Haley's Poker Blog

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

Thursday, June 29, 2006

CENSORED!... by the Bodog Money Machine

So there I was, struggling to mock up a goofy logo for my pieces over at the other site I do news-bloggy stuff for, when I received an IM advising me that one of my pieces had to be pulled. "Really?" I wondered. "Whatever for?"

Okay, I'm not quite that much of an idiot. My pieces at the site in question are supposed to be edgy, entertaining, with no sacred poker-world cows. If I step on a toe or two in that role, so be it. I'm not quite an attack journalist, a la Bill O'Reilly, noting here that O'Reilly is still a damn sight better than some of the other pieces-o'-shit Fox News serves up to us as news commentators, like Nermal-for-the-Ages Sean Hannity. (I admit that O'Reilly is somewhere to the right of Rev. Attila the Wildmon on social issues --- but whaddya expect from a good Catholic, anyway?) I have no pretenses about making the world of poker better, but maybe I can make it just the teensiest bit brighter by entertaining that handful of people who read my posts. I often do it by listening as my "shit filter" detects something amiss, then following up on whatever it is that set the thing off. Nor do I have any pretenses about my importance in the world of poker news. I have no importance.

Well, maybe just a speck, it seems, enough to be noticed on the periphery of other matters.

The piece in question was in essence a re-reporting of the continuing legal battles between Babette Pepaj (d/b/a BlueMoon Entertainment), and Bodog, concerning the concept creation and royalties due for that wretched FSN TV-poker venture, "Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker." I watched the first episode and found it hilariously entertaining, in the way the siren song of crap keeps midnight viewings of Rocky Horror Picture Show a cult phenomenon 30 years after the sight of Meat Loaf crashing a motorcycle through a wall should have become a footnote in pop-film history. So it was with CAWCP, an acronym I just now realized is rather too close to that other word mentioned above. That review is still available in the archives over at the other site, as is a major piece where I broke the story on FSN [Fox Sports Network] being added to the action on the grounds of "tortious interference" --- in this case for airing the program back in April while the first lawsuit was pending.

Funny thing about that post, if you'll pardon the digression. I received the legal documentation for the piece from one of those "anonymous sources" who seemingly had his/her own source inside the L.A. County Courthouse where the action was filed and amended. I checked the document for veracity, and it looked legit, so I used it. I think that source is the same person who sent similar items to the guys over at Wicked Chops, who have also done some pieces on the matter, though not recently. Fact is, I was reasonably sure I'd beat them to the punch in publicizing the amended complaint, so I sent along a friendly heads-up so they wouldn't include some "World Premiere Wicked Chops Exclusive" bombast if they ran with it, as they're fond of doing. I didn't know whether they had the item, but I had a hunch they did.

So much for kind intentions --- a day or two later they ran a piece saying that such-and-such "planned" piece was pulled (which was then replaced by one of their bimbo specials), along with a backhanded reference to people who, and I'm paraphrasing this, "like to e-mail legal documents."

Whatever. The Chops folks --- at least one of them --- sometimes act as though they think they have world-exclusive rights to underground poker news and snarky writing... as if. I like the site a lot --- I think it's funny, edgy, and they don't duck the issues that pop to the fore. That said, they can get over themselves any time now.

Digression over; back to the BlueMoon/Bodog thing. At a later date, and on a very connected note to my own previous pieces, I ran across a story at another independent-voice poker outlet, Poker Biz 411, that itself picked up on a story that ran in Interactive Gaming News. I would have quoted the IGN piece directly but I don't have the paid subscription to the site, so instead I settled for the excerpts that Poker Biz 411 reported about brief and acrimonius negotiations between the legal reps for Pepaj and Bodog. Again, referring to the quotes from the Poker Biz 411 piece:

"According to a recent story in Interactive Gaming News, Bodog’s lawyers (led by James Nguyen of Foley & Lardner) told Bluemoon reps (led by David Beitchman of Beitchman & Zekian) that if Bluemoon wins a judgement, they will “appeal, appeal, and keep appealing,” and in the end, make sure Bodog has no assets in the U.S. to collect. In addition, it was reported that Bluemoon Principal Babette Pepaj was told directly during an April 27 meeting that if she did not withdraw all claims within 24 hours, Bodog would file a countersuit. As of May 15, PokerBiz411 has been unable to confirm if a countersuit was filed. These threats were made during a “settlement” meeting that reportedly lasted just eight minutes.

