среда, 5 ноября 2008 г.

Poker champ leaves A.C. with $300,000

This is a critical hand. The game is seven-card stud poker. Win, and I finish ahead. Lose, and hours of grueling work go down the drain. I would be dead-even. I have a straight. My opponent is deciding whether to draw to a flush, a slightly better hand. I'm beginning to experience palpitations-after all, by my reckoning there is a good $20, $25 in the pot.

OK, so this wasn't exactly the showdown of the United States Poker Championship's top event that, just a few hours earlier, had closed out Atlantic City's biggest tournament of the year at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino on Dec. 14.

In that game, Men "Master" Nguyen, one of the world's best players, had faced off against another top-flight professional player, John Juanda. At stake was a prize just a tad richer than the one I was sweating out. First place in the No Limit Texas Hold 'em event was $228,000; second place pocketed $131,000.

In Texas Hold 'em, each player is dealt two cards face down. Five communal cards are dealt in the middle of the table and turned over in stages: three cards at once, then a fourth, and finally the fifth. The best five-card hand, made up of a player's own cards and the communal cards, wins.

After three days of play that began with 76 entrants paying $7,500 each, it had come down to Nguyen and Juanda with almost equal towering stacks of chips. In tournaments, the poker chips are simply used to keep score.

Juanda is a pleasant but serious competitor. Nguyen, however, is a showman.

During a game, he hops out of his seat and chats with fans who crowd around the velvet rope that rings the championship table. He signs autographs, even poses for photographs while the cards are dealt.

The key juncture for the final event of the U.S. Championship at the Taj Mahal came early in the evening when Nguyen went "all in," meaning he bet all his chips after looking at his own two cards. Juanda matched him.

There was nothing left but for both players to show their two cards and have the communal cards exposed. The "Master" turned over a pair of 10s. Juanda held an ace-king.

Neither player's hand was improved by the communal cards and Nguyen, who had fled Vietnam and communism in 1978, took home more than $300,000, which included about $72,000 won in five of the other 16 events that made up the 19-day tournament.

Nguyen has been an inspiration and mentor to a wave of Vietnamese players who have become a force in tournament poker, and he has shared his good fortune by building a school in Vietnam, where he left his father and brother over two decades ago.

Nguyen worked as a machinist for several years after landing in the United States. "But I worked hard at becoming a poker player, and in America you can do whatever you want."

Meanwhile, in the $1-to-$5 stud game, my straight was body-slammed. My steely-eyed opponent had calculated the pot odds and remaining cards, drew to the flush and filled it to rake in that juicy pot.

With a self-satisfied smile, she commented that her grandchildren would have a happier holiday because of it.

The Philadelphia Inquirer Gambling Column

POKER CHAMP LEAVES A.C. WITH $300,000: This is a critical hand. The game is seven-card stud poker. Win, and I finish ahead. Lose, and hours of grueling work go down the drain. I would be dead-even. I have a straight. My opponent is deciding whether to draw to a flush, a slightly better hand. I'm beginning to experience palpitations -- after all, by my reckoning there is a good $20, $25 in the pot.

OK, so this wasn't exactly the showdown of the United States Poker Championship's top event that, just a few hours earlier, had closed out Atlantic City's biggest tournament of the year at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino on Dec. 14.

In that game, Men "Master" Nguyen, one of the world's best players, had faced off against another top-flight professional player, John Juanda. At stake was a prize just a tad richer than the one I was sweating out. First place in the No Limit Texas Hold 'em event was $228,000; second place pocketed $131,000.

In Texas Hold 'em, each player is dealt two cards face down. Five communal cards are dealt in the middle of the table and turned over in stages: three cards at once, then a fourth, and finally the fifth. The best five-card hand, made up of a player's own cards and the communal cards, wins.

After three days of play that began with 76 entrants paying $7,500 each, it had come down to Nguyen and Juanda with almost equal towering stacks of chips. In tournaments, the poker chips are simply used to keep score.

