Saturday, July 26, 2008

Enjoy the chat ban, pal

I just finished my daily $10 HORSE tournament on PokerStars. Took $40 for the #1 spot. I started heads-up play slightly behind, about 5000 to the other guy's 7000. But we had just started razz, which is my best game, after hold'em. That is to say, in those two games I have the easiest time determining where I stand, whether I'm ahead or behind. In Omaha and the two stud games, I often still feel like I'm randomly groping to ascertain that, especially when playing one on one.

Anyway, I reversed the chip lead during razz by simply playing better--an assertion I'm quite comfortable making in this situation. I pushed and got him to come along when I was ahead, and let hands go when I was behind. During stud, where we finished up, I twice caught a lucky river card to make what turned out to be a better two pair than my opponent had, winning me big pots and giving me an 11:1 chip lead. It was only a matter of time at that point.

Inevitably, we kept getting it all in, because he was so short-stacked by then. He won the first couple, but then the luck shifted back my way.

All of that is a lead-in to what he said in the chat box just before what turned out to be our final hand, the first thing he had said during the entire tournament:

vegasqq: wow you are just a f ucking luck box... holy s hit your a horrid player

Hey, pal, I never claimed to be Doyle Brunson. In fact, in the late stages of the tournament, when it got down to the final four, with a few good Omaha hands in a row I climbed from the short stack to the big lead, and said in chat, "Wow--how in the hell did I get to be chip leader? Must be the blind squirrel finding the nut thing." That's not exactly crowing about being the best player, or any other such self-promotion that might tempt one to seek to pop an opponent's over-inflated ego.

Still, I have now played enough of these things to have a valid statistical measure, and I am unquestionably doing better than average. Out of 76 games, I've taken first place 15 times, when only 9.5 would be expected if the wins were evenly divided among the eight entrants. I've cashed 31 times, when 28.5 would be predicted by chance. I'm consistently making a profit. Admittedly, this may, for now, be the highest level I could play and be beating the game, but (1) I freely admit that I'm still early in the learning curve, and never say anything during the game to suggest that I'm better than anybody else; and (2) I can prove that I'm more successful--and thus presumably more skillful--than the average player entering these things. I am objectively not "horrid," at least as defined by the mean of the players in this kind of tournament.

And, by the way, if you were really an expert yourself, would you really be trolling the $10 tournaments, where your biggest potential profit is $29 in an hour and a half, if everything works out perfectly? The very fact that you play at these low stakes announces pretty loudly that you, like the rest of us, either know or believe that you're not ready to make it playing higher. There's not much room for anybody to be claiming vast superiority here.

I copied his little literary gem in an email to PokerStars support, and less than an hour later received confirmation that they had revoked his chat privileges.

Enjoy playing on mute for a while, you insolent, immature, stupid, self-destructive dirtbag.

In case it isn't already obvious, the way to deal with an opponent that you think is a "horrid" player is to buddy up to him. Be extra nice. Compliment him on his play. Then search for him every time you sign on, sit to his left, and take his money, all the while being friendly and self-deprecating. When you win, tell him you just got lucky. When he wins, tell him, "Nicely played." Do everything you can to keep him from (A) discovering how bad he is, (B) going away angry and/or embarrassed and deciding not to play any more, or (C) improving his game, all three of which are disastrous outcomes for the better players' profitability.

I hope that vegasqq's little time out prevents him from unleashing his vitriol in the future on others who might respond in one of those three ways. It is just horrible for the game to let crude nastiness like this go unchecked. What do people find so difficult about simply being civil and polite to each other?

Me in a tournament

Therre aren't very many pictures of me at poker tables, despite the amount of time I spend there, so finding one is something of a minor event. I was one of nearly 100 players to enter a private tournament put on by the good folks at at Imperial Palace, back on June 14. This page of photos was posted shortly thereafter, and I meant to put up a link to it, but then was busy with WSOP stuff and forgot about it, until somebody kindly reminded me of it by email today. The photo above is stolen from that page. That's me next to the woman in the maroon top. Remarkably, I'm even smiling. Don't tell anyone, though--it might sully my grumpy reputation.

Three millionaires, zero combs

This week's "Poker After Dark" featured three poker-playing millionaires who apparently can't afford even a single comb between then. These include, from top to bottom, Brian Townsend, Huck Seed, and Andrew Robl. Maybe we should take up a collection for them.

