shipitfish: (Default)

An old poker friend from Boston noted in my journal how he and a few others got online during the PPV main event WSoP 2006 and watched it — commenting on hands and plays — until the sun came up while I tried to “live blog” it. It seems sometimes like the whole poker world has changed around me in the last year, and then I realize that it probably hasn't — mostly, I've changed and it makes the minor changes in the poker world seem more pronounced.

The slow decline of online poker (UIGEA impacting some and not others) still seems to cause some attrition, but I hear that NYC clubs keep reopening after busts and (even worse) robberies, and there is some good action around. I've lost the stomach for it after hearing a local from my home game recount his tale of hiding under the table with his hands up, emptying his pockets for a guy with a gun. I can live without that being a risk in my life.

I still want to run the home game, but I've been so engaged in my job that I can't easily commit the entire weekend day (the morning to set up and clean a bit, the rest of the day to play) at the moment. I'm hoping for September but October seems the more likely now.

At times, I miss poker. I miss the completely engrossing distraction, especially when I have challenges at work that require careful thought and concentration that I sometimes want a break from. I don't miss the beats, the struggling, the constant push of every edge and never being able to give up.

I made two brief casino trips this summer; my hope is I'll put time aside soon to do reviews of the places and post them here an on twoplustwo.

Televised poker is somewhat horrible now. I look forward to the return of High Stakes Poker, as the tournament clip shows are just too boring for anything but background noise while I work.

Oh, and back to where I started this post: I really enjoyed the final table this year. Watching Yang do his thing (and the downright goofy out-loud prayers at all-in moments) was a lot of fun. He's obviously inexperienced, but he has pretty reasonable poker instincts and he's clearly a kind and caring person (unlike the (frankly) downright slimy Mr. Gold). W.D. came over for about half the PPV airing and we had a good time.

Poker, in the end, if a fun hobby when I'm giving it only passing attention, but I don't want to “live” it. I'm pretty sure I can find better things to do.

[BTW, an odd thread sparked by an out-of-the-blue anonymous commentor on a year old post has started. Amazing how google-reachable old journal entries can bring out the crazies from time to time.]

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

I've been reading some older 2+2 titles recently. Sklanksy and Malmuth have this wonderful way of describing things that reminds me of my graduate school texts. I suppose you have to have gone to graduate school for some science-related field to actually enjoy that dry, dense writing.

I finished Sklansky's Poker, Gaming, and Life, and half of Malmuth's Poker Essays, both of which are collections of essays written for Card Player and other magazines in the late 1980s and 1990s.

One of the general themes that amazes me is their constant discussion of “systems”. It's clear that during the period when writing these essays, their simple ideas for poker planning were new. In many of the essays, they seem forced to actively defend the idea that winning players should treat poker like an endeavor centered around an hourly win rate, which is computed based on how much of a favorite the player is to the game she's selected. On the corners of every essay, they defend the now obvious idea that concepts like “loss limits” and “quitting while ahead” are completely silly for the winning player. In those days, it seems that the idea that you should quit a game only if you aren't a favorite or if your non-poker life calls you away was novel.

I read these defenses and imagine that during the late 80s and early 90s (while I was busy winning a mere $20/week in penny-ante wild-card games and didn't even know that “real poker” even existed) must have been a time of some enlightenment in the poker world. There were people, probably even pros, walking around who believed that the “quit while you are up” strategy was somehow smart play, no matter how good the game was. I suppose these were the same people who walked around saying that Internet thing is just for computer nerds.

Of course, the interesting shred of truth in the win/loss threshold approach (and one that Sklansky and Malmuth ignore, since they are writing only to the winners) is that the system works really well for losing players. Someone who is not a favorite to the game should let the short term luck wash over them and run off with the money if they are lucky enough to get hold of some. And, likewise, when they can't get luck on their side, they are better off running from the games as quickly as they can to limit the amount that strong players can extract from them.

(As a tangent, this is why the only thing that really upsets me in poker is the hit-and-run. It's just about the only strategy a bad player can use to defeat good players — forbidding the cards to even out and allow the good player to recover against the short term luck. In essence, the “quit when your up” is the only weapon the weak player has in her arsenal against a better field.)

