Thursday, April 30, 2009

To Vegas or not to Vegas? (P.S. Give Al some love)

Thanks again to all last night with the kind comments on my April POTM win, which brings me to the point of this post...

For most of this year I have been thinking that this would be the first WSOP I would miss since I started going in 2004. Of course, I've said that the last two years, but in 2007 I got last minute work for PokerWorks and last summer was a combination of winning blogger prizes, getting work for that slave driver Dan Michalski over at Pokerati and also winning the FullTilt Poker writing contest. But this was going to be the year I did not go.

Then while on my California vacation (of which I STILL haven't posted pics or a trip report) I got an email from a major poker media website that will remain nameless that made it sound like I had a high-paying job waiting for me in Vegas at the WSOP if I wanted it. Well I jumped at that and when I got back to Alabama I called the guy. Turns out I was only in the running for the job. Well long story short I did not get it.

So Vegas was out. I had mixed feelings about the deal because it would have required me to be there during the entire seven-week Series, which is a heck of a long time to be away from your wife and your home. Granted with the money I would have made I could have flown Amy out there a couple of times maybe, but it's not the same. It also would have required me to back out of a planned mission trip with our church to Nicaragua, where we are going to help build a house for a poor family. I was feeling kind of guilty about possibly backing out of this trip. The combination of those factors made me fairly indifferent about not getting the WSOP gig.

But as I resigned myself to missing the bright lights of Sin City, I still secretly hoped to go out for a week or two to experience the standard poker euphoria that takes place at the Rio each and every summer, as well as hang with friends at the hooker bar and the Gold Coast bowling center. Thanks to Full Tilt Poker and Al Can't Hang it looks like that's going to happen. I still have to decide when to go, and for now I'm looking at late June-early July for that.

This brings me to the second point of the post. If you haven't been over to Al's site in the last few days go have a read and show him some love. The lovable lug of a man spends countless hours tabluating point totals and arranging these prizes with Full Tilt, and we bloggers in general don't show him nearly enough support for his efforts. The slumping attendance in the last month doesn't exactly put on a good face for us either.

I think Al was right on the money with this comment:

I suggest everyone come out to enjoy the time and free stuff while you have the chance, you know the money train is going to stop sooner or later.

So go thank Al for putting all this stuff together every chance you get, and please come out in May and play some blogger events before FTP decides they are no longer worth their time...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

WSOP Conference Call

It’s now less than four weeks away.

The 40th annual World Series of Poker will begin on May 26, with 57 bracelets events on the schedule this year. In preparation for the granddaddy of poker tournaments, WSOP officials held their annual conference call with members of the poker media on Tuesday afternoon. Here are some of the highlights of that session:

WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack mentioned three events that are either new or revamped in honor of the 40th anniversary. Most of you may already be aware of the $40,000 No-Limit Hold’em event planned for May 28. This four-day event “will bring out the best players in the world and produce a final table for the ages,” Pollack said. What you may not have heard about is the Champions Invitational to be held on May 31. This event will bring together past main event champions “who will play for bragging rights as the champion of champions.” The winner will receive two sweet prizes – a restored 1970 Chevrolet Corvette and a newly created commemorative trophy called the Binion Cup in honor of the family that started the WSOP. Jack Binion will be on hand to present the trophy to the winner. The third thing Pollack mentioned was the revamped Gaming Life Expo, which will now be known as PokerPalooza and will feature more interactive games and exhibits. This is “our version of NBA’s Jam Session or the NFL Experience,” Pollack said.

The “November Nine” will be back. This year’s championship weekend will be expanded – play from nine players in the main event down to two will take place on Saturday, Nov. 7, and heads-up play for the championship will be on Tuesday, Nov. 10. The final will again receive same day primetime ESPN coverage.

He also said that the Poker Hall of Fame selection process has been tweaked on this its 30th anniversary. The public will be able to submit nominations online at from May 28 to July 2. During the main event the top 10 list of nominees will be announced. This list will be sent to the HOF committee, who will review the list and determine if any additions or deletions are needed. In September, the final ballot will be sent to 16 living hall of famers (out of 37 so enshrined) and select media representatives. Anyone who receives at least 75 percent of the vote will be inducted into the Hall at the main event final table in November, a process similar to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “The selection process is not only sensible, but open in a way it has never been before,” Pollack said.

Another aspect receiving a tweak is the bracelet presentation ceremonies. Pollack said that many players receive their bracelets “under the cover of darkness” after winning an event in the wee hours of the morning. Now there will be a bracelet presentation ceremony every day at 2 p.m. in the Amazon ballroom. “The World Series of Poker gold bracelet is poker’s crown jewel and for some time I’ve felt that every bracelet, not just the main event bracelet, deserves a special ceremony,” he said.

