Haley's Poker Blog

No bad beats, but still a poker blog... hence the anguish.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Poker.com's Blogger Poker Tour (BPT) Event #7: The 'CawtBloggin' Invitational

While Kris at Poker.com continues to work on the details, I get the much easier chore --- announcing here that I've been asked to bloghost the next event (Event #7) on the schedule of the Blogger Poker Tour [BPT] over at Poker.com. It's called "The CawtBloggin Invitational." Just because.

The specifics? Thanks for asking! Event #7 will be held on June 10th, at 15:30 GMT-5. That's code for "Greenwich Mean Time minus five hours"... or 4:30 p.m. ET here in the States. [Thanks, Mike! I had this screwed up by one hour myself, overlooking in my translation that GMT doesn't move with the shift to British Summer Time, which is like our Daylight Savings Time. So when U.S.-ers are in the DST months, then GMT-5 actually points to Central Time, whereas in the winter, GMT-5 is correct for Eastern Time. Doh!] So that's 3:30 CDT, 2:30 MDT, 1:30 PDT, and something like 1:30 a.m. for anyone playing down in Sydney.

(And on digressions, don't get this Midwestern gal started on why we always have to translate times for the benefit of U.S. East Coasters... having worked in the TV-listings industry, I can tell you that that's just the way it is. Population, you see, has its privileges. Anyone remember the days when all the time zones were listed for a given show, like "9/8/7/6"? When cable took off, along came West Coast/Pacific feeds... but that's another tale.)

Anyhow, my thanks go out to Kris and the other folks at Poker.com for the invite; I'd like to see lots of people sign up for Event #8 as well, where a whole, big heapin' pile o' seats to the BPT Final Event, where that WSOP package and lots of other very nice swag will be awarded. But in order to be eligible for that eighth event, assuming you already have a poker blog bursting with all sorts of pokery goodness, you'll need to sign up before this Event #7 takes place.

Seriously, think about it if you haven't signed up already. When I've done the math and seen the work that's gone into this by Poker.com, the BPT is the best gift that poker bloggers have received to date. It deserves this pimpage. Note, too, that since I've already luck-boxed my way into winning a seat into the BPT final, it frees up yet another final-event coupon for anyone still trying to crack the field. Could you ask for better? I think not!

The technical details (such as the password for the event) are still in the works, and more info will be posted both here and at the BPT home site in the very near future. Check back often for updates.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Announcements, Odds, and a Stepladder Freebie

Some time back I promised a bit of news on a second poker-writing gig, and after a bit of a delay it's time to spill the beans. I was asked to contribute to the efforts over at Poker Magazine, under the able editorship of Mickey Wilson. My first piece will be appearing soon (exact date TBA), but it will be in the "beginners" strategy/advice area, a new addition to the site. Once everything is in place, there will be a more formal link here to the site and to the piece itself.

On the playing front (instead of the "writing about it" front), not much to report. I've had a good run in small MTT's, cashing or moving on to the next level in five of my last six, including picking up a ticket for one of those $250/17 events on Pokerroom.com. Yes, after all these years, I've finally given Pokerroom.com a look-see, as much so I can write my own review of it as anything else. Unfortunately, my recent cash-game thumpings there and elsewhere have cancelled out any profit from these recent MTT's. Ahh, the ebb and flow of the cards...

I'm certainly not the only one who's read Lou Krieger's poker-based "open challenge" to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the driving force behind much of the anti-Internet gaming legislation on the federal level. Nice touch, Lou, though we all know the odds of a direct Goodlatte response to this challenge approach infinity. One wonders how doofi of the Goodlatte flavor manage to win election in the first place, until one realizes that politics is like an MTT of power-hungry, self-serving doofus types. Ultimately, some of them always cash get elected.

And to think our country has the best system, at that.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Poker Stars Times Two

I've waited to post this for a couple of days... been busy on other stuff. All I can say to the following is: "Damn."



I'd rather be lucky than good. Check that; I'd rather just be lucky.

Online Poker

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

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

Registration code: 7330476



Final note --- I'll be spending a bit less time than normal in some of the normal online haunts, as I desperately seek to scrape together the funds to visit Vegas around WSOP time. Not to play --- except maybe in April's poker blogger tourney --- but to research and do some other writing. The next few weeks will tell. Wish me luck.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Flotsam and Jetsam

A handful of loose items here, not enough to make a decent post individually. First, the poker blogroll (either in the "Links" section or over on the left side of the page, depending on which version of this blog you're reading) is up around 450 active links. When we will hit the magic 500? Probably as soon as I do more digging into some blogs' secondary and tertiary links.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Next up, an item for the core poker bloggers who surf on by --- I was at a table on Titan, playing around with some loose nickels in one of those Maui jackpot SNGs, when I ended up seated next to a very famous widow. See for yourself:



* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Another good show Thursday night for all of those listening in to Lou Krieger and Amy Calistri on "Keep Flopping Aces," over at holdemradio.com. Note that all or most of the episodes are available there at any time, so you can listen in at your leisure. Thursday's guest was Andy Bloch, who ran way over his alloted time because the conversation was so interesting --- about half each on poker and blackjack. Andy, for those of you who don't know, was part of that famed MIT blackjack team featured in several documentaries in recent years.

