In my previous blog I talked about the random, useless things I run well at. Well, I got to thinking about it and it reminded me of a fun night in Vegas towards the end of the summer when I ran well at something equally ascinine:
I had started working on the Bellagio Cup, but the WSOP was still going, so we had finished up at the Rio and Adam, Jill, Brett, Elissa, and I met up with Court back at the Fontana Lounge at Bellagio to hang out since it was still kind of early. BJ was still there finishing up chip counts and such and the whole lot of us decided to head over to Bally's for my new favorite table game----Texas Hold Em Bonus Poker.
A quick primer: THEBP is a table game version of hold em in which all of the players are playing against the dealer, but not against themselves. Everyone antes a minimum bet before the cards are dealt and, if they like their hole cards, they pay double the ante as their flop bet. The weird thing is that you can show the other people playing the game what your hole cards are, which makes your decision making a ton easier. The flop is then dealt and you have the option to bet or check based on whether or not you think you have the dealer bet. Same on the turn, but there is not a round of betting on the river, the dealer just turns up your cards and then their cards to see if you beat them. If you do, your bets, except the ante, are matched by the house. If you lose, house gets everything.
This is not a comprehensive guide and I have left a lot out, but you hopefully have a basic enough understanding to appreciate the story. Here goes...
I was not playing because the minimum bet was $10, which is a little too rich for my poor white trash blood, but Court, Elissa, and Brett were playing while the rest of us watched. I was standing behind Brett during a hand where he only had eight high by the river. No pair, no nothing. However, I just had a feeling and I looked at him and said rather convincingly, "eight high is good."
When the dealer flipped up her hand and showed us 2-7, eight high was indeed good and we marveled at my abilities. Perhaps Adam put it best when he exclaimed, "oh my God, Jess just soul read that dealer."
Well, a few hands later, Court showed us that he had been dealt pocket queens.
"How am I going to lose this one?" he joked. After all, he had not been faring very well thus far.
"I am guessing there will be both an ace and a king on the flop," BJ replied.
"No," I said, "there is going to be straight on the board.
The flop comes 3-4-5 and I laugh and look at BJ, enjoying that the straight was still a possibility. It got funnier when a 6 hit on the turn, and the 2 on the river sent BJ into near-shock at my clairvoyance. The best part? The dealer had a 2 and, if it weren't for the river, Court, who had been betting every street, would have lost everything rather than pushed on the hand.
Like I said, at least it is nice to run well at something. If only it could be like that when I play THEBP myself though.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
In my previous blog I talked about the random, useless things I run well at. Well, I got to thinking about it and it reminded me of a fun night in Vegas towards the end of the summer when I ran well at something equally ascinine:
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
On occassion, I run well. Very rarely do I run well at something that matters, like poker for money or my love life. I run well at relatively useless things like fantasy sports leagues in which no money is on the line, free poker at bars, games of tic tac toe, or finding pennies. On this fine day in July though, I began to run well at Hand-For-Hand. How do you run well at Hand-For-Hand you may ask? Well, here's how...
In poker, sometimes hands are over very quickly. Bob raises from the cut off and everyone folds. He wins the blinds and antes. Other times, hands take longer. Heck, every once in a while we even see flops, turns, and once in a blue moon a river. I have been told sometimes there is even a point in the hand where the players involved turn over their cards and a winner is declared.
I did not encounter many of these situations during Bellagio Cup Hand-For-Hand experience. Most of my hands were over preflop after one raise and, if I was unlucky if I encountered a reraise with some thought before the initial raiser folded. Andy, on the other hand, had to deal with the wrath of John Phan. Many of you may know that Phan is notorious for just how long he takes to make decisions. I often wonder what a day in the life of John Phan must be like. Does he tank on everything? If so, can you imagine him at McDonalds? How long does John Phan stand in front of the closet every morning, contemplating what to wear? What about really important decisions like who to marry or what to name your kid? Do these types of decisions take him literally years, if not decades, to decide upon?
