Summer Borgata Poker Open

Sarang Ahuja Borgata Poker Open

Last month I played in the Summer Borgata Poker Open. As with my run at the WSOP Millionaire Maker event, I cashed again, but once again missed the big money. That said, it was certainly a learning experience, as each tournament is. I got some pretty good coverage from the Borgata’s blogger during the tournament this time around, and I’ve included a couple of links below.

http://summerpokeropen.blog.theborgata.com/2015/07/16/event-1-day-1d-poker-room-leaders-2/

http://summerpokeropen.blog.theborgata.com/2015/07/16/event-1-day-2-abuja-triples-to-save-tournament-life/

WSOP Millionaire Maker

sarang ahuja gold bracelet

The other weekend I played in the Millionaire Maker event at the World Series of Poker, in what turned out to be the 6th largest tournament field in history – I guess a lot of people find the idea of becoming a millionaire appealing. Go figure. Unlike some of the other WSOP events, like Monster Stack and The Colossus, the title of Millionaire Maker is not hyperbole. The winner, Adrian Buckley, took home $1,277,193, so the event lived up to its name.

It’s definitely worth mentioning that this was Buckley’s first in-the-money finish, and his debut on the world poker stage. Having arrived as a complete unknown, he’s certainly in the limelight now. Not only did Buckley take down some serious heavy hitters at the final table, including Erick Lindgren, Mike Sexton, Justin Pechie, and David Miscikowski, all previous gold bracelet winners, he also faced long odds several times. From the WSOP website: “Indeed, this win was unlikely as they come, especially given the pedigree of competition later in the tournament.”

While a lot of players, myself included, can only imagine how Adrian Buckley must have felt right after he won, he did clue everyone in with some comments. “This is one-hundred percent surreal,” he was, unsurprisingly, quoted as saying. “This has been a crazy few days. It was the run of the century.” Just 15 years into this century, I suppose it might have been.

I wound up coming in 435th out of the 7,275 entrants, and cashing for $4,517. While I’m a little disappointed that it wasn’t me giving the quote about how surreal it was to win the bracelet, it is definitely bitter sweet. Reflecting back, I am proud of my play and my ability to navigate through and ultimately finish in the top 6%. It may not have been the run of the century, but I guess it wasn’t too shabby either.

AI Poker

sarang ahuja Robot-poker

An Artificial Intelligence program, known as Claudico, faced off against actual poker players this month in a game of Heads-Up No-Limit Texas Hold ‘em. Held at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, the event spanned two weeks and included 80,000 hands of poker.

While the human players did win more chips than the AI, it was still not enough to pass the threshold needed to be considered scientifically valid. Previously, computers have been successful at beating humans in games such as chess and Jeopardy, and this event suggests that soon poker will be the next.

Tuomas Sandholm, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, is one who believes that poker-playing Artificial Intelligence will soon be better competitors than humans. Sandholm, who led the team that created Claudico, stated after the event that “I am guessing [a poker-playing AI] will be stronger than the best humans in the world in one to five years.”

What separates poker from the other games, in which computers have already proven successful, is that a major strategy surrounding poker is the act of bluffing. Bluffing is an extremely dynamic aspect of poker where players choose to raise their bet without having the best hand, in order to fool an opponent into folding. The ability to bluff successfully results from the players having incomplete information about the other players at the table.

Sandholm and his colleagues did not pre-program Claudico’s poker strategy, instead, they wrote algorithms that automatically compute a strategy by trying to find the Nash equilibrium. Players are said to be in Nash equilibrium if they are making the best decision possible, taking into account the decisions of the other players. Claudico still has room to improve, but this event indicates that Artificial Intelligence is making great strides in its ability to solve problems despite having access to incomplete information.

Although Artificial Intelligence programs are fortunate to not have to disguise their emotions when making a “bluff” as a human poker player must, it is still impressive to see how far this technology has developed. And who knows, maybe someday Claudico will be subject to displaying emotions as well.

Read more here.

2015 World Series of Poker Dates Announced

sarang ahuja wsopThe dates for the 2015 World Series of Poker, which will take place at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, have been announced. It will begin on May 27th, with the final table set for July 14th, after which the competitors will have been whittled down to the top 9 players who will compete for the title the following November. As poker seems to gain more and more popularity every year, and plenty of financial incentive with millions in prizes up for grabs, the WSOP plans to host the largest tournament field in their history this year.

