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August 4th, 2006


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09:45 pm - The Main Event
The title doesn't refer to the Konami wrestling video game at which a then-11-year-old friend of mine kicked a 16-year-old bully's bottom in front of a crowd of his friends, or Chris Tarrant's third (or so) best game show. It refers to the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, the $10,000 No Limit Texas Hold'Em event, now well under way.

While this year's World Series of Poker, at large, has received many mixed reviews for some dubious decisions, the $10,000 main event grows apace. Selectively excerpting Wikipedia's article, the recent growth in the main event has looked a little like:

Year Winner First Prize in US$ Entrants
2006 To be decided on August 10th 12,000,000 8,773
2005 Joe Hachem 7,500,000 5,619
2004 Greg Raymer 5,000,000 2,576
2003 Chris Moneymaker 2,500,000 839
2002 Robert Varkonyi 2,000,000 631


Just look at the growth in the number of entrants - and, to a lesser extent, the growth in the size of the first prize. Such growth causes massive logistic problems; up until a couple of years ago, the thought of a poker tournament with more than 200-ish players was rare and more than a few hundred players was exceptional. What has had to happen this year is that they split the 8.700 entrants into four parallel streams and held four parallel "first day"s, whittling 2,200-ish down to 900-ish each time, then combined pairs of "first days" to produce two "second days", whittling 1,800-ish down to 600-ish each time.

After a formal rest day in the tournament, which is a first, the remaining 1,159 players are finally all into a single stream where they will play down to 600, 300, 150, 60, 27, 9 and eventually 1 on successive days. It reminds me a bit of the (association football) World Cup, where you have the group stages with many parallel iterations of the same level of play, then a break before an identifiable second half where each new round of play represents a further whittling of the field.

The tournament is growing at least in part because of its monstrous success; people want a chance to win a vast sum of money, approaching the purses of the biggest prize fights in boxing even if not quite yet "the biggest prize in sport", in a single (albeit extended) activity. It's remarkable that the standard of play in the $10,000 event is probably rather lower than it was in (say) the $1,500 and $2,500 events, simply because so many rich people with little clue about the game are attracted to one of the world's unique social events - and the fact that so many (frequently rich but somewhat unlikely) people are there makes it more attractive as a magnet. It's a virtuous spiral, as "they" say.

Players this year who you might not have expected to find playing include Tom Parker-Bowles, who's only Prince Charles' stepson, former world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis (who was, most entertainingly, knocked out by a woman in the first round), six-time snooker world champion Steve Davis, six-time snooker nearly-world-champion Jimmy White, golfer Paul Azinger, male porn star Ron Jeremy, and so on and so on. (A link to a video of a slightly off-colour poker interview with Ron Jeremy can be found here - well worthwhile for a killer question at the end.) I was probably most amused by the fact that Ricki Lake, of all the people, played in the ladies' $1,000 event. Briefly.

The event is so large and so slightly out-of-control that it's not all that easy to find good information, but I have lots of tabs open at the same time, many of which are frequently updated: the Poker Stars blog, the Full Tilt blog, PokerPages' links to the daily event blogs, Party Poker's pokerblog.com, the Tao of Poker (which has gone slow recently because most of the blogger's content has gone onto the Poker Stars blog), threads at the Hendon Mob forum and the Gutshot poker club. It's interesting that this is the most (relatively) mainstream sporting event that the mainstream media probably cannot hope to cover better than the bloggers, simply because it's so out of control, and the fact that everyone covers the event from different angles and focuses upon their friends is probably welcome. It'll be interesting to see whether this phenomenon of media specialisation crops up in other ways in the future.

