Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Poker Crossword... and a Contest Giveaway

Admittedly, one of the things I've wanted to do here was create a small library of interactive poker crosswords, both to generate site hits here and to possibly sell a few to poker print publications or online sites. I've had success selling some plain ol' words, but no puzzles, as of yet.

My loss is your gain. After a lengthy hiatus, I've created a new poker crossword, and this one has a prize attached, to be awarded to a lucky solver who completes it before January 15, 2007.  I'll send one lucky winner a brand new copy of Lou Krieger and Sheree Bykofsky's most recent effort, The Rules of Poker.  (I've got two, you see, and I'm keeping the other one.)

There's no fee involved, though I do have a bit of a structure in place to ensure that you actually do work the puzzle to its completion. The rules and the puzzle are available here, on the home site (for those of you reading this through my XML feed), so get crackin'!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Site Scraper Follow-Up

Just thought I'd share a small success story, concerning those six domains and 180 bogus poker blogs that were stealing content from most of the rest of us. The six domains in question were:

After a bit of work over the last few days, I've now restored these domains to 'smoking crater' status. When ordered to divulge his identity and contact me directly, or lose his service, the site owner tore it down, although his domain-name service had been turned off, anyway; that part of it was a moot point. The site owner reportedly tried to explain it away as being due to some "black hat SEO" [Search Engine Optimizing sumpin'-or-other], meaning that he probably bought some scammer's program on how to rip off the Internet for personal profit and now doesn't want to take the responsibility for his own actions.

Ah, well, he's toast now, anyway. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Glitch that Stole Christmas

It didn't really -steal- Christmas, but it did have an effect of a thousand dollars or two in payouts at the final table of the Party Poker $200,000 Guarantee on Christmas Eve. The situation was that three players remained, and after some squabbling, the three final agreed to at least look at a deal. The first time they tried it, they couldn't agree. Same happened the second time.

By the third time they entered the deal-making setup, they'd pretty much ironed out their differences. Only one problem --- the chip totals fed to the deal-making software did not match to the chips that each player actually possessed. Proof? Of course, I was quick enough to snag a screen grab. You think I kid in these matters? (Not that I wouldn't, of course....)

Strange stuff. One of the three players --- I forget which one, but I think it was Yabai, noticed the discrepancy, pointed it out to the others, and they all scratched their heads trying to figure out what to do. Since they could not start from the correct figures, and had no direct access to the chip formula Party Poker uses to calculate the deal, they were at a loss as to how to proceed. Eventually they had the idea to leave the deal to refresh the software and come back into the deal-making setup again.

They did this, but exiting the existing deal forced them to play at least one more hand, and though the button and the small blind folded to the big blind, the blinds were large enough so that the chip-count chop amounts would have been affected by a thousand or two, compared to what they would have shown had the deal-making software worked correctly on the earlier visit.

So, it's an open question: Did a software snafu screw one of these players out of thousand bucks?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Devil and the Dutch Dutch Blue

I was searching for stories in a slow news period late last week when I ran across the weirdness that unfolded at the Bellagio, centering on two young poker names, Brandi Hawbaker and Dutch Boyd. That something very bizarre had occurred was continuing to occur was evident from the outset. I read about the Brandi Hawbaker accusations against Captain Tom Franklin, and picked up hints that Dutch had been acting a tad bit stranger than normal.

I poked around and checked my sources; I ran across the first airings of some of the video clips available at sites such as Pokerwire and Pokulator. I discovered that John Caldwell, who I believe was present at the 'O' as a lot of this unfolded, was moved to do something he rarely does, making a post on the matter on his own blog. It is a very telling post, given that he made it early last Sunday before a lot of what is now known came to light. The more I know John the more I've come to respect the depth of what he knows about the poker world. I understood exactly what he was saying, and why, even though I wasn't quite sure I agreed 100%. That's okay, of course. My concerns, such as they were, followed those initial Hawbaker accusations. If they were true, then Franklin might have been guilty of a sexual assault or molestation or something along those lines, although God knows, these several days later, exactly how much of anything Missy Hawbaker says can really be believed on its face. Something may have happened there, but I reserve judgment, though Brandi comes back into this in a bit.

More disturbing was encountering the video presumably about Mike Matusow that Dutch Boyd barged into, muttering the already infamous "piss drinking" comment, followed closely by reports from other sources that Boyd had had himself quite the weekend --- peeing from the Fontana Room balcony, garnering several penalties from the tournament staff for erratic table behavior, making a most bizarre prediction/accusation about the aforementioned Franklin, grabbing a competitor's iPod from a live tourney table and making off with it... and that's just the top-of-the-head stuff. Shane Schleger (a.k.a. 'Shaniac') has now made a post about what even those of who weren't within a thousand miles of the Fontana Room could see as plain as day: Dutch Boyd was having another bi-polar episode.

That stuff hits home for me. I'm not bi-polar, but I'm a clinical depressive myself, something only perhaps two poker people knew about before I decided to post it here. So whatever. We take the post forward.

I'm not an expert on psychological disorders, despite suffering from two of them (and no, you don't get to know about the other). I am, however, probably more versed than the typical nerd on the street in the stuff, since I've also had some medical training, working as a NA/PCT and well on the educational path toward nursehood before I realized that, though I might be competent at this nurse-y thing, I just wasn't happy with it. I'm doomed to write. It's what I do. Writer's pay sucks, too, but it doesn't matter.

Back to Dutch. It's scary and sad to see him walking around saying things like "I'm crazy. Certifiably." True or not, it's not the being "crazy," as he puts it, that's the greater threat. The problem, and the really damning thing about Boyd, is that he's using his condition as a crutch to justify and rationalize his bizarre behaviors, and he can get away with a lot of shit, because he's the brilliant and famous poker-playin' Dutch Boyd. And behind that problem the real threat lies.

It works well, this getting away with shit on a small scale; think of it as a way of angle-shooting or gaining an edge on the world as large. "What, normal people don't do these things? But I'm crazy, therefore I can." The brain, though, is a tricky thing --- it's got a mind of its own, har-har. Take this from my personal experiences: manic and clinical depressive disorders are two different beasts, but they do share some similarities. Just when you think you're handling your condition well, your brain chemistry decides to throw you for a loop. When you're just a little bit out of kilter, you tend to not worry about it because, well, it's just not that serious. And all of a sudden it is serious, and you'd like to change it, correct it, get the damn train back on the tracks, and you cannot.

Welcome to an episode, gentle readers. When I have one of my type I can be immobilized for a day or three, and I do mean immobilized. Monday might become Thursday in a blurry haze where I simply couldn't remember the fact that life exists out there beyond my nose. Thank you, damaged limbic system and serotonin generators, for those days when I can barely recognize that the fact that the window pane is dark means that it's night outside, not that I care. I'll roll over and the pane'll be light, and then dark, and then it doesn't matter much any more....

