Posts Tagged ‘World Series of Poker

26
Nov
10

More from me elsewhere

You may have noticed a lack of updates on Six Seven Suited recently. This is because I have moved a lot of my poker articles to Suite101.

Click here to read my thoughts on the safety of live poker in the light of recent events in Berlin, Cannes and Barcelona.

And if you want to scroll through my November Nine articles, you can find them here.

Happy reading,

 

Tom

29
Oct
10

Filippo Candio v Joseph Cheong – Capturing the Moment

Recently I wrote a piece about the balance between entertainment and information in televised poker, but now I feel it is time to look into another facet of broadcasting the game – the ability for television to completely alter our reaction to certain events.

Cast your mind back to July. The World Series of Poker was in full swing and likeable Californian Joseph Cheong was in cruise control at the head of the field. Then came a hand with the unknown young Italian Filippo Candio: Cheong set Candio all-in with aces on a flop of 5-6-6, and the 5-7 of the man from Cagliari made a straight on the river.

The vast majority of commentators were observing from behind computer screens, unable to make it to Las Vegas to give the action any sense of perspective. Their attitude towards Candio was far from complimentary.

While not going quite as far as basing their entire criticism on the player’s nationality, a subliminal xenophobia was present as criticism after criticism was levelled at the ‘Italodonk’. How could an intruder into the American-dominated World Series get away with such an inexcusable play and damage the hopes of one of America’s own?

Filippo Candio

This attitude was preserved – albeit less vocally – throughout ESPN’s World Series coverage. Judgement of Candio’s earlier televised plays was clouded by the one hand to follow, and moves which might otherwise be considered brave were deemed a sign of poor play by those keen to vindicate the opinions they had developed with minimal evidence.

Then, this week, the 5-7 hand was shown, in the full context of the day’s play. A clearly tired Candio had – a few minutes earlier – played a hand against Cheong where an innocent mistake cost him 1 million in chips on the turn and the ensuing tilt a further 2 million on the river.

The Sardinian was noticeably shaken by the incident, with the frustration arguably multiplied by his limited grasp of the English language and a related inability to fully express his concerns. Parallels might be drawn with Nikolay Losev, the Russian pro who suffered a meltdown after a run-in with Brandon Cantu in the 2008 Main Event.

Scotty Nguyen

Plenty of players – many far more experienced than Candio – have suffered blow-ups deep into the main event: Scotty Nguyen in 2007 and William Thorson the year before to name but two. To expect faultless play for eight straight days from a 26-year-old in his first ever World Series is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

Even if ESPN had wanted to present Candio as a villain, they would not have been able to. No amount of editing could have disguised the moment his heart sank as Cheong turned over his aces. Seconds later and the unmitigated joy he felt when the four of clubs hit the river is surely what televised poker was made for.

The romance of sharing in the happiness and good fortune of an individual to whom we had no prior emotional attachment captures the essence of televised sport in all its glory, be it a World Cup Final, tennis Grand Slam, Super Bowl or World Series of Poker. The difference in this case? Candio wasn’t even celebrating a victory, the river merely kept him alive in the tournament.

Imagine the reaction if he wins the whole thing.

20
Aug
10

Televised poker: light entertainment or overblown reality show?

This week saw the second week of World Series of Poker Main Event coverage on ESPN.

The broadcaster had altered their coverage for the earlier events, adding a breakdown of position for each hand, and this was met with a mixed reception. Much of the criticism initially concerned the confusion which might arise in describing the blinds as “late position”, perhaps a mistaken attempt to simplify the concept of position for newcomers to the game.

While a small percentage of ESPN’s audience may be watching the World Series in an attempt to improve their game, they are almost certainly in the minority. A larger proportion of the viewership will be comprised either of those who already have a firm grasp of the game, or those who watch it purely for entertainment purposes.

WSOP presenters Norman Chad (l) and Lon McEachern

Those in the former category will be eager to point out the flaws in the approach – notably the fact that position is fluid and changes after the flop (an issue belatedly addressed after being ignored in the Players’ Championship coverage). The latter group, meanwhile, may be confused to the point they stop watching, reluctant to leave their comfort zone of watching the big pots and remarkable stories develop. Perhaps unsurprisingly therefore, the detailed positional analysis was gone by the time the main event shows came around, a simple ‘UTG+1’ in-hand graphic a tiny reminder of what we were missing.

