Haley's Poker Blog

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

Saturday, October 28, 2006

From the Mailbox: Next Time, Note the "(if necessary)" Tag

You know, I am fond of the folks at mansion.com, home of Mansion Poker, even if seems as though they manage to shoot themselves in the corporate foot as often as not. Let's see, there was:

... the horrendous plague of technical issues that crashed the site repeatedly in its first weeks of launch, wiping out tournament after tournament, promotion after promotion;

... that lovely, never-to-be repeated $1,000 Steelers promotion, which I did not partake of. Even if they laid off half the action, that was still a $2.5 million giveaway, since the team they didn't want to win, won;

... running front-heavy promotions and launching the Mansion Poker Dome show just before the passage of the UIGEA, putting a ton of investment at risk.

I feel for Mansion, I really do. But their timing is dreadful. Now, the latest missive from Mansion, which arrived in my e-mail box with the title, "Added Value Tournaments this weekend."



Below this pretty header was the meat of the offer (boldface mine):

We're holding an added value BASEBALL SPECIAL poker tournament this Saturday, giving you the chance to scoop a heap of extra cash this weekend.

We'll add an extra $200 to the prize pool for every run scored in the World Series game on Saturday 28 October. This will be split between the top three finishing positions with 1st place getting 50% of the added extra, 2nd 30% and 3rd 20%.

So if the final score is Detroit Tigers 5, St. Louis Cardinals 3, we'll add $1600 to the prize pool. That means you'd get an EXTRA $800 if you win the tournament (8 runs x $200 x 50%).

Find the "WORLD SERIES - BASEBALL SPECIAL" in the poker lobby and register now!

BASEBALL BOUNTIES
Plus... if you knock out either of the two MANSION hosts - representing the Detroit Tigers or St. Louis Cardinals, we'll give you $100 for every RUN that team scores in Saturday's game. So for example, if you knock out Host Detroit Tigers from the tournament, and that team scores 6 runs, then we'll give you $600 (6 x $100).

If you have any questions please email us at memberservice@mansion.com.


. . . .

And now, the kicker: Even if there had been a Game Six on Saturday, it wouldn't have mattered --- the e-mail showed up in my inbox hours after the game would have been scheduled to start.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Signature Stupidity and Top-Level Impressions

Alright, confessions of a secret poker sin --- I'm not as ardent of a note-taker as I probably should be. One of the reasons for this is that short-term interactions are rarely reliable as long-term trends, so seeing a player dive in on seven out of ten hands --- or 45 of 100 --- may mean nothing more than a little run of hot cards. The truth is, most people who use PokerTracker also misuse it, because they make decisions based on numbers that are not only subject to short-term variations, they're also categorized according to arbitary, percentage-oriented boundaries. And, yes, I know that you can set the boundaries yourself, but the fact is that no matter where a given boundary lies, a player with behaviors just to one side of that boundary is almost the same as a player just to the other side of the same boundary.

So I rely less on notes and stats and more on feel than I probably should, though I do note what I call as signature behavior. For instance, I was playing 2/4 razz at Full Tilt yesterday, and saw a player make a river bet of $4, be reraised by the other remaining player, who had up cards of 2-7-8-K, or something like that. The first player called his re-raise, showed his A-2-3-4-5 wheel, and raked the pot. And he received a note in my record stating that he was an idiot --- the other player had at best a seven-low, so there was no danger of a chop; the re-reraise was mandatory. But there are many bad razz players out there right now, the majority of whom seem to be no-limit-only kids who now want to be H.O.R.S.E. champions, but lack a mathematical clue. Still, I give them credit for at least trying to expand their borders, even as I'm happy for the bankroll padding they provide.

So, if you make steal attempts from the cutoff five straight times, I notice it and note it. Overly fond of the check-raise? I'll catch on to that as well. I trust signature behaviors far more than I trust mathematical-derived boundaries.

