Saturday, May 01, 2010

Guess the casino, #494

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

Answer: Suncoast

Friday, April 30, 2010

Poker gems, #355

Chris "Fox" Wallace, in Poker Pro magazine column, April, 2010, p. 64.

A $5-$10 spread-limit game has been running regularly at my local cardroom (Running Aces Harness Park in Minnesota), and I've been heading out there more often lately.... Minnesota state law limits the maximum bet size to $60, so it's not possible to make the kind of money I make online, but it helps fight the cabin fever. Don't even get me started about a state that advertises its lottery all over billboards and allows a drunk to buy a thousand dollars worth of pull-tabs in most of the bars in town but has set a $60 cap on poker games. Ridiculous.

Hey, I know him!

Following up on last night's post, Brad does get a little face time after all!

Kings? Where do you see kings?

Just last week I criticized Norman Chad for screwing up the poker facts in his commentary during the broadcast of one of the NAPT events from the Venetian. In this week's installment, which I'm just watching now, it's his partner, Lon McEachern, who makes an even more inexplicable error.

At the moment pictured above, McEachern in voiceover says, "Marchese's pair of kings eliminates Yunus Jamal."

Maybe I've been mistaken in this assumption all these years, but I sure thought that those little "A" symbols on the cards stood for aces.

Unenthusiastic for SCOOP

That's right, I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Back in January I won a tournament ticket to the upcoming SCOOP series on PokerStars. This was through a freeroll that they gave to some of us poker bloggers. I'm grateful for Stars doing this for us. Really, I am.


I am just now discovering the limited utility of what I won. It's a $16.50 ticket. SCOOP is organized in a clever way, with three tournaments going on simultaneously, one at each of three different buy-ins--low, medium, and high--so as to accommodate players of differing bankrolls. The low entry points range from $5.50 to $55 (plus a couple at $109 and $270), most of them being $11 or $22.

I looked at the schedule. There are only six events with a $16.50 entry fee, and none of them seemed up my alley--standard NLHE or HORSE or razz. OK, I thought, so instead I'll go for a $22 event, of which there are several that would suit me just fine, and use the tournament ticket plus $5.50 of my own money to enter. Nope. Can't do that. The system won't let me.

All right, then, I'll give up a little of the value (it's free, after all), and just use the ticket to enter an $11 event, because again there are several of those with which I would be perfectly content.

Not so fast, pilgrim. The system also won't allow that. When I try to register, the only option it offers is cash, not the use of the tournament ticket.

So I'm resigned to the fact that I have to use the ticket for an event that is exactly $16.50, no more and no less. Here are my six choices:

1. Badugi. No thanks, I barely even know the rules.

2. NLHE heads-up. This is a possibility, but I don't think I'm very good at heads-up, so this doesn't maximize my chance for making some money.

3. NLHE, Ante Up. Nothing wrong with the format here, but I can't tell whether part of the prize pool is taken out for the charity. At least I assume that the "Ante Up" in the title means that it's a charity event for Ante Up for Africa. The tournament lobby does not explain how much, if any, of the prize pool is removed for the organization. Whatever portion it is (assuming it's at least something), my value is reduced by that percentage.

4. NLHE, 2x chance, turbo. A possibility, but I think my game is better suited to slower structures, not turbos.

5. PLO, 6-max. No thanks.

6. PLHE/PLO mix. Again, not for me.

So basically my best choices are between NLHE heads-up, NLHE turbo, or NLHE with some unknown portion of the prize pool taken out for charity. Frankly, that's not a very appealing set of options. I've registered for the Ante Up one. Even if I'm giving up some value from the prize pool, it may be less than the value I would be giving up by picking an event that doesn't fit where my meager skills lie, and at least whatever value I'm sacrificing goes to a decent cause.

Again I emphasize that I am grateful for having had the opportunity to win a free entry at all. That was very generous. But really, Stars, would it hurt you to make the tickets more flexible, so that they could be used for events at a price point slightly higher or lower, thus vastly increasing the number of tournaments from which one could choose?


As several commenters have pointed out, "Ante Up" refers to a rather oddly structured tournament apparently unique to PokerStars, not the "Ante Up for Africa" charity, as I had erroneously assumed. I had never heard of this before. It sounds crazy enough that I think I'll keep my registration there and give it a try.

Status update

I played at the Riviera tonight. It's my sixth day of live play since returning to the felt last Friday, and my fifth win in a row, after losing the first day back.

I got only about three hours of sleep last night, what with the all-night online tournaments, so I was extremely sleepy. For that reason, I made it an ultra-short session, about 75 minutes.

During that time I had the following happen:

  • My first hand at the table I had pocket queens, raised to $10, got reraised to $20, and five of us saw the flop with a $100 pot. Flop was king-high, but I led out at it anyway, and nobody called.
  • Playing suited A-5, flopped wheel draw, got free card, hit my gutshot on the turn, $30 profit.
  • Called a raise with suited connectors on the button, flopped a flush draw, bet when it was checked to me, took it down. $50 profit.
  • A-10 on button. Flop 10-high with two hearts. Bet, one caller. Turn offsuit ace, for top two pair. I bet pot, another call. River ace of hearts. Boat for me. Bet pot again, called by the flush draw that got there.
  • Q-2 of crubs in small blind, unraised pot, so I called. Flop Q-2-2. Bet and got paid all the way by a doofus with Q-J, who thought it was good.

To be sure, it wasn't all perfect. As the saying goes, ya can't win 'em all. I had top pair/top kicker outdrawn by two players with flushes when four diamonds were on the final board, and I had none. I also had a bluff snapped off, though I thought it had been pretty well timed and convincing.

But even with those minor setbacks, it was quite an extraordinary run of good cards and good situations for just over an hour's play.

This session, plus those of the previous several days, make me reasonably confident in saying this: Yea, though I walked through the valley of the shadow of deathly variance, I have emerged into the light.

In short, things seem back to normal in the poker world for me. I seem to have stopped running into invisible brick walls, at least for now. I have also won enough this week that with one more good session tomorrow, I should be able to close out April as a break-even month.

I do realize how pathetic it sounds to be hoping for a break-even month.* But given how April started, making it back to the zero mark would be either a commendable accomplishment or a small miracle, depending on whether you want to attribute it to me or to supernatural forces. Either way, I'll take it, and start afresh in May.