"Pepaj told IGN it was clear that the purpose of the meeting was to intimidate and threaten Bluemoon. She also said that Bluemoon is prepared to vigorously pursue the case against Bodog and Fox Sports Net."


--- source: PokerBiz411.com, Interactive Gaming News

It was news related to a story that I had covered, and it was, as you can see, not the best publicity Bodog's people have ever incurred. However, Bluemoon's people are entitled to their own opinions as much as Bodog is, and still other people are entitled to report both sides of the coin. If what was said was Pepaj's opinion of the meeting, then so be it. It was a direct quote, and attributed as such.

According to the messages I received, phrases such as "inaccurate information" and "slanderous comments" (in reference to my work) were deposited through three separate channels: e-mail, IM messages, and a phone call, all demanding the removal of my post that linked to the PokerBiz411/IGN update, or at least this is how it was told to me. There was also a mention of affiliate monies being withheld. (Heh.)

Well, what I can say --- the post was gone before I even knew of the situation. My post was anything but slanderous, though I did point that Ayre is increasingly being seen as a self-endulgent megalomaniac whose words and actions may be playing right into the hands of all those political donkeys trying to ban the online game.

Were I to write something inflammatory, it'd be along the lines that Ayre should spend a few of those millions greasing the pockets of the likes of Margarita Prentice --- in true Indian-casino fashion --- rather than spending those millions greasing his own penis and giving small truth to the fallacy that the sole intent of off-shore sites' existence is to dodge U.S. regulation. But far be it from me to stoop to that level.

Sadly, though, my piece was toast, as it seems the folks over there had pushed the panic button and deleted it based on the implied threats. In poker terms, they got bluffed. Becuase when they followed up with a Bodog rep the next day, Bodog's line had changed. Again I'm paraphrasing, here, not quoting, but the new spew from the Bodog rep went something like this: "No, no, no, it wasn't [my] story that was the problem, it was the PokerBiz411 piece. But we didn't want you linking to it anyway. That site's owner has a personal history with Calvin [Ayre] and a vendetta against him from something that happened long ago."

Really? Frankly, I was stunned. While the pieces there were hardly pro-Bodog, they didn't seem to me like any sort of personal vengeance. Rather, they looked like well-researched columns that pointed out the consistent problem with CalvinWorld: Boil down the all the weird Bodog publicity and you find little more than a massive stroking of Ayre's own ego. The PokerBiz411 colums were tart, pointed, but still newsy... not the usual press-release pollution that otherwise gets fed to us unfiltered.

In fact, I was sort of fond of the site, since I'd discovered it on my own while cross-checking links and found on that first visit that they'd linked to us in a prominent spot, just below The Drudge Report and just above Pauly. (The links are actively maintained, though, so you won't see it like that now.) Nonetheless, I took pride in the fact that someone enjoyed my work enough to link to it in such well-regarded company.

But being stunned was one thing; believing the Bodog spew was another. I thought the new line I heard was as much b.s. as the old one, designed to soothe feelings after the Bodog bully got his way and effectively censored my post from the Web. I believe it to be the tiniest part of an attempt to discredit the larger story where the quote first appeared, which also contained the implied message that Bodog has no intent of complying with the U.S. legal system in any meaningful way. I've had my own experiences in how some companies treat third-party "idea" guys after the fact, and it's often exactly as Pepaj and Bluemoon claim it to be, not that it means that I believe one side or the other in this matter. It also doesn't mean that the concept or the show was any good --- and let's face it, the show sucked --- but the suit itself was the story, not the crappy show. I don't know what's true and what's not on the legal issues, nor do I claim any special knowledge, but I do know that the Bluemoon spin on it was as much a legitimate "news" story as the Bodog one.

But Bodog didn't like that.

And here's what's worse: I've corresponded directly with Bodog's PR boss, Susan Mainzer, on previous occasions, and she knows I'm both very open and very direct. Mainzer's quite high on the Bodog totem pole, being one of the listed defendants in the Bluemoon suit. Let me make this crystal clear: If she or any Bodog rep had had the guts to contact me directly, I'd have been happy to air their side of the story. Working around me in the manner that the Bodog rep did is simply unacceptable, and in my mind these actions give credence to the other side of the story. It's also entirely possible that Mainzer is oblivious to this little situation, since my piece was admittedly somewhere south of Smallpotatoland --- some corporate-legal type could have issued a blanket order to quash as much "anti-Bodog" press as possible, and my little backwater post just got caught up in the push. Problem is, I not only stand behind my work, I fight for it, however unimportant it might be. That's why it's a blog, and independent at that.

