Thursday, November 29, 2007

Life in the Loony Bin (PLO High), Part II

It's Time to Play SPOT THE LOONY!This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty.

Full Tilt Poker. Pot Limit Omaha, short-handed. $25 buy-in. Kind of a loose table, at least from the two dozen or so hands I’d seen. Hand comes up where I’m dealt Qs7d2d4d in the big blind. A crummy PLO hand, and I’m only too glad to fold it after a player in early position raises pot preflop. Ends up getting three callers. Pot $4.65.

Flop comes 2s2hQh, natch.

Actually, scratch that “natch.” My whine is a put-on. So I folded queen-deuce. So what.

I often see people online crying about having folded crap cards only to see a flop that would have connected beautifully with one’s hand. Such self-loathing might make sense in a brick-and-mortar room, but most sites (including Full Tilt) rerun their randomizing program with every dealt card. I wrote about this here phenomenon at length a good while back in a couple of posts -- “Doing the ‘What If?’ Shuffle” and “Doing the ‘What If?’ Shuffle (the sequel).”

Not to say I didn’t run the cursor back over that dumb little frog avatar to double-check that yes, indeed, I had folded Q2xx. Knowing what I had mucked, I was somewhat curious to see how everyone else was going to play this here hand. No one could possibly be that attracted to this particular flop. Could they . . . ?

The first two players checked, then EvelKnievel bet pot ($4.65). The player in the small blind, MadCap, called the bet, as did HotDoggin, the early position player who had raised preflop. The pot had ballooned to $18.60.

Meanwhile, Shamus is wondering . . . how in the hell could three different players be interested in that board? There’s only one more deuce left out there. And two queens. Something smells funny here. Or fishy.

The turn brings the 9s, making the board 2s2hQh9s. MadCap and HotDoggin both quickly check, and EvelKnievel again bets pot ($18.60). There we go (thinks Shamus). We have our winner.

Hang on. MadCap calls. And HotDoggin raises 2x to $37.20. Wha? EvelKnievel, who only has $0.65 left behind, puts his last chips into the middle. MadCap takes some extra time, then calls the extra $18.60. The pot is friggin’ enormous -- $112.25.

River brings the 5c, a card that can’t possibly turn the tide. But then again, I thought this would be a quiet hand. MadCap again takes extra time, then checks. HotDoggin quickly puts in his last $22.45. And the MadCap . . . folds.

Okay, you wiseacres . . . show us whatcha got . . .

Hotdoggin has 8dQd2cQc for queens full. That’s right . . . there were only three cards out there that could possibly have made that flop good for someone, and one guy had all three.

What did EvelKnievel have? Aces? Hearts, maybe? Heck no. He mucked Jc9c7h4c.

Hey, at least Evel did improve on the turn.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

UB Kidding Me

Transferring from AP to UB? Easy. Transferring from UB to my bank account? Difficult (Very).Anyone still playing at Absolute Poker who is thinking about transferring some funds over to Ultimate Bet, this here post is for you. And/or lovers of the absurd.

As you probably know, the company that apparently owns Absolute Poker (Blast Off Limited) bought out the company that owned Ultimate Bet (Excapsa) back in October 2006. At the time, there were reports that the player bases would be combined within a few months, but that plan never quite materialized. Instead, late in the summer of 2007 came the announcement of a new service whereby players could transfer funds from one site to the other. Just about the time, incidentally, when Absolute rolled out its new software upgrade (to “Absolute Poker 8.0”). You know, the one that enabled folks like A.J. Green to scam players out of hundreds of thousands.

A press release was issued (on 8/23/07) announcing the new service. In that release Ultimate Bet spokesperson George MacLean and David Clainer, senior VP for Absolute, are credited with jointly saying “We’re opening the doors between two of the most popular poker rooms . . . . Our new payment option allows funds to seamlessly flow from one poker room to the other.”

