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A Perfect Trip, A Queen Within & Philly on Chess November 10, 2013

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Last time I updated you here, I was on my way to Vegas for a panel at G2E, the largest gaming conference in the World, and Rosarito, Mexico for WCOOP, the World Championship of Online Poker.



It was one of my favorite trips in a while, as I got to play online, catch up with close friends and enjoy all the perks of a legit vacation, from clubbing at Hakkasan in Vegas to a wine tour in Mexico.



I wrote more about Mexico in my piece, “Vegas to Rosarito: Goodbye Kitty”, where I concluded, “I could get used to this quiet resort town, now a bit louder with the big personalities of so many young poker players. I was so relaxed that I could see things more clearly and felt more sympathetic and less judgmental.”

Next I went to my second home Saint Louis, the capital of chess in the US.



The spectacular “A Queen Within” show opened last month at the World Chess Hall of Fame.
The fantastical installation above featuring designs by Hideki Seo represents the “Explorer”, one of nine archetypes of the queen explored (!) in the show. Photos don’t do it justice so see it in person.




I was auctioned off at the Queen’s Gala (lessons with me that is!), and I promoted the idea of “Queen Power” in chess through girls simuls and lectures.





I was also in a panel discussion on fashion, art and chess, along with “A Queen Within” curator, Sofia K. Hedman and several other brainy fashionistas.






I stayed on to give lectures at the club, all archived on YouTube. I did a series on previous Carlsen-Anand games in honor of the World Championship as well as my favorite, a lecture on problems and beauty in chess.

Now I’m back in Philadelphia and excited to play my first live poker since August at the Borgata. I’m also pumped for the Carlsen-Anand World Chess Championship. We just filmed this video of Philly predicting the outcome.

I’m working on some technical problems with blog post comments, so until then, hit me up on twitter!

Fantasyland: Three Nights in Vegas, Four Days in Mexico September 22, 2013

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Our latest PokerFairyTale video stars Katie Stone, founder of the Grindettes and Melissa Burr, high stakes mixed game and Open Face player.

When you get to fantasyland in Open Face Poker (find the rules to OFC here), you get to see all your cards (or see into the future), so we posted two versions, one in which the visuals are backwards and the other in which the sound is backwards.

The first thing I tried to work out in Open Face is the math behind risking fouls for fantasyland. In simplified terms, if two lucky things have to happen for you to go to Fantasyland, it’s often worth it. Three lucky things is too much. Daniel and I made these videos partly because we feel the role of luck in determining your success is understated, especially in fields outside poker. And often you can make a series of well-calculated risks without reward. The rich get richer and in Open Face, those running well tend to play better (especially in Fantasyland, ofc) than those who are buried. Malcolm Gladwell popularized this idea of “The Matthew Effect” in Outliers.

The video contrasts the perceived glamour of live poker, which can be more of a grind (represented here by the founding Grindette who relocated to Mexico to play online), than sitting in any living room or hotel to play a beloved game. Two and a half years after Black Friday, I still feel a gaping hole that PokerStars used to fill. Bovada is profitable but not the same.

After this summer, I unabashedly call Las Vegas one of my favorite places. I return for the biggest gaming conference in the World, G2E. I’m on a panel with One Drop champion Antonio Esfandiari, November-niner Jay Farber, Parx ambassador Matt Glantz and moderator Marco Valerio. We’ll talk about online and live poker from a players’ perspective.

In a beautiful twist of timing, I’ll head to Mexico for the final weekend of the World Championship of Online Poker (Hello again PokerStars!). Three nights in Vegas, four days in Mexico, very much on purpose.

Missing Vegas Already, in Photos July 17, 2013

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I fell in love with Vegas harder this year and felt emotional leaving after weeks in town, when I was supposed to be tired of it. I’ll miss the soft desert light and the random conversations with brilliant strangers and friends. My first piece on the WSOP, about Open Face action & strategy is up on the PokerStars blog. And now for some visuals:




I was flattered by how well-prepared the gorgeous Sarah Grant was for this PokerNews interview with me.



