Saturday, August 12, 2006

My 2006 World Series of Poker

In this year's WSOP I played in zero events, cashed in zero of them, won zero bracelets, and lost somewhere around $500 from online satellites and the $25 pay-per-view coverage of the Main Event's final table. Way back in December, less than five months after I started playing, I very nearly became one of the first online qualifiers for the Main Event, but I finished seventh when only three got seats in a $300+20 Ultimate Bet satellite, which I won my way into through a $5 rebuy (spent $15.50). After I busted out I said, "That was the best shot I'm gonna have," and I was right, sadly, never coming that close again. I guarantee that I'll play in at least one event in 2007, though, and hopefully the Main Event too.

I'm from Southern California and I was supposed to move back there during the WSOP, so I was counting on being able to stop in Vegas for a while on the way and maybe even play in a $1,000 WSOP event, but the move was delayed and I'm still in South Dakota. Instead, like most of you, I followed the action on Cardplayer and Pocket Fives Live, among other sites. I joined a great poker training site called PokerXFactor in early June and one of their teaching pros, Eric "Rizen" Lynch, the #2 ranked player on Pocket Fives, made this year's WSOP very exciting to follow. He finished third out of 1,102 players in Event #3 for $104,544, and then he made a huge run in the Main Event, where he placed 24th out of 8,773 for $494,797. He's a great teacher of the game and seems like a really good guy, so the PokerXFactor community was rooting hard for him and it was fun to be a part of that. During breaks at the Main Event he phoned in a lot of detailed updates to the PXF forum and those were great to listen to while refreshing Cardplayer to see the latest chip counts. I was going to buy the pay-per-view final table if he made it or not, but that would have been amazing to see him play for $12 million live on television just a couple weeks after watching him play in $10 rebuys online. As he did to what seems like half the whole damn field, though, Jamie Gold knocked Rizen out in 24th. It wasn't a bad beat, but just bad timing for Rizen by running into a big hand while making a smart, aggressive play with a short stack.

Which brings us to Jamie Gold and the final table. The character of Ari Gold on the HBO series "Entourage" is apparently at least partly based on this guy, who used to be a Hollywood agent. I recently started watching "Entourage" and Jamie does seem a lot like Ari -- very outspoken and aggressive, and a bit insane. If you didn't order the pay-per-view, just wait until you see this guy on ESPN. He's the most talkative poker player I've ever seen and he's very entertaining, especially when you're always thinking about how there's TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS on the line in this tournament, and here's a guy who's leading it and at the same time he's basically telling his opponents what he has during every hand, and not only that, but he's telling the TRUTH, but they never catch on and they keep doing exactly what he wants. At one point Gold even nonchalantly flipped one of his cards face up and then flipped it back down while telling his opponent what he has and what he should do. Complete insanity.

The only pro to make the final table, Allen Cunningham, finished fourth, and he also literally looked like he was going to vomit almost every time the camera showed his face. I haven't seen him a whole lot on TV, so I don't know if his face always looks like that or what, but it was very odd the way he was moving his mouth -- I was basically just waiting for him to start throwing up all over his chips at any moment. He amazingly didn't vomit during the coverage, but I'm sure he did at some point last night after his pocket 10s lost to Jamie Gold's KJ, all-in pre-flop. Gold was such a luckbox during this tournament that absolutely everyone watching KNEW that he would win that hand, including Cunningham and Gold himself, who jumped up and applauded when he saw Cunningham flip the 10s. I was like, "Um, Jamie, that means you're behind," but he was happy that he wasn't dominated, and of course he knew a king was coming on the flop. Jennifer Harman, one of my favorite players, was a guest in the booth at the time and she said "I'm officially sick" after that hand.

The broadcasters, Phil Gordon and some moron named Ali, were horrible. Gordon, who has written books on poker and co-hosted "Celebrity Poker," couldn't even count and he gave wrong numbers about very important things, like the size of the pot pre-flop, saying multiple times that it was 320,000 chips during the first level we saw when it was actually 420,000 (80K/160K blinds, 20K antes). He also called Doyle Brunson 79 years old to his face when it was actually his 73rd birthday and he said one of the players was 33 when he was really 22. Gordon also absolutely loves playing Rock Paper Scissors, or Roshambo, to a frightening degree. Pretty sure he likes it more than poker. He and his buddy Ali challenged every poker pro guest that they had in the booth to a $100 game of Roshambo before they could leave. Near the end of the broadcast they were, for SOME REASON, showing highlights of every time Ali played Roshambo that night, and Gordon announced that he picked up a tell on Ali and he knew what he was going to throw (rock, paper or scissors) every time, so he challenged Ali to a $1,000 game and he said, "Come on, be my bitch right now." Ali looks like a poor college student, and he acted like one, so he only agreed to a $100 game and the money had to go to charity. Phil did indeed make him his bitch, though, and I believe that he did pick up on a Roshambo tell, as crazy as that seems.

Another big problem I had was a bit understandable because the show was live, but it's the same problem I have with all poker coverage on TV -- they fail to show the players' chip counts at all times. And not only do they not show them "at all times," but they usually don't even show them or mention them when that number is CRUCIAL to understanding why certain plays are made. For edited television coverage, as practically all poker is, the chip counts (or at least approximate chip counts) should be shown as often as possible, especially when players are all-in. The World Poker Tour does a better job of this than the WSOP on ESPN, but they're both still horrible at it. We can't just have updates on chip counts as we come back from commercials -- we need it AT ALL TIMES.

Well, I hope they have the final table of every WSOP event live on pay-per-view next year, and I hope I'm sitting at one of them!


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