Lou Krieger Wins Binion's Author's Challenge

Poker Author Lou KriegerWhile we all sit here and try to decide if the sky is actually falling on Internet poker or not, there is still some real live B&M poker happening out there, including the Poker Author's challenge at Binion's.

It sounded like a lot of fun, and made me wish I'd collected all my WSOP writings from last year and put them into book form, so I could face off against John Vorhaus (whose homegame I donk around in regularly -- incidentally, even if you can't find the sucker, and therefore know you're the sucker, you're still the sucker) and other guys like Richard Sparks (Diary of a Mad Poker Player), Charlie Shoten (No Limit Life) and everyone's favorite author / blogger, Lou Krieger.

The tourney went off this weekend, and Lou Krieger emerged victorious. This pleases me greatly, because Lou is a great guy, a great friend to all poker bloggers everywhere, and has been a voice of reason throughout what I'm just going to call "the recent unpleasantness."

Lou has all the details of his championship run, in true self-effacing form, at his blog.

The Beginning of the End

bodog girlsNeteller is closing up in the USA, and I have to agree with Bill Rini: this is the beginning of the end for online poker in the USA.

I'm in shock, to be honest. I don't see how online gaming hurts ANYONE or does ANYTHING that is bad (mmmkay) and I just don't understand the jihad my idiot government is waging against online poker, while horse racing, dog racing, and state lotteries are still A-OK for anyone.

I'm worried, because though I don't make a ton of money playing online poker, I do make a significant portion of my monthly income writing about it and even though I'm not as good or well-known as everyone else on Team PokerStars, I've been a proud member of the team, and I've worked hard to be an ambassador to normal, every day players who don't play in the hard core 40-80 games. Now that the US market is rapidly closing up, I have this looming sense of inevitability that I'll lose that, too, and eventually I'll lose the ability to enjoy my evenings playing some low-limit SNGs or cash games.

See, I really like poker, but I'm not rich, and while I'm entirely comfortable risking the price of a night out for dinner and a movie to play cards and maybe even leave with more than I started, I don't see myself driving to Commerce or the Bike, or making a special trip to Vegas to play in a B&M room for higher stakes, with the associated
costs of travel and the extra investment of my time.

There are a lot of reasons to loathe my idiot government now, and this is right up there in my top five: they're telling me what I can do in my own home, and they're negatively impacting my ability to support myself and my family . . . and for what, exactly? So Bill Frist can pander to a minority of ultra-conservative whackos, and then not even follow through on his presidential bid?

This sucks. It makes me angry, and it makes me depressed.

(BoDog Girls tearfully included to remember the good times.)

A Tragic Dead Man's Hand

JackassBack in my teenage days, I was a big fan of the stupid dealer's choice poker night. We'd get together and play baseball, night baseball, follow the bitch, Mexican sweat, and other variants that essentially made half the deck wild, and removed any skill from the game.

It was stupid, and nobody ever won or lost more than ten or twenty bucks, and it was mostly an excuse to goof off together (and get drunk when we were in college.)

Though we were stupid, one of the things we never did was play Russian Roulette when we lost a pot, which sets us apart from a group of future brain surgeons (or Bush Administration Cabinet Members) who did exactly that.

According to the Daily Herald, this group of rocket scientists from Elmhurst (near Chicago) thought that it was a brilliant idea to get drunk, and play cards with a twist: the loser had to spin the chamber of a revolver, point it at the person to their right and pull the trigger.

This lead to the death of 18 year-old
Michael "Mickey" Murray, on his birthday, no less. his friends testified that he didn't even want to be in the game. The brilliant mastermind of this sick and idiotic exercise, 40 year-old Anson Paape, is currently on trial for Murry's murder.

(via Bill Rini)

Bill Chen on High Stakes Poker Premiere Tonight

I spent a lot of time this weekend watching classic WSOP final tables on the appropriately named ESPN Classics. It was stunning to see how much things have changed, from the obvious things like the size of the field and quality of the productions, to the things that haven't changed at all, like Scotty Nguyen's mullet and, uh, fashion.

