Sunday, July 21, 2013

Poker News

2015 46th Annual World Series Of Poker - Event #68: No-Limit Hold'em Main Event
Wednesday, July 8, 2015 1:19 AM PST (about 3 days and 9 hours ago)
John Gorsuch Leads Largest Day 1 Field Ever Into Day 2 Of Main Event
Records fell today on the final Day 1 of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event as 3,963 players bought in for a shot at being this year's Champion. This is the largest single flight in Main Event history, and it means that a total of 6,420 players have entered the Main Event. There were 2,765 who bagged chips tonight. Over the course of all three starting flights, 4,389 players advance to Day 2.  After registration officially closed, tournament staff announced the payout information. The 6,420 entries created a prize pool of $60,348,000. The top 1,000 place will be paid, with a min-cash worth $15,000. All players who make the November Nine will earn seven-figure payouts, and the winner will take home $7,680,021. Full payouts are available here.
It was 2014 Main Event Champion Martin Jacobson who got today's festivities underway, having recovered sufficiently enough from the illness that ruled him out of starting Day 1a to be able to give out the "Shuffle Up and Deal" announcement after his banner for his victory last year was unveiled. Jacobson's day did not get any better as he was unable to gain any traction before falling shortly after the dinner break to Garrett Greuner.
John Gorsuch ended the day as the chip leader, the Virginia native bagging up 198,100 at the close of play. Joining Gorsuch at the top of the counts are Zarik Megerdichian (180,400), James Juvancic (166,350), Timo Pfutzenreuter (150,075), Jeff Griffiths (140,400) and Craig Varnell (140,000).
John Gorsuch (center)
There were many former WSOP Main Event Champions in the field today, with a number of them making it through to Day 2. 2013 Champion Ryan Riess leads that particular field with 108,800 at the close of play, and he will be joined on Day 2C by Jamie Gold (81,000), Joe Hachem (63,500), Peter Eastgate (22,100), and Phil Hellmuth (79,725). Hellmuth registered during the dinner break today and found himself seated on the same table as none other than Phil Ivey, with Ivey "getting the best of Hellmuth to double up" at one point. The champions will be joined by Daniel Negreanu (73,825), Allen Cunningham (65,025), Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier (22,375) and Michael Mizrachi (64,350), who all made it to Day 2 without incident.
Not everybody ran well enough to make Day 2 though, with former Main Event Champions Joe Cada, Greg Merson and Jerry Yang joining their compatriot Jacobson on the rail, with Yang suffering a horrible cooler early on Day 1 when he ran a set of sevens into a set of aces to be eliminated. Merson also found himself on the wrong side of a cooler, when he ran pocket kings into pocket aces before dinner. They were joined on the rail by some of poker's finest, such as Patrik Antonius, Jimmy Fricke, Mike Sexton and Jennifer Harman, who were all eliminated by the end of the day.
It wasn't just some of the game's best players that were successful today, with a number of celebrities and sports personalities taking their seats at the table today. Most successful was former MLB first round draft pick Wade Townsend, who bagged up 146,000 going into Thursday's Day 2. He will be joined by famous actors and comedians Ray Romano (33,375) and Brad Garrett (46,050), who dodged bullets and avoided sharks to finish today's play and continue in the Main Event.
Unfortunately for some of the celebrities, today was not their lucky day. Ex-NFL star Richard Seymour battled valiantly throughout the day, but he was eliminated at the beginning of Level 5. Also spotted in today's field was Aaron Paul, best known for playing Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. Coincidentally, there was a player named Walter White registered for Day 1A who bagged up 29,975 chips, but Paul was unable to join him, busting early on Day 1 when he ran a set into a flopped flush. NBA star and Phoenix Suns player Earl Barron took his seat today, but the 7'0" center/power forward sadly bust very late at the end of Day 1.
All players that survived today will now take a day off before they return on Thursday for Day 2c here at the Rio. Tomorrow will see the return of the players that survived Days 1a and 1b respectively, and they will converge on the World Series of Poker for another grueling five two-hour levels at 12pm local time tomorrow to play through to Day 3, which is scheduled for Friday.  Join us tomorrow here at as we bring you all the action from the first of the Day Twos as the remaining players continue on their quest to become this year's WSOP Main Event Champion!
How Poker Lost Its Soul
(By Colson Whitehead, Grantland, 11 June 2014)
Colson Whitehead is a novelist and essayist. His writing has appeared in a number of publications, such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper's and Granta.  In his new book, “The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death,” Colson Whitehead recounts his 2011 trip to the World Series of Poker. Whitehead was reporting a piece for Grantland, which paid for him to enter the competition. Whitehead trained for several weeks in Atlantic City before making the trip.