Because of that, I'm going to return to my usual policy of not using this blog to keep running tabs on my results, for all the reasons I've mentioned many times before. But since the ride on the extreme negative end of the bell curve of variance was a pretty big deal to me, and since I talked about it here, I thought I should provide you with the apparent end of the story.

Oh, and one more thing: If you're counting, that's eleven posts in the last slightly over 24 hours. The few of you who whined and complained about me having taken a hiatus from writing? You can bite me.

*It is, of course, utterly irrational to think of one's poker results in terms of specific calendar months, or weeks, or days, or even sessions. If you're a winning playing long-term, then you put in the hours, and you have some sort of average hourly rate of return, and it matters not one bit whether the ups and downs cluster in some particular way over some arbitrary period of time. But c'mon--is there anybody who can really, truly, completely ignore the rhythms by which we measure everything else in our lives when looking at their poker results? You can make a fairly convincing accusation of roboticism against me in many respects, but even I am not a sufficiently pure automaton as to be able to disregard the calendar when tallying my wins and losses.

Guess the casino, #493

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

Answer: Sandia

Hey, I know her!

One of the fun things about having gotten to know more and more poker bloggers over time is that many of them moonlight as poker tournament reporters for various media outlets. As a result, they are sitting or wandering around in back of the action when the tournaments get televised. It's fun (though slightly distacting in terms of following the game) to watch for them. For example, during the NBC heads-up bracket tournament now being shown, I frequently see my friends F-Train and Katkin plinking away at their laptops in the stands.

Tonight I was watching the latest installment of ESPN's coverage of the North American Poker Tour event at the Venetian from February, and caught a glimpse of Jen, who was one of my partners in the blogger tournament last December. You can just barely see her there looking ghostly at the edge of the screen. Hi, Jen! I still haven't seen Brad Willis there yet, though I know that he was there. (I suspect that's him next to Jen, but they didn't get a clear shot of him.)

I admit it--I am much too easily amused sometimes.

Sucking at online poker

I just found a nice post on the PokerStars blog, here. It's by a local physician named Dominic Ricciardi, and it's called, "Why I Suck at Online Poker." His experience and his speculations about why he does better at live poker than online exactly mirror my own (except that I don't have a wife or kids). It's a worthwhile read, if you have found yourself struggling with the same discrepancy and wondering either why it happens or what you can do about it.

Dr. Ricciardi, on the outside chance that you're a reader, drop me a note. It would be nice to play and chat with you sometime. We may have more in common than you would think.

Odd tournament payout schedule

Just one more note about last night's tourney on Doyle's Room. I noticed that the payout structure was a lot more graduated than I would usually expect. As you can see from the tournament lobby below, we had 105 players and 20 would get paid. That's 19%--way more than the standard 9-10%.

I thought maybe this was an error, so I clicked on the "tournament information" button, and confirmed what the lobby was saying:

I found the site's general MTT payout schedule here, and have reproduced it below:

The table is labeled very strangely, making it hard to understand. I don't get what they mean by "Position 0" at the top of the left-hand columns. I think that this is just a weird error, and they intended to label the positions starting with 1 instead of 0. My suspicion on this point is, I think, bolstered by noticing that they skip 10 when the numbers get into the teens. That's the assumption I'm working with herein.

I threw the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the percentage of players being paid for each number of possible entrants, from the minimum of 3 up through 120. (I don't know why they list a payout schedule for numbers of players fewer than ten; as I recently discovered, with fewer than ten, they just cancel the event. But I'm ignoring that for the rest of this post.) Click on the image below to see the thing at full size.

The first oddity is at the beginning. It says that if there are three players, all three will get paid. Why in the world would you do that? It makes no sense. Suppose the buy-in is $10 + $1. This schedule says that the person who is eliminated first will get 20% of the prize pool, or $6. The player eliminated next will get 30%, or $9. Neither of them even gets his entry fee back. The winner gets 50% of the prize pool, or $15, just barely more than what he paid to play. This is utterly insane. Nobody would play a tournament with that kind of payout schedule. I assume, without looking, that the site offers heads-up matches. If so, I further assume that they are winner-takes-all, as they should be. Why would you pay one out of two, but three out of three? Completely idiotic.

Moving down the list (i.e., adding more players to the pool), you have to get to six entrants before fewer than half are being paid. More stupidity.

But even when we get into more realistic numbers for multi-table tournaments--say, above 20--the payout schedule is unusually flat, as such things go. It remains between 14% and 21% of the field all the way through 120 players, except for a tiny dip down to 13% of the field for exactly 38 and 39 players.

I had thought that maybe the 19% paid that I saw last night was an anomaly, an artifact of getting caught right between two brackets. But it's really not; it's right in line with all of the payouts. Even when they get up to 520 players, they're paying 17% of the field. At the very top of the chart (or bottom, in this case), at 1650 players, they're paying 15%.

The twin results, of course, are that (1) those at the bottom of the payout scale are barely getting anything at all, and (2) those that make it to the bitter end have lost a lot of value, doled out in tiny, nearly worthless pieces to a lot of players. I don't understand why they choose to do this, rather than continue with a steeper, more standard payout of 10% or so of the field.

For comparison, I opened a few generic tournament lobbies at Full Tilt Poker (not knockout events). Their minimum number of players is 9, and 3 of those would get paid. One with 72 players is paying 8, or 11%. One with 123 players is paying 15 spots, or 12%. One with 266 players is paying 27, or 10%. One with 1538 paid 162, or 11%. These are much closer to what I would expect.

I'm going to write to Doyle's Room customer service and ask them about all of these oddities. They may wash their hands of it and say that it's the network (Cake) that makes these determinations, they are just a skin and can't do anything about it. If so, I hope they'll tell me who at Cake to ask about it. It all seems very strange to me.

Addendum, April 30, 2010

Not too surprisingly, my first crack at getting an answer from Doyle's Room did not get taken too seriously. I got what basically amounts to a bedbug letter:


The payout schedule is designed by our software provider and is posted in
advance prior to the tournament start. The minimum amount of players for this
particular tournament to take place was 10, therefore no chance for 3 players to
get the prize pool split between them.

