Saturday, April 10, 2010

Opportunity Village tournament

I just got back from playing at Caesars Palace. One of the reasons I chose it for today's session was that I knew the charity tournament for Opportunity Village would be going on, and I thought it might be fun to keep an eye on that. It was.

I took several breaks from my game and wandered around. My pictures, taken with my puny little Nikon point-and-shoot, won't be nearly as good as others will put up, but I bet mine get posted first! I arrived when the tournament had already been running for nearly two hours, so I'm sure many photo-worthy people had left by then.

Howard Lederer (at the end of the table):

Melissa Hayden:

Allen Cunningham:

Steve Zolotow and Howard Lederer:

This young woman played with a severe disadvantage: a tiara perched atop her head. This is something I've never tried. It's Christina Keegan, Miss Nevada 2010. From what I overhead, the men to the right of her in the photo are cast members from Jersey Boys at the Venetian, though I've never seen the show, so I can't verify their identifies.

But if Miss Nevada had trouble playing poker while wearing a tiara, it was nothing compared to this young woman's handicap. Yes, based on the overhead announcements, she really did play in full showgirl regalia. (They were announcing her elimination just as I took this photo of her on her way out.)

Perry Friedman and Adam Savage. What? You don't know who Adam Savage is? He's only the co-host of my favorite show on television, Mythbusters. Hands-down, he and his partner have the coolest jobs on the planet. They get to build stuff, explore interesting and amusing questions and problems, go to exciting places, and blow up a whole lot of stuff. There are not many people whose lives I envy, but he's on the short list:

Adam Savage and, in the white shirt, my friend Jon Katkin, of the Chaos Theory poker blog:

That shot was taken as the dealer was sorting out the pot in a big three-way all-in confrontation. I think it was Q-Q versus J-J and 6-6. Savage was on the low end of that deal, and was knocked out shortly thereafter. He was a good sport and gave an interview. He was thanked for helping Opportunity Village, and he responded with, "I helped them by losing?!" Funny moment.

Jon made the final table (last six shown here). He was among the final five when I left a few minutes later. I'm sure a full accounting of the day's adventures will be forthcoming on his blog. [Edit: Post just put up here.]

A Twitter message a short time ago announced that the tournament was won by Jeremy Jenson, whom I do not know. I'm not even sure which one he is in the photo above.

There were many cool things offered in an accompanying silent auction, including these:

And, completely unrelated to any of the foregoing, this man, who was just waiting for a seat in a cash game, graciously consented to pose for a picture when I told him how much I liked his T-shirt. I gotta get me one of those!

Guess the casino, #473

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

Answer: Bill's

Friday, April 09, 2010

Poker gems, #352

Ashton Griffin, in Card Player magazine interview, March 24, 2010 (vol. 23, #6), p. 34.

No matter what table I joined, I was easily the worst player. People were hunting me because they knew that I was so bad and willing to get it in with pretty much any hand preflop.... I really turned the corner when I discovered the fold button.

Oh yeah, I've seen him

Couldn't sleep for long, so I'm up at 4:00 in the freakin' a.m. Bleah.

Web surfing with the TV on. It's the channel 8 (KLAS) morning show. They just had a story about a series of home break-ins in the Las Vegas valley. They showed this official composite sketch of one of the suspects:

Hey, I'm pretty sure I've seen that guy! It's Dumb Donald!

On another subject entirely, while I was looking for the above images, one of the hosts, Chris Saldana, teased an upcoming story about some new coronary-inducing KFC entree by reading from his cue card, "It's the epitome of chicken taste." Except he pronounced epitome as EPP-i-toam. Good Lord. Do you even have to have graduated from high school to get that job?

Guess the casino, #472

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

Answer: Golden Nugget

Glitch in Full Tilt's software?

I played in Full Tilt Poker's "Midnight Madness" $10+1 tournament tonight. Within the first few hands, something so peculiar happened that I went back and took screen shots of the hand histories to help document it.