On my first Vegas trip in ’91, we stumbled on a wonderland.  It was a grubby spot on Fremont Street, just past the Four Queens and Binion’s, embedded in an outcropping of souvenir shops. The House of Jerky. I knew Slim Jims, those spicy straws of processed ears and snouts. This was something else entirely. We squinted in joyful bafflement before the rows of clear plastic pouches filled with knobs of dark, lean meat, seasoned and cured. Li’l baggie of desiccant at the bottom for freshness. The jerkys reminded me tree bark, which we peel ’n’ eat in times of drought and on major holidays. We walked the aisles. The flavors were ordinary, yes. Pepper, teriyaki, barbecue. But the ark-ful of proteins was miraculous: beef, Alaskan salmon, buffalo, turkey, alligator, venison, ostrich.
The proprietor was a middle-aged Asian man named Dexter Choi. That one man’s singular vision could beget such bounty! It was America laid out before us, dangling on metal rods set into scuffed particle board. Complete with wide open spaces, for the store had a modest inven- tory. Dried fruit. Nuts. But mostly jerky.  Mr. Choi remained unmoved by our oh-snaps and holy-cows. The House of Jerky was kitsch to us, but we stood inside the man’s desert dream that day. You know there was a hater chorus when he shared his plans. “Forget about jerky, Dexter, study for the electrician’s licensing exam.” “Sure jerky is a low-calorie, high-sodium snack, Dexter, but when are you going to get your head out of the clouds?” “Look at these lips, Dexter—will your dried muscle-meat ever kiss you like I do?”
He endured. To build a House of Jerky is to triumph against the odds, to construct a nitrate-filled monument to possibility and individual perseverance. Dexter Choi was an outlaw. He faced down fate and flopped a full house.  Maybe things could have improved re: foot traffic, but I couldn’t help but be moved. From that day on, beef jerky was synonymous with freedom and savory pick-me- ups between meals. We bought a few bags of that sweet bark for our drive into Death Valley and continued on our journey.
How could I foresee that this cowboy snack would become a symbol of corporate poker, indeed the commercialization of all Las Vegas? Beef jerky was now the leathery, mass-produced face of modern poker. Meat snacks generated $1.4 billion a year in business, Jack Link ’s a major player. Started in the 1880s by an immigrant named Chris Link, who served up smoked meats and sausages to Wisconsin pioneer folk, Jack Link’s was now the fastest-growing meat snack firm in the world, with a hundred different products sold in forty countries. “More than a century has passed,” the Our History page of their site announced, “but the Link family principles and traditions remain the same: hard work, integrity, and a commitment to earn consumer respect by delivering the best-tasting meat snacks in the world.”
Respect them I did. Since 2008, the company had been an official sponsor of the Main Event—the official name of the thing is “The World Series of Poker Presented by Jack Link ’s Beef Jerky.” I had, in effect, been walking around in a big plastic bag ever since I stepped in the Rio. Explained the chronic suffocating feeling.  The company’s red and black logo mottled the ESPN studio in the Amazon Room, vivid on the clothing of sponsored players like cattle brands. Jack Link’s “Messin’ with Sasquatch” commercials were a mainstay of poker TV programming, featuring their mascot Sasquatch as he was humiliated by golfers, campers, and frat boys before putting a Big Foot up their asses. The mascot’s meaning? Despite the death of the frontier, and the stifling monotony of modern life, the Savage still walks among us. That, or Betty White was unavailable.
Watch any of ESPN’s coverage and you’ll encounter “Jack Link ’s Beef Jerky Wild Card Hand,” in which host Norman Chad tries to divine the contents of a hand through betting patterns. The “hole-card cam” was a clutch innovation behind poker’s populist boom, allowing viewers to see the players’ hands. Before we pierced that veil, televised poker was like watching a baseball game with an invisible ball—i.e., even more boring than watching regular baseball. The hole-card cam allowed for simultaneous commentary—just like real sports! The fans participated in the spectacle, second-guessing, pitting their own calculations against the pros’ moves. They learned. They got better. They started playing in the events they watched on TV.
Poker as million-dollar theater, hence the upgrade from Johnny Moss’s engraved silver cup to diamond-encrusted bracelets. I was implicated in this big-biz operation. Grantland, the magazine that sent me, was owned by ESPN. ESPN was owned by Disney. Which is why they had trouble finding my check. It was floating around the accounting office of Caesars, which was owned by Harrah’s, who owned the WSOP.  At registration, I’d  kept mentioning  ESPN  and Grantland as my benefactors, when the check was cut by Disney. We were all confused.  People asked if I’d be able to keep the money if I cashed at the WSOP. Yes—that had been made clear to me. I wasn’t getting paid for the article. My compensation was them paying my entrance fee. Haggle with a lowly freelancer over winnings? Peanuts to the parent corp. I was writing for an entity owned by the company that made millions and millions off WSOP coverage. My words were an advertisement, is one way of looking at it. Raise awareness of the game. Inspire some misfit kid to take up poker. Spread the gospel far and wide.  Grantland. ESPN. Disney. It was all in the family.  The House always wins.