I sent off an e-mail to PokerBiz411, and they deny having a vendetta. What the response says instead are the same things I've noted --- Ayre and Bodog exhibit a hilarious amount of self-promotional pomposity and blithely ignore the marketing standards and practices that would better suit them and the entire online gaming industry in the long run. As mavericks with a growing profile, they [Bodog] deserve greater scrutiny... but they only want it on their terms. Rots o' ruck, kiddies. Guess who's talking now.

So Bodog had one of my pieces excised, but to no avail --- it's reprised in a different form right here. As other Bodog news will be. Bet on it.

I close with this image I screen-grabbed from the comments area of the PokerBiz411 site:



I don't claim to write the TRUTH, but it's a nice comment, nonetheless. I simply write the stories to entertain and to make us think. Dangerous stuff... daring to think always brings consequences.

And I find all this as bizarre as everything else Bodog-gy in nature. There's no plus side here for them --- whatever atomic mote of publicity occurs, it just isn't worth their bother, and it can't be positive. It just doesn't add up.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

How I Spent My Night After Being Censored...

And yes, I was, but I'm going to wait a day or two to make the post telling the story. Let's just say that some major Bodog-ish corporate pressure was placed upon the owners of the other site that I write, meaning that one of my posts was deleted, sent into oblivion, stomped like a bug. The words "inaccurate statements" and "slanderous" content were mentioned, among other things. Untrue, of course. But that post, in its original content, is no more.

I'll offer the full story in a day or two, after I've had the chance to simmer down and present things a bit more clearly. I've had two tall beers already (and am contemplating a third), and it's not the right moment for me to go off half-cocked. Please bear with me.

So what did I do, other than stew in my juices? You guessed it --- I played poker. So I donked my way out of the weekly WWdN tourney. So what. Running TP/TK into a short-stacked set of twos, followed by running top two pair into bottom set, won't qualify as my worst play(s) ever. Besides, the poker gods were rewarding me elsewhere.

Dammit, I almost pulled off a Spaceman. I'm always playing two or more tables, since I have two computers side-by-side, and as I was excusing myself from Wil's tourney I was in the early stages of the $1,500 Guarantee Tourney I over at Poker.com, a site you'll see now has a banner over on the left. (It will be joined by another in just a day or so, but Poker.com is the first affiliate deal I'm trying.) If fish like me can do well there, then you need to sign up. Here's the proof:



The image is from the rotating animated banner on the site's main table menu, offering a continuing stream of congrats to players for winning everything from big tourneys to fifty-cent-pot hands with a pair of threes. It's the first time I even entered one of these $1.5K events, despite the guarantee and small overlay (there were about 90 entrants, each ponying up the $15-plus-juice fee). As to why I never played this before, I just don't know. I'm usually playing SNGs and grinding away at the limit tables.

Back to the tourney. Here's the proper order of finish:



So what did I do? I opened a self-congratulatory beer, of course!

But the night was still young, and as I pondered my good fortune, I noticed that the $1,500 Guarantee II event was about to start. Same buy-in, same minimal overlay. Not quite the same result, though:



I had a chance, despite the fact that when we reached head-to-head time the eventual winner had me by about 12:1 in chips. That chance went away moments earlier when I had the would-be fourth-place finisher all-in, his A-J against my K-K, and I picked up a flush draw on the turn. He hit his two-out ace on the river to double through me, then gave away all my his chips two hands later. But it's okay. In a way, what he took from me he gave right back, in payout if not in chips.

And note that I am not bad-beat crying, since I had a strong run of luck here all night. With the slightly awkward payout structure at the top --- the difference between second and third being larger than that between first and second --- second was a very good payday, anyway.

Neither of these ranks in my top five or ten tourney wins, but I've never done a back-to-back of this nature before. Some days are bad, some good.

And sometimes, you just can't tell.

I'm getting closer, friends. I'd like to make a trip to Vegas for the festivities happen, and I'm within a grand of pulling it off. We will see.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Poker Bloggers in Training for the WSOP?

