Saturday, April 24, 2010


Last week at the Venetian, in the session I described here, somebody at the table referred to me as "the silent assassin," after I had accumulated a large stack.

I would have thought it just an odd little spontaneous nickname, except for one thing: This was about the tenth time in the last four years that that same exact label has been suggested for me by an opponent. It's never "quiet killer" or any of a dozen similar monikers that one could coin embodying the same general idea. Sure, when I'm playing well but not talking much (that's usually the case, I think), it's not hard to see why that kind of adjective and noun get stuck together for me, but I was mystified as to why it was always exactly the same. I shrugged it off as likely being some movie reference that I was missing.

However, when I mentioned the oddity of it to Cardgrrl later when we were doing our usual nightly videochat, she was apparently even more curious than I was. She Googled the term, finding the apparent answer to why it is this specific name that keeps coming up: There's a comic book (pardon me--graphic novel) and a videogame sharing that title, apparently unrelated to each other. See here and here.

So now I know, and so do you.

Three online surprises

I have accounts at nearly every online poker site, or on at least one member of each network. There's a bunch of 'em--more than I can easily keep track of. The other day I was rummaging through the list, trying to figure out on which sites I still had some money that was sitting unused. I found that I had $14 on Bodog, which I haven't visited in many, many months. A tournament for $10+$1 was just starting, so I decided to join it and use most of the money that way.

I didn't cash, due to a bad beat and cooler one-two punch, but I was impressed with how awful the play was--much, much worse than I see when buying into tournaments of similar price on Full Tilt or Stars. Players were open-shoving for 25-50 big blinds, calling all-in with second pair/no kicker against opponents showing obvious megastrength , and other such mindbogglingly bad moves. It occurred to me that maybe I should try it again sometime soon and see if that was just an anomaly (although I recall making a similar observation a couple of years ago, which was the last time I did much of anything with Bodog).

Last night at about 4:00 a.m. I couldn't sleep, so went on with my task of looking through my online accounts. I found that I had over $100 on Doyle's Room. Then I remembered that a year or so ago I spent a few hours playing limit hold'em cash games there and raking in the bucks, because the players were so horrible. I had then moved on to other things and kind of forgot about it. But last night, as luck would have it, they were just about five minutes into a $10+$1 tourney, so, sleepless as I was, I decided to play. Let me tell you, these people made the Bodog players look like grandmasters. Most of them were Russian, I discovered by mousing over their screen names--probably an artifact of the odd time of day I was playing. On about my third hand, I flopped a full house, overbet the pot on every street, and got paid off all the way by somebody with top pair/no kicker/no redraw. That's how bad we're talking about here. It was not an isolated example.

Tonight I have a couple of hours to spend before I go to bed, so I decided to see what tournaments I could find at Doyles Room. They had one starting at 10:30 p.m., about 30 minutes from when I was looking. That seemed fine, so I registered, then turned on a Netflix movie while I waited. I kept the tournament lobby open, and was surprised to find that I continued to be the only name on the list. (Last night there was a prize pool guarantee that meant a substantial overlay; none in tonight's game.) About two minutes before the start, finally a second name appeared. The lobby continued to show three spots paying, however:

I was kind of curious what would happen if nobody else registered. The tourney info said the minimum number was 10. I had never seen an online MTT cancelled due to lack of registrants.

Here's what happens, at least at this site:

Notice the word "cancelled" under the main tournament heading. Strangely, though, nothing popped up announcing this, telling me I'd get a refund, or anything else. I wondered if they might keep accepting players for the first 15 minutes as they would if it were running, since our two names were still showing as registered. Nope. After a few minutes, the tourney lobby closed. When I checked the cashier, my account had been credited back with the entry fee.

I have a vague recollection that back in the 1960s and 70s there was a meme going around about "What if they held a war and nobody came?" Well, now I know what happens when they hold an online tournament and nobody comes.

Failing that, I decided to try Bodog again. I knew I would have to throw some money on there, but it seemed worth it to find out if the play was really as bad as my sample from a couple of days ago. The options didn't look promising, though. Click2Pay and eWalletXpress were the ones I recognized. I have had an account at the former, but when I moved from Minnesota to Nevada it got all screwed up with the change in address and banks. I got tired of trying to straighten it out, and abandoned it. I'm pretty sure that I did something with the latter company once, but don't remember any of the details, and didn't feel like investigating it. Then there is a "Rapid Transfer" option, which apparently involves going to a "retail outlet near you." No way I want to fuss with that. FTP and Stars have spoiled me with their one-click deposit methods.

The only other option was credit card. I thought this was pretty pointless, since U.S. credit card companies have refused to fund online gaming accounts for many years now. I remember being able to do it once, when I first started up with Party Poker in maybe 2004, but all subsequent attempts have just been rejected. But, what the heck, my current Visa card is just a few months old, through a local credit union, and maybe it would work. I gave it about a 1% chance.