Back on 9/1/07 I published a post called “Taking a Seat at UB” in which I wrote (with some enthusiasm) about transferring some cabbage from my Absolute Poker account over to Ultimate Bet. I liked the idea of adding a new site to my roster of choices, and so decided to give it a go. I also liked the flexibility of perhaps “seamlessly” moving funds back and forth from site to site -- the kind of thing we Americans used to take for granted prior to Neteller’s going away.

Over the following six weeks, we learned of the cheating scandal at Absolute, and after a bit of contemplation, I decided I would be pulling my funds off of both AP and UB. My withdrawal from Absolute was simple enough. I made the request, and the check arrived within a week. However, my withdrawal from Ultimate Bet has been less smooth. In fact, it has been so arduous that I felt compelled to report about it here.

Let me start with a warning. Indeed, communicating this bit of info is really the main reason why I’m posting this here tale. Anyone with money on Absolute who wants to try what I did and move some funds over to UB, you should know that you will not be allowed to withdraw any funds off of UB until you make an actual deposit there (by some other means than an AP transfer). In other words, that promise that the companies are allowing your “funds to seamlessly flow from one poker room to the other” is not exactly correct.

And I ain’t just talking about the split infinitive.

I had a measly $55 over on UB when I decided on October 23rd to try to transfer it back over to AP, then withdraw the lot. I put in the request, then after a day discovered I still had $55 sitting in the UB account. I emailed support, and was sent a message saying that my request had been denied. I mistakenly assumed that the problem was due to the fact that I was requesting a transfer of less than $100 in the account, so I moved $50 more over to UB from Absolute and tried again. Again, after a day or two I saw my money -- now $105 -- still sitting over in the UB account. I emailed support once more, and was sent a similar message explaining that my request “has been denied due to no deposit history on your UB account.”

Huh? Reading further in that 8/23/07 press release, one reads that “players with accounts on both sites can instantly move their money without having to make a new deposit.” Now that I actually want to withdraw my money from UB, I’m realizing that ain’t exactly the case.

I went ahead at that point and took all my money off of AP (a little over $300), then set to work trying to get that UB money sent to me.

I wrote support once again explaining (1) I no longer wished to play at UB or AP because of the cheating that had occurred at Absolute; and (2) I had deposited money at UB when I transferred funds from AP, so why couldn’t I now withdraw? I ended my email by asking point blank “Can you tell me how I can have my funds sent to me? I do not wish to deposit funds on UB only to withdraw them.”

It took support four days to respond to my message. Instead of telling me how to withdraw my funds, however, I only received a long, generic-sounding presser telling me they were sorry I wanted to close my account, “the breach has been closed,” and a long list of other reasons why “Absolute Poker is completely safe and secure.”

“I am interpreting the form letter as an attempt to get me to change my mind,” I said in my reply. “I have not -- I still wish to withdraw my funds. Should I again attempt to withdraw via the site software? Please advise.” I got a reply from support saying they were forwarding my request to UB’s Security Department. We were now up to November 8th -- over two weeks after my first attempt to withdraw my funds.

Three days later I finally heard from Erin over in the Security Department. Erin had the same message for me that Support had repeatedly given: “you must have made an initial deposit in order to request a withdrawal, which is the reason why your withdrawal has been cancelled . . . . Best regards, Erin.”

Argh. Erin and I ended up writing back and forth several times. “You must understand my reluctance to deposit any more money into your site,” I wrote, “given the difficulty I am having withdrawing what I already have there.” Finally I gave in and ended up sending a check to Mohawk Financial Services (in Canada) as a deposit into my Ultimate Bet account. Once that money was received and deposited, I then waited 48 more hours -- as Erin had instructed -- before finally trying once again.

When I clicked on the “withdrawal” button, I was taken to a page that said “We are sorry, but you are not allowed to make withdrawals. If you have any questions, please contact memberservices.” Hello? Erin?

I emailed yet again, and didn’t have to wait too long before getting a reply that the message was the result of a “technical problem” and had been fixed. Sure, whatever. One more day of suspense, and I finally got an email on November 25th that my payout had been processed -- about a month after I first tried to withdraw.

