Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Poker Still “a Game Subject to Chance” (Even for Cheaters)

Poker Still 'a Game Subject to Chance'After the UIGEA was passed and discussions about the possibility of so-called “carve-outs” for poker soon commenced, we began to hear arguments intended to distinguish poker from other forms of gambling -- yet another context, if you will, for the “skill-vs.-luck” debate. The set of proposed regulations put forth by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System earlier this month does not offer any specifics regarding poker (or, indeed, any attempt to define gambling as such), opting instead to leave it to the district courts, states, and “Indian lands” to make such distinctions.

Of course, the UIGEA itself does define a “bet or wager” as “the staking or risking by any person of something of value upon the outcome of a contest of others, a sporting event, or a game subject to chance,” which, as I’ve argued before, would necessarily include poker. I take that position for two reasons: (1) I cannot imagine members of Congress ever finding it politically-profitable to distinguish poker from other forms of gambling when drafting legislation; and (2) poker is “a game subject to chance.” Really. It is.

Like most online poker players, I’ve been fairly preoccupied of late with the Absolute Poker cheating scandal, particularly that brazen display by the player named Potripper at the 9/12/07 $100K Guarantee. One truth about poker that was certainly demonstrated there was how even cheating at poker does require at least some skill, especially if one does not want to be caught. A lot of Potripper’s play during the tournament appeared to indicate either he had little knowledge of the game beyond simple hand rankings, or perhaps did not care about whether the way he was playing might arouse any suspicions.

Take that last hand, the one where Potripper infamously calls CrazyMarco with ten-high on the turn and wins the tourney. Potripper has nearly a 4-to-1 chip advantage when the hand begins (around 760K to 215K). The blinds are only 2,250/4,500 (with a 450 ante), so CrazyMarco shouldn’t have been in any great hurry to be doubling up. Indeed, the fact that he still had plenty of chips with which to play was one reason why CrazyMarco makes his push on the turn. Having sensed weakness, he knew that to commit all of his chips in this situation would have to indicate he had a strong hand. To someone who couldn’t see his hole cards, that is.

Anyhow, Potripper has the button (and thus the small blind) and gets dealt Tc9d. Seeing CrazyMarco has the crummy 9c2h, Potripper just completes from the SB so as to keep his opponent in the hand (I assume). CrazyMarco checks and the flop comes 4hKdKh. CrazyMarco checks, Potripper bets 9,000 (just shy of the size of the pot), and CrazyMarco calls in what appears to be part of his plan to bluff on the next street. The turn is the 7s and CrazyMarco again checks. This time Potripper bets 13,500 (about half the pot) and CrazyMarco check-raises all-in, pushing his remaining 200,000 into the middle. This is where Potripper makes that wild call, knowing that CrazyMarco has only three outs (the remaining deuces) to win the hand, plus a few more cards to chop.

Obviously a more skilled (and/or more self-aware) player would have thought twice about making such a call, since doing so meant showing down his lousy ten-high and thus, perhaps, raising some suspicions about whether or not he might be cheating. But does the hand prove once and for all that poker is, in fact, a game based on skill (and not chance)?

Of course not. In fact, the whole episode clarifies even more vividly how poker is, in fact, “a game subject to chance.” A deuce could have come on the river, and CrazyMarco could still have won the hand. In fact, it is conceivable (though unlikely) that CrazyMarco could still have won the tournament, even though Potripper could see his hole cards. That’s because luck is always going to be a factor in poker.

For me this scenario recalls Annie Duke’s argument that poker is a skill-based game because “you can purposely lose at poker if you choose” (Wall Street Journal, “Harvard Ponders Just What It Takes to Excel at Poker,” 5/3/07). Duke is correct to point out that you cannot purposely lose at chance-based games like roulette or Keno, thereby distinguishing poker somewhat from those games in which skill is a non-factor. However, the observation does not prove that poker is not a “game subject to chance.” (I’m not sure if that was her point, anyway.)

One could argue that all of Potripper’s opponents were, in a way, “purposely” trying to lose to him during that 9/12/07 tourney, although none of them were aware of it at the time. Knowing their hole cards, all of Potripper’s decisions were absolutely “optimal” (pun intended), thus making all of his opponent’s moves the wrong ones. The only purposefully-self-destructive move his opponents didn’t make against him was to fold after putting all of their chips in the middle. And still Potripper could have lost.

Have been hearing and reading about Barry Greenstein’s optimistic report from last week’s PPA fly-in to lobby Congress. Greenstein is saying he firmly believes “it will be less than 6 months before Congress realizes that they need to pass legislation contrary” to the UIGEA.

A nice thought, that. I still cannot imagine, though, Congress ever passing any sort of law that singles out poker as different from other forms of gambling (like Wexler’s “Skill Games Protection Act”). Much more likely to see something passed like Frank’s “Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act” -- which has gathered 40 co-signers, I believe -- a bill that does not give poker any special mention.

Even that is highly subject to chance, though.


Sunday, October 28, 2007


Going downHasn’t been goin’ so well at the fookin’ tarbles (as Amatay would say). I haven’t gone back to check, but the last week might have been my worst for the year.

Most of the unpleasantness is happening at the 1/2 limit tables. Some is certainly due to poor cards and/or unlucky, hard-to-avoid scenarios with folks repeatedly drawing out them 3- and 5-outers on me. (Cooonts!) In my last 400 hands, I’ve been dealt exactly one pair higher than fives -- KK (and I lost that hand to J9-off). But truth be told, I’ve been making some sketchy decisions here and there, too, no doubt induced by frustration at having to wait for cards. (Have also been playing some PLO and even some PLO8, where things are going somewhat better, though not enough to counteract the LHE losses.)

I’d be tempted to say I’m suffering from that syndrome favored by the tin foil hat wearers and/or the karmically-inclined, namely, that familiar phenomenon of instantly sliding into a downswing the moment you cash some of yr cabbage. As I wrote about a few posts back, I cashed out a decent chunk of my bankroll when I cleaned out my Absolute and Ultimate Bet accounts the middle of last week. Just about the time the losing began.

For the conspiracy-minded, the connection is treated not as coincidence, but deliberate “punishment” by this or that online site for having taken funds out of play, as though making a withdrawal causes the site automatically to set yr “doom switch” to the “on” position. (Of course, I’m not playing on either Absolute or UB -- my losing is happening elsewhere.)

