If you're a WSOP official, you're probably not encouraged by the start of the 2010 World Series of Poker. Attendance is down sharply in every event so far. Consider:
Event 1 - $500 CE NLHE: 866 in 2009; 721 in 2010 (-17%)
Event 2 - $50,000 PPC: 148 in 2008*; 116 in 2010 (-22%)
Event 3 - $1,000 NLHE: 6,012 in 2009; 4,345 in 2010 (-28%)
Event 4 - $1,500 O8: 918 in 2009; 818 in 2010 (-11%)
There are a few forces at work here which might be distorting these numbers. For example, last year there was only one $1,000 NLHE event. Anyone who wanted to play it had to play that event. This year there are six. It stands to reason that the field in that event would be smaller. Also, the $1,500 NLHE event that starts today may have cannibalized the $1,000 field. (Or maybe the $1k will cannibalize the $1,500. I guess we'll see.)
With the PPC event, I compared the numbers this year to the 2008 event because last year ESPN did not broadcast the final table. As a result many exposure-seeking pros passed on the event. This year the format changed from HORSE to Eight-Game. That may also have affected turnout, especially since PLO can be a real "widowmaker" of a game.
The other two events, however -- the Casino Employees' Event and Omaha Hi/Lo -- were the exact same events as last year. While I acknowledge that something as small as changing the day of the week an event starts from a Thursday to a Friday can impact turnout, both events experienced a double-digit decline in players.
There have been other problems as well. The web site of the "official live-update provider" has been held together by duct tape, paper clips and hamsters. Tomorrow is the day that enforcement of the UIGEA regulations is supposed to begin. What are those things going to mean for attendance at the rest of the WSOP?
I'll be back in the Amazon Room today for Day 2 of the O8. Live updates (when the site is working) at PokerNews.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
It was another quiet day in the media box at the back of the Amazon Room covering Day 2 of the $50K yesterday. The Amazon Room had a bit more buzz because many of the tables were being used for Event #3, the first of six $1,000 NLHE events. But by dinner time all of those tables had broken and we were back to about ten mostly quite tables in the $50K.
The task of covering a poker tournament is not exactly a science. In the heat of things it's easy to jot down a card incorrectly. Sometimes, if you walk up to a table in the middle of a hand, the action can be mis-reported due to things like the dealer pulling chips into the pot. Maybe your attention gets distracted for a moment by a hand at a nearby table. Perhaps you miscount the size of a bet or raise.
Yesterday, a poker player in Event 3 was upset because it was reported that he made a squeeze play "with an airball" after the flop in a three-way pot. In fact he said he actually had top pair. He called the incorrect reporting of the hand a "bash" and threatened a "libel suit". (Clearly, he needs to look up the definition of libel.)
It was an error. They happen, as stated above, for any number of reasons. I'm sure the reporter for that hand was unhappy to later learn that he or she had gotten it wrong.
Everyone makes mistakes. Nobody is ever right 100% of the time. True strength is admitting your mistakes, apologizing for them, fixing them if possible and learning from them. It's another of those things that separates professionals from amateurs and adults from children. In fact, mistakes are some of the greatest learning tools. There's nothing "strong" or positive that comes from projecting an air of infallibility to the world, always claiming to be right and never apologizing for anything. It does the opposite of what you're trying to do -- it exposes you as a sad, insecure, emotionally weak individual.
Poker seems to attract those types of people.
Today I'll be moving off of the $50K and covering Day 1 of the $1,500 Omaha Hi/Lo. I'm offering all of my luck in this event to two of the "good people" of poker -- Shirley Rosario and Matt Savage. Here's hoping that two days from now they'll be heads-up for the title.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Imagine that you are tasked with providing live internet coverage of the most talked-about, most watched, most high-profile poker tournament series on the planet. Also imagine that the series starts with a marquee event that is sure to attract some of the best talent in the game and sports a $50,000 price tag just for a seat at the table. What's the one thing you'd like to make sure is rock solid? Your web site, right?