Here's the basic problem: In one hand, I was in the big blind and called a raise from the under-the-gun player to my left. Flop and turn were both checked around. I bet on the river and he folded. But on the next hand, the big blind skipped over that player, as did the small blind on the subsequent hand.

Let me show you. This is Hand #4 of the tournament:

And here is the accompanying hand history (Note: I have edited these to add a sequential hand number at the top for ease of reference, and I have deleted the section containing the hole cards and action, since those are not relevant here):

Full Tilt Poker Game #19933949432: Midnight Madness! (151106863), Table 40 - 15/30 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:02:52 ET - 2010/04/09
Seat 1: bagwisson (1,485)
Seat 2: prizefighter00 (1,455)
Seat 4: riquin (1,455)
Seat 5: feverdog11 (1,470)
Seat 6: pinkcinderella (1,500)
Seat 7: Rakewell (1,500)
Seat 8: twackeditlostit (1,500)
Seat 9: BackDraft72 (1,635)
feverdog11 posts the small blind of 15
pinkcinderella posts the big blind of 30
The button is in seat #4
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 75 Rake 0
Seat 1: bagwisson didn't bet (folded)
Seat 2: prizefighter00 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 4: riquin (button) collected (75), mucked
Seat 5: feverdog11 (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 6: pinkcinderella (big blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 7: Rakewell didn't bet (folded)
Seat 8: twackeditlostit didn't bet (folded)
Seat 9: BackDraft72 didn't bet (folded)

Next is Hand #5, the one in which I'm in the big blind and won against the UTG raiser:

And the history for Hand #5:

Full Tilt Poker Game #19933963479: Midnight Madness! (151106863), Table 40 - 15/30 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:03:38 ET - 2010/04/09
Seat 1: bagwisson (1,485)
Seat 2: prizefighter00 (1,455)
Seat 3: grumpy lil frog (1,500)
Seat 4: riquin (1,500)
Seat 5: feverdog11 (1,455)
Seat 6: pinkcinderella (1,470)
Seat 7: Rakewell (1,500)
Seat 8: twackeditlostit (1,500)
Seat 9: BackDraft72 (1,635)
pinkcinderella posts the small blind of 15
Rakewell posts the big blind of 30
The button is in seat #5
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 195 Rake 0
Board: [Tc 8h 3h 4d 5d]
Seat 1: bagwisson didn't bet (folded)
Seat 2: prizefighter00 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 3: grumpy lil frog didn't bet (folded)
Seat 4: riquin didn't bet (folded)
Seat 5: feverdog11 (button) didn't bet (folded)
Seat 6: pinkcinderella (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 7: Rakewell (big blind) collected (195), mucked
Seat 8: twackeditlostit folded on the River
Seat 9: BackDraft72 didn't bet (folded)

Fine. No problem so far. But here's where it gets weird.

Hand #6:

Now, this part I can't document for you--you'll just have to take my word for it: The guy to my left (twackeditlostit in Seat 8) did not disappear during this hand, though the hand replayer showed the seat as empty. I know this for a certainty, because if he had vanished, I would have simply assumed that as the player who was next to post a big blind, he had been spirited away to balance the tables. It was precisely because he was still sitting there, and still in the hand (or so it appeared; I don't think he did anything but fold, and in retrospect, even that may have been automatic by the software, rather than the player doing it deliberately), that it caught my attention as an anomaly--why did the big blind skip that guy???

Here's the history for Hand #6:

Full Tilt Poker Game #19933983059: Midnight Madness! (151106863), Table 40 - 15/30 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:04:41 ET - 2010/04/09
Seat 1: bagwisson (1,485)
Seat 2: prizefighter00 (1,455)
Seat 3: grumpy lil frog (1,500)
Seat 4: riquin (1,500)
Seat 5: feverdog11 (1,455)
Seat 6: pinkcinderella (1,455)
Seat 7: Rakewell (1,605)
Seat 9: BackDraft72 (1,635)
Rakewell posts the small blind of 15
BackDraft72 posts the big blind of 30
The button is in seat #6
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 330 Rake 0
Board: [Kh 5c Qh]
Seat 1: bagwisson didn't bet (folded)
Seat 2: prizefighter00 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 3: grumpy lil frog didn't bet (folded)
Seat 4: riquin folded on the Flop
Seat 5: feverdog11 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 6: pinkcinderella (button) didn't bet (folded)
Seat 7: Rakewell (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 9: BackDraft72 (big blind) collected (330), mucked