Neat Freaking Stuff. And if I'd been in that situation, I would've been on a team like that in a heartbeat.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I'm off to the "Birthday Tournament" over at poker.com later this afternoon. It looks like it's maxed at 1,000 entries (with about 670 registered to date), so we'll see what the competition has to offer. With a $50,000 pool I expect it to be a middlin' tough go, about on the order of a WWdN.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Few bloggers make me laugh the way Iggy does, and those pictures of Joe Piscopo's long-lost sister are just too much.

Friday, May 19, 2006

And a Tip of the Hat to Checkraised.Com

Ora curtsy, of course. Overflow time again. Too much recent news for me to fit in over at the KAP blog, so I'll drop in a followup to a followup here. I've recently been tracking several computer security issues related to poker, the latest being the discovery by a Finnish security firm that one of the poker add-on applications offered by checkraised.com, RBCalc, is in fact a form of malware, a backdoor "rootkit" driver that surreptitiously adds four other hidden files to the host computer. These four files, once activated, perform various keylogging and screengrabbing functions and also capture i.d. and password information for several large sites, the biggest of which is Party Poker. You can all see where that one is heading.

The scope of the naivety exhibited by checkraised.com is stunning, and while we'll get to that in a second, note the following from their release: "To prevent such situations from happening in the future, we do not plan on developing any executable applications. In addition, all future programming will be done in-house to ensure the maximum safety that we can provide to our users."

Mea culpa, indeed. But perhaps not everyone understands the depths of idiocy that checkraised.com has plumbed.

First, RBCalc was created for checkraised.com by a "contract programmer." As of yet, information about this contract programmer's identity has not been released, but since updates to the product were sent "by e-mail," it can be presumed that this was an indirect relationship at best. It's quite possible that it was some overseas code pusher cranking out the stuff for a much lower wage rate than that available in checkraised.com's home market.

Sounds trustworthy to me. (*cough*) Particularly in a product that one intends to brand with one's own name and release into a market where billions of dollars are potentially in play. But the regal ruby from checkraised.com comes from earlier in their virus-discovery release:

"The virus goes undetected by Norton AntiVirus and Microsoft Defender, even to this day. This is why we never noticed it until a 3rd party contacted us about the malicious software." And later: "He would send updates by way of email, we would virus scan it (what good that did!), and then we would upload it to our website."

This one takes a little bit more explaining. While checkraised.com hasn't divulged the specifics of their software-checking process, it looks as though it pretty much consisted of this: Loading the new or upgraded application onto one or two computers that also had Norton Antivirus and Microsoft Defender installed, then running it to see if it picked up any implanted bugs.

Thou art blithering idiots, checkraised.com. The last line above seems to indicate that the fault lies with Symantec and Microsoft, since their products didn't find the hidden trojan. Instead, the problem is with checkraised.com, traipsing along unaware of how those products work in the first place.

Software such as Norton Antivirus works by maintaining a comprehensive registry of known computer viruses and malicious code. The user maintains a subscription to the vendor's ever-growing database as new viruses --- which are most often variations of already existing ones --- are added to the list. In the vast majority of cases, this is sufficient; the bug is discovered and a removal process is created before it's ever encountered by the majority of users.

However, any new virus created by a software coder isn't going to be known about until it's discovered, presuming that the virus's creator modifies the bug or re-disguises it in any way. Even funnier, any virus-coder worth his salt would already have access to the Symantec and Microsoft databases, to make sure that his variant isn't being picked up by the release versions currently in play.

After all, a product such as Norton Antivirus isn't intended for use in the discovery of new computer bugs; it's only designed to identify and remove those that are already known. And for an entity such as checkraised.com to offer any sort of software when they clearly don't understand the difference is an embarrassment of high order.

So while checkraised.com maintains that their other programs are safe, I wouldn't touch the things with a ten-foot stick. Not because they aren't bug-free --- because they likely are --- but because checkraised.com has now demonstrated that they shouldn't be doing this stuff in the first place.

My pseudo-Shakespearean insult above doesn't cut it. Instead, let's use the real thing, as linked from a couple of other poker blogs last week. A quick three-fer provides the following:

1) "Thou saucy hedge-born fustilarian!"

2) "[Thine] horrid image doth unfix my hair."

3) "Thou cockered tickle-brained puttock!"

There, I feel better already.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

From the Mailbag... Overlooked, Blatant Absolute Poker/Poker Source Online Pimpage:

Subject: You still haven't qualified for the $25,000 Bloggers Freeroll
Date: Tue, 16 May 2006 12:41:39 -0700
From: "Cindy" [cindy@pokersourceonline.com]

Thank you for registering for the $25,000 Bloggers Freeroll on Poker Source Online. However, we wanted to make you aware that you haven’t completed the registration process yet! You must post about the freeroll in your Blog with the information we sent you by this Thursday.

Just as a reminder, I need you to respond to me with your Absolute Poker username, Absolute Poker email address, and the URL to your Blog.

If you have any questions please contact me ASAP! The deadline is rapidly approaching and we don’t want you to be shut out!

Thanks,
Cindy

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ooops. Here you go, Cindy. I had it in my template; my mistake.

Bloggers Championship I am registered to play in the
Online Poker Blogger Freeroll
Win your share of $25,000 and a set
of Nevada Jacks poker chips.
Hosted By: Absolute Poker
Sponsored By: Poker Source Online
Registration Code: 64917547



Enjoy,
Haley

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Whither art Thou, Dutch Boyd?

