Tuesday, May 31, 2005

When Two Day Work Weeks Go Bad

Trying to recreate the logic that resulted in my not taking this entire week off, since I'll only be here at the monkey factory for two days before leaving for Vegas. Failing miserably.

I'm actually hiding from the online poker tables of late, and probably will do so until Vegas. I went on a nice little rush over the weekend at the 15/30 tables and decided to shut it down while I was happy and smiley, instead of pushing things and risking a downturn before leaving for Vegas. Which makes little logical sense, but, you know, whatever...

I broke down yesterday and bought the new Sid Meier's Pirates, which is pretty amusing so far. So far I've just played on the easiest setting, blowing things up and raping and pillaging, but it looks pretty entertaining, especially the open-ended aspect of it. And it's got pirates. Pirates! Argh, matey...

Friday, May 27, 2005

Me Likee Fridays

Boo ya. Already mowed the dang ol' yard, finished up most of my telecommuting work for the day, and relieved assorted muppets of a goodly chunk of chips.

I have to say, profits and losses aside, just sacking up and moving to 15/30 has been one of the best things I've done in a long while, poker-wise. I'm actually enjoying playing again and finally thinking about hands, instead of cruising on auto-pilot.

I've mentioned this before (and seen it mentioned elsewhere), but it's an odd thing, playing at higher limits. There are still the inevitable gasket-blowing suckouts and bad beats, but things start to make a little more sense, even when they're non-sensical. You can actually make people lay down hands, which opens all sorts of avenues. If you're willing to be absolutely relentless and are able to ioslate certain players at the table (especially when they open with a raise), you can essentially play any two cards, and do it profitably on a consistent basis.

That said, me I'm still wearing the lacy panties and playing pretty standard ABC poker. Which, in a backwards fashion, is also a reasonably successful tactic, especially if you're playing with the right mix of hyper-aggressive players and a fish or two.

Less than a week until Vegas? Really?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Trials and Tribulation of Online Poker

Geez. I mean, it's hard enough dealing with the fact that online poker is rigged, not to mention bankroll management issues due to cashout curses. Apparently I now have to keep on eye on the +BB ban, which basically means that if you blog about results and it includes a positive BB/100 or BB/hr number, you will immediately be completely and utterly mauled at the tables immediately after posting. You will be dealt second best after second best hand, handing large sums of money again and again to the same damn muppet with a VPIP of 72% who apparently suffered a freak childhood accident leaving him with a blind spot in his vision that corresponds exactly to where the Fold button is located.

Mmm, spleeny...

Despite not playing there much myself, I have to give Gamesgrid a lot of credit, as far as going about the whole launch a new poker site thing in a smart way, instead of just licensing a skin and throwing up yet another generic, identical site. They've just launched a dealer's choice game, where you get to choose between Hold em, Omaha Hi-Lo, 7 Card Stud Hi-lo, Razz & 7 Card Stud when you've got the button. Big props to them to recognizing that hey, players might like having the option to play mixed games, and even bigger props to, gasp, actually implementing the feature, instead of pretending that anything that requires actual programming is completely and utterly impossible.

I wish this whole competitive evolution of the online poker world would hurry its ass up. There's absolutely no reason why every major poker site shouldn't be offer mixed games now, or triple draw, or razz, or basically any variant known to man (even silly home game staples like Follow the Queen or Baseball or Guts). If you can handle the programming required to offer MTTs that support thousands of players, you damn well can figure a way out to let me donk away some money playing Anaconda. Yeah, I know, you're making good money now, but isn't more money better? You've done all of the heavy lifting but for some reason you insist on ignoring all of the small touches that would crank out additional profits.

It's also fairly ridiculous that no one has invested the money to set up the licensing/infrastructure/support staff to offer interest-bearing accounts. If you're looking for an incentive to increase player retention, there you go. Forget trying to tempt me into staying on your site by offering me the chance to get 18 polo shirts with your logo on it for free, or by offering reload bonuses that you KNOW aren't successful in promoting long-term customer loyalty. Pay me interest on any money in my account and I'll park a lot of money there and leave it there. Pay out more interest on a sliding scale, based on total rake contributed, and I'll play a lot more. The model would work, especially given the leverage you'd have from the total sum of money deposited.

Or, you know, keep doing what you're doing, and blow all sorts of chances to improve the existing, inefficient model.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Buh-Bye Bonuses?

So I officially crossed the 10,000 hand mark last night, as far as play at 15/30. First things first, that's still a wee sample size, in the grand scheme of things. Not necessarily indicative of anything. Prone to misperception. Ambiguous.

All that said, I'm clocking in right at 1 BB/100. Which, uhh, works out to a decent little chunk of change.

The most encouraging thing is that I'm not playing anywhere near as aggressively as I should be, and still managing to book decent results. I basically need to amp up my aggression from every position and open up the range of hands I'll raise with, if first in. I also need to defend more, from both the SB and BB.

As much as it pains me, I think maybe it's time to bid adieu to grinding out bonuses at lower limits. I'll likely still do the Cryptos and Party skin ones, just at higher limits as part of the course of normal play. The bonus safety blanket is nice but if I can maintain anywhere near 1 BB/100 at 15/30, it's pretty foolish not to spend more time there.

