Writer’s Note: This is a continuation of PART 1, which can be read here.
There’s no suspense here. You know how this is going to end. Badly.
Before continuing with the next chapter in the Peter Falcone caper, let me introduce yet another dubious character to the story. The plot is about to thicken.
Meet Louis Jones — a pudgy piece of puke from Houston.
Louis Jones is an ex-floorman. He mostly worked the southern poker tournament circuit, primarily in Mississippi (Tunica, Biloxi, Gulfport). Over the years, Louis Jones and I worked several major poker events together. About eight years ago, we discovered a mutual interest in sports betting and — as you might guess — a special “friendship” began. About a year later, Louis Jones ended up stiffing me for $20,000.
Although they both fucked me over royally, Louis Jones and Peter Falcone are completely different animals. Louis Jones is a lying deadbeat. Peter Falcone is a psychopathic con man.
Basically, Louis Jones skipped out on $20,000 worth of sports wagers with me (no, I didn’t book his gambling action — which would have been illegal). One thing about owing money. I don’t mind someone owing me money, just so long as the borrower acknowledges the debt on occasion, and then makes some effort to pay it over time. I’ve had people who owed money pay me $50 a week. At least an effort was made. How can you argue with someone who’s making a genuine effort? That’s everything to me. In fact, if I see someone who doesn’t have any money making an earnest effort to pay off a gambling debt, in a strange sense that shows even more character.
But while a character, Louis Jones has no character. He fucked me in the ass with a telephone pole. He lied to me over and over again, and then was never man enough to simply approach me and say, “I fucked up, Nolan. I’m really sorry.” Louis Jones never said those words to me. I’m told that he eventually wormed his way back to Houston, and was last reported working as a used car salesman — a most fitting job for the cocksucker.
No, this is not an advertisement. I’m not selling anything.
Despite the cheesy headline, I’m convinced there’s one approach that outweighs all others — that is, if your goal is to win a World Series of Poker gold bracelet.
Here’s the secret.
Visit your local Dollar Store.
That’s right. Pay a visit to your local Dollar Store and head straight for the bin where books are sold.
This is a sad place. It’s a literary graveyard. Here, you find dusty copies of the 2006 World Almanac, old Backstreet Boys calenders, and books written by Jimmy Carter. And they sit, and they sit. These poor dregs can’t even fetch a buck.
And one particular series of books above all else appears among the untouchables. I’m talking about strategy books on Seven-Card Stud.
One achievement in poker transcends prize money, and that’s winning the WSOP gold bracelet. Poker celebrity and philanthropist Phil Gordon once put it best when he said, “There are two kinds of poker players — those with gold bracelets and those without.”
Yet even those who share the collective wonder that’s attached to poker’s supreme achievement commonly choose paths of greatest resistance. Instead, wouldn’t it be wiser to pursue the path of least resistance?
By “least resistance,” I’m talking about entering tournaments with hundreds rather than thousands of participants. Numbers aren’t just bodies, including some tough players — many of whom are probably better than you. They are a gauntlet. Fact is, it’s easier to get through a field of 300 opponents versus 3,000.
And that means playing Seven-Card Stud.
This game is all but dead. As a stand-alone game, it’s destined for poker’s graveyard — along with the likes of Five-Card Draw and Five-Card Stud. No matter what poker room you go to, Seven-Card Stud is rarely spread in live action these days. Hold’em isn’t just king — it’s become King Kong. However, these changes over the past decade have come with a cost. Hold’em’s worldwide rise in popularity has corresponded with Seven-Card Stud’s decline. Hold’em is the smart phone. Stud is a pay telephone booth. Alas, Stud tournaments have all but disappeared — except for one special place. And that’s inside the Rio this summer.
Even where Stud appears on tournament schedules, the numbers are discouraging. Consider the number of players who have participated in Seven-Card Stud events at the WSOP in recent years (2008-2012):
$1,500 Buy-In Seven-Card Stud (Number of Entries)
2008 — 381
2009 — 359
2010 — 408
2011 — 357
2012 — 367
$5,000/$10,000 Buy-In Seven-Card Stud (Number of Entries)
2008 — 158
2009 — 142
2010 — 150
2011 — 126
2012 — 145
By contrast, No-Limit Hold’em events in the exact same price range typically draw ten times as many entrants. Once again I ask, which is tougher to make it through — a field of 3,000 or 300? Obvious answer.
Non-Stud players — especially younger poker players who haven’t exposed themselves much to the game — may quibble that someone can’t learn a new game fast enough in order to be competitive within a short time frame. I strongly disagree. Good card sense trumps everything else. Moreover, since Stud is so rarely played anymore, it’s not like there are hundreds of Stud specialists. While there are thousands of world-class No-Limit Hold’em players, the number of great Stud players is now probably less than 100. The numbers are debatable. But getting back to the path of least resistance, the Stud highway doesn’t carry nearly as much traffic.