For the karma crowd, going on a losing streak represents a direct consequence to the act of realizing a profit (i.e., that money I’ve cashed out ain’t never going back into the roll, so I’ve permanently added to my overall poker earnings here). There actually could be something to this one. In some instances, anyway. Cashing out -- and thus reducing one’s bankroll -- can possibly affect how one is approaching the game, especially if the cash-out leaves one’s roll in a danger zone as far as the limits at which one wishes to play.

Can’t really admit that’s an issue here, as I still have quite enough at all my remaining sites to play comfortably at the 1/2 LHE tables and the $25 max. buy-in PLO and PLO8 games. A far cry from Amatay’s level, but I ain’t got his roll. Or nads. So it’s all good. As long as I stop playin’ pokay like a fookin’ tard, that is hahahahahaha.

I’m going to bed. Laters, fish.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Freedom of Choice (Online Options for U.S. Players)

When it comes to online poker, Americans still have a number of optionsRecently had a pleasant exchange with a rep from BetUS.com and agreed to sell ’em a link to their site (see under “Shamus Plugs”). Did a little bit of checking to find out that, yes, indeed, they do accept American players. Doing so got me wondering just how many places still do take U.S. customers.

Having pulled my funds off of Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet, I’m now down to three sites (Stars, Full Tilt, and Bodog) -- plenty, for now, but I may well want to add another somewhere down the road do give myself more options. As an American, what options do I have?

After wasting some time with some fruitless searching on Goggle, I finally got smart and headed over to PokerSiteScout to see if they had an easy-to-scan list of “U.S.-facing” sites. If you aren’t familiar with PokerSiteScout, it is probably the best tracking site out there for seeing how many players are playing at each online poker room. Those monitoring the traffic at Absolute (and/or Ultimate Bet) will be watching PokerSiteScout closely over the next few weeks in order to determine exactly what effect the cheating scandal is going to have.

PokerSiteScout does not have a comprehensive list on its site of online poker rooms currently accepting American players, but they do link to a terrific, updated list over at a site called Compatible Poker. There you will find a detailed, easy-to-navigate page divided into about a dozen sections, including “Most Popular Sites Accepting U.S. Players,” “EWallet Stances on U.S. Market,” “Other Poker Sites Accepting Americans,” and “Notable Poker Sites / Brands NOT Open to U.S.A.”

The page also has a section listing the 11 states that currently have laws against playing online (Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin). Some sites disallow folks from those states to play; others don’t make a distinction. There are additional sections with various info regarding legal news, all of which appears to have been updated regularly. For Americans (or anyone) interested in tracking specifics regarding how the UIGEA is affecting our ability to play poker online, the page is probably a good one to bookmark.

Scanning through, I was surprised too see just how many online poker sites are currently accepting U.S. customers. According to Compatible Poker, Americans looking for alternatives to Absolute or UB have the following sites from which to choose:

7sultanspoker, Allinpoker, Aceflush Poker, Bodog, Bugsysclub, BetedPoker, BetonUSA, BetUS Poker, Bookmaker, Butcher Poker, Cake Poker, Captain Cook, Carbon Poker, Crazy Poker, Century Poker, Colosseum Poker, Dobrosoft, Doyle’s Room, Duplicate Poker, EuroLinx, Full Tilt Poker, Gamesgrid, GamingClub Poker, GoldenTigerPoker, GoldenRiviera, Interchamps, Intertops, Ironduke, Jungle Poker, Microgaming, NakedPoker, OkUSApoker, OPT Room, PharaohsPokerPalace, PitbullPoker, Poker.com, Poker4Ever, PokerHost, Poker Metro, PokerNordica, Poker Rewards, Poker Share, PokerStars, PokerSyndicate, Poker Time, PokerWorld, Poker333, Prima, Red Star Poker, Royal Card Club, Royal Vegas Poker, SportsInteraction, Sportsbook.com, StanleyVippoker.com, StraightFlush, Third Bullet Poker, Thunderluck Poker, Tigergamingpoker, Tradesports, Trident Poker, True Poker, Tropical Poker, United Poker Network, USAPoker, Virtual City Poker, Wild Jack Poker, Wingows Poker, and World Poker Exchange.

A few of these do have the 11-state ban (including Doyle’s Room, by the way). (See the Compatible Poker page for details.) And some are skins of each other and/or part of each other’s networks, so the actual number of available sites is probably somewhat below the 70 or so listed here.

Of course, a good number of these rooms most certainly have very low traffic and/or have yet to establish themselves the way Stars or Full Tilt has, so one must obviously use caution when trying out someplace new. Personally, I ain’t rushing to join up anywhere at the moment. Nice to know, though, that -- for now, anyway -- us Yanks do have some options available to us.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Poker Podcast “News and Notes”

Poker Podcast 'News and Notes'Had a fairly mediocre showing in last night’s AIPS II: Electric Boogaloo tournament, finishing 40th out of 88 runners in the tourney hosted by the Ante Up! podcast. The game was Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo. Have to admit I had harbored hopes of doing better than that since I had somehow managed to make it all of the way to third in the same event last time around.

Couldn’t get things going last night, though, as I rarely saw a single ace in my hand during the first hour (never mind two at once). And when I did there was usually a 7, 8, or 9 sitting right beside it. By the time the blinds began to get uncomfortable, I was hopelessly stuck in first-gear and couldn’t figger a way to get that dumb little Full Tilt frog a-hopping.

Big Poker Sundays on Poker RoadSpeaking of Ante Up!, there’s a hell of a lot happening on the poker podcast front these days. The Poker Road has finally launched, with Scott Huff and Haralobos Voulgaris’s new podcast, Big Poker Sundays, making its debut last week. You might recall Voulgaris’s particularly memorable appearance on the old Circuit from long ago, probably one of the funniest damn sequences I’ve ever heard on a poker podcast. The first episode is a good one, with the pair interviewing Nat Arem amid a discussion of the imbroglio over at Absolute Poker. They also spend some time discussing ESPN’s WSOP coverage. Referring to that weird moment at the final table when both Jerry Yang and Lee Watkinson's fiancée were praying for God to bring each a favorable river card, Voulgaris had the following to say:

”It was like witnessing an exorcism . . . . Maybe some people don’t realize this, but God doesn't give a sh*t about poker. And if they did[n’t] realize it [previously], they would have known when Jamie Gold won the year before.”

