Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Roll Tide!

What a season it's been for my beloved Crimson Tide, but can it continue against Florida in the SEC Championship on Saturday? This is Bama's toughest game of the season by far (including a possible national championship game if they beat Florida) so it may take some magic for it to happen. Of course, I recall a certain unbeatable Miami team taking on Bama in the 1993 Sugar Bowl as a two touchdown favorite. Remember how that turned out? Alabama 34 Miami 13.

Someone put together a nice season highlight compilation video on You Tube. Here it is if you care to watch:

I have slowed down my poker playing here at the end of the year for a number of reasons. For one, I had a bad month of November and when I run bad I just kind of chill out and take a break from the game. I haven't played in town in two weeks and have played little online, as well. I have been jumping back into those little $1-$2 NL CAP games on FTP a bit this week, but my luck has continued to be terrible.

I'm also focusing more on building up my freelance writing, including expanding beyond poker. I got a fortuitous phone call from an old boss last week who recently moved back to Tuscaloosa to start a new media company. Check out Yellow Hammer Media here. I'm doing four articles for a special publication we're working on to come out in a couple of weeks.

After that I'll be busy cranking out articles for the January issue of Rounder. Hoping to interview Peter Eastgate, Kenna James and Jonathan Little for the next round of profiles.

The week after that is Christmas so serious poker playing may have to wait until January when I head down to Biloxi for a week or two for the Southern Poker Championship at the Beau Rivage.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Poker miscellany

This has been a slow month for me poker playing wise. It started out cold and hasn't gotten any better so I've taken it easy and have played very little poker this month. I look forward to the holidays and then will gear up for the first Southern Poker Championship at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi where I will be in January with Rounder both writing and playing (and hitting those satellites hard I assure you!)

I may make a quick trip to New Orleans during their Winter Bayou whatchmacallit in a couple of weeks, but it will be only to sightsee with my wife and not to play.

We've got a pretty good issue of Rounder coming out in December. I profiled Tiffany Michelle, Victor Ramdin and Gavin Griffin this month. I've always liked Victor the few times I've met him. Just seems like a super nice guy. I met and got Gavin's number at the media meet and greet at the Palms this summer. Actually, I met his girlfriend Kristen first and she took me over to him. Both are good folks. She seems very sweet and the work both of them did (especially Gavin with the pink hair dye job) to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research was exemplary. I haven't met Tiffany Michelle in person; just talked to her after being given her number by my editor Evert to contact her for a profile. Here is one interesting Tiffany tidbit you may not know: she considers her most interesting role as a dead patient on an episode of ER when she was 18.

Here is what she had to say: “It was pretty awesome to have Noah Wyle on top of me trying to revive me and have blood come pouring out of my mouth. Those are the things about acting that are so outside of everyday life that make it a lot of fun.”

You meet too many bad people in the world of poker so it's good to see the success of these three, all of whom seem deserving of good fortune in the game (despite a certain UB controversy we've all read and heard about).

Over at Al Can Hang's Full Tilt Poker Blogger from the Rail blog you can see a post I sent him around the time of the WSOP final table looking at other WSOP promotions/gimmicks over the years and how well they worked. I had fun putting that one together.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

B.J. McBrayer

I definitely need to give a shout out to B.J. McBrayer. He's a local guy in Tuscaloosa who's about 25 or 26 who I've played a lot of poker with over the last few years. Everyone always knew B.J. was a good player and lately he's finally truly broken through on the tournament circuit. He finished runner-up to Clonie Gowen in the main event of the World Poker Open and followed that by chopping the main event of the IP Poker Classic in Biloxi three ways. His cashes over the last month total about $120,000. B.J.'s a good guy. I can't say anything bad about him (aside from that stupid Yankees cap he wears) so I certainly root for his success. I suspect you will see his name in tournament reports many times in the years to come.

Monday, October 27, 2008

An enjoyable World Poker Open

The World Poker Open at the Gold Strike in Tunica will never come close to reaching the status it once had. Consider these factors:

* When the WPO first started it was one of the few major events held each year. It was an event that everyone came to, even though back then the final was only a $5,000 buy-in (which returned to form this October). Now you have two $10K events a month, and considering that there is nothing to do in Tunica but play poker, this is not going to be a must see stop on the tournament trail.

* Up until this January, Harrah's had been running its WSOP Circuit in January almost concurrently with the WPO. I know many poker players liked having two options across town (across cotton patches might be a more apt description). If they didn't want to play the event that day at the Gold Strike they could go to the Grand Casino (now rebranded Harrah's) for a circuit event. Now with the WPO in October that advantage does not exist. It will be interesting to see the attendance numbers at the circuit event next January-February.

* The World Poker Tour cut the WPO from its schedule and the Gulf Coast Poker Championship at the Beau Rivage, the sister property of the Gold Strike, is the WPT stop in Mississippi in January. MGM Mirage's flagship tournament is now on the coast so if players are looking for the most action and chance for TV time the Beau is now the place to go.

Despite all of these factors turnout was still pretty good at the WPO this month. The schedule has been trimmed and most of the events have smaller buy-ins, which may actually appeal more to the more recreational tournament player near Tunica. The WPO is becoming more and more like other regional tournaments that don't attract the big shots of poker, but is the stomping grounds for the great Southern players like Timothy "T.K." Miles, Matt "Cub" Culberson and Tim Hebert.

Personally, I prefer to see a slate of $300 and $500 events rather than a bunch of $1,000 and $1,500 events. I can't afford to play the big ones, but I can buy into or satellite into the smaller events. This was a relatively short trip for me as I went Sunday through Friday of last week.

I stuck to satellites mostly as planned and did well cashing in 6 of 14. I like the format set up by Ken Lambert, who runs poker operations at both the Gold Strike and Beau Rivage for MGM Mirage. The $125 buy-in sats have two winners with each receiving 5 $100 buy-in chips and $50 cash. I like having two equal winners rather than one person receiving all of the dough (of course even one winner sats usually have a chop somewhere in there) since you never feel to far out of it as long as you have chips. I think my profit in the sats was a little over $1,000. Unfortunately, I didn't do well otherwise and left Tunica with about a $400 profit. The bright moment was the trip was cashing in the $300 Omaha Hi-Lo tournament. My 16th place finish was a bit disappointing, however, since when we got into the money with 18 players I had about an average stack but couldn't win a hand the rest of the way.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Trouble on The Plains

Not to gloat in Auburn's troubles, but things are really getting bad over there. For instance...

Friday, October 10, 2008

MacGyver: The College Years

MacGyver was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid so when I ran across these videos online some time back I got a kick out of them. MacGyver: The College Years is a sporadic series of videos posted on YouTube paroding the international superspy and gadget master during his younger days at Phoenix University. The first one was posted in February 2007 and the fourth, and as of now last one, was posted this April. The videos are hit and miss, with a mix of funny moments and stupid ones. The second episode is my favorite (though I don't get the maniacal evil laughter at the end from our young anti-hero). Take a look for youselves:

Monday, October 06, 2008

We're #2!....and WPO

Perhaps it's a bit late to be gloating over the Georgia win (especially after the mediocre performance against Kentucky this past Saturday), but I haven't posted in a couple of weeks so now is my time to brag on the 'Bama boys.

Are we back? Time will tell, but 6-0 is a heck of a way to start the season. One might argue our only true test so far has been Georgia, but with Tennessee and Auburn looking very weak at this point in the season we could be 12-0 and headed to the SEC Championship game if we can win in Baton Rogue. Fingers firmly crossed.

As for me, I did not get that job at the university I was hopeful about so I'm still on the hunt. Since I'm likely to still lack full-time employment later this month I plan to head to Tunica for the World Poker Open for a week. This event may not quite be as lustrious as it used to be (no longer a WPT event, dumped to a new month to get it out of the way of the Beau's WPT event in January), but it's still where I cut my poker tournament teeth, so to speak. I'll be up there with Rounder mag, pressing flesh and playing some poker. The poker playing has been very mediocre for me lately so perhaps the change of scenery will yield a change in luck.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

WCOOP is over

I've been very busy the last few weeks blogging the WCOOP for PokerStars. It had originally been my intention to play in a few events, but when Brad contacted me about working it I couldn't pass that up. So I've spent the last 16 or 17 days watching three or four online tables at a time and reporting on the outcomes of the thousands of deals. All told, I worked 122.5 hours in that span. So as you can see I didn't have a lot of free time.

I can't describe to you how envious I was watching the final five players working out a deal last night.

"Oh you guys want more? I'll take $1.3 million instead of $1.6 million."

"I want to be guaranteed $800K so I have a chance to win $1 million." (They played for $200K and the bracelet.)

These aren't direct quotes, but they give you a general gist of the conversation. Can you imagine being in their shoes?

The interesting thing is that the guy who won (ckingusc) got less money than the guy who finished in second (liberace) due to the deal that was made with five left. I think the winner got $1.26 million or so and the second place guy got $1.3 million or so.

I have played little poker lately due to the time constrints. I've got about 600W$ I built up for WCOOP that I will apply to the PCA satellites. A tip to the Bahamas in January would be very nice and is a good goal to shoot for.

Meanwhile, I am still waiting to hear whether or not I get the job I interviewed for at UA. That would be a good one for me.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Olympics, college football and fall TV

Amy always asks why I never blog anymore. I just haven't had much to say. That's a good reason. Right?

I'm having Olympic withdrawls this week. Since Seoul 1988 I've been a very avid viewer of the Games, and with NBC airing them on its multiple networks this year I was glued to the set most of the day. The Beijing games brought back memories of 2004. I had just gotten my monstrosity of an HD TV right before the Athens games and I remember that we didn't even get NBC in HD and they had to add a special channel, and even that channel showed the games in HD a day after they had aired on the regular NBC network. HD viewing has certainly changed in four years.

