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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Blog, General Poker | 0 comments

Brains vs. Artificial Intelligence Poker Match Featured on PBS NewsHour



The widely-discussed, hotly-debated, and much-anticipated heads-up poker match between human brains and artificial intelligence was featured recently on PBS NewsHour, one of the more prestigious mainstream media outlets doing in-depth journalism.

The 8-minute news report focused not only on the two-week-long series of No-Limit Hold’em matches played via computers which took place at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh in early May, it also includes interviews with the principles, and touches upon larger implications of what’s ahead for artificial intelligence, not just as it pertains to poker, but far more ponderous ramifications in the job market, high finance, medicine, transportation systems, predictive modeling, and other fields where computers and machines could very well outperform, and therefore ultimately replace, real people.

Much of the footage used in the PBS broadcast was shot by camera crews from “Poker Night in America,” which will soon be putting together its own special feature on the events that unfolded in Pittsburgh.  When that project becomes complete, I’ll be posting more as I know more.

In the meantime, here’s the feature on PBS NewsHour, which is well worth watching:

Note:  Special thanks to Tony Mangnall and his crew. 

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Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Blog, General Poker | 1 comment

Remembering “Uncle Krunk” — Poker Loses Another Colorful Character (Robert Panitch 1952-2015)




I just learned Robert Panitch passed away.  He was 63.

That name probably won’t resonate with many people.  Mr. Panitch was better known as “Uncle Krunk,” an oddball nickname given to him by some younger poker colleagues who traveled around the country with their cranky elder, attending various events along the national tournament circuit.  Seemingly weird and often grumpy, the “Uncle Krunk” moniker associated with Mr. Panitch gained a notoriety and hilarity all its own when his fictionalized Twitter persona became a sort of alter ego, often firing out riotous commentary about the contemporary poker scene.

However, as with many seemingly funny people who appear to be “different,” behind the crotchety mask was a deeply caring man with his own private set of circumstances and personal problems which where largely hidden away from public view.  Beneath the brusque exterior was a man with valiantly unwavering devotion.

The first time I met Mr. Panitch was at a World Series of Poker Circuit event in 2008, which was played in Hammond, Indiana — just outside his hometown of Chicago.  Mr. Panitch came into poker in his mid-50s and made his first final table appearance  As I was about to introduce him to the crowd, I asked for clarification on how to pronounce his name correctly.

“You can say ‘PAN’ can’t you?” he asked.

Yes, Sir.

“You can say ‘ITCH’ can’t you?” he asked.

Yes, Sir.

“Now put the two words together — ‘PAN-ITCH.’  There, that’s not too difficult for you, is it?”

No, Sir.

As I said, if you ever met or played poker with Mr. Panitch you probably remember something unusual about him.

Take for instance his strange eating habits while sitting at the poker table.  Mr. Panitch always carried a knapsack louded with various snacks tucked inside plastic baggies, and he nibbled at them constantly.  He consumed vast amounts of nuts and fruits and granola bars over the course of a day, which come to find out was part of a special diet.  When I reluctantly asked him once about his eating all the time, he informed me that he had health issues which required him to eat certain foods for their nutritional value.  He must have downed 10-15 snacks a day, but never seemed to gain a pound.

However, the most peculiar thing I remember about Mr. Panitch was his apparent repudiation of all forms of technology.  Once, when he qualified to play in the WSOP National Championship (in 2013) I asked Panitch for his e-mail address.

“I don’t have an e-mail address,” he snapped.  “I don’t use it.”

I’m not sure if he even owned a cell phone.  Mr. Panitch’s grumpy old man ways and “get off my lawn” crankiness was certainly no act.  He was the real deal.  Accordingly, a group of younger poker players somehow took this persona and created a Twitter account in his name, along with his photo, affectionately named “Uncle Krunk.”  While Mr. Panitch had nothing to do with either setting up the account nor any of the content, the Twitter posts made the semi-pro poker player famous for a time to the point where he enjoyed a cult following.

“Uncle Krunk” posts became laughably obscene, often spewing profanities, and yet he was almost always dead on accurate with scathing commentary about other players and the wackiness he and others observed at various tournament stops around the country.  The anonymous account set up with Mr. Panitch’s persona became a sort of inner demon and the collective consciousness of all tourney grinders, forced to put up with the incessant tanking of their opponents, poor hygiene, inane table chatter, and the innumerable challenges of trying to support oneself by playing poker.  “Uncle Krunk” became a lovable devil.

