Monday, March 13, 2006


Thinking about trying Absolute Poker? If you're the bonus-whorin' type, their generous sign-up and reload offers are an attractive enticement to play. These offers aren't the toughest to clear, either, compared to something like FullTilt or the piddling little bonus-points-poo paid out by Pacific. So, hey, Absolute, aw-rigght!!

Now that's how to get a review off to a stylin' start! Suck up to the max! But as for Absolute, it goes downhill from there.

Let's go from the big positive to the big negative: Absolute's game programming sucks. It's clearly the worst I've encountered, and even though my hourly rate (including bonus) was higher here than at some of the other sites I've samples, by the time my bonus offer had completed, I ran screaming into that eternal Internet-hued night.

How does it suck for thee? Let me count the ways. Most of the difficulties here stem from waiting-list maintenance; it seems to follow the "Italian Postal Service" theory of line management, rather than FIFO or LIFO or anything else you'd might expect. (The classic "Italian Postal Service" allegory has to do with what happened, in days of yore, when Italy's mail-delivery service fell too far behind: They just backed their mail-laden trucks up to the sea, dumped the contents into the briny, and started over.) It happens at Absolute, too. You can --- and will --- be frequently bumped from waiting lists that you've already spent a good deal of time enjoying... and you'll be bumped for no other reason than that the site software seemed to think it was a good idea at the time. That'll tend to zero out the hourly rates for good and bad players alike. ;-)

And don't even think about getting on more than one table's waiting list at a time --- you do not want to tempt fate in this way. Most often you'll be dumped from all the lists and have to start over, but you also might be stuck at the top of a table's list, unable to join, even as empty seats dance before your eyes. You might even encounter that choice poker rarity: being able to take seats at the same table, and therefore play hands against yourself.

Software programmers have a nickname for a standard programming practice called "garbage in, garbage out." It refers to that fact that when a module of code encounters data which it doesn't understand, it goes ahead and processes that data anyway, sending it on to the next step of the process. It might not care (or even check) as to the accuracy as the "garbage" that emerges. Such programming practices are why you encounter tales of shipping clerks receiving random $1.37 million interest payments from banks; it's a garbage-handling process run amok.

At Absolute, you can't help feeling that to the programmers doing the work, the customer is the garbage. No one who really cared about the product they were offering would attempt to make a splash in the online poker market with something this bug-infested... and if they did care, they'd fix the problems damn quick. As far as I've been able to determine, Absolute's junk software is endemic; it always has been, and always will be. And soon enough, I'd had enough, abandoning play just shy of the bonus points I'd need to earn some piece of Absolute-themed merchandise through their bonus awards program.

The game play's no gravy train, either. Absolute offers some of the tightest low-limit ring games around --- the true fish is a rarity here. This confirms that bonus-whorin' truism: The bigger the bonus (in relative terms), the tougher and tighter the action will be at the lowest limits necessary to clear that bonus. True fish don't survive even long enough to clear their signup bonuses before going bust at sites like these.

Additionally, game activity at Absolute dwindles to nearly nothing in the off-peak hours; I've seen less than 1,000 active players there on several occasions. Add in the twin considerations of ongoing tournament action and the activities of other bonus whores, and the picture one gets is of a site where not much else is happening. In fact, it's the no-limit hold-'em action at Absolute that draws the most active users; the rest of us have to work hard at times to find a comfortable game.

The graphics package at Absolute is fair-to-middlin'. It's not the flashiest, not the worst --- each user has the chace to import a mini-image to use as an avatar, and if anyone ever wanted to have a field day with penny-ante copyright violations, this would be a great place to start. But any concern with graphics and flash has to be secondary to the problems with the game play itself. You just never know when the whole works will turn to stone, leaving you to reboot. But you'll get to do that, I promise!

Cash processing is the one area where Absolute earns clear plus-marks. Both cash-in and cash-out transactions were easy and clean, and the time to process my withdrawal was under two days. I can live with that level of service. And despite its other problems, the portion of Absolute's software the tracks your bonuses in real time works quite well, and those bonuses are paid in real time, too. Good job, Absolute.

But overall, I can do better. I was disappointed enough in the game play and the software that Absolute has dropped way down on the list of sites I'll select for continued play, attractive reload offers or not. It's just not worth it to me.

We Never Said Our Ideas Were Original...

You'd think a site with software problems on the scale of those at Absolute would have better things to do than trying to integrate their own version of Paradise Poker's "menu" of refreshments, but that didn't stop Absolute in the least. Sure enough, there's a click-open menu on each table showing a list of snacks and drinks and such. I don't mind it, per se; I'm always looking for a lucky charm of some sort, and a drink avatar of one weird color or another is as likely as anything else.

But geez, what a blatant ripoff. I can't imagine that the folks at Paradise have a whole lot of positive things to say about this one.

C'mon, Absolute, think. Use your brains to develop and implement a new useless add-on that you can call your own, rather than hijacking an old one from somewhere else. Here's an idea, admittedly lame, but take it and run with it: Program a little sub-routine that sends out the pit boss, every few dozen hands, with a new deck set-up and chip tray for the dealer. Not that I care, but since you can't get your core gaming software to run properly, at least fritter away your extra programming hours on something useless that's new.

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