Oooh, Las Vegas

This year was the 5th straight year I made the trek to Vegas for the WSOP, for this strange work that I do covering poker tournaments for online poker sites such as bwin.

All in all, not a bad trip, and I probably loathed Vegas the least of any of the trips when it was time to finally flee, but that’s more because of how busy I was with work than anything else I think, with no real down time to dwell on how much it sucks to be away from home in such a strange place as Vegas for nearly a month.

It also helped that I got off the schneid as far as my own poker play, up about $3,500 from tournaments and another $500 and change from the one day I played cash games. Most of that came from final tabling one of the daily 2 PM deepstack tournaments at the Rio (which could have been significantly more if I could just dodge a one outer with aces versus deuces at the final table and someone claiming to have folded A2o), but nice to book some green numbers on a trip.

I’ve barely been able to play myself on the poker work trips (less than half a dozen live tournaments stretching back to the 2010 WSOP) but it’d been awhile since I’d even seen a dinner break, so a deep run was nice and paid for a new Canon 60D body that I’d been eyeing for forever, with a little fun money left over.

As far as work, well, you know; it’s work. In some ways I feel pretty damn lucky to have latched onto work on the operator side, as far as working for PokerRoom/bwin, as it isolates me from the impact other folks in the poker media felt from Black Friday.

On the other hand, working on the operator side can be frustrating as hell sometimes when faced with the epic lassitude that grips the industry and 95% of the people that have gigs within it.

I should be used to it by now but I’m just amazed, over and over and over, at how little interest in poker most people with jobs in the online poker industry actually have. I mean, sure, I’d rather drink and go shopping and do lots of things other than sit around watching people play poker for 14 hours a day, but there are far, far worse jobs to have, and if you’re going to do something, do it.

And I’l leave it at that, lest I say anything I regret later.

Still in the midst of a mad scramble at home in Texas, trying to get us moved to Malta. In a little over a week it’s off to GSOP Live Manchester, then back to Texas for a big push to wrap everything up so that we can make the move by the end of August.

I picked up some extra photography work at the WSOP, which was not only extra cash but I actually enjoy the work a good bit. Really happy with the 60D, and I feel like I’m finally getting there gear-wise/experience-wise as far as pushing harder trying to land some more clients for photography content from various live events.

Not everyone wants the writey-write sort of work but photographs are an easier pitch I think, especially if you’re reasonable with pricing and mindful of what clients want.

Pretty happy with overall progress of the tptk site, and actually a little farther along than I’d expected to be on the grander scale. November is basically the one-year anniversary of really launching the site, and we’ve had a good bit more success on the affiliate side than I’d imagined.

I’d hoped to be able to land a few more clients by now as far as reporting/photo content from live events, but I haven’t really pushed too hard on that front. Still treading water there, as I feel like I have to be settled in Malta first before I can pursue work of that sort as far as committing to covering X tournament in Y country for Z dollars, as travel expenses while I’m still in the US make Z too high a figure for most potential clients.

Pressing the Reset Button

Like everyone in the poker world, I spent most of April 15th in a state of shock and amazement, as anyone who claims they saw a US government crackdown on PokerStars, Full Tilt, and that other shitty-site-that-shall-not-be-name coming is an absolute liar.

It seemed the pendulum was swinging the tax and regulation route, with Wynn and PokerStars signing partnership deals and online/offline operators finding dance partners for Poker Boom 2.0 when the US realized the wisdom in regulating online poker and raking the hell out of it as a way to stem budget deficits poised to overwhelm many local, state, and federal agencies.

But then, boom: April 15th. Black Friday. No more Full Tilt or PokerStars for US players.

Fast-forward to today and the dust has settled and what do we have? Full Tilt is being exposed as an absolute shambles of a company, as far as mismanagement running amuck, and PokerStars is still chugging along, after efficiently and quickly settling up in the US and bidding the country adieu, until we get our shit sorted.

Some brave souls are still playing on Carbon Poker, Cake, and Bodog, but it’s more like the handful of hanger-ons still trying to finish off the keg in the backyard at the end of a party; they don’t really want more beer but feel obligated to keep filling up their Dixie cup.

