Monday, October 29, 2007

Canada is Nice, Eh...The WPT, Eh, Not so Much

I've been in Niagara Falls since last Wednesday and hey, it's pretty damn cool here. I had a day or two at the beginning to do the gawking tourist thing, walking around and taking photos of lots of falling water, but the last three days have been pretty freaking hectic as far as covering the WPT North American Poker Championship for the blog over at

Much of the hectic has been of the pretty freaking annoying variety, as it's completely and utterly unnecessary. Working 13-14 hour days during the opening starting days is pretty much standard, but having to run across the street to our hotel and up to my room to post any updates? Not so standard. Not being able to even have a laptop within rock-throwing distance of the tournament room? Not so standard.

A lot of the hassle is due to local gaming laws, as far as requiring that media apply in advance through the WPT to get screened and officially approved in order to set up near the tournament room, but therein lies the rub, as far as the WPT's role. In this day and age of media exclusivity at poker tournaments it's far too easy for the WPT to simply lose your email address and phone number when alerting media previously registered for events as to the restrictions and regulations here, and to somehow ignore half a dozen requests to register as non-exclusive media for the tournament.

In the grand scheme of things, not a huge deal at all. Just highly annoying, as far as the WPT making everything as difficult as possible for any media outlet that isn't CardPlayer. Which is a shame, as I'm not going to pack up my bags and go home, so all you really end up doing is making my job much more difficult, for no reason or gain whatsoever. I completely understand the need to generate cash through exclusivity agreements, especially if you're a poorly managed company on the brink of financial doom, but it's kind of a sad state of things, and one in which no one wins. The WPT staves off bankruptcy for a bit longer, so I guess that's a win, but an empty media room with a couple of laptops isn't doing poker as a whole much good, especially when the CardPlayer coverage is as bad as it is.

But enough venting. It's more due to tired feet and a sore back from all the footing it back and forth, which I likely shouldn't even gripe about, as it's at least healthier than sitting on my butt all this time.

The overall turnout was a little disappointing, as they only ended up drawing 504 runners. Which is slightly above last year's figures, and there's nothing terrible about that, but organizers had been promising a blowout field of 600-700 entries, right up until Sunday morning (the last starting day), even though it was ainfully obvious at that point that they'd be lucky to hit 500.

The legal age to enter casinos here is 19, so the overall field is pretty damn young, with many of the online wunderkids who aren't yet 21 making the trip here. Cracks me up sitting on the rails watching the action and hearing assorted packs of wunderkids discussing life, their plans that night, etc. I can't even imagine being 19 again, much less 19 with a couple of hundred thousands dollars in bricks of cash in a duffelbag, trying to decide what to do that night.

Haven't played a single hand of poker so far, and I'm not sure that'll change. Other than being insanely busy with work here, the waiting list for 5/5/ NL at the casino was 5 or 6 hours deep for much of the weekend, although things cleared out once the weekend was over. I'm fairly cash-poor at the moment with all my house-buying, and playing with slightly scared money isn't too much fun. The wife arrived on Saturday so I'm probably going to use what little free time I have to go do touristy things with here, instead of the normal degenerate time killing.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Absolute Lies, Half-Truths, and Everything Else In Between

The whole Absolute debacle continues to be pretty amusing, but leaves me with all sorts of mixed emotions. Pauly (as always) says it much more elegantly and comprehensively than I can, but honestly, what a fucked up world poker is these days.

As far as official statements from Absolute, here's a quick synopsis: horseshit. They're saying anything and everything they can think of to keep their operations from spinning down the drain. The reality is that it's entirely possible for crooked-ass, immoral people to be in charge of major poker sites. Not just possible, but inevitable. I mean, for the love of Jebus, you're talking about an unregulated industry that spins off millions in free cash, each and every day of the week. Because of the inability of the US government to get its shit together and tax and regulate online poker, operators have been driven even further afield, and given even more leeway for shenanigans such as this to occur.

My favorite part of the whole Absolute situation is that one of their defenses when confronted with the fact that they were being less than forthright was to put forth the following defense: "What, you really want us to be honest and to admit that our highest ranking executives are treating the site like their personal piggy bank? Don't you realize that admitting that would doom us personally and give the entire industry a huge black eye in a particularly vulnerable time? No one wins in that scenario. How could you want that?"