Doesn't NBC have hair and makeup people to help the players with this sort of thing?

What do poker players really care about?

I suppose that all bloggers, from time to time, get curious about what searches bring people to read their posts. Fortunately, tools such as Google Analytics make it easy to track such things.

Not surprisingly, the most common search terms that direct people here are variations on "poker grump." But what is surprising is what comes next.

Is it concern about how certain nausea-inducing online poker sites have been cheating their customers and lying about it? Is it questions about rules or poker etiquette? Strategy advice? Poker news? The egregious rules violations and bad floor decisions at our game's premiere event, the World Series of Poker? My dozens of poker room reviews and suggestions about where in Vegas to play?

Nope. None of the above.

tom dwan gay
is tom dwan gay
tom dwan is gay
"tom dwan" gay
is tom dwan gay?
"tom dwan" sexuality
gay poker players
tom dwan gay?
tom dwan poker gay
dwan gay poker
gay poker

I assume that these searches led to this post, in which I commented on that possibility specifically, though the larger point was not about Dwan in particular, but rather the absence of "out" gay professional poker players generally.

This inquiry was only for the last 30 days. I assume that Dwan being on two consecutive new weeks of "Poker After Dark" is what raised the question, apparently, in the minds of so many Google users.

But after excluding the search terms that indicate that somebody is looking for this blog specifically, when I extend the inquiry to the entire time that I have had Google Analytics watching the site (that means back to last October), "tom dwan gay" is still the number one thing people are looking for when they land here, with "is tom dwan gay" and "tom dwan is gay" also making the top ten.

So now we know what poker players are most interested in. Weird, eh?

There were some other search terms of interest:

62 people have looked for "pokergrump t-shirts." Never thought about that before, but it's an interesting idea.

12 people came looking for information about Heather Esquin. I didn't recognize the name, couldn't remember ever writing about such a person, and had to search myself to find the post in question.

Another one that completely baffled me was the search term "genomeboy poker." Turns out that "genomeboy" is the alias of a guy who has left a few comments on posts here.

"Chris Ferguson mole" leads to this post. Odd, but I guess if it caught my attention enough to write about it, I can't accuse other people of bizarre interests for searching for what might be written about it. For a bit of amusement, click on that link and check out what Google ads pop up alongside the post.

There have been at least 83 searches for James Klosty. I've written about James a few times, in his role as floorperson or poker room manager at three different place in town, as well as host of a poker-themed radio show for a while, but I was still surprised that there would have been that many people looking him up.

Yet another search term that I didn't understand at first was "lucymagem." But she was one of the players who got caught cheating Betfair out of money by exploiting a temporary glitch in their software.

There are countless variations on search terms involving some combination of "phil gordon" and "howard lederer's mom," really too many for me to add them up separately. But together they make up a pretty big chunk of the search results, undoubtedly because of this post.

It's all very strange. The things that I care most about, have written the most about, and think that my best and most original writing has centered on make nary a blip in the Google searches. It's the weird, one-off, minor things that bring in the searchers. I suppose that's because it's those offbeat subjects that get precious little attention anywhere, so whatever I've said about them is a good portion of what one can find.

Still, it all pales in comparison to poker players' apparently insatiable curiosity about Tom Dwan's sexual orientation.

Friday, July 25, 2008

UltimateBlecch and Absolute Puker to merge (sort of) into one giant vomitorium

This is the first time that I've had a post almost finished, then deleted it. The reason is that in doing my last-minute due diligence of seeing what others have written on the subject of the announced quasi-merger of Absolute Poker and UltimateBet as "Cereus," I discovered that between Wicked Chops Poker, Hard-Boiled Poker, and Pokerati, everything I was going to say has already been said, and better. I thought I would be the first to point out the laughable irony of the name selection, because the first thing I thought of upon seeing "Cereus" was that Bacillus cereus is a gastrointestinal pathogen that causes nausea and vomiting. (Yeah, I actually know strange stuff like that, from my pre-poker life.) But nope, Pokerati managed to catch that, too. Damn.

So on the outside chance that any of my readers don't already regularly read any of those three other blogs (and if you don't, what the hell is wrong with you???), now you know where to look for the basic information (Pokerati) , for thoughtful commentary (Hard-Boiled Poker), and for snarky shots at the absurdity of the whole thing (Wicked Chops Poker).


Hey, I just thought of something original to say about the situation after all. There's this silver lining: Instead of there being two poker networks in which the site owners are cheating their players, now there will be only one!