I am so ready for college football now. Definitely my favorite sporting season. I was like a kid on Christmas catching some of the South Carolina vs. North Carolina St. game last night on ESPN. Bama takes on Clemson in the Georgia Dome on Saturday night. Oh boy. This is the best season opener we've had since we traveled to Pasadena to take on UCLA in 2000. That was the year we were ranked third in the preseason and won three games all season. I have higher expectations for this year.

And lastly for this TV junkie it's almost fall TV time. Prison Break (a fourth season, really?) starts Monday and the new 90210 premieres on Tuesday. 90210 you ask, really? I have to try it for the nostalgic value, especially with some of the old cast returning. I was hooked on that show as a teenager. Probably I'll watch it once and never turn it on again...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Vegas, WCOOP and overlays

Sorry I have been away for so long. Amy keeps asking me every day when I am going to post again and I just haven't been in the mood to write anything. So today I'll finally get back on the horse and write something. First, some Vegas afterthoughts in easy to read bullet form:

  • Lengthy trips to Vegas may be out for me in the future unless the work is really good. As a married man planning on starting a family of more than two soon I won't be keen on being away for long periods anymore. As much as I love Vegas I am also starting to get a little tired of it. It's definitely getting to be a "been there, done that" feeling.
  • Conversely, I still didn't feel like I had time to do all I wanted to do, even being there for more than three weeks. Never made it to an Area 51s game, didn't play as many tournaments as I wanted, didn't see enough new stuff. I guess there's just too much to do in Vegas. I'm also one of those people who never feels like he gets enough done on any given day. "There's never enough time" if you know what I mean.
  • Railing Iggy definitely brought back wonderful memories of my only WSOP main event appearance in 2006. And he even busted on Day 3 in the money as I did.
  • No celebrity encounters this year. I had hoped to say hello to James Woods since I got to interview him by phone for Rounder in the spring, but I never saw him. First summer since 2005 in which I didn't talk to Norm McDonald. Saw Jason Alexander walking past the hooker bar one night. Didn't even see Shannon Elizabeth, who "stalked" me in '06.
  • The Golden Nugget pool is awesome. Amy and I partook one day while we stayed there. Tried the water slide once through the shark tank. Neat.
  • The best part of going to Vegas these days, I think, is meeting old friends again. It's great to be able to hang out with Otis, Iggy, Pauly, Kristin, Jason, Dan, Jen, Gary, etc. etc., whether bowling, drinking or both. (And even more fun to own them at bowling!)
  • Very disappointing trip financially. Lost at poker, and the contacts I made networking out there are only slowly starting to pan out, which leads me into the good news...

I'll be live blogging much of the World Championship of Online Poker for PokerStars, starting Sept. 5 and continuing through Sept. 22. Otis has put me down on the schedule for nearly every day and the shifts will be seven hours. I don't know all of the details of the "how" of it all, but I believe the format will be similar to what the "Site that Shall Not Be Named" on my blog does at the World Series of Poker. I'm ecstatic about the work as the pay is good and could lead to more blogging for PokerStars down the road. Many thanks to my man Otis.

Many thanks also to Al, who is doing a fine job with the Full Tilt Poker "Poker From the Rail" Blog. He has created a Blogger from the Rail corner in which he posts about bloggers on the web and allows us to do some guest posts. If you scroll down a bit you'll see my guest post from last week in which I talk about my WSOP main event favorite Dennis Phillips. I hope to do many more guest posts here in the future.

Since I'll be blogging the WCOOP that means I won't be playing much in it. I have played some FTOPS events, but have had no results. I busted about halfway through the first event, the $215 NLHE. I had terrible luck and tilty play in the $215 Stud and was one of the first ones out. I most recently went out a little more than halfway through the $215 LHE. And that tournament leads me to the conclusion of this post -- a discussion on overlays.

I'd love your feedback on this one. Perhaps you will call me "idiot" and "moron" like the players at my FTOPS LHE table did this week. Here's the setup: The event had a guaranteed prize pool of $200,000, but there were only 932 players in the event so the prize pool did not climb above the guaranteed $200,000 mark.

Here's where semantics may come in. Someone started talking about why he played just because of the overlay and I said that there wasn't really an overlay. I think it really depends on what the definition of overlay is. If you define overlay as the number of entrants not meeting the guaranteed prize pool, then yes, it was an overlay. I define overlay as "free" money where the host site is actually contributing to the prize pool to make up a shortfall. That was not the case here. (This is discounting the bustout bounties, which would make the FTOPS LHE event an overlay in my mind. We argued whether or not this was an overlay based solely on the number of entrants.)

The math is pretty simple. The cost of entry was $200 + $16, or $216. Based on 932 players, the money contributed for both prize pool and rake was $201,312, so FTP made $1,312 in rake and did not have to contribute money for a guaranteed prize pool shortfall. (Again, they did lose money based on bustout bounties, but that was not part of the argument.) For arguing that it wasn't a "true" overlay in that we did not get "free" money I was called all sorts of names. I said it shouldn't have been called an overlay, but a tournament with reduced rake. (Discounting bustout bounties, each player paid about $1.40 in fees.) What do you think?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Introducing my new blog...

While I procrastinate on blogging on Vegas afterthoughts I've managed to start a new blog with another one soon forthcoming. I figure why put all of my eggs in one basket? I hope in starting new blogs and writing on other non-poker related topics I am able to find new sources of revenue from more freelance writing and/or advertising.

That being said, my first new blog is called Press Start and focuses on video games. Specifically, I'm covering remakes of the old classics and the new releases of the old classics on the current consoles' download services, with some thoughts on the new stuff thrown in as well. I feel that there is still sufficient interest in the older games, but they get the short shrift from the more popular video gaming websites. For example, IGN and Gamespot miss many potential reviews of the Wii's Virtual Console, PS3 and Xbox Live Arcade releases. (Gamespot went months without reviewing a single VC release on the Wii.)

So please visit my new blog and feel free to give your input.

The second new blog is coming soon and will probably be of even more interest to the general population...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Site of the Week

Now occasionally as a blog owner you get queries from people asking if you'll review their site. More times than not these sites aren't worth reading, but I've recently been looking at a site I feel is worth your time. The site is called Poker Intensity and features a variable cornucopia of info on online poker. What struck me first about the site is that it doesn't shill for scum like Absolute Poker; in fact, the owners of the site recommend that you DO NOT play there. There is event a black list of sites to avoid. Instead, you get honest reviews of other preferred sites like PokerStars, where I plan to win a WCOOP tournament in the next couple of months.

Poker Intensity also features some recent and relevant poker news articles (hey, maybe I can write for them), online deposit methods, guides for new players and perhaps the coolest feature is a poker odds calculator that lets you input the odds of winning hands from hold'em to Omaha hi-lo to razz.

If you get bored of poker, the site also has a sister link to a horse betting site if that's your thing. That site also has info on sportsbooks and bingo. Gamble it up.

Overall, I recommend checking out the site. You can probably find something on there to interest you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Life after Vegas

I've been on blogger vacation the last week. Posting has been a very low priority since my return from Vegas as I've been trying to catch up on other things. The first thing I did on my first morning back was mow my jungle. Nearly four weeks without cutting your yard in an Alabama summer tends to yield high grass. Where I come from we call it hay.

I still have plenty of yardwork to do, but it's been reaching triple digits on the thermostat around here and that's pretty brutal in the land of high humidity. So I've been cleaning up the house and such, and spending time with Amy.

I didn't have a profitable trip to Vegas from the poker playing standpoint, but I hope some of the networking I did will lead to more freelance writing opportunities. That remains to be seen as the weeks pass. Meanwhile, I am on the job hunt and there are a couple of good ones at UA I wouldn't mind getting. If that happens I've probably made my last lengthy World Series of Poker trip, but that's alright. I now suffer from burnout.

I'm gearing up for FTOPS and WCOOP now. A nice score in one of the events in those series would do wonders for my bankroll and state of mind. My initial $39 investment in my first WCOOP satellite has now yielded $725 in W dollars in less than a week so maybe I can keep that going. I've got some WSOP wrapup thoughts I never posted on any of the sites I have been blogging for so maybe I'll get to that soon.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The end is near

and I am ready to come home. I don't even remember what I last posted on here between the writing I do for my own blog, Pokerati and Full Tilt Poker. Most of the substantive stuff is on the other two sites.

I'm playing in a blackjack tournament at the Golden Nugget. It's a $100 buy-in with a $50,000 prize pool -- half to first. Here's the thing. Even though I've played few casino blackjack tournaments in my life I wrote many blackjack tournament strategy columns for Wise Hand Poker in a contract the site had with, an upstart BJ tourney site (not even sure if it's still around, to be honest, as the supposed BJ tourney fad that the UBT was supposed to ignite didn't happen). So I had to study the game. I read all of Ken Smith's columns on his website. I read Ken Einiger's book. I got pretty knowledgable about BJ tournaments, but never really put that info into practice. So today I did and got past the first round. Too bad there's still three rounds to go to win. But, hey, you never know. At least if I bust out I will have spent a total of one to two hours at the table, whereas I've spent more than a solid work week at the tournament poker tables with only red ink to show for it.

A young kid was aggressive early and moved out to a big lead, but he kept betting big and eventually came back to the field. Meanwhile, I got lucky when I put out the occasional big bet and it became a close race. Only one would advance to the next round. The key hand was when I was dealt an 8 and he got a hard 12 with the dealer showing an 8. We were close in chips and he had out a 2,000 bet (the max) and I had 800. I decided to double down to get my wager close to his and hit a face card for an 18. The kid hit and got a 4 and wisely decided to stay with his 16. To my luck the dealer turned over a 4 and hit a 5 for 17, giving me a winning hand and the kid a loser.