I've also been playing a bit of $200 PL Omaha 8 at Party of late, which can turn into pretty crazy games. It's amazing how one maniac can completely alter the nature of a game like that, as everyone tries to limp along with the moron, only to have someone come over the top and raise, then one donkey calls, then another, then suddenly everyone else is getting odds to call, and there's a +$300 pot sitting there, before the flop, with 7 or 8 players in. I have much, much admiration and respect for people who specialize in the bigger PL Omaha games, as I get a little sick in my mouth on a regular basis, watching the craziness at the lower limits I play, and can only imagine what that's like with truly big pots getting shoved across the table, when some muppet catches runner runner for quads.

What's all this sudden Vegas talk in the poker blogosphere? Oh, snap, that's right, I'm going to Vegas in nine days, along with the wife, with our badass WPT wannabe shades on, flinging chips around, staring you down.

And yes, this is a not-so-subtle attempt to avoid some of the whole eventual introductory rigamarole in Vegas. To complete the attempt, via a suggestion of the Good Doctor via Human Head:


or, you know...

"Hi, I'm Scurvydog from Sound of a Suckout. My real name is Seth, and I'm a normal human being who answers by their real name and typically introduces themself that way, not some gay poker blog moniker. But if you call me Scurvy or Scurvydog that's fine, too, as long as you're willing to wait a half-second or so for me to realize that hey, they're talking to me."

Monday, May 23, 2005

My Own Personal Twilight Zone

And thus we enter the completely and utterly dead spot in my normal workday, that hour and a half from 2-3:30.

I leave work at 3:30 every day. This is a good thing.

Usually by 2 or so I've finished the equivalent of 2-3 days of expected work and have killed as much time as I possibly can. This is a bad thing.

I'm basically completely and utterly dead in the water. Sitting here. Clicking refresh on the Yahoo home page, praying that someone will at the very least send my a spam mail promising either huge junk or a mortgage that I never asked for.

Played a goodly amount of poker this weekend, wedged between much website work. Played a lot of 15/30, which was interesting. I seemed to always dump chips early but usually managed to claw my way back. My overall impression was that I didn't do that well for the weekend as a whole, around break even, maybe even losing a couple hundred bucks. Looking at PokerTracker, though, I finished up a little over $300. Again, it's that whole getting used to the perspective thing, as it was just a profit of 10BB, reasonably close to break even, but a nice little profit when you step back and pay attention to the size of the chips. Which I, umm, probably shouldn't do, and just keep my head down, keep playing.

I'm about halfway through stage 2 of backyard renovation, which basically involves weeding out existing flower beds, building up new beds with limestone blocks, mixing in much compost, buying many new plants, planting them, and mulching the hell out of everything. So far I've been good about plugging away at it every day, usually a few hours after work, but someone finally woke up and flipped the switch to "Hot", like it normally is in Texas this time of year. I got about two steps out the door yesterday and decided "Umm, no, in fact I'm not going to lug around a couple hundred pounds of limestone today."

I built our pet rat Sherman a play pen awhile back, mainly just something a bit bigger than his cage that a running wheel large enough for rats will fit into. For months he's ignored the wheel, other than to get on it, half-heartedly run a bit, only to look over at us like "What the hell, it just goes in a circle? Screw that, boss. Gimme a peanut." For some odd reason, though, he's decided in the last few weeks that running on the wheel is the BEST DAMN THING EVER and won't stop. It's making me nervous, like he's training for some covert operation or something.

That's all I got. 41 minutes to go. Dear Jebus, why hath thee forsaken me?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

They Shoot Degenerate Gamblers, Don't They?

So I put 25 bones to win on both Noble Causeway and Greeley's Galaxy. Have I mentioned that I know absolutely nothing about the horsies?

I also just watched Waterworld.

Someone shoot me.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Bustin' Rocks

For a four day work week, this was one long ass week. And I have to give a big shout out to Cisco. Thanks a lot, asshats, for not getting around to shipping a replacement VPN server for my place o' employ, so that I can't telecommute on what would be an otherwise fine Friday morn. (Yeah, I know, it's hard to bitch about not getting to telecommute but hey, that's what I do.)

I think I'm actually going to have to go on a bit of a self-imposed poker hiatus. I'm way, way behind on some Web projects that I should have finished weeks months ago, and there's just no excuse for that. I do likes teh poker but it's definitely caused me to slack on some ventures that I shouldn't be slacking on. It's hard to pass up the potential monthly poker income, especially when developing websites that won't return a penny for months and months, but I need to bite the bullet and get more sites up.

Jobs are weird things. I've been wondering lately if some of us are slightly predisposed to be mediocre poker players (and I mean mediocre only in the sense of results, not in level of skill achieved), for no reason other than having a history of working menial jobs. Since I was 14 or so I've always had fairly menial jobs (except for my current one), washing dishes, delivering pizza, painting houses, laying tile. Granted, I was in school until I was 25, so most of my work experience was during summers, until I landed in my current monkey job a few years after I finished grad school. But I definitely have first-hand experience with the lovely experience of working long, back-breaking days, for not a whole heck of a lot of money.

Which is a sneaky handicap, methinks, when it comes to poker. I find myself constantly fighting the equation battle when I'm playing, equating profits I've booked to real-world experiences. Such as "Damn, I've made more in the last two days than I did the whole summer I worked for Dominoes delivering pizzas," or "Holy crizzap, I used to bust my ass (and knees) mixing mortar and installing saltillo tile, working for weeks to make what I just pulled down in a single session."

