Archive for the ‘Gambling’ Category

Pius Heinz of Germany holds up stacks of cash after beating Martin Staszko of the Czech Republic to win the championship bracelet and $8.7 million in prize money during the World Series of Poker main event at the Rio hotel-casino in Las Vegas

Tonight in Las Vegas and (near) live on ESPN, the final table of the World Series of Pokers’ Main Event begins. Though the tournament began in July, the “November Nine” resume play after a three month lay-off – competing for more than $8 million in prize money. This concept – whittling the full field down to a final table of nine, determining the winner live on TV in November – is a relatively new one, an idea unthinkable even ten years ago. Why would anyone care about the outcome of a single poker tournament so much as to wait months to decide a winner?

A lot can change in a decade. In the world of professional poker, ten years is enough time for a tidal wave of money to crash across the landscape – establishing poker as a sports entertainment force and changing the game forever. It took ten years for the poker bubble to stretch and expand across the globe before it finally burst. Slowly, widespread interest in poker declined, receding like the flood waters which forever re-shaped this pop culture juggernaut.

There is still solid interest in the World Series and professional poker in general but nowhere near the incredible heights it once reached. Attention has turned elsewhere. But why? The same factors that contributed to poker’s meteoric cultural rise undercut its popularity and eventually relegated it back to the margins where, fairly or otherwise, it belongs.

Across the last decade, the factors that fueled the unprecedented growth of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) contributed directly to its ultimate flameout. A classic bubble that progressed through all the stages before bursting in spectacular fashion. Before the 2013 WSOP Main Event champion is crowned, look back on the poker world’s trajectory and how the game borne from smokey casino cardrooms ended up as an area-style TV special with lights, analysts and months of all – filtered through the lens of one man whose interactions with the game closely follow a nearly identical trajectory.

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sportswageringThe importance of a single game in sports can range from relatively meaningless to being of the utmost relevance. Typically, it’s the weight of what happened before the single game that informs its significance. In North American professional sports, a seventh game in a series is only important because the previous six ended up even. Not every game is a seventh, though. There are game ones and twos, and an entire schedule of single games that lead up to that moment, all with seemingly varying degrees of meaning attached to them.

However, there is a method by which sports fans might enhance their experience for every single game, no matter the consequences involved for those participating in the sport or supporting the teams. We can wager on the outcomes.

Unfortunately, in Canada, we cannot wager on single games without negotiating the murky waters surrounding off-shore betting websites or the black sulfuric tar that encompasses a local book maker with ties to organized crime. The options for legal sports gambling in Canadian provinces (Pari sportif in Quebec, Pro-Line in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, and Sports Action in British Columbia) are restricted by law from offering anything but parlays involving multiple outcomes from at least two separate events.

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gambling headerAt the end of February, I wrote about sports gambling. I wrote a lot of words about sports gambling. It’s an appealing topic to me, not because I particularly enjoy wagering on sporting events, but because the divide between the perception and the reality of the subject seems so vast.

Furthering my interest is the role that Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League and National Hockey League (as well as the National Collegiate Athletic Association) have played in manipulating the public perception of sports betting away from the reality. North American professional sports leagues have collectively fought the legalization of sports gambling in the name of the integrity of their respective sports, willfully ignorant to the benefits that a regulated system would provide the sanctity they strategically want to be seen protecting. The reality is that the leagues are far more interested in protecting control over the data that their product creates.

It’s hypocrisy at its most blatant: Powerful organizations privately protecting their own interests by publicly decrying progress that would limit the very things over for they feign concern. Unfortunately, it’s taken the self-serving initiatives of another powerful authority to highlight the discrepancy between what’s said and done.

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gambling header14-years-old is an awful age to go on a family vacation. No one understands your oh-so-unique struggle to grow up. Your body’s chemistry is changing more than Barry Bonds on a regimen of Victor Conte-prescribed elixirs. And you hate everything.

You hate school. You hate your teachers. You hate your friends. You hate the person on whom you have a crush. You even hate the band that like totally gets you. You hate the world. But above all else you hate your family and you hate restrictions. Traveling and living in close quarters with your mom, dad, brother and sister or whatever combination of that set best describes your specific situation growing up is nothing short of detestable.

We’re pretty disgusting creatures when we’re 14 – old enough to be cynical, but too inexperienced to properly apply our criticisms to anything constructive.

It was at this age, on a family vacation to Florida, that my first experience with gambling occurred. On a day in which the rest of my family was going on a helicopter tour, motivated by the $100 in savings found in not having me along, I was allowed a day to myself. Of course, I spent the afternoon at a greyhound racetrack, where the adage that misery loves company is tested by the collective self-loathing making those in attendance incapable of loving anything.

It took a dozen races for me to work up enough courage to attempt to place a bet. I was underage, and if my pimply baby-face didn’t give that fact away, my complete and utter lack of confidence would have. I stood in line for less than 30 seconds before an older gentleman – a gentleman only relative to the others in attendance – pulled me aside to inform me that a greyhound had a better chance of placing a bet on himself than I did. He offered to wager for me.

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