"I'm looking forward to playing and meeting some of the Blogger Poker Tour regulars." --- Dutch Boyd, on Because Everybody Pays Their Own Way, the official site for Dutch Boyd.

After a couple of weeks best summed up by the word "downswing," it was nice to have a chance to partake in a freebie, that being the very generous Blogger Poker Tour tournaments put on by the fine folks over at Poker.com.

Event #5 was on the docket, earlier today: "Blogging Into Spring," hosted by none other than "Crew" member Dutch Boyd. Err, maybe. Dutch was either a no-show or the quietest tourney host ever. Not that it matters; it didn't affect my participation one way or t'other, but it would have been nice for Poker.com's sake for their guest host to both be there and be visible. If something else came up that prevented Dutch's participation, then that's understandable; if not, then Dutch didn't do right by Poker.com. We'll likely never know, but it's fun to ponder, isn't it? (Update: Looks like Dutch was stranded somewhere without Internet access, per Poker.com.)

Of course, it's possible that Dutch was present: speculation centered on a player named "TheBigSurprise," who was showing as being located in the U.S., and was unknown by the others. I broached the topic when we reached the two-table point and hand-for-hand play began; after all, that's the slowdown stage where it's good to have something to keep you occupied while the eternal trickle-out process continues. Stormswift was still around at that point, as was PearlSnapMan, skinski (one of the Poker.com forum moderators) and Stratman4u, folks I know from other places. Two others (PapaHun and DamRiver) were already bearing BPT-winner accolade icons, and several of the others were from Europe... meaning they weren't our celebrity host, either There just weren't a lot of people that could have been Dutch at that point, and not many more even earlier in the doin's.

Oh, yes, the tourney. I'm getting there. 56 players this time around, many of them damn tough. And there are reasons for my going into a brief tourney recap in a bit, so you'll just have to suffer.

Off my previous oh-fer-four showing in the BPT events, I figured I was due for a bit of a better run, though the first hour was as on earlier occasions: card death. I won an early mini-pot on a walkover to my big blind, caught KK under the gun and got zero action, and folded a suited A-J to an all-in reraise. My cards weren't even the type that would let me sneak into a pot from late --- it was a steady diet of offsuited 9-4's and J-2's. Our table wasn't as loose or tricky as some of the others, perhaps, though Byron (starting seat to my immediate left) was the second player out after he lost a slick-vs-pair race to "tfalbb," a LAG player who caught hot early and ran out to the first-hour lead. As for me, I wasn't getting the right cards in the right spots to even think about mixing it up... so I waited.

The cards started turning as the first break approached, although I still couldn't find my way into the right big pot. I bounced betwen 1,500 and 1,900 chips, below the 2,000 start and quite a bit below par. And finally, a 400 raise and a call in front of me when I have suited slick on the button. Not much to lose, with the blinds already 100/200.

Poooosh.

Both players call, one of them all-in as well, and they have dominated hands --- a K-J in one and an A-something in the other, neither suited. When a K flops I'm in good shape, and I dodge the suckouts... a recent rarity. 5,400 in chips and I'm up to 7th or 8th. Poker.com's blind structure tends to make these things a pushfest at middle and later stages, and this time I caught the long end of the wishbone.

Funny, though; it was a one-hand surge. I found nothing through the rest of the first 90-minute play period and into the next, where I hovered around that 5K mark. Players were being eliminated, and when we got down to 20 and the hand-for-hand commenced, I decided to ask if anyone knew who or where Boyd was... since it was his tourney, after all. It's also recounted over on Dr. Fro's blog.

Attrition continued, and our table (of the two that remained) was unusual, because we had a compressed chip structure --- almost all the players had roughly the same amount of chips. Blinds went from 200/400 to 300/600 to 400/800, and our M's dwindled to 10 or less as the range from top to bottom was rarely more than a factor of two.

Needless to say, initial bets take down lots of pots in such a situation, especially pre-bubble.

Without any big hits or steals for a couple of laps, my roughly 5,000 chips lost ground to the field, to where I was as low as 12th of 14 at one point. But the three big stacks were at the other table and the order changed with every shift of the blinds. Not a time for panic.

And finally, I caught some cards that allowed me to push --- never a monster, but stuff such as A-J and K-Q and 5-5... cards that at least allowed to put someone else to the choice. I semi-stole my way up to about 8,000, lost a pot to our mystery "TheBigSurprise" player when I had a chance to call his all-in on the cheap, and finally won a decent three-way matchup to crack the 10K mark. Dr. Fro and I were the table bosses... at an admittedly puny table, stack-wise.

The bubble was slo-o-o-ow, but when it popped I was hanging around 6th of 9, with two serious short stacks still in play. One of those was PearlSnapMan, who tripled through a short time later (knocking out the other short stack) to make the final five. I'd worked up to about 15K in a short bit, hanging around or near the magic FOURTH PLACE SPOT, but there was a problem... the big stack, a previous winner named PapaHun, was on my left. And he had a penchant for leading out and reverse-position stealing --- or so it seemed --- from the UTG position.

When's the right time to mix it up? When does discretion overtake valor?