Some pretty good funny there. From the looks of things, we’ll be getting about a half-dozen new shows over at Poker Road, including the latest incarnation of the Gavin Smith-Joe Sebok travelling circus, this time called Poker Road Radio (first show airs tonight from Niagra Falls, I believe), a new show hosted by Barry Greenstein called Tips from the Bear (first episode already up), and a show called Sport of Poker to be hosted by PokerNews reporter B.J. Nemeth. Cool stuff.

In other podcasty news, my buds over at Beyond the Table have also been enjoying some added exposure here lately with their reports from last week’s Poker Bowl getting syndicated over at CardPlayer. Not sure as yet whether CardPlayer intends to begin distributing Beyond the Table permanently or not. In any event, I hope the exposure over there has brought the fellas some added listeners.

All of this means that along with Rounder’s Radio (where it appears at least four different poker shows are being produced), there may well be over twenty separate poker podcasts currently pumping out shows on a regular basis. That might actually be more than yr humble poker junkie can keep up with, and that’s despite being stuck behind the wheel with nothing else to do some 8-10 hours every week!

I have been able to keep up with just about everything thus far, though. Huff and Voulgaris weren’t the only ones talking about Absolute Poker this week. As you might imagine, just about every single podcast featured some discussion of the “super user” scandal. I say almost all, because there was one fairly glaring exception to the rule.

The Joe Average Poker ShowWas listening today to the Joe Average Poker Show (the 10/24/07 episode). Not my fave, but passable entertainment (usually). Joe Average Poker has been around for quite some time -- the show debuted in June 2005 -- and has established a fairly-routinized formula of segments, one of which is to report the week's “News and Notes.”

I was somewhat perplexed this week when I heard co-host Charles “Mr. Know-It-All” Knox (their nickname) run through the five or so news items without mentioning the Absolute Poker scandal at all! How can that happen? I have no idea, other than to suspect the show being sponsored by All-In Magazine might have had something to do with such a blatant omission.

I’m not completely up on All-In’s relationship with Absolute Poker (I assume the poker site -- like most -- is an advertiser and thus client of the mag). I did, however, find it curious to see All-In report on Absolute’s announcement last week that it had identified an internal security breach in an article headlined “Absolute Poker Security Breach Resolved.”

Resolved? As the posters on the forums might say, with a funny picture of an owl as illustration . . . O RLY?

(Of course, All-In has never been my source of choice for poker news. Have noticed them blatantly plagiarizing items from other outlets in the past.)

I could be wrong, of course, to assume Joe Average Poker is beholden to some sort of corporate interest here. By why else fail to mention one of the biggest friggin’ poker stories of the year? Whatever the reason, Joe Average should probably be careful with such applesauce. There are a ton of other poker podcasts out there now, most of which aren’t holding back (quite so obviously, anyway). In other words, a much better use of the poker fan’s day.

(EDIT [added 10/27/07]: I have added a few of the new shows over in the right-hand column. I have also weeded out any podcast that hasn’t had a new show within the last month. Incidentally, the dates listed represent the most recent episode available for download. If anyone is aware of other poker podcasts out there that are currently producing shows, let me know and I’ll add 'em as well.)


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cleaning Out

Absolutely Cashed OutHere’s a thought experiment for you. Tell me how you’d play this one.

Your company just went through annual evaluations and damned if you didn’t hit the jackpot. The suits think you’ve been doing a super-terrific, bang-up job and have decided to reward you with a big fat, handsome salary increase. New car? Perhaps. First, though, you go ahead and hire that cleaning service your spouse has been talking about -- Matchless Maids or whatever it’s called. You’ve worked hard. You’ve earned it. They start coming around once every two weeks to clean up. No more vacuuming or scrubbing toilets. Life is good.

Couple of weeks go by. The house is in ship-shape. Can you believe it? They’re actually getting that area behind the fridge! And if you go ahead and pay for six months in advance, they throw in an extra cleaning for free. You’re liking this. The spouse is happy, too.

Then one night you’re watching the news and that annoying “Consumer Watchdog” guy pops on there. You know, the guy with the weasely mustache and loud, obnoxious voice who’s always saying he’s looking out for us. God is he annoying.

Tonight he brings news about some complaints concerning the Matchless Maids. Seems several customers have reported missing items. The owner of the company, a guy named Howard David or David Howard, couldn’t be reached for comment. Some other manager-type -- named J.T.-something -- is available, though, and says he’s investigated the situation thoroughly and is confident none of his staff have stolen anything. The mustachioed-Watchdog dude signs off telling everyone to remain watchful. (He always says that.)

You glance around the living room, taking a half-hearted mental inventory. Look at that, you think. They even dusted the blinds!

Couple more weeks go by. Then you happen across another item about the Matchless Maids, this time in the local section of the newspaper. Sounds like the stealing wasn’t just a couple of isolated incidents, but it has been going on for a couple of years. And it hasn’t just been one or two workers. Apparently the entire Matchless Maids staff had been explicitly directed by good old David Howard (or Howard David) to steal what they could on their visits. While they’ve been cleaning, they’ve been cleaning up! Investigators have even uncovered a chart indicating the percentages each worker stood to receive per theft. Pretty damning stuff.

Reading further, it is reported the owner of the company may or may not have been the one in charge of the scam. Might have been that J.T.-something-or-other (and apparently that’s an alias) who had been the one to engineer the grifting. Whatever happened, Matchless Maids is now officially apologizing and says it plans to pay back those clients who have been the victims of theft. They also insist they are taking the whole matter very seriously and plan to investigate every complaint in earnest. They ask everyone to remain assured they have corrected the problem that allowed such unpleasantness to occur, and will continue to monitor themselves moving forward. Indeed, according to the latest presser, Matchless Maids believes it will emerge from this ordeal a stronger company.

Matchless Maids has yet to steal anything from you, as far as you are aware. So tell me. You gonna keep letting these people into your house or what?

What exactly does a poker site have to do to lose its customers? Probably start misdealing hands, I suppose, with two nines of diamonds turning up as your hole cards. Or a fifth ace popping out on the river. Even then some would probably stick around.

Over on Tao of Poker, Pauly says “Even if people knew a site was rigged, they would still play on it. Why? Because they’re a bunch of degenerate gamblers and action junkies.” That may well be one reason.

