Saturday, April 30, 2011

Guess the casino, #843

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

Answer: Stratosphere

Friday, April 29, 2011

A political rant (by somebody else)

One of the best I've read in a long time. The subject: Why liberals should favor Ron Paul over Barack Obama.

Favorite excerpts:
I do have a problem with those who imagine themselves to be liberal-minded citizens of the world casting their vote for Barack Obama and propagating the notion that someone can bomb and/or militarily occupy Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Libya and still earn more Progressive Points than the guy who would, you know, not do any of that....

Unlike the Nobel Peace Prize winner-in-chief, Paul would also bring the troops home from not just Afghanistan and Iraq, but Europe, Korea and Okinawa. There'd be no need for a School of the Americas because the U.S. wouldn't be busy training foreign military personnel the finer points of human rights abuses. Israel would have to carry out its war crimes on its own dime....

[I]t seems to me that if you're going to style yourself a progressive, liberal humanitarian, your first priority really ought to be stopping your government from killing poor people. Second on that list? Stopping your government from putting hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens in cages for decades at a time over non-violent “crimes” committed by consenting adults. Seriously: what the fuck? Social Security's great and all I guess, but not exploding little children with cluster bombs – shouldn't that be at the top of the Liberal Agenda?

Odd "discount"

I saw a message on Twitter earlier today pointing to this offer by Dusty Schmidt through his affiliate site. Black Chip Poker is part of the Merge network, which appears to be the largest U.S.-facing site left (assuming that you don't want to give your money to the thieves at Cereus). Good rakeback plus Schmidt's three e-books (I have been wanting to read Don't Listen to Phil Hellmuth, but had balked at the purchase price) seemed like a good deal to me, so I signed up, deposited $100 on my Visa card, which went through without a hitch. (Merge also has Mac client software, for those of you to whom that might be a deciding factor.)

I got this strange email from Black Chip soon thereafter:

"Your $100.00 Black Chip Poker Visa deposit has been approved. Please be aware that we have given you a discount on this transaction, in the range of 1 - 5 cents. You will still be credited the full amount of your deposit, however, you will be billed slightly less."

When I got the notification from the payment processor, the billed amount was actually $99.93.

I can't figure out the reason behind this. I don't think it's an artifact of foreign exchange rounding. I wonder if it's an attempt to slightly randomize the deposit amounts. I assume that $100 is a very common starting deposit, so maybe they think it will attract less scrutiny if there are not a whole bunch of transactions of precisely the same dollar amount.

Theories, anyone? Speculation? Informed answers?

It's a sign!

Prince William plays poker, and he knows about the crubs!

Guess the casino, #842

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

Answer: Monte Carlo

Out of date

C'mon, dude--everybody knows that it's called the Dank now, not the Mookie. (Or maybe it's not called anything anymore, what with Black Friday and all.)

Spotted in the Harrah's parking garage Thursday night.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poker gems, #416

Lance Bradley, in a profile of Erik Seidel in the May, 2011, Bluff magazine, p. 81.

If you forget about the luckboxes who've made the WSOP Main Event final table, Erik Seidel has already won more money in 2011 than anybody else won in any single year since 2004. And the year's not even close to being half over.

Swimming in the shallow end of the pool

Last night Cardgrrl and I had a bit of a hankering for some online mixed-game action. But real-money play on Stars and Tilt is obviously no longer an option, and last time I checked no other U.S.-facing sites offer even HORSE, let alone anything more complex.

So we decided to do a play-money heads-up HORSE. But we discovered that Stars does not offer any. They have free SNGs in the form of 8-seat HORSE, 6-max 8-game mix, and heads-up hold'em, but no heads-up HORSE. Checking Tilt, I found that they do offer play-money heads-up HORSE, but it costs 1,000,000 points--meaning that I would have to run my current 1000 points up a thousandfold before I could do it.

I don't get this. Why such selectivity? It costs them no more to offer a heads-up HORSE match than a NLHE match. I would think that they would have an incentive to be more generous with non-hold'em offerings on the free side, because if people can learn unfamiliar games for free, then they'll be more confident about trying the real-money versions.

And what's up with that million-point entry on Tilt? If they're willing to spread a heads-up HORSE game on the free side, why put up such an enormous barrier to accessing it? Does anybody ever sit in that game?

We ended up in the lowest-entry (20 points, I think it was) 8-game mix, six-handed. After just a few orbits, Cardgrrl noted, "If we can't go 1 and 2 in this, we should just hang it up." Yeah, as bad as the play is in things like the $5 HORSE SNGs we used to play together regularly, this was whole orders of magnitude worse.

Fortunately, we don't have to hang it up; we did finish in first and second, proving once again that with just a little luck we are good enough to beat people who have absolutely no clue what they are doing. Bully for us!

New phone

I have finally done away with my StupidPhone and moved up in the world.

