Monday, January 31, 2005

Number Crunchin'

The only bright spot about Monday morning and returning to the day job grind is that I have plenty of time to catch up on poker blog reading, as well as ruminate and postulate on my own degenerate gambling.

Lots of introspective posts in the poker blog universe right now. I think that's cool, as far as seeing the moments where we all stop and say "No, really, why the hell am I doing this?" And the "this" is obviously open-ended, whether it's starting a blog, playing poker itself, whatever. I think it gets a bit dodgy when you extend that line of thinking to "No, really, why are you doing this?" but that's just my own two cents. I'm obviously partial to teh poker to begin with, but I think the whole poker blog phenomenon in itself is pretty interesting, as it's simultaneously a solitary/communal game, and provides all sorts of good blog fodder.

Officially closed the gambling books on January 2005. Maybe it's my contrarian nature but I somehow managed to dodge the -EV mojo that seems to be making the rounds. Dodged it in a big way.

I hesitate a bit from posting results, as it's pretty crass. But one of my resolutions for the new poker year was to do exactly that, on a monthly basis, good or bad. I do think there's some value in sharing that, though, as far as showing real-world results for someone chasing bonuses and grinding away at lower limits. It also helps tighten my play a bit when I know I'll be broadcasting the ultimate results.

I'm including poker profits, casino profits, and gambling-related affiliate profits in the total number. I averaged about 20 hours of play a week (21.7 to be exact), with most of the poker play at 1/2, £1/2, and 2/4 limit tables, with a few experimental hours a week at £5/10. I usually played a minimum of 4 tables at a time, and on occasion 6 or 7. On the casino side, I mostly did sticky bonuses, with a few monthly and reload bonuses thrown in.

Total profit for January: $10,570

So, umm, yeah. Big number. I honestly didn't even realize it was that big, until I toted everything up this morning. Breaking it down a bit, I made $2,117 from poker, $4,817 from casino bonuses, and $3,636 from affiliate revenues.

To be fair, that number is not sustainable. No how, no way. I ran really well on the casino side (even with occasional donkey behavior thrown in) and I got some unexpected linkage from a couple of prominent blogs and other sites to my casino bonus strategy guide, which caused the affiliate revenues to rocket upwards.

On the flip side, I didn't run particularly well at the poker tables, so that number definitely has some upside potential. For the most part, I played with a bonus overlay the entire month. It was a busy month as far as reload bonuses, though, which may or may not continue in the future. I also was getting used to playing 6 tables at a time, which takes some getting used to. While I'm rocking the dual monitor setup now, I need to upgrade both monitors so that I can fit four tables to a monitor with no overlap, as my current old-school wee monitors make the process more hectic than it needs to be.

What to make of all of this, then, in summary fashion?

  • You can make good coin chasing poker bonuses at lower limits. Quantity seems to be winning out over quality (in my personal results at least), as simply adding more tables has increased my overall profit much more in recent months than focusing on strategy, etc. This is the golden age of poker bonuses. If you're not always playing with a bonus overlay, you're smoking crack.

  • Casino bonuses are really profitable. They just are. They're not -EV when you play with a large enough bonus overlay. They're not guaranteed money but if you start small and play smart, it becomes an exercise in profitable math more than gambling. That's not to say that you can't lose money, even when playing optimal strategy. You can. They do, however, have enormous upside potential.

  • But that's enough grubby money talk for one day.

    Be interesting to see if Party does indeed float an IPO this year. I'd take some of that action, even if it meant buying in during a crazy run-up the first day it trades. I'm still kicking myself for not buying some Neteller stock back in December when it was around 300p per share, as it's been going absolutely nuts lately, running all the way up to 506.

    Oh wait. That is grubby money talk. Shutting uo now and getting back to work.

    Friday, January 28, 2005

    Cone on February, Get a Move On

    Got beaten up a bit at the poker tables yesterday but I was overdue a beating. I'm still adjusting to playing 6 max 5/10 tables, as far as loosening up my starting hand requirements and pushing harder with decent but not great hands. All is well and good and happy and shiny when you're getting strong starters and they hold up, but if you're getting crap hand after crap hand sometimes you have to create your own action, lest the blinds eat you alive. Elementary lesson, I know, and one that's easy to learn at 1/2 tables, but a bit harder for me to implement in the real world when sitting at 5/10 tables, when that semi-bluff check-raise suddenly costs 20 bones.

    Part of me is tempted to shut it down for the month and just savor the winning month that January was. I've knocked out all the Crypto bonuses, the Party reloads, Empire reload, etc. I've mostly wiped out all the good sticky casino bonuses left to do and hit the decent monthly casino bonuses. It's been a really good month. Woot.

    I've been reading the James Gleick biography of Isaac Newton, which is pretty dang interesting. Cats like Newton are intriguing, as far as the lengths that some genius-types go to explore whatever field they're involved in. Especially when it's apparently not even really a conscious decision, ultimately, to sacrifice everything, to lock oneself in a room for years, to insert bodkins in one's eye to explore the effects it has on one's vision, etc. It's just what they do, what consumes them.

    When I was in grad school a friend and I had a running mock-debate, usually brought up while drinking, about the possible artistic value in going to jail for a decent amount of time. When you got out, you'd have that cool cachet of being a "real" writer (or sculptor/painer/whatever), making anything you did inherently more publishable, especially in snooty, brandy-swilling circuits, who'd love to slum a bit and publish some gritty, hungry author with jailhouse tattoos. Plus you'd have all that time, with absolutely no distractions, to just sit there and write. No wife, no girlfriend, no job, no bills. Just you and paper and nothing to do but fill it up.

    (Obvious benefits aside, such talk always ceased when the real-world consideration of having to constantly guard one's cornhole in prison intruded. We never came up with a way to get around that roadblock.)

    But that idea eventually morphed into plans (usually while drinking) to offer a similar writing retreat for wannabe writers, where they paid you a sum of money and, for one year, you provided them a place to live, provided sustenance, utilities, etc. Except you locked the door and would not let them out, no matter how much they begged, for one entire year. They'd be allowed no phone, no e-mail, no Internet, no communication tools with the outside world whatsoever. Just a room, a bed, food, a bathroom, and something to write on.

    Yeah, I know, legal issues abound and this was always more drunk talk than anything. But it's an interesting idea, as far as how much some people would actually PAY to experience what is, in essence, a bare-bones environment that is really simple to produce, in theory. Yet basically impossible to achieve, in the complicated world we live in, with entanglements everywhere.

    Thursday, January 27, 2005

    Human Medical Waste Disposal

    I'm used to getting bombarded by spam. All sorts of spam. I actually get a double dose, because I get all the normal consumer-oriented stuff plus all of the webmaster related stuff, due to the ginormous number of domains I have registered.

    In the latter category, I get tons of link exchange requests. Some of these are legitimate but most are essentially automated spam, as software exists to spam link exchange emails to any domain out there that has a decent ranking in Google, Yahoo, etc. What's funny about these is that they're pretty similar to the legitimate link exchange requests (which work best when two similarly themed sites link to one another), except for a few little details.

    Here's the most recent one I've received:

    Dear Webmaster,
    I am contacting you about exchanging reciprocal links between our websites. If you're not familiar with this, it's very beneficial in search engine rankings for two similar sites such as ours to link to one another, with the net result of both of our sites being placed higher in search engine results. I've personally visited Sound of a Suckout and think our sites share a lot in common and would both benefit from exchanging links.

    My site is about human medical waste disposal. This attractive corporate website offers feature-rich content, has a Google PageRank of 5, and would be a valuable resource to link with.

    I'll keep the web address confidential and will send it to you only if you give me permission to do so. Just let me know if it's OK, and I'll send you the web address for your review.

    Sure, dawg, sign me up. I can definitely see the synergies, too, between our sites. It's like we were twins, separated at birth, who finally reconnected due to this great wonderous thing known as the Intraweb.

    Keepin' on Keepin' On

    Still truckin' along, grinding out the last few monthly bonuses I have left on my plate. Plus I can't seem to stay away from the 5/10 shorthanded Pacific Poker tables. It's like crack. If crack were, you know, a short-bus-riding monkey that'll call to the river with bottom pair, over and over and over.

    Despite doing this online gambling thing for awhile I'm still amazed at how casually people will throw around money. Granted, I've been known to bet $300/hand playing blackjack at online casinos myself, but that's in a calculated fashion where I'm getting a huge bonus overlay that makes my initial investment +EV. I can't fathom doing that when it's 100% my money at risk. I can't fathom sitting at a 15/30 table and capping it pre-flop with 82o because you're bored/pissed/tired/drunk/simply a bad player. That's the equivalent of a month's salary in many nations of the world. Boggles me mind.

    I need to buckle down this weekend and attack the garage, which has become the Lost City of Cardboard since, ohh, November. I got it decently back in order after the wedding explosion but Christmas basically wrecked it again and I've been ignoring it ever since. I also need to take my acoustic guitar in and get it back into shape, as it's been sitting there, forlornly, for months and months now, badly in need of a general reconditioning. Jebus only knows how out of playing shape I'll be (especially since I was never really in playing shape to begin with) but lately I've been getting the urge to bang around on it some.

    Not that anyone doesn't know by now, but the next online WPBT event is happening Feb. 2 at 9:00 PM EST at PokerStars. Hopefully I can redeem my pitiful showing from the first two of these I've played in. Granted, there's not much I can do when I get my nut flush cracked by quad 9s and a set of aces taken down by a runner runner straight but we shall see.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2005

    Clock Watchin' Ain't No Good

    I think it's a bad sign when I'm urging the seemingly-frozen clock forward at work and it's only 7:50.

    All of you people quitting jobs to live the glamorous life of freestylin', chip-wieldin' poker supahstars need to cut that shit out. You're planting evil seeds in impressionable minds of monkeys trapped in CubeLandia.

    Last night was odd. It's the first time I've ever left a table when someone was handing me money.

    I hadn't played any poker to speak of since Saturday, so I fired up the laptop while watching the Illinois/Wisconsin game last night. I was working off the monthly PokerPlex bonus, playing a couple 1/2 tables, mainly on autopilot. My laptop can handle two Crypto tables fine, but a third one slows the action way down on all three, so I just stick with two. Due to all my multi-tabling lately, it seems criminal to only have two tables open.

    So I fire up Pacific, as I'm still working on clearing a bonus there, which is kind of slow-going, given you can only play one table at a time. I'd run up my deposit a good bit there so lately I've been sitting 5/10 shorthanded tables. Which is what I did last night.

    I wait for the blinds and immediately note that only one person has a decent stack, with everyone else under $100. I also notice that the guy to my right is raising every single hand pre-flop. He's also chatting (odd for Pacific, given how craptacular their chat function is) constantly, talking about how drunk he is, how his girlfriend just left him, etc. No one is responding but he keeps chatting. And raising.

