The first week of the new year may have given us the impression that it was just going to be more of the same, with yet another PokerStars player boycott, Fedor Holz winning yet another Super High Roller, and so forth. The poker world has a way of pulling tricks out of its sleeve, however: Could anyone have predicted, for instance, that today’s top story would involve Antonio Esfandiari getting disqualified from a tournament for peeing into a cup in the middle of a poker tournament?

It’s not clear where this year is going, yet, but the stories being discussed on the poker forums cover more or less all the bases: comedy, tragedy, outrage and even, dare I say it, a little bit of optimism.

‘Urine’ trouble now, buddy
Thread: Antonio Esfandiari disqualified from PCA Main Event?

Confusion reigned supreme for a short while last night, both on Twitter and on the poker forums, when it came out that Antonio ‘the Magician’ Esfandiari had been disqualified from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event, but initially, no one knew exactly why. The official announcement specified only a “breach of etiquette,” but it was also quickly known that it had something to do with a proposition bet he’d made which required him to move from place to place by doing split lunges for a period of 48 hours.

When the full truth came out a short time later, it proved to be something that will likely still be on the short list for weirdest story of the year come December: Esfandiari, feeling that his legs wouldn’t be up to the task of getting him to and from the bathroom throughout the day, had apparently decided to relieve his bladder just off to one side in the tournament area, into either a cup, a bucket or a bottle depending on whose version you believe.

Given the mindset of the forums, unsurprisingly the first question asked was how much the bet was for relative to the tournament’s $5,300 buy-in: the answer is apparently $50,000 and the betting party is businessman Bill Perkins. Aside from that, the thread is largely jokes about “splashing the pot” and “pissing away” a tournament, though a few more squeamish posters seem genuinely horrified over Esfandiari’s behavior.

Enthusiasm for Molly’s Game
Thread: Aaron Sorkin to make directorial debut with poker drama Molly’s Game

As reported last week, writer and actor Aaron Sorkin is going to take a stab at directing, in a screen adaptation of the non-fiction book Molly’s Game. The book and film are based on the true story of high stakes poker games run by competitive skier Molly Bloom and attended by numerous celebrities.

Consensus, based on the book and Sorkin’s reputation, is that the film has a lot of potential and hopes are high. At the same time, a very interesting question is raised in the thread: Since many of the key characters in the book are themselves Hollywood actors such as Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, who will play those people in the movie? It would be odd for them to play themselves, especially as the activities they’ll be depicted as engaging in were illegal, but it would be equally odd to see one actor playing another while the latter is still himself active; the only context in which we’re used to seeing that happen is as part of a parody, such as a Saturday Night Live skit.

Hialeah Park scandal confirmed
Thread: State confirms “irregularities” at Hialeah Park poker tournament
Thread: Scandal at Hialeah Park Casino in Miami, FL

It came out in August that players at the Hialeah Park Casino in Miami were suspicious that some funny business was going on; there were discrepancies between the prize pool in a $200,000 guaranteed tournament and the number of players registered, which then drew attention to a slew of other problems. An investigation by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering ensued, the conclusion of which has been that the casino is, in fact, guilty of eleven different violations of state law.

The forums thread on the subject is mostly surprising for the relative lack of concern and outrage; no one is defending Hialeah Park, of course, but the thread has only produced 9 replies in three days. Perhaps because Hialeah Park is neither a major establishment nor in Vegas, most posters feel it’s of no concern to them, or perhaps the forums are experiencing outrage fatigue in the wake of the PokerStars changes, but either way, it’s a little odd how tepid the reaction has been to findings of wrongdoing on that sort of scale.

First GPL team announced, others forthcoming
Thread: GPL: Chris Moneymaker to lead the Las Vegas Moneymakers

The Global Poker League first season draft will be taking place later this month. Last week, in order to drum up some excitement, Alex Dreyfus – CEO of Mediarex Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Global Poker Index and Global Poker League – announced the name of one of the twelve teams which will initially make up the league and its coach. The Las Vegas Moneymakers will, as the name suggests, be managed by Chris Moneymaker himself, meaning that, among other responsibilities, he will make all of the team’s draft choices.

When the Global Poker League was initially announced, the reaction on the forums was largely skeptical, and that hasn’t changed, but the choice of name and involvement of Chris Moneymaker has been well received. Many forums members are pros or semipros attempting to make a living in a drying-up poker economy, and no one in the history of poker has singlehandedly brought as many new recreational players into the game as Moneymaker; it’s no wonder, then, that anything which would put him back in the public eye would be welcomed.

Dealing: another hard way to make an easy living
Thread: Michael laake interesting post from both sides of the felt.

Michael Laake is now a full-time poker professional, but until recently he was primarily working as a dealer and just playing on the side. In a Facebook post which was reposted to TwoPlusTwo by Allen Kessler, he expresses the feeling that depression among poker players is fairly well-understood and discussed, but that no one seems to realize how much of a toll the negativity of the poker environment can take on dealers.

Laake says that years of dealing with players and putting up with their abuse had made him jaded and uncaring, and the attitude he took away from the tables ended up ruining some of his non-poker relationships as a result. He feels that card rooms and casinos should be proactive in looking after the mental health of their employees, such as by making counseling available to them.

The response in thread has been dismissive and insulting, which is no surprise. Poker players, particularly those who frequent the forums, have become so accustomed to misery and depression that it’s seen as normal and complaining about it as a mark of shame. Ironically, Laake’s detractors do a good job of proving his point about just how depressing it is to spend one’s time around such people.