Poker Face

SM Aura
October 11, 2014
Poker Mania

In one rainy night, I was invited (Thanks to Yahoo Philippines’ Noel Zarate) to a Blogger’s Night at Solaire. Although I consider myself a blogger now with this blog, I’ve honestly never been to such gathering before. Until this one night. And I’m glad I came.
Because there, I met new people, became friends with most of them. There were some old faces also like Noel, the poker expert and fantasty basketball guru who sidelines as a television and radio sports host, Bob Guerrero also of Yahoo Philippines, Ron Regis, Marco Aventajado and Manila Bulletin cub reporter and former Letran chick magnet Christian Jacinto. Forged friendship with former NCAA courtside reporter Bianca Zaldua and Paula Tolentino, a writer, editor and online publisher who also has her own blog named Vince de Guzman, whom I first met in a fantasy drafting at Midas in Pasig a few years back, was also there to give a brief and memorable tought. Just likme Ron and Marco, who happened to be one of the main reasons why poker is such a boom in the country today.
Thanks also to Russel Lorenzo, Solaire’s digital marketing chief, for hosting us.
After the pleasantries, we were then thrown into battle straight to the poker table. Instead of fighting individually, we were divided into teams. For unknown reasons, I was chosen captain of Team 1, which comprises of Paula, Christian the lady killer, Yanni, and Miss Coring. Guess what happened? We almost won it. A close second going into the final deal and up with Yanni’s pair of 10s and Coring’s suited Ace and Jack, we were destroyed by Team 2’s King and Jack, who ended up with a pair of jacks and Team 3’s Ace and 5, which was luckily served by a pair of 5s at the turn. There goes our money.
But what the heck, it was fun.
And here’s some details of the World Poker Tour Philippines that is upon us again, thanks to Olmin Leyba of The Philippine STAR.

The table is set for World Poker Tour’s first ever WPT National Philippines Event, which blasts off at Solaire Resort and Casino from Oct. 16-28.
For 12 days, the Solaire will be the center of the poker world, hosting an exciting lineup of activities in the WPT Poker Festival topped off by the Main Event. Top players from across the world will compete for big cash prizes and points in the coveted Season XIII WPT Player of the Year race in the $2,200 buy-in Main Event on Nov. 25.
“The World Poker Tour continues to expand across the globe, especially in Asia where the growth is phenomenal,” WPT president Adam Pliska said during yesterday’s press conference at Eclipse Bar in Solaire.
“The Philippines represents what we want poker to evolve to be. It’s a very warm and welcoming place and with a first-class venue like Solaire, both local and foreign players will have a great time on and off the felt, “ he also said.
The Poker Festival is the first offering in a newly forged five-year relationship between WPT and the Philippines, a country long regarded as one of Asia’s poker hotbeds.
“We are constantly creating ways for our guests to have the ultimate resort experience so hosting the largest and most recognizable poker tour in the world only comes naturally for us. Solaire is about creating moments and WPT is going to provide many powerful moments for everyone involved,” said Solaire Resort and Casino president and CEO Thomas Arasi.
“The Philippines has always been the hub for this region, whether it’s for travel, trade or culture so it just makes complete sense to have an international event in a country that has so much to offer than any other destination in Asia,” said promoter Mike Kim.
Pliska said they expect 600 to 800 players for the Main Event with a total pot estimated at $1.6 million and among the personalities coming over are WPT executive tour director Matt Savage, poker legend Mike Sexton and the Royal Plush Girls.
Local poker players expressed excitement over the WPT gig.
“The World Poker Tour is a dream for us. We have to go out (to be able to play) but now it’s in the Philippines,” said Ashby Rivera, who attended the presscon together with his brothers Marc, Euryd and Sandy, Brisom frontman Brian Sombero, magician-entertainer Erik Mana, and The Voice’s Lee Grane.
Satellites starting as low as P300 to the Main Event are ongoing at Solaire’s lush poker room. Details of all the satellites and a full schedule of events can be found on Solaire’s website.

Going back, a question popped into my mind. Is poker gambling? Sportsmaryosep thinks it’s a sport. And I will let Noel and his very old article when he was still with Rappler explain it to each and everyone of you.

