Friday, October 25, 2013

God bless you, Sam Simon.

The longtime television producer, perhaps best known as co-creating “The Simpsons,” continues to fight terminal colon cancer, after being given a diagnosis of only six months to live late last year.

The 58-year-old gave Hollywood Reporter details on how he’s giving away his huge fortune before he passes away.

“I have more money than I’m interested in spending,” he said. “Everyone in my family is taken care of. And I enjoy this.”

Much of the money has gone to Save the Children, PETA and his own foundation, which benefits hungry people and dogs in need of rescue.

Of course, we know him in the poker world as one of our own, as he’s been a mainstay at the World Series of Poker for a number of years.

Little did I realize, before doing some Hendon Mob research, that Simon has played tournament poker for two decades. His first listed cash is a victory in a $100 Seven Card Stud event at the 1995 Big Poker Oktober.

I’ve never spoken to Simon, but I semi-railed him as the players at the 2007 WSOP main event made it close to the cash. I was getting some color for a PokerWorks blog post that day, floating around the Amazon room at the Rio.

As any of you who have witnessed that period during the main event knows, it’s a heady, nervous time, as players on the bubble try to creep into the money. There’s a massive difference for most players between going home with zero and about $20,000.

As I watched, none other than fellow WSOP mainstay Norm McDonald was standing on Simon’s rail, the poker player celebrity club rooting for each other. I chatted some with McDonald (I had met him at the previous WSOP) as he followed his friend, who would occasionally walk over to talk to the comedian.

Simon would make it through that day, going on to finish 329th for $39,445. He’d cash several more times in future WSOPs, including a 20th place in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship in 2009 for $24,066 and 500th in the 2011 main event, netting $23,876.

It’s not like he needed the cash. He had his hands on “Taxi” and “Cheers,” among other television classics. The man is worth a mint.

It’s a pleasure to see a man in Simon’s position be as philanthropic with his money as he has been, and I for one will pray that he can beat this cancer and sit at the green felt at the WSOP once again.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Get your Full Tilt Poker money!

Woohoo! Finally time to get some of that cash back.

Now, how long do we have to wait?

In case you haven’t heard, the Garden City Group, the administrators for returning Full Tilt Poker money back to U.S. players, has finally started the petition process at Full Tilt Poker Claims.

I filled mine out yesterday to get my little nugget back. Unfortunately, it’s about 10 percent of the money I had on World Poker Exchange that disappeared into the ether, but at least it’s something.

The process was easy enough – verify some info, put in the bank account, check to make sure the amount was correct (it was). What’s unclear is how long it will be before the money comes in, and if it will be for the full amount.

The process closes in November, though I don’t think that necessarily means the virtual checks will immediately come in. It’s sad, but likely true, that me getting my full nut is dependent on some people not filing claims. After the administrators, lawyers, Justice Department and anyone else with their hands out get their cut, I don’t think they would have enough left over to pay 100 percent of balances. But I suspect some people are either unaware of the process (that is one really short window, is it not?) or have such small balances they don’t plan to fool with it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pros (and celebrities) I’ve whipped at poker

OK, so I didn't exactly whip all of these celebrity types. In fact, some may have whipped me. In most cases I hardly played a hand I had against them, but I did play them, sometimes resulting in great stories.

Watching a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" rerun recently and seeing Richard Kind guest starring reminded me that I had intended to post a Top 10 list of notables I've played against in my years in poker. Kind also played an online poker pro in the mockumentary “The Grand.”

I can’t remember if he was supposed to be Canadian or from somewhere near the border. I’ve played against plenty of Canadians online and off, but no one from north of the border is on this list.

Some of these are celebrities from entertainment while others are well-known poker players. I rank them based on what I would perceive their Q ratings to be among the general public. With no further ado here is my Top 10:

10. Dewey Tomko – I played against the former Kindergarten teacher in my first WSOP event, a $1,000 NLHE affair in 2004 with a star-studded table. (Remember, with the small fields a decade ago stacked tables were pretty common.) I don’t think we played any significant hands against each other.

9. Amir Vahedi – I tangled with the gregarious Iranian in that same 2004 WSOP tournament. One hand is recalled in detail in one of my first Poker Nation blog posts. I was also fortunate to be perhaps the last writer to interview Vahedi before his untimely death.