Yesterday was a trying day for PokerNews writers, PokerNews readers and PokerNews administrators. Technical glitches caused the web site to shudder and wheeze throughout the day. Some were hardware-related; some were software-related; some were user-related. At one point during the $50K we were unable to post anything for roughly an hour. It was enough to try the sanity of even seasoned veterans.
Mistakes and crises happen though. Reacting to them in a cool, level-headed manner, rather than standing there in the middle of a crowded room and shouting your head off, is what separates professionals from amateurs and adults from children. All that drama and negativity isn't going to fix anything. It's just drama and negativity heaped onto things for no good reason. Eventually some semblance of functionality was restored to the PokerNews web site and we all went on with our nights.
Other impressions from Day 1:
* It's hard to convey the size of the Pavilion Room in words or pictures. It's like the Grand Canyon. When you see pictures of the Grand Canyon, you think, "Sure, that's big I guess. But so what?" Only when you see the Grand Canyon in person do you understand the enormity of what you're looking at.
* It was weird being inside the Amazon Room without the typical "buzz". The only tables in action were the 15 $50K tables. It was oddly sedate all day.
* Final entrants in the $50K: 116. Ship the under-125.
* As happens every year, there were allegations of marked cards in the $50K. Particularly revealing was this interlude at John D'Agostino's table:
...one of D'Agostino's hole cards had a small "chip" taken out of it near the corner. D'Agostino stopped the deal before it was complete to call attention to the card. He asked if he should just flip it up, as he had not yet been dealt his door card. The dealer called the floor over to the table but continued the deal before the floor arrived, giving D'Agostino a third card, face up.* Neither Howard Lederer nor Chris Ferguson were perp-walked out of the $50K by the federales. Both survived to Day 2. In fact there were only 11 eliminations all day (ship the over-10.5, 2 for 2!). Dan Shak was first out when he over-played middle set in PLO; durrrr followed soon after.
"I guess not," D'Agostino said to nobody. "How can I play this hand now?" When action came to D'Agostino he closed his hand. Then he turned up the marked card.
"Shockingly it was an ace," he remarked as he showed the ace of spades. "Who could have guessed?"
I'll be back at it for Day 2 of the $50K at 3pm. Head to PokerNews for coverage.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Last year I interviewed Andy Bloch just before the 2009 World Series of Poker started. He described the non-WSOP part of the year as time spent "waiting for the next WSOP".
After producing just three cashes and no final tables during an aggressive slate of bracelet events in 2009, the wait to the 2010 World Series of Poker must have been a long one for Andy. Today that wait is over. In about 3 hours, Event #1 - $500 Casino Employees NLHE will officially start the bracelet events for 2010. It will be followed five hours later by one of the most anticipated events of the entire series: the $50,000 Poker Player's Championship. I'll be covering the first few days of the $50K for PokerNews.
There's going to be a lot of shit over the next seven weeks. Some of it will be good; most will be bad. That's to be expected when $180 million is redistributed from 60,000 people to 6,000 people (minus a 5% vig to Harrah's, natch). There will be people who play multiple events they have no business playing; people who waste their time and money out of some misguided notion of proving something to themselves and others; people who get in over their heads; and people who blow their bankrolls. Hell, today in Event #2 there will almost certainly be players in the field who fit all of those categories.
Last night at a pre-WSOP party, four WSOP media veterans debated how many players will show up for the $50K today. In 2008 the $50K HORSE drew a field of 148 players. Last year, when ESPN chose not to broadcast the $50K HORSE, that number dipped to 95.
This year the format has changed to an eight-game format -- with an all-NLHE final table, so that ESPN would be persuaded to broadcast it. Also, the $50K has been moved to the very front of the schedule, where players still have bankrolls and haven't yet had their dreams repeatedly and savagely crushed.
The line was finally set at 125. Two of us took the over; two of us took the under. Either it was a good line or two of us are complete idiots. We'll find out later today.