WSOPE blogs

You may notice over there on the left that there is a new occupant on the page. It's the simplest ad possible, just a text link to Betfair's blogs about the World Series of Poker Europe. I was tickled, because this is the first time somebody has contacted me directly and asked to buy a bit of ad space on this here blog. They didn't ask me to say anything about it in my posts, but this being the first such occasion, I thought it worthy of directing readers' attention to the ad. Unlike the Google ads, I don't get paid by the click, but I hope you'll be curious enough to check it out anyway.

Apology to the world

Yesterday on PokerStars there was one player who kept slowing down the game, apparently because of a recurring connection problem. (How I detest players who set up wireless networks in their homes in such a way that they are perpetually on the edge of disconnection. Hey, morons--this is why they invented WIRES, you know!) It reminded me of my first few months playing online.

This must have been about seven years ago. I was using Party Poker exclusively. At that time there were no online poker sites with software for Macs, which is what I had. My computer was already several years old and way underpowered. In order to run Party Poker, I had to install a Windows emulation program. If any of you lived through that experience in those days, you know that that software (can't recall the title--manufacturer was Orange Micro or something like that) was a huge drain on system resources and slowed the machine down to a crawl. To make matters worse, I was still on a dial-up connection, which was being shared between my two computers, often with my wife online doing something at the same time I was trying to play.

I had no clue what I was imposing on all of the other players at the table. I was aware that I frequently timed out of a hand, but I didn't understand why. I also noticed that every session a couple of other players would ask me something in chat, like "Why so slow?" But I didn't really grasp that I was being a drag on the game. Yeah, it seems perfectly obvious in retrospect, but all of this was completely new to me at the time, and I had no frame of reference as to what was normal. This setup was all I had, all I had known, and I didn't understand what I was imposing on other people. Because my refresh rate was so abysmally slow, it looked (falsely) to me as if everybody in the game was moving as slowly as I was, so I never really thought that I was causing a problem.

So now that I get it, now that I know better, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to all of the people whose time I wasted with a bad connection, a bad computer, and bad software. I hope that the fact that I lost and reloaded, lost and reloaded, lost and reloaded, was adequate compensation for all the delays. (I think I must have pumped about $2000 into Party, $100 at a time. I never kept records back in those days. Like the blind squirrel finding a nut, I once somehow stumbled into an actual tournament win for about $4000, cashed out about $2000, then bled off the rest slowly at the tables, so I guess in the long run I essentially broke even--which is nothing short of miraculous, given how utterly clueless I was.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Who needs a big hand?

My last three poker sessions--two at the Palms and one at the Rio--have been fairly remarkable for the absence of big hands. I did win one big pot with a full house (though the smallest full house possible: deuces full of treys), but other than that I haven't had so much as a stinkin' flush.

I have hit two straights, and in each case managed to stack an opponent. Last night I held the nuts: Q-9 with a board of 3-7-8-10-J, and a guy holding 8-9 moved all in on me. OK, well, I guess I'll call! Monday night at the Rio I made a wonderfully disguised straight holding a 5-7 and took all the chips of a guy who had flopped a set and slow-played it.

Last night I felted another guy when my A-A nicely matched the flop of A-10-8. I made a healthy bet at it and was surprised when somebody moved all in on me. OK, well, again, since I have the nuts, I guess I'll call! He had A-10 for top two pair. Ouch. (By the way, that's the only set I've hit in these three sessions.)

For the most part, it's been working about like this: The standard premuim hands win me small pots, mostly because the table recognizes that I'm playing tight and solid, and a continuation bet on the flop is usually enough to take it down. Those small pots don't add up to much profit, but they do compensate for the aborted hands--the ones in which I have position and call a pre-flop raise, but then have to abandon ship when I don't improve.

The big profit is coming from the small hands--and I mean that in two senses. First, as I've said, I have had a strange absence of big made hands: full houses, flushes, etc. Second, it's the sneaky, tricky, little cards that nobody at the table suspects I would be playing that have pulled in the big pots. 2-3 making a full house. 5-7 making a straight. Another 5-7 the same night making two pair to crack an opponent's big pocket pair. A 5-6 in that same session hitting trips (a 5 on the flop and another on the turn) to take down a player who couldn't get away from top pair/top kicker.

A little more profit has come my way from picking off two bluffs with a single pair.