    I didn't catch anything for a few orbits but finally see AKo on the button. Raisey McGee raises it and it ends up capped, with the two of us heads-up. Flop is A K rag, rainbow. He hands me the rest of his $40 stack. And rebuys for $60.

    The table is four handed now, when we enter Strange Poker Land. For the next eight hands, he and I end up heads-up when the flop hits. I win every single hand for the next eight hands (dealt AA, KK, and 1010, as well as hitting on bullshit hands like A6o, 78s, etc.). Each hand he bleeds off his stack and rebuys for $60.

    He keeps chatting, talking about how depressed he is, how he's just going to go put a gun in his mouth when he's blown through all his money, etc. It doesn't help that my screenname for the account is an obviously female name (I do that sometimes when signing up just to be sneaky, as I think it sometimes help tilt certain Cro-Mags when a "woman" is taking their stack), which sets him off even more, rambling about the evil that is woman, etc.

    I bust him yet again, he rebuys yet again, but I sit out, tell him to turn off the computer and get some sleep. I left the table but pulled it up again just to watch. He ended up blowing through another $1,000 or so before he either busted out or gave it up.

    I've pondered about the ethics of a situation like this but never have been involved directly in it. Am I happy that my account is $500 or so to the good because of sitting at that table? Sure. Would I give the money back, if offered the chance? Hell no. Was anything he said necessarily true? Of course not.

    But I still don't feel good about it. For the very simple reason that I've been that guy before, acting out of my gourd, for whatever reason. And that's a bad place to be. Especially when you have access to online gambling sites with funded accounts.

    Lest you think I'm noble, like I said, I ain't giving the fool his lunch money back. But I do feel at least a slight bit better that I actually managed to stand up and, at the very least, decline to take any more money from him. Which is obviously -EV but maybe at least a little +KARMA.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2005

    Rumble in the Green Felt Jungle: Performance vs. Results

    It's interesting reading assorted poker blogs and seeing the constant battle between the opposing forces of performance and results. I suppose opposing isn't the correct word, as sometimes they're close allies, joined at the hip, smiling and happy. Conversely, though, when things go badly, they're still joined at the hip, dragging one another down, kicking and screaming.

    There is much sage poker wisdom out there about the value of being performance-oriented, and turning a blind eye to results, as variance will always lurk around the corner, bad beats will skulk around in dark alleys, unsustainable rushes will occasionally kiss your brow. And that's true, by and large. You can always control your performance. You can't always control your results. If you're looking for a benchmark, choose one that you can control.

    That said, I think there's also a danger, albeit a smaller one, in striving to always be performance-oriented. It's more philosophical than anything, but important to note, methinks.

    Simply put, the universe (nor any of its poker-playing denizens) does not care if you play poker the "right" way. There is no "right" way. Jim McManus can posture all he wants at the WSOP about people "disrespecting the game", but really, people, there is nothing to respect. Poker is a card-based method of gambling. Nothing more, nothing less. You can ritualize and codify it all you want but you'll never escape the simple fact that it's gambling. You don’t score extra style points for spectacular plays. Your performance is judged by one single, solitary thing: how much money do you win or lose.

    Can you be more or less skillful in poker? Of course. Does being more or less skillful translate directly to winning or losing money? In the long run, of course. Does it then logically follow that to be successful you should focus on improving your skill? Not exactly. Especially not in the traditional way that “skill” is defined in poker, as far as equating it with a perfect cocktail of analyzing betting patterns, solid play based on mathematical odds, starting hand selection, selective aggression, etc.

    Let's look at three different scenarios:

    Player #1) You've played poker for thirty years, seen it all, experienced it all, and are a very, very good limit hold 'em player. You play poker the "right" way, understand the nuances, have every trick and tool of the trade at your disposal. You play at a nearby B&M casino in a 30/60 game, 20 hours a week. Your win rate is 2.25BB/100.

    Player #2) You've been playing poker for two or three years, strictly online. You constantly review strategy books, analyze your results in PokerTracker, use PlayerView or GameTime+ to get instant snapshots of your opponents tendencies. You keep an eye firmly on the long-term prize, always thinking, always working to improve your play. You see the long poker road you’re traveling on, never getting caught up in short term results. You've steadily built a bankroll and worked your way up to playing one table of 15/30, 20 hours a week. Your win rate is 2BB/100 hands.

    Player #3) You've been playing poker for a year, strictly online. You read enough to get the basics down, have absorbed the tenants of aggressive poker being good, but that's it. You play ABC poker, don't use PokerTracker or PlayerView or GameTime+. You think poker blogs are gay and the only Dolly you’ve heard of has ginormous breasteses. But you kickass at Doom and can play lots of tables without blinking an eye, listening to Slayer while surfing midget porn sites. You play 8 tables at a time at 3/6, 20 hours a week. Your win rate is 0.25/BB 100.

    Which player is more successful and/or skillfull? While this is open to debate, I’d hazard that most people define “success” and “skill” in poker as ultimate profit/loss. Yes, indeed, it’s a little murky, as success can simply be having fun, accumulating knowledge, etc. But for the vast majority, success in poker is defined by profitability. With an eye towards that, let’s analyze the results of our players:

    Player #1) In a B&M casino you’re typically looking at 30 hands/hour. So Player #1 sees 600 hands each week. At their win rate of 2.25BB/100, playing one table of 30/60 they make $810/week. (We’ll ignore tips/drinks/food/gas and just leave it at that.)

    Player #2) Assuming an average of 75 hands/hour for online play, Player #2 sees about 1,500 hands per week. At their win rate of 2BB/100, playing one table of 15/30 they make $900/week.

    Player #3) Assuming an average of 75 hands/hour for online play, Player #3 sees about 12,000 hands per week. At their win rate of .25BB/100, playing eight tables of 3/6 they make $1,440/week.

    Which is pretty eye-opening. While most of us are likely striving to be Player #1, the grizzled, card-savvy vet of many a poker war, Player #1 is the least profitable/successful of the three, despite playing at the highest limits and having the highest BB/100 win rate.

    Player #2 is slightly more profitable than Player #1, even at a lower limit and lower win rate, because the extra hands they see more than makes up the difference. Despite their skill and success and performance-based mindset, however, their result playing one table of 15/30 successful is dwarfed by Player #3.

    Which bring us to Player #3. This monkey is barely profitable as far as BB/100, coming in at .25BB/100. Doesn’t study, doesn’t read, does nothing but play ABC poker, which anyone can learn with a minimum of effort. He does, however, play 8 tables. And does it passably well. And that makes all the difference in the world, as far as the resulting overall profit.

    This brings us to a fairly critical point in the whole performance vs. results debate. I’m going to backpedal a bit and, in some ways, contradict what I’ve just babbled about. So much of this is semantics, really, as far as how you define things. I’m not suggesting, in any fashion, that performance doesn’t include factors like multi-tabling or anything else outlined above. It obviously can and, in most cases, should. Performance encompasses all of the above factors that lead to profitability. So yes, indeed, we should always put performance before results. If we perform optimally, optimal results follow. We should always be performance-oriented. But we should be really damn careful what it is we mean when we say that, what it is we picture in our mind when we caution ourselves, again and again, to be performance-oriented.

    We encounter all sorts of paradigms along our poker path that represent success. Most common, and what most of us internalize and shoot for, is the idea that we will slowly gain experience, build a bankroll, and, by thinking deeply about the game, move higher and higher in limits.

    If we always look at the big picture, ignoring the short-term slings and arrows of variance and bad beats and suckouts, if we always study and strive and analyze, we’ll finally reach that goal, sitting at the table with the big boys, the ones that play “real” poker, where all our skills can shine and be recognized, where we start making “real” money.

    That’s not really wrong, as that definitely can happen and does happen. It’s just not really right, either.

    If you’re playing poker to make money, your goal is to make money. That’s it. The quickest path to making money isn’t thinking deeply about the game, working your way up to rubbing elbows with the big boys. It’s by playing as many tables as you possibly can online, while remaining marginally profitable on a BB/100 basis.

    That’s it. That’s all there is to it, if your goal is sheer profit. Volume > poker skill.

    Yeah, I know, I’m oversimplifying like hell. And I’m really not suggesting that everyone’s goal should be to 8 table 3/6, sitting at the computer like a clicking automaton, mindlessly moving from table to table to table. That’s not fun. Especially if you do it 20 hours a week, each and every week.

    All I’m saying, ultimately, is that being performance-oriented is a fine goal, if you both broaden and carefully define the definition of performance. Too often I see advice on being performance-oriented delivered in a slightly dangerous way. The implied message is that if you always keep the big picture in mind, you’ll someday arrive in the high limit promised land where suckouts don’t exist, where your skills finally shine and you’re rewarded handsomely for it. That, over the long haul, you’ll move up and up and up in limits, always making the best play, always making more money.

    Suckouts always exist. Variance always exists. You’ll have the same frustrating experiences at 30/60 that you do at 1/2. To make it even worse (if you’re solely in it for the money), you’ll be making less successfully playing a single table of 30/60 than you would 8 tabling 3/6, playing like a robot monkey.

    To wrap up this babbling, yes. Always be performance-oriented. Yes, But make sure you know what you mean when you say that, and that it jives with your own long-term poker goals. Being performance-oriented can (and should) include things like training yourself to play more tables, investing in a new monitor to fit 4 Party tables comfortably on your monitor, closely watching your BB/100.

    While much of your poker performance does indeed involve abstract concepts such as attaining a Zen-like state where you always make the optimal play, based on strategy and knowledge and thought (with no eye to things as tacky and garish as short-term results), an equal part of performance is inevitably rooted in the mundane, everyday concerns of things as seemingly ridiculous as how many tables can fit on your monitor.

    Tuesday > Monday

    Learning to weld is officially teh shit. We got to do some electric arc welding last night, which beats the hell out of gas welding. The sad/awesome thing is that all the while I was doing mental calculations of how many Party/Empire reloads it'll take to pay for all the cool welding equipment I'm inevitably going to want to buy when class is done. They're going to offer an intermediate class, though, that continues where the beginning one the wife and I are taking now leaves off, so we'll probably just take that, which likely buys me a few months to raise the assorted scratch for welding toys.

    Didn't play a single hand of poker yesterday. The fact that that's noteworthy is pretty, umm, noteworthy in and of itself.

    Real honest to Jebus poker post coming later, when I catch up on some work.

    Monday, January 24, 2005

    Has Somebody Got a Case of the Mondays?

    Man. Monday just needs to get itself hence. Ain't nothing good about Monday.

    Didn't get a ton of gambling in this weekend, as I had to run assorted errands, watch assorted football, and other sundry assorted stuff. I did get the InterPoker monthly bonus cleared, though, in pretty crazy fashion. I'm really not sure what was up, if someone there flipped the give-the-monkey-good-cards switch or something, but I deposited $100, played £1/2 6 max tables for 500 hands or so, and cashed out at $576. Just kept hitting flop after flop after flop. Yesterday I had two straight flushes in the span of forty-five minutes. Craziness.