That sort of thinking, speaking solely for myself, really isn't helpful. Whenever I start equating profits to tangible things, I usually stop being as aggressive as I should be, stop treating the chips as wee pixels, and start getting cautious and hedging what's suddenly important in my monkey mind. And, to be honest, I'm not sure I'll ever completely overcome that, as the notion of "hard work" (and the resulting monetary expectation) has been drilled pretty deeply into me. Getting paid more than that for something that definitely isn't hard work at all will likely forever cause me to giggle, and to be somewhat cautious with my chips.

Which, finally, brings us back to the doomed to be a mediocre player comment. It's interesting to look at some of the most successful poker players these days. While some of them held old-school jobs for many, many years, the more common scenario involves young, aggressive players that really have never held a typical day job, or at least not for any appreciable length of time. It seems counter-intuitive at first, but makes sense if you think about it. If you've never slogged through the salt mines, you really have no notion of just how big that stack of money you have is (and what it equates to in salt mine hours), so you have absolutely no hesitation whatsoever in rolling the bones and putting that entire stack out there, confident that you can double it, or, worst case scenario, build another stack just like it if you lose.

If you have slogged through the salt mines, though, it's pretty hard to be as aggressive and push as hard as you need to to maximize what you might make. Not impossible, by any stretch of the imagination, but much harder, methinks.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

An Ode to Variance

Yesterday was not a good poker day. Sat at two 15/30 tables for a couple of hours after work. Was pretty card dead, couldn't get there in a few pots when I was drawing, sucked out on once or twice in big pots, nothing spectacular or crazy happened, no blazing muppets playing, no braying donkeys. When I shut it down for the day I was sitting at $-1,982 for the session(s).

Which raises a few interesting points in my monkey head, about both blogs and poker in general.

Being down ~67 BB over 2.5 hours of play, playing two tables, isn't that abnormal. A little unusual, yes, especially if you're a winning player, but by no stretch of the imagination is it a statistical monstrosity. You can play great poker, get no cards, and easily end up stuck to the tune of 67 BBs over a session of that length. That equates to the following at assorted levels:

.50/1: -$67
1/2: -$134
2/4: -$268
3/6: -$402
5/10: -$670
10/20: -$1,340
15/30: -$2,010

What's my point? Well, it's a pretty basic one, really. If you're moving up in limits, or taking a shot at a higher limit, it's likely a good idea to crunch some very basic numbers, to get an idea of what sort of the range of results to expect. Peg a gut-check number, basically the largest amount that you can stomach losing in a generic, no-frills bad session, and see just how likely you are to encounter that at the limit you're considering.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for sympathy, or trying to reverse-impress anyone with how much cash I can fling around. Losing $2,000 in a session isn't going to send me running back to lower limits. The reason I bring it up is that I hadn't really quantified figures like that to myself yet, and am still pretty new to higher limits. While I've lost more than that in a session before, it was due to ridiculous suckouts, tilting a bit, etc. I hadn't yet encountered a pretty uneventful and boring session, in which I drop a chunk of change through the simple normal order of business that occasionally occurs.

The secondary, slightly more pot-stirring point, is that if you're thinking about moving up in limits, be very careful about basing your expectations on what you read on other poker blogs, in forums, in books, etc. One of the most basic human instincts is to minimize pain by altering one's perspective (both internally and externally). It's much easier to swaddle painful events in silk cloth than it is to actually face up and address them head on.

What the hell am I saying? Don't trust what you read, as you're likely getting only the positive side of things. It doesn't mean that any one individual is intentionally misleading you or trying to deceive, just that it's human nature to skip over the soul-sucking, draining downswings, only focusing on the winning sessions, or the new BMW they just bought with poker profits, etc.

Don't trust me, don't trust anyone. Experience is the best teacher of all, and there's no replacement for getting your paws dirty. Lacking experience, the next best thing is to take a few minutes to review past sessions in PokerTracker and compile the results, as far as BBs won/lost per session.

Pause for a moment and step back, thinking about what the largest loss you can stomach is, as far as a daily session. Be honest. And don't just think of the dollar amount, but of the psychic toll it might have on you for the rest of the day. While on paper you might be able to tolerate a loss of $1,000, the real test is whether or not you can lose that much, turn off the computer, and leave it there, without it affecting the rest of your night. Be honest. While the theoretical number might be $1,000, the working number could very well be $500, with anything over that causing you to snap at your husband/wife/kids/dog/pet rock for the rest of the night, gnashing your teeth, acting like a general bastard/bitch.

Use the previous session data to extrapolate what you might expect at a higher limit, as far as daily and/or weekly swings. If it jives with what you can stomach to lose, cool, rock on. If it doesn't, though, then you need to proceed with caution. It doesn't mean that you can't proceed, or that things won't work out well, as they very well may. Just be aware that you're in slightly dangerous territory and don't be stubborn about stepping down a notch, if you start to run badly.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Getting Over the Humps

Got back into the poker saddle yesterday, with nothing too exciting to report. It's a little odd, as I feel like I have less and less to blog about, poker-wise, as I move up in limits. I suppose that's somewhat natural, as most of the broad, practical epiphanies come relatively early on, until you reach a point where you're playing with the same muppets, employing the same concepts, just with bigger chips.

