Lots On The Go
So much has happened in the last little while, it's hard to know where to begin. Canadian Poker Player Magazine not only published an interview I did with my friend, poker pro Marc "Myst" Karam, they made it their cover story. You can read the whole thing online at the Canadian Poker Player website.

I also took a trip to Melbourne, Australia for the Aussie Millions and I thought I would share with you a piece I originally wrote for Canadian Poker Player about that experience:


When I arrived at my hotel room in Melbourne, Australia after travelling nearly 30 hours from my home in Ottawa and suffering the cruel torture that is economy class seating and airline food (neither of which were designed for a man of my generous proportions), the very first thing I did was flush the toilet. You see, I had heard that in Australia the water in the bowl spins in the opposite direction when you flush. To my chagrin, I discovered that toilets here flush in such a manner that water rushes from the front and back of the bowl in towards the center. Had I travelled half way around the world to flush a toilet, I would have been devastated. Thankfully, I had come here for an entirely different and more exciting reason all together; I was to “blog” the progress of Canadian poker pro Marc “Myst” Karam as he competed in the southern hemisphere’s largest poker tournament, The Aussie Millions.

Day 1 of the tournament had been split up into two “flights” in order to accommodate the 747 entrants who were to compete for a staggering, 7.47 million dollar prize pool. On our first night, we made our way to the Crown Casino poker room to find out which flight Marc had drawn. The room is located in the basement of the casino and each entrance is adorned with a large backlit teal and white sign that reads “Las Vegas”. The room is quite spacious with a High Limit area on one side, a raised bar and snack area on the other and a lowered poker pit in the center with over 50 tables. Throughout the room there are wide gold columns which feature a simplistic black floral design. At the back there are about seven computerized PokerPro tables which offer a playing experience that attempts to blend live action and online poker with automated dealing and an LCD display.

We stood in line at the tournament registration window behind another Canadian pro, Gavin Smith. The whole room was alive with the sounds of shuffling chips and table banter. There were players here from all over the world all brimming with a palpable sense of anxious anticipation as we were only one day away from the Aussie Millions main event. Marc drew flight B. This was good news for us since the airline had managed to leave Marc’s suitcase behind in Sydney and it would not be arriving until the next day. It also gave me a chance to get my media credentials in order.

Unfortunately, the company that sent me here had not done any of the pre-work necessary to secure my media pass. I ended up speaking to the poker room manager, a short, friendly, middle-aged Australian man named Dave and he contacted the media relations director on my behalf and comp’ed us at the bar which we appreciated. Despite Dave’s efforts, I did not get my media credentials until the middle of Day 3. The staff seemed highly unprepared to deal with the influx of media and spectators. Unlike most major tournaments which tend to be held in a banquet hall to accommodate the large fields, the Crown chose to hold the entire event in their poker room and even though it was large enough to accommodate everyone, crowd control became an issue since there were many non-tournament players and spectators milling about the room at all times. Luckily, I managed to talk my way into getting the correct access without a pass. It seems that the Australian temperament tends to avoid conflict and give in to a strong, reasonable argument.

Marc’s first day went well; he had an easy table and managed to accumulate a lot of chips. As I was watching Marc play, I kept hearing strange kissing noises from all around the room and I couldn’t figure out what it was until I noticed one of the floor staff pursing his lips and making a kissing sound towards another staff member. The other staff member turned and came immediately towards the man kissing at him. I realized that this was their way of getting someone’s attention. When I later brought this up as an Australian oddity to some of the locals, they were shocked that “kissy summoning” was not a common practice around the world.

On Day 2 Marc drew a table that included defending champion Lee Nelson and a young, hyper-aggressive Finnish pro named Patrick Antonius. When Marc found out that Antonius would be at his table, he immediately made up his mind that he was not going to let Antonius push him around. He said to me, “I’m coming over top of him with any two cards if I think he’s weak, I don’t care. My only goal is not to let him run me over”. It turned out that this attitude was the key to Marc’s success on Day 2. On several occasions Marc would raise in position and Antonius would re-raise and then Marc would move in forcing Antonius to fold. Eventually Antonius had to change strategy and when Marc would raise in position, Antonius would push. The second time Antonius did this, Marc called him with A-10 suited and forced Antonius to table a meager Q-9 which failed to improve and left Antonius with less than 3000 in chips with blinds at 1200 and 2400. Marc later told me, “I wouldn’t make that call against anyone else, but I knew he had nothing”.