Which makes me giggle quite a bit, as far as falling back on the argument that we should all think about the good of poker and not condemn Absolute. Umm, okay. You've done about the absolute worst thing a site can, short of absconding with all the money players have deposited with you, yet your primary defense is to beg for leniency? Why? So you can do it again?

The interesting part will be to see if they really suffer much, traffic-wise. I have to think much of the traffic on Absolute is there for rakeback, prop deals, etc., as there's pretty much zero reason to play there, when offered alternatives such as Full Tilt, Party, and PokerStars. So they may not even get hit that hard, as far as losing traffic, and that's not even factoring in the people who simply don't care about any allegations and scandals and just want their poker fix.

Haven't seen too much upheaval in traffic numbers at pokersitescout yet, but it's still early. It's interesting to see the gains that the iPoker Network has been making, as they've passed Ongame and are closing in on Full Tilt. Never thought that would have been the case back in the days when I played on Noble Poker and it was virtually a ghost town for much of the day.

I've barely played poker of late, as all my free time is getting sucked up by the most recent house project. I played in another Aussie Millions freeroll a few weeks back, and ended up finishing 9th (top 2 got trips). I was actually 2nd or 3rd for most of the tournament, pretty much on cruise control, but then lost a big pot with KK versus AQ, got no love on three or four coin-flips versus shortish stacks, then got bounced when I got overly frisky with a flush draw.

Played the blogger freeroll at PokerStars, exiting at 200th or so. Too much donkery to overcome in this one, as I had a nice stack but ran into the perfect storm of opponents who call off all their chips with just a gutshot, who think K10o is a monster pre-flop hand, and who can't wait to get all their chips in the middle with A4 s facing a raise, a re-raise, and an all-in from the three players in front of them. Well played, sirs, well played...

Heading off to Niagara Falls on Wednesday to cover the WPT North American Poker Championship for PokerRoom. I'm definitely looking forward to this trip, as I've never been to that part of the country, it's a nice ten day break from the day job, and my wife is flying up for the last half of the trip, as our anniversary is October 30th. Hard to believe that it's somehow been three years since we got married, but there you go.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ZOMG Online Poker is Rigged and Filled with Cheaters

The last week hasn't exactly been a banner one for online poker security, as the final nail in the Absolute visible whole card/superuser brouhaha, as well as PokerStars voiding TheVoid's +$1 million cash in the WCOOP Main Event for running multiple accounts. I'd link to relevant threads at 2+2 and PocketFives but they're easy enough to find, if ye be so inclined.

As far as the Absolute situation, it was pretty clear to most experienced players with half a brain that something very fishy was going on, from both the hand histories from the victory in the $1K MTT and the hand histories from cash games of the accounts in question. Various convoluted, contrived explanations were floated as far as a way to explain it all away with no cheating involved, but as is often the Occam-y case, the simplest explanation is looking like the most accurate: a superuser account that can see hole cards exists (or existed) on Absolute.

On the PokerStars side of things, it's just another case of a player running multiple accounts in the same MTT, ala ZeeJustin. Nothing very exciting or sexy here. It's happened before, it'll happen again. It's very likely happening right now. The only real roadblock to running multiple accounts is one of risk tolerance more than logistics, as there's little the sites can do to truly combat it proactively, as they're largely reduced to reactive action once it's brought to light.

Which I think is the real issue here, and not so much the fact that cheating and collusion occur at online poker sites; how should sites react to embarassing, painful security breaches. While much of the forum furor about the absolute situation seems to be focused on getting the word out about the "scandal" itself, I think that's a little misguided, and does none of us any good. You can argue that new customers should be warned away from sites where cheating and collusion might occur, but that's not exactly practical. Cheating and collusion of some sort occurs on every online poker site, each and every day, to greater and lesser extents. There are simply too many shiny carrots dangling in front of people for it not to occur, especially when the only repercussions are that your accounts are closed and money seized.

That doesn't let sites off the hook, though, just because some degree of tomfoolery is inevitable. I think PokerStars is setting a great example as to how to deal with such things, which is to publicly acknowledge a potential issue exists, investigate the issue, and take public action, based on the results of the investigation. As an online player, that's all I ask for and expect. I'd never expect PokerStars to proactively block all attempts at running multiple accounts, or somehow prevent all attempts at collusion from ever being successful. It's just not practical nor achievable. Ever. So all I ask is that they hire smart people who understand the underlying issues, can recognize the importance of available evidence, and take public action when an outcome is reached.