Sorry about the John Phan tangent, I am just morbidly curious. Anyways, I would literally not even write down half the hands because it was easier for me to just verbally dictate the hands to BJ. I would tap Andy and he would look at me with indignation and say, "are you serious?" I would then sit down and 10-12 minutes would pass before Andy would return with the previous hand. I'd get up, watch the next hand, and return less than 30 seconds later, provoking Andy to become more and more cranky.
"I used to like you, you know."
"I was going to say it will be sad working without you until December, but I take it back.
"I hate the new girl."
At one point Phan tanked for, I kid you not, over ten minutes. Granted, it was a fascinating hand that I later learned was a pretty ballsy bluff on the part of Mike Watson, but that entire time Andy was languishing in Hand-For-Hand hell while I sat at the table sipping on my strawberry julius, reveling in the fact that I may not always win many coin flips in poker, but at least I run well at something.
Monday, July 28, 2008
11:00AM - Arise. The other P5ers will attest that I generally get up earlier than this because I am a bit of a freak, but I am going to say 11AM to convey to you how late the day starts. It is fantastic and one of the best things about the gig.
11:15AM - When I was with P5s, we would usually leave right around now to drive to the Rio. At WPT I was fortunate enough to stay at the Bellagio, so I literally just took the elevator down to the "office".
11:30AM-12:00PM - This is the time right before play starts for the day. I will set up my laptop, gather pen and paper, etc. At P5s, we had the text phone to deal with and, since I adopted this task as mine, I would go through the texts and figure out where people were seated. The logisitcs of preparing for the WSOP are much larger in scope than the WPT. At Bellagio, a good glance around the room and I was ready to go in terms of knowing where people were sitting. At WSOP, we had to figure out if people were playing in any of the other rooms like Brasilia or Tropical or even if people had been seated over in the casino, which was about 1/3 of a mile away.
12:00PM-2:00PM - Now, depending on what day of play it was, this time would vary drastically. If it was the first day, at P5s we tried to go and get pictures of players to upload to a gallery. Sounds simple, right? ::snicker, snicker::
Photos are an unbelievably time consuming process because they must be uploaded, edited, cropped, resized, named, uploaded, and named once again. Several other steps have been omitted from the process, but just trust me that it was always a major pain in the ass. I actually LOVED taking photos and felt like I got to be a decent photographer by the end of the summer, but I also felt like I wasted away several hours of my life I won't be getting back seated in front of my laptop, missing the action, trying to edit the countless cans of All-In Energy Drink out of the frame of a picture.
As an aside, if you ever look at the photos on P5s Live, you can easily figure out who took which photos. Jill's are the beautiful, almost artistic looking ones. They are of a quality that shames the rest of us and I am super jealous of her mad skills. Mine are the ones that are quite closely cropped. They also tend to have all sorts of crap like water bottles, food, etc in them, because I am so short that my angles are a little low sometimes. Adam's, God love him, are usually of people looking down or not paying any attention to the camera nor the action at the table, and Brett's, because he is so tall, look as if they have been photographed from space =)
Anyways, this is the time I usually just figured out who was playing and where they were sitting. I would try to catch a couple of big hands to report on and tried to do one chip count as well, but this was usually when I would do more non-poker related posts about what is going on around the Rio since the hands and pots were generally rather small and less than thrilling.
2:00PM-Dinner Break - This was the time where we would start to catch more big hands, eliminations, early chip leaders, etc. As the WSOP progressed, this part of the job got much easier because players began to recognize and get to know us. Oftentimes, if we missed a big hand, they would tell us about it to report on versus us returning to their empty seat and wondering whatever happened to them.
During breaks, especially at the WPT, I would try to snag the guys who were doing well and chat with them about how their day was going that way I could provide some sort of explanation as to how someone went from having 100 chips to having 150,000.
Dinner Break-End of Play - At the WSOP, often several events would be running at the same time and we would just try to divvy up the workload by events with each of us taking two that were being played in close proximity to each other. It was also the time where things got to be a bit more exciting. For those who have never watched a poker tournament before, it is fascinating to me to watch how the demeanor of the players changes as play progresses and this was the point in time where it would start to get really nervewracking as their would only be 4 or 5 tables left and you began to really think someone you were covering was going to win.