If it's not that, it's an outtake from Pauly's bloggy article in Bluff...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tuesday Donkball at the 'Pot'

"Directions from the East: I-94 west to 35th Street. Head south on the 35th Street viaduct to National Avenue. Go east on National Avenue, then north on Caesar Chavez Drive/16th Street. Turn east on the Emmber Lane ramp, then north on Emmber to Canal Street. Turn west on Canal Street to the Casino."
--- from the Potawatomi Casino web site, as major interchange construction in downtown Milwaukee baffles potential visitors

Road trip Tuesday, with a bit of poker thrown in. The poker includes one of the most unusual low-limit casino variants you're ever likely to encounter, so it might worth the read. I spent Tuesday on the road to the previous stomping grounds in Milwaukee, snagging a car load of junk from a storage unit, handling some other paperwork, then not being able to get my car's drive belt replaced at the place that previously said they'd do it on the cheap and quick ... in general, just running a collected bunch of long-distance errands.

But all work and no play makes for lousy poker-blog reading, so I made the loop through the dreaded downtown Milwaukee construction zone --- that's the west-south-east-north-east-north-west hilarity quoted above --- and finally found the way to the Potawatomi Casino, about the only public poker game for 100 or more miles around. The Pot's poker room is a reconstitued storage area adjacent to the large bingo hall on the casino's upper level, pretty much the farthest point possible from the casino's main entrance. They've got ten tables and a small brush area squeezed into something like a 24' x 60' room, with a small cashier's cage on one end and a glass wall on the bingo-hall side that sometimes keeps the place from becoming claustrophobic. "Spacious" is a word never used in the Pot's marketing material when describing its poker room.

There's no room for railbirds or sweating of players, either, but there are a few windowbirds from time to time. And also, pray that your occasional bathroom trip does not correspond to break time during one of the major bingo sessions just outside. Can we say "waiting line?"

Nor is it fair to call the game donkball, as the mid-week daytime games at the Pot include few players beyond the room's regulars, and most of those are competent. I had to wait a short while until a new $2-4 w/ Kill table was started up, the only available seats on the seven or so tables in play. We played nine-handed, and we had six competent players and three fish, about what I figured. I bought a rack of whites and won one hand in five dealer shifts --- me card-dead. But that's not the fun part of the tale.

At an adjacent table behind me was a 7-Stud game with two open seats, so I gathered up my remaining chips (maybe $45) and figured I'd try the change of pace. As I said, this is an odd sort of stud game; it's $1-5 spread with no ante, and a forced $1 bring-in for the low window card. If you've done any reading about 7-Stud, you know that buying the antes is an important part of the game, as it helps offset the variance and suckouts brought in by later-street play. Now, wed that knowledge to the previous description and you'll realize this: A spread game with no ante defeats one of the purposes of the spread. There's rarely any value in chasing down someone who makes an early $5 bet, hence the high success rate of the steal, but until there's a few dollars in the pot, the steal itself is a high-risk/low-reward venture. And that points to when the steal is apt: If you're in late position relative to the forced opener, and there are two or three or four limpers, then the occasional $1 + $5 (max spread) steal raise is the right play. The early limpers' donations provide the value for the steal, and your bet obviously represents a high pair or some other quality holding, as it should.

One other note: If you're in a spread game with no ante, and you are the forced bring-in, there is no reason on Earth to bring it in with anything other than the minimum... no matter what you have. It's only your money in the pot at that point, and anything over the minimum is giving away information that there's no need to share at the start of the hand. The possible pretense that you're defending your forced buy-in doesn't hold water; you've got the lowest up card, so all the other players at the table have at least the chance to have a hand that's currently better than yours, and unless you're on a rolled-up set of babies, it's likely that someone does. Besides, if you've got three treys, you want the action, not the opposite.

Okay, there is one exception: If you're across the table from a maniac who personally hates your guts and has told you that he's going to max-raise you whenever you bet --- and you know that he will --- then go ahead and max-open your strong hidden hands. That'll occur at least once every 20,000 sessions, I'm sure.

Back to the action. I only recognized two of the players, an older woman who was a known steady quantity and a dreadlocked black guy, named Reg, who's one of the Pot's room rats and is among the toughest there in the lower games. He can play, but on a Tuesday afternoon I'm going to find a mix of solid players no matter what table I'm at --- it's a supply-vs.-demand sort of thing. Besides, Reg is a good talker.

I took down a couple of smallish pots early, one with a maximum-sized overbet on seventh street that a scrawny, middle-aged biker-wannabe type called me on when he had no business making the call --- my made boat against his pair, or some such nonsense. And he gives me a quizzical look, and gets up from his seat two seats to my right and takes a seat two seats to my left. And just seconds later another player, an average-looking blonde-haired sort who I didn't have any read on, moves up from across the way and takes the seat immediately to my left.

