Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Kick in the Ass on the Way Out the Door

I'll be in Maryland where I grew up for 11 days starting tomorrow. Thankfully our dear friend Liz loves cats and has graciously offered to keep an eye on the house and Gus and Rio, so don't report us to the SPCA. Thanks Liz!

Since I've been working pretty hard the past month or two I've been ready for a vacation. Also I'd worked every day for 15 days straight between December 2nd and December 16th. So after a few hours on the morning of the 16th I mentally checked out. We had a Christmas party at our house that night and I spent all day Sunday glued to the couch watching football. I'd planned to get back to work on Monday, but instead Jen and I spent the day shopping, eating out and at the movies.

After spending the morning screwing around writing e-mails and generally wasting time I had to do some work to clear a $1,500 bonus before I left town. Things started out nicely as I found myself ahead $300 after 45 minutes. The terrible strain of this herculean effort required me to take a 2 hour lunch break.

I manged to haul myself back to my office at which point I experienced the second worst run of tournament finishes in my online career. The worst run I ever had was over 2 years ago when I had 23 straight SNG's in which I finished out of the money. If you assume that at worst I'm a player who makes the money 40% of the time then I can expect a stretch like that once every 126,625 tournaments. Of course after about 12 or 15 bricks in a row no one is playing their best so the chances of 23 misses in a row are a little better than that. Today I had a stretch that wasn't quite as bad, but still sucked. I had 12 misses in a row, then a 3rd and then 5 more misses.

The worst one was the 10th one in that stretch. Playing 4 handed with blinds of 100/200 and a 25 chip ante I had about 2,200 chips and was first to act. The player in the big blind had about 2,000 and the other two players each had just over 4,500. I raised to 600 with AK of spades and got called by the big blind. The flop came down 8 9 Q with 2 spades. While I didn't have a pair I was still in pretty good shape with two overcards and a flush draw and I knew I wouldn't be folding. In fact, I thought to myself "I hope this guy bluffs into me with a hand like AJ, that would be perfect." Sure enough, my opponent bet 700, I put in the rest of my chips and he called me with A10. "Ah ha!" I thought. Unless he manages to hit a J or a 10, THAT ISN'T A SPADE, I win and even if he does I can still hit a spade to win for sure. As you might have guessed a 10 came on the turn, I failed to hit a spade, or a J or a K on the river and I lost the pot.

But, that is not the end of the story. I still had 135 chips left. I went all in on the next two pots and split them both. Then I won a few pots and all of a sudden I was up to 1500 and back in it. The blinds had gone up to 200/400 and I found myself in the big blind with A4 of hearts. The player on the button inexplicably just called 400 as did the small blind who only had about 1500 total. I moved all in and the first player folded. The player in the small blind who was the same one who nailed me with the A10 earlier and had squandered some of my chips called me with Q8. The flop came down 3 4 J with 2 hearts. "Ha ha!" I thought. "This is just like before when I had WAY the best hand AND a flush draw covering some of my opponents outs. There's no way I can get totally screwed AGAIN after LOSING 9 STRAIGHT TOURNAMENTS." When the off suit Q came on the river and I lost the pot and my 10th straight tournament I was not happy.

Perhaps even more remarkable was the journey of the green dry erase marker that I grabbed off my desk at that moment. While a lengthy stream of F-bombs and other profanities came spewing forth at high volume from my very core, I threw the marker into the middle of the room with all my might. It glanced off a piece of furniture which cracked the marker and removed the cap. The now capless, split marker then managed to fly at a direct 90 degree angle to the direction in which I threw it where it came upon the intersection of a dresser and the wall. The dresser and the wall are also at 90 degrees to each other mind you. Yet somehow this single marker managed to make THREE concentric arcs of dots of ink on the dresser each at least 2 feet long AND a solid line of ink that was also in an arc shape on the wall. Talk about a magic marker!

Anyway I managed to lose about $600 on the day which wasn't how I wanted to go out on my last work day before my vacation, but I've certainly had worse days. I don't expect to write any posts while I'm in MD, but I have grandiose plans to work myself until I'm totally dead in January so that should lead to some interesting posts. Until then, have a merry Christmas and a Happy new year!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A brief comment answer

As I've said before I love comments (it makes me feel like people are actually reading my blog). In a recent comment Timm said "I'm no poker genius, and really not a computer genius either. have you thought about throwing a second video card in your computer so you could hook up a second monitor for dual desktops?"

This is something that I gave a fair amount of thought to when Jen and I moved into our current house in January. In the past I did all my playing on my laptop and was faced with VERY limited screen space so once we got a little more room I knew it was time to buy a desktop. I considered getting somewhat normal monitors and running them both off of one computer, but I instead opted to go for the 30 inch big ass monitor. I suppose, eventually I might want to get another one, but even though it's tax deductible I'm not ready to shell out another two grand for another one. Maybe when prices go down I'll reconsider. Another downside of adding an additional monitor is I need to be aware of what's going on in all of my games at all times and when you bring another monitor into the mix it means that instead of moving my eyes every half second I'll have to start moving my head as well.

If history has taught me anything it's that my super sweet $2,000 monitor will probably be gathering dust in the garage in 5 years rendered worthless by the new technology.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Who says 10 is too many?

Pokerstars is running a promotion until the end of the year where VIP players can turn their FPP's directly into cash instead of the normal merchandise or tournament entries. You get a better conversion rate if you have higher VIP status, but you have to exchange in bigger blocks. For example, if you are a silverstar VIP you can get $285 in cash for 25,000 FPP's, but if you're a supernova (like me) you can get $1,500 for 100,000 points. One small downside of this promotion is not only do you have to spend your FPP's, but you have to earn a certain number of additional points in a given time period to actually get the money, just like a deposit bonus. But, since I'm going to be playing anyway, who cares.

In an effort to get as many $1,500 blocks as I can, I've been trying to play a little more than usual lately. A few days ago, I decided to increase my points per hour generation and jump into a few bigish SNG's. After playing mostly $55's for the past month or so, I've started to lose a little bit of my tolerance for big losses.

As it is, I am probably the most risk averse professional gambler that you'll ever meet. You'd think that after playing 25+ tournaments with buys in's over $1,000 including one with a $5,000 price tag and another with a $10,000 one, I'd be totally desensitized. But I'm not. While this caution makes it difficult for me to take full advantage of a few opportunities, it's also kept me out of trouble. If you talk to many poker pros, including many of the worlds best players, they'll tell you that they were frequently broke during the first few years of their career. I've never been within shouting distance of broke, and it's hard to imagine a scenario where I even get close. With that said, I wish I wasn't such a big pussy sometimes when it comes to playing for big dollars.

While it wasn't exactly big dollars, I did feel a little nervous the other day when I jumped into three $225 SNG's and two $114's. If I blanked on all of them I'd be out just over $900 in the span of about 45 minutes. I got off to a shaky start when I went broke early in one of the 100's with JJ vs AK. Then I went down the toilet in a $225 when I lost AA to 55. YUCK! I managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when I went down in 4th place in another $225. Sneaking through with a third in the remaining $100 and another dud in the remaining $225, I found myself stuck $714 for the set and close to $1,000 for the day (I'd lost a little over $250 over the course of about twenty five 55's earlier in the day).

While I was playing, I looked up every player in the $225's on sharkscope (there were a few players in more than one so it really wasn't that many unique players) and found a few players with really interesting stats. Surprisingly there were a bunch of BIG losers. There were 3 guys who had lost more than $50,000 (one of whom had an average buy in of $957 per SNG!) and quite a few more who were in the negative $10,000+ range.

Also, I was surprised by the lack of really strong players. There was one fellow who had an average buy in of $250 and was winning $20 a tournament, but most of the other players seemed pretty average or poor. But, the most shocking of all, was a player who had played 70 tournaments, had an average profit of $1 per tournament and an average buy in of $7! What made this guy decide to play in a $225 tournament? His total profit was only $70 and if you add up all the buy ins of all his previous experience it would only be enough for two buys ins at the $225 level.

Since I saw how shitty everyone's stats were, I decided to not give up and got back in the ring. I jumped into two $114's, two $225's and a $335. If I blanked, I'd be staring at a -$2,000 day and probably kick myself for being impatient and risking too much. On the other hand if I did well I could pick up some quick cash. After all winning the $335 alone would net me almost $1,100.

Happily, I doubled up early in one tournament of each buy in. I started to feel better about my chances of having a small losing day instead of a big one and thought that getting back to even was a possibility. We got down to 4 handed very quickly in the $335 and I told myself to stay patient and play it just how I normally do. After what seemed like an eternity we had a chance for someone to go broke when two players went all in before the flop. One had 4,000 chips and AK and the other had 2,000 chips and 10 10. I crossed my fingers and after an A and a K showed up on the flop I was a 10 to 1 favorite to make the money. A 6 on the turn made it 20 to 1 and...WHAT a 10 on the river! I told myself it didn't really matter and I still had a good chance to make the money. Meanwhile I'd gone broke in one $114 and one $225, but I'd managed to make the money and was still playing in the other two. I thought about how cool it would be to make the money in a $100, a $200 and a $300 SNG at the same time.

Play continued in the $335 and no one seemed to be getting any cards worth going all in with. Even though I was kicking ass in the other two, I really wanted to make the money in the $335 and that was where I directed my focus. I took 1st in the $114 when my 33 beat KQ and then I took 1st in the $225 when I beat AK with KJ (very lucky). Now all I needed was the almost $600 I would get for 3rd in the $335 to get even for the day and anything else would be gravy.

I was starting to get a little short on chips when the following hand came up. I had about 2,000 left (there were 13,500 chips in play) and found myself in the big blind with A4 and blinds of 100/200 with a 25 chip ante. The two other players folded to the small blind (he also had about 2,000 chips) who just called. This guy was a total nut job. He was raising a ton, so by just calling he was telling me he didn't like his hand very much. I decided to put him to the test and moved all in. He thought for a long time and then called me with K3. K3? You dumb shit! What are you doing calling me with K3 for all of your chips 4 handed in a $335 tournament? I was 60% to win, but I was thinking more about the 40% chance I had of losing. After a 3 came on the flop and no help materialized on the turn or river I was out in 4th and left thinking back on the earlier hand where the 10 killed my chances on the river and the dumbass who knocked me out.

