January 07, 2009
Perth’s popular poker personality, Max Veenhuyzen, has joined the PokerNetwork team to bring to you his thoughts on the world of poker. Max is well known for being the first Australian to win the PokerStars Sunday Millions, as well as entertaining us articles for Bluff magazine and his blog at www.acehighwine.com.
Looking at Australasian poker from a largely West Australian perspective, I think it’s borderline el oh el interesting that so many Australian poker players herd their peers into either the “live” or “online” pen.
Depending on one’s own playing habits, this either means that the person in question is young, reckless and aggressive, or old, predictable and nitty. Very seldom is there any kind of middle ground.
The Victorian Poker Championships at Crown were the latest incarnation of this us-or-them mentality, particularly when it came to the sides being picked for this year’s State of Origin feature event.
Quick cliff notes: Many of Australia’s best online tournament players live in South Australia, yet when the South Australian side was named, prominent online identities such as Rayan ‘rkruok’ Nathan, James ‘Andy MacLeod’ Obst and Jonathan ‘xMONSTERxDONGx’ Karamalikis were nowhere to be found much, to the chagrin of the online fanboys and fangirls (and the relief and delight of other teams). Instead, a team of live players was assembled to represent the Crow Eaters and to many people’s surprise, ended up taking down the tournament, led by Mark ‘Champagne’ Salkanovic’s final table victory. There were even whispers going round the Vegas Bar that some teams had to buy their way out of bets made with other states as the writing on the wall became that little bit clearer…
Judging by the strong showing of the South Australian side, it would appear that the online railbirds of Australia had been silenced, forced to admit that when it came to live poker, the “old guard” wasn’t quite ready to relinquish its grasp on the title. “You youngsters should stay online and wrap yourselves up in your security blankets of VPIP and PFR!”
But then a little more than week later, Jay ‘SEABEAST’ Kinkade – Australia’s number one ranked tournament player on PocketFivess – put in a masterful performance in the Main Event to get his live tournament victory monkey off his back while pocketing a handy $200k confidence booster.
Hold on though: didn’t someone say that online poker is rigged, its players are cheats and that these players would never be able to replicate their online success live?
Your honour, the defense rests its case, drawing your attention to Jay’s effort and the quality of this year’s Vic Champs Main Event final table: with many seats being filled by internet phenoms, the table was undoubtedly one of the toughest in recent memory. Even the “older gentleman” was capable of three-betting (seemingly) light and making courageous – and more importantly, correct – call downs versus maniacs.
Both “live” and “online” players posted some strong results during the two-week championship period. The question of which camp of players is better than the other still remains unanswered – but as far as I’m concerned, the more apt question should be… who really cares?
At the end of the day, getting people into poker is paramount to the game’s success, popularity and growth. Does it really matter whether they play live, online or on their mobile phone on the train to work in the morning? Forget the semantics, what’s important is that instead of WarCraft, Solitaire of whatever, poker is more and more people’s game of choice.
Also, I’d like to comment on the absurdity passing judgment on people based on the results of just one single tournament (and yes, as a mainly recreational poker player whose only poker leg to stand on is victory in one particular tournament, I realise that I may be rubbing some of the lustre off my own achievements, but as you all know, I’m just a filthy luckbox): while it’s great having a vested interest in someone on any main event final table (10 per cent shares are even better), it’s vital to remember that tourneys are one-off events and inferring too much from such a small sample size is fraught with danger. In my mind’s eye, the following quote from Jonny Vincent says it all: “Tournament poker is like 20/20 cricket and 100 or 200bb cash games are like Test matches. Tourneys are just hit and giggle. You can run good for 500 hands and win $10 million. You can be a winning cash game player and lose for 500,000 hands.”
When you take something as competitive, lucrative and cash-rich as tournament poker, there’s always going to be plenty of lively “discussion” as to those that constitute the “best” and those that constitute the “worst.” It’s human nature. But what is also human nature is the ability to lift at just the right time and I hope that during the coming swatch of international events (starting with the imminent APT and APPT festivities in Macau), an Australian poker player can get up and uphold Antipodeans’ reputation for shipping the big events. David Saab got the ball rolling earlier this year at the APT Manilla event, hopefully a few others can join him in the winners circle by year’s end.
And fingers crossed, the entire poker community will be happy for them, regardless of whether the felt they play on is virtual or real.