The Morning File / Ante up to win casino financing

We hope that casino owner Don Barden thought ahead and entered the World Series of Poker, which started Thursday in Las Vegas.

If he’s lucky and plays his cards right — perhaps a long shot, the way things have been going lately on the North Shore — he could convert a USD 10,000 entry fee into an USD 8 million first prize, as an immigrant social worker did last year by besting 6,300 other contestants. Then Mr. Barden could put the USD 8 million in a slot machine and pray it hits a jackpot to complete the USD 780 million he needs.

We’re guessing Mr. Barden, knowing the gambling business so well, is pursuing other means of completing the Majestic Star’s financing. But it would be exciting to turn on ESPN and see him at the final table of players, with the future of Pittsburgh’s only casino hinging on whether he turns up a flush on the river card.

Poker on TV? What’s next, golf?

A few ignorant readers who have spent the past few years cruising the Galapagos Islands or otherwise out of touch might be saying to themselves, „What, they televise poker now? Are they nuts?“ Well, yes, they do, and yes, it would seem that way. You could watch all the variations of „C.S.I“ beginning to end since the first one started, and they still (reader warning: slight exaggeration here) wouldn’t add up to how much poker you can see on cable television in a single week.

The World Series of Poker is billed as a 12-day event, but it’s one so influenced by television now that it won’t actually finish until November. ESPN wanted a long break once the final nine players are determined, so it can research their dramatic life stories and air them on the way to the final champion-deciding telecast:

„Jimmy ‚Flop‘ Johnson only knew gin rummy until his college years at Stanford, but then became a 12-hour-a-day Internet poker player (cue tinkling, heart-tugging piano melody). He’s never played gin again, nor has he changed out of his PJs since February, but now, he’s at THE WORLD SERIES FINAL TABLE!“

Many players seem to be folding

The American Gaming Association’s annual survey of gambling habits found that 13 percent of adults reported playing poker last year. That’s actually down from 2004-05, when it stood at 18 percent. It’s assumed that part of the decline is due to a 2006 federal law that cracked down on Internet gambling, back when an estimated 8 million Americans were wagering on any of 2,500 Web sites.

Though most casinos offer poker rooms, they don’t make much money off it, relatively speaking. It’s the one casino game in which gamblers are competing against each other instead of the house. The casino merely claims a percentage of each pot.

The casinos of Nevada and Atlantic City made USD 252.2 million in that manner in 2007. There’s a lot more organized poker being played in California, one of several states with legal card parlors. Those 91 operations earn more than USD 700 million annually from poker players.

The only legal way to play poker in Pennsylvania is among your friends, but really, who would you rather lose your money to?

Does a blind man have tells?

Celebrities such as Ray Romano and Jason Alexander were among those who put up USD 10,000 to enter the World Series of Poker, but we’re backing Hal Lubarsky. We like underdogs, and Mr. Lubarsky has what would seem like a disadvantage, in that he’s legally blind.

„I can see probably 10 percent, but I can’t see people at all if the lighting is low,“ he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last year. „In my own house I still walk into stuff. I can’t see cards at all.“

An assistant sits behind him and whispers his cards and the action around the table to him, and in that manner he won more than USD 51,000 in last year’s World Series. Let’s hope he is an inspiration to all kinds of people with disabilities that you should never let those be an excuse to give up your vices.

He’s dead, but alive in the game

With a gap in World Series play between July and November, the question arises of what would happen if one of the final worthy competitors dies in the interim. After all, we’re not necessarily talking about finely conditioned athletes here. Fortunately — or not — there is a precedent.

Stu „The Kid“ Ungar, a poker legend known for his over-the-top lifestyle as well as abilities, built up a huge chip stack during the 1990 tournament but died of drug overdose before it ended.

In his case, the same as it would be handled now, everyone pretends the player is seated at the table (presumably wearing sunglasses and a ballcap). Chips for blinds and antes like those required of everyone else are taken from this invisible player, who folds every hand until all of his, or her, chips are gone.