And, honestly and truly, I’m almost happy to see the trainwreck, as I can’t help but think it’s necessary to get the online poker industry to finally sort its shit out. A good analogy is the US economy at the moment, as far as the real cancer at the heart of the depression/recession/whateverion you want to call it not ever being addressed and the printing of money the last few years just delaying the inevitable crash, which will be all the more painful when it comes.

From a business prospective, it was smart for PokerStars to thumb its nose at the UIGEA and keep operating in the US; you can argue it was even smart for Full Tilt, as even lopping off 50% of their player based after Black Friday still leaves them much larger than what they were back in late 2006.

But those actions haven’t helped in the grander scheme of getting online poker legalized and regulated in the US, and likely have set us back substantially. Full Tilt has proven to be an excellent example of what all the right-wing Republican nutjobs were warning us of; a company that has very thin business ethics and operates via multiple shells and does whatever it takes (even investing and basically taking over US banks) to continue to keep rake money flowing in.

I hate to see friends that work directly for online operators and indirectly for big affiliate sites impacted by this, but we definitely had it coming, and Black Friday to me seems almost necessary if we ever really do want to move forward with legal online poker in the US. Press the reset button and start over from scratch, as painful as that is for many, as it may be one of the few paths forward to a long term, stable solutions for people in the US to play cards online for real money.

Here, There, and Everywhere

WSOP"So, umm, yeah. It’s been a few long, busy months since clacking away here, which is both good and bad.

The good: things are going very well on the freelance front and I spent a month and a half in Europe, returning to the US on May 1st. Work stops included Vienna, Jerez, and Seville, plus my wife and I spent 10 days on vacation in Ireland and Malta.

The bad: my mother passed away completely unexpectedly in the midst of it (at the age of 58), so I had to fly back in the middle of the above jaunt for a few days, then fly back to Europe. Not an easy thing to deal with under any circumstances but especially when off my own, half a world away.

Since getting back to the US in early May things have pretty much been a blur, as we’re in the throes of getting out house ready to sell plus basically getting rid of all earthly possessions in preparation for the move to Malta in August.

I’m pretty much at the fuck-it-all-let’s-go-go-go stage at the moment, but trying to wring as much EV out of everything as far as an orderly winding down of business. I’m heading out to Vegas for work on June 29th and will be there until July 20th, and I’m trying my damnedest to get everything wrapped up before I leave, so that we basically list the house for sale at the end of July and hop on a plane.

Lots of things are cooking on the work front, with some really interesting opportunities as far as one of my two main clients right now. And I’m really excited to finally be located where it’s cost-effective for me to take off and cover some event on my own for the site, which is another reason that I’m antsy to get to Malta and turn the page to the next chapter in the book.

So, in short: still here, still very busy, still on track for the move to Malta in the very near future.

Dude, Don’t Talk to Me

WSOP"I’ve been making the trek to Las Vegas for the WSOP since 2006, working as part of the media for various sites there.

While I haven’t ever done the March of Death (covering all the prelim events plus the Main Event), I’ve spent a lot of hours in the media room and tournament floor. I’ve never been there working for the exclusive media provider (i.e. the company that year that pays Harrah’s a shit-load of money to be the “exclusive” media provider), instead nibbling away at the corners, doing my limited little reporting thing, primarily covering just PokerRoom (RIP) and bwin players.

Compared to the media experience at other events, overall I guess I’d give Harrah’s a B+ as far as how things are run. That’s likely a lot higher than some folks would rate them but again, my role there’s been pretty limited. I never bump into trouble with too frequent updates or breaking chip count rules or anything like that, as I’m covering a set group of players and catching up with them at breaks for 99% of the coverage I do.

They do a good job with the media space and in general get a decent amount of info out each day to help with coverage. While the free sandwiches and drinks have dwindled over the years they did hand out food vouchers last year and the free beef jerky is definitely plentiful. Outsourcing the approval/denial of media credentials a few years back was a mini-nightmare but got better the last year or two, especially if you’re a familiar face from previous years. I’ve also never had technical issues as far as wireless/Internet access, something that definitely isn’t true at other major events sometimes.