Then there have been the two occasions that I raked in the chips in the most satisfying way: with the worst hand, an intimidating table image, and a well-timed big bet. The second of these was last night, against the guy who had earlier lost everything when I had the queen-high straight. This time I missed my straight draw, but hit him with an all-in check-raise on the river. Our earlier confrontation obviously did a Jedi mind trick on him, and he very reluctantly folded. On the first occasion, I wrongly thought I had the best hand. The loose-aggressive guy to my right made a continuation bet on an 8-high flop. I had 5-8 in my hand, and thought it was likely to be good, so made a big raise. He mucked Q-8 face up in a hurry. I showed him my own 8, but kept the other one hidden, and flashed him a grin. He confidently said to his buddy across the table, "I was beat. No way this guy calls a raise before the flop with anything worse than an A-8." Hee hee hee!

At a few points along the way, I have quietly bemoaned my relative inability to hit my flush draws and straight draws. (Let's face it: Two straights, zero flushes, one set, and one full house in nine hours of poker is a true drought of intrinsically strong hands.) But then I look at my spreadsheet and see that I've been averaging $85/hour this week (well above my norm), and realize that such complaints are being atrociously petty. In the end, the absolute strength of one's hand isn't what matters--it's the relative strength against whatever one's opponents are holding. Bottom two pair is pretty trashy, but it's pure gold against unimproved pocket aces.

Very early in trying to learn about poker, I heard the oft-repeated notion that what really separates good players from the not-so-good isn't how much they win when they have the best hand, but how little they lose when they have the second-best hand. I pooh-poohed that as being the sort of tired refrain that people comfort themselves with. But the more I play this game, the more fervently I believe it to be true.

We all get a little rush from seeing the board bring us a full house or the nut flush. They look so pretty. They make us feel like we deserve a big pot to go along with them. But the biggest money-making tool in the toolbox remains the ability to push the second-best cards back to the dealer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I like DoylesRoom

Back in February, as I reported here, I created an account on DoylesRoom, but couldn't use it for anything but the stupid free games, because they were banning Nevada residents from real-money play. A few days ago I was browsing the list of online poker sites that still accept U.S. residents when I noticed that DoylesRoom had, at some point, quietly dropped the 11-state ban. It's part of the Microgaming network. Their sites have an odd assortment of 2-state bans, 3-state bans, and 50-state bans; see the complete list here. Nevada residents are accepted at DoylesRoom now.

So I made a $50 deposit, and tonight played there for the first time. They had a bounty tournament in which one would collect $500 for knocking out Doyle Brunson, T.J. Cloutier, or Mike Caro. I had received an email offer for a full rebate of the $27 entry fee, whether I won or lost the tournament. This seemed like a pretty good deal, so I signed up.

I played a micro-stakes cash game for 30 minutes or so before the tournament started so that I could learn the interface, tweak the table settings, etc. In both the cash game and tournament, I found myself liking the site quite a bit. The tournament lobby, for example, may be the nicest design I've ever seen--all the information presented clearly and easy to find. (The exception is that there seems to be no easy way to check on how the bounty players are doing. You have to know who they are, then slog through the pages alphabetically to find them.)

I started the tournament off nicely, as you can see from my status on the tourney page above, then took a bad beat and lived in the cellar for a long time. Finally doubled up by putting my own bad beat on somebody when I was just trying to steal the blinds with an all-in raise and ran into J-J. But my K-6 offsuit found another king on the turn, and I was back in it. A couple more steals, and I had gotten to just over the average stack, when I made an incredibly stupid move and got bounced just as the first break started. Oh well. That's one of the problems with knowing that I was playing for free--losing didn't seem like such a bad outcome, so I wasn't focused on winning. I should know better than to let myself get to such a sloppy, lazy frame of mind.

The average level of play seems pretty bad--definitely worse than Stars or Full Tilt, based on my very limited experience with the site so far. I think a good player would have a ton of advantage here.

Other good things about the table layout and controls: The color changes in players' avatars make it unusually easy to follow the action. It turns bright red when a player is all in, orange for a raise, green for a call, yellow/gold for a fold, regular avatar for players who haven't acted yet. The players in the blinds have their avatars replaced by "B. blind" and "S. blind." Couldn't be any clearer than that, although I wish the dealer button were larger. The pot has two numbers, one for the amount in the pot at the beginning of the current street, and one for the total amount put in, including current bets that haven't yet been called. This is just the way it should be, because both numbers are important for bet/raise sizing.