We've arrived at this post's digression into artificial tourney-payout structures, and the other reason --- besides the Ghost of Dutch --- for the writing.

Each BPT qualifying tourney has a nice little cash divvy of $500 for the top ten finishers, meaning that the cash EV [Expected Value] is about $10 per entrant. But the top four players in each of the eight lead-in events also win a seat in the final BPT event. This wonderful gift to the blogging community includes a $20,000 total value in prizes, including the granny: the coveted all-expenses-paid trip to the Main Event at the WSOP.

It's time to offer two tables. The first shows the cash payout only for the top ten spots, and the second shows the cash payout when an approximate EV for the final event is included. With a maximum of 30 players --- there are already a couple of duplicate qualifiers --- the EV per qualifying seat is a minimum of $20,000 / 30 = ~ $650. Here's the comparison:

BPT QUALIFIER: CASH-ONLY PAYOUT STRUCTURE


  • 1st: $125
  • 2nd: $100
  • 3rd: $75
  • 4th: $55
  • 5th: $45
  • 6th: $30
  • 7th: $25
  • 8th: $20
  • 9th: $15
  • 10th: $10


And now, including the value of the seat in the BPT Final:

BPT QUALIFIER: CASH+SEAT (EV) PAYOUT STRUCTURE


  • 1st: $775 (includes seat in BPT final)
  • 2nd: $750 (includes seat in BPT final)
  • 3rd: $725 (includes seat in BPT final)
  • 4th: $705 (includes seat in BPT final)
  • 5th: $45
  • 6th: $30
  • 7th: $25
  • 8th: $20
  • 9th: $15
  • 10th: $10


Before the "Duh" chorus starts up, let's qualify things: we're in a tourney with a small number of starters (50-80) and we're approaching a secondary bubble where the stacks, through preceding play, are no longer even close to equal. Given that I'm evaluating this in terms of overall gain, my strategy is: To hell with first; let's go for fourth.

And so, with the big-stack stealer immediately to my left, my answer is to fold, fold, and fold some more. And if I get into a situation where I need to make a play to stay in the top four, then I wait until I think I've got lots better than a tossup situation in front of me, then push and hope for the best.

That said, I still did sneak in a steal-raise or two, twice crossing over the big stack's button to snag the blinds from the short stacks on the other side. (I'd built up a rock-ish table image and dammit, it was time to use it.) Both steals were in good semi-bluff situations, with half-assed hands like K-8 suited. I was interested in preserving my margin compared to the two or three remaining short stacks, and I didn't care how many multiples of the rest of us the big stack amassed. In fact, if the big stack comes over the top of me, I'm insta-folded, whether or not I had sufficient pot odds to call. Such was the unusual structure of the situation.

When we got down to six, I thought I was home free when PapaHun (the big stack) got all-in against both of the shortest stacks left, TheBigSurprise and PearlSnapMan, and all three turned out to have A-x hands with PapaHun having the strongest holding. But PearlSnap sucked out a flush on the river to play on, and we were still one spot shy of the magic four. Bye-bye to TheBigSurprise, too... maybe-Dutch or not. Still, PearlSnap was well back of the rest of us --- and he was picked off on his next pot venture, giving the rest of us the table qualifier we sought. (Or at least two of the final four of us, me and Dr. Fro, since the other two had already won events and were seeking to repeat.)

I was in a virtual tie between third and fourth at that point. I'm in the big blind with an M of about 10, and our table boss, Papa, leads out yet again with another 3x bet. He's had the cards every time he's been tested, but he's taken down lots of pots unchallenged, too. This time, though, I have 8-8.

Pooooosh.

The big stack turns up yet another A-K, and when the board brings two K's and an A for gravy, I can take consolation in the fact that, as races go, it wasn't even close.

Oh, and this:



Mission accomplished. A 1-in-30 chance at a trip to Vegas? Okay, maybe 1-in-120, given my skill set. I'll take those odds any day.

Thanks, Poker.com. You've been doing the bloggers right on this one. Now about that Dutch Boyd thing...

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Additions/Corrections: Digging around through some of the BPT stuff on the Poker.com website shows a screen name of "KidDutch" as part of the listed qualifiers --- I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that that was Boyd, and he was definitely a no-show for his own event.

Also, there are some additional ways to qualify for the final of the BPT, such as hosting an event; the addtional event pages show a maximu of 50 players for that final. At 50 players, the EV for the final is $400 per person, not the $650 as shown above, though it wouldn't have changed my strategy at the final table in the least. I still play to get just above that artificial break point.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Site Review: Poker.com

Poker.com? A small, interesting, relatively new site. They've been around for just about a year, or just about the same amount of time I've been doing my li'l ol' poker blog. Salud. Poker.com's made a push for higher visibility in recent months, and while that's an unimportant concern, I have played enough on the site to have a decent feel for the place. Therefore, the Poker.com review.

Decent software, for the most part. There are a number of bells and whistles not found elsewhere, and a few of them are legitimate entries in the "nice touch" group. Many others are frivolous, and a couple even hamper speedy play. At times the software seems too complex for its main purpose; it often gives up the ghost on the fun stuff --- animations, sounds and the like --- and on occasion more important things go haywire as well. In a recent MTT, the leaderboard froze and crashed at an untimely moment: three spots from the bubble. No doubt the culprit was frequent requests by participants tracking the bubble's progress.

