Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blah Blah Poker Blah Blah Poker Blah

First things first, Spaceman's normal gig writing tournament coverage of the upcoming WSOP circuit event for Bluff is getting picked up by Harrah's and is going to be featured over at the official WSOP site. So make with the clicky-clicky and check out the coverage, as I'm sure more clickage might result in more opportunities for Spaceman in the future. And for every time you don't click, a kitten is fed to ravenous, kitten-eating sloths in Madagascar. It's true. So click.

Despite knowing better, I broke the cardinal rule of Positive Poker Results Club and blogged about it, which means that things will immediately turn south. Sunday was pretty ugly, as I dumped back a good chunk of my gains, and yesterday wasn't much better. I managed to grind back to the point where I was only down $300 or so on the day, when the following lovely situation arose.

I was playing my last set of 4 SnGs on Full Tilt, and was heads-up in one (about even stacked) and four/five handed in the other three, third in chips in all three of them. No one was monstrously ahead so I'm was likely looking at a nice finish to the day, maybe even pulling even if I could score a couple of 1sts. So I was feeling pretty good, right up until the point where I lose connection to Full Tilt. I quickly close out the client, re-open it, nada. Can't connect to the site. My internet connection in general is fine, PokerStars is fine, other sites are fine, I just can't connect to Full Tilt. I manage to get on for about ten seconds once, then it kicks me off again.

When I finally am able to connect about fifteen minutes later, I discover that I finished 2nd in the one I was heads-up in, and 4th/4th/5th in the other three. So I'm assuming that the entire site wasn't down and that it was a broader network traffic issue for a subset of people playing on the site. Okay, that sucks. But, you know, shit happens. Most of my irritation was due to it coming at the end of a couple of junk-kicking days, but it did raise an issue I hadn't encountered before, as far as how sites handle SnGs in progress if the site goes down. Cancel it and refund the entries? Split up the prize money for remaining players and pay it out based on ranking when the site went down? Pay out the top three as of the time when the site crashed?

So I shot off an email before bed, briefly outlining what happened and asking what their policy was in situations like that. Still haven't gotten a response back, which is a little disappointing, as I'd heard decent things about Full Tilt support in the past. I was mainly venting and curious about their policy for handling SnGs when/if the site went down, but even Party managed to at least respond to me, even if it was gibberish and less than helpful, instead of completely ignoring queries to support.

Feeling empty of nuggets of dubious SnG wisdom, based on the last few days, but I'm still fairly encouraged and motivated. I had to fight the tendency to tighten up, though, especially in steal situations on the bubble, as I was far too willing to limp into third towards the worst of the downswing, just to stop the bleeding. I'm splitting time between Stars and Full Tilt at the moment, and it's odd as it seems impossible for me to run well on both, or run poorly on both, as my results are of the polar opposite variety so far in the SnG grindy experiment.

Still steadily chipping away at painting the living room/dining room. Very happy with the results so far, but the trim is going to be less than fun, especially when I get to the bank of casement windows, as I'm probably going to bite the bullet and refurbish them, in addition to chipping away a couple of decades worth of paint that's currently keeping them painted shut.

Not sure what project is up next, as I tempted to save a lot of the painting for the winter, and maybe try to cram in some more outdoor projects now while the weather is so nice. Then again, "winter" is a pretty relative term in central Texas, so it's likely pointless to worry too much about such things. I need to stay motivated and knock out a goodly amount of projects over the next few months, as the current plan is to buy another fixer-upper early next year, thus starting the cycle once again.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

No Mas Baby Cashes

Eventually went out 40th in the $50K guaranteed yesterday, making the money but basically just doubling up my buy-in. It's probably wishful thinking but I feel like I'm due for a serious cash in a largish buy-in event soon, as I've been right there in the last dozen or so I've played but haven't gotten over the hump.

Yesterday's outing was odd, as I got KK, AA, and then KK again within the space of six hands, all in the first ten minutes. The fact that I was sitting at 2,600 chips after those hands (starting stack of 3,000) was due to one instance of playing KK as poorly as I possibly could and then stacking someone with KK and doubling up someone else with AA when they flopped a flush.

Managed to double up shortly after that, though, when I flopped a set with 99. Hit the first break at roughly twice average stack, then was card dead for most of the next hour. Saw a free flop with 810o and doubled through a slow-played KK on a flop of 88Q, leaving me once again at twice the average stack at the second break.

Things pretty much fizzled after that, although I had a healthy enough stack to cruise into the money, which was a fairly easy decision when the best hand I saw for half an hour was 8 high. I eventually busted when I shoved all-in from the button with A10h and the big stack in the BB couldn't resist calling with A5o, flopped a 5, and that was all she wrote.

Had my first +$1,000 at the SnG grind, which felt pretty damn good. Of course, it's pretty easy to post results like that when you get donkfish lucky and turn in a set of ten consecutive results like this:


Yesterday pushed me pretty solidly into the black for the SnG grinding, and it'd be even juicier if I hadn't spent the earlier part of the month flailing around like a lemur, donating many American dollars playing the $200 SnGs, $500 heads-up matches, and other destructive pursuits.

One nice thing about the orgy of SnGs I've logged is that it's at least getting easier to let beats slide right off, especially early on. Yeah, it makes my spleen ache to get it all in on the first hand with AA versus AJo and lose, but at least I invested essentially no time in that debacle, fire up another one, move on.

And it can always be worse, as poker has the sick capacity to produce some pretty terrible beats. Here's an actual hand from this morning. It's five handed, blinds are 100/200 and the two people who tangle in the hand below have roughly equal stacks:

Everyone folds to the button, where Unlucky Dude Who Did Something Fierce to Anger the Poker Gods raises to 400. SB folds, BB calls.

Flop is J44, rainbow.

BB shoves all-in pretty quickly. Unlucky Dude Who Did Something Fierce to Anger the Poker Gods insta-calls and turns over JJ. BB shows Q7o, who seemingly picked a bad spot to bluff all-in with air, no draws, etc.

Turn is a 4. River is the case 4.

Pot is shipped to BB, who doesn't even understand what happened and has to have it explained to him that he won because his Q outkicked Unlucky Dude Who Did Something Fierce to Anger the Poker Gods' J(s).

On the flop:

Board: Jc 4d 4h

equity (%) win (%) tie (%)
Hand 1: 99.5960 % 99.60% 00.00% { JhJs }
Hand 2: 00.4040 % 00.40% 00.00% { Qs7c }


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Things That Are Good (And Things That Suck)

It finally gettng coolish in this neck of the woods is a good thing, especially when it motivates me to throw a beef stew in the slow cooker earlier today...

...having to sit here, ravenous and drooling, for at least two more hours while the house smells of tasty beef stew kind of sucks.

Getting KK, AA, and KK in the first ten minutes of the $50,000 guaranteed on Full Tilt is pretty awesome...

...ending up -500 in chips overall after the first ten minutes sort of sucks.

Watching some crappy Pac-10 team get a big lead on USC (hands down the most overrated "great" college football "dynasty" of all time) rocks...

...watching them claw back and make a game of it after being seemingly dead, yet again, sucks.

Seeing dorky little skinny dudes like David Eckstein do well is pretty cool...

...except for having to watch/read 192,182,182 stories about David Eckstein, and what a great, scrappy (white) ballplayer he is.

Writey Writey

Joining the ranks of Speaker, Mean Gene, and Gracie, I'm going to throw my hat into the NaNoWriMo ring this year. I've made the same declaration the last two years and fizzled out, barely off the launch pad, but hopefully things will be different this year. I've got a little more spare time on my hands this year and fewer excuses, especially since any oversight at the day job has completely disappeared, so I'm free to bang away at the keyboard while at work, since my entire job entails sitting there all day, banging away at the keyboard.

