Saturday, August 13, 2011

Three HORSE hands

I recently discovered that the Carbon Poker network offers a daily HORSE tournament. It's only $11 and doesn't get very many players and the structure is fast, but it's something to reduce the shakes from my HORSE withdrawal syndrome. I just went out in 8th place in one for barely over a min-cash. Oh well. It was fun to play, and I got this post out of it.

First there was this strange hand. I think it's the first time I've seen aces versus aces in stud. We capped it every street, and I made a real monster, but some doofus kept calling trying to hit his low and got there for half the pot. Since I had two full houses, I think I should have gotten both halves of the pot.

Now that's what I call hitting a flop!

Here I hit a gutshot to make a straight with the Mighty Deuce-Four. As if there were ever any doubt.

What's in a screen name? #27

I'm not sure I can--or should--explain why I like both of these. But I do.

Guess the casino, #948

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

Answer: Tropicana

Negreanu and Epic

I'm sure many of you have already read Daniel Negreanu's explanation in his blog as to why he decided not to play in the first Epic Poker League tournament (or, apparently, any subsequent ones). I'm sure I'm not the only one that was left with the feeling that there is something missing from the explanation.

He may well be right that the league will eventually prove to be just the latest in a long line of failed, high-profile attempts to form a sustainable poker equivalent to the pro golf tour, that its financial structure can't be sustained over the long run unless they manage to get some sort of foot in the door to a U.S.-legal online poker site.

But so what? Why would that make him decide not to play now? There's a substantial overlay (I think it's $400,000 added to the prize pool), and I understand that the casino is taking no money out for itself (though some small fraction goes directly to the dealers). Does Negreanu not like money? It doesn't make sense that he would pass on a +EV opportunity just because the venture may at some unknown time in the future. That would be a good reason not to invest in it as a business, or not to take a leadership role in it if offered. But why not play the tournaments while they're available? It's clear from his Twitter feed that he's not doing anything else at the moment except golfing and catching up on TV shows.

One obvious possibility is that his dislike for Annie Duke is so intense that he will pass up a chance at winning a reasonably lucrative and prestigious tournament in order to avoid having to be civil to her. That's almost surely a factor. But is it the dominant one? If it were, given his history of bluntness, I don't think he'd have any problem saying exactly that in his blog--something like, "I don't like her, I don't want to be around her, and I don't want to support things she's in charge of and making money from." Everybody already knows that that's how he feels, so it's hard for me to believe that he wouldn't come out and say it if that were the core reason he is staying away from the Palms this week.

Which leads me to consider another possibility: he doesn't think it's a +EV situation for him. Consider his description of the field:
The only real difference I see between this league and something like the WPT is:

-much tougher field in the EPL means that even with $400k added most of the field will still be -EV, while the truly elite players, like a Vivek Rajkumar or a Sam Trickett will feast on the bankrolls of lesser skilled pros.

-no real Cinderella stories at the final tables....

For the truly elite players, this is free money for them in terms of EV, but the vast majority of entrants are just not good enough to show a profit against this super tough field.
I suspect that he has looked over the competition and decided that, good as he is, his edge on the field, if any, is too small to be worth the cost of entry. After all, if he deemed himself to be a "truly elite player" comparable to Rajkumar or Trickett, surely he would jump at the chance to "feast on the bankrolls of lesser skilled pros" and get himself some "free money." If I'm right, this, understandably, would not be an explanation he would be eager to state explicitly and publicly.

My conclusion is that the most likely real reason that Negreanu is battling across golf greens this week instead of green felt is that he has taken a good, hard look at the field and his own ranking within it, and had to conclude that he was one of the "lesser skilled pros," one who is "just not good enough to show a profit against this super tough field."

I don't think there's anything shameful about that. On the contrary, in order to be successful, every poker player has to be able to accurately take his own measure and that of his competition. If Negreanu has done so here and decided that he's better off waiting for tournaments with more dead money, hey, I can't blame him. I just think it's kind of an interesting conclusion to reach when it's something that he hasn't expressed directly, yet seems the most likely truth.