Of course, what keeps Seven-Card Stud alive are Mixed Game formats. Based on the growing popularity of tournaments with multiple forms of poker, a strong argument can be made that Seven-Card Stud (and its close cousins Stud Eight-or-Better and Razz) will survive as long as it’s grouped with other (more popular) forms of poker. Indeed, Stud players enjoy clear competitive advantages over those who primarily play Hold’em in these mixed events. Consider that 60 percent of HORSE (3 out of the 5 varients) consists of Stud-related games.
Hence, learning Seven-Card Stud would appear not to be the complete waste of time one might imagine. Think of Stud as poker’s Latin. Sure, no one speaks the language anymore. But if you know a little bit, learning perhaps a dozen other languages is going to be much easier.
Seeing a bin full of Seven-Card Stud books at a local Dollar Store — here in Las Vegas, no less — epitomizes a couple of things.
First, Seven-Card Stud is all but dead — except as part of a larger mix of poker games.
Second, the undeserved neglect of this game provides an extraordinary opportunity for those who are now willing to take the time to master it. Indeed, just as with investing, the time to “buy” is when the price is low. And with Seven-Card Stud, the price and popularity has never been lower.
So perhaps the road to winning a WSOP gold bracelet victory runs through the place when you least expect it — to your local Dollar Store.
There are few people in the casino business I love and admire more than Mr. T.K. Krauss.
This longtime Atlantic City poker executive is a fountain of fascinating stories and useful information, especially when it comes to the East Coast poker scene. If passion came in bottles, “T.K.” would be the Coca-Cola of poker.
T.K. has just taken over as the new Director of Poker Operations for the Atlantic Club. Previously known as the Atlantic City Hilton, this outdated and long-neglected property located at the southern tip of the famed Boardwalk has long been the city’s stepchild casino.
Things are about to change — big time.
Now, the Atlantic Club is at a pivotal moment — not just here in New Jersey — but in the history of U.S. gambling. The casino-hotel is close to being taken over by PokerStars.com — the world’s largest online poker website. If successful, PokerStars.com could gain a critical foothold inside what’s now the first state with a substantial population base to approve online poker. In short, this beachhead marks the start of a coming battle front between powerhouse U.S.-based casino operators and the online giant based on the Isle of Man that could very well turn into high-tech trench warfare.
Given the gravity of what’s at stake, T.K. is the ideal peacemaker– a beloved Gen. Omar Bradley figure in the grand theater of what could become online poker’s World War 2.
I’ve known T.K. for 20 years. From his earliest days walking the floor at the Taj Majal, to the Tournament Director position at the Atlantic City Tropicana, to the Head of Operations at the Hollywood Casino in Indiana, T.K. has made a powerful impression on everyone privileged to know him inside this business. He’s run big-time tournaments, he’s brought World Poker Tour events to the Midwest, and now he’s quite possibly on the cutting edge of the next big thing — engineering the freight train that could help Atlantic City come roaring back from the dead.
The Problem: I need to raise $120,000 in cash by the following morning.
Sometimes, it’s a wonderful life. Other times, it’s not.
If you want to discover who your friends really are — try to borrow money. This is especially true in the poker world.
On a bitterly cold night in December of 2005, I was in a state of panic. I desperately needed $120,000 in cash by the following morning. The time was 7 pm.
At the time, I had about $150 in my pocket. That left me $119,850 short — give or take a few coins.
A bad situation was made much worse by several problems. First, this was a Monday night — the slowest time of the week in Atlantic City. Second, it was 20 degrees and snowing outside. Third, the Philadelphia Eagles were playing on Monday Night Football, which meant anyone I could conceivably shake down for money was busy watching the ball game. Finally — this was the deadest time of year, early December on the New Jersey shore. The place was a ghost town.
So, what does one do? Where does one go to raise $120,000 in cash when you’re desperate and failure is not an option?
You can’t write thousands of poker tournament reports without making a few mistakes.
Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve made a shitload.
Fortunately, things are much easier now than they used to be. Today, there’s spellchecker software. Events like the World Series of Poker also hire more staff, which proofreads official reports before they’re released to media.
But back in the bad old days, I used to do most of the writing and sending out on my own. Since virtually all official reports were written very late a night, or even the following morning, they were often infused with errors. Some proved quite embarrassing.
Here’s what I call “the Dirty Dozen”:
(1) SPELLING THE WINNER’S NAME WRONG — You might think that winning a World Series of Poker gold bracelet and perhaps a million dollars in prize money would be enough to motivate the person responsible for writing the “official report” to spell the winner’s name right. Wrong! I’ve done this more times than I care to admit. Sometimes, no one notices — especially when Russians or Ukrainians win. But I’ve butchered even the simplest of names. To this day, I still have to re-look up Erik Seidel (it’s with a K), Carlos Mortensen (it’s with an E), Jennifer Harman (it’s with an A), and Mike Matusow (it’s with a U and an O). I’m a hurribel speller.
(2) “HE’S QUITE A PORKER PLAYER” — Some time ago, a heavy-set man finished in the top five at a final table at the U.S. Poker Championships in Atlantic City. I won’t reveal the name of the player, for obvious reasons. The big man played terrifically but just got very unlucky on the final hand. In the official report, I meant to write “(NAME) is quite a poker player.” Well, let’s just say I stuck in one extra letter (an R) — the worst letter imaginable.