shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

Those of you in NYC probably already saw this, but for the sake of those of you elsewhere, I thought I'd link to this article in the New York Times regarding the shooting at a poker club here that I recently wrote about.

I find a few quotes amusing:

“A week ago, there were two or three rooms operating in Manhattan, but now there are zero,” said Steven McLoughlin, a poker aficionado who moderates a poker discussion at twoplustwo.com and closely follows the Manhattan club scene. ”You don't know what can happen.“

I have no interest in finding the clubs anymore, but this blatantly can't be true. I've gotten SMS and emails from a number of clubs announcing their “new security measures” and offering freerolls. I am sure attendance is way down, but they are still making a go.

And then there's this one:

“But the overwhelming majority are not compulsive gamblers,” he [the broadcast producer who has frequented clubs for five years] said. “They do this as a way of blowing off steam, and that is healthier than sitting in front of the TV.”

First, sitting on your ass at a poker table is probably slightly less healthy than sitting on the couch watching TV. After all, at home, most of us don't have a waitress bringing us junk food and sodas; we actually have to make the walk to the kitchen for that. Second, most people I've met in the NYC poker scene do have some sort of gambling problem, even if it is a minor one.

Finally:

The people interviewed for this article would not say who sponsors and operates the Manhattan clubs, but insisted that there was no hint of involvement by organized crime.

Obviously, people did not pay much attention. What about the partially confirmed rumors of how the former part-owner of the O. Club had gambling debts with the mob and was funneling money to pay them back? How about the older folks at the E. Club who would just sit and watch? And the stories of how the T. Club had paid for protection to keep them safe?

I agree the connections were tangential and the bigger $10k buy-in games were probably much more connected, but there is somewhat no denying it.

BTW, I've been playing online some, which if probably a story worth posting and might do so soon.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

I have been talking about safety issues, busts and robberies for quite a while. I decided to quit playing at NYC clubs over a year ago due primarily to safety issues. It seems my read was right.

I've always felt that robberies were more dangerous than busts. I've also mentioned to many that fear of a young guy making a mistake or getting nervous with a gun would be the biggest threat.

Seems I was right about that too, after last night. There have been a number of stories, of which this seems the most accurate and detailed, and this one is not bad. (Update: This story is much better than the others.) There is also a long 2+2 thread now, that started just an hour and half after the incident.

For those who don't want to chase links: another robbery at a club on 28th street and 5th Avenue has occurred and resulted in our first NYC poker death, due to an apparently accidentally fired gun of a robber.

There is no game juicy enough to risk your life, even if it's a thousand to one shot that you'll get killed. I've played enough poker to find that thousand to ones come in every once in a while and you just have to avoid the situation when you are gambling with your life.

I hope this will help the effort to get legal poker at the Aqueduct race track. For the meantime, I'm glad I left the NYC poker scene when I did.

Update: Newer stories are saying this club was run by the Straddle Club team. Like almost everyone who has run a club in this city, they've always were pretty bad at their business; it's in some ways no surprise it was their club — again. But, frankly, any place that runs a game with less than a $10k buy-in probably simply isn't safe, no matter what.

Another Update: There is a New York Times story now.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

I am actually surprised to see that online poker sites are so quickly jumping to the idea that they will ban players from the USA from the moment the bill is signed (a Google news search for “poker” will get you more and better links than I can). The bill only makes it illegal for financial institutions to move money to online gaming sites, and the banks have a full year to comply. Yet, Party Poker, Poker Stars and Pacific Poker (via their parent company 888.com) have all said that they will stop all action for USA players the moment the bill is law here. (Some stories suggest that Pacific/888 has already suspended USA activity, although W.D. has an account there and confirmed that they are letting him play.) Of those companies that spoke out, only Paradise Poker has sworn to defy the law, but that was before the others announced, so their stance may change. (Bodog made some equivocal statements that argue that they don't care, which may just be an Ayre marketing ploy.) Full Tilt is the only large site that has been noticeably quiet.