It's abnormal behavior. But what it is on the inside is different than how it appears from the outside, and that holds for manic types like Dutch as well. When he's really deep in one of those episodes, he simply doesn't know how he's acting, or rather, on some level deep inside, the way he's acting makes its own sense. The slope is slippery, and the fact that Dutch is Dutch means that his window to recognize the steamroller's approach is scaringly small. Remember, this is Dutch Boyd --- he's both certifiably crazy and brilliant enough to take the cash off the world's best poker pros, or so he'll tell you in the same sentence.

Brandi Hawbaker? Not a depressive sort, as far as I can tell, all those bizarre 2+2 claims that she also must be manic/bi-polar notwithstanding. Her flavor of kookidom I'm not as familiar with, but it's possible there's a disassociative disorder there --- the self-cutting-with-glass thing is definitely something one can find in the ol' DSM. 'DSM' refers to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and I think Volume IV, or DSM-IV, is still the working version.

No matter who you are, you see, you're still a number.

Noting that there is something not quite right with Brandi, it hardly excuses the whole second part of her long 2+2 saga, meaning her crass using of recent WPT winner Mark Newhouse. (Newhouse, for his part, is likely to become a poster boy for socially-awkward poker millionaires taken for healthy hunks of their 'rolls. Mark may be a great kid, for all I know, but he sure got played here.) Maybe, like Brandi, one has to be warped to be a grifter. Mental disorders, however, are not license to do the things Hawbaker now seems shown to have done.

The same point holds true for Dutch. Dutch is a far greater danger to himself than Brandi is to herself, her reported suicidal theatrics notwithstanding. People that really want to kill themselves don't make a show of it, they just go ahead and do it. Worse, a deeply oscillating bi-polar type might not even be able to recognize a suicidal process as it begins to unfold. And for anyone tsk-tsk-ing me for bringing up the dreaded S-word, I say "Screw you." I live with that word and its meaning every day, and likely will for the rest of how many days I shuffle across the surface of this world.

I don't care much about Dutch, personally, but I'm also not quite so callous that I can't recognize a real problem when I see it. So, what does Dutch need? Two things: A trusted friend or family member with the guts to get him help when he needs it, and the maturity on his own part to recognize that as brilliant as he is, this manic stuff works in its own way. Shaniac implies that Part One is underway, but without Part Two, the cycle may be doomed to repeat. Brain chemistries and their interactions with psychotropic medications evolve over time; a drug that does the job in January might be causing damage by April. Been there, done that. Worse still are the complications caused by alcohol or recreational drug use, or under-medication due to financial restraint. I know about that second one, as well.

Such scary skeletons. Poker's no different than any other little world in serving up its sacrifices to the altar of mental illness. I noticed that Poker Shrink --- Hiya, Shrinky! --- mentioned two such in a comment to Shaniac's wonderful post, those being Stuey Ungar and Andy Glazer. Both were before my time in poker, obviously, though I do feel a connection to Glazer I'd rather not feel, not that I carry such lofty pretenses about my skills. Andy Glazer was a solid, solid poker writer and he is missed even by those that never knew him, including me.

Here be dragons, y'know. And I don't know what else to say, or even if I've said anything at all. Maybe, maybe, the fascination that I and some others have with trainwrecks like these is just one of those "There, but for the grace of God go I" tales....

Not too cheerful a read, for which I apologize. Welcome to our world. And happy holidays.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Call For Help --- Major Site Scraper on the Loose

Okay, I've uncovered a large site scraping operation that's stealing from all of us. I'm starting to chip away at this bastard --- I believe he's already lost two of his three affiliate contracts directly due to my efforts, and I had him knocked completely off the web for about 48 hours early this week. But he's working through a black-hat Montreal service provider, and his domains, as one would naturally expect, are secured behind the nasty wall provided by DomainsByProxy.

Now, for more details on this thief, and why you should care enough to help. If you're providing paid contact to a site or have a major poker blog of your own, then this guy is likely stealing from you. Near as I can figure, he's tapping everyone offering blog-style poker content through an RSS or XML feed, with special attention to paid news sites such as, wire feeds and the like, but hey, those are paying outlets for any of us writing about poker, too. Just among the personal blogs I've noticed hit, in a very quick check, are:

Texas Calculatum and Poker Office Blog
The Surly Poker Gnome
Special K's Place
Linda Geenen --- Poker Works (Table Tango)
Maigrey --- The Poker Princess
Performify's Poker Page

And that's just a quick glance at two of the more that 180 bogus blogs set up on this site. Any bets on whether your work is out here somewhere? Of course, the thief really goes to town on poker news sites, including,,, RGP, and dozens more.

Okay, now that I've got your interest, I'll tell you about the operation. I believe the thief to be Quebec-based, as he currently is receiving services through Montreal-based MTOTelecom. The IP address is, and there are at least six domains involved:

As you may well have guessed, the thief has set up affiliate deals with Party, Pacific and Everest, though I can confirm that not only are two of the three sites already investigating this matter, one has already confirmed terminating its affiliate relationship with this thief.

Our little scraper buddy has set up each of these interlocking sites in a way that makes it seem as though it's a work in progress, but his real goal is to siphon web hits and possible affiliate signups from their rightful owners, be they large sites or small.

Sure, I have no problem publishing the thief's affiliate codes; they are easy enough to see:

Pacific: 325419
Party: 2750517
Everest: U13Y4Y

By the way, if you think I'm exaggerating about the amount of traffic this guy is swiping, then feast your eyes on this:

His traffic totals are climbing steadily, huh? And that's just for one of the six domains; tgis is actually one of the smaller ones.

I am working on several avenues to not only bring this bastard down, but to expose his true identity so we know who it is and can mark him for future watch and/or litigation. But I need your help.

I need those of you who care to do some text-string searches on your recent work, and see if this guy has scraped your content as well. If he has, and if you're interested in helping, then please send me the following:

1) Your original content (URL);
2) The URL for where this mega-asshat has put up his stolen copy;
3) A screen-grab of the stolen content, including the URL at the top, just so he doesn't try to disappear some of this stuff.

You'll also need to know one more thing about this guy's setup. The six main pages as listed above don't really have much content, but it's by scrolling down to the bottom and checking the links numbered 1-30 that things get interesting. Each of the six domains has its own collection of 30 internal psuedo-blogs linked to in this way, and its within these faked blogs that the scraped content appears.

Please, if you have access to anyone that you recognize is being swiped, feel free to spread the word. There are several avenues we can use to tear down this monstrosity, and rest assured, I'm working my way into all of them. Others should do so as well, particularly those of you living in Canada or affiliated directly with a Canadian enterprise being damaged by this thief.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Please, Someone Tell Me That I am NOT Hallucinating

The main page of the Internet site for one of the three largest poker print magazines now shows a front-and-center banner ad for a product in gross violation of virtually every large online poker site's ToS.

That is all.

Monday, December 11, 2006

If Imitation is Sincere Flattery, Then What is Theft?

A recent post from Amy Calistri comes to mind today, in which she discussed a competitor site that had been rather freely rewriting several of her pieces.

I feel her pain.

