Saturday, June 06, 2009

Ad notice

I have been getting requests from some advertisers to include paid links in the text of posts. I will probably decide to accept at some point.

I have many times turned down requests to do silently paid posts--that is, a post paid for by some advertiser, but without notice to readers, so that it looks like any other post. I don't ever want there to be confusion between paid content and the things I write just because I feel like writing them.

The integrated links, though, are a slightly different proposition. I wouldn't go out of my way to write a post, or change how it would get written, just to include a paid link. But what these advertisers usually want links from is common words and phrases like "poker" or "online poker." Where I would be writing those things anyway, I don't feel like there is any compromise of integrity to put a link in. I think it will be quite obvious when a link is paid, because it will go to a commercial site, one that is not clearly being discussed in what I'm writing about. I.e., the fact that it's kind of an oddball link, only tangentially related to the post, should practically scream that it's paid, even if there is no explicit label as such. At least I think I can do it fairly easily; I'm not completely sure because to date I have just ignored such requests, rather than explore the details of how they want it to work. We'll see.

So now you know, in case such things start popping up here and there.

Poker gems, #279

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 234.

What's happening is that you have painful memories in your mind that want to be dwelled on. That's the only way they can live. So you can hardly blame them for being so persistent. And they move in clusters. If you let one bad poker memory in, it will hold the door open, and the associated bad feelings will come in too. Your mind then becomes a dwelling for woeful dwelling. To clean house, sleep.

Guess the casino, #165

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

Answer: Planet Hollywood


The above ad is in the current issue of Card Player magazine.

Notice any problems?

The ad is presumably supposed to get the reader to want to play in the World Series of Poker and win a bracelet, which one can then show off next year--right?

So, it should be a 2009 bracelet, right?

But if you look closely, you'll see that the photo is of a 2008 WSOP bracelet.

Isn't it a little late to be signing up to win one of those?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Poker gems, #278

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 230.

And there we have the meaning and the consequences of resisting reality. At regular life, resistance is futile, and painful. At poker, resistance is not only futile and painful, but also expensive.

If only we could be like water. When water moves, it follows the path of least resistance. Water would be good at poker.

KNPR show about online gambling

Yesterday the local public radio station featured a discussion on whether online gambling should be legal. You can see the show notes and download it here. For some reason, the page doesn't mention that Howard Lederer is one of the main guests. I think he may get more air time than any of the others, in fact. As usual, he is the voice of calm and reason. The whole thing lasts about 37 minutes.

Lederer mentions that the average online poker player spends about $10 per week and plays for about 90 minutes. I have not heard those numbers before, though perhaps they're commonly known. An amusing moment happens when the program's host asks Lederer where he got those figures. The answer pretty obviously is from his day job running Full Tilt Poker, though he hedges and says they come from all the big online poker sites.

The host, Dave Berns, repeatedly says that it is a violation of federal law for people to gamble online. He has previously been told that this is wrong, and shown the evidence that it is not true, but he continues to make this assertion because, as far as I can tell, both he and the station lack any intellectual or journalistic integrity. (See here and here for previous rants on exactly the same point.)

If you listen to the show, be prepared to throw heavy objects at the computer when you get infuriated over the moronic arguments made by the two gambling opponents. For example, one of them says that it's fine to play poker online, his group is only opposed to doing it for actual money. This is clearly a man who has never played free poker. It is simply not the same game when nothing of actual value is at stake. The incentive to play better than one's opponents vanishes, and the game degenerates into farce.

Another idiotic argument is that the average online player doesn't know who he's playing against; it might secretly be a--GASP!--professional! He says that he wouldn't get into the pool against Michael Phelps, and he doesn't want to play poker against Howard Lederer.

Lederer gives one good answer to this: just play 5-10 cent games like the majority of casual players do, and you won't risk running into him, because he can't make a living playing those stakes. (This seems to give the lie to FTP's banner claim that even low-stakes or free-site players can play against Team Full Tilt. Is Lederer exempt from taking his turn at these duties?)