I'd like to say I was planning on writing the Great American Novel, but I'm probably going to be much more crass and commercial. I've had half a dozen plots for detective novels rolling around in my head the last few years, so I'll probably try to buckle down and grind out one of those. From a strictly commercial sense, I'm not sure it's +EV for an unpublished author to write anything these days, but the best bet for me to make any bucks in the writing business would probably lie in some genre-tastic area such as detective novels, instead of writing more literary, high-falutin' stuff like I did in grad school.

Things are chugging along on the poker front. I managed to get in 60 or so SnGs yesterday at Full Tilt, and was a good monkey and stuck to the $60s. That's pretty crazy volume for me and the most poker I've put in at the tables in a very, very long time. Nothing too horribly exciting and I was staring a largely break-even day in the face (I think I was up +$50 or so) when I had a nice run in my last four of the day, finishing ahead +$300 for the day. Not very sexy in many ways but I'm actually sort of enjoying the grinding at the moment, and while there's not the massive upside and earning potential of playing 30/60 or 10/20 NL, I can definitely see how people grind out nice, steady profits doing the SnG thing.

I can also see how it'd be easy to get pretty burned out, too, sitting there, playing SnG after SnG after SnG. I was "telecommuting" yesterday so I'd play a bunch, do a little work, play a bunch, go paint some in the living room, play a bunch, do a little work, rinse, lather, repeat.

Had an interesting bubble decision in a situation I hadn't yet encountered. Four players left and Dumby McDumbs had gotten really short (like 1 BB short), won a few hands, and kept shoving all-in with any two after that point, despite not having to do so. He ran his stack up, back down, up, back down, etc. Literally was shoving every single hand with any two cards, and had done that for the last 15 hands or so. I've been chilling out, waiting for someone to bust before tangling with Dumby. It was one of those wacky situations where it somehow managed to stay four handed, though, which brings us to the following situation, with blinds of 250/500:

Random #1: 1,500
Me: 4,000
Dumby McDumbs: 4,500
Random #2: 4,000

Random #2 posts his BB, Dumby the small blind. Random #1 folds and I look down to find QQ. I shove, Dumny insta-calls with 85o, Random #2 folds, and the poker gods quickly put me out of my misery when Dumby flops a straight and knocks me out.

I'm not really questioning my shove, but it does raise the question of what proper play is in that spot, when the chip leader has lost their gourd/is having "fun"/"is playing a rush" and is guaranteed to shove all-in every hand with any two. If you could somehow absolutely know that Dumby will continue to shove with any two, every single handfor the remainder of the tournament, do you fold your queens and waiting for him to bust/bust someone out?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Let's Get Grindy

Many thanks for all the comments on recent SnG posts. 90% of me agrees with the consensus that the hand yesterday is a push, but a tiny part of me still wonders at the value of picking up the blinds there, as opposed to waiting an orbit to let things clarify themselves a bit, as far as an obvious chip lead, mid stacks, and short stack emerging. You can't wait for forever, though, thus the shove, as you're likely not going to get a better hand than that in the next 1-3 orbits.

Had a good night at the tables last night, which spilled through to this morning. I also broke down and paid for two months subscription to Sharkscope, as well as ponying up the cash for SnGPT. 'Tis a little time-consuming looking up players and saving Sharkscope data, etc., but pretty worthwhile overall, methinks. Granted, SnGs are harder to datamine in many ways as they're a different beast from cash games, but it definitely helps to know that you're sitting on the bubble with profitable regulars, as opposed to a losing player playing way over their normal buy-in.

It also erased any lingering doubts that I need to just focus on the $60s and hammer those pretty hard. Not only are there multiple instances of players beating those to the tune of +$10K months so far, but the average game is light years better than at the $120 level. Far too often in the $120s it gets down to four or five handed and everyone left is a solid, profitable regular at those levels, with not much of an edge to be had. Not so with the $60s, though, as they manage to summon up some pretty wacky play, even/especially around the bubble. The fact that I'm chugging along at 15% ROI at the $60s and, umm, cough, much less than that at the $120s sort of seals the deal.

Looking like it may take a wee miracle for me to cash in on my futures bet on the Tigers winning the World Series, but it's hard to get too upset about that, as far as plunking down a longshot free bet midway through the season, solely because the odds were juicy. My silly -EV sportsbetting has pretty much ceased, suffering the double whammy of some terrible weeks plus cashing out the majority of my online funds. How people make a living betting sports, I do not know, as the inherent stress alone would send me to an early grave, even if I was competent at making profitable picks.

Thumbs up to all of you kids who kept recommending Heroes, as we caught up on all the episodes last night and that's definitely one to add to the rotation. I have to join the chorus of people expressing much happy disbelief that such a show got greenlighted and is getting beamed to our television sets, amidst so much crappy, crappy programming these days. Part of me wants to believe that the pendulum will have to swing back and that we'll see more similar fare, but then American Idol and Dancing with the Stars keep drawing 172.192.194,102 viewers each week, so who knows.

Going to start taking classes in November towards getting my real estate license. I'm a little meh about the whole thing, but it does make sense, and I can hopefully blow through them pretty quickly. There's a school here in town that offers the six 30 hour classes I need, with a Friday/Saturday/Sunday schedule (10 hours in the classroom each day) that I'll probably take. Even if I never work professionally as a realtor it'd pay for itself pretty quickly, if I'm going to be investing/renovating/flipping properties, and while the prospect of potentially working as a realtor some day far off in the future doesn't fill me with glee, neither does it fill me with dread. I'm happy enough to keep cashing paychecks from the current day job, but we're pretty firmly on the Layoff Expressway right now, as all signs point towards disappointing earnings, layoffs, etc.

Two-Outer Magnet

Managed to dig quite a deep hole for myself last night and then clawed my way back, down just -$100 on the night. I'm still living dangerously by mostly playing the $119 SnGs, which is pretty dumb as I'm not really bankrolled for that at the moment, and should be smart and just drop down and grind away at the $60s. Especially since my ROI is higher at that level anyway, as I ain't quite up to speed on all the intricacies of the SnG world yet.

It's actually been kind of fun poking around in the STT forum at 2+2. Not a ton of lightbulb moments but definitely some valuable stuff, as far as playing a big stack on the bubble, and correct bubble play in general. I've been playing like a donk in more than a few situations, especially as far as not constantly pushing with any two with a big stack on the bubble, when the other stacks are evenly distributed.

Last night was an odd one as far as the extremes, with opponents constantly rivering two outers to knock me out on the negative side, but then nearly every single coinflip with my pocket pairs holding up for me versus overcards, on the positive side of the spectrum. Including a fairly bizarre hand where it was still six handed and I was the shorty with 1400 or so, 200/400 blinds, and I shoved with 44 from UTG. The button shoving over the top of me dashed any hopes that I might pick up the blinds, then the SB pushing over the top of him, and the BB shoving as well pretty much torpedoed any excitement I had in my wee pocket pair.

Until the button, SB, and BB all turned over AKo, and despair turned to joy. The two-outer gods still tried to screw me with the case K on the river, but I flopped a set so I still quadrupled up.

That hand does (sort of) illustrate one of the concepts I still wrestle with when holding hands like that, but usually when I'm not quite so short. Lacking the vocabulary here, but I still flail around when there's 5-6 players left, stacks are reasonably evenly distributed, and no one is painfully short. Let's pretend the following SnG scenario:

I'm UTG with 7h7d, blinds are 100/200, and remaining players have the following stacks:

Hero: 2,000
CO: 2,000
Button: 3,000
SB: 3,500
BB: 3,000

I'm pretty much reduced to folding/shoving, as I have to fold if someone pushes over any raise I make. I guess I could try to limp, but that's just encouraging someone to shove behind me, which they can do profitably with any two as I'm folding nearly everything but a huge hand.

There's a lot to be said for shoving. Picking up the blinds adds a non-trivial boost to my stack and I don't necessarily hate getting called by hands like AK, AQ, etc., as I have to win some coin flips somewhere to pick up serious chips. On the flip side, since the stacks are relatively distributed, more often than not I'm only getting called by a bigger pair and in bad shape. Since I'm only picking up 300 chips a majority of the time, my gut rebels against pushing hands like these, as the utility of those chips seems diminished since picking up the blinds doesn't really clarify the roles each player is playing.

