"Would you like to play?"
So comes the invitation, offered repeatedly through the days and nights here in the Grand Waldo Conference and Exhibition Centre, site of the 2012 Asia Championship of Poker. Kris Galloway is the questioner, sending out his invite from behind a desk situated next to a large area filled with chairs and beanbags in something called the Mobile Lounge.
Kris is Mobile Product Manager for PokerStars, and he's here introducing players and spectators to playing PokerStars games on the iPad. Those who stop at Kris's query often respond with a question of their own regarding the games he's offering, to which he's most happy to oblige. Like I did just now.
"You can play a sit-n-go or try the Zoom Challenge," he begins. Those wanting to play a sit-n-go can register for free to play at a set time to play in a nine-person sit-n-go on iPads, with the player coming in first winning an iPad for his or her achievement.
It has been kind of a curious sight, actually, passing by the Mobile Lounge and seeing people sitting around playing against one another, sometimes exchanging looks and/or conversing about hands and each other as they do.
The Zoom Challenge is also free to play. In that one, players are seated at a play money Zoom six-handed no-limit hold'em game and given 20,000 chips and 12 minutes to try to build their stack as high as possible, with the player building the biggest stack this week winning an iPad3. The second-place finisher will get a PokerStars Citizen watch, and the player with the third-highest score will get a pair of PokerStars Oakley sunglasses.
Kris was persuasive enough in his description to get your humble scribbler to take a seat for the Zoom Challenge. I sat and waited for just a moment as Kris prepared the iPad for my game, where I'd be sitting down as player "PSZoomStar." Soon he handed me the iPad and set me going, with passersby able to watch my game being displayed on a big screen television next to my chair.
On the very first hand I was dealt pocket jacks in early position and raised, and when I was three-bet and then four-bet I hesitated. "I'd pop it," advised Kris, saying I could start again should I bust. I did as instructed, the four-bettor called with A♠A♥, and five cards later I was sitting with zero.
We rebooted and my second session went a little better. Their attention drawn by the television screen, people passing by stopped to watch my game, reacting at times whenever I'd win or lose a pot.
I survived those next 12 minutes with stack intact, and in fact won a big pot on the last hand after turning two pair to finish with 30,956.
"How'd I do?" I proudly asked, to which Kris replied I'd come up a just a wee bit short compared to this week's leaders. Player Casey Kastle sits atop the leaderboard currently, having amassed a stack of 173,971 in his 12-minute session.
Kris explained to me the plan to incorporate a Zoom Challenge event into the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January. A $1,000+$25 buy-in event, players will follow a similar format by playing 12-minute sessions during a five-day period, with the payouts scheduled similarly to any other tournament.
Despite that McKayla Maroney expression on my face up above, I was, impressed with the Mobile Lounge. In fact, I was hooked, and soon was joining a sit-n-go. I plopped down in a bean bag alongside Donnie Peters, Lynn Gilmartin, and six others, we were each given iPads with which to play, and soon the tournament began.
Players were assigned generic usernames, meaning it was up to each whether or not to reveal his or her identity. The first few levels were uneventful, with no huge pots or eliminations. Then a hand arose in which I picked up 5♣5♦ in the blinds and watched as a player raised then another in late position called.
I called as well, and when a five flopped on a six-high board I checked to the original raiser who made a continuation bet. The LP player raised, I reraised, the original raiser folded, and my lone remaining opponent jammed.
I made the call, showing my set while my opponent turned over Q♣Q♦. I sat with a stoic look, trying not to give away to others that I was the player with pocket fives. But when the river brought a queen, I'd lost my stack and had no choice but to reveal myself as the ninth-place finisher when I climbed up out of my beanbag to leave.
The others made sympathetic noises at my departure from the Mobile Lounge. Meanwhile, the player with pocket queens -- it was neither Donnie nor Lynn -- did nothing to reveal him or herself as I left.
Back to work now, where I'll be resuming my reporting with added sympathy of my own for the bad-beat victims.
Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.