There's always a second reason to my posts, and this one comes courtesy of a post today from Juice over at the The Pain of Texas Hold Em' Poker (sic) blog. In it, Juice mentions a new site that puts some PokerTracker-type findings on the web for all to see, along with limited recommendations as to the type of basic improvements that the searched-upon player could make to better his game. So, I'm always curious as to what these sites say about a low-level player such as me. There are two names I've played under more often than any others, and both of them should have thousands and thousands of hands out there.

First, let's see what it has to say for the name 'ChayseTilton':



And now, for the name 'CawtBluffin':



A distinctly different player, despite the fact that in both cases, I'm me. One thing I discovered in subsequent searching is that one of the two profiles shown above is based on a very limited hand sample, despite the fact that I've played all those hands that should have shown up at each site. So I'm suspicious of the database used for these findings --- when one combines that with the fact that those symbols that seemed to be freely borrowed from PokerTracker, what this looks like is a massive data-mining project that's been converted to a query-able database and put onto this site. Sounds a bit shady to me, and certainly not in the spirit of poker.

I'm not much for data-miners, so I'm pretty sure I can resist the temptation to sign up for this service.

Friday, October 20, 2006

After NETeller, What Next?

Another round of 'The Sky is Falling' occurred yesterday when NETeller bowed to pressures within the U.K.- and U.S.-based banking industries, and announced that they will act as though they will be bound by U.S. laws --- even though they aren't. The move seems to be an attempt to keep NETeller from being specifically banned when the U.S. Justice Department attempts to list financial institutions that are connected to online gaming. It's not happening overnight with NETeller, however, unlike what happened with the foul creatures at FirePay. So, no need to panic if you're a NETeller customer.

NETeller's pending departure, which should occur sometime in mid-2007, is an example of how the front line in e-wallet services will need to retreat and retrench. Though housed on the Isle of Man, NETeller's close connections to those American and British banking services were the reason for the company's reversal. Again, expect all publicly-owned companies within the U.K. sphere of influence to pull out of the U.S. market. That's the truth of what all this really means.

But don't think that e-wallet services are going away, and don't believe that e-wallets are the only way to fund an online account. Other services are likely to pop up, in the very island nations being abused through the U.S.'s intentional GATS and WTO violations, one of the most shameful forms of protectionism our corrupt legislators have ever enacted. In the near future, there will be a chart here detailing some of the alternative services available, although your author notes that all of these services also have other uses, and if one were to use these services to fund an online account, one does so without specific encouragement of this site's author; the data will be provided for research and information purposes only.

In the meantime, anyone voting Republican this election --- please get your head out of your ass and understand that the coming election may be your very last chance to save this country from becoming a totalitarian, theocratic state; it's that important, and it's already slid that far. We can rebuild an economy if that goes in the tank, but once our constitution is gutted, it's gutted for good. The quote that follows is among the most overworked in all civilization, but it remains applicable to the present day:

"First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

--- Pastor Martin Niemöller

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Internet 101 --- Why the UIGEA's ISP-Blocking Provisions Won't Work

As mentioned in a previous post, the most directly threating of the statutory clauses enacted in that fascist piece of legislation, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, is the potential for the government to attempt to order ISPs to block certain sites that the government identifies as being involved in Internet gaming.

It can't work and it won't work. It doesn't matter whether the battle is fought on First Amendment grounds --- how dare the U.S. government attempt to block my access to sites that have value for legitimate writerly research and news --- or on the technical level. Such an approach shows a basic lack of understanding about how Internet technologies work.

Apart from banking and registration requirements, it's not only possible to play online poker in total anonymity; you could do it yourself within the next 15 minutes. It requires exactly two components: an anonymizing web browser, and one of the new poker sites based on Flash technology, rather than a resident poker client. Both already exist.