For the WPT, we actually started Hand-For-Hand coverage when there were only two tables of players left. To quickly explain, Hand-For-Hand coverage is detailed descriptions of what occurred during every single hand played at the table. It is great for those following the event over the net because they are able to see trends and patterns in the way people are playing. For example, if you look back at coverage of Bellagio Cup, you'll see that once we were down to 7 or 8 players, Per Ummer went nearly 30 hands (which is quite some time) without voluntarily putting a single chip in the pot.
I would imagine this would be a great way for players to review their play too, much in the same way online players review hand histories provided by the poker sites. I have never asked anyone about it though, so I could be wrong.
In terms of logistically how we as reporters were able to do Hand For Hand Coverage, when it was down to 2 tables, we split into teams of two. Jeff and I would trade off and watch 5-6 hands and return to the computer to type them up while the other person watched play. Once it got down to one table, Andy and I traded off transcribing each hand and bringing it to BJ, who would type it up on the computer.
Wow, this is very quickly getting uber-long, but that is basically the gist of my day. On early days of play, we would get done at a relatively reasonable hour, but some events at the WSOP had me staying until 5AM and 6AM (mostly the shootouts). Once again, thank goodness for the noon starting time.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
There are even several online poker names that I really just love and appreciate because they just sound cool: "FatalError", "snagglepuss", "SLOPPYKLOD", "MrCasino", "BigRiskky", "THE_D_RY" to name a few.
Then there are the indecipherable. hfus832gai. YGhas&t76dq. Ones that look like that. First, let me just be up front and admit that I am lazy. I don't like having to set aside two minutes to type out someone's online name. It is also unbelievably difficult to memorize these and I hate not being able to quickly rattle off the online names to other people.
Now this is where I may lose some more ardent online poker fans. To say that I hate when people are only referred to by their online names in real life would be excessive. To say I just don't get why people do it would not adequately address the issue. Why don't we just say my feelings rest somewhere in between those two poles and that I do not like to refer to people by their online name rather than their given one in a live setting?
In my line of work reporting on the online poker pros playing in live tournaments this can be somewhat problematic. Oftentimes players ask me who someone is and I respond "Oh that is Justin Rollo."
"No, I mean his poker name."
I understand. When you play online poker as your occupation, you have only the name and perhaps an avatar to define these people by. I get that, I really do. But I must admit, it is kind of humorous to me when I divulge their online name and the player I am talking to will say something like "oh yeah, he's a buddy of mine" or "I know him" despite clearly admitting he/she does not even know this person's name.
Brett and I actually got into a bit of a debate regarding the online vs actual name debate regarding photos on P5s Live. One of the odd glitches in our photo galleries on the site is that the captions cannot extend past one line or else it will throw the rest of the photos in a given gallery out of alignment. Therefore, several names must be abbreviated in order to fit into the allotted space.
In these situations, Brett elects to use the first initial of a person's name, their online moniker, and their last name. I always opt to forgo the online name altogether for a couple of reasons. First of all, the space consumed by the quotations marks around the online names further restricts the number of letters you can fit on a line. Second, I find the quotations to look cluttered when they aren't adequately separted from the first and last names with a space. Third, it is much less time consuming to just quickly type their first and last name and photo galleries can easily eat up hours of our time. Finally, and most importantly, I adamently believe that we should never forgo someone's actual name for their online name.
As I explained to Brett, these are people, not video game characters. Craig Gray's mom likely does not refer to him as "My son, MrCasino." This is the obnoxious academic in me I suppose, but I am concerned that our identities in a virtual space are spilling over into real life. I completely understand that many of these guys are only known within the community by their online poker names so, whenever I am writing a post, I always include both. However, in instances like photo captions where one must be chosen over another, I can't reconcile eliminating someone's actual name to make room for an Internet identity.