The code of player conduct will now be conducted into the official rules and WSOP staff will now maintain a written log of all penalties issued to a player during the WSOP and will use that log to better enforce the rules. “The intent here is simple – work to better ensure that the tournament floor is a civil, comfortable and courteous environment for all players, better manage those players who break the rules of engagement or fail to conduct themselves appropriately and further protect the competitive integrity of the WSOP,” Pollack said. This log will not be available for the public or the media to view, much as police investigations are not public record, said Tournament Director Jack Effel.

Effel said that the opening weekend $1,000 NLHE “Economic Stimulus” event as WSOP officials are dubbing it is expected to be the largest non-main event tournament in the WSOP’s history. The four-day event will have two starting days and pre-registration is already creeping into the four digits, he said. “We’re expecting a sellout weekend.”

He also highlighted the $2,500 Deuce to Seven No-Limit Triple Draw event, which has traditionally only been offered at a $10,000 buy in. “We felt that this was a very important game to the tradition of the World Series of Poker. We want to continue that tradition so we’re offering an entry level event at $2,500,” Effel said. There will also be a $2,500 eight-game Mixed Event in the same vein.

While there are no rebuy events this year, many tournaments will have add-on chips, including all Pot-Limit Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo Split events. Players can add-on their chips between hands during the add-on period and will receive any unused add-on chips after the add-on period is over. Can I write the word add-on one more time? Yes I can.

Effel talked vaguely about an overhaul of the payouts for tournaments, without giving many specifics. He said a professor at Washington & Lee University, as well as poker pros Barry Greenstein and Howard Lederer were involved in the discussion. He said more information will be forthcoming as the payouts are worked out.

This year also brings the addition of a one-hand penalty for some offenses. Levels of discipline now include: verbal warning, one-hand penalty, one round, two rounds, three rounds, four rounds and disqualification.

The 2009 WSOP has a high retention rate of dealers despite a tougher audition process. “We had a very extensive audition process. If they weren’t able to deal Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Split, Pot-Limit Omaha and Deuce to Seven Triple Draw they didn’t get in this year. What we’re looking for are the diverse dealers, the experienced dealers who can deal all the games, not just No-Limit Hold’em, which will provide a better experience for the players and in turn we will have a better tournament because of that,” Effel said. Along those lines, he said that the floor staff will go through a rigorous four-day training session prior to the start of the WSOP in which they will go over al the rules and will act out possible scenarios that could occur on the tables.

Table capacity has been expanded to 306, with some shuffling around. The Amazon ballroom will continue to be the main gaming floor and will now have two final table areas, Effel said. Brasilia will be used again, but this time the full room is available so there will be 95 tables in here in 2009, up from 65 in 2008. The Miranda room will have 56 tables. The single-table satellites are now located in Brasilia. “Last year we had 23 tables allotted for satellites. This year we’re going to have 48 and possibly more if the demand is there. The cage will be bigger. There will be more offerings,” Effel said. Single-table satellite schedules are available online at

Doug White form ESPN said the network will focus on the main event this year. ESPN plans to air six hours of bracelet events and increase main event coverage up to 24 hours, with 2 to 2.5 hours of the final table in November planned. “We feel that the main event is what viewers are looking for for poker programming. It helps us cover the unfolding drama of the World Series of Poker,” he said. Bracelet coverage is expected to include the $50,000 HORSE event, as well as the Champions Invitational (technically cup coverage, but who worries about such semantics?)

Future champion!

TJ'S BBT Player of the Week

It should come as no surprise that I had to give the award to myself for last week. I won the Big Game and finished third in both Riverchaers and Skillz razz to give myself a nice points lead going into the final week of the month.

That lead has evaporated some since then. In last week's Mookie I cruelly lost a race against top competitor ElSnarfGrande with 9-9 versus A-Q when the board ran out J-T-8-7-9. ElSnarfGrande went on to make the final seven when the lights went out later in the evening. He was back at it this Monday, finishing fifth in the Riverchasers event. In this one I was at one time the chipleader, but self-destructed to a degree (I think this is the third event in BBT4 that at one time I was the chipleader yet failed to make even the points).

CracknKK, with a stack of about 15K, raised to 720. I decided to flat call in the SB with A-K. Schaubs popped it to about 2,100 of his 11K stack and cracknKK folded. Thinking this could be a squeeze I re-raised all-in for about 6K total. Schaubs insta-called with A-A. If I had re-raised preflop I could have folded to an all-in push by Schaubs behind me. Oh well. This was a spot (with 19 players left and 13 making the points) where I definitely should not have gambled as my overall equity for the month greatly increases by just making the points. Despite my advocacy of consistent point gathering I have definitely been willing to gamble it up more in BBT4, if my two times directly on the points bubble is any indication.

