PCA 2012: When the robot slows down

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgThere are around one hundred tables in the main tournament room of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and Randy Lew is only allowed to play one of them today. He's a leashed dog, a grounded pilot, a caged bird. Forcing Lew to sit and look at one deck and a mere eight opponents is akin to forcing a modern day Van Gogh to paint with a shaving brush. It's really a sort of sad thing to watch.


Randy Lew, one hand at a time

When this day began, we saw Lew in the corner of the tournament room with two big monitors in front of him and 42 open PokerStars tables. He looked at once as alive as he could be while still appearing to be some sort of hyper-mechanized robot. No one should be able to play that many poker game at once, but Lew did for the first time this week. As you likely have heard, Lew is getting a special pass from PokerStars as he sets the Guinness World Record for most poker hands played in eight hours while staying profitable. It's an eight-hour show that begins tomorrow at 1pm. Lew's been practicing off and on, and rumor has it, in his first two trial runs, he's made some money. Now we have to see if he can keep it up for eight hours straight.

Nevertheless, this isn't a story about Lew's World Record attempt. We'll have enough on that in the next day or so. This is about what it takes for Randy Lew to play one table.

It's been just seven weeks since we were in Macau with Lew as he made his first trip to play on the Asia Pacific Poker tour. Before that trip Lew had never placed higher than tenth in a live poker event. In fact, before 2011, Lew had earned less than $10,000 playing live tournaments.

The point is this: no one expected Lew to do terribly well. He's a specialist in multi-tabling, not single-tabling. For most of the first couple of days of the tournament, it didn't look as if Lew's stack was moving much at all. Eventually, something began to happen that was very curious. Lew, famous and infamous for making lightning-fast decisions, began to slow down and act like a normal person. His android personality became pensive. When it came time to decide whether to get it in with pocket aces on a queen-high flop, Lew took a lot of time before making his decision. Up against kings, he was right to get it in, but the five-minute wait for Lew was odd. "I thought he might have flopped a set," Lew said at the time.

This is the Randy Lew that went on two days later to win APPT Macau for nearly half a million bucks. This is why less than 24 hours before he sits down for a world record attempt that Lew is sitting in the Day 1A field looking for a chance to use his single-tabling experience for a shot at a seven-figure score.

Today, just as it was in Macau, Lew is doing slow and steady work. He's moved his 30,000 starting stack up to 39,000. Perhaps it's easier for the human robot to play 22 hands an hour when he knows he'll be 42-tabling tomorrow.

But for now...it's one hand at a time.