The wait is over. The 2010 World Series of Poker starts today.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I've been a bit absent from the blog for the last week due to a trip to Palm Springs, various runnings-around-town here in Vegas, and the Brunson Beer Pong Invitational Tournament, which somehow I got invited to. "May you live in interesting times," I guess.
I often make friends slowly. People don't instantly take to me and I often don't instantly take to them. Although I know some other people would vehemently disagree, I don't think it's a personality flaw. It's just the way I am. I might appear stand-offish at times but my friendships are built over time, shared experiences and commonalities. That's how it's come about with Joe Speaker, with whom I spent all of Sunday.
Speaker and I opened the festivities with a round of golf in the morning in which we both swung the clubs like we'd never played the game before. Afterwards we went back to the swanky new Chez Speaker to play internet poker and spend some time with Speaker's family: his lady friend Emet and his 8-year-old son AJ. The line of the night belonged to AJ. After I busted out of the BBT5 in 4th place, I told AJ I came up a little short but I won $170.
"Can I have it?" he asked. Dead serious, too. I like the way he thinks!
When I got into my car Monday morning to head back to Vegas, there was a slip of paper on the floor of the passenger side that I guess had blown out from under the seat the day before. It was a voided rail ticket for Amtrak, round-trip, from Los Angeles to Solana Beach, a trip I made with Speaker and Emet last year to Del Mar racetrack. It was as if the universe was saying, "Remember this? Don't ever let these people slip out of your life."
Yesterday the beer pong tournament took place at Hogs and Heifers in downtown Vegas. Most of the people that were there would never set foot in Hogs were it not for the beer pong tournament, so the vibe inside was a bit weird. My good buddy Eric Ramsey was my teammate on Team PokerNews. We avoided embarrassment in the first round, surviving to win by a single cup against a team of two girls who had never played beer pong before.
In the second round we drew Hoyt Corkins and Steve Gross, about as close to ringers as you get in beer pong. (Beer pong ringers? Seriously? What world am I living in?) Despite a decent fight, we lost by three cups. Eric and I agreed that you should never play drinking games against a man in a cowboy hat.
Today there are various meetings. Tomorrow, the $50K Players Championship begins and we're off and running for seven weeks. I'll be covering the first two days of the $50K before moving over the the $1,500 Omaha Hi/Lo event. All of the coverage is on PokerNews, of course.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Even though it's 2010, people are still trying to find a game-changer to make a "new" buck off of poker. Given the industry's maturation since the Moneymaker Moment of 2003 (seven years ago this coming Monday), those dollars are harder and harder to find. The affiliate marketers who were rolling in cash in 2005 are being squeezed at the edges now because the dominant online poker sites no longer need to pay lucratively to acquire new players. Training sites were the rage a few years ago but have recently undergone some consolidation. And the market for televised poker has gotten very, very crowded, with shows like Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, the PokerStars Big Game, World Poker Tour, Heartland Poker Tour, NAPT, and WSOP all competing for viewer attention and advertiser dollars.
Many people in poker tend to forget how truly niche the industry is. Although some of the revenue streams in play are measured in hundreds of millions of dollars, in terms of popular appeal poker probably has a single-digit market share. With the industry so strongly established and the major operators so firmly entrenched, it takes a sound idea and an excellent business model to make a new poker venture a success. If your poker business / poker tv show / other poker product doesn't have the ability to capture 100% of the poker market -- and hopefully some spillover into a non-poker market -- its days are numbered. This is a major mistake that "The Real Deal" made.
All of this brings us to World Team Poker, a "new" "team poker" concept that had its inaugural event yesterday at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. I can't help but think that this poker venture is going to fail, like so many before it.
World Team Poker pits poker "national teams" of reasonably well-known poker players (i.e., "good for TV" players) against each other in a double-shootout format. There were eight teams in action yesterday on five tables -- one player per team per table. The rules allow players to be substituted or rotated almost at will, and the team captain can be called in for a consult at any time if a tough decision is required.