Hmmm! People moving intentionally moving to my left tells me one of two things: they either respect my game and want to get behind me to limit their exposure, or they view me as a mark and want to push me around. And I've been playing against them for all of 15 minutes...

The answer, of course, is "One from Column B." And one wait-and-see.

Among the pure joys in poker is the man (in this case the biker wannabe, replete with requisite bandana and goatee) that will not fold a hand to a woman. Call after call after call, with a wasted re-raise or two thrown in for comic effect. Thank you for your chips, sir. He alone added ten max bets to my stack in an hour's time. The other guy who moved to my left didn't have the attitude/terrible game, but was a looser player on a run of tough luck; one example was his having a queens-full boat and running into a river-made straight flush (not mine); to add insult to injury, the other guy (the other bad player at the table) made a six-card straight flush, too. The tough-run player who had moved to my left was in from the south Chicago suburbs with two of his friends, to gamble some and then hit the Tigers-Brewers game just down the road. He loved playing stud but no other casino within driving distance spreads the game, and his buddy was on a good run of blackjack. They didn't make it to Miller Park.

However, my mark and the other weak player and the older woman were gone soon enough, though I did take my chips from a low of around $40 up to $150 or so while they lasted, a healthy surge at these limits. But I would go no higher. Not only did my cards quiet down again, but the table soon filled up again with several of the room's toughest players, some killing time as they waited for seats in the bigger games. A 30-ish player named Don who is always there was among them, along with another named Mark or Mike and two other faces I recognized, one a sometimes dealer himself. In response to one of the Chicago-burbs player's comments, I said, "Looks like you got your wish. It's as tough a 1-5 stud game as you're likely to find." And he was happy for it, though already stuck $160 and not likely to improve.

I bounced along in the game for another hour or so, basically not going anywhere. Cashout at about $140, a net plus of $40 after rake and tokes. Retirement income, no. A fun time, though; and a must re-do on my next drive north.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Something Bad, Something Durned Good

A freeroll sort of Sunday for me, including the WBCoOP at Poker Stars, where I finished an uninspiring 473/2247 and have now gone 1-for-2 on "swags" in this fun event. But why settle for one free tournament when one can play two or more? Especially since my ol' boat anchor runs Poker Stars software quite nicely, thereby freeing up the newer machine for another game or games.

On Sundays --- assuming that I am playing poker that day --- I also try to take advantage of my earned entry into Poker.com's $20K weekly freeroll. I've usually earned enough points to participate, and with 700-800 entries most times that I've seen, this one's worth the visit. In my six or eight previous tries I'd managed one "just barely cashed" (for $5), and one "middlin' good run" (for $50, IIRC). Today's was a bit better:



I think it's my biggest single online cash, though I have topped it a couple of times in private tourneys. As usual, I did it in non-dominant form; I had the tourney leader on my left for much of the day across three separate tables. But success was simple --- or at least simple to explain. I won three or four toss-ups (and I think one suckout, but that was very early on), and had my preflop-best hands hold up consistently throughout. At the end I went out on a semi-steal. Down to four and with an M of about 9, I pushed UTG/Cutoff with a raggy ace. Unfortunately, the leader (in the seat behind me) called with his pocket fours, and though I flopped the nut flush draw, I whiffed the turn and river.

I had built up a tight image and I was playing to win... I can live with it. It was death-by-blinds time, anyway.

I also ran deep in the same site's daily WSOP satellite qualifier, playing it concurrently with this and the WBCooP, but crashed out in the final two tables. I've been that deep five or six times with no rewards yet, but I'll keep trying.

Today poker make me hap-pee. I'm easy to please.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The "One-Way Link Trade," Feed Theft, and Other Marketing Funnies

Today's gambling-related e-mail turdlet gets a special shout-out for above-and-beyond duty. It arrived with a "Subject" line of "links exchanged". Here's the text of the missive, with parenthetical text replacement and underlined text courtesy of me, but all the stylish misspellings and wretched grammar intact:

My name is Helmuth , Im Working on (lame-costarican-sporstbook-and-casino.com) marketing team
I went through you site and i wondering if you are interested in a link trade with us.
Our policy is to work only with a one-way link trade.
***A one-way link is when a page links to another page without a link back from the same site.