Still, it was a tourney with less than a thousand entries, and it suggests a growth limit that's a counterpoint to some of Poker.com's other efforts.

Think about it, keep it in the back of your noggin, and we'll circle back to the top-level impressions later on. After all, a good poker player switches gears, so let's move over to game toughness and site traffic. One would expect that these two components (along with a third, advertising/market presence), would generally define a site's position in the online universe. But no... it's another unexplained mystery in the Poker.com conundrum. Because the games are fishy soft, the value-added promotional stuff should be enough to draw traffic, and yet...

... it's about 1:30 CT on a Tuesday afternoon as I write this. Here's a rundown of the hold-'em ring-game action: There are 200-300 players (including all duplications of multi-tablers) on the NL tables, the fixed-limit area numbers 29, and the pot-limit zone is a veritable wasteland --- nary a player in sight. Omaha's a blank slate across the board. Another 200 or so players show up in the various SNG's, although there's lots of duplication here as well: you could nearly call in a cable-repair problem and have it serviced in the time it takes an otherwise normal $10 SNG to fill up and begin play.

But if Poker.com tosses a hundred-dollar bill on the table in the form of a freeroll for non-paying customers, enticing them to visit the site, that thousand-player entry cap is reached in just a couple of minutes.

The folks that wait in line 45 minutes for a bagful of 39-cent McDonaldBurgers are alive and well at Poker.com. Funnier still is that they're catered to here to the extent that Poker.com does --- if Poker.com knew as much about marketing as they do about software programming, they'd understand that this is a largely non-convertable segment of the poker-playin' population. Tossing them the occasional bone is good business... if you can pick up goodwill in the form of promotional listings elsewhere. However, the en masse tossing of the same bones into the same maw is just an exercise in the flushing away of capital.

But what can we say? After all, this is a site with access to one of the most goodwill-laden of all names in the world of cards --- "Hoyle" --- and they don't know what the hell to do with it.

Still, Poker.com hooked me in with a freebie as well, so I'll admit to my own level of hypocrisy here. Granted, my EV expectations are somewhat higher; I'm just not going to bother with a tourney that has an equity of ten cents per player. Even at my level of destitution, I just don't get that one.

Another factor is the effect that these things can have on the "earned freeroll" population. For instance, the Prima network used to have three pleasant little $1,000 freerolls daily that required 100 raked hands in the previous day for entry. Among other things, it was just a tiny incentive to fire up one or two Prima tables when nothing else good was in the air. Yet a couple of months ago, with infinite wisdom, Prima opened up these freerolls to all players.

These tournies have lots more players, now, but at what cost? I was a regular rake generator at the games, but the Prima action is tight enough at the stakes I prefer that I can find better games elsewhere. So my Prima sites, for all intent, have lost my rake... along with that of any other player who can justify their play choices in the same manner as I do.

Prima may have lots more players in those tournies, but seriously --- how much rake do play-chip players generate? Right, let's add 10x more play-chip players to the mix... that'll boost revenue.

Oh, wait, this is the Poker.com review. What does Prima have to do with it? Whatever --- I purchased my "Wanderin' License" last week, so you'll have to bear with the occasional meandering digression. And now, back to our previously scheduled topic.

Poker.com's promotional goodness? Decent enough. The highest rollers will suffer, since the site traffic just doesn't warrent the time investment needed to clear said bonus. In general, that's the problem with trying to clear these "generous" bonuses at small sites: in most cases the traffic will be insufficient to allow an optimal clearing of the bonus.

Poker.com hooked me in through their Poker Blogger Tour promotion. I'll be honest --- for me the prize in this is large enough to warrant the effort, with plenty of intermediate cash as well. Right now, I'm 0-4 for in qualifying for the final, including a couple of horrendous beats that sent me to the rail. Not the point. The reason Poker.com does things like their BPT promotion is precisely because of pieces like this, and in truth it doesn't really matter if I praise or curse the phrase "Poker.com" at all. The fact that the magic words appear here is just a part of the game.

Particle or wave? Even the most unimportant of us contribute to the shape of the universe.

And I am aware of the fact that for each handful of people like-minded to me, there are a thousand not-serious players who say, "Shut up and let me have my dimes." But they're not part of my target audience, nor intended message. Different wavelength, different tune.

On to Poker.com's software, a fun, complex mishmash that works mostly as intended. I was a bit flabbergasted upon my first visit, thinking the stuff awkward, but with practice and familiarity the stuff plays pretty well. I'm not crazy about the "rabbit" and "show one card only" options for mucking --- the purist part of me screams "show one, show all," and that goes for the number of cards as well as the players. On the same line, doing the "rabbit" routine is pointless and time-consuming. The chat animations are a cute touch, especially those you don't know about, such as "donkey," until you see them flash on the screen. (And yes, you can disable them, too.) And the "accolades" thing is another distinctive (if unneeded) touch. Check the "Accolauded" sidebar or follow-up text for more.

When it comes to qualifying for special events and monitoring tourney performances, Poker.com uses a "coupon" system that tracks results. Each time you pass a performance level, qualify for a special event or crash out of a tournament, a coupon is generated to note the happening. You can view these coupons through the "Player Admin" section of the site, a well-conceived area that other sites would do well to steal from... err, imitate.