I think the muppet factor will always amaze me. (I actually mistyped "muppet factory" there first, which also applies.) I played a goodly amount of £10/£20 6 max on Crypto yesterday and couldn't help but shake my head the whole time. I ended up getting drubbed a bit, down 20 BB when I finally said the hell with it, but I honestly and truly can't understand how some people sit in games like that. I watched Muppetimus Prime blow through £1000, drop all the way to £50, then run it back up to nearly £2000. He/she was, quite literally, worse than most .50/1 players you see, playing anything, capping all the way to the river with A high on coordinated boards where the action screams that someone, at the very minimum, has a flush, simply calling on the river when he/she had the mortal nuts, etc. I suppose the real lesson is that some people just love to gamble, Jebus bless them. I lose sight of that a good bit, having scratched and clawed my way to the point I'm at, hedging every single dollar wagered, squeezing every single chip for all its worth.

'Tis interesting reading a few of the posts about bonus whoring and what-not floating around out there on blogs and forums, as far as the actions of sites like Empire that are cracking down on it. I'm obviously a fan of bonuses and I was one of those who had their long-standing Empire accounts shut down, but I don't think their actions are horribly out of line. Eliminating players that consistently produce a net loss is a good business decision.

That said, I do think it's a clumsy business decision, largely because there are much better ways to eliminate net losses without closing individual accounts. The easiest, customer-friendliest solution is to simply stop offering bonuses to players that produce a net loss. It really is just that easy. No muss, no fuss, no angry grousing, ill will, or bad press floating around. The problem with that, I imagine, is that they don't trust their own internal systems, as far as being able to train their CS reps to stick to their bonus policies and for the software itself to be able to handle a bonus system that only applies to certain players, with varying privilege levels, etc. I think the more amazing factoid about the profitability of various poker sites today isn't in the total dollar and cents of profits they produce, but that they can do so with such largely shoddy software and support. Hopefully this will improve in the future, as the boom starts to fizzle, and things consolidate and get much more cutthroat and mercenary.

Not much else shaking. I may take a few more shots at WSOP main event satellites but I'm largely just trying to grind out some extra Vegas funds at the moment.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

*Cue OC Theme Song* Califoooooorrrnnniiiiiiaaaaa...

(Yeah, I watch the OC. Suck it up and deal.)

I'd like to be able to say that five days of doing absolutely nothing poker-related, hanging out in the Bay area, left me jonesing for some poker. But, umm, not so much.

Me likee that part o' the country very much. We mainly stayed in Berkeley and Monterey, with a quick jaunt to San Francisco to go to the MOMA and other assorted galleries. Ate an artichoke for the first time. Had my head explode repeatedly when checking the listed price of assorted properties for sale. Enjoyed myself thoroughly the whole dang time.

Which brings us to now, with the return to the world of day jobs. Not much to say about that. Well, lots to say, but no point in dwelling on it now.

Breaks from the daily grind are very nice. Not so much that they make a return to the grind palatable, but put it nicely in perspective, as far as the ultimate payoffs.

Much work to catch up on. Mmm, grindy...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Leaving, On a Jet Plane

So the wife and I are leaving for a quick mini-vacation to California (staying in the Oakland/SF/Monterey area) tomorrow, returning on Monday. I'm actually looking forward to a bit of a break from the virtual grind and hope to sneak in a little live play when no one is looking.

Just the simple act of sending out resumes has greatly improved my mindset. It's odd, as I almost don't even care about whether I get even responses at this stage. I planned to grind it out here for another year or so anyway, so if something cool comes along, 'tis just gravy.

I got fairly deep into a Bodog WSOP main event satellite last night, busting out 15th or so. They're running $250 + $20 satellites every night in May, with one seat to the main event guaranteed. They usually only get 40-45 entries, so there's a decent overlay and the players in general aren't anywhere near the level you'd expect. I won a seat in the satellite via a $30 qualifier, which I imagine is the way a lot of the people get into the main event satellite. I'm liking Bodog a lot these days, especially the guaranteed tournaments they run every night, all of which have pretty decent overlays. They're also still running an unlimited 20% signup/reload bonus, and you can work it off via SnGs and MTTs, as well as ring games.

I've been running pretty well, in general. Well enough that part of me questions this whole quasi job search in general. I'm 95% it's the right thing to do, as far as continuing to work a 9-5 job of some sort, but there's that 5% of niggling doubt, of feeling that I just need to make the leap, play poker, and see what happens. It's not so much that I doubt my ability to make an equivalent salary, as I'm pretty sure I can swing that. It's more an unwillingness to give up what's a pretty nice gig at the moment, as far as socking away a lot of money, playing poker 30-40 hours a month, and not ever having to really sweat the money I sit down at the table with.

That said, it's hard to get real enthused about getting up at 6:30 in the morning and coming to work, when you get completely and utterly smacked in the face by the deck at 15/30 the night before, and pay your mortgage for the next six months.

It's interesting, the play you see at different levels. I think Mourn touched on this recently, as far as people recommending that you just skip 5/10 (and even 10/20), and just move to 15/30. I can't say I'd necessarily recommend that, but 5/10 is definitely an odd limit, as far as the general quality of play usually being higher and tighter than at both 3/6 and 15/30.