Part of the appeal of online identities is their inherent ability to deceive and manipulate. It is a chance to be someone you are incapable of being in real life and the control you have over your persona on the web is obviously appealing. Plus, the lack of policing and verification of identities on the Internet results in the opportunity to create an identity that in no way reflects your personality in real life.
It might have been in his WPT Final Table interview with Amanda Leatherman, but I remember Luke "IWEARGOGGLES" Staudenmeier explaining that he chose the name as means of getting action at the table because it is kind of silly. We can't do this in real life as easily. I can't really dsiguise the fact I am a female and I look like I'm 12 when I am playing live, although many times I wish I could. While I can ham it up sometimes--throw on a Little Mermaid t-shirt, wear my hair in pigtails, etc, etc, I still have to work within a certain set of parameters of my actual identity. Not only in online poker, but in other games/sites in the virtual world like WoW, Second Life, and MySpace people are able to become someone they are not or an exaggerated version of themselves with relative ease. As someone who has spent most of their life leading a relatively dull existence, I can absolutely see the appeal.
That does not change the fact that these online personas are not actually us in real life though. I know this is going to sound rather paranoid and silly, but I am sincerely worried for the day when a fabricated construction on the Internet is able to become its own personality and entity outside of the computer without a name and a face behind it.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
One such person is my friend, Heather, who was my roommate freshman year of college. But here is the really odd thing: since we have last seen each other, she has decided she no longer wants to go by "Heather" and instead refers to herself as Demetria, a play on her maiden name (she got married our senior year).
WTF right? Please tell me others find this as bizarre as I do. Another friend and I were talking about it and agree that you can't just up and change your name, much in the same way you can't just go and give yourself a nickname rather than earn one in a more organic and natural manner. If people ask, I tell them I go by Jess a lot, but I find it bizarre to even introduce myself as anything but Jessica because Jessica is my given name and Jess is something people who have gotten to know me call me.
They also call me Fetch. Sad, right? Poker is a world of nicknames--everyone has some alternative identity. For the online players, their screename serves as their nickname (we'll return to this in a future post) and, for many live pros, their nickname indicates the nature of the way they play like John "The Razor" Phan or, more hilariously, Allen "The Chainsaw" Kessler.
How did "Fetch" come about you may wonder? Court Harrington, that's how. Well, Court and the fact that I tend to just do what I am told without much of a fight. "Walk from the convention center to the Masquerade Tower? Sure" "Go take this to Joe Sebok" "OK!" Obviously, you can just stand to reason how he took to calling me Fetch.
Perhaps my favorite Fetch story is when I received a text message from Court that read: "Fetch-there is a bottle of tylenol in my backpack. Take that and $100 to Jeremiah please."
A few things to clarify:
1) Jeremiah is Jeremiah Smith, a former poker media person turned frequent tournament chip leader. Every event Jeremiah plays he manages to be the chip leader in, unfortunately just not at the very end of play when it matters the most.
2) The $100 is not in Court's backpack. It is assummed Fetch will take $100 of her own money and pass it along to Miah so he can get more masseuse time.
3) Jeremiah is not a P5er, we are not covering him for P5s Live, and therefore it is in no way expected of me to perform this task as part of my job.
Yet, I find myself not even questioning it as I wander into the media room, grab the Tylenol, get $100 out of my wallet, and trapse back out to the Amazon Room to Jeremiah's table.
After the task was complete, I simply texted Court back: "Fetch to the rescue."
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
This event, the media event, was also sans buy-in and anyone who made the final 9 were able to choose a charity and a donation would be made to that charity in their name. Both Court and I decided to play for the foundation established for Devin Porter' s dad. I had told Devin about the event and he kindly texted me to check on me shortly after we combined to the final 3 tables. Then, I kid you not, Devin hops in a cab from the Palms and I get myself a lil railbird.