The One-Minute Guide to Poker
(By Tom Chiarella, Esquire magazine, October 2010)

The World Series of Poker Europe started this week in London. Here are a few words of advice from our writer at large, who played in the World Series of Poker and taught a poker class for almost ten years at DePauw University.

Bet. Bet hard. Poker is a game of courage and reaction. When in doubt, don't call, raise. You'll get a reaction. If someone comes over the top and puts you all-in, then you've paid a little to learn a lot. When you get beat — and you will — do not button up and stop betting.

You can ignore the first rule and win. But if you do not completely understand its principles, then you should not sit at a poker table.

Be a bastard. Drive people crazy. When they hate you, you can take advantage.

Know your outs. Play enough, practice enough so you can understand whether you have three cards that can help you or fifteen.

Think of your chips as weapons: When you have a lot of them, they are a gangster's stockpile of gats. When you have a few, they are samurai swords. Both dangerous, but in different ways.

Here's a saying: When men draw to flushes, they leave Vegas on buses.

Opt for the home game; it's the best way to enjoy poker. Play dealer's choice, serve good sandwiches, and set the stakes so no one is making a living at beating down his friends.

Shut up. Did someone draw out a runner-runner flush against your set of aces? Get used to it.

Things You Should Never Do at the Poker Table
• Splash the pot.
• Ask if it's your turn.
• Ask to see a losing hand.
• Ask for advice.
• Offer advice.
• Suggest a round of shots.
• Blame the dealer.
• Throw in your watch.
• Weep.

Poker Becomes A Sport For Young American Males
(By Daniel de Vise, Washington Post, October 10, 2011)

Eric Froehlich was the son of a chemical engineer and smart enough to win admission to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County and then the University of Virginia.  And then he discovered online poker.  Long identified with saloons, cigars and Mississippi riverboats, poker in recent years has found an unlikely home: in dormitory rooms, on the computer screens of clever young men. Froehlich won a major World Series of Poker tournament in 2005 at 21, making him the youngest winner of a coveted poker “bracelet,” until he was eclipsed by three players who were younger still.  “Gamblers are no longer gangsters with guns,” said Justin Vingelis, 22, a poker player who graduated in May from James Madison University. “They are nerds with calculators.”
At many colleges, the campus culture largely embraces poker. Last November, engineering students at the University of Maryland hosted their fourth annual Casino Night, an evening of card-playing and networking. A student charity at U-Va. holds annual “Hold ’em for Hunger” tournaments.  But the federal government has been less indulgent. In April, the Justice Department shut down three leading poker sites and charged their owners with bank fraud and money-laundering. In a civil lawsuit filed last month, federal prosecutors alleged the owners of one site, Full Tilt Poker, pocketed more than $300 million in player deposits.  Full Tilt insiders “lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.  Among the losers is Vingelis, an online poker player from the Fairfax suburb of Burke. Vingelis joined Full Tilt at 18, when he got his first debit card. He bet a dollar or two at a time and reckons he made about $2,000 playing poker on the site before it shut down.  “From my conversations with some friends, we are all resigned to the fact that our money is gone,” he said.

