By Jay Lovinger
Page 2

Back in the late 1940s and early '50s, when modern art was booming in America, the ultimate no-no for an artist was to be bourgeois – meaning anything middle class and tacky, like desiring large amounts of money and other material rewards. Modern artists were notorious for demonstrating that they were not, in any way, bourgeois by, for example, peeing on expensive living room rugs during parties given by their Park Avenue patrons. Finally, Andy Warhol decided the ultimate bourgeois thing was the fear of being bourgeois, and to demonstrate this, he took an ad out in the Village Voice, a prominent New York alternative newspaper, that consisted only of his name and phone number and the following promise: "I will endorse anything for money."

Well, I'm ready to go the late, great king of pop art one better: I'm ready to sell my soul to anyone for money.

Yes, I'm looking for a backer to pay my way into the World Series of Poker championship event – the standard deal, the same one Stuey Ungar got from Billy Baxter back in 1997, full payment of the $10,000 buy-in, in exchange for 50 percent of the profits.

Since The Kid won the whole thing that year, for a record-tying third championship in the main event, it turned out to be a pretty good deal for Baxter. Stuey won $1 million, meaning Baxter got $500,000, or a 4,900 percent net return on his investment. Well, that's nothing compared with the possibilities for anyone with the imagination and foresight to back me. With 5,000 or more entries expected this year – there were 312 in 1997, the biggest field ever (at that time) for a poker tournament – first prize should be somewhere between $8 million and $10 million, so the return on the same $10,000 investment Billy provided Stuey could bring back $5 million, or a cool 49,900 percent net return on your money.

Jackpot Jay horse

Of course, since this year's championship will take eight days instead of the four days it took back in 1997, your annualized profit percentage will be relatively lower. And my odds of winning the championship are probably slightly lower than Stuey's were. But still …

It's pretty obvious what the advantages of this arrangement are to me:

(1) Amortization of risk.

(2) Quantum improvement of the chances of ending my yearlong odyssey as a poker pro in the black.

What's in it for you, dear benefactor? Well, a lot:

(1) It's better than buying a bunch of lottery tickets. This can be calculated with exact mathematical precision … assuming a few things. We know, for example, that winning $5 million in a lottery is roughly a 15,000,000-1 shot, after you take out the state's exorbitant share (our local governments, though elected by us, make casino operators and numbers runners look generous by comparison) and the money that goes for lesser prizes.

But what are the chances of Jackpot Jay winning the WSOP? Not fabulous, I admit, but a lot better than 15,000,000-1.

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Let's say, for the sake of argument, there will be 200 top pros in the WSOP whose chances of winning are 20 times as good as mine. Let's further postulate that there will be another 1,000 entrants who have twice as good a chance to win as yours truly. And let's further suppose that of the roughly 4,000 additional players expected to compete, I am somewhere in the middle, with as much chance to beat out the bottom half as the top half have to beat me. I figure that makes me roughly a 4-1 shot [(200 x 20 + 1,000 x 2 + 2,000)/2,000] against any other individual player – or a 20,000-1 shot to win the whole thing.

Now if you are as mathematically astute as I think you are – and you'd almost have to be, to consider such a large investment – you will undoubtedly note that you will have to invest $10,000, not $1, to win $5 million, making my actual money odds more like 200,000,000-1. Ah, but you are forgetting one key bit of information: The WSOP will pay off through the top 500 finishers. So all I have to do to get you back half your investment is to finish in the top 10 percent. If I make it to the top 5 percent, you will get back at least your entire investment. Anything better than that is all gravy.

What are the precise mathematical odds of my finishing in the top 10 percent, or the top 5 percent? Believe me, I could figure it out, but I don't want to take the risk of boring a potential business partner. (I can tell you, however, that game theorist and poker numbers wizard Chris "Jesus" Ferguson has written an entire about-to-be-published book on the subject. Look for it in neighborhood bookstores soon.)

(2) Cheap thrills. You've always wanted to play in the WSOP. But, sadly, you have a job from which it is impossible to get away for a week in mid-July (lifeguard, sole operator of a scuba equipment rental shop, Mr. Softee driver). Or you don't have enough money left over after paying the $10,000 buy-in for airfare and lodging. Or you just know that you won't be able to resist the wee-hour siren call of the high-stakes blackjack table. Or you're one of those guys who can't resist proposing to the first Vegas "showgirl" you "date."

No problem. Let Jackpot Jay live your dream for you. Even if the totally unexpected happens, and I fail to cash in at the WSOP, you can still have it all for a mere 10 grand … with absolutely no risk to life, limb, peace of mind or perfect employment record.

Ask Jackpot Jay!
Got a poker problem or want more details about Jay's poker adventure? Send in your questions and comments.
(3) You've accompanied me on the journey thus far … why not go all the way? If you've been a faithful reader – and I know you have – then you've already suffered through endless whining about my bad beats, complaints about my father and six months of steady losses. You've also read various rants about the shortcomings of poker on TV, the Hollywood Pompom stylings of Vince Van Patten, the immature (and worse) behavior of Phil Hellmuth, the Unabomber, John Bonetti, Scott Fischman, Josh Arieh and many others, plus confounding and useless bits and pieces of poker advice too numerous to list here.

If you've come this far, don't back off now. And this time, you can be a major factor in the denouement! Don't miss your chance to be part of Internet history … not to mention getting immortalized in print, when I finish my long-awaited book!

(4) Millions of dollars worth of free pub. Unlike Andy Warhol, I can't endorse just anything – for example, direct competitors of ESPN are verboten (Fox Sports Net, eat your heart out). But if you own, say, a small steel manufacturing company or a feisty but nutritious cholesterol-infused chicken outlet, I'll wear your shirt, your hat or your amulet at the tables for the world to see and fear. I'll even consider Magic Marker on my forehead, though I'd probably look for some added incentive (for example, a lifetime supply of steel girders, or a lifetime get-out-of-jail-free card) to go that far.

I might even consider selling naming rights to this column. Jackpot Fried Chicken – it has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

Jackpot Jay's Poker Glossary
Confused by some of the terms Jay uses in his poker columns? Get their definitions right here.
Ask. You'll never know if you don't ask.

Some readers have asked what I'll be doing after my yearlong journey is done. I'm not sure, but this backer deal might be a harbinger of things to come.

I could be looking for somebody to pay my divorce lawyer's fee, in return for 50 percent of all my soon-to-be-ex-wife's future earnings. Or perhaps there's a risk-ratio savant out there who would be willing to spring for my kids' college tuitions. Hey, one of them wants to be a filmmaker. I hear there can be a lot of money in that.

Remember: America was built on smart investments. (Ponzi schemes, too, but that's another story for another time.)

Last week: lost $300

Career-to-date: plus $11,222.25

Jay Lovinger, a former managing editor of Life and a founding editor of Page 2, is writing on his poker adventures for and also writing a book for HarperCollins.

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