shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

Last night, I got all my chips in out-of-position in a multiway pot at a NYC club; Dawn was in the pot. I held the 5h 3s on a 5c 5s Jc board with two clubs. I moved in because we had one all-in-preflop player for the main pot, and I had a bet and a large raise (from Dawn) in the sidepot ahead of me. I decided that I would represent a weak flush draw by check-raising all-in. I had Dawn, based on previous action, on either AJ or QQ (she claimed later it was QQ). I figured she'd call most of the time with QQ and fold AJ. I expected the very tight player in between to fold his flush draw or jack. There was a reasonably good chance I'd win the side pot and end up heads up against the all-in-preflop player

It came out as I expected, the tight player folded, and Dawn thought for a while. Now, I am totally against soft-playing, so I wouldn't have told Dawn to fold or otherwise given her any direct information. However, I really wanted Dawn to fold because I knew what she probably had and knew she'd have trouble folding QQ.

I should interrupt my story to note that I'm typically the type to give off false tells. I've noticed a few tells common with players who have big hands — there's the classic hand-shaking, but also they tend to breathe heavier when they've made a big bet with a strong holding than they do with a bluff.

I try to use a reverse tell in these instances. When I don't want a call, I get myself all excited and breathing heavier, and if I can get it going (usually I can't), I get my hands shaking a bit. I do the reverse when I have a hand.

However, in this situation, I suddenly found myself shaking a bit and breathing heavy. I am usually in total control of this tell and frequently reverse it or otherwise mix it up. And here I am, up against Dawn, knowing that I don't want to see her lose, and I'm inadvertently giving off the correct signals of a big hand.

Dawn folded after much deliberation, and I haven't yet had a chance to ask her if the tell was a factor. I sure hope it wasn't, because I feel somewhat that effectively I made a subconscious soft-play. I agree that a soft-play of any kind is 100% cheating. I think two articles recently on the subject get that point across well.

So, did I subconsciously soft-play? Should I feel bad about it? I know that I am consciously in control of that tell because I used it three other times that night to give the wrong signal to other opponents. But, heads-up with Dawn with a player all-in and one folded, I let it come out as a straight-up signal. By the time I was breathing heavy and shaking a bit and realized it, I couldn't get control of it to stop it, so I let it go. Did I cheat? Should I try to avoid playing at the table with Dawn in the future anywhere but home games?

I think I'm helped by the fact that Dawn likely didn't pick up on the tell one way or the other, but she'll probably comment here to say. Still, that doesn't excuse it if I was, even subconsciously, trying to give her a signal to fold.

Oh, finally, for those who want to know how it turned out, Dawn folded, I claimed the side pot, and had to show my hand to show it down with the all-in player who had committed his chips preflop with Qc 8c and caught the Kc on the turn.

shipitfish: (partly-cloudy-patriot)

Having just this weekend had a chat box conversation with someone arguing that the river cards in the NL HE games on Absolute Poker are doled out carefully to “make sure the site makes the maximum rake every time”, I was glad to get a link from [livejournal.com profile] nick_marden to a blog post that expressed, more or less, the same thoughts I had about the so-called “rigging of online poker”.

(Although I don't have any links handy,) I should mention that I've seen some folks on LiveJournal doing statistical studies of their Poker Tracker databases to show that they are receiving a statistically expected distribution of starting hands, flops, turns and rivers in HE. Everything I've seen comes back on the up-and-up. There is no way to “prove” that the cards are distributed in a statistically fair way, but I suggest that a preponderance of evidence has already been collected. Therefore, this will probably be my only post ever about this, so I'll make a clear statement: there is no chance online poker is intentionally rigged. Occam's razor alone should tell us that, anyway.

My fear, however, is that there are subtle bugs in the random number generators in use. Such bugs probably don't impact anyone very much; probably something that is no worse than a dealer who shuffles a bit too lazily. I do, however, have a strong feeling that eventually such stories of mildly buggy random number generators will come out, and there will be a mass exodus from online poker.

Being a Open Source and Free Software weenie, I tend to think the best remedy to this would be for online sites to proactively publish their source code. So far, only one site, written by some friends of mine, has done so, and they are still in beta. Even if the client software isn't made fully available, at the very least these companies should be publishing the code of their random number generators for public audit and review. It would go a long way to dispel rumors and boost confidence.

Of course, they are unlikely to do it. I've found that the money-obsession in the poker world and the Free Software ethic don't usually mix. Indeed, to drive the point home, I note that almost all of the software developers and executives (a class who are generally receptive to the idea of software freedom) whom I've met in the poker world have been anti-Free Software. The self-selecting class of software people who like poker tend to be the most anti-software-freedom, pro-Microsoft ones. No wonder that it took a bunch of radical French Free Software developers to write the first poker site that releases the source to its client and server.