Incidentally, speaking of super-elite players and tough fields, check out this call made by Erik Seidel a couple of hours ago as I write this. Phenomenal!

Is poker illegal gambling in New York?

One of the Black Friday charges made by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York involved violation of the UIGEA, which, basically, prohibits financial transactions done for the purpose of illegal gambling--that is, gambling which is in violation of any applicable state or federal law. (Forgive the imprecision; I'm trying to skip quickly over the technicalities without getting bogged down in order to get to the main point.) One presumes that their intention is to prove that the transactions in question were illegal under the UIGEA because the poker they were intended to facilitate is illegal under New York law.

In the midst of a discussion of whether they would be able to make that case, Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine did a blog post in late April in which he questioned whether poker was, in fact, illegal gambling under New York statutes. He cited a 2009 article by somebody named Bennett Liebman in a journal called Gaming Law Review and Economics. The article is titled, "Chance v. Sill in New York's Law of Gambling: Has the Game Changed?"

You can see the first page of the article here, but in order to read the whole thing you'd have to have a paid subscription to the journal or belong to an institution (e.g., a university) that does. That left me out. But every time I've thought about this, I've been intrigued by the potential. Could it really be possible that there's something important that everybody has been missing, and that poker would not be ruled by New York courts to be illegal gambling?

Earlier this week I had to go to Lied Library at UNLV to look up some other unrelated stuff, and it occurred to me to see if they had this journal. They did. I copied the article and have now read it. I will attempt a one-paragraph summary:

The New York Court of Appeals (which is what every other state would call its supreme court) established in 1904 what has subsequently become a nearly universal legal test for whether some given activity constitutes gambling. This included, among other things, determining whether skill or chance was the "dominating element." In 1967 the New York legislature adopted an overhaul of its penal code. Rather than leave things undefined or leave them to the definitions the courts had devised, the new statutory scheme included a definition of "contest of chance," which is one necessary element of "gambling." This definition provided that a "contest of chance" was "any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein." On the surface, this appears to lower the threshold from the common-law definition; now a prosecutor did not have to prove that chance was the "dominating element," but only that the outcome depends on chance "in a material degree." The whole point of the Liebman paper is to demonstrate that there is actually not a meaningful difference between these two tests, despite the facial appearance. He gets at this in what I found to be a reasonably persuasive manner, citing scholarly commentary, court cases decided subsequent to the 1967 revisions, and some logical absurdities that would result if the two tests were actually substantially different.

Let's gloss over his arguments for now, because it would be really tedious for me to try to present them in more detail than I just did, and really tedious for you to try to follow. Let's assume that he's right--that is, that even though at a glance the "material degree" statutory test looks as if it sets a much lower threshold for the role of chance than did the old "dominating element" test, there is, in reality, no meaningful difference between them. If Liebman is correct, does that get us anywhere favorable?

Sullum wrote:
If Liebman is right, there is a strong case that poker does not qualify as "a contest of chance" under New York law, since it is clear that skill is ultimately more important in poker than luck; otherwise it would not make sense to distinguish between good and bad poker players. That calls into question the whole premise that PokerStars CEO Isai Scheinberg and the other defendants broke the law by serving customers in the Southern District of New York, where they were indicted.
Well, yes and no. To anybody who plays poker for a while, there is no doubt that skill dominates luck in terms of determining long-term win/loss results. But what is "clear" to poker players is not necessarily "clear" to courts.

I'm a fan of Sullum's writing, but he's out of his element here. His usual beat is legal prohibitions and restrictions on drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other such substances. On that subject, there is nobody better informed or more persuasive, in my opinion. (See especially his two books, here and here.) But I'm afraid that his analysis of the significance of Liebman's argument rushes to home plate without having touched all the bases first.