It's clear, though, that most of the bigger online sites are trying to force the hand of USA poker players. They need the business to keep the profits high. The USA market probably brings the plurality (if not the majority) of poker players to these sites. I suppose they feel that a year (or more) of uncertainty and slow attrition is worse for them in the long run. Perhaps they expect what typically happens with partially enforced and ambiguous legislation — people who really want to can get around it, but the casually interested don't bother. In other words, what happened to NYC public poker could well happen to Internet poker in the USA, and the online sites are clamouring to get ahead of that inevitability. I can speak first hand that such an outcome would be a disaster for the online poker scene.

A shrewd move — vowing to ban USA players. By jarring the players here with locked down accounts (presumably, we hope, that you can still cash out from, but that don't permit playing or depositing), they hope to spur action to seek repeal of the law. However, the company owners, mostly being citizens of countries with real representative government (unlike the USA :), probably have overestimated the people's ability in the USA to actually impact legislation, particularly to get something repealed once it's law.

I can imagine this war of attrition will go on for months, if the online poker sites hold their ground — and they now have no choice but to do so. I am flabbergasted that they put themselves in this sort of “do or die” situation in the very first news cycle. If they change their minds now or at any time before repeal or further clarification of the rules, it will be seen as a flaunting insult to the USA government; that would put them in a bad negotiating position. So, they are effectively committed to this course of action, and they committed themselves so darn early! I hope they understand the situation better than I, but I can't imagine getting a repeal of this bill easily. We're in for a long fight, and in the first 48 hours a big chunk of the online poker industry chose brinkmanship! Do they expect they can endear themselves to USA regulators this way and therefore get a better outcome?

Meanwhile, it actually hurts their standing with the players. We're left to wonder how we get money out, and they aren't making appropriate assurances to the players. Many casual players will see the news onslaught today and say well, so much for that, never giving online poker another thought. I am trying to decide if I should go home and cash out all my accounts or instead go home and play out my pending bonuses and get the last shot at all the fish that will soon be gone.

With all this, plus with NYC poker a small echo of what it once was and with no mode of easy transport to Atlantic City (I hate Greyhound and have been unable to get rides), it looks like home game poker is again the way to get a poker game without serious travel. I suddenly feel like I'm living in the 1990s again. Anyway, I hope people will take a look at my home game post; now is the time to start one, I think, and today has made me more committed than I was even last night.

Of course, the funniest part of this story is that in New York, it's legal to be a player, which is defined as a person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with the other participants therein does not otherwise render material assistance to the establishment. Of course, as I read the statue, setting up my home game is advancing gambling activity and therefore probably a misdemeanor. I don't care, frankly; the irony is too great. It's legal to play at the NYC clubs (but you might get a gun pointed at you and robbed), and it's legal to play online from anywhere in New York (but soon effectively impossible to carry out because it'll be illegal for your bank to make the deposit for you). To combat my options being closed, I start running a home game because there is so little poker to chose from, and that act makes me an actual criminal even though I don't charge a rake or time charges, because it's advancing gamblingGreat, the NYPD can come get me. The fact that I'm running a home game has already been announced publicly, so hopefully this qualifies as civil disobedience. Not the most important thing to do civil disobedience over by any stretch, but we are about the pursuit of happiness around here, aren't we?

[ UPDATE: the lawyers say in the comments that I misread the statue and I defer to their judgement. Apparently, my home game is 100% legal, until I start that hefty rake I'm planning (kidding). It looks like even if I charge for food and the like, I am probably ok, at least in part because I am an equal participant with my guests in the gambling. ]

I've always been a law abiding citizen. Even though I'm opposed to the stupid drug laws, I don't personally break those laws (due to lack of interest in that activity), as many people I know do. So, my hobby coming in direct conflict with the law is really my first experience with pointless laws about my personal behavior. I must admit: I'm with the libertarians on this one.

