Getting Close with Losing

The 45th annual World Series of Poker is starting today. This is a huge event in Vegas. Upwards of 40,000 poker players descend on the Rio for the six weeks of tournament play and poker rooms all over town are, as Max Rubin would say, rammin’ and jammin’.

There will be 65 bracelet events, including a new $25,000 event (Mixed Max No Limit Hold ’Em), 12 $10,000 events, the $1 million Big One for One Drop charity event (which last year attracted 48 players who ponied up the cool mil and had a payout of more than $18 million, with $6 million going to charity), and of course the $10,000 Main Event, which last year fielded nearly 6,400 players.

I like poker, though I’ve never been much of a player. I know the math, but never could do calculations in my head quickly or under pressure; my BJ card-counting days were short-lived, because I found I couldn’t keep track of the count without moving my lips! Talk about a tell!!!!

But Brad and I watch poker on TV now and again, especially when the WSOP is televised. There’s so much drama, tension, strategy, and psyching out at the poker table—and, of course, the producers create exciting television programming around it. Also, like plenty of other people in the gambling life, we’re fans of some of the personalities.

For all these reasons, I was very interested in the new book my publishing company just released, The Moneymaker Effect. This book is, for the most part, an oral history about the legendary 2003 World Series of Poker, won by amateur Chris Moneymaker, who was playing in his first live poker tournament ever. He prevailed over a field of 800 players and a couple dozen of the “poker celebrities” are interviewed about the experience. It’s fascinating to “listen in” as they recount their memories of it.

It was also the first year the hole-card camera was used in a televised poker tournament, which triggered a subsequent eruption of poker TV. And because Moneymaker had won his $10,000 seat in the Main Event in a satellite tournament, his winning the WSOP is widely credited with launching the explosion of poker, both online and live. People thought, If this neophyte can beat the likes of Johnny Chan, Phil Ivey, Dan Harrington, and Sammy Farha, why, I can too!

So there was a lot more going on at the 2003 WSOP than just the Moneymaker story. And the book covers all that in detail too.

To me, though, the best part of the book are the descriptions from the pros about how it felt to get so close to winning the WSOP, only to lose in the end. I know something about losing; losing and I are longtime close companions.  But I have a feeling that losing likes me more than I like losing!! However,  it comes with the gambling territory.  The tales told by Howard Lederer, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Dutch Boyd, Dan Harrington, and Sammy Farha, among others, are not only gripping, but they’re very instructive as to how the big boys handle it.

Anyone who likes poker stories, gambling stories, sports stories, inspiring underdog stories, or a discourse on the agony of defeat will, I predict, love this book.



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3 Responses to Getting Close with Losing

  1. Kevin Lewis says:

    The magic that TV producers worked for poker was to take a game that is VERY boring to watch and jazz it up. Of course, this is done by showing only about 3% of the hands. Playing poker, for that matter, is horribly boring, unless you want to lose; the only way to win is fold, fold, fold, especially with today’s insanely high, confiscatory rakes.
    My favorite poker memory was, of all places, on board a cruise ship. I wound up in a heads-up confrontation with an Asian gentleman. The game was 5-10 limit. The flop was AK5. Since we were heads-up, raises were unlimited. I raised; he reraised. I reraised; he reraised. He starting saying at this point, “He have Aces! I know he have Aces!!” while continuing to reraise. “He have Aces!!!” he said one more time while putting in the last of his $300 on the turn (yes, we raised each other that many times). The river card was dealt and we turned our hands over. He was right! Me had Aces!!! He, of course, had KK and had flopped a set at the same time I had. That hand paid for a LOT of drinks afterward. “He have Aces!!!”

  2. Martin says:

    I’m sure TV and those stories is what helped get me started in live poker play/adventures. You may call me a low-roller poker player, though, as I mainly play low-limit games (2/4 or 3/6, occaisional kill games – when limits are doubled if a player happens to win 2 pots in a row). Some NL (low-buy in tournaments ($65 is about the highest amt I’ve paid to play in a tournament… Maybe will try those $75-150 buy-ins someday…

    Here’s 1 story I hope readers will like.
    It takes place in a poker room in Laughlin that doesn’t even exist anymore (good ol days?). It happened at the Edgewater, sister property of the Colorado Belle (poker still going over there). This was during one hot summer, when they had progressives on SFs and Royals (I’ve yet to get mine yet!)…. In a $2/$4 limit game. This summer about 5 yrs ago, the progressives were doubled for 15 min (timer on-screen) whenever someone had their AA cracked (pocket pair of Aces beat – the best STARTING hand in poker, but in low-limit games, can often get beat if too many players are against them!). This makes it worthwhile to play in rooms where AA cracked gets bonus payoffs..

    I digress.

    So I’m in the typical loose (5-7 callers out of 10) in a 2/4 game. SFs for the 6-high and 5-high SF are around $600++.

    There are maybe 6 callers ahead of me and I’m the last to act (Dealer button in front of me). I have suited 3c-4c.

    $14 in the pot. Flop is a fantastic: 2c-5c-Qh.
    I flopped the perfect open-ended SF draw…

    BB bets $2, and at least 4 others call along with me.

    Turn card is 2d. This is where it got crazy.
    BB bets $4, guy on my right Raises to $8. BB re-raises to $12 (I’m in for $8 already on my SF draw). the orig raiser ‘caps’ it (house limit of 3 raises if more than 2 players to act) to $16 total. I reluctantly call. I think I gave the dealer (Doug- semi-retired) a tell, muttering something like ‘awful expensive river card’ – he said he heard me say under my breath later…. (I was on his exact left, in seat 1.

    There are now only 3 of us left playing for a $60-70 size pot– pretty big for a 2/4 game (most pots are only $15-30 at the most).

    River is a BEAUTIFUL Ace of Clubs! I did it- the “Steel Wheel’ (in poker lingo)— A-2-3-4-5 all club SF! I had the nuts. BB smart to check, but loose guy bets $4 (I’ll explain below) and I raise, they both sadly call, feeling they are beat and I show the SF! Bonus, other table had apparently had AA cracked, and the timer was still going, so my SF 5 high wheel of steel paid a nifty $1350+++

    Here’s what had happened.

    BB had pocket 55s, and made a FH on the turn.
    Loose guy had Ace-deuce offsuit (see how playing ‘loose’ may cost you!). So when board was 2-5-Q-2, the A-2 was 3rd best, but he thought by making ‘trip 2s’ he was ahead, little did he know he was already beat by FH, and I only had the 2-outer to win the whole pot, vs his 4th deuce as the only out. I had the right ‘pot-odds’ to call $16 with the bonuses in effect, and this time it paid off nicely! So 55-522 loses to my SF, and loose guy (thought) he won with his A2 – 2 x x 2 -A (2s full of aces). 3-handed you would think…but then again if it’s possible, it’s possible. The only worse case scenario would have been if someone in the hand had had QQ (for Queen Jean!). boy, think of all the raising that might have happened after the flop (set of 5s vs set of Qs vs my open-ender SF draw not leaving…).

    I hope you all enjoyed that one! That’s one hand I’ll never forget!

    Thanks for reading.
    Martin – of San Diego.

    PS – Just saw Jean/Brad – lucky as ever. He’s a keeper, Jean…. I’ll let you finish your tale(s) and/or report on the new Harrah’s SoCal (Still Rincon to me).

  3. Jean T Mothena says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. I don’t play poker, but it fascinates me and I always watch the WSOP on TV. I ordered the book last week but haven’t received it yet. Your review makes me even more eager for it to arrive. Thanks for all the great information you give us through your BLOG.

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