Professor I. Nelson Rose has returned to the skill-versus-luck debate frequently. He is adamant that courts should find poker not to be a game of chance when the "dominating element" test (also called the "dominant factor" test) is used. See, e.g., these columns in his long-running "Gambling and the Law" series:

Unfortunately, Prof. Rose's arguments have not been the ones that win in court. Chuck Humphrey has an extended discussion of the uphill battle poker has had getting defined as a game of skill in court here. He concludes:
I have not been able to find any case law that has ever squarely held poker to be a game of skill free from illegality under applicable state anti-gambling laws. There have been some passing references to poker as a game of skill in a few cases. But these are only references that go to whether any skill is involved in the game, not to the level of that skill as compared with the element of chance in the game. The actual decisions did not involve poker, let alone the more relevant question of the legality of offering poker games in a setting where the house directly or indirectly makes money by raking the game, charging an entry fee or selling food, beverage or merchandise to players.
I can't tell when that was written, but I think it was several years ago.

There was a glimmer of hope in 2009 when two courts, one in Pennsylvania and one in Colorado, held poker to be a game of skill rather than chance. See the second and third Rose links above, and this follow-up article by Humphreys summarizing them:

But both cases were reversed on appeal, leaving the current case law in both states to be that poker is a game in which chance dominates over skill. See Humpheys on these losses here. The Pennsylvania court's opinion, with an extensive discussion of other states' cases with respect to whether poker was a game of predominantly skill or chance, is here.

In 2007, an appellate court in North Carolina made a very similar ruling, available here. A case is pending in the supreme court of South Carolina that turns on the same question. My friend Grange95 has carefully reviewed both the legal briefs for that case and an unrelated recent case decided by the South Carolina Court of Appeals that discussed the dominant-factor test under state law, as applied to a non-poker game. Both analyses left him pessimistic that that state's supreme court decision will be one poker players are happy about.

Note that all four of these relatively recent cases included hearings in which there was ample testimony provided by credible experts about skill dominating over luck in the long-term outcome of poker. They have used sources such as the Poker Players Alliance and its "white paper" written specifically to tackle this legal argument with a barrage of facts. And yet we're running zero for three in the highest state courts to take up the cases, with zero for four likely to be the score when South Carolina gets decided any day now. That does not leave much room for hope that courts in New York would suddenly break with the trend if forced to decide the same question in connection with the Black Friday cases.*

This is especially so since there is already at least one post-1967 New York case on record that discusses whether poker would be considered a "contest of chance." The case actually involved "three-card monte," but in dicta (discussion of matters outside the questions the court is required to address) the court considered other games for purposes of comparison:
Games of chance range from those that require no skill, such as a lottery, to those such as poker or blackjack which require considerable skill in calculating the probability of drawing particular cards. Nonetheless, the latter are as much games of chance as the former, since the outcome depends to a material degree upon the random distribution of cards. The skill of the player may increase the odds in the player’s favor, but cannot determine the outcome regardless of the degree of skill employed.
People v. Turner, N.Y.S. 2d 661 (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. 1995)
To an experienced poker player, this reads like nonsense--because the "outcome" we care about is the long run, not any one hand--but the sad fact is that modern courts just have not shown the slightest tendency to see things that way.

As a result, I'm forced to conclude that Sullum's optimism is misplaced. Even if Liebman is right that the superficially lower standard of "material element" is no different from the "dominating element" test, that conclusion will do no good for either the Black Friday defendants or for poker in general.