All players must look into the tournament information before playing so
that they decide if they wish to participate or not.

Feel free to contact us again if you have any questions or concerns, enjoy
your day!


Joe Wilson
Client Support
The Doyle Brunson Poker Network

So I wrote back:

Specific questions:

If the minimum number of players is 10,
why does your web site’s payout schedule for multitable tournaments (
show payouts for as few as three players?

In your web site’s payout schedule for MTTs, what is meant by finishing in
“position 0”?

In your web site’s payout schedule for MTTs, why is there nobody finishing
in 10th place? (It skips from 9 to 11.)

We'll see if anybody bothers actually looking into the situation before responding this time, as it seems pretty clear that they didn't on the first try.

Addendum, April 30, 2010

I guess somebody finally did look at the payout table I pointed them to. Latest communication:

Thank you for contacting us

Please be aware that the way that our software providers decided to make
our payout structure, is in a more generous way, in which more than the 10% of
the players registered (Usually that is what is paid at all poker sites) will
receive a prize, whcih means that by you playing with us, there are more chances
of getting paid.

Regardind the position 0(zero) issue, I have reported this to the proper
department and they said they apologize for the mistake and they are working on
it. In order for you to get the correct payout structure, all you need to do is
instead of position zero, make it position 1, instead of position 1 make it
position 2 and so on.

We apologize for the inconveniences this may cause. Your patience and
understanding are highly appreciated.

Luis M.
Client Support Supervisor
The Doyle Brunson Poker Network
Customer service phone # 1-888-762-4192

Addendum, May 15, 2010

I checked today, and the payout schedule on their web site is unchanged. You can gauge for yourself how deeply this site cares about fixing errors when they are pointed out.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I've only recently started reading a blog called "Hyperbole and a Half," but I'm already in love with it. It has no poker content, but when I see one of its cartoons popping up in my RSS reader, I know it's going to be a brighter, happier, funnier day.

Please check it out:

Suck and resuck

As I wrote earlier today, my Mookie experience last night was utterly free of suckouts; as far as I can remember, every time all the chips were in, the best hand at that point held up, no matter which side of it I was on. That's pretty remarkable all by itself.

Going deep in a tournament usually involves some combination of being the suckouter and the suckoutee, and the tournament on Doyles Room certainly fulfilled that expectation.

I really wish I could animate these for you, but I can't. I just spent nearly an hour scouring the web for replayer tools that will work with Cake network hand histories. I found only one, on a poker forum site, and that one works only for embedding within posts to its forum. I found one that claims to work, but it's software for downloading, and the output is not embeddable; I would have to somehow capture the video output and post it to YouTube, then embed here, which is a royal pain.

In fact, I can't even find a hand history converter that will take Cake's text history and put it in convenient, easy-to-read format with graphics for the cards. There are zillions of such tools for other sites, but, strangely, none that I can locate that will work with Cake. I have no idea why this would be, but it seems to be the case.

So all I can do is give you the screen shots of the "last hand" screens that I captured while the game was going. It takes a minute to figure out how to read them, but they do give you all of the relevant cards and action.

First, I'll whine about the ridiculous amount of counterfeiting that I had to suffer.

Trips with best kicker turns into a chop:

Then a dominated ace goes for another chop:

Straight on the turn loses to a boat on the river:

But I got in some licks on the good side of the luckbox syndrome, too.

First, let's see if we can pair our lower kicker after all the chips go in:

As Mr. Obama might say, "Yes we can!"

In this next hand, I had the A-10 and raised, with one caller. Paired the 10 on the flop, bet and called. I was going to shut down, but then the turn gave me the ace for two pair, and I shoved. When he called, I was saying to myself, "Oh, please don't have A-Q." So, naturally, he had A-Q for the top two pair.

Can we catch a two-outer on the river?

Yes we can!

But I have saved the best for last--the ol' runner-runner trick. (Do not try this at home. I am a professional.) I'm short-stacked, so even when the flop misses me completely, I shove the last of it in with my sooooted A-K, and get snap-called by the flopped set of sixes. Oops.

But wait, there's more!

Can we catch running diamonds FTW?

Yes we can!

My opponent typed into the chat box, "Effin' BS!"

I can't blame him.

Seriously?, "Where the stakes aren't the only things that are high!"

I wonder how slow the games are. Are free snacks included?


I played in the Mookie last night. I had a hard time getting any traction, and was almost never at or above the average chip stack until very late into things. But then it all started going my way, and I got, first, to the final table, and then down to three, though I was the short stack. I was patient and waited for the big stack to make a big mistake, which he did, and it resulted in me having the biggest stack and being able to do some bullying. We got to heads up essentially tied in chips, and then I blew it, finishing second. I was feeling pretty down on myself because I thought that I was in a great position to win the thing, and with it a seat at the blogger tournament of champions, in which I just might be able to win a WSOP seat. This was probably my best chance at it, and I screwed it up.

I spent a couple of hours watching TV, reading a magazine, and doing a crossword puzzle, but couldn't get sleepy; I was too irritated with myself. So just before 4:00 a.m., I gave up trying to sleep and entered what I have discovered to be one of the softest online tournaments in existence: Doyle's Room $1000 guarantee at 4:00 a.m. Pacific time. This time 105 people entered, at $10 each, so there was no overlay as there has been other nights I have tried this.

This was a wild roller coaster ride. In the Mookie, not once--until the very last hand--did I get all in with the worst of it. But in the second tournament of my night, the suckouts came fast and furious, and I was on both ends of them. I was chip leader for a while, then way down in the standings, then way up, way down, and finally back to the top when it got down to the end.

Once again, I made it to the top two. My opponent was not a strong player, and within about half an hour I had gone from the 3:2 chip lead with which I started heads-up to a solid 5:1 lead. But then I encountered an awful stretch of card death--an endless string of 8-2, 9-3, etc. He caught up with me, winning nearly every pot for a period of about 20 hands.

We stayed even for a short time, and then this hand happened. As you can see below, he had the tiniest of chip leads at the time. I had K-K, he had 5-4 offsuit. He flopped an open-ended straight draw, and check-raised me. I shoved, he called, and he hit one of his eight outs on the river. Absent that, I would have had nearly every chip, and it would have been virtually impossible for him to recover.