This will be the 46th World Series of Poker. In that time the tournament and poker playing in the US in general has expanded exponentially. There is an interesting statistic listed on the Word Series of Poker website: when the tournament began in 1970, there were fewer than 50 poker tables in the entire city of Las Vegas, and only 70 in the entire state of Nevada. Hilariously, the final round of that first tournament was held in a room about the size of a hotel room with about thirty fellow poker players watching. What a far cry from the huge poker rooms in casinos and national television coverage that is the norm today.

One other thing that has expanded since the early days of the tournament: the size of the pot. The WSOP website doesn’t say what the prize for the first year was, but the second year included 7 players posting $5,000 in a winner-take-all event. That means the total prize was $35,000. This coming year, the WSOP is again guaranteeing a $10,000,000 prize for the winner of the main event.

The Horseshoe in Baltimore

Sarang Ahuja HorseshoeThe Baltimore Orioles gave people a lot to root for this year in Charm City. Actually, if you walked down Eutaw Street during any of the home playoff games, you know that Mobtown was a more apt nickname for the city at the time. And with tight standings in the AFC North, the Ravens are giving people in the city a lot to root for, too. But Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium are no longer the only big venues on the south side of Baltimore that offer entertainment and excitement near the Inner Harbor.

The Horseshoe Casino, which opened in the area this past August, provides an excellent alternative or complement to everything you were already able to do in the Inner Harbor area. If you’re not in the mood, can’t get tickets, or find yourself in the wrong season for a baseball or football game, you can head over to this giant hub full of things to entertain you, including an excellent variety of restaurants, live performances, and nightlife. It also features a brand new 25 table poker room, so as far as poker players are concerned, the Horseshoe is bound to be more of a primary destination than a fallback plan. The poker room is definitely the part of this new casino that I am most excited about.

Less than a year after opening its doors, the Horseshoe in Baltimore will find itself in the poker spotlight when the World Series of Poker hosts a tournament here this winter from February 26th to March 9th. This is a pretty exciting development for poker players in Baltimore, considering that it has only been about two years since table games in the area were approved for operation in casinos. I definitely plan to participate in the upcoming World Series of Poker event.

Massachusetts Casino Repeal Effort Fails

Sarang Ahuja mgm_grandAccording to cardplayer.com and the Boston Globe, an effort to repeal a 2011 law that authorized the building of three casinos and one slots-only parlor has failed, so it appears that there will finally be a casino poker room in the Boston area, to the delight of poker enthusiasts in the area.

MGM and Wynn resorts, as well as Penn National plan to get in on the recently re-approved casino plans in New England.  In fact, Penn National has already broken ground on building the slots parlor.  They were, evidently, very confident that the recent vote would turn out in their favor, and their gamble paid off.  They will be able to open the doors to their parlor six months earlier than if they had waited until the failure of the repeal effort was certain to begin construction.  Though MGM and Wynn have not yet broken ground, the companies combined plan to sink in over $2 Billion into redeveloping the areas in which they plan to build their new casinos.

It seems that, though some people in the area are opposed to hosting casinos, a larger margin are interested in the prospect of creating thousands of jobs during the building projects that are to come along with the approval of the casinos, as well as the jobs and money the casinos themselves can bring once they become fully functional.  The primary reasons for opposition to the building of the casinos is concern from residents in the area over increases in gambling addiction, increased traffic, and crime.

Now that casino proponents have won out, there will soon be another casino hub along the Eastern Seaboard for poker enthusiasts to enjoy.

Money Earners of 2014: Top Earners so Far

2014 is winding down and it’s a good time of the year to check out the top money earners of the year.  In a recent Sporting News article the top 10 earners are identified.  Here are some highlights from the article about the men who are the most successful this year.

Poker NewsThe Top

The number one money earner so far this year at just north of $21 million is Daniel Colman.  Colman, an online star, hit it big with this year’s Big One for One Drop when he beat out Daniel Negreanu, a win that ended up giving him $15,306,668.  He totaled more than $6 million from other events meaning, even if he’d lost the One Drop tournament, he still would be placing second on the list.

