shipitfish: (Default)

The UIGEA turned out to be challenged from a number of directions. The story has been well covered elsewhere, and I don't know enough to do it justice, but my understanding is that banks are simply saying that they can't implement the complicated rules and are appealing to regulatory agencies. Like most court/legislative maneuvers, this will take some time to sort out.

Meanwhile, online poker remains as grey as ever. Money goes in and out to the sites still operating, and some payout systems still work (although fees have reached new heights).

I've been just too busy doing actually useful work to spend time playing much poker, but as a change of pace I often play on weekend mornings until it becomes boring. I decided, though, that I wouldn't deposit. Instead, I'd take from Chris Ferguson's challenge and try to literally get something for nothing.

Having played so much online, I have a number of player points on various sites. So, during the latter half of last year, I decided to see if I could build an online poker bankroll and/or win some prizes without ever redepositing even $1.

I started on a UltimateBet, because their player points are most valuable. Well, they are most valuable because you can actually play “cash games” for points, with a 2500 point buy-in and 10/25 point blinds. Since deep-stacked NL HE cash games against weak opponents are the best spots I've ever found for myself in poker, these games were ready-made to get me lots of points.

My first big win was to win my wife's holiday gift: an Ipod bought with points on UltimateBet. This had the added bonus of fighting off the don't spend money on a music player for me; the one I have basically works attitude my wife was taking. This way, I could invest only my time and get her a gift that she actually really wanted but couldn't justify the overpriced cost of Apple's (IMO, crappy) hardware.

Now, in the end, I roughly calculated that I got paid somewhere around $3/hour for the time it took me to play to win the Ipod. However, most of that time I could be doing something else like watching TV or talking with my wife. Those point games are extremely low pressure and easy to pick up chips without any hard decisions or good reads. (“Standard bad player” reading ability is all it takes to get the points.)

In next week's post, I'll talk about my next moves for building a fresh online bankroll using only the almost-cash-valued remnants of my former online pro status.

shipitfish: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

During the weeks leading up to the WSoP this year, I played lots of satellites with points and various other small amounts. This is a tourney hand from an online WSoP main event $600+35 satellite (which I'd super'ed into). Starting chips were 2,500 and starting blinds were 10/20. We were on the first blind level, at a 9-handed table. I had 2,800 in chips and was two from the button.

Action is folded to the person on my right, who made it 60. I called with 5d 5h. The big blind (with 2,959 chips) defended and we saw the flop of 5c 2h 6s three-handed with 190 in the pot.

It was checked to me, and I led for 100 chips. The big blind called and the preflop raiser folded. The pot stood at 390 chips. I knew nothing about the players, but I put the big blind on an overpair (probably around 77 or 88 that he was misplaying), 34, 66, 22, 78, 45, 47, or maybe overcards. The turn was the Qs and he led for 200 chips. I somewhat felt perhaps he did have something like AQ that he check-called with and added this to his range. I also though maybe at this point he had a gutshot or overcards on the flop and picked up a flush draw. The annoying part about his lead is that it actually increased my range for him (even if it did make it unlikely he held an overpair on the flop).

I made it 600 chips to go and he called quickly. We saw the river of Jc with 1,590 chips in the pot. He had only 1,699 chips remaining. I really felt he had a set of 2's at this point, but obviously 34 and a set of sixes were real possibilities. I consider that maybe some sort of Q was a possibility, as he may have been making some sort of delayed steal on the flop. I decided there were a number of hands he could pay off legitimately. I figured he'd call with everything in his range except busted-straights/turned-flush-draws. I led 800.

He check-raised all in. At that point, I narrowed his range to 34, 66, 22, and very rarely QJ. I called his last 899 with 1-to-3.54 odds, hoping for 22, and saw 3s 4s.

After calling the river, I felt strongly I shouldn't have tried that river value bet. I think I would have been more likely to check in a cash game, but in a tourney (at the time) I felt I had to collect the chips. Once I've value-bet, I clearly can't fold to the check-raise because I can't completely eliminate 22. Plus, if he had QJ even a little bit of the time I think the odds are clearly right.


shipitfish: (cincinnati-kid-betting)

I thought I'd mention briefly the story that has had the online poker world going since the first 2+2 posts last month showed one player's 100% river aggression factor. The story ends with Absolute Poker's executives using “root” accounts to swindle online players by knowing their exact card holdings in high stakes cash games and high buy-in tournaments.