Note that it shows Seat 8 to be empty for this hand, consistent with the animated hand replayer. The big blind skipped over him to Seat 9, again as would be expected if he had been moved to another table--except that he wasn't.

Next up is Hand 7:

And the history for Hand #7:

Full Tilt Poker Game #19933996966: Midnight Madness! (151106863), Table 40 - 15/30 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:05:26 ET - 2010/04/09
Seat 1: bagwisson (1,485)
Seat 2: prizefighter00 (1,455)
Seat 3: grumpy lil frog (1,500)
Seat 4: riquin (1,350)
Seat 5: feverdog11 (1,455)
Seat 6: pinkcinderella (1,455)
Seat 7: Rakewell (1,575)
Seat 8: twackeditlostit (1,410)
Seat 9: BackDraft72 (1,815)
BackDraft72 posts the small blind of 15
bagwisson posts the big blind of 30
The button is in seat #7
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 3,030 Rake 0
Board: [As 4h Qd Qh Ac]
Seat 1: bagwisson (big blind) folded on the Flop
Seat 2: prizefighter00 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 3: grumpy lil frog showed [Ks Ad] and won (3,030) with a full house, Aces full of Queens
Seat 4: riquin didn't bet (folded)
Seat 5: feverdog11 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 6: pinkcinderella didn't bet (folded)
Seat 7: Rakewell (button) didn't bet (folded)
Seat 8: twackeditlostit is sitting out
Seat 9: BackDraft72 (small blind) showed [Qc 8s] and lost with a full house, Queens full of Aces

Now twackeditlostit is back in Seat 8, but "sitting out."

Hand #8:

And the history for Hand #8:

Full Tilt Poker Game #19934013744: Midnight Madness! (151106863), Table 40 - 15/30 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:06:20 ET - 2010/04/09
Seat 1: bagwisson (1,455)
Seat 3: grumpy lil frog (3,030)
Seat 4: riquin (1,350)
Seat 5: feverdog11 (1,455)
Seat 6: pinkcinderella (1,455)
Seat 7: Rakewell (1,575)
Seat 8: twackeditlostit (1,410)
Seat 9: BackDraft72 (315)
bagwisson posts the small blind of 15
grumpy lil frog posts the big blind of 30
The button is in seat #9
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 735 Rake 0
Board: [Ac 9s Jc 4s Ad]
Seat 1: bagwisson (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 3: grumpy lil frog (big blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 4: riquin folded before the Flop
Seat 5: feverdog11 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 6: pinkcinderella didn't bet (folded)
Seat 7: Rakewell folded before the Flop
Seat 8: twackeditlostit showed [Qd Kh] and won (735) with a pair of Aces
Seat 9: BackDraft72 (button) showed [Th 3d] and lost with a pair of Aces

As you can see, twackeditlostit is back in the game and even won the hand--without having paid the blinds for this round. (The button skipped over him, too.)

Below is a summary of the players, seats, button position, blinds, etc., as taken from the hand history. Player name in parenthesis means that the hand history designates him as "sitting out" that hand.

So twackeditlostit plays a hand under the gun, skips the big blind, sits out one hand (the one that would have been his small blind), and then is back, coming in behind the button.

One possibility is that he was whisked away to balance the tables, then, just by freak random chance, whisked back to us to rebalance the tables. However, that would not explain why his avatar remained at the table the whole time, and it's an awfully big coincidence to believe, given the size of this tournament (2082 entrants, so well over 200 tables). Of course, if he were just voluntarily sitting out, the blinds would still hit him.