That being true, I'm sure that there will someday be a leak from one of the more buggy and pathetically programmed poker sites. Such a hypothetical leak will probably turn out to show the random number generator was a little less random than it should have been. When that happens, alarmists will probably clamor enough to kill online poker. That will really suck for those of us who are picking up lots of easy cash playing online. On the bright side, it might launch a new era of interest in poker sites like Pok3d, where the sources are available. If only my buddies could get out of beta and have real money games!

Anyway, I don't usually mix my Free Software politics with my poker blog. As a treat for my readers who have tolerated this rant, I'll point you at the most amusing blog post about rigged online poker I've ever read (also thanks to [livejournal.com profile] nick_marden).

shipitfish: (partly-cloudy-patriot)

So, here it is, tax day, and I bet you fudged your poker winnings. I bet you said to yourself: well, only online wins are actually traceable. Maybe you picked up a bunch of discarded betting slips at your local Off Track Betting establishment to “establish” some losses. Maybe you just figure that since that $8,000 you cashed out the last time you were in AC wasn't enough to generate a 1099-G, who will ever know as long as the cash is under your mattress.

Most poker players in the USA cheat on their taxes. It's a mostly a cash business, and records don't get generated unless the wins are really big. Since most pros win small amounts (less than the $10,000 or so that forces generation of a 1099-G), they don't report, or substantially under-report, their winnings.

Every year, I dedicate a post to scold you all. You are doing something wrong. I think it's a true societal injustice.

This isn't to say that I like what the taxes fund. I have my misgivings about income taxes; we all surely do. I looked at the graph in the back of my 1040 booklet this year with revulsion. In 2004, much more of my tax money was spent on national defense than on human development, and more than social programs; this disgusts me. Meanwhile, I think that it's scandalous that individual tax payers have to foot 35% of the federal budget while corporations get more welfare than any of us — they pay only 8% of the budget. You might guess, given my propensity for living in so-called “blue states” that I don't support the current administration (I didn't support the last one, either, for that matter). It's sufficient to say that I have never voted for the candidate who won; my government has never represented me.

But, I still believe it's wrong not to pay your taxes. You can use every argument in the book to say taxes are unjust, but it isn't civil disobedience to simply not pay. If you want to make a statement, enclose a letter with your 1040 saying: “I cheated on these taxes because the income tax system is wrong for the following reasons ...”. So I ask, of those of you that failed to report (or under-reported) your poker income, how many of you did that? If you didn't, then you aren't some sort of tax protester; you're just a thief trying to hide on “high moral ground” that isn't really there.

Keep in mind, all of you, how you made that money this year. You played a game. There are working people, who break their backs every day, or sit in soulless cubicles for 60 hours a week, and pay every last dime in their required taxes. Meanwhile, you made some money while you enjoyed your work. You played a game to earn that cash. I believe that gives you an even stronger obligation to pay up. (And, although it's off-topic, I'll note that if you didn't have fun while winning at poker in 2005, you may want to consider giving up the game and finding something else to do.) You have no right to ask those working people to carry more than their fair share while you get lucky because you're in a “cash business” and can evade the auditors indefinitely.

Ok, so there again is my annual rant about how poker players should be honest on taxes. For those of you that were honest, I commend you for doing the right thing. For those who weren't, may your guilt consume you and convince you to do the right thing next year. :)

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

So, while the U Club remains open, the L Club was in fact raided on Thursday night! I was actually there that night; W.D. and I couldn't be gladder that we left early to head over to the H Club!

I am sure this was a bust, because there was a a post on Craig's List, a comment in my journal, and W.D. himself stopped by after work yesterday to play a half only to find them gone and not answering the phone.

This club had a number of questionable policies and practices. I heard a rumor that the house people, who often played in the game when they should have been paying attention to the customer needs, were cheating. I doubt this was true, but what I do believe is that they structured table assignment to get a pyramid scheme going whereby extremely weak players dumped stacks to mediocre players who then would be placed at tables with big stacks than they could lose chips to the house players. They implemented this scheme through a creative and strange “must move” policy. (It was unlike any must-move setup I've ever seen at any casino I've visited, in part because the floor manipulated and changed the order of people's moves. They would also arbitrarily suspend the must-move policy for a few halves depending on who was where.)

I can't say I'm sad to see the club go. They had bad customer service, were rude to the customers, and treated their dealers badly. They flaunted their existence on public fora, so it's not surprising that they eventually got busted. I just hope this isn't a beginning of another round of city-wide busts.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

I don't post much about specific online hands. In general, the online situations I end up in just are not that interesting. It's mundane poker most of the time.

I probably wouldn't post this hand either, except for the "cheating" incident at the end. It's probably more of an angle shot than cheating, but I think Ultimate Bet bears much of the responsibility. I explain why at the end.


Online Hand Action

I describe the action of the hand, and include my commentary and thinking in italics.

This is a six-handed, $1/$2 Blind NL HE with $200 maximum buy-in on Ultimate Bet. The hand started on Saturday 2006-01-28 at 20:00:02. The table was full but one player was sitting out, so the deal was was five-handed. popov18 was in the $1 SB with $199.40. I was in the $2 BB with $493.85.