Ugh, that's a clunky way of describing what I'm trying to get at. With all the stacks fairly evenly distributed, should I tend to avoid shoving in situations like the above, when I can afford to donate my blinds and still have a workable stack with position when I get the button? Or does the fact that stacks are evenly distributed add value to pushing, due to the tendency for everyone else to fold? I feel like I have a decent grasp on playing these situations when everyone's role is clearly defined by their stack size and position, but am a bit lost when that's not so clear and everyone is still in wait-and-see mode, largely waiting for a clear chip leader and short stack to emerge.

Fuck me, this is like three posts in a row with real actual poker content. Here's a picture of the coolest rat in the world to counteract that:

All your peanuts are belong to me

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

4th Place, Baby, 4th Place

Poker is fun when you're winning. Profundity, thou art my bitch.

Thanks for the comments and emails about my SnG babblings from yesterday. I need to poker around on 2+2 and elsewhere to get a better sense of what "average" is for winning players, as far as the distribution and percentages of place finishes. To a large degree, it's kind of a moot point, as there's no practical application from determining "Hey, I need to stop finishing 3rd as much and finish 1st more, even if it increases my percentage of 4th place bubbles, so that my overall ROI is higher despite my ITM% dropping." I mean, umm, sure. Exactly.

Plus the ultimate answer is likely as simple as: play better poker. There's a reason that top players convert more 1sts than us normal folks when we all get down to the final four players. It's because they're really good players and we're not. The reasonably mindless push bot SnG strategy works fine, and probably comes close to guaranteeing at least a tiny profit if you're disciplined and bankrolled well enough, but it's not enough in and of itself to get you to the top.

A trap I've been falling into too much of late playing SnGs is getting lulled into the false sense of security that SnGs largely play themselves, especially the turbos. I play pretty conservatively early and, more often than not, am still around when there's 4-6 players, not having been blessed with great cards, with a stack of 1,000-2,000, and blinds of 100/200 and up rolling around. At that point, correct strategy indicates pretty automatic play, as far as when you should push your stack in, based on your position, your cards, and the relative position and stack size of other players.

But that doesn't mean that reads aren't important, which is the part that I often ignore, paying only cursory attention to the action up to that point, often 6 or 8 tabling SnGs. I've tried to pay more attention the last few days, cutting back to just 2-3 SnGs at a time, and forcing myself to take notes, look up players at Sharkscope, etc. Last night was a pretty good example, with the following hand occuring:

$120 SnG at Full Tilt, 4 players left, blinds of 100/200

Me: 3,000
Lawn Gnome: 800
Happy Elephant: 10,000
Angry Frog: 1,200

Lawn gnome is UTG and shoves his 800 chips in. Angry Frog folds and Happy Elephant, from the SB, shoves his 9,000 chips in. I'm in the BB with JJ. What's the correct play?

If you have no knowledge of the action up to this point and come to the table cold, I think it's a pretty easy call. On the surface it looks like the SB is just trying to get it heads up with a hand < QQ, KK, or AA (as he'd likely want my action with a truly premium hand and wouldn't massively overbet like that) and the odds are that you're ahead and are in a great spot to pick up chips. The only way you call and get bounced in fourth is if Lawn Gnome wins the main pot and Happy Elephant wins the side pot, as you're guaranteed third if Happy Elephant scoops both pots since you start with more chips than Lawn Gnome.

I folded. Partly because I'd actually been paying attention for once and had watched Happy Elephant build that stack from two huge multi-way pots where he had KK and AA, respectively. Other than those hands, he'd hardly played at all. So I actually might be behind, or racing with AK.

More importantly, though, is that I've got a workable stack and there's another relative shorty (Angry Frog) at the table aside from Lawn Gnome. Granted, Happy Elephant could be shoving with a hand like 22-1010 (in which case folding my jacks is a minor disaster), but even so it's just a minor disaster to fold to him, as odds are he's a favorite to knock out Lawn Gnome, who is short enough that he could be pushing many marginal hands there. If I fold I still have a workable stack, am likely to be guaranteed third, and can aggressively go after the two remaining players. I can recover from a minor disaster but not from a major disaster.

Happy Elephant ended up winning the hand with 1010 (boo, me), but I knocked the other shorty out later and ended up taking it down when it got heads up. I won't claim that the moral of the story is to fold JJ in that spot, as you can make a very good argument that folding is bad due to the chance of a double-up that would increase your likelihood of finishing 1st. It does touch upon the issue, though, that following a push bot strategy that solely looks at whether a shove is +EV or -EV may not always be correct.

Which is a very long-winded and patently obvious way of stating what was said more simply before: top SnG players finish 1st more because they're very good poker players and balance all of the above considerations, often on the fly, on many simultaneous tables.

All of which loops back to the fact that I'm trying of late to simply force myself to slow down a bit, and not necessarily fall into "This is an obvious shove, whee, there go all of my chips into the center of the table." In most cases, yeah, it is an obvious move, and whee, there go the chips, but taking the time to slow down (and backing off from firing up 182,192 tables at one time) spills over into concentrating more in general, which can never be a bad thing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Money Makes Everything Better

So of course I go on a mini SnG tear yesterday after posting and whee, all is well with the world, happy and shiny, perfectly balanced. Or, you know, something like that.

It's interesting looking back through my last 300 or so SnGs, which are a mixtures of ~$60s and ~$120s, nearly all turbos at Stars and Full Tilt. I'm fairly close to break even, landing a little on the plus side at +$800. Really small sample size, yada yada yada, but what struck me most is that I have far more 4th place finishes than any other, by a landslide.

Which I'm of two minds about. On the one hand, I should probably hone the aggressive stance I've been adopting when it's bubble time, and try to add a little more selectivity into the mix. I've been consciously trying to be more aggressive on the bubble, due to the sphincter tightening of the average player, but too often I abandon any attempt to read players at all, even when I have knowledge that should play into the decision. It's easy to get lost in the math and follow through with what should be a +EV push in theory, but in fact is -EV in practice, based on the accumulated info you and the other players have at your disposal.

On the other hand, I wonder if "correct" SnG play naturally leads to more 4th place finishes than anything else. I'm not trying to justify my play at all, just curious, as I imagine that 1st place finishes and 4th place finishes are pretty tightly linked, if you're playing "correctly". Yeah, you bubble a lot more in 4th than someone content to limp into third, but when you do hit the money, you do so with a good shot at 1st. You could probably analyze the results of winning players and come up with a fairly decent 1st to 4th place ratio, as far as what to shoot for.

Finally started yesterday in on painting the living room and dining room at the new place. I'm still chipping away at projects at the old house and have generally been in a funk of late, so it was good to get off my lazy ass and start working on the new place. I'm hoping to get a lot of indoor projects knocked out this fall/winter, then tackle the landscaping (mostly the backyard) in the spring.

We also had a recent addition to the Scurvy household. Behold:

We're now the proud parents of two slider turtles, Sid and Sammy. We ended up inheriting them from a co-worker of ScurvyWife who no longer wanted them, so while we didn't really plan on getting turtles, they're cool enough, and pretty low-maintenance, tooling around in their aquarium.

ScurvyRat is back to his normal wild self, shaking off his random sprained ankle. He managed to scare us a bit right after that, as his leg was mostly healed but he suddenly stopped eating, and all sorts of dire things start running through my head, as he's getting up there in rat years. I think it was just the antiobiotics and anti-inflammatory that they vet gave him, though, as he started eating like a little pig again once he was off those.

