Archive for December, 2010

The Pro Poker Player’s Paradox

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Pro poker players have it rough. It takes a tremendous amount of skill-sets to make a comfortable living playing poker. A wickedly deep understanding of the game, the ability to suppress one’s emotions in the face of intense financial swings, and the discipline to disallow one’s ego from influencing their decisions with regards to game selection are just a few of many uncommon traits needed to thrive in poker. And if you can master all of the skills needed to make a living playing poker, you can probably make $50-$200k in a year playing poker. Well, that was this year. Next year, it might only be $40-$180k. And in 2012, a player with nearly impeccable skills across the board might struggle just to out-earn the mid-level finance workers he went to high school with.

This is the paradox of a professional poker player. The saying, “poker is a hard way to make an easy living,” rings loud in its truth. Poker is a somewhat unique career choice in that there is not a direct correlation between hard work and earnings. In fact, as a poker player, you have to work harder and harder each year to get better and better and will likely make less and less despite that work. Of course, that is the experience of the median pro poker player. Obviously, there are some players who, despite not working on their game terribly hard, are able to runhot their way to a fabulous amount of money. And in the same way, there are those who toil and grind and perfect their skills only to see themselves spit out of the bottom of the poker economy. But on average, a pro poker player must work harder each year for less. In this way, poker is quite the unique career choice.

Let’s compare a poker player to a violinist. A violinist works hard practicing and improving their playing ability year after year. After several years or a couple of decades to dedicating their life to the violin, they have become a master. All along the way, the violinist’s earning ability continued to climb. At first, they were playing pro-bono for community orchestras. After a while, they became good enough to play professionally and took a $40,000 a year job playing full-time for an urban orchestra. As their skills continued to improve towards that of a master, they were promoted to first chair violinist in a prestigious orchestra which paid a salary of $120,000. Now, they supplement that income with private appearances, concerts, and records which brings in an additional $90,000 a year. Indeed, the lifetime earnings graph of a dedicated, professional violinist is fairly linear until it eventually flattens out at a comfortable number where it can remain for decades before retirement.

An equally dedicated poker player, however, does not experience this linear luxury. This is the curse of a poker player and the reason why poker, ultimately, is a terrible career choice. Poker thrives on one thing: casual, losing players contributing money to the overall poker economy. But it is important that casual, losing players either a.) have so much fun losing that they don’t mind (rare) or b.) believe that they are, in actuality, a winning player who is endlessly unlucky. The trouble is, as poker games become harder and harder, it becomes tougher for Joe Casual to justify that he’s actually a winning player that just keeps getting unlucky. Eventually, Joe must own up to the realization that he is not a winning player. When this happens, Joe will stop playing. What does Joe’s exit do to the poker economy? It makes the games even tougher. This causes other Joes to stop playing, and on and on.

Eventually, and anyone who has been playing for a while has seen this begin to come close to fruition, poker will become a next to impossible career choice. The games will be so tough that nearly all casual players will exit on account of the fact that they feel as though they can no longer win. Sure, there will still be the degenerate gamblers and whales who play for the rush and aren’t concerned with whether or not they win, but poker, as a career choice, cannot thrive solely on these types. They need the Joe Casuals who slowly bleed a few thousand dollars a year into the poker economy while holding down a day job. Without these players, the game will consist of just a few losing degenerates whose money a sea of regulars all fight for, with a very select handful of brilliant, elite players that succeed in feeding on these regulars. When the regulars realize there are very few scraps left to go around, many of them will exit the arena and move onto other careers. Those who remain will struggle to grind out a living wage in an economy that is a mere skeleton of what it once was.

This is poker’s destiny. The scenario I just described will all but inevitably be realized. It’s already been partially realized. There are far, far fewer people generating an income in excess of $75,000 a year playing poker than there were two years ago.

In the future, there may be some mini poker booms here and there that delay the inevitable, but poker, as a viable career choice, is destined to become close to extinct. Today, there are two types of “professional” poker players: those who are still managing to make a comfortable living from the game and those who were making a comfortable living a few years ago but have taken too long to admit to themselves that their time is now probably better spent on other things. The latter such players have become little more than break-even players dependent on rakeback to keep the lights on in their crappy apartment. It won’t be long before $12 an hour service-industry jobs start to look appealing to these individuals.

This is the paradox of a professional poker player. A successful player from a few years ago, despite actually improving at the game, is now beginning to think that entering the work force, with little to no experience on their resume, makes more sense than continuing to play poker. And while this player was futilely honing his card skills, the violinist’s skills and earning potential did nothing but go up. That’s the sad reality of poker as a career choice. For different reasons, it’s not too dissimilar from the life of an athlete. Poker players have been and will continue to be pushed out of their careers due to games becoming too tough. In the same fashion, athletes are pushed out of theirs due to diminishing physical abilities that make it harder to compete at a high level.

It’s a tough pill for any poker player to swallow, but it’s a pill that all but the most elite of pros will one day have to take. The more readily they take the pill, the easier it will be for them to move on to a more productive life.

The Micros – Episode 1

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Jay Rozenkrantz and John Wray (aka “Krantz” and “JimmyLegs”, respectively) may be onto something. Together, they created a pilot episode for an animated poker comedy called “The Micros”. And it’s hilarious.

Have a watch:

Pretty epic first episode! The scene where the protagonist, Chase Berger, is fantasizing about what his life will be like if he wins the Mega Millions is tremendous. They captured so many great poker stereotypes. We play, “for the big pots, the life changing money, for finally moving out of your mother’s basement and into a sick house in Thailand with tons of poker friends, for traveling around the world playing in the biggest games on the planet, for bottle service at Tao playing ‘hooker, not a hooker’, for partying so hard, you blackout, wake up naked in an inflatable raft full of $100 bills.” LOL!

