Pros and cons of the WSOP coverage IMHO.

It was great to see such thorough unedited coverage. Below are some  observations for next time.

In no particular order:

We keep saying poker is more like chess, something thoughtful, and it was presented like a boxing match. The rail was super distracting and added nothing positive. Why would the production team allow that constant drunk rowdy stupid behavior?   After Hevad Kahn, the “excessive celebration” concept was put in place and I think it’s so cool now when players take huge pots, beats…whatever, and don’t go batshit.  Just hated the rail element. It demeaned the game, was hard to watch, and I can’t imagine that it helped the players. But I’m wrong half the time, so who knows.

Anxious to see what’s on the forums, but I didn’t like what the 15 minute delay/show did to the strategy.  Sure it added another level to the game, and yes, every player had access to the information, but it added a team element that I didn’t like i.e. people had “their teams” working on getting and parsing the info. There’s always a hand you fold that haunts you (remember the game where, when Joe Cassidy got knocked out, he went up to John Aglialoro…2004 I think, and asked “what did you have?” Or when you show one card?  I think the strategy element the delay/show added isn’t nearly as interesting as the elements it eliminated. I wish #wsop would tape live and show in a few days. We’re watching more to see how the game went down than to learn who won IMHO).

The commentary was great…..a real course in poker strategy and how to break down hands. Every guest commentator had so much to add, and #normanchad and  #lonmceachern were terrific as always.  I wouldn’t have minded some quiet time. It’s hard to fill all of those hours and we can only hear the stats so many times, but all in all, everyone rose to this ground-breaking occasion.

On another topic, remember how online players were called “internet kids” and not in a good way (think Hellmuth playing Dwan HU the first time). In this recent telecast, someone said the internet wizards.  Yeah, it’s about time. I’ve loved them from the start and love to play them live. These players are machines with huge brains and heart.

Who would watch a poker show with no hole cards? Me and every poker player I know.

Totally loved the WSOP first-ever slight delay stream of the entire Main Event. I don’t think I’ll ever want to see a game with hole cards again. What fun to test my skill of reading the bet amount and other tells to put a player on a hand, then see at showdown how good I am.  I do think, however, that the WSOP missed a few opportunities that, as a marketing exec, I can’t help but point out.

Basic marketing 101: Know your audience.  I  don’t think anyone who isn’t familiar with poker is going to choose a 6 hour multi-part extravaganza shown without hole cards for entertainment.  (Remember, showing what the players had is what gave televised poker its start.) Yet the show seemed to be geared to the total novice.  We who would watch this event know what blinds are, we know what a three bet is, we even know what a C-bet is.  And  I’d much rather hear what’s going on at the table then hearing about what Johnny Chan did 10 years ago, or how many bracelets Hellmuth has.  I think McEachern was just too afraid of dead air and of boring us watching players do nothing, which really was the good part…seeing  the flow of the game.” Nothing happened, then I lost” is something Jimmy Fricke tweeted, and that’s what’s fun to see. I think Lon and Norman together with Kara are the best poker announcers/interviewer going, and I’m only suggesting that for this type of an event, maybe a little less announcing and more table coverage is okay. We’re poker players. We don’t get bored watching people think.

I was so frustrated wanting to hear the table banter, only to have Lon and Antonio gushing about this being the life-changing WSOP Main Event. We get it.  Once, when it was down to 10 players and the game was in “raise, everyone fold” mode, the raiser said, “Ill show”, and the coverage didn’t even catch the hand being shown being too busy reminding us that this was the Main Event. The exception to this non-stop commentating was when Olivier Busquet was on.  He would even say , “let’s watch the hand, then we’ll talk”. He knew why we were watching. Even he was interested. And his comments were a strategy course geared to the audience. He gave me a lot to think about.

Not that the WSOP is one of my 5 readers, but if they were, some advice:  Twitter presents a terrific opportunity to do free and immediately what companies pay upwards of 20K to do and it takes weeks:  ask people to let you know what they think? Who was their favorite commentator team? What was their favorite part of the show.   Get feedback. The WSOP could get immediate results and adjust accordingly, even mid-way through the series if they wanted to, but definitely for next year.  If you do this WSOP execs, just send me a free entry for next year: jann@brandbooster.com

A great first presentation and I look forward to an even better show next year.

