Monday, December 05, 2011

Bodog's players are now anonymous?

Apparently, not so much.

(Hat tip: @_Tizzle.)

Green Valley Ranch poker room management cheats at tournaments

Read this:

Note that TDA rules clearly state that tournament seats must be "randomly" assigned.

It's beginning to look a lot like--cowboys

It's rodeo time. The National Finals Rodeo is one of the biggest events of the year, and the entire tourism industry goes cowboy for the first two weeks of December. As I walked to Binion's, I passed two examples of that fact.

First, the bands hired for the free outdoor concerts play, as it was phrased in the great movie, "The Blues Brothers," both kinds of music--country and western. In this case, it was Christmas music with a hard-to-miss country beat.

Even if that's not a sufficiently explicit tip o' the ten-gallon hat to the season's visitors, I don't think you can deny that mechanical bullriding is right up their alley:

Watching a marathon

Warning: No poker content.

The marathon is over. For reasons that I can't understand, this year they moved it from morning to evening, which was far more disruptive to the city's tourism business. I had no interest in fighting traffic getting to or from any of the Strip poker rooms. I figured I would just walk over to Binion's and play there. Incidentally, the race route this year went down the street behind my apartment building. This was near mile marker 20 for the marathoners and 7 for the halfers.

I talked to Cardgrrl for a while before heading out. This was around the time that the race was beginning for the half-marathon runners, which included several of the poker bloggers finishing up their annual winter Vegas get-together. Of the runners, the one I know best is Brad Willis, a.k.a. @_Otis_, a.k.a. the purveyor of Rapid Eye Reality. Though we're far from being what anybody would call close friends, we've chatted many times and had dinners a couple of times. He's smart, funny, interesting, and, if you ask me, the overall best writer the poker world has working in it these days. He has earned my respect and admiration.

Because of knowing that, Cardgrrl asked me if I was going to watch for him passing by in this, his first half-marathon. No, I said, and explained my reasons: It's cold, I don't know when he'll be in this vicinity, I don't have any Gatorade kind of stuff to offer him, he's not expecting to see me and won't care whether or not I'm there, etc. All of which she dismissed with barely disguised disapproval.

I was unmoved by her opinion at first. But it started eating at me after the conversation ended. Some small remnant of an actual human conscience still survives inside of me, despite my best efforts to bludgeon it to death, and it started talking to me, along approximately these lines: "Brad has been nothing but kind, decent, open, complimentary, and inviting to you. His father died a week ago, and he had to cut short a trip to China to go home for the funeral. After initially planning to cancel the Vegas trip, he listened to friends and family who encouraged him to go through with his plans for this race, for which he has been diligently training for the last several months. And you can't be bothered to walk THIRTY FUCKING YARDS past your door to give him a shout-out and a thumbs-up?"

So there was that.

There was another factor. One of the surprising things about being in a relationship with Cardgrrl is that something about her makes me willing to try new things. That may not sound remarkable, but I have long been the kind of guy who knows what I like and don't like, set in my ways, with neither need nor interest in stepping outside that comfort zone. She is the opposite. She craves new experiences. So my initial willingness to try new things was primarily an accommodation to her, an attempt to achieve compromise. But doing these things has turned out favorably a high enough percentage of the time that there has been some spillover into decisions I make even when she's not involved. I won't claim that there's been a sea change in what choices I make in foods and activities, but there is a definite degree to which I will now choose something different from my default simply because it's new, and that's an element that was completely absent from my personality as recently as three years ago.

On the long list of things I've never done are "watch a marathon" and "cheer for a friend who's running in a marathon." So despite my initial dismissal, I started thinking that maybe I should take the opportunity to add them to my life experiences.

The combination of those two factors caused me to change my mind, and instead of heading straight for Binion's, I instead went to the street to see if I could spot Brad as he dashed by. (I would have been happy to shout and wave at any of the other poker-blogger runners, too, but they are all people I have either never met or have met so briefly that, while I would recognize them across a poker table, my chance of picking them out in a race situation like this was virtually nill.)

My first problem was crossing the street, since most of the runners were on the far side. It took a while before there was just enough of a break that I could dash across without making anybody swerve around me. I felt like a squirrel running across a freeway, lucky not to have been squished under a tire.

The next problem was spotting the person I was looking for. This I had not anticipated. I know Brad's face, but not with the deep, subconscious recognition that we develop for our most intimate circles, where the brain recognizes the well-known face from any angle, with any light, under any circumstances, in a fraction of a second, from just the corner of one's eye. Here I was faced with a sea of faces, all bobbing up and down, moving rapidly towards me, in the dark. I would guess that an average of about ten people were passing by my vantage point every second. Brad had no idea that I would be out there, so the task of recognition and rapidly reacting was all on me. Due to the light conditions and density of bodies, there would be no way to spot somebody a long way off.