Today I took a different approach to generating points quickly when I jumped into 10 $55's at the same time! Gasp! I'd never played more than 9 games at once before and the problem wasn't really managing the games, but rather getting them to all fit on my screen AND be big enough so I could easily read the text. Also, it's not exactly easy to resize and reposition 10 windows while playing in 10 games. Once I got it set up, everything worked pretty well. After dropping two duds, I had a little external drama when my wife blew a fuse while vacuuming and disabled our router thus disabling our internet access. Luckily, I was able to get back on after about 90 seconds. Maybe this interruption was good luck because I went on to make the money in 6 of the remaining 8 SNG's with FOUR 1sts and two 2nds.

Overall I ended up winning what felt like an easy $1,000 today in limited action. I still have to play about 300 SNG's in the next week to earn the points I need to buy another $1,500 FPP block so I'm sure I'll be ready for a vacation when I leave for Maryland next Wednesday.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sharkscope and 100 SNG's

I've come across an interesting service for online poker players. It's called Sharkscope. Basically Sharkscope is a database of all SNG results for the major poker sites. You can search for a player by username and it will give you some data about their past results.

You just type in their name, click on search and about 5 seconds later it will tell you how many SNG's the player has played, their win/loss per tournament (in dollars), their average buy in, and their average return on investment (a percentage). I'm not sure how they get the data and from what I can tell in comparing my (and Jen's) records to their data about us, it's not 100% accurate. But, it's pretty close. The service costs $15 a month for 150 searches a day, but you can do 5 a day for free.

After a few days of doing 5 free searches I put out the big bucks and paid for a month of searches. I've noticed a few interesting things. According to the Sharkscope FAQ section about 2/3 of SNG players are losing players. I thought it would be MUCH higher than that. Also from my searches it seems that about 75% of the players at the $100 level are winning players at some level. While there are a few winning players with average buys ins in the $100-$125 range (and higher) most of the players seem to be winning at smaller stakes and playing a few $100 tournaments here and there.

On the other hand I would expect that at the lower levels you'll find boat loads of losing players. For the most part, the money flows uphill. When I'm winning money at the $100 level it's mostly coming from people who are winning $55 players. These players are winning most of their money from $33 players who have won at lower limits and are trying to move up as well and so on down the line. At the bottom it's all losers pumping money into the system. It's like nature, where the lizards eat the flies and the lizard eaters eat the lizards and the coyotes eat the lizard eaters and the pumas eat the coyotes and giraffes eat the pumas and then we have giraffe steaks on Thursday nights. It's just like the picture of the food chain that all of you who went to California Public schools (except the one my wife went to of course) saw on the wall of your class room. It was right next to the periodic table of elements from 1895 and just above the world map where the U.S. was referred to as "The New World." Mmmmm giraffe steak.

Of course there are plenty of losers who would lose at any level and just want to play for an amount of money that's interesting to them. I was playing 5 handed in one game with a player who'd lost $36,000 over 2,000 tournaments with an average buy in of $145 and another who'd lost $76,000 over about 1,000 tournaments and had an average buy in of $430! It's costing the second guy about $75 every time he plays a tournament. He must REALLY enjoy playing.

So far I'm not sure how much the information I'm getting is going to help my bottom line. I noticed the first day that I was spending too much time looking people up and not enough paying attention to what they were actually doing. But, every time I look someone up I make a note on them with their info (the websites have a function where you can make notes on other players and every time you face them in the future their note is right there for you to look at). That way I never have to look anyone up twice and eventually I'll have notes on a good chunk of the players.

What I've found most helpful is finding a player who is playing way over their head. Anyone who has an average buy in of $20 or less and is playing in a $100 tournament is going to be nervous and really sweating the money. It's easy to push these players around. It's also nice when I notice that they're using tactics that are common to the lower limits, but don't work in the bigger games. The most drastic case of this was someone who had an average buy in of $7 and was losing at that level playing in a $100 SNG with me.

A few times when faced with a big decision I've stopped in the middle of a hand to look someone up. This has been pretty helpful since the same raise will mean two very different things coming from an experienced winning player or a big loser. While it's helped me win a few nice pots that I might not have, I've also screwed myself by calling when I would have folded if I didn't have any data about my opponent. The long term benefits are still up in the air.

On another note I finally managed to play 100 SNG's in a day yesterday. The key was getting my face smashed (repeatedly) by a big, grey, vibrating cat at 7:30 in the morning. I was able to get started at about 8:15 and managed to play 64 SNG's before I took my standard 2 p.m. lunch break. I'd gone back to playing 100's for the past week or two, but I decided to go with the 55's since I knew I wouldn't be at my sharpest towards the end.

When I got to about 85 I really started struggling with mental fatigue, but my results were great. In the 6 tournaments from 86 to 91 (inclusive) I got a 3rd, two 2nds and three 1sts which, while profitable, also meant that I was playing short handed in a ton of tournaments at the same time. To play the remaining 9 felt like it took about 4 hours, but I made it.

I won just over $800 which is right on pace with the $8 per tournament that I managed during my executive week challenge. Over the course of these tournaments I paid $6,000 in tournament buy-ins (the tournaments are actually $55+5), paid $500 in juice, earned 8,750 FPP's (worth $139.55), and played approximately 5,000 hands. If you were to play 5,000 hands in a casino it would take you 143 hours, which is six days straight around the clock without missing a single hand or three and a half weeks working full time. Isn't the internet great?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Thanksgiving Miracle (not really)

This past Tuesday Jen and I made the 7 hour drive down to her parent's house in Orange County for Thanksgiving. Our pit stop at the halfway point gave me a chance to eat Taco Bell for the second time in four days (I've clearly been watching my figure), but, believe it or not, this was not the highlight of the holiday!

Shortly after we arrived Jen's Dad told us that we'd be eating something a little unusual for Thanksgiving dinner. I immediately thought (in my best British cockney accent) "what's all this then" as I considered what the hell we might be eating instead of turkey. On a side note, I'd like to mention that in my opinion the turkey is bar none the ugliest bird I have ever seen and while I consider myself an animal lover I am pretty sure I'd feel no remorse whatsoever about personally decapitating an entire rafter of Turkeys. Yes, a group of turkeys is known as a rafter. I'd also like to say that I suspect that I'd feel no remorse about killing the person or people who came up with the name "rafter" for a group of turkeys. Is this the best they could come up with? How about a hoard or a pile or a mess (How many turkeys you got? Oh, we got a whole mess a turkeys). If it was a group of people who came up with the term rafter, I think that group of people should be known as a "dumbass" of animal group namers.

Now that you've had plenty of time to wonder about what we were having for Thanksgiving, I'll give you the rest of the story. I'd mentioned to my father in law Gerry around Christmas time last year that I'd always wanted to eat a goose. Seriously, have you looked at a goose lately? Those things look delicious, but I hear they are a little fatty. Armed with the knowledge that I'd be up for something unusual, but still wanting to keep with tradition, Gerry ordered a turducken! When I heard this news I said "WOW, Awesome" and put my hand up waiting for a high five from my wife...which never came. She was too in shock from the good news to even muster a high five...either that or she was trying to wean me off of my 10 high five a day habit.

For those of you who don't know what a turducken is, it's a turkey that's stuffed with a duck which is stuffed with a chicken and has a layer of stuffing between each bird. John Madden the football announcer is a big fan of these meaty assemblies and has mentioned the turducken on many a broadcast. My friends and I, who are a bunch of ravenous carnivores, have talked on many occasions about how awesome the notion of stuffing meat into other kinds of meat is and how the creator or the turducken must have been a genius. No doubt a fat genius who most likely died before the age of 40 from a massive heart attack, but a genius none the less. Of course, I was pretty excited to actually get a chance to eat one of these babies after several years of mentioning it periodically.

The turducken did not disappoint. After a few miscues with the oven it came out about 2 hours after the initial ETA, but there was plenty of wine and football to fill time. All three birds were tasty and delicious, but I still managed to cram in a mountain of cheesy potatoes and pumpkin bread in addition to the trio of fowl.

I did managed to squeeze a little poker into the long weekend. On Wednesday, Jen and I went to Best Buy and bought a new and improved wireless router for her parents so everyone would be able to use the internet on their laptops in the living room. I played a few heads up tournaments as well as about a dozen SNG's, but my real success came on Saturday morning in the supernova freeroll. After about 4 hours I finished 5th out of 368 and picked up what felt like a very easy $1,040. Some of you may recall that this is the exact place and payout that Jen managed in the same tournament last week. Hopefully I can keep up the steady wins for the next three weeks, because I've got 11 days off in a row scheduled at end the year.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

He Called You With What?

This Saturday I made a brief expedition into live tournament land when I played a $330 NL Hold 'em tournament at the Oaks Club. This event was the Oaks Club annual "Turkey Shoot." I personally don't have a clue what poker has to do with shooting turkeys. There isn't anything unusual about the tournament format and it just seems like any other tournament to me. Except for the fact that the cards have turkeys on them...and so do the chips...and they use special tables shaped like various parts of the turkey...and the winner gets dunked in a huge vat of gravy...and the first person eliminated gets their head chopped off and their carcass thrown in the oven for 6 hours at 425 degrees. Other than that it's just like any other poker tournament.

I'd planned to have breakfast at The International House of Pancakes (how luxurious), but a line out the door forced me to go to plan B. Like most plan B's, this one was GREATLY inferior to plan A. Instead, I ate at The International House of Intestinal Rebellion which you may know as Taco Bell. After washing down a few burritos with a $5 coffee from the Starbucks next door, I was ready for action.

The tournament drew almost 200 entrants with a few dozen players getting turned away because of limited space (people around here must love killing turkeys). We started with 4,000 chips, 25 minute limits and 20/40 blinds so the tournament promised to offer plenty of play.

