Friday, September 19, 2008

The MSNBC Buzz

Of course I'm monitoring the situation. I've been tracking the AP and UB situations ever since last year, when I first requested a copy of the infamous "CrazyMarco" file from Nat Arem. The story about the $75 million lawsuit or motion or whatever is newsworthy but amazingly devoid of facts, so I'm still watching that to see what else emerges over the coming days.

What it seemed to do, though, was give MSNBC correspondent Michael Brunker the hook he needed to go public with the UltimateBet expose he's been working on for quite some time.

Excepting the Blast-Off Ltd. action, which is new, there was exactly zero in that piece that I haven't long been aware of. One thing of particular interest to me was the naming of Greg Pierson as perhaps being the "secret moneybags" founder of UB, something which I'd figured out a long, long time ago.

2+2 posters have done the majority of the legwork on the UB saga, but within that, it's been a handful of constructive researchers and hundreds of space-wasting others getting in the way of real progress. Greg Pierson's name has been bandied about for several months there, but I don't think anyone found a solid link to ownership. Even Brunker resorted to this in his piece:

"An undated and unbylined article on the Web site, titled 'The history of online poker,' alleges that ieLogic founders Greg Pierson and Jon Karl created the UltimateBet site at the end of 2000, along with 'some secretive high stakes poker players.'"

For chrissakes, can't anyone do research these days? I did my own digging on this stuff soon after I returned from Vegas and it took me all of 20 minutes to find a helluva lot stronger connection between Pierson and UB. How does this sound:

"Those who follow this column know that the issue of integrity and site security is one that I work with and care very much about. Greg Pierson, the principal founder of UltimateBet, has a new venture, Iovation, which develops new software not only to catch cheaters, but to protect poker site users against a variety of other evils, including phishers and hackers. Pierson strikes me as one of the smarter people I have ever met, and he somewhat reminds me of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, one of those guys who has made a bundle but whose mind demands that he continue innovating."

Boldface mine, natch. This was written by Card Player columnist Roy Cooke about Pierson at the GIGSE '05 conference, and appeared in some fall-of-'05 issue of Card Player. It's online here with a publication date of September 20th, 2005.

No one else seems to be able to find this.

Let's toss in a "duh" moment -- "LDO" for you 'Net freaks -- and add this in to the mix. Phil Hellmuth has quite publicly and repeatedly promised Greg Pierson his 12th WSOP bracelet, if and when he wins it. Ya think maybe there might be a reason why?

Now, I really couldn't care less about Phil or Greg or any of the people that I don't believe to be the thieves in the UB cheating saga. I only post this here because Pierson's been outed now by a source just a few magnitudes larger than this blog. I have no knowledge whatsoever of the way the ieLogic/Iovation thing unfolded, but I'd guess that the later company was created as a way for Pierson to market his security software beyond the confines of UB. Nothing wrong with that, by the way.

I'd also guess there is probably no one sicker about the whole UB mess than the esteemed and probably very rich Mr. Pierson. I believe Iovation's interests in Internet security software extend far beyond online poker, and I'd have to think that the whole UB mess is a significant problem for that company's interests going forward. It doesn't seem to be much of a selling point for any firm's security software when the online site associated with that brand has been through the wringer, security-wise.

I suppose there'll be more on this in the days to come. I'll be scanning for news, just like everyone else.

That Thing

I e-mail Michalski over at pokerati irregularly, but when we do make contact, we generally swap half a dozen e-mails or so. Today, along with other matters, he asked me why I hadn't posted anything on the domain battle, since I'd done a whole series of pieces on it last year. It'd been settled, he reminded me.

Yeah. I learned about it secondhand from Gary Wise during the WSOP. (If it wasn't Gary, it was Snake or Chops. I disremember.)

I wrote up a blue box for the PN site when I learned about it, which lived for a normal blue-box turn, about 24 hours. 100 words. That's about what it deserved.

Also didn't care too much. The battle concluded with a whimper, not a bang, when Harrah's is believed to have made some nominal payment to domain squatter Fed Schiavio to finally wrest the domain free from Schiavio's grasp. All of a sudden, halfway through the WSOP, the domain started auto-resolving to Harrah's WSOP site over at

No press release or news brief on the matter. No nuttin'.