Surprise, surprise, surprise--it went through in a matter of seconds! I don't know how or why, but it worked. My hunch is that Bodog is using some intermediary company that disguises to the bank what the transaction is actually for, though it's a transparent process for the user.

My third surprise, though, was discovering that I hadn't needed to reload after all. After the credit went through, it showed me having $114, rather than the $103 that I expected. In other words, I still had the same $14 in the account that I had had before playing the tourney earlier in the week. How could that be? Well, with a little poking around, I discovered that I had about $90 in "tournament credits" in addition to the $14. (I confess to having been so focused on the funding mechanism options that I didn't notice either of these numbers, even though they were staring me right in the face. D'oh!) I used to do a bunch of sit-and-go tournaments on Bodog, back before I moved to Nevada, and I guess that built up some credit, which has sat unused ever since.

Apparently my recent tournament entry was done with this credit rather than with my money. To test this theory, I went to a tournament lobby where resitration was open, clicked "register," and sure enough, the default option it gave me was to use the tournament credit rather than my money. The other day when I noticed a tournament was starting, I obviously didn't pay attention, and just clicked "OK" without really noticing what it was asking me. I assumed it was using most of my remaining cash, but instead it was generously letting me use my accumulated credits. I've really got to start paying more attention to stuff....

So those were my three surprises tonight: (1) An online tourney cancellation due to lack of interest, (2) you can still fund online poker, at least at Bodog, with an ordinary credit card, and (3) I can enter quite a few $10 tournaments there without having to spend any actual money, and if I make a decent cash in one of them, I'll just take back the $100 I sent them tonight.

I'll still be doing the bloggery things on Full Tilt over the next few weeks, trying to earn/win a WSOP seat, and probably still my occasional HORSE things on Stars, but otherwise I think that my online poker for the foreseeable future is going to be shifting to Doylesroom and Bodog. We're not talking a lot of it here--a couple of low-stakes tournaments a week is about all it amounts to. But who knows? Maybe I'll revisit playing cash games at these places, too, as they have been just revoltingly soft on my prior tries.

Guess the casino, #487

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Circus Circus

Friday, April 23, 2010

Guess the casino, #486

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Bill's

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The cruelest game

Warning: Contains spoilers.

On this week's "Poker After Dark," four qualifiers (two of whom are actually professional players, but not well known) are taking on Phil Hellmuth and Chris Ferguson, the latter of which was the first one to be eliminated.

In a hand last night, the two shortest remaining stacks belong to Craig Ivey and Steve Bartlett. Each of them has a suited ace and ships it in. Hellmuth looks at 8c-3c and folds:

The first cruelty is that they both flop two pair:

Bartlett is reduced to one out. Only the 8 of hearts can save him now.

So what comes?

His 8s full of aces can now only be topped if Ivey catches one of the two remaining queens, or the sole remaining ace.

So what happens?

If the producers were to stack the deck so as to produce maximum drama and maximum pain for both players, that's how they'd do it.

Guess the casino, #485

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Venetian

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guess the casino, #484

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Stratosphere

Poker gems, #353

Phil Laak, in ESPN broadcast of the Venetian stop of the North American Poker Tour, summarizing poker:

I have to expose myself to ruin in order to just, like, crawl forward and breathe in the desert of pain.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why Norman Chad is bad at poker

In Norman Chad's commentary on poker shows for ESPN, he likes to joke about how bad he is at poker. I think there is reason to believe that he is not merely being self-deprecating for the sake of humor.

I was just watching the first installment of the show they put together of the North American Poker Tour event held last month at the Venetian. The screen shot above is from Annie Duke's last hand. At this point, Chad says in his voiceover, "Annie needs a jack, nine, eight, or any diamond."

Pray tell, Mr. Chad, how will a non-diamond eight help her situation? She will be left with a jack-high straight. She will be playing the board, and her hole cards will be irrelevant. Her opponent, however, will still have the king-high straight that he just made on the turn. Last I knew, a straight to the king beats a straight to the jack.

These guys have a staff of people working on these shows. They do the commentary two or three times before they put it to bed. They have plenty of time to get it right. And yet they still get it wrong. Inexcusable.

Completely unrelated to the above, and just for fun, I give you the following screen shot:

Most of my readers will think that this is a picture of Annie Duke and Faraz Jaka. A few, however, will recognize that that is not what this is a picture of, at least not most importantly. But that's all I'm sayin'!

(If you don't get it, don't worry, and don't ask. It's an inside joke meant for just a few people.)

Guess the casino, #483

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Riviera

Monday, April 19, 2010

Guess the casino, #482

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Sam's Town

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Guess the casino, #481

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Plaza