Of course, not everyone who plays online poker belongs in this category of degenerates and junkies. And I believe there are a lot of folks still playing on Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet who are, relatively speaking, non-extreme types who manage risk somewhat effectively -- who aren’t so much “gamblers” as “poker players,” if that distinction can be said to mean anything. So why do they keep playing on the site?

Some American players may not have many other options, which could explain why they remain. Others may be over there trying either to clear bonuses (as Dugglebogey wryly noted in a recent Poker Tells comic). Or to reach that $100 minimum balance required to cashout via check.

But what about the rest? What about those who having learned of the brazen malfeasance perpetrated by those who operate Absolute Poker who still see no problem with continuing to play on the site? They wouldn’t let the Matchless Maids back into their houses, but they still play on a site whose security was not only compromised, but whose management stonewalled and then outright lied about it as well.

I’m less certain how to answer this question. I suspect the explanation might have something to do with the nature of poker.

Just about all poker players come to accept somewhere along the way the fundamental truth that life is unfair. I had my aces cracked twice yesterday by this clown sitting to my left. Once he held JT, the other time J9. (Neither sooted, even.) Both times he made two pair and took big pots. Hell, in the first case he had to call four bets preflop with his crummy JT and didn’t even pair his second card until the turn. Argh!

But that’s poker, right? Forget about fairness. No way to survive these hits without keeping that truth in mind.

The problem is I think a lot of online poker players carry this mentality over to the whole idea of “risking” your moneys to play online at all. I simply cannot understand this mindset, frankly. I am not breaking any laws by playing online poker, so why should I be okay with others doing so and (potentially) taking advantage of me when I play? This is also the mentality that allows crappy customer service to go on without objection, as if it is simply part of the “game.”

Well, I’m not buying it. (Pun intended.) I am paying these sites to play on them. Why should I pay someone to cheat me and/or treat me badly? Why should I -- or anyone -- tolerate a site treating its customers the way Absolute Poker has for the last six weeks (and/or three years)?

I love the game, but not enough to endure such abuse. No amount of damage control-slash-“house cleaning” is going to bring Absolute back into my good graces. Which is why I’ve pulled all of my funds from both my Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet accounts.

For now, I still have three other sites on which to play (Stars, Full Tilt, and Bodog). What do I do if they turn all “Matchless Maids” on me? I clean out of them, too.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Would You Like To Leave Absolute Poker?

Mouse hovering . . . Not too much has happened over the last 48 hours or so since Absolute Poker admitted late Friday afternoon they indeed experienced an “internal security breach” -- just one week after having confidently stated “the result of our investigation is that we found no evidence that any of Absolute Poker’s redundant and varying levels of game client security were compromised.”

A few items have popped up this afternoon. First over on 2+2, Serge “Adanthar” Ravitch posted a statement by a person named Joe Norton who identifies himself as “the former Grand Chief of the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake and the owner of Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG, which holds a 100% interest in Absolute Poker.” The statement is addressed “Dear AP Player” and begins with Norton acknowledging the breach occurred and expressing misgivings over both its occurrence and how AP has handled the situation to this point.

The statement goes on to say (1) all affected players will be recompensed for their losses “as soon as our audit is finished and the amounts are determined”; (2) those conducting investigations include Absolute Poker, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, and other “authorized authorities” (i.e., those whose charge it would be to ascertain criminal behavior, I presume); and (3) for everyone to “be assured that we have corrected the problem that allowed the system to be unfairly manipulated.”

So still not much in the way of specifics here. About what happened, or why we should “be assured” of much of anything, really.

Meanwhile, over on Pocket Fives Chris “brsavage” Savage reports he has learned a statement from Absolute Poker will be forthcoming “very shortly.” Savage says AP has “definitive proof who the culprit was” and that “this person was the second in charge at AP and has been fired from AP.” Apparently this unnamed culprit was a friend of Scott Tom’s (with Tom being his “sole superior” in the company) and in fact at one time lived at Tom’s Costa Rica house.

This unnamed “culprit” has been in charge of Absolute day-to-day operations for some time, says Savage. In other words, according to Savage, “since the person in command of AP was also the thief he obviously issued numerous steadfast denials of any wrong doing. Basically he was investigating himself.” Hmm . . . could this mean the author of that quote back in my first paragraph was . . . WHAAA?!

Savage says that “For legal reasons the AP release is not going to specifically name this person,” even though “most of us know this person’s name already as it has already been widely reported.”

Ah, yes. Read about this dude a couple of days ago somewhere.

Finally, Dan Michalski over at Pokerati just a few minutes ago posted a 15-minute interview he conducted with Absolute Poker rep Mark Seif. Dan does a great job, asking all the right questions here. (He did not ask Seif if he was still “Chillin.”)

Seif denies any involvement, and balks at insinuations that he in any way “benefitted from or indulged in the malfeasance” that has clearly taken place at Absolute. Essentially, Seif here calls for AP to come clean. Seif also mentions how at the moment “the volume [of players] is as high or higher than it’s ever been historically at Absolute,” something Dan says in his post baffles him. (Same here, man.)

Jawdropping stuff, everywhere you turn.

I’ve yet actually to go through the motions of withdrawing my cabbage from Absolute Poker, although I am certain I will be doing so in the next day or two. Am also considering pulling out what I have over at Ultimate Bet, as well.

Can anyone think of any reason at all why should I leave money on either site?


Friday, October 19, 2007

Absolute Crap

Absolute BSI first opened my Absolute Poker account almost exactly one year ago. At the time, I wrote here about how I’d signed up through Poker Source Online, getting fifty free clams with which to start playing. My primary motivation for opening an account at AP was the fact that Party Poker had left the U.S. market and I was looking for another site on which to play. Getting the free startup funds meant I didn’t have to fret about how to get money onto the site, an issue that became even more relevant later on when Neteller left us as well.

For whatever reason, I always did well over on Absolute. I built the original $50 into a few hundred, cashed out some (with no hassles), and kept playing there off and on. At the moment I have a little over $360 on the site. Despite my successes over there, I hadn’t been playing very much on Absolute since they started that miserable Bad Beat Jackpot back in the summer. (You might recall me whining about that here.) Such a lousy promotion for those of us at the 1/2 LHE tables. And since there usually wasn’t much action at the PLO50 tables, either, I mostly stayed away.