Headed over to the Bellagio now to play a quick couple hours of poker before packing it in. Have to play the second round of the BJ tourney at 9:45 in the morning.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Recent updates via FTP posts

The latest update is that Iggy is now out. He lost a coin flip in the first level when he pushed in with A-J and was called by Jeremiah Smith and his nines. Iggy finished something like 405th for $28K. Not bad, sir, not bad at all...

Here's what I've been sending the last few days to Full Tilt Poker for the Blogger from the Rail posts:

Greetings from the World Series. I’ve been here for more than two weeks now, but am just now officially posting as the Blogger from the Rail. (Doesn’t it sound like a title of such importance?) If any of you reading this have never been to the WSOP or even Las Vegas, you need to plan a trip. If you love poker you have to come experience it.

This is actually my fifth year at poker’s grandest event. The first time, in 2004, the tournament was still held at Binion’s Horseshoe. It’s really hard to think of the size of the WSOP then with the size of it now. Today, for Day 2B of the main event they’ve got players spread all over the Rio, from the main play area of the Amazon ballroom to the Rio poker room, which is a good third of a mile away. I hear it’s in the neighborhood of 2,700 players playing today. Insane. I remember in 2004 when they were trying to find space for the nearly 2,600 players at Binion’s. Here in 2006, before the UIGEA was passed, there were nearly 9,000 runners. There were still nearly 7,000 this year. I think this poker fad has legs.

Let me share a quick history of my WSOP play. During that first trip in 2004, I took a shot at an event. It was the $1,000 with rebuys and I was attempting it on one buy in (Dumb move, I know. But as a novice what did I know?) At my table at various times were players with names like Vahedi, Tomko, Plastik, Longson, Rodman, Shoten and this guy they call Hellmuth. You may not be surprised to learn I didn’t fare so well.

I played one $1,500 NLHE event in 2005 with no luck and another in 2006 with similar fortunes. I won a main event seat in 2006 through another online poker site and was a card rack on Day 1, catching aces five times and flopping quad deuces against Patrik Antonius. I managed to take half his stack in another hand in which I turned a set of nines. My good fortune continued until I ran kings into aces shortly after making the money in Day 3. The 770th finish was good enough for $16,500.

Last year I played no WSOP events, but thanks to Full Tilt Poker and its Battle of the Bloggers Tournaments I was able to play the $1,500 HORSE event. I sat with Mike Matusow, himself a FTP pro. As seems to be usual in the $1,500 events I play here I didn’t last long. In fact, Matusow and another player busted me in the third level during Stud/8 when I missed both my low and flush draws.

I’ve used my Vegas bankroll I earned through the blogger tournaments to play other tournaments around town, but haven’t had much luck. I finally cashed last night in a $340 Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza event, but only got $740 for the effort.

I’ll be bringing you more from the Rio in the coming days. Thanks for your patronage.

I have to admit I have watched the main event the last two years with great envy. After taking part in 2006 and experiencing the highs and lows of playing in poker’s biggest tournament, I am jealous every year I have to watch and not participate.

I felt a little thrill in railing Iggy, one of our most famous poker bloggers. He has been called the “Blogfather” because he was one of the first and best. This year, he won his first main event seat and I could sense the joy he had in getting to play the thing. It was like when a little kid opens his presents on Christmas. I remember that feeling. Well, then I asked him how it felt to play in it on Day 2 and he looked uninterested. “It beats work,” he said as he continued to fold his rag hands.

Players were eliminated briskly on Day 2. More than 63 percent of the field survived Day 1, but many hit the door quickly as the blinds and antes grew. At the end of the day less than 1,300 survived and prop bets were made among poker writers on whether or not enough players will be eliminated on Day 3 to reach the money line of 666.

By the end of the day you could sense palpable excitement in Iggy as he held nearly 87,000 chips (close to the average) entering Thursday’s Day 3 play. As we walked from the Rio to the Palms in search of beer he threatened to let out a primordial scream. Finally, as the afternoon had grown long he caught some hands.

Day 3 is the most treacherous day of the Series. It provides great disappointment for half the remaining field and great joy for most of the rest who survive into the cash. After all, $20,000+ is big money for most people, especially since many of them got into the main event for much less than $10,000.

I personally have a rooting interest in a few people today. There is Iggy, of course. There’s also Stephen L. from Toronto, a guy I met in Reno a couple of years ago and have been friends with since. And there’s Hoyt Corkins, my fellow Alabamian who I’ve gotten to know over the last few years, especially since I’ve been working with Rounder magazine where we feature a monthly Q & A segment with him. Hoyt and I are supposed to go hiking on Mt. Charleston when he busts out of the main event, but honestly I hope the trip can wait until next year. I’d be just as happy to see him make the final table.

Hand for hand play lasted an eternity Thursday at the Rio. I’m sure it seemed that way for the short-stacked participants, at least. The most amazing story was that of Argentinean Fernando Gordo, or more accurately his stack. Gordo did not show up Thursday to play his 140,000 stack and was blinded off as the day progressed. When the money bubble burst his stack was still alive, but down to 1,500. That stack earned him $21,230.

The three guys I was tracking had mixed results. My Toronto pal Stephen Ladowsky nursed a short stack most of the day and finally went out around 480th when he pushed with A-Q and ran into aces. Iggy managed to maintain and build his stack with some blind steals and re-steals and finished Day 3 with 177,000. Hoyt Corkins fared even better, using his aggressive style to build his stack up to nearly 480,000. It was funny watching him pace the aisles before play began this afternoon. Hoyt seemed more nervous today than he did before the final table of the World Poker Open in Tunica in January. (He finished second there.) I guess that shows you the importance of the World Series of Poker to people.

Iggy seemed very relaxed and drew fellow poker writer Jeremiah Smith two seats to his right. I talked with Jeremiah (who enters the day second in chip count with about $1.3 million) quite a bit last year so it’s good to see the former PokerWire reporter doing so well in this event. Plus, Jeremiah was dressed in Full Tilt Poker gear so of course we love him here on Poker From the Rail.

Phil Hellmuth and Jean Robert-Bellande are at the ESPN featured table today. There’s a dynamic duo for you that should make for good television.

I probably won’t stick around the Rio long here on Day 4 because if I want to make my fortune before I leave Vegas I need to try to satellite into the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza main event on Sunday. Maybe if I can win a mint it will give me a good bankroll for the upcoming FTOPS events.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Vegas trip photo dump

Here's much of the trip so far in pictures...

My Golden Gate, room

The view out of the window

George Clooney stills my woman away at the wax museum

She plays piano like no other. Eat your heart out Liberace.

A wax figure of Ben Affleck playing poker seems a bit dated.

Why is she giving Bush the thumbs-up?
EDIT: Amy tells me she is not giving the thumbs-up, but is instead pointing (presumbly in a politician style).

I give him the thumbs-down.

Maybe a Faberge egg...after my first $10 million

The Imperial Palace has a fantastic car museum....and nearly all of them are for sale.

A cash...finally

The most recent news first: I cashed in a real live Vegas tournament! After my constant struggles I finally made the money, but I will not need any wheelbarrows to haul it home. I finished 22nd out of 513 in the Venetian DSE $340 NLHE event Tuesday, earning $740 or about a $400 profit. I won one key flip late when I raised with 10-10 from the button and the BB shoved. I pondered and called and he flipped over K-J. Thankfully, the only paint on the board was a Q. I lost another key coin flip with 9-9 vs. A-K that would have put me in a great position for a run at the final table. I lucked up with four tables remaining to beat A-Q with my A-2 when I rivered a duece. When we got down to three tables I may have overplayed 5-5 by raising all in after a limp (from a guy who I knew would fold his limp, one of those old, nitty players). Here's the thing: I had like 120K and the blinds were 6K and 12K with a 3K ante. So there was 45K in the flop preflop, plus 12K more from this guy. It would seem that shoves were a good idea. But here I ran into J-J. I flopped a 5, but the case jack came on the turn (someone said they folded the other one). That crippled me and I was gone within five minutes.

I've been railing Iggy today a bit in the main event. He's got about 50K after starting the day with 37K. He has Joe Bartholdi and David Singer at his table...tough break there...

Amy and I had a wonderful four days together. The GN room was nice. We went to see Penn & Teller, Madame Tussauds, Red Rock Canyon and other touristy stuff she hadn't seen before. We had to go to that coffeeshop in New York New York to get one of those exquisite desserts for her birthday.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

No cigars

This has been a trip about coming close with nothing to show for it. The tournament tally so far:

Golden Nugget Grand Series Omaha Hi/Lo -- 21st of 162

Caesars Mega Stack NLHE -- 120ish of 560

Golden Nugget Grand Series HORSE -- 39th of 143

Of course, there was also the $1,500 WSOP HORSE in which I busted out in the third level...maybe I should have played the Limit Shootout instead or the NL donkament. Regardless, I have no cashes in any tournaments. I managed to chop a couple of satellites, but that's about it.

So to heck with playing poker. I have been focused today on writing about it.

I get one more main event shot in about an hour when I play the 6 p.m. mega satellite. An unidentified person is putting me in for a 50/50 split of any main event winnings.

Amy arrives tomorrow night so I am very excited about that. I miss my wife terribly.

The radio show went well. I think. I know that our owner Hank was happy with it. I believe you are supposed to be able to listen to it in archived fashion on, but I couldn't find the show on there. You can subscribe to the shows on iTunes, but they haven't updated the podcasts in more than a month. When I know how to listen to the show I will post it here.

Last night I watched the craziness at Phil Ivey's charity tournament at the Golden Nugget. Go to to read about the foolish behavior, as well as about this drunk fellow...