I won $169.95 in the Mookie, and $173.25 in Doyles Room, each on a $10 + $1 investment, for a total of eight hours of play (3 1/2 for the first, 4 1/2 for the second). So objectively it was a good and successful night of work, given that I consider online tournments to be one of the weakest parts of my overall game. $40/hour is well above what my online tournament average return would be.

I suppose that I should feel proud of myself. By rational standards, entering two tournaments and finishing second in both is a reasonably commendable accomplishment. But because of how they happened, instead it feels like I had the win in my hand, and dropped it, two times in a row, like a stupid, incompetent screw-up. Does it feel like I beat 86 out of 87 and 104 out of 105 opponents? No. It just feels like losing.

I feel ill, like I've been punched in the gut--twice. Now I'm not sure I'll be any better able to sleep than I was after the first punch.


Does anybody know of a hand animator/replayer that works with Doyles Room (Cake network) hand histories? The one I usually use, at does not seem to accept the Cake format. I would post a few interesting hand from the tourney later if I can find a player. (I think they would be a lot less interesting as static hand histories.)

Guess the casino, #492

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

Answer: Red Rock

Noah's ark

Warning: Zero poker content.

You've probably heard by now of the most recent claims that Noah's ark has been found in eastern Turkey. How many times have we heard this before?

At the risk of offending some of my readers (that usually doesn't stop me, after all), if you believe the Noah story to be literally true, then you haven't thought through the facts very carefully. (You also apparently haven't noticed that the story is actually composed of at least two different parallel stories, cut and spliced together, and that they sometimes directly contradict each other. See, e.g., here for an introduction to this analysis.)

More subtlely, though, if you believe it to be literally true, you have completely misunderstood the nature of the story. The cure for this, if you are open-minded, is to read The Great Code: The Bible and Literature, by Northrop Frye. It may be the most perceptive and eye-opening book ever written about the Bible. He carefully explicates the nature of myth and storytelling through the ages. He will explain to you, e.g., that our habit of labeling stories as "true" if they actually took place in history, and "false" (or some other word) otherwise, is a peculiarly modern perspective; it is a dichotomy that would have been completely foreign and incomprehensible to the people who actually wrote the Bible, and would never have occurred to them.

Here's one of my favorite observations from the book. It uses the story of Jonah as its example, but could just as easily have used Noah instead (p. 45):

Put most bluntly, not even the people who were originally responsible for reducing the Noah story to paper (or papyrus or vellum or whatever else they might have first used) thought that they were relating anything like history, as we understand the term. That is not to say that they were lying. But it is to say that they were telling a story that they would have said is "true" not because it faithfully reflected actual events, but because it taught what they perceived as truths about the deity they worshipped. (For example, that once in a while he gets angry with his creations and decides to eradicate them, at least mostly.) In short, if you think that there was a real person named Noah (at the time some 600 years old, allegedly) who built a real ark and gathered real animals from all over the earth and floated his way through a planetary flood, then you are believing something that not even the originators of the tale would have wanted or expected you to believe.

As Frye writes, in his usual pithy fashion (p. 36), "It seems clear that flood myths are better understood when they are compared with other flood myths, not when they are compared with floods."

Actually, now that I put my mind to it, I remember that Frye does briefly talk about the question of the "literal" truth of the ark story, and says pretty much what I just wrote (though much more colorfully and eloquently). In fact, it's on the page right before the one I excerpted above (p. 44):

(You can get a sense of how much this book impacted me and changed my entire way of thinking about things biblical by the fact that 20+ years after reading it I still vividly remembered these two relevant passages.)

Believe whatever you want to believe. But at least do yourself the favor of being informed about the subject (if it's important to you) from sources a little more deep and informed than your local Sunday School teacher is likely to be. If you get your biblical literalism hopes up over this latest press release, you are likely to be disappointed--again.


Just a few hours after posting the above, I find this on a news page: Doubt cast on Noah's ark

This part, I realize, is just shooting fish in a barrel, but I can't help myself. Look at the brain trusts represented in some of the first comments to that story from the faithful:

"All people that don't believe boy oh boy you are going to be in for a rude awaking fell soooo sorry for ya when that sky cracks open..."

"Reliqion is not a bunch of hoo ha it is something REAL if it was not for god U would have never been here he sacreficed HIS life for US....second brian i know u sed its not a hate 2 christianity but people are not looking for 15 minutes of fame because fame comes naturally honey...people are simply saying they found something that had 2 do with GOD the person who i repeat " SACREFICED HIS LIFE FOR US " okay....but okay i think that is great like praise the lord and thank god for all he has done for us and all of his a mericles....GBU all i will pray for U.....hopefully god will help some people :) YOU GO JESUS !"

"Also, the Bible has been proven by many "experts", both Christian & not, as being "the" most accurate book ever written. There's overwhelming evidence that it's real."

(At this point, the more thoughtful Christians look for the nearest exit so as not to be too closely associated with those among their fellow churchmen who are so eager to show off their stupidity and ignorance.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Guess the casino, #491

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

Answer: Palace Station

Human nature

"Dateline NBC" recently had a fine piece about human gullibility, how our natural instincts--such as obeying authority, going along with the crowd, and greed--can lead us astray and be used to deceive and manipulate us. You can watch it here. (The second half will air in June, I understand.) If you don't think that knowing about your own innate tendencies along these lines is relevant to success at poker, then don't watch it--and let me know where you'll be playing, so that I can come take your money.

In the same general vein, there is this interesting report about something I hadn't heard of before: "Williams syndrome," which causes its victims to be pathologically trusting of others. It's slightly disconcerting to be reminded that qualities like suspicion are sufficiently genetic in origin that a mutation can distort or even erase them, but that's how we're wired, all right. I'm afraid that the little girl profiled is in for a very rough life, fraught with encounters with wicked people who will happily exploit her trust for their own selfish purposes. The very least of her problems is that she will never be able to be a successful poker player.

More investigatin'

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If you haven't been following Haley's gradual expose of hitherto unknown facts about the UltimateBlecch and Absolute Puker cheating scandals, you should be, if you care about the long-term fate of online poker. See the most recent bombshells here.

