So many questions, so little time ...
E-MAIL OF THE WEEK
Jay, how long should I wait before I ask my girlfriend and her good-looking friends to a round of strip poker?
-- Brian, Washington, D.C.
Brian, I'm taking this as an invitation to the table. As to when, I can only say that my schedule is extremely flexible for the foreseeable future.
THE NEVER-ENDING DEBATE: IS JACKPOT JAY STUPID ... OR JUST NOT A VERY QUICK LEARNER?
Dear Jay, why are you so freaking stupid? After a friend told me that you revealed the poker champion on your column, I avoided your column for weeks, afraid that you would repeat your mistake again and I would find out who won the WSOP. After a few weeks of letting the dust settle, I check out your column, only to have the tournament ruined for me. Even after all of that hate mail, you still didn't learn your lesson!!! A little tip for your career: Journalists become successful when people want to read your column, not when they are afraid to read it and therefore don't.
-- David, New York City
You're not a very quick learner, are you, Jay? You obviously got a lot of hate mail after you revealed the winner of the 2004 WSOP in one of your articles. Well, you went and did it again when you revealed the winner's name in someone's question to you. Personally, I don't care, because I looked up the winner after I realized how long ESPN was stretching out this year's shows. But, I hope you are ready for some more hate mail. I'm sure some people missed it the first time.
-- Brian Fenik, Atlanta
David and Brian, let me see if I've got this straight. Despite the fact that the name of the winner of this year's WSOP has appeared in every newspaper in the country, and his picture has appeared on the cover of every poker magazine, and he has been interviewed countless times on TV and radio (including ESPN), and his name and picture have been used to promote ESPN broadcasts, and his play has been argued about in every poker chat room and on every poker news group site, and his identity has been discussed for weeks in this column, there are still people in America interested in poker who don't know who he is ... and those people are actually reading this column?
Say, do you think it's safe for me to finally reveal the winner of World War II? I heard that there are a couple of guys in West Virginia who taped it, but still haven't had a chance to watch the video.
|Got a poker problem or want more details about Jay's Vegas adventure? Send in your questions and comments.|
Hey, Jay, I'm a pretty avid reader of your column, but I gotta ask you ... does ESPN actually fund any of your excursions into the realm of poker? Are you taking YOUR paycheck and playing with THAT money ... or does ESPN give you a weekly (or monthly) allowance that you can play with. I ask this for obvious reasons ... it's a lot easier to play with money that isn't yours (which is why playing for "fun" just simply isn't poker).
-- AJ, Hackensack, New Jersey
AJ, it's a great gig, but not THAT great. I'm using my book advance as my poker bankroll. (ESPN does pay some of my traveling expenses, however.)
I'm with you on the whole playing-with-other-people's-money thing, which is why I can't watch any of the celebrity poker shows.
(P.S. from my long-suffering wife: "I feel that Jay should come clean here and admit that while he loathes celebrity poker, he has been known to watch when there was nothing else on, because he has to spend a sufficient amount of time glued to the tube to avoid housework. The dynamic on this may be a bit unclear to younger readers who still need tutoring in marriage management. But most older guys will have established that the wife can interrupt the watcher-husband only for life-threatening emergencies. Dinner, of course, should be served on a tray without comment."
NOW PLAYING OMAHA HIGH-LOW FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ...
There is a website trying to get poker declared an Olympic event. Is there really a chance poker will be in the Olympics?
-- Vincent Dattilo, Centerville, Ohio
None whatsoever. First of all, despite a column I wrote on the subject, and all the back-and-forth with readers that followed, poker is most definitely not a sport. It might have a handful of things in common with some sports -- a need for focus, marathon mental endurance and a fierce competitiveness -- but there is absolutely nothing physical about it, which would seem to be a prerequisite. Speed, strength, balance, reflexes, hand-eye coordination ... none of those apply to poker, unless you count not spilling your free drinks on the felt.
Second, how do you pick the teams? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that there was a board of experts who could pick, with some accuracy, the 200 best players in the U.S. Then what -- a tournament of some sort? The problem is that even if you could pick the best 200 players, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, you'd have to have them play against each other for years -- literally -- before the best of the best would truly emerge, because of the short-term luck factor and because of their small differences in levels of ability. And no top-notch player would waste years of his life to make an Olympic team.
Third, and most important, how do you keep score? Poker is all about the money, not winning hands. You could, of course, have a huge tournament -- or, more fairly, a series of tournaments -- but again, as in Reason 2, it would take years of play to fairly determine the best of the best. And determining the best of the best, to be realistic, is what makes the Olympics so attractive. If you can't do that, there's not much point in the whole thing. (Not to mention that playing for money is anathema to the Olympic spirit.)
THERE'S A REASON THEY CALL IT GAMBLING
Let's say I am in a poker tournament and, in the first round, I am dealt pocket aces. I raise, and then some idiot decides to go all-in. Should I call with the aces or just fold because you never know what will happen after the flop?
-- Matt, Budd Lake, New Jersey
Jay, you forgot an important point about playing small pairs -- if you turn a bottom set in a small pot, you have to be careful. As Doyle told us in "Super System," if you have a set of 3s and the board was J-4-3, it is entirely possible that someone has a set of 4s in an unraised pot. You don't want to lose it all with the 3s in that situation; even after reading the book, I've relearned this the hard way a few times.