Like everyone else, I heard that story a little over a month ago about some weirdness having occurred at the 9/12/07 $100K Guarantee over at Absolute. Something about a guy calling down with ten-high to take the first-place prize money. Sounded sketchy, but like most of us my first instinct was to be fairly nonplussed about the matter. In a post on 9/23, I speculated that of the several theories then being floated, the only one that seemed at all plausible was that someone had actually managed to hack into Absolute from the outside. Even that seemed fantastic, though. The idea that we were looking at an “inside job” -- as some were suggesting -- seemed utter applesauce.

Well, it looks as though I was wrong to doubt the doubters. Man oh man has the applesauce hit the fan.

Major Tom to Ground Control

From what has come to light over the past couple of days, it sounds as though several players’ accounts were involved in the so-called “super user” scam, so named because an account enabling access to all players’ hole cards was used to perpetrate the cheating. In addition to Potripper (the winner of the suspect $100K Guarantee), the names DoubleDrag, Graycat, Payup, and Steamroller have also been mentioned as having been involved in cheating. Others’ accounts have been identified as having participated in some post-hustle chip-dumping as well.

And -- wildest of all -- the whole operation has been apparently traced back to a person named Scott Tom, whom I’ve heard variously identified as the former Vice President of Operations at Absolute Poker, as well as the (former or current?) co-owner and CEO of AP. (According to Absolute, he has not been connected with the company for over a year.)

Apparently shortly after the 9/12 tourney concluded, second-place finisher CrazyMarco emailed AP support asking for a copy of the tourney’s hand histories. They sent him a large Excel file, and when he eventually got around to examining it, he discovered the hand histories included all players’ hole cards, thus adding to CrazyMarco’s already heightened suspicions about what had happened that night.

Further analysis revealed some suspicious comings and goings of observers to Potripper’s tables, one of whom has been allegedly linked to Scott Tom. The story is this Tom’s “super user” account had opened the tables on which Potripper was playing, showing all of the hole cards. That information was conveyed to Potripper, who then was able to play the tourney with full knowledge of what his opponents’ were holding.

Watching the Detectives

I’m not even going to try to rehearse all of the details of the investigation here. I will say that as someone who loves well-plotted whodunits, this here is one hell of a detective story.

For those looking for a good summary of what has come to light, the various, lengthy threads on 2+2 and Pocket Fives are a bit arduous to wade through, although the “Cliff’s Notes” version on 2+2 hits on most of the story’s essentials. Let me additionally point you to a few other places where you can learn more about what exactly is going on:
  • A 10/17/07 article in the New York Times by Steven D. Levitt, probably the first report in the mainstream media regarding the scandal

  • A 10/17/07 blog post by Nat Arem, founder of the pokerdb.com, that does a terrific job explaining the connection between Potripper’s account and Scott Tom
  • the Pocket Fives podcast for this week (the 10/18/07 episode), in which Serge “Adantha” Ravitch and Michael Josem further explain the investigation

  • The announcement posted over on Pocket Fives (late 10/18/07) that Absolute Poker had admitted to them that cheating had occurred and that AP soon would be issuing a statement. (Word is the statement will come later today.)

  • Haley Hintze’s terrific synopsis of the entire brouhaha over at PokerNews

  • A website recently launched by Josem, called “Absolute Poker Cheats,” where he is compiling a lot of the relevant information connected to the case

  • four, mind-blowing YouTube videos replaying hands from the infamous $100K Guaranteed tourney won by Potripper
  • Incidentally, a number of folks deserve big time kudos for their investigative work here, particularly Arem, Josem, and Hintze. Talk about real shamuses. We are all sincerely indebted to them.

    Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

    It’s a sad, sad situation, all right. On the Pocket Fives podcast, co-host David Huber described the scandal as “the darkest moment in online poker since last year’s passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.” Guest Serge Ravitch said the scam may well have involved between $500,000 and $1 million being unfairly stolen from unwitting users at the tables.

    Since I play at low stakes, I’m reasonably certain no “super users” have tried to scam any of my virtual blue chips. However, I am anxious about the stability of Absolute Poker, generally speaking, which is one reason why I have decided to withdraw my funds.

    The other reason concerns the response of AP to the scandal. Which can be succinctly described in two words. Piss poor.

    The company allowed weeks to pass before making any sort of statement at all. Then on October 12th AP finally addressed the issue, but rather than email users or post the statement on their website, they communicated it as a post on Absolute spokesperson Mark Seif’s Bluff Magazine blog. As a feature of Seif’s blog, we learn what his “mood” is with every post. For this highly sober announcement, Seif was, apparently, “Chillin.” Sheesh. The whole idea of communicating to its users and the online poker community in this manner suggests a casual attitude entirely inappropriate here.

    (Incidentally, if anyone was wondering, my mood for this post is “Ragin’ Full On.”)

    In that 10/12 statement, Absolute spoke of taking the allegations very seriously, but denied any wrongdoing had occurred. They also questioned the validity of claims regarding Potripper’s “infinite river aggression” factor and denied the existence of any so-called “super user” account. Both of these “conclusions” have since been proven false (or at least highly suspect).

    Indeed, Absolute themselves appeared quickly to pull back from the obviously premature conclusions of their “extensive investigation.” On October 17th, Absolute issued another statement, again as a post on Seif’s blog. (Still “Chillin,” he was.) This time, AP said it was allowing a third-party auditor, Gaming Associates, to investigate the situation. The second statement did not deny any of the claims made in the earlier statement, but the very idea of bringing in an auditor certainly leads one to question the validity of the company’s earlier findings.

    We’ll see what Absolute says next, be it later today or in the near future. I’ll also be curious to see if AP ever decides to respond to this email I sent them a little over 24 hours ago:

    To be honest, I cannot imagine any response that would satisfy me enough to want to play on the site again. (If they ever do respond, that is.) Of course, as I click “publish post” it appears over 15,000 players still think Absolute is a fine place to play. Perhaps thanks to the UIGEA they’ve nowhere else to go.

    I’m glad I still do.

    EDIT (10/19/07, 8:15 EDT): I received my response from Absolute about an hour ago. You’ve probably already seen this elsewhere (no, they did not send the picture -- I added that):

    Absolute Poker has identified an internal security breach that compromised our systems . . . Dear Valued Customer,

    Thank you for contacting us.

    Absolute Poker has identified an internal security breach that compromised our systems for a limited period of time. The cause of the breach has been determined and completely resolved. In addition, all necessary resources, both internal and external, have been engaged to ensure that this does not happen again. Our investigation is not fully concluded, and we wish to thank the extended poker community for any and all assistance related to this matter.