Hoyt and I talked briefly on the phone today. Sometime after he busts out of the main event we're going hiking up on Mt. Charleston. All I have are sneakers, but I'll give it a go.

That's the short report. Look forward to meeting Lucko and Riggstad and seeing Al Can't Hang and Iggy again. All are arriving in the next couple of days. Looking more forward to seeing my love...

Get here soon my Angelina!

Monday, June 30, 2008

HORSE update

Played the $1,500 HORSE yesterday. Report is on

Doing a guest spot on Susie Issac's radio show today for Rounder magazine. Not sure where one can listen, but I will find out if it's archived.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

No luck in Sin City

Quick update:

Finally got my media pass

Should just write for rest of Series

Because I can't win at poker

(Was that a haiku? Probably way to many syllables..)

Totals: Satellites -- 0 for 4, Tournaments --0 for 3 (11.5 hours Tuesday and 10 hours Thursday at Caesars with no cash to show)

I may not even play the HORSE tomorrow unless I do well in satellites tonight because it would put such a huge dent in my Vegas bankroll. I have to make it last for three weeks since I'm not going to walk around this town broke.

The luck will turn around. I know it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Quick Vegas update

All sorts of snafus so far here in Vegas. I still don't have my media credential because I think there were some errors in the application process through Rounder. So I am doing my report from the lovely Fitzgerald's Krispy Kreme...

Finally found Ted yesterday so I will be moving in with him Friday. I called Binion's on Monday in between flights and they said he wasn't even checked in. I don't know why because when I bumped into him the other day he said he had been there. I stayed in my pal Stephen L's extra bed at the Rio on Monday and Tuesday and then used a 2 for 1 at the Golden Gate out of curiosity on the oldest casino in town's rooms. Oh my, they are tiny. We are talking rat in a cage small here. I have pictures, but haven't had a chance to load them on my laptop.

No luck poker wise so far. Played the $240 Omaha Hi-Lo at the Golden Nuggest Grand series Wednesday and finished 21st out of 162. Top 18 got paid. Played 11 and a half hours! Talk about a slow structure. 0 for 4 in WSOP satellites so far. Several close calls. Down about $800 on the trip through four days, but hopefully I can work my usual Vegas magic and turn it around.

Bowled with about a dozen bloggers Tuesday night at the Gold Coast after beers at the bar in celebration of Change 100's birthday. Owned Jason Kirk in a $20 prop bet, 136-134.

Taking it easy tonight, heading over to Binion's to play the 8 p.m. tourney. Maybe it won't be a week until my next post...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Words of Wisdom for Vegas Virgins

As I prepare to depart for Vegas this evening, I feel like an old hand when it comes to Vegas and the WSOP. I mean I first attended the World Series of Poker in 2004 when it was still at the Horseshoe, for goodness sake! I still remember the dry erase board they used to keep up with main event entries as they grew each day, the satellite area downstairs and the main tournament action in Benny's Bullpen.

It's hard to wrap my mind around the WSOP then versus the WSOP now. That year I spent a week in Vegas with my friend Brian. We were some broke SOBs who played more poker in the nightly Sahara tournaments than we did at the Horseshoe. I tried my hand at the $1,000 NLHE w/ rebuys at the WSOP (go back and look at my second post on this blog for that recap) and Brian won a seat into a supersatellite, but neither of us had any luck after that.

Then in 2005, I started my poker adventure after leaving the J-O-B, with nearly a month to bum around Sin City. Although it was by then my fourth trip to Vegas, that was the first time I really got to learn about the city other than the standard tourist destinations. I'll admit it was a little bit scary being alone for a month in a (for the most part) unfamiliar town. By now I'd say I know much of Vegas like the back of my hand. You know, the imporant things like the location of every In 'n Out Burger and the shortcut down Industrial from the Rio to Downtown.

As I believe there are quite a few bloggers making the trek out there this year for either their first trip to Vegas or their first trip to the WSOP, I will impart on these pages some of my accumulated knowledge on the subject...

Don't blow your wad

Don't get any dirty thoughts. This advice has nothing to do with strippers or hookers, but it has everything to do with the wad of money tucked into your jeans' pocket. I've heard first, second and third hand accounts of players with truckloads of online or local game wins taking a hefty percentage of their bankrolls to Vegas and blowing through it in a hurry. The WSOP is an expensive proposition. You could theoretically spend more than a quarter million buying into events in six weeks. Before you go, take stock of how much you are willing to risk on your trip. If you take $10K and plan to be there for three weeks, don't blow through $5K in the first four days. Don't put too much at risk early in your trip or you'll be eating 99-cent shrimp cocktails every night for dinner by the last week of your jaunt. A trick I tried on my first trip to Vegas (before I even played much poker) was to take envelopes for each day of the trip. I split the money I was taking to play with evenly among the envelopes, one for each day. At the end of the day I put any money still in my pocket into fresh envelopes not to be touched until I got home. If you stay disciplined this will guarantee you take money back home with you.

Stop and smell the roses

Vegas is a fun town, even if you don't like to gamble or play poker. I've had several friends go there and not gambled a nickel. They just go to enjoy the sights. If you've never been to Vegas, or even if you have, don't grind away at the tables every hour of every day. Go see a show, watch the Bellagio fountains, hike at Red Rock Canyon, see Hoover anything but play poker for at least part of every day. I've compiled a mental list of some of the things I've never done before that I want to try this year...from going to an Area 51's minor league baseball game to just driving around the UNLV campus.

Don't forget the satellites

Although the satellites at the WSOP play like turbos I can't stress this enough -- play them! Satellite play at the Rio has traditionally been very soft. One caveat I must add is that you must be a good negotiator. Few satellite are played until the end. Usually they are chopped two or three ways. Fight for the best deal you can get if you make it to the end game. The Venetian also runs good satellites for those coveted octagonal buy-in chips into the DSE. Try some of those, as well.

WSOP Satellites for Profit

Most people enter World Series of Poker satellites with the idea of winning a seat in the main event and riding that seat to poker glory. However, another group of WSOP satellite players exists -- those with experience who play the called super satellites (multi table satellites) for profit. There are, as you will discover, many different ways to make money from poker games online.

How Can You Play a WSOP Super Satellite for Profit?

The first time you play in a WSOP satellite for the main event, you will be playing for a seat. If you win the seat, you will probably be required to take it.

Once you have won a seat though, the situation is different. If you win another satellite, you can’t take another seat in the tournament, since it is only permissible to play one seat per tournament. What you will be able to do instead is sell that seat to another prospective player. The more $10,000 seats you win, the more you can sell.

Why Play WSOP Satellites for Profit?

The prize pool distributes more evenly in a super satellite than in a regular tournament. Instead of the bulk of the money going to the first place finisher, everyone who cashes gets a $10,000 seat. Some players can hang on until the money comes and then eliminate the opposition. For those players, the super satellite may present a better option.

What Obstacles Will You Face When Playing WSOP Satellites for Profit?

Once you win your extra seat, you will still have to sell it. However, there is no shortage of interested potential WSOP competitors, so this should not be too much of a problem. In addition, you will still have to finish high in the tournament to qualify for a seat. Remember, most of the players you are competing against haven’t made it into the tournament yet, and are likely to fight you fiercely for the opportunity.

Friday, June 20, 2008

WSOP stats from Harrah's

Here's yesterday's WSOP midpoint press release verbatim:


Through Thirty Tournaments, Records Set, Attendance Strong & Pros Doing Well

LAS VEGAS – June 19, 2008 – It took until just the second event of the 2008 World Series of Poker Presented by Milwaukee's Best Light to know it was going to be another strong year. A record 3,929 poker enthusiasts put up $1,500 each to compete in the first No Limit Hold'em event and things have continued to build nicely since.

The 3,929 entrants were the most-ever for a non-Main Event field and, through 30 events at the 2008 WSOP, the statistics are on target for another stellar year. Among the numbers, thus far (through 30 events):

24,642 entrants
821 average entrants per event
$59,117,189 in total prize money awarded
$1,970,573 average prize pool per event
$439,545 average first place prize per event

The storylines at the 2008 World Series of Poker are as colorful as ever:

KC's Finest: The Hinkle Brothers, from Kansas City, Missouri became the first-ever set of brothers to win bracelets in the same year. Grant won Event #2 and $831,432, with Blair winning Event #23 and $507,563. The Hinkle's become only the second set of brothers to win bracelets at the WSOP, joining the Pearson's, Puggy (1973) and J.C. (1994).

Is The Tide Turning?: Amateurs have had a lot of success at the World Series of Poker in recent years, including the record six consecutive years the Main Event has been won by an amateur. But this year professional poker players have won 23 of 30 (77%) of the bracelets handed out thus far. One of the best pros never to win a bracelet has shed that label. Erick Lindgren won his first bracelet and currently is tied for the lead in the WSOP Player of the Year standings, while notables Daniel Negreanu, David Singer, Barry Greenstein, Max Pescatori and Mike Matusow have all captured gold during the first half of this WSOP.

The Real "World": The World Series of Poker has seen an astounding influx of international players participating and cashing at the WSOP in recent years. In 2007, a record 87 countries and territories had entrants in the WSOP. This year shows that players cashing in tournaments are consistently from all corners of the globe. Through 30 events, 37 different countries have had an entrant cash. They are: Argentina; Australia; Austria; Belgium; Bolivia; Brazil; Canada; China; Denmark; England; Faroe Islands; Finland; France; Germany; Gibraltar; Guatemala; Hungary; Indonesia; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Lebanon; Lithuania; Mexico; Monaco; Netherlands; Norway; Peru; Romania; Russia; Scotland; Slovakia; Sweden; Switzerland; United States and Venezuela.