And the part where even his online poker avatar says, “oh f***” after seeing they only have one out? Pure gold!

Another WSOP Main Event Bracelet Pops Up on eBay

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Anyone who couldn’t afford the $147,500 it took to buy Peter Eastgate’s Main Event bracelet on eBay was given another shot to buy their way to WSOP glory. 1991 WSOP Main Event winner Brad Daugherty recently put his bracelet for sale on eBay. The auction ran for ten days and concluded with a bid of $30,100. This is considerably more than the bracelet’s value in gold which is estimated to be just under $2,500. Despite fetching more than ten times the bracelet’s value as a precious metal, Daugherty did not let the bracelet go to the highest bidder. The auction ended with the reserve having not been met which means the seller retains possession of the item.

It is unclear what price Daugherty was holding out for; eBay does not list the minimum reserve price once an auction concludes. Whether or not Daugherty plans to re-list the item also remains to be seen. The former world champ, who earned the bracelet after becoming the first to win a $1 million prize in a poker tournament, has played poker only sparingly in the past several years. His last cash in a WSOP event came in 2007 when he finished 29th in the $1,000 Seniors event. Daugherty has failed to make a single six-figure cash, let alone seven-figures, since his win in 1991.

Harry Reid Online Poker Bill Reportedly Dead

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

According to the Poker Players Alliance executive director, John Pappas, the bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that would legalize, tax, and regulate online poker in the U.S. is all but dead. Pappas told Poker News Daily that, “when the tax package fell through and things became much more political for it – not related to our bill – it became clear that another controversial addition to the tax bill could sink it.”

This news comes two weeks after word first broke that the Senate may try to legalize online poker using the same surreptitious means that former Senator Bill Frist used in 2006 to pass the UIGEA. Senator Reid’s plan was to attach a pro-online poker measure to a “must-pass” tax relief bill. This plan was scrapped as part of a concession Reid made to Republicans on aspects of the bill not related to online poker.

Harry Reid’s failure to force through pro-online poker legislation comes as pretty devastating news to the poker world as this appeared to be poker’s best chance at gaining legal status in the U.S. since the UIGEA was signed into law. Any realistic hopes of online poker becoming legal in the U.S. now once again appear to be years away from fruition.

Man Robs Bellagio for $1.5 Million

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Yesterday, Bellagio in Las Vegas was robbed by a man who sped away on a motorcycle after taking an estimated $1.5-$2 million in chips from a craps table. Police released an 11 second video showing the man running through the casino. He is wearing a motorcycle helmet and at one point turns and points the gun behind him.

Police suspect this same man robbed the Las Vegas Suncoast poker room last week where he sped away on a motorcycle after coming away with $20,000. The man took chips with values ranging from $100 to $25,000 from Bellagio. Police and Bellagio security will be keeping an eye out for anyone seeking to redeem high denomination chips in hopes of catching the bandit.

WSOP Main Event Runner-Up Receives Third DUI

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

John Racener’s knack for making good decisions at the poker table seems to elude him in other areas of life. The 2010 WSOP Main Event runner-up was arrested last weekend and given his third Driving Under the Influence (DUI) citation according to the St. Petersburg Times. The article states that Racener was arrested in 2005 and again in 2007 for DUI offenses. Last year, he was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge.

Last month, Racener masterfully nursed a short stack through the Main Event final table before losing heads-up to Canadian Jonathan Duhamel. Racener’s $5.5 million payday should be more than sufficient for getting him out of his recent trouble with the law.

Reid’s Online Poker Bill Features 15 Month “Blackout Period”

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

A full 157 page draft of Harry Reid’s pro-online poker bill was released at Politico yesterday. The bill contains some curious wording that has American poker players biting their nails. On page 108 of the draft, the following language appears:

No qualified body may issue a license under this title before the date that is 15 months after the date of the enactment of this Act.

This caveat essentially means that there would be a 15 month “blackout period” following the passage of Reid’s bill. The reasoning for this 15 month delay between passage of bill and licensing of online poker rooms is provided a few lines below:

Qualified bodies shall, to the extent practicable while meeting the requirements and standards of this title, issue multiple licenses on the date that is 15 months after the date of the enactment of this Act in order to ensure a robust and competitive market for consumers and to prevent the first licensees from gaining an unfair competitive advantage.

This language could be in the bill because Reid wants to buy Harrah’s, MGM, & co. 15 months to create their own online poker platform so the existing online poker rooms don’t immediately flood the market thereby drowning the casino groups before they ever had a chance to become competitive.

What, exactly, a 15 month blackout period would mean for American poker players remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: the poker world’s excitement regarding this bill has tempered substantially since the full text of this bill was released. It is expected that the 111th Congress will conclude on Friday, December 17th. We’ll know sometime between now and then if this bill is to become law.

Eskimo Clark’s Gold Bracelet Worth… Less Than Gold?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

There have been a couple of strange WSOP-related eBay auctions lately. First, Peter Eastgate sold his 2008 Main Event bracelet for $147,500, some $130,000 more than the bracelet was valued at by an independent jeweler. More recently, Eskimo Clark’s 1999 $1,500 Razz WSOP bracelet sold for $4,050. The closing bid in Clark’s auction is puzzling because the bracelet is though to be worth more than $5,000 just for it’s value in gold alone.

So while Eastgate’s bracelet apparently holds an incredibly high intrinsic value to some bidders, Eskimo’s seems to have such a low intrinsic value that, although it is made of gold, it sold for less than it’s weight in gold! Of course, this should probably just be chalked up to a strange, one-time anomaly. The lucky person who won the Eskimo Clark auction find themselves in an interesting position to melt a WSOP bracelet down into gold and sell that gold for more than they paid for the bracelet!