This makes some sense, as it is no secret that footage of the World Series of Poker has in recent times begun to cater to a more mainstream audience. Hand analysis has taken something of a backseat as the programme becomes a platform for Norman Chad’s schtick, book-ended by fairytales and sob-stories which would make Simon Cowell blush. Detailed hand analysis has become the domain of podcasts and instructional videos, only occasionally creeping into even the more serious shows.

Indeed the mainstream appeal of World Series coverage is demonstrated by the fact that the programme goes out at prime-time in America. This is in stark contrast to British shows: in particular, the enduringly-popular Late Night Poker has remained late-night, failing to extend its appeal beyond the poker enthusiasts drawn to the show when it first came out.

Jesse May, the voice of UK poker

Even newer shows seem confined to the graveyard slot of midnight-1am, and broadcasters in this country seem more content with sticking to a moderately successful format than they do gambling on a style with a proven track record abroad. Something of a middle-ground has been established in some cases, with the enigmatic Jesse May recruited in an effort to provide larger-than-life American ‘excitement’ in the form of a raised voice and confused cries of ‘Holy Toledo’, but by-and-large the more subtle, low-key approach has been retained.

It is tough to gauge where we can go next in terms of televised poker, particularly with no noticeable intentions to replicate the grandiosity of the successful American format. Perhaps this goes hand-in-hand with the way poker is received in the UK, where there are few ‘celebrities’ in the game to draw an audience in the same way as Phil Hellmuth or Daniel Negreanu have done across the pond. Or maybe there is a fear that elevating poker beyond a diversion restricted to aspirational Euro-casinos or seedy backrooms may threaten the enviable tax-free status of the game.

Either way, for the time being we can be grateful for the choice we are afforded, allowing us to watch one of many British poker shows one week, and US-produced World Series or WPT broadcasts the next. Just think: it could be far worse.

10
Aug
10

Where do we go from here? – Cake Poker’s vulnerabilities

Online poker has been no stranger to controversy in recent years. Many believe the scandals at Absolute Poker and UltimateBet set the game back a few years, with some casual recreational players – perhaps the most common “donators” in the game – reluctant to trust a system under which seemingly blatant cheating went undetected for such a long period of time. Rather than placing trust in the fact that such cheating was eventually detectable, many may have been more eager to cry foul and explain away their losses – although of course the poker economy will have suffered as much through a failure to attract new players as through existing players dropping off the spectrum.

Perhaps equally significant is the realisation that the support or endorsement of a recognised pro can no longer be taken as a guarantee of safety. You need look no further than former World Series of Poker Main Event champion Russ Hamilton’s involvement with Ultimate Bet to understand that. In an age where television producers are peppering our screens with poker show after poker show, creating celebrities out of the likes of Negreanu, Hellmuth and Matusow (not to mention the appearances of Annie Duke and Jean-Robert Bellande on more mainstream shows The Apprentice and Survivor respectively), one might expect the idea of a name pro drawing punters to a poker site to be little more than a formality. However when some prospective players look, for example, at Antonio Esfandiari endorsing Victory Poker, they may be liable to think “what does he have to gain from this venture?”

It seems as though every time online poker looks to be playing itself back into the public’s good books, it takes another step back towards disrepute. The latest site to fall foul of a scandal is Cake Poker, whose security setup has been “exposed” by PokerTableRatings.com (PTR). The suggestion that “superusers” may be able to profit from seeing opponents’ hole-cards hearkens back to the Absolute Poker scenario, and Cake’s cardroom manager Lee Jones has seemingly been burdened with the task of placating critics.

Jones was – at least until recently – viewed by many as one of online poker’s “good guys.” Formerly occupying senior positions at Pokerstars and Cardrunners, few questioned Jones’ motives for joining Cake. And his supporters have by and large been vindicated in their trust up to this point, with the Bluff columnist taking an active role in answering queries and criticism on the Two Plus Two forums. But suspicions were raised when he was seen to be dodging some of the more difficult questions thrown his way.

