We’re Watching Poker

The audience at home knows who has what as bets are made.

We can and do offer advice to the TV set. We often can’t figure out why the player is doing what he’s doing.


Welcome to the 21st Century. The Foxes are home, downstairs on the family room sofa watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN. It’s compelling.

This year’s coverage features a high tech addition. The chips and cards are RFID enabled. Hole cards are read when the player puts money in the pot. The audience at home knows who has what as bets are made.

We can and do offer advice to the TV set! We often can’t figure out why the player is doing what he’s doing.

In order to keep it honest for the players, ESPN is running its “Live” coverage on a 30 minute delay. How is that still live?

Poker is an interesting game. There’s lots of luck, but enough skill for some people to make a living play. For some people a very good living.

The WSOP “Main Event” started July 5th. Once the field was winnowed from 6,683 to 9 the action was paused. It picked up last night for the final table.

Ninth out got around $750k. First place will get exactly $10 million. All for an original $10,000 buy-in–still too rich for me.

Last year Helaine played in the women’s event. I told her we should go back next year.

Las Vegas Odds And Ends

Here are a few Las Vegas tidbits too short for a blog entry individually, but worthy of note.


Here are a few Las Vegas tidbits too short for a blog entry individually, but worthy of note. I saw Elvis yesterday. Creepy.

Helaine saw Michael Jackson. Extremely creepy.

“Which nose stage,” I asked?

“The last one,” she replied. “He was carrying a shopping bag.”

Maybe extremely creepy isn’t creepy enough?



There’s a building just off the strip in City Center. It’s never been occupied. Its windows are gone. Workmen are demolishing it where it stands!

It is under deconstruction.

During the original construction major deficiencies were noticed. Architects redesigned the building with fewer floors. Then more problems. It’s too weak to survive an earthquake Vegas is easily capable of.





antonio and helainePoker has celebrities. Really. Helaine had her picture taken with Antonio Esfandiari.

I said hello to Greg Raymer.

“That’s Jennifer Tilly,” Helaine said as we left a registration area. Sure enough she was on her cellphone sitting on-the-floor behind a large sign at the very corner of a hallway. Unless you came out the door we used she was invisible.

Outside a roped off area with a few tables dozens of gawkers stood and watched Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Vanessa Selbst, Erick Lindgren and others play in a very high stakes tournament.

There’s live Internet coverage of the action every day and ESPN will broadcast a boatload of highlights.

I currently recognize more poker players than Phillies players!


We’re across from Bellagio. In Fenway terms, we have a partially obstructed view of the fountain show.

Last night about 1:00 AM I was at the room’s desk, typing. I heard some pop, pop, pop and thought it was the fountains.

Then more pops.

I turned to see fireworks going off from the roof of the Cromwell Boutique Hotel. It’s not quite a block away.

No clicky on this trip, so I picked up my point-and-shoot, braced myself and fired off a few shots.

I have no idea why fireworks went off at 1:00 AM on the nose, but they did. Thank you. Two minutes well spent.

It’s Poker’s World Series

IMG_0074We’re in Vegas. It’s World Series of Poker time. Neither Helaine nor I, two small time card players, have ever been here for WSOP. This is our year.

Helaine is playing now! She’s around three hours into the Ladies Tournament. Whomever wins will probably be playing another 20 hours over three days!

IMG_0069We went to the WSOP site at the Rio yesterday afternoon. We wanted to scope the place out. It is immense–bigger than I imagined by far.

The large convention center halls have been stuffed with poker tables. The sound of chips clicking–a sound poker players love–is overpowering.

IMG_0066Yesterday’s Event #51: No-Limit Hold’em MONSTER STACK Tournament brought over 7,800 entrants! There were other tournaments already underway. The place was overflowing with players looking for a bracelet and 7-figure payday.

The parking lots were packed. There was a long line at the Men’s Room. It’s was nuts.

We returned this morning to a much more sedate scene. Everything was ready-to-go, but the players were just trickling in.

There’s still time for late registrations, but it looks like there will be under 800 entered–down from last year.

IMG_0065With Helaine playing at Rio I headed to Aria where a smaller 1PM tournament was starting. They had so many entries there were ‘alternates.’ They only play after someone else busts out. I was 38 on the list.

The called my number, I sat down and was dealt two 4s. Potential, but not a winner on its own.

I called a small pre-flop raise and watched A-4-5 come out. That gave me three 4s, most likely the best hand at that stage.

IMG_0064I bet and was called by one player. By the time we were at the River I was All In!

The final board was A-4-5-3-A. I had 444AA, a full house! He had AAAA, four aces.

First hand. Gone. Poker.

They Play Poker Here

hawaiian-gardens-poker-tableCard rooms are legal in parts of SoCal. They are mostly poker rooms. Other table games are played, but with lesser odds than ‘real’ casinos. Poker dominates.

The nearest rooms are in the south end of Los Angeles County, less than a half hour from here. I’ve been to Commerce Casino in… wait for it… The City of Commerce. The largest card room in the world. It’s like a bus terminal!

If you’ve been to beautiful casinos, like in Vegas or Connecticut, you’re in for a letdown. Commerce doesn’t seem to be the exception. I’m told none of the card rooms are showplaces.