Where's Vermont?: Through 30 events, all of the states in United States (and D.C.) have had at least one entrant cash in this year's World Series of Poker – except Vermont.

Sporting an Appearance: Baseball great Orel Hershiser, hockey star Jeremy Roenick, Miami Heat basketball player Earl Barron and Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss have all been seen playing during this year's WSOP.

-- more --
The Name Game: These folks are standing out at this year's WSOP: (through 30 events)

Most events entered this year:
Thomas McCormick (23)
Sirous Jamshidi (22)
Amnon Filippi (21)
Justin Bonomo (21)
Phil Ivey (21)

Most event cashes this year:
Nikolay Evdakov (6)
Rolf Slotboom (5)
Tom Schneider (5)
Kathy Liebert (5)
Alex Jacob (5)
Roland Isra (5)

Highest cash percentage this year:
Kathy Liebert - 62.5% (5 of 8 events entered)
Sarah Bilney - 50% (4 of 8 events entered)
Tom Lee - 50% (3 of 6 events entered)
Peter Debest - 50% (3 of 6 events entered)
Calen McNeil - 50% (3 of 6 events entered)

Most final tables reached this year: 2 (11 players tied)
Chris Bjorin; Andy Bloch; Alex Bolotin; Scott Clements; Jacobo Fernandez; Fu Wong; Minh Ly; Daniel Negreanu; J.C. Tran; Theo Tran

Money leaders at this year's WSOP:
Grant Hinkle - $831,462 (1 cash)
Phil Galfond - $817,781 (1 cash)
Nenad Medic - $810,608 (2 cashes)
Scott Seiver - 781,866 (3 cashes)
Duncan Bell - $666,697 (1 cash)

Tracking the Big Three: Phil Hellmuth, 11 bracelets, and Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson with 10 each have been busy trying to add to their lofty totals. Here are their results, thus far, at the 39th annual WSOP:
Hellmuth: Events entered: 15; Events Cashed: 2; Total Money Won: $106,896
Brunson: Events entered: 7; Events Cashed: 1; Total Money Won: $16,243
Chan: Events entered: 9; Events Cashed: 2; Total Money Won: $273,946

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

6 Days to Vegas

I have become a prize whore. In case you haven't heard, I was picked as the winner of the BBT writing contest. I'm not sure which I'm more proud of -- the monthly leaderboard wins or the writing contest. The leaderboards required months of marriage bending dedication, while I whipped out the writing contest posts in three or four hours, but I do write for a living.

Regardless, I am very happy to win this prize since it saves me a good $500 on airfare and a few hundred I would have spent on a hotel room if I had stayed until the end of the WSOP. (Now, I imagine that FTP will put me up in a room a wee bit nicer than Binion's for July 9-16, though I don't know which one yet.)

I anticipate the work will be similar to what I did for Party Poker at (still running over there thanks to Tim Lavali, aka "The Poker Shrink") in 2006, with about a post a day of whatever interesting things I see. The pay is the same too at $1,000 a week (or for a week in this case). I will also be writing for Dan Michalski at during the Series, but Dan is a slavedriver. Just kidding. Dan has been a big help to me for finding writing work during the WSOP so I am happy to pay him back by working with him this year.

The FTP blog is called "Poker From the Rail", but I still hope to blog for them from the main event felt. That will require some satellite mastery on my part to get into the big one. I'll play a mega or two if I get a nice tournament score early in my trip or have a few extra WSOP satellite chips in my pocket later in the trip.

This really will probably be my last hurrah in Vegas, as in lengthy trip for the WSOP, at least for awhile. When I get back from Vegas I will be hitting the job trail, and would probably continue to do poker writing work on the side. But for the next month I'll be enjoying the fruits of my poker labor.

Monday, June 09, 2008

TOC aftermath

I can't say that 7 on the turn was a real punch to the gut, but yeah, it sucked.

Here's the set-up for those uninformed (though it has been written about on several other blogs already). We were down to the final 13 and I had about 9K. I opened in MP for 1,100 with blinds at 200-400 with Q-Q. Loretta8 in the BB re-shoved all in for about 7K and I called. Loretta showed 7-7 and the last 7 in the deck (as someone said they folded a 7) came out and I was crippled and soon eliminated in 13th.

I don't fault Loretta for the play, especially with so many TOCers playing scared. A re-shove will take a lot of pots. Had I won the pot I would have been 4th in chips out of 12 runners and who knows from there. Congrats to Loretta for taking down one of the $10K seats. My results in the TOC kind of validate my argument for the points race being the deciding factor for the "big" prize. But you can also argue that the winner of the main event is going to be whoever is luckiest so why not give the seat to whoever is luckiest in the TOC? I can see both sides of that.

There's so much short-term luck in this game. You just keep pushing edges over the years and you will come out ahead, it's just a matter of how much based on your success in a few crucial spots. If you're as lucky as Jamie Gold you are $12 million ahead. If you're as lucky as me you might be $100K ahead.

The reason the beat in the TOC was not a punch in the gut was thanks to my past success in the tournaments. Two $2K prizes for the March and May leaderboards and $750 for the overall leaderboard gives me $4,750 for the Vegas bankroll, which will include a $1,500 shot at the WSOP in HORSE (possibly NLHE if I change my mind) and another $1,500 to $2,000 in other tournaments around town (and some WSOP satellites for perhaps another $1,500 shot). So the TOC did feel like a true freeroll. I have been fortunate so I can't complain too much about the one outer.

Two weeks and counting until I depart...and this could be my last lengthy trip to Vegas for awhile if I go job hunting when I go back...more on that at a later date...

So, come one kids, I need comment replies and emails. Let's get the ball rolling on some late June/early July blogger gathering(s). Lucko is coming July 2. I saw that Loretta plans to play the ME for sure. Waffles is waffling on coming out I think. BWOP is going. What are travel plans and suggestions for meeting times/places/events?

Man tries to play WSOP ladies event

BARGE participant Alan Jaffrey attempted to play the ladies event in drag. Here's what he wrote about it:

I showed up at 11:30, met Patti, Sabyl, and a couple of friends at the coffee shop, borrowed Patti's hat, had them adjust my necklace andapply makeup, posed for photos with supportive and enthusiastic ladies at a couple of nearby tables who were also playing that afternoon, walked to the Amazon room, and promptly got pulled aside and kicked out by Jeffrey Pollack, Commissioner of the World Series of Poker. I'm honestly surprised by this - as I told Jeff, I've never heard of anyone being denied entry to a poker tournament, including ladies events, on the basis of sex. He claims that "in the 31-year history ofthe World Series of Poker ladies event, no man has ever played."

I asked if he was not concerned about the sex discrimination aspects ofthis decision. "Not at all. Men are not a protected class." He talked about how they treat this event very seriously - "as do I, sir" - and about the importance of protecting "the integrity of the game." (Thought but not said: "Sir, judging from recent decisions byHarrah's, I have far more concern about the integrity of the game thanyou do!) He asked if I could understand his point of view. "I don't accept it, and I don't believe it's right. But you're the boss, and if you say I can't play, then I can't play." I'm disappointed and annoyed that I can't play, since I expected tohave more fun in this event than perhaps any other in the WSOP, and I'd really love to win the bracelet. C'est la vie.

I don't know whether or not they have the legal right to discriminate in this way, but I'm not going to make a big fuss. I don't care enough to fight it, and I have too much to lose to risk Harrah's blacklisting me and preventing me from playing future WSOP events. Maybe I'll have better luck in the WSOP Negro World Championship. Oh, wait, they don't have that. They wouldn't even dream of running that. Hmmmmm. At least I got a nice outfit out of the experience. Photos later.

Nolan Dalla chipped in his always well-thought out reasoning:

While I understand the spirit which motivated Alan to play in the Ladies Poker World Championship, I disagree strongly with his assumptions and conclusions. The WSOP feared that many men might "storm the castle" in this event. There were even fears that Phil Ivey might come in drag and crash the tournament (Note: He has a $2 million side bet that he will win a gold bracelet this year and has vowed to play in as many events as possible). No man (to my knowledge) has ever played in the Ladies event. Allowing a male to play in this event potentially opens up the floodgates which, in my view, would destroy the concept of a LADIES World Poker Championship.

Here's the scenario: One man plays this year. Twenty play next year (citing precedent was already established). Then, in 2010 a few hundred show up. Four years later, the Ladies event is no more. Argue all you want about equality of the sexes and the absurdity of offering special events for women, but the bottom line is:

(1) These events are immensely popular. Women enjoy them. So long as HET remains in business to profit, they are serving a market demand.

(2) This event brings many new players to the game. This point is irrefutable. I work 6-8 of these events a year and they are packed with new faces. After they bust, they gravitate to live games and other tournaments. This tournament is a terrific feeder for the entire WSOP.

(3) Finally, this tournament has been around for 31 years and meets the WSOP's goal of trying to diversify its games and composition to the greatest extent possible.

Alan is justified in being disappointed he could not play. On a personal note, I think most ladies would have welcomed him in the tournament. But the key point is -- he could have been the lynch-pin that ultimately destroys the Ladies World Poker Championship and for that reason I am in complete support of Harrah's decision.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fictional journalistic FTP post

Here is the faux journalism post on Hay-suess winning his second main event title for the BBT writing contest.

Chris “Jesus” Ferguson wins second WSOP main event title

Sure, Jesus could turn water into wine, but would he have been able to win two poker world championships?

That’s what Chris Ferguson accomplished early Monday morning when he vanquished the final table of the World Series of Poker main event to claim an unlikely second title. It was unlikely because the Full Tilt Poker pro had to defeat 7,219 other runners to win the tournament and the $10 million first-place prize, and in doing so became the first pro to win the tournament in seven years.