It seems counter-intuitive at first, but not as much when you think about it. 5/10 is pretty much the first level at which a good win rate gets you close to a reasonable living wage (assuming you're single, no major debt, etc), so you're going to encounter some relatively serious players there, data mining, the whole nine yards. For many of them, they've fought and scratched and clawed to get the bankroll to allow them to comfortably sit in that game, and they're pretty damn protective of it.

While you'd assume that 15/30 would be all that, plus more, more often than not it isn't. The key, methinks, is not overlooking the fact that some people simply like to gambool, and will buy into the biggest limits a site offers, regardless of their skill, simply because that allows them to gambool the most. And I'm not just talking about the bored yacht-owning crazies that sit down and don't mind blowing through 5K, I'm also including the people who are taking occasional shots at bigger games and playing scared. (And, to be fair, that includes myself, to some extent, as I can't claim to be a guru of the higher limits, based on my few paltry months of experience in those environs.)

Long story short, yeah, it's weird. General skill level and difficulty of consistently beating a certain limit doesn't increase correspondingly as the limit increases. Does that mean you should just skip the tougher middle steps? Not necessarily. Just don't necessarily make the seemingly logical assumption that struggling with 5/10 means you'll struggle harder with 10/20 or 15/30.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Make the Loud Talking People Stop, Mommy

Here's the thing. If you put potentially valuable content up on a publicly-accessible web page, someone will eventually steal it. I guarandamntee it. There will always be an opportunistic monkey of low moral fiber that will eventually find it, steal it, and try to make money off of it. That's just the way this damn Internet thing works.

95% of the time it won't matter. If someone is lazy enough to throw up a banner farm and populate it with content from RSS feeds, they're too lazy to make money off the content. That's not a viable model. It fails. Yes, it sucks that they rip content like that, but they're lazy failures and won't make a dime from their thievery. These lazy monkeys will always exist but, frankly, aren't worth your time getting upset about, threatening to sue, etc. These failures come and go and eventually get frustrated and go back to occupying their spare time having carnal relations with goats.

If you're worried about your content being thieved and repurposed, the following is a nice free tool to check to see if your content is duplicated elsewhere on the Web:


As far as assorted accusations being flung around about bloggers capitalizing on the community by being affiliate shills, well, that's a whole other can o' worms. But, if you really want to open it, sure, we can do that.

You can't simply say "Hey, you suck. I checked out the affiliate program details and you're getting like $100/signup for every player you refer to IBlowGoats Poker. You're getting rich because like fifty or sixty people are going to sign up through your links and you just want the money and don't care about any of us or if the site is a good one or anything like that. Waah."

99% of the time, the people spouting such stuff are failed affiliates themselves, and have put up some links, check their stats constantly, yet never see a single signup or sale. They make the mistake of thinking that if they just had the same traffic as BigShot McGee, they'd be making thousands and thousands of dollars, living the high life, smoking thick cigars. What they don't realize is that the reason they're not successful is because they're not willing or able to do the work necessary to be a success.

If you want to make real money from affiliate programs, you can't just throw up banners and links. That doesn't work. It doesn't work for Iggy, it doesn't work for anyone. You have to create valuable, useful content. You have to create valuable, useful content on a regular basis. You have to constantly respond to emails asking for advice in relation to the useful, valuable content you provide. You have to constantly produce new, unique content. You have to optimize that content so that it gains traction in search engines. You have to constantly monitor the algorithms that search engines use, constantly frequent forums and message boards. You have to deal with people constantly stealing and re-purposing your content in a variety of ways.

And all of that is maybe only half the work you have to do. You also have to ocnstantly harass some affiliate programs to pay you. You have to deal with the fact that some will abruptly decide to not pay you, or to change your commission structure because you're not producing the types of players they prefer. You have to deal with programs that skim (intentionally not crediting you for players you refer). You have to deal with cookie hijacks, affiliate code redirects, and all sorts of other fun stuff.

And yes, you have to deal with the occasional bad apple readers that read your content, benefit immensely from your advice, and willfully avoid using your affiliate link, because if they're not getting anything out of it, why should a lazy, "shilly" affiliate get something. Because some people are just like that.

On top of all of that, probably 75% of the affiliate programs out there only pay you when the players you refer lose. Or, in the case of nearly all poker sites, they deduct any bonuses given to players before they pay you a penny. If you're providing content that is useful and valuable to readers, enabling them to make money, this means that you effectively never make a single penny from 75% of the programs you serve as an affiliate for.

Long story short, of all the work I've ever done, affiliate stuff is the hardest, most challenging, and least predictable. Yes, it can be profitable, and yes, I make pretty good money at it, but the old proverb of walking a mile in a monkey's shoes before criticizing is very applicable here.

Or, as Otis put it much more eloquently and succintly:

"My c*ck is THIS big."

Metaphysical Casino Spam

This is a fairly amusing spam email I got yesterday, slightly tweaked a bit by me in a few places to fix misspellings, etc.

Try your luck with our new brand casino, 30% with every deposit.
One hour payouts, lightning fast. Try to play for free.

The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows.
It is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.

You can never get enough of what you don't want.
To make oneself an object, to make oneself passive,
is a very different thing from being a passive object.

To get out, please read the page above.
Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.

Few men have both good fortune and good sense.

Monday, May 09, 2005

On the Value of Chasing Bonuses

I need to work on my inability to pretend that someone is something other than an idiot, yammering monkey, when they're standing in front of me at work, acting like an idiot, yammering monkey. No, really, I'm serious, I do...