When it's my turn, I can just type in an amount to bet or raise without having to click on a stupid box first. I wish I could then just hit "return" to register the bet, but nope, have to click on a box to have it go through. That's annoying. Lots of good flexibility in colors, chat options, animation and sound options, etc. I found the sounds more pleasant than those of most online sites. Even better, you can adjust the volume of the alerts without changing your computer's internal system settings or touching the speaker volume knob. Why doesn't every site give you this control?

When looking for a cash game, I found the lobby kind of confusing, but maybe it's just a lack of familiarity.

Unfortunately, they don't seem to have razz or HORSE games, unless I missed something.

I'm really doing very little online these days other than razz and HORSE, so I probably won't use the Doyle account much, but when I feel like indulging in a hold'em tournament or cash game, it's going to be one of my top choices.

A little bullsh!t on "Bullsh!t"

One of the few nice things about my crappy little downtown apartment is that the in-house cable system includes Showtime at no charge. So I faithfully watch Penn and Teller's show about the flim-flam that is all around us.

This week's episode was kind of a strange one, about companies that hawk things to help relieve insomnia. One story line they followed was a guy with chronic sleep problems coming to a convention in Vegas, showing all the things he does wrong that interfere with his chances of getting a good night of sleep. Naturally, he is staying at the Rio, where P&T perform.

As one example of the guy's poor decisions, they show him gorging himself at the Rio's buffet. In a voiceover, Penn mentions that the buffet is only about 50 yards from the Penn and Teller theater.


If you've ever been to the Rio, you know that it is an enormous property. North to south, it covers all the way from Flamingo to Spring Mountain Road, which is nearly a mile. Much of that is parking lots and empty space, but still. I'm confident that the trek from the buffet, which is sort of in the southwest corner, very near the poker room, to the P&T theater, toward the north end, is closer to 500 yards than 50. You would not be completely crazy to get in your car and drive around to the north end of the property to get from the buffet to the theater if you were running late for the show after lingering too long over dinner.

I can't figure out any reason for this little lie. P&T often throw in false facts, disclosed as such later in the show, to keep you alert and to reinforce their pervasive message that you shouldn't trust things you hear as necessarily truthful. But there doesn't seem to be any of that motivation here.

Maybe the show's writers, who are more likely based in Los Angeles than Vegas, simply have no idea where the Rio buffet is in relation to the theater. But surely Penn knows the truth--why would he just go ahead with the script as written, rather than say, "Hey, you guys screwed up something here"?

There was no story-related reason to even mention the theater, so it was obviously just a little throw-away plug. Fine, I have no grudge against that. But they could have said that the buffet was "not too far" from the P&T theater, or something vague like that, rather than giving a specific--and egregiously erroneous--distance.

I remain puzzled by this.

(The chip above, incidentally, is one I picked up on a recent visit to the Rio poker room. It was issued some time within the last few months. Kind of unusual to find in general circulation a numbered, limited-edition chip with a sequence as low as 35, since those low numbers tend to be scooped up by chip collectors and dealers on the first day of issue.)

Scummy move at the Palms

Just got home from a nice session at the Palms: profitable, enjoyable company, essentially free of drama and conflict. Well, except for one incident.

I wasn't in this hand. The flop was a jack and two small cards. Player A moved all in for about $70. Player B called. Player A then appropriately turned over his hole cards, A-J, for top pair/top kicker. Player B got a sort of pained expression on his face, and said, with what sounded to me like a dejected voice, "Oh, you've got the ace kicker." He did not reveal his cards.

The dealer put out the turn and river. Only then the Player B slowly turn over his Q-Q.

It was not only a slow-roll, but a slow-roll with a verbal needle embedded in it. I can think of no reason that B would have said what he did other than to deliberately create the false impression that he, too, had a jack but with a lower second card, and would need help to win the hand.

This isn't against the rules, but it's pretty low-life.

When I'm the all-in caller, and uncertain whether I have the winner, I'll wait for the bettor to expose his hand first. (If I'm highly confident that I'm going to win, I'll just end the mystery right away, and not care much whether the bettor ever shows.) When he does, I will usually show mine, too, whether I'm ahead or behind, but always if I'm ahead. If I see that I'm behind and feel a bit sheepish about having made a bad call, I may keep my cards down, but if a lucky turn or river peels off to give me the hand, I take that as my cue to immediately show.