Am still waiting for the check, so the adventure ain’t officially over. I suppose this is all par for the course and I shouldn’t be that outraged at the hassle. Still, if I had known that it was going be this difficult to withdraw from Ultimate Bet, I would have never transferred any money over there at all. Bottom line: I would not recommend anyone try to transfer money from AP to UB unless he or she is prepared one day to deposit still more money onto Ultimate Bet.

I hope that’s useful to someone. ’Cause I’m not seeing the first thing on either site about what you’re gonna have to do to get your money off of UB once you transfer it there from AP.


Monday, November 26, 2007

The Kind of Problem You Want to Have

Lucky FoursGonna put my fretting about overblocking aside for the moment and think about nicer things. Quads, for instance.

Played a little PLO50 today. Bought in for $25 and hit a big draw early on versus two opponents to more than double up. Was sitting at $59.38 when the following hand took place. The stack made me second-best at the table, with PBunyan (on my left) being the only player who had me covered with a little over $70.

Since PBunyan had been playing a lot of hands, I had a mini-read on him as a somewhat loose gambler-type. But really I had little usable info on anyone when I found myself in the cutoff being dealt TsTc9sJc. Not a bad starting hand for PLO high, one I sometimes will raise up from late position. But for some reason -- after three others limped in -- I just called the fifty cents as well, perhaps still a little dazed after winning that big pot just prior. PBunyan called from the button, and with the blinds also in there were seven of us all told to see the flop. Pot $3.50.

The flop was a very accommodating 8cTh7h. Top straight, top set. Gets checked to me and I bet pot. PBunyan quickly calls, as does PecosBill from UTG. Pot $14.00. The turn brings the 6h, momentarily ruining the party for yr humble servant. PecosBill checks, and I check, too, expecting PBunyan to pounce. But he doesn’t, just checking behind. Before I can think very long about what my opponents might have, the river comes.

And you already know what it brings -- the Td. Sweet sassy molassey. As Doyle would say, I had “fours.”

A nice, happy little hand we got going here. And it gets even nicer, as Pecos Bill hastily bets pot, leaving himself only $1.25 behind.

Now here comes the only real “what would you do” moment in the hand. There’s $28 in the middle. If you raise, you have to put at least $28 in, meaning you’d be giving PBunyan exactly 2-to-1 to call if perhaps he’s hit anything. If you just call the $14, that would give PBunyan exactly 3-to-1 to call.

Oh, and there is a straight flush possible out there. Have been rudely bitten by that in a similar situation once before.

Yeah, I know. We ain’t gonna worry ourselves about that. So stop yr grinning and tell me. What would you do?

I decided just to call, hoping for an overcall. PBunyan folded, though, and I took the $42 pot -- $40 after the rake. (PecosBill had eights full.)

Probably nothing I could do there to get PBunyan to gamble, I imagine. If he has a boat himself, he’s probably raising it up. (From the way it went, I’m going to guess he flopped a lesser straight.) I lose picking up PecosBill’s last $1.25, of course, but I figured shooting for more the better play.

That was nice. Thanks for indulging me in my favorite type of poker puzzle (“How To Play Quads”). Let us all return now to our less exciting, quads-less reality, already in progress . . . .


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Overblocking and the UIGEA

Uncle Sam bluffs!On the 11/8/07 episode of Keep Flopping Aces, Annie Duke appeared as a guest and talked about all things UIGEA. Her appearance came just a few days prior to her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of the Poker Players Alliance. One senses on the show Duke trying out a number of different arguments as she prepared her remarks for the following week. Duke made a lot of good points and was quite informative about the current status of the PPA’s lobbying efforts.

There was one item Duke mentioned about which I remain a bit uncertain -- this business of banks’ potentially “overblocking” clients’ transactions. A troubling issue, I think. Let me explain what “overblocking” is -- at least as I understand it -- and why I think it might turn into a big ol’ messy fly in the ointment here for us Americans who play online poker.

