Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Online Poker and Cheating

I've found a lot of the reactions out and about in the blogsphere to the ZeeJustin and JJProdigy situation pretty interesting. Especially in regards to the possible repercussions it might have as far as the timing of the cheating coming to light, with efforts in the US to ban Internet gambling once again rearing their ugly heads.

I've never cheated at poker. I've created second accounts for rakeback deals, but I've always abandoned the original account, and played only on the second account. I've never discussed my play with others while playing in a MTT. I've never shared an account with others. I've never intentionally soft-played anyone, for any reason, whether they be stranger or friend.

If it's not clear from the above, I don't condone cheating, never have cheated, and feel pretty strongly that we should all be allowed to sling chips on an equal playing field.

All that said, cheating is inevitable in online poker. It just is. It's been happening for years and it's happening right now, as I type this. And the sad, awful truth is that there's nothing that can be done to prevent it, unless sites pretty dramatically change certain basic structures of the current online game.

Poker's growing worldwide popularity is also, ironically, likely a prime factor that encourages cheating at online poker. Organizing a well-oiled team that works together to net $3.75/hr for each team member by colluding in Party $10+$1 SnGs isn't an appealing activity for most bored teenagers in the US, but it's a much more attractive option for enterprising Madagascaran teens, where the average daily wage is $1. Just do a Google search on "click fraud India" if you'd like to see a real world example of the same concept in action.

Yes, in its blatant, idiotic forms (see ZeeJustin and JJProdigy), it can be unearthed and dealt with. Those cases should be unearthed and dealt with, and the poker sites of the world should definitely take notice and step up their own efforts to do so. Proactively, not reactively. As other people have pointed out, don't fall over yourself thanking Party and PokerStars for their actions in these recent cases, as all of the initial "investigative" work was done for them by others. Your security efforts shouldn't depend heavily on the propensity for young kids to act like dumb, young kids, and to tell other people about it.

If you have the ability to isolate multiple accounts playing from the same IP/MAC address (and you obviously do), then do it. Publish the results every week, as far as the multiple accounts you unearthed, investigated, and closed down. Include the total sum of money seized, and how you re-destributed that, either by bumping up winners in MTTs or by offering it as freeroll prize money. Make your security and policing efforts transparent. Players would love you for it and be more inclined to play on your site.

Honestly, though, while that's a good start, it's only going to address the most blatant and dumb forms of cheating. The very nature of online poker is always going to attract cheaters, as the potential payoff is high enough to encourage very smart, organized groups to basically pillage higher stakes games at will. And there's absolutely nothing anyone can do to stop it, if you want to be truly and brutally honest, unless you change the current way in which players sit at tables online.

How many players, working together, do you think you'd need to ensure a healthy profit for the team playing the $200+15's or $500+30's SnGs on Party? It's definitely debateable, but I'd guess as few as 3 players colluding via IM could guarantee a substantial profit, with all 3 constantly playing at the same SnG table. You wouldn't collectively profit every SnG you enter, and would have some complete washouts where your cheating efforts were all for naught, but overall I have to think you'd make a very healthy collective profit over time.

And they could easily practice it to the point that even a hand by hand analysis couldn't prove they were colluding, as they'd be good enough to avoid leaving obvious signs. Find 15 or so people willing to engage in the above activity, randomize the playing order so that different team members are in the same SnG together, and you've basically got a license to print money.

The same can be done in cash games, although it's a little harder, due to rake and the lessened ability to squeeze non-colluding players out of hands. Still very possible, though, and virtually undetectable, if done skillfully.

And if you don't think people aren't currently doing all of the above, right now, think again. If the potential to profit is there, people will abuse the systems. And they'll do so constantly and creatively, with a level of organization and sophistication that'd likely amaze you.

One glimmer of hope, though, is that sites could actually address a lot of the above pitfalls, if they're willing to re-think a few things, and take the time to educate players as to why they should accept what on the surface appears to be unpleasant change.

Ignoring cheating done by an individual creating multiple accounts (which can currently be policed and unearthed and requires no real change in operating procedure), nearly every other form of cheating involves collusion between players working together at a table. As long as you allow players to choose where they sit (and a window of opportunity for colluding players to sit at the same table), some degree of cheating is always going to occur. If done skillfully, this cheating is also unfortunately almost impossible to detect and eliminate.

There's a pretty simple answer to that problem, though. Implement a queue system that prevents players from choosing their seat, either in SnGs or at ring games. If you want to play a $200+15 SnG, you click a button to say so and are entered into a queue. When 30 players (or 50, or 100, or whatever number) are in the queue, players are then randomly assigned to one of 3 tables (or 5 tables, or 10, or whatever). If you want to play $10/20 limit, you get in the queue and are assigned to the first spot open.

On the surface, that sounds pretty drastic, especially for ring games. Proper table selection is obviously +EV, so robbing a skilled player of the chance to select his or her tablemates online will definitely impact their bottom line. It'd also likely lead to more churn, as some players would keep rolling the dice, getting in the queue, getting a seat, leaving when the table doesn't look juicy, re-entering the queue, getting a new seat hoping for better, and on and on and on.

Bottom line, though, it wouldn't be all that painful. And, ironically, it'd basically mirror what happens in brick and mortar rooms when you want to play poker. You get on a list and take the first available seat. If you decide you don't like it, you request a table change. You don't get to analyze 50 different tables minutely and choose the absolute most perfect one. You take what's available and, if you don't like it, take a shot on another table being better. Basically you'd just force everyone to take the approach that the lazy currently do, as far as clicking on "First available seat" at certain levels, and do away with the ability to get on waiting lists for particular tables.

Could you end up at the same table with a team member eventually, by persisently re-entering the queue? Yeah, you could. But it'd definitely be more difficult, and even when accomplished you wouldn't necessarily have the correct positioning to truly maximize your cheating efforts.

It also wouldn't address collusion at the highest stakes, where there's often rarely a waiting list for games and always open seats. Not sure what you do about that, other than tell yourself that someone playing 100/200 or above is a big boy or girl and can take care of themselves, if they're playing that level.

It seems more of a no-brainer for SnGs, though, as far as randomly assigning seats to entrants, instead of opening a table for anyone to sit down, and starting when the table is full. While it would be hard for low traffic sites to implement (you can't just assign players in the queue to a new table when 10 sign up, as colluding players would just sign up simultaneously, go into the queue at the same time, and be assigned to the same table in the end anyway), the bigger sites have enough interest that they could wait until 30 players had signed up before randomly filling tables, with no one waiting too long to play.

It's far from perfect, though, as you encounter problems at higher limits, where it's naturally slower to get new tables filled and started. And those higher limits are exactly where, by most accounts, you're most likely to encounter organized cheating. In the end, though, players might accept a 20 minute wait to play a SnG, if they knew it came with most assurance possible that they were playing in a fair game. I know I would, if I was playing that high.

Which, in the end, is just a whole lot of unsolicited babbling from me. I think the real lurking issue is that if online sites want to get serious about addressing cheating, they need to do more than simply comb through their data, looking for multiple accounts. There are some pretty fundamental, exploitable flaws in the very nature of how most sites offer games today that also need to be addressed, even if changes to them might initially cause some players to squawk loudly. Given the current structure of online poker, cheating is only going to get worse and more prevalent before it gets better.

You People Are All Very Cool

Many thanks for putting up with all the rat talk (and pictures) the last few days, and for all of the supportive words. Hopefully all will continue to remain well in Rat Land and I can go back to babbling about poker.

February has been an odd poker month. I've played a bit more full ring than last month, mostly 15/30 at Pacific, as well as a ton of 5/10 and 10/20 shorthanded. I've also played a decent amount at 20/40 short, mostly at Doyle's. For the sake of being complete, I also sat for about an orbit at 50/100 at Doyle's.

The results have been a little head-scratching. Overall, it's been a pretty good month, as I'm looking at a profit of about $5,000 on the month. So yay for bottom lines.

But it's really not a case of Yay overall, as the results are a little misleading. I pretty much consistently got drilled at 5/10 short, where I played the bulk of my hands. A lot of those hands were heads-up/3 handed, and I think I just have to throw in the towel and admit defeat there. Not the best heads-up player. It's been good experience, especially for future SnG and MTT play when I get heads-up, but it's not where my strength lies. I ended up about -$2,500 in the hole, from a little north of 20,000 hands at 5/10.

10/20 short was a bit better, if you can call breaking even better. I didn't have as many wild and crazy swings as in the past, and basically stayed within a few thousands dollars of either side of even for the month. I played about 8,000 hands at 10/20.