If you agree please give me you link info to add your link at my page.
we will be glad to see our link at you site and have you as our links partner.

We appreciate you willingness to exchange links with us!
This is my link information:
URL: http://(lame-costarican-sporstbook-and-casino.com)
LINK text: sportsbook
Desc: sportsbook
Thanks for you time!

So in other words, he wants a free link from me without even having the guts to ask for it directly. Oy. While I normally just deep-six this stuff, this one was so pathetic-funny I couldn't help sending off a reply, wherein I also invited our clueless Costa Rican friend to perform a physiologically impossible task. (Wonder if he'll try?) I usually have a good sense as to when a reply I might send to some net moron will actually be read by someone on the other end, so here's hoping I've raised his blood pressure a point or two in the process. Plus, the whole topic also dovetailed nicely into the rest of this post, which follows up my main article last week over at the Kick Ass Poker Blog.

The body of that longish article was a further look into the content theft and site scraping undertaken in various forms by so many poker and online-gambling vendors, the largest by far of which are the slimeballs at 888.com (Cassava, Pacific Poker, Casino-on-Net) and its main affiliates. Not only did I cite an example where a specific quote from one of my KAP posts came up 43 times in a Yahoo! search, but only two of those search results linked directly back to my post --- the other 41 went to ".info" sites of the type often used for scraping by 888 or its affiliates, in this case a boilerroom domain/ISP operation running out of some loser's daddy's basement in New Jersey.

I also showed an example of different type of content theft, the repurposing of a news feed (also from Yahoo!) for third-party profit. In this case I linked to the site directly, in part because I had linked to the site on an earlier occasion before I discovered the nature of its theft.

It was only a few hours until my boss, Jason, sent me off a note inquiring why I would link to them when I knew what these site thieves were up to, since my linking in itself incrementally increases the black-hat site's page rank and relative exposure --- in theory the exact opposite of what I want to see happen. Jason was right to ask, too. But what I didn't point out in my original article --- and yet could share a laugh about with Jason later --- was that I really didn't do that thieving site any favors. See, there's a thin chance that I also might have accidentally sent off a note to Yahoo!'s Copyright Division, advising them of the theft... and Yahoo! was quite happy to receive the note, judging by my rapid and personal reply. I suspect the "hub" site will be receiving its cease-and-desist any day now. Check it out if you want to see a passelful of soon-to-be worthless affiliate links.

I don't choose to play net-cop, but I will under certain circumstances. So if you steal from me or from those who I know, beware.

Moving on to a different aspect, it's important to realize that site scraping and RSS-feed theft are two separate forms of the same overall disease. Site scraping is one of those things that's just black-hat all the way, but theft of a news feed is a topic that comes in various shades of grey, because it (the news feed) is only of value and purpose if someone reads it, and in order to be read widely, it must be linked to by others. Feed repurposing is usually black, while "aggregator" sites come in various shades of grey and white.

For an example of an aggregator site done right, we need look no further than Bill Rini's pokerfilter.net. Bill manually selects each piece that's included, goes into each to select a short text passage that he believes will interest casual visitors, and links properly to the original site for the complete viewing of the original content. Bill's selected several of my KAP pieces for inclusion, and he's welcome to continue to do so. Pokerfilter.net increases my readership, much the same way a real-estate office increase viewership of a listed home by offering a photo and related info to potential buyers.

For middlin' grey examples immediately connected to poker blogs, two come to mind: the blog listings found on BlogsOnPoker (only occasionally available, it seems) and the "Blog Monitor" found over at the All In Magazine home page. Of the two, I would judge the "Blogs on Poker" hat to be several shades whiter, though I know several bloggers have justifiably complained about both. (Dragonystic comes to mind.) The Blogs on Poker site was kept reasonably current, captured only a small amount of text, offered proper links to correct content, and I believe they honored removal requests by anyone who asked. I didn't have a problem with that.

Then there's All In's blog monitor, and I have to do a mea culpa here, because I once asked them for inclusion, many months back, something I would no longer do. Collectively, the evidence now suggests that All In is more interested in exploiting the listed blogs for their own gain then for any real publicity for the poker blogs themselves. They excerpt rather more text than the On Blogs site did/does (though they do link to the original site in a proper manner), but their indifference to keeping the feature current --- despite its prominent place on All In's home page --- is the key tell: there are blogs listed that haven't been updated in over a year. I can only think of one example where a blog was removed, and that was where the blogger (already mentioned) declared it as automated theft... and that calling out of All In duly appeared in All In's own automated pages. Funny stuff, though All In did "correct" that little faux pas within 48 hours. Without apology or mention, however.