The no-frills Riviera Hotel was the site of the 2013 National Open, where we interviewed Amanda Mateer, among others, for USChess.

Daniel and I also shot a video for Poker Fairy Tale featuring Katie Stone, founder of the Grindettes and highstakes mixed game pro Melissa Burr. Some stills from the day:





















Melissa inspired me to become more serious about Open Face Poker, so it was a trip highlight to leave the Aria Open Face tournament with her triumphantly. We chopped the marathon overnight affair along with a few others.


Unfortunately, the WSOP Open Face tournament did not go as well.


As for the big one…




A few more happy photos from Vegas:





Celebrating Five Years in Saint Louis May 21, 2013

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I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Saint Louis for the fifth straight US Chess Championship in Saint Louis, all of which I’ve hosted and chaired. This year’s commentary was the most successful ever, with two dynamic sets. I got a chance to work with two of the best GMs in the business, Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan. You can replay live videos from our broadcasts on uschesschamps.com/videoalso look for Fox Sports Midwest coverage of the event.

Another highlight was visiting the Innovative Concept Academy (ICA) for a special event co-hosted by Hip Hop Chess Federation and the World Chess Hall of Fame merging music, martial arts and chess instruction. The ICA is a last chance school for kids who appeared in founder Judge Jimmie Edwards courtroom, in lieu of juvenile detention center. Read more about the ICA visit & STL activities on my US Chess blog and also see a report with lots of photos by Daaim Shabazz the chessdrum.




As a board member of the World Chess Hall of Fame, I’m very excited to return to Saint Louis for the “Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes, Fashion & Chess.” the biggest show yet since the institution moved from Miami to Saint Louis in 2011. The first event is a preview at Christie’s on June 4, and I plan to wear another shiny chess dress.

After a quick jaunt to New York, I’m off to Vegas for the National Open and the WSOP. Follow me on twitter to stay up to date on my busy summer!

On the Speaking Grind: MIT to STL February 18, 2013

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I used to be terrified of public speaking, until the time I dated a blind Icelandic politician. He told me that the secret to success is very simple, “prepare until you no longer need to.”

Last fall, I was on a game theory panel with poker champion and financial analyst Bill Chen and Eric Maskin, Nobel Laureate in economics at the “Adventures of the Mind” conference for talented high school students. My alma mater NYU hosted this edition. Also in late 2012, I spoke at the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Art After Five series on Duchamp and chess, which I wrote about on Chess Life Online.

Most recently, I went to MIT to give a one and a half hour lecture on poker and chess for Will Ma’s second annual intensive for credit poker class. You can watch Part I below and find Part II on YouTube.

Currently, I’m in Saint Louis where I’m doing a series of lectures at the STL Chess Club for various levels. Many of the classes are uploaded to YouTube, and the topics range from Double Attack for beginners to analysis of the beautiful Aronian-Anand game for more advanced players.

More to come! I’ll keep you posted here, and more promptly, on twitter.

Raven, the Newest Poker Fairy Tale (Plus my Dad’s Scary Voice) October 16, 2012

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The Raven is the newest project on Poker Fairy Tale with author and letter-writer Samara O’ Shea and Daniel Meirom, the best eye in the business (in my unbiased opinion of course!).

The Raven from Poker Fairy Tale on Vimeo.

The excerpt from our interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s supernatural poem about a man in mourning plays on voyeurism, feminism and how social media enables the descent into modern madness. @Edgar_Allan_Poe himself tweeted as we unveiled the piece, “You cannot be fully dead if you still receive email.”

A day after we posted it, I got the following voicemail from my dad, with a rendition of his own.

It made me understand that classic poems like the Raven, much like chess, has cross-generational power. I read this poem in high school, so did my dad, and I think (?) children still do. And yes, my dad is available for voiceover hire. He’d be perfect for Haunted House gigs.