Assorted posts around and about the poker blog universe recently about the downsides of continuing to chase bonuses, once your bankroll reaches a certain level. And yeah, definitely, there's no arguing that a $50 bonus is vastly more valuable when your roll is $200, as opposed to when it's $10,000. And again, yes, indeed, if you run the numbers it's hard to argue against the logic that a winning player is better served to step up in limits and play their A game, instead of grinding out hands at lower limits chasing bonuses on auto-pilot, playing their B game.

With all that acknowledged, I think those arguments overlook a few points. They also make a few assumptions that aren't always the case, especially as far as the role of multi-tabling in speeding up clearing bonuses.

I'm the best example I know, so you're stuck with me. Ha.

I've been splitting my time the last few months, grinding out the juiciest bonuses at 1/2 limit 6 max and then also playing two tables of 10/20 limit. I typically play about 30-40 hours a month, chasing bonuses, and about 10-15 hours a month at 10/20 (a mixture of full and short games).

When I grind out bonuses, I play 4 tables on my main monitor and two tables (usually Cryptos) on my secondary monitor. I'm not a wizard of the clicking or any sort of short-handed savant. Six short 1/2 tables isn't too many to handle once you get used to it. Yes, I make mistakes, yes, I miss bets, but not an enormous number of them.

Crunching the numbers, I'm averaging about $20-$25/hour when I chase bonuses, when you add in profit from play + bonus. That number is pretty stable and comes from many, many hands, so it's pretty accurate.

So far I'm averaging about $35-$40/hr at the 10/20 level. Many fewer hands at this level but a decent amount.

Based on that, I'm losing money playing bonuses, as my hourly rate is lower, and I should just stick to playing higher limits. Right?

I don't think so. Not for me, at least, not yet. The key here is that I'm effectively risking nothing when I clear bonuses and exposing my bankroll to virtually no risk. Not to sound arrogant, but I can multi-table 1/2 on auto-pilot, download Chasey Lain clips on Kazaa, listen to House of Pain and pretty much guarantee myself a certain hourly wage. It's not exciting nor particularly fun but it's easy and, for all intents and purposes, risk-free. That doesn't mean I make a profit every month, as we all have bad runs, but over time I can book a nice, average profit, with no real downside risk to my bankroll.

Two tables of 10/20 is a bit of a different story, evidenced by my own personal Black Friday where I managed to drop over $3,000 in the span of a few hours. There's no arguing that the potential hourly earn rate is higher, but it's not yet significantly higher to make the added risk and exposure to bankroll fluctuations worth it to me. The plan is to keep playing like I am, splitting my time, and to hopefully graduate to 15/30 in a few months. At a certain point the money left on the table from not playing solely at higher limits will likely eclipse the comfortable, safe bonus income by too wide a margin for me to continue to ignore, and I'll fondly bid bonuses adieu. For the moment, though, the extra earnings potential isn't worth the extra risk, especially since I'm still getting my head around the idea of playing at higher limits.

Dipping briefly into the realm of psychology, the transition to higher limits has been easier for me in some ways because I have the safety blanket of bonuses to wrap myself in. The downswings don't hurt quite as much when I know they're insulated to some extent by the winnings I can grind out from bonuses. In the end, either you play well enough to win money or you don't. To win money, you have to have both the technical skills and the confidence to put your money at risk backing it up. For me, monthly bonus income serves as a very nice confidence boost that helps me play the way I need to at higher limits.

Long story short, I'm happy to keep building the bankroll at this stage, spending the bulk of my time grinding away at bonuses. If you can handle multi-tabling and are a winning player, I can't see any reason not to take advantge of the more lucrative bonuses. Yes, your potential hourly earn rate will be lower but it's virtually risk-free, if you're willing to plant your ass in front of the computer and do what you need to do.

Mmm, Malaise...

Many things rolling around in my monkey brain, none of them incredibly unique and/or interesting. Hah.

For all of you bonus monkeys out there, you might want to take note of recent developments at Empire (and Party to some extent, by proxy). Long story short, Empire is stepping up efforts to rid themselves of players who only play for bonuses, auditing accounts and deleting those that only deposit for bonuses, play almost exactly the raked hands required, and withdraw. If you have money in the account when it's locked it will eventually be returned to you, but it could take weeks for this to happen. This is a fact, not rumors or insinuations, and has already happened to numerous accounts.

If it's important to you to continue to have access to Empire reload bonuses, it's probably smart to start doing some cover play now. And I'd avoid the one day bonus they're offering on May 10th, as it has warning signs writ large all over it, and isn't a great bonus to begin with. By cover play all I mean is that you should chunk a little money in there every now and then when no bonus is active, and burn through some hands. It's very, very easy for them to flag your account when you deposit for a bonus and clear exactly the required hands and withdraw. It's a lot harder for them to flag you, though, if you have even a minimal amount of play when no bonus is active.

Stepping back a bit, I think this trend will probably continue, with online sites paying more attention to the bottom line in relation to bonuses and affiliate programs (including rakeback programs, which Party is also aggressively trying to stamp out on its own site and its licensees). The fact that Party Gaming and Tradal Ltd. (owner of Empire) are both positioning themselves for IPOs likely is accelerating the maturation of incentive programs, from the happy Wild West early days of anything goes, throw money at everyone to attract new players at all costs mentality, to a much more disciplined approach, where the incentives they do offer are targeted at player demographics who generate the most money for them.