Poker has become a game of the young. The last three winners of the annual World Series of Poker “Main Event,” poker’s top tournament, were 22, 21 and 23 years old, respectively, and males.  A 2010 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found 16 percent of college-age males — 1.7 million young men — gambled on the Internet at least once a month, primarily by playing poker. A 2008 Florida study found college students twice as given to gamble as older adults.  Poker sites cater to college students. One promises: “$30,000 guaranteed! You’ve been studying, this is the exam!” Another asks, “How would you like to have $10,000 shaved off of this year’s tuition?”  To those who study gambling as an addiction, this predilection for poker puts thousands of college students in peril. Students with gambling problems are more likely to run up credit card debt, take drugs, get bad grades and steal, studies have found.  “It doesn’t just mean money,” said Jeffrey Derevensky, a youth gambling researcher at McGill University in Canada. “It can mean time. It can mean theft. It can mean kids dropping out of school.”

Yet, a college gambling task force found in 2008 that only 22 percent of colleges have a written policy on gambling. “And in a lot of cases, that might be simply, ‘There shall be no gambling on campus,’ ” said Christine Reilly, senior research director at the National Center for Responsible Gaming.  Today’s inquisitive teens discover poker for the same reasons their parents played chess and pondered the Rubik’s Cube. Poker is a particularly cerebral form of gambling, one that rewards not luck but math and logic. For Froehlich, poker was like a puzzle, one “that’s very much not solved and very much never will be solved.”  Froehlich, now 27, started playing poker when he enrolled at the University of Virginia in 2002. His inspiration wasn’t Wild Bill Hickok or Steve McQueen’s “Kid” but rather Magic: The Gathering, a card game created by a mathematics professor and popular with the Dungeons & Dragons crowd.  Poker “was just something I did in the dorms,” Froehlich said. It wasn’t meant to be a career. But Froehlich didn’t much like school. When he took some time off to care for his ailing mother, he started spending his free time playing poker. By 22, Froehlich had won two major tournaments and a lot of money, and “it almost seemed selfish not to go the poker route.” He is now a successful professional, playing in live poker tournaments.
Froehlich and other young players trace the explosion of collegiate poker to the ascent of Chris Moneymaker, an accountant who won poker’s biggest tournament in 2003 after qualifying through an online poker site. Poker became a marquee event on ESPN, a network already popular with young men, who could now tune in to watch other young men win stacks of money.  “You’re talking about a group of people who are very impulse-prone, who can make poor decisions,” said Stephen McDaniel, a gambling expert at U-Md.

The past decade has seen an evolution of gambling to “gaming,” a triumph of euphemism amid a wave of legislation to legalize and destigmatize wagering. Forty-eight states and the District now permit citizens to gamble legally, according to Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling in Washington. Utah and Hawaii are the lone holdouts. Poker, in particular, has become viewed as a sort of athletic event, although the U.S. government still views online poker as a crime.  “There’s been a massive cultural shift toward acceptance and accessibility and availability of gambling in America,” Whyte said. “And that certainly filters down to the kids.”

In this climate, some gambling experts say legalized online poker is inevitable. Supporters say legalization would cleanse an industry tarnished by scandal. Because online sites operate outside U.S. law, they are largely unregulated.  “Those people who got swindled by Full Tilt, they’d be much less likely to be swindled if it was legal,” said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a prominent supporter of legal gambling.  But some veteran players say online poker will never be safe. They point to the ease with which poker sites have been hacked and the outcomes manipulated.  “The poker sites up to now have not had the software capability to detect collusion,” said Robert Turner, a professional player and poker security expert based in Downey, Calif. Turner said he supports legalized poker, but not until the industry can catch cheats.  Many fewer students are playing poker online since the federal crackdown.  “Poker’s already risky,” said Matthew Baker, 22, a graduate student at Virginia Tech. “Now, whether you win or lose, you still might not get your money. And it’s really hard to say which site is going to be trustworthy.”  But Baker wouldn’t bet against the online poker industry. “I feel like somebody’s going to fill the void,” he said.