But the other answer is that many casual players would love to play against the pros they see on TV, the same way that amateur golfers would love to play a round with Tiger Woods--even if they know they'll probably lose. The difference is that in poker you can actually do it.

Yet another dumb argument you'll hear is that the sites are predatory, as evidenced by the "fact" that 90% of their revenue comes from 10% of their customers. This is a dubious factual claim. But even if it were true for poker, one perfectly plausible explanation is that the 10% are not addicts squandering their life savings, but professionals making a living from the vast numbers of casual players.

Anyway, it's a moderately interesting discussion, worth the listening time if you care about the public policy questions that online gaming raises.

Guess the casino, #164

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

Answer: M Resort

A visit to the Amazon Room

Many readers will know already that my friend Cardgrrl was playing in the World Series of Poker today--specifically, Event #11, the $2000 No-Limit Hold'em.

I went over to the Rio (a place I usually try to avoid during the Series, because I detest crowds) to eat with her at the dinner break. While there, I saw the 1970 Corvette that Tom McEvoy won in the Champions' Invitational Tournament the other day:

I passed within a few feet of Jerry Yang, Joe Awada, Bertrand Grospellier, David Sklansky, Phil Hellmuth, Billy Gazes, Maria Mayrinck, Maureen Feduniak, Dan Heimiller, Marcel Luske, and probably a few others that I'm forgetting now. In that place you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a pro you've seen play on television. (I didn't actually try doing so, but I'm making an educated guess.) I took a few pictures, but they didn't turn out well enough to bother showing here.

My plan had been to sweat Cardgrrl through the evening after dinner until I had to get home to do my nightly write-up for PokerNews. I discovered, though, that she was stuck in a corner inaccessible to the general public. From the closest vantage point, I could barely identify her, let alone get any idea of what was happening on the table. Worse, she was at Table #2, and they broke tables in reverse order, which meant that there was zero chance her table would break and she'd be moved to a spot closer to a rail.

So I reluctantly scratched that idea and went home after dinner.

I had not counted on the random-move factor, which occurs when they need to balance the tables without breaking one. No sooner had I fired up the computer than I saw a Tweet announcing that she had been moved to Table 40. I checked my map of the layout of the Amazon Room, and found that it was right on a walking pathway, so I could stalk observe her from just a few feet away. I zoomed back to the Rio, and it was easy spectating, as anticipated:

That's her between the guys in the red and orange baseball caps, getting ready to muck her big-blind hole cards after a big bully stack had raised from early position.

And, hey--who's that sitting behind her at the next table over? Black hat, UltimateBet jersey--looks kind of familiar somehow, but I can't quite put a name to the face....

Cardgrrl was getting short-stacked by this point, and I suspected that she would make an all-in move sometime soon, but it happened even more quickly than I thought. I had been observing for less than one orbit when she shoved on her button when it was folded around to her, holding 6-7 of spades (I think--maybe it was 7-8). Unfortunately, another short stack in the small blind also pushed all-in with K-10 hearts, as I recall. Even more unfortunately, the new guy at the table (you can see that he hadn't been then when I took the photo above) pushed his larger stack all-in, too. And he had pocket aces. Boy, talk about a blind steal gone wrong!

But she maintained her good humor, as you can see here, just after the magnitude of her dilemma has been made clear. The dealer ran the board out. She did catch a 7 for a pair, and so would have beaten the small blind, but the aces held up.

By old habit, I was about to write, "She took it like a man." But that would be both demeaning and inaccurate. She took it a helluva lot better than most male players do. She obviously recognized that it's the kind of move one simply must make in a tournament situation. Sometimes it wins you the blinds, sometimes it gets you doubled or tripled up, and sometimes you go busto. But taking that chance is clearly better than the alternative of getting ground down by the blinds and antes until you have a completely worthless stack of chips. So she did a very reasonable thing, and it just didn't work out.

Prior to that, from everything I can tell, she had played very well. In an ugly hand early on, she lost most of her stack, but never panicked, and waited patiently until an opportunity came. Then, in a series of three hands, she made a really nice comeback to be about average in chips, and held steady thereafter. It was a sufficiently impressive recovery that it caught the attention of the PokerNews blogger covering the event, and she got two live-update posts about her progress. (OK, it's possible that I put a bug in a well-placed ear to facilitate that, but it was a story worth telling anyway.)