Early in the show, Duke noted how the new regulations (issued by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System back on October 1st) don’t bother to define what unlawful Internet gambling transactions exactly are, leaving it instead to the states to make such definitions. She’s correct. The authors of the regs state up front they do not presume to “specify which gambling activities or transactions are legal or illegal because the Act itself defers to underlying State and Federal gambling laws in that regard.”

I’ve said before that I think the UIGEA does in fact make a half-hearted attempt to identify what an unlawful Internet gambling transaction is (when it offers to define “bet or wager”), but it is true that the Act also instructs the feds to defer authority in this regard to the district courts, states, and “Indian lands” (in section §5365, “Civil remedies”).

Folks have another week or so to submit comments on the regulations, after which we’re probably looking at 180 days of reevaluation before the regs are finalized. Just to be clear, the regulations are supposed be providing instructions to the banks, credit card companies, and other “payment system providers” for keeping themselves in line with the UIGEA -- and thus avoiding the stiff criminal penalties (e.g., five years in prison) for failing to do so.

The problem, of course, is that these here instructions don’t really instruct much at all. In effect, the lawmakers are essentially leaving it up to the banks to figure out whether their clients’ are trying to cash a check issued from an “unlawful” entity. Or to send funds to such a place. Or whatever.

According to Duke, “the banks have already made it very clear that in this case they are going to do what is called ‘overblocking,’ which means that banks, being conservative institutions, if you don’t define for [them] what an illegal activity is [they]’re just going to assume that any gaming at all is an illegal activity.” She went on to say how MasterCard and Visa have both already begun blocking transactions to and from online bridge sites.

Now I’m as happy as anyone about all the recent optimism regarding the IGREA (Barney Frank’s bill) and the other PPA-endorsed bills. But we all must understand that despite what Barry Greenstein says, there’s very little chance the UIGEA is going to be disappearing anytime prior to the 2008 elections (if then). In other words, if the banks do indeed start “overblocking,” we Americans might still be facing an uncomfortable, headachy stretch here with regard to cashing out and/or funding our online poker accounts.

The regulations speak directly to this issue of banks overstepping their bounds and indiscriminately blocking all suspect-seeming transactions. In section D of the regulations (“Processing of Restricted Transactions Prohibited”), there comes a reference to “the Act’s requirement that the Agencies [i.e., the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and Departmental Offices & the Treasury Dept.] ensure that transactions in connection with any activity excluded from the Act’s definition of unlawful Internet gambling are not blocked or otherwise prevented or prohibited by the regulations (the ‘overblocking’ provision).”

Reading further, the regulations’ authors show they are aware that “Some payment system operators have indicated that, for business reasons, they have decided to avoid processing any gambling transactions, even if lawful, because, among other things, they believe that these transactions are not sufficiently profitable to warrant the higher risk they believe these transactions pose.” In other words -- just as Duke said -- some banks and credit card companies have already made it clear that if they decide it is too risky to allow a questionable-looking transaction to occur, they’ll stop it.

The “Agencies” go on to plead their own impotence here, saying that while they (meaning the feds) don’t think the banks should block legal transactions, they can’t very well be expected to tell ’em how to conduct their business: “the Act does not provide the Agencies with the authority to require designated payment systems or participants in these systems to process any gambling transactions, including those transactions excluded from the Act’s definition of unlawful Internet gambling, if a system or participant decides for business reasons not to process such transactions.” The discussion concludes with the request for further comment on the “Act’s overblocking provision.”

If you think about it, what we’re witnessing here really amounts to a complicated, multi-part bluff. The sort of thing Jamie Gold tries two or three times a week on High Stakes Poker. We’ve got three “players” here -- the feds, the banks, and Americans who want to gamble online. We have the feds beat, and we know it. The problem is the feds are trying to use their position to prod the banks into knocking us out of the hand. And when the banks call, we know we can’t beat ’em. What are you going to do when your bank says it won’t honor that check you’re trying to deposit?

That’s right. Fold. And perhaps sit out a few rounds until the players change.