Contrast that with the complete clusterfuck that is the current situation at Absolute. When all the brouhaha erupted, they put out a public statement shortly thereafter saying they were aware of the issues and that they'd thoroughly investigated the situation, all was well, and that nothing wonky had gone on whatsoever, even going so far as to add that it'd be impossible for anyone to see hole cards anyway since their client doesn't even parse/record that data for all players at the table. Case closed, in Absolute's eyes, and despite many people asking for more details and information, posing more questions, it looked like the case was closed.

Until some brainiac support staff at Absolute accidentally replied to a hand history request with ALL of the hand histories from the table in question in the suspicious tournament win, with hole card data for all players (as well as IP addresses, email addresses, etc.). Which not only shot a huge gaping hole in Absolute's initial claims that they never even record such data, but pretty much sealed the case as far as hole cards being available to the suspicious account, and pretty much confirmed that a superuser account does in fact exist, as it logged onto the suspicious accounts table and observed. More poking around seems to suggest that based on the IP address of those involved with shenaigans, it may be a current/former Absolute employee behind the suspicious accounts.

Assuming all that is true (and it's still just supposition now, to be fair, but supposition with a lot of evidence behind it), what should Absolute's reaction be? So far they seem to be taking the hunker down, proclaim all is well, hope that it eventually blows over approach. Which is understandable, as it takes a pretty big leap of faith to admit that your security has been breached to the point that hole card data was visible, clinging to the notion that players won't exit en masse, even if you claim that the problem has been resolved and will never happen again.

Painful as that is, though, I think that's what Absolute has to do, if the claims are true. It's not like their RNG was cracked, and, in a backwards fashion, it's actually a less serious security breach if it's an inside job, or if the superuser account was a remnant of the days of yore when the client was being coded and someone wanted to test things out. It's not pretty to admit such stuff, but it's at least logical, as far as the basic facts, and once addressed it shouldn't (in theory) ever be an issue again in the future.

Will Absolute fess up and come clean? I dunno. Signs seem to be pointing to "no", but who knows. If PokerStars suffered exactly the same crisis, would they deal with it head-on, publicly admitting the problem, the results of their investigation, and what they're doing to fix it? Again, who knows, but I think the answer would be "yes", and I doubt they'd suffer dramatically from it on the business side of things.

Much bloviating aside, all most online players want is to know that potential issues are investigated thoroughly, by smart folks, who aren't afraid to admit publicly that something hinky went down. I don't want or need a magic security blanket from online poker sites that protects me from any and all potential wrongdoing; I just want the reassurance that issues will be dealt with when they arise.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Jesus Will Kick Your Jesus' Ass for All Eternity

Watching the ESPN coverage of the 2007 WSOP Main Event has been really interesting this year, as far as being out there covering the whole thing live in meat space, then watching the coverage months later on the talking television box.

And watching the final table was even doubly so (interesting, that is), as it was pretty impossible for us non-exclusive media types to provide much coverage from the actual tournament room/final table stage, so I watched nearly all of the final table action from the live stream provided to the media room next door. We basically saw the actual action when cards were dealt, etc., but not really anything else from the room in general, as far as the stands, table talk, etc.

So I was there, obviously knew what was going to happen, and even remembered most of the big hands, as far as who got bludgeoned by Jerry Yang, how it happened, etc. None of that was surprising or really all that interesting. What was interesting, though, was all of the hallelujahs and beseechings of the Lord to deliver a favorable turn and river card, as while I knew Yang was of a religious bent, I had no clue just to what extent it was expressed for the cameras.

Honestly, I was pretty flummoxed last night, watching that on the ESPN coverage. Especially the hand Lee Watkinson busted out on, with Yang trying to ring up God on the direct prayer line, while Watkinson's girlfriend was very loudly testifying in the stands on Lee's behalf. I mean, wow.

I can't say I'm particularly religious, but I'm also not particularly anti-religious. Aside from the whole intolerance and moral superiority bent of some religions, I'm pretty much all for people believing in what brings them peace and happiness, especially if it provides a social support system that not only brings individuals happiness but does good in the world.

But I have to say that it made me pretty damn uneasy to watch and listen to prayers at the poker table. I mean, I get the argument that Yang was praying for help from God so that he could use the prize money to do God's will and donate all sorts of money to help all sorts of people. I wholeheartedly believe that his prayers were genuine in the sense that he wasn't asking God to help him suckout so that he could have more money to spend on strippers and blow.

