The Camel’s Christmas Presents 2006

What’s the best thing about Christmas? For some it’s opening presents at 5.30am on the big day because you haven’t drunk enough on Christmas Eve to not be able to surface until a more reasonable time.Or you’ve drunk so much that there won’t be another opportunity to open them till Boxing Day. For others it’s the chance to watch "The Great Escape" for the 17th time. For still others it’s the opportunity to tell your boss exactly what you think about him at the Christmas Party and hope to goodness he was too pissed to remember when you roll into work on December 27th. For almost no one it’s the opportunity to read my annual witterings about the world of poker; yes, it’s time for the Camel’s Christmas Presents 2006!

Class of the Year

I may well be baised. But I’ve got to give this award to the management and staff of Holland Casino, Amsterdam for their impressive handling of the best poker tournament in Europe; the Masterclassics of Poker. The tournament is juice free and they add significant money to the event. (It’s what I’ve been desperately lobbying for ever since poker began being televised). The players are treated incredibly well, free food and drinks. The dealers are superb and the atmosphere electric. If you play one big tournament of the year, forget the WSOP (I have renamed it the Worthless Series of Poker) go to the ‘Dam and play the Masterclassics. It’s a blast.

Arse of the Year

A controversial choice here. For some increasingly strange and egotistical pronouncements, this award goes to Daniel Negreanu. Three examples of the "there’s no interest like self interest" of Daniel’s behaviour spring to mind. I’m sure if you scrutinise his blog or some of his magazine columns you’ll find plenty more.

  1. During the main event of the WSOP he was reported by Cardplyer as saying to the other players at his table: "I’d be happy if they only paid out nine spots. $40,000,000 for first, $20,000,000 for second, etc.". Well, durr. If you only paid 9 players you would get about 100 players in the event and no overlay for great players like you. The reason so many players take a shot is that even though they have virtually no chance of winning, if they hit a hot run of cards they have a real chance of the best result of their life. Yes, Daniel has possibly the second chance of winning (behind Ivey of course). But, if you don’t pay so many places you don’t get so many runners.
  2. During a smaller event of the WSOP, a friend of mine played on Daniel’s table. He was heard telling a senior member of the Rio management that they should increase the buyin for many events. His reasoning? No famous players are going to make final tables when there are several thousand entrants. "It’s no good for you and it’s no good for us" (ie: the famous players). But Danny boy, it’s good for poker. The WSOP is the people’s poker tournament. Everyone should get the chance to partake, not just you and your mates.
  3. Daniel’s defence of the WPT against the lawsuit by several prominent players was pretty damn sickening. It’s obvious Daniel has done well from the WPT. Bully for him. But to make such personal attack on Greg Raymer, who has always struck me as pretty stand up guy, was low in the extreme. Poker is so huge now, the players making the complaint are certainly justified in finding out what the law says about who owns image rights. Let the judges decide whether the WPT or the players are right. But don’t make snide personal attacks on players just because they don’t agree with you.

Performance of the Year

There were plenty of detractors after he won the Paris WPT in 2005. He was lucky. It was a fluke. He can’t beat the game in the long run. But Roland de Wolfe has proved the snipers wrong in 2006. A final table at the WSOP. Third in the WPT Championship at the Bellagio. Several other big final table finishes. Then, to top it off, a win the EPT at Dublin. What a year. Yes, he plays unorthodox poker, but he plays poker with a smile on his face and he has balls the size of coconuts. Congratulations on some stunning achievements.

Funniest Line of the Year

Lots of candidates here. The nominations for quips made by Padraig Parkinson and Roy Brindley were indeed very very funny, but almost certainly libelous. Buy me a couple of beers sometime and I will tell you their lines… But the winner is Alan Vinson. I took young Jake to his first poker tournament in February aged 4 months. (He was only slightly younger than a couple of Scandies who made the final table!). When meeting my lad, Mickey Wernick lived up to his nickname "the Legend" by slipping a rather large denomination Euro note into his pram for good luck.

When I recounted this story to Alan he said "Jake better watch out.. When he’s 18 and walks into a casino for the first time, Mickey will collar him and say ‘Hey kid, have you got that fifty I lent you a few years ago?’ ".

Mystery of the Year

Where did the tournaments go? Three major, well attended and popular European tournies disappeared from the calender without any explanation. The London Poker Open, the Monte Carlo Millions and the VC Cup never took place in 2006. Anyone know why not?

Best Looking Waitresses of the Year

Not many waitresses on Pokerstars. Do Annie, Karen, Micheala and Rose still work at Luton? If yes, they win. Uncontested.

Newcomer of the Year

The WSOP is not the tournament it once was. It is now a commercial, money making bonanza for Harrah’s. But the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event staged this year for the first time was a wonderful event. It gave the players the chance to display a variety of poker skills in a very deep stacked event. What a shame it was the only mixed game on the schedule.

Value of the Year

$29.95. "The Mathematics of Poker" by Bill Chen and Jerrod Ankenman. Just don’t put it off. Buy it. It’s essential reading.

The Bookies Christmas Present to Punters

I have never seen such a wide open NFL season. The AFC is littered with excellent teams that all have significant weaknesses. Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore, New England, Cincinnati. All could go all the way and all are capable of beating each other. The NFC is much more clear cut. Chicago have by far the best record. But, injuries are mounting up on their stellar defence and Rex Grossman and the passing game scare no one. They are beatable. I am fairly confident Dallas will be the NFC’s representative in the Superbowl. Tony Romo is going to be a superstar and their offensive line is ripping holes in defenses for Jones and Barber to run through. The defense isn’t quite as strong but it’s more than capable of preventing some anaemic teams scoring enough to beat them. If they make the big dance they will probably be underdogs, but if you bet them each way at 9/1 you will be freerolling with a nice profit in the bank.

That’s it! All that’s left is for me to wish all Mobsters a very happy Christmas and best of luck for 2007 (unless you happen to be on my table… when I hope all the luck you receive is bad!).