    Game integrity has always been and continues to be of the utmost importance at Absolute Poker. The Management of Absolute Poker is appalled by these findings, and is committed to our players and to the integrity of our site and the online poker industry.

    All players affected by this security breach will be identified during the audit process that has been initiated and all funds, including interest, will be returned. Absolute Poker would like to apologize for the recent events and is committed to diligently working with outside security firms, auditing firms, the extended poker community and the Kahnawake Gaming Commission to ensure that the situation is entirely resolved.

    A comprehensive statement will be forthcoming shortly, providing more details of the findings.

    Absolute Poker Management

    So more to come. Oh, and there is this report, too, over on the MSNBC site that apparently demonstrates some anonymous insider attempting to absolve some of the higher-ups. A damn far cry from reassuring, whatever the intention.

    I’d suggest heading over to PokerNews and/or keep following the forums for the latest.


    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    The Double Life of the Poker Player

    Leading a double lifeWas chatting with a work colleague of mine yesterday, and we ended up briefly talking about poker. Sort of thing doesn’t happen that often. Talking poker at work, I mean.

    We’ve all had some variety of this experience, I imagine. Talking to non-poker players about poker. Vainly trying to impart to these people what poker means to you, as well as the fact that it is meaningful, generally speaking. An uphill battle, usually. Sort of like playing every friggin’ hand from the blinds, over and over and over again.

    I’ve spoken with this particular fellow -- Leonard Lapchuck -- a few times before about poker. He’s actually a much more sympathetic audience than yr average non-poker playing conversant. Lenny’s a thinker. Loves to engage you in those big, “what’s-it-all-about”-type discussions. He’s also at least familiar with poker via several family members who’ve played. He told me about how his father played poker a lot prior to marrying his mother, but stopped afterwards. Lenny didn’t spell it out, but it sounded as though Dad had given up cards following some sort of spousal stipulation regarding how the post-honeymoon co-existence was gonna go.

    We talked a bit about the extent of my own play. I told him about playing online and whatnot, and at some point in there I advanced the usual poker-really-does-involve-skill argument. Just made the standard moves (poker is not all gamble as with some other casino games; luck is involved, but one can choose less risky, more profitable plays; etc.). Lenny nodded thoughtfully, taking in what I was saying. When I’d finished, he started to speak.

    “Tell me something. Could you ever get to the point . . . .”

    He hesitated, as if trying to figure out exactly how he wanted to phrase his question. We know each other quite well -- he really could ask me anything -- but perhaps he was about to bring up something potentially touchy. Like money, for instance. Was he going to ask me about the stakes at which I play? How much I’ve made? Or maybe even something about any semi-secret aspirations I might harbor to pursue poker as a career?

    “Do you think,” he began again, “you could ever get to the point that gambling became a real problem for you?”

    I laughed. I told him that was about as likely as my growing a second head.

    As I’ve written about here many times, I’m no gambler. I’m freakishly obsessive about bankroll management, and while I can adopt the loose-aggro role at the poker tables now and then, I ain’t at all inclined to take the unnecessary risk if I can avoid it. Nor do I care much about betting sports or other forms of gambling.

    Lenny explained that he thought he had the sort of addictive personality that would make it difficult for him to get involved with a game like poker that involved gambling. I told him that’s a genuine issue for a lot of poker players. I also explained to him how poker can prove especially difficult for some, since it is so easy -- and incorrect -- to convince oneself that it is not gambling at all. All sorts of possibilities for self-denial built into the game, really.

    The exchange reminded me once again of how poker is generally regarded by those who don’t play: (1) as essentially identical to other forms of gambling, and, therefore, (2) an activity potentially dangerous to one’s well-being. Most of us who actually play the game know better, of course, but that’s how a lot of the world sees poker.

    My conversation with Lenny also reminded me of the interview I heard with Young Phan over on Rounders, the Poker Show last week (the 10/7/07 episode). Phan has been on a tear lately, winning somewhere around a quarter million so far on the tourney circuit this year alone. Seems like a good guy, too.

    On the show, Phan related how he spent the first seven or eight years of his career hiding the fact that he was a pro poker player from his family. He talked about how his brothers had all pursued successful careers -- one is a doctor, another a lawyer, another owns a computer company. “I’m the only one in the family who gambled,” Phan explained. After a few years of playing, he realized he could make more money playing poker than working the store manager job he’d had for five years. So he turned to poker full-time, but didn’t tell his family.

    In 1999, Phan placed first in a $5K NLHE event at the Carnivale of Poker, netting himself a handsome $370,000 payday. But still he didn’t tell his family what he did. Around that time he was interviewed for a cable television special on poker. The interview appeared on the Discovery Channel -- an apt place for it, as it became the means by which Phan’s family came to discover his true profession. One of his brothers saw the interview, and later he showed a tape of it to their mother.

    “For awhile my family almost disowned me because I was a gambler,” Phan said. “Anything having to do with gambling? Forget it. It was not in my family. They don’t like it at all.” It sounded like Phan’s family has finally come to accept what he does for a living, although it is obvious his mother would prefer he had a job more like his brothers’.

    A lot of people -- for a lot of reasons -- simply do not look favorably on poker, whether it be an occasional recreation, a serious hobby, or a full-fledged career. That’s one reason, frankly, why the conversation with Lenny was somewhat rare. He’s the only person, in fact, with whom I work to whom I’ve ever said anything at all about my own poker playing.

    The fact is, in America, circa early-21st century, anyway, there are a lot of places or contexts -- work, family, etc. -- where identifying oneself as a poker player is simply negative-EV.

    Which leads to a curious kind of “double-life” existence for most of us, I suspect.

    So how are you handling the balancing act?


    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Bloggers & Burnt Weeny Sandwiches

    I was one of the 1,337 runners vying for those Xboxes, iPods, and other folderol in this afternoon’s World Blogger Championship of Online Poker. I lasted nearly four hours, ultimately limping into 137th place (a bit shy of any prizes). Better than any reasonable person would have predicted for yr humble servant.

    I picked up some cards, played a fair game, but didn’t really pull off anything out-of-the-ordinary to make it that far. Ended up short-stacked, making a desperate push with JsTs. Got called by big slick, didn’t improve, and the day swiftly ended with a whimper.

    Frank Zappa provided my soundtrack this afternoon, so here are few highlights grouped by LP.