While I'm on the subject of investigation of online poker scandals, there's another fairly recent one that deserves more love, involving the founder of the StoxPoker training site, Nick Grudzien. Steven Ruddock does a nice job of summarizing the situation and drawing the appropriate conclusions here, so I won't bother repeating what he has said. You can read the report of the investigation here. It took me about an hour. I started it thinking I would just skim over it, but I became completely fascinated by the investigative methods, and ended up reading every word. It is one hell of an impressive piece of work, headed by Noah Stephens-Davidowitz. It required statistical sophistication, deep poker understanding, and a huge database of hand histories to crack what was going on, but the results are unmistakable and as damning as can be.

Be careful out there, folks. There are evil, scummy, cheating people in the world, and some of them not only inhabit the world of online poker, but are very good at exploiting it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poker gems, #354

Larry Flynt, as quoted in Poker Pro magazine, March, 2010, p. 32. [Slightly redacted to maintain my G rating.]

My two favorite things are [women] and poker--but not in that order.

Small talk

I'm about eight minutes into last night's "Poker After Dark," and it's already driving me crazy.

The theme for the week is "He Said, She Said." They have gathered players who are known for being chatty. Here's how NBC's web site describes the concept: "It’s another battle of the sexes this week on Poker After Dark as three men well-known for their gift of gab in Jean-Robert Bellande, David Grey, and Mike Matusow take on three ladies also known to be chatty at the table in Erica Schoenberg, Karina Jett, and Annie Duke."

It didn't take long for the verbal cacophony to begin. As I said, just a few minutes along I'm already sick of it. There are routinely four people talking at once, with, obviously, nobody really listening. They're talking about stupid stuff that nobody could possibly really want to hear about: the weather, housing prices, Florida's poker scene, where somebody might move to, food eaten on a recent trip, blah, blah, blah.

No matter how long I live, I will never grasp some people's propensity to say whatever comes into their little peabrains, without stopping to consider whether anybody is listening, or whether anybody will find it interesting or amusing. What kind of massively distorted ego does it take for such people to think that every thought they have will be of interest to anybody who happens to be sitting within earshot? Put a bunch of these clucking hens (and roosters) together, and they're each in their own little worlds, yakking away mindlessly, paying no attention to what anybody else is doing or saying. Very few things are more perfectly tailored to drive me straight up the wall.

You know how annoying it is to spend any amount of time near one of those little dogs that's yapping away non-stop? Put six of them together, and that's how grating this week's PAD guests are to my ears.

Years ago I was in marriage counseling with my ex-wife. After a few sessions, from out of the blue, our counselor asked me, "Do you get more easily distracted by noises than by visual things?" It was a question I hadn't considered in exactly that way before, but the answer was an obvious yes. She had guessed that just based on some other personality traits of mine, which she later explained tended to be correlated with easy aural distractability. I have not looked into the subject since then, but I'm frequently reminded of it. Have you noticed how in my reviews of poker rooms I will mention, prominently and near the beginning, my impressions of how smoky and noisy it is? Both of those things matter a lot to me, though for completely different reasons. I hate cigarette smoke, and I hate being constantly bombarded with noise, whether of human or mechanical origin.

You may be fascinated by the sound of your own voice, no matter how devoid of content your speech is. I am not. Spare me.

I would genuinely, seriously rather watch a week of poker from a silent bunch. Give me John Juanda, Allen Cunningham, Chris Ferguson, etc. Give me people who make some minimal effort to have something interesting, witty, and/or otherwise worthwhile to say before they open their big fat mouths. I don't think I'm going to be able to tolerate five hours of the current crew of idiotic chatters.


Shamus recently wrote an interesting blog post on the origins of the word bluff as used in poker, a subject I had not considered before. It has re-sensitized me to noticing poker lingo, especially words that have common meanings in English but some different, specific use in poker that is not obviously related.

For example, I've been noticing the word fade a lot in recent days: "He has the best hand, but he's going to have to fade a diamond." I can sort of speculate how the ordinary senses of fade might have become morphed to this usage, but it would amount to no more than a "just-so story."

It's on my mind and I'm curious about it. If you have any solid historical/etymological information, or even a theory that's so perfect that it surely must be true, please let me know via the comments.


I'm planning to be at the Wednesday afternoon poker discussion group tomorrow, in case anybody feels inclined to join me. Marie Callender's, Flamingo and Decatur, 2:30 lunch, 3:15-4:45 discussion. (If you have reason to think that this time/location information is no longer correct, please let me know before I show up at the wrong place or time. My source for it is a few months old.)

On being wrong

During Cardgrrl's most recent visit to Vegas in March, she stayed at Harrah's. We were heading up to her room once. The elevator arrived. She stepped in. I had been right behind her, but a guy came kind of from the side and stepped right in between us, forcing me to hold back for a couple of seconds. Once on the elevator, I went past him and rejoined Cardgrrl at her side.

My immediate reaction was that this guy was a complete asshole. What was the big hurry? Did he think the elevator was going to leave without him? But it was one of those little things that's not worth an unpleasant confrontation, so I was prepared to shrug it off.

I was surprised when he then spoke up. "Man, that was really rude of me, what I just did. I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking." His sincerity was palpable and touching. In a heartbeat, I went from thinking him a jerk to thinking he was a man of admirable character and integrity. I couldn't help respecting how completely and immediately he recognized what had happened, owned up to it, and humbled himself about it. Sheer decency on display, that was.

Preparing the previous post required me to read back through what I had written on the subject before. In doing so, I reread the comments of the two posts in which I had discussed showdown rules and etiquette. I had forgotten about the extended exchange Cardgrrl and I had in one of them, and I was embarrassed to look back and see how sharply I had addressed her, and how unnecessary it was.

The reason was pretty simple: I was hurt and offended at being branded as "the bad guy" in the situation discussed in the post. I didn't mind the disagreement over the best way to handle the situation, or which underlying values were more important than others. But the accusation of having been not just wrong but bad, in the sense of moral/ethical condemnation, really stung. I thought it was unfair, and the resultant tone in my words reflected feeling insulted. It's a pretty poor excuse, but that's what it was.

Cardgrrl: I'm sorry, my friend. If I had it to do again, I would strip that barbed, hurt sound out of my comments and make my arguments without it. It was unjustified. I would then wait until we could chat privately to tell you how and why your comments had hurt my feelings. I'm making this apology public because what I did wrong was public, and I feel ashamed of it now.