This afternoon Helaine and I drove to Hawaiian Gardens Casino in… wait for it… Hawaiian Gardens, CA. There’s a little more room between tables than Commerce, but it too borders on bus terminal.

The casino occupies what looks to be two huge tents! Surfboards hang from the ceiling marking the different poker games dealt. It’s like a United Nations get-together.

wider-shot-poker-roomWe go to Hawaiian Gardens because of the food. Oh my God!

You order from a roving waitstaff with red shirts. Just like the deck of an aircraft carrier, everyone working at the Gardens wears a shirt colorcoded to describe their specific job.

The menu is wondrous. It’s a spiral bound, plastic encased affair with at least ten pages. Along with breakfasts and dinners are pages for Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean food.

The food comes hot. The portions are large. The taste is incredible.

Helaine had a shrimp and asparagus dinner. I had their Thursday night lamb chop special. We both had large Diet Cokes.

I gave the waiter a twenty for both of us, which included a nearly 25% tip. I’m not sure we can eat home for that price?

As for poker, one of us won twice what the other one lost. A fun adventure for us while Doppler kept guard at home.

From The Poker Room



I am at Aria, a beautiful hotel in Las Vegas.  I’m at a poker table playing in the seven o’clock tournament. I brought my tablet. Yes, tablets are OK in the poker room. Welcome to the 21st Century!

The truth is it would be impossible to ban cellphones and their cameras. Petiole are using them everywhere. And the casinos are photogenic. Social media is free advertising.

Aria has a tournament every day at one and seven.  Poker tournaments are played at ten person tables.  We each pay a fixed amount, tonight $125.  Each gets $10,000 In tournament chips. 

So far 52 people have bought in.   The final five all get paid.  The last man standing will get $2119. Number five gets $303.

It’s all guys at my table. Women play, but maybe ten percent are women.

Everyone is intense.

Tourists dominate this tournament tonight. Locals play, but usually cash games.  Everyone here wants something to bring home and brag about.

This room also hosts some of the highest stakes games in Vegas.  I have seen chip stacks as big as a yearly salary–real money chips.

Even at my level of play I’m seldom the best player at my table, but I hold my own.

Most people think of poker as a card game.  It’s actually a betting game!  Having aces doesn’t mean you’ll win a lot.  Position is important, so the order of the deal rotates around the table.

As a rule, poker players are not comped.  A lot of players tonight are staying elsewhere.

This is a great room. Nicely lit. Comfy chairs. Excellent cocktail service, though for me it’s coffee or diet something.

If I play well I’ll be here until two am.  I’d like to have something to brag about.

When Poker And Pot Are Legal

With the economy stalled and governments unable to keep out of the red, this may be the year we see the widespread legalization of some former unlawful vices: online poker and pot!

Pot for medicinal purposes is already legal in a few states, including Connecticut. I have one friend with a card that allows her to purchase 2&#189 ounces per month for a person with MS under her care. That’s a lot of pot for one person.

There’s no established structure for distribution, so legal pot in Connecticut exists more in theory than fact.

In states like California medicinal marijuana is more a ruse. If you have a real or imagined physical complaint you can score pot! I have been in the car as friends and relatives drove to strip mall pot dispensaries to score. None seemed very sick.

Recently Colorado passed a recreational pot law. Around the nation opposition is fading fast.

For the first time in more than four decades of polling on the issue, a majority of Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. A national survey finds that 52% say that the use of marijuana should be made legal while 45% say it should not.

Support for legalizing marijuana has risen 11 points since 2010. The change is even more dramatic since the late 1960s. A 1969 Gallup survey found that just 12% favored legalizing marijuana use, while 84% were opposed. – Pew Research Center for People and Press

Pew Research survery on legalizing pot

Even if it is the evil “Weed With Roots in Hell,” it is ridiculous unconscionable we still arrest and jail people for possessing it. Do we really need to ruin their adult lives by arresting pot smoking teens?

As has been recently pointed out, the last three presidents were once law breakers as was this blogger and nearly every other adult I know!

Obviously there are concerns with kids smoking and stoned drivers, but we’re facing those concerns today with little realistic recourse. It’s unlikely anyone will start toking just because it’s legal, as few were stopped because it was not!


Online poker might actually beat legalized pot in some states. New Jersey and Nevada both have laws. Other states are sure to follow.

Poker is an interesting case, because I can play with friends at home or go to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun for action, I just can’t play online.

At one time online poker seemed to be in some sort of quasi legal no-man’s land. Then the Justice Department shut things down on what’s come to be known as “Black Friday.”

From Wikipedia: United States v. Scheinberg, 10 Cr. 336 (2011), is a United States federal criminal case against the founders of the three largest online poker companies, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Cereus (Absolute Poker/Ultimatebet), and a handful of their associates,[1] which alleges that the defendants violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and engaged in bank fraud and money laundering in order to process transfers to and from their customers

PokerStars, where I played, is still around. I’ve got a play money tournament on my tablet right now. Playing for real money, even the tiny tournaments I played at PokerStars, is different. Players aren’t as cautious without some skin at risk.

When pot and poker are legalized (and there currently seems no doubt they will be) will we look back and wonder why they were illegal in the first place? I will.