The anonymous web browser comes to us courtesy of a project originally funded by the Electronic Freedom Foundation [EFF], called TOR, short for "The Onion Router." Onion routing is a technological manipulation originally designed for the channelling of communication from remote devices, but experimentation and continued development have led to the release of Torpark, a variation of Mozilla FireFox that runs a few percent slower, but uses the software's "onion proxy" to route the communications through a continually recycling network of Tor virtual servers, many of which have already been set up around the globe. The data is encrypted, too.

Torpark 1.5.0.7 is the current version of the software, and you can download it for free at http://www.torrify.com. I've already downloaded and run the software --- for research purposes only, of course --- and run it on a couple of sites to test its claims. Here's what you need to know, excerpted directly from the Torpark download site:

Download Torpark and put it on a USB Flash keychain (this means that you have to Flash memory installed on your computer, whether in the form of a separate drive or not; it comes pre-installed on many machines --- hh). Plug it into any internet terminal whether at home, school, or public. Run Torpark.exe and it will launch a Tor circuit connection, which creates an encrypted tunnel from your computer indirectly to a Tor exit computer, allowing you to surf the internet anonymously. How much does Torpark cost? IT'S FREE.

In short, it does what it says. I ran across a post at 2+2 which stated that the owners of the site bonuswhores.com --- a favorite with new, low-level players --- had implemented one of those honor-check location services, similar to what porn sites do when they ask you to click through a page stating that, yes, indeedy, you are 18 years of age or older. When you browse, your ISP address is available under traditional browser set-ups to the site that you connect to, and that can be traced back to your physical location. In the case of bonuswhores.com, I saw the notice showing that they had now implemented the honor system, so I re-routed my original connection (using both Internet Explorer and standard Firefox), through a dial-up port in one of those states. True to the claim, bonuswhores.com's software identified my computer as being in one of those states... as if I care, from that perspective.

But when I reconnected to the same site using Torpark, using that same affected-state connection, it failed to identify my computer as connecting from that location; the claims of the software's developers are, in fact, valid.

Now, let me turn your attention to one of several newer online poker sites, that being Pitbull Poker. I'm not a Pitbull Poker customer, but the reason they're mentioned here is their use of Flash technology. bWin/Ongame is another company that has experimented with Flash poker applications, but they don't factor into this pending UIGEA workaround, due to their publicly-traded, UK-based status. In short, if you play at Pitbull Poker, you don't have to install a resident poker client, and they don't have to know your physical location.

It'll start with the PitBull Pokers of the world, but expect something similar from the larger sites, or look for those sites to incorporate the same sort of anonymizing, onion-router technology into their own resident clients. If they go the Flash route, however, they can in all innocence claim that they do not know where the player physically resides. And mind you, that's with existing technology. If I had the money, I'd think about lobbying a banana-republic island nation for the rights to set up a mailing-address service: no physical residency required, no questions asked.

The battle between fascist/communist governments --- this includes the U.S. --- and the freedom of information and international reach of the Internet and other electronic frontiers will go down as one of the defining struggles of our age. Assuming of course, that there are other, following ages, that can look back at us and comment.

For this reason, the ISP-blocking provisions of the UIGEA are of the least concern. If they're not thrown out through legal challenges, then they can be dealt with through other means.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

And Now, We Wait

One of the differences between a real crisis and a fake one is that during the real crisis, everything stops. There is a famous quote to that effect, based on the unfolding of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but alas, I cannot find that quote. In essense, the world held its collective breath, waiting for that bluff-fest to run its course, for what was at the that moment the highest stakes of all.

However, it's this pause, this cessation of activity as a crisis unfolds, that's important. The world of online poker is going through a very real crisis at the moment, reducing most of us to waiting... waiting for whatever will happen next.

We wait, because it's out of our control. Events will play out according to machinations that are already set in place, by forces rather shielded from our view. It's anathema for the poker player to realize that he or she is still a puppet in a larger game, but then again, in order to have the game at all, one must have other participants.

More's the worry.

