Posts Tagged ‘Baccarat’

T-LiciousBy T-Licious

As we continue breaking down poker’s public image, we have to look at why that image is better today than it was 20, 30, or more years ago.  The reason is largely credited to the fact that poker has joined the ranks of the sporting world covered by ESPN.  This four-letter acronym might as well be a four-letter word followed by an exclamation point for the vital role it has played.  The cable giant that began as a quirky basketball satellite channel in the late 70s before most people knew what cable was, let alone satellite dish technology, now holds the Midas touch for legitimizing any activity that can be considered under the broadest sense of the word ‘sport’.  

ESPN Set of 500 poker chipsESPN’s coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker showed the world that poker was not just something to do in smoky casino card rooms.  ‘Lipstick’ cameras were used to show the hole cards which piqued the interest of viewers who now watched, with inside information, as each hand with all its strategy played out.  The game itself, Texas Hold ‘Em, was new to most viewers and further engaged the new audience who took on the challenge of learning about blinds, flops, turns, and rivers with less concern of negative social stigmas now that this game was on prime time TV.  Viewers could also associate with amateur winners like online gamer Chris Moneymaker who showed us, as he raked in a massive amount of poker chips,  that you could strike it rich with a relatively small investment.  ESPN expanded poker’s popularity beyond the casino into home game rooms and drew in couples as well, which broke through the traditional guys card night for couples now seeking to host tournaments and cash games with friends, neighbors, coworkers, and charitable foundations.  Commercials for online poker sites aired during WSOP broadcasts further fueled the budding online poker phenomenon.  

Admittedly poker, and in particular Texas Hold ‘Em, was becoming more popular before ESPN made its big splash, as evidenced on the big screen with the 1998 hit Rounders.  However, ESPN changed poker in a very fundamental way. Just as Harley Davidson expanded its market beyond Hell’s Angels biker gangs to working stiffs who wanted to pretend to be bad boys and girls on the weekends, ESPN made poker cool and accessible to everyone.  At the height of the ESPN-sparked poker renaissance was the 2006 update of the James Bond classic Casino Royale which supplanted the original game of baccarat with Texas Hold ‘Em in what has become the consummate positive poker image still referenced today.

So with these recent positive events in poker’s history, why do some still seek to vilify it?  Find out next as we explore what makes America different from the rest of the poker world.

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Vinny The Grinder By The Grinder

Phil IveyPhil Ivey was charged with fraud last year at Crockford’s casino where he won close to $13 million playing Punto Banco – a variant of Baccarat. Now, Ivey does win millions, and like Tom Dwan, he is used to million dollar swings. In other words, he is prone to losing millions of dollars in a single session during bad runs, and winning the same amount or more on good days. But $13 million is not a small amount, even for this poker legend. The casino claimed that Ivey demanded too many deck changes, and the dealer realized that most of the decks of playing cards had non-symmetrical patterns, which made them vulnerable to reads. Copag Peek-Index cardsAfter the  casino’s refusal to pay Ivey his winnings, Phil filed a lawsuit. This might be old news to some poker players, but I really wanted to share (actually vent) my opinion on this subject.

Did Ivey do the right thing? Yes, I believe so. Casinos are a money-making machine. I wouldn’t call them a money-making racket, because going to a casino is purely based on free will. Poker players do owe the casino for offering live poker action, during the unstable and irrational political times when online poker is banned.  However, casinos owe poker celebrities a lot more, for how much they’ve popularized the game.  Young poker players watch Ivey on TV playing high stakes poker and WSOP tournaments. They watch his genius moves, his watchful restless eyes, and they all want to be like him. Poker celebrities have generated a lot more revenue for casinos than they can imagine. Just as the top 5% in the U.S. generates more than 95% of wealth, the top celebrity poker players generate a global passion for poker, and in turn an enormous amount of rake for casinos.

I believe there needs to an Independent Poker Players’ Guild, consisting of top poker players who have, over the past 10 years, generated an income of more than $5 million. This guild will be prepared for all legal battles with wealth-mongering casinos who do not care about individual players. As Robert DeNiro’s character, Ace Rothstein, from  Scorsese’s masterpiece Casino rightfully say,s “The town will never be the same. Today, it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, Mommy and Daddy drop the house payments and Junior’s college money on the poker slots. In the old days, dealers knew your name, what you drank, what you played. Today, it’s like checkin’ into an airport. And if you order room service, you’re lucky if you get it by Thursday. Today, it’s all gone.” I stand by Ivey in this battle. On the contrary, I believe Ivey won because he possesses skill. Though Punto Banco doesn’t require as much skill as Poker, I still believe Ivey did not commit any fraud whatsoever, and he deserves every bit of the $13 million. Like Judas Priest sings in their popular song Electric Eye, “I’m protected electric eye; Always in focus; You can’t feel my stare.” Let’s stand for and support Ivey.

Good Luck!

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