I understand that not every opponent can divine that this is my approach, but if everybody did this, then one could confidently take the fact that the caller's cards are still face down as his quiet acknowledgement that he doesn't have the winner, and the bettor would have much less suspense and anxiety.

As with most points of etiquette, if you're guided by (1) how you would want others to treat you, and (2) being considerate of the feelings of others (which basically amounts to the same thing), you'll get it right most of the time.

In tonight's situation, it was rude enough for B to wait until the entire board was out before showing that he had the winner. But to give the little misdirectional speech first--apparently for no reason other than to give his opponent the false impression that he would probably win the hand--turned a marginally inconsiderate delay into a seriously and gratuitously nasty gesture. I had been at the table for an hour or so, and Player A had never done anything rude or shady to B or to anybody else, for which this might be considered a "turnabout is fair play" move. It came from out of nowhere, for no discernible reason other than to kick a guy when he's down.

It was crass and scummy. Player A left the game, and the rest of us were left with a bad taste in our mouths and considerable contempt for Mr. B. I wonder if he thinks it was worth it.

Fortunately, he was additionally uncouth in being a hit-and-run artist, and left two hands later, so we didn't have to hate him for very long.

Just as an incidental note, I won the biggest pot of the night--a four-way all-in--with 2-3. You might be able to guess what I have to say to explain/excuse my play: But they were sooooted! (That ended up not mattering. I flopped two pairs and hit a full house on the turn.)

This has never happened

I'm guessing that the following sequence of events has never occurred, not even once, in the history of poker:

1. The player to the left of the big blind posts a live straddle.
2. The dealer announces the straddle.
3. Every player at the table is paying attention and hears the announcement.
4. Every player who wishes to limp in to the pot, when it is his turn, remembers the straddle announcement, and, without further prompting or correction, places the correct amount in front of him.

I think the bare minimum number of reminders a dealer ever has to issue, after the initial announcement, is two.

The sequence in which every player hears the message, remembers it, and acts accordingly is, I think, like the unicorn, merely a lovely but unrealistic myth.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Poker gems, #150

Kevin Conley, in "The Players," article in The New Yorker magazine, July 11/18, 2005, p. 55.

In 1970, Binion's Horseshoe Casino hosted the first World Series of Poker, and the original trophy went, by peer vote, to Johnny Moss, a Texas veteran who had seen the need, on one occasion, to point his gun at a peephole in a poker-room ceiling and inquire, "Now, fellas, do I have to go and shoot a bullet in the ceiling? Or you going to send your boy down without any harm?"

Poker gems, #149

Kevin Conley, in "The Players," article in The New Yorker magazine, July 11/18, 2005, p. 55.

Still, math is at the core of poker's basic strategies, and [Daniel] Negreanu believes that these can be quickly and profitably learned.

"I went to speak at Ohio State and I ended up jokingly saying that I'm starting my Stay Out of School program," he said. "I was totally kidding, but, realistically, it's not that far-fetched an idea. For kids that are eighteen, nineteen years old, that are going to go to college, get a dead-end job where they make fifty or sixty thousand dollars a year, I can take that same kid, teach him how to play poker, and in three months show him how to make more money than he would ever make in that dead-end job.

"The stock market is gambling, right?" he continued. "This kid studies and he makes money in the stock market, and this is considered by society O.K. A poker player, a kid, sees all these idiots making poor investments on these poker hands and says, 'Wow, I could do a better job than they're doing,' and he studies, and he makes it. How is that different, realistically, than a stockbroker? I mean, I don't see the difference."

"Well," [Erick] Lindgren said, "there's more cheating and collusion in the stock market."

Poker gems, #148

Kevin Conley, in "The Players," article in The New Yorker magazine, July 11/18, 2005, p. 52.

"It's the silliest thing," [Daniel] Negreanu said, "but I feel naked unless I have some money on me. If I was going to the Rite Aid right here, just to get some shampoo, I would bring six or seven thousand, just in case. Like if, on the way, I had to buy a car."

Monday, July 21, 2008

New live poker show

See Daniel Negreanu's blog post here. From his description, I'm only getting a fairly vague sense of what this is going to be like, but it has me intrigued.

(Thanks to "S" of the Vegas Poker Dealer blog for the tip via private email.)

Addendum, July 22, 2008

Here's more information from the show's own web site,, and a PokerNews story here.

