When I flew to Las Vegas last week for Interop 2008, I never imagined that I’d be wearing one of the most coveted pieces of bling in the poker-playing world. But here I am, wearing one of the two bracelets poker pro Mark Seif. won at the 2005 World Series of Poker. (That’s Mark on the right)
Usually when I go to a conference, all I do is work, work and work. I spend all day holding meetings and attending sessions and I spend all night writing. But every once in awhile I manage to mix in some fun.
Naturally I was excited when the PR firm Voce Communications invited me to a Texas hold ’em poker tournament at Interop in Las Vegas. The tournament, sponsored by Barracuda Networks and NetIQ, was set up to give the two vendors a chance to schmooze with a bunch of analysts and journalists over a friendly game of cards.
The tournament prize (an iPhone) didn’t excite me as much as the opportunity to play a meaningful game of cards without any money on the line. I love playing poker, but I always seem to lose money when I play in Vegas. So this was a nice alternative. And since I’m a fan of poker on television, I was also thrilled to meet Mark Seif, a poker pro who you’ll see on ESPN’s World Series coverage and on the Travel Channel’s World Poker Tour. Mark was there to give the 30 or so players in the room a tutorial on how to play no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em. Then he was available to offer tips to players in crucial situations throughout the night.
I figured I had a good chance to win because I do pretty well when I play poker with friends. Yeah, I was feeling pretty good about my chances. And early on I felt like I was make the right moves. In one of my first hands, I was dealt a 9 and a 7. A few players limped into the pot by calling. I was the big blind so I just checked with my weak hand. When the flop came down 4-9-4, I decided to bet with my top pair. Two players (both NetIQ employees, I believe), raised me big time. I was left sitting there, wondering what they could have. Mark asked me if I wanted his advice. Since players could only ask him for advice once during the tournament, I told him I’d save his advice for later in the evening. I eventually folded. Mark grabbed my cards and looked at them. “Good fold,” he whispered from across the table. It was a thrill to get the thumbs up on a fold from such a great poker player. And he was right. My opponents turned over pocket queens and pocket tens. They both would have obliterated me.
Despite that smart laydown, I struggled to stay alive throughout the rest of the night. I won a couple hands to build up my chip stack early, but the rapid escalation of the blinds really cut into my money. When I was dealt an Ace-Queen of hearts late in the evening I decided to move all-in with my dwindling stack of chips. Larry Howard, vice president of Infonetics Research called me. He was holding an Ace, too, with a lower kicker (an eight, if I recall correctly). Although an Ace came down on the flop, Larry paired his kicker on the river to knock me out. I finished in ninth place. Larry went on to win the tournament so I can at least seek solace in the fact that I was knocked out by the champion.
I must say it was a thrill to meet Mark Seif, who was a very friendly guy. As a pro, he’s used to playing cards with millions on the line. One would think spending the evening with a bunch of IT journalists and analysts would be a bore for him. But he was having a good time. He even let me and my SearchNetworking.com colleagues Amy Kucharik and Sue Fogarty wear his priceless World Series of Poker bracelets.
Here are Amy and Sue with Mark. Amy lasted the longest out of all the TechTarget/SearchNetworking folks.
And here we all are, joined by Dana Brundage of SearchWindowsSecurity.com. Dana and I were knocked out in the same hand by Larry Howard. That guy is a shark!