15/30 full ring results were pretty solid, kicking in about $1,500 in profits over 5,000 hands or so. The games at Pacific can be really, really good at times, with fewer maniacs and more loose passives, and I felt pretty solid and in my element, as far as getting good reads and following through, and generally knowing where I stood in hands.

20/40 short results were ridiculously good. I fell into the habit (mayhap bad) at times of bashing my head against the 5/10 windmill, losing money, and, at the end of the session, sitting for a half hour or so at 20/40 short, in an attempt to recoup losses. I know, I know. I've warned against it myself here, and I know chasing losses can have disastrous effects. But I'm far from perfect, so there you go. When running well, I also sat for longer, "normal" sessions at 20/40 short. Overall, I ended up about with about $3,000 in profits at 20/40 short, over 3,000 hands.

50/100 was, umm, exciting. I'd never played that high and just wanted to say I'd done it, expecting to fold for an orbit. Didn't really plan on getting AKs and AA and heavy, heavy action, with both eventually holding up. So I played a grand total of 12 hands at 50/100, for a profit of just over $3,000. Too bad I can't maintain that BB/100.

For all intents and purposes, it should have been a losing month, and it definitely felt like one. The net result is nice and happy, but it's skewed by results at 20/40 and 50/100 that aren't based on enough hands to be indicative of anything.

Digging way back into the PokerTracker archives, it's a little interesting that every level from .50/1 to 20/40 is solidly green, with decent sample sizes at every level, except for 5/10, which is solidly red (and was even before this months 5/10 debacle). I've tried to concoct reasons to explain that, but can't come up with any that really hold water.

Long story short, I'll take the final result, even if it was due to my being a luckbox this month, more than anything. As far as March, I think it's time to bid farewell to the shorthanded tables, and get back to full ring play. I'll also likely mix in some more SnGs, if I want to play and there are a lack of juicy full ring tables to hop on.

Monday, February 27, 2006

My Overactive Imagination is Why I Don't Need to Have Kids

Well, shit. Belay most of my doom and gloom rat talk. There's still a slight chance that something more serious may be wrong with him, but according to vet type people, all signs point to a bad combination of stress, not eating, cold houses, and possibly being irritated by allergens and/or dust from changing out his cage, which in turn led to him stressing and not eating at all and getting sluggish and shaky.

Which spiralled further into suckitude when we hauled him to the vet and his already empty gas tank couldn't deal with the added stress, so he basically shut down and went into shock.

Opposite of props to the emergency clinic, for not immediately forcing some fluids and nutrition into him. Way to almost kill our otherwise apparently okay rat. Too bad he's a stubborn little mofo and hung around long enough for ScurvyWife and I to finally try squeezing some food in him, as a last ditch effort

And just to ensure that Felicia never, ever reads my blog again, here are some pictures of Sherman. Only thing worse than useless baby pictures on a poker blog are pictures of a damn rat on a poker blog:

Oh Poker, Why Doth Thou Hate Me?

So I bit the bullet yesterday, rolled the bones, and entered a WSOP qualifier at Martinspoker, forking over €400. Which likely wasn't the best decision, given my general mindset and concentration level, but it was hard to pass up.

Martinspoker is running monthly WSOP qualifiers for a full package to the Main Event, with 10 packages guaranteed for each qualifier. I forget the exact number, but the first monthly qualifier was yesterday, and only got 140 or so entrants. So Martinspoker ended up ponying up about €50,000 of their own money to guarantee the 10 packages. Mmm, overlay...

You start with 7,500 chips, starting blinds of 15/25, and 12 minute levels. Probably 90% of the entrants were Swedish, with only a few US players in the entire field.

I was feeling pretty good, chipped up slightly to 8,500 or so, and people in general were playing pretty cautiously. Half an hour in and we'd only lost a couple of players.

Blinds were 100/200 when the following hand occured. It folds to me in MP, where I have A10c. A10 has been my MTT nemesis of late, so I'm not entirely thrilled to see it, but figure I can pick up the blinds pretty easily, given how passive people have been. It's still early enough that I can just fold if someone gets too jiggy. I still have 8,500 or so, and raise to 600. Folds to BB, who calls. BB also has me slightly covered, chip-wise. I don't have a read on the BB at all, as he's barely been involved in any pots.

Flop is Ad As 8d. I'm obviously feeling pretty good about that. Pot is 1,300 or so, BB checks, and I bet 900. BB calls. Hmm.

Turn is 7d. BB checks. Pot is 3,100. I don't like the diamond and I don't like all the smooth calls. But I also have to fire again, as he could literally have anything, even something as crappy as a big diamond. I bet 2,000, telling myself that's it, that I'll fold if he comes over the top of me, and live to fight another day with my 5,000 remaining chips. BB calls the 2,000.

River is 3c. BB insta-pushes all-in, covering me by about 500 chips.

I go into the tank, trying to find a reason to call. I have to call 5,000 to win a pot of nearly 13,000. I have trip aces, 10 kicker. Diamond flush on the board.

I finally throw up in my mouth a little and convince myself to fold, as I can't see any reasonable hand he'd play that way that I can beat, other than a slow-played big pair or something like A9, A6, A5, etc. But even that's hard to imagine, with the push on the river, as I'd shown strength the whole hand, so even if BB thought his Ax was good, you'd think he'd check again to me on the river, hoping for a free showdown.

Thoughts? Too weak?

Got blinded down a bit from there to 4,000 or so, biding my time, until I pick up KK on the button, with blinds of 200/400. UTG+1 (who's playing pretty terribly but somehow acquired a big stack) raises to 1,000, everyone folds to me, I push, and UTG+1 insta-calls with K9s. My happy dance gets cut off prematurely when a 9 appears on the flop, and another 9 on the river. Umm, thanks a pantload, poker.

Shortly after I busted also out of the Poker4ever $50,000 grand opening freeroll, 12 spots from the money, when QQ ran down my AA. See above note regarding pantloads, poker.

Can't say I feel too horribly about my play, despite the entry for the Martinspoker tournament being the largest I've ever forked over for the right to get sucked out on. I guess I'm still a little flummoxed by the A10 hand, but other than that, them's the break sometimes. I'll probably run the Martinspoker qualifier again next month, assuming it still offers a decent overlay, as I budgeted myself $1,000 or so to take a few shots at qualifying for the Main Event this year.

Added: Many thanks for all the responses so far.

(And, for the record BSN, the turn did bring the three-flush on the board, which greatly influenced my thinking. I don't think I can lay that hand down if there aren't 3 diamonds on the board.)

If we decide that I should bet the flop harder, what should I bet there? This hand was hard for me, as it's almost perfectly in-between my comfort zone in hands like this.

If my kicker were a bit stronger (or if the possible flush wasn't on the board), I'm inclined to bet slightly less than I did, like 600 or so, wanting a call.

If my hand were a bit weaker, I'd be inclined to push harder on the flop, betting the pot, trying to just take it down right there. But the pot isn't all that huge, on the flop, so my inclination was to lean in the direction of wanting a call, at that point, before the board puts three to a flush up there.

If I should bet the flop harder, how hard would you bet it? Pot it? More?

A second question, sparked by an email response, is do people think it's bad to make what looks like an obvious continuation bet on the flop? I hadn't thought of this before, but there is something to be said for avoiding what looks like obvious continuation bets on the flop/turn when you have strong but vulnerable hands. Yeah, I'm getting enough money in their to puncture the odds of most drawing hands, but I'm also potentially opening myself up to a river play, as happened in the hand.

By making standard sized continuation bets on the flop/turn, I'm not signalling that I have a really strong hand, encouraging people to make a play at me when my real intention is to take the pot down, then and there.

Another way of posing the question is whether a continuation bet is a continuation bet, if you have an actual hand, or is that a value bet? If you have a good hand you want to showdown but don't want to encourage heavy action, are you better off making either smaller or larger sized bets, to avoid the appearance of simply following through after a whiff with a continuation bet?

On Waxing Philosophical About Mortality Because of a Near Death Experience of a Rat

Sherman is still running amuck, seemingly perfectly normal and fine. Appointment with a specialist vet later today, but much research online points to him likely having a stroke, as far as all the almost dying bullshit on Saturday. Which isn't really good news, because rats that typically have a stroke usually have another, in some cases as soon as a few days after the first one, but it's also not the worst news, as some rats also live for quite awhile after a stroke, perfectly fine. He's got all his functioning back and is completely normal and crazy, so ScurvyWife and I are just going to take it a day at a time, spoiling him rotten while we can.

It's kind of funny, how much all of this messed me up. Both of my grandparents died within the last 5 years, and while that obviously is terrible, both became really seriously ill right before the end, and both lived pretty long, satisfying lives. I was really sad when they died but it didn't really hit me or, more importantly, make me reassess my life, and exactly what I was doing.