On the first hand of the tournament I was dealt pocket queens. Of course, this was a great hand, but I had that feeling like I was going to go broke in the first 30 seconds of the tournament. I raised, and another player who had his whole stack of chips sitting on his hole cards (even though you start with 4,000 chips most of them are large denominations so it's not hard to pick them all up with one hand) picked up all of his chips. I thought "shit, I'm going to have to risk it all on this first hand." But then he flicked his cards into the muck and put down his chips.

I played a few hands here and there, made a bluff or two and after three hours we'd lost half of the field. I had my stack up to about 5,000 and while I wasn't in great shape things were moving slowly so I wasn't in bad shape either.

In round 7 with the blinds at 200/400 and a 40 chip ante, I ran into an unusual situation. I was in the small blind and the big blind only had about 2,500 chips. Including the antes there were 1,000 chips in the pot and I decided well ahead of time that I would put the big blind all in if everyone folded to me no matter what I had. The player in the big blind seemed like a very nice guy, but he was clearly inexperienced and wasn't playing many hands. I figured that unless he picked up something really solid I'd win an easy 1,000 chips and even if I got called AND lost I'd still have 2,500 left. So when everyone folded to me I moved all in without even looking at my cards.

I've done this kind of thing a dozen or so times in the past, and usually I'll make it look like I'm checking my cards, when if fact I'm not looking at all. This time I didn't even bother, because I was sure this guy wasn't paying enough attention to notice. What's the advantage to not looking at your cards you ask? THERE ISN'T ANY! But, I find that it makes it a little more exciting and if you've decided it makes sense to move with any two cards, you don't want to look at 72 and talk yourself out of it. Once I was in a spot where I was short stacked in late position and after looking at one card, which was an ace, I moved all in. When I got called I said "I only looked at one." When I flipped up the other one it was also an ace!

Getting back to the story at hand, I moved all in without looking and expected a quick fold. Instead I got an INSTANT call. At this point I said out loud "Uh Oh. I haven't looked yet, but I don't like my hand." When I turned over my cards I saw that I had 5 3. YUCK! I was mostly worried about being up against a pair and I was shocked to see my opponent show 10 5! WHAT! A three was the first card off the deck which gave me some hope, but the second card was a ten and I said good bye to half of my chips.

I couldn't believe this call. There are certain situations where you have half or a third of your chips in the big blind and it makes sense for you to call with almost anything. This was NOT one of those situations. In my opinion about 1 in 500 players at most would make this call. The only situation in which it would make sense was if he saw my cards, but that wasn't possible since I hadn't even seen them! One of the players across the table asked my opponent "did you see that he (meaning me) hadn't looked at his cards before you called?" My opponent said he hadn't noticed, but even if he knew for a fact that I hadn't looked, 10 5 is in the bottom 25% of all hands so the call still wouldn't make sense. It's not like this guy was nuts and was in every hand. He'd been folding almost everything for 3 hours! I think he just gave up. He was probably tired of playing and had an impulse to just throw the rest of his chips in there and go home.

I was in pretty bad shape after losing that hand, but not out of it. 3 or 4 hands later I made a somewhat questionable move and ran into another weird situation. With blinds still at 200/400 the first player to act just called the big blind. For some reason this guy seemed to like just calling in early position with lots of hands, but I'd seen him fold to a raise every time. So when I looked down at K 7 I decided to take a shot. I had 2,200 left and I thought there was a fair chance that I could win the 1,400 in the pot without a confrontation. And even if I got called I'd still have a chance to make the best hand and win. I moved all in and the fellow who was in the small blind thought for a minute and then said "I should really call you." To which I replied with a smile "go ahead, I'm not afraid." He thought some more and said again "I should call you." After a little more thought he said "ok, I call" and put in another 2,000 chips. The big blind and the original caller both folded and I said "I looked this time, but I still don't like my hand." The whole table chimed in and agreed that I "at least had an ace if not a pair," which should give you and idea of my table image. My opponent said "I like your hand" and I thought "if you like my hand, then why did you call, you dunce?" I turned over my lowly K7 expecting the see a hand like A5 or a small pair. Instead my opponent showed me 4 5! WHAT! This call made maybe even less sense than the call with the 10 5 and again I'd have to say only about 1 in 500 players at most would make this call. Sadly my foolish opponent managed to make a straight and I was left walking to my car wondering how I could end up losing to that group of mooks.

I never ceases to amaze me how many people can totally ignore any logic or common sense and just act totally on impulse. While it should make them easier to beat, sometimes it can drive you nuts. Instead of feeling upset at this result, I felt more confused than anything.

Jen and I are off to Southern California for about a week so it will be a while before my next post. Have a happy thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Another Try at 100 SNG's

I made another attempt to play 100 SNG's in a day today, but my results were similar to my previous attempts. I called it quits after 73, just after 8 p.m. I managed to win about $800 today so even though I didn't reach my goal, I'm not complaining.

It wasn't that I couldn't continue, it was the feeling that I didn't think I could knock out another 3 hours worth of tournaments. Despite what you may have heard, working until 11 p.m. isn't fun. Who knew?

My biggest hurdle is waking up early. Whether I get up at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m., I have no problem working until 6 or 7 at night (mostly because there isn't a whole lot to do in the afternoon), but it becomes a real drag after that. 2 p.m.? Do you really get up at 2 p.m. sometimes? From time to time I've been known to sleep in that late. It happens when certain wives make me stay up all night and then refuse to let me leave the bed in the morning despite my endless begging to get up and start the day. It's one of the perils of having almost no schedule (I once asked in all seriousness "is today Wednesday?" when in fact it was Saturday).

Also I've confirmed that the players who play after 5 p.m. should all be heavily medicated. They are all totally nuts and have no clue what they hell they are doing. While this may seem like a good thing (and it is for the most part), playing against people who just shove their chips in with anything is not as easy as you might think. In the day time, I can whittle down my opponents by chopping out a bunch of small pots and for the most part avoiding major risks early in the tournament. At night on the other hand if you're up against players who are making huge bets and raises with a wide range of hands you can't just sit back. If you do, you'll find yourself ground into dust wondering what happened. Against these maniacs sometimes you just have to get in there, cross your fingers and hope for the best. It can be infuriating when you find yourself all in with something like AK against a hand like 76 and lose. If this kind of thing happens a few times in quick succession, you may find yourself launching dry erase markers with such velocity and frequency that an observer would swear you were training for the dry erase marker javelin event in the next office Olympics...Hypothetically. I wonder if I can deduct touch up paint and spackle as a business expense?

Spectacular TV and other less important obligations over the next few days preclude another attempt at the 100 SNG challenge, until next Monday or Tuesday. I may fire out a post on another topic in the next few days so until then, keep your eyes peeled, your ear to the ground, your tongue on the left side of your mouth, your nose in the on position, and your damn hands out of the cookie jar!

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Splash of Glory at Full Tilt

I spent my day working on an old deposit bonus at FullTilt.com. About a month ago I deposited $1,000 and after I earn some number of points they'll give me $500. One nice thing about this bonus which is different from most deposit bonuses is they pay out in $20 increments. So rather than getting $500 or nothing, even if I didn't complete the bonus by the given deadline I'd get credit for whatever I'd earned up to that point. In practice it doesn't make much difference to someone like me because I'm going to get the max bonus every time, but for an average player this is greatly preferable.

I spent the day playing a mix of $60 and $119 SNG's and picked up what seemed like an easy $950 in about 4 hours of play. I get the feeling that for the most part the players on Fulltilt suck. I might have to spend a little more time playing there. I suspect that all of the best players have done the math on the pokerstars FPP program and choose to play there just like me. If that's the case then Fulltilt should be full of duds. I have to decide whether it's worth giving up the FPP benefits to play against the weaker competition.

Another interesting thing about Fulltilt is they have a few dozen of the world's best poker players who own a stake in the website (technically they own the software and marketing company, but in practice they own a piece of the website). Any time these players are in a game or registered for a tournament the listing shows up in red (as opposed to black) and instead of screen names they have their actual name and avatars that look like the real people. So if you're playing against a guy who's name is Phil Ivey, you know it's really him and not just someone with that screen name.

Today while I was playing 1996 WSOP main event champ Huck Seed was also playing. He was in a few $525 SNG's, but he was also in a bunch of $119's as well. I played in a few of the same tournaments as Huck and in one we got down to heads up. After three hands I won! Sure the blinds were huge and when we got heads up I had more chips than him, but now I can say I played a world champion heads up and I won! Take that suckers!

Tomorrow I'm going to shoot for 100 SNG's in one day. I hope my head doesn't explode in the process.

I'd also like to wish some congratulations to my brother in law Damian's brother Shawn and his wife Amanda. They had their first child today at 11:40 eastern. It was a little girl named Sydney and both baby and parents are doing fine. How am I related to my nephew's cousin, you might ask? I don't think I am at all, but I will claim that Sydney is my niece in law even though to my understanding there is no such thing.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

EWC Days #5 & #6

My Executive Week challenge came to and end with a fizzle rather than a bang. On Friday I only managed 30 tournaments during 4 hours of play and broke even to the dollar. On Saturday I only managed 23 SNG's mixed in with a few multitable freerolls and over the course of about 4 and a half hours I lost $36. I did a great job of putting myself in position to win, but managed to blow it many, many times. If I was playing my best I would have won $500 today, but instead I lost $36. I definitely felt burned out by the end of the week and think I might have been better off playing 8 hours a day for 6 days rather than starting with 10 on the first day and then 9 on the second day and going down hill from there. It was good to discover that playing 85 SNG's in one day is not as bad as I thought it might be and it's good to know that I can push myself just a little if I need to. It's also clear that I'm not cut out for working a normal job.

All in all the week was a success. I said at the start that my goal was to win $2,000 and I managed to win $2,281. I also managed to generate $468 in FPP's so my net profit was really $2,749. If I could do that every week things would run pretty smoothly around here.