I think she did just grand for a first time to the WSOP, surviving until about 10:00 p.m. (roughly eight hours of play), and outlasting many big-name pros. I was glad to get to be there for a small part of it. I hope I do as well when it's my turn a week from now.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Poker gems, #277

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 214.

When the game presents you with the option to have fewer chips than those you fear, take it, and when the game presents you with the option to have more chips than those who fear you, take it.

Guess the casino, #163

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

Answer: Flamingo

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Poker gems, #276

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 179.

Keep in mind that what I'm after, after all, is to be after all. To act last. To me, the early positions look like a desert wasteland. It's a place where people die from overexposure. Which cards do I play from positional hell? The ones that can take the heat.

Guess the casino, #162

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

Answer: Boulder Station

Brief life update

Go ahead--guess the casino. Answer later.

Life sometimes gets in the way of poker, y'know?

Yesterday I did what little I could to help my friend Cardgrrl deal with an impossibly maddening situation with the condo that was supposed to have been all arranged and nailed down long ago. Then we had dinner at Jason's Deli (highly recommended).

Today it was more of the same, plus dealing with getting her a rental car for the month (through a desk agent that I found intolerably annoying). Then tried to leave the problems behind by dinner and a movie out at Sam's Town.

The movie, by the way, was the new Star Trek. Truly excellent in every way. Well written, well acted, good pacing, lots of action, lots of drama and emotion, funny, well integrated with the existing canon but with new twists and angles. Plenty of gems for those in the know, but, I would guess, entirely entertaining for Trek newcomers, too. E.g., you don't have to know anything about what happens between Kirk and Spock and Pike "after" the events of this prequel, but it makes watching their interactions a lot richer if you have already seen "The Menagerie" from the original series.

Did you guess the casino? OK, I admit, it was a trick question. The Elvis glass etching shown is not in a casino at all, but in the entrance to the men's room at the airport car rental facility. Kind of an unexpected find.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Poker gems, #275

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 136.

Let's say you wanted to make it more likely that you will make misclick mistakes. And that you wanted to increase the probability that you will be distracted from the game and miss something important. And let's say you wanted to disclose information to your opponents about yourself that will help them play better against you. How might you achieve all these goals with one action? Chat.

Guess the casino, #161

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

Answer: Sunset Station

Monday, June 01, 2009

Best line of the day

It comes, not too surprisingly, from Dr. Pauly, almost always the most entertaining observer of all things WSOP:

Vitaly Lunkin. I guess he officially earned his red name on Full Tilt. He has more bracelets than Erik Lindgren and Phil Gordon combined.

Bad sportsmanship

There was a small, unusual incident yesterday in the final day of the World Series of Poker Event #3, $1500 Omaha High/Low. As reported by PokerNews:

Freddy Gets Irritated

From under the gun, Pascal Leyo limped. Robert Price raised behind him
and Freddy Deeb called. Thang Luu called from later position as well and then
when action got back to Leyo, he called.

The flop came down 10c 7s 3d. Leyo checked and Price bet out. Deeb called and then
Luu raised. Leyo tanked for a couple minutes and then folded. Price called the
raise as did Deeb.

The turn brought the 9d and everyone checked. After the river came the Jd, Price
led with a bet and only Deeb called.

"Ship it!" exclaimed Price as he tabled Ad Kd 9h 2c. Deeb didn't muck right away, but held his cards as he studied the board. The dealer scooped up the community
cards and began to muck them, but Deeb insisted he put them back because he
wanted to study them to see how everyone played the hand. The floor staff
corrected the dealer and made him put the cards back on the felt.

When he did so, Jordan Rich chimed in, "Just muck already."

"I don't want to muck." said Deeb. Another few seconds went by and then
Freddy released his hand and moved on.