I hope I'm as easy to forgive as the guy on the elevator was.

Guess the casino, #490

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

Answer: MGM Grand

Slowroll??? I think not.

As you may have gathered, I've been back to the felt since Friday, after a week off, and things pretty much feel back to normal. Three wins and one loss so far, a ratio I'm prepared to accept. We'll see if it lasts.

I played at Caesars Palace tonight. My entire profit for the session came in one hand--literally. I was about $30 down from my initial buy-in when it occurred, and I left shortly after it had taken place.

I was the second one to limp, holding the 5c-7c. The button raised to $12. I had been playing with him for a couple of hours, and I knew that he was tight but not very good, that he was completely straightforward, and that he routinely overplayed his top-pair kind of hands. The pot swelled when one of the blinds and the other limper called. Except for the fact that I would have to play before the raiser, it was an excellent crAAKKer kind of situation.

The situation became even more excellent when the flop came 5-7-5. It was checked around to the button, who bet $60. That was nearly half of what he had left--I liked this because he might feel pot-committed and give me the rest. I was pretty sure he had a big overpair, because he had shown a tendency to get timid with A-K kinds of hands, especially against more than one opponent, when he missed the flop. The blind folded. To my surprise, the other limper moved all-in for about $235. I had about $260 left. I called. The button mucked in great disgust.

The dealer put out the turn and river, which I think were a ten and jack. The other guy still hadn't shown his cards. Then he said, "I've got a pair," but did nothing else. When I didn't react to that, he flipped over a 7 without looking to see which one it was. That left the possibility that he had pocket 7s, and was playing cruel with me. I didn't really think so, because I don't think he would have check-raised all-in with a hand that big; I think he would have just called, to avoid risking losing me. Also, before he showed the 7, I knew it was entirely possible that he had had pocket tens or jacks, and had gotten extremely lucky after the money was in. Rightly or wrongly, based on his previous play and table talk during hands, I judged him to be among that small group of experienced players who are capable and willing to deliberately miscall their hands--in this case saying that he had a pair when his hand was actually a full house, to be sure that he got to see my cards before showing the winner.

But what was on my mind more than the possibility that I had run into a massive cooler or suckout, more than the possibility that he was angle-shooting me, was my ongoing disgust with players who have a pathological aversion to ever showing their cards, even when the duty devolves upon them to do so. They wait, hesitate, fake the reveal, say what they have, maybe show one card--all in an effort to pressure the other guy to show first. This is horrible etiquette, annoying as hell, and wastes everybody's time. It's a rude, selfish way to behave. It's a dick move. If you are in this subclass of player, you're a dick.

I have writtten about this conduct at least twice before, most recently here (with an unusually lively and interesting debate in the comments following) and here (again with good discussion in the comments). Despite vigorous disagreement from some people who I like and respect, I stand by my view that the game is better served in the long run by players banding together to refuse to tolerate this despicable, unethical practice.

So, in accordance with this strongly held view, I just stared at him and sat and waited for him to show or muck. Mucking didn't seem very likely, since he was obviously not on a total bluff and wouldn't want to pass up the chance at taking a roughly $580 pot. Finally he rolled over his other card--an ace. I then immediately showed the winner and began stacking the chips.

As I was doing so, a woman who hadn't been involved in the hand said, with a distinctly sarcastic tone, "Slow-rolling with the nuts. Nice."

I ignored her. I did not feel like getting into a debate about rules and etiquette with her or anybody else. But I resent the charge, so I'll answer it here.

I did not slowroll. First, I didn't know for sure whether I had the winner. More importantly, though, the prescribed order of showdown was him first, me second. As soon as he either showed or mucked, I was prepared to do my part and either show or muck. Any delay in getting the hands shown was on his head, because my response was instant, as soon as he fulfilled his obligation.

There are times when I will just show regardless of the obligation being on the other guy. Factors that will push me in that direction include:

  • I have a completely unbeatable hand.
  • The game's atmosphere is unusually light and playful.
  • I'm in an especially good mood.
  • The opponent is clearly new to casino poker and doesn't seem to understand the showdown rules and etiquette.
  • The opponent is a straightforward player and I already have a pretty good idea of what he is holding.
  • The opponent is somebody I have some reason to like, either from an outside relationship or because we have been chatty and friendly during the game. (Don't smirk--it does happen once in a while!)

There's no formula to this decision, no magical combination of factors that will automatically prompt me to take the initiative; it's just a feel thing. But when I do it, it is a courtesy, not an obligation. And the one thing that will absolutely preclude me extending somebody this courtesy is him being a dick who is clearly experienced enough to know better, and is just stalling, trying to transfer the monkey to my back. No chance, pal. We'll sit here all night if that's what it's going to take, and the more you try to wriggle out of what you know the rules require you to do, the more I'm going to dig in my heels and defy you.

You think you're stubborn? Buddy, you haven't even SEEN stubborn yet. Bring on the stares and impatient comments from the other players. Let the dealer plead with me to reveal my cards, or even issue a direct command to do so. Nothing doing. Not gonna happen. The foundations of the casino will crumble from decay and vines will encircle all of us before I'm turning over my hand to the smug satisfaction of a non-showing douchebag. And even that would just be getting the contest underway. I will sit there until the sun burns itself down to a dark lump of iron, and then keeping sitting there, my cards firmly capped, until we see the coming of the very heat death of the universe, before I will yield in such a test of wills. "To the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee."

(Did I mention something here recently about occasionally getting overly dramatic?)

To the woman at the table, I say this: You were wrong. I did not slowroll. I simply waited for when it was my turn to show. Your venom was directed at the innocent party rather than the guilty one. Maybe you should find a good poker blog to read that would keep you informed of how things are supposed to work at the tables.

Incidentally, this story had an amusing coda. The button was kind of a jerk all night, and this hand really set him off. He began berating me--not for the slight delay of game at the end, but for having called his pre-flop raise with such a terrible hand. "Nice call!" (Dripping with sarcasm.) "Next time I have a big pair, I'm gonna raise to $30. See if you call that." (OK, pal, you want to risk $30 to win $4 in blinds, be my guest.)

In short, hilarity ensued.