    I also continued the ScurvyDog tour of every online poker site in the universe, signing up at Golden Tiger Poker and SportingBet Poker. Golden Tiger only offers a $30 bonus but it's added instantly (well, within 24 hours) on any deposit of $30 or more, and you only have to play 100 raked hands to be able to withdraw it. It's a Prima site so you've got all sorts of yahoos playing and really soft games.

    SportingBet Poker is nuts. It's like Pacific multiplied times five, as far as soft, soft games and crazy players. Fairly common to see 10 max tables at assorted levels (even up to $3/6) with 80-90% of players seeing the flop. They offer a decent bonus, up to $100 total for 500 raked hands, but it's a bit slow to clear, as you have to contribute to the pot for it to count, and their software only allows you to play one table at a time. Plus their servers go down fairly often, so you get booted off a good bit. I'll probably hang around to clear the full bonus, as you can work it off pretty quickly at stud, which I'd like to play a bit more of anyway.

    Trying. To. Think. Of. Something. Interesting. Failing. Failing.

    I am looking forward to welding class tonight, so I suppose that's something slightly redemptive about Mondays. We have to produce some sort of welded sculptural piece at the end of class, and are starting on it either this week or next week. I still have absolutely no idea what to do, but I think I'm going to revive an idea I had in the past of making (for lack of a better term) weirdass coffee makers. Coffee makers are pretty simple to put together, as far as the parts and tricknology involved, and I thought it'd be funny to get all Rube Goldberg on a coffee maker's ass. I mean, yeah, sure, there's obviously an advantage in designing sleek, slim ergonomic coffee makers, all hip and cool. But I think it'd be pretty amusing to go the other route, with some big, honking welded monstrosity that, in the end, produces exactly the same cup of coffee. We'll see how that goes.

    Must. Stop. Hiding. From. Stupid. Day. Job. Work. Meh.

    Friday, January 21, 2005

    State of the Poker Union

    So my wife finally had the talk last night, as far as my sordid poker/blackjack winnings, what to do with said winnings, what to do with future winnings, etc. And, to give credit where credit is due, she was very understanding, on every level.

    I'd been avoiding this talk for awhile as part of me feared an ultimatum of withdrawing the nice healthy bankroll I've built up in the last few months. So I've basically been squirreling money away in my Neteller account and keeping mum about it, as that was the working agreement we'd come to the last time we discussed it (i.e. we agreed that she trusts me that I'm making money from my assorted gambling but she didn't want to know how much, as then she'd be tempted to do the wife thing and demand that it be withdrawn, etc.) But, umm, the rush I've been on the last month or so at the blackjack tables (recent donkey behavior aside) has, umm, left me with too much money in my Neteller account. I know, I know, what a horrible dilemma.

    So I finally 'fessed up last night. Which is a pretty easy confession, when you can say "Umm, honey, we need to talk about the (insert fairly large number of dollars) that I've earned in the last few months from my degenerate gambling."

    Our solution is that we're going to open an Orange savings and investment account, and that the bulk of the money will live there. 2.35% isn't horrible for a completely liquid investment with 0% risk. Our 5 year plan is to live out in the country, with some land, so we're a bit more short-term oriented as far as investments and what-not. I just have absolutely no faith in Shrub and his complete lack of larger economic foresight. Everything could be fine and the markets could tick right along or the deficits we're piling up (coupled with unheard levels of consumer debt and the demise of the value of the dollar worldwide) could crush us like a bug. Who the hell knows. Despite my gambling shenanigans, I really don't like to "gamble" in the traditional sense, and investing in individual US equities seems just that, a gamble.

    While the bulk of the money gets parked at Orange, I get to keep $5,000 for my gambling roll. That's more than enough to chase assorted bonuses and more than enough to sit higher limits, when/if I feel so inclined. While I'm still clicking along in my weekly foray into higher limits, I'm still getting used to the waters. I've been lucky enough not to encounter the inevitable punch-to-the-gut downswing that I know is coming from Senor Variance at some point, but I know it'll come. And, to be completely honest, I'm in a nice little comfort zone right now, playing the bonus whore game. With all the accounts at my disposal and working the poker/casino bonus scene, I can pretty consistently pull in $1,500/month in profit, playing solely at low limits, putting in 10 hours a week at the virtual tables.

    Moving forward, anything I have at the end of the month, in excess of the initial $5,000 bankroll, gets deposited into the Orange account. 50% of it goes into savings and 50% of it into mutual funds. I've never been a huge fan of mutual funds, as I've always believe that if you're going to invest, then put the time in and do the work to get a better return from individual equities. But again, that whole uncertainty thing, and, honestly, I'd rather focus on other things.

    Given my general hoarding nature, I actually like the idea of regularly cashing out winnings into a savnings/investment account. More than any interest/profit it might generate, I like the idea of having a goal to shoot for each month. That's been missing lately and I think my game and motivation have suffered. While it's not the worst situation to be in, I'm less inclined to chase after free money that poker sites are handing to me when the net result is only adding $50 to the pile of money in my Neteller account. Being able to beat what I deposited into savings the previous month, though, motivates me, and the actual dollar amount will be in the range in which $50 actually makes an appreciable difference.

    We also agreed that, if need be, I can withdraw money to replenish the bankroll. And, if I decide in the future to make a full-time go of playing the poker, I can withdraw as much from savings as needed. I was expecting this to be a sticking point but the wife was amazingly cool with the idea. I think she understands how less than fulfilling the day job is for me right now, and trusts me enough, based on my results so far, to be able to make a go of it at poker. I'd also have assorted side business stuff to keep busy and make money from, so it's not like I'd be leaping whole hog into playing poker full-time.

    All of which I'm sure is boring as hell to anyone reading this, other than myself. Long story short, never underestimate either the power of poker or the capacity of your wife to be cool.

    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    I Will Not Act Like a Donkey, I Will Not Act Like a Donkey

    We’re going to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a new feature, titled Stupid Donkey Confessions. Stupid Donkey Confessions will be exactly that, an infrequent (hopefully) feature in which the brave blogger regales you with tales of acting like, you guessed it, a Stupid Donkey.

    Assorted kidding aside, I think it’s actually pretty valuable to share such tales, as we all fall prey to the all-too-human tendency to gloss over the ugly and only share the shiny and happy. And that’s cool, but it really doesn’t help the unwashed poker masses reading assorted blogs, trying to improve their games, as it’s all too easy to be disappointed to see that every other poker monkey out there is crushing games and making money, while they’re still trying to turn the corner.

    So, with no further ado:

    Stupid Donkey Confession: January 20, 2005

    I’ve been running really well lately with casino bonuses. Abnormally well. I’ve been playing the same type of bonus at assorted casinos, ones in which you deposit $100 and get a free $200 bonus, so you start at $300. The catch (and there’s always a catch) is that when you request your first cashout, the casino takes back the bonus. So it’s hard to book a profit if you wager in the normal fashion.

    That said, if you bet aggressively (and do lots of bonuses like these) you can show a profit. A pretty hefty profit. But you have to be willing to bet big and to lose your entire $100 deposit more often than not. You profit by setting aggressive goals on each casino so that when you hit, you hit big.

    On the last 4 of these I did, I set a goal of $800 profit, after the casino took back the bonus when I withdrew. With an aggressive goal like that, odds are that I’ll only make my goal on 1 of the 4. I went 4/4.

    I’d withdrawn my winnings from all but one casino. I was about to call it a night last night, withdraw, go to bed happy, but didn’t. I was so far ahead on the group of bonuses as a whole that I thought I’d gambool a bit, and see if I could bump it up to a profit of a cool $1000. I even pulled up the cashier page to withdraw and said naah, let’s gambool, and sat down, betting $100/hand at blackjack.

    And I won. Then hit a blackjack. Then another. Then I won a few, lost a few, then won, finally stopping to check the balance. Which was sitting at $1,450. Subtracting the $200 bonus, that meant I’d show a nice $1,150 profit when I cashed out. Sweet. I sat there grinning, thinking how that was a mortgage payment and a few nice steak dinners for two, all for thirty minutes of playing blackjack online. Or four or five truck payments. Or a breeding pair of miniature donkeys, when my wife and I move out to the country and have a farm.

    So I cash out and go to bed, right? Right? Nay, nay. I didn’t, with donkey ears starting to sprout on my head. I was so far ahead, both overall and on this particular casino, that I thought I’d roll the bones some more, and see just how far the rush would go. It was basically a freeroll anyway, and I was running well. I’d play until I either hit $1,500 or dropped back to $1,000. Then I’d cash out.

    So I kept playing. And lost a hand. And another. Then I split 99 versus a 6, and got a 2 on each 9. So I doubled on both. And lost when the dealer drew to 21. Suddenly I was below my stop loss of $1,000. Time to cash out. Right?

    *Insert sound of braying donkey*

    They just took my hefty profit, damnit. And I wanted it back. And it was all still a freeroll, damnit. And I was going to get it back. Damnit.

    So I kept betting. Except I started betting $200/hand. And I kept losing. And losing. And ten or twelve hands later my balance showed $0.00. (Well, technically it showed $0.25 but that’s beside the point and much less dramatic.)

    So what lessons can we learn from this donkified behavior? In no particular order:

    1) Don’t play if you don’t feel 100% certain that that’s what you should be doing. Just shut the computer down and get up. If you’re not in the optimal state of mind then the answer is simple: wait until you are. The beauty of gambling on the Intraweb is that it’s always there, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If in doubt, shut down and stand up.

    2) Set goals and stick to them. More and more I believe that people who say you shouldn’t be results-oriented are full of crap. Yes, I know, it’s one long session, yes, that’s true. But the world is results-oriented and ignoring that fact and espousing some largely unattainable Zen master state is counter-productive. It’s not the setting of short-term goals that’s unproductive, it’s the setting of extremely short-term goals (e.g. I will win $5 for every 20 minutes I play) that’s unproductive. I set a goal, based on my bankroll and risk tolerance. And I hit it. Twice. But I kept playing, kept pushing, long past the point where I ceased to play smart.

    3) Once you start equating winnings that you haven’t yet cashed in into tangible things such as mortgages, car payments, or Big Macs, you’ve stopped playing your best. If you do this, stop. Don’t play another hand. Cash out. You’ve actualized the winnings into something desirable, something that can be taken away from you. And once it is taken away from you, you act like any monkey would. You get pissed. You start tilting.

    4) I tilted. Plain and simple. I chased my losses by increasing my bet size to a level that was dangerously ruinous, that gave me no margin for error to ride out short term streaks. And I got wrecked. You may get lucky every now and then, chasing losses, but following this path ultimately leads to doom. While you remember the positive shiny times that things turn and you save a disastrous session by chasing losses, you mentally skip over all the chips you bleed in the long run doing this.