The dumb rat nearly dying, though, hit me pretty hard. I know, that's a terrible thing to admit, especially in comparison to the death of one's grandparents, but hell, it's true. To be fair, it's not so much the rat himself (although he is a pretty cool little rat), but the pretty direct reminder that no matter how happy and peaceful your life may be, shit happens.

I've been floating along in a happy, comfortable place for awhile now, pretty much ever since I met ScurvyWife, and this is the first thing to shake that up, as far as the wee world we've carved out getting turned upside down. And this isn't even a major upheaval, just a pet rat getting sick.

Where I'm going with this, I do not know. I'm not going to make any grand pronouncements that I'll later bail out on, but I think I need to step back and relax a bit in general, and spend more time trying to find ways to make mine and ScurvyWife's lives a happier place, instead of perpetually scheming and grinding. Granted, a lot of that scheming and grinding is so we're more comfortable and happy in the future, so it's not entirely selfish and misplaced, but the future is pretty worthless if you're not enjoying the present.

I just don't want to regret (either a year from now, five years from now, or twenty years from now) all of the time I spent doing (insert activity here) instead of (insert more fulfilling, important activity here).

And yeah, poker, I'm pretty much looking directly at you when I say that, hoss. So you better be on good behavior. Much better behavior than you were on yesterday.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Today Officially Sucks Mightily

Appeared to be a fairly normal Saturday, when ScurvyWife and I noticed that Sherman the Rat was acting odd. Normally he can't sit still for 0.2 seconds, but today he was climbing into our laps, very sluggish, and looking at us like "Big People, I don't feel good at all." He'd been a little sluggish last night, too, and he's getting a bit up there in age for a rat (1.5 years old), so we thought we go to the vet, make sure he didn't have a cold/pneumonia/anything respiratory going on, maybe get some antibiotics, and be good to go.

In the car he was pretty out of it, but he hates car rides and gets motion sickness, so it didn't seem that odd. The vet people took him back to examine him, ScurvyWife and I waited a bit, then they took us back to another room, where we sat for 15 minutes or so.

They brought him out finally and I swear I thought he was dead. He was completely out of out, limp, unable to move or hold his head up, barely breathing, eyes completely glazed over. We both freak out and the vet basically gives us the Sorry your cherished pet is about to die spiel, as he's older, these things happen, rats mask illnesses well, he could have number of serious internal things wrong and decline really quickly, and I sit there holding him, expecting him to die at any second. They're a general clinic and can't really test or treat rats, and she said the only thing they could do was to try to keep him alive on an IV until Monday, and if he made it that long, refer us to a clinic that might be able to treat him.

She leaves us to think things over and we both freak out. I mean, yes, I know, he's a fucking rat that we paid $8.99 for, but he's our fucking rat, and he was completely and utterly fine, like 5 minutes ago, so what the fuck is this dying bullshit? So a nurse comes back to talk to us, and we finally decide to just take him home so he can die in peace, as he's in really bad shape, but ScurvyWife insists they hydrate him first, and give us some oral antiobiotics and high protein food and a syringe, as she's clinging to the idea that he'll snap out of it. The nurse gets him decently hydrated but is afraid he's going to die, so she brings him back. We sit there for forever, waiting for him to go, but he doesn't.

So we finally get out of there, and I'm just trying to get him home so he doesn't have to die in the fucking car he hates riding in. We do that, he's still completely out of it, barely breathing, so we make him a bed on the floor and basically just sit there and pet him and wait for him to die. And he doesn't. And he still doesn't.

I finally leave to go get ScurvyWife some food, fully expecting him to be dead when I got back. He isn't, but ScurvyWife is pretty torn up, as he tried to get up, to walk around, and nothing was working at all, and he relapsed into rat coma. So I hold him for awhile, and he's just not there. I try to get him to lick some water from my finger but no luck. He does move his head around a little, every now and then, but that's it. Eyes are open but no one is at home.

So after a half hour or so of that, we decide, well, what the hell, he's still alive, so we feed him a tiny bit of food with the syringe. He seemed to involuntarily choke it down, more than anything, then nothing. ScurvyWife kept feeding him, though, and he kept eating it, perking up a little more over time. He was still out of it, like he was drunk, and couldn't use his hands, and kept falling over.

He kept getting better, though, more himself, and ScurvyWife and I are both like, umm, what the hell is going on? Midway through miraculous recovery, though, he just locked up, as he was cleaning himself, bent over in an awkward position. Just locked up, and couldn't move, so we picked him up, held him, and it was the above situation, all over again. He finally started moving, but didn't have good motor control at all at first, falling over, etc.

He got a good bit better, though, and pigged out on food, and was getting around okay, if not at normal hyper speed. We finally put him back in his cage, and let him sleep for a few hours. Now he's back to crazy-ass normal speed, running around like a mad rat, seemingly perfectly normal.

Which isn't exactly a happy ending, as there's something fairly serious wrong with the poor dude to mess him up like that, and it's not the sort of thing that's fixable, and he might not be running around tomorrow, but it's definitely not the ending I thought the story was going to have. I'm still fairly amazed and bewildered, as I've never seen an animal that apparently near death, umm, not die shortly. Even if he keels over for good in the next five minutes I'm just happy the crazy little bastard got to come home and eat a peanut again, and make me chase his ass into the kitchen and grab him before he squeezes under the stove.

Yeah, I know, world's longest entry about a damn rat. Fuck off. He's a cool rat.

ZeeJustin and JJProdigy (and their 172,182 accounts): See Ya, Wouldn't Want to Be Ya

In case you've had your head under a rock for the last week or so, interesting doings are afoot, as far as sites finally cracking down on some high-profile online players that were running multiple accounts, often in the same tournaments and SnGs.

JJProdigy got the ball rolling, winning $140K in a Party tournament but being young/dumb enough to let people know via IM that he was playing two accounts. Well, when he realized what he'd done he initially tried claiming that his "grandmother" was playing the second account, registered in her name, and that after he'd busted Granny got tired, so he took over for her, and went on to victory. Umm, sure. All hell eventually broke loose and Party investigated, determined that the brainiac had registered multiple accounts from the same computer and was playing them all from the same IP address, and not only seized the $140K in winnings from the tournament (which they redistributed to all money winners in the tournament, bumping them up a spot), but also all the funds currently in his multiple accounts, which was $40,000 on Party alone. Other sites apparently followed suit, finding that he'd done the same multiple account trick elsewhere, as well.

Turns out JJProdigy was actually only 16 years old, which explains more than a few things, but also opens up other cans o' worms.

Next up is ZeeJustin, a wunderkind who's been tearing up high stakes SnGs for quite awhile. Except, umm, he was running multiple accounts as well, and, by his own admission, often sitting at the same SnG table with more than one of his accounts at the same time.

His "explanation" is pretty priceless, especially as far as how he'd open more SnGs to negate his advantage when running two accounts in the same SnG, and that he only opened multiple accounts because his screenname was too well known, and he was playing at a disadvantage.

Party has seized the funds in his six accounts, although the actual dollar figure seized isn't disclosed. I would imagine he'd already emptied most of them, given what was going on with JJProdigy, but he's already proven himself an idiot in many ways, large and small, so maybe he truly was dumb enough to leave many thousands sitting in them.

As far as the morality side of all of this, I'm fairly "meh" on that. Is running multiple accounts wrong? Sort of. I actually cut JJProdigy a bit of slack, assuming he's telling the truth when he claimed that none of his multiple accounts were ever at the same table in a MTT. Yes, it's technically cheating, but many sites (Stars included) have publicly stated that teams of people playing MTTs together, discussing strategy and how to play hands, doesn't violate their TOS, as long as the team members aren't colluding and dumping chips at the same table. What JJProdigy did was really no different than that, if you get down to brass tacks, but it does violate the TOS, so yeah, he's shit out of luck there.

ZeeJustin, though, deserves everything he got, plus some. Anyone dumb enough to play two seats in the same SnG without taking appropriate measures to take into account IP address, MAC addresses, etc., is a complete and utter moron. And the truly moronic part is that he's apparently able to beat those same SnGs just playing straight up, unless his cheating was much more rampant and widepread than he claims it to be (which is entirely possible).

Ignoring the issue of morality in both cases, for the love of Jebus, if you're going to cheat, cheat smartly. Use those ill-gotten gains to buy a cheap laptop if you're going to run a multiple account, set up second accounts on it and play from it, and get a damn AOL dialup account, so that your IP address is different. And that's the cludgey approach, as there are all sorts of more advanced ways to hide the fact yu're playing multiple accounts from the same computer/IP address. Even if you ignore all of the above precautions, going "Der, I'm a cheating mouth breather, why bother, it works like this and no one is punishing me, der...", don't leave multiple thousands of dollars sitting in your multiple accounts. Get that shit off the site as soon as possible, as you can always buy-in for more, if you need to replenish your bankroll.