Banking options are the usual mix, with all the standard players. It's too soon to tell how well they process withdrawals, as I'm still working on a dad-blamed bonus. Customer service above par, to date.

Decent, overall. High software marks, easy games, yet the traffic is still a disappointment. We'll see if they reach critical mass in the months ahead. Rating: 3.5 (out of 5 max).




Accolauded



Poker.com is the first site I'm aware of that contains an "accolade" function that can track and display a player's prior achievements. While the accolades can be turned off, I suspect that most players here probably leave them visible to their opponents. After all, even over minuscule trinkets of play, what player doesn't like to brag?

Here's the blue-ribbon thingie my account picked up in its first week; I snagged a whoppin' big win in the "New Depositor $500 Freeroll" for the lordly sum of $150. I was eligible for seven of these, played in six, and had two cashes including the win. Remember, though that all new depositors are eligible, and even though the typical field was 80 or 90 players, many of these players simply have no clue. The accolade is also on the lower end of available icons, though $100 freeroll-winner ribbons abound. (I have played against the player with the "snowman" icon that indicates victory in the $100,000 holiday tourney, and of his first-place winnings I am jealous.)

The star thingies to the right of the ribbon are a measure of how much rake a player has generated, nothing more. The rake generated translates to a player's comp points, which in turn means these little stars. I'm at the bronze-star-and-a-half level here, just a dim whisper of the three-gold-star max that seems to be the current standard of persistency.

Goofy stuff. Enjoyable. Not a measure of a player's success or skill level, unless perhaps it's a three-gold-star player with nothing more than a $100-freeroll ribbon to show for all that work.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Poker Blogroll Survey Completed

Because I can. So there.

At long last, my survey of currently-posting poker blogs is complete. How many active poker blogs exist? My definition of "active poker blog" was: The site must have at least three true "blog"-style posts (meaning writing primarily about poker, not just being a link farm), with at least one post within the past six weeks. I also held to English-language blogs only, although one or two others are included in the "World's Largest Poker Blogroll and LMAO®," which you can find through the "Poker Links" link on the left (so sayeth Lady Redundancy), or if you're reading this on the XML/blogspot version, it's already available in the the large template/links area on the left-hand side. And, if you're not on the list --- and you want to be, send an e-mail with your link. I'll check it out.

The answer? Drumroll...

The current number of activepoker blogs is, at a minimum, 419.

Huzzah.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Poker Legislation Commentary

Now that's a title that'll have the new readers diving into these blogs by the thousands, isn't it?

Eh, fiddle-faddle. It was one of those days yesterday --- it led to a short-term case of poker burnout and a call from Lou, wherein we ended up talking about a couple of recent legislative processes, and what their effects might be. All this after I'd crashed out of Lou's "Expert Series" on Royal Vegas Poker last night, declining my normal rebuys, so when the phone rang I ended up pseudo-sweating Lou over the phone as --- with the bounty on his head --- he ended up short-stacked, dumped 3-2 and 4-2 in rapid succession, then lucked into KK and tripled back up. He was still in the thing when we disconnected, but that's part of his tale, not mine.

So much for prelude.

What was more interesting to me, and led to this post, was the fact that we had reacted differently to a couple of recent bits of news concerning the ominous march of United States poker legislation. Lou had just made a lengthy post about the Goodlatte-led attacks occurring at the federal level, while I thought that the more interesting and greater threat was the State of Washington anti-online-gambling measure that will go into law next month. Lou opined that the lack of enforceability would make the measure a moot point, while I sensed a different method to the measure's madness. I think it's designed to be something that they can use to take a big slap at someone that they've already got their eyes on for other reasons.

What I think will happen, in the State of Washington, is that someone will get nailed under this measure at some point in the next eighteen months, and both sides will use that unlucky person's situation as a cause celebre that will test the merits, the constitutionality, and the viability of the measure itself.

And that's when things will get real-l-l-l-ly interesting, as other states explore variations on this type of legislation as a way of worming their way into a taxable piece of the online pie.

Normally I'd post about this sort of stuff over at the KAP blog, but I've had a healthy dose of legislative items on that forum lately --- so we'll do a bit of contrary spillover here.




Here's a mindless photo of some ill-advised playground equipment at a Russian nursery school or somesuch. David Williams will not even be mentioned in this context. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Best of Redpill, April 2006



You know, if you don't have Redpill's Poker Journey added to your list of must-read poker blogs, then you're missing out on one of the most inadvertently enjoyable poker blogs on the Internet. Redbill isn't just known for his creative poker insight and his, urmmm, unique outlook on the world; he's been banned from many chatrooms and forums as well. Assuming that this isn't perhaps the best-ever "hoax" poker blog, then we need to celebrate his unique outlook on the world... for however long it lasts --- the "Head>>>>Oven" comments from site visitors are increasingly frequent.

Okay, okay, Iggy had it right --- it's a train wreck of a poker blog. I read it for two reasons: (1) When I've had a tough day, it allows me to feel superior to someone; and (2), I absolutely can not stop laughing once I start wading through the dreck.

So without further ado, here's the top ten "Quotes from Redbill" for the month of April:

10) "I'm starting to think maybe there really isn't much money for me in poker. I've given it 2 years and what have I got. Nothing. I probably have a better shot at day-trading. I don't even really know what day-trading is but I've read some stuff about it. I had that one book. I can't remember what it was but it was the essential book on Stock Market Trading. If someone can remember the name and author of it, I'd appreciate it. I can't remember what I did with it."

