Make me an offer for 500 poker chips

The story ...

Last summer, I won sixty cents in a free poker tournament at I planned on playing until I lost it all, but decided not to take U.S. players for real-money games when Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. I cashed out and asked my readers what I should do with my sixty-cent check. One suggested I try to trade it for something better. So here I am, trying turn my sixty-cent check into a World Series of Poker Main Event entry through a series of trades. And while my plan may seem ridiculous, it's no more ridiculous than the UIGEA.

Currently available

Limited edition Super Bowl XXXVI football signed by former New England Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri. Trade includes certificate of authenticity, and also includes autographed picture of Patriots' safety Rodney Harrison. Want more information? Go to the trade post. Want to make an offer? Shoot me an e-mail at . Want to know how I got this far? Go to the trading history.

Slow and steady increase in support of regulation

When Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act in late April, he had just 11 cosponsors.

Since that time, there’s been a slow and steady increase in support for Frank’s legislation. The number of cosponsors has nearly tripled to 31 in the three months since he introduced the bill.

This still, however, represents less than eight percent of the entire House of Representatives, and the current number will likely need to be tripled yet again before Frank, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, will consider bringing the matter up for further discussion in committee.

One of the main problems, in my view, is that there are only three Republicans supporting the bill, compared to 28 Democrats who have signed on. While plenty of bills move through Congress thanks to partisan politics, I don’t believe the IGREA will be one of them.

It’s hard enough for a politician to support expansion of gambling. It’s even harder when it looks one political party could be tagged as the Godless gambling party.

While politicians are happy to accept money from gambling interests (e.g., Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who accepted thousands from Harrah’s and the NTRA while introducing several Internet gambling prohibitions) for their campaigns, they are also aware that plenty of people in the United States believe that gambling is immoral and that it should be outlawed entirely.

These people have always been more vocal about their distaste for gambling than those who believe Americans should be free to do what they like with their money. It’s more socially acceptable to say that gambling destroys families than it is to say that you enjoy a recreational wager, whether it be on a slot machine, a poker tables or at the race track … oh wait, scrap that … betting on horses is okay.

Anyway, in order for this legislation to move forward, we need more Republicans on board. And this issue should be very attractive to economically conservative Republicans (Rep. Ron Paul, a candidate for the Republican nomination for the presidency, is one of the co-sponsors), especially those who want to return to their traditional values (less government, more personal economic freedom) in an attempt to move away from the policies that President Bush espouses.

Bush, by the way, is reaching historically low popularity levels. He’s just one point shy of Nixon’s record low, which came just weeks before he announced his resignation.

Politicians, yes, even Republicans who are counting on the conservative Christian vote, will listen. Those of us who believe that Americans should be use our money to play at virtual poker tables or casinos or bingo halls just need to be as vocal as those who believe that it’s wrong for anyone to make that choice.

Throughout American history, free will has almost always prevailed, and I believe that if enough Americans inform their representatives in Congress that they’d like to have the ability to choose to make a bet online, Congress will find a regulatory framework to make it happen.

PPV coverage of WSOP was like a blast from the past

Like legions of other men in their 20s, I feel in love with poker when I watched Chris Moneymaker win $2.5 million and a World Series of Poker title on ESPN in 2003.

That tournament introduced me to the tradition and prestige of the poker's biggest stage, and like most other guys my age, it allowed me to dream that I, and amateur player, could someday take down the final table of the WSOP's Main Event.

Those dreams have faded for the most part, as I've grown older and wiser and my life has changed to include a wife and son (though I do still hang on to one shred of hope with this site). And the WSOP broadcast on ESPN has never been quite the same for me, in large part because I knew the outcome of the event before it was broadcast in my living room.

When Greg Raymer was dealt pocket eights against David Williams' A-4 near the top of the hour in 2004, I knew it was the final hand and there was no drama for me. Same goes for Joe Hachem and Jamie Gold's wins in 2005 and 2006.

This year, I watched the live pay-per-view broadcast on (We had been told the PPV broadcast was going to be available on Comcast in Boston, so our editorial team gathered at fellow poker writer Ryan McLane's house to watch it in HD. Instead we huddled around his laptop, trying to make out who was who and if that black card was a spade or a club.)

The broadcast lasted over 16 hours of real time, and it was the best Main Event final table I've watched since 2003, because for once, I didn't know the outcome.

It was thrilling drama, and it was impressive how well the live broadcast went, considering how long it lasted.

Phil Gordon and Ali Nejad did yeoman's work as commentators, and several high-profile guests were sprinkled in as well. Phil Hellmuth, Chris Ferguson, Jeffrey Pollack and Mike Matusow all took a seat next to Gordon and Nejad during the broadcast, and players like Erick Lindgren and Bill Edler even joined the group over the phone.

The commentary was insightful, but it was also entertaining to hear Edler disagree with each of Gordon's assertions and to hear Gordon talk about how unpopular he was on the 2+2 message boards. Neither of these moments would have occurred in the scripted commentary on an edited broadcast.

But the most amazing part of the coverage was the poker. Jerry Yang's rapid change in status from a short stack to a huge chip leader was unbelievable. Phillip Hilm's rapid change in fortunes from chip leader to first to bust was jaw-dropping.

And Yang's post-tournament interview, which ranged in topics from God answering Yang's prayers to come from behind in several hands to his family's amazing journey from Laos to the United States, was genuine and revealing.