The latest rat drama is that he seems to have mites, and has been super scratchy of late. Last time this happened we took him to the vet who gave him shots of Ivomectrin once a week for three weeks, which knocked out the mites really well. I poked around a bit and discovered that Ivomectrin is non-prescription and used as a broad spectrum dewormer/bug zapper for all sorts of animals, and commonly sold in feed stores as horse dewormer. So we made a trip to the feed store a few weekends ago, bought a huge tube of horse dewormer, and have been feeding the rat a tiny amount once a week, a tiny dab the size of an uncooked grain of white rice. It seems to be doing the truck and he isn't running around neighing yet, so hopefully it'll clear things up. The whole thing has been cracking me up, as far as successfully infiltrating the feed store for our own nefarious rat purposes, as well as having a huge tube of horse dewormer sitting on the kitchen counter.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sailing the Seas of Malaise

Not exactly sure why, but much of the wind has been taken out of my poker sails of late. I'm still playing but it's pretty haphazard and of the Stabby McStabsalot variety. I chunk money into Full Tilt or Stars, play SnGs not supported by my roll, burn through a deposit or two, run up my balance a bit, donk it back, reload, run it back up, donk it back to pretty much smack dab break even overall, rinse, repeat.

To a large extent, the decision to play SnGs is responsible for the feeling of playing on auto-pilot, aimlessly drifting around. At a certain point, they sort of play themselves, especially with late game strategy and decisions of push/don't push. So while I get a certain vicarious thrill out of the swings of variance (including ten consecutive 4th place finishes at the $120 level, whee), it's more akin to playing blackjack, albeit with a slight edge over the house.

I suppose what I'm wrestling with most is finding my own personal happy place, where I play poker and enjoy it, and leave it at that. Or, more simply, follow through on my past threats of assuming the mantle of poker hobbyist, plain and simple. I've gotten locked into the mindset that there's no point in playing unless it's for meaningful stakes, but my head is nowhere near the place it needs to be to play for meaningful stakes.

Which brings us to the point where my convoluted head pipes up and says "Umm, dude, how 'bout you just play when you feel like playing and enjoy it? What the fuck are you babbling on about. This isn't hard." And then I tell my head to shut up and drink more coffee and fire up another SnG.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Will He Please Stop Talking About This Crap?

Just to be clear, I'm still hypothetically playing the online poker. Still can't win a coin-flip or a single freaking hand when I'm a 80-20 favorite but I am still, hypothetically, playing poker online.

Not to sound grumpy, but I still think that some people are missing the boat on what just happened with the UIGEA legislation. Yes, it primarily concerns itself with the financial side of US players depositing money into online gaming sites. Yes, it does nothing to criminalize the actual act of US citizens playing poker online. That is all very true.

But there's also an entirely separate section that devotes itself to addressing the promotion of online gaming in the US. If you promote online gaming sites (via hyperlinks, banner ads, email, text references or any combination thereof) or refer website visitors to online gaming sites, you can potentially be charged with aiding and abetting and sentenced to up to 5 years in federal prison. This is an entirely different issue than the one above. This has absolutely nothing to do with the legality of you playing poker online, and nothing to do with the legality/illegality of a site like Full Tilt accepting deposits from US players.

Now, again, as I've said many times, the odds of you getting thrown in the federal pokey because you talk about playing poker at Full Tilt are infitesimally small. You're more likely to get struck by a pallasite meteorite. This is not something that 99% of the poker bloggers out there need to worry about. I'm not trying to scare anyone, just pointing out that the UIGEA is multi-faceted, and that one of those facets deals with the promotion of online gambling.

Sorry to yammer on again about this, but I've gotten a ton of emails and comments that basically state the same thing, as far as pointing out that I'm over-reacting, that nothing has changed, that US players can still deposit and play, yada yada yada. For someone who lives in the US and simply plays poker online, yes, they can still do that. If you play poker online and also blog about it, things have slightly changed, as there's the infitesimally small chance that you might be targeted for promoting online gambling. If you play poker online, blog about it, and receive revenues from online gambling sites that are generated by your blog, things have changed a great deal. If you fall into that last category, your level of concern should be directly proportional to how much revenue you generate, ranging from barely concerned at all (if you only make beer money from ads on your blog) to pretty freaking concerned. That's all I'm trying to say.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

You're Stuck With Me, Bitches

Just to clear one thing up, I still have no plans to complete shut the ol' blog down here. Granted, a goodly chunk of what I yammer on about is online gambling related, and I'll likely be doing little to none of that in the future, but I'm still planning on babbling here on a fairly regular basis.

Lost is off to a decent start, but the addition of the fair Juliet would likely have me saying that in and of itself, even if the first two episodes consisted of the Others and Losties having a knock-down drag-out crocheting battle to determine who can make the finest woolen caps. We've actually kicked a good bit of our tv habit lately, mainly watching Lost and catching up on old episodes of Scrubs and Monk. Exciting, crazy times in the Scurvy household, indeed.

Finally got around to buying Age of Empires III and am liking it, although my podunk graphics card is struggling to deal at times. I normally trend towards the turn based games, as the RTS games just enhance how old, dumb, and slow I've become, but I played the hell out of all the other AoE games so I thought I'd give this one a shot.

Interesting info floating around on 2+2 in regards to ETFs and happy-fun things like audits and the IRS. Lots of misinformation, too, so take it all with a grain of salt, but if you've been cashing out of Neteller of late, read up on "structuring" or "structured transactions". Again, I apologize for being the bringer of the gloom and/or the doom, but the fact that Neteller caps ETF withdrawals to your linked account at $5K might actually increase the chances of you getting audited.

The problem is that making multiple $5K withdrawals to your linked account gives the appearance that you're intentionally trying to avoid triggering bank requirements to report transactions of $10K or more to the IRS by withdrawing smaller sums. The supposed $10K threshold is misinformation in and of itself, as banks can report anything that they deem unusual or suspicious, even amounts under $10K, but the point remains the same. Lots of $5K withdrawals within a short timespan looks hinky, as the "normal" thing to do would be to withdraw $20K, instead of making four separate $5K withdrawals over the course of a week or two. So Neteller is basically unwittingly increasingly the chances that you might get audited by capping ETF withdrawals at $5K. Thanks a pantload, Neteller.

As long as you're paying taxes and accounting for everything, you're not breaking any laws and have nothing to worry about, as they're nothing illegal in and of itself by making multiple withdrawals as outlined above. Just yet another thing to worry about and yet another poke in the eye from the Frist stick.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Consider Yeself Warned, Ye Scurvy Bonus Hunters

I've debated thumbing my nose at the UIGEA powers that be and daring them to track me down through the largely anonymous Blogger system, but I just don't have the energy for that, nor can I see a real upside in keeping a lot of the info I've compiled, as far as how to make cash from poker, casino, and sportsbook bonuses.

I originally planned to remove all of the hyperlinks in those posts and leave them intact but, again, thanks to the broad language of the legislation, even a post sans hyperlinks could be considered the unlawful promotion of Internet gambling sites. Yes, I'm overreacting. Yes, that'd be one hell of an infringement upon freedom of speech, if someone was prosecuted for simply mentioning Party Poker in a blog post, with no hyperlink. Yes, you'd have a hell of an argument in court. Yes, you'd very likely win that case.

But I'm just very tired right now. Tired of this country in its present state, tired of gnashing my teeth, tired of even considering the possibility of going to freaking jail for mentioning and/or linking to online gaming sites in my gay online journal. So I'm just going to quit, and be a good monkey and remove all of the content that my government has deemed to be immoral and illegal.

Lest this sound completely paranoid and alarmist, I'm in a bit of a more exposed condition than many bloggers. Having received reasonably substantial wire payments from assorted foreign online gaming sites in the past for affiliate payments, there's a good chance that I'm on assorted lists that have been compiled, via bank reporting guidelines and increased scrutiny of such wire payments post 9-11. Given that possibility, it seems best for me to make a clean and public break from any and all connections to online gaming sites. So I'm not trying to freak anyone out or insinuate that the feds are coming after all poker bloggers, because I don't think they are.