Anyone who visits on a regular basis has probably noticed that editor John Caldwell uses me for two basic tasks. I'm in the rotation as one of the current news and events writers, and I've assumed a lot of the reporting duties for the biggest online events. Every Sunday night, for several months now, I've been monitoring the action at the Stars Sunday Million, the Full Tilt $250K $350K Guaranteed, Ultimate Bet's $200K Guaranteed, the Party Poker Once-Was-a-Million, and so on. I enjoy it, I'm getting better at it, and it's teaching me a whole lot about nuts-and-bolts tournament-action writing.

I'm also becoming skilled at juggling multiple computers and online poker clients to make sure I catch the majority of the action, because not all of the big sites have hand-history functions that work as advertised. Stars' hand history is the best, Full Tilt's is pretty good (although it only goes back 50 hands), and after that the other sites pretty much suck for third-party reference purposes. Ultimate Bet's history used to work fine but every since their last software upgrade, it does not track properly. And don't even get me started on the abominations at Party or Bodog.

I bring that stuff up just to illustrate that on Sunday nights, I'm doing my best imitation of real work. I think I've done a good job at coming up to speed on the whole mess, capturing the highlights of what's usually four separate tournaments for a single article that normally comes in between 1,500 and 1,800 words. It takes several hours, but by between 2 and 3 a.m. my time on Monday morning I've fired off the copy to John, who gives it a good once-over before it pops up on the site sometime between late morning and the middle of the afternoon on Monday.

And like clockwork, two or three hours later, shortened and badly rewritten versions of my tourney wraps pop up on a Danish site, Fucksticks, they are. Maybe even asswipes. Yes, definitely asswipes.

As Amy noted when she wrote about her own discovery of content swipery, the devil's in the details. There are always two or three distinctive details that I incorporate into every piece, and as sure as the sun rises over Gary, Indiana, those same few details invariably find their way into's ripped-off versions of my work. It bugs me, because I know that my employer ( is the one really getting ripped off here --- they're paying me for my efforts, and then a shit site like this comes along and steals the effort that goes into the work.

To the dickwads at Put the effort into it yourself. Go sweat those tables on your own. Learn the difference between rewriting a press release and rewriting someone else's original content. And until you do learn the difference, don't expect even the slightest bit of public respect. I've checked on you, dear Danish fucksticks: Your unrepetentant thievery goes back for years, doesn't it?

As for the rest of you, I'd appreciate if you didn't patronize any of the affiliate or bonus links at There's not a lot I can do about these people, but public scorn is certainly well deserved.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Site Review -- MansionPoker

MansionPoker is one of the more recent entries to the online-poker scene, a heavily financed site including some Chinese backing that's tried hard to make a big splash in what turned out to be some very turbulent times. Mansion has caught some terrible breaks along the way, though they've plugged along like good soldiers.

As for the site itself, Mansion is a smallish, stand-alone enterprise that runs on a software engine produced by Malta's Skill Games, Ltd. That software can be found at a couple of other sites, including TonyG Poker, but despite the software similarities, the two sites do not share their player bases.

Most start-ups struggle to climb out that first part of the curve, and Mansion was no exception, and at first there was little to be found on the site excepting a handful of micro-limits NL cash games and some small value-added tournaments and freerolls, including online qualifiers for the MansionPoker Poker Dome tv show, the first big promotional gimmick tried by the site. I'd read about the Poker Dome concept and thought it wonky, but the guys I write for over at Kick Ass Poker asked me if I'd take a look at the site, play a few tourneys, and maybe write a review. Little did I know where that would lead....

That said, in June and July of 2006 the site was absolutely wretched; continuing and repeated system crashes discouraged many of the earliest visitors from really investing a lot of time or money into the site. On one occasion, a customer-service rep assured me that the problems were due to the large system stresses caused by a series of freerolls they were running for a London Times promotion. Okay --- except for those freerolls maxed out at 600 players... or in other words, not much traffic at all. If the story was true, than someone massively screwed up the site's original network configuration and capabilities.

But they worked out the bugs, and these days Mansion runs smoothly, still runs lots of neat promotions, and shows all the signs of evolving into a quality nice site. Sign-up bonuses exist, and value-added tourneys are plentiful.

The competition's not so hot, either.

While the cash-game traffic still centers primarily on NL Hold'em ring games, the other stuff does show signs of coming around. There are also two distinctive things about playing at Mansion Poker. First, the software will feel just a bit sluggish as action cycles from one player to the next, as compared to other sites. It's been that way from the outset, and you'll have to adjust to it or fly elsewhere. It's not a big deal, but it might make a difference of, say, a couple or three hands per hour of play.

Second, and this more than makes up for the first, is that the tournament structure here is the flattest I've ever encountered in an online site. If you want to play tournaments with blind structures that allow for the making of moves and othe real poker plays, you will do no better than the tournaments at Mansion Poker or other Skill Games-software sites. After playing here, a typical Bodog tournament feels like a turbo, and turbo tournaments feel like the crapshoots they really are.

There have been some banking issues with Mansion in the earliest part of their existence. One of the largest concerns had to do with the fact that Mansion will allow you to deposit at will, but requires a photo i.d. to be placed on file with them in order to withdraw. It's had a small dampening effect on Mansion's growth curve, as that extra step requires a bit of blind faith that some online players have been loath to offer. Still, I haven't seen any evidence that Mansion has made any untoward use of such information; it is just part of the security process that Mansion has chosen to put into place.

Customer service? Middling to good --- once they fixed the early network problems, I haven't had the need to contact them about anything. (Which is sorta how I like it.) The variety of poker games here is below average, but Mansion doesn't have the traffic yet to really justify the full gamut of games.

No glaring weaknesses; just a site in need of more traffic. To their credit, though, they're in there swinging with new ideas and promotions all the time. Rating: 3.5 (out of 5 max).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tracking the Big Sunday Online Events

Time for another update of attendance numbers for the four largest weekly online tournaments, not counting the new second-chance and warmup tourneys at Stars. It's offered here with no particular comment:

Poker Stars:

8/27: 2,425 --- monthly $530 buy-in version
9/03: 5,699
9/10: 5,375
9/17: WCOOP hiatus
9/24: WCOOP hiatus
10/01: WCOOP hiatus
10/08: 5,501
10/15: 6,157 (new weekly-event record prize pool)
10/22: 6,413 (new weekly-event record prize pool)
10/29: 2,785 (new record prize pool; monthly $530 buy-in version)
11/05: 6,606 (new attendance record)
11/12: 6,740 (new attendance record)
11/19: 6,733
11/26: 2,794 (new record prize pool; monthly $530 buy-in version)
12/03: 6,687

Full Tilt

8/27: 1,387
9/03: 1,191
9/10: 1,217
10/08: 1,336
10/15: 1,127 --- monthly $530 buy-in version
10/22: 1,726
10/29: 1,780
11/05: 2,006 (event upped from $250K to $350 beginning here):
11/12: 3,010 (FTOPS #2 --- $216 buy-in)
11/19: 2,449 (FTOPS #9 --- $535 main event; Full Tilt prize-pool record)
11/26: 2,279 (new record prize pool for non-FTOPS weekly event)
12/03: 2,187