8. Jeff Madsen – I played against wunderkind Madsen the same year of his breakout, when he won two bracelets in 2006 at age 21. It was in a $1,500 NLHE bracelet event they ran concurrently with the main event for people who had busted out. It was, I believe, the only year the brass at Harrah’s decided to do that.

7. Mike Caro – I tangled with the “Mad Genius of Poker” briefly on Day 2 of the 2006 WSOP Main Event, though tangled is a strong word. Caro was moved to our table and took a bad beat to go out within the hour. Pretty sure I never played a hand against him.

6. Patrik Antonius – Ironically, of all the players on this list, Antonius is probably both the best and the own I most owned at the table. That’s the nature of run good. Read my post on Day 1 of my 2006 WSOP Main Event run for more details – it never hurts to flop quads and turn a set, I’ll tell you what!

5. Phil Hellmuth – The Poker Brat tops my list of poker players on my celebrity list. The fact that he is merely fifth shows how I figure the general Q rating of poker players is -- pretty low. But what an experience to play the 10-time bracelet winner in my first major tournament experience. This was the previously mentioned $1,000 NLHE with rebuys event at the 2004 WSOP, the last one held completely at Binion's Horseshoe.

4. William Hung – Here's a guy whose 15 minutes of fame stretched a little more along the clock face. He parlayed his horrid rendition of "She Bangs" on "American Idol" into two albums in which he butchered classic songs and Christmas tunes. Nice kid, though. I ran into him at the World Poker Challenge at the Reno Hilton in March 2006 -- the same placed I tangled with Shamrock. I was sitting down to play cash games one night when I heard Hung was at the $2-$4 LHE game so I decided to sit down. The recounting of what transpired is located here.

3. Ken Shamrock – One of the early UFC fighters, Shamrock was a sweetheart at the poker table, very gracious and almost bookish in his eyeglasses if not the bulging muscles hanging out of his sleeveless shirt. I played him in a $10-$20 LHE game in Reno, a day after meeting Hung.

2. Richard Kind – Kind is a guy whose face you recognize but the name draws a blank. He most famously played Paul Lasiter on "Spin City" for several years opposite Michael J. Fox and Charlie Sheen. I played $1-$2 NLHE with Kind at the Las Vegas Golden Nugget in 2007 when he was there filming "The Grand". Some other stars of the film darkened the doors of the poker room, I am told, but the only other one I saw was Jason Alexander. Unfortunately, I could not get a seat at his table or he would be tops on this list.

1. Jennifer Tilly – I will rate Tilly as #1 on my Q list just barely. She's been in enough movies and has such a distinctive voice that I think she is fairly well known. I played with Tilly at the same $1,500 bracelet event in which I played Madsen. Since I had just won $16,500 I figured I would take a shot at this one. Tilly sat to my right. Interestingly enough, she was missing a yellow 1,000 chip from the bottom of her stack when she sat down. I can't say I was too impressed with her play. I saw her call down in obvious folding situations to lose much of her stack. I think she still had chips when our table broke and I was sent off to get my A-K cracked by A-J.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Introducing Sarah Beth Kampis

I haven't posted a lot lately, but I have a good reason, that being:

Our little girl was born last Saturday, Aug. 24, weighing 7 lbs. 4 oz. and 20 inches long.

It was nice to feel that feeling of unbelievable love again that I remembered from John Harper's birth.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A man among boys (and girls)

I played poker for money for the first time in my hometown of Cullman, Alabama, Friday night, and it was an ego trip.

Standard Q from family: “How did you do?”

Me: “I won, of course.”

A group of people get together ever so often to have a poker tournament at a local social club. It’s all very public (I saw an ad for it in the local shopper’s guide classified) because half the money goes to charity.

Obviously, the first question one must ask himself here is: can a 50 percent rake be beaten? In this case: perhaps.

The entry fee was $100 (half to a local high school girls’ volleyball or softball team, I think) with $50 add-ons and rebuys. I plunked down the $150 to start with the bigger stack, and we had about 25 players with the top four getting paid.

I mostly sat around amused as I folded most hands and took my turn dealing as I got nothing to play for the first hour or two. I was amused because probably every rule in the Tournament Directors Association list was probably broken, but should that be surprising when I was probably the only one in the room who had ever heard of the TDA?