The real Mr. Panitch seemed to take it all in stride.  Eventually, he became aware of his notoriety as many players mistakenly thought those were his posts, and actual thoughts.  To the very end, Mr. Panitch played the cantankerous role to perfection, although a select few who got to know him better came to realize there was something far more interesting and commendable about this man beneath the surface

Mr. Panitch was indeed a caring uncle to several nieces and nephews, in the words of Chad Holloway, who recently wrote a nice tribute to his passing, which occurred on May 1st.  He was also a loyal son and brother to the other members of his close-knit family, perhaps confirmed best by the selfless act of taking care of his elderly mother for many years before she passed away just a few years ago.

With his death, poker has lost yet another of its most colorful characters, his memory now made all the more vibrant by finally realizing that behind the surly exterior at the tables we often witnessed was actually a deeply devoted and sensitive man who will be missed, but not forgotten.


Read a more comprehensive feature on Robert Panitch here at POKERNEWS.COM

Special thanks to Rex Clinkscales for the post on Facebook which announced Robert Panitch’s passing.


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Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in Blog, General Poker, Personal | 0 comments

Highlights from “Poker Night in America” at Philadelphia’s Sugar House




Poker Night in America made a first-time visit to Philadelphia this past weekend.  The ever-expanding and constantly improving Sugar House Casino hosted three fun-filled days of high-stakes poker action, which were filmed for the popular weekly show on the CBS Sports Network (tune in Monday nights).  This series of shows is expected to air sometime next fall, during Season 3.

Here are some of the highlights of what happened at the poker table during our production:

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Posted by on Apr 28, 2015 in Blog, General Poker | 6 comments

It’s Scary Out There


PSNolan Dalla and Dan Goldman

Nolan Dalla (left) and Dan Goldman (right) at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas, in 2006


Dan Goldman and I have worked together on lots of projects over the years.  Not only has Dan been a great friend to me since we’ve known each other during the past 15 years, or so.  He’s also taught me a lot about the poker business, especially when it comes to the many ways advances in technology have impacted the game.

If you want to know more about some of the behind the scenes stories as to what working in the poker business is really like, including lots of fun stuff, I urge you to read some of the stories he’s now sharing regularly with his readers.  CHECK OUT DAN GOLDMAN’S BLOG HERE

For those who don’t know as much, Dan served as the head of marketing for for nearly ten years.  We worked together at PokerStars for three of those years, when he hired me as the company’s Director of Communications.  Dan was always an “ideas” man.  What that means was — he loved to dream up new and sometimes crazy ideas and then work towards making them happen.  I think one of the reasons eventually became the world’s biggest poker site was, at least in part, due to Dan’s innate creativity.

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Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in Blog, General Poker | 0 comments

Ladies Night 2 Wraps Up at Sugar House Casino in Philadelphia



Left to Right: Top Row — Nancy Levin, Cate Hall, Wendy Hamilton (General Manager–Sugar House), Samantha Abernathy, Jessica Dawley, Jennifer Shahade, Christina Lindley Bottom Row — Karina Jett, Beth Shak, Natasha Barbour (Jamie Kerstetter not pictured)


The much anticipated encore presentation of “Ladies Night,” which is the first-ever intermittent series of high-stakes cash games exclusively for women, has just wrapped up another big day of filming, with plenty of action and excitement.  The game is expected to be shown this fall on the hit television show, Poker Night in America, which appears weekly on Monday nights on the CBS Sports Network.

The Sugar House Casino in Philadelphia hosted “Ladies Night 2,” held inside the packed poker room on Sunday, April 26th.  Nine women, plus one male trespasser played in the unusual No-Limit Hold’em game, with $25-50 blinds.  Buy ins ranged from $5,000 up to $20,000.

Samantha Abernathy came out as the biggest winner of the day, by far.  She crushed the game, winning in excess of three times her original buy in.

The starting lineup included — Samantha Abernathy, Natasha Barbour, Jessica Dawley (888poker pro), Cate Hall, Karina Jett, Jamie Kerstetter, Nancy Levin, Christina Lindley, Beth Shak, and Jennifer Shahade.

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