opened up about his good fortune at this year’s World Series of Poker.

He is a divorced guy from Long Island who plays tournaments from Foxwoods down to Borgata in Atlantic City where his mother lives. Last fall he had been asked to join a home game that was playing a several months long points qualifying league for a ticket to the Main Event. It was $800 to enter. He didn’t know the guys, but was urged to join otherwise they wouldn’t have enough players. He said “what the heck.” It turns out he won the points crown easily in 6 weeks and then the seventh week they played it for cash, which he won too for an additional $1,000 to help pay for his Vegas trip.

He played on Day 1C at an interesting table. The table got some media attention because Paul Pritchard was playing at the table. Paul won his Main Event seat by hitting a hole-in-one at some golf tournament. The table also had the distinction of having all 9 players play all day long together with not a single elimination. He advanced to Day 2 with 39k.

Feeling good about his poker prospects, he ventured to play some cash games afterwards. He admitted that historically he’s a big fish in cash games, always losing. But with a few beers in him, he plunked down $200 to see what might happen. His run of good fortune continued as he ran his stack all the way up to $1,600 with a bunch of lucky hands and multiple river suckouts, readily admitting he wasn’t playing that well.

To top it all off, he insisted on telling me he had been corresponding on PlentyofFish, the dating website, with a stewardess. She heard he would be in Vegas and asked her employer for a special route from Houston to L.A. later this week so she could stop through Las Vegas for a couple days to finally meet this lucky gent. His reaction as he left me with his tales of good fortune was a hearty “Booya!”  This man clearly knows how to ride out a heater.

Views: 602
Date Posted: Jul. 10, 2:53pm, 0 Comments

Last chance to play, boys and girls. Day 1D is the final day one and set to break the all time record for single biggest Day 1 field. After a sluggish first couple days, Saturday began to ramp things up with a field of 2,181 bringing to 4,056 the total entrants so far. 2,647 players have already stamped their ticket to move onto Day 2. WSOP has been excitedly predicting the largest single day field for Sunday as everyone who dreamed of being Main Event champion begins the journey. As the registrations mount, 7,000 players seems reasonable, quite a bit higher than expected and close to the 7,319 that played in 2010.

It is quite remarkable that interest has been this strong in the face of a continued weakened economy, a long series where 10% of players cash, and many players unable to play online or access their bankrolls on sites like Full Tilt and UB. The 2011 WSOP will beat the five year average of 6753 players, so if you want to add your name to history, Sunday is the day. In fact, Ty Stewart, WSOP Vice President, just stopped by press row to crow about the bigger than predicted numbers, giving a proverbial and actual finger to those who said the WSOP was dependent on online sites for satelliting in players for their success.

Now some numbers just in from the 2011 WSOP regarding the first 57 events.

$127,468,010 through 57 events
68,807 participants through 57 events

Average Age of Entrants:                37.33
Average Age of Cashers:                36.31
Average Age of Final Tables:         33.61
Average Age of Winners:                31.10

3,637 of 68,807 entrants have been female – or 5.3% (most of that from the Ladies event)

On a personal note, many of the young poker players that I’ve followed and worked with over the years are playing today. I have enjoyed following their careers and definitely get a rush in seeing them do well after all the hard work they have put in. Poker in the short term doesn’t always reward good play, but determination, patience, resolve and a positive attitude on top of good poker skills will take you far in any endeavor.

The “Shuffle Up and Deal” was just announced by Playmate Holly Madison and Player of the Year leader Phil Hellmuth which was followed up by a notorious player the long haired “devil” who crashed his cymbals somewhere in the crowd.

More later...

Views: 596
Date Posted: Jul. 10, 2:51am, 0 Comments

A new level of enthusiasm was felt in the second half of Saturday's Day 1C as WSOP officials announced that the days field was 2181 players strong and they had already more than that registered for Sunday. Now with 4,056 players having played the first three Day 1's, tournament officials feel even 7,000 total players isn't out of consideration. "We'll handle as many as want to play on Sunday." After the first two sluggish days, that was welcome news.

I received confirmation that my ears had indeed been plugged the first two days. When wandering up the Rio hallway, I heard for the first time this series "that's so sick."

I also earned another merit badge in my poker media ascension when I was asked to charge a lovely poker player's iPhone.

Eric Seidel posted a humorous tweet after announcing at the dinner break that he was cruising along with 57k, "Let's pretend I miscounted on the break. I have 28k now."