Let's not feed the monster

I've seen a couple of references to this USA Today blog post and poll, one in a user comment here a few days back, and another on some other poker blog (sorry for not giving credit, but I don't remember where it was now).

I have a real problem with this. Notice how Rep. McDermott puts his entire argument in terms of shoveling more money into the federal government's coffers. Nothing about gambling from the privacy of one's home being a simple right with which the government shouldn't interfere. He appears not to care about that. His sole--or at least chief--concern is increasing revenue to the treasury.

I think that is horribly dangerous. If the proposal were simply to regulate online gaming and assess a fee or tax that would exactly cover the expenses of running the regulatory body, I could probably hold my nose and live with that. But I absolutely hate how the PPA, Annie Duke, Lou Krieger, and others keep arguing, just like Mr. McDermott (by the way, how weird is it that a congressman pushing for federal regulation of online poker shares a name with the main character in "Rounders"?), that the government should take on the role of regulator because it will be profitable to the government to do so.

This means that these people want us--you and me--to hand over our money to the feds, above and beyond what they would need to spend for the regulatory agency, so that they can spend it on other crap: the federal debt, the war in Iraq, escalating the war on drugs, studying the sex life of a subspecies of hookworm, building a museum and monument to whatever obscure group is left that doesn't have one yet, farm subsidies, etc. In other words, we would be further fueling the increase in the size of the federal government, when it is already, oh, about 1000 times bigger than by any rights it ought to be, and when most of what it does is already not authorized by the Constitution.

Governments are endlessly greedy and ravenous. For the sake of our own freedom and economic stability, they need to be put on subsistence diets, almost starved--not indulged like the guy in "SuperSize Me," eating McDonald's three times a day for a month. Remember how the cute little "Audrey II" plant in "Little Shop of Horrors" started off just asking for a single drop of blood, but grew to be an unmanagable man-eater? That's how the federal government is. Whatever level of skimming it does at first will be only the beginning. The rate of theft from every pot will get to be more and more as time goes by. There is nothing to stop it. There is no competition to keep the greed in check as there is for, say, the rake at Vegas casinos. Look at what has happened to tobacco taxes over the years if you want a foretaste of what legalized, federally regulated poker will grow to look like.

To continue my string of bad movie images and analogies, think of the poor souls in "Dracula" (I'm thinking specifically of the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola version, though many others show the same thing) who are kept by the vampires as a source of ongoing meals, rather like farm animals. They are barely alive, left with just enough blood so that they don't die and can be bled again later. That is what I am convinced would be the end-game of federally regulated online poker--taxed to within an inch of its life, marginally profitable for anybody except the feds.

It is wrong to give this unspeakably corrupt, inept, misguided, overbloated government yet another source of its nourishment, with which it will keep growing, sucking ever more vitality out of the economy and ever more freedom from its constituents. It's like kudzo, already massively overgrown and taking over everything in sight. Our collective goals should be to chop at it wherever and however we can, not pump it full of yet more fertilizer.

I would far rather have online poker continue as it is, in a reasonably healthy condition, though with barriers to entry and uncertainty about its exact legal standing, than to have it become a source of more federal revenue. I firmly believe that such a move would ultimately be bad for poker and worse for the nation.

PokerStars: The only sensible choice for HORSE

I continue my slow learning curve for HORSE, playing basically one $11 single-table sit-and-go tournament a day. (I reported on my early success here, and plan to file another such report when I get up to around 100 of these events under my virtual belt.)

The vast majority of these have been on PokerStars. But in the last couple of days I looked around at other sites to see what they had to offer that might be similar.

The answer is: not much. As far as I can tell, there are no HORSE STTs available on UltimateBlecch or Absolute Puker (which would be the sites of choice if you like having opponents look at your hole cards while you play), Doyle's Room, Poker Host (and, by the way, the software for those two sites looks suspiciously similar; I suspect they are skins for the same underlying site, though I haven't looked into that to confirm it), Carbon Poker, the Cake network, or Bodog.

So basically your only choices are PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, on which I have played two of these suckers. Which is the better offering? No question, hands down, it's Stars. I can't post the entire tourney structure here (or, to be more accurate, I could, but I can't do it with an easy cut and paste, and I don't feel like bothering to type out the whole thing), but you can get a sense of the difference from the screenshots posted above (FTP on top, Stars underneath).