Individual players cannot be eliminated, per se. Each player in action at any time is simply playing his or her team's stack at that table. If the player busts from the table, the player's team is busted from that table -- but the player who busted can be substituted into a different table, assuming the team still has other stacks in play.
The top two players from each table advance to the final table. However no country can be represented more than once at the final table. So, for example, if China had three survivors in the first round of the double-shootout, all of their stacks would be consolidated into one Chinese stack for the final table.
As if all of this wasn't gimmicky enough, the tournament also used a mixed-game format, with rotations of limit hold'em (30 minutes), pot-limit omaha (45 minutes) and no-limit hold'em (30 minutes).
First things first -- nobody has ever found a successful team poker model. Many have tried. That's not to say that there isn't a workable team-poker concept out there. Many people think Dream Team Poker came closest. The problem I've always seen with Dream Team Poker is that, without television behind it, there is no way for Dream Team Poker to make enough money to make the concept sustainable. And Dream Team Poker was the best of the team poker concepts.
Now we have World Team Poker. The concept was initially announced and launched just after the end of the WSOP last year. (The press release is dated August 5 2009.) From that press release to the inaugural event took nine months. And while I realize the complexity involved of putting together a television production, I have to think that WTP started off behind the 8-ball by taking so long to actually bring the product to market.
Yes, this event was a television production. Somehow, somewhere, someone at WTP convinced FSN to sign on to broadcast 13 episodes of this product. Maybe it was a time buy; maybe FSN was asleep at the wheel and bought 13 episodes of something they'd never seen and nobody had ever tried before. I'm going with Occam's Razor on this one, but I have no independent facts to support my assumption.
I'm really not sure how this is all going to play out on TV. My gut instinct is that Average TV Viewer is going to be very confused to see someone bust out, but re-enter the tournament later. I also believe that playing limit hold'em and no-limit hold'em in the same mixed-games format is a recipe for television disaster. I'm long on record as saying that I don't believe PLO works very well on television.
Even if I'm wrong about all of that, I still think WTP is destined for failure simply because the production yesterday was so slipshod. Breaks were taken at frequent intervals for seemingly no reason. In the first 5.5 hours of "play", only 3.5 hours of poker were actually played. That was 2 hours of pure waste. And I know that television union contracts require breaks at certain intervals, and that tapes have to be changed at times, but this was beyond any poker production I've ever been a part of. If a break was scheduled for 10 minutes, it went 30. If it was supposed to be 30, it went 60. And the "short 10-minute break" between the two legs of the shootout (required to remove a few tables and chairs from the set, re-position the cameras, and organize chip stacks at the final table) took a solid hour.
All of that lost time is lost money for World Team Poker. Generally, once these television productions reach a certain length of time, the crew goes on overtime. That's very, very expensive. In fact, it was so bad that a new crew arrived at 8am to strike the set -- only to find the tournament still being played! Play concluded at approximately 8:30am, and with "outro" takes for television factored in things didn't wrap up until about 9am.
The television production values in use were B-grade at best. Teams made their entrance through a smoke machine next to a giant digital representation of their country's flag that looked, in the words of one of my colleagues, like it had been culled from Windows95 clip-art. The set design, in general, was uninspired. The set had numerous sight-line problems, with giant flat panels set up on the floor of the set, instead of hung overhead as is done in just about every other television production I've been a part of. Tape changes took 10-15 minutes each, significantly contributing to the length of the tournament. Side-line reporters were probably overpaid and conducted some cringe-inducing interviews.
I'm told that the commentators who were doing audio on the internet livestream of the event -- which was being broadcast on a 10-minute delay, and with use of hole-card cams until the Australian team complained -- set poker commentary back almost a decade. I can only hope that the television commentary, provided by Kenna James and Matt Corboy, will actually rise to the level of what viewers expect from televised poker in 2010.
All of the television production problems, in addition to the tournament structure problems and overall gimmick-y feel of the event, are going to translate badly for the actual viewing experience, I think. And if they translate badly, ratings will suck, advertisers will flee and that will be that. Look at what happened to Face the Ace.