The true losing hand.

I’ve long believed that the  hand that takes you out isn’t the real killer. It’s the hand before that one.  Yes, your KK might have lost to 78, but if you hadn’t played the Q9 the prior hand and lost half of your stack, you would have survived the inevitable suckout. So when people tell me their bad beat stories, if I’m in a generous mood and we discuss it, I’ll always ask about the earlier hand. Do you agree?

Experience matters.

Finally able to find 4 days to head to Vegas for some cash poker. In Florida, I play only tournaments because of the $100 cap on cash games.  Consequently, I have far less cash time than I’d like.  I used to do well playing cash, but found on this trip that the players have really improved. There are far less clueless players than there used to be.

I learned a few new lessons, and re-learned some old ones. That’s the problem with playing so infrequently, and the lessons are always expensive.  The main thing I learned on this trip (twice unfortunately), is that when a player shoves, especially when you have him/her covered, they have the nuts. That seems pretty obvious, but I lost a big hand when I had a set on the flop and the only thing that could beat me was a straight (which I saw, but was such a weird one that I refused to believe it was out there). My mistake was that I didn’t raise pre with my pair and I allowed the blind in with anything.

The other thing I did wrong was play  tired and I made a donkey call with JJ. I do know that a pair isn’t much in a good game, and once again, I failed to raise enough pre, min-raising when I always would raise at least 3x in this spot.  I generally view cash like the early stages of a tournament when the stacks are deep, and I would have insta-folded my JJ in a tournament at the first level against a shove. Just tired, and stupid.

Other than that, held my own in some pretty tough games. As always, the poker room is the best place in a casino. Relatively chaos-free, smokeless, coffee always on, friendly….I could live in a poker room if only I had the bankroll.  Can’t wait to go back while I remember the main lesson of not calling big shoves.

Poker fantasy camp with Linda Johnson.

Just returned from a week I knew would be great, but was even better than I expected. I was in Las Vegas to be coached by Linda Johnson who you probably know as the announcer on the WPT and as a world-class poker player.

Here’s what my training included:

I watched Linda play at the Venetian. Somewhat limited in usefulness since the game was mixed and included many games I don’t play (like Omaha and Razz).

Linda watched me play a $2/$5 NL game at the Venetian. Hard-to-imagine useful! Reading books is good. Watching poker on television helps. Playing and getting experience is a must. But having someone like Linda critique your play beats everything. She took notes (which she didn’t really need since she remembered every card, bet and nuance of every hand), then she gave it to me straight. If our training ended right there, I’d consider it one of the best poker experiences possible .

Linda tells me one millionth of what she knows. Sitting on the swing in her relaxing yard on a beautiful day, Linda shared as much of her knowledge with me as she thought I could take. It was mind-boggling and she knew it, so she told me what she thought I could absorb and use. Again, priceless.

Linda’s for a party…and poker. This was fun! A really terrific group of people. I don’t think I’ve ever met such a friendly, interesting, fun collection. I wanted to spend an evening with each of them. We had a great dinner then sat down to a poker game which, to my surprise, everyone took seriously. We played $1/2 NL and, again, it was a great learning experience. I won $135 which was nice, although over the long run I don’t think this would be a winning table situation for me. Short term, luck was on my side.

Dinner with Linda and Jan Fisher at the Venetian. More information and some follow-up questions. Nice to spend time with Jan who I met before. She’s very funny. She’s partners with Linda on Card Player Cruises cardplayercruises.com

Binion’s for a Wednesday poker club meeting. Again, fun and useful. These players meet every Wednesday and have been for 6 years. They discuss…..more like dissect… poker hands. I wish I could do this every week. It would be one of the great benefits of living in Las Vegas. You really see how many ways there are not just to play a hand, but to think about it. Also, it was interesting to notice the difference in outlook between the people who played for a living and the more recreational players. If you’re ever in Vegas on a Wednesday at 2 p.m., go! These are smart people willing to share what they know.