Juanda is a pleasant but serious competitor. Nguyen, however, is a showman.

During a game, he hops out of his seat and chats with fans who crowd around the velvet rope that rings the championship table. He signs autographs, even poses for photographs while the cards are dealt.

The key juncture for the final event of the U.S. Championship at the Taj Mahal came early in the evening when Nguyen went "all in," meaning he bet all his chips after looking at his own two cards. Juanda matched him.

There was nothing left but for both players to show their two cards and have the communal cards exposed. The "Master" turned over a pair of 10s. Juanda held an ace-king.

Neither player's hand was improved by the communal cards and Nguyen, who had fled Vietnam and communism in 1978, took home more than $300,000, which included about $72,000 won in five of the other 16 events that made up the 19-day tournament.

Nguyen has been an inspiration and mentor to a wave of Vietnamese players who have become a force in tournament poker, and he has shared his good fortune by building a school in Vietnam, where he left his father and brother over two decades ago.

Nguyen worked as a machinist for several years after landing in the United States. "But I worked hard at becoming a poker player, and in America you can do whatever you want."

Meanwhile, in the $1-to-$5 stud game, my straight was body-slammed. My steely-eyed opponent had calculated the pot odds and remaining cards, drew to the flush and filled it to rake in that juicy pot.

With a self-satisfied smile, she commented that her grandchildren would have a happier holiday because of it.

TIP OF THE WEEK: Some casinos hold daily or weekly tournaments. The lowest buy-in tournament in Atlantic City is at the Tropicana Casino where, for a $15 buy-in and a $10 fee, you can play in tourneys on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Jobless woman's poker win

A WOMAN who placed a Pounds 1 bet on a hand of poker days after being made redundant is celebrating a win of more than Pounds 290,000.

Evadne Gayle, 50, said yesterday that she was stunned when she was dealt a royal flush at a Birmingham casino's national stud poker game.

She had become convinced that her run of bad luck would never change after being made redundant a few days after borrowing Pounds 50,000.

But when she went to the casino for a single game, the cards showed an ace, king, queen, jack and ten of hearts.

Ms Gayle, from Edgbaston, Birmingham, said: "It was like a dream, I had to pinch myself." She said that it had been a "low period" in her life. "This win has heralded a complete reversal in fortunes."

Ms Gayle, who is a care worker, plans to pay off debts, go on holiday and give money to her four adult children.

Ms Gayle is the biggest winner on the national poker game of "Super Stud", which links together all Grosvenor casinos in the country to generate an ever increasing jackpot.

2,576 gamble on poker win

The best poker player in the world quickly does the math and doesn't like his odds at this week's World Series of Poker.

Thanks to a poker craze created by TV, the Internet and last year's remarkable storybook victory by a young unknown, a staggering 2,576 people are competing this time for a record $5 million (U.S.) first prize.

"When I started playing in 1987, I had a vision that if you became one of the top players you could expect to win the championship," said Howard Lederer, 40, a man with a lead-piercing stare and a number-crunching mind that have led others to regard him as the best in the game. "Even if I'm the favourite, I'm still 200-to-1."

The days of several hundred pros and a smattering of amateurs competing in the grandest of poker events are over. Everybody from Spider-Man actor Tobey Maguire to a former beauty queen was betting on being crowned the next poker king on Friday in the 35th annual World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe Hotel & Casino.

Last year, 839 men and women played in the No-Limit Texas Hold'Em event, in which players are dealt two cards each and make the best poker hand they can using those plus five additional common cards that are turned face up on the table. An aptly named accountant from Spring Hill, Tenn., Chris Moneymaker, won the top prize of $2.5 million.

The potential stakes at the World Series dwarf those of other popular reality shows, with the prize money for all the games in the tournament surpassing $41 million, compared with $22 million a year ago. Even second place in the finals is a whopping $3.5 million.