I had hoped to play 400 SNG's and work 50 hours, but I only managed 335 over about 45 hours. Of course if I was counting like a normal person (ie working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. counts as 12 hours even if you take an hour for lunch and a break here and there) I would have been over 50.

Another short coming is I never had a day where I played 100 SNG's. In order to make up for that I'm going to attempt to do it this Tuesday. There's no good TV on on Tuesday nights so I won't face the temptation of knocking off early. Also I'm not doing anything except sitting on my couch and watching football all day tomorrow so even after a normal workday on Monday I should be pretty fresh.

There isn't a whole lot of excitement coming up in my poker future. I don't have any plans to play any big in person tournaments for at least a few months and I've decided to pretty much stick to the unglamorous but profitable world of SNG's. After all I'm going to be taking 5 days off for Thanksgiving and 11 days off for Christmas. This job doesn't come with paid vacation so I'll have to work a little harder before and after the holidays to make up the difference. Jen has her eye on a sweet digital Camera in the pokerstars FPP store which costs 48,000 points (roughly $765) so it looks like she's going to be playing a lot in the next month or two. If she can keep winning like she has been we'll be loaded in no time.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

EWC Day #4

My resolve to continue this experiment at full force is fading as the days go on. Today was a casual Thursday and instead of sporting a shirt and tie, I came in to the office wearing a fire-engine-red Party Poker Sweatshirt. On day 1 I played for almost 6 hours straight to start the day. Today it was about 2 hours and 45 minutes before I took my first break. I managed another 58 tournaments and had pretty steady success.

I did have one major bump in the road when I came back after lunch. I jumped into 6 tournaments and found myself bounced from three of them within 5 minutes. Getting three 9ths in a row may be a first for me. In the preceding 258 tournaments I'd played this week up to that point, I'd only ended up with four 9ths so three straight was a real shock. If you consider the fact that I only get 9th about once in every 25 tournaments on average getting 3 consecutive 9ths is a 1 in 15,625 occurrence.

At the end of the day even though I felt like I got pretty screwed a dozen times I still managed to win $530. I'm ahead $2,357 after 280 tournaments which is right in the range I'd hope to be. While winning $8.42 per tournament is pretty solid I'd like to get close to the $10 range and I think I might even be able to get it to the $12 range. At first glance this might seem like a major jump since I'd have to increase my profits by 43%, but when you include the juice I'm actually beating the other players by $13.42. So a jump of another $3.58 is really only a 27% increase and given the fact that $3.58 is only 6% of the buy in I think it's possible. Even at $8.42 I should be able to make 8 grand a month which is just fine with me.

On a completely different note I was playing against a guy who's name was FishNBarrel today and I had the thought that the expression "as easy as shooting fish in a barrel" is totally ridiculous. First and foremost why is anyone SHOOTING fish? There seem like much easier and less expensive ways to kill your fish (bullets aren't free you know). The first two that come to mind are sharp objects or removing them from water. Now we have to ask ourselves is there water in the barrel? If there isn't, then the fish are going to die on their own so there is no reason to shoot them. It seems like it would make even less sense to shoot dead fish in a barrel so it's fair to assume that there is water in the barrel. Do you know what water does? It refracts light. This makes the fish appear in a slightly different position then they actually are. This means that if you shoot directly at the fish (which should be moving by the way) you'll actually miss. The shock wave from the bullet might be enough to kill them anyway, but I think shock waves are pretty far down on my list of ways to kill fish (I'll publish the full list upon request). If we're going to use analogies to express how easy thing are let's stick with taking candy from babies. After all that ends with candy and not a leaky barrel filled with bloody fish guts.

Getting back on topic. I've worked about 36 hours so far this week and I can't see making it to 10 tomorrow (my brain is turning to mush faster and faster every day), so it looks like I'll be facing at least a 5 hour Saturday.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

EWC Day #3

My campaign to get fired doesn't seem to be working. I came in to work an hour late wearing no shoes and a checkered tie that had no business being worn with the wrinkly striped shirt I'd chosen. I also left an hour early because NBC's The Biggest Loser is two hours tonight. I guess my insanely intellegent and charming boss doesn't care about those things.

As a result of my shortened day, I "only" played 57 tournaments and despite a streak in the middle where 9 out of 10 of my finishes were either 4th or 5th I had a solid day. I won just under $600 which puts me pretty much back where I was after EWC day #1. This is just fine with me since my goal was to make $2,000 for the week and I'm only $173 short after 3 days. I've also earned about $310 worth of frequent player points which should not be overlooked. If I could make it to $3,000 (including FPP's) by the end of the week I'd be very happy.

Another thing I have working for me right now is a deposit bonus. I talked a little about deposit bonuses in a previous post and today I started working on the best one I've ever seen. I deposited $2,000 and pokerstars is going to give me $1,000 after I earn a specified number of FPP's. It will take me 600 $55 SNG's or 333 $100 SNG's to earn the number of points I need, which at the rate I've been knocking them out shouldn't take me too long. Of course over the course of 600 $55 SNG's I'll be paying pokerstars $3,000 in juice so it's not like they're getting screwed. But I would be playing and paying the juice regardless so it's as if they're just giving me the money out of the kindness of their hearts. With that said it can make you sick to think about the amount of juice I've payed them in the past year. After all they've made $1,110 off of me in the past three days!

I've come up short of 10 hours the past two days, but I'm going to make up that time in the next two days or on Saturday. My real goal has been a 50 hour week. I'm still thinking I'd like to shoot for 100 SNG's in a day tomorrow or Friday, but I've discovered that once I hit about 75 it gets VERY hard to continue and it should take me about 12 hours to hit 100. I'm not sure I have a day like that in me, but we'll see. If I don't do it this week I'll give it a go next Monday or Tuesday after I've had some time to recover.

EWC Day #2

Day two of my Executive week didn't go as smoothly as day 1. The big problem was a lack of 1st place finishes. All of the money is at the top and it's almost impossible to even break even without a healthy supply of firsts. Traditionally I've finished in 1st about once in every 7 tournaments, but it took me 34 attempts to get my first outright victory yesterday. I ended up losing about $650 for the day after playing 81 tournaments.

My businesslike approach also took a small hit as I ditched my shirt and tie about half way through the day and left work 45 minutes early. I thought my boss (that handsome bastard) didn't see me, but on my way out the door he made me promise to make up the time later in the week or on Saturday. Sorry for the half assed update, but fatigue is starting to set in a little.

Monday, November 06, 2006

EWC Day #1

Although I was pretending to be an executive, I wasn't quite as professional as the real thing. I set my alarm for 8:00 and after 5 snoozes, I crawled out of bed at 8:45. I expected it still to be completely dark outside at such an early hour, but to my surprise it was light outside. At first I figured that one of my neighbors was shining a light on our bedroom window, but after further investigation I determined that it was the sun! What is this the freaking arctic circle? I thought 9 a.m. was the crack of dawn?

I was supposed to be "at work" by 9 so I had to rush through breakfast. I gulped down a few bowls of cereal while reading the paper. I actually didn't get much reading done because it turns out that I'm unable to see through cat and one of ours decided I should be paying attention to her and not the recaps of Sunday's football games.

I arrived in my office at 9:05 unshaven, in jeans, with no shoes on and wearing the wrinkliest shirt known to man, but I did managed to squeeze a tie around my neck in the 20 minutes between bed and work. I took a timer from the kitchen and set it to count down from 10 hours. Instead of playing my normal $100 SNG's I decided to drop down a limit to the $55 level. The only thing worse than working 50 hours in a week is working 50 hours when you're losing. I definitely wanted to book a win to start the week and this seemed like a good way to ensure that. I planned to play for about 6 hours but after 5 hours and 19 minutes I decided to break for lunch. In this first part of the day I was right around even most of the time. I played 47 tournaments and ended up with 20 money finishes, but eleven of them were 3rds with only three 2nds and six 1sts. I was ahead about $200 at this point and feeling ok.

I had a bowl of soup while I watched Around the Horn and Pardon the Interuption (a pair of sports talk shows) on ESPN. I have a daily routine where I always eat while I watch Around the Horn and I've noticed that if I TIVO it and watch it later in the day I always get a very pavlovian craving for my lunch time staples. I went for a 30 minute run following lunch and after a quick shower I was ready to get back into the action.

In my second session of the day I had tremendous success. I had two sweet streaks of money finishes. To start I made the money in 10 of my first 13 tries and I had another streak where I made the money in 9 of 10 tries. In the second set overall I had 24 money finishes in 37 tournaments with nine 3rds, seven 2nds and eight 1sts.

On the day I ended up winning a few dollars short of $1,900 and I set a few records. First of all my previous best for tournaments in a day was 62 which I eclipsed with my total of 84 (I'll shoot for 100 tomorrow I think). Secondly I made the money in the fastest time and the fewest number of hands that I can ever imagine. It only took 7 hands and 8 minutes to make the money in one tournament. I hadn't won a pot or seen a flop and wasn't even paying attention to that particular game when I noticed that there were only 3 of us left and one player had 10,500 chips! It typically takes about 35-40 minutes to get down to 3 players and the fastest I can remember making it to the money is about 13 minutes so I was really amazed by this turn of events.

Another thing I saw for the first time was a guy playing in 18 games at a time! The most I'd seen before was 12, but I noticed this guy in all of my games so I did a search for him and saw he was playing in eighteen $55 SNG's. This is TOTALLY insane. I've played 9 games at a time before and I think I could handle 10 or 12 for a few minutes, but nowhere close to 18. And he was playing like that all day. You need at least 2 and probably more like 3 or even 4 thirty inch monitors to run that many games comfortably. It didn't seem like he was doing very well which is not surprising.

If tomorrow goes anything like today I might have to make this work all day thing a habit. I feel pretty tired, but I'm hoping after a good nights sleep I'll be ready to get back to work. Tomorrow I'm planning on wearing my tie that has lobsters putting tobasco sauce on themselves which I love, but never get to wear because it is ridiculous. I'll let you know what happened.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Getting Ready for Some 10 Hour Days

On Monday I'm going to start my executive week challenge. Some people thought it would be this past week so you're not alone if you're confused about the timing. I'll be playing the part of a hard working, nut job executive and working 10 hours a day for 5 days straight. This will be 10 hours at the computer clicking away and I won't be counting any lunch or other breaks towards my total time. Check back for daily updates.