Cake Poker cardroom manager Lee Jones

Before any more is uncovered about the situation at Cake Poker, it is only fair to look at Jones’ actions at face value. He certainly appeared to be trying his best to defuse the situation, using all the information at his disposal to respond to the queries of concerned players worried their money might be at risk. His failure to keep up the efficiency of his responses – while not in itself suggesting deceit or anything of the sort – certainly raises alarm bells. In an ideal world, all poker sites should be run with a degree of efficiency which ensures there are no “difficult” questions to answer. At the very least it should be easy for sites to deal with those questions which seem difficult at face value, and provide an explanation whenever pressed to do so. Given what has come before in the world of online poker, one man’s silence can often speak louder than even the most dubious excuse, particularly when preceded by such vocal attempts to provide a rational and thought-out explanation.

It could be the case that Lee Jones is a victim of his own efficiency and cooperation, suffering merely as a consequence of being so helpful and trustworthy in the past. We need to understand that this situation is different from minor faults and quibbles uncovered up to this point, and it is not unreasonable to expect those at Cake to take longer to provide answers in the light of their greatest challenge to date. The issue which perhaps should be at the forefront of our inquiring minds is the question of why Cake refused to cease operating once the flaws had been uncovered by PTR. In the long run, such an admission of concern would exonerate Cake’s management of any suggestions of negligence in allowing potential superusers to continue profiting from flaws which are now in the public domain. The longer behaviour like this continues, the more sceptics will look to put two and two together and make five. It is surely only a matter of time before unfounded cries of “inside job” begin to surface and Cake begins to be discussed in the same light as Absolute Poker or UltimateBet.

***

Cake have taken steps to protect their reputation in the last few days, with a comprehensive statement issued by Lee Jones going some way to clarifying the situation and revealing the reasons for some of the decisions taken. It remains to be seen whether this course of action proves to be well-received by those who initally questioned Jones’ prolonged silence. It is not unreasonable to think the level to which such a response is appreciated will correlate to the future security of Cake. That is to say, if no further problems surface, this explanation may be accepted, but Cake run the risk of further criticism if future problems lead critics to view such an explanation as merely compounding existing issues and sweeping concerns under the carpet.

Sites in Cake’s position should always be prepared to let their reputation take a hit from which they are able to recover, rather than sullying their good name to the point that their errors or misdemeanours spread through the rest of the game. Sometimes you must take a step back to continue moving forward.

20
Jul
10

World Series of Twitter?

A few eyebrows were raised when ESPN chose not to provide a live stream of this year’s World Series of Poker main event. After all, they had done so for some of the earlier events, and it goes without saying that the demand for the main event would have been far greater.

But maybe they knew something the fans didn’t. This year news of every bet, every knockout and every chip-count was available quicker than ever, and I’m not just talking about the oft-inaccurate Pokernews updates.

No, I’m talking about Twitter, which has grown in scope over the last twelve-to-eighteen months to the extent that if there is a major event in sport, politics, entertainment or pretty much anything else, there will be a way of following it on the social networking site.

Twitter was integral to media coverage of the 2009 Iranian elections

In the same way the recent general election in the UK was dubbed “The Twitter Election”, it is reasonable to describe this year’s World Series as the event which finally brought top-level poker in line with the twitterverse.

There were a handful of updates last year from the official World Series of Poker Twitter account, and its involvement in proceedings had grown incrementally by the time the World Series of Poker Europe came about, but the idea of bringing the competitors’ own accounts to the fore only really took off this year.

Pokernews has arguably had a significant role in this, tracking the tweets of various top pros regardless of whether a major tournament is taking place. Of course, not everyone will be interested to hear about Evelyn Ng’s love of Glenfiddich or Daniel Negreanu’s opinions on The Real World, but even in circumstances like this there are some fans who are happy to find a personal connection with people whose careers they have followed on television for years.

But the role of Twitter is not limited to Pokernews, especially during the final stages of the World Series. Every morning, anyone following @WSOP could get a rundown of the Twitter accounts of those players remaining in the tournament. This has been beneficial in two ways.

Firstly, it has brought a number of poker’s lesser lights to the public’s attention. Only a handful of big-name professionals (i.e. those who fans have regularly seen on television) made it to the final three tables: Michael Mizrachi, Hasan Habib and Phil Hellmuth’s former nemesis Adam Levy to name but three.

Yet what of the lesser-known players with a role to play? Players like internet pros Matt Affleck, Joe Cheong and Jason Senti, who are relative unknowns unless you happen to play regularly at their stakes online.