Each year there are set guidelines that media folks have to abide by, and they’re fairly reasonable. Well, reasonable if you keep in mind that ESPN and PokerNews (as the exclusive providers) get preferential treatment, as most of the guideline restrictions are in place to prevent their toes getting stepped on, as far as how limiting how frequently non-exclusive media can post updates, restricting how often chip counts can be updated, and preventing much video footage at all from being shot.

The above upsets a lot of people in the poker media and I definitely understand, especially when you argue that exclusive deals are bad overall for the growth of the industry and everyone’s ultimate financial well-being. That said, I’m also a firm believer in that you get what you pay for; if PokerNews and ESPN are going to hand big bags of money to Harrah’s, they should get something for that.

Each year is a bit different as far as media guidelines, and Harrah’s just put out the guidelines yesterday for the 2011 WSOP. While they weren’t enormously different than in past years, a couple of new additions definitely raised eyebrows in the small (but vocal) circle of poker media folks.

Most of the mini-furor comes from two new guidelines that seem to be a knee-jerk reaction to the Ali T cheating fiasco. Harrah’s has proclaimed that WSOP media in 2011 can no longer rail the action at a single table for more than 5 minutes every half hour (not that big a deal) and that media may no longer speak to players while at the tables (a pretty big deal).

Whoever was manning the WSOP account on Twitter seemed a little perplexed that various poker media objected to that second part, which I think is at the heart of the problem. The response of “Just talk to them away from the table and you’re fine” pretty much completely and utterly misses the point, and could only come from someone who, in fact, hasn’t spent much time in the trenches actually reporting on poker tournaments.

It’s just one of those unfortunate cases where the intended cure is much more more draconian than the perceived problem ever is/wasm and is a half measure at that. If you’re truly worried about the welfare of players and want to prevent the possibility of bloggers colluding with players, either don’t allow media at all or accept responsibility for thoroughly vetting and checking out the credentials of any media you approve.

Note that there’s no restriction on media from standing behind a player at a table, or being in the general vicinity; of course there isn’t, as that’d put a serious crimp in all the free publicity us media folk donate to Harrah’s each year for our respective outlets. This is a wild-assed guess, but I’d imagine Harrah’s would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) for the real estate their WSOP brand gets for free each year on poker sites, forums, and blogs around the world.

So instead of risking any of that by restricting the access of media to the tables, they just throw in a half-baked rule that says media can’t speak to players, and chalk it up as “protection for players”. If it were a non-issue (like the only railing for five minutes out of every half hour) fine, whatever, but there are actually tons of instances in which media talk to players, each and every day.

The biggest (and maybe I’m missing the fine print) is that it’s just impossible to always catch the action of big hands, as far too often we get there when a huge pot is being pushed someone’s way or a seat of a well-known player is conspicuously empty. It’s pretty necessary to tap a player not involved in a hand on the shoulder and get the details, and easy enough, with the end result being much better coverage.

Now maybe this rule will be interpreted as “media cannot talk to players at the table unless you’re with PokerNews”, but if it isn’t, life just got a lot harder for PokerNews reporters, and coverage just got crappier overall. And again, for what purpose, what greater good? It’s not assurance for players that bloggers aren’t trying to peek at their hole cards, as we’re still right there, snapping photos and hovering around. It’s just inconvenience, plain and simple, with no greater utility achieved.

I’ve also been asked by players seated and playing at tournaments to charge their iPods, fetch them aspirin, fetch them weed, to relay a message to their wives/girlfriends, to grab a bottled water for them because of the abysmal cocktail service, and any other number of things. I’ve also got a lot of friends among players, who’ll grab me while I’m circling around to just catch up.

And the official response to those concerns seems so far to be “And you can still do all that…just not at the table.” Which again, really misses the point. In theory, sure, but did you stop to think how that’ll play out? Did you stop and think that players won’t all be aware of the new rule changes, even if you announce them once or twice at the beginning of play?

I can already foresee stupid scenes with seemingly dueling mimes as a player I know waves me over because he needs something, and I stand there shaking my head no, waving him over instead, making vague noose-like motions or heave-ho signals with my hands. And remember, the players are, you know, playing in a poker tournament, so any interaction is going to be between hands when they have a quick second or two.

Which was easy enough in the past but now suddenly not so much, as an elaborate non-verbal dance is now required to initiate a conversation that can still happen (but just not at the table) to cure a perceived problem that never really existed but isn’t even a true solution to the problem as that’d be too costly and/or hard for Harrah’s to manage.