I cannot improve upon the level-headed conclusion that Grange95 came to after discussing the Pennsylvania appellate case:
The "poker is a game of skill" meme is entirely correct. The continuing legal campaign premised on using that meme to exempt poker from gaming laws is utterly quixotic. The PPA (and poker players in general) need to understand that the battle to legalize poker will not—indeed cannot—be won in court. At its core, the poker legalization debate is not about “skill vs. chance” at all. As a practical matter, poker is firmly entrenched in the public’s mind as a form of gambling. Look again at the Pennsylvania decision—it cites cases from nine states covering more than a century of legal decisions, all concluding that poker is gambling. In states with legalized gambling, poker is treated as just another casino table game, subject to the same general gaming regulations as blackjack, baccarat, craps, and roulette. Popular culture depicts poker players as swaggering gamblers and/or con men (e.g., The Sting, The Cincinnati Kid, Maverick, the new Casino Royale, and yes, even Rounders); to those not familiar with the game, poker as depicted in these movies is really indistinguishable from blackjack in 21, or baccarat in several James Bond flicks....

Given the publicly ingrained view of poker as gambling, attempting to persuade appellate courts to declare that poker is not gambling is ultimately a fool’s errand. Courts are inherently conservative institutions, reluctant to issue decisions that contradict a community’s long-standing and widely-held beliefs and values, absent some compelling argument. “Poker is a game of skill”—even though logically correct—is not particularly compelling beyond the insular poker community. Poker players probably gain some psychological boost from being able to convince their friends and family (and themselves) that their game is really different from other casino games. Poker books and websites benefit from persuading poker players that they can learn to win (if only they purchase specific products, of course). But setting aside laws that are more than a century old? If the PPA’s best argument is to parse the differences between Hold ‘Em and Let It Ride, they’ve already lost. Better for the PPA to spend its resources lobbying state legislatures and Congress for explicit legalization and regulation of poker, including provisions for low-stakes, not-for-profit home games.

It’s time to stop tilting at the “poker is not gambling” windmill.

*Federal courts typically look to unambiguous state appellate court decisions when required to interpret state law. In a situation such as this, where there is no New York appellate case law specifically answering whether poker runs afoul of the "material element" test, a federal court would have to either make a prediction as to how the state courts would rule, or ask for an advisory opinion from the New York Court of Appeals.

Friday, August 12, 2011

More on Cates and the scandal

Mere minutes after I did my post about Daniel Cates yesterday, an acquaintance of mine with excellent connections in the industry contacted me privately to say that I was likely to have to revise my opinion very soon. A few minutes ago, I learned the basis for this advance warning. Cates did an interview with NoahSD of He then contacted Noah again and admitted that he had lied in the just-completed interview, and confessed that it was he who had played on Girah's account, not Qureshi. They did a second interview to explain this. Audio of both interviews has been posted here. It's about two hours of audio, so I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I wanted to get this note up as quickly as possible, since I expect to be asked whether this revelation changes my opinion of Cates. The answer is yes, it does, and I'm very sad to learn that my belief in his integrity was mistaken. I hope that this is all the bad news that is to come, that he learns from his mistake, and that, over time, he can rebuild his reputation in a manner similar to what Justin Bonomo has accomplished in recovering from his early missteps. I remain deeply grateful to Daniel for the opportunity he gave me at the World Series of Poker.


There is an excellent "Cliff's Notes" summary of the whole mess here.

Guess the casino, #947

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

Answer: Tropicana

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jungleman's scandal

If you have any interest in online poker, you've surely already read something, somewhere about the "Girah" scandal that seems to be unfolding more every day. If not, you could start with posts by F-Train and Shamus today for links and thoughts about the whole mess.

Dan "Jungleman" Cates is caught up in the scandal. He clearly backed, tutored, and trusted Jose Macedo, and was apparently planning to move to Portugal to live with him. That degree of closeness to what now turns out to be such flagrant cheating naturally causes suspicion that Cates himself was more involved than has so far been admitted or proven.

You will understand that I'm naturally inclined to view Cates in a good light. After all, the list of people in my life who have handed me $10,000, with no expectation of getting anything back from me in return, is pretty short. So I'm definitely biased, and you would be right to keep that in mind when evaluating my opinion.

