Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sleeping in Your Own Bed is Massively +EV

The title should pretty much speak for itself, but man, was it ever nice to sleep in my own bed last night. So much so that I slept until nearly noon, something I haven't done in a good ten years or so. I figure I'm still running a sleep deficit of about -50 hours, given my wacky hours over the last few weeks in Vegas, but all in all I feel pretty good.

It is pretty odd to not be in Vegas, though, despite a not small measure of loathing that crept in there the last few days. It's just an odd experience to totally immerse yourself in covering the Main Event, cobbling together your daily routine, and for it to all suddenly been done, imploded, and scattered to bits. I don't miss it, really. At all. But it's odd for it not to be there.

Looking back, I have to say that I definitely understand some of the play by pros early in the event that had me scratching my head at the time. It's easy to chalk up speculative plays as dumb (such as Phil Ivey stacking off for all his chips with nothing more than a flush draw), but you really have to witness the long, long grind firsthand to understand much of that. It's not that they want to dump their chips and get back to juicy cash games (although I'm sure that element is there), it's that the Main Event is a massive, massive crapshoot, especially in the later stages.

You can play perfect poker for days, make all the right moves, and get your money in as an 80% favorite and, seconds later, be packing up your shit and hitting the rails. A few hours before the bubble you couldn't walk through the room without seeing someone get knocked out on a bad beat, their hopes crushed. Then ten seconds later it'd happen again, right behind you. And again. And again.

While I'm not at all advocating that you stack off with a draw on the first day of play, knowing that someone has a made hand, I definitely better understand why it happens. You've gotta pick up chips in this thing, from the very get go, and never let up, as you have to find some way to survive all sorts of ridiculous beats and crap will inevitably befall you if you want to make some serious noise.

I'd have to say that a bit of nostalgic bloom is now off the rose for me, as far as the Main Event itself. Yeah, it's pretty damn cool. Yeah, it's a whole ton of money. But no, it's really got nothing to do with joining the pantheon of poker greats from the past, as far as winning the thing. It's just about as far from that as possible, with Harrah's at the helm and 6000+ players entering it.

I don't blame Harrah's from whoring it out, as that's what they do, and they didn't buy rights to the brand to completely change the format and only invite the world's top 100 players each year to battle it out for the world championship.

It's just the ungodly size of it that does it in, as far as it being any test of poker skill. The field is just too large, with too many qualifiers and too many donkeys, for it to be anything other than a crapshoot in the end. Watching the final table pretty much reinforced that this year, as much of the early action involved all-ins and calls with baby pocket pairs versus any two face cards, A rag versus A rag, and all sorts of other stuff that you'd expect to see in token satellites on Full Tilt, and not necessarily so much at final tables of Main Events.

Which isn't really a bad thing, in the end. More and more I think the poker cosmos will shift to looking at the HORSE winner as the true poker world champion (if it doesn't already), with the Main Event being the silly lottery that produces all of the necessary hoopla to remind the world at large that big poker doings are happening.

Call me crazy, but I thought Harrah's did a good job of running the Main Event this year. The choice of colors for certain chips in the later stages was a pretty bad screw-up (and an easily avoidable one), but all the other trains seemed to run pretty much on time. I was surprised that they allowed as much media access as they did to us lowly press peons with purple badges, and they kept the media room reasonably well-stocked with drinks and food. The end stages of the tournament were kind of clunky and rough, as far as media other than ESPN basically being shoved to the side, but again, I don't necessarily blame Harrah's for that. You sell exclsuive rights to someone and at some point that's what you have to give them.

As far as my personal gig there with, it actually turned out to be much, much better than I expected. The other staff they sent pretty much busted their butts the whole time making sure players who qualified through them were taken care of, and that spilled over to me as well. So I ate and drank well the entire time and barely spent a dime of my own out of pocket. They also helped greatly with keeping tabs on players, as far as updates when they were on breaks, where they were seated in the cavernous hall, where they were moved to when tables were broken, etc.

They also set up lots of outings and other social silliness, usually meeting at the same time each night at a bar at Caesar's as a jumping off point. Which definitely helped as far as actually socializing and getting out some, as I'd have otherwise had a much more solitary experience.

The actual workload, though, was pretty insane. I went from giggling about what they were paying me for the gig (as I was surprised when they agreed to pay what I originally asked for), to kicking myself a bit, as they definitely got a deal in the end. 16 hour work days were the norm for the first week or so, and they were pretty jam-packed days with little to no downtime. It's a little disappointing when I look at the output, as it's far from great and/or riveting poker writing, but it's just a ton of work covering a tournament, keeping tabs on certan players, and trying to give an overall picture of what's going on. Much more than I would have ever thought. So hats off again to all you fine poker writers that do this thing full-time, as you definitely earn what relative peanuts you make many times over.

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