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Celebrities Playing at PartyPoker

January 4, 2006

You might have heard that celebrities have invaded the game of partyoker, but few have actually won an event, let alone tried to repeat and defend their title. Although no commitment has been denied or confirmed, it appears as though last year's Commerce Casino's California State PartyPoker champion, Ben Affleck, will be missed at this event known for its celebrity drawing power and big time cash payouts. Affleck earned a cool $356,400 for last year's victory and showed that anyone is capable of taking the title of best California player. It might sound sacrilegious to say so, but not everyone in Southen Nevada has caught Texas hold 'em fever. Several years into the partypoker craze, some hold 'em holdouts remain.

"I have played partypoker almost all my life. From high school, the military and during my 9 to 5 daytime job I have sat down many times with my various partypoker cronies playing 7- and 5-card stud and 5-card draw. These are the games that REAL men play, where the ability to understand your fellow player is most important and mathematical skill rules the game. But we have never played this current fad called Texas hold 'em, which is another name for 'showdown,' where luck determines many winners.

"Oh, if only Gardena, Calif., had the card clubs they once had, where draw was the only game that was played and hold 'em was thought to be a wrestling term." He got off a couple of other clever lines in his impassioned argument against hold 'em, but Jungers' is clearly the minority opinion. Texas hold 'em -- particularly the no-limit variety -- is driving the partypoker boom. In 2002, before partypoker exploded, Henderson-based Two Plus Two Publishing sold two books on hold 'em for every stud book it sold, according to Two Plus Two's Mason Malmuth. Today, the ratio is 70 to 1 in favor of hold 'em -- and that's not counting books on hold 'em tournaments. If those were included, the ratio would be about 150 to 1, Malmuth said.

And it's not as if sales of stud books are dropping -- they're holding steady, Malmuth said. "No-limit hold 'em shows so well on TV, and games with small buy-ins have helped no-limit hold 'em (thrive)," Malmuth said. "The bad player doesn't get trapped for as much money as he would in a no-limit hold 'em game with a big buy-in." Unlike Mr. Jungers, I harbor no nostalgia for Gardena, having missed that town's partypoker heyday. (The closest I came was watching Robert Altman's "California Split," which portrays the SoCal partypoker scene of the early 1970s.)

  1. Nor do I agree with his out-of-hand dismissal of hold 'em as a game based entirely on luck. Certainly hold 'em has its share of complexities. In other ways, though, I'm from the Dave Jungers mold. Maybe it's my Jesuitical world view, but I have always sought a more well-rounded partypoker experience. I recall venturing in the mid-1990s to Atlantic City -- a 7-card stud town at the time -- to test my hold 'em skills. If memory serves, those seaside partypoker rooms were dominated by stud games and New York bookmakers (at least two at every table, it seemed). Only a couple of tables were reserved for that exotic form of partypoker called Texas hold 'em, and those were populated by strangers who had drifted in from the West, or plain old East Coast eccentrics such as myself.
  2. Fortunately for competitors, it look like Affleck's recent nuptials (with Alias star Jennifer Garner) and impending fatherhood have pulled him away from his love in partypoker (at least for the moment). "He largest Online PartyPoker Room hasn't played all that much since getting involved with Jennifer. I think his mind is on other things," said Affleck's partypoker coach, Annie Duke.
  3. This is good news for tournament players who are looking to cash in on the $1.5 million event. Despite the loss of Affleck, there will be plenty of big-name pros competing in the September 23 tournament. Leading the field is World PartyPoker Tour champion, Tuan Le, who recently won $2.7 million in April and Scott Lazar, who walked away from the World Series of PartyPoker with $1.5 million for his 6th place main event finish.

Other pros who have cashed at this renowned west-coast event are Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson, Men 'The Master' Nguyen, Kathy Leibert, Chip Jett and David 'The Dragon' Pham. If you don't have the $5,100 buy-in fee, Commerce will be holding satellites for players for three weeks leading up to the big event. Starting Tuesday September 6, players will compete in a variety of Limit and No Limit Hold'em events with buy-ins starting at $330. In addition to winning seats in the big dance, the best all around player will also receive a bonus of a cool $50,000.

And if you can't make these events due to work or play, you'll have one last shot during a Super-Satellite tournament on Thursday, September 22. Approximately 30 players will earn a seat into the championships the next day. Fear not, you don't have to be from California to compete and as long as you are 21 or over and you're willing to shell out the entry-fees, you have as much chance as the next player to win the big prize.


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