I asked Jeffrey Pollack about it. He confirmed it but wouldn't provide any details or numbers, though I heard rumors through an alternate grapevine that something was done to get the lawyers out of the mix. Schiavio was rumored to have wanted a million for it, initially; there's no announcement ever going to be made but I'm guessing he -- or rather, his lawyer -- got $100,000 or less. If anyone wants to provide corrected details I'd be happy to relay them here. These numbers are quite openly and admittedly speculation based on the facts as I know them, but, hey, they could easily be wrong. Hell, maybe he got zero, but I think some greenmail occurred.

I just don't give much of a damn about it any more. It was once an entertaining tale, but now it's just an old, blah memory.


Some weekends just aren't so good. Last weekend, for instance. It wasn't just the shits for poker, it was the shits for everything.

I'd left off from my tales of playing in four different WCOOP events, wherein I'd cashed in two and tilted out short of the money in the third where I should have been in the money. I still might post the hand that set me off, but then again, maybe not. When the pros at the table are typing "OMG" at the other player's actions you can bet it wasn't pretty.

But with the affordable WCOOP events out of the way, my short-lived fling with some of the better players around was done, and I returned to donking it up in multiple SNGs and small MTTs. Lose, lose, lose, and lose some more. It was just one of those streaks, and when the cards are running bad of late, they're running real bad.

My problem was that the "running bad" went way beyond the poker. It was, as the fates would have it, a weekend from hell. A tough couple of days of work were the starting point, but hey, that's the nature of work. Even in good jobs -- and I like mine -- it can't be peaches and cream every day.

But work became a whole lot more difficult Saturday when I walked over to my work laptop and everything was... frozen. No mouse motion on the screen, and when I rebooted it, nothing but a black screen and a BIOS message for an unreadable drive.

Oh, boy.

Yep, you guessed it: total hard-drive failure. That machine is now in a shop awaiting a new hard drive, a new operating system, and eventually, some new software. But I def lost some crap.

I got through my work for the day using my other two computers, and decided I'd sneak into the $215 HORSE event at the WCOOP. It was, originally, the one I'd really wanted to play in above all others, and even though I was tilted from my exit three days earlier and had had nothing but bad luck since, I figured I was over the tilt.

I was indeed over the tilt, but in a HORSE event you have to at least catch a few cards. I saw nothing, just like Sergeant Schultz. I'd say there's one tournament in 50 where you see cards so good that you can't help but cash, and one tournament in 50 where your cards are so bad that there's simply nothing you can do but accept your demise. This was that one.

But at least I had background noises to keep me company. I live in a three-story apartment building, and just outside the door, the smoke alarm above the stairs was going off in spurts all day long. I think someone upstairs was cookin' or 'smokin, and I'm not talkin' tobacco. The alarm, though, was going off with great frequency as it became evening, and I finally started calling the complex's emergency maintenance number to get them to check it out.

That took three calls and a couple of hours, by which time I was ready to take a golf club to the thing. But finally a maintenance guy showed up and solved the problem, whatever it was.

In the meantime, I'd spent a good chunk of the rest of the day bringing my older computers up to speed, including the old Emachines desktop upon which this post is currently being typed. Both this and my broken-backed but still functional older laptop originally had Norton, but my current Comcast high-speed service comes with complimentary McAfee, and the Norton had expired since the last time I'd used the machine.

The laptop installation went okay, but on the old desktop, it was a war between McAfee and a persistent trojan planted on the machine by 888 (aka Casino-On-Net) that lasted for several hours. Since I hadn't turned it on in a long time, I hadn't picked up that there was a latent virus. Excising it proved to be quite the chore, and I finally had to block the system process that creates periodic restore points to get rid of the thing.

Think 888'll pay for me my wasted time if I send them a bill?

Yeah, when hell freezes over, I know.

But, let's just say that I was plenty steamed by the cumulative life beatdown. I tried a couple of more SNGs, took some ridiculous beats, then thought hard about breaking something. REALLY wanted to take a walk, but in the midst of all this crap, I could not -- we were in the middle of cold-front-meets-Ike-remnants and were a day into three days and eight inches of rain. So I sat and stewed. And stewed some more.

Sunday wasn't any better. I like to watch the Packers when I can but living in the Chicago 'burbs, this was one of those weekends where I was stuck watching Chicago and handful of other games. At least the Packers played Detroit.

Monday, blessedly, it stopped raining. I snuck out to play nine holes on Tuesday with the new clubs, though the course across the way was one of the few places even open, and that was walking-only with a couple of the holes still underwater. Some of the runoff channels through the grass had been stripped bare by the rain. But it was still outside, know what I mean?