Chips & Chess October 3, 2012

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Roulette Chess at the World Chess Hall of Fame

Chess and chance are in the air. Cardplayer just published my “Poker Player’s Guide to Chess Gambling.” I led with the famous “$50,000 game” between my brother and Tom Dwan. I moved on to chess-poker hybrids from poker chess to roulette chess to Chinese Poker Chess (see video below!). I also wrote a piece on chess and chance for the STL Beacon on my way to a roulette chess performance at the World Chess Hall of Fame. If you have any thoughts on betting on bishops, comment or tweet at me.

Photoshoot: Jamie & Jen Buried in Aces August 17, 2012

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If you’re a female and you play poker, at some point in your career you have to find a deck of oversize cards and do absurd things with them. In this case, Jamie Kerstetter and I were captured by Daniel Meirom playing with a silver deck, a pink deck, oversize 8×11 and 4×6 decks we used to shoot Goldilocks, a PokerStars Caribbean Adventure deck, and an “invisible deck” I picked up at the World Chess Hall of Fame.

In related news, Rachel Kranz wrote a piece on the Grindettes for Poker Pro Magazine.She writes about the changing image of women in poker, furthered by female success at this year’s WSOP.

Katie Stone is quoted in the article on the sub-forum on twoplustwo that she started, “That’s What She Said” (TWSS),

There have been so many women who have posted in our forum, who say, ‘I’ve been lurking for years, reading for years, but I’ve never dared…writing anything because I would just get trashed or get trolled.’ She hopes that the experience of posting in a women’s forum may help women become more comfortable with posting in open forums, just as the experience of playing in a women’s tournament may help women become more comfortable playing in open events.

Read the full article (pdf) here.

The World Series of Poker, The Clock & Goldilocks August 8, 2012

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I. The Clock
On the plane to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, I chatted with a businessman in his 50s. He was en route to Reno for a vacation and told me that “Well, at least you’re not going to Vegas in the summer, so the weather won’t be so terrible.” I said, “Really, it’s not so hot in June?” He: “What? It’s June already? I thought it was April.”

Usually clockwatching is antithetical to art and passion—aren’t you supposed to lose yourself and forget what minute it is, or even what month it is and how old you are?

Christian Marclay’s “The Clock” is a 24-hour collage of film, composed of clips representing each minute in the day. Although you are hyper-aware of time, Marclay’s installation inspires fresh questions like, “What is your favorite (or least favorite) hour of the day?” My answer, and presumably the best time to see “The Clock” is Magic hour, the flattering period before sunset or after sunrise when everything glows in warm, shadowless light. Alas, I saw “The Clock” in the harsh afternoon of 1 to 2 PM, which included a melody of “you’re late” clips (no one seems to arrive on time from lunch). At least this hour featured the famous When Harry Met Sally scene.

The simplicity of “The Clock” entranced me. Imposing such an artificial structure is a gimmick if done poorly but brilliant if well-executed, reminding me of two of my own projects:

1.“The ABC diet”, when I ate alphabetically for 26 days. On the first day, I ate only foods that began with A, such as asparagus and avocado up to ziti and zucchini on the final day. I wanted to show the pretentiousness of most fad diets, which tend to work simply because they restrict calories. In this way, the ABC diet can be effective as any diet that doesn’t let you eat pizza or bacon 25 out of 26 days. Indeed, I lost seven pounds.

2. A two part series I edited for Chess Life Online on the best move ever played on each square of the chess board (and a second part on the best composed moves on each square). Central squares and key attacking points like d4 and f7 present so many options compared to a less trodden square, such as b1. Similarly, the intensity of “The Clock” peaked at the top of the hour with a frenzy of tightly edited clips.

II. Goldilocks

In an NYU class on literary journalism, one of my most memorable professors lectured on a beautifully written piece on aging surfers, when he mused, “Isn’t the point of any subculture to freeze time?” [I must have been foaming at the mouth as he continued, because later that day, a popular blonde girl admonished me, “I think you get a little TOO excited in that class.”]