Thanks to this easy access to their feeds, poker fans worldwide could choose a player to root for without simply picking a name out of a hat. They could sweat every hand and feel every bad beat, feeling a genuine sense of sympathy for someone they wouldn’t recognise one week or even one day ago. And for the more fickle among us, the nature of Twitter allows you to follow someone for the duration of the event and then – when they are knocked out – unfollow them and find a different horse to back within seconds.

Matt "mcmatto" Affleck was tweeting regularly throughout the main event

The second way in which Twitter played a huge part concerns the speed of updates. Instead of constantly refreshing Pokernews or WSOP.com, going several minutes with no news and then being greeted with five or six updates simultaneously, you can ensure every available update comes your way as soon as is humanly possible.

With a number of players making use of phones or iPads at the table, some were tweeting the hands almost instantly. One player to make use of this tactics was Jean-Robert Bellande, with some speculating that his desire to update fans on his progress minute-by-minute affected his concentration as the sixth day drew to a close.

And indeed the impact of Twitter does not end there. In the months leading up to the final table, we will come to find out a little more about the November Nine. Profiles, articles and human interest features will flood the internet, and now – thanks to Twitter – it will be easier for us to find the articles we want to read.

As well as continuing to follow @WSOP for retweets from poker journalists, the hashtag #WSOP will lead tweeters to more information on the November Nine than they could possibly need, all available at their fingertips. In fact, were it not for Twitter I may have never discovered this brilliant article from Howard Swains.

With all this information available to poker fans, there is no excuse not to follow developments in the World Series. I wait with baited breath to find out how all this has progressed by the time we reach November, let alone the 2011 series.

07
Jul
10

World Series of Poker – Winners and Losers

So, the Main Event is upon us. That all happened rather quickly.

This year’s World Series of Poker has been unlike any other, with only one double-bracelet winner and a number of new faces bursting onto the scene.

There have been a number of talking points, not least Tom Dwan’s efforts to reshape the poker economy and Phil Hellmuth’s fruitless quest for bracelet number 12, culminating in the duo falling by the wayside just shy of the final table in the Pot Limit Omaha World Championship.

Of course, some have fared better than others in the 41st World Series, and I thought I’d take a look at the big winners and losers in Las Vegas this summer.

Winner #1 – Frank Kassela

The only man to win two gold bracelets at this year’s World Series, Kassela finally achieved the breakthrough he has threatened for several years.

The 42-year-old pro has been racking up decent results on the tournament circuit for a while, but none will be as rewarding as his victory in the Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo World Championship.

Incredibly, he followed up that result with another triumph in event #40, the $2,500 Seven Card Razz event, and came close to a third bracelet when he fought through an incredibly strong field to finish third in the $25,000 6-max No-Limit Hold ‘Em event.

Kassela’s World Series earnings this year top $1.2 million – not bad for someone who had never won more than $200,000 in one event before 2010.

Winner #2 – Allen Kessler

My second winner is the man who finished second to Kassela in that $10,000 event.

King of the min-cash, ‘Chainsaw’ Kessler is often a figure of fun around poker forum Two Plus Two. However he silenced his critics, achieving eight money finishes in this series including a $276,485 score for that second place.

If he can make a deep run in the Main Event, he will finish just one shy of Nikolay Evdakov’s record of 10 cashes, achieved in 2008. But what makes Kessler’s series even more remarkable is that his eight cashes have come in eight different variants of the game.

Winner #3 – Eugene Katchalov

The best player you’ve never heard of, Katchalov is best known for taking down nearly $2.5million at the WPT Five Diamond Classic in 2007.

Since then, the New Yorker has threatened to make a World Series breakthrough but bad luck and bad timing have stood in his way.

This year, however, Katchalov showed the poker world he is more than a one-hit wonder, reaching final tables in three $10,000+ buy-in events and falling just short in the $5,000 shootout event.

That elusive first bracelet still awaits, but this year’s performances suggest it will only be a matter of time before the 29-year-old pulls off the World Series result which those close to him know he is capable of.

Loser #1 – Chris Ferguson

The man known as ‘Jesus’ has endured a difficult World Series so far, and will need a deep run in the Main Event just to break even for the month.

Ferguson has only a handful of cashes from his 47 events, and he finds himself over $200,000 in the hole for the series, with a cash for $16,607 in the $5,000 NLHE Shootout representing a rather underwhelming highlight.

