November 2016

Negreanu's Hockey Dreams Come True

By: Paul Hewson
 
Daniel Negreanu said it would happen, and so it came to pass: The NHL has expanded to Las Vegas. The Vegas Golden Knights will start playing in 2017-18 from the beautiful new T-Mobile Arena, and Negreanu's promotional efforts were a big part of the successful bid. He and his cohorts helped secure 13,200 season-ticket deposits before the application was put in last summer. The franchise was awarded in June, and the team unveiled its name, logo and colours this past Tuesday.

Negreanu told reporters he bought four of those season tickets for himself, plus another 12 that will be donated to the Arturo Cambeiro Elementary School. However, the Toronto native and Maple Leafs fan says he won't be part of the ownership group. Bill Foley is the lead figure with 85% ownership, and the Maloof family – the people who brought the Palms Casino Resort to Las Vegas – control the remaining 15%.

Even if Negreanu did own a part of the franchise, he probably wouldn't have had much say in the team's name. Foley, a Texas native who lived in Ottawa while his father was stationed there as a member of the US Air Force, wanted from day one to call the team the Black Knights – as in the Army Black Knights. Foley studied at West Point, and even called his consortium Black Knight Sports & Entertainment. But Foley couldn't get clearance on the name, so he came up with three similar options: Golden Knights, Silver Knights, and Desert Knights. “I'm just happy they didn't go with Desert Knights,” Negreanu tweeted after the official announcement.
 
Cahoots
While Negreanu gets ready to cheer on his new team, a fellow Torontonian is doing the rounds promoting a new autobiography with a poker-related twist. Robbie Robertson, former guitarist and singer/songwriter with The Band, has put together a memoir called Testimony, in which he admits to coming within inches of robbing a high-stakes poker game.

According to the story, bandmate Levon Helm wanted to pull off this robbery not long after the musicians (back when they were still The Hawks) had split with Ronnie Hawkins in 1964; money was scarce. They bought some guns, pulled socks over their heads – and discovered that the poker game had been called off. Just as well; the would-be thieves were concerned that Robertson's Canadian accent would give them away.
 
 

A Lifetime to Master: Mike Sexton Wins in Montreal

Mike Sexton Wins in Montreal - Bodog Poker Blog

By: Paul Hewson
 
Something awesome happened Thursday night at the Playground Poker Club: Mike Sexton won the WPT Montreal main event. Sexton outlasted a field of 648 no-limit Hold'em players, buying in for $3,850 and taking home $425,980 – all in Canadian funds, of course – plus the championship belt and all the extra goodies that came with the title.

But it's not the money that makes this result so meaningful. Sexton is one of the living legends of poker at age 69; he's been the voice of the World Poker Tour since Season One in 2003, and he was enshrined in the Poker Hall of Fame in 2009. Yet somehow, this win at the Playground was Sexton's first on the WPT. That title belt might mean more to Sexton than his World Series of Poker bracelet from 1989, when he won the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Split event.
 
Life's A Gamble
I had the good fortune of watching the heads-up portion of the tournament on Twitch. Sexton was matched up with Benny Chen, a Prince Edward Island native who won the “Millionaire Maker” at the 2013 WSOP. Chen started with a slim chip advantage, 10.75 million to Sexton's 8.7 million, and he built his lead several times from there, only to see Sexton hang on and survive.

Sexton managed to take the chip lead at one point, and then, on Hand No. 158 of their heads-up battle, Sexton was dealt pocket Queens. Chen, first to act, was dealt King-Jack offsuit. Both players were low on big blinds at this point, so Chen shoved, Sexton called, and the board ran out with Queen-Nine-Four on the flop, an Ace on the turn, and a Deuce on the river. Chen would have to settle for second place and $286,110 for his efforts.

As for Sexton, he was visibly moved after winning his first WPT title. It all happened in front of his people, including long-time commentary partner Vince Van Patten, as well as Tony Dunst and the rest of the crew. It was touching, and it means even more knowing that half of Sexton's tournament winnings are earmarked for charity – as they reportedly have been for the past 10 years. In the words of the master himself, may all your cards be live.
 

Canada's Love/Hate Affair With the WSOP

By: Paul Hewson
 
Two weeks ago, Toronto's Griffin Benger came close to joining a very exclusive group: Canadians with World Series of Poker bracelets. Only 40 people can make that claim, and Benger would have been No. 41 had he won the 2016 WSOP Main Event. Sadly, only one Canadian took home a bracelet this year. Kristen Bicknell from St. Catharines, Ontario, the 2013 WSOP Ladies Champion, won the $1,500 Bounty No Limit Hold'em event for a cool $290,768. Bicknell joined an even-more exclusive club of eight Canadians with multiple bracelets.
 
The Great White North has produced more WSOP champions than any other country – except for the United States. If my math is right, 706 Americans have won a bracelet thus far. Even if you account for the US having 10 times as many people as Canada, that's an enormous gap in jewellery per capita. Why hasn't Canada, or anyone else in the world, been able to keep up?
 
