The 24-Hour Poker Marathon: The Concept - Monday 24th of April 2006

By Aaron Todd

NOTE: This is the first of a series of articles about my attempt to play a 24-hour session of poker on April 22-23, 2006. Look for more articles this weekend and next week to find out how the experience went.

About a month ago, I was covering the grand opening of the Foxwoods World Poker Tour branded poker room. After my colleague Ryan McLane and I attended the ceremonies, we decided to take the opportunity to sit down and play a few hands in the new room.

Yeah, the tables were nice, and the automatic shufflers embedded in the tables gave players a modest increase in the number of hands we could play per hour. But one player at my table peaked my interest more than the new digs.

This early 20-something guy sat down with heavy eyelids and a healthy scruff. When a cocktail waitress came by during his second hand, he ordered a coffee AND a cappuccino. And whenever he wasn't involved in a hand, he held his face in his hands, keeping his head from drooping the same way I did during Mr. Kingston's slide shows in ninth grade social studies class. Every 15 minutes or so, one of his friends stopped by to see if he was okay.

It was obvious that this guy was at the tail end of a marathon session, and while he appeared to be a solid player, he failed to adjust his strategy to our table and his short attention span led to a number of mistakes.

I've heard stories about professional and amateur players alike playing long sessions lasting more than a day. The concept fascinated me, but I'd never seen the results first hand. I started to think about playing a marathon session just so I could gain a better understanding of the inherent challenges involved.

The rational part of me said it was a stupid thing to do. The macho, test-the-physical-limits-of-your-body part of me thought it was awesome. (You know, the part of me that still thinks running 100 miles and drinking 100 pints of beer in a week doesn't have to be mutually exclusive.) Most importantly, the journalistic part of me saw an opportunity.

One day later, I sent a feeler e-mail to all my friends who play poker asking if they were interested in helping me put together a 24 hour poker game. The response was overwhelming. Some guys were interested in joining me in the marathon venture, while others just wanted to be there to play a supporting role. The end result is that I have a rotating cast of 15 people who are going to play in various shifts to keep a poker game going for 24 hours starting at noon on Saturday, April 22.

One friend is driving more than six hours from my hometown early Saturday morning. Another, an assistant lacrosse coach, will be driving two and a half hours from Maine as soon as his game is over on Saturday afternoon. Two regulars in my weekly game are even joining me for the full 24 hours.

I'm not sure what I'll learn from this experience. The rational part of me is already questioning whether being overtired for a full week after the game is really worth getting the material for a few stories. But the test-the-physical-limits-of-your-body part of me is relishing the challenge.

I'm looking forward to playing on Saturday afternoon while watching the Blue Jays host the Red Sox. It will be fun to relive the college all-nighter, to watch day slip into night, and then be surprised how soon the sun is once again peeking over the horizon. I can't wait for the players in the 8 a.m. shift to arrive on Sunday with our Dunkin' Donuts order in hand. But I'm willing to bet that after 24 hours of poker, what I will look forward to most is my head hitting my pillow.

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