In other news, in the time between my last post and today I have been getting totally killed. It was nice in my last post to deliver some good news for a change, but since then, things have turned really sour. I've been spending my time playing $100 SNG's which is supposed to be the thing that I'm best at, but it sure doesn't seem that way. My results haven't been marginal or even bad; they've been horrific. It's not like I've been winning in the mornings and losing back my winnings plus a little more at night. Everytime I sit down to play $500 evaporates from my account. I'm trying to stay as positive as I can, but when all you do is lose, lose, lose for a week straight it feels like you're cursed.

Even worse, the last thing I feel like doing is playing poker. It's painful to lose hand after hand no matter what you do and it has a cumulative effect on your emotional well being. If you get a 4th place (the most frustrating result in a SNG that pays three spots) when you're ahead even a little or right after you get a first or a second it's no big deal. On the other hand if you've gone 8 straight tournaments without a money finish with two 4th's and three 9ths during that stretch and then you get TWO MORE 4th's when you were WAY ahead in both of the hands on which you were knocked out, it will make you scream "FUCK" at the top of your lungs. Even this kind of thing is tolerable under normal circumstances, but when it happens after things haven't been going well for a few days and there are more very similar stories from the preceding days, it makes you feel terrible. You keep thinking "when the hell is this going to stop?"

It makes me feel bad for professional athletes that get slammed in the media. Sometimes you just can't get it done. It doesn't matter how much you want to win or how hard you try. Sometimes you're just not good enough. I'm starting to worry that maybe I'm not good enough. Maybe I just don't have what it takes.

Even though that's how I'm feeling right now, it's not like I'm going to quit playing. I just have to keep doing my best and hope things turn around. There's a certain security in knowing that you're going to be playing 50 hours in 5 days. Even if things go poorly for the first 25 hours (which is an eternity in online poker) there are still 25 more to be played. Hopefully I'll be able to knock out a few winning days and get myself back on track financially and emotionally.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Executive Week Challenge

Jen and I will be spending the weekend in Southern California and attending Jen's 2nd cousin's wedding in Malibu. When I get back I'm going to take part it a self administered challenge. Starting November 6th I'm going to have what I'll be calling my "Executive Week Challenge" (OOOHHHH AHHHHHHH). Normally I like to work 5 or 6 hours a day 6 days a week. Sometimes it makes me sick to look at my hourly rates and think about how much I could be making if I really busted my ass. So for one week Monday through Friday I'm going to spend 10 hours a day playing. I'm going to pretend that I'm some career driven workaholic maniac executive and work all day long. I'm going to wear a tie as a symbol of my commitment to this theme (I'll post a picture). I'm going to get up in the actual morning and shave every day (it sounds crazy doesn't it?). By day two I'll probably be drinking straight Scotch at the end of the day and neglecting my wife. I'm going to take power lunches! I don't know what they are, but I'm going to take them dammit! I'm going to bitch about my boss (that asshole is making me work 10 hours a day!).

While 10 hours a day might not seem like an insane amount to most of you, think about the amount of actual work that you get done in a normal 10 hour day. How much time do you spend chatting with coworkers? How long do you take for lunch? How much time do you spend just spacing out or getting coffee or in the bathroom? During my work hours I'm making a decision every 10 seconds and every mistake costs me money.

I'm hoping to have one day where I play 100 SNG's in a day. To date my record is 62 and I've always wanted to say that I've played 100 tournaments in one day. I'd like to make $2,000 during the extavoganza and given the amount that I'll be playing that might be a little low. By Friday night I'm sure my brain will be mush. I'll no doubt fall face first out of my chair where a puddle of drool will accumulate and I'll lay there passed out until one of our cats decides to lick my face or attack my wrinkled, toothpaste stained tie (I'll post a picture of that too).

Now that I've posted this blog there's no backing out, and I encourage you all to mock me mercilessly if I fail to follow through on this. I'll do my best to post short updates daily.

(Note: there is also another new post after this one)

Taking a Step back and Jen Kicking Ass

This is a blog post that I wrote on September 10th. I had a few more things I wanted to add, but now I've forgotten what they were. Afterwards I'll have some comments from today.


I've been going through maybe the toughest stretch of my poker career over the past few months. It seems like no matter what I do my wins keep getting washed away by my losses. When you're playing for fun, breaking even is fine and most casual players would be thrilled to do so. When you're playing for a living, breaking even is a disaster. The bills don't stop showing up in the mail box just because you've lost with pocket aces what seems like 47,000 times in the last 2 months.

Not surprisingly, it can be stressful to lose or break even when you're used to winning. It's part of the job and every player no matter how good is going to go through some dry spells. I got the idea that I would write e-mails to any poker authority I could find and ask them how they deal with the losing stretches. Before taking this step, however, I thought I should first answer the question myself as if I were getting the e-mail.

So what's the best thing to do when you've been losing? Nothing will help you win more than winning. Well, what the hell does that mean? It means that you tend to play your best when you're ahead or you've had a string of winning days. When things are going well it's easy to stay patient, confident, have fun, and shrug off short stretches of bad luck. On the other hand when you've been losing it can seem like nothing is ever going to go right for you again and it's easy to start making non optimal plays in an effort to get even quickly. Another way to think about it is, if you're ahead $500 for the day, winning another $20 seems like a nice little bonus, but if you're stuck $500 it's easy to think "who cares about this stupid $20." Most of poker isn't massive bluffs or making full houses; it's taking advantage of small edges many, many times. When you start thinking about any amount of money or chips as insignificant you're in trouble.

So how do you start winning so you can keep winning? After all it's not like you were trying to lose before. One way to accomplish this goal is to take a step back and drop down a limit. You don't need to take it all the way to the floor and start playing the lowest limit you can find, but play for a little less money against weaker players and book a few wins.

Another thing that's important for someone like me is to get back to basics. I play poker in many flavors and varieties and while I'm good enough to win at all of them (I think), I'm certainly much better at some than others. Think about what your absolute best game is and in what form you are best at playing it. Maybe it's limit cash games in person, or 7-card stud tournaments online. For me it's traditionally been single table NL hold'em tournaments.

The most important thing you can do when you've been losing is do everything you can to win. Get plenty of sleep, eat right, drink less alcohol, and get some exercise. Treating your body right will help your mind stay sharp. Take every hand seriously. Set defined hours that you're going to play regardless of your results. Reread any literature that has helped you in the past. Do some critical thinking about your tactics. Do whatever it takes!

Now for my October 27th update. When I wrote the above post, I was feeling really down and my confidence was at an all time low. For the first time in 3+ years the idea that I might have to get a job squeaked into my head. I was still quite a few really bad months away from that possibility, but it just felt like I was never going to win regularly again. Deep down I knew it didn't make sense that I could win 34 of the first 36 months in my career and then just all of a sudden not be a winning player, but that's how it felt.

So what did I do? Well I took a day off and then got back on my horse. I also took my own advice. I started taking better care of myself. I dropped down to the $55 SNG's as opposed to the $100's. I backed off from 6 games at a time to 5 games at a time (it may not seem like a big difference, but it is). Guess what happened? I started winning again. Between September 12th and September 30th I played 17 of the 19 days, had 14 winning days and ended up winning $5,800. Somewhere in there I jumped back up to $100 SNG's and I continued to win through October. I took a week off at the beginning of the month when my friend Brian Ridgeway from Maryland and his girlfriend Andrea came to visit, but I've still managed to net close to $4,000 this month. $4,000 a month is a little below expectation. $5,000-$6,000 a month is par for the course, but considering the week off and the way things had been going I'll gladly take it.

Also thing were going even better until I took a major ass whipping two days ago. I was coming off a $1,400 wining day the day before, when I just got totally smoked. I played 27 $114 SNG's (I usually just refer to these as $100's) and when the dust cleared I had five 9th place finishes and only four money finishes. In the long run I've averaged a 9th place about 1 in every 25 tournaments and have made the money about 42% of the time so this was a real shock. It was like I was playing with a normal deck and my opponents were getting their cards from a deck with 10 aces and 12 kings. I lost with KK vs AA 3 times! That's only supposed to happen once every 5,000+ hands! I ended up losing $1,775 which was my worst losing day online since May. At least I was coming off a solid winning day.

Now back to more good news! As an added bonus to my recent return to respectability my wife has been tearing it up pokerwise lately. She is the only poker player in the entire universe who underrates her abilities. Most people who lose their ass on a daily basis will tell you how great they are at every opportunity. Jen on the other hand will swear until she's blue in the face that 1) she is not a good player 2)she is lucky to have more than $20 in her account 3)she couldn't beat a drunken 10 year old if they were playing their cards face up. This is not the case.

After taking a few months off from playing poker regularly for whatever reason she got back into it effectively because I made her (I'm a fiendish tyrant!). It all started with a pokerstars reload bonus. From time to time the websites will give you incentive to deposit more money into your account. What they do is match some percentage (usually around 20%) of your deposit up to a certain maximum. You can only cash out the bonus money once you've played a certain amount. In this case it was a 20% match up to a max of $120. For the average player it might take them a few weeks or even longer to earn the bonus, but it takes me about 2 and a half hours so I'm always happy to take advantage of these offers. While I knew it would take Jen much longer, I also knew this bonus would add a lot to her bottom line. She'd already started to play a little on the now defunct party poker so I didn't have to push too hard to get her to make a deposit on pokerstars.

She started playing the $55 SNG's which, not surprisingly, is the thing she is best at also (she's had some solid coaching). She was playing 2 at a time while watching TV in the evenings and it seemed like everytime I'd ask how she was doing she'd say "Oh I'm ahead $350" like it was $1.75. She earned the bonus in no time, but was having so much success that she kept on playing. In the beginning of October she picked up some more cash playing something a little different.