As is typical in this sort of tight-weak online game, everyone folds to SB, and popov18 raises it to $6. I quickly call with 6h 8h. I wouldn't even consider folding in this game. popov18 was the only other reasonably aggressive player at the table, and he could raise with a wide range of hands -- any pair, any A, K, or Q high, or any suited connector. I am not beating many of these hands, but he has a full buy-in and I have reasonable implied odds and can probably outplay him after the flop.

The flop fell 7h 4h 3d, and popov18 quickly bets $12 (the size of the pot). This is a huge flop for my hand, as I have a gutshot straight draw to the nuts, and a flush draw. Plus, three eights may make me the best hand, since at this point, I'm somewhat convinced popov18 has something like A7o.

I wait only a brief moment, and make it to $40 to go. popov18 quickly calls. Ok, A7o is still a vague possibility, but the fact that he called so quickly indicates he may have a draw. I get a bit worried he has a better flush draw. I eliminate overpairs, two-pair, and even the sets, because I am quite sure he'd protect such a strong holding with a reraise against a two-tone board.

The turn is the 4d. popov18 checks. I don't think this improves his hand, because A4 or some other such holding with a four seems unlikely. I have pretty much eliminated a set on the flop, so while he might check when he fills up, he's unlikely to have that holding. I pause for a moment considering if I should bluff and decide to check behind.

Checking behind is a bit of a tight-weak play. He needs to put me on a hand a strong as a set to believe that I might check (with the best hand). But, he's seen me play quite loose and show down some weak starting hands that connected with the board, so based on what he's seen, he can reasonably give me 74 as well as the sets. (And, BTW, he is capable of putting me on a hand.) However, I may have given up the pot here, but I am unsure what to do, because I am pretty worried he's drawing at a better flush. I hope for a black 5.

The river misses everything (but A5), with a 2c (final board: 7h 4h 3d 4d 2c). At this moment in the hand history, it reads: popov18 has disconnected, is dropped. There was, however, no indication that this had happened. So, not knowing my fate was already sealed, I had a decision to make. It's clear he has a flush draw, and now has at best Ace-high. He's not a crafty enough player to check-raise with a bluff on the river; a reasonable bluff wins here. After four seconds or so, I bet $30 into the $92 pot to make it look like a value bet. I wait and wait. As I wait, another player named ArogantBastid, who was previous annoyed at my bluffs that he couldn't call, shouts: "get him, popov18". This, of course, is a clear violation of the rules.

Meanwhile, popov18 times out, and I am totally confused when I see no call but my $30 returned and the pot shipped to his now exposed Ah 3h (third pair, and the nut flush draw I suspected).


"All-in"? What?

Now, over on Pokerroom they do not allow "all-in" protection here. There, as on most sites, at best, if you are disconnected while engaged in a NL or PL hand, you get extra time (three minutes or so) to reconnect, and you can use this extra time two or three times per day. On Ultimate Bet, you instead get what is called "all-in" protection. This practice, popular in online limit games, pretends that your last bet put into the pot left you with nothing, and it as if you are "all-in".

This is a huge problem in NL/PL games. Stack size in these games is a crucial factor. I wouldn't have made this bet if I'd thought popov18 was anywhere near all-in. Indeed, I would have played the flop and the turn differently if I knew he would be declared all-in on the river.

I am very happy with my play of the hand. It turned out my read was somewhat off (yes, he had an ace-high flush draw, but had paired one of his cards). But, I believe it is a completely unacceptable to allow all-in protection. Yes, network connections go down, and I don't play NL or PL (favoring limit, where all-in protection is much more bearable) when I have a spotty network connection. Why does Ultimate Bet do it this way? And, do you all think they should have to award me the pot, and should they do so now retroactively? Do you think ArogantBastid and/or popov18 violated the rules? What should their punishment be?

(Funny postscript to the hand itself: It was ArogantBastid (who violated the rules himself) who shouted that I should turn popov18 in. I have reported both of their behavior to Ultimate Bet member services. I will update this post once I have an answer.)


Correspondence with Ultimate Bet

Member Services said, on Saturday:

Thank you for letting us know about what you witnessed. We will forward your message to the appropriate department and deal with the player(s) accordingly. Let us know how we may further assist you.

I wrote back on Sunday to say that it was important to realize that I had probably lost a pot because of this abuse. They replied, on Monday:

Please excuse us for any delay resolving this situation. All hand histories and all in protection records were sent to my supervisor yesterday. Since these cases are personally handled by him please bear with us for a little longer while he works through the numerous cases that have been sent.

And, finally, they did the right thing, on Tuesday:

I have credited $90 into your account. Apologies for the delay but I was so bussy [sic] with previous cases

It seems silly to me that they simply don't switch to a better NL/PL disconnect handling system. I will probably never know if they took the money back from popov18 or just ate the $90 cost themselves.

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