What I'm really curious about, though, especially in ZeeJustin's case, is if Party plans to go back through the logs and distribute the money they seized from him to the players affected in the SnGs where he played multiple accounts. They've isolated his accounts so they have to know every instance he played multiple accounts, exactly how much he cashed, and the placement of every other player in those SnGs. Seems to me they have the obligation to distribute those funds accordingly, bumping people up in the cases where his accounts finished in the money, instead of simply seizing the funds and padding their bottom line.

Taking that a step further, if Party doesn't re-distribute seized funds in cases like that, it actually sets a pretty frightening precedent. The last thing we need is for Party to suddenly discover they have a nice little unexpected revenue stream on their hands, by uncovering all sorts of "wrong-doing" and seizing the funds of players involved. If you're talking about situations like ZeeJustin, yes, by all means, be vigilant there, but if you broaden "wrong-doing" to players playing from the same IP block or making blanket assumptions that all husbands and wives who have separate accounts are actually one person, etc., well, that could get hairy really quickly.

Edit: I should learn to read more carefully. To be fair, ZeeJustin claims he only had multiple accounts at the same table in MTTs, not in SnGs. My fault for screwing that up. Assuming that's true, ignore a good bit of my babbling above, as far as his blatant cheating at SnGs and the need to redistribute money in those cases as well. My bad.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Kick Me in the Junk, Please

I can be an indecisive motherfucker sometimes.

So the plan had been to limp along at the soul-sucking day job, collect my bonus check, burn the excess vacation time I won't get paid for, call in sick a bunch, then put in my two weeks notice, wrapping things up at the end of April.

And it was a good plan. A fine plan. Hand-crafted tenderly by loving Amish hands.

Somewhere along the way, though, things got a little sidetracked. ScurvyWife suddenly decided that she, too, doesn't like her job. That she, too, wants to quit her job shortly, in May or June. Which is completely understandable, but it presents obstacles to my plan. Mainly that one of us needs to be gainfully employed, with benefits, for it to be comfortable for the other to take some time off from the day job grind.

And I could stick to my guns, take a few months off, play lots of poker, and roll the dice that I'd both make decent money doing so and be able to quickly find a non soul-sucking job three or four months from now, but, umm, I really don't like shooting dice. That plan is a good one when ScurvyWife is gainfully employed, as we have a nice parachute, but it suddenly becomes a bit more dicey (hah) if neither of us have a job.

Yes, it has occured to me that I could simply sack up and say "Look, we agreed to this, I've been gleefully looking forward to some time off, how about you take one for the team and not quit your job so quickly, at least until I'm back in a cubicle somewhere at a slightly less soul-sucking place?" And I could do that, and it wouldn't cause a world of upsettedness, and I'd get my wish, taking 2-3 months off, playing lots of poker, yada yada yada.

But those conditions sort of put a damper on the whole endeavor, and add a lot of expectation that wasn't there previously, as far as "justifying" my putting down of the foot. And the whole point was to be footloose and carefree for a few months, doing my degenerate thing, writing some, etc.

So, long story short, things are in limbo, to a large extent. I'm trying to convince myself that 3-6 more months at the present job won't kill me. Which it won't, but for fuck's sake, I've been saying that for nearly two years now, and here I am, saying it again.

I'm also considering a hybrid version, where I stick it out until June, scrimp and save as much as I can offline, grind out as much profit as I can online, and commit to being in Vegas for the entirety of the WSOP, either playing in as many events as I can and/or picking up some writing/reporting gigs. I'd basically condense my planned on footloose, carefree time into a couple of intense poker months, after which I'd return to the day job grind. Once I'm gainfully employed again, then ScurvyWife can take off, do the same thing, decompress for a bit, and find a better job that makes her happier.

But, you know, who knows. I'm nearly resigned to just not making any plans, at this point, and just seeing what happens. As much as I gripe at times, things are rolling along pretty well, in naerly every facet of my silly monkey life, so there's something to be said for just happily going with the flow, as there are much, much worse things in life.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

"Jeepers, Mr. Cross, Kool Aid Consumption is Peaking in Austin, Texas!"

Never have I heard the words "win", "leverage", "unified", and "synergistic" used more often than in our company meeting today. Especially "win". "Winning" is very, very important. It doesn't matter if you're not involved in, you know, an event with an actual outcome that is determined, with a "winner" and "loser". Because, see, we all "win" by being acting like "winners", in amorphous, never-defined ways that only "winners" know and recognize.

Too bad I wasn't a "winner" last night at the poker tables. I ended up just about dead even, but only because I was a donkey and successfully chased losses at higher limits. Just one of those frustrating nights where I started off well and then get buried under a deluge of second-best hands.

This half-assed entry is brought to you by Boredom, Crushing which has me in its grips and won't let go.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Party Poker Should Hire Isiah Thomas as CEO

I realize that it's a very, very common thing for the sports-obsessed to declare, for no particularly good reason, that they could put together a better team than (insert name of whatever inept owner/president/GM you like).

And it's usually got about as much validity as the guy who claims that hell, he'd go a round or two with Mike Tyson for $172,192,192 million smackeroos. See, JimBob, the problem is that no, you wouldn't, because you'd never get the chance, and, if you did, he'd very likely rip your head from your shoulders.

But I honestly think that our pet rat would do just about as good a job assembling an NBA team as Isiah has. (Plus as an added bonus no one would get sexually harassed. Peanut expenses would skyrocket, but that's about it.)

As if paying Marbury roughly the GDP of Angola wasn't enough, Zeke's decided that adding Steve Francis is a good idea. Who cares if he dribbles the ball for twenty seconds every possession, never passes, and comes with a contract with roughly $50 million remaining on it?

And that deal comes on the heels of picking up Jalen Rose, yet another overpaid smaller dude that likes to shoot, like, a lot.

Is this some sneaky, convoluted plot designed to drive Larry Brown insane, by stockpiling ball-hogging, shoot-first wee people? Who's next? Allen Iverson? Ricky Davis? Steve Francis? (Oh snap, that's right, they just traded for him.)

Where Did I Put My Tin Foil Hat?

I've gone over to the dark side. I think I'm going to stop playing on the main prop site, as it's increasingly hard to convince myself that it's a level playing field. There, I said it. String me up.

I've seen a good bit of outright collusion lately first-hand, which I've always wondered about on low traffic sites/network. If you add in an active prop program that pays close to 100% of your rake back, colluding becomes much more profitable and feasible, as you're much less concerned about the toll of rake incurred while trying to isolate players. With many of the mid/high limit games running with only 3-5 players, it wouldn't be hard at all to work together and tag team unsuspecting players.

So that's the primary driver behind my paranoia. It's also the only site/network I've played that I've wondered if the RNG might possibly have been cracked, but that's a whole other kettle of paranoid fish.

I'd been easing back on play at the prop site anyway, as much of my play there had been HU, and I'm man enough to admit that hey, I'm just not the world's best heads-up player, so it not playing there won't have much of an effect on the daily pokering schedule. I may do the Prima thing for awhile, as you can still data mine observed hands there, and I have no real inclination to support the Party monster any more these days.

Don't even get me started on Party's latest shenanigans, as outlined by Rini here. On the bright side, it does offer the opportunity for other sites to step up their affiliate efforts, as there are definitely a large, large number of Party affiliates who are completely fed up with things as they stand.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Know thy Equity

(Most of this was originally posted over at Kickered, but I thought I'd compile it into a larger post here.)

I've been spending more time of late with PokerStove, which is a great, free application that calculates equity for assorted hands. It's been pretty useful, especially for certain situations where my gut read is actually pretty far off of the reality of the cold, hard math. I'd definitely recommend downloading and playing around with it, as even just plugging in random hands can be helpful.

Below you'll find some reasonably common situations, looking at different equity situations.

Know thy Equity #1: AA versus 3 random hands

Not really much comfort, when a pack of wild lemurs drags down your pretty AA, but something to keep in mind:

equity (%) win (%) tie (%)
Hand 1: 61.3701 % 61.22% 00.16% { AcAd }
Hand 2: 08.9116 % 08.70% 00.22% { random }
Hand 3: 16.2508 % 15.89% 00.37% { random }
Hand 4: 13.4674 % 12.93% 00.54% { random }

Even against 3 other truly random hands, your aces are still just 61% preflop.