Now I could be wrong here. I know there was discussion of “overblocking” at the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing, and it could very well be that comments to the regs and/or the finalizing process might change the situation in a way that makes it less simple for banks to block transactions that haven’t been expressly designated to be unlawful.

Can’t say I care too much for how the hand is shaping up at the moment, though.


Thursday, November 22, 2007


Here's hoping yr Thanksgiving is acesEvery now and then when I’m feeling a bit ornery at the online tables I’ll stoop to offer the odd comment in the chatbox. Take it a general rule to avoid such applesauce, but sometimes I’ll permit myself a pithy observation on the proceedings. Even though I know better.

For example, say I’m in a PLO hand and flop top set on a board with a couple of hearts and no obvious straight draws -- a board of K72 or something. I bet pot and get the one caller. Turn is a non-heart ten and my buddy again calls my pot-sized bet. The river brings the crummy heart, I check, and the chaser quickly bets pot.

“Congrats,” I type. Then fold.

If a bluff, my praise is genuine. Usually, though, this ain’t a bluff, in which case I suppose the “congrats” is meant to have a sardonic edge, with special emphasis on the last syllable. RAAAAATSSSSS . . . .

What’s interesting is that once in a while I’ll get a “ty” in response. The first couple of times that happened, I unthinkingly decided that “ty” confirmed my impression of the player as less than savvy, someone incapable of appreciating either pot odds or derisive irony.

Then I began to wonder. If it were a bluff, the reply would have been as genuine as the compliment, yes? Finally I began to consider whether my opponent’s gratitude might also be sarcastic, the polite equivalent of a smarmy “lol” fired back at the petulant loser . . . ?

That’s when I decided it doesn’t matter what the “ty” means. A fun little metagame, I guess, indicating something or other about our at-the-table negotiations.

In any event, I thought today would be a good day to say “ty” to all of you for coming around here to Hard-Boiled Poker.

I once took a shot several months back to describe this here poker bloggin’ world. I called it “a complicated, overlapping set of communities where (one might argue) we all eventually get around to hearing from each other.” And I concluded that “for the most part, it seems to me to be inhabited by a lot of pretty cool, smart, & funny folks.”

Still feel the same. It’s been a hell of a year -- a blast, really -- getting to play along with all of youse. Thanks for keeping them blogs and forums and podcasts a-rollin’ on. And thanks very much for all the great feedback you’ve given me.

And I mean it.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chances Are

“In the beginning, everything was even money.”

Heard that one before? That’s Mike Caro’s self-described “most famous quote.” Caro appeared recently on Poker Psychology with Dr. Alan Schoonmaker over on Hold ’em Radio (the 10/24/07 episode). Schoonmaker started his podcast back in April of this year and consistently provides interesting guests and thoughtful interviews.

The episode featuring Caro was no exception. Great stuff throughout. (Incidentally, I only recently figured out how to subscribe to the feeds for Hold ’em Radio shows in my Juice player. I had been downloading them manually before. Here’s the page where you can find all of the feeds.)

Caro explains that quote along with several other concepts during the course of his appearance on Poker Psychology. Like a lot of you, I’m most familiar with him via Caro’s Book of Poker Tells. I’ve also spent some time now and then perusing some of the Mike Caro University of Poker, Gambling, and Life Strategy website from time to time. Can’t remember if I’d ever heard him interviewed before or not. Unsurprisingly (for those of us who have read him), Caro is a great speaker whose smooth, professorial delivery and sound way of thinking through his various ideas make us soon realize the “Mad Genius of Poker” is probably about the sanest person alive.

There are plenty of other places where one can find Caro expounding on his idea that we all start out this life with the notion that “everything is even money.” On the MCU site, he credits himself as having first uttered his “mantra” back in 1982. It’s the first of his “43 Exclusive Super/System 2 Tips from Mike Caro University” (in Super/System 2). You can also read a full explanation of the idea in this Gambling Times article from 2001.