The effect will likely ripple outward, too, as bonus-oriented players will migrate from the Party skins to other sites with more favorable bonuses. Which will eventually cause those sites to alter their own promotions, as their bottom line gets hit harder and harder. And so on and so forth.

So what the hell will happen? Bonuses will always exist, but likely not in their current form. Party and its skins will likely just end up giving everyone the finger and offering only a token signup bonus, knowing that they've got a good hammerlock on the current sweet spot demographics: fish with money that aren't aware of anything and the skilled players who are aware and seeking the aforementioned fish. Both of those demographics will play a ton of hands even if Party is offering them no bonus whatsoever.

I have to think that some sites will get smarter about the incentives they offer, finding ways to reward long-term players who stay on their site and hand them gobs and gobs of rake money, week in and week out. The current system ("Here's X dollars, play Y hands") is doomed, as far as a way of building long-term loyalty. Someone is going to crack and just build rakeback into their system, paying out X percentage of your rake on a sliding scale, based on how much rake you pay. Yeah, I know, sites have tried it, but none were "successful" sites to begin with, and basically doomed from the get-go. I wouldn't be surprised at all if UB or Absolute eventually gave something like that a shot.

I imagine some sites will also beef up their selection of items that you can redeem points for, so that you can actually get something more useful than a polo shirt or a suede jacket. Or simply let players convert loyalty points into tournament entries (including real tournaments, not just freerolls like Party does). That'd give players a real incentive, as far as their play equating to a free shot at say a $100K guaranteed tournament, and it'd also defray the cost for the site, to some extent, as they're still generating income from all the other normal entries.

More babbling to come later, when I knock out some jobby job work, on the relative value of chasing bonuses, even when you're a winning player and typically play mid/high limits.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Kentucky Derby

Posting my picks on assorted sporting events is usually death for me, but here goes, as far as Derby picks.

I ain't good with the horsies. Keep that in mind. I also get bored betting on favorites, so I usually try to dig up legitimate longshots, just to make it interesting.

$20 to win on Sun King

-Zito knows his stuff and felt Sun King was his best shot earlier in the year. Not shown much of late but 12-1 is hard to pass up.

$20 to win on High Limit

-I mean, come on. High Limit? Get it?

Go Forth and Prosper

Ahh, it warms my degenerate heart to see bloggers take some of that dead casino bonus money off the table, padding their bankrolls.

One quick thing to note, though, before I go out to the weed-pulling, umm, weed mines, in my backyard. This falls into the been there, done that category, where I proudly share my donkey behavior with you as a cautionary tale.

Don't Be a Donkey Lesson #17

It's a very, very nice feeling to absolutely kill a casino bonus. Suddenly you're up +$800, you go to bed smiling, grinning ear to ear. You've cleared the WR and all you have to do is wait until that PIN gets to you, or you finish up late at night and don't immediately request a withdrawal, and wake up thinking, Hmm, maybe I'll play one more hand.

Danger, danger.

Resist the temptation to play one more hand, rolling the bones with a fairly big bet. At the very second you meet the WR, playing one more hand ceases to be +EV. (Yes, kids, with the right bonus it is +EV to play at casinos. Trust me.) When you hit the WR, that money is yours. Playing a single additional hand propels you into the world of -EV, into the world of gambling.

Now, I like to gamble, yes. I like to play BJ. I'm not making fun of anyone that likes to gamble. The point of all this is to make money, yes, but hopefully you're having fun, too. So if you want to blow off some steam after you clear a bonus playing roulette or craps, betting $5 a pop, knock yourself out. Have fun. I'm in no fashion saying that you can't do that, and that you have to be a cold, emotionless robot.

What I am saying, though, is that there's a particular danger involved when you do well on a bonus, when, for whatever reason, you don't immediately cashout. This has bitten me in the monkey ass on more than a few occasions. I tell myself: "Self, you absolutely destroyed them, and are way, way up. Bet $100 on one hand. Even if you lose, hey, you still killed them. It'll just be one hand. Come on self, give it a shot. You deserve it."

Bzzt. Wrong anwser. If you really want to do that, bet the $100 on a new sticky bonus, where aggressiveness like that pays dividends. The way you can truly make a mint on these casino bonuses is by locking in the profits on the smaller cashables ones and then aggressively rolling that into riskier ones with potentially much bigger dividends.

Sometimes you'll win that $100 bet. You'll win a smidge less than half the time, even. But it's far too easy to fall prey to the trap of losing that hand and thinking "Damnit, that was mine, I'll play one more, get it back, then quit." And you lose another hand. And another. And suddenly "one more bet" turns into a zero balance, and you sitting there, feeling like the biggest donkey in the world.

Pick your spots to gamble. Once you lock in a profit, lock it in. Save the gambling for later bonuses where that pays off, not when you've locked in a nice profit.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Vegas, Baby, Vegas

So wow. Vegas in less than a month. Boo ya.

It's funny, reading assorted pre-Vegas posts by assorted bloggers. Especially in my case, as I'm still a completely unknown variable, never having met anyone in that thing known as real life before. (Well, not counting tobytoby, who I've personally seen impersonating both CatWoman and the color silver).

Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited about going to Vegas. Very, very excited. Mucho excited.