It is also true that I'm not exactly on Cates's list of close friends. We've met a few times because of his WSOP seat giveaway, and I spent a pleasant, almost surreal hour over brunch with him discussing strategic approaches to my Main Event play. But that level of contact hardly makes me an expert on his character, his thoughts, or his actions. I have his cell phone number and he mine, but there's little reason to think that either of us will have occasion to use them, now that the WSOP thing is over and done with.

With those caveats firmly in place, I want to express my opinion that Cates is genuinely a good guy at heart, and is constitutionally incapable of the degree of scumminess that would be required for him to be complicit in the scandal. The facts that have been revealed so far basically require one to choose between believing that he was a co-conspirator (or, at least, in the know but not taking action on the shadiness he knew was afoot) or that he was incredibly naive. Given those alternatives, I have no hesitation in casting my vote for the latter.

My overwhelming impression of Cates when meeting him in person was that he ranked high on the nerd scale. I don't say that in derision; I wear the label proudly myself. He spent years perfecting video game play before discovering that many of the same skills could translate to poker and reap huge profits. I think Terrence Chan's sympathetic post about the roles of trust and loneliness and desire for social contact and peer acceptance within the online high-stakes-poker world are perceptive and likely to be an apt description of Cates's frame of reference in this thing.

Remember that just about two weeks ago Cates made a little splash in poker news because he decided to move to Canada in order to resume playing online poker. He flew to Vancouver, only to be sent back to the states by immigration officials because, apparently, he told them the truth--that he was moving there permanently to make his living. He seems to have had no clue that this would require first obtaining a work visa. It would not surprise me if he didn't understand what a U.S. "green card" was, or that other countries had equivalent things. My guess is that it never even occurred to him that there were strict laws and rules about taking up permanent residence to generate an income in another western democracy. While I found the episode amusing, I think it sheds some light on the degree of naivete that Cates brings to many real-world situations. His youth and relatively cloistered years of online play (video games and poker both) have left him ill-informed of and ill-prepared for many of life's challenges outside his ken.

Don't get me wrong--he's not stupid by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I judge him to be exceptionally bright. His aptitude for poker in particular is off the charts. I don't mind admitting that he thinks through poker situations ten times faster than I do, and I sometimes had a hard time keeping up with what he was trying to explain to me. But a narrow field of even the most phenomenal talent does not necessarily equip one to deal with, say, people whose values are so perverse that they're willing to feign a long friendship in order to run a big-money scam.

Some observers feel that Cates's interview with Bluff magazine yesterday further raises the level of suspicion about him being dirty. Take this exchange, for example:
Many have speculated that Jose is just a face/name attached to the account and maybe Haseeb or others were playing on the account. We know of at least one instance where this Haseeb played on Jose’s account. How can you be 100% certain that Jose is the one playing all of the hands on that account?

I am very certain that all hands played on Jose’s account are from him (unless Jose has allowed others to play on his account) except for the one instance in where Haseeb admitted to playing on his account. Almost certainly, over 95% of the hands are Jose’s.

When Jose was disqualified from the BLUFF Poker Challenge on Lock Poker, did you know it was Haseeb who had played on the account?

Yes, but I did not want to get involved. I know it was not a habit.

Surely nearly everybody reading this wants to ask the obvious follow-up question: How can you be so sure of those things? After all, I think the natural reaction to being shocked to learn that your friend has been cheating you and a bunch of your buddies out of a lot of money would be to say, "I don't know. I didn't think there was anything shady going on, but now that I see how badly I misjudged what he was capable of doing, I have to start doubting everything I thought I knew about him." Cates doesn't do that. He still retains faith, somehow, that the account-sharing was an isolated incident--in fact, says he is "very certain" of this, and that he "know[s]" it was "not a habit."

