Preliminary Day One

The Poker Mi#ion Preliminary Day One: Mammoth Tiny, but Rumours Mammoth

THE ISLE OF MAN桾here抯 much to admire about my home in the US, especially the great state of California, but there抯 just something about Merry Old England that I find quite irresistible.

I've been here just a few hours, and already have taken the civilised Underground, not a smelly subway. When I accidentally chose the entry zone for UK residents, the polite gent there smiled and said with the sort of broad and kind smile that only emerges after a $20 tip in the colonies, "Congratulations, you've managed to select the incorrect path from amongst your two choices." When I looked to depart the Underground, the signs pointed to "Way Out," not "Exit."

England has but one leader, the Prime Minister, as opposed to the US, which at the moment has zero, one, two, or three Presidents, depending on how you want to look at it (although the Royal Family has had some practically Clintonian escapades in recent years, I must admit).

When you throw in my fascination with the 19th century British Navy, a modest obsession with Jeeves, Wooster, Elizabeth Hurley, Faulty Towers, and Monty Python (no, not Benny Hill-I do have some standards), and the fact that I'm one of the all-time great suckers for a British accent, it's pretty clear to me that I'm going to have a good time playing in and covering the Poker Mi#ion, even if the lads over here give me a royal pound-ing. So please pardon me if I indulge my anglophile weakness and use the more elegant UK spellings whenever possible, even if I am a bloody Yank.

Even though I've already snuck in a few properly UK spellings, the big dual spelling word at the moment is rumour. I've heard an unseemly number of them:

1) There are only going to be 120 punters in the main event, not enough to generate the 000,000 first place guarantee, and with deal-making theoretically unlawful in UK tourneys, the second place finisher will sound as pitiful as Oliver Twist when he asked "Please, Sir, may I have some more?"

2) There will be in excess of 250 competitors in the main event, creating a prize pool in excess of 800,000, leaving enough to pay the top 10 percent of the competitors some sort of living wage for their efforts, but still leaving a marked gap between first place and second.

3) The tournament organisers have no idea what they are doing. This is all just a publicity stunt for Ladbroke Casinos and Sky TV.

4) The tournament organisers have brought in the legendary Jack McClelland and Jim Albrecht to help ensure that no sticky wickets develop. (This last one isn't a rumour, actually, but it provides a nice counterpoint to rumour No. 3. It's very nice to see Jack helping to run this event. He inspires a lot of confidence in players).

The bottom line, as those crude gents from across the pond would say, is that no one really yet knows what to expect. Heck, er, I mean, odds bodkins, the day before The Big One started at the 2000 World Series of Poker, we had tournament officials predicting a turnout in the mid three hundreds and former world champions predicting a turnout in the mid two hundreds. That event wound up demolishing the old record of 393 entrants by starting 512.

Tournament Director Roy Houghton told me that as of this evening (Monday night), there were 102 paid entrants, and that given poker players proclivities to show up at the last moment, plus additional entrants expected to qualify via one table and Mammoth satellites, he hopes to get a number like 250, although the players I spoke with seemed to think that 200 would be doing well.

If it turns out that rumour No. 1, or some version thereof, happens, and there isn't much more than 000,000 to distribute, the world will see a winner get a check for a million pounds on live television. Nonetheless, even though dealmaking is technically illegal on the Isle of Man, it is a virtual certainty that "unofficial" deals will be made in the hallway during the breaks, if there is a huge gap in the payouts between first and the other places.

While no local betting shop would stay open very long offering a short price on a starting field in excess of 500 here on Thursday, it's safe to say that the starting field's size is too close to call, even though CNN has already projected Texas's TJ Cloutier as the event winner, with Phil Hellmuth as runner-up. Another rumour has it that Cloutier has already called Hellmuth and demanded that he issue a concession speech, and that Hellmuth has told Cloutier he intends to fight to the bitter end, and that Cloutier "should not get snippy about it."

CBS's Dan Rather has projected that the sadomasochists in the Poker Mi#ion field "clearly hold the whip hand at the moment," but as with most things Dan said on Non-Election Day, no one has any idea what he is talking about.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will be devoted to preliminary events. Today we had the first of the Mammoth Satellites, unique events wherein the competitors post 000 and attempt to survive into the top one-third of the field. With two thirds eliminated, the survivors gain entry into the main 000 buy-in event on Thursday.