I also had my opinion that Gabe Kaplan is the best commentator in the history of the universe reaffirmed, especially when compared to Dick van Patten, who preceded him, and frequently offered insights like, "Hey, what does he have there? Two pair? I think he has two pair. Oh. Wait. Maybe he has 7-4 and turned a straight."

There's no denying that the hole card camera has added drama and tension and excitement to the game on television, but there's also a certain magic and a different brand of excitement that builds up when we don't know what the hole cards are, especially when it's something like Stu Ungar pulling a massive bluff with complete bullshit cards on his way to the 1997 championship.

Anyway, I mention all of this because Gabe Kaplan provides the commentary for High Stakes Poker (which I've come to enjoy much more than when I first watched it) and on tonight's episode, my Team PokerStars teammate, fellow BARGEr, and not-quite-friend-but-I-still-really-like-him-a-lot double 2006 WSOP Bracelet winner (and three-time final tabler) Bill Chen is on the show tonight. Bill couldn't give us any details on how he played or if he won or lost, but he told the BARGE list earlier today, "I am anxious to watch myself to see what hands they show."

High Stakes Poker airs at 9pm Eastern, on the Game Show Network.

2007 WSOP Schedule Released

I'm in Vegas for CES, but I'm staying just down the hall from where I lived during the 2006 WSOP, so it was a little surreal for me to read at PokerNews that the 2007 WSOP schedule had been released.

Really? Already? It seems like I was just here. In fact, I am here. Okay, I'm freaking myself out.

But enough about me, let's get to the poker. Dr. Tim says that the series will kick off 55 events on June 1, running for seven weeks before the Main Event begins on July 6th. Yeah, you read that correctly; we're going to have to be in Vegas for the 4th of July craziness.

They say that there will be several events other than Hold'Em (possibly responding to criticism from players after the 2006 WSOP was pretty much the World Series of Hold'Em) , including three different HORSE events, a SHOE event, and several different mixed games. There are lots of different buy-ins, as low as $1,000 and running up to $5,000 with the Main Event still being a $10,000 event.

Speaking of the Main Event, they plan to have three day ones, pushing through 3,000 players a day.

Uhm. Yeah. If they're stopping the online poker sites from running satellites and putting players into the Main Event, how in the world to they expect to get even 5000 players?

Dr. Tim has the full schedule of events including their buy-ins, at PokerNews.

A Poker Tournament Guide and The Patience Factor

I recently asked the BARGE list if anyone knew of a site that displayed tournament structure and payout in addition to the standard information about buy-ins and times.

BARGEr Mark T. pointed me to the exact resource I was hoping to find, Arnold Snyder's Las Vegas Poker Tournament Guide.

What makes this guide so incredibly useful is Snyder's Patience Factor Formula, which looks at the depth of the starting stacks, the time of each level, and assigns a number between 1 and 10 for how patient you can be when selecting the strength of your starting hands. Tournaments with high numbers tend to be longer and reward (in the long term) the most skilled players, while tournaments with low numbers tend to be faster and introduce a much greater luck factor.

This guide is one of (if not the single) most useful tournament guide I've ever seen. If you want to really test your skill, you find one with a high patience factor, like Bellagio's $540 2PM Monday tourney, which comes in at a very challenging 9. If you want to gambool it up and take your chances against an army of pushmonkeys, you may want to check out the Aladdin's $55 11AM tourney, which has a Full Tilt Poker $2 Turbo rating of 1.65.

So next time you head to Vegas (or any of the other cities linked in the guide, including Los Angeles and Atlantic City,, if you're honest with yourself about your skill level and know how much money you're willing to risk on your buy-ins, you can use this guide to find where your EV is theoretically the most positive.

Girls, Girls. You're BOTH Pretty.

A few months ago, I played in a FPP satellite for the huge PokerStars Sunday tournament. I didn't win a ticket, but I did make a new acquaintance in Ed Brayton, a hell of a poker player, and a freelance writer who pens the absolutely brilliant Dispatches from the Culture Wars blog.

Ed mostly writes about science, religion, and where they intersect (and when they shouldn't) but he also writes about poker, leading to this gem from last week.