If I learned anything during this tournament it’s the importance of “playing the player”. Marc made an adjustment to his strategy by coming over the top against Antonius often which forced Antonius to make an adjustment to his own strategy by pushing instead of raising to take the play away from Marc. Marc then re-adjusted to exploit Antonius’ new strategy by calling him down with a marginal hand and being best. Against Lee Nelson, who plays a style that forces his opponents into big pots, Marc adjusted by playing more passively, checking and calling and keeping pots small so that Lee had no opportunity to really make a big move. It’s clear to me now that this is the kind of thinking you need in order to be world class.

At the end of Day 2, the “bubble” had burst and all remaining players had made the money. This turned Day 3 into a frenzied kamikaze all-in fest. All the Internet qualifiers who had been nursing micro-stacks shoved their chips in the middle recklessly in order to collect their prize money and enjoy the sights and sounds of Melbourne. Being at such an aggressive table on Day 2 made Marc’s Day 3 table seem like a cake-walk and he was able, rather quickly, to catapult himself into the chip lead and stay there for most of the day by picking off the all-in short stacks.

Every single all-in was filmed by a crew that included two cameras and two boom mics. Several photographers also rushed to the scene of each all-in to immortalize the moment. The flurry of activity caught the poker room staff a little off guard and they started getting nasty even with the accredited media. But they eventually calmed down and listened to reason when enough of us complained.

At the end of the day, with Marc’s big stack, anyone and everyone that we had met in Melbourne as well as his family and friends back home advised Marc not to do “anything crazy” and to just fold now that he has chips. Marc commented to me how silly this advice was and that in fact it’s the total opposite. Now that he had chips he could afford to make moves and steal pots. Conversely, if he had fewer chips he would be forced to play cautiously and wait for a hand.

On Day 4 Marc drew the televised feature table. This was good news all around. It would give Marc more exposure and it would allow me to report from the media room while watching the action on a monitor instead of having to deal with the mob scene that was the poker room. Gus Hansen was also at the TV table and, in what ended up being the key hand of the tournament; Gus picked off one of Marc’s bluffs and crippled him. It turns out Marc had overestimated Gus’ willingness to fold when he has a big stack.

Towards the end of the day, one of the players at Marc’s table, a local sheep farmer who had satellited his way into the tournament, started taking forever to make his pre-flop decision on each hand. I can’t say I approve of what he did, but when I consider that he probably stalled his way into an extra 40,000 in prize money, I think I can understand his motivations.

Card dead at the final table, Marc had to push with K-J in an attempt to steal blinds and antes but Gus called with A-9 and Marc busted in sixth place earning 300,000 AUD. On the up side, he set a personal record for most money won in a single tournament and I got to travel half way around the world with him to watch a major tournament unfold from start to finish and to learn what it takes to succeed in these events; aggression, fearlessness and the ability to adapt to every opponent and correctly exploit their strategy.


A very different version of the piece above should appear in the March issue of the magazine. The magazine version will focus more on Marc and the other Canadian players at the event.

In other news, I've begun working with Marc to promote him and increase his overall media exposure in Canada and eventually the U.S. We did a press release for him and released it through the Canadian News Wire. We will follow this up with a Wikipedia article and a lot of other exciting things which I am not yet at liberty to discuss. Stay tuned for more info on that as well as my usual posts about poker in general.
Blogger myst said...

Hey Bill, the “kissy summoning” IS a common practice around the world, it's just that the rest of the world uses it to summon cats and other furry creatures, not humans. :P

Great post by the way.

4:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill - I can't speak for "the rest of the world", but in my short time in Africa so far, I'm noticing the "kissy summoning" to be quite prevalent.

See you when I get back in July.


3:49 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home