I can imagine, though, despite how wrong-headed the beat-the-system approach to poker seems today, that Skalansky's and Malmuth's messages were hard for people to hear. Many people chose life as professional poker players so they didn't have to think about spreadsheets and hourly rates and marketing to the right customer base (i.e., choosing games where you're a favorite). The truth is, if you want to be a pro, or even a regularly winning player, you are just a weird sort of entertainer looking for people who actually want to see your show. You're the travelling circus that has to trick people into thinking the freak show is worth paying for. You are running a business, even if (for the recreational player) only a hobby one. You have to treat it as such and let go of the fanciful notions that somehow you are getting something for nothing.

The idea of “beating the system” using some strategy — be it a win/loss stop or anything else — is a fantasy. Playing poker for a living isn't beating the system; it's actually in a pretty simplistic way of being a cog in the machine. Grinding, that verb we use to describe the profitable poker we all hate to play, is what the real pros actually do.

It's always good when clear thinkers come along and burst the delusional bubbles. And, Sklansky and Malmuth have been doing it for decades. I suppose there must be people out there still living in the bubble, believing that some system gives them the power to beat the games. If so, they should probably all go out and buy these books. :)

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

In the interest of making my affiliate links on the side of my journal useful, rather than merely annoying advertising (despite the fact that I get free money if you sign up using the links on my journal, I still encourage you all to use something like privoxy to block them. :), I'd like to make that list on the side include all the places I know that accept players from the USA.

Strangely, I'm having trouble determining which of the smaller sites still take them. For example, I can't seem to find definitive information on whether or not Doyle's Room and the larger Tribeca network is still taking USA players. There are conflicting news reports in Google. Does anyone know for sure (i.e., is a USA player still playing on Doyle's Room)?

I just discovered today, that Cake Poker, a small startup site, is accepting USA players as well.

Does anyone know of others? The only ones I know about are those on the side, plus Pokerstars. I've left off Pokerstars from my list, mainly because I don't encourage USA players to go there after the fiasco they pulled on Firepay customers. Yes, I know some of my fellow poker LJ'ers make their livings on PokerStars; YMMV. :)

BTW, 178 days to go for USA players. :)

Freeroll or Medal?

Wednesday, 3 January 2007 15:16
shipitfish: (Default)

Full Tilt Poker, one of the few remaining sites permitting players from the USA, has held its “Iron Man“ Promotion for quite some time. If you earn N “Full Tilt Points” for Y consecutive days, you get to play in a freeroll. The greater your values of N and Y, the greater the prize pool of the freeroll you get to play. (There are four levels of freeroll.)

This year, they've introduced another option for Iron Man points. Instead of entering the freeroll each month, you can opt for an award of additional “Iron Man Medals”, which can then be cashed in for things at this Iron Man Store, which you have to look into to realize it's not the same as the standard Full Tilt Store.

You earn some medals, regardless, by a formula based on how many times you repeat this silly Iron Man status. This new decision just allows you to forgo freerolls to get some bonus medals. I'm likely to earn tons of medals the usual way this year because I'm planning to play almost exclusively online for most of the year, and Full Tilt is, of course, one of only three sites I can play on as a player living under the totalitarian regime of the USA.

The question that comes up is whether, at the end of the month, should I take my spot in the freerolls, or should I forgo the freerolls and cash them into medal points?

This is all somewhat of a pointless exercise, since the real EV is in the playing that earns the points, not the bonuses from the points, but being a poker player I can't help but calculate the EV of every decision that presents itself.

There are only three things of actual value in the Iron Man store: (a) extra 5,000 Full Tilt Points (more on why this has value below), (b) $535 tourney entry fees and (c) $216 tourney entry fees.

Let's take the last two first. Since (b) and (c) cost roughly 3,000 and 1,000 medals (respectively), and since you only get a spare 25-100 from forgoing the freerolls, it seems to me it's better to take the freerolls. The prize pools are between $10,000-$30,000, and the competition is probably softer than in the actual $216/$535 tourneys. I theorize this because the people who regularly buy into such middle-limit tourneys are much better tournament players than I, whereas any idiotic, cash-game donkey can get into the freeroll just by playing a lot. Therefore, I think the monthly freeroll is better EV than exchanging that entry for a tenth of $216 tourney entry ticket.