For those of you who aren't up to speed on this: Daniel Negreanu loudly (and, in my opinion, quite ignorantly) criticized Greg Raymer and other players who brought a lawsuit against the World Poker Tour last year, and the resulting kerfuffle took on a life of its own on 2+2, Daniel's Full Contact Poker Forum, and on a small yacht in the Indian Ocean, where two brothers randomly chose the topic as the one thing they were going to fight to the death about to settle the question, once and for all, "Whose is bigger?"

Things seemed to settle down until recently, after Joe Hachem crushered Daniel at Bellagio, and Daniel praised Joe for being a real good tournament player (duh) but also took a pretty nasty swipe at Greg, comparing him to Jamie Gold and Chris Moneymaker as guys who just got lucky. Oh, you di-int!

Yeah, he did, apparently ignoring Greg's impressive tournament record after he won the 2004 WSOP Main Event, which included finishing 19th in 2005, against a field of over 6000 nearly 6000 players.

Now, Daniel has always been a good guy to me, and I genuinely like him, but this is just silly. I don't think he really believes it either; he's talking about Main Event champions who didn't repeat or do much after winning their bracelet, and Varkonyi is conspicuously absent.

Click over to Ed's blog, and take a look at Greg's response to Daniel's barb. It's classic.

30 year-old Canadian Wins Moneymaker Millionaire

When PokerStars introduced the Moneymaker Millionaire during the 2006 WSOP, everyone in the company was really excited about the chance to let someone follow 2003 WSOP champion Chris Moneymaker into history. While Chris turned his $40 satellite into a main event bracelet and 2.5 million dollars. (Chris also started the current internet poker boom, which in turn started the overall poker boom, but don't tell anyone at the World Poker Tour that.)

The Moneymaker Millionaire was a simple idea: enter a free tourney, and just outlast over 800,000 other hopefuls, through three rounds of tournaments, ending in a three table tourney at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure this week.

The eventual winner is Canada's own Quillan Nagel, who took a break from preparing to defend his master's thesis next week to head down to Atlantis for the tourney.

His story is great, and is covered in greater detail by Brad and Michelle Willis at the Official Pokerstars Blog, but I'm quoting my absolute favorite bit right here:

When a reporter asked why he thought Canadians are better at poker than Americans, Quillan said, "It's because when it's cold and there's nothing better to do than play poker."

That explains so much, now that I think of it . . . right Hoy and Joanne?

ouch. my junk.

Well, that was fast.

I sat into today's 50FPP freeroll, ready to play some 'go big or go home' poker, with the speedy blind structure and whatnot, and as an exercise in playing a shorter stack (relative to the blinds) a little more aggressively.

So with that in mind, the very first hand I played was K5c, in the cutoff, after two limpers. I figured that it was a chance to work on post-flop play, too, and unless I really hit, I'd be done with the hand.

The SB called, the BB checked. The flop came Kd-7d-5h, and I had top and bottom pair. An EP limper min-bet, and was called in two places. I upped it to 450, figuring that one of these guys hit his king, or was on a flush draw, and would jam over the top of me, so I could jam back, and take a fairly decent hand to war heads-up.

Everything worked out exactly as planned, when the EP bettor jammed, but things got dicey when one of the callers also jammed. Now I was taking top and bottom pair to war -- on the very first hand I'd played, no less -- against two players with a flush draw out there. Well, I've been trying to avoid the Monsters Under The Bed syndrome, and I figured this was as good a spot as any to gamble and triple up. I just couldn't see how I was behind, unless I was against a set, but I've learned in these short stack things that you just can't be afraid of a set whenever someone overbets a not-that-scary board, right? Wouldn't a set want to get some action from someone who hit TP? And none of the preflop action indicated any premium hands, so . . .

I called, and I was way ahead of K8 and I guess slightly ahead of a Q-high flush draw with no pair.

Well, until the board paired 7s on the river and go from looking good to busto just like that. Ouch.

Did I completely fuck up there? I don't think so. Would any of you guys have played it differently? I figure the right thing to do in a massive field turbo is put all your money in when you're reasonably sure you're ahead and you hope for the best. But right now, I'm feeling a little stupid.

The chat today was nothing like yesterday's. There were lots of friendly and kind comments, including several "Welcome to Riverstars" messages, which were actually delivered with good humor, so at least that aspect of the game was enjoyable.