After Monday my points lead over the now second-place ElSnarfGrande was now down to 80, but fortunes turned Tuesday night. Other than winning the thing, I couldn't have asked for a better result in the Skillz stud/8 event. I finished eighth while only Shabazz Jenkins made the points among my closest competitors for the monthly points race, finishing in 12th. If my math is correct, and believe me it's often wrong, only SJ and ESG are capable of overtaking me in tonight's final event of the month, The Mookie. A first or second by either would be required (and I'm not sure if second place would provide enought points for victory) as I figure to have a 130 point lead or so. Good luck to my honorable foes tonight. If one of you sneaks up and beat me I will only be getting my just desserts as I beat both twoblackaces and JDSchellnut last year on the last or next-to-last event of the months I won.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Crisis of confidence is over!

I have to admit after struggling in March I wasn't feeling too good about my BBT game. I fired up the laptop each Sunday through Wednesday night not really feeling like I was going to have success in that day's BBT event. I ran a little bad and I played a little bad. I called turn all-in check raises with one overpair in hold'em, chased bad draws in stud and then got sucked out on when I was actually on my game.

But hope springs eternal, especially as a new month begins and the leaderboard slate is wiped clean for the next BBT prize. The month started OK for me, but the last two weeks have been better than I could have expected. In the eight BBT events of the last two weeks I have one win, one second, and after last night's Skillz razz tournament, three thirds. The sick run has boosted me to about 588 points to give me a nearly 200 point lead over Shabazz Jenkins on the monthly leaderboard and leaves me about 35 points shy of QueensUp in the now tight race for the overall leaderboard.

I should also note that Amy has been incredibly supportive of my efforts in the BBT. I did not mean to imply in my last post that she was not, only that I may not have been the best husband I could be while focusing on BBT3 last year. In fact, last night before nodding off, she prediced a top five finish for me. She told me this morning after I revealed my result that she really thought I would finish third, but didn't want to say so for fear of possibly offending me by implying that I would not win!

Last night I didn't get involved in a lot of big hands. It seemed like most of the time when I raised on third street and was called my opponent caught a brick on fourth and folded. Three notable hands I remember was once when I started with A236 against Champ Sampson and caught TTT. That hand cripped me. I more than tripled up in one spot against NewinNov and two other opponents (one of whom was shortstacked) when I started with A27, got it all-in and made a 6542A. My bad luck against Champ was made up for against tilt away when he started with something like A235 and caught 333. That built my stack up to around 45K, but then I had no luck when we got down to four players. And the bring ins...oh the bring ins. I don't think I have had nearly this many in any stud game I've played. I think Champ and I pretty much got to open 75% of the pots at our table between us.

So now we have five more events to go in April and I'm feeling good about my game. Bring on The Mookie.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Where have all the cowboys gone?

BBT4 started with all the excitement and anticipation you would expect, with dozens of poker players/bloggers eager to battle in competition against one another for fantastic bonus prizes. Now, slightly more than halfway through, attendance numbers have dwindled...dramatically. The Mookie is still getting close to 70 players (although down from 100 or more before) while the other three weekly events generally get less than 50 and often less than 40.

I'm perplexed, if not really complaining. You would think with the freebies one could win for a small investment (weekly buy-ins in non-Big Game weeks total less than $55) folks would be flocking to BBT events. Instead they are disappearing. Of course, that just makes the going easier for us vying for the prizes. Your chances of winning a monthly leaderboard $2,000 bonus dramatically increases if there are 30 regulars rather than 60.

Granted, not everyone has the free time I've got so I can understand the time constraints. This can be especially stressful on a marriage. I know Amy felt I didn't focus enough on her last year, but a combination of me trying better time allocation in the evenings and the realization of the potential pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (remember I scooped up $3,750 in bonuses in BBT3) is making BBT4 easier for us as a couple.

There have also been a lot of people who have captured their TOC seat and gone into hibernation until June. Again, if you don't have the time to dedicate to 60 events over three months I can understand your position.

But I would think more people would be competing for the monthly prizes. Thoughts on why they are not? Where have the cowboys gone?

Monday, April 20, 2009

TJ'S BBT Player of the Week

Better late than never, right? As tempting as it was to give the award to myself:

Tuscaloosa Johnny: "Here's the award for the Player of the Week for Week 7."
Tuscaloosa Johnny: "Why thank you. I knew I would get it."
Tuscaloosa Johnny: "It was well deserved. You are the best BBT player...ever."
Tuscaloosa Johnny: "I know."