Hmm…now that I think about it maybe that should be a B- instead…

Posts in Life on the Rail are written by Seth, one of the owners and admins of the site. Legions of spammers have led to comments being turned off but you can contact us here if you’d like.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

It seems odd to bitch about what I’m about to bitch about, but a quick scan of the current live event calendar leaves me pondering a strange question: are there too many tournaments currently on the circuit?

If you fall into the supply-and-demand and/or sruvival of the fittest camps, the answer is likely no; smaller European series like the GSOP, GUKPT, and EMOP have found their niches alongside PokerStars’ EPT juggernaut, and there’s no reason to believe they all can’t co-exist happily for quite some time.

If you have an online site backing it (and sending loads of online qualifiers) it’s not too difficult these days to pull off a fairly successful series of live poker tournaments that draw decent fields, provide impressive enough payouts for top finishers, and give players a good excuse to visit places like Malta, Barcelona, and Dublin.

But a glance at the schedule of upcoming tournaments for 2011 makes me wonder a bit if the current approach is the healthiest in the long run. It’s hard to find a lot of fault with PokerStars but their recent flurry of additional live series (the Eureka Poker Tour, the Portugal Poker Series, the Belgian Poker Series, et al.) they’ve added makes me wonder if that dilution won’t rear its ugly head at some point.

It’s always good to have options for live event players and there’s definitely a lot in favor of smaller regional events. So in that respect, the more the merrier, but I think for players there’s also a certain fatigue point, where all the dueling acronyms and options become almost counter-productive.

More than that, though, is the fact that there’s no larger cohesion between all these splintered tournaments and series. There’s no end goal or clearly defined season, as not only is it possible to play a major live event somewhere virtually every weekend of the year, but now you have to pick from several options during most weeks.

While some events do take note of what’s already on the schedule, as far as trying to schedule their own event conveniently to draw players that are nearby the previous week, in many cases the scheduling is pretty haphazard; why Everest would put it’s new event in Monte Carlo at the same time as the Irish Open is beyond me,, as it was no great mystery as to when the Irish Open would be held.

Live event players only have so many bullets in their budget, so at some point there’s going to be a tipping point where all these myriad events tugging in different directions will cease to be viable. And maybe that’s just the natural evolution of the process, but it’s a shame that there can’t be a little more cooperation between the major players, as far as online sites that sponsor series and events.

But then I suppose it’s also be nice if Israelis and Palestinians could all just get along and play nicely together, too…

Posts in Life on the Rail are written by Seth, one of the owners and admins of the site. Legions of spammers have led to comments being turned off but you can contact us here if you’d like.

Multi-Entry Tournaments on Full Tilt: Good for Howard but Terrible for Poker?

Howard LedererIt’s hard to argue with the numbers as far as Full Tilt’s new Multi-Entry tournament format, which lets players enter as many as 6 times in selected tournaments using the new format.

You play each stack like a different entry, with stacks of yours being merged if they end up being seated at the same table when tables break.

The response has been pretty overwhelming positive as far as the popularity of the Multi-Entry format but it took the recent FTOPS series to really bear it out. The $640 Main Event that capped off FTOPS drew a total of 14,479 entries (with players allowed to buy in up to 6 times), for a staggering prizepool of about $8.3 million with $1.3 million for 1st place.

Not only did the winner take home well over $1 million, but the tournament “only” took just over 16 hours to complete; that’s a very long time for an online tourney but a blink of an eye compared to live events. Players at live events can survive for more than a week of exhausting play at big live events and take home less than half what the FTOPS XIX Main Event collected in 16 hours of play.

Long story short: tons and tons of players are embracing the Multi-Entry format on Full Tilt. Winner winner, chicken dinner, right?

Well, maybe, but maybe not. It definitely looks like Full Tilt has a cash cow on its hands, as the Multi-Entry format juices both total number of entries, the total prizepool, and the rake Full Tilt pockets. The FTOPS XIX Main Event alone generated nearly $600,000 in rake — a mind-boggling number.

So in that respect, nh Howard. This new wrinkle will likely add millions to your net worth. But I also think it’s a fairly rare case in which a popular new offering from a major poker site may, in fact, but terrible overall for the greater health of online poker.