    Hands #1-#41: Hot Rats (1969)

    Frank Zappa, 'Hot Rats' (1969)Have to say I wasn’t completely sure how to act with 10,000 chips and 25/50 blinds. Didn’t have much of an idea here other than I knew there was little reason to get too crazy early on with 200 friggin’ big blinds. Did witness a couple of guys at my first table nevertheless doing just that, pushing all-in with K4-suited and the like before “Peaches en Regalia” had even finished. I was getting such lousy cards it was easy for me to stay out the way. Ended up folding most of these 41 hands, other than taking the occasional free flop from the blinds. Didn’t get dealt a single pocket pair here. The only “premium”-type hand I saw was AJ-suited in the big blind, which I bungled a bit to lose about a thousand chips. When “It Must Be a Camel” ended, I was sitting at 8,200.

    Hands #42-#84: Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970)

    Frank Zappa, 'Burnt Weeny Sandwich' (1970)Finally got some pocket pairs here -- deuces, twice. Both times in the big blind. (Not funny, I thought.) I stole the blinds once from the cutoff with A5-suited. I was down to 7,700 when I finally picked up a nice hand to play -- AdAc. With the blinds 150/300, an early position player (who had me covered) raised to 900 and I reraised to 2,200. The EP player called, then when the flop came Ks9dTs he instantly pushed all-in. I didn’t like the look of it, but couldn’t let my rockets go, so I called. He had 8d7s for an open-ended straight draw. A spade on the turn gave him a bunch more outs, but none of them hit and I was up to 16,050 in chips.

    Had another nice hand soon after that involved me picking off an attempted blind steal from a short-stacked player on the button. He had a little over 5,000 when he open-raised to my small blind. I reraised, the BB folded, he pushed, and I called with my AcTh. He had 9s4s, and while a four flopped so did an ace. By the time “Valerie” was fading out, I had cracked the 20,000-chip mark.

    Hands #85-#146: Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970)

    Frank Zappa, 'Weasels Ripped My Flesh' (1970)Got switched to my third different table early on here. After a couple of minor skirmishes, I picked up aces yet again and ended up all-in preflop against QQ. My rockets survived, and I was up to 32K. I took it easy until Hand No. 119 when I made a pretty sketchy play with AsKc from the BB. I had 30,550 when the hand began. Blinds were 400/800. A player with 9,700 or so had raised to 2,400 from early position, then was reraised all-in by a player with about 11,700. It folded around to me and I went ahead and called it, figuring I stood to triple (nearly) my investment if I took it down. Unsurprisingly, one of my opponents also had big slick -- suited, in fact -- while the other had a pair of eights. The other AK-player ended up making his flush, and I was down to 18,740.

    I chipped back up over 20,000, then just as “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” comes on I get dealt a pair of queens in the cutoff. With the blinds still 400/800, I raise to 3,000 and the player on the button instantly pushes in his entire stack of 20,000. I’d seen him push all-in several times already, so thought it quite probable he didn’t have much here. Aces or kings seemed unlikely. Big slick was possible, making it a coin flip to call. Most important, though -- as I had demonstrated more than once already today -- is the fact that I ain’t good enough to fold a big hand preflop. So I called, and he showed Ac8h. A few seconds later and I’m up to 41,540, about 130th or so out of the 400-plus remaining players.

    Hands #147-#193: Chunga’s Revenge (1970)

    Frank Zappa, 'Chunga's Revenge' (1970)Cool album. Boring stretch of hands. I did a lot of folding and when “Sharleena” ended I was pretty much where I began, still holding steady with about 41,000 in chips. This meant that with 320 or so players remaining, I was sitting on an average stack.

    Hands #194-#240: Fillmore East: June 1971 (1971)

    Frank Zappa, 'Fillmore East, June 1971' (1971)Getting into that period of Zappa/Mothers albums that doesn’t necessarily work very well as a poker soundtrack. I had me a system going here, though, and so pushed through.

    By now the blinds and antes were starting to become significant, and stealing had become the preferred modus operandi of most players. I managed a few thefts of my own here, though I was mostly conservative, not really trying anything much with subpar hands. I believe the worst hand I stole with was 9h8h. I benefitted a bit because the player to my right had gone AWOL, meaning I didn’t have to contend with much blind-vs.-blind goofiness. Had kind of a dumb play where I completed from the SB with T7-offsuit, then tried to steal the pot on the turn only to get raised off the hand. That knocked me back to 36,000 or so.

    Hands #241-#262: Just Another Band from L.A. (1972)

    Frank Zappa, 'Just Another Band from LA' (1972)Not my favorite Zappa album, but I was taking them chronologically and so had to cue this one up. Side one is that long “Billy the Mountain” suite that I have to admit I’ve never really gotten into. Compounding the situation, the AWOL guy gets moved from my table, only to be replaced by a highly-aggressive player with 170,000 chips and a Marilyn Manson pic for his avatar. As my M starts to slip under 10, he starts preraising about 50% of the hands. I push once with AK, only to split with another big slick player. Finally had to let it ride with JT-suited and was sent to the rail about half-way through “Call Any Vegetable.”

    Not so bad, I guess, although clearly I found myself lacking the needed skills to make things happen there at the end without catching cards. Don’t believe I played with anyone I know -- if I did, I was unaware -- although I did notice a number of familiar names among those registered. Hope everyone had fun!

    Meanwhile, it’s back to the land of cash games for me, I think.


    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    “A Deck of Cards is a Book of Adventure”

    'A Deck of Cards is a Book of Adventure'Readers of this blog are aware that I try to keep up with all of the current poker podcasts as well as I can. A lot of good stuff out there, and -- as us short-stacked types prefer -- it’s free!

    The vagaries of my so-called “professional” life -- i.e., that non-pokery part of my existence from which I derive the majority of my income -- sadly require I remain behind the wheel for a significant number of hours every week. Like a lot of Americans, where I live and where I work are separated by a significant distance. So every weekday (and sometimes on the weekends, too) I make the long drive there and back. That’s the time when I generally listen to such podcasts. As you might notice over there on the right-hand column, the number of different shows that have made it into the weekly rotation has grown a bit over the last couple of weeks.

    There is now a second internet radio “network” called Rounder’s Radio (not to be confused with Rounders, the Poker Show), on which several different poker-related shows appear. From the new network I’ve listened to Gary Wise’s show, Wise Hand Poker, a couple of times, and I also have heard the one called Poker Talk Beyond the Books. (Am withholding judgment until I hear a few more of each.)