In a nutshell, Caro is emphasizing that the most important skill one can develop in poker -- or in any other context -- is to learn how to estimate one’s chances for success or failure in any given situation. The quote particularly refers back to that moment when one lacks enough information to make such calculations, a time when -- according Caro -- all decisions appear to the untutored as coin flips. As he explains in Super/System 2, “If you don’t know how to estimate chances or you don’t have any information at all about a situation, then that event appears to be an even money situation.”

By way of further explanation, Caro describes scenarios illustrating the value of experiential learning. For example, on the Schoonmaker show, Caro talks about how one learns that when crossing a busy freeway, the chances are not 50-50 that one will avoid getting run over. Thankfully (for most of us), we don’t actually have to run out into the freeway to figure this out. We’re able by other means -- observation, an ability to think abstractly, study of analogous situations -- to calculate our odds of surviving such a freeway dash, and thus more than likely avoid making the attempt. We figure out, explains Caro, that “not everything is 50-50 . . . and your mission in life -- and your mission in poker -- is to defeat [or get beyond simply assuming] the concept that something is even money, unless it turns out, by coincidence, to be exactly even money.”

Been brooding over this idea for the last few days since I heard Caro bring it up again on Schoonmaker’s show. My instinctive response is to appreciate the lyrical, aphoristic quality of the saying. As I think about it further, though, I find myself wanting to qualify Caro’s observation in a couple of ways.

First of all, the point here isn’t really “in the beginning, everything was even money,” but rather that in the beginning, everything appears to be even money. Less pretty as a proverb, I know, but that is essentially the point.

Secondly, I wonder if this observation really holds in the same way for all of us. Do we all really begin this life with the notion that everything is a coin flip, having to determine, eventually, that our assumptions are in most cases inaccurate? I’m not going to try to ascend to the heights of the philosophers and posit any profundities about how children learn here. Instead let’s just take the more humble example of the novice limit Hold ’em player who in his very first hand ever played gets dealt A9-offsuit in the big blind. Does he think he’s even money to win the hand? When the flop comes seven-high, does he still think he’s even money? When an ace peels off on the turn, does he still think he’s even money?

Perhaps we might say the learning happens more quickly than we realize and just by sitting down and absorbing how others are responding to the board our novice player is rapidly moving away from the “even money” fallacy. Something tells me, though, that a lot of new players aren’t beginning with the idea that their odds are 50-50.

Rather -- and I’m speaking from my own experience and from observing others here -- I’d say more often than not the novice thinks his chances are much better than 50-50. In other words, in the beginning, everything (appears to be) better than even money, and it is only after a dozen or a hundred or a thousand times of realizing your flush is going to come on the river only a fifth of the time that you start to understand differently.

Then again, I could be wrong. Let your experience and learning determine whether or not I am.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Get Ready to Rumble

The Rumble” is how I categorize those posts in which I talk about how poker is discussed and presented in various media. The rumble has been fairly loud these last few days. Three items stood out from the usual noise this week. (Gobboboy vs. The Professor was a close fourth.)

WSOP, the Next Frontier

WSOP to go online?On Wednesday, BusinessWeek reported that Gary Loveman, a chief executive from Harrah’s Entertainment, has said the casino giant was looking to create a WSOP online poker site -- to operate outside of the U.S., of course. In passing along the info, I saw Dan Michalski Robert Goldfarb over at Pokerati suggesting Party Poker as a possible site for Harrah’s to purchase and rebrand. Not seeing any specific references to Party Poker when I scan about for further news of the story, but that certainly sounds like a possibility here. Amy Calistri has a good write-up over on PokerNews that adds further details and context.

Incidentally, I happened this week to chat with a person from Party who was looking to promote their new German online poker site. I asked him what he knew about the possibility of Party ever coming back to the U.S., and he said he felt sure that would not happen unless the UIGEA were repealed.

Speaking of which . . .

Rescue Annie

Annie Duke testifying before the House Judiciary CommitteeWednesday was also the day Annie Duke testified on behalf of the Poker Players Alliance before the House Judiciary Committee. Her brief (6-minute) presentation is an abridged version of the 10-page testimony entered into the Judiciary Committee’s official minutes.

