I apologize for my prolonged absence, having spent most of the last two weeks visiting with family and taking a vacation (a vacation from my one-year vacation, what a note) to the Smoky Mountains. We used to go up there every summer camping with my paternal grandfather. I hadn’t been since 1997, the fall before cancer claimed by grandfather’s life, and things weren’t quite the same. Perhaps it was the crass commercialism that continues to encroach the area, what with all the putt-putt golf courses and shopping malls you can shake your wallet at. Or perhaps my recent trips to places like Yellowstone and Yosemite have dampened my enthusiasm for the Appalachians. Probably it’s just a matter of getting older. Life is never more fun, or vacations as fun, as when you are a kid, taking it all in with wide-eyed wonder, before the adult cynicism creeps in.
I was proud to see I was still getting 35 hits a day last week, thanks to post WSOP bounce I suppose. Thanks for tuning in. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing. Before I finish my WSOP trip report (yeah, two weeks later!) let me provide an update of my travel schedule. On Tuesday, I’m flying to Vegas again for BARGE. Continuing the Year of Johnny, I’m riding with my friend Brian straight from the airport to Myrtle Beach, S.C., on a non poker related matter. Sometime in late August/early September I plan to do my Mississippi River travels, up to Deadwood, S.D. In mid September I’ll go to Atlantic City for the U.S. Poker Championship. That’s enough to keep a man busy for a couple of months.
OK, picking up where we left off…
I crawled out of bed fairly late on July 15, but things were hopping when I got to Binion’s. For once, there were some pretty big games going on downtown. I parked myself in a 10-20 game for most of the day, watching the occasional big name walk past, and salivating as the blonde “Bluff girls” strolled by, with cleavage and hip huggers in full view. One girl’s pants were so far south as to nearly show the upper part of her pubis.
“If that was my daughter I’d kill her,” said the dealer.
In the back, Poker Probot was taking on Phil Laak in the man vs. machine battle. Jennifer Tilly was on hand to cheer her man on, with the supportive lettering, “My boyfriend can kick your ass” on her T-shirt. Laak dominated the match, to the thrill of the gathered crowd.
Laak told a group of reporters after the match that he’s been interested in artificial intelligence in poker since he met one of the researchers from the University of Alberta while playing poker at the Commerce Casino near L.A. Laak studied the work of the researchers and was interested in meeting them in Canada, but thanks to Golden Palace.com sponsoring this event, he got to meet the developers and play the robot in Vegas.
Laak said he doesn’t think robots are bad for poker.
“If a guy is smart enough to create a robot he’s going to be clever enough to play well anyway,” he said.
Laak doesn’t expect the robots that now exist online to have much of an impact on online play. “Since poker is so expansive and there are so many people, the bots will never affect the money games,” he said.
Some of the AI has been used to create Poker Academy, a software program players can buy to help improve their game. Laak is familiar with that software, and use his knowledge to his advantage. “I knew some of the weaknesses that the Poker Academy bot has and I figured [Poker Probot] would have them too.”
As an example, Laak said Poker Probot bluffed too often when face cards came on the flop. Ever confident, the man in the Oakley shades (but no hooded sweatshirt) said he could beat bots consistently.
I walked back over to my 10-20 game to find two gorgeous brunettes sitting to my right, wearing skimpy tank tops and shorts. The clothing read “Doyle’s Dollys” and they were there to convince us men to play on the site Doyle’s Room after seducing us with their good looks and dangerous curves. Their play wasn’t bad, probably about average. After learning I was from Alabama, the dollies would chant, “Roll Tide” after I won a pot.
Sadly, one of them lost her $200 buy in and they took off. Less than an hour later, however, another interesting character sat to my right, former major league pitcher Pat Mahomes, formerly of the Twins and Yankees (I think.)
A buddy of his was already in the game, and the two toyed with the guy in seat one who claimed to be from Minnesota and a Twins fan, but could not identify Mahomes.
The one seat player wasn’t too sharp anyway. After he heard me speak earlier in the night, he asked me if I was from Missouri. “People from Missouri don’t sound like me,” I told him.
I grabbed a late night dinner at the coffee shop and headed up to the tournament area. There were still six players remaining as 1 a.m. approached. Outside, I spotted a guy wearing a sign “Sportscenter is next” on his hat and a “Team Kanter” T-shirt on his torso so of course I had to inquire.
He was Jonathan Singer, a friend of Aaron Kanter, who was there to cheer him on.
He was joined by Kanter’s fiancée Jenny Pedroza and fellow “Team Kanter” member Scott Meyer.
“We’re out here because we’re too nervous,” Singer told me. “There are probably 40 people here rooting him on and the local newspapers are here.”
The group was still grappling with the fact that their friend was now a millionaire, with a chance at $7.4 million.
“He is the best one of all of us to handle this situation,” Meyer said.
Kanter knocked out both Greg Raymer and Phil Ivey the day before. Singer said he and other friends went out and got the “Team Kanter” T-shirts printed Friday for the final day action.
I decided to catch some sleep as the final seemed likely to go awhile and my flight was in eight hours. I walked past the sports book, where dozens were still gathered to watch the final on closed circuit television, and on to the Four Queens.
I got my 6:30 a.m. wake up call and headed back to Binion’s with a sense that the thing was finally over. In fact, it had just ended. Second-place finisher Steve Danneman was giving an interview in the press room, a converted Chinese restaurant.
Apparently, Danneman obtained the nickname “Bloody Mary” during the tournament after he got shortstacked on Day 6 and starting knocking back some drinks.
“I started having more fun and before the end of the night I had $2.1 million in chips,” he said.
Danneman’s friend Jerry, last name not said, split the entry with him 50/50, making Jerry a very wealthy man, with not quite $2 million after taxes.
“He was the only fool who would back me,” Danneman quipped.
“I can’t be disappointed I made it that far,” he said of second place. “I was the best American player in the tournament.”
This was also, by the way, the player from Baltimore that the Sun reporter was tracking. I guess he got a hell of a story.
The winner, as you all know, was Joseph Hachem, an Australian. I walked back to Benny’s Bullpen and tournament directors were toasting him with champagne as the media horde surrounded the final table. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to dawdle as I had to finish packing and get to the airport. After three and a half weeks I was ready to get the heck out of there anyway.
As I boarded the flight, an Asian man spotted my WSOP cap.
“Did you play?” he asked me.
“No,” I replied, and thought for a second before adding, “Maybe next year.”