Ultimate Bet:

8/27: 1,047
9/03: 937
9/10: 893
10/08: 876
10/15: 896
10/22: 863
10/29: 966
11/05: 992
11/12: 946
11/19: 910
11/26: 963
12/03: 1,341 (UBOC #3 -- $250K Guarantee)

Party Poker:

8/27: 5,523
9/03: 5,084
9/10: 4,885
10/08: 4,591
10/15: $1 Million Guarantee cancelled, $200,000 Guarantee announced (start 10/22)
10/22: approx. 900
10/29: 935
11/05: 926
11/12: 942
11/19: 938
11/26: 1,047
12/03: 1,027

Monday, December 04, 2006

"May You Live in Interesting Times"

The old Chinese curse is much on my my mind in recent weeks.  On one hand, it's a great time to be writing about poker, because there are stories everywhere.  On the other, it's a bad time to be writing about poker and expecting to be paid for it, as recent examples have shown.

First, Pauly broke the news last week about the layoffs occurring at Card Player and the World Poker Tour.  Now, Lou Krieger has announced that his endorsement deal with the Royal Vegas Poker site will expire as of the end of the year.  I don't like to see people taking employment hits under any circumstances, but I dislike it more when the people involved are my friends.

Dan Michalski served up a thoughtful post a couple of days ago at PokerBlog on the topic, this fallout from the signing of the UIGEA, even as PokerBlog itself is also affected.  Pokerblog was created through Party Poker funding and their writers were a presence at last year's WSOP, and even though I'm at best neutral to Party itself, I liked the PokerBlog concept enough to all but give them the ad space at upper left.  It's a paid ad, but at a pittance, and it is the only ad I've accepted to date; I've turned down several other offers, because I didn't think that the products being pitched were a good philosophical fit to whatever the hell this blog is supposed to be about.  Still, Pokerblog itself is undergoing severe cutbacks, and while I don't think they've made public exactly who caught the axe, it's still pretty much public knowledge.  And no, I've never been a part of Pokerblog, even though I've cross-posted a couple of pieces there.

The ripple effect that the UIGEA's signing has brought was easy enough to foresee, and it's one of the reasons that I posted about the Gang of Goodlatte months back. nbsp;I've worked in a couple of cyclical, niche markets before, and I know only too well that sales and advertising dollars are the fuel driving the engine.  Card Player, like so many of the print magazines, still generates a significant portion of its ad revenue from spreads and full-page layouts pushing the online sites.  That business model took a wee hit.  Affiliate-model programs and those poker businesses with revenue streams supplemented by other sources stand to do better, but it's a crappy, questionable time.

For me, I don't know.  I feel endangered.  My two main sources of income are my Kick Ass Poker and gigs, and both of those could disappear the next time I open my e-mail, despite the fact that my bosses seem to like my work and pat me on the head often enough that I know they're sincere.  Yes, I'd love to pick up two or more new paid gigs, but writing is one of those things that a lot of people can do --- it's almost always a buyer's market.  Now, consider the quality of the writers who've taken hits.  If it can happen to Pauly and Lou and dozens of others, it can happen to anyone.  And in the face of such competition, my chances of increasing my regular outlets are, for the near future, slim.

Lou's among the dispossessed poker names I expect to see pop up in a new location somewhere soon, as he deserves to.  His own blog, he says, will keep going, but let's face it --- he's got time on his hands and an established poker audience for whom to write.  He'll be around.  Nonetheless, banging against such heavyweights and writing talents doesn't bode well for any fledging poker writer seeking to eke out a living at the edge of the market.  Such trickle-down effects reshape the whole of the market, not just certain pieces.

I know that I've been peddling a big story very hard and have received exactly zero nibbles, in part because the outlets that one could hope to sell such a piece to have been significantly reduced.  My KAP bosses likely would allow me to run it there, but the piece messes with some legal matters, and I've advised them against running it, if that makes sense.  Even though the risk is very small, because my work is very well documented, I couldn't put their fledging business in a spot where even the thin chance of a punitive lawsuit existed.

As for me, I'm broke and judgment-proof anyway.  I'll write what I wish.

I haven't quite given up hope, but if I don't receive some positive interest in a few days I'll have to bite the bullet and publish myself, for no pay.  It'll still be good for my readership, but it will be lousy for my hourly rate.  I have something like 180 hours of research and writing invested in the stupid thing, but it was never intended to be a money-maker; I've simply written this piece because the story needs telling.  Had I been able to sell it on the quick, I likely could have made the run to Vegas for all the poker-blogger fun.  That won't happen this time, now, but I'm a fatalist --- things occur for a reason.

I don't know what the next few months will bring.  I know I'd like to return to the WSOP next summer, since it has the same allure for a writer as it does for a player.  It's hard work, but I will always want to be there.  I originally thought that 2007 was going to be the year that I made my first appearance there, in writer's garb, based on the rate that I was accumulating paid credits in the biz; that I made it to the 2006 edition was simply a commingling of lucky breaks.

Onward, then.  Reading this, and in need of a poker writer?  Have modest skillz, will hack....

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Harrah's PR Asks Poker Writers for Input on the WSOP

There are mailing lists, and then there are mailing lists. Quite a few (if not all) of the folks who hung around the media room at the WSOP last summer --- preventing Dr. Pauly from having to eat too many stale sandwiches, among other deeds --- have now received a request for input on their media experiences at last year's WSOP.

It was basically top-level stuff, an exercise in politeness if nothing else, or perhaps an effort to see if the items that a few writers made loud noise about are indeed of universal concern to those who attended.

I mean, writers don't always tell you about the good stuff, like how easy the access was most of the time (more on this in a bit), and how open and helpful the Rio's support staff was, from the tournament directiors right down to the security guards. It was my first big poker event, but I've done plenty of other shindigs, and while there were a few big problems, as always, most of the stuff was done well. The wireless access worked as promised. The main media room was secure. The basic needs were close by, and there was always, at the very least, coffee, soda and water available. Good enough. I can work with this.

Yes, the access for red-badged types sucked when the field narrowed, something that Harrah's is well aware of. Earl Burton commented that it was like being allowed to cover the first three quarters of a football game, but not being able to stay for the end... an apt metaphor, at that. Harrah's will always have to do a juggling act as long as they ink 'priority' coverage deals with preferred media such as ESPN and Card Player. But that's nothing I can change. It remains a privately-owned event and it is sold as one, and questionable media tactics or not, it is what it is. I don't expect anything but a corporate shuck from Harrah's in a situation like that, so I wasn't disappointed.