But there are also actual poker problems with World Team Poker. Why should the players care about this product? Each team was in for $50,000, with the winning team receiving $300,000 and the runner-up earning $100,000. As the tournament ran into the wee hours, Chau Giang of Team China (the team that ultimately won) complained to teammate Maria Ho that the whole thing was a waste of his time when he could be home playing online and making ten times as much as his share of Team China's winnings. Given how much opportunity there is for television exposure already as it is, why will the "big-name" players WTP wants to showcase have any desire to play in some gimmick tournament where, at best, their return will be a small slice of $250,000? Who knows how sponsorship and television exposure will factor into all of it, but given how terribly the tournament was run and structured I'd be surprised if the players flock to this concept -- especially if they're only in it to get a logo on TV. The investment of time was far too great.
To me the whole thing felt like the people behind WTP believe that all you have to do is shake the poker money tree for hundred-dollar bills to start falling out of it. That business model went by the wayside four years ago. I suspect it will be far, far less time before the WTP goes by the wayside.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Banana? That's your answer to everything!Late last week I spent some time reading back through my archives. It was like looking in a funhouse mirror. That's me writing those things? Really?
--Krusty the Clown, to his chimp Mr. Tiny
I don't mean that in the usual, "Woe is me I'm getting old" sense. Although it's hard to think of myself as young any more (even though my genetics still cause me to be carded with irritating regularity), I don't feel any older than I ever have. In fact I've never really felt "grown-up" to begin with, perhaps a huge part of my problem.
No, what I mean is that when I read the things I wrote prior to the last year or two, I felt like I was reading the writing of someone who wasn't buried to the neck in a shit-storm of negativity and emotional exhaustion. It's a rather unpleasant sensation, being buried to the neck by a pile of shit. There's the smell, the flies, the slimy feel of shit sliding against your bare skin, and the fact that you can't really move. Not fun.
Sure, I post about poker and the poker biz now more than I used to. Some of the personal style and personal stories that used to be the substance of this site have gotten lost as a result of that. It happens, I guess. Maybe I should separate those stories out onto a different site. But that's a slippery slope. You start one other blog, and before you know it you have fifteen. (Hi Dawn! *waves*)
As I spent hours sifting through my archives I thought back to something Otis said to me at NAPT Venetian in February. It was late and boozy one night, as days on the poker trail usually are. We were at the sports book bar with Joe G. and, I think, Jen. Otis and I got to chatting about whatever things you chat about at 3am with booze in front of you -- the fading relevance of the United States as a superpower in the 21st century, the relative merits of homemade hummus, T-Pain, and what-have-you. That's when Otis said it.
"F-Train," he said, "One of these days when I see you you're not going to have a sigh for me."
I don't see Otis that often.
As a lapsed Catholic, one of my all-time favorite movie lines is about guilt. It's from the forgettable 1997 Keanu Reeves vehicle "The Devil's Advocate", mainly notable for its full frontal nudity of Charlize Theron and Connie Nielsen. In the movie, Al Pacino plays the Devil, attepting to recruit Reeves (his son?) into an unholy union with Nielsen (his daughter?) to produce some sort of Anti-Christ child. All very far-fetched and forgettable, as I said.
As Pacino is trying to tempt Reeves, he says, "Guilt is like a bag of fucking bricks. All you've got to do is set it down." So much truth to that, not only in guilt but in so much of what people do on a day-to-day basis. Negativity, unhappiness, emotional exhaustion. All choices. In improv training we were taught that emotion, like everything else in life, is a choice. Choose to hang onto all of the negativity with a death grip. Or just set it down.
So after this stroll down memory lane and little bit of navel gazing, I'd like to think that I've finally set down everything that needed to be set down and that things are back on the right track for me. Hell, I even mocked Dawn Summers in this post for the first time in a while. If that's wrong, I don't ever want to be right.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I really need to read through my archives more often. Presented in its entirety is a post I wrote on March 6, 2008, called "Life Crackpot Theory #310".