    5) It’s not your money until you cash in. That’s the most important lesson here. Those chips stacked in front of you? Ain’t yours, hoss. I don’t care if it’s a stack touching the ceiling, threatening to topple over and crush you. None of it is yours until you take them to the window and cash in. Once you start thinking of the chips as yours, of the winnings as yours, while you’re still sitting at the table, you’re in trouble. Stop. Get up. Cash out.

    6) There’s no such thing as a freeroll. If you can possibly win money, it ain’t a freeroll. If your value your time, and you’re playing, it ain’t a freeroll. There’s never any situation in which you can tell yourself “It’s just a freeroll” and be correct. If you’re playing, play your best. Play smart. Play like it matters desperately.

    7) Being ahead or behind don’t make the money you’re putting at risk any more or less valuable. Being way ahead doesn’t give you the license to play less than optimally, nor does being way behind. There’s absolutely no difference between those colored pixels and a crisp $100 bill crackling in your fingers. None. Fifty bucks is fifty bucks, whether it’s in a stack of 5,000 black chips or the last chip in your grubby, sweating palm.

    And with that, fair readers, we end this installment of Stupid Donkey Confessions. May all your sessions be fruitful and free from donkified behavior.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    Oops, I Did it Again

    Just so you know, this post will contain absolutely no poker content. There, you've been warned.

    I finally managed to see the Britney movie Crossroads last weekend. I'd wanted to see it but was holding out for a decent excuse, and it finally arrived in the form of Mr. Sinus, which is an Austin-based show that's a rip-off of the MST3K format, but at a movie theater with real live action and beer and food and what-not. Last weekend they did Crossroads and I was, indeed, in attendance.

    Aside from the Britney appeal (which I can't claim to be immune to, despite how pre-packaged and formulaic it may be), the real reason I wanted to see it is that a friend of mine from high school is in it. Not only is he in it, but he's the bad-boy musician guy that ferries the young ladies on their cross-country journey of discovery. Yep, that guy. The one whose name I'm avoiding actually typing out of fear that he'll Google himself one day and find an, umm, less than glowing review of this thespian skills.

    All I have to say, in review, is "wow". Don't get me wrong, I like bad movies, love bad movies even. I own Road House. Con Air is one of my favorite movies. Ever. But sweet Jebus, Crossroads is such a freaking hunk of bad junk. And my buddy from high school is somehow, inexpicably, not even the best actor in the flaming hunk of junk that is that movie. He might even be the worst actor in it, as much as that pains me to type.

    This isn't entirely surprising, as he was the baliff in our high school's production of 12 Angry Men, not even able to land one of the 12 available speaking Angry Men parts. But he's since gone to college, acted in a ton of things, studied at Columbia, quickly found an agent, got gigs, etc.

    To be fair, he didn't have much to work with, and you can't blame any realtively unknown actor-type for leaping at a chance to be in a high-profile flick like that, no matter how bad.

    So, umm, yeah. Not good. And there's not even that much sexy Britney content after the first ten minutes or so. Bah.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    Three Day Weekend = Good Time Gamblin' Fun

    I've officially entered into the bizarro-but-pleasant-land where every single card is falling my way, whether it be playing blackjack or poker. I realize these upswings don't last, that it's largely due to ridiculous good luck, but I'll be damned if I'm not enjoying it right now while it lasts.

    I am going to take it easy this next week, though. Maybe even ban myself completely from any poker and blackjack. I've been playing two or three hours a day pretty regularly for the last month and that's just too much, in the grand scheme of things, especially if you have a day job, a wife, etc. Poker is good and money is good but there are much, much better things in the big ol' wide world.

    What else, what else... I wish I had more sage poker wisdom to dispense, but most of what I can conjur up is every day grunt monkey sort of stuff. On that nore, here's the Grunt Monkey Poker Advice of the Day:

    If you multi-table, don't be so ready to click the auto action buttons in a rush to get to the next table. I'm especially prone to this pre-flop with mid/small pocket pairs, hands like 88 in late position, that I'm reasonably sure I can limp in with. I'll click the "call" button then move on to the next table, knowing that if it's raised I'll be alerted and can then fold, but otherwise I'll auto call, the blinds will act, the flop will be dealt, all while I'm focusing my attention on other tables.

    The only problem with this is that if everyone folds to me (and I'm in late position), the correct play isn't to call with 88 but to raise, if you're the first person to enter the pot. The same holds true with hands like A10s, KJo, etc. Basically any marginal hand that you'd like to limp with and see a flop is worth a raise, if you're in late position and first to enter the pot.

    I'm not saying that the auto act buttons aren't helpful for multi-tabling, as they definitely are, just don't fall in love with the call button.

    Hmm. It appears I'm going to half to take half a day vacation to go tend to the sickly wife. This may put my self-imposed gambling ban for a week to the test. Or, you know, I could just said ban start tomorrow...

    Monday, January 17, 2005

    Pacific Poker: Aquarium of the Week Award Winner

    And the Aquarium of the Week Award goes to:

    Pacific Poker: Get $100 Free!

    Sweet merciful Jebus. I'd forgotten just how bad the players here are. I've been pretty busy the last few days *cough, casino bonuses, cough* and logging far too much computer time, as my wife has been feeling sickly so I've been putting all the free, unencumbered time to good use. I've also been knocking out some lingering poker bonuses and had one left at Pacific that I thought I'd clear out.

    So I deposited some cash, downloaded the software again, and fired up a 3/6 table. at Pacific, barely paying attention to it as I multi-tasked on about eighteen different things.

    Couple of hours later I cash out up $382. And the crazy thing is that I really didn't get amazing cards, other than a couple of full houses where it got capped on every street. I'm not sure what some of the people were smoking but time after time I'd make what I thought were crying calls with top pair, only to have the guy flip over J high, which he was capping every street with. People cold-calling three bets pre-flop with K4o. Pure unadulterated insanity. These guys made Crypto players look like superstars. And that takes some doing.

    So yeah. If you haven't hit up Pacific yet, give it a whirl. They have a pretty nice initial signup bonus ($100 bonus on a $400 deposit) in addition to bad, bad players.

    Sunday, January 16, 2005

    It's Sunday and Tomorrow is Sunday, Too

    Umm, yeah. Can I just have a do over on my assorted football pickin' for the weekend? That'd be great. Thanks.

    Atlanta obviously didn't play like crap the whole year, but man, that team looked scary good last night. I potentially take back what I said about the NFC representative automatically getting thumped in the Super Bowl. Mr. Vick is a freak.

    So far I'm digging this three day weekend. Yesterday was really damn productive, as I knocked out two bonuses that'd been lingering for forever on the to do list, finally got paid by a couple of casinos, and wrecked one of those freebie $5 bonuses that Casino-on-Net gives every few weeks, managing to run it up to $300 before I cashed out.

    I'd kind of forgotten what it was like to get smacked in the face by the deck, which happened a good bit yesterday, and is always nice. It was partially due to really bad players at Bodog paying off obvious hands like nut flushes and boats, but I'll take it any way I can get it.

    I go through phases where poker is infinitely interesting to me and other phases where poker seems terminally boring. Which is odd. Right now I'm in an infinitely interesting upswing. While it's somewhat tied to my results, it's more than just that, as I've been terminally bored when posting great results, punishing silly muppets hand after hand after hand.

    Most of it, I think, results from the odd nature of poker, in that you can acquire a goodly amount of skill and knowledge away from the table, reading and absorbing strategy, thinking about how to play hands, analyzing past results, ruminating, ruminating, ruminating.

    But in many ways that's completely divorced from actually sitting at the table, playing hands. They're obviously linked, but they're more like parallel tracks that edge towards one another ever so slightly. The longer you work at it, the closer they get together. Way out there on the horizon they may, indeed, touch. But you're always trying to get to that point, always trying to find some nice alchemical formula that results in theoretical poker knowledge being translated into poker results at the table, in a perfect 1-1 ratio.

    The kicker (and what's behind the whole infinitely interesting/terminally boring conundrum) is that there's no way getting around the fact that if you decide to embark on the journey, you have to sit through thousands and thousands of hands. Hundreds of thousands of hands. Mucking the same crappy cards thousands and thousands of time. Watching muppets hit that two outer over and over and over.

    So that finally, after all those hands, patterns start to emerge and you start successfully putting into practice, almost unconsciously, all that knowledge you soaked up. At which point poker is very cool. Until you plateau out and hit a stage where you haven't built up the requisite amount of experience to move any further. At which point the grinding commences, once again. As long as it's two steps forward and one step back, though, you eventually get there in the end.

    Another much simpler way of saying all this is that I'm currently (and constantly) amazed at just how little I know and understand about poker. Things that seem impossibly difficult suddenly become easy, while things I take for granted suddenly become impossibly difficult. And that's cool. Really.

    Friday, January 14, 2005

    Sweet, Sweet Friday

    Apparently hammers and strippers just don't mix.

    My little Party free chip spree ended not too long after my last post, when my boat ran into a bigger beat at a 10/20 BBJ table. On the bright side, I ended up about $400 to the good when it was all said and done, with all the withdrawals processed and safely in my Neteller account. On the slightly non-bright side, it appears that Party is just leaving those bonuses in accounts now. So at some point I'll have to work off the raked hands that are attached to those bonuses before being able to go after any bonuses in the future. Which is a pain, but they were pretty typical bonuses to begin with, so it shouldn't be that hard to bang out the hands.

    Things are still running well, gambling-wise. I've worked my way through the first couple of tiers of good casino bonuses, sticky and non-sticky, and am knocking out some of the ones that offer decent bonuses but ones that you can only clear at games like SicBo and Pai Gow, etc. Which is sort of cool, as far as playing new games, even if the HA is slightly higher. It always amazes me as far as the ability and predilection of the human mind to construct crazily intricate systems for the sole purpose of gambling.

    I'm starting to get the itch to play some MTTs again. I've been tournament-free for going on a month or two now. Still cranking away on assorted projects, cranking away at the tables, yada yada yada.

    I got a call from a fundraiser at the University of Texas last night. We didn't get off to the best of starts, as he called at exactly 8:57, just getting in under the ban of harassing anyone by phone after 9:00 PM. I normally just hang up on any and all telemarketers/phone solicitations but for some reason feel compelled to at least attempt to be polite when it's someone from either my undergrad or graduate school calling to raise funds. This particular guy was representing the Fine Arts department (I got an MFA in Creative Writing back in the day) and wanted money so they could get matching grants, blah blah blah. So he gives me the spiel, says he knows I'm a Fine Arts graduate and that he won't hit me up for too much (ha ha), and that all he's asking is if I could help them out, maybe with a $500 contribution?