Several things are unclear from this account that might be obvious had one been there. For example, how long was Deeb taking? What's clear, though, is that Deeb must have known almost instantly that Price had the nuts, and that with no low possible, he (Deeb) could take no portion of the pot.

It is certainly legitimate, though not commonly seen, for a player to want to look at the board cards and his opponent's tabled hand long enough to reconstruct what happened in the hand--what did the guy have and what was he thinking in every betting round, etc. But I have a hard time believing that a player as vastly experienced as Freddy Deeb needs more than maybe three to five seconds to absorb and process that information. Heck, I've probably played less than 0.1% of the Omaha/8 hands that Deeb has, and I can usually do it in ten seconds or so, once I have opened the PokerStars replay window so that I can see all the cards.

If I'm right about Deeb's experience and analytical powers, then he was not telling the truth about his reason for withholding his cards. He even went so far as to make the floor person come over and instruct the dealer to put the board cards back up. That is an extraordinary gesture, one that I've never seen. (Two exceptions: If there is a dispute about which was actually the winning hand, or when there is a claim of a high-hand jackpot that was not announced with sufficient rapidity. Those are completely different situations than the one here, though.) It is not consistent with his claim of simply wanting to make a mental reconstruction of how the hand played out. If his card memory were that poor, he could never make it playing stud games--yet he is a HORSE tournament champion and a regular participant in mixed cash games where stud variants are in the rotation.

I think the obvious inference is that Deeb was just being a snot. The most likely reason, in addition to losing the hand, was an adverse reaction to Price's "Ship it!"

If Deeb thinks such outbursts are obnoxious, I'm with him. They are. They are rude, unnecessary, pointless, offensive, arrogant, immature, and inconsiderate. Taunting one's opponent or rubbing his face in his loss is bad for the game and a sign of a generally boorish and antisocial personality. It is always wrong. I had never heard of Price before this event began, but from this one incident I'm prepared to conclude that he is an unpleasant jerk that has a lot of growing up to do. (It troubles me that from his photos (see here and here) it looks like he's about my age, not somebody for whom youthful exuberance and general life inexperience could at least serve as a flimsy excuse for bad behavior. Worse, he looks a lot like me. I wouldn't want to be mistaken for a guy that would act like him.)

But you don't handle jerkitude by returning it in kind--especially when doing so adversely affects every other person at the table (players and dealer alike) by wasting everybody's time. The clock is ticking. If I'm right that Deeb's true motivation was returning the needle, he was just as out of line as Price was, and arguably more. He got down in the mud with Price, rather than keeping himself above it. (I was about to say "rather than standing tall." But there is a limit to how much "standing tall" a guy like Deeb can do. I say this as a 5'7" relative shorty myself.)

Shame on both of them for unbecoming conduct.

By the way, I couldn't tell if the title of the PokerNews blog post was or was not a deliberate reference to the movie "Freddy Got Fingered." My guess is probably not. If it was intended to be, it was too subtle to have the desired effect. Better might have been something like "Freddy Almost Got the Finger."

Poker gems, #274

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 125.

If you know you will falter on the road, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, then the main thing to work on, forever, is your recovery system. You know you will need to be resilient to survive. That's what walking around, eating right, and forcing yourself to get enough sleep is all about. It's about physically and mentally recovering from the brutalities of poker before the next fight.

Guess the casino, #160

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

Answer: Rio

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Poker gems, #273

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 100.

When you fold face up, the message that is sent to the table, whether you intend it or not, and whether you realize it or not, is this: "Dear table full of people. It is very important to me what you think of me. It is so important that I am willing to give you the most generous gift of information I can--I will show you my cards--just so you know that 1) my decisions were justified, and also that 2) I am unlucky. I know it will cost me money to reveal my cards and feelings to you. But that's okay. That's how much I value your opinion of me."

If you always fold face down without ever showing even one card to anyone, the message that is sent, and received, whether you intend it or not, and whether you realize it or not, is this: "I don't care what you think about how I play. I don't even care what I think about how I play. Oh, and by the way, I am impervious to everything." Fussless folding fortifies.

Guess the casino, #159

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

Answer: Mirage