As a table was breaking in the Pavilion, two players from opposite sides of the table walked over to each other to congratulate each other and give respect to each other's game, both mutually saying "You're tough to play against, good luck to you at your next table." After the mutual admiration between the heavy-set urban looking African American guy and the smallish dark haired suburban-looking white guy, they felt comfortable enough revealing their online usernames. "I'm XXXXXX on Stars..." "Oh wow, I've played against you a bunch."

Continuing his transition to the poker game from success in other fields, 2002 Scripps National Spelling Bee Winner Praytush Buddiga finds himself sitting on a healthy 60k stack after the fourth level.

In a sign of the times of no longer being sponsored by UB, Phil Hellmuth made his quietest entrance in years by grabbing an ESPN microphone on his way in to play near the end of level 2. He was placed at a side featured table where he has fared poorly all day and now sits at 5,100 with the blinds at 200-400 with a 50 ante.

Katrina Jett will no longer have to worry about her water breaking during her WSOP run as she bust out after nursing a small stack when her J's couldn't hold against A,Q.

There are always some interesting chip protectors, but one I enjoyed today was a 6 inch gold plated railroad tie.

I have new found respect for Howard "Tahoe" Andrew who holds the current record for Main Events played consecutively going all the way back to 1974. He was alert and alive in the last level of the day while a couple tables over some 21 or 22 year old kid was playing the nodding off game, his head dipping then waking, then dipping again. No one at the table chose to rouse him when he remained still for a few minutes.

Views: 935
Date Posted: Jul. 9, 8:36pm, 0 Comments

Kicking off Day 1C was Annie Duke, the lady from Cupcake Wars who made a 1,000 cupcake display and the hilarious duo of Ray Romano and Brad Garrett. As they were keeping to the cupcake theme, Ray piped in that cupcake is his favorite stripper at the Crazy Horse. Brad kept his table and section in hilarity by imitating the iconic deep gravely voiced “Redbull” server who wanders the Amazon.


Last year’s Main Event winner, Jonathan Duhamel, is at the “mothership” featured table and was quoted by Jack Effel as saying to all competitors to “come and get you some.”


One young player with a training site patch on was making the most of his down time by watching a four tabling poker video on his iPad in between hands.


Two guys in the Pavilion room were seen wearing cow outfits as part a promotion or lost prop bet for a poker information site. One of the cow outfitted players was at Shane Schleger’s table who was off to a fast start. It was nice to formally meet Shane, as we had corresponded online and Twitter previously, and I had tried to recruit the personable pro in the early days of PokerCurious. His cow outfitted table-mate didn’t fare as well and busted in the second level on a classic Q’s vs. A,K confrontation.


On the celebrity front, the Celtic’s Paul Pierce is playing today along with Mr. Elizabeth Hurley (aka Shane Warne), boxer Jeff Fenech, Norway's ski star Petter Northug. Daniel Negreanu is attracting his usual large crowd, especially since he’s located at a table next to the rail. Karina Jett, who finished runner-up in last week’s Ladies Event is playing today and looking close to term in her pregnancy, but hoping for an uninterrupted deep run.


Shaun Deeb’s grandma is playing the Main Event for the very first time, she is 91 and was just announced on the loudspeakers as the oldest entrant saying “you’re all playing for second.” Just before the second break, she busted. It was said that Gramma Deeb got someone to fold a full house before busting with two pair versus a set. On a fun aside, she was patched up with a PokerTracker logo.


After weeks of downplaying alcohol in the tournament area, yesterday the WSOP started an oficial Mill Lite beer concession stand by “the mothership” but when initial sales were quite slack, the WSOP staff has been replaced by “Miller Lite girls.”


During the first level of Day 1C it was announced that the overall 2011 World Series of Poker is the largest in history. Although players are still registering through the end of level 2, the numbers for Day 1C look to be between 2100 and 2200. With over twice as many players today, it wasn’t surprised to see not one, but two surgical masks in use today doubling yesterday’s number.


There were 616 (63%) who advanced to Day 2B from Day 1B, with Ben Lamb falling a bit at the end to 188,925 but still good for that day’s chip lead. Berger from Day 1A had 209k.


One media member just came in soaked from the parking lot walk in from his car, complaining that it has rained four out of the last give days in Vegas. A rarity for this desert city.


We are now at the second break of the day with one more two hour level until the dinner break.

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