First decision was carrier. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all require $70-75/month for a voice and data plan. But Virgin Mobile has an unlimited text/data plan with 300 voice minutes a month (plenty for me) for just $25--a bargain. The downside is that you have to buy the phone; they don't give it to you "free" or subsidized. But that's OK; a $200 phone (as I got) pays for itself in just four months of lower monthly fees.

What had held me back before now was the lack of decent smart phone choices from Virgin. Now, however, Virgin has the LS Optimus V, which I think is a good one for my needs. It's not the bleeding edge of technology, but is a solid lower-end Android phone. (Bunch of reviews pasted at the end of this post, for anybody who wants to explore it in more depth.)

Got the phone yesterday (after dealing with an annoying sales girl at Radio Shack who just couldn't believe I actually knew what I wanted, and kept trying to sell me something else), got my old phone number transferred to it, got it charged up, and it seems to be working. Now I have to move over all my contact info and learn all the ins and outs. I've also ordered a 32 GB memory card for it, and will move all my music to the phone, basically retiring my separate MP3 player.

I have also downloaded Angry Birds and have quietly begun my addiction to the game. Hey, after Black Friday, what else is there to do?;lst#reviewPage1,2817,2380082,00.asp

Guess the casino, #841

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

Answer: Hooters

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Guess the casino, #840

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

Answer: Tuscany

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sam Chauhan is a fraud

It's not that I really had any doubt about the conclusion in that headline before today. In fact, I thought it was rather obvious from the first time I started hearing about him. But reading his latest column in Bluff magazine seals the deal for me and, I think, for anybody who was left with any degree of uncertainty about the matter.

Sam Chauhan, in case you don't know, is a "mindset coach" who in the last couple of years has picked up some high-profile poker players as clients, such as Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Hellmuth.

Quotations are from the May, 2011, issue, pages 48-49.

"We are all made of energy."

No, we are made of matter. It is true that matter can be converted into energy and vice-versa at the ratio defined by Einstein's famous equation, but that does not make it true that we are "made of energy."

"All things have energy that we can measure and calibrate."

OK. Measure my "energy." Go ahead. What kind of energy is it--electromagnetic? Nuclear? What instrument are you going to use? It's surely true that I possess a certain amount of thermal energy that can be measured with a thermometer. Also, when I move I convert chemical energy into kinetic energy, in quantities well defined by classical physics based on my mass and velocity. But those things surely are not what Chauhan is talking about.

"I meditate empowering energy to my clients and create a powerful frequency through vibration of the powerful mantras."

Oh really? What is the frequency, Kenneth? 142 megahertz or something? You claim that it can be measured and calibrated, so tell us precisely what it is. And you vibrate mantras? What the hell does that even mean?

"Then I focus on creating intention for that particular person to achieve the outcomes they [sic] may desire. I have created a formula that has worked consistently with a majority of my clients."

The idea that thoughts can affect something or someone at a distance has been claimed by countless people--some sincerely deluded, some charlatans--for hundreds of years. But nobody has ever been able to prove it under controlled conditions, even though there's a million dollars available to anybody who can demonstrate such ability.

Chauhan saying that he "meditate[s] empowering energy" to his clients sounds harmless enough, though, right? Well, what if he said in this column that his technique was to throw a penny into a fountain and make a wish for each client's success? What if he said that he used voodoo dolls resembling his clients and showered dollar bills on them in order to bring prosperity to the people they represented? What if he said that he prayed to Apollo or Zeus on his clients' behalf, or sacrificed chickens and smeared the blood on himself in order to bless their lives? Surely you would conclude that he was either daft or a fraud--right?

Well, saying that he meditates and sends out energy to his clients at powerful frequencies using powerful words or phrases is exactly the same thing. Don't be tricked into thinking there's actually something to it because he steals from physics words like "energy" and "frequency." It's pure rubbish, utter nonsense that you'd have to be a fool to believe--and a monumental idiot to be willing to pay for.

"Have you been around someone who will make you feel down and depressed? What created that? That was the energy you felt from that person. You can also be around someone who is so positive and will make you feel empowered. The difference is energy."

Poppycock. That's basic human psychology at work. We are programmed, deep down in our DNA, to recognize and respond to the emotional states of other people. There is no transfer of "energy" going on. You can prove this to yourself by the simple recognition that you can get the same effect from an audio or video recording of a dead person. Do you feel happy at the end of "It's a Wonderful Life"? That ain't Jimmy Stewart's ghost transferring positive energy to you; it's empathetic resonance with what you recognize his character is feeling. The fact that it's a fictional character in a fictional situation further demonstrates that our capacity to feel particular emotions can be deliberately manipulated in ways that have nothing to do with one person's life "energy" being influenced by proximity to another.

Taking an example from the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, several weeks ago the great radio program "This American Life" played tapes of interviews that a reporter did with a depressed friend who had survived one suicide attempt, but later died in a second. I felt profoundly sad listening to those tapes, partly because of knowing his later fate, but also because depressed feelings--like feelings of joy or mirth or fear--are naturally contagious among humans. The guy's "energy" was not affecting my "energy." He had no energy at the time I was listening to his voice. He was dead.