Unfortunately, the event was designed to be over with in like 4 hours, so I very quickly found myself rather short stacked. Brett and I were put at the same table and he raised in early position when I was in the BB. I look down at 5-5 and very quickly ship it in. He looks frustrated and calls. Before he turns his hand over he asks, "do you have a pair?" I turn over my pocket fives and Brett laughs as he turns up---the other two fives. The board then runs out J-6-6-9-J and we are both playing the board to chop the pot.
A few hands later it folds around to me and I have A-Q, so I very quickly ship it for 9 big blinds or so. The dude from Bluff in the big blind beats me into the pot and I think I am in bad shape until he turns over his hand and shows me K-10.
K-10? Well, I am ahead, but not a huge favorite or anything and the guy manages to spike a gutshot straight on the river no more than ten minutes after Devin arrives. Apparently Devin has nothing better to do though, because he sticks around to cheer on Brett with us in addition to wish ill will on the K-10 guy (we even booed and hissed when he was introduced at the finaltable. Sore loser? That's me!)
Also on the sidelines watching the action is an hysterical Swedish man with a proclivity for punctuating his sentences by a long pause followed by a drawn out "hoooooookkkkaaaay?" He was also dressed like the most stereotypical tourist you'll ever encounter, complete with: fanny pack, socks with sandals, and an appalling print shirt of dogs playing poker. Don't believe me? See for yourself:
He was laying odds for the players at the final table and, when it was 3-handed, he offered 2-1 odds to Devin on Brett. Devin took him up on the bet and put down $5 on bertminatti taking it down. Well, when it is almost over and Brett has a HUGE chip lead, CrazySwede comes back to Devin and says he is about to win $10. Devin corrects him, "No, you mean $15."
CrazySwede then proceeds to explain to us that odds are very different in Sweden and 2-1 is equivalent to doubling your money. He and Devin debate the semantics of oddsmaking for a minute or two before Devin is finally like, "bet's off...give me back my money." Needless to say, CrazySwede was the life of the party and had everyone, including Nolan Dalla, rolling on the floor laughing.
In the end, Brett took it down and won a ridiculously large trophy, but I still maintain he should have thrown the event in order to get 2nd or 3rd, which also received trophies. The difference was that these trophies were open/challice-like objects, perfect for consuming copious amounts of alcohol out of while Brett's larger, ostensibly more prestigious trophy had a closed top and was essentially good for nothing.
In completely unrelated news, I randomly googled myself today and stumbled upon this. I can't quite figure out the context of the post, even when I read the posts preceding and following it in the thread. Nonetheless, I am going to just take it as some sort of compliment that I exist in the 2+2iverse. I have no idea who "clowntable" is on 2+2, nor any idea why he/she would have any clue who I am, but still, kinda bizarre.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Hunter is a friendly enough guy that wheneverI came by his table we would chit chat a bit. Eventually, the mysterious online player began to chime in and later, he introduced himself as Craig. I asked if he was a P5er and he explained that since he mostly played cash games online, he never bothered to join.
From that point on, every time I saw Craig, he would always make an effort to say hi and I would check in on his progress in the ME. Before long, there were only three tables left and Craig was one of the final 30 players. I was unable to cover much of the ME once the Bellagio Cup got going since I needed to be there most of the day, but I learned that Craig was one of the final ten players. They only needed to lose one more player before we were done until the November 9 returned to finish the event in a few months.
At one point, Craig was all-in against another player who had him covered and he was in bad shape with A-Q against the other player's pocket queens. As Craig backdoored a flush to suck out on him, the other reporters in the media room literally booed at the hand, frustrated they couldn't go home. However, I was so relieved because he was the only person left in the tournament that I had much of a rooting interest in. Granted, we have P5er Scott Montgomery, but we didn't find out about him until I was done reporting.
I had the same conflict with my fellow reporters at WPT. Everyone was just looking forward to going home, so when Mike Watson spiked an A on the river to double through David Benyamine during heads up play I got many a glare when I let out an audible "yeah!", happy to see someone I had been following the whole summer do well.
