Los Angeles, CA
The always venerable Shamus was kind enough to invite me to participate in a roundtable discussion with a group of bloggers in the poker media. The topic? The upcoming WSOP. I was one of six panelists contributing to the discussion, along with Otis, Benjo, FTrain, Spaceman, and Michele Lewis.
Here are my responses...
Short-Stacked Shamus: The World Series of Poker is nearly upon us. Which stories are you most interested in following this summer? Which players are going to be among the "ones to watch" for you at this year's WSOP (and why)?
Pauly: Everyone loves an old-fashioned police raid. I'm wondering if/when the DOJ and FBI raid the WSOP and what will happen? Will random players be bolting out of the room for fear of being prosecuted for other crimes? Will potheads freak out and hide underneath the poker tables? Or will the DOJ simply drag out some of the high-profile owners of Full Tilt in handcuffs? Perp walks are nothing more than PR stunts for law enforcement agencies, and the big wigs at the DOJ would love to see the menagerie of poker media rushing down the hall snapping photos of Jesus or Howard Lederer in handcuffs.
As far as players to watch at the 2010 WSOP, I'm excited to see Annette Obrestad's first appearance at the WSOP. She won a bracelet at the inaugural WSOP-Europe main event a few days shy of her 19th birthday, but she has yet been able to play in an event at the Rio. I'm also interested in checking out Faraz "The-Toilet" Jaka who is having a sick sick sick year and Eric "basebaldy" Baldwin.
Short-Stacked Shamus: One element of the schedule that will remain the same is the delayed final table for the Main Event, back for a third year. Now that we've seen it a couple of times, what is your current opinion of the "November Nine"?
Pauly: Read this in the voice from Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons... "WORST IDEA EVER." The November Nine is only "good for poker" in the eyes of the suits at ESPN because their numbers are better. That's their bottom line so it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I'm a purist when it comes to the WSOP and feel as though the Main Event should be played straight through with only two days off (after Day 2 which appears on the current schedule) and the day before the final table.
I hope the November Nine gets eliminated in 2011. With the launch of ESPN3 and the popularity of live streaming of EPT and NAPT final tables, why can't ESPN stream the Main Event LIVE on ESPN3? They can air edited episodes (more of a highlight reel and advertisement for the online sites, peppered with ESPN's human interest stories) after the fact.
Short-Stacked Shamus: Once again we've seen a few changes to the WSOP schedule this time around, including the introduction of numerous $1,000 buy-in NLHE events, a change to the $50K "The Player's Championship" (now an 8-game mix with a NLHE final table), the addition of a new $25K NLHE 6-max. event, and the return of the WSOP Tournament of Champions. Which new event(s) are you most looking forward to (and why)?
Pauly: The $25K shorthanded event should be super exciting as a generational conflict with the passing of the torch from the old school Vegas pros to the current generation of online gods. 2009 was the first time you saw inklings of the young pros rallying together to buy pieces of action of their buddies waging war against the old guard in the 40K NL event. The buy-in is 25K this year which means more online pros will be matching wits against inferior sponsored pros and a couple of dinosaurs who have yet to tweak their game to adjust to the hyper-aggressive smash-mouth style of play in MTTs.
Short-Stacked Shamus: It has been another eventful "off-season" with much happening in poker on the professional circuit, on TV, and in the courts/on Capitol Hill. How would you describe the overall relevance of the WSOP to the game of poker, circa 2010? That is to say, in your opinion, what are the "stakes" (so to speak) with regard to the Series and its success?
Pauly: The Main Event is still the most prestigious tournament in all of poker. That will never change -- the WSOP will always be one of the premier tournament series despite constant competition. In 2004, pundits wondered if the WPT would put the WSOP out of business. In 2010, the same pundits are wondering if PokerStars' sponsored circuits will overtake the WSOP. I don't see that happening in the immediate future. However, the popularity of the WSOP is diminishing because of the wide variety of other tours and regional events. Dreamers will always take their shot at the Main Event, but the WSOP has competition due to the expansion of international tours and a flourishing online tournament circuit (where Sundays are the biggest day of the week for online pros).
If (big if) the WSOP can ever accept direct buy-ins from online poker rooms, then we will see a spike in overall numbers and then the record for total Main Event entrants will finally fall. That might be the one thing that can keep the WSOP at the forefront.
Short-Stacked Shamus: Each of you has covered the WSOP before. What was your most memorable experience -- from a reporter's standpoint -- while covering the WSOP?
Pauly: Nothing beats your first time, so the 2005 WSOP definitely stands out. So many things happened that year including Johnny Chan becoming the first player to win 10 bracelets, then Doyle Brunson equaling the feat a few days later. That year was also special because I got to see the final table played out inside Benny's Bullpen... the last time that ever happened.
The most fun I had was the 2006 WSOP when I worked for PokerStars Blog during the Main Event. I got to sit in between Brad "Otis" Willis and Wil Wheaton, two writers I deeply admire. Oh, and how could I forget about the midget ninjas at the infamous Bodog party at Tao during the 2006 WSOP?
Short-Stacked Shamus: What do you like the most about covering the WSOP? What do you like the least?
Pauly: The free beef jerky is always a bonus. Heck, whenever you get free stuff, it's pretty cool. Look, none of us are getting rich by working in poker media. Reporters are not paid well, so we have to take advantage of the little perks which make life worth living when you are bogged down in a seven-week prison sentence at the Rio. With that said, the free booze is always a bonus. If you're slithery enough, you can drink for free during the entire WSOP due to all of the random parties, functions, and sponsored events. It's even easier if you're female.
What I like the least are the inane questions that you have to field from the spectators... and those are from the sober ones. Late nights and especially the weekend are the worst when all the drunks come out to the Amazon Ballroom in droves. As the saying goes, if you can't beat them... join them.
Click here to see the entire round table discussion and read responses from the other panelists.
Here's the 2010 WSOP Schedule.
Thanks again to Shamus for having me.