I am not disputing that states of mind affect poker results. They surely do. My ability to make sound decisions is dependent on my mood, and can be thrown off by being angry, discouraged, tired, distracted, or bored. People who can't recognize when their mental state is preventing good decision-making will tend to lose money when they play poker. There are several good books in print about the psychology of poker--e.g., those by Alan Schoonmaker and James McKenna. I not only don't consider those men charlatans for putting their observations and advice into print, I think there is tremendous value in learning to monitor and actively change one's own state of mind. But those authors stress that your state of mind is up to you; they won't try to tell you that they will be influencing it from their home offices by burning incense for you, or any such rot.

To the extent that Chauhan's methods draw on similar principles of psychology (and I'll readily admit that my only knowledge of how he works is the columns he writes for Bluff plus occasional things that his clients say about him), I have no argument. But when he claims that he influences his clients' mental states or their poker outcomes or financial success or anything else about their lives by his own mental energy projected from a distance, he's lying. He's a fraud, a scammer, a con artist. He's laughing all the way to the bank at the people who pay him for such services.

Well, I suppose I should qualify that. There's always the possibility that he is frankly delusional, clinically insane, and needs to be on powerful psychotropic medications to control his psychotic fantasies that he is controlling the lives of other people by his thoughts. There's also the possibility that he is incredibly stupid, that he was taught these things by somebody else and is just too low on the IQ scale to apply even a morsel of critical thought to them in order to see how ludicrous they are. So I'll expand my denunciation to include three possibilities: He's a fraud, or insane, or a moron.

But I'd put my money on fraud as far and away the most likely.

Guess the casino, #839

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

Answer: South Point

Monday, April 25, 2011

Guess the casino, #838

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

Answer: Mirage

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New poker games

Within the last week I have read about two new poker variants.


The April issue of Poker Pro magazine had a feature on "2-11" poker, which you can also read about here. The name comes from the structure of the game, which has a two-card flop (they call it a "flip"), turn, and river: 2-1-1. Each player is dealt four hole cards. There are four rounds of betting just as in hold'em and Omaha. You make you best five-card hand using either two from your hand and three from the board or three from your hand and two from the board.

It appears that the ability to use three hole cards increases the opportunity to sneak up on opponents with unsuspected monsters--e.g., quads can be made with three in the hand and one on board. Two of a suit on the board is enough to give somebody a flush. It is no longer the case that the board has to be paired in order to make a full house. Etc.

If I've done my math right, you can combine your seven cards in hold'em in 21 different ways to find your best hand; in Omaha (high) you can combine your nine cards in 60 different ways (6 combinations of two cards from your hand times 10 combinations of three cards from the board). In 2-11 poker you can combine your eight cards in 48 different ways (4 ways to combine two out of four cards and 6 ways to combine three out of four makes 24 ways to mix two in your hand and three on the board, plus 24 ways to mix three in your hand and two on the board). This puts it mid-way between hold'em and Omaha in the complexity of reading opponents' holdings. I would think that it would similarly fall mid-way between those two other games in how close to the nuts you'd have to come in order to expect a win.

The game can be played limit or no-limit (or, presumably, pot-limit, though that isn't mentioned anywhere), for high only or high-low split.

The magazine article says that they have been spreading this at the Bicycle Casino to great success. They're using it in some tournaments in alternating rounds with hold'em.

It's patented, which I assume means that any casino wanting to spread it will have to pay a licensing fee. Which, in turn, is necessarily going to limit its growth and popularity. Too bad--I think it would be fun and challenging to try.


I was looking over the schedule for the June Deep Stack Extravaganza at the Venetian when I noticed an unusual event: June 15, "Position Poker (TM)." I found the company's web site here, and an interview with Johnny Chan (obviously a paid endorser) here.

Basically, in addition to the regular button for hold'em or Omaha (or, presumably, any other game with blinds and a dealer button, such at 2-7 triple draw), there is a "winner's button" awarded to the winner of the previous pot. The player with this button acts on each betting round after the regular button. This rewards players who are active and mixing it up; win a hand, and it increases your power to win the next hand. Play tight, and you're punished by almost never having last action.

This variant, too, has been awarded a patent, and, one would guess, they will also demand licensing fees for casinos to offer it, so we're not likely to see it on the menu for regular cash games. Just as well. This one appeals to me a lot less than 2-11, for three reasons. (1) It doesn't reward my generally tight style of play. (2) People already have a hard enough time with playing in turn. The recent proliferation of various button-straddle rules always, always, always causes confusion and slows everything down and gets the order of play screwed up because players are thrown off by anything more complex than strict clockwise action. I think this two-button thing would just be more of the same kind of problems. (3) It just isn't different enough to interest me. It might call for altered tactics, but it doesn't require wholesale rethinking of the game and how to read opponents' hands the way 2-11 will.

Still, I'd be curious to try either one if it were offered locally. If anybody hears of them showing up, please let me know, and I'll pass the word on here.

Guess the casino, #837

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

Answer: Harrah's