MAKING IT UP AS WE GO ALONG

I'll give you today's results in a moment, but first the set-up for the three preliminary days. Today, as I've indicated, offers one Mammoth Satellite, as will Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday was originally to offer several 0 buy-in one table satellites to qualify for the Wednesday Mammoth, but now the directors have decided instead to offer two 0 supersatellites with rebuys. They will also offer 0 buy-in one table satellites to qualify directly for the main draw, and to keep early arriving high rollers who have already paid their way into the main draw amused, an 0 buy-in pot-limit Omaha tournament with two optional rebuys during the first 90 minutes.

The more dramatic news-and a sad piece of news for me, as I had really been looking forward to a Mammoth Satellite with perhaps 90 participants, 30 of whom would qualify-is that tournament officials have also decided to change the Mammoth format to one table events with nine players, three of whom qualify. Entrants still have to make the top third, but there will be considerably less room for maneuvering. I haven't yet decided if I'll play the new format. Probably will, but a lot of careful scheming and strategizing has gone for naught.

Wednesday's events will be limited to the Mammoth (possibly more than one) and one or more 0 one-table satellites.

Although some Mammoth competitors like myself (and no that is not a reference to my near two meters in height or solid 17 stone) were planning on buying directly into the Mammoth satellite, many will have come from smaller tournaments that have been held in Ladbroke Casinos all over the UK. Some will be attempting to parlay as little as an original  entry fee into 000,000.

At least the floodwaters, which were starting to reach biblical proportions around here, seem to have receded in time to allow the event to begin.

Activity was light in today's competition, as players have just started arriving. The Monday Mammoth satellite wasn't very mammoth; it went off as a ten player event, with Samir Jobak, Steve Pestel, and a competitor who identified himself only by his last name (Pirouz) gaining seats, and Arizona's Richard Tatalovich, who had already paid his way directly into the main draw, earning a cash settlement from the three qualifiers.

"I need to win at least one more one-table satellite, or do something in the main event," Tatalovich told me, "to make up for the Rolex I gave away at Foxwoods." Tatalovich was the point leader with four events to go at the Foxwoods World Poker Championships, but decided to stick to his plan to come here for the Poker Mi#ion, and expects that someone will pass him for the Foxwoods points championship and the Rolex that goes with it.

Other first day victors included David Plastik and Asher Derei, who each won 0 one-table satellites to earn spots in the Wednesday Mammoth.

THE EXCITING (OR DEPRESSING, DEPENDING ON YOUR POINT OF VIEW) CONCLUSION/b>

The first day concluded with a 0 buy-in (0 unlimited rebuys for the first hour) supersatellite. 86 players took part, including one who swore in his Card Player column last month that because of jet lag he was going to wait until Wednesday to play.

"What the heck," I thought, "it's only 0, and I won't rebuy more than once. Good to get a warm-up in."

There were 179 rebuys, but none by your author; I jumped on some maniacs early and chose not to add on (with ,000 in tournament chips already in front of me, adding on another 000 in play money at the cost of 0 in real money seemed like a bad investment). Four 000 seats in the main event were given away, and as is usually the case in these affairs, play halted as soon as the fifth place player was eliminated. The results:

1 (tie) Dan Tornopol, San Jose, CA            £6,000 seat

1 (tie) "Captain" Tom Franklin, Gulfport, MS        £6,000 seat

1 (tie) Roy Kibble, Northampton, UK       £6,000 seat

1 (tie) Danny Jordan, London, England   £6,000 seat

5. Andy Glazer, North Hollywood, CA      £1,125

6. Michael Iskander, London, England     £625

7. Pascal Perrault, Paris, France  £375

8. Dan Alspach, La Jolla, CA          £250

9. Nasser Nasseri, Manchester, UK          £125

It's hard to get sympathy when one nets over 000 for five hours "work," so I won't regale you with the sad tales of the hands that didn't hold up at the end. It was a long time before I stood up after the final hand. In fact, if they hadn't insisted I come over to the cage to collect my money, I might still be sitting there. About the only consolation I can find is I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything wrong on any of the key hands. I guess next time, I'll have to figure out how to do a few more things right. The key decisions will certainly make for some nice tournament quiz questions.

One thing's for sure: there might be a few nightmares, but it won't be hard to fall asleep now. See you here again tomorrow, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel (or should that be same English time, same English Channel?)