Noel Zarate
Published 8:54 AM, Feb 08, 2012
For many, poker is gambling.
The Philippines’ Roman Catholic Church has instructed the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) that poker establishments are to have a 200-meter aerial distance from any church. Poker cannot be used as a fund-raising method benefiting any Catholic institution such as schools. Poker is gambling.
Standard tournament poker stacks have 20 chips eachStandard tournament poker stacks have 20 chips each
In California, the world’s largest poker room – the Commerce Casino, was born out of a state resolution declaring poker as a game of skill and not a game of luck, as most games that promote gambling are. Hence, California is now known as the poker capital of the world. In many parts of the world, poker is recognized as a sport with entities such as the World Poker Tour making various stops globally to crown poker champions. Poker is a sport.
Gambling or sport
Many on the outside looking in are now confused with this concept. Is poker gambling or is it a sport?
It depends on what form of poker is at play.
The two most common variants of poker are cash games and tournaments. Most people can’t tell the difference. In cash game poker, the chips in play represent real currency. In tournament poker a “buy-in” is required, hence also requiring money. It is on this premise that the separation becomes even more evident.
The view. Witness the flop from behind a wall of chips.The view. Witness the flop from behind a wall of chips.
Cash game poker is gambling because the chips are actual money. Tournament poker is not gambling because the buy-in represents an “entry fee” into a tournament. This is how tournaments around the world operate – golf tournaments, tennis tournaments and even the most basic barangay basketball leagues. A team pays a tournament fee which they may or may not even get back after winning the championship, depending on the organizers. In cash game poker, the object is to win as much money as you can. In tournament poker, the goal is to win all the chips.
Not just a game of luck
No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em (NLHE) is the most popular form of poker on the planet today. It is played on Facebook and even in homes. It is how the World Series of Poker (WSOP) determines the world champion. It is also the form played in card rooms across the archipelago. In the late 1990’s, sports giant ESPN invested in covering and broadcasting the WSOP – introducing poker into the mainstream. Unknown Tennessee accountant Chris Moneymaker became an instant multi-millionaire in 2003 after winning the WSOP Main Event and the phrase “anyone can win” transformed poker forever.
Final Table. World Poker Tour Main Event Runner up and Asia Pacific Poker Tour PAGCOR Cup Champion Binh Nguyen, Team PokerStars online phenomenon Terrence Chan and professional player Victor ChanFinal Table. World Poker Tour Main Event Runner up and Asia Pacific Poker Tour PAGCOR Cup Champion Binh Nguyen, Team PokerStars online phenomenon Terrence Chan and professional player Victor Chan
The irony of it all is that poker – as a general term, is still considered gambling because of the nature of its gameplay. It is still viewed as a game of luck because of the randomness of dealt cards. It is also perceived as gambling because chips need to be put in a pot for the chance to win more chips.
People quickly overlook poker icons such as Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu and the legendary “Texas Dolly” Doyle Brunson who have won multiple tournaments. Can these gentlemen be the luckiest people in existence? If they make a living “gambling,” shouldn’t their luck have run out by now?
Negreanu said it best, “Poker is a game of cards played with people… or a game of people played with cards.”
He and countless others have proven that you can win without even having good cards – just intuition, excellent mathematical skills and sheer courage. Negreanu has the uncanny ability of sensing weakness in people—he knows when he is being bluffed. Brunson—a former highly recruited collegiate basketball player, brings his primal competitiveness to the table. Ivey is a master of intimidation.
These are skills. Skills used to gain advantages over the opposition. Poker aficionados often equate these high caliber poker players with some of the best athletes in the world.
What makes an athlete
You might even start thinking – “how can a poker player be an athlete?”
They do many things similar to professional athletes.
Gone – in most places, are the days of smoke-filled rooms, overflowing whiskey and grease burgers. The new breed of poker player – such as Patrick Antonius, Tom Dwan and Liv Boeree are all gym rats.
They lead healthy lifestyles by working out daily and following a strict diet to assist in their mental game. They do not smoke and do not do drugs. They play a lot of tournament poker and have been quite successful, especially in their online sorties. They read many books, watch a lot of videos and analyze the tendencies of some of their stiffest competition. This is what professional athletes also do.
Heads up. Nguyen faces off with Scot Gordon Huntley, an investment banker in the championshipHeads up. Nguyen faces off with Scot Gordon Huntley, an investment banker in the championship
Most professionals need to average a certain amount of tournaments in a month and play a certain number of hands a day so that they can chart their progress. The more practice and exposure goes into to what they do, the better they become.
Golf legend Gary Player was once quoted as saying, “The more I practice, the luckier I get,” and that can equate to Michael Jordan’s jump shot, C.C. Sabathia’s slider and David Belmonte’s wicked split conversion average.
The sport of poker has evolved so much over the years that coaches are now prevalent and many either accompany their protégés to actual tournaments or tutor them online.
Poker is not just about winning money but about being a winning player. For poker players immersed in the sport side of it, it’s about how to win and not just the prize.
Fist bump. WSOP bracelet winner Isaac Galazan and local poker player Don “Pusang Gala” Carmona share a light momentFist bump. WSOP bracelet winner Isaac Galazan and local poker player Don “Pusang Gala” Carmona share a light moment
10 ways poker is like other sports
Basketball. Luck helps you win in poker just like in basketball when you to hit a contested fade away jump shot at the buzzer.
Football. Or luck helps you make an aerial combination kick shot to hit the only goal of the match.
Golf. Practice, focus and a little luck helps when you chip it in from the fringe to save par.
Chess. Winning in poker also requires patience – particularly when two Grandmasters face off.
Archery. Chips are ammunition – much like in archery. When chips are won, the holder gains more artillery.
Judo. A player with a humungous lead can get crippled in one swift blow.
Bowling. An amateur can come in to a tournament, win against a professional and walk away with everything.
Mixed Martial Arts. An opponent can tap out from being outplayed like in poker when an opponent folds from sheer agression.
Billiards. The etiquette of making a lucky shot compared to apologizing for making a “bad beat” – or unintentionally outdrawing an opponent.
Track and Field. In a marathon like in poker, you have to keep your mental focus, finish first among hundreds, pace yourself – some runners or players prefer an early lead, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
Total Redemption. Australian Van Marcus was the 2008 Asia Pacific Poker Tour Manila Tournament ChampionTotal Redemption. Australian Van Marcus was the 2008 Asia Pacific Poker Tour Manila Tournament Champion
The bottom line? Any which way you view it, this is enough to prove tournament poker is not gambling – it is a sport. –