But still. You're playing poker. The cards have been shuffled. You're gambling. Do you really want to involve God in all that? Don't you think that God perhaps has more important issues to attend to, instead of reaching down to help you hit your straight on the river to make $8 million and change instead of $4 million and change? Really? I mean, seriously, really?

Pulling back from the religious talk, I feel pretty bad for Lee Childs' dog, as you know he got kicked more than a few times when Childs watched the coverage and saw Yang's hole cards on the two hands that Childs laid down bigger pairs. The first one wasn't so terrible, but why Childs laid down the QQ I do not know, especially if he was willing to later look Yang up with KJo. I mean, dude, good lord. And if you're going to show the first big pair you laid down, you can't then roll over with the QQ, as the only point of showing the first time is to encourage Yang or someone else to push into you with an inferior hand when you have a hand like QQ in that spot.

I was also surprised at all the talking between Childs and his dad. I mean, yeah, it wasn't really out of line, but it was pretty close to the line. It just would never enter my head, in a million years, to hop up in the middle of a hand and go talk to anyone in the stands, moaning about how I don't think I can lay it down, yada yada yada.

You can't really argue the fact that Yang had a lot of luckbox mojo going his way, as he obviously did, but I honestly didn't think his final table play was that terrible. I think he played pretty terribly from 18 players or so down to the final nine, but once Hilm gifted Yang his stack and Yang had a big chip lead at the final table, he basically just bludgeoned people into submission. Yeah, he made some pretty bad plays (calling Watkinson's push with A9o, picking some bad spots to try to bully people in general, etc.) and kept making weird overbets, but he kept the pressure on people, and did it consistently, even when things went south there for a bit and he was bleeding chips. I don't think he's a particularly good player, don't get me wrong, but he played his big stack the way you're supposed to.

It was pretty amusing, though, to see the never-ending play when it was four or five-handed condensed down to something like 6 hands, on the ESPN broadcast. I mean yeah, obviously, and I don't think they did a bad job, but I just remember sitting there for hours on end, praying for someone to just win the damn thing, and it's interesting to see that suddenly, magically shrink to about 15 minutes of television time.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

And So It Goes...

Haven't yet gotten into full-swing manic house rehab mode yet, but getting close. On the bright side, the recent investment property we closed on is too much for me to handle alone, so I'll be hiring out 75% of the work. On the not-bright side, that still leaves about 1200 sq. ft. of hardwood floors for me to refinish, 800 sq. ft. of tile to lay, and repainting the entire exterior/interior. Plus approximately 172,192,283 other things that will inevitably crop up.

I've mainly been doing demo work so far, which should be finished by this weekend. Kind of nice and mindless, if a bit sweaty and exhausting, as there's no AC at all in the house.

I've managed to cram in a decent amount of poker, pretty much all at the $50NL level. I'm back up a bit over $2K bankroll-wise, which is nice, but I have to admit to a bit of boredom creeping in. Playing profitable poker at the $50 NL tables is more a matter of patience than anything, as I swear you can just play straight-up ABC poker, never bluff, never gamble, and book a decent little profit. Not an exciting proposition, really, but better than poking yourself in the eye with a sharp stick. I qualified for the Aussie Millions freeroll again which is on Sunday, so I'm sure I'll have some ridonkulous bustout hand to share from that one, likely after 4-5 hours of play.

Sometimes I rail against the routine of work/sleep/work/sleep/work/work/work/sleep/work but lately it's been kind of nice. Go to work, come home, eat, do some more work, play with the critters, sleep, work. Apply, rinse, lather, repeat. Boring, again, but kind of nice. It's a bit alarming to suddenly realize its October, and that I somehow lost September, but such is life I guess.

Creasy the dwarf bunny is finally, thank Jebus, largely litter-trained, which was pretty timely as I was about to open the door and punt him outside, once and for all, after the 172nd time he insisted on peeing all over the couch or on top of freshly-laundered clothes in a clothesbasket. The dynamic rat duo of Scribbles and Rip is pretty constantly entertaining, although they're growing like little rat weeds and capable of getting into infinitely more trouble now that they're not timid little babies, staying close to us and scared of nearly everything. They're pretty funny little goobers, though, and definitely worth the trouble they cause.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sign Me Up

Poker Tournament

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 4289758