We've all seen yon vast umbrella of theory and speculation, prediction and fact. Not much of that last; at the least, not enough. I find that unsettling as well. That so many important players are sitting on the sidelines, not announcing their intentions while Bush prepares to sign the UIGEA into law some forty-eight hours hence, gives credence to the rumor that many of these players are planning to cut and run as soon as things become official. The wires and e-mail boxes between Friday and Tuesday will be interesting indeed, and today, under gloomy skies and with the smell of winter heavy in the air, my mood is not optimistic.

I admit to waffling on the degree of effect the UIGEA will have, though by this time next week, we will know. Long-time readers of this blog know the disgust I have for Firepay, yet that entity's withdrawal from the U.S. market is still the biggest blow to American online poker players to date. The reason is that e-wallets are the narrowest pipeline in the financial conduit that serves the market; now we have to pin our hopes on Neteller, and if Neteller buckles, then it's on to smaller sites such as Click2Pay and Citadel, who will feel even greater pressure to cave.

Illogical reaction or not, it can be like dominoes... or lemmings.

I take mild confort in knowing that the companies I hold in the highest disregard are the same ones that have beat the hastiest retreat. I've always been a great judge of character, even if I'm rather too forward in letting those judgments be known. But Party and Pacific? Large and appalling, both --- built upon predatory marketing practices, terrible customer service, and in the long run, we won't miss them. I tossed Pacific's spamming corporate ass off my computers years ago, and as for Party, I've been playing for some time on their dime only; when they've sent me a bonus, I've played it, but I haven't given them any of my money.

As for Firepay, they're reprehensible, and I again stopped doing business with them long ago. When the rest of you American readers make your final withdrawals from your accounts and discover that Firepay installed a mandatory $10 withdrawal fee (for U.S. accounts only), you'll be upset. Now, the kicker: Firepay quietly put that fee into place a week before they announced their attention to cut off service between U.S. customers and gambling sites, knowing full well that they were leaving the U.S., but waiting that week to announce it. That's called a gouge, and shows exactly the quality of Firepay. They're not exiting with grace and class; they're exiting with a final pound of flesh from the U.S. market, exhibiting exactly the type of multinational, extra-legal behavior that the Bush-ites proclaim as the reason for needing the legislation in the first place.

Of course, I find it ironic that the first instance of true immoral corporate behavior comes not from a gaming site, but from an online banking concern. Banking's such a reputable industry....

Well, I'm back to my private sulk. And I watch the clock, not knowing what else to do. Crisis, it's a time-eater.

Friday, October 06, 2006

While We Still Can, Let's...



Dearest government: the banners on this site are not affiliate links; I have disabled that functionality. If you wish to come after me for merely acknowledging that these sites exist, well, that's a First Amendment issue. Come get me.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I'm So (Frist)-F$%#ing Stupid...

I received the "We are discontinuing service to you" letter from Titan Poker today, and my thought on it was, what the hell? Why should Titan care? They're not UK and they're not publicly traded, so why the cut-and-run routine?

And then I realized that I already knew part of the answer, when I discussed one of the possible motivations for why Poker Stars is still sitting on the fence in a short post over at the KAP blog. In it, I suggested that Stars was remaining noncommittal to allow the U.S. executives connected with the firm time to decide their own fates.

Bill Rini jumped on me a bit for that post, and possibly deservedly so, for my dissing the quick-to-bail 888 and Party, while cutting Stars at least temporary slack. My counterpoint had to do more with my lack of fondness toward Party and 888 in general --- I feel that they are the two online companies most clearly partaking in predatory marketing, and these are the type of companies, in my opinion, most likely to bail at the quickest significant resistance, no matter the mess they leave behind.

But why are all these other companies, located in offshore jurisdictions, so quick to follow suit? As I remove the brick from my forehead, the answer is a great, big "Duhh-h-h-h!" Far more of these companies than we think must be shell corporations with U.S. executives, and it's they who are in trouble, should they persist under the new law, un-American though that law is.