Update:This guy on livejournal bothered to email every site he had accounts on and collected their responses in a series of comments on this post.

shipitfish: (partly-cloudy-patriot)

Paul Phillips (aka [livejournal.com profile] extempore) doesn't post much in his LiveJournal about poker anymore, because Tournament Scrabble appears to be his preferred game these days. However, he did this week post about something I had queued to post about myself, so now, I'll just reference his article to start and add my own thoughts.

Like Paul, I was late to listen to the Jamie Gold interview on the Rounders Canadian poker radio show. I was, like Paul, appalled by what I heard. I actually only disagree with Paul on one point: I think Jaime is particularly bad as far as champions go and much more arrogant and self-obsessed than most new champions.

Sure, some of the very young (under 23) WPT winners have been that way, but that's what you expect from a kid like that. But, Jaime is in his 30's and should be old enough and mature enough not to act this way. But, he's a Hollywood agent by trade, and obviously has taken that life attitude to heart. Unabashed self-promotion, often accompanied with nasty denigration of rivals, is considered a virtue in that world, and his interview shows he thinks the same in the poker world.

The worst of his self-indulgences were his claims that his amazing play had Allen Cunningham literally shaking with fear. I don't dispute that Alan was shaking, of course, I noticed it during the live broadcast. But, it was probably either nerves at playing the final table of the biggest poker tournament ever held, or some really smart reverse tell. Jamie is unforgivably conceited to think that Allen's fear of Jamie made Allen shake.

There's more such disgusting stuff in the interview, including a heads-up challenge to Hellmuth for a one million cash game. This guy is intolerable.

That said, I don't think this fellow has an obligation to be a “good champion” or “great ambassador for poker”. We as the poker community would prefer that, but it's not part of some contractual obligation for winning the Big One. I think what Mr. Gold is going to do for us is make us realize how good we've had it for a few years running now. Hachem was a kind gentleman who loved talking about poker and sharing himself as poker's representative. I think Raymer was in some ways the quintessential champion that one would want. Moneymaker, while he wasn't as good as he could be, tried hard and did pretty well. Indeed, all three of them carried themselves with just the right mix of pride and humility (it takes luck as well as skill to win tournaments). Jamie is another type all together.

I wonder some if the press people at PokerStars actually are to thank for this. All three of our other recent champions signed deals ahead of time or almost on the spot with that site, and therefore their public image was surely influenced by their contracts. Gold has no contract yet, although there is some indication that he has an affiliation of some sort with Bodog (which is also a point of fact in the pending law suit). I don't think the cause of poker popularity is going to be advanced by our champion this year as it was in previous years. Oh well, we'll just have to survive the year and keep poker's popularity moving with other means, and hope for a better champion next year.

In the meantime, I actually hope that Gold keeps to his other (actually conflicting) statements that he doesn't want the limelight. We'd be better off if he is a strange recluse than a public conceited jerk.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

A better headline would probably be Idiots Do Stupid Things to Make Poker Look Bad. We're at that special time in the development of a cultural phenomenon on the cusp of permanent mainstream-dom when things like this can really hurt us. I link to it only because no one who is likely to get the story covered in the mainstream press reads my blog. :)

We need people out there speaking for poker who are reasonable, well-reasoned poker. What we're getting is confusing associations with other forms of gambling (yes, sports betting is a skill too, but we have to do this one fight at a time), and the badness of Jamie Gold's financial dispute.

It's unfortunate that people are getting themselves killed in relation to poker, but it's a lot fewer than died from alcohol-related incidents in the last two weeks. For some people, an innocent thing becomes a bad vice. We can't solve the problems by prohibition on any of it.

Ok, I sound more libertarian than liberal at the moment, so I better stop. :)

BTW, there may be good news, no one I know can actually confirm the closing of the NYC club that I mentioned earlier. Apparently, they have a new phone number and are still going. Phew.

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