Wednesday, November 03, 2010


So I'm reading the November 8 issue of Poker Player newspaper, and come to a column by somebody called John "The Scientist" Hayes. This is part 6 of a series documenting his "$500 poker challenge." I have just skimmed through others, so I have only a dim idea of what he is setting out to accomplish. But for some reason I read this installment in its entirety.

It left me shaking my head, wondering if this is serious.

The guy comes to Vegas with a $500 bankroll. His first night, he plays $4-8 limit at Boulder Station, makes $180. The second night he goes to Golden Nugget, has two double martinis, and loses all his money, except for $60, playing $2-$4 limit. He loses the last $60 the next morning, though he doesn't say exactly how.

The penultimate paragraph, though, is the kicker: "To make a long story short, after three weeks in a homeless shelter, I finally get the wherewithal to return to Los Angeles. Obviously, I am back to square one, raising a new $500 bankroll to continue the Poker Challenge."

Does Poker Player newspaper seriously employ as a columnist somebody who didn't just take $500 from his discretionary income to see what he could make of it at poker (kind of a low-rent, live version of Chris Ferguson's famous online bankroll-building experiment), but who took the last $500 to his name for that purpose--and then blew it all in one shot playing while playing drunk at the lowest-stakes game Vegas has to offer, and had to go live in a homeless shelter?

Or is this some sort of gag, with me being the only one too dense to see where the joke is?

I think of the talented, experienced poker writers I know who have lost their jobs in the industry, and this is who PPN has putting together columns for them?



Here's a link to the first five parts of his series:

I'm rereading them now to get some perspective. Get this: At the end of each of the first five parts, the blurb about him says, "hosts Ask the Scientist, a live call-in poker instruction show on at the Hollywood Poker School in Hollywood Park Casino." That just raises the WTF quotient another level: A guy who is so stupid and talentless that he will lose his entire bankroll playing $2-4 limit while drunk is holding himself out as a poker instructor? The mind reels. What a surprise--that bit of information has been excised from part 6 of his series.

The back story also gets simultaneously funnier and sadder. The series of columns was supposed to last for a year and a half. He managed to churn out the first five columns without playing a single hand of poker, just jawing about the parameters, what books and consultants he would use, and scouting out locations. Then he blows the whole thing in one night. It's going to be mighty hard to put out another year's worth of columns now.

The challenge is over. He says that he is going to "continue" it, but that's a lie. It's done. In his own words, the terms of the challenge were: "Start with $500 and build a poker bankroll over a period of one year into a substantial bankroll." It doesn't say, "Start with $500 as many times as necessary."

On those days when I fall into a funk and hear that ugly voice in my head accusatorily saying "loser," I'm going to think of this guy and cheer up.

Or, again, perhaps the whole thing is one big joke and I'm missing it. I kind of hope so, because I'd really rather learn that I had been leveled than that this is what passes for poker journalism.


Local Rock said...

So, I gather he lost about $600+ in one session in that Nugget 2/4LHE game? That is impressive. Burning up something north of $50-60/hour? More? Really hard to do. Burn up a rack, yes, but six?

I'm not sure I could accomplish that if I set out with that goal, or how exactly I could suggest a way for someone to achieve that kind of -EV rate in that game without a little random positive variance accidentally catching up to them. He was actually spewing chips at about five times the rate per player of the drop box collecting the rake. I've played a fair bit of small stakes LHE, and never managed to do anything close to that over a similar time period, anywhere, ever.

Some play that game because they know or at least sense they are likely losers, and correctly figure the structure and stakes ensure they can enjoy sitting at a poker table for entertainment while losing somewhat slowly at a reasonable rate for their entertainment budget. He needs to share all the details of the secret of his astounding lack of success. Mere garden variety drunkeness isn't enough to account for it.

Hope he got a buffet comp for it.

John said...

Aah,, thc challenge I would like to see given the huge rake (since the poker boom) is ANY top pro beat a 3-6 or less limit game after 300 hr of play

Anonymous said...

PLEASE tell me they dont really pay this guy!

Local Rock said...

I don't know about a 'top pro' but there are indeed folks who've been turning a modest but fairly steady profit at those small limit games over a lot more than 300 hours. You wouldn't want to try to live on it, but it isn't a surprise to those who are really familiar with SSLHE, except to those who just don't like that kind of game and don't know how to play it. Why, there've even been books written on the subject. Imagine that.

But maybe a 'top pro' would have a harder time doing so. Seriously, I think that might be the case, as they'd be playing a different game about as unsuited to the situation as trying to win a rugby match in the middle of a baseball game.

Anonymous said...

Did he say he was drunk? Because for some people, two double Martinis won't get them drunk.

Oh, and by the way, go Harry! Go Harry!

Mark T said...

I've just read the article in question, and now color myself confused.

I read the "stayed in a homeless shelter" bit as being harmless hyperbole (a weak attempt at humor that doesn't come off well), since it's tossed in at the end of the story with no explanation.

But the entire enterprise struck me as nutty from the start: a bankroll of $500 is nothing in this game, really. You can barely find a 3/6 game anymore, much less a 2/4 game, and $500 is only a few buyins at 3/6 limit. It's not at all a reasonable starting bankroll for live play, and his whole build up of a challenge to use it as a start seemed ridiculous.

So his story detailing how he blew it all in a day sounded about right to me, and kind of makes the whole thing seem even more ludicrous.