All in all, I really enjoyed the Niagara Falls trip. It's always hard coming back from these poker writing gig for PokerRoom, as I go from feeling a sense of accomplishment and -- for lack of a better word -- "rightness" about the work I do there (as far as putting writing talents, some Web knowledge, and a tiny bit of poker knowledge to work) to facing the reality that the day job that gainfully employs me is pretty much the polar opposite of all of that.
But yeah, been there, tilted at that windmill, yada yada yada, shutting the hell up.
This tournament was interesting in that I spent a lot more time railing the tables, due to the fact that my media application was mysteriously lost and the uber-important officials at the tournament wouldn't let me set up a laptop there in the media area. And by "railing" I mean literally that, as the only tables spectators could see were the three that were right by the roped off area.
While I guess allowing any spectators at all is something to celebrate, it still boggles my mind at just how hard some tournament organizers work to make the spectator process as unfriendly and difficult as possible. I'm not sure I've ever seen a hobby, sport, pursuit, whatever that goes as far as poker does out of its way to shoot itself in the foot, time and time again, when it comes to marketing the experience and making it spectator-friendly. Even things as simple as how you break tables, with an eye towards having as many remaining tables close to spectators (while still roping off enough space for your staff and players to be at a comfortable distance) instead of grumpily responding to an innocent question about why you're breaking tables away from spectators with a response like "You're lucky you're even in this room to watch."
I still slightly cling to the romantic notion that maybe, just maybe, the poker world will wake up and get assorted things right, but more and more I wonder if that'll ever happen. Too many people are intent on grabbing as much cash while they can, with hardly any eyes turned towards what's the best thing for five years down the road, ten years, etc.
But I digress. Watching lots of actual hands was pretty interesting, as far as how various pros attack the proposition of trying to wind their way through the mine fields and make the final table. Like any tournament, too, you have to have your share of luck. Sometimes lots of luck, like Jonathan Little, who went on to finish 2nd but within the first twenty minutes or so of the tournament start found himself all-in with 88 on a flop of J 9 8, facing one opponent with JJ and another with AA. Spike a J for quads, win tons of chips, proceed to final table, place 2nd. Pretty easy, really.
On the flip side of that coin (or maybe the same side of the coin, as that's a scary flop to lump all your chips in twenty minutes into the tournament, even with a set, with starting stacks of 20,000 and blinds of 25/50), you can't help but see some surprisingly bad play from the pros. I can definitely see the value in winning big pots early/midstage or hitting the road, but correctly reading your opponent's over-shove as JJ or QQ, thinking for two seconds and shrugging, and then calling off your stack with K8s, with nowhere near the odds to call? Ditto for more than a few similar plays with AK, when at best you're flipping coins with JJ/QQ or chopping with AK. Aggressively raising with those hands and driving the action, sure, by all means, but just calling off all your chips, when you're opponent has purposefully denied you the odds to do so, well, I dunno... But there's obviously a reason I'm a fish, writing about these tournaments, and not playing in them.
I'm not sure I'd want to go back to Niagara Falls again and again and again, but it definitely was impressive to see, and a fun trip on the cheesy tourist side of things. I don't quite get the Canadian obsession with coins and hatred of $1 bills, but other than that Canada was pretty nice.
The next working poker trip is December 12th-19th for the WPT Five Diamond Classic, then maybe a bit of a break until April. PokerRoom is sending players to the Aussie Millions, but so far I've only handled the tournament reporting for the North American gigs, and I haven't heard anything about being sent to the land down under, so I'm going to assume it's a no-go.
For any non-US players out there looking for good qualifiers for the Aussie Millions and other events, you really should hit up the PokerRoom qualifiers. Yeah, I'm biased, yada yada yada, but the $650 + $50 online finals that award the trip packages provide a lot of value for good players, as you're only jousting around with 40-50 players for the seat, and most satellite in through cheaper qualifiers and aren't the strongest players in the world. While only 1st typically wins a seat, 2nd-4th typically pays out pretty well, sometimes more than $5,000 for second, so it's not an all-or-nothing sort of deal. The fringe benefits if you win a seat are prettty nice, too, as far as the extra meals, excursions, day trips, etc., all of which is on top of your entry, air fare, hotel, and spending money.