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  • WSOP 07 – Luck vs probability

    By Anthony Holden

    "Luck is nothing but probability taken personally" declared Penn Jillette, of the Rio’s resident double-act Penn and Teller, before intoning "Shuffle up and deal" to get Day 1-B under way at the Main Event of the 2007 World Series of Poker. Many seem to believe this mildly amusing thought is Penn’s own, but he is apparently the first to acknowledge that it was coined by an eminent American statistician with the spot-on name of Chip Denman.

    Sixteen hours later, the second Day One’s dust-biters included such big American poker names as Howard Lederer, his sister Annie Duke, Erik Seidel, Sam Farha, John Juanda, Scott Fischman, Jeff Shulman, Kathy Liebert and Jennifer Harman, plus European pros Isabelle Mercier, Simon ‘Aces’ Trumper and the Hendon Mob’s Barny Boatman – whose brother Ross survived (in good shape with 68,000). Among others to have made it through 1-B are former world champions Joe Hachem, Dan Harrington, Scotty Nguyen, Tom McEvoy and Berry Johnston.

    For the second day running, the field is led by a European, Norway’s Dag Martin Mikkelsen with 253,000. High among the other survivors are Brits John Duthie, founder of the EPT, on a handy 135,000, Neil ‘Bad Beat’ Channing with 65,000 and Roland de Wolfe (31,000). Vicky Coren made it through with 33,000, while Donnacha O’Dea and his son Eughan both kept Ireland’s flag proudly flying. Reigning champ Jamie Gold has yet to play, but his mother Jane is still in there with 40,000. Yesterday’s literary survivors, all American, include Lou Kreiger, Charlie Shoten and Avery Cardoza.

    I am writing this half-way through Day 1-C, whose casualties already include former champ Greg Raymer, Phil Ivey, Andy Bloch, Phil ‘The Unabomber’ Laak and his girl-fried Jennifer Tilly, Men ’The Master’ Nguyen and Britain’s ‘Gentleman’ John Gale. And that’s all you’ll be hearing from me about the Day Ones until I’ve played in my own, 1-D, tomorrow. With fields growing by the day – 1,287 for Day 1A, 1,545 on 1B, and 1,743 today, chancers like me who chose to play on 1-D are expected to find themselves battling against the largest field. The total number of starters will still have trouble getting much beyond 6,000 even if tomorrow turns out to be as last-gasp chaotic as feared. One of this year’s promises from the organizers was nine-handed tables. But today they’re already cramming in ten, and overflowing into the tent outside, where the great T. J. Cloutier has been among those shivering in the air-con or burning up with heat, depending where they’re sitting.

    Otherwise, Harrah’s is generally thought to be looking after the players better this year, the third here at the Rio. Thanks to the Players Advisory Committee recruited by the Commissioner of Poker, Jeffrey Pollack, even the ‘f-word’ has been redeemed. Last year its use warranted an automatic ten minutes in the sin-bin. Now you can utter it with impunity as long as you’re swearing at yourself rather than anyone else, be it an opponent, a dealer or Lady Luck. Which should have Tony G (who survived yesterday) and Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow (playing today – or, whoops, he was till he just went out) in more schizophrenic mode than ever.

    For the most part, there’s a more restrained atmosphere than usual in the Amazon Room, which some are crediting to the drop in the number of internet qualifiers – many of whom have clearly found another, supposedly better use for their 10K. Me, I’m thrilled to be sitting down yet again for my eighth shot at the world crown in some 20 years. This time, what’s more, I don’t have to turn it into an adventure worthy of the closing chapter(s) of a book. I can just play my normal game – or maybe mix it up a bit more than is my wont, and hope the Poker Gods smile on me. That way, as one friend has predicted by email today, I’ll probably wind up doing either ‘extremely well or extremely badly’. There is no room for any in-between. Nor should there be.

    This year, in other words, I’m not going to play merely for survival to Day Two. I’m playing, from the off, to win this damned thing. So let’s hope luck – or probability – stays on my side. You’ll be the first to hear how it goes.

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    Comment from cindy
    Time: July 9, 2007, 8:52 am

    And this is the crucial question which faces all sports – playing to win as opposed to playing not to lose. The England football team has been playing not to lose for oh so many years now. I look forward to hearing how Holden Unfettered does at the tables. Beat em Bust em ….

    Comment from Anthony Holden
    Time: July 9, 2007, 9:11 am

    The above posting should also contain an honourable mention of David Flusfeder, Sunday Telegraph poker columnist and Telegraph website poker blogger, who survived Day 1-B with all but 40,000 in chips. Somehow David’s name did not appear on the official lists I consulted while writing the piece; but there’s a very entertaining account of his day at his Telegraph blog-site. The woman with extremely large, exposed breasts-cum-card protectors whom he mentions (and indeed photographs) is also the subject of an entertaining blog by FullTilt’s Mike Craig – who, I might add, also defends me against Des Wilson’s freeloading charges in a generous item entitled “Free Anthony Holden”. Wilson himself has not yet entered this heated online debate because he’s spent the day going deep in a tournament at The Venetian… so must have won yet more money to buy me yet more meals… and, yes, I know I should have been asleep for hours by now because I’m playing in the Big One tomorrow (ie later today) – but I’ve been out to a fun dinner at the Wynn with Vicky Coren, Neil Channing, Barny Boatman and John Duthie (who paid, Des) plus his colleagues from Sunset & Vine – and well, yes, adrenaline is adrenaline, stopping you sleeping desite the habitual pill before you spend the pre-tourney night (I know – it happens every year) dreaming only of your pocket aces being cracked in every f-word hand. So off to that fate I now. alas, go…

    Comment from Anthony Holden
    Time: July 9, 2007, 9:17 am

    … that’s our custom. Thanks, Cind. Holden, merci a toi, will now be even more Unfettered. (Prometheus Unbound springs to mind.) And at least, unlike Clooney, he does actually plan to turn up…

    Comment from Anthony Holden
    Time: July 9, 2007, 9:33 am

    PPS : Latest, wee small hours Day 1-C fallers include David Sklansky and Clonie Gowen (who left her chewing gum at the table, which will apparently be on offer on e-bay tomorrow). And now, yes, I REALLY AM going to try and get some sleep.

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