    And I was all prepped with my stock line of I'll-begin-to-think-about-donating-money-as-an-alumni-when-I-pay-off-my-damn-student-loans (which is actually true), except I just started laughing instead. $500??? So I manage to choke out something about still paying student loans, to which he agreed, said he completely understood, and how about he'd cut me a deal and I could just give $250?

    At which point, still giggling, I just told him to have a good night and hung up. I mean, good lord. It's not like I graduated from a MBA program. And that's ignoring the fact that the University of Texas has more money than Jebus.

    Thursday, January 13, 2005

    Messin' with Party

    I hesitate to post this, as it's obviously gaming the system, but what the hell. Just be forewarned that there could possibly be repercussions, as it involves using Party bonus codes that aren't publicly available, so it's really obvious which accounts are partaking in this.

    Some of you may have seen this on other forums, but there are some odd non-public Party codes available right now. They're all 10x raked, 30 days to clear bonuses. Here they are:

    JAN05CASHOUT1 - 100% to $100
    JAN05CASHOUT2 - 100% to $50
    JAN05CASHOUT3 - $50 for $20
    JAN05CASHOUT4 - $50 to $15

    Here's what's odd about them. The bonus is immediately added to your account. You can't cash out the bonus, though, so you can't simple deposit, get the bonus, then withdraw. Party is also removing these bonuses from accounts, in a fairly haphazard fashion. Because they each require 10x to clear, the odds are great that while you can get the bonuses right now, Party will remove them from your account before you can clear them in a normal fashion.

    What you can do, though, is deposit, get the bonuses, then cashout your original deposits immediately, so that only bonus money is left in your account. If you get all four, that means you'll have $185 in your account in pure bonus money. Take that money to a 5/10, 10/20, or 15/30 table and take a shot with it. It's going to disappear anyway, as Party is yanking back these bonuses as they find them.

    Take it to a higher limit table and gambool it up, hoping you hit some cards quickly. If you do, then cash out your winnings in increments of $50 or $100, leaving you with your original bonus money stake to play with. Keep cashing out what you can and repeat, over and over.

    Yeah, I know, somewhat sneaky, but I've just withdrawn over $400 this way, after being blessed with a nice initial run of cards at a 10/20 table. And as of 5:40 PM Central time, the bonus codes still work for some reason, despite Party manually removing a lot of them after they're credited to accounts.

    Like I said originally, this leaves an obvious trail and may not make the good folks at Party all that happy. So keep that in mind if you go down this path.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    Sweet Merciful Jebus How is it Only Wednesday?

    This week is dragging ass. Dragging, I sez.

    Speaking of asses, I need to get off mine and do my taxes. Despite my best intentions I always wait until the absolute last minute, even when I'm getting a hefty return back. While I'm not exactly sure how the whole getting married thing is going to play out, tax-wise, we should get a pretty decent chunk o' change back this year, what with the mortgage and interest paid on my student loans, etc. It'll pretty much go straight to the fine people at Discover, but that coupled with my bonus check in March should wipe out all our existing debt. Well, ignoring the mortgage, which is sort of a given.

    Still grinding away at assorted poker bonuses. If you have a Paradise account that you haven't played at in awhile, check your email, as I just got an account specific 50% reload offer from them, for up to $50 max. Which isn't what I need right now, as I'm still trying to catch up on a few lingering bonuses, but you know, what the hell.

    I've been bulking up the poker blog roll a bit, trying my best to keep up with all the poker bloggy goodness out there. I basically just add new ones to the bottom of the existing roll, which is sort of interesting in and of itself, to see the chronological history of my own poker blog discovery over time. If you've got a blog that's not listed over there, give me a holler either via comments or at and I'll hook you up. Here's just a sampling of recently added poker goodness, in no particular order:

  • This is Not a Poker Blog

  • Poker Punkass

  • Show me the Monet

  • Vanity and Poker

  • Poker Medicine

  • Trials of a Poker Apprentice

  • JSAW

  • Big Lick

  • Liquid Poker

  • KingSix Poker

  • Drop the Hammer

  • Twenty-One Outs Twice

  • Human Head Thinks Big

  • Poker in Iowa

  • Poker, Pique, and Parenthood

  • Based on Years of Experience

  • Bad Beat Blog

  • Short Stacked
  • Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    Cutting Metal with Fire is Cool

    Not much at all to relate on the gambling front. The first art welding class my wife and I are taking started last night and that ended up sucking up the majority of the evening, with little free time for degenerate pursuits. The class is pretty damn cool, though, and we even got to carve up some sheet metal with an oxy acetylene torch. The studio offering the classes is brand spanking new so all the equipment is still shiny, the owner and main instructor guy are all excited, and it looks to be a kick-ass class. I'm not exactly sure what the hell I'm going to make, as the class is designed to build up to everyone creating their own welded sculpture piece, but I mainly just wanted to learn how to weld (without taking a trade class and feeling like a dumbass poser), so everything else is gravy.

    I did sneak in some casino time at the blackjack tables. Still running well, still being blessed by Gamblor, patron saint of degenerate gamblers. It's interesting the effect all this casino bonus whoring is having on my poker game. By and large, there ain't much similar between blackjack and poker, other than the deck of cards used, but I have to say that it has helped my poker game. Not in any real strategic sense, but in a basic, grunt monkey sort of way, as far as not fearing the size of a particular bet. Playing blackjack for $100/hand while chasing a sticky bonus may not be the most +EV move in the world (well, actually it is, but that's another story), but it definitely puts a raise at the poker table into perspective. By nature I cringe from ramming and jamming as much as I should, fearing that lurking monster hand, but lately I'm much more willing to play aggressively, as an extra BB or two is a comparative drop in the bucket to some of the chips I'm tossing around at the blackjack table.

    It's been posted elsewhere by much more astute poker minds, but there really is a lot of truth in the paradoxical statement that you can't play your best until the chips are meaningless. It took me awhile to get my noggin' around that but I think it's pretty damn close to the truth. That's not to say you can't be a very successful, profitable player and pinch every penny and watch every bet and ante; you can. You're just sacrificing your very best play and settling for pretty good play instead, as you're always wagering slightly scared, checking your account balance every three seconds, etc.

    I think I'm going to load the football betting boat with St. Louis +7 this week. I'm tempted to stay on the Viking train as they're currently +9 but I think Philly is going to get the job done. Yeah, they thumped GB but the Pack was pretty incosistent all season and that's the same Vikings team that lost a must win game against the mighty Redskins just a few weeks ago. I just don't buy into Atlanta and St. Louis is pretty hot, playing indoors on turf, with nothing to lose. They may not win but I think they'll cover that spread pretty easily.

    That said, whoever comes out of the NFC is going to get thumped. Absolutely thumped.

    Monday, January 10, 2005

    Monday Monday

    I think banging out +3000 raked hands this weekend was, while profitable, a bit of a mistake. I likes teh poker but I was completely burnt last night, finishing up the last of the Empire reload while watching the WSOP Tournament of Champions (TOC) re-run on television.

    I knew the result of the TOC but hadn't actually seen the broadcast until last night. I think Raymer is obviously a really good player, really great guy, etc., but he played pretty piss poor in that event, especially the two hands at the end that took him out. I know it's easy to be a critical railbird but calling an all-in re-raise with 89o just isn't going to get it done. He was within spitting distance of a first place prize of $2 million and busted out by getting involved in two hands he just didn't need to be splashing around in, one with 89s and the other with the 89o mentioned above.

    Catching up on assorted blog reading this morning and came across an interesting comment thread at Internet Poker Pro(which is a great blog to check out for high-level discussion of higher stakes PL Omaha hands and strategy). One of the comments on his most recent post mentions a phenomenon I've noticed in my own play, which I'll call I-Know-Better-But syndrome (for lack of a better term).

    IKBB syndrome basically consists of analyzing a situation, determining the best course, preparing to make that decision...and suddenly making another decision. The best personal example I can think of is limping in from early position with JQs in a loose, aggressive game. Granted, that can be a profitable play, but I know myself well enough to know that for me it's -EV, because I'm not able to push my good but but not great hands hard enough to make up for all the times the flop completely misses me. Far too often it gets raised and I call an extra bet (or two) only to see the flop completely miss me and muck.

    So in early position, in loose, aggressive games, I need to muck JQs. Every single time. And I know this. I really do. And I tell myself this. Except far too often I find my mouse, as if of its own accord, slipping from the fold to call button at the very last second, just as I'm clicking.

    Why does this happen? I'm not completely sure. I think we all personally gravitate towards certain types of hands, based on personality and style of play. I have no problem at all mucking a hand like 33 in that same situation. None. IKBB syndrome never raises its ugly head. JQs always gets me, though, as I get more excited about the prospect of its possibilities (straight, flush, straight flush, royal flush, oh my!) than I do about flopping a set with a small pocket pair. But both those hands are just as marginal in that situation and should probably be mucked by most players.

    The only cure I know is a general cure-all I've found to help me, which is to just sit on your hands. Literally. This is a holdover from my days of teaching chess, as a common mistake beginning players make is to move way too quickly, immediately reaching out for that knight when they see a great move. (Which is especially painful in chess since if you touch a piece you're committed to move it, except in friendly games.) So I'd make students literally sit on their hands, to prevent any sudden grasping of pieces, until they'd taken the time they should be taking to determine their next move.

    If I'm just playing one or two tables, I make myself do the same at the virtual poker tables. I don't leave my hand on the mouse (or on the touchpad of my laptop) and instead sit there with my arms crossed or riffle chips in my mouse hand. Basically anything to occupy my ability to make an insta-decision, just to buy myself that extra second or two of analysis, so I can talk myself down from decisions I know better than to make.

    It's embarrassingly simple but it's helped me a lot, especially in NL games. Poker is a game of aggression and frustration and confrontation and we all get swept away at times, pissed at that bastard that keeps coming over the top, pissed that we just got sucked out on for the seventh straight time, pissed at any and everything. Of all the forms of poker, I think NL brings this out the most, for the very obvious reason of the typically larger stakes involved in single, solitary decisions. If you're going to potentially be throwing your whole stack out there, you better be damn sure you're making the best decision you can. Anything you can do to force yourself to take an extra second or two to anaylze the situation is a good thing.

    Time to stop hiding from the day job.

    Saturday, January 08, 2005

    Call Me Kermit

    I just pulled quite the muppet move while clearing the last of the monthly Will Hill bonus and thought I'd share the muppetry. Too often I get involved in illustrative hands but then manage to complete forget about it and never getting around to posting.

    I've posted before about the value of calling one last bet on the river if it's a big pot, even if you're 90% sure you're beaten. It took me awhile to fully absorb and implement that, as it feels pretty donkified to throw away money when your finely honed poker instincts tell you that you're beaten, but it really is a valuable lesson to learn.