The essence of what Grange calls a crAAKKer hand is one that can make a hand to beat a big pair (straight or flush or set, usually) in a sneaky, under-the-radar kind of way, precisely because there are players who just won't consider the possibility that an opponent played so "badly" as to call a sizeable pre-flop raise with "that kind of trash." I have written a bunch of times about making big scores with junk against opponents who just can't fold an overpair, no matter how much evidence you give them that they're beat. See, e.g., here, here, and here as just a sampling of such stories. Neither Grange or I were exactly the original inventors of this route to poker winning. It was the revealing of precisely this kind of play--when conventional wisdom said to wait for big pairs and big aces--that got Doyle Brunson's fellow road warriors mad at him when he first published Super/System, and forever changed how the game is played.

Frankly, I don't see what the guy was complaining about. The other player's action of check-raising all-in made it relatively easy for him to fold. I'd say he got off pretty cheap!

Monday, April 26, 2010


Somebody I know won an online tournament last night, and a nice chunk of money with it (given the $30 buy-in). And somebody she knows is, as always, very, very proud of her.

Terrible's is--you guessed it--terrible

Yesterday after I busted out of the blogger invitational freeroll event, I felt like I should go out and play, but didn't really feel in my best form. I pondered a bit where I could go that wouldn't be too taxing on the ol' brain cells. It finally dawned on me that I had not yet been to the newest poker room in town, at Terrible's Hotel and Casino.

The room opened in January, I think. The reasons I haven't been there before are pretty simple: they rarely run no-limit games, and I was pretty sure it was going to be an awful room. But I feel duty-bound to try every poker room in the area at least once. I was reasonably confident they'd have a game of some sort going on a Sunday evening.

It took me quite a while to find the poker "room." It consists of just two tables in the gaming pit, adjacent to blackjack tables. I actually walked right past it a couple of times before noticing it. There are no signs anywhere. It's not even given the standard token roping-off treatment.

They had one table in action, predictably a $2-4 limit hold'em game. I have, for the most part, sworn off of this structure. I'm pretty sure that it's unbeatable in the long term. I used to willingly play it while waiting for a no-limit seat, but no more. Instead I now habitually stick a crossword puzzle in my pocket and work on it while waiting. It's better than losing money before I start the real poker, which was the norm when trying to play $2-4.

But today was an exception, since I knew I might never get a chance to play NLHE here. So I gritted my teeth and dived in.

Should you, for whatever reason, decide to play poker at Terrible's, here's what you can expect, based on my experience there:

  • Hard, uncomfortable, wobbly chairs.
  • Cigarette smoke. Players technically can't smoke at the table, but all they have to do is get up and stand right behind their chairs. They are allowed to keep playing a hand from this position, so applying any sort of "no smoking" label to the situation is a farce.
  • Casino noise--not surprising, given the location right in the middle of everything.
  • Smokers coughing up a lung or two while they play.
  • Talking about the hand going on freely--speculation about what other players have, announcements of what somebody folded, discussion of what cards would be good ones to have given the board, etc.
  • Dealers making no effort whatsoever to curb the above.
  • Players who never learn to push their chips forward to within reach of the dealers (the tables seem larger than average), no matter now many times they are asked.
  • Players who take forever agonizing over $2 and $4 decisions.
  • Showdowns in which nobody is willing to reveal his or her cards first. (Confidential to the guy in Seat 1: When you play every friggin' hand, you are not giving away any information about your range by always holding out until the other guy shows first. Moron.)
  • A need for the dealer to tell players what the action is to them, every time.
  • Play going in order being the exception rather than the rule.
  • People who can't master the difficult concept of how much each bet is, and always bet $4 when it should be $2, and vice-versa.
  • Flashing cards to other players, openly and deliberately, with, again, dealers not bothering with even the gentlest reprimand.
  • People who make $4 bets by making four trips to their stacks, retriving one blue chip each time.
  • Typical $2-4 play: average 7-8 to the flop, 5 to the river, etc. Pot going to the worst starting hand is the norm.
  • No autoshufflers.
  • No comps (as far as I know).
  • Splashing chips into the pot.
  • Dealers who roll the deck, don't notice (or don't care about) cards that flash when pitched, can't figure out missed blinds situations, join in the conversation about the hand in progress, and various other assorted dealer sins of omission and commission.

It is, in short, a torture chamber for anybody who takes poker seriously. Because my sole purpose in trying the place out was to be able to report on it here, I frequently felt reminded of the lyric from "The Man of La Mancha": I was willing to march into poker hell for this heavenly cause.

OK, I can be a bit overdramatic at times.

I was rewarded for my courageous adventure with a win: $63 in an hour and ten minutes (all I could stand), which is something of a miracle.

It was still not quite the hellhole that the El Cortez was; probably nothing else ever will be. But leaving aside that special case, I would rank Terrible's right alongside such worthless places as Arizona Charlie's--Decatur, Club Fortune, Jokers Wild, and Poker Palace. They are all poker rooms that, as far as I'm concerned, have no reason to exist, no redeeming social value.

That said, I suppose I should point out the one feature that distinguished Terrible's from the other places with which I just lumped it: It appeared that no more than two of the players were locals. The rest were clearly out-of-town tourists. And they were having a good time, for the most part. As a result, there wasn't the nasty, surly, nitty, miserable miasma that emanates from a bunch of retired locals, all of whom know and hate each other, just putting in their freeroll requirement hours, or trying to chase a jackpot. So it's got that going for it, which is nice.

But that one small advantage over the other worst joints in town is nowhere near enough to make me want to go back. If I could call once in a while to try to find a time when they have a NLHE game going, I might return one more time to sample that, just for thoroughness. But there is no telephone, no podium or desk, no centralized place from which things are run, so I doubt that I could ever get a quick and reliable answer about what games are being spread via a phone call. That means that it is most likely that I'll never be back there again.

And that prospect that does not trouble me one little bit.

Guess the casino, #489

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

Answer: Hooters

Sunday, April 25, 2010

3% is good

You can't make this stuff up. From the blogger freeroll on Full Tilt a few minutes ago:

It didn't last long, though. Shortly thereafter, I ran an overpair into a flopped set, and it was done. It was fun while it lasted, though.

Followup on Full Tilt Poker possible software glitch

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a strange series of hands during a tournament on Full Tilt. I described it in detail here.