The Lumberjack Fells Some Giants In Las Vegas
(By J. Freedom duLac, Washington Post, Nov. 9, 2009)

Somebody pinch Darvin Moon. Seriously.  The self-employed lumberjack from Western Maryland's panhandle is down to the final two in the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event, and will play late Monday night for the $8,546,435 first-place prize against Joe Cada, a young, cocksure poker pro from Shelby Township, Mich.  Moon, a self-effacing, self-taught amateur from Oakland, Md., whose ruddy, jowly face seems to have been kissed by kismet, is living every poker player's dream, having outlasted and out-lucked nearly the entire field of 6,494 players.  "Pretty awesome, isn't it?" Moon said.  Yet as Saturday blurred into Sunday at the tournament's final table, Moon's eyes appeared to be sealed shut as he sat onstage at the Rio Hotel and Casino's Penn and Teller Theater -- even with massive pots forming and millions of dollars in prize money at stake in poker's marquee event.  Lost in the reverie of his storybook run, perhaps?  Not exactly.  "Fell asleep a little bit," Moon admitted afterward. "I was zoned out."  And that was just 13 hours into a grueling session that began at 1 p.m. Saturday and wouldn't end until Cada eliminated Frenchman Antoine Saout, in third place, at around 6 a.m. Sunday. It was the longest final table in Main Event history, and it's to be continued: Moon and Cada will return Monday at 10 p.m. local time to play heads-up Texas Hold 'Em until one player has all of the chips.
Cada has a nice head start in the showdown, with nearly 136 million of the chips. Moon, the chip leader when the nine-player final table convened Saturday, has 58,850,000 chips -- roughly the same number he had at the start of the day.  "I lost 80,000 chips, but I'm about 4 million wealthier in the real green [stuff]," he said after what was either an early breakfast or an incredibly late midnight snack Sunday morning. Moon and his wife, Wendy, left Vegas in July with a $1,263,602 check, the minimum each of the final nine players would win. He is now guaranteed at least the second-place payout of $5,182,928.  Before he left the theater Sunday morning, Moon stopped to get a close-up of the cash bundles placed near the final table. "I want to count this to make sure it comes back on Monday, when I take it all home," Moon said to the guards.  Both Moon and Cada got lucky at the final table, winning big hands in which they were mathematical underdogs, including the one on which Moon eliminated Phil Ivey, one of the world's most famous and feared poker players. (Ivey had A-K; Moon had A-Q and won when the dealer turned over one of the three queens remaining in the deck -- much to the dismay of Ivey's fans and fellow poker pros, who were skeptical of Moon and critical of some of his plays. Though it wasn't just the poker purists getting on Moon's case; after he'd tried to bluff Saout and got caught, the logger's own mother, sitting next to the stage, told him: "If I'd a done that, you'd tell me I made a donkey play." Moon laughed.) 

The two survivors couldn't be more different.  Cada, 21, is a brash Internet poker whiz who began learning the game online as a teenager; he has already had enough success playing cards that he's been able to buy his own house. He looks like he just swept in from an Abercrombie ad shoot, and he's in line to become the youngest champ in Main Event history. He'd probably be the first winner, too, to have worn a watch with a king-of-hearts card on its face during the final table.  Moon, 46, is a laconic poker hobbyist who plays in low-stakes tournaments at the local Elks Lodge and American Legion. He doesn't use the Internet, doesn't have an e-mail address and keeps telling everybody he's dumb. He looks like a redheaded fire hydrant with meat hooks for arms and swears he's returning to the woods to work once he's done at the World Series.  He's the accidental folk hero baffled by his own celebrity. "The last time I signed an autograph, I was getting out of jail," he said Saturday night, after signing a dozen of them for fans. "That part is weird to me. I'm no different than them."  Sure enough, there was Moon rubbing elbows with his people, hoi polloi (Greek for "hillbillies"?), at the Hold 'em Bonus table game early Saturday, when he woke up at 3 a.m. after going to bed too early the night before. He stopped in the casino again during the final-table dinner break, and passersby were incredulous that somebody sitting at the Main Event final table would be sitting there, placing $15 and $20 bets.  He almost stopped in the casino again Sunday, after the epic overnight marathon. Instead, he kept on going, to the 1,100-square-foot suite with the Jacuzzi and the two-sink bathroom and the flat-screen TVs and the bed that was calling his name.  "My head is spinning," he said. "I could sleep for two days."  If he does, he just might awaken as the new world champion of poker.