Pokerstars also offers what are called "multitable SNG's." There are a few flavors, but the ones Jen started playing were $20 buy in, 20 table tournaments. Basically the way it works is as soon as 180 players register for the tournament it starts. There are always exactly 20 tables of 9 players and they always pay 18 spots with the exact same prizes (18th pays $43, 9th pays $61, 5th pays $234 and 1st pays $1,080 just to give a few examples). Jen played 1 of these every day for 5 days and made the final table THREE TIMES including one 1st place (she also got a 5th and a 4th)! It was pretty sweet for her to pick up $1,500 playing $20 tournaments. It's amazing how much easier it is to beat players who suck instead of players who are just a little worse than you.

In the past few weeks Jen had been working on another deposit bonus on another site. This one is a 100% match up to $550, so it takes MUCH, MUCH longer to clear it. But her success has continued.

How much has she won? She won a fantastic $2,600 in September and an insane $4,200 in October! It's amazing to win that much money in such a short period playing 2 games at a time. Notice that in October, she's made more than me while working 3 days a week and doing the lion's share of the cooking and cleaning. It makes me feel like a real dead beat to read that sentence. I'm lucky to have her.

So why isn't she quitting her job to pursue a career as a poker pro? If you asked her she'd give you three reasons: 1) she is not a good player 2)she is lucky to have more than $20 in her account 3)she couldn't beat a drunken 10 year old if they were playing their cards face up. In addition to those main points I think she doesn't want the pressure of having to play or having to win. If you look back at my post about going pro, you'll notice that one of my main points is if you're going to play for a living you better LOVE to play. It can't be something you sort of want to do some of the time. With that said if she wanted to quit and play more I'd be all for it.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Past Three Days

I've spent the past three days in action playing cash games in the local card rooms. On Wednesday I started the day off right by getting a cavity filled. AWESOME! It actually wasn't bad at all. After going to dentists who were clearly sub par (I swear to god one of them was located between a dollar store and a fried chicken place) for the past 5 years, Jen and I decided to upgrade our insurance so we could go to one recommended by our friend Chrissy "The Gas" Cowsert. Great nick name huh? I came up with it (it hasn't really caught on yet)! Chrissy works for PG&E as a "gas engineer" so it makes sense in that context, but it also leads people to think she might have a problem with flatulence! HA! Or I suppose if you wanted to pretend it was still the 1940's it could mean she was hilarious. You could say things like "That Cowsert's a real gas! I remember this one time she took my pocketbook off the ice box and threw it right into the face of the milkman!"

Anyway, Chrissy recommended a great dentist and it was best cavity filling I've ever experienced. Afterwards I came home and jumped into 5 SNG's. After a kick ass performance I found myself ahead $700 and got the urge to go to the Oaks. I was planning on playing $15/$30 (a game where a standard buy in is $500 and you could easily win or lose $1000 in a session), but when I arrived, I discovered that there was a $30/$60 game going (As you might imagine this game has twice the stakes of $15/$30). The Oaks never had $30/$60 in the past (at least since I'd been going there) and it's only been in the last year or so that they've started running one every Tuesday and Friday. Since it was Wednesday I didn't expect one to be running, but apparently the Tuesday game had gone around the clock and was still going. There was a seat open so I sat down, counted out ten $100 bills and bought myself a rack of one hundred, lime green $10 chips.

I hadn't played a limit cash game in person since I was in LA in May, so I was a little nervous that my game might not be sharp. But, once the cards started flying I felt right a home. It's a tremendous comfort after going to the WSOP this summer that I've done OK against the worlds best so I'll be fine against whoever strolls into the Oaks. Another thing that helped was there wasn't much in the way of competition in the game. I expected to run into at least one or two strong players, but I didn't find any. In fact after about an hour it was perfectly clear to me that I was the best player in the game. There is something tremendously ego boosting to be in a room with a few hundred people playing poker and to know that you are the best player in the biggest game (there was actually one player in the building that I know is a better play than me (my friend Bombay Jack), but he was playing Pan).

At some point I realized that I was living the dream that I had for myself about 5 years ago. When I was dealing cards for a living instead of playing, all I wanted to do was play. I had the utmost respect for the players in the $15/$30 game and every time I dealt it I dreamed of sitting in that game and competing against those players. Eventually I did start sitting in that game and competing, but while I was a prop player, I only had to play up to $6/$12. I rarely made the jump to $15/$30 and was always nervous when I did so. To think that I could sit in a $30/$60 game at the Oaks, be calm, and be the best player in the game is something I could barely have imagined even 2 or 3 years ago.

It also put a smile on my face to look at a college kid or two sitting by themselves, reading cardplayer magazine waiting to get called for the $3/$6 game. The days when I was at that level were the funnest part of my poker career. I couldn't play whenever I wanted and as much as I wanted so when I did play I really enjoyed it. I'd get more excited about winning $100 in those days than I would about winning $5,000 today. It was nice to remember those times.

I spent about 6 hours playing $30/$60 and won a little over $800 which is a solid, but somewhat modest amount for a game of that size. The next day I came back with E.B. and played a little $15/$30. I'd done well the day before so why not keep the ball rolling. Unfortunately I had one of the worst runs of cards that I can remember. After 4 hours of play I'd won exactly 4 pots, and two of them were total bluffs. I wasn't getting any cards at all and found myself stuck almost $1,500. Yuck! I was playing well and up against weak opposition, but there was just nothing I could do. I got things turned around and only ended up losing about $650. It still sucked, but I was happy to make a comeback.

The next day E.B., Jen and I made the trip 30 miles south to Bay 101, the largest card room in the bay area. I wanted to sign up for two tournaments that are going off next weekend and I heard they were filling up quickly. Unlike big tournaments in L.A. and Vegas the one's around here always have limited number of seats available because of space constraints.

I considered playing $40/$80 but the amount of cash I had on hand was a little light for a game of that size. I opted instead for a $20/$40 game. When I sat down it was the toughest $20/$40 game I'd ever seen. Players can be grouped into two categories. Winners and losers. At the low limits 95% are losers and at the middle limits at least 80% are losers (the reason for the jump is the amount of money the house takes is proportionally much smaller the more money you play for). In this group by my estimation there were 6 winners (not including myself) and 2 losers. Everyone kept commenting on how bad the game was and luckily after an hour or so the game softened up substantially. I spent the early part of the day behind about $700 and the made it back to the point where I was ahead $300. Sadly I made a few bad decisions, lost a few huge pots that I played well and caught a few bad breaks towards the end of the session. I ended up leaving down about $450.

These past three days spent back in the card rooms, although not profitable, gave me confidence that I could in fact earn a nice living even if online poker goes the way of the do do. It was also fun and I expect that I'll be making weekly appearances at the Tuesday $30/$60 at the Oaks.

Bush Signs the Bill

On Friday the 13th (DUN DUN DUH! AHHHHHHHH!) President Bush signed the Safe Port Act into law and after 8 years of steady growth, online poker took it's first ever step back. So far there have been two fairly major developments that have affected me personally as well as a few secondary concerns.

The first major development is the declaration by firepay that they will no longer make transfers to and from gambling sites. Firepay is a third party company based outside the US that used to serve as an intermediary between your bank and gambling websites. While in most cases you could transfer money to and from your bank directly, this process took a few days if not a week. On the other hand, with firepay once they'd verified your identity and bank account info, you could make deposits that would get credited instantly (they made their money by charging $4 for every deposit). This was handy for me if I wanted to play at a new website for the first time or found a tournament that I wanted to play at a website where I had account with no money in it. Just a few clicks and in 90 seconds or so I could start playing on a new site.

I'm sorry to see them go, but there is another option - neteller. Neteller does exactly the same thing, but seems a little bit worse. For one thing, instead of charging you $4 on an instant deposit they charge you 8%! They do allow free deposits and withdrawals, but it seems like they take about a week in either direction. I imagine they keep this process as slow as they can to encourage the instant deposits. 8% is a prohibitive amount for me so I'll no longer be able to do instant deposits. Instead I'll probably be forced to keep some sizeable chunk of money in there at all times. This really isn't that big of a deal, but it is a minor inconvenience.

The second development, which is much more significant, is the total demise of party poker. As soon as Bush signed the bill party poker voluntarily blocked all US users from playing in their games. This is big news since party poker was the biggest poker website out there. They were just a shade behind pokerstars in terms of multi table tournaments but they had at least twice as many cash games running at any given time as their closest competitor. Furthermore once you got above the low limits (maybe above $5/$10) they had as many games running as ALL of the other websites in existence put together.

When I first started playing online poker, party poker was the place I started. Every time they deal a hand it gets a number. The first hand they ever dealt in 1999 was hand #1. By the time I started in January 2004 they'd made it to hand number 240,000,000 after 5 years of operation. In the two and a half years since they've dealt over FIVE BILLION more hands. The reason I chose them to start with was they advertised up to 25,000+ simultaneous users. This kind of thing would happen about 8 p.m. pacific on a Friday or Saturday night. Coming from a card room with 25 tables that would have 250 players playing at once, this was totally insane. A few years later, before the shutdown you could find 25,000 players playing at 5 a.m. on a Tuesday and at peak hours you'd find 100,000.

The good thing is about 10 months ago I pretty much jumped ship from party poker. While I spent the first year and a half or so of my online career playing 95% on party poker, on January 1st of this year pokerstars introduced a rewards system that is worth $1,000-$2,000 a month to me for doing the same stuff. It makes sense for them because they're making 3 or 4 times that amount from me and they wouldn't have gotten anything at all without it. Actually, even if they totally cancelled the rewards system I'd still stick with pokerstars because I like their software and service much better than any other site I've played on.

The good news is I didn't lose any money and Jen and I actually MADE a few dollars off the deal. How the hell did we manage that? We're f-ing geniuses that's how! In all seriousness it came from the party poker Monster series of tournaments. They had close to $15,000,000 accumulated for the final tournament and were forced to totally dissolve the entire system of weekly and monthly tournaments. As a result for every weekly entry a player had, he or she was credited with $125 dollars. Every monthly entry was now worth $350 and every final entry was worth $1,500. Sadly we didn't have any final entries, but I did have two monthly entries and Jen had three! This means party poker dumped $1,750 into the Huff coffers as a little going away present.