Life goes on, pokerwise. I suffered a couple more down days, then out of the blue took down a $10 HORSE tourney on Stars to win back everything that had gone down the tubes in the downswing. The moral?

Sometimes you have to fight like hell, just to stay even.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My One Open WCOOP Question, a.k.a. Been WCOOP-ing, Part 2

(I've heard that Iakaris has been around a bit in recent months, hence the tribute headline. Hi, Iak!)

Here's one I figure will work its way into someone at Stars who will know the real answer. They might not be able to say, per se, but what the heck.

I am, by most accepted definitions, a donkeyish, run-of-the-mill player. Probably quite a bit better than average, all things considered, but by no means a threat to any serious pro. I'm exceptional or unusual only in the fact that through an unlikely chain of events I was able to parlay a lifelong interest in poker and a quantifiable writing/editing background into, what is at present, a very satisfying career.

Then there's the WCOOP at PokerStars, which has been front and center in my thoughts for the last week or more, both in arranging to have it covered for my place of employment and in deciding to dabble in a couple of events myself. It's a BIG DEAL for online poker, that one special event each year. (Sorry, Full Tilt.)

This was the first year that I could participate in any meaningful way, though I really wanted to last year. I said in my last post that my balance was maybe $200 or $300 on Stars last year. Maybe it was $400 or so, but I know this: I wanted so bad to play in a $215 NL full-ring event last year... and none were available. Same thing this year.

Take a look at the WCOOP schedule and you'll find that there aren't any $215 or $320 events that are full-ring -- not shorthanded -- no-limit hold'em in format. There may have been a $320 last year but I'll swear there weren't any $215s. The open question, of course, is why not?

I can guess at the answer, perhaps, or at least sound like an idiot while making a good case. First of all, it's obvious that a $215 NLHE full-ring event would take two days, if not even three. Second, the enrollment for such an event would easily surpass 10,000, perhaps even 20,000, and for all I know would strain even Stars' server capabilities.

But... so what?

The $1,500 NL donkaments have rapidly become the "base offering" of the World Series of Poker each year, and yet Stars isn't offering the online equivalent, a $215 NL event, perhaps, during the WCOOP. I'm sure there are real reasons why not, yet it seems as though Stars is costing itself several thousand participants by not working two or three of these things into the annual WCOOP schedule.

So it's an open question, posed by me personally. Anyone want to answer?

Been WCOOP-ing, Part 1

This was the year, as it turned out, that I was going to make my own shot at a couple of WCOOP events. Despite being naturally cheap and preferring to build my bankroll slowly, Todd Brunson-style, by beating up on weaker games at lower stakes, I resolved to give it at least a try this year. Last year I was sorely tempted to try a couple of sats but only had $200 or $300 in my 'roll. This year I was little higher, and so I could afford to try, or at least to dream.

I've never been much of a big fan of steps-format qualifiers, but I decided to give a couple of these a try. I've found since breaking through to what I would describe as a level of "basic competency" at poker, that I just can't play tournaments under $10. There is something going on down there that I've come to think of as "noise factor": the random and unpredictable bad plays by so many different types of weak players have a strange effect: they put a cap on the percentage of return that you can achieve. It doesn't matter whether you're playing the fabled "donkaments" at $2 or $5 or $10, it seems -- the net from all the effort seems to come out the same.

So I skipped the Step 1's and their $7.50 buy-ins, deciding to start at the $27 Step 2 level instead. The first one I played was an 8-game Step 2 with two moving on to a Step 3, and I caught a run of cards and rolled over the table. Two or three of the players were decidedly not good and a couple of the others had suspect hygiene in poker terms; I got hot and they weren't going to head me without several breaks. By the way, Step 3's come in 3 and 3a versions, with the standard Step 3 offering a Step 4 coupon -- worth a $215 buy-in -- and the special 3a steps offering a $320 coupon instead, though at the cost of it being a dead-end for the steps process.

I disremember whether I won my Step 4 coupon immediately (I think I did, but it might have been on my second try), but all of a sudden I was in possession of a $215 buy-in on the cheap. There wasn't much for $215s early on, so I decided to try Event #1. I ran pretty deep there, something like 1,675 out of 7,200, but took a big-stack-inflicted beat to depart. No biggee.