Little stuff. The media room was well-stocked and functional, but way, way too small. It was a third too cramped a week before the WSOP even started, and while Harrah's did open an auxiliary media room, the wireless 'Net access was spotty there. It was also mukluk country, often somewhere below 60 degrees, and worst of all, it was in the main corridor with a security guard only rarely on duty outside, and few or no writers within. At least one camera was stolen during the WSOP, and I had no desire to add my newly-purchased laptop to the list: On several occasions during the main event, I lugged the new laptop down to the main media room, leaving it somewhere behind C.C.'s set-up as I went out on the floor to hunt for stories. I'd find something, go back to media central to fetch my laptop, then lug it back to the other room a couple of hundred yards away to do my work.

It was necessary. After the main event started, if one didn't show up at 7 a.m. to grab one of the few "floater" spots in the main media room, then the only options were the auxiliary room or a seat in the main hallway, resorted to by dozens of writers. That wasn't so great, even for newbies such as me.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Razz Variances, Ecch

Once or week or so I'm overcome by the poker version of full-moon fever, and as if by wishes of the puppetmaster above, I find myself again sitting down to a few hands of razz. Now, I'm no great shakes at the game, but I grew up playing stud games and I'm a helluva better at razz than at Omaha, a game at which I well and truly suck.

Anyhow, playing razz, especially down at the $2/4 level where you'll see stuff as what's to follow, involves huge, huge swings for a limit game. The first couple of nights I played after the influx of players post-UIGEA signing, I could not lose; the last few weeks I haven't been able to win, bricking out time and again in situations where I've had way the best of it before 6th and 7th street decided my fate.

But that's poker, of course.

Still, it's tough not to shake one's head when confronted with players such as what you'll see in this screen grab:

I'm at the bottom, having just served up another mandatory opening bet, then bowing out of the way. I'd already identified the three players to my right as people I wanted to play razz against, including one ultra calling station and two over-loose types who wanted to mix it up with door cards up to and including kings.

Take a close look at the holdings of the player at upper right, in this hand-history capture. Even assuming that he had the best possible of the two of his three hole cards --- Full Tilt randomizes these before exposing them at hand's end --- it means that after four cards the player held A-3-6-6, and after five cards the butt-ugly A-3-6-6-6. Two other players were in the hand, at least one bet was made at every stop, and he kept calling bets with trips on the board. And, oh, yes, he went runner-runner suckout to overtake both opponents and win the hand.

Ecch, indeed. I tried hard, I really did, but finally shook my head and moved on after dropping about five big bets in an hour and a half. Off to, where I sat down in a cheesy 2/4 short-handed game (actually the second-highest limit game running at the time on the site). That excursion was just as funny --- the player to my left would cold-call --- even for three bets --- with any two from the button or cutoff. He nailed me for a big pot early on, but I'll take that sort of player at the table any time, on my left, across the way, hanging from the chandelier or whatever. I clipped him back a few times and by the time he left, I was up about 15 big bets, most at his expense.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Jesus Kee-rist, He's Rising Again

Well, the news is out now. Hooray.

I think it's safe to say that a lot of people will be working on their links and blogrolls in the very near future. Someone once asked me exactly what it was that Iggy did well, why people valued him so highly, and through a weisse beer-induced thick tongue and my shitty cel phone connection, I came up with words something like, "the poker world's best shit sensor, that thing which points north." Cosmic, that last.

"You mean 'bullshit detector'?"

Uhhh, yes. Thanks, beer.

That's what it is, you know, why the l'il guy is so cherished. There are writers out here in the poker blogosphere who are arguably more talented. Pauly's skills are widely praised, and there are few who can paint a rich tapestry in the way that he can. Otis and Joe Speaker, by comparison, are at their best when they snag a piece of the human condition. And while Pauly shamed most everyone at the WSOP with his prodigious output under some trying conditions, the very best vignettes I saw from that venue came from Pauly's erstwhile, occasional companion, Change100. Nor was it unusual for her, as we all know.

The-artist-formerly-known-as-Bobby-Bracelet has that rare ability to both irritate me to hell and make me howl with glee (often in the same paragraph), and one of the new voices on the block, Iakaris, offers up stunningly silken passages that speak of the man's intelligence and thoughtful concern. And don't think that others don't shine, too. Slimeface over at Poker4Peace is an underappreciated read, and that man who first befriended me within the poker-writing scene, Lou Krieger, far more careful in his choice of words than I, is one whose writing talents go underappreciated. Lou doesn't go for fancy, part of why he's overlooked, but what he does he does very well.

Lots of others, too. Forgive me for not mentioning them all here.

And then there's Ignatious. Best writer in the poker world? No. But he writes quite passably well. Nor does he serve up pretentious self-indulgences, the way so many of the rest of us do. Iggy's real value to us is his ability to take everything in, process it, and spew it back to us with so much of the garbage stripped away, and his ability to do so within a conversationally neutral framework is what makes his stuff such an easy an entertaining read.

Were that I could be Iggy. My own bullshit detector is highly tuned as well, but I lack a complete grasp of the neutrality, the impartiality, though dammit, I really do try. Unfortunately for me, when I go off on someone or something I tend to do a mighty fine job of it. My bullshit detector works a bit differently --- when something nags at me, when something refuses to make sense, I'm like a cat picking at that loose bit of carpet fiber almost hidden in the corner, or the curious mechanic staring at the grandfather clock, itching to find out how the thing manages to work.

But anyhow, Iggy's announcement is good news for all of us, most especially Iggy himself. Now he gets to do what he's good at without the demands inherent within a solo site, and we're all the richer for his decision.

Salud, short one.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Igg on My Face

Oh, not like that. Pervs.

It's always a rare pleasure to get a e-mail from the Iggster, who may, truth be known, might share one belief with both me and Mr. Ed: He doesn't speak unless he has something to say.

Of course I've been reading the same things as everyone else, and it brings a personal reflection. While I take things such as this blog quite seriously as I write, it's still a bit of a stunner to realize just how profundly someone else's blog --- meaning Iggy's --- has affected a large number of people. Al's tribute was phenomenal, Otis's thoughts deep and articulate, Pokerati Dan's tribute uber really well done, April's thoughts sweet, and for God's sake, that video (go to Otis's or Dan's site for the link)... who'da thunk that someone would immortalize a poker blogger in song?

Geez. I mean really... geez.

But I did receive a note recently from the famed one, who, truth be told, I've never met. He wanted to check on something I'd written and verify that I'd said it. Yes, I did. Wish I hadn't, or rather, I wish I'd articulated my thoughts in a slightly different way. I don't know what it is that Iggy's writing, or if he's writing anything at all, and besides, it's his stuff --- I won't share specifics. He says there's just a little bit more coming up over at G&P. Whatever it is, it's good to see that there's still a bit of twitch in the corpse. We can all hope, for there are few blogs I'd miss as much as Guinness and Poker.

And thanks, Iggy, for the encouragement, then and now.

> < > < > < > < > < > < > < > < > <

What else? Rumors that I'm working on a major piece are quite true, but the story grows bigger and bigger, and as a result, it keeps getting pushed back and back and back. It's days away from being ready for public view, and God forbid, maybe even weeks. I've shown snippets to a couple of trustworthy people, but additional research has shown to me that a lot of what I originally thought in this matter was wrong. And I can't, in this one, engage in any sort of internecine pissiness; I need to get it right, or at least as much of it as right as I can.