A few of the other publicly traded and maybe one or two privately owned websites have stopped serving US customers. From what I understand US customers make up 80% of the market so I would assume that some of the smallest websites may be forced to close up shop without US dollars coming in. On the other hand the websites that do stay in operation should get a nice boost.

I already posted the e-mail that I got from Full Tilt Poker and here is the core of the message I got from another website:

"I want to confirm to all existing and potential poker players that itÂ’s business as usual here at DoyleÂ’s Room and we continue to accept players from all over the world including the United States of America. We at DoyleÂ’s Room have taken extensive legal advice and believe that it is far too early to fully understand the implications of this bill on our industry. Based on the legal advice we have received, the new bill does not make internet poker expressly illegal nor does it take aim at players who enjoy online poker. However, there are some U.S. States that have existing regulations in place that may prohibit online gaming, so we encourage all of our U.S. players to review the laws of the State in which they reside. Until such time as the law becomes clearer, DoyleÂ’s Room will operate as normal with our full exciting range of games and tournaments at all limits."


Pokerstars has yet to make any kind of formal declaration, but I hear that if you send them an e-mail asking what's going on they'll send you a pretty similar response.

Another interesting result of the bill is a few of websitesstes are offering major bonuses for depositing money into your account. I kept a fair amount of money in pokerstars, but took everything out of all of the otwebsitesstes. I'm sure most players took almost all of their money out and the websites have to do something to encourage people to put that money back in. What they do is offer you a deposit bonus that is only released after you play some insane number of hands. The more you deposit, the bigger bonus you get, but you have to play more hands to get it. For example, Jen just deposited $550 into Doyle's Room. After she earns 165,000 "action points" they are going to match her deposit and give her another $550 which she can leave in her account or take out or whatever. Sounds great right? The rub is that it takes a long time to earn all those action points. I think she gets 750 for every $55 single table tournament and the number of action points she gets for playing cash games depends on how much money she puts into the pot (this is kind of a wacky way of doing it - mwebsitesstes look at how many hands you play or how much money they take in rakecalculatealte how many points you earn). It would be easy for someone like me to earn the points in a timely manner on pokerstars, but the problem is these smaller sites don't run very many SNG's. They just don't have the customer base. So instead of a $55 SNG going off every 2 minutes, they start every 30 minutes or so. I may just bite the bullet and play some cash games. I have to do the math and estimate how long it will take me to earn the points and if my time might be better spent just winning money doing what I do best.

The government has given themselves 270 days to come up with ways to enforce the provisions of the new bill. I figure things will stay the way they are today until at least next summer. At that time there is a chance that nothing will happen and there is a chance that the government will really go after the websites. I don't think any poker players are going to be arrested and I suspect that the movement to fully legalize online poker will grow by leaps and bounds in the coming months. If it does get fully legalized I'll be lighting up cigars with $100 bills on the balcony of my Tuscan Villa, but I only give that about a 10% chance of happening in the next 5 years.

I'll keep you posted on what I hear and what happens.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Splash of Good News

As some of you know, my good friend from high school, Brian (the one who was a groomsman at my wedding) has been in town for the past few days with his girlfriend Andrea. We spent a good part of Friday on the golf course and spent all day Saturday, wine tasting in Napa. As a result I've been a little out of the loop and will probably remain so until Tuesday. But, I did get some good news today in the form of an e-mail from Fulltiltpoker.com. This is what it said:

Dear wes1279,

Full Tilt Poker is here to stay!

As an online poker player, you have probably heard about the new legislation passed by the U.S. Congress earlier this week that attempts to prevent you from being able to transfer money to online gaming sites.

While this new law has prompted some sites to announce plans to abandon the U.S. market in coming days, we assure you that Full Tilt Poker will continue to provide all of its players - both inside and outside of the United States - with a full complement of real money ring games and tournaments for their enjoyment.

After consultation with numerous legal experts in this field, we want to make you aware of the following:

* Legal

The new U.S. legislation does not in any way attempt to criminalize the act of you playing online poker. By playing online at Full Tilt Poker, you are not breaking any U.S. Federal laws.

* Full Access

The passage of the new Internet Gaming law will not have any impact on your day-to-day experience at Full Tilt Poker. We will provide all of our players, everywhere in the world, with full access to all of our games and tournaments.

* Easy Deposits and Withdrawals

We will continue to provide our players with all of the safe, secure and convenient methods for transferring money to and from the site. In fact, in recent discussions with our payment processors, we have been assured that this new law will have no immediate impact on their day-to-day business. And as always, any monies that you have on deposit with Full Tilt Poker remain completely safe and secure.

Furthermore, we firmly believe that online poker is not encompassed by this new legislation. In any event, we will continue to lobby for an express carve-out for online poker and for your right to play a truly American game from the privacy of your own home and computer.

We are excited about the future here at Full Tilt Poker and in the coming weeks and months, we plan to roll out many new features designed to enhance your online poker experience.

We appreciate your loyalty to our site and, in turn, want you to know that we will remain loyal to our valued players in the United States and throughout the world.

We look forward to seeing you at the table.

Sincerely,

Full Tilt Poker


This is good news for me. The biggest danger with the recent law was that the websites would block US users of their own volition. Full Tilt is one of the 5 biggest websites and probably my third favorite. Furthermore, a group of about 10 of the top 100 poker players in the world own a big piece of this website (apparently they own the software and marketing company that the website uses, but effectively they own it). One of the reasons why this website is good is they have all these great players to consult with about the best way to opperate. Along those lines, I'm sure these insanely smart people will figure out a way around the law if it is possible (if that's even necessary). Most importantly, I could easily continue to earn my living online playing soley on Full Tilt.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Legality of Poker Skill vs Luck

There is some hope that poker will be saved while sports betting and other games may vanish because poker is a skill game. If you're interested in a boring, but elaborate article about this topic, check this out.

I've also read some conflicting reports about the legality of playing skill games for money. It seems that there is some precident for making it legal to wager on games where skill predominates. Whether or not poker can legally be defined as a game of skill is a bit up in the air.

The first thing I heard on this topic was several years ago in an article in Cardplayer magazine. The article talked about a tax case where one poker pro argued that poker was a game of skill. As a result, he wanted to pay regular income tax on the money he made instead of the higher tax that he'd be forced to pay if his earnings were considered gambling winnings. He won the case and was allowed to pay the lesser rate.

But I've also read that poker is legally considered a game of chance. One definition says that in order to be a "game of skill" the elements of skill must predominate over those of chance in determining the outcome. The problem with using the definition on poker is in the short run luck dominates, while in the long run skill dominates. If you play one hand, the outcome is 95% luck, while if you play 100,000 hands the outcome is 95% skill. If you play an infinite number of hands the outcome is 100% skill.

One of the most interesting sections from the super boring article I mentioned above is this:

"I suggest that those interested in improving the law on skill v. chance work on expanding that definition to better specify the principal elements that constitute skill and chance. A weighing mechanism that could be considered by a judge or jury should also be set forth. A few states have passed so-called Chuck E. Cheese laws to allow businesses to legally offer low-cost arcade games with prizes of a low value. That law in Georgia includes a definition of "some skill" that is of interest even though it does not cover the real question, which is what does it take for skill to be predominate. Here is the definition from the Georgia statute:

"[S]ome skill" means any presence of the following factors, alone or in combination with one another:
(1) A learned power of doing a thing competently;
(2) A particular craft, art, ability, strategy, or tactic;
(3) A developed or acquired aptitude or ability;
(4) A coordinated set of actions, including, but not limited to, eye-hand coordination;
(5) Dexterity, fluency, or coordination in the execution of learned physical or mental tasks or both;
(6) Technical proficiency or expertise;
(7) Development or implementation of strategy or tactics in order to achieve a goal; or
(8) Knowledge of the means or methods of accomplishing a task.
The term some skill refers to a particular craft, coordinated effort, art, ability, strategy, or tactic employed by the player to affect in some way the outcome of the game played... If a player can take no action to affect the outcome of the game, the bona fide coin operated amusement machine does not meet the 'some skill' requirement of this Code section."


Clearly using the above criterion poker is a game of skill. But, the main thrust of this poorly written piece is that the precident says that poker is a game of chance. In fact the author goes on to say:

"Consider that on any one hand of poker it cannot seriously be contended that skill outweighs chance. Also, the results of any given session of poker (one night, one tournament, etc.) are not likely to be determined based on the preponderant skill of any given player. Perhaps the result of playing many sessions for a whole year is indicative of skill predominating over chance. But, perhaps not. Poker "player of the year" awards have become popular over the past few years. No one has ever repeated as the winner from one year to the next. Indeed few repeat in the top ten of those lists from one year to the next."

While the author says "few" repeat in the top ten from one year to the next, NONE would repeat if it was determined by chance. Also if you look at the top 50 (or the top 100) instead of the top 10 it's mostly populated by the same names year after year. Is it just chance that the same 50 people manage to make a million dollars a year, every year? Are they the luckiest people in the world? Did they all make it to the end of the rainbow and get a shamrock from a leprechaun that allows them to get luckier than their opponents?

What this fellow doesn't mention is that unlike MVPs in major sports where you're dealing with at most a few hundred players, in poker there are at least 10,000 players in the pool for player of the year. Also note that he says "in the past few years" poker player of the year awards have become popular and no one has won twice. How many years is a few? Ten at the most and probably more like 5. Since when does five trials constitute a significant number? Just because no one has proven themselves to be the best in a given year two years out of 5 we're supposed to believe that this is evidence that poker is not a game of skill? In the many decades of the NFL, only one player has repeated as MVP two years in a row. Does that mean that football is all luck? It must be all luck, after all only one team in NFL history has won all of their games. Surely if it were based on skill, the best team would win all their games every year. What about golf? Maybe Tiger Woods is just the luckiest player. After all he's only won 25% of the tournaments he's entered (which all have less than 150 entrants)in his career. Sure, the top 50 players on the PGA tour (and the cardplayer poker rankings) stay MOSTLY the same from year to year, but the order shuffles around and players come and go from that list. It's clearly all luck.

