Chess 29may12The United States hailed its young chess prodigies this week, notably International Master Marc Arnold, who claimed the US Junior title in Rockville.

As a column in the Washington Times reported, the achievement of its top rated young chess players is great for the American game, with Arnold, 19, preceding his victory with a stellar performance at the World Open in Philadelphia. It’s good for an automatic place at the US Championship next year.

Not only that, Arnold can aspire to even greater things. Historically the title has proven a vital stepping stone, with previous winners including Bobby Fischer, Joel Benjamin and the current US number one Grand Master Hikaru Nakamura.

It’s in stark contrast to the world of poker which, when compared to chess, is played behind closed doors. Occasionally it receives a visit from the outside world; an agent reporting back with photographs showing players grinning from behind big piles of money. It simply adds more weight to the outdated notions that still hold poker back from being considered anything more than a curiosity.

But poker has its share of young challengers, equally adept at making the generations before them scratch their heads in wonder.

Jeff Williams won the EPT Grand Final in 2006 the same age as Arnold. Mike McDonald, currently ranked 11th in the world on the Global Poker Index, won EPT Dortmund aged just 18. Harrison Gimbel won the PCA Main Event in 2010, also aged 19. All three were too young to play poker legally in the United States.

To watch someone like McDonald in action is as awe inspiring as watching a grand master tie an opponent in knots. Few demonstrate what it takes succeed as well as he, and few speak with such authority or thoughtfulness about a game.

Just as chess followers salute their rising stars, the poker community celebrates the achievement of its finest. But that’s where the story ends. Poker is more than a big block of bank notes and a once a year photograph in the entertainment page. Yet it is often viewed as such.
When that changes perhaps the popular opinion will change too and the mainstream press will report on the success of players like Williams, McDonald and Gimbel as they rightfully celebrate the future of Marc Arnold.


Royal Flush SmallShe was the hostess of some of poker’s most exclusive home games, featuring Hollywood celebrities, high profile athletes and high rollers. Then, the world she had reigned over for years came crashing down around her.

Molly Bloom arranged these high-class poker games in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York and Miami. All was well until a lawsuit seeking to reclaim $4 million emerged, bringing the games to a halt.

Now Bloom, known to her clients as the “poker princess,” is writing a memoir about her experiences, spilling the beans on some of poker’s most secretive games.

Bloom was among those listed in the lawsuit by the former clients of Brad Ruderman, who is currently in jail for wire fraud and investment adviser fraud. Ruderman allegedly lost millions in the home games, but it was not his money to lose.

Among those listed with Bloom was actor Tobey Maguire, a keen poker player, who settled out of court in November 2011, paying back some $80,000 from his winnings; although his total profit was thought to be several times that amount.

The details of all of this, including the other players in the game, will feature in the book, published by It Books, a division of HarperCollins, and scheduled for release in summer 2014.


School Books Apple SmallAn article on the Card Player website this week features an interview with Dr Daniel DeBrule, an assistant professor at University South Bend, who teaches “Poker: Behavioural, Clinical, Cognitive and Social Concepts” to a class of 30 undergraduates.

In a similar vein to that of Charlie Nesson, the Harvard Law Professor, who uses poker in his teaching, DeBrule, 34, uses his background in clinical psychology with the aim of further legitimizing poker.

According to DeBrule, psychology has for years been an important part of poker, but analysis of what that actually means is missing.

“It’s a tricky thing because psychology is so multi-faceted,” says DeBrule, who invites professional poker players to speak to students. “You have biological psychology, clinical, social, experimental, developmental. There are so many layers to it.”

The interview, with Brian Pempus, discusses such things as emotional balance, control, superstition and tilt, all of which could potentially be brought under control by a little effort on the part of the player.

Ready to sign-up for class? Read the full interview on the Card Player website.


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Jan Heitmann

German player Jan Heitmann was among those busting from the Main Event of the World Series of Poker on what is the penultimate day, before the final nine return in October.

As well as being an accomplished magician and pianist, Heitmann is a good-natured, talented and conscientious player, who while the remaining 27 players were thinking ahead to their own glory, he was considering the pressure of what it would mean to win a second title for Germany, following the performance of Pius Heinz in 2011.

“There are so many good poker players in Germany and poker is semi-exploding there, and I’m happy to represent all of those good poker players. But I would really like to take it to the next step,” said Heitmann.

“A second German champion would be huge in Germany. You could do all the talk shows and get the public to know that poker is a skill game. It might affect the legalisation and everything.

“Making the final table would be enough to do that,” said Heitmann, before adding with a grin “after that I can think about winning for myself, because I need the money and stuff.”

Alas, Heitmann was eliminated in 26th place, behind one of two other Germans, Nicco Maag, who departed in 27th. But despite leaving earlier than he hoped, Heitmann’s performances should be noted for what it was – a perfect demonstration of skill and talent, played in the best possible spirit.
Heitmann is a perfect ambassador for poker not just in Germany, but around the world.


The debate over poker’s status as a skill game surfaced in a New York courtroom this week, when an expert witness said poker was a skill game, in the defence of a man accused of illegal gambling.

The case, which was heard in a Brooklyn Federal Court, centred on the defendant Lawrence DiChristina, who stands accused of running an illegal poker game on Staten Island, which attracted high stakes players from across New York and New Jersey.DiChristina’s defence attorney, Kannan Sandaram, called on Randal Heeb, formerly of Yale University and France’s INSEAD Business School, to explain how playing poker for money does not constitute illegal gambling.

Quoting analysis from “vast amounts of data” Heeb claimed to have sided with the consensus among the poker community that players rely on skill and ability to success.

“Skill predominates over chance in poker,” Heeb said.

As an article in the New York Post reported, Heeb’s convictions follow analysis of 415 million hands of Texas hold’em, which he used to determine that “skilful players are overwhelmingly more likely to win… than unskilful players.”

Heeb added that poker is now central to researchers developing artificial intelligence, and is of further value in the classroom, where Heeb formerly used poker to teach graduate students at Yale School of Management.

Ultimately, the case will go down to the decision of Judge Jack Weinstein, who while believing it to be an “interesting question” will be bound by the law, one that he believed the law included playing poker for money in the Illegal Gambling Business Act.

“It may be that Congress was embarrassed and put poker in because they were all playing it,” Weinstein said, to the amusement of the court room.
Read the full story in the New York Post.