Ferguson, nicknamed “Jesus” because of his long hair, beard and ability to perform poker miracles, claimed his sixth WSOP bracelet. He had just missed out on another title earlier in the Series when he finished third in the first $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event.

“What I can I say? I’ve been very fortunate,” the 45-year-old Ferguson said in his usual understatement. “It was a tough final table and I’m so proud to have won I’m practically speechless. I don’t know what to say.”

Ferguson’s competition at the final table included a cast of mostly unknowns and fellow poker pro Dan Harrington. Amazingly, Harrington has now made the final table of the WSOP main event three times in the last six years. He was eliminated early on in eighth place and collected $1.5 million.

Ferguson entered the final table second in chips to Barry Wainwright, a 39-year-old chiropractor from Yonkers, N.Y., and these two chipleaders knocked the other players out one by one. By the time the security guards brought stacks of cash out and piled them on the final table, Ferguson and Wainwright were heads up for the title, with Ferguson holding a slight chip advantage with 74 million to Wainwright’s 70 million.

The two waged a protracted poker war that lasted five hours, with Ferguson doing most of the chip collecting. On a final hand that brought back memories of Ferguson’s 2000 main event victory over T.J. Cloutier, the Pacific Palisades, Calif., resident beat Wainwright when the chiropractor pushed his last 6 million chips in the pot with Ah-Qd and Ferguson called with As-10c. The flop and turn were blanks, keeping Wainwright in the lead with a chance to double up, but the river was the 10 of diamonds and Ferguson was world champion once more.

“Chris was a tough competitor, and I knew the match would be tough,” a disappointed Wainwright said after the tournament. “Then again, I can’t complain about winning $5 million.”

This main event title is the icing on the Year 2008 cake for Ferguson. He won the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship in March over his friend and fellow Full Tilt Poker pro Andy Bloch for $500,000. Then in September he won the $2,500 HORSE event at World Series of Poker Europe in London for another quarter million. The $10 million he added to his tournament winnings Monday gives him a lifetime total of about $18 million, making him the winningest player in tournament poker history.

FTP fictional blog post

Posting my entries into the BBT writing contest today. I'm doing Part 2 first. Here's a tragi-comedy on the dangers of the delayed final table:

The Delayed WSOP Finale (A Five Minute Tale of a Four Month Delay)

Nov. 10, 2:55 a.m.

Even as the ace fell on the river I kept one eye on the stands.

Underneath my left hand were two cards – an ace and a king. My right hand was in my pocket, clutching the knife I bought at the Downtown pawn shop, just in case.

The crowd went wild when the ace fell. Truth was, they didn’t know me from Adam. They were just here to watch the final table of the good ol’ W-S-of-P and they knew that history had just been made. So they cheered. I, degenerate gambler and sports bettor extraordinaire, had just become the world champion of poker when my Big Slick outran my opponent’s pocket queens when we got it all in before the flop.

And even still I couldn’t rest easy. Because when you’ve got ten mil in your pocket, your debtors are going to come calling, and I didn’t plan to part with the money so easily.

I received the standard hearty congratulations from Jack Effel, Jeffrey Pollack, Nolan Dalla and the rest of Harrah’s brass. There was the official post-tournament interview and the presentation of the bracelet, but I just wanted to get the hell out of there. In a previous life I would have enjoyed the attention. “Damn that delayed final table,” I muttered under my breath.

July 14, 11:30 p.m.

I doubt you’ve ever seen nine people with bigger grins on their faces. Once Phil Hellmuth was eliminated in tenth place, kicking chairs over on his way out the door, our lips turned up quickly and precipitously toward our ears as we rose from our seats to shake hands and give high fives. Guaranteed a million with a chance at ten million. It was hard to imagine. Still there was four months to let it all soak in and, after each collecting our guaranteed money, now was time to celebrate.

My wife and I partied with the rest of the “November Nine” at the VooDoo lounge, stories above the desert floor at the Rio. I recalled the last time I was here in 2006, watching Joe Sebok macking on Shannon Elizabeth at the official WSOP party. This affair was smaller if not any less subdued, as we drank ourselves into a foggy stupor while gazing at the neon city.

“Does it get any better than this?” I asked while standing next to Barry Wainwright on the lounge’s balcony.

“Sure, it does,” replied the 39-year-old chiropractor from Yonkers, N.Y. “One of us is going to win the damn thing.”

Nov. 10, 3:45 a.m.

A man with a million bucks in his pocket can be a danger to himself.

I returned to some old habits when I went back home to Alabama, like picking the Crimson Tide to cover the spread, which is always a dicey proposition. And I was doing this betting with some mean sons of bitches from Walker County, where legend has it that if you want a fellow whacked you write his name on a piece of paper and insert it into a particular stump along with one Benjamin. I got indebted to these sons of bitches for a lot more than a Benjamin. In fact, you could probably buy an entire mobile home community with the money I owed these jokers, one of whom I spotted in the stands two hours before my victory.

With that kind of debt, playing poker for ten million on ESPN was not the best option, but what choice did I have? When I got back to Alabama I’d figure out another plan, but for now I had to make it back home first.

So after collecting my check and my wife, I didn’t bother going back to my room for my luggage before attempting to hail the nearest cab for McCarran. Our feet had barely hit the sidewalk at the Rio’s convention area entrance when Rufus stepped out from behind a palm tree with a gun in his hand.

“Where y’all going in such a hurry?” he asked. “You’ve got some debts to pay, boy.”

“I was coming to see you as soon as I got back to Tuscaloosa,” I replied, as I slid my right hand toward my pocket.

“Keep your hands right where they are!” Rufus shouted as he eyed my movement. His loudness had now captured the attention of the few people milling around the valet area. Thank God, I thought. Maybe someone would call the police.

“How do I have any assurances that you’re not going to run and hide when you get back home?” Rufus continued. I got mad just looking at this ugly sack of shit.

“I think you need to go ahead and give me some collateral now, and when we get back to Alabama we’ll figure out the rest. Hand over the check, boy.”

“That’s not going to happen, Rufus,” I said with fake confidence. “Just let us be and we’ll talk back home.” I hoped he couldn’t discern the nervousness in my voice. Bluffing with a gun in your face is a lot tougher than bluffing on the poker felt.

“The check or a bullet in your gut, whichever you prefer,” Rufus said as he cocked his .45.

As soon as the gun clicked, Rufus dropped to the ground in a blur. He had been tackled by a beast of a man with silver hair and glasses. Holy crap, I thought. It’s T.J. freakin’ Cloutier! With his linebacker’s shoulders and forearms, the 69-year-old Texan held Rufus face down on the pavement. In the Canadian Football League he’d have been called for holding.

“What do you want me to do with this punk?” Cloutier barked.

He heard no response and looked around, but we were nowhere to be found. We had already hightailed it to a cab to the airport.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Deja Vu all over again (in a good way)

It appears I won the May leaderboard, barring some poor math on my part. After I made the points and JD didn't that put me ahead of him and in the end I believe only Shabazz Jenkins could catch me, and he had to win to do it. Shabazz gave it a heck of a run, but lost a flip with A-K in the end to finish 5th, I think.

There were two particularly big hands Sunday that allowed me to make the top 18 out of 70 runners. Early I doubled up when I raised with Q-Q and was called on the button with Q-K. By the time the turn hit, with a board of 5-Q-7-K, we unsurprisingly had all the chips in the middle. After that hand I just floated along with really no big hands.

As we got down to 25-30 players both JD and I were hovering just off the bottom of the pack. When we got to the lower 20s I got short and pushed in the cutoff with K-5s and was called by A-5. Very fortunately for me, the king was the first card off. After doubling back up to 6,000+ chips, and especially after JD busted just out of the points, I played really tight. Knowing the points were probably worth $2,000 to me I played like a little girl...folding A-Ks suited twice. I ended up 17th, which was good enough.

Of course I am ecstatic that my Vegas bankroll has grown by another $2,000. I will probably put this second 2K toward non-WSOP tournaments at Binion's/Golden Nugget/Venetian/Caesars and WSOP satellites. My Vegas fever has grown.

Congrats to all winners in BBT events and good luck in the TOC next Saturday. I especially root for JD and TBA to win some prizes in that event.

Let me write another note about my proposed late June/early July "second-chance" blogger gathering. Let's make it happen. I know some of you kiddos will be out there. We'll get some drinks, "invade" a tournament, do whatever. Leave some comments; start a dialogue with thoughts and suggestions.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Today is the day & record numbers

Well, less than six points separate me and JD, with plenty of others within shot of first today for the May leaderboard. Good luck to all.

On another note, I'll post a lot of these WSOP press releases that the media team there is sending out. Informative for you, and easy for lazy me to post. Surprise, surprise, they set records during this opening weekend...

First No-Limit Hold’em Tournament (Event #2) Destroys Previous
Attendance Record – Largest Non-Main Event Field Ever

Final Seats Going Fast for Sunday’s Noon Start

Las Vegas, NV (May 31, 2008) – Just two days into the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Presented by Milwaukee’s Best Light a new record has been set – the most ever players entered into any tournament – outside of a WSOP Main Event.

Event #2, the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em tournament thus far has attracted more than 3,500 poker enthusiasts for the two-day starting tournament. Today, a capacity crowd of 2,048 participants flooded the Amazon Room at the Rio to try and turn their $1,500 entry fee into an estimated $750,000 first place prize.

“This is a great start,” said WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack. “The sound of chips chirping throughout the Rio is a welcome return for all of us who love poker.”

An additional 1,550 entrants are pre-registered for the second day of Event #2 which starts tomorrow. For those players seeking to be a part of history – there is still room for approximately 500 more entrants to register for this event – but procrastinators must act fast, because seats are filling up rapidly.