So if you've bookmarked assorted bonus pages and lists and what-not, you better copy and paste 'em while they're still around, as they'll be going bye-bye in the next few days. Sorry about that.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Taking an online defensive driving course is not the most happy-fun way to spend a Sunday morning. I suppose it's better than paying the extortionary ticket I got for speeding back when we went to New Mexico a few months back for a mini-vacation, but just barely. I wouldn't mind it at all if you could click through at your own pace, but of course it's designed to make you sit there for the alloted time, even after you've answered all the quiz questions correctly.

Donked around at some SnGs yesterday on Stars, playing anywhere from $55+5 to $210+$15, with one $525+$30 for giggles and grins. Pretty much broke even when it was all said and done, which seems to be the poker motto for the year. I need to stop playing so recklessly, though, as far as playing at buy-in levels not supported by my largely reduced online roll. I'm not sure why but my mindset of late has been of the make somethign big happen or bust vand be done with it variety, and that's just silly. I'm thinking about just playing the Sunday Million on Stars for the foreseeable future, with the theory that it'll give me something to look forward to poker-wise each week, there's a decent amount of upside if I get lucky on go on a tear in one, and it's not the end of the world if I go a month or two and don't cash. But, like all my poker plans of late, who knows.

Sometimes the levels of my silly degenracy amuse me. I've been knocking off a few lingering casino bonuses and finally got around the one at Mansion. They offer a 100% up to $1,000 casino bonus match on your first deposit, and allow all games to count towards the $20,000 WR (although all the decent games only count 25% for WR purposes). At first glance it seems a real trudge, as the WR is effectively $80,000 for BJ and baccarat, so while it's still +EV, it involves playing a gawdawful number of hands and the software doesn't have an autoplay function. If you're enterprising, though, and download an autoclicker like the one offered here (which only costs $5 and is super-easy to set up and use), you can effectively clear the bonus on autoplay by betting on banker at Baccarat, and setting up the auto-clicker to click ever 0.5 seconds on the bet/deal button.

EV is $150 or so if you clear it at baccarat, which isn't a huge score but hey, money is money is money. The bonus is added after you clear the WR, though, so be prepared to deposit enough to give you a cushion to clear it, as you'll typically lose a good chunk of cash in the process of clearing the $80,000 in WR, and then gain it all back (plus some) when the $1,000 bonus is added upon completetion of the WR. If you deposited for the Mansion free bet promo earlier, you should have the $1,000 bonus showing in your account, so it's just a matter of clearing the WR to unclock it. Once you're in a casino game your bonus money and progress can be accessed by clicking on "Options" at the menu at the top, then on "Earned Bonus" from that screen. It also takes a damn long time to clear, even with the auto-clicker, so be prepared to tie up a computer for many hours if you want to clear this one.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Thank Jebus!

Join me in finally breathing a huge, huge sigh of relief, as OUR PORTS ARE NOW SAFE...

...and, if you're a convicted felon, you can still get a job working at major ports, thanks to the last-minute efforts of assorted concerned Congresspersons It really is a win-win situation!!!

Party is a ghost town, after pulling the plug on US players. Very odd sight, that, with empty tables as far as the eye can see. bwin/Ongame announced they were bailing out, too, as soon as they can cobble together the tricknology to bar US players from playing for real money. Sportingbet is selling its US-based operations for the whopping sum of $1. (Although I imagine they have ties of some sort to the Antiguan-based company that is legally purchasing said operations.) Interesting times, indeed.

I ain't no Internet tubes expert but methinks that Stars stands to make a boatload of money as a result of all this silliness. Good for them.

I got pretty deep in the Stars rebuy last night, going out about twenty spots from the money. Had a top 20 stack and flopped a set with 88 on a 6h 8d Qc flop, and the Miss Cleo (also the only person at the table who covered me) insta-shoves (with what turned out to be KdJd), and I, umm, called. Running diamonds and no board pairage send me packing in a pot that'd have given me a pretty huge chip lead on the field. Whee, poker.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Still fairly malaisical of late, so I've been refraining from posting. Kudos to Neteller and PokerStars for sticking it out and not abandoning the field just yet. I'm having a hard time getting too excited, as nothing has changed on the affiliate industry front, which is still positioned to take the hardest immediate hit when the legislation is signed. It'll be interesting, too, to see what sort of effect the decision of PokerStars to remain in the US market has on highly visible Team PokerStars members and other sponsored players that live in the US. If you strictly interpret and enforce the law, culpability for a site accepting funds from US players could trickle down to any and every employee, which could make for interesting times if the government ever actually moves to enforce it.

Haven't played too much poker this week, staying pretty busy with work and other endeavors. I'm not really sure what the poker future will hold, as recent events have taken a lot of the wind out of my poker sails. That's probably more driven by a long stretch of break-even poker play than anything else, but whatever the reason, it's hard of late to summon up much enthusiasm towards teh poker. Likely a short term thing, but we shall see.

Digging playoff baseball, especially seeing the Tigers do well. It helps that I plunked a $50 futures bet on them that I got at CanBet as a free bet for a deposit many months ago, which'll pay off a little over $800 if they win the World Series. Aside from that, I usually end up rooting for whatever enthusiastic, excited young team is left in the playoffs, and the Tigers pretty much fit that bill. For the love of Jebus, though, someone needs to hire Lou Pinella as a manager again, because I don't know how much longer I can stand to listen to him say deep, insightful things like: "He got a chance to play and the rest is history!" and "Yes, that WAS a breaking ball," and "You don't want the other team to put crooked numbers up on the board." Really, Sweet Lou? You think?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Now What?

Still a bit out of sorts and malaiseical from recent events. Trying to avoid more yammering about it, as the yammering adds nothing at this point.

At some point last week I picked up a nail in the front passenger tire of my truck, came out to hop into it and runs some errands, and it was flat as could be. With ScurvyWife largely out of commission from sinus surgery, I just drove her car around for a few days, finally getting around to changing out the flat towards the end of the week. A local tire place fixed it for free, so Saturday I took it back in to get the tire torqued on tighter and had them change the oil, as it needed it and hey, if you fix my flat for free I'm happy to throw some business your way. Total charge for the full service oil change? $10.63. Who says living in small towns in the country sucks?

The funniest part is that they were swamped when I took it in and the guy said it'd be 1.5 hours before it was done. I didn't really want to call ScurvyWife to come fetch me as she was still a bit out of it, and didn't feel like sitting around the shop for that long. So I walked home. ScurvyWife seemed to think that was the funniest thing she had ever heard of, especially when she looked out the window to see me bopping along down the street, but it only took me half an hour or so, it was reasonably cool and nice outside, and, hey, wow, exercise.

Played a goodly amount of poker this weekend, largely heads-up 10/20 LHE. Heads-up LHE is an odd game, if you're both reasonably savvy. Ryan expressed it much better than I can in his Suicide Pact Posts I and II (and then conveniently abandoned the conclusion and left everyone hanging), but I'd forgotten the odd nature of heads-up/extremely shorthanded play. It often resolves itself into extremely aggressive action where the loser is the first person to blink, as the distribution of cards is always random. By that I mean you often spar back and forth and fairly quickly establish the parameters for the encounter, as far as K high being more than enough to bet all of the way to the river, third pair on the flop being worthy of a 3-bet, etc. After that it's simply a matter of not blinking, no matter what.

What I'm learning, I suppose, is that it really is a zero sum game in many cases, if you both know what you're doing. It's also a game of extremely high variance, as you're inevitably shoveling much money into the pot when certain conditions are met, and it only takes four or five pots not going your way to post a hefty loss for the session. That's not to say you won't post big wins, even against an opponent that you have no edge against, as you will, but you'll also post big losses that are largely unavoidable, due to the random distribution of cards.

My simple point is that I've been doing well at the shorthanded games, and I think a reasonably significant factor is that I'll just bail on a session when it becomes apparent that I have no edge., even if that means, gasp, not playing at all if no other decent games are available. It's the most obvious of obvious points but table selection becomes pretty damn important when there are just two of you sitting at the table.