Poker Pros, Fans Going All In
(By Steve DiMeglio, USA Today)

As the first winner of the World Series of Poker 36 years ago, poker legend Johnny Moss won a silver cup. Back then, a vote among the players decided the winner.  No cash exchanged hands.  "When the tournament was over, we gave the cup to Moss and then had a few drinks and started playing poker again," poker legend Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson said. "Those were the days. Boy, have times changed."  Have they ever. No longer shunned to the dark, back rooms of casinos, poker is sizzling in the mainstream, having ridden twin tidal waves of exposure to the masses- the Internet and television.  The hottest happening is the WSOP- the longest continual tournament (eight weeks) in poker. The WSOP's eminent enticement begins Friday- the $10,000 buy-in Texas Hold'em main event that runs through August 10. First place could be worth $10 million.  As Las Vegas began baking July 16, 2005, with much of Sin City still asleep and the charity worker, magician, truck driver, law student, bar owner, former loan officer and vociferous poker professional having been vanquished from the final table of the largest, most lucrative tournament in poker history, pistol- and shotgun-armed security guards brought 17 boxes of cash from a fortified vault at Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel and dumped the currency on a table. 
Looking on as 850 pounds of $100 bills worth $7.5 million swelled toward the ceiling were the last two survivors of the 5,619 players in the World Series of Poker's No-Limit Texas Hold'em main event — Steven Dannenmann, a CPA and mortgage broker from Maryland, and Joseph Hachem, a chiropractor-turned-poker pro from Australia.  Six hands into heads-up action and eight days after the tournament started, Hachem's straight bested Dannenmann's aces to win the mother of all poker tournaments.  Just shy of 7 a.m., with an Australian flag draped over his right shoulder, tournament organizers gave Hachem the coveted white-gold and diamond bracelet, awarded to every winner of a WSOP event, and $7.5 million, a first-place reward worth more than the purse for the entire field ($7,154,642) in the 2005 British Open that weekend.  "I just wanted to make sure it was all mine," said Hachem, 40. "I remember thinking my wife could go shopping now."
Super Bowl of poker

This year, the WSOP is on track to smash every tournament record for entrants and prize money. For instance, the women's no-limit hold'em event attracted 1,128 players- nearly double the number who played in last year's Ladies Event. Tournament No. 17, a no-limit Texas Hold'em event with a $1,000 buy-in, had 2,891 players, the second-largest live poker tournament in history. The H.O.R.S.E. tournament, which consisted of five different poker games, attracted 143 players who each put up $50,000 to play- the largest entry fee ever for a poker tournament.  As of Wednesday, 6,965 had entered the main event; more than 7,500 are expected to put up the $10,000 entry fee. All 208 poker tables on 45,000 square feet of convention-room floor at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino just west of the Las Vegas Strip will be in play. All of poker's best players are here, as well as numerous celebrities and sports figures, including Ben Affleck, James Woods, Shannon Elizabeth, Laura Prepon and "Spider-Man" himself, Tobey Maguire. 
"There's nothing like this tournament," poker pro Cyndy Violette said. "It's our Super Bowl, World Series, Kentucky Derby all rolled into one."  Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, the 2000 WSOP main event champion, added: "It's the most painful tournament to get knocked out of because it's so much fun and you have to wait a year for it to start again."  The WSOP invites the proletariat in- anyone who pays an entry fee for a tournament and is at least 21 can play. This year, more than 30,000 players from more than 50 countries have played in the event's 45 tournaments, trying to win some of the nearly $150 million in prize money.  "You think you're prepared for it, but when you get to the WSOP, it's overwhelming," said poker pro Robert Williamson III. "Every day, you walk in to a sea of people and poker tables. Then there are thickets of people gathered around the sea of people playing."