One for You, 19 for Me
The answer could be the taxes. Different countries have different tax treaties with the States; anytime a Canadian earns a “substantial” amount of money gambling in the US ($1,200 is often cited), those earnings are subject to a 30% withholding tax.  That means Benger only got to keep $875,133 of his $1,250,190 prize for finishing seventh in the Main Event – unless he had some American gambling losses to deduct. Even then, there are forms to fill out, and if you or your people don't do it just right, you might never get your money back.

Despite the monetary disincentive and all that paperwork, a total of 4,586 Canadians decided to make the trip to Vegas this year. That's down from 4,871 in 2015, but it's still the second-largest contingent of players from any country, aside from the 84,027 Americans who showed up at the Rio. While there's no question that the WSOP has become more popular every year, most of that growth is coming from south of the 49th Parallel. Canadians, and poker fans from all over the world, might find themselves even more inclined to play elsewhere next year.

“Controversial” Benger Finishes Seventh at WSOP Main Event

Benger Finishes Seventh at WSOP Main Event - Bodog Poker Blog

By: Paul Hewson
 
For Canadian poker fans, Griffin Benger’s seventh-place finish at the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event should be celebrated. Making the November Nine is a feat in and of itself, and Benger (+900 to win) earned just over $1.25 million for his efforts. But that's not what most people will remember about the Toronto native's performance. They'll remember that one hand he played with William Kassouf.

In case you missed what's already been called the “most famous hand” in WSOP history, the Main Event was down to two tables when Benger and Kassouf, an Englishman whose strategy includes putting verbal pressure on his opponents, got themselves involved in a giant pot. Benger, holding pocket Aces, opened under the gun. Kassouf raised from the hijack with pocket Kings. Benger re-raised, then Kassouf started grilling him. Eventually, Benger shot back, calling Kassouf an “abusive person” and telling him to “check his privilege.” Seeing his opponent on tilt, Kassouf shoved – and Benger snap-called triumphantly.
 
Karma Police
While some were very pleased to see Benger eliminate his abrasive opponent, others see Benger as the villain in this piece. Those people's voices have been the loudest, attacking Benger on Twitter with more ferocity than Kassouf showed on the felt. Even the host broadcaster took not-so-subtle jabs at Benger; when the ESPN cameras filmed Vancouver's own Michael Niwinski (who finished in 15th, two spots ahead of Kassouf) on the rail during Day 1 of the final table, commentator Lon McEachern made a point to call Niwinski his favourite Canadian at the Main Event.

In the end, Benger's November Nine run was brief, as he was dealt mostly trash from the get-go and had to settle for waiting out the two short stacks – Fernando Pons (ninth) and Jerry Wong (eighth). Benger was clearly overwhelmed after his elimination by how much of a negative response he'd gotten for his performance. When ESPN's Kara Scott asked Benger what he'd learned from his experience, he could only smile, and deliver eight wise words: “Be careful what you say on national TV.”

Out of Position? Don't Be Frightened.

Out of Position? Don't Be Frightened - Bodog Poker Blog

By: Paul Hewson
 
One of the first concepts new poker players need to understand is position. You have to take turns when you play poker, and since poker is a game of incomplete information, it's usually best to go last. That way, you can react to what your opponents do with at least some idea of what cards they might have. You, meanwhile, could still have anything.

Unfortunately, you don't get to choose whose turn it is. Someone has to go first, and when you're playing Hold'em, Omaha or Omaha Hi/Lo, that person is the player seated under the gun. If that player chooses to open, he or she will always be out of position against everyone else post-flop – everyone except the blinds, that is. If the player is in the hand, the small blind always acts first post-flop, then the big blind. That makes playing out of the blinds difficult, even if you're getting a good price to call.
 
Standard Time
Difficult doesn't have to mean complicated. When you're playing out of position, your options are limited, and many of the best decisions you can make are quite standard. For example, if you call someone's opening raise from the big blind in Hold'em, your best move on the flop is almost always to check. Making a lead bet out of position (also known as donking) should be saved for special situations that don't come up very often.

Here's another move you should avoid: calling out of the small blind. You don't get as good a price to call as you do from the big blind, and you're going to be out of position post-flop. Plus, there are only a few hands you could have where calling would make sense – medium pocket pairs and weak suited Broadways are the obvious candidates in Hold'em. If you call, your opponent can put you on a very narrow range of cards. Might as well just 3-bet or fold instead.

But what if you open from under the gun and the button 3-bets you? Don't panic. Again, this is a good spot to either 4-bet (if you have, say, pocket Tens or better, Ace-King, or Ace-Queen suited) or fold in Hold'em. Things will get more complicated in later position, where you might call OOP with suited connectors and such, but even those situations can be studied, practised, and made second nature. That's the best position of all to put yourself in.