    I'm playing at a loose passive 10max £1/£2 table with almost no raising pre-flop. I limp in with 55 from UTG (I know, I know), it's raised by MP, and five of us see the flop of 234, rainbow. Which isn't the worst flop for me but I obviously need some help. Check to MP, who bets, and everyone else calls. Turn is a 7. I check, MP bets, everyone calls. River is a 10. I check, fully intending to make a crying call if/when MP bets, on the slim chance he just had overcards, probably suited ones of some sort. SB calls, BB calls, and I say "Bah, screw it" and muck.


    There were about 15 BB in the pot when I mucked. It was 1 BB to call. The truly horrible part of that fold is that I'd already decided to call one bet. The fact that two people also called doesn't change that equation one bit. It was still one bet to call.

    Granted, it's pretty rare that in this case, indeed, my pair of 5s would have held up (MP had AKs, BB had AJ, and SB won the hand with Q3o), especially given the way the betting played out. But that's exactly what happened.

    Moral of the story?

    1) Don't fold to one last bet on the river if you have any remote chance at all of winning. Don't get distracted by trivial factors. If you decide to call one bet, call one bet.

    Football Pickin'

    Just dropped a chunk o' change on Minnesota +7. We'll see just how stupid that is. There's absolutely no reason to make that wager, based on all demonstrable evidence in recent weeks in the NFL. But the line has been looking hinky all week, as if the book is encouraging money to come in on the Packers, so I'm pitching my lot in with the book.

    Put a smaller chunk o' change on St. Louis +4. Seattle is just so damn schizophrenic and the Rams are playing well lately. Granted, it's hard to beat a team 3 times in a season but I still like St. Louis.

    The Whorin' Life Ain't the Easy Life

    I'm not exactly complaining but man, that Empire reload is putting my bonus whorin' abilities to the test. It wouldn't be so bad in and of itself but I'm double-dipping now on all the monthly bonuses and trying to knock those out too. Yesterday I had twelve tables open at one point, between two desktops and my laptop (which was also grinding on autoplay through the $40,000 WR I have on an Aztec Riches casino bonus).

    The day job continues to spiral downward into a pit of sucking. On the bright side, gambling-related income continues to rise. This poses an interesting dilemma. I need to suck it up and deal for at least another year in order to build a larger cushion of savings. But yeah.

    I've been sitting at Crypto 10max £5/£10 tables for the last few weeks, one day a week. It's been interesting, to say the least. I've been doing pretty well but I've also been blessed with a nice run of cards, and I've only gotten in a little over 600 hands, so we'll just ignore the current ridiculous 12.7BB/100 number PokerTracker shows me at.

    It's interesting playing these tables as it's a bit hard to determine what is straight up idiotic play and what's the normal hyperaggressive play you'll encounter at tables of that limit. The Crypto sites suck in some truly awful players so it's hard sometimes to know exactly where you're at. I don't have much PokerTracker data for those levels on Crypto sites so I'm usually flying blind. I've definitely left some cash on the table, not pushing hands I'd normally push, which is exacerbated by the fact that I'm still a little gunshy sitting at higher limit tables after so much microlimit bonus whoring of late.

    In general, I'd recommend playing the £ denominated tables if you play on Crypto, as long as it doesn't pinch your bankroll. The general level of play on the £ tables really is a good bit worse. I know it's bad to generalize but by and large the worst players I see on those sites (at limit hold 'em) are all European and tend to play at the £ tables, while most US players (who have a greater likelihood of being somewhat skilled and/or chasing bonuses) gravitate to the $ denominated tables.

    Need to bang out some more Empire hands and then go get some steel-toed boots for myself and the wife, as we're taking a welding class that starts next Monday night. I'm pretty excited as it's at a new place that just opened up that offers artsy type welding classes, with rentable workspace and equipment and galleries and all that jazz. It was a little pricey but I've always wanted to know how to weld so it should be cool.

    On a completely unrelated note, Doug Mientkiewicz, I dub thee the biggest sports fucktard of the new year. If you're not familiar with the story, he's a backup first baseman for the Red Sox, who was a late-inning defensive replacement at first base in the deciding game of the World Series (which Boston won for the first time since approximately when Jebus was born). The last out was a groundout, so he caught the ball while covering at first base. And he promptly squirreled it away, giving it to his wife to hide in her purse doing the celebration after the game, then locking it up in a safety deposit box.

    Now the Red Sox want the ball. Except Mientkiewicz refused to give it to them, claming it's his retirement fund and that it's worth more than recent balls that have been sold. He originally claimed that he hoped to not have to sell it, so it could stay in his family so they could enjoy it, but he'd probably have to sell it as he'd need the money to send his kids to college.

    Ignoring all the money he's made in the past, this guy is slated to make $3.75 million in the final year of his contract next season. Umm, yeah. Unless you have 12,928 kids, I think you can afford to send them to college. Any college.

    Now he claims it was all a big joke and a misunderstanding and that of course he wants fans to enjoy it, that they can all see it, that it can be at the stadium, etc. As long as he still owns it.


    Thursday, January 06, 2005

    Gambling and Faith and Superstition, Oh My

    You have to love getting into work and finding that the database(s) slipped a gear last night and there's nothing to be done for the next few hours. Well, if you're a grunt monkey like me who depends on said database(s) to do the bulk of their job, that is. Not the poor slobs in charge of maintaining and fixing said database(s), who definitely aren't loving life right now.

    The last few weeks have been fairly ugly, poker-wise, but last night was nice. I'd sort of forgotten what it was like to have hands hold up, and for that last crying call on the river to actually result in a pot being pushed my way. I banged out a couple hundred hands of the Empire reload, found myself about +$300, shut it down and watched Lost and the first half of Alias. Yeah, Jen, okay, you can birth my babies, just stop twisting my arm so damn hard.

    The wife and I met with an Allstate guy yesterday about home and auto insurance, seeing if we can consolidate all that stuff and save a few bucks. I'd been dreading it, as while I knew it was something we needed to do, dealing with insurance folk isn't my idea of fun. This guy was like the best insurance dude ever, though, and kept crediting us with all sorts of discounts we really didn't qualify for. Plus his name was Harley. It was fairly ridiculous as the total bill, for exactly the same coverage (actually slightly better on the car side) was less than half what we're paying now. Sure, sign me up.

    I'm still running insanely well on the casino side. Insanely well. I hesitate to post about it in general because it's an abnormality and the sticky casino bonuses I'm doing are high-risk, high variance, yada yada yada. But the last few weeks have been crazy, as far as hitting big on nearly every casino bonus I go after, turning piddly little $5 monthly bonuses into $475, etc.

    Which brings us to the lovely intersection of gambling and supersititon and luck and faith. And despite wrangling with those often conflicting issues, I still have no idea what I really think.

    I'm not the most spiritual of people. I'm just not. If I can't observe a phenomenon (or observe it second-hand via a qualified, trusted source) I don't put much stock in it. That's not to say I don't trust quantum physics; I do, despite not being able to tell a gluon from a meson. But ghosts, mediums, psychics; naw, dawg.

    But I do believe in luck, to a large extent. I'll never claim that luck > math, as far as your expected return from wagering money in a -EV or +EV situation, but I do believe that we all undergo extended periods in which our results are consistently, surprisingly good (and bad). Granted, that's not really at odds with what statistics whispers in our ears. If anything, it supports the underpining maths, as it'd be much more unusual if we didn't encounter hot and cold streaks. So yeah, sign me up for some of that there luck.

    Faith is trickier for me, though. Yes, faith is part of the gambling equation for me, as far as trusting my read on situations and trusting my abilities. I put faith into my ability to extract profits from the money that I wager. But at the same time I also realize that gambling is gambling, and that we're all just one bet away from hitting that statistical brick wall, in which we encounter the 0.01% likely losing streak that wipes us out. That despite our abilities and placing ourselves in generally +EV situations there always lurks the mother of all downturns that can wipe us out.

    Is that true faith, then? I don't think so, when you get down to the nitty gritty. Most classic definitions of faith also involve the concepts of redemption and ultimate trust. If you give yourself up completely, and completely and utterly hold faith in something, you shall be saved and/or redeemed. Not so with gambling, though. Yeah, you could get even more kooky and existential and claim that busting out might be your real redemption, that you'd turn to a different, more fruitful life where you built houses for poor families in Equador, blah blah blah, but I think that's ridiculous. By and large, busting out is busting out. A bankruptcy of faith. No soup for you.

    I'm fairly superstitious. Not Wade Boggs superstitious but if I find a routine that seems to work, I stick with it. My wife has assorted stuffed animals in our guest bedroom, from when she was a wee one, and we have a running joke about me being a bad influence and teaching them to gamble, etc. For some reason, the stuffed moose became addicted to blackjack. This joke coincided with my crazy run of late at the blackjack tables, so I started grabbing the stuffed moose everytime I sat down to chase a casino bonus, putting him on the desk beside my monitor, so he can stare intently at the monitor with his stuffed moose eyes. While I realize this is completely and utterly irrational behavior, and can defend it in absolutely no way, you better believe that I won't play a single hand of blackjack these days without the damn moose right there beside me.

    Wednesday, January 05, 2005

    Empire Reload Bonus, PokerRoom Reload

    This isn't really news, as it's posted on assorted forums, but Empire is currently running a pretty juicy reload bonus right now. The bonus is 20% up to $200 ($1,000 required for maximum bonus)and you must use code HAPPY2005 when depositing. To clear the bonus, you must play 7 raked hands for every $1 in bonus money. The bonus is valid from 12AM EST on January 5th until 11:59PM EST on January 9th.

    PokerRoom is also offering a nice reload, 15% up to $150 if you use Neteller to deposit (otherwise it's 10% up to $100). Use bonus code GRAND when depositing. Reload bonus is valid until January 10th.

    Tuesday, January 04, 2005

    Enough, Poker Gods

    The poker gods aren't exactly welcoming me back to the tables after the holidays, snuggling me into their bosomy embraces. Yesterday was ugly, with all my sets being smited by larger sets, flopped straights falling to rivered flushes, yada yada yada. I was hitting plenty of big hands and ramming and jamming but I just couldn't get many any of them to hold up. Such is life.

    In exciting home news, we had a squirrel in our kitchen yesterday. On Saturday I was watching football and heard a hella loud racket coming from the kitchen. I listened for a bit and it sounded like some largish critter was forcing its way down the vent for the stove hood, which exits out a narrow pipe up to the roof. I'm standing there, listening to all this, and all of a sudden said critter lands on the mesh grill of the hood vent, which suddenly bows alarmingly downward.

    I'm not a huge fan of vermin in general, especially in my kitchen/home. At that point I'm assuming the vent cap on the roof came off, and that the squirrel (I'm just going with the squirrel theory at this point, as I don't want to imagine a rat that big, and the vent is too small for a raccoon or a possum) can get back out the way he wriggled in, so I grab a broom and start thwacking the mesh grill on the vent. Much scrabbling and commotion ensues, then silence. I assume he scampered back out and go climb on the roof. Except the vent cap is fine, all appears to be normal, and I'm a little puzzled at how he got into the damn thing to begin with.