It's very peculiar, and even after spending all the time it took to prepare this post, I can't figure out any explanation that makes sense--other than a serious glitch in the FTP software.

I am going to send an email to their support team about this anomaly. If they give me any sort of substantive response, I'll post it here as an addendum to this blog entry. In the meantime, if any reader can figure out a scenario under which this set of facts makes sense, I'd be happy to hear about it in the comments.

Incidentally, want to know how I went out of the tournament? Yeah, I thought you would want to hear all about it. Blind versus blind. I flopped top pair top kicker with my A-8 offsuit in the small blind, on a flop of 8-7-7. I bet. Big blind raised all in. I thought he was full of it, so I called. I was right. He had no pair, no draw. I was feeling fine--until he hit runner-runner straight:

That, of course, points to another little glitch in the FTP software: It's RIGGED!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Poker gems, #351

Greg Kaplan, in Card Player magazine interview, March 24, 2010 (vol. 23, #6), p. 26.

[A] good, thinking player is always trying to find spots where his opponent's opinion of his range is not congruent with what his range actually is.

Guess the casino, #471

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

Answer: Fitzgerald's

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Airports and cabs

Just a few scattered nonpokery thoughts here.


On my most recent trips to the airport, picking up and sending off Cardgrrl, I was pleased to discover that McCarran International has finally joined the 20th century--a bit late, but still. Previously, they had these idiotic quarter-fed meters. Because it is impossible to know in advance exactly how much time you'll need to occupy a parking space, that meant either pumping in way more quarters than were really necessary, or cutting it close. The latter option meant either running all the way back out to the parking garage to buy more time if you guessed wrong, or risking getting a ticket. It was a completely idiotic system for such a facility.

Now, though, they operate like every other civilized pay-for-time parking garage. You take a ticket upon entry, and pay for how long you were there on the way out. The potential downside of this is a long wait at the exit. But I have been impressed by the efficiency of the automated booths they have set up. Put the ticket in, put your credit card in, and you're on your way in less than 60 seconds, start to finish.

Efficient and appropriate use of modern technology--from a governmental agency? I was stunned.


I forlornly stood by as Cardgrrl went through the security line when she was leaving. It took a while, which gave me time to watch the cycle of video messages playing on the overhead monitors. Our airport might suck in a lot of ways--no, scratch that; our airport DOES suck in a lot of ways--but we bow to no other air terminal in the world in the excellence and entertainment value of our instructional security videos.

I've watched them in other places, and they are just what you would expect from bureaucracies: lifeless, dull, mechanical messages conveying the point in as drab and unimaginative a form as human minds can conceive. Remember that wonderful Wendy's commercial from the 1980s, about the Eastern Bloc fashion show? (Svimvear! Evening vear!) Same idea.

But not in Vegas! We have Klingons from the Star Trek Experience (now defunct, but who cares?) and knights from the Excalibur Tournament of Kings showing that weapons can't be taken onto the plane. We have Rita Rudner telling jokes, but stopping when she gets to the security line, because humor is not appreciated there. We have Lance Burton, trying to empty his pockets of all metal items, but finding an endless variety of coins and other trinkets everywhere, including behind the screener's ear. We have characters from "Mystere" (whom I wouldn't have recognized before seeing the show recently) trying every which way to put a baby through the x-ray machine, before learning that one is to simply carry small children through the magnetometer. We have a bevy of businessmen performing a synchronized choreography of removing laptop computers from their cases for screening. We have Wayne Newton.

Every one of the dozen or so messages in the loop is well-executed, clever, funny, and yet ends up making its point clearly and memorably. Again--who would ever have thought that governmental lackeys could manage such a thing?


A news story from yesterday illustrates nicely just what is wrong with nearly every governmental attempt to regulate businesses. Las Vegas taxis are, for the first time, now going to be able to accept payment via credit cards--something that obviously should have been happening 20 years ago, like everywhere else in the world.