And speaking of second…

Second on the list features Daniel Negreanu, the former World #1 ranked player.  Negreanu has nabbed another successful season already with nine cash outs.  Starting his season out right in Australia with $492,000 and $1.1 million in winnings over a couple events, he’ll be headed back down under to finish up his season at the Main Event for the Asia-Pacific WSOP.

The Notable

Phil Ivey has been in the news a lot lately for negative reasons but he falls in at number six on the money earners list at $3,787,707.  A consistent earner throughout his professional playing days, Ivey won the $250,000 Melbourne Challenge, taking home $3,582,753, which was enough to put his career winning totals over $20 million.

The Number One

Falling in at ninth on the 2014 earners list is World #1 Dan Smith.  This last summer he was able to walk away with over $2 million after winning the Super High Roller event at the Bellagio.  Smith will be looking to end his season on a high note like he did last year after he took the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic home at the end of 2013.

For the full list read more here.

Some Poker Hands

Poker Hands | Sarang Ahuja from Sarang Ahuja.

The Worst Bad Beat in Poker History

Everybody who has played the game of poker remembers their worst bad beat.  Holding great cards and still getting beat in one of the most gut wrenching things in the sport.  For anyone who thinks that they have had the worst bad beat or think they’ve seen it, every single one of those people probably now agree that Connor Drinan’s bad beat is the worst.  On Tuesday night the World Series of Poker held the Big One for One Drop.  The Big One for One Drop is the only tournament of its kind where every player buys in for a 1 million dollars and the winner takes home $15,306,688.  For so much money you can only imagine how horrible one could feel if they are eliminated but after Connor Drinan’s exit you can say that no one felt more horrible than he did.

sarangahuja_connordrinan

pokernews.com

With 18 players left in the tournament, Connor Drinan and Cary Katz both drew pocket aces.  With pocket aces naturally both players went all in.  Drinan was the only one at risk by doing so.  After both players showed their cards it seemed that everyone in the room thought it would draw.  Drinan held the ace of diamonds and ace of clubs while Katz held the ace of hearts and the ace of spades.  There was a 98 percent chance that the pot would end in a draw and be split and only a 2 percent of a player winning.

After the flop came out 2 of diamonds, king of hearts, and 5 of hearts.  Katz had a five percent chance of winning on a flush but Drinan didn’t seemed too worried.  At one point of the exchange Katz actually said to Drinan, “Save your money kid. You can’t win every pot.”

And he was right.

After a turn card of a four of hearts each player stood at an 80 percent chance of splitting the pot while Katz had a 20 percent chance of taking the pot if a heart came on the river.  And after players all around the table where talking about the odds, the river card was a two of hearts.  Lon McEachern, the longtime ESPN poker commentator mentioned that it was “the worst beat in the history of tournament poker.”  No one is disagreeing with his statement.  When you consider the stakes, the odds, and the way it happened, it will be a long time before we see a bad beat like this again.

Haixia Zhang Wins Ladies WSOP

For the ladies championship at the 2014 World Series of Poker, Haixia Zhang became the second female to win the series and she took home the gold bracelet and $153,470.  Only playing poker for fun, reports Bluff Magazine, Zhang is a mother of two and her and her husband run a strafing company and have done so for 14 years.

sarangahuja_haixiazhangNormally her and her family take a week long trip to Vegas.  Before the the trip was never to play poker but Zhang mentioned her husband told her that she should just play.  After the last two years of visiting the city but playing in the tournament, Zhang decided to enter for the 2014 WSOP.

Zhang mentioned that she wasn’t nervous during the tournament and she just played her game but there were some tense moments where she was down to four big blinds and that she had lost most of her chips on a hand where she held jacks and another player held eights, hitting the set on the flop.  She even text her husband that she thought she would be done very soon after playing with the four big blinds.

For the majority of the day on Saturday, Zhang was in the middle of the pack with chips, the average being 311,000.  Mikiyo Aoki held a commanding chip lead at 742,000 when the opening ceremony of the Big One For One Drop.  This forced the players to pause until the poet finished his speech.  The starting line-up of chip introductions continued after ward and the first official shuffle and deal happened at 1:15 which happened with only seven minutes left in the level 19 kick off.

After it was all said and done Zhang was the one holding the gold bracelet.  She mentioned that she is hoping to play a couple more events before she puts in her name to the main event.

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