Still, the fact they they didn't then put the effort into redoing the thing --- and doing it right --- speaks volumes. Shades of grey... in deepening shadow.

Moving on. I may have the chance to put up some affiliate links of my own here in the near future. I'm torn about it, because I very much value my independence as a writer, but I could use any extra dollars the banners might bring in. Input from any of you is welcome, by the way. The most likely outcome is that I'll try one or two, but not upsell them --- the links will just be there if someone chooses to click-through at that moment. In any event, the presence of a banner for a given site would never preclude me from ripping said site a new orifice, if such an orifice were deserved. I don't sell out that cheap.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An Ugly Example of Mathematical Variance

Yes, Poker.com has implemented a major new software upgrade, enhancing in particular their multi-table functionality. I've hit three other sites this week that have also done major upgrades, so it's obviously Summer Upgrade time in the online world.

Ahem. Dear Poker.com, now that you've upgraded your software, could you give the ol' random-number generator a swift kick in the capacitor? God, but it's been ugly there in recent days. Fresh off winning four hands out of 101 in a ring game where the flop-seen percentage for the table was in the 40's, I followed that up earlier today with this gem of a session:



That's how you drop 30 big bets in a big hurry. What a shame to be so totally card-dead in a game that had a 51% flops-seen percentage when I first sat down. (Of course, I drag that down by about 1% just by taking a seat, but that's another matter.)

But rather than go off on some ridiculous and untrue "Online Poker is Rigged" rant, let's use the ugliness to illustrate the statistical probabilities inherent in such a bad variance run. I can't count the number of times I've encountered a post or a comment by someone who has a run like this, then says something inane like, "The odds against this are like 10 million to one!! It's fixed!!"

Well, no, it's not. And the odds aren't that hard to calculate, either. Winning x number of hands (such as 4 of 101) goes into an area of probability called combinations and permutations, nerdy stuff that was among my favorite subjects, and more than I feel like writing right now. But an oh-fer run like today's doesn't even require math that complex.

In posting an oh-fer, one loses every hand. And to calculate the odds for a long winless run, all we need to do is take the probability of losing a single hand and raise it to a certain power, where that power equals the number of hands played.

Fortunately, I know my game, and I can tell you that in a full ring game I'll win about 9% of all hands dealt. I don't win 10% because my game is naturally tighter than most of the opponents at the stakes that I play; I'm participating in several percent less hands than the average, but while I normally win a greater percentage of the hands I do enter, it still doesn't balance out when I look at the count of overall hands. Nor should it. I do loosen up my game as the tables themselves get looser and looser, but I still maintain tightness relative to the table.

If my odds of winning a given hand are about 9%, then the odds of me losing that same hand are the remainder, or 91%. And the odds of me losing 72 consecutive hands is then an easy calculation: it's that 91% raised to the seventy-second power, or 0.91 ^ 72.

What do you think the odds are of an 0-for-72 run for a middlin' tight player? One in a million? One in a hundred thousand?

Way too high. The calculation shows that 0.91 ^ 72 = 0.0011, or 00.11%. That's a hair less than 1,000 to 1. Ugly, really ugly, but far from a statistical impossibility. It's in the same range as your opponent catching the perfect two cards on both the turn and the river to overcome your all-but-insurmountable lead after the flop. If my odds of winning at this particular table had dropped down, to say, 8.5% on a given hand, then the overall odds on such a run would drop to .00167, or about 600 to 1.

One of the hidden benefits of a quickie statistical analysis is that it allows a better understanding of some of the short-run variations that occur. Just to cite one example, it's easy to see that if I'm winning hands at a 9% rate, then I should win roughly 1 out of every 11 hands I play. So how often will I sit down at a table and lose my first 11 hands?

Easy math again, using the same principle as before: 0.91 ^ 11 (the number of consecutive hands played) = 0.3543. I'll lose my first 11 hands at a table a hair over 35% of the time, a bit more than one time in three. It doesn't feel right, but it's what occurs. The act of winning hands tends to cluster to a greater degree than we realize.