The tournament closes officially when 2,050 slots are filled for Sunday. The final entrant number and prize pool statistics will be official and made available around 3:00 PM Sunday – but the possibility this event will reach 4,000 entrants remains strong.

The tournament is expected to last four days.

The record number (still to be determined) has already shattered the old high mark of 3,151 set during the final week of last year’s WSOP. The previous record was set in Event #49 – also a $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament.

While Main Events have attracted as many as 8,773 players (in 2006), no other tournament has ever attracted as large a field as today’s event. Today’s event ranks at the fourth-largest poker tournament of all-time.

After a smooth start with the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Marching Band trumpeting “Viva Las Vegas” on Friday, a star-studded field of 352 players turned out to play in the first World Championship event, a $10,000 Pot Limit Hold’em tournament that began with legendary 10-time WSOP bracelet winner Doyle Brunson initiating the proceedings with the traditional “Shuffle Up and Deal” announcement.

All 55 bracelets are still up for grabs, with the first one set to be awarded on Monday.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Was it enough?

I did make the points last night, but not being adept at advanced math (or at least the logarithm part) I have no clue if I earned enough points to take over first for May....11th out of 75 in a $11 buy math whizzes know how much that was worth? I guess I'll find out soon enough when Al updates the standings if I got more than the 59.9 points I needed (my hunch is no, although JD felt differently last night). Regardless, the month should have a thrilling ending Sunday night as I try to make a second last-minute comeback for a monthly win. In March, I took over first on the pentultimate event and secured the lead on Sunday. I feel this time I am probably behind going into the last tournament, but we will see...

I am getting the Vegas itch again after reading the early reports from the WSOP. Today is Event #1, the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em Championship. They are running lots of "championship" events these days. If you haven't done so yet, go over to Full Tilt Poker and pick your fantasy team: for a free and fun chance at prizes and freeroll entries.

I booked my flight yesterday through United for Monday, June 23. Leave B'ham at 6:40 p.m. CST and arrive in Vegas 10:40 PST. Another of those late nights...and probably midnight dinner in the Binion's Coffeeshop. Not sure when I will return home, though I hope it is as a member of what Harrah's is dubbing the "November Nine." (Am I the only one who thinks they are ripping off "Lost"?)

I will be writing some for the man himself -- Dan Michalski -- over at, so be sure to check that out. Still looking for more work if anyone knows of any.

I've developed a tentative schedule of some events I'd like to play. Plans rarely hold to form, and I'm sure something more interesting will pop up on some of these days, but for now we have:

June 24 $225 NLHE @ Caesars...probably won't happen due to my late night on the 23rd
June 25 $230 O/8 @ Golden Nugget
June 26 $150 NLHE @ Binion's
June 27 $330 NLHE @ Venetian
June 28 $330 NLHE @ Caesars
June 29 $1,500 HORSE @ WSOP....freeroll baby!
June 30 $225 NLHE @ Caesars
July 1 $230 HORSE @ Golden Nugget
July 2 $225 NLHE @ Caesars
July 3 $200 NLHE @ Binion's

That's a total of $2,145 in entry fees, $1,920 if you take off June 24 (I made this schedule when I thought I was flying in on Sunday). Pretty small stakes for many of you kiddies out there (large stakes my wife would's all relative). It depends how I am doing. If I bomb out of early ones I may regroup. And, as always, I will be playing plenty of satellites, which seem to be my bread and butter so I rarely pay full price for entries. I am pretty sure that if I win a second 2K package in the BBT I will put it toward these and WSOP satellites. I love that Harrah's has moved the satellites into their own room (according to the map I saw in the press kit I think they are in the room that the poker kitchen was in last year) so I will probably spend a lot of time in there. As a side note, I am terrible at online SNGs so as to why I excel at land-based SNGs is a mystery to even me.

I think it's fantastic the tournament options there are in town this summer for us low rollers. If anything, I'll err more toward Caesars and Venetian with their deep stack structures. The Venetian also has good satellites, and if you've never been there be advised that it's the best poker room in Vegas.

Thanks again to Al and anyone else who organized the BBT. Thanks to them I am freerolling in one WSOP event with another $1,250 to put toward the travel of my wife and me. I am very fortunate.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Funny thing happened on the way to phoning it in...

I was done with the BBT until the TOC. Trying to wedge the four nightly tournaments in between church league softball, time with the wife and any other things that popped up was putting a strain on the Kampis family. So having not done squat in the BBT in the past week and a half I was going to skip the last two tournaments if I didn't make some headway Wednesday night. Damn if I didn't win the thing.

I flipped quarters really good last night. Three times flipping, three times the wife called "tails" and three times the eagle landed. That allowed me to survive losing fourth and fifth flips and a 3 to 1 spot against a short stack. Then my AA held up against K8 on a king high flop and I doubled through the other big stack to take a big lead. I got heads up with actyper who unsurprisingly wanted to work a deal since he didn't have his TOC, but I wasn't going for that TOC equity buster. Actyper slowplayed his AA against me too long, allowing me to double pair on a turn and win the event.

This should put me about 100 points between JD Schellnutt on the May leaderboard with the two events to go. A first or second in either gives me a shot at another monthly win. Anything less probably won't get it done, which makes me lament the first week of May when twice I got three handed with half the chips and both times I finished third...what would those additional points do for me now?

On the other hand, I should have about a 450 point lead for the overall three-month leaderboard so hopefully I have the additional $750 locked up, which will be a nice Vegas bankroll/expense account boost. Let's be clear that what I'm about to say is not intended as criticism because, let's be honest, any of these prizes is some GREAT GRAVY and kudos to Al and the rest for making this happen, but I do agree with Lucko and some others that the prize for the overall point leader should have been among the most coveted prizes rather than a smaller cash prize. I understand Al's POV that he wanted people to play for the win (plus I think he said that was something that FTP agreed to add later on top of the already discussed prizes), but we all know how much short-term luck there is in this game so I just have a different POV that the overall leaderboard winner should have gotten a 2K or 10K seat as Bluff Magazine and others do it in their leagues. Give it to a player who does the best over 50 tournaments rather than one event. (And, yes, I would still think this if I was last in the I may have been in the Bluff league!) Just a different two cents from me, so don't anyone take that as criticism. This league has been a fantastic opportunity for us all.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Official WSOP opening press release

Here's the PR flack with a welcome to the event:


Unprecedented Main Event Format, New Event Mix, Player and Spectator Enhancements Set Tone for 39th Annual Battle for the Bracelets

LAS VEGAS, May 27, 2008 – Following a 2007 season in which records were broken seemingly every day, the 2008 World Series of Poker Presented by Milwaukee’s Best Light (WSOP) – and 39th annual – will deliver a new set of historic firsts from the moment the cards are dealt this Friday.

The 2008 WSOP runs from May 30-July 14 and features 55 different bracelet events in almost every variation of poker. The 47-day extravaganza unfolds at the Rio® All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is annually the world’s richest and most prestigious gaming tournament.

In addition to offering a record number of new championships in various poker disciplines and at a range of buy-in levels, the 2008 WSOP will include a historic format change to the $10,000 World Championship of No-Limit Texas Hold’em – commonly referred to as the Main Event – as well as a wide range of improvements for players and fans alike.

The innovations will be on display beginning Day One. The inaugural 2008 bracelet event is a $10,000 World Championship of Pot-Limit Hold’em, the first of its kind at the WSOP. The tournament also marks the first time since the WSOP went to a multi-event format that it has opened with a $10,000 buy-in championship.

In all, the 2008 WSOP will feature 55 bracelet events, including an all-time high of eight $10,000 World Championships and eight $5,000 championships. Tournament organizers also have included eight $1,500 championships in the schedule to create the most diverse mix of bracelet events ever offered.

“If you’ve dreamed of becoming a WSOP champion, this is the year to enter,” said WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack. “With 55 opportunities to win a bracelet, more $1,500 and $10,000 events than ever before, and same day television coverage of our Main Event Final Table, the WSOP stage has never been brighter.”

Perhaps the most notable innovation at the 2008 World Series of Poker will be a groundbreaking format change for the Main Event. For the first time in the WSOP’s 39-year history, the Final Table of the Main Event will be televised in primetime on ESPN the very same day that the WSOP World Champion receives their bracelet.

Once the final nine players of the Main Event are set on July 14, action will be suspended for 117 days. These players – to be known as the “November Nine” – will have an opportunity during that time to secure sponsors and coaches, study their opponents’ play and devise new playing strategies before reconvening at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino on Nov. 9 to compete for the most coveted prize in poker.

The Main Event winner will be determined in the early morning hours of Nov. 11 and, in a telecast first, ESPN will air its final table coverage that night beginning at 9:00 PM ET.
Amid these new and enhanced events will be a host of highly compelling player stories that develop during the six-week poker extravaganza. One of the most anticipated themes at the 2008 WSOP will be whether Phil Hellmuth, who won a record 11th gold bracelet at the 2007 WSOP, can further distance himself from the legendary duo of Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan, or whether either of these 10-bracelet-winners can even the score with Hellmuth.

Fans will be equally interested to learn if the longest-ever winning streak for amateurs at the Main Event will continue for a seventh straight year and whether the unprecedented international participation – 87 countries were represented at the 2007 WSOP, and five countries were represented at the Main Event final table alone – will continue.