I won't go through the details of the story; I've been following it from a distance (since my poker time is limited these days), so I would probably get a few details wrong. Since I have more time to listen things while commuting than reading stuff online, I got the best summary of this situation from this week's episode of the Rounders podcast. Also, two posts that [ profile] extempore (aka Paul Phillips) made give some good details. (I am not a true NYC'er, BTW, because I can't read easily on the subway and listen to podcasts instead.)

I had suggested before that perception of badly written software and not true “rigging” would ultimately be a serious problem for online poker. I think I'm going to declare myself as somewhere between 30%-50% right about that.

Some might say this situation shows that Absolute was “rigged”, since it was an inside job. Executives at the company held the root account, and used it to view everyone's cards and gain huge edges against their customers. But, putting on my hat as information technology expert for a moment, I argue that this is a software problem as much as anything else.

The software should never had this feature. There is no good reason that standard client software, used from an off-site location, should have had the ability to receive hidden card information before the cards were exposed in the hand. Indeed, the network protocol itself should never even send hidden card information until the completion of the hand (if at all).

The idea that the network protocol sent opponents' hole card information over the wire before shows simply bad system design and programming. There is no reason to do this, and a hundred reasons not to. Had the software not been designed this way, the only cheating temptation our friendly Absolute executive would have involved modifying the server software himself to send him card information in real time somehow. Maybe the guy was a smart software developer or system administrator and could have pulled off the job himself, but I doubt it.

Finally, to bring my personal politics into this, this is why I firmly believe that all poker server software should be Open Source and Free Software (FOSS). There is no competitive advantage for these poker sites to gain from having server software that differs; their branding, interface, and other edges happen on the client side. (I happen to think client software should be FOSS too, but that's a harder argument.) The argument for FOSS server technology for all online poker is clear and simple. Players should be allowed to examine the code to be sure only their authenticated accounts can receive their hidden cards.

Of course, only the site administrators should be allow to change the versions of this FOSS running on their own servers, but they should publish that source for public inspection. That's the only way online poker can actually be safe from these sorts of challenges.

BTW, full disclosure: A good friend of mine is the premiere developer in the world of FOSS poker technology. His site has some useful and interesting stuff. I must admit, I am jealous sometimes that his day job is writing FOSS poker software, but I still hope his software gains more adoption in reaction to these events.


Friday, 15 June 2007 08:17
shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

With just 24 days to go before banks are required to comply with the UIGEA, I was greeted with this unfortunate message when I went to cash out my daily $300 from ePassporte today:

US Bank Account

This functionality is temporarily disabled. Our backend ACH processor is currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please check back later.

I wonder if technical difficulties mean, our USA processor just bumped us to comply with UIGEA and we're scrambling to find another. I have about $2,000 left of the large sum I've been pulling out at $300/day for quite a while, I hope I can get the rest out. I also have a dozen $300 withdraws in the “pipeline” that have left my ePassporte account but haven't shown up in my bank account.

Ok, so now would be the panic time. Online poker is about to collapse in the USA. Get your money out now. :)

Update: ePassporte is working again, for now. Still, less than a month left before full-on UIGEA.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

On Epassporte, you can only cash out $300 each 24 hours via ACH, and they charge $2 each time. You can up this to $500 a time only if you give them both a credit card and a bank account number.

I will cut it close getting all the darn money out in the 63 days remaining before the UIGEA goes into effect.

As my wife pointed out, it's better than getting none of it, which is about where I was give that Cake apparently has no check processor now.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

Barney Frank has always been my favorite Congressional Representative; I had the pleasure of being his constituent for a while in my life, and I miss that time.

If his bill passes (and, of course, it's a huge underdog), I will seriously consider playing online regularly again. Not because I won't play online if the game is illegal, but rather because fully legalized and regulated online poker will be so lucrative that it will be too difficult to pass up.

Similarly, if I didn't dislike California so much (in large part because of the poor public transit in most Californian cities) and happened to live there, I'd play in the legal local card rooms.

There are some people who are going to play poker only when it's fully legal, and those are the fishiest. I just need a huge overlay to persuade me. If the game isn't a full-on donk-fest, I can't make enough to justify the time. Legalized online games could yield hourly rates like those on Cake and Pacific in the hey days. That'd be tough to ignore, even if taking money from the clueless is starting to make me sick to my stomach.

shipitfish: (Default)

Cake Poker realized that all of things available for purchase in their Cake Store were too cheap. Hard-core players just earned those gold coins too fast. I was playing on there so much, that under the old prices, I would have earned an 80GB iPod every three weeks! Glad I got two of them before they doubled the cost. :)

Still, it will take a lot longer than six weeks to get my next one. I am not playing on their as much as I was. The Neteller thing really thinned out the player base. I would still declare Cake Poker's NL HE games the easiest to beat on the Internet right now, but that's all becoming relative.