But, umm, here's the thing. I'm pretty shy, quiet, and boring. Really. I swear. I don't tend to talk much, especially in large groups. People often assume that I'm having a horrible time, or that I'm angry and inexplicably want to find and butcher Fluffkins, their beloved pet Pomeranian. When, in fact, more often than not I'm having a perfectly good time and enjoying myself a good bit.

I'm also horribly out of drinking shape. Getting married, working a full time job, plus the equivalent of a couple more full-time jobs pursuing assorted business ventures will do that to you. Or to me, at least. If I stick to beer or *gasp* ask for water, no offense is intended.

I also don't know how to play craps or Pai Gow. Shameful, shameful. I'm sure my live game has all sorts of holes in it, due to the fact that I haven't played a live hand of poker in nearly four years. And that's being generous and counting guts, acey-duecey, and Indian poker as "poker", which is a pretty large stretch of the imagination.

Long story short, be gentle. And believe me, I'll be having a good time. Really. Fluffikens is prefectly safe. I swear.

Monday, May 02, 2005


Allrighty then. Activate search for a new job in 3,2,1...

(I didn't quit or anything but this has gone beyond ridiculous, to the point where the embarassment involved in bowing and scraping to my monkey work master is more painful than the convenience of a cushy, mindless job with a nice paycheck.)

I've submitted a couple of resumes to assorted places, found a few other relatively promising leads. I've managed to not yet burn any bridges at my place of current employ, as there's a decently good chance that I'll not find anything else and still be there for awhile, bitching and/or moaning.

Anyone want to hire a degenerate gambler with a masters degree in creative writing?

*crickets chirping*


*crickets chirping*


Let's see. Where to begin...

Let's rewind to Friday. On the bright side, I telecommute on Fridays. On the not bright side, I was still stewing over my little "coaching session" on my inappropriate non-verbal body language.

I had about thirty-seven odd jobs I needed/wanted to get done. None got done. Couldn't get in touch with roofers for an estimate on possible hail damage, landscape supply place called to let me know that they didn't have the stone I'd ordered, wouldn't be delivering it, as the quarry hadn't cut it yet. Printer suddenly, mysteriously decided to crap out, about one-third of the way through printing up 50 or so CDs worth of tray cards, covers, etc. for one of my side ventures. Swapped everything over to my wife's computer, except I didn't have the MediaFace software installed on there. Found a serial key, downloaded it, set it up, only to find that my source files were in the ancient 2.0 format and the newer version didn't want to read them. Finally found the old version, got everything set up, only to discover that I had 3up CD labels and it was formatted for 2 up. Which is easy enough to fix, except the crappy-ass software exploded every other time you try to edit something. It literally took me over an hour of rebooting, holding my breath, making edits, rebooting again, holding my breath, making more edits, until it was finally done.

So I thought hey, you know what's a good idea? Let's play some poker.


Found a nice £5/£10 6 max table on InterPoker, sat down, fired up GameTime+, won a nice pot early and was feeling good. It became fairly apparent that this could prove to be an interesting table, as one of the players (Raiser Von Raisealot) blew off £300 heads-up on the river, re-raising with less than the mrtal nuts (way less, as he had a J high flush, with the A and Q potentially in play). Another guy (we'll call him Cally McCall) was playing every hand and never folding, not once, until the river, regardless of the action.

Fast forward an hour. I'm stuck nearly $1,000 at this point. Cally has literally played every single hand since I sat down. He has raised pre-flop 0% of the time. He's up $750. Raiser has played 85% of his hands and is up $1,250.

I manage to keep losing, despite dragging in a £350 pot at one point. Cally keeps winning. He literally plays any two cards and calls until the river, at which point he folds or calls. He never, ever raises. He even simply called with the obvious nut straight at one point.

I tell myself that I can't get up, as long as these two are in the game. So I play for three hours and finish stuck to the tune of -$3,289, which pretty effectively wiped out the bulk of profits I'd booked for April.

Which brings us to the point of this sob story. Well, sort of the point. I turned off the computer, went out to dinner with my awesome wife, and pretty much managed to forget the whole damn thing. Because, really, them's the breaks, and what the hell else can you do.

Moral #1 of the story is that I was pissed off when I sat down to play, and, in a backwards way, was almost looking to lose money, to validate some sort of larger feeling that the cosmos was jabbing a fork in my eye for some reason. I shouldn't have played a single hand of poker that day but I did.

Moral #2 is that there are games that are good for blowing off steam when you're pissed ($25 PL Omaha/$25 NL Omaha) and games that are bad for blowing off steam (any mid/high stakes shorthanded limit game). Pick the right game to blow off steam in.

Moral #3 is that some days just ain't your day. Don't let seemingly juicy conditions keep your ass glued to a seat when all you can do is bleed away chips. Yes, I know, I'm venturing into the land of superstition and luck here. Yes, I know, it's all variance and math and cold, hard logic. But some days you just get bent over. Over and over and over, no matter how good the game appears to be, no matter how well you control your amotions and keep bringing your best game. The only thing I know to do is to abort the mission, turn off the computer, and try again tomorrow.

Had a pretty decent weekend, though, all in all. Played in the WPBT satellite last night, got bounced out in 30 something place when my flopped two pair didn't improve against the flopped straight of the eventual winner. I played okay, weaked out in a few spots where I could have milked a few more chips out of hands, but all in all I played decently, just got no help when I needed it.