I went into the final table with no opinion of seven of the players (I knew enough about Lee Watkinson and Alexander Kravchenko to have already formed one). It was a refreshing feeling to be able to watch them and develop a rooting interest, not knowing who was going to win. It was like watching a real sporting event.

I'm amazed at how professional the PPV broadcast was, and would definitely watch it again next year. My only suggestion to WSOP officials, however, is to delay the final table until the weekend. How great would it be to organize a Saturday afternoon poker game and have the Main Event final table going on in the background? It makes playing into the wee hours of the morning that much easier, and doesn't force you miss work the next day.

Oh, and Comcast? Please actually go through with running the PPV broadcast next year. I don't want to have to sit that close to Ryan to look at his laptop for 16 straight hours again.

No, I didn't make it this year, but that's okay

No, I didn’t end up making it into Main Event of this year’s World Series of Poker. In fact, I actually spent the opening days of the Main Event in Northern New York visiting my family.

The annual Todd Reunion takes place in the Northern Adirondacks in July every year, and this year’s event was my son Charlie’s first opportunity to meet his 89-year old great grandfather (his middle namesake), most of his great aunts and uncles and literally dozens of first cousins once removed, second cousins, etc.

Of course I would have loved to have played in the Main Event, but as you can see, Charlie enjoyed meeting all these folks, and I’m glad we were able to be there. Sure, I’m disappointed that I didn’t make it to poker’s biggest stage, but I’m not giving up yet. Hey, as Cubs fans are well aware, “There’s always next year!”

My quest to trade my way from a sixty-cent check from an Internet poker room to a seat in the WSOP won’t be over until one of two things happen: Either I manage to actually trade my way in, or the U.S. decides to regulate the Internet poker industry.

I’m doing everything I can do make sure that both things happen. I’ve been writing letters to my Congressman and I even met with one of his staffers to talk about Barney Frank’s proposed legislation to regulate the industry.

And while I was really busy covering the WSOP as a journalist (particularly the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event), I’m also still trying to trade the Adam Vinatieri-signed football for something that will get me closer to my goal of a seat in the WSOP. I even took the ball out to Vegas in the hopes that a craigslister out there would jump at the opportunity to collect some valuable memorabilia.

More important than my personal quest for a seat in the WSOP, I’ve been able to raise awareness of how silly the UIGEA really is. I’ve done a few radio interviews to talk about my trading quest, and I’ve been featured in a few newspaper articles, from The San Antonio Express-News to The Boston Globe. Every time I get the opportunity, I talk about how misguided the idea of prohibition is and make a case for regulation.

And there’s no doubt people have noticed – especially after the story in the Globe. One friend informed me that he was at a party and a random discussion ensued about “that guy who is trading his way to the World Series of Poker.” Another, whose wedding was just a few weeks earlier, let me know that her mother-in-law sent an e-mail to most of the guests at the wedding with a link to a story about “Charlie’s father.”

In reality, maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t make it. Not only did Charlie get to have blast and meet his extended family, but now I’ll get to continue to raise awareness through the Sixty Cent Main Event project until next year’s WSOP.

Why don’t you help? The lifeblood of this project is in the trades and the stories that I hear as a result. Got something you’d like to trade for a limited edition Super Bowl XXXVI football signed by Adam Vinatieri? and make me an offer.

The Main Event - the numbers game

World Series of Poker officials have announced that they are adding a fourth “Day One” to the $10,000 Main Event of the World Series of Poker. In my mind, this can only mean one thing: The dire predictions of the death of the WSOP were vastly overstated.

The $1,500 No Limit Hold’em bracelet events have all been just about sold out, with the latest garnering 3,151 entries, the third-largest live poker tournament ever. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Main Event this year will eclipse that number.

When President Bush signed the UIGEA into law and Harrah’s announced that it would not accept third-party registrations (e.g., Internet poker room registrations) for this year’s WSOP, many poker pundits predicted that Main Event numbers would crash as a result.

I’m sure that it’s awfully tempting for an online winner to take the $10,000 prize and keep it for himself. And sure, there are going to be hundreds, if not thousands, of online qualifiers who choose to pocket the five-figure win instead of playing in the Main Event. For the first time since 1992, the number of registered players may actually drop. (There were 215 players in 1991 and only 201 in 1992.)

But the WSOP has grown into such a world-wide phenomenon that I don’t think we’ll ever see a day when the Main Event draws fewer than 2,000.

I’m sure there were other reasons – outside of preregistration numbers – for adding a fourth day. When I talked to WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack last week, he mentioned that the tent which has been used as extra tournament space has been less than ideal, and he wants to make sure that everyone who plays in the WSOP feels like they are getting the same quality experience. Adding a fourth Day One likely ensures that no one who ponies up the $10,000 to play in the Main Event will lose out on the opportunity to play in the Amazon Room.

Additionally, it should allow all players to avoid playing as alternates. Last year’s event required four starting days with some people playing as “alternates,” waiting for tables to break up so they could sit down and start the tournament up to four hours after the rest of the field. This year, the WSOP Web site says that each Day One can accommodate up to 3,000 players.

While some may continue to assert that poker is in a decline if “only” 6,000 people play in this year’s Main Event, I believe it’s still on the rise. How many people would have played under similar conditions last year? I believe it would be fewer than will this year.

Will there ever be a Main Event with more than 10,000 people? If the price continues to stay the same, I think you can count on it.

PS - You can still help me be one of the many who plays in this year's Main Event. Time is getting short, but I haven't given up hope yet. I've got a limited edition Super Bowl XXXVI football signed by Adam Vinatieri available for trade ... whattya got?


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