Reading the summary of the meeting of the Taxicab Authority makes me want to pull out what little hair I have left. They were debating such mind-numbing minutiae as how much of a fee to allow to be charged, and in what form and with what frequency the cab operators would have to report these transactions to the Authority.

Here's an idea: How about just letting the owners/operators of the business decide such things on their own? If they try to charge outlandish fees, people simply won't pay them, or will use other cabs instead. There's this crazy idea called the free market, in which things like that tend to work themselves out to the satisfaction of both vendor and customer. It's as if there's an invisible hand at work. (Great concept, eh? I oughtta write a book.)

Of course, that would also apply to not regulating the number of taxis that operate, or where certain ones are and aren't allowed to pick up fares, how much they can charge, whether to allow smoking, whether to require video surveillance in the vehicles, and so forth. We simply don't need a nitpicking, meddlesome, inefficient regulator trying to micromanage the whole system. Supply and demand is a much better tool than central planning. The Taxicab Authority, and all other similar nanny-state bodies, should ask the Soviet Union about how well centralized management of services and commodities works out. Oh, wait--you can't ask them, because they collapsed under the weight of their own lethargic inefficiency, while sapping the lifeblood of freedom from the millions of souls they enslaved and tormented in the process. Sorry, forgot about that niggling detail for a second there.

And, to anticipate an objection, no, there is not a disconnect between the various segments of this post. I am pleasantly surprised at a couple of examples of nice work from the functionaries that run the airport precisely because long experience has taught us to expect all operations of governments to be as stultifying and aggravating as the lines at the DMV and the post office. If the airport were run by a private company instead of by the government, we would have seen obvious improvements like tBoldhe parking system implemented long before the public agency bothered getting around to it. Governments are necessary evils. We need them for some things, such as courts and criminal law enforcement and protection of individual rights. It's just that those things don't include running airports or taxicab services.


I decided to add a note here rather than in the comments section, in response to what "deuce-four" (nice alias!) wrote. The argument, in short, is that having no regulatory authority would mean that there would be bad operators, which a visitor would chalk up to all Vegas cabs equally.

The first problem with that argument, IMHO, is that it would apply equally to any other sort of business: restaurants, hotels, casinos, shows. I.e., it becomes an argument for having a nanny-state bureaucracy trying to ensure that every consumer's every contact with every company is a positive one.

The second problem is that it assumes that governmental agencies are actually effective in screening out the bad apples. But this is patently not so. Vegas cabs are, despite being heavily regulated, notorious for such abuses as long-hauling customers. Is there actual evidence that the average consumer experience is better for having regulation than it would be without them? I doubt it; I think that is merely a guess, and an unwarranted one at that.

The third problem is that it assumes that there is no alternative except for (1) heavy-handed governmental regulation or (2) an anything-goes marketplace that will be littered with bad apples. I think that confuses the familiar with the necessary. Let me sketch what I think would be both most likely and most desirable, if we got local agencies out of the way.

Up would spring private, independent certifying companies. Let's imagine one we'll call White Star Taxi Endorsers. This national company offers certification of quality to cab companies all over the country. For a fee, the operator would get to plaster the WSTE name and emblem on the side of its cabs. Consumers who cared about quality in their cab service and were familiar with WTSE could selectively choose to hire only cabs with that certification. WTSE would require that its endorsed cab companies keep the vehicles spotlessly clean, have friendly drivers who spoke good English and treated people couteously and obeyed traffic laws, never long-haul clients, post fares clearly and have no hidden fees, etc. WTSE would spot-check compliance with local secret shoppers. WTSE would also provide a mechanism for dispute resolution if there were any problem with one of its certified companies allegedly cheating a customer or not performing up to snuff. WTSE might even provide a centralized dispatching service--a single 800 number you could call from anywhere to get a certified taxi (if one is available where you are), so that you wouldn't have to call a bunch of places to find out which local companies carried the White Star seal of approval. (They could even make an app for that!) Of course, maintaining such standards and paying WSTE's fees would mean that certified cabs would cost a little more than others, but in exchange the customer would have guaranteed standards of honesty and quality met. Alternatively, if you care more about low cost than quality, you could pick a taxi at random and take your chances. The point is that it would all be private, all voluntary, all free-market. I submit that the result would be better all around than the ineffective, inefficient, arbitrary, power-hungry local regulatory agencies.