9) "I'll play heads up NL with anyone who deposits money into any of my poker accounts. I'd prefer Absolute Poker or Pokerroom since I can chat on those sites whereas FullTiltpoker banned my chat as did Pokerstars."

8) "What if I posted videos regularly on here and posted the usual blog entries like I do now but I made it like a paysite. Would everyone leave? Or would you help redpill? What if I put a video camera or camera in the house and video recorded the fights with my brother."

7) "When I say things, I don't follow through but there was a time when my word did mean something. I think that was when I was about 11 years old."

6) "The decade of the male was the 1980's. You could beat the hell out of your wife and nothing was ever done about it. Those were the good days. Women don't even realize that they were more equal in the 1980's than they ever will be. In the 80's, they could take a punch in the face and not report it but these days, they bitch about everything... You'll never see on Daniel Negreanu's blog that he stopped and got a 6pk of coca-cola. [expletive deleted] you Negreanu. You bullshitter."

5) "I folded a 8-5 in the SB and I would have made the ass-end of a straight and lost all of my chips to T-8 because he had the nuts. So I dodged one bullet there."

4) "I wasn't able to get food stamps today. I misunderstood the receptionist's direction. I showed up 1 1/2 hours late. So I'll have to do it tomorrow. 3 years ago, it wasn't near this hard to get food stamps."

3) "I'm 1000x smarter and more creative than any one of those guys on ITH [Internet Texas Hold'em forums]."

2) "I feel safe when I have my chainsaw with me, though."

1) "Yes, I lied when I said that my dad molested me a few months ago but I'm not lying about losing all my money."


As a followup, Redpill has indicated that this really, really, really --- this time, for sure, and seriously --- might be the end of his poker-superstar dreams (or it might just be the end of that online experiment for his sociology class). Who really knows? And this time, dadgummit, he's going to kill the blog, too. R.I.P., good buddy. Those of us who enjoy the siren song of crap will just have to get our daily dose elsewhere. P.S.: I know the names of a couple of bars in the greater Chicago area where associate producers for the Jerry Springer Show go to hunt up "talent"... and that's not far from Indianapolis, where the basement that RedPill currently occupies happens to be. I, for one, think that a for-real Redpill would be a natural. To heck with the "beads" --- didja know they pay $50 or something for every on-stage punch thrown?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

More Poker Blogroll Updates


A brief commercial interlude --- the current list of verified-active poker blogs is now at a solid 262. Depending on where you're reading this, it's in the "Poker Links" section (click the box at left) or in the long list of links in the Bl-auggh-II template (also at left). If you're not on the list --- and you want to be, send an e-mail with your link.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Site Review: Poker Heaven

It's fun to jump into a less-known network and see what's what, as I did recently when I had the chance to explore Pokerheaven.com (or just Poker Heaven), for the guys at KAP.

Top-level stuff first, so we can move on to what's more fun. Poker Heaven is one the largest rooms on the St. Minver Limited network, with St. Minver itself a Gibralter-based concern. It's important to know only because it explains why Poker Heaven is barely known in the States, but it does have implications for other parts of play. Why? Because there is a truism in online poker these days:

The lower the percentage of American (and perhaps Canadian) players at a site, the easier and looser the site's overall play.

This isn't some provincial Yankee's rip on furrinnerrs... trust me. Rather, it's a logical step in the evolution of the game and a comparative measure of the overall improvement of its practitioners.

Poker first "took off" here, so it's only natural that many North American players here have had --- and still enjoy --- a large jump on the competition. There are great players that hail from everywhere. Just check any recent winner's board from a WSOP or WPT event and you'll see what I mean. But the rank and file? Those who follow a trend?

Chances are, they don't play as well as you do. And they're waiting for you at Poker Heaven. There are drawbacks here, too, primarily with the software, but the games themselves are soft. Way soft. Even giggly soft. I recently sat down at a 1/2 table with a 61% flops-seen percentage that wasn't one of those statistical flukes.

Yummy. It's the closest thing I've seen to the 2/4 game up at the "Pot" (Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee). It doesn't mean you won't get slapped around in some ungodly beats, or take some huge variance swings, because you will. But when the horseshoe does swing your way, it's a fun, fun thing to behold. I've had people five-bet me with a top-pair/second-kicker hand.

Nor does it matter what poker version you choose. From ring games to SNGs to multi-table affairs, the player softness is always there. However, it's time to to stop the drooling, because if you're going to enjoy the good, then you have to accept the bad; Poker Heaven's (read: St. Minver Limited's) software is subpar, omitting several things that are vital to serious online poker play. So, in no particular order...

Player-performance stats.... there aren't any. As I've said elsewhere, I think data-mining is a practice that should be outlawed. It's not a problem here; in fact, the lack of statistical information goes to the other extreme. There's no mechanism here for tracking your own recent play, even for things as basic as flops seen or raked-hands played. I find the lack of information to be a recurring nuisance, as I'm sure the live customer-service reps do when they're bombarded with requests in the interactive chat feature to find out how many raked hands a player has played. That can't be fun.