So, fear not. The legitimate, privately-held overseas poker houses are likely to keep right on marketing to us and allowing us to play, while the ones run by Americans as shell enterprises are likely to disappear or to change form as they restructure to get around what the current legislation seems to say. As more and more U.S. citizens sell their holdings in these companies to their partners, more of these companies will again open their doors to American players. We're seeing the initial freezeout --- as for the rest, it just doesn't happen overnight.

From our perspective, this means that rather more of the poker sites we know and trust will seem to disappear. But there will be new ones. After all, God, and poker players, abhor a vacuum.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Real Reason the GOP Forced Rep. Foley to Resign

As excerpted from one of those e-mails Foley sent to that Congressional page:

"Wanna come over to my office and play with my Party Poker?"

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Civil Libertarian Time

(Warning: Read the following at your own peril. I ask no quarter, nor give none. There's something in this post to offend just about everyone.)

If you want to understand just how much of a civil-libertarian purist I am, let me shake your beliefs in me with the following: I'm against gun-control legislation of all but the most automatic and semi-automatic weapons, the exception being those which are clearly designed for use in modern/mass warfare. The reason is this: the greater the access of the collective populace to weaponry, the greater the ability to defend one's collective self in times of need. (It sounds corny, but its logic is unassailable.) But I weep at the cost. That America pays a terrible price for this freedom is a given, in the thousands of violent deaths our society suffers each year.

It is, sadly, the price of living in what's supposed to be a free society, though a price, like some others, that relatively few are willing to acknowledge or accept. A free society is not necessarily a lawless one, nor is a nanny state a lawful one, the Newt Gingrich butt-sores of the world not withstanding. A civil libertarian who favors gun control is a fair-weather civil libertarian... and you read that here. That person doesn't believe in civil liberty; he only believes in the use of the "civil liberties" banner to try to shape society closer to his personal preferences. And don't even get me started on the ACLU, selective-filter abomination that it is. I know first-hand about deeper forms of societal discrimination than most of you can imagine, but that tale is private and personal, and is not yet to be shared.

But my real target here is not the left, but the right. Besides the fact that the next fucking Baptist or Mormon who comes proselytizing to my doorstep is likely to catch a most unwelcome earful, let me just say that there is no greater target for loathing than the politician who professes a love for freedom, but understands not what freedom is.

While America's need for freedom is an absolute, our defining reason for existing as we do, so is the need for each of us to develop a high personal ethos to support and warrant that freedom. However, we have to grant everyone the high ground, the clean slate, at the start, and only after evidence and actions prove otherwise should an individual's --- not "individual," in the collective sense --- freedoms be removed. And I believe that our current legislators' ethics are so appalling that this blog will add/shift focus in the months ahead. It's going to become a "free poker speech" portal, where workarounds of every sort will be promulgated and published.

It won't be for personal profit, but will exist just because information --- and Americans --- need to be free. (And I'll say this as a general aside --- if I'd been a Washington State resident, I'd have been damned if I'd pulled down my general poker content as some others have done.) That said, one or two things here may need to change, but rest assured that I'm not going anywhere. Fuck you, Senator Frist, you slimy cat-carving piece of shit. Fuck you, all you Bible-thumpers. You create a theocracy out of the United States over my dead body.

For all the talk about liberty and freedom, remember that the societal responsibility to not infringe on others' freedoms is the vital other half of the pie. In other words, your right to swing your fist stops somewhere short of my nose. I've never had a problem with someone smoking a bit of pot, assuming that they didn't rob someone to purchase said toke, and that they have a purpose to life besides said self-enjoyment, and don't freeload at others' expense. (I actually don't smoke pot, by the way; just thought I'd clarify.) Same thing with virtually all personal vices.

But, the conservative right has been swinging at my --- and all Americans' --- noses, lately. Time to swing back.

The conservative right has made an enemy, as it should have made millions of enemies, and this here enemy fights hard and dirty. As for the rest of you, see you from the front lines.