    So I basically just pretend it never happened, and all seemed well. Except I get home yesterday and the living room has been thrashed, Christmas tree ornaments everywhere, things knocked off the mantel, plants and other knicknacks in the living room windows all knocked to the floor. The little bastard had been in there the whole time and managed to chew through the stove hood grill, which dumped it into the kitchen, where it was then trapped. It laid low for hours and hours but finally started banging around in the kitchen, at which point the wife and I spent a hectic twenty minutes chasing it from room to room, trying to herd it out the open French patio doors. It was pretty freaked out and just kept scampering around madly, into the office, into the kitchen, back again, through the living room, back again, etc. I finally managed to half-punt it towards the door when it climbed on my foot and it managed to get it through it's peanut-sized brain that open door=good and ran outside. Fun stuff, squirrel chasin'.

    In completely unrelated news, I'm really on the fence as far as what to do with money sitting in my Neteller account. Not to get into too personal details, but I've got about $20,000 in my account now, separate from assorted poker bankrolls tied up in sites, that's just sitting there, doing absolutely nothing for me. I'm hesitant to transfer it to a checking account, as I still balk at the idea of being a good citizen and reporting it as gambling winnings and giving the IRS its unholy chunk of it. It's actually been producing some income from me in recent months, with the dollar bottoming out versus assorted currencies, as I've been parking it in pound and euro denominated accounts on various sites and converting it back to dollars when it's favorable to do so. But I'm a little hesitant to keep playing that game, as I can't see the dollar getting beaten down much further.

    I've also thought about steadily cashing out the Neteller account through their debit card. There are associated fees but they're less than what the IRS would grab and, according to what I can dig up, it'd be difficult for cash withdrawals from Neteller to ever be linked back to you, as far as audits, etc. Not impossible but not very likely. The only problem is that I really don't know what I'd do with the cash, as my day to day cash expenses are pretty small and I'd run into the same gangster/drug lord problems as far as finding a legitimate way to get that cash back into an interest-bearing medium of any sort, without looking suspicious.

    I've looked into offshore accounts but you still hit the same wall, as far as eventually legitimately getting the money back into the US without incurring a ginormous tax burden.

    I suppose I should just bite the bullet and be good, withdraw it to my checking account and declare it, pay taxes on it, blah blah blah. Hopefully I could recoup some of that by putting it to good use in my brokerage account.

    Or, you know, just move to the Bahamas.

    Monday, January 03, 2005

    Happy New Year

    Had a good New Year's, all in all. We had a low-key gathering at our house which was fun, nobody got too drunk and stupid, and all I had to do was stumble twenty feet or so to bed. My Longhorns finally came through for me in bowl game, which was nice, if not a little bit surprising. Vince Young, you tha man. Now just don't be stupid and get an inflated head and think about declaring early for the draft.

    I also managed to wrap up our NFL office pool yesterday, which works out to a nice little +$200 pot. I'd had a comfortable lead for most of the year but it got closer in recent weeks, and I was only two points ahead going into the last week, which is always hard to pick, with teams resting first-stringers, ridiculous spreads, etc. I managed to pull it out, though, largely thanks to Denver and Jake the Snake coming through for me against Indy and SF somehow managing to lose by only 14 points, despite every attempt to blow it.

    Didn't play much poker at all, sort of taking a break and recharging the batteries before making the Crypto bonus rounds.

    Work is pretty much as I left it. Meh.

    Sunday, January 02, 2005

    Poker Bonus Strategy Guide

    The main purpose of this poker bonus strategy guide is to get into the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of taking maximum advantage of poker bonuses. If you’re completely new to poker bonuses, click here for a general article of how they work. For the purposes of this strategy guide I’m going to assume that you’re familiar with how they work (the differences between initial signup bonuses and reload bonuses, what raked hands are, what deposit method to use, etc.) and are looking for a comprehensive, solid strategy for getting the most value from them, as well as avoiding trouble sites that might derail you. I’ll cover some general principles first then give you a specific strategy for players starting with a bankroll of $100.

    The other big assumption I make in this guide is that you’re at least a break-even poker player, skill-wise. Or even a marginal loser, as the bonus money will be enough to overcome that. If you’re losing money hand over fist, well, you have my sincere apologies, but no bonus strategy guide is going to help that. Yeah, I know, we all suffer through bad streaks, but this guide has some fallback plans for that, to get you back to the bankroll level you need to move forward with bonuses. Bad luck can be overcome but bad play can’t. It’s just the way it is. If you’re constantly losing money you need to stop and re-examine your game, not chase bonuses.

    In general, I think poker bonuses are pretty invaluable to most players, and definitely worth the effort of pursuing. It may seem like a lot of hassle and that it's easier to just play at your favorite site that you're used to, but in the end, poker is poker is poker, and you should always be playing with a bonus overlay if possible. Given the boom of poker and the number of sites offering bonuses, always playing with a bonus pending is really, really easy. Not only is it free money, but it can be invaluable to helping you build a bankroll (or even just tread water) when you're just starting out, learning, polishing your game. Bonuses can speed up the process greatly, especially as far as building the necessary roll to move up in limits much, much faster than you would normally be able to.

    (Although it's a bit of a sidetrack, don't forget online casino bonuses, either, when building a bankroll. While yes, indeed, the house always has the advantage, even at an online casino, some sites offer bonuses that are so large that you can show a nice profit by simply playing basic strategy at blackjack and betting the minimum. Click here for a complete guide to getting started with casino bonuses.)

    There are two key factors to consider when chasing poker bonuses: 1) what maximum deposit is required and 2) how quickly will the bonus clear.

    (Notice that I don’t include what the total value of the bonus is. That’s a mistake a lot of people make, assuming that the larger the dollar value of the bonus, the better the bonus is. While in many cases that’s true, it can be very misleading and the real issue to pay attention to is how quickly you can get your grubby hands on the bonus money. A $50 bonus you can clear in two hours is much, much better than a $100 bonus that takes you twenty hours to clear.)

    1) Most of the better bonuses are initial signup bonuses given when you create a new account and deposit money. You only get one shot at these. Be sure you always deposit enough to get the maximum bonus. If it’s a 20% bonus match, up to a maximum of $100 in bonus money, always deposit at least $500. Always, always, always. Never leave bonus money on the table by depositing less than the maximum. You can always build your bankroll by grinding on sites that offer constant reload bonuses (more on this later). For now, repeat after me: I will never, ever get less than the maximum bonus for an intial signup bonus.

    2) Always understand the terms and conditions of bonuses, especially in relation to what you need to do to receive the bonus money. Different sites have different systems, some requiring you to simply participate in a certain number of dealt hands, some requiring you to participate in a certain number of raked hands, and others requiring you to accumulate points under their own unique system. These requirements will determine how quickly you can get a bonus on a site, and how quickly you can move on to the next site and the next bonus. The real money in poker bonuses comes from clearing many of them in a month, as no one site offers truly large bonuses. Make sure you have a firm grasp on how a particular site’s system for clearing bonuses translates into actual hours at the tables.

    Those are the two key principles that you must keep in mind, which dictate what a “good” or “bad” bonus is, and what order you should pursue bonuses in. In addition to those principles, though, are some other related factors to keep in mind:

  • How many tables can you successfully multi-table? How many tables does the site allow you to simultaneously play? This is very important, as you will clear bonuses much, much faster when multi-tabling.

  • What is the general player makeup of the site? Is it tied to a casino site, with lots of loose, bad players? Does it aggressively advertise in the mainstream media, thus attracting fishy players? Is it only frequented by tight, rock-like players chasing bonuses? This obviously has nothing to do with the bonus itself, but affects what you can expect to make from your own stellar poker play while at the tables.

  • How long does the site take to process cashouts? You’ll be moving money from site to site fairly regularly and the last thing you want is to have dead time, where you want to play poker but have your bankroll tied up on one site. To get the most value from bonuses you’ll have to plan your attack so that you never have any wasted dead time.

  • How comfortable are you playing on sites you intuitively don’t like? You’ll be playing on many sites, some with interfaces you may not like, for whatever reason. This is just a fact of life and something you’ll have to get used to.

  • What limits do you normally play? For the most part, the optimal limits for clearing bonuses are $1/2 and $2/4. $.50/1 is also fine, although it’ll take you slightly longer. If you typically play at limits below or above those, you may find chasing bonuses to be counter-productive. Either the amount you’ll make from a bonus won’t be worth it or you’ll be playing at limits that either bore or scare you.

  • Are you good at keeping records? You’ll be playing on some sites that don’t support PokerTracker, as well as shuffling money around a good bit on different sites. In order to accurately track your progress you’ll likely need to use a simple spreadsheet and stick to using it, so that you know just how profitable the bonuses are for you.

  • With all that out of the way, let’s get to the meat of this strategy guide. I’m going to pretend that you only have $100 to start with, so the order of sites will be dictated by that, to some extent. Many people like to start chasing bonuses as an experiment with less than their full bankroll, keeping most of it on their favorite site, which is why I’m working under the assumption of a $100 bankroll. If you have at least $500 to start with, you can basically start anywhere you like on the list. I'd recommend following the general order, by and large, but if you really want to play on particular sites on the list, knock yourself out.

    One last thing to note is that the terms on these change all the times, so check yourself before depositing, etc. I try to keep up but don't assume the info you find here is 100% accurate, as sites change the terms of their promotions pretty regularly.

    Hitting the Poker Bonus Trail with $100

    1) Deposit $100 at Absolute Poker. They usually offer anywhere from 100-200% signup bonuses when creating an account, as well as lots of reloads, nearly every week.

    The downsides here are that the bonuses clear fairly slowly and that a lot of players on the site are there just for bonuses, so the play at the tables tends to be pretty tight and rocky. You won't find too many crazy maniacs here that play badly and donate tons of money, like you will find at Party and other sites.

    Playing here is a bit of a grind due to those facts, but the generous bonus offers more than make up for it, especially when you're just starting out. Because of all the reloads, you aren't sacrificing any potential bonus money by starting here with a $100 deposit, as you would with other sites where you need a bigger deposit to match the signup bonus, which is usually the best bonus most sites offer.

    2) Deposit $100 at InterPoker. InterPoker has a nice bonus and it’s a monthly recurring bonus, which you can get each and every month. The monthly bonus is typically a 100% match on your first deposit, up to $90 ($100 in some months). In order to claim it you have to play 1200 raked hands.

    That's a fair number of hands, so you won't blow through this one in a few hours. Such is life sometimes on the poker bonus trail. The real value here is that you get the bonus each and every month, so you can basically pencil this one in and work it into your routine. The bonus is also fairly slow to clear at $1/$2 limits and below. So you most definitely won't blaze through this bonus quickly.