Still, at least the 2000 World Champion has his Team Full Tilt millions to fall back on. It’s a tough life.

Loser #2. Joe Cada

As the series got underway, all eyes were on last year’s Main Event champion. Sadly for Joe Cada, those eyes were soon distracted by players who actually achieved something this year.

After becoming the youngest ever world champion last year, Cada couldn’t repeat his success on the felt.

The stats speak for themselves: 3 events, 0 cashes, $29,000 in the hole.

Loser #3 – Yueqi Zhu

This should have gone down as a good WSOP for Yueqi ‘Rich’ Zhu. But five cashes, including a third-place finish in the Omaha Hi-Lo World Championship (netting him over $225,000) were overshadowed by one incident in the Limit Hold ‘Em Shootout.

Zhu was disqualified from the event for allegedly cutting a deal with an opponent during heads-up play on his first table, costing him $4.135, a shot a bracelet, and – most importantly – a chunk of his reputation.

Whatever the reason for the deal-making (and Zhu issued a statement claiming a floorperson refused to help out when summoned), it is the ignominy of the disqualification which will go down in poker history – a sad end to a World Series which had, to that point, been free of major controversy.

Honourable mentions:

  • Michael Mizrachi – ‘Grinder’ won the $50,000-buy-in Players’ Championship and final-tabled two $10,000 buy-in events
  • Vladimir Schemelev – little known Russian, absent from the World Series since 2007, made four final tables including a second-place finish behind Mizrachi
  • John Juanda – five cashes, four of which were for over $75,000. ‘Luckbox’ Juanda also bubbled the $25,000 event.

22
Jan
10

Beating the rush

This week, Full Tilt Poker made an announcement they feel will change the dynamics of the online poker world.

Rush Poker, the company’s new brainwave, will see the waiting time between hands minimised as players are moved to a different table and dealt new cards as soon as they fold.

Former world champion Chris Ferguson has described Rush Poker as ‘the greatest innovation in online poker since poker started on the internet.’

2000 World Series of Poker champion Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson

Still, putting superlative statements from Team Full Tilt members to one side, Rush Poker is definitely something to be excited about.

Original November Niner Scott Montgomery famously described himself as being part of the ‘ADD Generation’, and this new strand of the game should help to tackle issues of patience and concentration within the game.

Many players get bored playing one table at a time online, and some have resorted to multitabling to get round this issue.

And this emphasises how much of a risk Full Tilt are taking with the introduction of this new system.

With some former-multitablers trying out Rush Poker as an alternative, the site may lose rake on tournament and cash table entries.

But the company must feel confident that they can attract more players from rival sites: players who (a) want to be among the first to try out this new and exclusive system, and (b) have until now seen multi-tabling as a necessary inconvenience, and believe they have something to gain from Rush Poker.

More than just a hobby

There is, however, one element of Rush Poker which I would consider to be a potential stumbling block.

Players like myself, who have something of a superiority complex at the table, value their ability to pick up on reads and patterns.

This is particularly true of players in the higher echelons of the game (myself not included, sadly), as evidence by the amount of money spent on programmes like Sharkscope which give insights into the history or playing style of opponents.

Furthermore, the recent controversy surrounding Brian Hastings and his fellow Team Cardrunners members exchanging hand histories before Hastings took on online prodigy Isildur1 demonstrates how the best players in the world like to look for ‘tells’ away from the live circuit.

Brian Hastings recently won over $4million with the help of hand histories

With the advent of Rush Poker, the ability of players to ‘do their homework’ is diminished. They will face different opponents every hand, leaving them insufficient time to pick up on their rivals habits and eccentricities at the table.

On the basis of this, it is difficult to see Rush Poker having a significant impact on the ‘nosebleed’ games, or even on mid-stakes tournaments.

One can only assume, therefore, that Full Tilt will be targeting the lower-level games, where the rake is higher and their is more money to be made. It would seem that they are confident enough of generating significant revenue to overcome the diminishing returns from multitabling.

It will be interesting to see if Rush Poker takes off. And, if it does, how will Full Tilt’s competitors respond?




Hi I’m Tom. I’m a freelance journalist, and I recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism at Cardiff University. In my spare time I like to play, watch and talk about poker. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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