The poker arbiter at the Mind Sports Olympiad, Dan Glimne, played in last year's $10,000 main event. Dan is a great bloke, outstandingly gentlemanly, but this year he's putting his interests aside to support his wife's political campaign. He won't be at this year's MSO and I'm not sure he's at the World Series of Poker either. However, I've met one person at the Mind Sports Olympiad who is in the $10,000 main event this year, one Richard Gryko. Charmingly, he was relatively young - 16, I think - when he played in our poker tournaments; as there are no cash prizes, there's no minimum age requirement (and, in fact, we've had some sub-teenagers do better than you'd expect, which might say as much about our standard of play as anything else). Only now is Gryko old enough to play in US tournaments, where the minimum age limit is 21. I believe he's doing rather well at the moment, though as ever with no-limit poker he could lose it all on one hand; should he turn out to do very well indeed, I shall treasure the fifty or so e-mails we swapped in 2000 and 2001 :-)

Some other links I have stored: the full payout structure for the main event - $12,000,000 for first place, a shade over half that for second and so on down to $14,597 for each of 820th to 873rd. The balance doesn't really feel right to me, but the task of redistributing 94% of (8,773 * $10,000) among approximately (8,773 * 10%) players, while interesting in a geeky competition organisation sort of way, is too big for this post.

Another poker site planned to enter a trained monkey into the main event, but that didn't happen. (I guess that's the sort of thing they must have been thinking about with generic "right to refuse entries at our discretion" disclaimers, though obviously the specific nature is unpredictable.)

Daniel Negreanu (memorably described by the gorgeous dezzikitty as "that wiry Canadian") proposes a schedule for next year; my view is that they should accept that they're happy to have two bracelet events running in parallel, so there's no reason why they shouldn't have more and just start more than one bracelet event each day - say, a new hold'em tournament every day and a new non-hold'em event most days.

That's all I have, except to say come on the Brits, bring lots of money back to the country from overseas and pump it into our economy, especially the Brits I've met. Oh, and apparently the Gutshot poker club will have PPV-busting live coverage of the final table on Thursday. It'll start in the evening UK time and run through the afternoon US Pacific time. If there's 7½+ hours of heads-up play at the end, like there was in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, then it could run and run. A whoooole lot of PPV for your money!

I should really use my Chris Tarrant icon for this post, as identified in the first paragraph, or possibly the dealer button icon, but amnewsboy very kindly made me this icon instead which I love a little too much.

Other than that, I haven't been up to much recently. The most interesting thing that's happened to me for a while is that I gave blood today for the first time since last August. I still have some glooping around inside me and it's still dark red.
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
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[User Picture]
From:hedwig_snowy
Date:August 5th, 2006 03:57 am (UTC)
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Actually, we were just there. A friend who had come from MD to gamble, went down to the Rio and got a bunch of free stuff and several autographs. Said the entire convention center was packed with tables and during play, with all the players rattling their chips, it sounded like a room full of crickets. I think he said that Phil Helmuth was out on the first day. What a shame. ;) Of course, with so many players now, they have 7 days of 'first' days to narrow the field enough to actually 'begin' play.

Missed ya at Lumos. Water Quidditch worked extremely well and was a lot of fun. And, thankfully, nobody drowned. :-)
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:August 6th, 2006 11:43 pm (UTC)
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Thrilled to hear it! Had I got to Vegas, I'm sure part of me would have been wanting to ditch the Potter and check out the poker... :-)
[User Picture]
From:hedwig_snowy
Date:August 5th, 2006 04:01 am (UTC)
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Also, a bit of random info: My neighbor down the street has a son that plays on a minor league hockey team owned by Daniel Negreanu (partly because he likes hockey, but I bet also as an investment/tax write-off). Who knew they even had hockey in Florida!?!?!? (Ok, but we don't consider the Panthers or Lightning 'real' hockey teams... ;))

And, congrats on still having blood. :-)
[User Picture]
From:missingdonut
Date:August 5th, 2006 01:41 pm (UTC)
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About the payout -- you're absolutely right that the balance is not right. It's very common for 10% of the field to be in the money in a tournament setting of 40 or greater players. I imagine that the $12,000,000 for first and the top 12 get more than a million dollars is more a bit of a marketing trick, but compare the payout structure to last year's. According to the Hendon Mob poker database, if you finish in positions 46-140 (and some other various finishes below that) you earn less than were paid to the same position in 2005. Considering that there are 3000 more players this year, it's a real raw deal for those middle-solid positions. Then again, I really didn't expect more from Harrah's.