Cashouts have gotten really slow. I have had a cashout pending for a week and a half and they have yet to even process it. Plus, you can't buy fedex shipping for the cashouts anymore. Their answer when I email them is: Checks will be received 15-20 days from the date requested. Most of that time seems to be waiting for them to even process the check request in their system, not the time it takes after they've sent it off to Chexx.

I've decided to pull most of my online bankrolls out at this point. I'm going to be writing more about my plan to substantially reduce the amount of poker I play soon, but I might as well start moving the money out at this point.

shipitfish: (Default)

Here's another one of these. I am only even considering I made a mistake because the player in question was extremely tight.

In a $1/$2 NL HE $200 Max online, 10 players, the hijack seat limps, cutoff raises all-in for $8.50. I reraise to $25-to-go (having started the hand with $250) from the SB with Ks Kh. An Ultra-Tight player in the BB (who has me covered) smooth-calls and the limper folds. I have Ultra-Tight on QQ or AA, maybe AKs, but he probably folds even the latter 90% of the time in that spot.

The flop is Ad Kc Qd. I check with the intention of raising, since I know he probably flopped a set. He bets $20, I raise to $100, and he goes all in and I call immediately, expecting to either see a set of queens or of aces. It's aces.

I should never, ever consider just betting out and being done with the hand if he stays in the pot, right? I should try to get the money in, right?

Man, playing poker this many hours yields set-over-set too often. :)

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

As many know, I have preferred — since the quick withdraw of Firepay after UIGEA — the paper check cashout method from online poker sites. I have used this method many times. I even used it sometimes while I still had Firepay for larger amounts, particularly in the old days of Pokerroom when the would fedex you a check at no charge if it was over $2,000.

I've seen the sites change what check processor they use many times. It appears that the last one operating is Chexx, Inc., a clearinghouse third-party check processor. I've noticed that sites that once used a different processor are now sending me checks via Chexx; I've received numerous Chexx's checks (don't subvocalize that phrase; it just sounds confusing) from various sites over the past two weeks.

[ profile] davebreal referred recently to his concerns about Chexx, Inc. Worries about Chexx were initially raised on the 2+2 Internet poker forum. As near as I can tell, that whole thread is a bunch of fear mongering interspersed with an occasional intelligent person pointing out how the banking system actually works. Please, don't panic.

I admit I was a little concerned, too. But then I got Chexx's checks in my own hands and did some research. There are two things that generally matter when depositing any check (I'll get to specific UIGEA worries later): (a) does the account in question have sufficient funds, and (b) is the issuing bank reliable and known to pay their drafts. Nothing else really matters. Admittedly, (b) becomes quite complicated for USA citizens because it is often difficult here when the issuing bank is not in the USA. (Many of the checks I've gotten from various poker payment processors have been Canadian, and I've had many problems at some banks about that.)

The good news is that the Chexx's checks are drawn off a bank in the USA. According to the routing number, Chexx is using a bank called the US Bank, which has 2,472 branches in the mid-west and elsewhere. I don't think we therefore have to worry about the bank itself. Is this bank really going to default on its drafts and run off with the money?

The only problem, then, would be that Chexx's account doesn't have sufficient funds. This, too, seems pretty unlikely. Chexx is a somewhat well-established third-party check distributor, including check processing for many mundane, non-UIGEA-impacted businesses such as consumer product rebates. Even once UIGEA becomes a problem for them, they aren't going to jeopardize their larger business by bouncing checks for any customer — be they an online gambling company or not.

Given that this is an established company with multiple vertical markets, don't you think that they are going to do a careful pull-out? Don't you think they'll inform their customers (the poker sites) when the end date is? Don't you think they'll honor all checks issued before said pull-out? Rumors have gone around that the end might be 1 February. Others have said 1 March. But, we're going to know, and not via rumors. Chexx will tell the poker sites and the poker sites will tell the players, surely with at least 24 hours of warning if not more. Then they'll honor all checks issued up until that point, and they'll refer us to ePassporte or something.

So, you might ask, why is that people are reporting problems, such as tellers refusing to accept the checks from Chexx? Well, this is a problem I know a great deal about. I have been doing online poker check cashouts for almost three years now, and I can tell you first hand that tellers, and even most bankers, are utterly clueless about how even the national banking system works, let alone the international one does. They see a check that doesn't look like all the others they see every day, and they freak. They don't know how to handle it. They see a Canadian return address, and then don't bother to look up the routing number and see if it is a USA routing number. They tell you they don't take Canadian checks, or try to tell you have to pay some exorbitant fee to get it processed, or some other bullshit. Most people (to use a pithy phrase from our world) are clueless donks.

