June 7, 2014
Sitting in the stands, watching the final two tables of Word Series of Poker Omaha 8 Limit tournament, I get into a conversation with a pro who had a top-30 finish in the 2008 WSOP. I don’t recognize him despite his instance that I should have - then again I don't recognize a lot of players. Followed by the ESPN cameras in Lakers jersey as he made his improbable bid for glory, he also had a top 20 place finish in the 2013 Million Maker. Despite these accomplishments, this near champ could really use a stake for the $1,500 WSOP hold’ em tournament tomorrow.
Coincidentally, there is an older fellow at the table who is developing a gaming app and needs a social media team to promote the product. Since I am an Internet writer, I must fit the bill. We are all soon chatting away, with app guy and the near-champ getting into a heated discussion - they concur that Helmuth and Negreanu are luckboxes who simply play in a lot of tournaments to earn their bracelets. I’ve heard this sort of argument on the rail before. Which doesn’t quite explain how - less than one-third of the way through the series - Negreanu has already achieved a second place finish in the $10,000 2-7 draw lowball and Helmuth is closing in on a final table in the $3,000 six handed NLHE, which attracted a field of more than 800.
The conversation eventually snakes its way around to what, for our near champ, is its real purpose: putting out feelers for backing. The app guy has backed a few horses but tells the near-champ that he refuses to back no limit hold’em players, considering it a game of complete luck. Despite this, he considers it an honor to have been asked if he would consider such an arrangement. I investigate the roots of the app guy’s flippant attitude with a couple well-timed questions. Turns out he has never made a final table in any of the 60-runner, $500 tourneys at the Venetian that he has played - so obviously NLHE is a game of luck. Given this hard grained sentiment, I could have have told our prospective horse 20 minutes ago that he was barking up the wrong tree. He will have to look elsewhere for his stake, that’s the gambling life.