Now, what about (a), the 5,000 Full Tilt points? Well, the main Full Tilt store has a single item that I'd bother to buy with my points: A large screen Plasma TV. It costs 400,000 points. I recently calculated I'll probably reach that amount sometime early next year anyway via my usual Full Tilt Poker play. Therefore, it probably isn't worth it to waste the medal points to get me closer to that, because I'll probably get enough points for the TV eventually anyway, and I just had to buy a new CRT TV to replace a broken old one, so I am no hurry.

Thus, I can't see a reason that I'd want to stop playing the freerolls (in which I've yet to win a dime, of course). There is substantial EV in them; I'm a favorite against the field of random qualifying players, and the top prizes are usually in the thousands. Definitely worth the time to play them.

I know that at least one person who reads this journal (hello there, [livejournal.com profile] jellymillion :) has played enough in the past to earn these Iron Man thingies. Therefore, I ask, have I missed something? Is there some reason I should do it differently?

Finally, I have to say that these incentive and promotion programs are unnecessarily complicated. Like rebate forms, they are designed to make it difficult to figure out what they mean so that people are less likely to take advantage of them. I have a hard time believing the Iron Man thing actually draws more people to the site. Why not do away with the program entirely and give an across-the-board rake reduction to all players?

shipitfish: (foxwoods-stack-2005-08)

I just realized that last month, on Saturday 4 November 2006, this online journal was officially up for two years. Of course, those who actually know me realize that I turned my original LiveJournal account (that I registered way back on 4 January 2001) into this one in November 2004, by deleting all the old non-poker posts and changing the username.

Boy, what a terrible poker player I was when I started this thing. If any of you are inspired to read my old posts, you can see how bad I was. I'm frankly amazed that I was a winning player back then. Indeed, if I was playing in games so soft that even I could win back then, they must have been some soft games indeed! Either that, or I was amazingly lucky.

I'm grateful to all of you, who over the last two years, have helped me become a better player. I am particularly thankful for the River Street gang, who made this journal a central part of the game for a long period from 2004-2005. It sure made the game tougher to come in each week knowing that everyone had read everything I'd been thinking at the previous one, but it certainly improved my game. It's wonderful that, despite River Street being long over, that many of you ([livejournal.com profile] frankieriver, Greg, [livejournal.com profile] nick_marden, and [livejournal.com profile] roryk, for example) are still around commenting every so often, and I know many others still lurk from time to time as well.

shipitfish: (partly-cloudy-patriot)

I am going to deviate from my promised posts about my week in Dallas poker to bring up another issue. For years, I have ignored something I shouldn't have: the Poker Fora on 2+2 Publishing Website.

For many years, I lurked on RGP (rec.gambling.poker). And, in a way that's part of the problem. Usenet died. I mean, it's still there, but it's effectively dead. SPAM problems made it nearly unbearable in the 1990s, and then people who were serious just gave up on it. I spent years on Usenet, and being used to complicated and sophisticated tools to follow the discussions.

I grew up on an Internet that predated web fora, browser interfaces, and the like. I used strn and other tools to read news, and had controllable threading, scored threads, whitelist, blacklists, kill files, and all these things that we in the Free Software world invented over a course of two decades to handle large volume discussions.

Those tools still exist, but the data is locked up in an annoying web form. It feels like being told you have to read a book while someone shakes it in front of you. You have no control of the medium and ability to use the tools at your disposal to filter it.

It's an interesting net.accident that web fora took the place of Usenet. In a way, it got out the rabble, because it became so difficult to participate, you had to really care enough to bother. But, it's tough from my point of view to use knives and bearskins to get a job done.

I think ultimately I'm going to have to write a screen scraper to grok the threads into a mail reader, write some scripts that will auto-post back using WWW::Mechanize in Perl when I “answer” a message, and hope they never change the interface and break my stuff. I've googled around for UBB.Threads hacks, and come up empty.

But, before I dive, I suppose I should ask, particularly of the geek/poker crossover people who read my journal: how the hell do you put up with 2+2's crappy software?

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