That's all for this Poker Math 102 lesson. Now, to wait out that variance...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Upon My Head, A Bounty Went for Naught

And a wonderful time was had by... many. 40 participants made it to Event #7 on the Blogger Poker Tour [BPT], sponsored by Poker.com and guest-hosted by yours truly. I'd like to again thank Poker.com for a great event and a great series --- if you haven't joined in the fun, you are missing out.

On to the tournament itself, wherein a bounty was placed upon my head, said bounty being a free seat in the Grand Final coming up at the start of July.

But before the gruesome tourney details commence, there is one other mystery: the unseen special tournament tables. Apparently they just didn't get dropped in, and these things happen. No biggee.

However, here are the general and final table designs that you didn't get to see:





I tried to stop by everyone's table to say 'hi' and thank them for playing, but I didn't realize until today that you can't railbird-chat on the Poker.com software. Trust me, I waved 'hi' to all of you. Then it was on to the play. A few big names went out early; I was card-dead for the first hour and drifted down to about 1,100 chips (from 2,000 at the start), before finally doubling through with big slick to basically stay alive. As for me, I was down in the mid-30s for most of that first hour. I caught a couple of nice hands late in that first 90-minute period to climb up to about 3,500 chips, then 4,000, and when the first play period was over, I was mid-pack among the 17 that remained.

A couple of people idly chatted (tongue in cheek, for sure) as to why I didn't just dump my chips to the first lucky comer. In theory, since I already had a seat, it would free up both the bounty on my head and the guaranteed four seats at the Grand Final for other players.

Sorry, guys and gals, I just can't play that way. If I soft-play it at all, then it puts me in a position of awarding my final chips to some random player, and I just won't put myself or other players in that position. I'm too much of a nitte, maybe. ;-)

So the bounty was there, but the bounty would have to be earned. No gimmes.

After a long time at the bubble, it popped twins: Both bergeroo and doubleuwhy were knocked out on the same hand.

I was short-stacked at that point, but after one more double-through I was suddenly a contender, and when we were down to seven it became apparent that the bounty on my head had lost its relative value; since getting fourth place brought home the same bonus prize, there wasn't as much extra value in chasing me down with any two cards once I pushed. (Porkrind333 tried that once, about halfway through... and he was right to do so.) Fortune was with me, for the most part, until I suffered a couple of bad beats very late, followed by two hands where I lost as relative 'dogs, but they were hands not terribly played despite that. (I also sucked out one hand myself, a bit before that, and my top hands held up until the very end. No whining here.)

My nice little run at the final table gave me a healthy lead at one time, until eventual winner kufolem reeled me in. Kufolem finally knocked me out when I pushed K-Q and the champ-to-be called with A-J... and I didn't catch my six-outer. It was only a short time after that when kufolem knocked out Porkrind for the win.

So congrats to kufolem, Porkrind333 and Brunsie for winning their seats to the final, and to the other final-table players who at least received a few quatloos for their effort. Stormswift and TheBigSurprise took 5th and 6th, respectively, and they've gone deep in this before but haven't yet cracked the final. Of the nine players who made the final, I was the only one who'd already locked up a seat, so they all had lots to play for.

Here's the majority of the final-standings board:



Thanks again to Poker.com, and I'll see you all next time. I predict a crazy time in Event #8!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Upon My Head, A Bounty Hath Been Placed

So nice of blogspot/blogger to be down much of yesterday... at least on those occasions when I checked.

Anyhow, as I was able to display over at the original site yesterday: Kris tells me that there's a bounty on my tight/weak --- or is that weak/tight (???) derriere; whoever bounces me out of my tourney --- how dare you! --- automatically wins a seat to the final. (!) I've also had a sneak peek at the table design; it's a nice, clean look, and won't interfere at all with my being the sacrificial lamb for your chip-gorging festivities.

And before the "tight/weak" jokes start --- remember that I'm from Wisconsin. Up there, "dairy air" has another meaning altogether.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

First article up at PokerMagazine.com!

As previously pimped, my first article for Poker Magazine is now available online. It's a fun little piece, a beginner's how-to for understanding shootouts and similar tournament formats, titled, unsurprisingly, "From Rounders to Shootouts: A Beginner's Guide to Step-Style Poker Tournaments". The article itself is linked to here. Visit often!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Poker.com's (and my) CawtBloggin Invitational --- The Password

Looking for the password for this most-excellent tourney? Happy to oblige. The password will be:

cawtplayin


See ya there! And tell some of your other blogging friends, too, poker players or not. Poker.com is running a new promotional twist that you might want to check out over at the Blogger Poker Tour page.