 "Last year, as I looked at all the poker tables and players, I was thinking about all the old-timers who helped evolve this thing," Brunson said. "All of them are dead and gone, but to see what has happened to the game, thinking about those old guys, brought tears to my eyes."  The WSOP's long run to its lofty status started with a poker marathon in 1949. Nick "The Greek" Dandalos asked Benny Binion, owner of the Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas, to arrange the biggest poker game of all time. Binion called Moss, regarded as the best player in the world, bankrolled him, and Moss played Dandalos for five months outdoors in front of the casino. The two played every type of poker for pots of hundreds of thousands of dollars until Dandalos decided he'd had enough. He rose from the table and solemnly said, "Mr. Moss, I have to let you go."  The epic battle, however, stayed with Binion, especially after he saw large crowds gathering every day to watch. The game gave Binion the inspiration to later start the World Series of Poker.  It took Binion a long time to realize his idea, but 21 years later, Binion gathered 35 of the game's best players for an event he called the World Series of Poker.

The Moneymaker era
     The WSOP slowly grew, both in participants and new events, with a majority of poker variants being used. In 1978, Bobby Baldwin, now CEO of Mirage Resorts, defeated 41 players to win the main event and $210,000.  "Poker was less popular," Baldwin said. "But the 42 players in the main event were very, very good, and the play was very, very intense. It was difficult to win that tournament, but it's more difficult to win now. It's easier to beat 41 players than it is 7,000."  By 1988, there were 167 players in the main event. A decade later, there were 350, and in 2002 there were 631.

Then along came Chris Moneymaker. While the name helped, Moneymaker's Cinderella journey from a $39 online satellite tournament to a $2.5 million payday for winning the main event in 2003 latched on to America's imagination and jump-started the poker craze. TV ratings were the highest ever, sparking numerous poker shows and hordes of poker websites.  The WSOP's entrants jumped, too. Moneymaker, a former accountant, beat 838 players. The following year, 2,576 showed up, then 5,619 last year.  "Moneymaker caught a lot of people's attention, and they discovered that you don't need exceptional physical skills to play poker," said poker pro Lyle Berman. "I can't dunk a basketball; I'm just not big enough. I can't beat Tiger Woods in golf. But in poker, in the WSOP, you can beat the best players in the world.  "And poker is such a great game," Berman added. "It's you and your brain against everybody else. The deck doesn't know who you are."