It was strangely fatiguing, mentally. It was also visually disorienting, like when you scroll a long document on the computer screen for 20 or 30 seconds straight, and when you stop it feels like your eyeballs keep moving. I found myself feeling true vertigo after a minute or so of scanning this wall of moving faces, and I would have to look away at something stationary for a few seconds.

I don't know how well this video clip conveys the problem, but it at least shows you how fast people are going by. Warning: this may be the most boring four minutes in YouTube history.

After a while, I started hearing race officials, embedded in the crowd on bicycles, shouting reminders to the runners that the half-marathon folks were to stay to the right. I, of course, was on the left. Damn. That meant I had to be like Moses and part the Red Sea again, because I could really only effectively scan the faces in the half of the street closest to me. But by now the race was even denser than before, as we were towards the mid-pack. I waited for five minutes for a break, without one appearing. I realized that was not going to work. I devised an alternate strategy: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. So I stepped into the street and began running my first marathon, moving over a little at a time as spaces appeared to my right, as if trying to change lanes to catch a freeway exit. It worked, though the half-block of running was enough to fulfill my personal quota of exercise for about a year.

I hung out on the other side of the street under a lamppost for quite a while--longer than I thought, as it turned out. I estimated I had been out there for 45 minutes, but when I was finally too cold (it was about 45 degrees out, and my blood is a lot thinner than it used to be after five years without real winters) and dizzy to continue, and as the runners were starting to thin out, I came back in and learned that it had actually been almost 90 minutes.

I never spotted Brad. It's possible that I was already too late when I got outside if he was faster than I was guessing. I don't think I missed him by leaving too early, judging by when he sent a Tweet announcing that he had reached the finish line. But by far the most likely scenario is that he ran right past me without either of us realizing it. Oh well. I gave it my best effort.

As with the majority of newly-tried things, I ended up glad I had done it. It was an interesting view of a slice of American life that is completely foreign and unknown to me. I saw people in gorgeously tip-top physical condition, but also a few of obvious morbid obesity, who I have to assume were making an impressive attempt to make radical changes in their lives. Costumes abounded, from gorilla suits to Elvis to showgirls to Star Trek uniforms to cross-dressers. I saw a ton of t-shirts and banners proclaiming one cause or another that was motivating the run. My favorite of that genre was the palpable pride behind one that said, "Cheer for my amazing wife Mary doing her first marathon!"

I saw two gentlemen who were at least in their 70s and more likely in their 80s. Both were struggling and moving slowly, appearing to be in considerable pain, but determinedly moving forward. I saw two pairs of parents carrying small children, 1- or 2-year-olds. I saw people missing a limb.

I was intrigued when I began to notice how overwhelmingly white the field was. People of color were severely underrepresented in this race. I would guess that persons of African descent constituted less than two percent of the runners. I had been unaware how disproportionately running is not an activity of equal appeal to all races in this country.

Predictably, I saw a lot of people in obvious pain, having to force themselves onward. Others carried on elaborate conversations with friends, of which I got to hear a lot of very short snippets. They seemed to be feeling neither agony nor ecstasy. Some eyed me with what I interpreted as a hostile "What are you looking at?" attitude (though admittedly their faces were probably mostly objectively blank, with me just projecting onto them what I would be thinking if our roles were reversed). But what most surprised me was how many of these runners smiled, waved, and said hi to this random stranger leaning on a lamppost. They appeared to be basking in the glow of pleasure from the whole experience, and eager to share their ebullience with others. I don't feel that way towards strangers in my best and most relaxed moods; it's incomprehensible to me how one could feel it in the midst of such a grueling, torturous workout.

Around the corner from my building was this guy playing his saxophone. As far as I could tell, he was not officially part of the race experience, not paid to be the entertainment, not with anybody else, not selling anything. He just set up his amplifier and played along with it for the sheer joy of enhancing the experience of the runners. (As you can see, this was well after the main part of the race was over, with just the walking stragglers remaining.)

I still consider myself far on the left end of the misanthrope/social butterfly spectrum. Still, people are as endlessly fascinating as they are maddening and annoying. It was an interesting experience to study so many of them for such incredibly short periods of time, like opening 20,000 novels just long enough to read one word from each of them. I recommend trying it sometime.

I will remember WPBT 2011 as the year that several of the poker bloggers literally went runner-runner.

For comparison, here's the Review-Journal's report of the event: