Welcome back, old friend

Monday, January 26th, 2004, 2:26 pm

Even though last night’s WPT Celebrity Showdown wasn’t a “real” WPT event, it was still great to have a new episode to watch. I’ve watched the ones I’ve taped so many times my wife probably knows subliminally that Phil Ivey is called the “Tiger Woods of Poker” even if she doesn’t know who Tiger Woods is. The WPT “Ladies Night” was good for a fix, and last night’s show provided another taste before the next season begins. Good to hear that theme music, good to see Shana Hiatt again, and especially good to hear Mike Sexton’s mellifluous voice again. OK, Sexton isn’t the second coming of Pavarotti, but whoever picked him to be the play-by-play commentator for the WPT (Steve Lipscomb, I’m sure) had a moment of inspiration. Sexton gives his poker insights in a smooth, folksy manner, unlike Phil Gordon, who struggled so mightily on Bravo’s show. It’s odd, from his accent I would’ve pegged Sexton as a Texan, but he’s actually from Dayton, Ohio. Too many years around cowboys in Vegas, maybe.

To the table. I liked the new graphics used on the show, much more modern, very stylish. I liked that they showed by percentage who has the best hand, instead of the old “3 1/2 to 1 favorite” they used last year. The coverage is a bit more like ESPN’s coverage of the WSOP, but the old WPT flavor still comes through strong.

Before I get to the play itself, a question–WHY THE HELL DIDN’T THEY HAVE A DEALER? What on God’s Green Earth possessed them to let the players deal themselves? It made no sense. They had Evelyn Ng there to keep track of the bets and make sure the cards on the board were lined up, but how hard would it have been to have a professional dealer there keeping the action going smooth? Even though this gave we leering sickos a chance to look down Mimi Rogers’ shirt, they should have had a dealer. They could easily arranged for gratuitous and explict shots of Ms. Rogers to satisfy the drooling mob.

Mimi won, which was good as I was rooting for her. Even though her charity was by far the least deserving. Compared to the Ronald McDonald House, a program to rescue abused kids, and the Cleveland Public Library, Rogers’ charity was, so far as I could divine, some kind of enviromental group that takes scientific data and distributes it in a format the ordinary citizen can understand. Listening to her describe it I don’t think Mimi herself had any clue what they do. I’m all for the enviroment (I live there) but I think sick kids or increased literacy is a more pressing and, perhaps, more worthy issue.

But this blog isn’t about what plagues our society, it’s about poker. And the poker last night was…eh. Not bad, not as bad as some of the horror shows we saw on Bravo, but I don’t think Howard Lederer is going to break into a sweat to see Fred Savage sitting to his left. Savage did provide much of the evening’s entertainment, going absolutely batshit when he held A-3 and flopped a full house after going all-in against Aiesha Taylor. He leapt up and ran around the studio in a sort of fit, screaming and jumping and behaving much as I would after hitting a flop like that with all my chips in the pot. Aiesha Taylor dropped the first f-bomb in WPT history when Savage caught an ace on the river to win another huge pot against her. But in the end it was the Divine Miss M who reigned supreme, and won the $25K buy-in to the WPT championships. With Mimi and Clonie Gowen the aesthetic appeal of the Championships will be greatly enhanced this year.

A few more observations–why didn’t Bravo hire Daniel Negraneu to co-host their show? Or get rid of Kevin Pollack and let Phil Gordon and Daniel rip and shred the celebs. He and Jennifer Harman were the “experts” waiting in the loser lounge, and each celeb had a red card they could use to get expert advice once during the game. Taylor used hers when she held the nut straight, and I didn’t quite understand why she chose then to ask for advice. Negraneu took one look at Taylor’s and and gleefully shouted “Bye, Jack” to poor Jack Black, who held three Jacks (two Black Jacks).

I like Negraneu’s columns on CardPlayer, and he’s a huge hockey fan (from Toronto, natch), and he’s what might be called a “live wire”. Energy radiates from the guy, and watching him play at the Showdown at the Sands you can see why he’s not a fun guy to play against. Hyperaggressive, supremely confident, yet reading his columns you can see that he’s not full of himself. Hope we get to see him play in a few WPT final tables this year.

Interesting dress Harman wore, boots, some cleavage. I think she saw all the raves Gowen and Ng got during the WPT Ladies’ Night and decide to prettify herself a bit. Nothing wrong with an attractive woman playing up her best attributes at the table. Right, Iggy?

All-in-all, not a bad night’s television. And not a bad night for yours truly. Not a bad weekend, actually. Got my $25 bonus for joining Empire under Iggy’s signup, tho I didn’t get my $50 yet for referring my brother because the fool used a different email address. But we got that worked out, I think and I wait anxiously for my $50. Not that I need it, not after the weekend I had. Playing two tables at once I caught cards like a circus performer. This whole weekend I could do no wrong. I ended up about $60 playing limit and came in 2nd in a $10 no-limit tournament, pocketing another $30.

I’m actually ticked at how that tourney ended up. I was heads up with the guy and I never got a big chip lead on him, even though I caught HUGE cards. I had AA, QQ, AK (twice!), and KJ suited so many times I thought my computer was stuck. Thing is, the jerk folded in the small blind with many of my monsters, and I couldn’t induce a big bet when I caught a hand after the flop. I went all-in three times without a monster hand and got him to fold every time, and I hoped this might lull him into a bad call at some point.

But it was me who made the bad move. I had Q-10 and called in the small blind. The flop came K-Q-2, and I don’t know why, but I went all-in. I was only down about $1800 at the time, which I could make up with just one re-raise to win the blinds. But I went all-in with 2nd pair and got caught. Of course he had the king, but I caught a jack on the turn to give me a straight draw. No joy on the river, and I was toast. Stupid me didn’t know the payout structure, and I took home $30 instead of the $50 for first place. I might’ve been more patient had I known we were playing for $20 difference, but maybe not.

I played well, my no-limit game isn’t as bad as it used to be. I would describe it as “slightly above moronic”. I think there’s real money to be made playing SNGs, because the play there can be so bad at times you wish the fish would just mail you a check direct. Like last night, I was in 2nd place and the chip leader was up about $350 on me. I had AK and the flop came A-Q-7, with the last two cards hearts. He made a $80 bet, and I decided to make a big bet and hopefully knock him out right there so I could collect the pot before more hearts appeared. He called me, and the king of clubs appeared on the turn. He checked and I made another big bet, and he called. A rag on the river, check, bet, call. He had Q-8d. I didn’t get it. He had third pair with a lousy kicker and threw away about 2/3 of his stack. Up to then he’d played fairly well, I thought. Maybe not.

Good weekend playing. But after sitting down so long I realized the need to be more active. I may have to get my exercise bike going while I play so I don’t end up over 400 pounds like Doyle Brunson. Especially because no one out there is going to bet me $1million that I can’t lose 100 pounds. If I have to do it myself, on my own dime…that’s no fun.

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