I wrote to FTP's support department with all the details, then didn't hear anything back from them. So today I sent them another email, and quickly got this reply:

Thank you for contacting Full Tilt Poker Support.

We have reviewed these hands in depth and it appears that the player in
question, twackeditlostit, was moved to the table for table-balancing, then
moved again and reinstated back in the same seat in a very short period of time.
Naturally, once he has been reseated at the table, he needs to wait for the
blinds to pass him by before he can rejoin the action. It is very rare that this
happens, but is an unavoidable result of table-balancing.

As you are no doubt aware, table balancing occurs when there are an unequal
number of players at each table in a multi-table event due to players being
eliminated at different times. When this happens, some players are selected by
our random number generator and assigned a new seat based on their relative
position to the blind at their previous table, which remains open.

Players are moved in multi-table events as fairly as possible. If you are
on a table that breaks, you have just as much chance of being placed into an
advantageous position as you do a less favorable position.

For more information, please refer to our Tournament Rules #20 and #21 at:

If there's anything else we can help you with, please let us know. We're
always here to help.



Poker Specialist

Full Tilt Poker Support

That didn't fully address the anomaly I witnessed, so I wrote back:

Thank you for the response. That was my best guess about what happened. But the
part I still can't explain is why the player's avatar remained at the table the
entire time. I can't prove to you that this happened, because the hand history
shows him gone for one hand--the one in which he would otherwise have been the
big blind. But I know that the avatar stayed put, because otherwise the incident
would not have caught my attention. I had been in the big blind the previous
hand, then the big blind skipped over him, and that's the reason I noticed that
something weird was happening. I wondered why he got to skip the big blind. If
he had disappeared, I would have surmised that he simply got moved to balance
tables, because I know that the player about to get the big blind is the usual
target for such moves. It was only because his avatar remained, with the big
blind skipping over him, that I noticed something strange going on. Any

I again got a fast reply:

Thank you for your speedy response, and we appreciate your cooperation on this matter.

We reviewed all the data available, and I can confirm that it was down to table-balancing that the player appeared to simply skip his big blind.

As for the Avatar remaining seated at the table, I have forwarded that information on to the relevant department for further investigation.

We truly appreciate your continued assistance on this, it's caring players like yourself who help to make Full Tilt Poker an enjoyable place to play poker.

Have fun at the tables, and if there's anything else we can do for you, please feel free to contact us.



Poker Specialist

Full Tilt Poker Support

So far, then, at least they have confirmed what I had come to suspect--that the player in question was just moved to balance tables, then in a highly improbable but fully legal twist of fate was moved, on the very next hand, back to the same table and same seat to re-balance them. But how and why his avatar remained at the table is yet unexplained to my full satisfaction.

If I hear anything more from FTP, I'll let you know.

Class, or lack thereof

I'm watching the second week of NBC's heads-up poker championship. I was impressed with Orel Hershiser's grace in his exit interview after losing to Annette Obrestad: "I knew I was behind the whole way as far as intelligence and ability in the whole match, so I was always gonna look for a place where maybe I was 55/45 dog but I could get a shot at least at making her fold. She didn't fold. She had the better hand and she's the better player."

I love how Obrestad beams in reaction to those kind words:

She returns the graciousness (after being forced to admit, a bit sheepishly, that she has never seen a baseball game and hadn't known who Hershiser was coming into the event): "I thought he played extremely well and I felt like I was getting run over for most of the match, I wasn't getting any hands, and then, y'know, things kept going my way at the end, and I think I was just lucky to win."

Let's compare that little festival of politeness with how Phil Hellmuth went out after a prolonged heads-up battle with Jens Voertmann on last week's "Poker After Dark." He does the obligatory, "Good game, man," with a handshake, but then says, "Four fucking races in a row," before Leeann Tweeden gets over to him for the formal interview:

"He gave me all his money with king-eight. He just gave me fifty, sixty thousand. He had 9000 left, so I know it's, I mean, I know I'm gonna win, but I'm gonna have to just continue to play my best poker. And then he had 6-7 and I had Q-2, and he won that...and then I had him all in again and he won that, and he had me all-in one time and he won that. He won four races in a row after giving me all his chips. I mean, I feel like, uh, I feel like it wasn't, y'know, thank God it's not a World Series of Poker tournament.... It just doesn't feel fair to me. But he played good."

I thought that Voertmann was impressive throughout, clearly outplaying Hellmuth, with the exception of the one major misstep where he first lost the chip lead. He also remained above the fray, never resorting to insults or negativity in reaction to Phil's insults and tirades. He continued that pattern in his interview: "First of all, for me it feels fair. Phil, of course, is a very good player." At this point, Hellmuth interrupts: "It feels fair? Wanna play again for $100,000?" Voertmann just laughs that off and continues: "If I would say anything against Phil, it would be ridiculous. So many bracelets, he's a great player, famous player, and so I wouldn't say anything else." He goes into some detail about what his thinking was in the hand in which he lost the chip lead, then concludes, "I was wrong, I lost that hand, but at the end I was lucky."

Four players, three showing class in either victory or defeat.

And then there's Phil.

More zero-level thinking

Once in a while in poker, something completely inexplicable happens; somebody does something that defies all reason. This has been called "zero-level thinking." (See here for more on that.)

Even as I write this, I'm playing a sit-and go HORSE tournament on PokerStars. Take a look at the hand we just completed:

What's remarkable about it is that the player to my right called my bet on the river. I didn't believe he had a king. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have bet, since it's a situation in which, in theory, I would get called only by a hand that beats me. But not so here. He had a pair of nines, and nothing more. He could not beat what I had showing, but called.

Could he have mistakenly thought it was Stud/8? Well, if he did, he screwed up in another way, too, because he had no low hand. His cards don't look like he could have erroneously thought he had a straight. Maybe he misread his hand to be a club flush, or two pair? I don't know.

The other unusual thing is that at this moment, clueless guy is chip leader. That, however, is not inexplicable--he keeps backing into real hands after starting with garbage. *sigh*


Mr. Doofus crashed and burned, going out second (i.e., in 7th out of 8). I finished 3rd, just barely in the money.

Guess the casino, #488

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

Answer: Gold Coast


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

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

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

So now I know, and so do you.

Three online surprises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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