I play again tomorrow, if you'd like to come in and deliver your own kick to my junk

ah, the joys of online heckling

David Pogue recently wrote a column where he channeled Ric Romero, and marveled at how people online can be such outrageous dicks, and behave in ways that would get them a cockpunch in real life.

I just got bounced from today's Team PokerStars freeroll tourney, and I have to say that even I am shocked at how unconscionably rude these people were; I don't know how guys like Chris and Greg deal with this shit every single time they sit down to play. The quality of their insults was second only to their ability to mangle basic rules of English grammar and spelling.

I tried to leave my observer chat on, because part of my responsibility as a member of Team PokerStars is to chat with folks and stuff . . . but oh my god, I was just stunned at how outrageously idiotic these unaccountable people were. I ignored the comments as best as I could, and just played my game, but I'm going to have to turn observer chat off (or get PokerStars to put a chat moderator on my table) for the rest of the tourneys. That's a real shame, but without accountability and someone to whack them on the nose from time to time, the loudest and most annoying person seems to win in this online version of Lord of the Flies.

I played as well as I could, considering the blinds move up every 5 minutes and it's tough to do much of anything without cards to back it up, but I kept my stack right around 1500 until my M dropped to around 4ish, and I found pocket sevens. An active player with a big stack limped in EP, and I thought about jamming to get heads up, but I got distracted by the haters and just raised, pot-committing myself without using whatever folding equity I had. As far as I'm concerned, that's my only mistake in the hand, so when a player reraised behind, the EP limper called, and I saw a chance to triple up to just over average, I figured I was about 45% or so to win. I called, and they both showed over cards. One guy paired his king, and IGHN about 1/2 way through the field. It was really cool that he was so excited to win the tourney ticket, though, so that was pretty cool, since the whole point of these events is to thank the players who have made PokerStars such a success in the online poker world.

I have to say, though, when I was eliminated, I was a little relieved that I wouldn't have to put up with the insults and various misspellings of "you're" and "your" anymore, and I will admit with some shame that, though I thought it would be fun to play some low-limit cash poker before the Wheetie started, I decided to virtually walk away, so I could get a break from these children. There's something really wrong with that, from both sides, I think.

PokerStars Fifth Anniversary Celebration

Play poker online at PokerStarsPoker Stars turns five this month, which is much, much more than 35 in dog years or a a century in Internets years; it's an opportunity for PokerStars to give something back to its players with the Fifth Anniversary Celebration.

There are a bunch of different promotions going on right now, including:
  • Big cash awards, every one million hands for cash game players, and a bonus on top of the cash won if the winner is a VIP player.
  • Cash awards to play money players.
  • Two $25,000 freerolls for players who have been with PokerStars since 2001.
  • 25% deposit and reload bonuses for new or current players, respectively.
So that's all cool, right? But the thing that I'm most excited about are the Team PokerStars freeroll tourneys. Check it out: Throughout the fifth anniversary celebration, PokerStars will host five $1,000 freerolls every day with 10 Frequent Player Point buy-ins. We'll also run one $5,000 freeroll every day with a 50 FPP buy-in. There's a very good chance you'll find one or more of your favorite Team PokerStars members in the field of players. If you knock out a Team PokerStars player, PokerStars will award you a free entry to a $215 Sunday Million tournament.

I'm playing in a whole bunch of the Team PokerStars tourneys, so if you want to come and take a shot at me, here's my schedule (times are Eastern Standard):
  • 12/26 - 19:00 $1000 10 FPP Freeroll
  • 12/27 - 15:00 $5000 50 FPP Freeroll
  • 12/28 - 19:00 $1000 10 FPP Freeroll
  • 12/30 - 22:00 $1000 10 FPP Freeroll
  • 01/02 - 20:00 $1000 10 FPP Freeroll
All the details can be found at the PokerStars 5th Anniversary Celebration page.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Hachem Wins Five Diamond

The WWdN started around the same time on Tuesday as the final table of the Five Diamond Classic, so I kept PokerWire open in Firefox and sweated Joe Hachem the entire time I was playing.