Though I can’t help but think of the passage of time as a curse, it’s also a privilege. Birthdays remind us that each year is an accomplishment of sorts. You didn’t do something dumb enough to kill yourself! In an 18th century precursor to the popular Milton Bradley game “Life”, the object of the game was to reach death first.

Our re-telling of Goldilocks is about aging during a card game. An early version of Goldilocks starred an older woman trespassing. But as the tale aged, the woman became a young girl.

Goldilocks from Poker Fairy Tale on Vimeo.

III. WSOP

The World Series of Poker is sometimes called “adult summer camp.” Like camp, it feels at once endless and transient. Endless because of the number of interactions, new people you meet and hours spent grinding 20 big blinds pre-ante. But when it’s over it feels momentary, since the experience is divorced from reality. A week later, the people I sent dozens of hand history and gossip texts were buried on my phone. I soon forgot about my daily routine of rubbing my face with too much moisturizer and eye-shadow, before layering up for hours of grinding in Amazon, a large conference room cold enough to hang meat.


These girls, including Alexa, the “poker prodigy” go to the WSOP instead of sleepaway camp

Sometimes I wanted to freeze time during a hand. Thinking for the wrong amount of time can give so much away. A lot of players spend a lot of time on easy decisions (known as Hollywooding when it’s a strong hand) to balance out the cases when they really need to think. Going too far with this conflicts with setting a quick pace to maximize hands per/hour.

Less than an hour after my elimination from the Main Event, I booked my flight home. They call it “the worst day” of a poker player’s year. If this is true, it’s a good year. A few days later back in Philadelphia, I started grinding and doing well on Bovada, one of the few sites open to US players since Black Friday. It was funny to run like god in tourneys with prize pools equivalent to the buy-ins I’d played in Vegas. But more importantly, I was feeling confident and excited again.

I didn’t think I’d be up for live poker so soon, but I’ve already played a couple of WPT Parx prelims and am psyched for the Main.

And the WSOP feels like a year ago. Getting knocked out of the Main Event feels more recent. It happened between the hours 1 and 2 PM.

Naked Chess in Amsterdam December 4, 2011

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The original, “Naked Chess” was a reversal of the famous photograph of Marcel Duchamp playing against a naked woman, as a promotion for the book Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess. The piece has since then been reworked into a more visceral edit for PokerFairytale.com and now has debuted as an art installation in Amsterdam.

The De Kring art society in Amsterdam hosted the closing ceremony of the Max Euwe Memorial on November 20th. I played against three nude opponents as the prize-giving commenced. In addition to referencing Marcel Duchamp, the striking visuals showed two important themes. Firstly, it was a humorous take on the many tourists who come to Amsterdam for sex and drugs. Here we had a show that was only sexual on the surface but at heart cerebral. Secondly, it played off the general theme of simultaneous exhibitions, which are so common in the chess world. The master or grandmaster giving the simul is in a position of power and by defeating numerous opponents at once, the public and the media is informed of her dominance.

More photos are on the official site–the piece was also featured in the Amsterdam Daily “Het Parool” and inspired the following drawing by Edgar Jansen.

Short Stacked Shamus of Hard Boiled Poker wrote a blog on strip poker and art about a recent installation in New York, “I’ll Raise You Once” by Zefrey Throwell. Shamus also touched on naked chess:

The strip poker piece reminds me of a similar but more interesting work, a short film titled “Naked” in which poker pro and chess champ Jennifer Shahade plays chess against a nude male amateur, Jason Bretz. That piece plays off of a famous photo of Marcel Duchamp (a big influence on the Fluxus crowd), reversing the roles of the man and woman to make a comment on the relationship of the sexes.

Naked Checkmate from Poker Fairy Tale on Vimeo.

The Max Euwe Memorial tournament itself was also very exciting, featuring a combination of veterans, strong young players and inspiring female players such as Pia Cramling, one of the first women to earn the Grandmaster title. Find more information on the event on the official website which also features more details on my other appearances in Amsterdam and the closing ceremony.