As spectators navigate a more spacious and comfortable event layout – tournament and satellite tables will be spread over five rooms, creating more space in each – they will have a first-hand opportunity to see if any of the following records established in 2007 will fall this year:

Most total entrants for all events: 54,288
Largest Prize Pool: $159,796,918
Largest Ladies World Championship: 1,286 players
Largest Seniors World Championship: 1,882 players
Largest $50,000 World Championship H.O.R.S.E.: 148 players
Largest preliminary event prize pool: $7.1 million for $50,000 World Championship H.O.R.S.E.
Largest preliminary event top prize: $2.2 million for $50,000 World Championship H.O.R.S.E.
Largest Field of Players (non-Main Event): 2,998 for $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em
Oldest player to compete in a WSOP event: 94-year-old Jack Ury in Main Event
Youngest player to win a WSOP gold bracelet in the United States: Steve Billirakis – 21 years, 11 days – in $5,000 World Championship Mixed Hold’em Limit/No Limit

To enhance the overall player and spectator experience, a number of significant changes have been made to the WSOP tournament operations. In addition to spreading play over five rooms to reduce congestion and improve sight lines, other changes being instituted include:

To further safeguard the integrity of events – the most important consideration for all players – the WSOP has implemented a new Code of Player Conduct to more clearly define acceptable behavior during the course of the tournament and reinforce the penalties that will result from violations of the code;

Registration opens Wednesday, May 28, two days before the first bracelet event, to minimize lines;

The cage will be separated from tournament play to accommodate more guests, including a special area for Total Rewards Diamond and Seven Star members;

The payout area will be combined with the cage area to allow for expedited processing of player paperwork;

Separate entrances have been established for players and spectators, allowing both groups easier access to tournament areas;

A concierge service has been established for players to make hotel, restaurant, show, spa and transportation arrangements for any Harrah’s-operated property in Las Vegas;

No tournament action or poker play will be housed in tents of any kind;

Between national brand name chains and new options including sushi and a noodle bar, food service will be improved over previous years;

Expanded restroom facilities will be available throughout the Rio convention area;

Player information will be stored electronically to ensure quicker payouts to repeat winners.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

WSOP Rookie Orienation/New Features for 2008

The following info is a hodge podge of stuff I've picked up over the last several months of interviews with Harrah's/WSOP brass plus personal knowledge gleamed from way too much time in the Rio.

Also, if you haven't looked lately, I've added a lot of stuff to the Vegas Summer Tournaments calendar. It now has all of the events for the Binion's Poker Classic, Grand Poker Series and WSOP. Still need to add the Caesars Mega Stack, Venetian Deep Stack, Orleans Open and Bellagio Cup.

WSOP Rookie Orientation

By Johnny Kampis

Never been to the World Series of Poker? No problem. In this column, I’ll give you a tour of the facilities and share some tidbits you need to know for your first trip to poker’s big time. In addition, we’ll look at some new features for the 2008 incarnation of the WSOP.

First, prepare to hike to the tournament area even if you’re staying in the Rio. The WSOP is located in the convention area at the back of the casino, which is a good one-quarter to one-half mile from the main casino area. If you are coming via cab or rented car, go to the right when you enter the Rio’s entrance and direct your cabbie to let you out at the convention center entrance or if in your own car park in that lot or enter the valet lane.

Upon entering the convention area doors hang a right. The Amazon ballroom is the main WSOP area and is in the back left corner of the convention area, which is all the way down the hall after you make that right turn. Last year, Harrah’s had an outdoor tent in addition to the 200 tables in the Amazon ballroom, but after players complained about the faulty air conditioning and worrisome wind conditions in the tent all play will take place indoors this year.

WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel recently told me that there has been a move to alleviate congestion that has taken place in the Amazon ballroom in the past. The registration area will be moved into a separate room, with 21 windows dedicated to registration or payouts. In addition, the satellite area will be moved to a different ballroom.

“We have the Cardrunners satellite room this year,” Effel said. “We have 23 tables and a fully-functional cage. There will be five windows for registration and payouts, and everything that happens in that room will be single-table satellites. That will be great because in years past the single-table satellites in the general population with everything else created chaos. Now we’re giving the single-table satellite area much love. We’re giving it the love that it really deserves, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Effel didn’t specify which ballroom will contain the satellites, but it will be near Amazon and surely will have plenty of signage directing patrons in the right direction. In fact, several ballrooms in the Rio will be dedicated to the WSOP this summer for the first time. Effel said another room will be acquired on June 14 (presumably after a convention ends) that will provide an additional 65 tables. He also indicated that the Rio poker room, which is usually closed during the WSOP, could be used if needed this summer. In all, the WSOP will have 274 available tables to accommodate massive fields. However, Harrah’s will not accept alternates this year so if those 274 tables are filled, no one else will be allowed into the tournament.

To enter any tournaments or satellites you will need a Harrah’s Total Rewards card. If you don’t already have one or forgot to bring yours, there’s a desk catty corner to the Amazon ballroom where you can get another.

There are a variety of cash games for both high and low rollers at the WSOP. They have been held in Amazon in the past, but with the additional spaces available they could be moved to a separate ballroom. The most popular cash games are $2-$5 and $5-$10 No-Limit Hold’em, with a dozen tables of each running at any time (sorry, no $1-$2 NLHE). You can also play $10-$20 or $20-$40 Limit Hold’em or $10-$20 Omaha Hi-Lo with a half kill. If your bankroll is bigger, use your imagination. There is no shortage of big buy in games, just watch yourself in that Chinese Poker game, ok?

Food is available at the WSOP Kitchen near the Amazon ballroom where you can get your share of overpriced pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, salads and other chow. For some reason, Harrah’s doesn’t offer comps in the cash games during the WSOP. (You will get $10 off a meal with any bracelet event tournament entry though.) The Sao Paulo CafĂ© is the closest casino restaurant to the convention area and offers a nice variety of food.

A recurring issue at the WSOP is bathroom availability. To help alleviate the congestion, the WSOP implemented staggered breaks during tournaments, which has helped some. If you have to go during a break and find a long line into the main bathroom just in front of Amazon, walk further back to the entrance to the convention area. Just past the entrance along the left wall is another bathroom that few people walk all the way back to. Using this restroom should save you time during breaks.

The schedule this year has a variable cornucopia of events, further moving the WSOP away from the “World Series of Hold’em” as poker pro Daniel Negreanu derisively called it a few years ago. Included on the slate are a record eight $10,000 buy-in events, along with a similar number of $1,500 buy-in events for us more recreational players.

Gary Thompson, director of communications for Harrah’s, said there was a real call for more variety among the parties who help give input into the schedule.

“We talked with the Players Advisory Council and the International Players Advisory Council and there seemed to be a real desire to have something for everyone. For the elite players, people who can afford a $10,000 buy in, they like the idea of having smaller, more experienced fields that they can go up against. It’s less of a crapshoot they say than an event that attracts three or four or five thousand players,” Thompson said. “At the same time, we want to have the lower buy in events because there are tons of people who have not had an opportunity to play in the World Series and don’t have $10,000, but who also want to have the opportunity to play in an event and win a lot of money.”

Included on the schedule for the first time this year is a new $10,000 Mixed Event that includes the five HORSE games, plus Pot-Limit Omaha, No-Limit Hold’em and Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw Lowball. “It was another thing that the Players Advisory Council said they wanted to try out this year, so we found a place for it. It will be interesting to see how it actually works because there are a lot of games,” Thompson said.

The biggest news in recent weeks was the decision to delay the main event final table from July to November, allowing ESPN to air it “plausibly” live (it will air less than a day after play is completed). The decision has been controversial, with some people arguing the pros and cons of the move. Effel likes the fact that the decision builds anticipation in the months in between.

“Obviously, the tables get turned as far as the perceived notion of who’s going to win the tournament, and I think that is a big thing. Traditionally, the World Series of Poker has been played out in its entirety and usually by the time the winner is crowned there’s a brief moment in publicity and then sometimes you hear about that person doing something and then sometimes you don’t. Like last year you didn’t really see a lot after the fact and I think this actually builds up the momentum as far as who’s going to win and the overall excitement wrapped around the final table,” he said.

Some have argued that players making the final table can then get months of coaching and study their opponents, which is unfair to the traditional end of a tournament. Effel argues that everyone has an equal chance to do this.

“Everybody is on a level playing field in that everyone has the same opportunity to pursue a coach, to train, to learn about their opponents – just as you would in any other sporting competition. Instead of you being able to see through the play of hands over the course of a few days playing the final table as scheduled, now you have time to really look into your opponents and improve your skills and really compete. The competition is going to be really tough. I think we’re in uncharted territory, but I think this can be a really good thing.”

There are a handful of new rules this year, as well. For one, you can’t use your cell phone within one table length of your assigned table, even if you aren’t in a hand. I recommend just keeping the thing off until you go on break.

Tournament officials can also penalize players for excessive celebration. Will we see fewer shark antics this year? Effel said the rule gives officials more leverage and guidelines to work around.

“We’ve always had a rule that any disruptive behavior could draw a penalty, and we’ve just gone beyond that because of some of the theatrics that have occurred over the last couple years to put the excessive celebration rule in there. If a person gets out of line, is yelling, screaming, throwing chairs – that’s disruptive. It clarifies now more what is considered excessive and what isn’t. It’s still not 100 percent and you’re still going to have to make the decision, but I think putting it out in the open for the public to see, that you do take this very seriously, then hopefully it will divert people from engaging in overly disruptive behavior,” he said.

Meanwhile, more major changes could be in store for 2009. WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack has said that due to the growth of the Series, he may look to expand further.

“Space at the Rio is our biggest challenge. I’m confident that in 2009 we will have an entirely new footprint for the World Series of Poker and I’m confident that…2008 will be the last year we play in the Amazon ballroom as our principal tournament area,” he said.

Asked if that could entail a move to another Harrah’s property in Las Vegas, Pollack responded, “The only thing I will say to that is the following – the Rio has been a terrific home to the World Series of Poker the last few years and in a very short period of time it’s become equated with the World Series of Poker. I think it’s a terrific host for the WSOP and I hope we’re here for a very long time.”