"No matter how good you are, you have to get lucky," said Chris (Jesus) Ferguson, who holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California at Los Angeles and won the 2000 World Series title.

Moneymaker, 28, found that out after the event kicked off last Saturday. He lasted only three hours before losing his stack of chips to an opponent who landed one of only two cards that could have beat him.

"You have to catch those breaks to win tournaments," he said.

Teen Poker: Win, Lose, or Draw?

Your buddy Billy is dealing this round of hold 'em. It's a quarter past 11 and you've had bad hands all night. You pick up your cards and like what you see: the king and the queen of spades. As you toss your chips into the pot, you try to maintain the disappointed look you have been wearing all night. Here comes the flop: the four of hearts, 10 of diamonds, and jack of spades. Sweet! You up the ante, and three of your buddies fold. But your best friend Tim thinks you're bluffing and stays in the game.

It's time for the turn: the three of diamonds. Tough luck, but there's one more card to go. You can still get your straight with an ace or a nine, right? You convince yourself that the odds are better than they really are, and you go all in. You boldly flip your cards and see Tim's modest pair of fours. You take a deep breath — here comes the river. For a fleeting moment you think it's a nine. It's not. It's the six of clubs! You've got nothing — not even your lunch money.

Sound like a recent Friday night with your friends? We hope not. But odds are that if you're like most teens, you've tried your hand at poker recently. Experts say teen poker parties are popping up around the country because of hit TV shows such as World Poker Tour and Celebrity Poker Showdown. But some people worry that teens are being dealt a bad hand. Stakes Too High

Gambling can be addictive, warns Keith Whyte of the National Council on Problem Gambling. "Kids are gambling with their health [when they play poker], because for some people this can get very serious indeed," he told USA Today. Compulsive gamblers get hooked on the rush of excitement and can't stop playing — even when they're out of luck. People who start gambling at a young age are more likely to become problem gamblers, Whyte explained.

Arizona state Sen. Karen Johnson is appalled by the number of parents willing to host teen poker parties. "It's incomprehensible to me that parents would think anything good would come of this. ... Why show kids any vice?" she told The Arizona Republic. Deal With It

California parent Deborah Rodman thinks it's a risk worth taking. "I think Josh playing poker is great. I know where he is, and he spends less on this than going to the movies," she told USA Today. And while gambling might be an issue for some people, she said, "I think the risk is far greater having [Josh] roaming around out there."

Playing poker is a learning experience for Brace Wilson, a junior at Long Reach High School in Columbia, Md. "There is a lot of quick math involved, and you have to be able to...have a certain amount of focus," he told The Baltimore Sun.

High school junior Firas Mustapha just thinks playing poker is fun. In an editorial for the Tulsa World, he wrote: "Poker is just a fun way to spend a Saturday night. ...Anyone who sees poker as more than that should really just chill."

When the stakes are too high

Her son's poker win has alerted ROMA FELSTEIN to a potentially serious problem

Last week my 15-year-old son came home and told me he had won Pounds 50 in a poker game with friends. "That's five times my pocket money," he said, "and eight times more than I would get paid for a paper round."

My first instinct was to be happy for him. Perhaps even a little proud. But the more I thought about it I wondered whether I should share in his happiness or be deeply worried.

A recent BMA report, Gambling Addiction and its Treatment Within the NHS, calls for gambling to be a recognised addiction requiring treatment on the NHS. In particular, it highlights concerns about adolescent problem gamblers and wants slot-machine gambling prohibited for anyone under 18. The UK is the only Western country that allows children of any age to gamble.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies at Nottingham Trent University, is a contributor to the BMA report and author of two books on adolescent gambling.

He is passionate about the need for it to be taken seriously.

"Two thirds of 11 to 18-year-olds will have gambled in the past 12 months," he says, "which is almost four times as many as adult gamblers, and the majority of these adolescents will have gambled on slot machines. Even though the Gambling Act says that the vulnerable should be protected, and in particular minors, there is still no restriction to young people using slot machines.