I don't know Joe as well as I know Greg, but in the little time we've spent together, I've grown incredibly fond of him. He is truly a great guy, a wonderful ambassador for the game, and a very, very good poker player. He would have certainly picked up another bracelet in the 2006 WSOP if he hadn't gotten insanely unlucky, and I know from personal experience how important it can be to Prove To Everyone that one victory wasn't a fluke. Though I've learned not to get emotionally invested in a player (poker tourneys are cruel that way) I couldn't help it. I wanted Joe to win even more than I wanted to win the damn tourney I was playing in myself.

It was fantastic to watch Joe take down pots here and there, while Daniel Negreanu slowly bled his chip lead away. Now, the thing is, I personally like Daniel, but Joe and I are Teammates (he's like Joe Dimaggio and I'm Jimmy the retarded kid who gets to dump a pail of water on this one patch of grass every game, but we get to wear the same uniform, dammit!) so I was cheering for Joe the whole way. My cheering was made even more fun because my fellow writer (and good poker player, I will grudgingly admit) CarolP was cheering for her FCP BFF Daniel.

Ah, the trash talking was something to behold, especially when Joe eliminated Daniel to get heads up, but it was nothing compared to how awesome it was to see the update come across Pokerwire that Joe had won.

He picks up over two million dollars with the victory, but he should also pick up the respect of his peers (well, the last few holdouts, anyway) and that's something that you can't put a price tag on.

Well, maybe you can. How about $2.1 million?

One Hell of a Final Table at the Five Diamond

The Bellagio is one of the most beautiful casinos in Las Vegas, and its Fontana Room is my favorite place in the world to play poker. They run fantastic tournaments there, and back in the days before the Intertubes were clogged with poker sites, it was one of the very few places where tournament players could find big buy-ins that rivaled the WSOP.

The crown jewel in the Bellagio's tournament series, called the Five Diamond Classic, is underway right now, and tonight's final table to be aired on the World Poker Tour next season is one of the best I've seen in a long, long time.

Check it out:

1 Daniel Negreanu 4,670,000
2 Mads Anderson 4,315,000
3 David Redlin 2,400,000
4 Joe Hachem 2,345,000
5 Ed Jordan 2,320,000
6 Jim Hanna 1,280,000

Holy crap. The 2004 player of the year, the 2005 WSOP champ, and the 2006 EPT Scandinavian Open champ. Even with the WPT's retarded final table blind structure, this will be one hell of a battle when play gets underway at 5pm Pacific this afternoon.

If you'd like to follow the action, Pokerwire has you covered.

PokerStars Voted Best Online Poker Room

BLUFF Magazine's Readers Choice Awards were just announced, and I was ecstatic to read that PokerStars was voted the Best Online Poker Room.

Though I'm not the most impartial observer, since pretty much everyone at PokerStars is a friend of mine, and I play for Team PokerStars -- you know, come to think of it, I'm about as far from an impartial observer as you can get -- I'm not surprised at all. I've spent a lot of time with members of the support and marketing teams, and I am constantly impressed with their passion for poker, their respect for their players, and their desire to give everyone the best customer service and playing experience possible.

So congratulations to everyone at PokerStars, and thank you to the readers at BLUFF!

Harrahs Reportedly Sold

At LasVegasVegas, flipchippro says that the rumors are true, and Harrahs will be sold to Apollo Management Group for around 17 billion dollars.

This is a big deal for several reasons beyond the obvious poker-related ones, and those reasons are scattered up and down the Strip from Tropicana all the way down to Sahara in the form of nearly every hotel that has a porn slapper out front; Harrahs is one of the largest employers in Las Vegas, and any changes in ownership will impact a whole lot of people who work in the hotel and casino industry.

It's also a potentially big deal for poker players: when the deal goes through, Harrahs will go from a publicly-traded to a privately-owned company, which should have some significant effects on the WSOP, not the least of which will be online satellites for the Main Event in 2007. After all the .net stickers in the Main Event and the UIGEA trauma in 2006, it seemed like Harrahs was going to make things very hard for the online sites to run the Moneymaker-style $40 satellites, but if the casino (and therefore the WSOP) is privately owned, that could change.

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