So what’s your thoughts?
Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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Wrath of the Titan

UERM Hospital
October 3, 2014
Wrath of the Titan

Oh my.
The seige on the beleaguered Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes rages on.
And it’s getting ugly.
Of course, Reyes has been getting the flak after Gilas’ disastrous seventh place finish in the recently-concluded Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Whether it’s deserving or not, we’re not God to judge a person. But there are criticisms. And bashers too. Two of them are the father and son tandem of Recah and Chino Trinidad. The eldest of the two, the highly-respected Recah, or Tata Recah to us younger generation of sportswriters, has not been remiss in making his feelings known in his column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He’s like a fire-breathing dragon when he writes his prose. The younger Trinidad, former commissioner of the defunct Philippine Basketball League and one of stakeholders that helped create the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas less than a decade ago, is even fiercer and more volcanic. Just look at his Facebook page and listen to his views in online portals and televisions newscasts, and you’ll think he’s a volcano spewing lava.
There are more.
But the one that caught our attention was the words that came straight from a basketball legend who is known to us all. Ramon Fernandez. El Presidente. 19-time PBA champion. Four-time MVP. Six-time PBA All-Star. 13-time Mythical First Team. Three-time Mythical Second Team. Member of the 25 Greatest Players. PBA Hall of Fame Class of 2005. Member of the Phl team that won the gold in the 1972 FIBA-Asia Under-18 Championship and the 1973 FIBA-Asia Championship in Manila and the silver in the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing, China. Won two games, not just one, in the world basketball stage. Love me or kill me, but Fernandez is the Filipino Larry Bird, who can literally play all positions.
So if there’s someone next to God who has the right to talk in basketball matters, it’s Don Ramon. When he talks, we should listen.
And here’s what he told’s Snow Badua:

BASKETBALL legend Ramon Fernandez hit out at Chot Reyes on Friday for what he termed as a ‘disrespectful’ and ‘shameful’ act of instructing Gilas Pilipinas to shoot in its own basket late in a win over Kazakhstan in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Speaking from Cebu where he is now based, Fernandez said he felt ashamed at the sight of Gilas – needing to win by at least 11 points against the Kazakhs but leading by only two points in the dying seconds – making a basket in its own goal in a bid to send the game into overtime. “That’s the lowest of the low,” the four-time PBA MVP and many-time national player told on Friday. “Yung ini-utos niya na ‘yun, totally lambasted and disrespected ang legacy and the past heroes of Philippine basketball. Nakakahiya yun.” Reyes later explained that the ‘own goal’ was the only way allowed by the Asian Games format under the circumstances for Gilas to achieve its goal of making the semifinals, but Fernandez said the act tarnished the achievements of generations of Filipino basketball heroes. [See Reyes justifies decision to go for ‘own goal’ against Kazakhstan, but Fiba rules clear on matter] “Yung ginawa niya na pina-shoot sa kalaban, that’s the lowest you can go. That’s a total disrespect for sports. Nabubwisit ako kasi winarak niya whatever gains my generation and the previous generations have done for basketball for the country. “Sinira lang n’ya with one stupid move shooting the basket in our own goal.” The basket was later nullified by the referees, which Fernandez said reflected Reyes’ lack of knowledge of the rules. “You go to war not knowing the terrain and the armament he’ll use, he doesn’t know the rules of the Asian Games, he doesn’t know the eligibility of shooting in your own basket,” the former Toyota star said. Fernandez, a member of the last all-Filipino team to win the Asian title back in 1973 in Manila, also slammed the Gilas coach for not playing naturalized player Andray Blatche and June Mar Fajardo together more in the Fiba World Cup and for his tirade against Marcus Douthit in the Asian Games. [See Chot rips into Douthit, accuses naturalized player of ‘quitting’ on Gilas] “Last Fiba world, hindi na-maximize ang naturalized palyer at presence ni June Mar. Hindi niya pinagsabay si Blatche at June Mar fajardo. Ginawang reliever si June Mar, MVP sa PBA gagawin mo lang reliever? Ano masyado siyang na-obsess sa ipinakita ni Blatche sa kanya? “In the world stage, we need tall players. Apat na malalaki. If he played June Mar and Blatche together, you think matatalo tayo sa Puerto Rico? You think makakapasok at makakasalaksak ang JJ Barea sa atin kung may twin towers ka sa gitna? “Tapos hihirit pa siya na Olympics ang target niya, hindi Asian Games. This is all hype. Lahat ginawa na niyang rason, from the referees to the schedule, to Douthit, walang go-to guy, walang leader sa loob ng court. “Huwag niya i-blame yung players. Kung naging humble pa sana siya from the very beginning hindi ganun ang naging reaction ng fans sa kanya. Hindi tanga ang mga fans.” [See As calls for resignation grow, Reyes says he’s leaving fate to Gilas management] That Gilas lost several endgame battles was also the coach’s fault, Fernandez added. “The worst dyan, sa loob ng laro, sigawan mo players, pero wag mong iinsultuhin in front of the press and sisihin,” said Fernandez, who is now based in Cebu tending to his ‘Suka ni El Presidente’ business. “Kita mo naman yung games, lamang tayo going into the fourth quarter tapos mahahabol pa rin. Kasalanan ba ng players yun? Kaya ng player kunin ang lamang, hindi nila kayang proteksyunan yung lamang? Diskarte ng coach ‘yun. Kasalanan ng coach ‘yun.”
Read more at:

Sportsmaryosep’s prognosis: Unfortunately, Reyes hasn’t said anything on his Twitter account after Incheon. And we’re waiting and eager to hear his side of the story. He told some Filipino media men in Incheon though that he has taken full responsibility of the Asiad debacle. Good and fine. In the end, we should stop finger-pointing, lick our wounds, move on and just learn from our mistakes in Incheon.
Follow us on Sportsmaryosep: @JoeySVillar


Photo courtesy of Ramon “El Presidente” Fernandez)

Final Fantasy

Port Area, Manila
October 2, 2014
Final Fantasy

So it’s Far Eastern U and National University fighting it out for the 77th UAAP basketball title.
Yes, I’m not kidding.
Four months ago, if I say the Tams and the Bulldogs will battle it out for the Holy Grail of UAAP basketball, you’ll probably say I’m nuts or throw me in the looney bin. Admit it, we’re all guilty of taking both the Tams and the Bulldogs out of the championship equation. As for Sportsmaryosep, we predicted an underdog to win it all. The sad part is that we chose University of the East. Not FEU nor NU. So we missed it.

But who would have thought, really?
NU, without former back-to-back MVP Bobby Ray Parks, Jr., bucking overwhelming odds? Or FEU, minues the high-scoring duo of former MVPs Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia, defying basketball gravity and making it all the way to the finals?
Or La Salle, with its formidable intact roster headed by a force of nature named Jeron Teng, falling one game short of defending the title it impressively the season before? Or an Ateneo team not making it to the finals despite finishing with Season 77’s best record and and boasting of the best player in college basketball today in the person of Kiefer Ravena? Or a Santo Tomas team that has all but Jeric Teng in its roster that made it to the finals the last two seasons, making it an automatic title contender? Or a UE team headed by the killer tandem of Roi Sumang and Charles Mammie and coached multi-titled coach Derek Pumaren?
Factor all these in and you’ll probably come up with a pre-season forecast without FEU nor NU in the conversation.
But guess what, FEU and NU made us all eat their words with the Tams riding of Michael Tolomia finding an open man in Mark Belo, who drained the lethal triple that sent the dagger straight into La Salle’s heart and the Bulldogs drawing strength from Gelo Alolino’s clutch shooting and Alfred Aroga’s block on Ravena to tame the tame and conquer the once proud and mighty Eagles.
And then it happens.
FEU vs NU.
The Battle of the Underdogs.
Nash Racela vs Eric Altmarino.

Sportsmaryosep trivia: When was the last time that a UAAP final was without both Ateneo and La Salle? Or who do you think will win it all? Winner gets a mention on Twitter, where you can follow Sportsmaryosep at @JoeySVillar.


(Photos courtesy of