"Under current legislation fruit machines still have the label of 'amusement' and while it might seem harmless fun it could be the first step into something much more serious. I have seen children as young as 3 being lifted on to boxes so they can reach the handles on the machines.

"I don't see any real difference between a 10p and a Pounds 5 jackpot -it is still gambling and can lead to addiction," he says. So how worried should I be about my son's poker antics? "You just need to talk to him rationally and explain that winning is not a normal occurrence," explains Griffiths. "It is important to recognise that while gambling can be just as big a problem as drug and alcohol addiction, it can be a lot harder to detect a gambling addict as there are no physical signs, unlike with drugs or alcohol." A feeling endorsed by The Times parenting expert and psychologist, Dr Tanya Byron, who says that parents have a responsibility to be cautious and monitor their children's behaviour. "We need to talk to them over Sunday lunch, and equip them so they can understand how addiction works. It isn't just about what they are doing but also about how they feel when they are doing it.

"The act of gambling makes the body release dopamine, and endorphins flood in and make them feel good, and this feeling leads to the cycle of compulsive and uncontrollable behaviour...It is easier to log on to the web than to score drugs and I have worked with a 14-year-old who used to get up in the night when his parents were asleep, just to get his daily fix," she explains.

With that in mind I directed my son to an internet gamblers' forum. It makes for sober reading. One 19-year-old who had been gambling for three years wrote: "The excitement I get from it is unhealthy and sometimes I will be talking to friends and just thinking about gambling, ignoring what they say. I have upset, stolen and lied to my friends and family, and gambling and debt is all I can think about."

My son looked sheepish and confided a recent experience he had with a friend who owed him Pounds 50..."We were playing pool for Pounds 5 a game and he lost, and I wanted to stop but he insisted on carrying on so he could win back his money. He kept losing but wouldn't stop and he got very angry. When it got to Pounds 50 I had to walk away," he said, admitting that it was scary to see his friend get so worked up.

I feel calmer now. As Dr Griffiths said, problems are likely to be avoided when the young gambler keeps control of the situation and ensures that his gambling remains a social activity. My son says that playing poker is more about being with friends than about winning. I hope it stays that way.

Ainsworth deals second profit warning

POKER machine maker Ainsworth Game Technology has issued its second profit warning for the year, forecasting a full-year net loss of about $11 million following slow sales.

AGT has revised its 2004-05 outlook after ``lower than expected sales in Europe, South Africa and Australia''.

The founder and executive chairman, 81-year-old billionaire pokie king Len Ainsworth, said AGT faced an additional $5 million in one-off expenses from its discontinued merger with Russian poker machine manufacturer Unicum Group, restructuring in Europe and Britain, and other costs.

It had also spent $3.5 million on research and development, licence applications in new markets and staff hiring during the second half.

AGT stock plunged 13.2 per cent, closing 7c down at 46c.

In December 2004, AGT indicated it was expecting a 2004-05 first-half net loss of $1-$2 million, backpedalling from an earlier guidance of a small profit.

The company's return to the red comes one year after it reported its first ever net profit of $2.1 million in 2003-04. The AGT board is planning a restructuring and cost rationalisation to return the company to profitability.

Chief executive David Creary said the cost reduction program was expected to affect the bottom line in 2005-06.

``The restructuring program will ensure costs of production and overheads are reduced with a new focus given to product strategy and the need to deliver quality products into areas offering the greatest prospects for growth, including the Americas, Russia, Macau and Australia,'' he said.

Mr Creary said AGT had received new orders from Unicum, with delivery scheduled for the first quarter of 2005-06.

In response to its expected trading loss AGT plans a $12 million rights issue, fully underwritten by Mr Ainsworth. The proceeds from the issue will be used to reduce the company's debt.

The board said Mr Ainsworth would continue as executive chairman, with a succession plan to be developed following the restructure. AGT and Unicum called off merger talks in March following disagreements over commercial issues.