I just can’t help but think that in the long run Multi-Entry tournaments will inevitably accelerate the money flow from fish to sharks, and do it at a particularly tenuous time. The format effectively lowers the variance for top online players who are properly bankrolled, giving skilled winning players an even bigger edge.

Yeah, you’ll have the rags-to-riches stories of players who satellite in and just use the one bullet and go on to a huge score, but those are the outliers; the standard story is that more often than not you’ll see even more familiar names at final tables, as the MTT wunderkinds suck up even more liquidity and profits.

Throw in the temptation for losing players to buy in for more entries than their bankroll supports and you’re just going to speed up the transfer of money from losing players to winning players. That’s how the poker world works, indeed, but it’s how rapidly it happens that’s critical — and especially critical when it’s getting harder and harder for US players to reload and get more money online.

Sure, only a fraction of Full Tilt tournaments are currently Multi-Entry ones, but seriously, look me in the eye and say you think that will continue, with the kinds of profits they been producing and how popular they are. I’ll grant you that it’s a bit odd to be beseeching Full Tilt to play the role of benevolent storekeeper and cutting off the sugar-addled kid from the Pixy Stix they adore so much (and overpay for), but that’s exactly the situation we’re in, to my eyes at least.

Truth be told, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of playing Multi-Entry tournaments myself,and it’s exciting to see some of the huge prizepools that the FTOPS generated, but I can’t help but worry that we may all suffer in the long run. Well, all of us that aren’t Howard Lederer, that is…

Posts in Life on the Rail are written by Seth, one of the owners and admins of the site. Legions of spammers have led to comments being turned off but you can contact us here if you’d like.

Honor Among Degenerates?

Sorel MizziSome 2+2 threads are drama-ripe from the very get-go, and pretty much anyone that read Shaun Deeb’s recent post about Sorel Mizzi allegedly bottom-dealing when playing heads-up high stakes Chinese Poker with John Racener at the PCA immediately started reaching for popcorn to watch the show.

If you want all the gory details, go read the thread. Done? Cool.

As far as what really happened, well, exactly two people know, and the odds are good that at least one was likely blitzed out of his gourd. But I can’t help shake my head at the mini-uproar it’s caused in the pokerverse.

I won’t go so far as to say it’s much ado about nothing, but seriously, this is somehow surprising to anyone? The actions of these two (whatever they were) are supposed to somehow be representative of either the high stakes community or poker players as a whole? Seriously?

Mizzi’s reputation and past less-than-sterling behavior is pretty much out there for the world to know at this point; whatever side you fall on at a certain point you have to acknowledge that where there’s a shit-ton of smoke, there’s got to be at least some fire somewhere.

Racener’s a good card player, a hell of a gum chewer, and enough of a fucking imbecile when he’s drinking to get popped three times with a DUI in less than six years. That actually takes some effort, as I know a few people with 20+ solid years of driving drunk with nary a DUI on their record.

Put these two together and what in the world do people expect to happen? If I were Mizzi I’d be tempted as hell to bottom-deal if I thought I could get away with it; put me in Racener’s shoes and I’d be paranoid as hell that Mizzi was up to some sort of shenanigans. It’s only natural that these two ended up in a Mexican stand-off on 2+2, with the poker world giggling and watching on.

I do understand the impulse at times (especially when trying to undo the legislative loggerheads that’s crimping online poker’s style in the US and other countries) to pretty up the game of poker, and portray it as an honorable endeavor of sorts where gentlemen gamblers bide by a largely wholesome code of conduct as they gently relieve the yokels and rubes of their monies.

But sometimes you just have to call it like you see it. Racener and Mizzi playing HU Chinese for $5K or $10K a pop is about as far from the world of gentleman gamblers as possible; let them roll around in the outhouse behind the saloon all they want.

Each thought they had a edge and each took a seat at the table. As far as anything that happened between them from that point forward, well, it is what it is — whatever that was.

If you’re surprised that such shenanigans might have happened, there’s not a lot of hope for you. If the idea that Mizzi or any other number of players might try to shoot an angle on Racener (or vice versa) is shocking well, again, if you didn’t sleep through the beginning of the movie that might not be such a shock.