And while lemurs may play lots of cards, they're usually at least a tiny bit selective, so it's even worse against a normal distribution of lemur hands:

equity (%) win (%) tie (%)
Hand 1: 57.9679 % 57.93% 00.03% { AcAd }
Hand 2: 15.6935 % 15.66% 00.03% { Jh5h }
Hand 3: 12.5280 % 12.49% 00.03% { QsTc }
Hand 4: 13.8105 % 13.78% 00.03% { 9d8h}

Moral of the story: Pocket aces are obviously the shizzle, but temper your expectations, especially in a crowded field, and don't fall in love with what's in reality just a 61% favorite versus 3 completely random hands.

Know Thy Equity #2: Hero has Top 2 Pair vs. OESD/Flush Draw vs. Bottom Set

This basic situation is where the hero flops top two pair, while one villain has an OESD+flush draw, while a second villain flops bottom set.

Board: Kc Qh 5c

equity (%) win (%) tie (%)
Hand 1: 17.2757 % 17.28% 00.00% { KdQd }
Hand 2: 44.1860 % 44.19% 00.00% { JcTc }
Hand 3: 38.5382 % 38.54% 00.00% { 5h5s }

This one always surprises me, as far as the fact that the OESD/flush draw is the favorite on the flop.

If you remove the second villain with the set, the hero with top 2 pair is still just roughly 51% to win on the flop, versus 49% for the villain with the big draws.

Moral of the Story: Don't underestimate the value of big drawing hands, even if you're fairly certain someone already has a big made hand.

Know Thy Equity #3: Gutshots Are Substantially Accretive to Equity

This came up in a MTT I played a few weekends back, and I thought it a bit illuminating.

Basic situation is that my aces got cracked by Q6s, who pushed all-in on a flop of Ks Td 9s. I had a sizable stack at the time, so it didn't really hurt me, but I thought it was interesting to run the numbers, as far as the added equity the gutshot adds to his hand.

Here are the numbers for the actual hand itself:

Board: Ks Td 9s

equity (%) win (%) tie (%)
Hand 1: 53.1313 % 53.13% 00.00% { AcAd }
Hand 2: 46.8687 % 46.87% 00.00% { Qs6s }

and then here are the numbers removing the gutshot draw, but maintaining the flush draw:

Board: Ks Td 2s
equity (%) win (%) tie (%)
Hand 1: 62.2222 % 62.22% 00.00% { AcAd }
Hand 2: 37.7778 % 37.78% 00.00% { Qs6s }

I'm sure this is old hat and very apparent to more knowledgable folks, but I wouldn't have guessed that the gutshot added quite that much equity, ~9%, to his hand.

Moral of the Story: Don't be too quick to label someone a lemur if they shove into you with a flush draw + gutshot, as they're often not as far behind as you might think.

Much Love to All the US Presidents (Yes, Even You, Millard Fillmore)

Not a whole lot to report from the wonderful, fantabulous world of poker. Nice, steady upswing continued yesterday, with nothing really notable. I've been a little more patient with table selection and haven't been playing simply to play, as I was for awhile there on the main site I prop at. Yeah, the prop payment is nice, but it doesn't necessarily follow that I should persist at -EV tables, playing heads-up, etc., just to get hands in.

I've been adding in a bit more of 20/40 and 30/60 full ring, which is suddenly less intimidating after the rollercoaster ride of the last few months at 10/20 6 max. I mean, yeah, obviously the pots are larger but the daily swings don't seem to be quite so dramatic, in either direction. I'm still a bit shocked at times to see myself sitting at a 30/60 table, without my head exploding, as I can still remember sitting at 5/10 being a heart-racing event, what with the large sums of money involved.

Did okay in the Poker4ever freeroll over the weekend, going out 75th or so when my AKs couldn't run down 1010. Also got fairly deep in a $20K guaranteed rebuy tourney at Doyle's, going out 65th, when a smooth-called AK took out my AQ, with an A on the flop. I can't say that I necessarily feel like my MTT game is hitting on all cylinders, but I am pretty happy with my general aggression level, as far as giving myself a chance to win when I play. Far too often in the past I'd play it too safe, wait too long for my spots, only to see my JJ get run down the big stack at the table who called with 94s out of the BB, because my stack was too short to make him fold.

Which is frustrating, indeed, but ultimately my fault, for not being more aggessive earlier and chipping up to a point where he has to fold that junk. There's also no difference in going out in twenty minutes or exiting right before the bubble two hours later. If anything it's +EV to go out sooner, if you're going out with nothing to show for it, as you can devote your time to something else.

Basic plan is to keep on keeping on, poker-wise. I still have a good bit of work to do to get back to the high-water point I hit midway through January.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Breaking the Weekend Jinx

Yesterday was one of my best poker days in quite awhile. Which felt pretty damn good, especially since I've been getting pretty consistently shellacked each weekend, poker-wise, over the last month or so. I try not to be superstitious about such things, as I rationally know that it makes very little difference which actual day you're playing on (aside from player composition at peak/non-peak times and stuff like that), but it's hard to get it out of your head sometimes, when the dumb monkey in you starts seeing patterns.

Currently attempting to wade my way through the WPT freeroll at Poker4ever, sitting at about middle of the pack with 375 or so remaining players. Finally cleared the last of the Martinspoker bonus this morning, too. Ended up taking my slow-ass time with that one, as it's kind of a grind, but man, them's some juicy tables, if you're patient enough to find the crazies. I may actually leave some cash in the account and run some of their WSOP qualifiers, as there has to be some ridonkulous dead money floating around in those.

Actually was fairly productive as far as getting other assorted work done this weekend, which always feels good. Still searching for better balance between poker/other junk, as lately I've been leaning too much in the direction of poker, and letting results (mostly not so hot) weigh on my general happiness and productivity. Boo, that.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Poker Madness: Live Blogging, Bachelor Style

7:30 PM: ScurvyWife is in Dallas until Sunday, visiting her parents, so I get to kick it old school for a day or two. Which basically consists of ordering pizza, not bathing or wearing pants, and playing much poker.

I managed to get a little stuck earlier but had a nice run before dinner to unstick myself. Plan is to run MTTs on assorted sites, as I almost never get a chance to play those these days, due to the time suck involved. Makes me feel like a true degenerate to have tournaments going simultaneously on five different sites.

Of course, I haven't cashed in an MTT since what feels like the Carter administration, so mayhap this isn't the best idea in the world.

8:13 PM: Heh, 1 for 1. Just took 7th in a MTT speed tourney at Doyle's Room for $121.25. I'd like to say it's due to mad poker skillz, but those speed tourneys are pretty crapshootacular.

Have to say, though, that Doyle's may have some of the softest tournaments out there, pound for pound. You have to have the junk protector strapped on tight, as you often take some horrific beats when you get bounced out.

Also had a nice run at the 10/20 6 max tables at Pacific while I was playing the speed tourney. Poker is fun when you win.

8:33 PM: Houston, we have a problem. I just realized that the only alcohol in the house is a bottle of Arbor Mist that's been lurking in the fridge for months. I didn't buy it, have nothing to do with its existence in my home, yet there it is.

Aside from the fact that I have three tourneys going now, it's sub-zero temperatures outside. Arctic conditions. Or, you know, a balmy 35F for all of you folks that live where it truly gets cold.

Why I can get food eaten by peoples from all around the world delivered to my door, but cannot get a simple six pack of beer delivered is beyond me. This is when a monkey butler would come in really handy. Sadly I don't think Sherman the Rat is up to fetching and delivering booze.

8:56 PM: Attempted to explain importance of booze fetching to Sherman. Was met with a request for a peanut. Second attempt was unsuccessful. Attempt to bribe rat with a peanut was met with request for second peanut.

Well played, Sherman, well played.

9:26 PM: Booze problem solved with a little scrounging. We actually had a bottle of merlot stashed away, from a party that we had awhile back. So I get to be all princessy and drink wine whilst I check-raise some douchebags.

Just got bounced from the Full Tilt $16K Guaranteed. Played donkeyish for the most part, got bounced with K10s when I flopped a K and villain successfully slowplayed his set o' 3s.

Also got bounced from another speed tourney at Doyle's but am in the money in a rebuy there, with a decent stack.

9:40 PM: I just took a piss, alone, in my bathroom. Poker pros are cool and all, but if I looked over to see Greg Raymer in my bathroom while I was pissing there would be some serious problems.

10:02 PM: Cashed for a little over $250 in the last MTT I had running. Frustrating in that I took two pretty bad beats, back to back, to go out, as I had a shot to win biggish money. But money is money is money.

Man, I'm on a tear at Pacific. Definitely feels good to get there when you need to, and dodge cards when you need to, as the last few weeks it seems like I get run down by anything with a whiff of winning, and never quite get there on draws in big pots.