Both sites start you with 1500 in chips, and the progress in blinds, level for level, is fairly similar. The crucial difference is the length of the levels: 10 minutes each for Stars versus just 6 minutes for FTP. That means that at the end of an hour of play, on Full Tilt you will be starting Level 11, 300/600 Hold'em, in which one big bet is costing you 40% of what your starting stack had been. After the same amount of time on Stars, you will be starting Level 7, 150/300 Omaha Hi/Lo, in which one big bet is costing you 20% of what your starting stack had been.

The Stars structure is vastly better, and skill is given a far more decent chance to outrun luck. You get a lot more play for your money, and if you're one of the better players, you have more of a shot at coming out on top. I mean, if I wanted a turbo event, I'd sign up for one. But I don't. I want more playing time, more time to be patient and wait for a strong hand, more time to recover from a bad beat before the blinds and antes gobble up my chips.

After looking closely at the difference, I won't play another one of these games on Full Tilt, and, frankly, I can't see why anybody would.

Actually, there is one other potentially interesting and worthwhile choice, from an unexpected source: Bugsy's Club. They start you with 2500 in chips, with the following structure:

Notice that the levels are 12 minutes long, meaning that after one hour of play, you will be starting Level 6, 500/1000 Hold'em, in which one big bet costs 40% of what your starting stack had been. It's not clearly better or worse than Full Tilt; you just go through the games half as fast, and whether you think that's good or bad is basically a subjective determination. In terms of total game play, though, Stars still comes out ahead.

As you might guess, the huge disadvantage to Bugsy is the lack of opponents. I still haven't played a tourney there, because I can sign up and wait hours without getting even a second person registered. It's a lonely place.

I'm thinking that it might be getting to be about time for the long-promised second private readers' tournament. And I'm thinking that it might be HORSE, and might be on Stars. We'll see.

How to win at poker in Vegas

Who else could tell it better than Vegas Rex?

A quick trip back in time

A couple of days ago, out of nowhere, I had a sudden flashback to the moment when I first came across the word "blog."

It was about five years ago. I was sitting in a doctor's waiting room, reading the local newspaper. There was a feature article introducing readers to the whole "blog" concept. (I thought it was one of the ugliest word coinings ever. Still think that, in fact.) The article was written in sections, with the first one at the bottom, and subsequent pieces farther up the page, so that one had to read the article nearly backwards, compared to regular newspaper writing--obviously to sort of simulate how blogs are written.

I managed to read the whole thing before being called in for my appointment.

I distinctly remember having this reaction: What a dumb idea. Who would read such a thing? Who would write one?

So you want to move to Vegas, eh?

Every so often somebody will email me because of having read this blog and ask me about living in Vegas, should they move here, can they really make a living playing poker, etc.

Well, in addition to the various monsters that inhabit the casinos, we have other kinds to lurk in the rest of the area. Take a gander at the "insect" that I saw outside a friend's apartment a few days ago:

That's not my hand, not my photo. I found it here. But it's the same species, specifically, Derobrachus hovorei, a.k.a. the Palo Verde Root Borer. There it was, just sitting on the sidewalk, waiting for somebody to walk by so it could have its human dinner. Not me. I went around the long way.

And I don't suppose I've ever mentioned the tarantulas....

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Poker gems, #147

Post from "Westhoff" on the twoplustwo forum about this week's "Poker After Dark."

If Osama and Hellmuth were standing next to each other and I was told I could only punch one in the balls I'd have to think about it.

[Grump notes: I know it's so, so wrong of me, and maybe it's just because it was too late at night, but this made me laugh until I cried.]

Poker gems, #146

Phil Hellmuth, the self-proclaimed greatest reader of poker opponents, on last night's "Poker After Dark," commenting on what he thought Guy LaLiberte had just reraised him with:

Feels like deuce-seven.

[LaLiberte actually had pocket kings.]

Melted Felt

Quick recommendation here to check out "Melted Felt," an attempt an Onion-style humor in the poker world. They launched in May, and I first heard about the site a couple of weeks ago (through a link at Pokerati, I think), but today is the first that I've really looked around at its content. Here are some posts that I liked:

Calling Station Sets New "Levels of Thinking" Record

Iran Introduces Hanging for Slowrollers

Disappointment for Internet 1st Timer As Username TeddyKGB In Use

Absolute Poker Announce New Head of Security

David Sklansky to Save US Economy?

UB Press Release, Security To Be Enhanced With A "Computer"

UltimateBet Cheating Scandal--Exclusive