-- Mike, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Jay, I enjoy reading your stuff. A few weeks ago, I entered my first tournament and played poorly, as I was out the door in 20 minutes. I had A-J suited, and got an ace and jack on the flop. I waited and went all in after the river, as there were no flush possibilities or pairs in the common cards, and the only thing that could beat me was a pair in the hole with a third up. Well, you know what happened. Did I play that right or should I have assumed a set was out there?
-- Ron, Gilbert, Arizona
Fellas, sometimes there's nothing you can do but play your cards and hope for the best. As has been said many times, sometimes you're just gonna have to go broke.
Mike, you -- and Doyle -- are right. It's entirely possible that someone will have a set of jacks or a set of 4s in the situation you describe. But what are you going do about it? Let's say you make a strong bet after the flop with your set of 3s and someone goes all-in ... are you going to fold? I don't think so, unless there's some kind of extraordinary set of circumstances involved, like you're one of the last three left in a major tournament, and you have almost as many chips as the chip leader, and the third guy has one-tenth as many chips as you do, and it's the chip leader who just went all-in ... or something like that.
Ron, unless somebody made a big bet after the flop or after the turn -- which, by your description, I'm assuming did not happen -- you've got to figure your aces and jacks are the best hand out there ... at least until you get called, by which time it's too late to do anything about it. You can argue about whether going all-in was the right move -- it depends on a lot of other factors (how your remaining opponents normally play, reads, how close you are to cashing if it's a tournament, etc.) -- but the reality is this: If someone had a set on the hand and didn't give it away by betting strongly before the river, you were going to be all-in before the hand was over, no matter what you did. So don't worry about it.
And Mike, if you ever fold in the situation you describe -- pocket aces against one opponent before the flop, when you are a monster favorite against any hand in the universe -- it's time to take up a safer hobby, like knitting.
MYSTERY MOVE OF THE CENTURY
Jay, I was watching a tournament last week, and there were two players in for the turn. Player 1 bet, and Player 2 called. Then, before the river was shown, Player 1 went all in, even though betting was done. I had the volume down, so I didn't hear what the announcers said. But what could possibly be the reason for doing this? Is it just a pre-river bluff, or is there some strategy to it?
-- Mike, Boston
This happened during last week's ESPN broadcast of a no-limit hold 'em tournament from the World Series of Poker (not the Big One, however). Player 1 was John Juanda and Player 2 was Daniel Negreanu, two world-class players who know each other's games almost as well as they know their own.
Juanda had an A-Q and Negreanu a middle-sized suited connector. The flop came A-K-x with two of the up cards the same suit as Negreanu's suited connector, giving him a flush draw. Juanda made a medium-sized bet (about $30,000 or so from a stack of about $250,000, if I remember correctly) and Negreanu called. The turn card was a 9, which matched one of Negreanu's hold cards, which gave him a few more outs. Juanda bet $72,000; Negreanu thought about it for a while, then called. Before the dealer could turn the river card over, Juanda went all-in.
This totally freaked Negreanu -- not to mention both ESPN announcers. The bet made no sense, since it was almost certainly obvious to Juanda that Negreanu was on a draw and would only call the bet if he made his draw ... in which case, Juanda would be busted. If, on the other hand, Negreanu missed his draw, which is what happened, he would fold anyway, which he did.
In other words, Juanda had nothing to gain and everything to lose by his strange play. Why he did it, no one knows. The best explanation was from Negreanu, who said, after the hand, "You know, you're even crazier than I thought."
CHAMPION FOR SALE
I heard Chris Moneymaker did not get to keep much of his winnings last year, because he sold off percentages before he made it to the final table. Is that true and do a lot of players do that?
-- Tomas Ackerman, Dallas
What I heard at this year's WSOP was that Moneymaker sold off shares of his potential winnings (supposedly, about 50 percent in all) before he even came to Las Vegas -- to raise money for his traveling and living expenses. (He had already won a "free" seat in the Big One online at PokerStars.com.)
Selling shares of oneself to raise money for a bankroll, tournament entry fees, expenses, etc., is quite common. According to a recent ESPN documentary, before one of his three WSOP wins, Stu Ungar, who was flat broke, gave up half his potential winnings -- about $500,000 -- to a friend who paid the $10,000 entry fee. And several people at Foxwoods, where I usually play, apparently owned small percentages of Greg Raymer, this year's winner, who lives about six miles from Foxwoods.
BACK TO YOU, LEIF
Thank goodness for guys like Leif from Baltimore, who said he'd feel bad taking a stack of chips from Annie Duke and who wonders whether we female poker players are unfair when we use his rather neanderthal views to our advantage.
Does he really think a player as smart as Annie would venture into the world of professional poker if she were worried about supporting her family playing poker? Why doesn't he feel "bad" for taking chips from all the men who choose to support their families in the same way? What's the difference? I can't wait to hear the reasoning behind that one.
As for my saying "thank goodness," Leif, damn straight I use my frail, little-girl-lost image to my advantage where I can. I might even purposely wear jewelry that blinds you when it catches the light, dab on perfume that makes you swoon in a hormonal fog, and dare to wear a non-baggy, form-fitting t-shirt, all while I steal your stack right out from under you. It's a brave new world, Leif. I can't wait to see you at the tables.
-- Wendy, Seattle
People, I may not be a very quick learner ... I may even be stupid ... but I'm smart enough not to get into the middle of this one. However, any reader who wants to chime in -- man or woman -- don't let my gutlessness stop you.
Jay Lovinger, a former managing editor of Life and a founding editor of Page 2, is writing on his poker adventures for ESPN.com and also writing a book for HarperCollins. You can watch the 2004 World Series of Poker Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.