I wonder when I will hit a point in tournament reporting when I am more excited for the thing to just be over versus wanting someone I feel like I know to do well. Hopefully not anytime soon, considering that might be an indication that I am getting tired of what I am doing.
In the meantime, good luck in November Craig Marquis, I'll be rooting for you.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
It certainly isn't because I am LA-bound. It is somewhat surreal to think I am finally going to see my school friends again after nearly two and a half years. I am already looking forward to my future LA visits for the WPT. It guarantees I will see my pals twice a year as long as I am working for them. I feel as though I should be more excited to get to California, but I think my feelings towards Vegas are interfering.
I am not one to whine...oh wait, yes I am. But, for the sake of saving face we will refer to this post as "reflecting" rather than whining. I can say categorically this was the best summer of my life. I came in with a certain amount of expectations about the job and the experience more generally and reality went above and beyond all of them.would be a recurring example in academic debates about the real and the concept of realism more generally. To actually live in this place, be in this environment day after day completely alters my perspective.
I can see how people would let Vegas get to them. I also concede I could never live there. But, if it remains to be my adult summer camp for the next few years, you won't hear any complaints here. I hardly got to see any of the more tourist-ish things on my agenda, including a Cirque Du Soleil shows, Old Vegas on Freemont Street, and the inside of Excalibur to compare and contrast if it is as delightfully tacky as its exterior.
I did manage to do several things I didn't think I would have a chance to though. Partying at Ghost Bar for Alex's birthday, talking about USC at a beautiful rooftop bar with Devo, stay in a room at the Bellagio, take a limo to the Rhino, and, my personal favorite, chill on a rotating bed in a suite at the Palsm overlooking a city.
In addition to the experiences, I already miss the people dearly. Poker is a strange hobby and it is always hard to find someone who gets the lifestyle that comes with playing it on a regular basis. I am far from a serious poker player, but I can tell you most of my friends have no idea why I find cards to interesting and, while they were quite supportive visiting PocketFivesLive, they had no idea what our posts were even talking about.
I can only hope I stay close with the other P5ers. I'll be seeing Court on the circuit, but I may foist my company upon him sooner since he made the mistake of extending an invite to NC my way. Trips to Costa Rica and Chicago are also potentially on the horizon for more inter-reporter fraternizing. Not to mention my lame ass parked at the Caesars Indiana circuit event amusing those who earned the privilege of reporting on the event.
Finally, I think I am just bummed to not be around the players. In addition to learning so much just from watching them, they were all so unbelievably nice and helpful and funny and all-around good peeps.
Ideally I am going to be back working with the WPT full-time come December focusing specifically on the online poker world, so hopefully I can suffer through these last four months of school relatively quickly and get back to the ridiculously amazing job that is tournament reporting.
I hear a familiar voice behind me ask in a shocked tone, "are you taking a picture of her butt?"
I turn around to find one of my favorite photographers, Steve, pointing his camera in a downward angle that does indeed appear to be aimed right at my posterior. I also see one of my favorite players, Gavin Smith, staring at Steve as well and I realize it was him who asked Steve what excatly he was up to.
"You just took a picture of her butt didn't you?"
"Oh...no, I, I was adjusting the settings, see?" Steve says, clearly embarrassed and starting to blush. He futilely tries to show Gavin and I that his camera is not on "photo mode", but Gavin is having none of it.
"That's why you're blushing, you're embarrassed you got caught." Again, Steve tries to explain he was just adjusting the settings. I decide to join in on the ribbing...
"I see how it is Steve, my ass isn't even worth taking a picture of, that's fine."
"Oh trust me," Gavin replies, "it is definitely worth taking a photo of."
I smile to myself, wondering how on earth I ended up where I am and go about my day.
Later, I am once again caught up in the action at a table when I hear the distinct click of a camera shudder. I turn around just in time to see Gavin run up to me and show me the photo of my butt that he's just taken on his phone.
"You know, so you don't feel bad about yourself," he explains.
As play winds down for the night, I walk by the table one more time as I hear Smith tell the table, "anyone want to see a picture of a really cute butt?"
I love the WPT.