The “dazzling diva of Las Vegas” -- as committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) referred to Duke -- did fairly well, I thought, given the time constraints. She invoked John Locke and John Stuart Mill regarding the principles of non-intrusive government, correctly characterizing the UIGEA as violating such principles. She said she understood and respected those who believed gambling to be “immoral or unproductive” -- however, she objected to the idea that those who do not consider gambling as such should be prevented from doing so.

Her list of other activities that could be harmful if done to excess -- “shopping, day trading, sex, chocolate, even drinking water” -- makes a point, I guess, but who is really convinced by this “if the gov’t is gonna outlaw this then we’re all headed down the slippery slope” argument? (I also wouldn’t necessarily have kept referring to those interested in enforcing the UIGEA as “prohibitionists,” even if that is what they are.)

The post-hearing vibe does seem optimistic, though, and as a PPA member I’m glad about Duke doing her part this way. Here’s a PokerListings article summarizing some of the good guys’ excitement about the current state of things. Still feels like a long, long way to go, though, before any of this activity actually breathes life into a UIGEA repeal (or replacement).

Sklansky Says Relax

Sklansky Says RelaxFinally, I saw a couple of days ago where Iggy had pointed us to David Sklansky’s post titled “My First, And Perhaps Only, Statement About Absolute.” The thumbnail goes like this: Sklansky is 59 years old, and thus says “the stuff” (i.e., the Absolute Poker cheating scandal) “doesn’t horrify” him the way it does others. Such stoicism stems from what sounds like the poker author’s fundamental theorem of human nature: “the majority of people who don’t do wrong, at least as far as money is concerned, choose that honest path only because it is the better play.” That is to say, we’re all essentially greedy and self-interested, and would cheat each other at every opportunity if we knew we wouldn’t get caught. Your basic Hobbesian pessimism here.

Sklansky does express some outrage at AP’s stubbornness to admit any wrongdoing had occurred, particularly after statistical evidence indicated the contrary. Ultimately, though, Sklansky says relax and “do what is [in] your own best interest.” Hey, we’re all selfish anyway, right? As far as continuing to play on Absolute goes, Sklansky says “if you are a cheater and a colluder you should rush right over there,” but if you are not, then don’t refuse to play on the site “as a matter of principle.” “This isn’t the Civil Rights movement,” he concludes. “We’re talking about internet poker.” In the end, he says go play on AP if you think you can come away a winner. “As long as the profit motive is your main motive,” says Sklansky, we should go play (if we want) and not get all uptight about the fact that those running the show cheated customers out of hundreds of thousands.

Have to say I ain’t too keen on Sklansky’s conclusion here. And it isn’t because I have a more generous view of human nature, either. (I don’t.) Sure, online poker is hardly the Civil Rights Movement. (Few things are.) It’s mostly something a lot of us do for fun and perhaps for a few other, more or less noble reasons.

I wish my government hadn’t made it so the WSOP cannot even entertain going online in the country where the damn thing originated, but they did. And so we have no regulation beyond what the sites are willing to do themselves. Annie Duke and the PPA go to Washington and suggest preventing us from playing is, in fact, a civil rights issue. I don’t disagree.

The hope is to get online poker fully legal and regulated so we don’t have to shrug our shoulders and say, like Sklansky, that when someone cheats us we just have to accept that as part of the game. “When I play poker,” Sklansky clarifies, “I always factor in a very small chance that I might get cheated. You should too.”

Perhaps I should -- when I play today, at least. But I don’t have to accept that as another fundamental theorem, do I? In fact, if we humans are such selfish types ready and willing to cheat if at all possible, it seems even more imperative to do something when cheating happens -- for example, not playing on sites where the owners cheat the customers and then try to cover it up. That’s doing what is in my best interest.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Life in the Loony Bin (PLO High)

I continue to play mostly PLO high these days. No, not that kind of high (tee hee).

Endured a difficult stretch over the last couple of weeks (aside from one wildly spectacular session), but am on the rebound. Have been observing one fairly obvious rule somewhat dogmatically: never call preflop raises from out of position without a premium hand.