Suffered a two outer at the day job last week, too, as we're getting a new immediate boss, which was finally announced and of course it's one of the people I was actively hoping and praying wouldn't get the position, so boo to that. Trying to keep my head in a decent place in regards to HyperMegaGlobalCorp, especially with my supplemental happy-fun income outside work drying up for now, but it's been kind of hard of late. The life of a cube monkey is definitely an easy one, but far from the way a monkey should live his or her life. I'm probably locked into staying until early 2007, but it's time to start seriously planning an escape route, as I'll go nuts if I continue to spend one-third of my daily life completely and utterly bored out of my gourd, surrounded by incompetent, petty people.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Cat Killer Speaketh

Hey look, it's the cat killer, err, Frist himself, explaining how he's saving all us gamblers from hellfire and damnation:

First-Person: Putting a Stop to Internet Gambling

Parts I especially super-duper enjoyed:

"This hurts families. Although Internet gambling did not have a prominent place on either party’s radar screen just a few years ago, its explosive growth and potential for damaging families made it a very important issue to me and many others in Congress."

False. The chance to buy votes in the Iowa caucuses made this a very important issue to you.

"In fact, online casino websites have the potential to turn every personal computer in the country into a miniature version of the Las Vegas Strip. Rigorous state enforcement means that brick and mortar casinos make a good faith effort to keep minors away from gambling. The same isn’t so for online casinos: A website can’t tell whether someone is 13 or 35."

False. They use the exact same measures to tell that someone is the age of majority that online horse betting and fantasy sports sites use, both of which you gave a hearty thumbs up to continue to accept online wagers.

"The existence of Internet gambling, moreover, makes a mockery of laws in states that forbid all gambling. Experts who testified before Congress agreed social trouble has increased as a result: People who gamble online are almost twice as likely to become problem gamblers as those who gamble in other places. Problem gambling destroys lives and families."

I guess you were too busy lying and slaughtering cats in med school to drop in on a logic class or two. I'm not even going to make fun of that, as it does well enough on its own.

"It’s important that people in the pro-family movement remain vigilant to be sure that the regulations implementing this law accomplish all that Congress intended. The government also will be able to ensure that website operators don’t provide links to gambling websites. Finally, anybody who violates the Internet gambling law can have all gambling licenses revoked: Thus, any land or river-based casino operator that opens a gambling website could see all of its casinos shut down."

Good to know, all the way around.

"We already have evidence that the law will work. Although the president has not yet signed the bill, shares in the United Kingdom’s largest online gambling companies have dropped more than 50 percent on the news of Congress’ action. At least one major online casino has decided to pull out of the U.S. market altogether and others likely will follow suit. Internet casinos, which made a fortune violating existing laws, bet against Congress taking them on. Thanks to citizens concerned about America’s families, their bets didn’t pay off."

Love the smugness, Bill. You wear it well. Thanks a pantload. Now go kill some cats.

When in Doubt, Play Your Ass Off

Ironically enough, I've probably played more poker in the last week than in the last couple of months combined. A lot of it is simple distraction, coupled with being off work most of the week, but I'd be lying if I said uncertainty isn't playing a part, too, as far as not exactly knowing what tomorrow might bring, as far as my poker options.

I've been playing at Poker.com and Full Tilt, largely because of the public stances they've taken in regards to recent goings-on, and I figure my rake might as well go to reward that. I think we should all keep in mind that their ultimate decision is fueled by what they feel will make them the most money (and not their love of each and every one of us and our personal freedoms), but hey, at least someone is willing to stick their necks out, even if its the shiny American dollars that are the real motivation. Full Tilt also just rolled out a 50% up to $500 reload bonus (only available if your bonus account is currently at $0), so that doesn't hurt, either, as far as a motivation to get some hands in.

It's interesting to see blog posts talking about the effects of playing in a more aggressive, what-the-hell style, as far as folks playing on sites where they had a few bucks that they planned to be forced to cash out of soon anyway. Definitely a double-edged sword, but it does point out some of the benefits of playing with complete and utter disregard for the money you're wagering. That's especially been true for me at Poker.com, as I've been on a nice run at the shorthanded 15/30 and 10/20 tables, often playing heads-up due to general lack of traffic. Feels kind of maniacal to put in eight raises on the river with just top pair against a silly, overaggrssive lemur, but when he's proven to be willing to put in seven raises himself with just third pair, well, it's suddenly not that maniacal.

Fairly glad to see the end of this week and to send it packing. On the bright side, ScurvyWife and ScurvyRat are healthy and back to normal, the world didn't explode when anti-gambling laws were passed, and I'm about to go eat a ton of brisket, drink some beer, and watch some baseball. Things could be much, much worse.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Should I turn this into a Lost blog? Maybe a public service site with information for teenage boys on how stave off the sexual advances of older, powerful men? (And, just so you know Fox News, you can flash that graphic of Foley that says "D-FL" as much as you like but it STILL doesn't magically turn him into a Democrat, savvy?) Maybe I could learn crocheting and do podcasts to teach you how to make a perfect foundation ring?

I've been sitting here the last few days staring at a $30,000-$40,000 hole in our finances, which is pretty much the expected annual value of my affiliate, advertising, and advantage gambling revenue combined. Years of work and countless hours went into building that up and it was pretty much obliterated in a handful of days. I've spent the last few days taking assorted sites down, turning off the lights. And the sad thing is that I'm very low in the affiliate food chain, barely even registering. The political ambitions of a handful of men have literally erased billions of dollars of wealth in the last week. Not from terrorists or Osama but from people like me and you.

One issue that's largely been lost in all of the hoopla is the effect that this legislation will have on many thousands of US citizens, who derived all or a goodly chunk of their income from poker, either as a player, affiliate, journalist, Web designer, you name it. No one is discussing the potential tax revenues that were flushed down the the toilet, as far as taxes legally paid, year in ad year out, by profitable players and affiliates. The US government gladly accepted tens of thousands of dollars from me in taxes directly generated by the online poker industry, yet falls all over itself in its rush to lop its own nose off, because it a pollster suggested that campaigning noseless in the Iowa Caucuses might result in a 0.24% rise in the polls.

Sadly, I can't even point to a single positive result that will result from all of this, either. If the legislation had banned all gambling in the US, at least you could console yourself with the knowledge that a lot of problem gamblers weren't gambling anymore, or that grandkids might get nicer Christmas presents now that Grandma can't pump her money into penny slots. I obviously think it'd be terrible to unilaterally make a decision like that for all US citizens, but at least I could understand the impetus of it, and at least a few positive results.

Instead we get this. Nothing. Ominous, threatening legislation that absolutely gutted a growing billion dollar industry, negatively affecting millions of people around the world. Legislation that allows you to bet on horses online or buy lottery tickets but forbids you from depositing money to an online poker site. Legislation that criminalizes creating this simple hyperlink, with punishment of up to five years in federal prison.

It just makes me sad, more than anything. I realize I'm too close to this issue to be objective, and still relatively a whipper-snapper on the age scale, but it seems like we've turned a dangerous corner in recent years that seems fairly unprecedented, as far as the dislocation between those in power in the US and the rest of us. It's easy to lay blame at the feet of Bush but that's way too easy, and exactly what the puppet masters want us to do. I mean, by all accounts the man thinks fart jokes are the most hilarious thing on the face of the earth and is obsessed with them. I don't think Bush is the enemy here.

Politics is a game, always has been, always will be. Democrats, Republicans, Whigs, it doesn't matter. If you choose to be involved in politics, it's a pretty fair assumption that you're going to act out of self-interest first, and when that's taken care of, well, you'll do what you can for the people you represent. That's completely copacetic with me. As long as the needs of the people you represent occupy around 40% of your motivation, we're cool. It's not perfect and yeah, it'd be great if that number were higher, but that's a viable system and about as good as we can hope for.