Changing gears. Since there's a lot of video links floating around lately, I thought I'd share this one. Not only is it among the most cogent worldviews I've ever seen, but the true acolyte can sing along, too! Click away, kiddies, and enjoy:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Chugging Away on the Blogroll...

Time for one of those periodic updates. Phase I (the stripping out of all the old, dead links) is now complete; it takes the list of older blogs that are still active down to about 300. Phase 2 (adding in the newer ones) will go on on an as-I-get-around-to-it basis. If you think you should be in there, drop a comment or send an e-mail.

From the Mailbox --- The WSOP and Richard Lee's SeKrit Accidental Bonus?!??

Psss-s-s-s-t... this is not the big story I'm working on, but rather, a little bon mot to let you know that my keyboard is indeed in working order.

I'm not going to name the reporter, but I was contacted on behalf of a San Antonio newspaper a week or so ago. The nature of the reporter's question was this:

"I read with interest your blog regading the chip scandal. I was wondering... have you heard any theories about the discrepancy that might involve Mr. (Richard) Lee? He earned $2,803,851 - close to the value of the extra chips, it seems."

So, anyhow, I explained to the nice man that there was no immediate connection between the two, despite the similarity --- one of the numbers had to do with tournament chips, while the other concerned prize-pool winnings. I'm quite sure he was disappointed that he had not uncovered a new scandal angle to report, but them's the breaks.

What I did point out, in a longer part of my response, was that Lee could have received a small portion of the $2+ million overage, but due to the way the color-up process works, it's unlikely that he was affected directly. That said, there's absolutely no doubt that the entire finish of the tourney was irreparable skewed by the presence of those chips, in a "butterfly effect" type of way, and I know that I, myself, have been waiting and waiting and waiting for Harrah's to issue their own report on who were the likeliest recipients of the extra chips. If nothing else, it's so we don't have to deal with questions from mainstream reporters as with the above.

There's a truism of human behavior at work here: The longer that incomplete explanations and unanswered questions are left to hang, the wilder the suppositions that will be created to fill that void. I tried to demonstrate this some months back myself... with admittedly mixed success.

In the midst of a live tournament, it's an uncorrectable error; what was done was done. But we still need to know, else the rumors will grow, warp and spread. I'm neither encouraging this or stamping it out; I merely note that, as human creatures, it's simply the way we are.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Matusow D'Flambe

Last night's big online tourneys were so distinctive that they were worth not one extra post, but two. Over at the KAP Blog I mentioned that Mike Matusow pulled off one of his classic blow-ups at the final table of the Full Tilt $350,000 Guarantee, and I detailed a little technical oversight that put a crimp into what could have been a riotous finish to the Stars Sunday Million. Since I have lots of stuff to share this week, I thought I'd bring the approximate details of Matusow's flameout over here.

Judge for yourself. Here's how one goes from nearly a 2:1 chip margin over second place to the rail, in the space of three hands.

Hand 1: Eight players remain, Matusow's leading with a little over $1.4 million, and a player named '1stueyungar1' takes a pre-flop stab at the pot with pocket fours; 1stueyungar1 started the hand with just over $700,000 and bet about a quarter of that at the pot. It's folded all the way around to Matusow, who I believe was the big blind (I can't say it with 100% certainty because I was sweating multiple tables and a punk named Cory Carroll ['UGOTPZD'] was being a jackass at the final table at the Stars Sunday Million --- it took a bit of my attention).

Anyhow, Matusow makes this all-in re-steal push, which meant that 1stueyungar1 was getting only something like 1.6:1 on the call. That's not bad in a limit game, but at the final table, with 1stueyungar1 still with about $500,000 if he tosses the hand? With pocket fours, the best 1stueyungar1 can hope for is a toss-up, but he makes the call. Matusow turns out to have been on a steal with 9-7, but it turns out he still has two live overs! The overs don't connect, though --- 1stueyungar1's fours hold up, he's the one up over $1.4 million, and Matusow's down to just over $700,000.

The chat's going just berserk about 1stueyungar1's call, and I think I saw the steam coming out of the ears of Matusow's avatar. Because....

Hand 2: Matusow's in the small blind, and 'MrTimCaum,' who's been on a tournament heater in recent weeks, is in the big. Matusow has a little over $700,000, MrTimCaum a little over $550,000. It's folded all the way around to Matusow, who pauses a moment before completing (I believe to $40,000). MrTimCaun pops it to $120,000 or $160,000, I disremember. Matusow pauses again, then pushes. MrTimCaum calls and turns up K-Q, and Matusow? He's got 8-7. The flop comes A-K-J and this hand is over. Matusow's down to chump change.

I mean seriously, a limp/re-raise from the small blind means only of two things: you have a monster, or you're trying to represent one. So would you bet on Matusow having a monster there? I wouldn't either, and nor did MrTimCaum. Aye, yes, some chat nuggets:

Mike Matusow (Observer): hey u deserve it u put
your tour onlin ewith k high

Mike Matusow (Observer): so deserve it

Mike Matusow (Observer): u prayed i wad zero

Mike Matusow (Observer): and yoru prayer was answered

MrTimCaum: i'll give you a hug next time i see you in town (this was in response to Matusow)

Hand 3: Matusow's on the button, and one of the middle-position players slowplays pocket aces, guessing that Matusow's likely to push just about anything. Indeed he does, showing Q-J, which goes nowhere against the other player's aces. Bye-bye, Mikey. Hold on, let me grab the fire extinguisher.

As for 1stueyungar1, he made three big calls at this table which were (at best) debatable, and all three worked out. Needless to say, he ended up taking the thing down a half hour or so later.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Wicked Chops Poker Forgets to Mention Something Newsworthy...

Let it be known, one and all, that the "entities that comprise Wicked Chops Poker" are among my favorite reads in all of Pokerdom. They're irreverent, they're damned funny, and they'll do the digging into stories that most other poker sites and writers just aren't good enough to uncover. That said, Wicked Chops Poker has one consistent, glaring flaw --- they tend to forget to mention when they're a compromised party.

Case in point, and I mean Big Fucking Case In Point... Bodog. Now, WCP has been all assy-kissy towards Bodog for some time, which is fine in and of itself --- Bodog throws a lot of money around, and there's absolutely no reason why a saucy, attitude-heavy site like WCP wouldn't be a logical fit to Bodog's needs. I figured out many months back, well before last year's WSOP, that there was at least an informal relationship between WCP and Bodog, and it became way obvious during the WSOP when WCP's Bodog pimpage climbed to new heights. No biggee; despite my own run-ins with Bodog, what's cool is cool.