I have a few other guidelines I normally try to follow, but just remaining mindful about this one rule has definitely helped pull me out of that rough patch. A lot. Seems simple enough, right? But you know how PLO goes. Just another coupla quarters. Maybe I’ll flop a boat! Not calling those bets has kept me out of harm’s way trying to build hands from out of position.

Playing so much PLO has also increased the “gamble” in my game. I’ve written here before (many times) about my aversion to risk. Kept me at the limit tables for the longest time. One simply has to take some chances in PLO, though, and I think the game has probably helped broaden my poker-playing personality a bit.

Wanted to share one recent hand of PLO ($25 max.) where I ended up taking a chance. Keep reading to find out how it goes. All I’ll say right now is that someone at the table ended up calling multiple opponents “idiots.”

I was in the big blind for this hand. Had exactly $11.40 at the start, making me one of the short stacks at what had been a very loose table. Kind of a loony bin, in fact, with lotsa crazy ass calls and general buffoonery going on.

I watched as five players each limped in for a quarter apiece and the small blind completed. I had a decent hand -- 6d8cAc7d. In fact, this is precisely one of those "Best Hands To Play" Lyle Berman recommends in Super/System 2. “I like these hands because they are not trouble hands,” writes Berman. “If they’re very good on the flop, play them. If not, throw them away.”

I checked, meaning seven of us had bought a ticket for this here thrill ride. Pot $1.75.

The flop came 9cKc5s. The small blind checked. I thought just a moment, then went ahead and put $1.50 in the middle. Brazen? Perhaps. Can’t claim to have thought it through that fully, but I know I was hoping mainly to mask the fact that I was drawing.

Three players sitting to my left -- Larry, Curly, and Moe -- all quickly called my bet. (I said the game was loose.) It folded back to the small blind -- JerryLewis -- who surprisingly raised the pot ($10.75). Hmmm. That made it about $17 in the middle, so I was looking at around 2-to-1 to call. The Nutty Professor must have a set of kings. Or nines . . . .

Question #1: What would you do with my hand?

You probably guessed what I did. I took a chance and called my remaining $9.65. Larry and Curly both hastily folded, but Moe called, as well. The pot was up to around $39.

The turn brought the Qh, and JerryLewis instapushed his remaining $25 or so. Moe called in a blink. The river was the Th. None of my outs came, and I was clicking on the cashier for more chips.

Question #2: What did Jerry and Moe have?

Jerry showed Ts2h9h9d for the set of nines. Moe showed KdKh2d5h for the higher set. Meaning neither had any draw to speak of -- other than to the boat -- after that flop. Moe scooped what ended up being an $86 pot.

Question #3: Who are the “idiots”?

Actually there’s another question that goes along with that third one. Why “idiots” (plural)? Let’s see . . . Moe flopped the best possible hand, survived the suckout, and took the pot. He can’t be that much of an idiot here, can he? So that leaves JerryLewis and . . . (Shamus looks around) . . .

Hey, wait a minute!?

Actually it was Larry -- who folded when things got serious there on the flop -- who saw fit to call (I assume) both me and JerryLewis idiots. “I folded fives,” he added proudly. I wanted to type “good for you,” but resisted.

Can’t say I disagree with the epithet’s application to my neighbor in the blinds. Jerry’s decision to push on the turn with his middle set (with a possible straight on the board) seems pretty damn sketchy. But what about my play?

If I’m reading correctly, that flop gave me no less than 16 outs to the nuts -- any club (9), 3 more eights, the other 2 sevens, and the other 2 sixes. I was fairly certain JerryLewis had a set, and when Moe called, I assumed he either had a set, too, or perhaps some big bad wrap draw as well. Run this hand through the CardPlayer Omaha calculator and it turns out I’m almost 55% to win on that flop against the set of kings (38%) and set of nines (6%).

Get the feeling Larry finds it necessary to call people idiots a lot. Must be the company he keeps.


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