Alcohol, tobacco merchants in Middletown, N.Y., look forward to holidays

The holiday season is a wonderful time, full of family and cheer.

And our own little vices.

Sales of alcohol, tobacco and firearms typically spike during the holiday season -- all three can make fine gifts -- and local merchants report this year's no different.

Except, that is, for the addition of a fourth vice: gambling.

Poker's been hot for months. With the holidays here, retailers hope to cash in. Stores as traditional as Filene's and as trendy as Spencer's Gifts are giving lots of space to poker ties and poker tables and Texas Hold 'Em for Dummies.

"Poker and Vegas-related items are real hot for this holiday," said Mark Champion, spokesman for Spencer's.

They've become especially hot among young people. As poker shows on television have mushroomed, the game has achieved a popularity unseen perhaps since the days of swinging saloon doors.

Paraphernalia and decorations are cool, too. To round out the gambling look, Champion suggested an LED Las Vegas light, a miniature of signs that brighten The Strip, 24/7.

"It's helped everyone create 'Sin City' in their own little crib," Champion said.

For the of-age set, local tobacco and liquor dealers report they're having good holidays, too.

At Hudson Valley Cigars, in New Windsor, owner Glynna Schlesinger said the store's having its best year ever.

The seven-year-old tobacconist and cigar bar, with a steak house next door, is pulling in lots of customers who want a fine smoke for their loved one, but don't know what to buy.

"We give a personalized touch here," she said. "I think people really miss that."

Liquor and wine stores are girding themselves for the holidays, too.

Randall Roche, owner of The Vineyards in Town of Wallkill, reports 30 percent of his business comes last two months of the year. There's lots of last-minute shopping, Roache said, but also plenty of celebratory Sauvignons and Grand Marnier gift sets bought throughout the holidays.

Stores reported a better-than-expected second week of the holiday season, according to the Retail Council of New York State.

Whether it was good weather, or a rush of pre-Hanukkah shopping, sales were up 3 percent to 5 percent in the week after Thanksgiving, compared to last year, the Council said.

The news was a good sign, but the whole story won't be known until New Year's. As well, merchants are hoping for a recovery from the lackluster Thanksgiving weekend, when sales slowed markedly after Black Friday. Even Wal-Mart has had to increase its pace of discounts.

"Retailers are looking ahead to the pivotal week before and after Christmas," said Council CEO James Sherin. "These two weeks will be the true indicator of the success of this holiday season."

Aristocrat to sue over pokie game

POKER machine maker Aristocrat Leisure has accused US-based rival International Game Technology of copying its video slot technology.

The Sydney company said yesterday it had launched legal action against IGT through its Las Vegas-based subsidiary, Aristocrat Technologies Inc.

It alleges that IGT infringed a patent on Aristocrat's ``Reel Power'' game, a product marketed on the basis that the player can win in 243 different ways.

Aristocrat has monopoly sales and manufacturing rights in the US for Reel Power, which was approved for release in Nevada in May.

The company said it was seeking ``unspecified monetary damages'' in the US District Court in Nevada over IGT's unauthorised use of the technology in its Multiway, or ``243 Ways to Win'' slot game.

Aristocrat, the world's second-biggest poker machine maker, earns most of its revenue offshore, the lion's share from the US.

Aristocrat chief executive Paul Oneile has said that the market will continue to play a major role in the company's future growth, helped partly by Reel Power.

The pokies maker booked a monster $101.7 million net profit for the first half of 2005, more than tripling its $32.3 million result for 2004.

Profits in North America surged 172 per cent to $94.7 million during the period, while strong sales and an increase in recurring revenue boosted revenue by 64 per cent to $245.2 million.

In August, Aristocrat said it expected to report a full-year net profit between $225 million and $240 million, subject to continued momentum in the US, the successful launch of a new game in Japan and a stable regulatory environment.