One grandma was giving advice to her granddaughter who said she had never played in a tournament before. (One player to a hand? Huh, what's that mean?) In one instance the girl obviously flopped trip kings by the way grandma acted and told her to bet it hard. Despite this obviousness, she got called down by players holding an ace in their hands to match the one on board.

Still, the hand was not without some danger. Four hearts came on the board and the girl didn't have a full house or flush.

After the hand, one player asked grandma why she pushed her granddaughter to bet the river when any flush beat her.

"I don't care," grandma replied. 

These people were bad, epically bad. Perhaps my perspective was skewed from playing against mostly very good players in casinos, but one thing was obvious – I was a man among boys (and girls). But the blinds worked against me, doubling every 15 minutes, or about every 5 to 8 hands considering how long each hand took. They eventually froze the blinds, meaning if I built up a stack I could just wait and pick apart my foes.

It got to the point where I had to pull the shove-and-pray move a few times, which worked better than expected because people loved to limp and see flops, but hated to make or call big bets. So I built up some decent chips by just being aggressive.

In a key pot once we reached the final table, I tripled up with QQ vs. JJ and A6.

Later, playing five handed, we got to the river cheaply with me holding the ace of spades and a fourth spade coming on board. I bet out 12,000 into a 20,000 pot and got raised to 24,000. Now, if we were playing in a skillful game the move I pulled next would almost never have worked, but this was definitely not that.

I counted out 12,000. Then I counted my entire stack. I studied the board, studied my opponent’s stack, looked afraid to make eye contact. All elementary stuff that would obviously be a ruse when I eventually pushed all in. To the skillful player it looks like a strong move meant to look like a bluff. To the novice player it simply looks like a bluff.

I was called, doubled up to the big stack at the table and eventually chopped heads-up with the same guy. I chopped because it was nearly 1 a.m., the tournament organizers had already been wanting us to quit so they could go home and there was only a $100 difference in the prize money between winning and chopping first ($600) and second ($400).

They’ll likely play again in October. I’ll be back.

Can the rake be beaten? Probably. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A late Vegas wrap-up

As July passes into the ether (and since I haven’t posted since my immediate trip report), I thought it time to reflect more on the Vegas trip since I don’t exactly play a lot of poker these days.

In the spirit of Buzzfeed, which these days is all the…err…buzz, here’s five takeaways from my two days in Vegas.

1.       Yes, I mentioned it before, I think, but must emphasize again: where was all this Omaha Hi-Lo action when I spent weeks running around Vegas? Is this backlash against Hold’em or folks wanting to play Omaha without the swings of PLO? I’m not sure what the impetus is, but for some reason my favorite poker game is white hot in Vegas, at least this summer. Now granted, back in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 when I was in Vegas for weeks at a time, I was not the O8 player I am today, so even if the game was big then I might have got my hat handed to me.

2.       Is Murphy’s law at play here in the fact that (speaking of white hot) I’ve been on fire at poker, but now am in a place where I can’t play much of it? Unfortunately, my laptop with my month-to-month results is on the fritz and unaccessible, but I can tell you with fair estimation that I made around $10,000 the first six months, plus first week of July, at the poker tables. My $2K in two days result in Vegas only reiterated how confident I feel at the tables.

3.       Caesars seems to have its act together with the World Series of Poker. They’ve been using the same set-up for three years now, I believe, with the main tournament action in the Amazon ballroom and most everything else in Brasilia. Brasilia has the bright lights while Amazon is much more dark, adding to the intensity. I like that. And to think, for the first couple of years, ALL of the action was in Amazon. (Sort of like thinking in amazement in 2005 that the WSOP was once contained in tiny Binion’s.)

4.       What are they doing to Fremont Street? They’re building this giant zip line to cover the entire four blocks under the canopy. What an eyesore. On the bright side, I saw fewer costumed characters out and about, although I noticed more panhandlers. Also, Fremont East, once the home of closed-up storefronts, seems to be booming.

5.       I only got a taste of the Strip so I hope Amy and I get to return in November for that couples’ trip we’ve been discussing. I ought to have us some sweet comps (free rooms, meals) through MyVegas when we’re ready to go.