Lately, though, Jebus... I'm scared to even try to peg where that number is, for most elected officials. 5%? 10%? This creeping arrogance seems to have seeped in, where elected officials (both Democrat and Republican) act as if they have absolute impunity to pursue whatever agenda they feel like pursuing. What, we can't torture people if we want to? Well, let's just muddy the waters and change the dang ol' rules. What do you mean we can't eavesdrop on US citizens without approval form the courts? Screw that, dawg, we're just going to do it anyway. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. And don't deposit money to play poker online. Sure, bet on horses online, and spend your entire paycheck on lottery tickets, but don't even think about depositing money to an online poker site.

And, again, I just turned 32, so maybe I'm simply not old and wise enough to remember times like these, and maybe these things are cyclical, but things just feel wrong. I can only imagine what the rest of the world thinks, looking at us in this time in our history. The last thing I'd do is bash the US as I think there are innumerable good and wonderful things about this country, but this is not the brighest of moments in our history.

Looping back to personal grubby matters, I'm not sure what the future is going to hold. Lots of bloggers seem to be grappling with that idea, as far as how to fill the void that was once occupied by poker. Doubly so for me, as I was involved on both fronts, not only playing but the bulk of my outside business was in the online gaming affiliate realm. It's not a death blow, seeing that go poof, as I never quit my day job, but it's a pretty strong knee to the groin. While there are decent arguments that you can still do the online gaming affiliate stuff and no one will ever come after you, those are also slightly missing the point. Even if the feds don't show up at your door, the industry was just completed gutted, and you're only looking at making a fraction of what you were before. And you're always going to have uncertainty hanging over your head, operating in a fairly gray area of the law.

Part of me feels like saying the hell with the affiliate industry entirely, and focusing on buying/renovating real estate. Which would probably be the easiest thing to do, but that somehow feels like I've let (insert name of elected official that is no longer interested in serving the needs of his/her constituents) win. And yeah, I'm being overly dramatic, but whatever. The thought of rolling out free credit card sites or porn sites or Viagra sites doesn't fill me with much enthusiasm, but extra income is a very nice thing. We shall see.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

If You Live in the US and Have a Single Link to a Online Gaming Site, Read This

First things first, I apologize for being Captain Bringdown here. This is kind of doom and gloomy. But no one is really talking about this and it potentially affects many people reading this.

We're obviously still working our way through the wastelands, as far as what the online gaming ban in the US means to everyone. I'm not a lawyer. I have no idea how all of this is going to play out. But I do have a vested interest in the affiliate side of things, so I've been reading many threads and discussions on many sites. Most posters there are also not lawyers. So none of this comes from anyone with a legal background and none of us know how this will play out. So realize that what follows is largely hypothesizing and conjecture.

Do not be fooled by the fact that the bulk of the legislation is aimed at financial institutions and online operators. Don't simply focus on that very large facet of the bill and ignore other pieces that may indeed directly impact you. It doesn't just address banks and poker sites. While it doesn't attempt to criminalize the act of playing poker online for US citizens, it most definitely takes a broad swipe at criminalizing anyone that aids and abets someone from the US potentially gambling online.

If you have a simple text link to an online gaming site, that's you. It applies more directly to affiliates who are being paid for such services, but it literally can apply to anyone that resides in the US, who places something as simple as a single, solitary hyperlink to an online gaming site.

Below is lawyer Nelson Rose's analysis of this facet of the law:

"The Act provides for limited civil remedies against “interactive computer services.” An Internet service provider can be ordered to remove sites and block hyperlinks to sites that are transmitting money to unlawful gambling sites. ISPs are under no obligation to monitor whether its patrons are sending funds to payment processors or even directly to gambling sites. But once it receives notice from an U.S. Attorney or state Attorney General, the ISP can be forced to appear at a hearing to be ordered to sever its links.

But the statute has an interesting requirement: The site must “reside on a computer server that such service controls or operates.” This would limit the reach of this statute to payment processors, affiliates and search engines that are housed on that particular ISP. The same problem of going after foreign operators and payment processors affects this section. Foreign ISPs are difficult to serve and not necessarily subject to federal court injunctions.

The greatest danger here would seem to be with affiliates. Any American operator can be easily grabbed. This includes sites that don’t directly take bets, but do refer visitors to gaming sites. If the affiliate is paid for those referrals by receiving a share of the money wagered or lost, it would not be difficult to charge the affiliate with violating this law, under the theory of aiding and abetting. Being a knowing accomplice and sharing in the proceeds of a crime make the aider and abettor guilty of the crime itself. The federal government could also charge the affiliate with conspiracy to violate this new Act."

The potential penalties include fines and/or up to five years imprisonment in a Federal prison. No, I'm not kidding. And I haven't even gotten to the really scary part yet.

As soon as Shrub signs this into law (which could happen in a day or two), the clock starts ticking. If you reside in the US and you have affiliate links up, you're breaking the law. If you've been paid for a banner or text link to an online gaming site, you're breaking the law. All logical arguments go out the window. The US no longer is ruled by logic. I doesn't matter that you're accustomed to certain freedoms of speech, and that it makes no logical sense that supplying a simple hyperlink can't be illegal, as the ultimate decision to click or not (not to mention the secondary decision to gamble online for real money, once the link is clicked). You're breaking the law.

Hosting your site on a server located outside the US changes nothing. Employing redirect scripts changes nothing. If you live in the US and you use HTML to link to online gaming sites, you're breaking the law.

By this point you're asking the million dolar question, which no one really has an answer to. Okay, you say, but come on, is anyone really going to enforce that? How would they enforce that? The US government has considered playing online poker to be illegal for years but has never even tried to enforce tha stance, so why should I worry about them getting off their inefficient asses now?

And it's a very valid question. And I can't pretend to have an answer for it. But before you go too far down that road, take a step back. Who would have thought we'd be standing at the current brink that we are now? Stuck in a quagmire of our own making in Iraq with a smirking President trying his best to ensure that we can openly torture "prisoners of war", as opposed to doing it on the sly? That our largely conservative elected officials would see fit to decide for us, as to whether or not we can play poker online for real money without spiralling into debt and bankruptcy? Really? You expected this? Is it that irrational to imagine a world in which the government comes after you, for something as simple as having links to online gaming sites on your blog or website? Or, more accurately, a world in which the current US government comes after you for such a thing?

What should scare you is how transparent all of our blogs are. It'd take someone no more than a few hours of surfing blogs to compile a hefty list of scofflaws to serve as easy examples. Then it'd take some arm twisting of ISPs, but they'd likely cough up the information necessary to pinpoint the identities of the US citizens responsible for posting content to each blog. Making arrests would then be pretty trivial.

For the record, I personally do not think the above is likely. I'm not trying to scare anyone and I don't think the feds are waiting to beat down your door. But I do believe that you need to be aware of these issues, so that you're making an informed choice, whatever that choice may be.

If you've never made substantial money from affiliate links or keyword/ad placement deals, you're probably better off simply gritting your teeth and removing any links, when the bill is passed into law. I know. It's fucking ridiculous. It should not happen in this country. But it just did, and the best thing you can do is protect yourself and be rational about it. If you've only made $23.98 off those links, remove them. It's just not worth the potential risk.

If you're making substantial money from affiliate programs, well, you're in a tough spot. It's the same spot I'm in, and I still don't know what I'm going to do. One thing to note is that being incorporated offshore doesn't provide you with protection, as long as you still reside within the US. Hosting your websites offshore doesn't provide you with protection, if you reside within the US. It's still unclear if you can even legally accept payment of recurring revenue from your player base moving forward, once the bill is signed into law.

My plan is to hang loose for the moment and see what transpires, but to work up a contingency plan to quickly (and legally) transfer my affiliate assets to a sympathetic foreign party. Keep in mind that this doesn't necessarily have to be a permanent sale of your assets. If you're working with a sympathetic person you trust, it's up to you, as far as the contract you enter into. You could legally sell your affiliate assets to your uncle in Vancouver for $1, let it run as is, and come to some sort of arrangement as far as splitting the profits (which could be very legal and trasnparent or involve him giving you an envelope full of cash at Christmas). If the dust clears and it's legal to be an affiliate in the US, it's easy enough for him to sell you the assets back for $1. Or any variation thereof, as you likely get my drift.