Some people apparently read this as evidence of his complicity--he's aiding in the cover-up, trying to minimize the problem. My reaction is to want to dope-slap him and make him reevaluate more critically what he actually does and does not know about his friend, carefully segregating what he knows from what he believes, and both of those from what he just wants to be true. To me this passage reeks of naivete further blinded by optimism and a friend's loyalty, not of a clumsy attempt at whitewashing.

Of course, I could be dead wrong. He might be guilty as sin, and when it all comes out I'll be the one with egg on my face for speaking up on his behalf. I don't think so, but I have no way of knowing for sure, no special insight. However, my experience with him, brief and shallow though it was, makes me highly inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. If expressing my opinion in this regard makes others temper their judgment in the same way, then I'll feel I've done what I set out to do here.

What's the explanation?

Take a look at the first few minutes of Monday's "Poker After Dark" here. At about the 2:25 mark, we start listening in on a conversation between Jean-Robert Bellande and Mike Matusow, talking about a previous hand. The details of the hand don't matter; just listen to Matusow explaining what he was thinking. It goes something like this:

Bellande: I would have snap-folded.

Matusow: I wouldn't have. I thought it was weak. Or strong. I wasn't sure.
I see. So you thought it was either weak or strong. Wow. I wish I had such masterful hand-reading skills.

Continuing our eavesdropping:
Bellande: What are you talking about?

Matusow: I thought at the river we were going to find out if it was weak or strong.

Bellande: It looked like he was begging for a raise. It was just like, mmm, just please, there it is. Raise me. Reraise me.

Matusow: Well, that's why I was shocked when he, I thought he was gonna bet big on the river. I thought it was like I've got three queens.

Bellande: 9800 into a 42,000 pot.

Matusow: That's why I was expecting a big bet out of Phil on the river.
I have posted before about an episode of "High Stakes Poker" in which Matusow's explanation of what he was thinking during a hand was utterly incoherent. This is another example. First he says that he interpreted Hellmuth's small bet as weak. Then he seems to be attacked by a fit of uncertainty and changes it to being either weak or strong. Then, when Bellande scoffs at the possibility that the bet represented weakness, Matusow is suddenly a convert, retrospectively confident that the bet represented strength, which, he asserts, is why he was expecting Phil to follow it up with a big bet.

I'm completely baffled by this. Remember, Matusow isn't explaining what he now thinks Hellmuth had, but is explaining what he was thinking as the hand played out. If he were just arguing with Bellande about what Hellmuth most likely held, then it's perfectly understandable that he might change his mind in the face of Bellande making an argument for a different idea. But what he was thinking at a particular moment in the past cannot change.

It's possible, as I assumed with the previous example, that Matusow's thoughts are so jumbled and incoherent that he honestly doesn't know what he was thinking even a few seconds ago, so an honest explanation of the state of his thoughts can shift fluidly.

But after watching this clip several times, noticing his facial expressions and body language, and listening to his tone of voice, I think there's a better explanation: He's lying.

His first sentence, "I thought it was weak," was the truth. But he quickly realizes that perhaps that was wrong and, if so, he might look foolish for saying it, so he amends it by adding, "or strong," thus covering all the bases. Then when Bellande belittles the notion that Hellmuth was weak, it suddenly becomes more important to Matusow not to lose face than to provide a faithful recounting of what he had been thinking, and he goes to some trouble to revise history in such a way that he will be seen to be in agreement with Bellande.

It seems completely outside of Matusow's capacity to say, "You know, as it was happening, I really did think the bet represented weakness, but you make a good point, and in retrospect maybe I was wrong."

Matusow is hardly alone here. It seems to be a common malady among poker players to want other players to perceive them as having figured out the puzzle that every hand provides. It seems that after every big pot, when the hands are revealed, somebody will claim, "I knew what he had."

Of course that's a lie, or at least a gross overstatement, every time. One never knows what another player has, short of seeing the cards. One might achieve a feeling of a high degree of certitude, but I'm sure we've all had the experience of feeling extremely confident about what another player's down cards are, only to be surprised when they are finally shown. Nobody ever says "I knew he had aces" after the guy shows jacks.