As far as the community needing to be warned about the possibility of cheating in such situations, umm, yeah, okay. Degens gonna degen. Easy as that.

Posts in Life on the Rail are written by Seth, one of the owners and admins of the site. Legions of spammers have led to comments being turned off but you can contact us here if you’d like.

Poker Hangovers

poker hangoversIt’s been a couple of weeks since I got back from the Aussie Millions but I’m just now shaking off the funk I’ve been in since I returned, getting back into the swing of grinding out work and knocking out some overdue projects.

It’s a little difficult to explain the inevitable letdown I have after traveling to work a poker event for bwin; I’m always absolutely happy to get back home and away from living out of hotels and eating out every meal and drinking more than I should, but it’s also almost always tinged with the “mehs”.

There’s absolutely no glamor and very little allure in the poker reporting work, aside from getting to travel to far-off lands. Yeah, I still find it cool to see the Phil Iveys and Patrik Antonius’ of the world up close and personal, but working 16-18 hour days for five or six consecutive days kills that tiny buzz pretty quickly.

The work itself is as transitory as it gets; you spill much virtual ink on events that mean a lot in that moment but which are completely forgotten a few weeks later. Except for that poor guy who satellited in who will for years tell anyone who listened about how he got it in with aces pre-flop and some idiot called with :5h :7c and went runner-runner straight to knock him out.

You scramble and work your butt off just to keep pace, without much time to say anything of note or put a lot of heart or time into what you write. It’s not lazy writing by any stretch of the imagination but it’s a pretty constant scramble, and the time you spend at the keyboard typing means that you’re missing potentially interesting shit.

Except even when you are lucky enough to catch the potentially interesting shit you don’t have a lot of time to devote to it when you dash back to the keyboard, as you’re likely missing something else. And so it goes.

Add on top of that taking photos (and downloading photos and managing photos and uploading and arranging photos) and grabbing chip counts and hands and assorted tidbits and color as well as working in the assorted plugs for the poker site you’re writing for and it adds up to a pretty hectic juggling act, where just keeping the balls in the air is a success in and of itself.

Then suddenly it’s done, and you immediately get on a plane and fly home. Until you fly somewhere else and do it all over again.

What’s to miss about that? Not much. But it’s a very good feeling to be working at maximum throughput, doing something that a relatively small number of people can do well. Sure, it ain’t great writing nor great photography but in the end it’s a decent story you’ve told.

Once you’re home, it’s back to the normal mundane concerns of everyday life. Which have their own unique appeal and yeah, in the long run, are a lot more satisfying to tussle with than the problems you face on the road. But it always takes me awhile to get re-adjusted to the routine, where the biggest uncertainty is what to cook for dinner as opposed to who’s going to finish the day $2 million richer.

Posts in Life on the Rail are written by Seth, one of the owners and admins of the site. Legions of spammers have led to comments being turned off but you can contact us here if you’d like.


One semi-unique aspect of my gig with bwin is that unlike the PokerNews, CardPlayer, and Pokerlistings of the world, when I get sent on poker tournament reporting trips I’m on the hook for the whole shebang, as far as text updates, photos, and anything else that pops up.

Surprisingly enough, over the last six months or so I’ve started to really get into the photography side of that; in the past I sort of resented it, or I suppose, more accurately, saw it as a necessary obstacle that sucked time away from what I was better at, as far as the writey-write thing.

Biting the bullet and upgrading to a Canon EF 24-105mm lens helped a lot as far as injecting some interest in the photography side (“hey, look, even a monkey like me can get some decent photos”), coupled with a bit of a shift in my thinking about the whole poker reporting thing as a whole.

There’s still obviously value in the writey-write stuff but man, most people just don’t like to read. And, in the end, who really cares about who the chipleader is on Day 2 of the Aussie Millions, or how they had :As :2s and got there versus :Jh :Js on a :5s :9s :4d flop? Is that really what people are after when they check online for coverage of live events?

I think when it gets serious and you’re down to the last 2-3 tables, then yeah, that’s exactly what people want, along with chip counts and other minutea. In the early-mid stages, though, I just don’t know, as it seems more valuable to give a broader context and feel for what’s going on, and photos are the perfect medium for that.

