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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