In a comment in davebreal's journal, I mentioned that so-called boutique banks are the best answer. My bank (whom I won't name publicly but if anyone is interested in them email me privately and I'll tell you about them) requires that you keep $2,500 active in your account (at only 1.5% interest), or pay $15/month for the privilege to have an account. Sure, it ain't cheap to keep the account open, but I get serious service for the cost. I have a personal banker assigned to my account who knows me and understands my business. I've explained to her that I do business with a number of companies in Canada and elsewhere, and they use these payment processing services. She's researched each one to make sure the checks are good when I start doing business with a new company or service. She figures out the best way to process the check (either as a standard ACH deposit or as a foreign check claim from Canada), and I get the money deposited. She even puts it through as “cash”, so that I don't have to wait for the amount to clear the other side.

My point here: the people freaking out haven't done their homework, and they are relying on the clueless employees of large, overly corporate banks to tell them how things work. Yes, there are going to UIEGA problems. Sometime in the next 153 days, US Bank will decide that they can no longer accept Chexx's transactions from their gaming customers. Perhaps before that, Chexx will have already voluntarily left the poker site payment business. We'll all find out some date when we can't request checks anymore. The existing checks we have will clear; we'll just have trouble getting the new ones out. We'll have to switch to ePassporte or some other crazy thing for a while. But, I'm sure they'll be some way to get the money out almost right up to the day compliance with UIGEA is mandatory (which is 10 July 2007, BTW).

That said, I definitely think slowly reducing your active online bankrolls to the bare minimum is a good idea. The last cashout right up against 10 July will be tough. But, we have a lot of days to go. Remember that these banks and check processors are run by people — regular old human beings like you and me. People procrastinate. People try to get their papers into the professor just under the deadline. People try to renew their license the day before it expires. Particularly when there is a lot of money involved, people will be slow to implement new measures for new legislation.

The challenge is following carefully the changes and anticipating when you have to switch tactics (just like in poker :). I have a feeling that check cashout has legs for another 60 days or so, then we'll have to switch to ePassporte, which will probably have about 50 days of life, and then it's over. That's my rough estimate based on gut instinct and how things played out with Firepay and the other sites that withdrew from the USA.

However it works out, note that arrests appear to be the only way to lock money up. Neteller and the other sportsbook case are the only examples that I know of where USA players funds have been seized. Even my experience with the Pokerstars instant cutoff from Firepay worked out; Pokerstars dutifully sent me a check upon request right after Firepay disappeared. I suppose that if we see arrest made of any US Bank or Chexx employees, we should assume the worst. Therefore, although I flirted with it for a while, I'm going ultimately to pass on the panicking. I hope you will too.

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

I mentioned recently that my lack of entries in January was caused in part by an experiment I was conducting. The experiment actually continues, as I decided to extend it, but I will give a brief report for the standings right now.

The crux of the experiment was to see if I could make enough money to keep my current lifestyle should I play poker professionally full-time rather than merely part-time. An analysis I did last year, showed that playing only 16 hours a week, I was earning at a rate of around $10-$14/hour. Obviously, in my non-poker life, I make more than that, so this part-time job couldn't replace my full-time one at this rate.

So, I began to think about how I could increase the earn rate substantially. One thought was to move up in stakes from my usual $1/$2 and $2/$5 NL/PL (or $5/$10 and $10/$20 limit) to something much bigger. This is a dangerous move, especially if I were to play full-time hours, because I have no history (other than a few short sessions) in bigger games, even if I am adequately bankrolled.

I decided to do some more poker reading and thinking about the game. I looked for a few leaks. But, as I started my month of full-time hours, I still found myself winning around $12/hour in the $1/$2 NL HE games I was playing. It's clear to me that against reasonably strong opponents (i.e., the type who don't often stack off with one pair, and can read situations reasonably well), that's about the best I'm going to get.

So, it leaves two basic choices: move up in stakes, or find better games. I'd eliminated the former, so I was left with the latter.

I had done the first 14 days of the month playing the usual online sites. But, Full Tilt had been inundated with the Party Poker refugee sharks, and the games that were awesome in December ($1/$2, $200 max NL HE 6-max) had become, by mid-January, a constant battle to take money from the occasional weak player. Even Ultimate Bet, the once tight-weak-but-overplay-one-pair paradise has increased in its occurrence of multi-tabling pros. Other than the heads up games there — an extremely high variance form of poker — there wasn't much dead money to collect.