    Hold ’em Radio continues to chug along as well, with Keep Flopping Aces and Poker Psychology being the two shows I try to catch over there.

    Meanwhile my favorites continue to be Beyond the Table, Ante Up!, and Rounders, the Poker Show. These are the ones (perhaps with Keep Flopping Aces) I look forward to the most each week.

    'La Rôtisserie de la Reine Pédauque' by Anatole France (1893)This week’s episode Ante Up! featured the return of occasional co-host Mike Fasso, who sometimes will join regular hosts Chris Cosenza and Scott Long. I always enjoy it when Fasso -- sometimes referred to as “The Bard” -- turns up. The nickname comes from his occasional efforts to introduce literature into the show, such as when he will share a Shakespearean monologue rewritten as poker commentary. This week the show began with Fasso quoting a passage from Anatole France’s 1893 novel, La Rôtisserie de la Reine Pédauque (At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque).

    I’ll admit I’m not familiar with Anatole France’s works. Vera, who as it happens has degrees in French lit., has read A. France, and tells me Queen Pedauque is one of the French novelist’s best. The passage Fasso read features two characters who find themselves with a bottle of wine, a pair of dice, a deck of cards, and an evening free to enjoy such items. One then offers an especially interesting reflection on the significance of card-playing.

    You can hear Fasso read the passage by clicking here, but I thought it worthwhile to transcribe it here as well. Regarding, then, the subject of card games:
    It is indeed excellent entertainment. A deck of cards is a book of adventure, and it has this superiority over other books of its kind in that it can be composed and read at the same time. And it is not necessary to have brains to compose it, nor knowledge of reading to read it. It is a marvelous work also in that it makes sense and has a new meaning every time its pages are shuffled. It is of such cunning design that it cannot be admired too much, for from mathematical laws it draws thousands and thousands of curious combinations and so many singular juxtapositions that people have been led to think, contrary to all truth, that in it are discoverable the secrets of the heart and the mysteries of fate . . . .
    See what those of you who don’t listen to poker podcasts are missing!

    Fasso keeps a cool blog on 1970s cinema, too. Check it out.


    Friday, October 12, 2007

    A Thirty-Big-Bet Limit Hold ’em Hand

    Big ol' stack of chipsIn Small Stakes Hold ’em, Miller/Sklansky/Malmuth make a somewhat rudimentary distinction between “loose” and “tight” tables. The authors describe a “tight” game as one in which 3-5 players are usually staying to see the flop, and a “loose” one as having 6-8 players hanging around for the flop. Of course, how folks play after the flop also helps define the relative “tightness” or “looseness” of the table, but the distinction is nevertheless descriptive enough.

    The authors are surely speaking of live games here. I don’t know what your experience is, but I almost never see 6-8 players going to the flop in my 1/2 LHE games online. They come around every once in awhile, though. I found myself at one of those rare tables a couple of days ago, and subsequently got involved in one of the biggest limit Hold ’em hands I can remember ever playing.

    I had been at the table for only an orbit or so, but had already determined most of my opponents were of the loose, passive variety Miller/Sklansky/Malmuth are really teaching us to exploit in their book. I was already up about eight bucks, having just won a modest pot on the previous hand with QQ. For this hand, a late position player who had been sitting out, BrigidS, posted an additional blind. I was on the button where I was dealt 4c5c. Two early position players called, then JoelCairo raised it. The player to JoelCairo’s left, Gutman, cold-called the two bets, and BrigidS also called. A decent scenario for my small suited connectors. I also call the two bets, the SB folds, and the BB and early position players all call as well. Seven players altogether to see the flop. The pot is $15.

    Flop comes 7c2h6c -- a straight flush draw for me. The first player to act bets and gets called, then JoelCairo raises it to two bucks. Gutman calls, then BrigidS three bets. I hesitate for a moment, then go ahead and cap the betting from the button. I figure I might drive out at least one or two of those early players. I’m also thinking since I’m going to call the fourth bet anyhow, I might as well raise to obscure the fact I’ve got nothing as yet.

    Indeed, those early position players both fold, JoelCairo calls, Gutman calls, and BrigidS also calls. Four players remain. The pot is already up to $33, or 16.5 big bets.

    I’m pretty sure at this point I don’t want my flush to come -- unless, of course, it’s the straight flush. The turn card -- 4d -- improves my hand, technically speaking (I now have a pair). But I know I’m still drawing. JoelCairo surprisingly checks, as does Gutman. BrigidS bets out, I call, and JoelCairo check-raises us. Gutman cold-calls the two big bets, then BrigidS three-bets it. I’m going nowhere, though capping seems a bit foolhardy this time so I call the three bets. JoelCairo just calls, too, as does Gutman. There are still four of us in the hand. The pot is up to a whopping $57, or 28.5 big bets.

    The river is the 3d, giving me my straight, and when it checks around to me I’m pretty sure I’m golden. JoelCairo calls, and the other two players both fold! JoelCairo mucks his pocket rockets, and I scoop $59.50 all told (after a buck is taken for the rake).

    What could Gutman and BrigidS have had to fold getting 30-to-1? Both had to have been drawing, too, and both had to have ended the hand without having paired their overcards. After the hand, one of the early position players typed “nice raises lol” and BrigidS quickly responded “i had too and he had too,” confirming, I suppose, that she, like me, was on a draw. JoelCairo’s check-raise on the turn was valiant, but by that point the pot had grown too damn big for him to knock out anyone.

    A bizarre, perfect-stormy hand, really. I netted $45.50 all told. A final pot of thirty-plus big bets, and the betting only gets capped once (on the flop). And the guy who capped it (me) had five-high at the time.

    Puts me in mind a little bit of that “Godot hand” I wrote about some months back. That was the one where I ended up calling a lot of bets with 43-suited from the big blind, finally hitting my flush on the end only to lose to a bigger flush. I called it a “Godot hand” because it begged the question, “What the hell were you waiting for, Shamus?”

    A couple of differences, here, though. One is the fact that in that hand I end up chasing a flush without having any real straight possibilities. (Obviously the straight is preferable with the baby connectors.)

    The other, bigger difference? Position. Changes everything. Playing from the button, I almost always knew (or had a good idea) what I was in for with my investment on each street.

    Should be a while before I see a table like that again, I would think. Or a hand that big.


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