    Their cashout system uses the Crypto ECash processing platform, which requires that a pin number be snail-mailed to you before you can withdraw money. It generally takes about a week from when you signup for the pin number to get to you by snail-mail. This is a little annoying but there’s really no way around it. Once you have the PIN number cashouts are pretty quick and are usually processed within 24 hours. Just remember that on your first deposit that that deposit money (plus any bonus money you collect) will be tied up on the InterPoker site for about 7-10 days and not available to withdraw. When you clear the bonus, cash out entirely.

    3) Deposit $100 at Will Hill. Will Hill offers a monthly recurring bonus like InterPoker, except this one is slightly different, paying you £5 ($9.68) per hour that you sit at a table, up to a maximum of £25 every month. It’s strictly based on your time at the table, not raked hands, nothing else.

    Which is very nice, given that it’s a Crypto site and the action is generally slow. Keep in mind, too, that it counts for each table, so if you pop open two or three tables and play for two hours total, you’ll clear the entire bonus. That’s nearly $50 in bonus money that you can clear half-asleep, with your eyes closed. And you can collect it each and every month. It’s also easy to knock out, build your bankroll, and get ready for the next stop on the bonus trail.

    As far as games and tables, it’s exactly the same as InterPoker. All the Crypto poker sites feed players to the same tables, similar to Party/Empire/skins, so they’re all basically the same site, as far as limits, player skill, etc. The only difference is in the bonuses offered by the individual sites.

    While it’s a Crypto site, Will Hill doesn’t require a pin number to withdraw money. (It’s the only one that doesn’t.) So you can signup, clear the bonus, and immediately cashout, with most withdrawals processed in 48 hours. Then wait until the next month rolls around and repeat the process.

    4) Deposit $100 at Littlewoods. Once again, another Crypto site that offers a great monthly bonus. While these sites can be frustrating to play at sometimes, the monthly bonuses are the absolute best way to build a bankroll when you're starting out, and you don't lose any potential bonus money by depositing smaller amounts. Remember, you're working your way up to some better bonuses later on, that require you to deposit $400+ to get the full bonus.

    Littlewoods offers a £25 bonus every month, which is added automatically to your account after you clear 200 raked hands. That's it. Get in your 200 raked hands and the bonus is yours, each and every month.

    Like most other Cryptos, you'll have to wait for the PIN to be snail-mailed to you before you can cash out the first time.

    5) Deposit at least $100 at PokerPlex. PokerPlex offers a $50 monthly bonus for playing 250 raked hands. ‘Tis another Crypto site just like all the others, same soft players, same nice recurring monthly bonus. Like the others, you can only cashout when you get the pin number snail-mailed to you.

    6) Deposit $200 at Paradise Poker. With bonus code FIRST25 you'll get a 25% bonous, up to a max of $50.

    Paradise has a nice site, lots of players, lots of limits, great tournaments, all that jazz. You’ll have to play a certain number of raked hands to unlock the bonus, which is dispensed to you in $10 increments as you clear it. It clears fairly quickly, even at lower limits. You should be able to bang this one out pretty quickly, given that it’s a relatively small initial bonus.

    7) You should have at least $400 by now in your bankroll. (If you don’t have $400, skip to #7.) Assuming you do, deposit at least $400 at Pacific Poker. Pacific offers a 25% initial signup bonus, up to $100 (deposit $400 to get the full bonus). They use a slightly unique system to clear it, as you can only withdraw the bonus once you wager a total of 20 times the bonus amount (total wagering of $2,000 if you get the full $100 bonus).

    That said, they often don't check to see if you've played enough, so you can usually cash out before you've cleared all of the wagering. If you want to cash out it usually doens't hurt to try and see if they'll process it, as otherwise they just refund it to your account so there's no harm in trying.

    The only catch is that Pacific's software doesn’t allow for multi-tabling, so you’ll only be able to play at one table. This slows down clearing the bonus slightly but not horribly so. The redeeming factor is that the players here are truly terrible, as many come through the casino sister site of Pacific Poker, Casino-On-Net.

    Decent software, plenty of games available, all that jazz. Cashouts are pretty slow, taking up to five days sometimes, but they’ll eventually come through.

    8) By now you should have well over $500 in your bankroll. If you play break-even poker and collect all the bonus money so far (which isn’t likely, but possible), you’ll be well over that figure. But we’ll be conservative and assume you have $500 and that it’s taken you a month to get this far.

    (If you need a break, consider hitting up some of the juicier casino bonuses listed here. I like to alternate poker and casino bonuses, just so I don't get completely burned out from the grind. Especially if I'm encountering a run of frustrating, bad beats and need to blow off a little steam. Remember, it's not even really gambling if you stick to the +EV casino bonuses and are disciplined.)

    If it’s a new month, double back and do all of the Crypto monthly bonuses. Unless the terms change, the process will be exactly as when you did them the first time. You’ll also want to deposit into two new Crypto sites at this stage, both with monthly bonuses just like Will Hill. Deposit $100 each at TotalBetand UKBetting.

    They’re both like the other Crypros as far as a PIN needed to cash out, available each and every month, etc. They each pay out a 25 pound bonus when you've cleared 200 raked hands.

    9) Now it’s finally time to hit Party Poker, if you don't have an account there. Use bonus code "SCURVY" when signing up for a 20% up to $100 bonus.

    Party is one of the biggest sites out there with some terrible players just waiting to give you money, so it's definitely a great bonus to hit. They also offer reload bonuses from time to time.

    10) Titan Poker is currently offering a 100% match on your signup, up to $500. This is one of the biggest bonuses out there, which is obviously a good thing. Even better is that they have truly horrible players on their site, as they get lots of players who wander in from the casinos of sister sites. The only drawback is that the bonus clears slowly, so it'll take you quite awhile to unlock the full bonus. Still a good site to have in your arsenal, especially if you're patient, as the fishy players more than make up for the slow clearing bonus.

    11) Full Tilt is another one with a big signup bonus, but one that's hard to clear quickly. It's a 100% up to $500 signup bonus, so it's a nice one to go after and chip away at, when you need another big signup bonus.

    12) Noble Poker offers a 50% signup bonus, up to $250, and is on the same network as Titan Poker, with the same terrible players.

    This one takes awhile to clear but it's a nice bonus and you get to play with some truly godawful players while clearing it, which should add to your bottom line.

    13) You all likely know PokerStars, so I won’t spend much time here. Great site, tons of players, all sorts of games. They don’t offer a signup bonus but they do offer a decent number of reloads throughout the year. If you don’t have an account, create one and deposit a token amount in there. Play a few hands then withdraw. The point of that is that you’ll be eligible for future reloads they offer, which are generally in the $100-$150 range. They’re similar to Party reloads in structure, taking a bit longer to clear, and against slightly tougher/tighter players.

    14) PokerRoom offers a 40% initial signup bonus, up to a maximum of $200. Good site, decent number of players, and it’s one of the few sites out there that Mac fans can play at. You’ll accumulate points based on raked hands, which unlock the bonus in one payment. They also offer a decent number of reloads throughout the year.

    The only downside to the PokerRoom bonus is that it’s very slow to clear at lower limits. If you multi-table 2/4 it goes pretty quickly but it takes a good bit of grinding at lower limits. Players are decent, not too loose, not too tight. Cashouts are usually processed within 48 hours.

    Not a bad bonus, not a bad site, just a little slow to clear the bonus.

    15) Crazy Poker is next, and is the first stop on the Prima network. They offer a decent small signup bonus that clears very quickly, plus they're currently running a deal the offers you 33% of your rake returned to you each month as a bonus. Fishy players, decent software, plus a monthly bonus is always a good thing.

    16) Ultimate Bet has some nice bonuses, including a 20% initial deposit bonus (up to $100 max) as well as some nice reload bonuses from time to time. Nice interface, lots of players, great tournament structure.

    The only downside is that bonuses take forever to clear here. Forever. They're worth doing if you like the site and are a regular here, but if you're just hitting the poker bonus circuit these may bog you down too much, as they take a long time to accumulate enough points to release the bonus.

    17) Bugsy's Club also offers a 20% bonus on your first deposit, up to $100 (deposit $500 for the maximum). It's a decent bonus but the site can be low traffic at times, so it's sometimes hard to find a game. The site is also tied to an online poker school so the players aren't quite as bad as those you might find on other sites.

    And that, my fellow poker bonus fiends, is a brief overview of the major sites out there that offer nice poker bonuses. It's not, by any means, a comprehensive list, but it's all the major players on fairly high traffic sites that offer bonuses that normal human beings can clear without a superhuman effort.

    Between the monthly Crypto bonuses and reloads at Party/skins, you'll have plenty to keep you busy, once you plow through all the bonuses above. Keep in mind, too, that there's lots of free money on the table at online casinos, as well. Not to beat a dead horse, but casino bonuses can be just as valuable (maybe even more so) in building a poker bankroll. Click here for a complete guide to getting started with casino bonuses.

    If that's not enough for your insatiable bonus appetite, though, there are indeed more bonuses out there. I'm simply going to list them here, along with the current bonus offered, for the sake of being comprehensive. Please note, though, that some of these sites are low-traffic and off the beaten path, which means that it usually will take you slightly longer to clear the bonus.

  • Tiger Gaming: 30% bonus on first deposit, up to $120

  • Golden Tiger Poker: $30 free bonus

  • Virtual City Poker: $30 free bonus

  • River Belle Poker Room: up to $300 bonus

  • GoldenPalacePoker: 25% bonus up to $100

  • CD Poker: 25% bonus on first deposit, up to $100

  • Hollywood Poker: 20% bonus on first deposit, up to $100

  • Doyle's Room: 35% bonus up to $135 or free copy of SuperSystem2

  • 7 Sultans Poker: up to $200 signup bonus

  • Royal Vegas Poker: 40% signup bonus up to $100

  • Golden Riviera Poker: up to $50 signup bonus

  • Bet Holdem: 25% signup bonus up to $100

  • Colosseum Poker: 25% signup bonus up to $100

  • City Poker: 25% signup bonus up to $100

  • Poker333/Pigg's Peak Poker: get up to $75 signup bonus

  • Captain Cook's Poker: get up to $50 signup bonus

  • Poker Metro: up to $50 signup bonus

  • 25% signup bonus up to $50

  • Bet365: up to $50 signup bonus

  • Wild Jack Poker: up to $30 signup bonus

  • Grand Bay Poker: get up to $30 signup bonus

  • Trident Poker: get up to $30 signup bonus

  • Roxy Poker: get up to $50 signup bonus

  • Aztec Riches Poker: up to $50 signup bonus

  • Poker: 25% signup bonus up to $50

  • 32 Red Poker: up to $25 signup bonus

  • Big Dollar Poker: get up to $30 signup bonus

  • Spin Palace Poker: up to $30 signup bonus

  • BetonUSA: 20% signup bonus