After some reflection I gave hoyazo his second Player of the Week award for BBT4. The linchpin was winning The Mookie, which has the largest fields each week. For the week, hoyazo final tabled two events, with a ninth in Riverchasers included. I had a second and a third, but personally docked myself for not pulling out a win and imploding in the Mookie after leading with about 50 players left and managing to finish about 35th. Congrats on a nice week hoyazo.

After not pulling out a win in Week 7, I made up for it with an absolute luckbox victory in the Blogger Big Game yesterday. Never before have I won a tournament in which I so deserved to lose. To wit:

My flopped two pair > Closer's turned flush
Heads Up my K7 > QueensUp's KQ
Heads Up my A9 > QueensUp's AJ

There were another one or two wins as a 3 to 1 dog mixed in there. Any complaints I had about running bad in BBT4 were more than made up for with the good fortune I had on Sunday. QueensUp and I split the money so the victory was about a +$630 uptick. If you're going to run good in the BBT4, aside from the TOC the Blogger Big Game is the best event in which to do it.

Also notable is the win puts me slightly ahead of Shabazz Jenkins for the monthly leaderboard $2K bonus. The race remains very tight with seven events remaining so another handful of final tables will be on my wish list for the next two weeks.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Big news for the Kampises

I'll try to post the Player of the Week this afternoon, but first comes the bigger news.

A week ago Amy came home and took a certain kind of test. On Monday we went to the doctor and it was further confirmed. Yes, we're having a baby!

The due date is December 15 and we've got a lot to do to get ready for him or her. I am excited/scared/elated beyond words.

Monday, April 13, 2009

SCOOP action

By the way I'm spending this Monday afternoon live blogging the smallish $109 SCOOP main event for PS. The action has been fast and furious in the first hour of Day 2 play, with already half of the 26 starters eliminated. Follow in here.

Close one

Just missed in the Sunday Brit Blogger tournament Easter afternoon. Prior to yesterday I had had no luck in this event, but I hung around for awhile, making the final table as the short stack and caught some hands. I misread a bet by Julkeus four-handed as being weak when it was strong, doubling him up and crippling myself. After that I managed to win an all-in or two and won the blinds uncontested to get back in contention. In the end it was Julkeus versus myself in a back-and-forth battle that lasted close to an hour. The short stack kept doubling up until I finally succumbed. Julkeus got his TOC seat so congrats to my very worthy heads-up adversary.

It's amazing to me that after 26 events there has been no repeat winner yet because there honestly aren't that many people who play day in and day out. I sure could have used the extra 70 or so points I would have received for first yesterday in the April points race. Maybe this month I can be in contention instead of a dead duck in the last week.

TJ'S BBT Player of the Week

I was a little slow with the BBT this time. I've been busy working on the PokerStars SCOOP events for their blog and then this was Easter weekend, of course. So as we go into Week 7 of the BBT4 here is the award for Week 6.

It was a pretty each choice to pick Shabazz Jenkins. He finished runner-up in the Brit Blogger tournament and third in the Mookie to grab a nice early lead in the Player of the Month contest. For his efforts, Shabazz Jenkins is the Week 6 Player of the Week.

Friday, April 03, 2009

TJ'S BBT Player of the Week

Well, doing the player of the week graphic was easy enough this week. All I had to do was change the week number from 4 to 5.

1QueensUp1 knew what he needed to do to win the points race for March and he came in and did it. He didn't quite get there after finishing eighth in the Brit Blogger game, but did pull to a small lead after finishing fourth in Riverchasers. He topped that off by pulling away with an 11th-place finish in the Skillz stud, making Wednesday night's Mookie relatively sweat free, as only a few opponents could catch him. In many ways, 1QueensUp1's run reminds me of my own March run last year with the late come from behind victory. For his efforts, 1QueensUp1 is the first two-time winner of TJ's Player of the Week award in BBT4 and as we all know that is worth much more then $1,500.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Congrats to 1QueensUp1 and some bad news

A well-deserved $1,500 seat is headed to him for the month of March. He tore through the field with eight final tables (and almost another last night in Sutd) and made the points 11 times in 18 tries. What a finish.

I didn't come close to replicating the magic of last March. Last night was a dandy. I caught the deck early and rocketed to the top of the leaderboard and then proceeded to start with fantastic draws only to miss. For example, I started four to a flush three times toward the end of my night and missed all three, two of those times with either gutshot or open-ended straight draws to go with the flush draws. I went from tournament leader to 36th in a heartbeat.

You may have seen how deeply Harrah's was discounting its rooms this summer for the WSOP. Visitation to Vegas is down drastically this year with the weak economy. Now the unbelievable has happened -- Harrah's has announced it is canceling the WSOP. Officials said they can't expect to recoup the cost of hosting the event because of the expected downturn in poker players coming to town. You can read more details of the sad news here.