Long story short, make sure your cornhole is covered, if you have any affiliate links on any website or blog and you live in the US. You're potentially in the gunsights of the new legislation as well, as it's not solely directed at banks and online sites.

Recovering from a Frist Fucking

Yesterday was interesting, to say the least. Not only did we have the early returns from Fristmeister's jihad against online gaming, but lots of turmoil in the Scurvy household. ScurvyWife had scheduled sinus surgery a month or so ago, which happened yesterday, and was all sorts of fun. It actually went well and she's doing fine, so the only real downside was the fact that I got to sit in a hospital waiting room for about 8 hours, which isn't much of a downside at all. Fun to watch CNN, though, and see other fine Republican leaders such as Foley acquiting themselves so well. And yeah, sure, Democrats have had the same problem with keeping their johnsons in their pants, but they at least have the decency to get jiggy with consenting parties who aren't, you know, freaking minors. Grand old party, indeed...

ScurvyRat decided to get in on the drama action, too, as we came home Saturday night and he'd somehow bunged up his back right leg and wasn't using it at all. He seemed better Sunday and was putting weight on it, so we chalked it up to a sprained ankle, which is fairly common with rats. Yesterday morning, though, it was much worse and really swollen and he was squeaking if you touched him and generally miserable. So we ran him into the vets, got some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory, ran back home, then got ScurvyWife to the hospital for her surgery. Rat is much better today, putting weight on it, and the swelling is way down, so hopefully the family is all on the mend.

As far as poker, well, you're all probably up to speed on what's going on. I was surprised that Party and 888 caved so quickly, but not terribly so. Good to see FTP stepping up, although the fact that they're still private makes it infinitely easier for them to take that stance. I cashed out the bulk of the money I had online except for what I have in sportsbooks that is held up for whatever reason. The Neteller train seems to be running on time and all my cashouts so far have been processed normally, so there's probably no reason to pull out all of your money now, but I just didn't see any upside in leaving it in any accounts. I'd ignore the talk you see about the ban applying only to money that is deposited, not withdrawn, leading up to the advice that as long as your account is currently funded, you can play indefinitely. That's a cute argument and it may indeed be a strict interpretation of the language, but the intent of the legislation pretty clearly encompasses the entire chain of depositing/withdrawing to online gaming sites, and it's 99% likely that having a pre-existing funded account isn't going to be a viable workaround for US players.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

ScurvyPicks NFL Week 4

Nothing like some mindless degenerate gambling to take your mind off assorted legal woes that poker is facing.

San Diego -1 -103 at Pinnacle
vs. Baltimore

The line is moving against me here, which should be a pretty glaring warning sign, but I'm just not buying that Baltimore is that good, as they've been beating up on craptacular teams and had their hands full with the lowly Browns last week, actually trailing 3-14 going into the 4th quarter. I think it'll be close and low-scoring but I like the SuperChargers here.

Dallas vs. Tennessee O/37 at Pinnacle +101

Vince gets the start for the Titans, which could be a disaster for an Over bet if he plays like the stereotypical deer in the headlights. I don't think he will, though, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if TO plays and has a huge game, in typical TO fashion. Taking the Over here basically boils down to whether you believe Tennessee can score on the Cowboys, with Vince at the helm, and I think they can muster up some points, which should be enough to cover the Over.

Seattle +3.5 at Pinnacle -111
vs. Chicago

Again, picking against the line movement during the week, but that's partly explained by Shaun Alexander going down with a bum foot. I just feel like Chicago is getting too much respect here, although I'll freely admit that I should likely avoid this game, as we'll see just how good the Bears are facing a tough team, and they could indeed be pretty good.

Bill Frist and Satan are Gay Lovers

Part of me is hesitant to yammer any more about the fallout from the passage of the Internet Gamling is of the Devil legislation, as it's all pretty much speculation at this point. Monday should be interesting, as far as watching assorted publicly-traded gaming companies get taken to the woodshed, and I would imagine that many operators will issue press releases of some sort, as far as their stance on the situation.

Well, I'll yammer a little bit. One issue that I don't feel people are taking seriously enough is the power of implied threat, especially for operators that are publicly-traded. It really doesn't matter whether or not the US government has the authority or the ability to punish a foreign company that knowingly transacts business with US players. If you think they're going to risk the consequences of being a rogue operator and openly flaunt US laws, think again.

Does that mean that EVERY online gaming site will fall all over themselves to comply with this law? Of course not. We'll see some more ban US players, probably as soon as Monday, but the major operators will hold out for as long as possible. And there will still likely be some rogue operators who do everything in the power to continue to accept and process transactions with US players. There's currently a few shady casino operators that openly brag about their ability to accept credit card deposits from US players, based on their willlingness to play the cat and mouse game with credit card companies, opening new merchant accounts on a continual basis as the credit card companies ferret out and close their old ones. But the casino operators doing that are shady as hell, screwing players over right and left, which is pretty much what you'd expect from someone willing to jump through such hoops.

The onus of the legislation pretty much falls on banks and operators, so there's no reason you can't play poker today, if you already were. It's still a gray area, as far as whether playing poker online falls under the Wire Act, but nothing has changed as to whether its illegal or legal to play poker, based on the state in which you live. Assuming sites don't rush to ban US players, you'll likely be able to continue playing for quite awhile, as the affected parties (banks and operators) have up to 270 days from when the bill is signed to get their acts together and start enforcing it. There's no reason to freak out and cash out and withdraw all of your money from Neteller. There's no reason to stop playing poker online. No one knows how any of this will really play out, but rest assured that it'll be made pretty clear when action is required from you.

If you're a blogger or website operator and have links of any sort, to any online gambling site, you may be at risk. Buried in the "Computer Services" section of the bill is language that can be read to mean that it is illegal to provide a hyperlink to an onling gambling site, with punishment include fines and/or up to 5 years in prison. This gets heavy into the legalese and I'm not even going to pretend I have any knowledge there. It's being debated on assorted boards and affiliates are hypthesizing that circumventing it may be as simple as using a link redirect or hosting your site outside the US, but only time will tell. If you're making money from affiliate programs or from ad placement deals, there's no reason to freak out and no one is going to beat your door down at this point. Just be aware that you're potentially at risk, and that this legislation isn't solely focused on banks and online operators, as it does include provisions for ISPs to block access to sites, and it includes something as simple as a hyperlink to an online gambling site as being illegal.

As nice as it is to cook up assorted loopholes such as the specific language of the bill not touching on withdrawing using certain financial instruments or establishing fake domicile elsewhere or more elaborate ways of circumventing it, well, I applaud the thought, but it's also missing the point. Again, it spleens me to say this, but the crafty bastards were smart with how they went about this, because the whole point is to create a big enough stick and to point it menacingly at online operators, waggling it a bit, and forcing them to bar US players from their sites. That's all they have to do to effectively prevent the majority of US citizens from gambling online. The operators are going to fall in line, eventually, after dragging their feet for as long as they can.

There is a sliver of hope, though, in some of the language that includes ISPs blocking access to sites, as well as it being illegal to provide a simple hyperlink to an online gaming site. It's the sort of broad, sweeping language that has proven to be unconstitutional in the past due to its infringwment upon assorted freedoms of speech. It's kind of surprising, actually, that it's even in there, as it's one of the few toeholds of potential support we might seen from folks like the ACLU, who would otherwise steer clear of any argument that we have the freedom to gamble online. Think what you want of the ACLU, but at least they've been willing to get involved in the past with fighting similar sweeping legislation in the past, even if it meant that they were fighting to roll back laws preventing other similar evils such as online porn, etc.