Linda’s for online play. I watched her, she watched me. It was stressful. I had lots of new thoughts loaded in my brain over the week and was caught somewhere between what I would have done before and what I knew I should do now….with a timer going and not being used to using a PC (I’m a Mac person unfortunately since I’m in a graphic-oriented business). I think I scared Linda and I could see her re-evaluating any positive thoughts she might have had about me as a player!

I won’t go into detail here about specific tips since that’s a whole article in itself (and will be in Poker Pro and hopefully some other publications).

If you’re lucky, at some point you can have a coach like Linda. She’s a generous, fun, kind person who included me in her life for a great week. The downside when you play with someone as talented as Linda is you realize how far the road is to just be competitive. I’ll never be near the level of Linda and many of the people I met, but I’ll be good enough to have a great time and win a few sessions, even with a few pros at the table.

Learning with Linda article

Pros and poseurs on the WSOP.

Watching the recent televised WSOP event with Phil Hellmuth was enough to make me question playing poker at all. And Beth Shak didn’t help. She’s living proof that anyone can make a final table. It seems that the true ambassadors of poker these days are the really young players who show skill and polish way beyond their years.

Hellmuth :

His constantly running to Phil Ivey to make side bets that totaled over $80,000 focused on a scary part of the insatiable need gamblers have for action….and to lose. He and Ivey are like poster boys for Gamblers Anonymous.

Really, are Dan Shak and Phil Ivey so close. How much did that cost? (Or Johnny Chan and Jamie Gold for that matter.) This is a new form of hookerdom. Buy a pro for the night.

Hellmuth is a boring guy. Why in the world do producers continue to give him air time?. Most viewers come to watch poker, and when he’s on that’s hard to do. What am I missing here? We know…he’s won bracelets, but there are many better players that make for better viewing and certainly showcase a more interesting part of the game. Producers: Give us a break. Don’t insult our intelligence. We like poker, not listening to people we wouldn’t even have lunch with.

Beth Shak :

Did she ever actually think about a hand..you know, analyze it. Like, what might my opponent have?. Watching her said, poker’s basically a mindless game. Hey, I can do that. I’ll get a hat.

Did she have a clue about how to bet? She couldn’t seem to figure that out. Instead she had the basic move recommended for all amateurs when they don’t know what to do i.e. “I’m all in” with the threatening hand wave. Lot’s of posing, but not much playing. She even bought some friends to bring and paid top dollar for the right to high five them I’m sure.

Why wasn’t she penalized for acting like a 12 year old and yelling “I’ve got them” to her husband while another player was in the hand trying to decide whether or not to call? She was embarrassing to watch and set a bad example for how to behave, but she got away with it.

The good examples at the table were the young guys who outplayed the bracelet winner and tolerated the wannabe. At least Norman and Lon were informative and entertaining as usual.

Last day in Vegas.

Was in Vegas in May and stayed the Mirage, although I played mainly at Caesars, Venetian and Wynn. Man, if we had cash games like Vegas, my poker stats would look much better!

I played 5 cash sessions and didn’t leave one a loser. One of my most fun, although brief games was the day I left. I only had about 1.5 hr. to play and wasn’t sure if there would be any action at 10:30 but walked across to the Venetian. Got into a crazy game with some guys from Arizona who seemed to have been up all night and, I’m guessing, were leaving that day. They had lots of money out and didn’t hesitate to risk it. I doubled up twice and left feeling pretty good except for the having to leave part.

I met my husband at valet at the Mirage. Unfortunately, I missed one really small step and….see the photo above. My husband was doubtful about our ability to leave, but once I saw that I could stand, I was determined. After a wheelchair ride at the airport, on our way.

Mirage was very nice, and followed up to see how I felt after falling on a step “clearly marked in yellow, well lit and unobstructed.” All in all, a great trip. Can’t wait to do it again, minus the fall part. Until there are real cash games in Florida i.e. ones where you can put up more than $100, I still refuse to play here.