By then of course, I'd also picked up a $320 ticket by winning a 3a, and what I eventually did with that you've already read. What I didn't blog about until now was that I kept on playing the Stars Steps, focusing on 8-game and NLHE turbos, and after what I believe to be a grand investment of 14 $27 starting steps, I'd ended up with the previously mentioned $215 and $320 entries... and two more $320s as well. I've heard that there are some people who are absolute gold when it comes to qualifiers and sats; I don't claim that, but I think I'm gonna have to take a more serious look at the process.

I think I'm done for the duration of the WCOOP, by the way. The only thing that interests me at all is the $215 HORSE, and I'm a bit overbaked on poker to really want to play in it at the moment.

More next post, or maybe the one after that. I've grown very fond of Stars, but there's one question about the WCOOP that I just have to ask....

Give Me a Couple Days...

... for a complete catchup. Poker both very good and very bad and other things as well. Tonight I'm working on my third bottle of Wild Blue Blueberry Lager, which is not only exceptionally fruity, it has 8% alcohol. :-)

Thanks to those of you who railed me the last couple of days, including Matt, Pojo, Shamus, Otis and probably several others. Overall, my WCOOP debut turned out to be a major letdown at the end despite being up about a thousand net, qualifiers included. But that's all part of the longer tale. Soon. With maybe even a screen grab or two and some hand histories. I saw the Stars blogs. I played a few hands all right, and I had my good moments. The bad ones the railers saw, but I'll share a couple of the worst soon. This is just poker; I've been through much worse.

Preview: I don't tilt often. Tonight I tilted. When you see the hand, you'll know why. I don't expect a play that bad in a $2 donkament, much less the WCOOP Stud championship. It was... indescribable. Only a no-limit-only idiot savant could have played the hand that badly and managed to win it.

But for tonight, maybe another beer. And the thoughts of a 2-for-4 on WCOOP cashes that probably should have been better. It'll pay for my new golf clubs, I guess. Small rewards.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Not Too Bad

Made it into the top ten about four hours in, then took a brutal beat to become short-stacked a good distance outside the bubble. (KK vs. JJ all in preflop; J on turn.) Pushed with aces in PLO and hit a redraw river to stay alive, so I got my own lucky break there, but never won a significant pot after that. Got up to about 30K at one point but was whittled down to nothing in chips at the end -- I even held last among remaining players for a few hands at one point before my demise.

It could have been two for two, cash-wise, except for one of them durned flush-chasin' donkeys who busted me in my first event, where I was in the top quarter. But, this is my first WCOOP cash:

Had some fun tables and some tough tables. Kirill G was seated to my right for much of the first few hours, and I was quite the fortunate luckbox against him, connecting every damn time we mixed it up. Later on I had both Billirakis and 'nitbuster' (a.k.a. Josh Arieh) at one of my tables -- no fun, that.

Long night, of course. And I can't wait to try it again.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Bonus WCOOP Wwoot

Snagged a $320, too. Soooo, looks like a couple of WCOOP entries next week-ish... depending on work flow. See ya there!

WCOOP-ing, Anyone?

This is the first year that I've had enough of an online 'roll at Stars to seriously consider playing any WCOOP events, and that's what I plan to do. I've therefore taken a break from playing too many of those inexpensive turbos I've become addicted to of late, though I did run into Jordan at one just a few days back. I also ran into one of PokerNews' Brazilian staffers, Giovanni Torre, at several similar tables; he was showing a PN logo as his avatar, which automatically gets me curious.

But idle chitchat aside, this year's WCOOP looms, and I've informally dedicated a few hundred either to trying my hand in satellites or buying in directly. The "steps" satellites have been okay to me so far, if not great. I don't care for the Step 1 payouts so I've been buying in at Step 2, and have either moved on to Step 3 or gotten my Step 2 entry back on most occasions. At Step 3 to date I'm 1-for-3, which means I'll now be in one of the $215 WCOOP events, with one more Step 3 and a couple of Step 2 buy-ins remaining out of what I think has been seven Step 2 purchases to date. There's one or two of those $215s I have my eye on, along with a couple of the $320s, such as the 8-game tourney.

The steps are great fun, methinks. I've been tending to play uber-conservative early in the NL steps, trying to let some of the looser players bang heads and figuring I can win some of those chips later on from the luckier of the loose players. In the 8-game and HORSE steps I've played I've seen some wretched play in the stud and lowball rotations and have consistently chipped up there; it's the weak spot, for sure.

Hope to see some of you in there in the next couple of weeks.