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Poker News | Online Poker | Tournaments

Playing the Mookie

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Mookie Johnson hosted the first tournament named after his screen name, more than two years ago, as a way to get his home game gang together during the week. Like most poker-playing degenerates, twice a week just wasn't enough to satisfy his group. Playing at Full Tilt meant they wouldn't have to leave the house, piss off their wives or husbands, or drink a little too much. Well, the drinking still continued, but as least their spouses were sort of happy.

About a dozen, regulars from his home game, showed. Maybe it was even less than that. Maybe it was only a half-dozen.

Those numbers seem hard to believe now. Last Wednesday on Full Tilt, 90 showed up to compete in the Mookie, and that crowd was a little smaller than the average gathering in the last couple of months. Two weeks ago a record 119 showed up. Not bad for a private tournament, one that still requires a password to join (though the password is the worst-kept secret in the blogging world; even Mookie regularly posts it on his site).

Of course, the crowds these days aren't Mookie's home-game buddies. They're bloggers. Probably 99 percent of the field is bloggers or those who know bloggers, Mookie said. And though poker bloggers host many other tournaments - the field's grown to an online tournament a night, on Bodog, Full Tilt or PokerStars - the Mookie is one of the most popular weekly events, if not THE most popular.

When Mookie started the event, a simple $11 NLH game, he was a blogging rookie who didn't know anyone else in the community. Waffles, a well-read blogger, met Mookie, discovered the tourney and started to spread the word. Many of the bloggers were looking for a get-together and the fields grew rapidly.

Now they're bigger than ever, thanks to the Battle of the Blogger Tournaments. This series, the third, features a series of blogger tournaments with some pretty amazing prizes at the end, including seats to World Series of Poker events. The Mookie, of course, is a big part of the series.

But even without the chance for fame and fortune at the WSOP, the fields at the Mookie can reach 75 on a Wednesday.

The tournament takes time to maintain but Mookie updates the results every week on his blog, usually stays up late to congratulate the winner (despite six kids, the last born a month ago) and posts a profile he puts together later that week. But he considers that time well spent. The tournament's brought him dozens of new readers to his blog and new friends as well.

"I enjoy being able to sling chips virtually with people who have become friends over time," Mookie said. "Plus what other tournament can you play where the best hand gets crushed time and time again. That's fun, right?"

There's a lot of joking about the quality of play, but the fields are generally made up of people who blog and write about poker and play a ton of tournaments a week. There's not a lot of dead money. I count my Mookie win as one of my greater poker accomplishments because of the tough field. I'm proud of it.

"The final table is always guaranteed to be rock-solid tough," said the blogger Surflexus, who has won the Mookie a record seven times.

Surflexus began playing regularly by the end of March 2006 because he didn't have a regular home game in town. "So it became my home game," he said. "I got to know a lot of the players from competing with them week after week."

Mookie loves to talk about the suck outs that happen every week in the tournament, but he also respects the play as well. "I think overall the level of play is better than a typical $10 MTT for sure," Mookie said. "There are some good players who show up each week to go along with a healthy dose of some tight and weak-tight folks."

Mookie used to spend a lot of time drumming up interest. "I used to do banners, incessant pimping and then going to each participant's blog the following day thanking them for taking time out of their evening to play the tournament," Mookie said.

Ironically, the fields are almost too large, Mookie said, although he believes that will change when the BBT3 ends. "It's great having a big crowd," Mookie said, "but it has lost a little bit of that home game feel to it."

Surflexus hopes the Mookie continues, big fields or not. He remembers the early days when he was playing with a dozen or so. "I miss a lot of the folks who played in the early days," he said. "The field is typically much larger now, and I think it's by far a tougher tournament to win than it used to be."

Even so, Surflexus will be there every week, hoping for title No. 8. "To me the Mookie is a chance for friends from all walks of poker to get together and play at a buy-in that everyone afford," he said. "It feels great to win any tournament, but the Mookie is one I really enjoy winning."

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