10:11 PM: Dude, shut the hell up about Lindsey Jacobellis already. It's snowboardcross, for Jebus' sake. That was a totally gnarly way to lose a gold medal, dude, but, umm, no one's going to care tomorrow morning. Trot out the Leon Lett clips and the obscure Jana Novotna references, but dude, stop pretending that anyone cares or will remember this next week, other than some snowboarding chick with a weirdass name totally bit it at the end.

10:38 PM: Had to get off the MTT trolley to feed the rat, at which point I realized that I hadn't had anything to eat myself. Enter cold pizza. Problem resolved.

I have to say, the rat/child surrogate is pretty damn amusing. And a good grounding tool, in general. Nothing makes his crazy rat ass happier than to be set free to runa muck throughout the house, even if for just twenty minutes or so. And yeah, it's kind of a pain in the ass to chase to crazy ass around, but dude, it's twenty minutes of my time. Plus he lives in a 24" x 36" cage, with no possible chance of female rat loving, ever. The absolute least I can do is make sure the little goober is happy, instead of begrudging the itme that I could have instead used to squeeze in 47 more folds.

11:18 PM: Couldn't summon the enthusiasm for more MTTs, so I've been bashing it out in cash games. I've been flip-flopping between 6 max and full ring games lately, and I think full ring may win out.

Hmm, I somehow forgot that Tom Green even existed, until seeing him do a guest spot on Leno for the Winter Olympics. (And that's sort of depressing, that The Tonight Show has basically become synonymous with the word "Leno".) I always sort of liked Tom Green despite myself, regardless of the fact that watching him in action always closely resembled a personal nightmare of mine, as far as some yahoo showing up and doing shit like that.

11:57 PM: I will never understand why people buy in extremely short, on sites that allow it. Buying in for $100 at a 20/20 table is closely akin to simply setting that $100 afire. You'd honestly have a better shot at booking a profit if you took that to the blackjack table.

I think the whole JJProdigy saga on Party is pretty damn amusing. I'll give Party credit for actually having cojones and seizing all of the funds in his multiple accounts (and not just the prize money from the tourney he won as his "grandmother"), but the real issue lurking behind all of that is pretty inescapable. It's really easy for people to run multiple accounts, really easy for people to collude in mid/high games, and the only reason this example came to light is that the kid was an absolute moron and was chatting about it publicly.

If you don't think people aren't quietly and smartly doing the same thing (and have been doing it for years), well, you're nutso. Monkeys are infinitely crafty when you dangle the allure of easy money in front of their noses.

12:18 PM: No stamina, whatsoever. I have been at it since about 7 this morning, though, so there is that.

Time to go read Cormac McCarthy's book Suttree for the 172,192 time. May all your pocket pairs be golden.

Thanks a Pantload FTD, Part Two

Dear Husband Who Got No Loving on Valentine's Day,

Thank you for your recent purchase from FTD.COM.

Despite our best efforts to schedule your delivery as requested, we're unable to deliver your order by Valentine's Day. We sincerely apologize for the disappointment this may cause. Your FTD.COM order has been canceled and a refund has been posted to your credit card.

If you are interested in rescheduling a delivery for after Valentine's Day, we
would be happy to assist you. If you choose to do so, we would like to offer
you a 5% discount on your next order.

Thank you for shopping with FTD.COM.

This is apparently the best they can muster, and even this response came after repeated attempts on my part to get an answer of some sort, as far as where the hell my wife's flowers are, and was received yesterday.

No shit, assmonkeys, you weren't able to deliver the order by Valentine's Day? I wouldn't have guessed that. My wife not receiving the flowers didn't tip me off, at all, that you weren't able to deliver them.

And what are these "best efforts" of which ye speak? You took my money, charged my credit card, and then did absolutely nothing. Attempts to call you about the order resulted in an automated message telling me that due to the holiday volume, you couldn't confirm any delivery orders. Which is what the customer service agent repeated to me, when I waded through 172 different automated prompts and waited twenty minutes on hold to finally speak to. You finally get back to me, three business days later, to let me know you weren't able to deliver the flowers I ordered for Valentine's Day.

Thanks for refunding my money, though. Very generous of you.

And thanks for the offer of a 5% discount on my next order. Nothing smoothes over ruffled customer feathers like offering a token discount on products that are horribly overpriced to begin with.

Your business savvy and generosity embiggens my heart. I'm going to recommend to all my friends that they use you in the future when they want to ensure non-delivery of flowers to their loved ones.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Thanks a Pantload, FTD

ScurvyWife is pretty low maintenance when it comes to Valentine's day. Her only request was that flowers be sent to her workplace, so that she could rub the fact that she got flowers into the faces of assorted non-flowery co-workers. That's easy enough, so I hopped online last week, made arrangements via FTD, and congratulated myself on a job well done.

Except, umm, not so much. No flowers. Nothing. I call to bitch at them and they tell me I have to wait at least 24 hours before they'll initiate an inquiry into what happened to the order/delivery. Umm, what the fuck? You didn't wait 24 hours to bill my credit card when I placed the order, now, did you? So you'll take my money immediately, happily, but can't be bothered to, you know, see what the hell happened to the flowers I ordered? Sure, I can only imagine the carnage that is dealing with Valetine's Day in the floral industry, and I understand that things happen. The very least you can do, though, is at least pretend to be concerned that a customer didn't get what they paid for, instead of fobbing them off with some lame 24 hour waiting policy.

Pretty much spun the poker wheels last night, not really going anywhere. Which is better than going backwards, so I best not complain.

It looks like I've picked up a regular freelance gig, cranking out assorted pokery content, which has been fun so far. It sounds a little cheesy, but it's actually nice to write stuff and feel properly utilized, or at least that I'm putting knowledge and writing skills to good use, about a topic that I'm well-qualified to expound upon. My job in Cubelandia used to be like that, until it degenerated into mindless data entry, so it's kind of nice to dust off that feeling again.

In broader poker news, Party managed to finally swing a deal to pick up the carcass of Empire Poker, paying $250 million or so for the assets of Empire and some other online casino assets. Nice job, Party, as far as kneecapping them and getting them on the cheap. I have no idea what this means, as far as whether Party will link Empire back to its player base again, if you can get rakeback again via an Empire account, or anything along those lines. It looks like all support for existing Empire affiliate accounts is being dropped like a hot potato by Tradal, and I can only imagine the carnage involved if Party tries to pick up that hot potato. The entire Party affiliate operation is in a complete and utter shambles right now, so I wouldn't expect much along those lines, if you were hoping to get rakeback again through an Empire account.

I have to admit that I've gotten sucked into watching the Winter Olympics, despite the hardcore sports part of me that doesn't think 95% of that junk really qualifies as a "sport" to begin with. It's been fun to watch Drunky Miller flail around miserably, especially his justification afterwards, as far as claiming it would have taken a hurricane to blow him into contention in the downhill, and that getting disqualified in the combined was no big deal, as his skiiing style lead to him getting disqualified more often than not. That''s some pretty nice logic, Drunky. Might want to think about altering that "style" slightly, if you're only able to finish 2 of 7 World Cup slaloms this year. It was also nice to see you weren't anywhere to be found when your other US teammates Steven Nyman and Scott Macartney were going nuts, congratulating Ligety on his gold.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Blog Picture War

The rules of Blog Picture War are pretty simple. I post a picture(s), then everyone else comments with a picture that defeats the previous picture.

You can be liberal in your interpretation of "defeats", and it's okay to stray a bit from the realm of the original pic (and recommended, in fact). Free association is a good thing.

To add your entry, simply leave a comment with the URL of an image that defeats the previous image. Multiple entries as fine and I'll post new images onto this post as comments are left.

Here's a few to get things started;


(I actually had a winning poker day yesterday. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...)

Has there ever been such a dominant company in such a high-growth industry as Party, that has completely mangled nearly every business decision they make? I'm serious here, and not just chunking rocks. Are there other examples out there in the business world (past or present) of companies making money, hand over fist, despite completely and utterly mismanaging nearly every facet of their business?

I keep thinking we've weathered the worst of the storm, but they keep managing to up the ante. Mismanaging things like the Cabin Freeroll promotion, not responding to players blatantly playing multiple accounts in MTTs, alienating players by removing accrued points based on 30 days of inactivity, completely butchering their affiliate relations, testing new loyalty programs in a live environment, and the list goes on and on and on.

It's fun to create a check list for what the perfect poker site would be, as far as what us players like to see (and I've done that myself, more than a few times) but the honest truth is that a perfect business model for a poker site could be very short and Costanza-esque:

Do exactly the opposite of whatever Party Poker does.

There you go, poker sites of the world. Feel free to transfer $5,000,000 to my Neteller account, for that nugget of consulting gold.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Like, 4realz, Poker4ever...