However, it was only today that I stumbled across a rather more structured tidbit that appeared on the All In Magazine site... and pretty much nowhere else except a few of those obscure Net-spidering pages that pirate other people's content. Dating from October 26, the piece is so brief that I'll repost it here in its entirety:

Bodog Names Wicked As Publicity Partner
Author: Lena Katz

Bodog named Atlanta-based Wicked PR as their full-time poker PR partner, following on the success of Wicked's non-stop Team Bodog promotion at the World Series of Poker. The poker-loving publicists were an ubiquitous presence at the WSOP, where they gave just as much love to their unknown online qualifiers as to the Bodog pros (David Williams, Josh Arieh, Evelyn Ng and a meek up-and-comer by the name of Jamie Gold).

Wicked [PR] kicked off its campaign with a press release on October 24th, where they announced the 11 players that are repping Team Bodog at the North American Poker Championship, held in Niagara this week.

For more information, visit:

So I visited, and I checked into the press archives --- and there was no mention whatsoever of Wicked PR's now-formal involvement, which was intriguing; usually, the signing on of a new firm dealing with press and media relations itself means the issuance of a press release. The October 24th press release mentioned above was there, of course, lending proof to what I already knew was true. Nor was there any mention of the formalizing of the Bodog/Wicked Chops agreement anywhere on the WCP site, which is even more intriguing, given that WCP has never had a problem with blatant self-promotion, something we've shared a chuckle or two about on previous occasions.

I hate having to call out good peoples, but I must do so here. Even good peoples need to know where the line is drawn between huckstering and journalism, and in this instance WCP is willfully blurring the line. If you need proof, check out this recent post, pimping one of the latest Bodog girls:

Nowhere is there a mention that the "entities that comprise Wicked Chops Poker" now have a vested interest in seeing that Bodog gets plenty of pimpage. Given that there's a financial relationship between the two, posts such as the above need a disclaimer to the effect that Wicked Chops' irreverent butt currently receives a Calvin-funded financial lubing. It's called journalistic ethics, and the fact that it's a website and not in print changes this not one iota.

I’m not going to bother posting the internet information that confirms that Wicked PR, Wicked Group, and Wicked Chops Poker are all one and the same. Brian registered the site, should you really need to know. (Brian, Colin and Steve are the three who write as “Chops,” “Snake” and “Addict,” specifically not in that exact order, because I choose to respect at least a little bit of their nom de plumage.)

One of the three WCP guys --- I won’t tell you which one --- and I have had an e-mail discussion where we talked to the exact same point that this point addresses. The response from that person was that “we don’t take ourselves that seriously”... and by extension, neither should I.

Sadly, it’s time to call “bullshit” on Wicked Chops Poker. If one is writing for one’s self, writing for free, then their argument applies. But when one mixes news with blatant, paid-for pimpage and one can’t be bothered to distinguish between the two, it’s time to take some names. Giving them a free ride on this would cheapen what I do when I write about poker, as it cheapens the efforts of every writer who still believes in that journalistic-integrity thing I mentioned above.

I highly respect the talent of the Wicked Chops guys. But on this stuff, they need to grow the fuck up.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Live Tourney for a Change of Pace

Wednesday I decided to take a crack at the $150 buy-in no-limit freezeout tourney at Hollywood Casino in Aurora, Illinois. Call it a whim. There aren't a lot of live rooms near me, and this is the only one within a couple of hours that spreads small tourneys on a regular basis. It was fun, too, though not something I plan on doing on a regular basis.

Well, I get an "E" for effort if nothing else.The reason? Too extreme of a structure, not enough play. Despite the fact that the blinds started at 25/50 and each player received 2,500 in chips at the start, each level was only 20 minutes long, and the levels doubled for the first several stages, like so:

Level 1: 25 / 50
Level 2: 50 / 100
Level 3: 100 / 200
Level 4: 200 / 400
Level 5: 400 / 800
Level 6: 500 / 1,000
Level 7: 600 / 1,200

The rapidly increasing structure promotes increased seat shuffling, too; I'd guess we played maybe 13 or 14 hands per level, when all was said and done. Oh, and there's one other negative factor: This is limited to 80 players only, and you have to show up to register by 10:30 a.m. to have a chance just to be drawn for a seat, and if you are fortunate enough to be drawn, then you get to sit around for another two and a half hours, or play one of the games available in the smaller cash-game room --- limit Hold'em at 5/10 or 10/20.

So, yeah. It was nice to do once, but I can live quite well without making that an every Wednesday thing. And as for how I fared, I hung around for a while but didn't cash, going out in 22nd or 23rd when the top ten paid.

Now for the anecdotes and insights.

The first table I sat at featured a middle-aged man on my immediate left who was clearly a tight, steady player; he confided that he'd won this thing four times prior. He also shared with me his insights on the online game: he had proof that it was totally rigged, that action flops were intentionally programmed into every site to generate more rake.

Like I haven't heard that one before. So I gave him a polite smile and nodded and agreed; there are arguments just not worth the bother to start. Then again, said solid-'n'-steady player then pretty much pigeonholed his game for me when he commented a few hands about what a terrible play another player, a more aggressive type, had made, when this other player sucked out a flush to overtake a pocket overpair. On that hand, the aggressive player made a call with K-6 of hearts, and I believe the other player had made an undersized raise from UTG with pocket tens.

The flop on that one came 4h-6d-7h, and the aggressive player bet 300 at the pot, leaving him with something like 700 chips behind. The player with the overpair pushed all in, and the aggressive player with middle pair and the second-nut flush draw made the call.

When the flush hit on the river, the guy to my left derided the play, citing the "the flush hits one time in three" mantra. Yeah, but the guy had a pair as well, he'd already made a play at the pot, and he was staring at the same silly blinds structure. I'd say the aggressive player's all-in call was at worst a breakeven play, all things considered. Not, of course, that I necessarily would have made it myself. But it wasn't as dog-assed stupid as the steady sort would have had me believe.

As for me, I soon discovered that my raises had auto-respect; I took down two early pots pre-flop with no action, despite having not much to start with... the old "women don't bluff" thing, reinforced by the fact that I was one of only two among the 80 in the event. Cool. I can make that work later, I thought.

Our table was the first to be busted, though, and I took what was essentially my starting stack over to a table at the front of the action. No cards and no action at the new table, either, although I did have to give up one pot I made a play at tin the face of an all-in re-raise. Finally, almost an hour into it, with the blinds at 100/200 and the first break looming, I looked down at A-6 of hearts in the big blind. I was at 2,800 or thereabouts. It was folded around to the small blind, who completed, so I popped it to 600. He called again, and the flop came 5-6-7 with two more hearts. The guy, one of the more aggressive players at this new table, it seemed leads out for 1,000 at me, making the pot 2,200. He has another 700 or so. I have 2,150 left, so I have him covered slightly, and I have the nut-flush draw and middle pair.

I push, he calls, and he shows K-2 of hearts. The jack heart turns and I'm gold. I'm up to about 5,000, and make it 5,500 at the first break.