There's a point to be made about the level of play. It's been described as around the level of the popular online $200+15 tournaments, which really should tell you something about the level of play online despite the amount of money at stake. As for the celebrities, well, poker has always been a game that celebrities play -- it's entertainment at stakes that make it entertaining for them -- but now that it's the cool, hip, popular thing they generally will be trying to get airtime on ESPN at a minor cost.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:August 6th, 2006 11:42 pm (UTC)
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See this well-reasoned proposal by the blogger formerly known as daweaver. There's good logic behind it. I was kicking around some principles in my head earlier but only time will tell if I flesh them out into figures or not.

I did enjoy reading the 2004 (?) WSoP coverage which had a chart that showed how Binion's, as was, were going to calculate the proprtions paid in prize money depending on the number of players. It seemed to cover for even implausibly unlikely scenarios by announcing the pay tables in advance for up to (o.t.o.o) 1800 players, but that was at the time when the largest tournament beforehand had been a mere - mere! - eight hundred...
[User Picture]
From:missingdonut
Date:August 7th, 2006 04:10 pm (UTC)
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It's an interesting proposal by daweaver, and there's enough good logic behind it, but again the problem is coming from the fact that they don't have the pay tables announced/organized in advance, at least not for the main event. It seems like they choose the number of players to pay out (which is standard) and then figure out how to market the payout, which is bad for the players and bad for tournament poker.

Interestingly enough, the carnage has been very fast this year, and players are dropping out much more quickly than they imagined. Apparently internet tournament players don't have experience playing a big stack (then again, neither do I)
[User Picture]
From:oldbloke
Date:August 5th, 2006 05:27 pm (UTC)
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At the end of Day2 (A+B), Gary "Choirboy" Jones, who I used to play against in a half-pot 10p-blind game years ago, was 40th (iirc, make it 40th-ish JIC)

So I know who I'm supporting! Probably already out when I typed this...
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:August 5th, 2006 06:39 pm (UTC)
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He's 34th at the end of day three! Got to love the way that people can start from very humble beginnings and make it very big.
[User Picture]
From:oldbloke
Date:August 5th, 2006 08:27 pm (UTC)
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Well, from the moment he joined our game it was clear he was good. It was, likely, the only game he could find to test himself at all for what he could afford as a student; and having proved to himself he could do it, he hit the M62 tourney circuit (Blackpool to Leeds and all points in between), finished his degree, got a job just long enough to get a bankroll to play with, ended up pro after just a few years. Lost his croupier licence about the 3rd tourney he played, when somebody recognised him - no crossing from staff to player allowed in those days (probably not now either).
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:August 6th, 2006 11:36 pm (UTC)
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He finished two-hundred-and-single-digitth for $42,882.

Never really sure what the etiquette is in such circumstances, when someone makes a big score from a tournament but "should" have made a much bigger one. I feel a bit "well played" but also a bit "sorry that you didn't win more". What does poker decorum suggest?
[User Picture]
From:oldbloke
Date:August 7th, 2006 10:20 am (UTC)
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Anybody who doesn't make the final table, you just say "You donkey!".

I saw somebody bet KK into a AA7 flop today. His opponent only needed Ax but happened to have AA. KK bet all the way to the river...
[User Picture]
From:oldbloke
Date:August 5th, 2006 06:21 pm (UTC)
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Talking of thehendonmob.com/forum, did you see the stuff about Ram Vaswani's heads-up $1k/$2k game?
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:August 6th, 2006 11:32 pm (UTC)
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Not until you directed me there. :-)

Stratospheric stuff, but I wonder (in my usual nosey sports-fan fashion) whether Ram ended up or down in the end? I think he was up for the session and down when you consider the first session mentioned in an earlier comment, but it's not clear...
[User Picture]
From:oldbloke
Date:August 7th, 2006 10:22 am (UTC)
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I think only Ram knows for sure, as this size of game seems to be what he does all the time - been seen playing $1k/$2k 7stud since, 3 handed.

I'll stick with the 10p blind games - for now.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:August 6th, 2006 11:31 pm (UTC)
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Hi! *grins* *adds* I can see how you and Meg have a lot in common!
[User Picture]
From:oldbloke
Date:August 7th, 2006 10:23 am (UTC)
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Surinder Sunar did well too, always used to like him on C4's LNP. Some unknown from Wrexham did better than both of them though.

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