I didn't play a ton of poker this weekend, which was kind of nice. Still sort of sulking and grumpy with poker, so it's probably cool we largely kept our distance. The last thing I need is to show up on COPS with a black eye, ranting and raving about how she beat the crap out of me and treated me bad, after all I'd done for her.

I did play a few freerolls/MTTs, mostly at a brand new site that's launched. It's Poker4ever.com, and it's a new stand-alone site, not a skin, not part of any network. They're offering a decent signup bonus plus some nice money-added tournaments and freerolls this month, for their grand opening promotions.

To get a 40% up to $200 bonus, use bonus code kickered when signing up/depositing. This is a bigger bonus than advertised on their main site, as it comes via their affiliate program, so you have to use the bonus code above, as otherwise you'll get the smaller default bonus listed on the site.

As far as clearing the bonus, you accumulate points towards it based on hands raked $.50 or more, so it's tilted towards people playing slightly higher limits. I'm actually not clearing a bonus there now, so I can't comment on how quickly it clears in general. You can check your bonus status under "My Account" and then "Bonus Details" to see where you're at clearing it.

Here's the text from the site in regards to clearing the bonus:

"Enter the bonus code when you make your first deposit!
Your account will be credited as soon as you have earned
7 x the bonus amount in rake points.

Every time you play real money games at POKER4EVER you earn what are known as rake points. These rake points are required to collect the various bonuses you apply for.

One rake point is awarded each time min. $0.50 is paid in rake. For example, if there is a pot size of $20 at Hold'em Limit $1/$2, the rake is $1 and you earn max. 1 rake point. In tournaments, two rake points per 1 dollar entry fee are also given; for example, for a buy in $25 + $2 fee tournament, four rake points are added.

For our players who prefer lower limit games, e.g. $0.25/$0.50, it is also possible to earn rake points and receive bonuses. For a $0.05 rake you get 0.1 rake point. These fractional point values will be added up and saved for you.

You can view your current earned rake point balance at any time in your player account (My Account >> Details).

From that moment you have 30 days to clear your bonus."

The software is okay as far as gameplay, and so far their support is good, and cashouts usually hit in 12 hours.

The biggest con is that it's pretty low-traffic, as they just opened, so sometimes it's hard to find a game. So read that again, and keep it in mind. Not many tables at all, so don't be disappointed if you sign up and have a hard time finding a game.

The freerolls are pretty nice, though. Each weekend they're running a $5000 added $10 tournament, and last week it only got 300 or so entrants. They're also running a WPT/E-WSOP freeroll on February 19, that's pretty easy to qualify for (get 200 rake points and you're in, and can register for it under "Tournaments" and then under "Freeroll"). Since the site is brand new, the freerolls aren't getting a ton of players in them, so the fields are relatively small. They're also running a $50,000 Grand Opening Freeroll on Feb. 26, which only has 221 ntrants so far.

All in all, it's not a bad site. If you can get over the low-traffic hump, the games are decent enough, and the freerolls/money added tournaments provide a pretty nice overlay.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Rainy Fridays Rock

I like "telecommuting" on Fridays, especially when it's raining and 2 o'clock and I haven't put on pants yet.

Many thanks to everyone who made it over to Kickered thus far. You folks rock.

I think I may take a bit of a poker break for a week or so, at least from ring games, likely just playing some MTTs and what-not for kicks and grins. Yesterday was a pretty ugly poker day, and I found myself much more tilty and pissed than I like. I don't like losing money, true, but even more than that I just don't like losing. At anything. At all.

I also need to get back to the grindstone, as far as other Webby endeavors I've let slide lately. I also need to motivate and start bombarding and and all contacts I can find at poker sites about potentially doing some freelance/permanent work providing content, helping affiliates optimize sites/set up blogs from a SEO perspective, and other stuffs. Doesn't take too many gigs like that to add up to a reasonable replacement for working in Cubelandia, and there's no reason not to start knocking on doors and see what happens.

In completely unrelated news, someone sent me a link to Zillow.com, which apparently just launched and is pretty cool, if you're into seeing the value of your home/neighborhood/city, but overlaid onto satellite imagery. Likely more of a fun toy than accurate data source but still pretty cool to play with.

I've been reading fiction again, mainly Philip K. Dick books, so far A Scanner Darkly and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Pretty dang impressed so far, and I'm still not sure how it took me this long to get around to reading some of his stuff, as I was pretty big into sci-fi stuff back in the day.

Time to get back to continuing to not put on pants.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Yet Another Gotdamn Poker Forum

Yeah, I know. The last thing the world needs is another damn poker forum. But damnit, that's exactly what it's about to get.

Here's the link, for anyone interested:

Kickered.com: Yet Another Gotdamn Poker Forum

One thing to keep in mind that it's currently in the beta-ist of beta stages right now. Not much there. At all. So if you pop in and it looks like a ghost town, well, it is a ghost town at the moment, as it just opened for business yesterday.

As far as the ultimate goal, well, there is none. My hope is that it'll be a place for people serious about poker to, umm, discuss poker. Without all of the spam and pissing contests and other crap that populates other forums. I wouldn't call it a "private" forum exactly, but the goal isn't to have 172,182,182 members and to splash affiliate banners everywhere.

How will it be different than other existing poker forums? Umm, well, it really won't, at least in format. The key difference (hopefully), is that it'll be populated by all of you smart, savvy poker players. Which will mean that a lot of valuable discussion will happen, and that discussion will be easily accessible, instead of buried in comments on blog posts, or hidden deep in archives.

My first impulse was to make this much more exclusive, as far as inviting people to participate, and I didn't plan on publicly posting here about it. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought "Screw that". You're all smart, dedicated poker players, who can take part in a forum in an adult fashion. If you're reading poker blogs, odds are very great that you'd have a lot of valuable insight to contribute, or could get something out of even just lurking in a forum. So I'm throwing the door slightly wide open, and welcoming in as many people as possible.

In order to see actual posts, you'll have to register. Sorry about that, but it's one of the first lines of defenses against the spamrific bots out there.

As far as goals and expectations, I don't really have any. If it flies, and it's of value to people, superterrific. If it turns out to be just another forum that slowly dies over time, hey, that's cool, too. I definitely plan on investing a good bit of time (and possibly money) into it, as far as offering some cool prizes and promos and what-not, but I'm also open to the idea of it not panning out as planned.

So pop on over if you're interested. If not, that's cool, too.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Poker Stop Losses

After further reflection (and nudging from comments), I think my arbitrary number of 40 BBs for a daily stop-loss at 10/20 short is way too small. But if that number sucks, what's a good replacement?

If the last month of playing 10/20 short has taught me anything, it's that your bankroll is always quickly moving in one direction or another. Like, seriously quickly. I honestly don't think the 1000 BB bankroll number is conservative at all for that game, especially if you're playing aggressively and multi-tabling.

So that's a $20K bankroll. Okay. You'll see different estimates from different pros, but the numbers I can remember seeing tossed around are that you should never lose more than 5-10% of your bankroll in any one day (which I think comes from the mouth of Lederer), if you're practicing good bankroll management. So that's $1,000-$2,000/day, as far as a stop-loss, which I suppose you should adjust as your bankroll grows/dwindles.

On the conservative 5% end, that's 50 BBs. Hmm.

I imagine there's a very good chance that the above estimates weren't taking the nature of shorthanded games into account, and speaking more broadly. Even so, if you look at the actual numbers, you're running in dangerous waters when your stop-loss is 10% or more of your total bankroll, methinks.

I think the real truth, lurking beneath this, is that if I'm even pondering setting a dtop-loss, I might instead rethink the whole idea of playing 10/20 short. I tend to be stubborn at times, especially when things seem readily apparent and I've worked hard at them, but the simple truth may be that I'm much more suited for full ring play. I'm barely breaking even at the 10/20 short games and definitely not fully situated in my comfort zone.

Those games are very juicy, indeed, but not necessarily juicy for all types of players, especially those who tend more to the tight side, like myself, instead of towards the gleefully-flinging-chips side. I think it's a reasonably telling thing that I've gotten much more upset in regards to poker than I ever have before, in the last month, verging on complete disgust at times. Which isn't much fun, really, in any way.

So, err, yeah. Rambling. I'll probably stick with a 50 BB stop loss for now, even though I know that's likely too small for the variance of shorthanded games. I'm still looking at all this as a working experiment, as far as setting myself up to grind away at whatever limit/game I settle at in a few months, when I slip the surly bonds of Cubelandia.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Just Slip Her a Mickey

As far as advice to hook wives/girlfriends/significant others on poker, I have none. At all. I took the contrarian approach of never, ever trying to infect her with the poker bug, not one single, solitary time, until ScurvyWife finally broke down and was like, "Okay, dumbass, you play all the damn time, why don't you teach me what this whole thing is all about, so I can mock you properly."