Awful software rules for the administration of the blinds. The software allows the projected small and big blinds to make their decision to participate in the next hand independently of one another; the software also does not take into account what needs to happen when one of the blinds leaves at this point. As a result, you'll often be playing hands where only a small blind, or only a big blind, has been posted. This is demented.

Multi-language chat. Us English-only speakers have always had it good in the chat windows, as most sites adhere to "English-only" standards. (English is the accepted language of international commerce, much as it is the international language of air-control and flight.) But who are we to demand this, particularly in rooms marketed largely to players of other nations? As a result, you'll see lots of Russian and Slovak, a bit of Turkish and German, a smattering of Swedish... just about anything is likely to pop up. And you won't be able to understand it. This isn't bad, or unfair; I just like knowing everything that's said.

Poor disconnect-protection rules. Remember the bad ol' days on the major sites, when certain players used to automatically take their one-a-day disconnect to "protect" a large investment in a hand when they knew they were way behind? The bad ol' days are still in effect here --- St. Minver Limited is years behind the curve on proper administration of this aspect of play. So, assuming that you don't cheat poker's ethics in this manner, you'll still have to deal with folks that do, and these players are also quite happy about to talk their ability in making their "daily one" of this type of "play."

Banking options are unusual. You have no other choice here than to use WebDollar, a second-tier online wallet service housed in Sweden. NETeller, FirePay, Click2Pay, and the rest... all unavailable. But though WebDollar isn't widely known in the States, it is legit, and it has one security measure in place that the other systems don't. I haven't done a withdrawal with WebDollar yet --- soon! --- but I don't expect it to be a problem.

The top-level table grid is an over-informationed mess. It has lots of sorting and separating functions, but many of these work at cross purposes to one another or don't really work the way you expect. One example of this is the default "title" sort of tournaments --- because it's alpha-based, it goes something like $10--$100--$2--#20, with multiple entries in each area. It can be hard to identify precisely the game you're looking for. Another example is the mixing of four different currency denominations into the same grid --- until you get a general idea of each one's relative worth, you'll founder a bit in determining whether a given table is right for you. You don't get to see the conversion rate --- always live, with no penalty --- until you're ready to take your seat. This is not good.

Multi-tabling is good, but it's a bit choppy. One problem is a persistent animation that swivels up each player's physical location whenever your mouse passes over that player's generic avatar. (It's not an avatar; it's just an information circle.) The effect soon becomes bothersome and distracting, and this increases when you're trying to multi-table.

It's written elsewhere that the site has lots of late-night drunken Brits, all there for you to plunder. Nahhh. That's William Hill. This site has more drunken Russians and Slovaks, and the Eastern European influence is readily seen in the peak hours of play. The number of players tops 6,000 most days, but those hours coincide with early afternoon for North America. By late evening our time, Poker Heaven's player base dwindles to scarcely more than 1,000. At these times significant play at comfortable levels is difficult; I'll normally have one table open here while I'm playing other tables on another site.

The site gets a 2.5 rating out of 5. Big ups for soft and easy play, but they give most of it back for software issues.

Bodog Site Review Revisited

One of the things I've wanted to do is revisit my review of Bodog. In honesty, I'd have to look back at my original review and say that my very low evaluation was an accident of timing --- I happened to be sampling their wares as they were in the midst of a significant system transition, one that they took live perhaps before it was ready. I never saw their original software system, and the one that I was playing on really did suck --- hence the initial lousy review.

They've done a lot of work at Bodog. Love 'em or hate 'em, whether you wanna give Calvin Ayre a kissie or a noogie, they desire a higher rating than the one I initially awarded.

I've actually played quite a bit at Bodog over the last few months. The games are wild/soft --- especially the smaller buy-in SNGs. The action is fast-paced, and the continual modifications and upgrades to the software have fixed most of the previously mentioned issues. The tournament overlays continue, and they continue to be an attractive incentive to play on this site. And the cashout speed and overall customer service are second to none.

There's still a problem with identifying your exact rank within a larger multi-table field. This oversight is bothersome to more than a few --- I'm far from the only reviewer who's commented on the need to have a better idea of how you stand as a tournament winds toward the final tables. Also, the windows-within-windows version of play works as it's supposed to, but it remains my opinion that it's just not optimal for most players' use.

Fortunately, Bodog has implemented another version that allows for multiple large-table windows to be opened, and this is a much better solution; the only drawback I've found is more of an accident --- if you have your screens overlapping in the wrong manner, your clicks can have unintended consequences, such as opening up new windows into other parts of the Bodog site. The neverending software crashes that marked earlier versions of the software now occur only rarely; they really have been busy improving the Bodog feel and play.

Remaining drawbacks? Only a small handful. Bodog's still pretty much a one-trick pony: if you're into games other than no-limit hold'em, it can sometimes be hard to find anything here. The site remains hyper-infused with 19-year-old Phil Laak wannabes who seem to have no other function than to find ways to circumvent the chat-censor software and tell others just how much of a "fuk--- donkey" they really were, usually with invitations to perform physically impossible acts as well. But let's be honest, too; these punks are a significant part of Ayre's target demographic.

Fortunately, they seldom play that well... and you can always flag the good ones you encounter.

Bodog moves on and up. They've become a strong second-tier player, continue marketing themselves as aggressively as any online-gamblimg entity, and are an increasing force to be reckoned with. Whether this is good or bad news remains to be seen.