A BIG MONTH FOR POKER TOURNAMENTS
It wasn’t that long ago that January was a wasteland for tournament poker, but these days it’s one of the biggest months of the year. Almost no matter where you are in the world, you can find a big-money tournament series within a day’s travel – and in many places it’s much closer than that.
One of the reasons for January’s rise to prominence on the poker calendar is the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event, which began its 10th running earlier this week. The PCA has become one of the world’s premier live poker tournaments, drawing the top online players in the world and bumping the prestige factor above that of your average tourney. And the field is always substantial, guaranteeing a big first prize. Whoever wins this year’s tourney will walk away with $1.85 million and join the company of past winners like Gus Hansen and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier.
The PCA is more than just one tournament, though. The side events in the Bahamas have proven incredibly popular and have grown in number and scope over the years. The biggest is now the $100,000 Super High Roller, which was won for $2 million yesterday by Scott Seiver. Only half of the 40 events on this year’s schedule have been played out so far, with familiar names like Marcel Luske, Peter Jetten, and 2012 PCA Main Event winner John Dibella joining Seiver in this year’s winners circle.
More big tournament action is due to follow in the coming weeks on the WSOP Circuit (Choctaw, Oklahoma) and the World Poker Tour (Borgata, Atlantic City). But perhaps the biggest internationally is the Aussie Millions. The first events in Melbourne will kick off on January 17th.
Not many players have caused as big a stir in the latter-day poker world as Viktor Blom. Playing as Isildur1, he arrived fully formed three years ago as if handed down by the poker gods themselves, regularly running chump change into seven-figure bankrolls that he was capable of blowing in a single session and taking on the world’s best players in any game they’d play against him, regardless of whether he had any kind of experience with it. To call him fearless would be an understatement of high degree. There just aren’t many poker players in the world as preternatually talented as Blom.
The young Swede began 2013 with a huge upswing playing nosebleed-stakes games at the resurrected Full Tilt Poker, where he’s one of the site’s three sponsored pros. Over the first eight days of the month he won more than $4 million playing a wide range of games, from pot-limit Omaha to fixed-limit triple draw and Omaha hi-lo. His best day was the single biggest winning day for any online poker player since Black Friday, a $1.35-million haul at the expense of Phil “OMGClayAiken” Galfond and Ben “Sauce1234” Sulsky on January 8th. Blom dumped some of that money back to Sulsky on the 9th, but he’s still up $3.5 million for 2013 so far.
IN RUSSIA, NEW STATE ATTACKS ON GAMBLING
Even while there’s all sorts of big poker action going on, there’s darker news coming from Russia. The legislature sent a bill to Vladimir Putin last week that ruled that gambling addicts can have their property seized by the state and their rights restricted, and the president signed them into law on Friday.
There doesn’t appear to be any sort of strict system for determining what makes one a “gambling addict” in the new Russia, but the consequences of being one are severe. The state may rule anyone incompetent and turn over control of his assets to a guardian, who would be in control of disbursing his “salary, pension, or other form of income” to him. One sure bet is that nobody who goes bankrupt trading stocks or otherwise doing business is going to be classified as a “gambling addict.” This is Gambling is always under attack from social conservatives around the world. As friend of CalvinAyre.com Dr. Patrick Basham has pointed out, most policymakers view gambling “on its best days [as] economically ambiguous and, on all other days, socially detrimental.” But the Russian government has particularly aggressive in making targets of gamblers in recent years. Russia outlawed all casinos and gambling clubs in 2009, creating special zones for the industry in places so far out of the way they wouldn’t be used for gulags. That drove much of the industry underground, and now it looks like the government wants to push the people who bet to the fringe as well.
The new law seems unlikely to help Russian society – as Dr. Basham’s research has shown, gambling has social benefits for not just the individuals who engage in it but for the community at large. And it’s certainly unlikely to help the tiny fraction of people who actually do have real problems with addiction, who will mostly just try harder to keep anyone from knowing about their problems so they don’t have their lives taken away from them. In the end the parties that really benefit will be those with the power to use these new addiction laws against their political enemies. The same law addressing gambling addiction also allows for the same kinds of penalties against alcoholics and drug addicts, so the ruthless and powerful will have a number of options available when it comes time to ruin an opponent’s life. Of course, there’s no reason to worry about that because nobody in Russia would abuse a well-intentioned law like that…right?