(She actually was more motivated by finding a way to mutually share our interests and spend more time together, but that's too damn mushy and touchy-feely to admit.)

Of course, if the SO in question is female, you could also slip her the following book, instead of a mickey: The Badass Girl's Guide to Poker: All You Need to Beat the Boys by Toby Leah Bochan

Yesterday was not a good poker day. Initiating stop-loss experiment immediately. Lamenting lack of working time machine so I could start said experiment yesterday. For 10/20 short, I'm going to stick with a 40 BB daily stop-loss, or $800. That's fairly arbitrary, and more based on the pain threshold where I start thinking, Damn, I've lost a lot of money today. That's gonestly a little low, as you routinely hit 50 BB swings either way fairly regularly playing 2-3 tables of 10/20 short, but it's a starting point, so we'll see what happens.

Mandatory work meetings in which absolutely nothing applies to my job are teh bomb.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Up, Down, Up, Down...

Not much of import to relate from the poker tables of late. Had a really big Friday, donated a chunk back on Saturday, yada yada yada. Saturday was frustrating not so much from a money lost perspective, but because I found myself backsliding already, as far as continuing to play, chasing losses, for far too long. Which is just, umm, dumb. Cut that shit out.

I go back and forth on the idea of setting stop-losses for the day. I've never really believed in it, as there have been plenty of times where I got stuck a largish sum early and came roaring back. But there are also plenty of times when I just mired myself much deeper in the hole, too. I may try it for awhile as an experiment and see what happens.

Congrats to the Steelers fans out there, but I have to say that was a pretty Meh SuperBowl. I guess you could be an optimist and say both teams' defenses played really well, but from where I was sitting it looked more like a handful of flukeish plays going Pittsburgh's way, coupled with the SeaChicken receivers suddenly forgetting how to run routes without going out of bounds, or, you know, actually catching balls thrown to them.

ScurvyWife has been showing a bit more interest in teh poker, so we've been playing a few sessions with us and a few stuffed animals, just to get more example hands out there. So far Oliver the giraffe is kicking all of our asses, despite being a rockish little ungulate. I don't think ScurvyWife will be grinding online anytime soon but we'll probably definitely hit a low limit table at Vegas the next time we're out there.

Friday, February 03, 2006

February > January

I know, I know... Not only does a few days not a trend make (plus that whole cursing oneself by posting positive results), but things seemed to have righted themselves, as far as the good ship poker. I've managed to string together some good sessions, including getting stuck pretty good this morning but clawing my way all the back to a decent profit.

Confidence is a tricky thing, especially in the short games. So much of your profit comes from mindless, relentless bashing when ahead, no matter how slim the margin, but it's so easy to get away from that when you're running poorly, seeing monsters lurking everywhere.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Swank Variance

Me likee living on the swank side of Variance, even if for just one day. Immaculate lawns, daily trash pickup, and two monkey butlers in every home. Pass the sugar.

Working on some pokery strategy content, but it's not quite there yet. Other than playing tons of poker, not too much going on in the grander scheme of things. ScurvyWife and I are planning on going to Curacao sometime in March/April, as far as a vacation/scouting trip for possible future escapes to the Caribbean. I'm also pretty solidly penciled in for Vegas for June 28-July 2, definitely playing in Event #4 and maybe another, depending on how things roll.

I'm also taking a bronze casting class at the art school ScurvyWife and I have taken classes at before, which is pretty cool. Not really sure what I'll ever do with the knowledge of how to, umm, make bronze stuff, but it's interesting stuff, especially as far as doing basically the exact same thing that people did thousands of years ago when casting bronze.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

10 Notes to Myself About Poker

1) Poker Ain't Going Nowhere: Stop being a stupid monkey and mindlessly chasing losses. It doesn't matter if you're still playing well and not tilting or otherwise playing sub-optimally. You aren't having fun. There's no point in sitting there, clicking buttons, not having fun.

Remember all those times you play a ton of hands, end up down for the day, and sit there, grinding over it in your head, thinking "Not only did I lose money, but I didn't get around to doing (insert household chore), didn't spend time with (insert name of loved one or friend or pet rat), didn't read (insert name of book), didn't watch (insert name of movie), didn't exercise, didn't write, didn't do anything productive, whatsoever"? Well, hoss, guess what? No one made you sit there, grinding out hands. Just get your ass up and go do something.

2) Shorter and Sweeter: Stop ignoring the really obvious trend, as far as the majority of your winning sessions being less than 2 hours, and the majority of your losing sessions being more than two hours in length. Play shorter sessions, get up, take a break, do something constructive, then come back for another short session. Repeat. This works for you, and why you let yourself still get sucked into long, fruitless sessions, bashing of your head against the poker tables, I do not know.

3) Know When to Fold 'Em: Just because you're playing short doesn't mean you have to look everyone up, or that they're making moves on you. Play fast and hard and, when played back at, be inclined to respect it. Pay more attention to pot size, as far as whether you decide to look someone up. Pick your spots.

4) Don't Use the Presence of Lemurs as an Excuse to Cold Call: Break the nasty habit you're developing of cold-calling pre-flop when you still have lemurs left to act behind you, who you know will call. If you're going to play your hand, raise. I don't care if it's a hand like KQs, that you'll likely need help from the flop with, and that you don't mind multi-way action with. Raise or fold. I don't care if the lemur will call three-bets cold anyway with 49o, and will hang in there to river two pair to take down your top pair. Raise or fold.

5) Stop Playing Like a Pussy When Losing: Remember when you were winning early in the month, playing very aggressively, busting out turn bluff-raises, check-raising with middle pair on the flop, three-betting/capping it pre-flop with any hand you decided to play, and occasionally donking a river bluff on a scary board? Remember the epic downswing (and I know you do), and how quickly you regressed to tighter play once it started, turtling up, playing very predictably with much less aggression? Think those two things are related?

(Psst, the answer is yes.)

6) Don't Chase Losses by Moving Up in Limits: Yeah, that worked out well last month, sitting 30/60 short for a few sessions, especially the one where you turned the nut straight against AA, who couldn't comprehend that his slowplayed aces were no goot (and then rivered a third ace for more pain) and took down the largest pot of your limit life, nearly $1,800. But we both know that you shouldn't have sat down at 30/60, especially in the midst of a downswing.

To be slightly fair, it's not the worst thing in the world for you, as it sobers you up pretty quickly and gets you back to playing tilt-less poker, but it's eventually going to bite you in the ass, and you don't need or want that, especially when you're in a sub-optimal state.

7) Stop Being Stupid and Tilting Off Remnants of Buy-Ins: Yeah, I know, it's frustrating as hell, to get kicked in the teeth by yet another two-outer, and to see your $500 buy-in eroded to $70, capping off yet another brutal session. And it's even more frustrating when you then get dealt JhJd, raise, get two lemur callers, the flop comes Ac 10c 5h, you bet, get called, and then raised by the second lemur.

But you know what? Your hand is no goot, so there's no point getting tilty and shoving your remaining $40 in there. That's $40. Paltry in comparison to what you've lost, granted, but that's 2BBs, which is basically a solid hour of expected profit/work from a good player playing optimally in a $10/20 game. It may seem like a piddling sum but it isn't. Save it. Either re-buy or, even better, just log off and fight again another day.

8) Step Down in Limits When Truly Running Bad: Stop letting your ego have its way. We both know you can beat the 10/20 short games. And, honestly, should be beating them. But we also both understand variance, especially in short games.

There's no shame in dropping down to lower limits when the losses pile up to the uncomfortable point. Stop making excuses and rationalizations. If the idea of sitting down and losing a buy-in is unduly painful to consider, step down. Regroup, rebuild, step up. If the pain of potential losses enters into your thinking at any point, you've passed the point of no return and aren't playing optimally.

9) Poker is at Best 50% Skill, 50% Luck: Mystify it to death, but you're still always at the mercy of the random nature of dealt cards, to some extent. When you used to play many, many games of cribbage with your dad as a kid, did you entangle larger self-worth and happiness issues with whether you won or lost? Umm, no, not at all. Because, you know, it was cribbage, and sometimes you get cards and sometimes you don't.

The only thing different about poker is that money is involved, so the results get magnified in proportion. That's a natural effect, but not conducive towards happiness or better results in the future. The sooner you get over that hump, attaching inordinate significance to money, the better. And that applies to many things other than poker, as well.

10) You're not as Good at this Game as You Think You Are; You're Better at This Game than You Think You Are: Come to grips with that Zen-like statement, as it likely will never cease to be true.