I sneak it up over 6,000, but I take a bit when I toss pocket tens to an all-in push, when I believe he has A-K and paired a king on the flop. (It might have been a bad read on my part, and was the one play I question myself on.) After that I'm around 4,000, and as Level 4 becomes Level 5 the table degenerates into an obscene push-fest, just as I expected it would. A young kid to my left lays a mild beat on me to send me down to 2,000, and I return the favor only a couple of hands later when my all-in Q-J reels in his A-K, funny only because our back-to-back pushes got this weak/tight player across the way to toss pocket queens, a move this third player would repeat less than a lap later when he failed to call a heads-up pot that gave him 3:1 odds, holding pocket fours.

And that's what was funny about this. Despite the $150 buy-in, which is high for my bankroll, there was a whole lot of really stupid play going on. Most of it was of the weak/tight variety, and one middle-aged guy across from me was sitting on a big stack that I eyed as a target, after the third straight time he limped in from early position with what turned out to be marginal holdings. This player absolutely refused to raise pre-flop, though he always called any moderate raise that followed, and if he hadn't been the veritable card rack on Wednesday he would've been toast.

As for me, I was down to 2,900 or so in the small blind when it was folded all the way around me. I looked at the kid to my left, said "I ought to take a look at these before I push at you," and peeked under to find 4-2. "These'll do," I said, and pushed.

He hemmed and hawed, and finally folded. And yes, I showed the cards for the chuckle. But even though I pulled off as many steals as I could, I just couldn't catch the big hand to threaten the money. I was still at 3,900 as the blinds swung around, and under the gun I found A-K, the second best hand I saw all day. I pushed, the kid to my left moved over the top, and a third player chewed on it before folding. My A-K was all but dead to the kid's aces, and I was out. But out in a respectable way, and uncowed by the competition. And when my personal finances grow, I'll be back, there or somewhere else.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Some Recent Attendance Numbers at the Top Online Tourneys

Bill Rini has a post up about the decline of paticipation numbers at some of the biggest online sites, along with a link-up to Lou Krieger, who quickly noticed that about 3,000 online players (as measured by Poker Site Scout) seemed to disappear overnight, after the UIGEA was signed into law.

Bill brought up the topic of how big the online tourneys have been in the weeks subsequent to the UIGEA's signing, and since I have some of that data, well, here 'tis. I'v been doing the weekly writeups on the Sunday tourneys for for several weeks now, minus some weeks when I was covering the WCOOP at Poker Stars, where I needed to focus on just that, and didn't track the other tourneys.

Well, anyhow, I've got the attendance number for the big sites excepting the one from a week back on Party, when they dropped the guarantee from $1 milion to $200,000 immediately after the UIGEA was signed. So, without further ado:

Poker Stars:

8/27: 2,425 --- this one had a $530 buy-in, up from the standard $215
9/03: 5,699
9/10: 5,375
9/17: WCOOP hiatus
9/24: WCOOP hiatus
10/01: WCOOP hiatus
10/08: 5,501
10/15: 6,157 (new weekly-event record prize pool)
10/22: 6,413 (new weekly-event record prize pool)
10/29: 2,785 (new weekly-event record prize pool) --- this one had a $530 buy-in, up from the standard $215

Full Tilt:

8/27: 1,387
9/03: 1,191
9/10: 1,217
10/08: 1,336
10/15: 1,127 --- this was a $530 buy-in monthly event; the others are $215 entries
10/22: 1,726
10/29: 1,780

Ultimate Bet:

8/27: 1,047
9/03: 937
9/10: 893
10/08: 876
10/15: 896
10/22: 863
10/29: 966

Party Poker:

8/27: 5,523
9/03: 5,084
9/10: 4,885
10/08: 4,591
10/15: $1 Million Guarantee event cancelled
10/22: approx. 900
10/29: 935

Alright, some addtional comments. UB hasn't made its guarantee since 8/27, minus the three weeks when I was off WCOOP-ing and don't have data for; I suspect they didn't make it in those weeks either. Stars and Full Tilt both change things up once a month, so those numbers are more applicable when one computes the total prize pool, and not the number of entrants. And finally, while Full Tilt's and Stars' jumps do correlate nicely with the cash-game increase as seen on Poker Site Scout, note that there is one other factor --- a lot of the big-time online players play x-number of online events on a given Sunday; for tose that play two, they've now largely moved to Full Tilt as their second event. That's related to the other, but is still an independent factor.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

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

You know, I am fond of the folks at, 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!

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

. . . .

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 is the current version of the software, and you can download it for free at 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 --- 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, 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,'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.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


With a brief respite from five a.m.-induced bad math of my own and a need to post something, let's go with this: I'm on the hunt for a new poker-themed spammer, who's been pumping and pimping for a piece of shit called Poker Bot Max. I think I know the responsible party, but I'm still digging at this one. All I'll say for a start is that I've managed to get the home page --- --- yanked down. It'll come back up elsewhere in the near future, but that'll give me another target.

This ass hit one of my e-mail accounts dozens of time in a spam-attack wave, rendering it temporarily useless, so now I'm playing whack-a-mole. I'll have much more on him in the future, but if you have additional information to offer, feel free to send it to me.

As a way-funny aside, have you seen the new site put up by Ray Bornert II, of Winholdem bot infamy? Our Oral Roberts-trained bad-bot maker now has a site called --- which has no explanatory info, just a huge "Download" link on its main page, like a big bottle of poison that reads "Drink Me." Ray, Ray, Ray.

Idle games for a Thursday, and a bad, bad mood. Life tilt. I go now.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Awright, I'm in

Get Flash

I play poker at

Smaller, underrated, but growing site. Good software, even if their banner never seems to work on the first try. (Next time, Shane, will ya send me all of the code? That's what you get for censoring my very clever aside about fixing those barking tickets --- and for the rest of you, you'll just have to wonder.)

And as for everyone else, if you're interested in the Blogger Poker Tour but don't have an account... well.. wait, what's that? Is that a click-through affiliate banner offering a generous sign-up bonus, over there on the left? Why, how did that get there?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hellus Frozeus Overus

Back to defend at Wil's weekly WWdN tourney, and this does not capture the final table standings:

We actually chopped it three ways, for $142 each, in my case just because I wanted to chop a WWdN, and watch Wil open up his "subspace channel" to Stars support. That'll probably mess up Joanne's report, though it was good to see her cash, and my God, was that a fearsome final two tables of blogger types to have to face. Special props go to Iakaris, who I view as one of the very best new blogger-players in these tourneys and cashes in these things at about twice the frequency I do (and who writes too damned uncomfortably well, too), and poor Biggestron, who ran afoul of my ridiculous card rush at the bubble, not once but twice, to bubble. Sorry, sir.

In unrelated matters, yes, I know my links area is due for an update, and one is in the works. Right now my WCOOP-snoop duties have me up until between 3 and 6 a.m. for the next two weeks, so the schedule's a bit out of sync. I have a couple of new poker crosswords started, too, but I don't know when I'll find the hours to finish them up. Not for a week or two, it seems.

What's funny is that I have lots of new poker content to share. But it's appoaching 3:30 aye-em (an early night, in relative terms), and I need some sleep. Ta, all.