Of more relevance to my argument here, however, is noting that there is only one reason for such crowing: The crow wants the other players to believe he's a poker genius. What other motive could there possibly be for making such an announcement? Maybe I should refer to that kind of player as a peacock rather than a crow, because the bragging resembles an attempt at a gaudy display of feathers.

Whenever I hear somebody claiming to have known what another player's cards were, I have two instant, automatic thoughts: (1) Yeah, sure you knew, buddy. (2) There's somebody to whom it is very important to be thought well of by a bunch of strangers. Poor guy to be a slave to the opinions of every random person he meets.

I don't suppose I'm entirely immune from impulses like that, but I'm glad that they are mostly of such low force that they don't surface. (After all, a guy who routinely goes out in public in a 20-year-old car, a wrinkled shirt, a fanny pack, and a three-day beard is hardly showing desperation to garner the world's approval.) There are only a few people whose opinion of me generally, or of my poker playing specifically, really matters to me, and they are almost never the ones gathered around the table. If somebody thinks I'm an idiot and a bad player, fine, I don't care, and, moreover, I'll try to find a way to use that impression against him.

Anyway, I'm opening the door to a somewhat different understanding of Matusow's contradictory claims. I'm now thinking that they may be the result of a desperate desire for others' approval instead of (or in addition to) being the result of thought processes that are actually as disorganized as a literal interpretation would suggest.

Guess the casino, #946

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

Answer: Planet Hollywood

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Partners discouraged?

From this article just posted at PokerWorks:

"In most brick and mortar poker rooms, friends, spouses, and lovers are discouraged from playing at the same table. Management would rather avoid any hint of possible collusion than fade accusations from players who are looking for a lame excuse for losing."

That caught my attention, because I have never heard of such a thing. I have seen intimate partners playing together countless times, including some where they were regulars in the room and well known to management. In all my years playing, I have never heard of couples being asked not to play together, or read anywhere that such a request is made as a matter of policy or routine in any poker room anywhere. When you extend the claim to "friends," as this article does, it becomes even more ludicrous. Though I've never had reason to attempt an actual count, my offhand guess is that the majority of tables I've ever played at have had at least one pair of friends playing at some point during my session, and yet I've never even once heard it suggested that they not do so as a matter of room policy.

I don't know who "PokerHack" is (the author of the article), or where he or she got this impression, but I'd like to hear more about it. If this is the case for "most" B&M poker rooms, as claimed, it should be trivially easy for PokerHack to call a few poker room managers in Vegas and get on-the-record quotations either confirming or denying that they make it a point to discourage couples and/or friends from playing together when they know about it. I would be extraordinarily surprised if the claim turns out to be verifiable.

Hey, PokerHack--want to bet $100 that you can call the managers of ten randomly selected Vegas poker rooms and get at least six of them to say that they do, in fact, routinely ask couples and friends not to play together when they know it is happening? If not--that is, if you're not confident that you could confirm your assertion--then how about retracting it?

Confidential to Mike Matusow

The next time they invite you to go on "Poker After Dark," where they use these things called hole-card cameras, you might consider washing your hands and cleaning under your fingernails first.


There's a Twitter bot called "Pokerize" that automatically sends a Tweet with the title of any new blog posts I put up. Apparently Mike saw his name that way, read the post, and replied: "for all u idiots that play only online poker its called real poker where you get green on hands from felt #morons"

Guess the casino, #945

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

Answer: MGM Grand

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Guess the casino, #944

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

Answer: Hard Rock

Monday, August 08, 2011

Guess the casino, #943

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

Answer: Treasure Island

Sunday, August 07, 2011

What's in a screen name? #26

If you need it explained, well, it just wouldn't be funny.

Guess the casino, #942

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

Answer: Mandalay Bay