Incidentally, the same would work for other kinds of things that we tend to think of as requiring governmental regulation. Take restaurants, for example. A private certification firm might well do far better than the kind of spotty enforcement of food safety and cleanliness that is typically done by city or county licensing agencies. Customers who care about such things would look for the seal of the company providing the inspection/certification service, and only eat at places endorsed by inspection companies they trust to do a good job.

The great majority of local, state, and federal regulations of business would, could, and should be done better and more efficiently by the free market, if only it were allowed to operate.

Guess the casino, #470

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

Answer: Plaza

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Guess the casino, #469

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

Answer: Rio

The God of Irony

Mike Caro is working on getting his old poker web site,, up to date, after it fell into neglect for a long time. As part of that, his assistant has been posting lots of his old columns. I know because I get his RSS feed, and they have been pouring in at a rate of several per hour today. I don't have time to read them all when they come so fast, but I've done a little sampling.

I particularly liked an old piece he wrote about "The God of Irony":

Let me tell you something about the God of Irony, so you know what you’re
up against. This is the guy who waits for you to begin a thought with the words
"Wouldn’t it be terrible if" or "Can you imagine how bad I’d feel after winning
all this money if…"

You think those thoughts and you’re apt to gain the attention of the God of

Hey, you gamblers know what I’m talking about, don’t you? The craziest
things happen to us all the time.

Truth is, the God of Irony is a pretty dull fellow. He never has a creative
thought of his own. We keep putting stuff in his head. The little sucker knows a
good idea when he hears it.

I couldn't help but chuckle at this, because of a hand I played at the Rio Saturday. There was a guy who had been beating me every friggin' time we were in a hand together. Finally when he raised and I called with 7-8 suited, the flop came a very cooperative 9-10-J rainbow. I bet and he called. I thought, "I'm OK with any card except a queen or a king here."

So naturally, the God of Irony heard that thought, and BANG! Queen on the turn, leaving me with a one-card straight, and the butt end of it at that.

Actually, I still ended up winning a small pot there, but the point is that it was exactly the kind of scenario that Caro characterizes so well.

Beware the God of Irony. He is one cruel bastard.

Poker gems, #350

Mike Caro, in an old Card Player magazine column, recently posted on his blog here.

Wrong attitude: Entering a poker game hoping to get lucky and win your opponents’ money.

Right attitude: Entering a poker game and realizing that your opponents are holding your money, and they will need to be very lucky to keep it.... All those chips and all that cash, all the money hidden in purses and wallets is yours. You want it. You deserve it. It is a crime against nature that those people are fondling your money. They have no right to it. It is yours, and you intend to play the best poker possible in an effort to bring justice to your bankroll.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Poker gems, #349

Mike Caro, in Poker Player newspaper column, April 12, 2010 (vol. 13, #21), p. 4.

When you think of it, there's no reason whatsoever why hosting a poker game at home should be illegal. The law is widely ignored by millions of poker players. But think about how absurd this situation is. We've allowed government to act as our parents and threaten us with being sent to our rooms, which in government-speak means jail.

For what? Stop. I'm going to ask it again: For what? I don't need to write about the reason laws against poker are ridiculous. You understand it much more powerfully, just because, for one fleeting moment, you refused to accept the status quo and pondered "for what?"


I'm a little behind in poker news, so just today learned about the disaster that occurred when UltimateBlecch tried to run a new heads-up tournament in honor of Annie Duke having won the NBC event. There were, uh, a few problems. Read all about it here.

This would also be a fitting time to remind everybody of what the site's other prominent spokesman has boasted of it: "We have the best software out there."

You sure about that, Phil? Looks to me like your company can't run a tournament right, even when it manages not to ship pots to the loser of the hand, or let its owners and friends play while looking at opponents' hole cards.