Event horizon, in general relativity, is a general term for a boundary in space-time, an area surrounding a black hole, beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. Light emitted from inside the horizon can never reach the observer and anything that passes through the horizon from the observer's side is never seen again.I've always been kind of fascinated with black holes. They appeal to the nerd in me the same way the New York City subway system does. With black holes it's because there exists this infinitely tiny singularity that is responsible for the most crushing gravitational force in the universe; a force so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape it. (That, and maybe it's also because I was once called a "black hole of negativity" by someone I used to count as a friend.)
--Event Horizon entry, Wikipedia
Therein lies the conundrum of the black hole. Because light can't escape the gravitational field of the singularity, black holes can't be observed. Once an object has passed across the black hole's event horizon, the light that such an object would normally reflect to an observer never makes it past the event horizon. Instead it is sucked into the singularity at the heart of the black hole along with the object itself. As an object approaches the event horizon, the light the object reflects moves away from the event horizon ever more slowly; the light has to overcome the stronger and stronger gravitational forces of the singularity. The result is that it appears that the object is slowing down as it approaches the event horizon. An outside observer will never see the object cross the event horizon; at the event horizon, the light emitted by the object will hover right there and never reach the observer.
Really cool stuff. But you may be asking yourself why I am yammering on about general relativity. Why indeed...
Once in a while I have occasion to re-read posts that I've written years ago. It might be because I was looking for a particular post or a particular link. Sometimes I just randomly type a word into the search box on top of my site to see what it pulls up. Last week I was looking for a link I wanted to send to someone and I came across a post I wrote in February 2006. As I was re-reading it, I had a glimmer of understanding about the paradox of my Life Crackpot Theory #229 as stated near the top of that post. (If you're too lazy to click, the idea is "One of the great cosmic ironies is that human beings are incredibly adaptable and resilient, yet highly resistant to change.")
I'm still not sure why people should be BOTH of those things. I think the reason people are so resistant to change is not just because everyone wants to feel like they're exerting some sort of control over the universe around them, their own mini gravitational field. It's also because everyone's life has an event horizon. Anything that passes beyond that event horizon is beyond that person's influence and lost forever, never to be observed again. The motion is opposite -- something passing *out* of the life event horizon as opposed to *into* a black hole's event horizon -- but the result is the same. There are the rare instances when this is objectively a Good Thing. But for the most part the things that are in orbit around our lives are there by our own choice, and when we lose them we lose a part of ourselves in the process. It's the feeling of loss that is so bothersome. It's that feeling that we're not in control, that our life gravitational field isn't exerting any more influence than a gun control lobbyist at an NRA meeting.
The frustration comes from the fact that if we try to exert more of our "gravitational influence" to keep something in orbit around us, that force often ends up acting like two similarly charged magnets and pushes that thing further away. Even though we create our own gravitational field around our life, we have no control over what orbits us and little control over what escapes that orbit.
I guess I'm saying "Go with the flow" and accept whatever life throws at you. It's about the best you can do.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Tonight I have to cover an SCOOP, Event 26, that starts at 5pm local time and will most likely take at least 16 hours to reach the final table. I guess what I mean to say is that tomorrow morning I have to cover an SCOOP final table that starts at 5pm local time tonight.
This is a really, really strange scheduling turn by PokerStars. Consider the following "High" events:
Event 2 - $2,100 NLHE [2-day event]
Starting stack: 10,000
Starting blinds: 25-50
Level length: 30 minutes
Total tournament time: 23h09m
Event 20 - $2,100 NLHE [2-day event]
Starting stack: 10,000
Starting blinds: 25-50
Level length: 30 minutes
Total tournament time: 24h05m
Each of these tournaments was scheduled as a two-day event with the expectation (presumably) that they would be long tournaments. And they were. Now consider these other two tournaments:
Event 8 - $1,050 NLHE
Starting stack: 10,000
Starting blinds: 25-50
Level length: 30 minutes
Total tournament time: 19h17m
Event 26 - $1,050 NLHE
Starting stack: 10,000
Starting blinds: 25-50
Level length: 30 minutes
Total tournament time: ?
