How not to prop bet A clinic by example

If you aren’t in the industry side of poker, you can’t imagine the chaos in the days leading up to WSOP. The players are all in R&R mode and mostly unreachable, everyone needs this article or that article or to set up a meeting or what have you, we’re all working out our rental situations if we’re coming from outside of Las Vegas…pretty much, every minute of the twenty hours a day you’re awake is occupied by three things at once.

With everything that’s going on, I’ve been caught unprepared on a couple of wagers. You may be asking ‘what that has to do with poker?’ but the reality is that when the object of the game is to win as many dollars as humanly possible, you do so with every means at your disposal; whether you’re holding aces, buying a percentage of a player in a tournament or making some ludicrous wager whose results are beyond your control, you do it.

The first of these came when, on an errand to buy a new audio recorder for interviews, I got a call from Andrew Feldman telling me that The Poker Edge had a last minute cancellation and would I be willing to come on (host Phil Gordon eventually announced “We mostly have you on because we couldn’t find another guest”)? I’m a publicity hog, so I happily agreed, and once on, we got to talking about the different storylines I’m watching coming into this year’s WSOP.

When I mentioned the emergence of Tom Dwan as perhaps the most anticipated rookie in WSOP history (That will likely change in 2010, when Annette Obrestad becomes eligible) host Phil Gordon put me on the spot, asking “What would you put the odds at that Dwan wins a bracelet?” I hadn’t really thought about it and my brain froze up and I blurted out a truly idiotic “um…3-1?” even Dwan, who is uber-confident with math to back it up, couldn’t give himself a better shot than 5-1.

Before I knew what was happening, Phil had a signed, sealed and delivered wager. Hell, I was so caught in the headlights that I didn’t bother to rescind…I mean, how to you refuse a host on his own show? The obvious answer is to say ‘no’, but at that point I was so beside myself for talking like a moron on a mainstream podcast that I wasn’t thinking straight any more. All I can hope for now is that Dwan makes me look like a genius.

Thing is, once I’d regrouped, I made what I think were a series of good enough bets to get what I think was an overall advantage in mine and Phil’s wagers. Phil is a bit of a cynic and I played on that. With regards to the Dwan bet, three lessons to learn from my idiotic example;

1) Don’t bet under duress.
2) Don’t let the other guy get your signature on the contract until you’re sure you want it there.
3) Try to actually think about your wagers before making them.

…all of which can be summed up by the always useful “don’t be a moron”

Here’s the rest of the wagers we made, though you’ll probably have more fun listening to the whole thing at espn;

Allen Cunningham to win a bracelet 5-1 – Allen’s won bracelets in each of the last three years and five years in total in the 2000’s. Are you really going to tell me he’d only win a bracelet once if you played out this WSOP five times? This wager seems especially brilliant now in light of the odds Phil Ivey’s been taking on himself. Ivey’s expressed a similar confidence in Allen, reportedly offering 1.1-1 on one of the tandem taking a tournament this year.

Daniel Negreanu to win a bracelet 13-2
Jesus Ferguson to win a bracelet 13-2
Phil Hellmuth to win a bracelet 13-2
Barry Greenstein to win a bracelet 13-2
Michael Binger to win a bracelet 13-2

Keep in mind, these bets were being made before the series started. When Phil offered me the chance to take any five guys, I didn’t know whether Ivey would be playing much at all. The five I chose were pretty safe picks.

A year ago, Negreanu was taking bets at 5-1, Jesus and Barry were literally multi-tabling live tournaments in their desire to get themselves the jewelry and Binger was tying a WSOP record with eight cashes in one year. Thus far, only Binger has managed so much as a final table finish from this group, but with the odds where they are, I’m still happy with these bets. If any one of them wins a bracelet, I’m close to break-even for the series.

WSOP main event to have 6400 players – over
WSOP main event to have 7000 players – over
$50,000 HORSE event to have 140 players – over

I think its obvious in my writing that I’m pro world series and more or less an optimist, and I don’t like the 400 point drop the US stock market took yesterday, but I still believe in the growth of the main event. Event #2 drawing 3929 players just left me feeling like people aren’t stopping their hobbies, and with the glowing reports that the Series has gotten (Jeffrey Pollack went so far yesterday as to call this ‘the summer of love’) you have to think people will be drawn here. I admit, I set the HORSE event bar a little too high (I think 138 is about right), but I think I should do well here.

My other wagering came in the form of ESPN’s fantasy pool. Each year, Feldman gathers his writers, colleagues and a few pros to put together a fantasy draft for public consumption. This year’s roster was Andrew, Gordon, Lance Bradley, Bernie Lee, Peter Feldman, Gavin Smith, Bill Edler, Mark Seif, Daniel Negreanu, Joe Sebok and Steve “Chops” Preiss. My logic going in said non-Americans would prove valuable since this entire crew is US-based.

The problem was that from May 18-21 I was taking care of last minute travel details, May 21-25 I was in Costa Rica covering the LAPT there, May 25-28, I was recovering and writing like a madman…in other words, I didn’t do a lick of preparation. To make matters worse, I was doing the draft on my shitty cell phone while en route to pick up Bradley from the airport. Where there was construction. On my brain.

In the end, I think I drafted a very solid team, but it would obviously have been better if I’d spend 15 frikkin’ minutes actually looking at who was out there and discerning some order of value. In the end, here’s who I got:

Jesus Ferguson (too early)
Michael Binger (good value pick)
Humberto Brenes (too early…could have waited a round)
David Singer (w00t!*)
Tom Schnieder (too late. What a sick pick)
Alex Kravchenko (about right)
Minh Ly
Daniel Alaei

  • I seldom use internet slang like w00t! If I do, you’re safe assuming it’s me mocking people who use internet slang like w00t!

Daniel, who missed the draft, went pseudo-ballistic when he saw the team we drafted him based mostly on the ‘Daniel always drafts Asians’ principal. I’m not going to lie, I had a lot of fun suggesting players like Mao Tse Tung and Buddha. Still, fair is fair, and we let him drop a bunch of players for undrafted free agents. When he dropped Kenny Tran, I scooped him up, replacing Minh.

It’s a solid team. Most of my guys play games other than hold’em and have past WSOP success. Still, in just about every round, there was a pick that made me think ‘shit, I should have taken him.’ That can’t be a good thing.

I just made one last wager last night, by the way. Lance bet me at even odds that john Murphy will win a bracelet by event #10 in 2011. I think he’ll be asleep when he gets blinded off.

OK, time to fess up. The start of this entry was a incomplete article I never got submitted, but it seemed like a fun topic and a shame to let good work go to waste.

There you have it, My blog is a receptacle for past failures and the incompleteness of my being. Call it a collection of my flaws. At least though, when my flaws include making wagers without thinking them through, maybe you can learn a thing or two from my stupidity.

I’m skipping the links today because I need to get this up. I’ll include them in my next installment. If you really, really want to read my stuff though, go to and you’ll find it. I’ll be here holding my breath.