Sunday, April 19, 2009

The TOT Tournament. Buy-in is $10,000

The picture was in a recent article in the Star-Telegram. It probably shouldn't bother me -- the problems of others -- but this particular problem does. I can't help it.
If you "Wiki" Mr. Hicks, it states he has a financial worth estimated at $1.3 billion. Google has a satellite picture of his $28 million mansion, one of several residences, I'm sure.
In simple terms, the Star-Telegram article states Mr. Hicks and his sports firm (HSG), which includes majority ownership of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars, is $525 million in the hole with the juice still running. In fact, he has officially defaulted on loans, missing a $10 million quarterly payment purposely until he "restructures debt."
I was telling my mother the other day I find playing poker surprisingly refreshing. As expected, she was aghast. No, wait, horrified is more like it. For those that know my mother, the reaction is par.
But, it's true.
I find it refreshing to find honesty in whatever way I can.
Poker? Honesty?
Think about it. In the game of poker, the economy is simple. You bring cash and trade for chips with the dealer. You sit at a table and invest/save your chips on every hand against other players, who play with the exact same rules. Some players will have much, much more experience. Others will have a lot of luck. The basic principle is this: if you know how to play the game well, you will have a legitimate shot at millions of dollars.
The main event at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is a no-limit Texas hold 'em event, where the buy-in is $10,000. Yes, a lot of money, especially considering the fact that there may be 6,000 or more players in that event alone. In order to have a shot at the grand prize, a seven or eight figure purse, you must outlast thousands over a several days.
The 2008 champion is a kid (I can say that now) from Denmark, aged 22. He banked $9 million and first prize.
Real money. A real, legitimate shot at making it big.
For many, comparing poker to real-world finance is, well, heresy. Wealth is a result of hard work, education, etc.
Yes, those things matter (even in poker where most champs spend countless hours playing hands). But, Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers takes exception to the norm, too. In it he explains many of the wealthiest people in world were, well, lucky.
What if (work with me here) baseball teams were up for prize every so often -- say every four years -- to people who won a tournament. Say the MLB suddenly changed all the rules and said, "Baseball fans of all walks can now buy into the Team Ownership Tournament (TOT), where the buy-in is $10,000. The grand prize: your MLB team of choice. You get to own and manage that team for four years.
Are you laughing yet?
But, wait, that's exactly what happens in poker rooms. You have the initial investment (buy-in). You're in. Education? Many hands of poker at home or online. Investment strategy? Fold when you don't have it. Raise when you do. Management skills? Don't donk your chips, and don't fall into a tilt (emotional whirlwind, where players lose most or all their chips 'cause they get pissed). Anything else? Oh yeah. Bluff in key areas to keep your fellow players on their feet.
See, most of us view the rebels of the world as "weird." When I see a lady clinging to her man, clad in leather and tats on a Harley on the road I think, "Wow, what did that dude do/say to convince his lady to wear a tank top and ride behind him on the road?"
I may actually admire that man more than a man like Tom Hicks, who poses as an example of success, but defaults on loans for his alleged assets.
I promise you if I default on my car loan, my bank will not have the courtesy it has for Mr. Hicks.
And, if you saw a picture of Tom Hicks and Chris Ferguson side by side in The Wall Street Journal, first, most would not know who Chris Ferguson is. Second, because he wears his hair long, a cowboy hat and goatee, he'd be categorized as some gambler unworthy of accolades from such a respected periodical.
What you don't know if both of Ferguson's parents have PhDs in mathematics, as does Ferguson in computer science. He just chose a different way of making use of his talents.
Dammit, the point...
It's getting harder and harder to view the world conventionally. No, I'm not suggesting we should all become gamblers and run to Vegas, or that we should buy Harley's, tank tops for our brides and take to the road with no helmets, although the visual is still tempting.
What I am suggesting is there is a lesson to be learned in a hand of poker.
Mr. Hicks, make the payment. You have the money. The people of the Chicken Friend Nation and the one lonesome Rangers fan in El Paso want to love our baseball team. But, when we read the team is broke and its owner is screwing around with its finances because he can, we get pissed.
Fold, raise or go all in. Something, for the love of God.

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