I felt yesterday's earthquake. I was sitting right here at my computer. I suddenly got a sensation that I initially interpreted as lightheadedness, to the point that I wondered if I was about to pass out. But that didn't make any sense, as there were no circumstances that would have triggered it, and I didn't have other accompanying symptoms, such as irregular or slow or rapid heart rate, sweating, nausea, etc. I moved my head around to see if it was vertigo, but that did nothing. I finally concluded that it had just been wind shaking my apartment building; it had been a very gusty day, after all, with weather reports filled with high wind advisories.

But within a few minutes, I started seeing Twitter messages about an earthquake in northern Mexico, and more from people in both Vegas and southern California about having felt it. Soon, news reports from the mainstream media outlets were reporting that the quake had been felt as far away as L.A., Phoenix, and Las Vegas. It was only then, in retrospect, that I concluded that that was what I had experienced. Google Earth tells me that I'm about 275 miles from the epicenter.

That was only the second earthquake I have sensed. The first was in 1987 when I was living in Illinois. The New Madrid fault gave one of its periodic shifts while I was playing ping-pong in the rec room of my church. Again, the only experience I had to judge it against was midwestern windstorms, so that's what I assumed it was. I ran to the door to look outside, and was puzzled when I didn't see things blowing around. Several of us that were there playing only gradually decided that it must have been an earthquake--a hard conclusion to reach, given their rarity in central Illinois. But the news that night confirmed it.

Who says nothing exciting ever happens to me?

Guess the casino, #468

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

Answer: Rio

Sunday, April 04, 2010

One of these things is not like the others

The above ad for Victory Poker appeared in the February 24, 2010, issue of Card Player magazine. It left me scratching my head.

Let's look at the lineup of instructors. David Chicotsky? OK, sure, he has a solid track record not only of personal performance in online poker but in teaching others how he succeeds. Antonio Esfandiari? All right. Maybe not stellar, but has certainly succeeded in both tournaments and live play enough that I'd agree he has things to share. Andrew Robl and Brian Rast? Both young, but certainly with pretty impressive early reputations. Dan Bilzerian I've only heard of from his appearance in last year's WSOP Main Event coverage, and Keith Gipson is completely unknown to me. But maybe their excellence exceeds their reputation.

In the next block, we have Alec Torelli, Lee Markholt, and Paul Wasicka--a very impressive trio, from any of whom all of us grinders could probably learn a thing or two. Danny Wong and Eugene Katchalov are both in that "early but promising" category, so no complaints there. Sander Lylloff? No clue who he is. But since I don't closely follow online poker whizzes, or tournament poker circuits, or European poker, maybe he's a genius I haven't heard of.

Moving on to the "consultants," Joe Navarro is certainly well-known in poker training circles (though I personally think he tends to make too much out of too little), and Sam Chauhan has some ringing endorsements for how he has helped well-known poker pros, such as Esfandiari, get their lives and minds in order. Dan Fleyshman I have never heard of, but maybe he's a whiz at money management, a vital aspect of success in poker.

But now we come to the bottom of the page and see this: "Sara Underwood, 2007 Playmate of the Year."


What the hell does this have to do with the game in question? Does she teach a seminar in strip poker, maybe?

I assume that whatever services Ms. Underwood provides to Victory Poker, they do not come free. So what value, exactly, does her presence on the staff add for members? Some portion of their subscription fees go to her--what does she provide them in return? I don't get it.

More generally, I'm baffled by the large photograph at the top of the ad. We see six of the trainers apparently in a poker game, though none of them have cards, and at least one of them has his chips strewn in a mess rather than stacked in an orderly fashion. They are drinking martinis. Apparently Victory Poker teaches its students that drinking booze while you play is one of the tickets to success. That's a rather odd precept.

Five of the six men have attractive young women hanging on them. Bilzerian seems to have missed out. What--is he gay? Did his date stand him up? Does he have bad breath? I don't know. But apparently Victory Poker, in addition to recommending that one consume hard liquor while playing, advises that one's poker play is optimized by having female models stand at one's side. Again, this seems like rather peculiar advice to me.