What Poker Teaches Us
(By Matthew Rousu, The Federalist, November 15, 2013)
Organizations that oppose gambling will often claim that gambling has no benefits.  This isn’t true.  Beyond the enjoyment we experience, many forms of gambling can teach useful skills.  Blackjack, for example, teaches us about odds, variance, and money management.  Placing bets on horse racing can also teach people an enormous amount on odds and probabilities, as betting on different horses offers different payouts for winning. Even those with limited mathematical backgrounds quickly learn that betting $5 on a horse with 14-1 odds will pay them back $70 for a win.  Similar skills can be learned with sports betting.  While these and some other forms of gambling can provide some skill development, none offers the opportunity to develop real world skills like poker.  It seems fitting that the most glamorous of all gambling games can teach us so much.  After all, Mark Twain spoke eloquently about poker and it’s been played regularly in the Oval Office by many presidents.  It is estimated that 70-80 million Americans play poker.  While some play for low stakes and some play for high stakes, Americans love this game that combines instinct, mathematical ability, psychology, and luck.
Scholars studying poker have used many different approaches, but consistently find that poker is a game that requires significant skill.  University of Chicago researchers studied results from the biggest annual poker competition, the World Series of Poker.  They found that highly skilled players had a return on investment (ROI) of over 30 percent, whereas other players had a negative ROI of 15  percent.  In a study I published in Gaming Law Review and Economics, myself and colleague Michael Smith found that poker players who spent more time studying poker earned more money.  Given that no amount of studying would help win a game of luck like the lottery, this provides evidence that poker is a game predominantly based on skill.  Research from the University of Pennsylvania found that the amount of skill required wasn’t unlike the skill required in golf.  That poker is a game that rewards skill isn’t questioned among serious scholars. However, poker can also teach individuals some incredibly valuable skills.
First, a person who plays a significant amount of poker can learn a significant amount of statistics, mathematics, and probabilities.  Poker players quickly learn the importance of calculating what are called “pot odds” – the amount of money a player could win versus the amount he or she would have to risk – and relatively quickly.  A basic knowledge of pot odds, combined with how often a player thinks he or she will win, can help in making optimal decisions.  For example, if you’re in a hand where you estimate you’ll win the hand 1/3 of the time, the decision on whether to call an opponent’s bet will come down to the odds.  If you have to call a $10 bet (i.e., risk $10 to stay in the hand), you’ll find it unprofitable to call if the total you can win is less than $20, but profitable if the amount you can win is more than $20.  The decision to call can’t be made in isolation – you would need to estimate both the odds of winning and the amount you can win to make the correct decision.
The math in poker can get quite advanced.  You can examine the probability that a player holds a particular hand given the variety of possible hands you’d expect him/her to hold.  A serious poker player will learn the equivalent of at least one college-level statistics course through playing.  There are far more benefits from poker than just learning statistics, however.
Poker players also learn about strategic interactions.  Poker rewards those who can outthink their opponent and can take different pieces of information and synthesize them to make correct decisions.  This may seem intuitive, but some relatively deep concepts are learned by those who play poker, including advanced concepts in game theory like mixed strategies and exploitative strategies.  In game theory, a mixed strategy occurs when a player won’t want to take the same action every time.  A simple example of a mixed strategy can be seen in baseball.  A pitcher won’t want to throw a fastball every time, as the hitter will plan for a fastball and have more success.
Similarly, the pitcher won’t want to throw a curveball every time, as the hitter will simply plan for a curveball each time and have more success.  The optimal strategy for a pitcher is a mixed strategy, where some percentage of the time a fastball is thrown, and some percentage of the time a curveball is thrown.  In poker, players intuitively learn how to randomize their actions when determining how often to bluff.  Players who bluffs too often gives their opponents easy decisions (always call the player’s bet).  Players who never bluff give their opponents easy decisions as well, as the opponents should look to fold to bets often.  A poker player learns through experience that randomizing their play is important.  An exploitative strategy is one where you realize an opponent is making an inferior choice, and you vary your play to exploit that poor choice.  A poker player seizes upon these opportunities.  Once again, the skills learned at the poker table are transferrable to the real world.
Emotional maturity
A third skill people can learn from poker is how to handle emotional swings.  Anybody who’s played poker for any amount of time knows that you’ll have to deal with both winning and losing.  Keeping your emotions in check, and handling both wins and loses calmly is important.  Poker also gives you plenty of opportunities to deal with both good luck and bad luck.  Handling swings in fortune is crucial to success at the table, and is an important life skill as well.   Players who wish to play regularly learn money management skills that that are useful not only to business owners but to everybody.
A book titled “The Poker Mindset”, which was written by Ian Taylor and Matthew Hilger, addresses the psychological aspects of poker and how a successful player handles them.  These skills are so essential for success in other fields, that Taylor’s and Hilger’s book, while written for poker, is being used by economic analysts and in a college course on legal negotiations.  These are fields where emotional control is essential, and these fields are turning to advice from poker players.
Money management
A fourth skill that can be learned from poker is money management.  In poker, running out of money means losing the ability to play poker.  Players know that just because they have money, they can’t spend it if they want to “stay in business” (play poker), and that it’s good to have reserve funds available.  Players who wish to play regularly learn money management skills that that are useful not only to business owners but to everybody.  After all, every financial advisor will tell people to have an emergency fund. It takes discipline to have an emergency fund and not be tempted to spend it.
The argument from those who oppose gambling is short-sighted.  It ignores the enormous leisure benefits people can gain from certain games, like blackjack, betting on horse-racing, and especially poker.  Companies, universities, stock-market traders, and others rely on wisdom from poker to help train their workers and students.  The benefits go far beyond simple recreation.
That being said, this isn’t the best argument to keep the government from prohibiting gambling.  Even if there were no benefits from gambling, one could argue that our government shouldn’t restrict it.  After all, is it the government’s right to tell adults how to live their lives?  For those of us who think it isn’t, the better case to keep the government away from gambling prohibitions is the argument that we deserve freedom.

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