Admittedly, despite an identical structure and a few extra players, the lower priced $1,050 NLHE took four to five fewer hours to play than the $2,100 NLHE tournaments. But that overlooks the fact that the $1,050 took more than 19 hours to complete.
Tournament players on PokerStars are given a 5-minute break at the end of each hour. At the end of the 12th hour they're given a 15-minute break. All of the big prize money is at the final table. Thus the players facing the decisions with the biggest import are also the ones who are bone-tired from having played internet poker for 16, 17 or 18 hours in a row.
Maybe PokerStars didn't anticipate such a high volume of players for the $1,050 event. But next year I'd hope that the $1,050 events are two-day affairs like their $2,100 counterparts. Anything less seems barbaric.
Friday, May 07, 2010
I recently took part in a media round-table set up by my good friend Shamus. The first half of the round-table went live on the Betfair blog today. Definitely check it out.
In other news, yesterday PokerTableRatings announced a flaw in UltimateBet's security that "allow[s] an attacker to hijack victim’s poker accounts and display their hole cards in real time." This is the same UB, by the way, that was embroiled in a cheating scandal you might have heard about. You know, that one where certain users could see their opponents' hole cards in real time.
Paul Leggett, UB COO, quickly responded on the UB blog. I snorted water through my nose when I read this paragraph:
I would also like to say that I am very embarrassed and upset that this issue was not caught by our internal staff or through the countless audits we’ve been through this year and last year. We’ve invested a great deal of money into all types of security and I am very shocked that this was not identified by us or the many third party auditors we’ve employed.What's that line from Casablanca? "I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" Seriously, is anyone other than UB COO Paul Leggett shocked by this? Is Leggett even shocked by this?
I wanted to believe that UB was going to try to clean up its act last year, but this is just embarrassing at this point. When you suffer the worst cheating scandal in the history of online poker, if you're really committed to cleaning up your image the very first thing you should do is stress-test the hell out of your security. Pay hackers very, very good money if you have to, but get someone to tell you exactly how they would trivialize your "security". Then pay someone else even more money to fix it.
It's not like these people are in short supply. Hell, UB could hire anyone who's designed a web site for an online merchant in the last five years. They could probably tell UB how to run security better than the "security experts" at UB can right now.
I've never had an account at UB. This latest debacle certainly won't encourage me to open one.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
After a late night and early morning of SCOOP coverage (bad, but nowhere near as bad as what Shamus went through) I'm feeling surprisingly refreshed today. I managed to roll out of bed by about 4:30pm and am even of sound enough mind to play tonight's Mookie.
Last night a little hiccup during some deal-making in SCOOP Event 8-Low. The last five players asked a host to look at chip-chop numbers, then haggled amongst themselves as to the best apportionment of the prize pool after they got those numbers. The negotiations were painful to watch (largely because many of the players were talking past each other) but eventually a deal was hammered out. That left the $2,000 set-aside to play for.
After two more eliminations, the PokerStars host announced that the deal the players agreed to did not include any set-aside, an error that was squarely on him. Oops. Problem was that two players had already been eliminated so there was no way to un-do the deal. The remaining players were playing only for TLB points. Predictably, the tournament ended a few minutes later, with one player's 9-4 taking out another's Q-7 long after the sun had risen here in the Southwest.
Errors happen, especially after a long night of poker. But for my part I was grateful. The error allowed me to crawl into bed that much sooner.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Last week Shamus wrote a great piece on "the unwritten rules" of poker. I was thinking about it last night while covering the final table of 2010 SCOOP Event #4-Medium, $162 Badugi. (By the way, when was the last time you saw a Badugi tournament spread in a live casino?)