'Poker brat' alone at the top

The prize money Phil Hellmuth collected Tuesday after winning his record 11th World Series of Poker championship nearly equaled the paycheck he earned in 1989 when he captured his first title.

In between crowns, however, Hellmuth has become one of poker's most recognizable figures, thanks largely to Internet gambling, poker on television, poker books and numerous endorsements. The game and his association with it have made Hellmuth, 42, a rich and well-recognized man.

"All I've really wanted to be known as is the greatest poker player of all time," Hellmuth said Tuesday, about 12 hours after he topped a field of 2,628 players to win a $1,500-buy-in no-limit hold'em event at the Rio, earning his 11th gold and diamond-encrusted bracelet. The jewelry is awarded to the winners of the individual World Series events.

"I'm on that path and I need to continue in that direction," he said.

Hellmuth's victory Monday night, worth $637,254, broke a three-way tie with poker legends Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan for the most individual wins in World Series of Poker history. The event was the 15th of the 55-event World Series of Poker, which began on June 1 and concludes July 17. So there is still a chance Brunson or Chan, who are both two-time World Poker Champions, could match or surpass Hellmuth.

"This is the first time I've held the record on my own," Hellmuth said, adding that he plans on competing in several more events. "I was tied with eight, with nine and with 10. Being part of poker history is a tremendous feeling."

Hellmuth became the youngest World Poker champion ever in 1989 when he captured the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold'em event at age 24. He won $755,000 for his effort, pocket change compared to the $12 million payday earned by Jamie Gold, who won last year's championship.

Hellmuth has competed in the World Series of Poker since 1988 and has finished in the money 59 times, including his 11 championships, winning more than $5.5 million during that stretch. He has also earned millions in cash games, tournaments and other sponsored events during his 19-year career.

Lately, Hellmuth has invested in several businesses. His cellular-phone poker game attracted 958,000 users in the United States last year. His poker teaching manuals are still some of the more popular books now for sale on Amazon.com.

Along the way Hellmuth's boisterous persona and unconventional antics have earned him the nickname, "Poker Brat." He's a regular on numerous televised poker events. He won $500,000 in 2005 at the inaugural "Heads Up Poker Challenge" on NBC.

"Take the ego out of it, but I think people like watching me on television," Hellmuth said. "I look at myself and think, 'Who is that idiot?' People come up to me all the time and tell me that they want to play like me. It's pretty amazing."

Hellmuth, a Madison, Wis., native who dropped out of college to pursue a poker career, makes the World Series his primary poker engagement. In 1993, he became the first competitor to win three bracelet events on three consecutive days.

"Poker players everywhere measure themselves against each other by how many World Series of Poker bracelets they have," World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack said. "Now, all World Series bracelet holders must measure themselves against Phil Hellmuth. He is a true sports champion and we could not be happier for him."

Hellmuth said he wears the bracelet he won for his world championship in 1989. He has given out others as gifts to family members. The 11th bracelet is going his sister, Molly.

"I won it on the 11th and she was born on 11-11-71," Hellmuth said. That's pretty lucky."

PHIL HELLMUTH'S WORLD SERIES OF POKER WINS

Year Event Winnings

1989 World Championship no-limit hold'em $10,00 buy-in $755,500

1992 Limit hold'em, $5,000 buy-in $188,000

1993 No-limit hold'em, $2,500 buy-in $173,000

1993 No-limit hold'em, $1,500 buy-in $161,400

1993 No-limit hold'em, $5,000 buy-in $138,000

1997 Pot-limit hold'em, $3,000 buy-in $204,000

2001 No-limit hold'em, $2,000 buy-in $316,550

2003 Limit hold'em, $2,500 buy-in $171,400

2003 No-limit hold'em, $3,000 buy-in $410,860

2006 No-limit hold'em, $1,000 buy-in $631,863

2007 No-limit hold'em, $1,500 buy-in $637,254

Career World Series of Poker earnings: $5,548,377