But I digress (shocker, I know). The point here is that I’ve gotten more into the whole photography side of poker reporting lately, and like to think it’s shown in the general quality level of photos. I’m also getting over my innate reluctance to bug people, especially when they’re playing at the tables.

In the past I’d try to be as unobtrusive as possible, as I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to bug people when they’re at work and haven’t explicitly shown interest in having their picture taken; on the flip side, my job is to bug them and take their picture. A stalemate of sorts, but one that is tipping in the direction of more photos, grumpy poker players be damned.

With no further babbling, here are some shots I liked from the last few trips. No real theme here and I tend to like slightly odd poker photos (you won’t find many badasses in sunglasses here staring people down), so be forewarned:

[miniflickr photoset_id=72157625982192710&sortby=date-posted-asc&per_page=50]

Posts in Life on the Rail are written by Seth, one of the owners and admins of the site. Legions of spammers have led to comments being turned off but you can contact us here if you’d like.

Why Good Poker Writers are Terrible Poker Players

(Yeah, I know, needlessly hyperbolic title. So sue me. But “Why Most Decent Poker Writers are Marginal Losers or Breakeven Poker Players” really doesn’t have much of a ring to it, does it?)

I’ve played a lot of poker over the years, especially online as I fell into the sweet spot of late 20s/early 30s single male when the poker boom was in full effect from 2000-2006. I started a poker blog, read every poker book I could get my hands on, and watched all the WPT events on the Travel Channel.

I did alright, and was kind of lucky as I was also making a lot of money from my poker and casino affiliate sites, so it was pretty easy to play with little concern for the money involved. I mostly played full-ring LHE (stop snickering) and played as high as 20/40 and 30/60 on PartyPoker.

We don’t have any casinos in Texas so my only live play was on trips working for PokerRoom/bwin, as well as a few jaunts across the border to Coushatta in Louisiana. I’ve almost exclusively played live tournaments, with probably less than 50 hours lifetime playing cash games.

My poker career definitely plateaued in 2006-2007, as that’s the last time I made significant money online and I had a pretty nice run in live tournaments as well, chopping a rebuy tournament at Commerce for my only five figure live cash as well as some nice scores in various tournaments at Vegas during the WSOP.

What happened? For one I got married and suddenly had to be a bit more responsible about money but the main culprit was the UIGEA, as I pulled out almost all the money I had online and my poker volume overall dried up to a trickle.

I’d stick a few hundred bucks onto Full Tilt here and there, but I just didn’t have the time to devote much time to the game. Not only was I not doing much to get better, but I knew I had limited time to play overall (with my freelance work picking up and the normal busyness of married life and a day job), so when I’d play it’d be pretty reckless, as far as jumping into a $75 tournament with a $300 bankroll, etc.

When working an event for bwin, I’m usually too busy to play, other than cash games, and I’ve always gravitated more towards tournaments. Money’s also been tight of late as I try to make the full-time freelance gig work, and it’s really hard to justify plunking down hundreds of dollars to enter what I know is an event that, at best, I have a marginal edge.

It’s that last bit that gets to the crux of the matter, I think, as far as why the vast majority of poker scribes make their money writing about the game instead of playing it. Because, honestly, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to make money playing poker than it is to write about it.

Yet there’s still a pretty sharp divide between successful, professional poker players and those of us in the poker media that stand on the rail, writing about it. I can talk all day about bubble strategy and three-betting to death the guy who limp folds way too much but it’s quite another thing to put it in action, for reals, with your tournament life (and buy-in potentially on the line).

It’s been talked to death but I think there’s definitely an advantage in poker at times of just playing, with complete and utter disregard for the potential money involved, and finding a way somehow to get the bills paid when they absolutely have to be, as opposed to the more “responsible” of us who are always keeping a mental ledger of sorts.

It’s pretty damn hard to simply let it fly, even when you know it’s absolutely the right thing to do in that moment, if you’ve become far too accustomed of sitting on the sidelines and pontificating instead. And doubly hard once the money creep starts and you see the chips as actual dollars instead of ammunition to use until you run out.

That’s my excuse at least. We’ll see if I can get back to actually playing some poker in 2011, instead of impersonating a person that, once upon a day, actually knew their way around a poker table.

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