Yes, I realize that using attractive young women to sell a product or service that has nothing directly to do with them is hardly stop-the-presses news. I also get that this photograph is meant to convey a general image, to trigger an emotional reaction in the prospective client, and is not intended to be scrutinized too closely or taken too literally.

But I find it instructive nevertheless. It tells us a great deal about what this company thinks of the people whose money it is trying to earn. It believes they are too stupid to see through the shallowness and idiocy of this kind of advertising. It believes they are stupid enough to think, "If I sign up for lessons here, I will soon be having non-stop drunken parties with supermodels." Consequently, I have to conclude that its poker training videos (at least I assume that's the core of what they sell, though I haven't logged on to the site to verify that) are geared to such customers--people who aren't taking poker seriously on its own terms, but only see it as a means to their ridiculous fantasy lifestyle.

Given that insight, then, perhaps instead of kvetching about this ad, I should thank Victory Poker for publishing it. Their having done so makes it crystal clear that if I want serious poker training, I should select one of their competitors--one that caters to players who are more realistic in their goals and aspirations. Because I have no desire to learn to play poker while drinking and having models on my arm, and because I am not foolhardy enough to think that I will ever become megabucks rich from the game, I am obviously not the kind of person that Victory Poker is trying to attract. I will, therefore, be happy to pass them by without further consideration.


A commenter suggested that this is a playing site, not a training site. I assumed the latter because of the subheading in the ad: "We made it. We'll show you how." Absent any other clues, doesn't that suggest it's a training site?

Well, I was wrong. It does indeed appear to be a site for playing, not training. The "instruction" tab on the web site is just rudimentary information. I gather that this is part of something called the Everleaf poker network, which I confess I haven't heard of before. Strangely, I can find no mention of either Victory or Everleaf at's frequently updated list of sites accepting U.S. players. Maybe Americans can only play on the free side of Victory. I don't know.

But although my assumption was incorrect about what this site is offering, isn't that all by itself a pretty big indictment of the efficacy of the ad? If a reader can't even tell that it's a playing site rather than a training site, it seems to me that the ad has failed in a major way.


Here's more about the Everleaf network. This reads like sponsored copy rather than an independent review, so take it with a grain of salt. It lists 28 rooms, not including Victory, and says that the network has fewer than 300 players at peak hours. That's about 10 players per skin at PEAK! I assume they can all play against each other, but still, that can hardly keep many games going. Here's a news item from January about Everleaf's merger with another network.

Sounds like a pretty rinkydink operation to me. But who knows--maybe with the name recognition of some of the people they've lined up they'll make a critical threshold of players.

BTW, Victory's site oddly separates its "players" from its "pros," the former being the group pictured at the top of the ad (plus Underwood), the latter being the group in the box at the bottom left. It's not at all clear what the distinction means.


The month of March was my second-worst ever. With a few brief interruptions, it was a non-stop barrage of expensive second-best hands, blended with a few boneheaded plays and a seeming complete inability to figure out where I was in a hand. The first few days of April have continued the streak. So I decided to take a few days off from playing, give my brain a break, and see whether that helps turn things around.

While relaxing at home today, I decided to try my hand at an online HORSE tournament for $33 on Stars. (The fact that I wasted 3 hours on the same thing last night, getting off to an unbelievably good start and then crashing and burning two spots short of the money did not deter me, though it probably should have.)

Here's a sampling of what happened:

In that last hand, note that the money was all in pre-flop.

In the hand in which I was dealt rolled-up sixes, it was the ONLY hand in that entire level where a raise on third street ended the hand, winning just the antes.

I finished 36th out of 166, with 24 spots paying.

Obviously I am being karmically punished for something horrible I have done. I just can't figure out whether it was in this life or a previous life.

Please pass the hemlock, and let me get on to the next one quickly.

Guess the casino, #467

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

Answer: Rio