At the final table, one player refused to use his "fold" button. If he wanted to play a hand, he was in there betting, raising or calling in a "normal" amount of time. But if he intended to fold, he would not click the fold button. Instead he would let himself time out, taking 20 seconds to do so in each instance.
A few of the other players asked the offender not to engage in such behavior. When they received no response, they complained to the two Team PokerStars players at the final table (George Danzer and Adam Goetsch) and the host, Richard Toth. "In a live casino, he would be given warnings and penalties," one player lamented. "Isn't there anything we can do?"
Toth correctly pointed out that no, there was nothing to be done. Even though it was bad etiquette for the player to do what he was doing, it was well within the rules. Goetsch went a step further and told the player complaining, "The thing to do is not what you are doing it. Just forget about it."
Goetsch made an excellent point. Although violations of unwritten rules are often as egregious as violations of written rules, there's little that can be done to prevent them. By complaining about the behavior, the complainer gives the offender another weapon to use at the poker table. And indeed, at the Badugi final table, the offending player "woke up" and started to use his fold button every time as soon as the complaining player was eliminated.
People who violate the spirit (but not the letter) of the rules are often doing so in order to provoke a reaction. The best weapon to combat their tactics is not to give them the reaction they seek.
Monday, May 03, 2010
Hard to believe that we're now inside of four weeks until the start of the 2010 World Series of Poker. It's a busy lead-up, too, with SCOOP, the Cal State Champs, APPT Macau, and World Team Poker all taking place between now and the start of Event #1 on Friday, May 28.
Over the weekend I was involved in a minor Twitter discussion with WPT reporter B.J. Nemeth, pro player Steve Brecher, and two of the pre-eminent tournament directors in the world, Jack Effel and Matt Savage. It started with Brecher asking the Twitter ether, "Why do so many (all?) tournaments which have been 9-handed convene a final table of 10?" It's an excellent question. Playing two 5-handed tables instead of one 10-handed table: (a) is not unfair to either table, as each table is balanced, and (b) puts more pressure on the short stacks. Also, the 10-handed final table is not considered the "official" final table. One player has to be eliminated before that happens, which all around seems very odd.
Nemeth was the first to respond to Brecher, saying "I've asked around several times, & the best answer I've received is "tradition." Not a very satisfying answer." Eventually Brecher punted the question directly to Savage. Savage replied that for the sake of consistency and uniformity, the TDA adopted 10-handed final tables in 9-handed events as a TDA rule.
That answer, however true, didn't get to the "why" behind the rule, the policy that the rule was designed to facilitate. I asked that follow-up question myself. Both Savage and Effel responded by stating that many tournaments pay only 9 places. Collapsing to a final table of 10 eliminates hand-for-hand play -- something that players and tournament staff uniformly dislike -- and significantly speeds the tournament. Effel noted that "at WSOP, we also combine to 1 table at 7 for 6 handed events, 8-7 handed events, and 9-8 handed events."
Although Effel and Savage looked directly at how many places are being paid as the policy behind the rule (a policy undoubtedly true of most "nightly" tournaments that poker rooms run to attract customers), we can extrapolate the same reasoning to the final table bubble of large buy-in tournaments like those at the WSOP. In live big buy-in tournaments, a huge premium is placed on the final table, both in terms of prize money and in terms of prestige. Without hand-for-hand play, short stacks undoubtedly would start stalling if the tables played 5 and 5 on the final table bubble. Even though the blinds would theoretically come around faster and short-handed play would put more pressure on everyone, the tournament would have to be played hand-for-hand to avoid stalling tactics. [Updated to add: Daniel Negreanu made this exact point in a Twitter response yesterday that I didn't see, stating it as the original reasoning behind the rule.]
It would seem that there's no player disadvantage to hand-for-hand play; it's just a pain for the tournament staff. The short stacks, however, get a significant advantage from collapsing to a final table of 10. You can debate whether that boon to the short stacks is worth avoiding the pain of enduring hand-for-hand play on the final table bubble. But at least now you can't say that there's no good reason for collapsing to a single final table of 10.