What about bridge? Or all other card games? Are they all just luck?

How about trading in stocks? Some stocks go up and others go down. Is it just the luckiest people who tend to pick the ones that go up? If that's a skill based process then why hasn't one trader proven himself to be the best two out of the last five years?

When you get down to the core of the issue, the key isn't history or "these people have done this, while these other people have done this". The fact of the matter is that poker is a game of decisions and these decision affect the outcome of the game. Any time you have a game that involves a complex decision making process some people are going to make better decisions using the same information than others. It's this abliltiy that seperates the good players from the bad.

If you want to read more about what I have to say regarding luck vs skill in poker in general you can read my post from July 20th titled "What makes a good poker player."

The Latest on the Internet Gaming Ban

It's amazing to me how my feelings about the significance of this bill passing have changed over a three day period. On Monday, it was like being hit on the head with an acorn. On Tuesday I was sure the sky was falling. And, by Thursday, it was like being hit on the head with an apple. The sources I've used to come up with this latest analysis are: An e-mail discussion group that I belong to who's main purpose in the past has been to analyze sports betting (this group is filled with smart guys who are in the know, including WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla), an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, a 3 minute piece on CNN, and various online articles that have come my way.

First to clear up a few vague points that I made in my original post. The bill that contains the "Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006" is the "Safe Port Act of 2006" in case anyone wanted to look for more info on it. The person who is most directly responsible for this act is Republican senator Bill Frist. The Secretary and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System have 270 days (after the bill is signed by the president) to come up with enforcement policies and procedures. Apparently there are 23 million online poker players in the US and in every place that I've heard about this bill I haven't heard one person interviewed or quoted as saying they were for this bill (with the exception of the people who wrote it). Furthermore according to Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), no one on the Senate-House Conference Committee had even seen the final language of the bill before it passed.

So what's the latest news? Well it looks like the publicly traded websites (party, paradise and pacific which is also know as 888) will probably jump ship on the US market when Bush signs the bill. But Fulltilt, Bodog, and most importantly Pokerstars are all private companies and could very well continue normal operating procedures.

Apparently there are going to be plenty of challenges to this bill in the courts. I could see websites using the angle that they'll keep the status quo while there are active challenges to the bill in the court system. If this is the case I won't have anything to worry about because I'll be long dead by the time the case and all of the appeals get resolved.

I've read conflicting reports about this but Allyn Jaffrey Shulman says in an article published yesterday (you can read the whole article here) "Do not panic. First and foremost, this bill does not criminalize playing poker. In fact, the bill does not speak to the poker player at all." While I wasn't going to stop until people started getting arrested or the websites blocked me from playing, this can't be bad news if this is true.

Another interesting angle I've read is that as a way of pulling out of the US market the websites (even the publicly traded ones) will stop accepting "payments" from US players. While this might dry up the supply of weak players from the US, there are plenty of worldwide players who will be free to keep pumping their money into the system. What about me? I've made one "payment" and that was $500 in January of 2004. Since then it's been all withdrawals. Of course, the amount that I would think of as a safe bankroll would probably go up, but I'd be able to keep playing indefinitely.

There is some hope that poker will be saved while sports betting and other games may vanish because poker is a skill game. I've created another post discussing the merits of this angle.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about the online gaming ban in the coming days as more info comes my way.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

More on the internet gaming ban

I'll have plenty more to say tomorrow I'm sure, but for now

here

is a LONG and detailed article written by one of the leading experts regarding gambling and the law.


The more I hear the less dire things seem.

A Comment Response

In response to my most recent post Tim commented "My cynical take is that some of these folks are less worried about Mrs. Jones gambling away all her savings and leaving the family on the street, and more worried about the effect the growth of online gambling is having on the casinos in their own jurisdictions."

First of all let me say thanks for your comment. I LOVE COMMENTS! It lets me know that people are actually reading. I have a few responses. First of all, in an interview I saw with one of the bill's architects he spun it as an attempt to protect America's youth from the dangers of gambling addiction. He even compared gambling addition to drug addiction. I've been around my share of gambling addicts and while it can be a problem ALMOST ALL people who enjoy gambling are NOT addicts. A much larger percentage of drug users are addicts and the addiction as well as the effects of said addiction are MUCH more severe. Comparing gambling addiction to drug addiction is like comparing a cold to Ebola.

As far as casinos being for or against online gambling (especially poker) I would say they are for it. There is nothing more boring than playing regular casino games (blackjack, craps, roulette etc) online and very few people actually engage in this dark side of online wagering so there really isn't much competition there. Casino sports books might be taking a small hit, but the only place they are legal is in Nevada.

When it comes to poker I think the casinos have to be all in favor of online play. From a first person perspective I can tell you that every poker room in every casino I've been in is MUCH busier now that it was before 2003 when online poker started getting big. Furthermore a shitload of new poker rooms have been opening in casinos in Las Vegas that didn't offer poker in the past. I'm certain that the Harrah's corporation, which is the largest casino chain in the world, is really pissed about the ban, because they own the WSOP and that's going to suffer substantially without online qualifiers. Also I'm sure the big casinos would like online gambling to be fully legalized so they could get in on the action.

Thanks again for your comment.

Online Gaming Ban (BOOOOO!)

While there have been whispers of an online gaming ban for the past few months, one passed last week. This ban applies to all online wagering including regular casino games like blackjack and craps (yes they have online craps), sports betting and poker. It was attached to the port security bill. I can't think of too many things that are as unrelated as online poker and port security. It's never made sense to me that our law makers should be allowed to get pet projects squeezed through congress by sneaking them into important legislation. This is clearly a dishonest and virtually fraudulent practice that wouldn't fly in any other business or social setting.

I don't know how the gaming regulations would have done on their own, but I know none of the members of congress want to have the fact that they shot down a port security bill on their record. I'm sure they're all envisioning an opponent's ad during their next campaign. "Steve Johnson opened the door to terrorists! He invited them into your living room and told them to sit on your couch and drink your beer! The terrorists want to blow up everything from your house to your little dog Fluffy. Steve Johnson voted against the port security bill which could have stopped the terrorists from getting near Fluffy. Do you hate Fluffy? If not, vote against Steve Johnson. Steve Johnson - terrorist loving, dog hating, stink factory. Is that who you want representing you?"

So what are the implications of this bill? Basically it makes it illegal for banks and credit card companies to transfer money directly to and from gambling sites. This in and of itself is not a big deal. With most credit cards in the U.S., the issuing banks have blocked these type of transactions for years. And while it's convenient to transfer directly to and from your checking account, there are several intermediaries already in place that make it easy to circumvent this process. In fact, I've used a company called Firepay (which is just like neteller and similar to pay pal) for about half of my online transactions, because in many cases it's quicker and easier than direct transfers.

The bill stipulates that whoever is supposed to take care of this stuff has 270 days (people I've talked to seem to think this is about a third of the time it would actually take) to put in place the means to enforce these new rules. The banks are going apeshit because it means they have to sort through billions of transactions to weed out the ones that aren't kosher. This is going to cost them an insane amount of money. In fact, I've heard that it might not be possible in the sense that it would cost so much to do it, that it would put the banks that tried out of business. While it seems to me that they could come up with some cost effective way to do it using technology, they are not happy about it and may be the biggest ally of the poker community.

The real problem is that the bill takes what was a grey area before and explicitly says that placing any type of wager over the internet is against the law. As a result, many of the websites have said that they're going to pull out of the U.S. market when the bill gets signed into law. CNN says that should happen sometime in the next two weeks.

Needless to say, I'm not happy about these developments, but it's not the end of the world. I'm going to keep playing online as long as I can, and I think the chances of losing any money that I have deposited online is remote. But, just in case I've withdrawn a good chunk of the money I had in my online accounts. I suspect that some of the websites will remain in operation in the U.S. and all of them will remain up and running for worldwide customers. I am also betting that there will be some kind of grace period where I'll be able to remove any remaining dollars. Although I suspect that the few hundred dollars I have in season long football wagers (i.e. will the Colts win more than 11.5 games this year) may be gone forever. Now I hope they all lose! HA!

If it turns out I can't make my living online anymore, it will be back to the brick and mortar casinos for me. Luckily, I live in an area where I can still make my living playing poker. Of course, I won't be able to play 6 games at a time anymore, but I'm almost certain I can make just as much money. The main downside is I won't be able to work from home anymore. But, I'll still be able to work whenever I want.

There is some chance that this could prompt Jen and I to move to the LA area. There's always been some chance that we'd end up down there since Jen grew up in Orange County and her family still lives there. But, more to the point, that area is home to 3 or 4 of the largest card rooms in the world. Even though I've had mixed luck in the few times I've played at The Commerce and The Bike, it's clear that the games are EXTREMELY soft.

The best possible outcome here is for the bill to bring online poker out into the open. Apparently there are fifty million poker players in the US and while only a small fraction of those are online players we are still a force to be reckoned with. Along with the banks, the poker players, anyone affilitated with the WSOP or ESPN, and the poker publishing industry, I'm sure any groups with the goal of protecting our civil liberties would be against this bill. This seems like a clear case of right wing nut jobs trying to regulate our morality, instead of protecting out freedom. I'm hoping enough people get outraged, that online poker makes a resurgence in some new fully legal and regulated form. I've always said that full blown legal online poker would be worth at least $100,000 more a year to me, so if this is what it takes to make it happen down the road, then so be it.

I'm going to make sort of a game time decision about whether or not to keep playing online once the ban goes through and I'll keep the blog posted with whatever developments come my way. But, you should all get ready for some tearful phone calls where I put my wife on the phone and make her ask to borrow money so we can pay our gas bill (it's just so tough now that pokerstars closed down..sob..sob). We'll then use this money to buy expensive bottles of wine and cigars, which we'll then light with more money that we've squeezed out of you saps! HA HA HA!