This brought me to around the 14th of January. I thought about focusing to live play. But, the costs are heavy. I could rent a cars (I've vowed to never use Greyhound again) to visit AC regularly, but I couldn't get away from work that easily. (I have a lot going on at my other job right now, too.) The NYC clubs are profitable, but nowhere near as good at the AC games. They are also hyper-aggressive, which leads to more variance.

So, I decided I had to become a online poker game selection specialist. I bought into every site I ever heard of. I sweated games. I found out when and where the really horrible players show up. And, my results improved. From the 14th to the 31st, I earned $79/hour multi-tabling $1/$2 ($200 max), $.5/$1 ($100 max), and occasionally $2/$4 ($400 max) NL HE. Plus, I made an additional $1,850 in online bonuses and promotions. These are results one could live on.

Of course, I don't think these will be typical by any means. I don't seem to have gotten amazingly lucky, it's really that I have found fields with opponents whose knowledge of the game is so abysmal that they cannot help but lose large amounts of money. Such fields are a rare find, and online poker moves and changes so fast (especially given the financial unraveling occurring in the USA), that there is absolutely no certainty that any good games will be available in just a few months.

However, my live sessions in Atlantic City and other casinos show that it's likely that I could probably earn a reasonable living as a full-time pro. Let's assume my results are highly anomalous (one month can't really show you a long term thing), and that if my game selection skills stay excellent, I'll earn somewhere at the halfway point between my historical results and these recent ones. That's certainly being optimistic, but it gives a good “best case” scenario of full-time pro life. If this estimate is accurate, I'd make my hourly rate somewhere $35-$45/hour. That's $75,000 to $90,000 each year, assuming normal work weeks and two weeks of vacation. That's completely without other benefits, of course.

However, even in the best case, when online poker ends, I'd doubt I'll be able to make much more than $50,000 or so a year at it unless my skill improves substantially or the games stay as easy as they are. (I think the latter is highly unlikely, and the former would be a substantial investment on my part). Even if the games stay good, much of the great EV comes from the multi-tabling and fast dealing online. Even $50k/year might be optimistic for live play unless I get much better and move way up in stakes.

I suppose I'm not giving too much about my personal finances away when I say that $50,000/year without benefits and only two weeks of vacation/sick days is not really close to my current lifestyle.

That said, I'm thinking of continuing with the experiment a while longer. I'm curious to see how long I can keep up the win rate. While it leads to very little free time between the two full-time jobs, I'd like to have a go for one more month and see how it works out. I'll keep you all posted, but it'll be sporadic.

shipitfish: (Default)

I have disappeared from my journal because I've been coming home from work every day and immediately launching the Cake Poker client and playing until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. I've put in approximately 6-8 hours each weekday and 12 hours each weekend day in playing on this site. I'm earning around $64/hour muli-tabling mostly $1/$2, $200 max, and occasionally $2/$4, $400 max NL HE.

This site is completely amazing. The closest game I can compare it to is what you find in the $1/$2 NL HE games in Atlantic City. These games can be beaten by the clueless. Indeed, the would-be other “sharks” on the site are actually very weak players who simply hold money for me and one or two other strong players to get.

I think there are a few factors that make this site so amazing:

  • The Sports Book Players: Cake poker has a skin arrangement with with an online sports betting site. Most of the players (based on chat comments) are actually coming through the sports betting site, not Cake Poker. These players are truly horrible, and have virtually no textbook knowledge of the game and minimal playing experience. They don't even know what hands particular bets represent, let alone figuring out if the other players hold the represented hand or are bluffing.

  • Lack of Poker Tracker Support: A lot of otherwise strong online poker players are not that smart. I once knew someone who has been a losing player for years who told me there was no reason to play on a site that didn't support Poker Tracker. He said this during the hey days of Pacific, when the limit games there were the best ever seen on teh Internets. Pacific then was much like Cake is today. This fellow, who was struggling to do well at limit games, would only play on the shark infested waters of Party and elsewhere, losing steadily, while I was cleaning up on Pacific. At the time, I was probably only a little better at limit HE than he was, but I was a consistent winner and he was a consistent loser, because of his stupid Poker-Tracker-only game selection criteria.

    Of course I'm annoyed that my hand histories aren't imported and I have no heads-up display on the players. Thing is, I started playing online poker before Poker Tracker and like systems were even available. I know how to beat the game without it. Anyway, the opposition on Cake Poker is so bad, even someone who is completely spoiled with the Poker Tracker crutch should be able to beat the games with ease. These players are horrendous; a trained monkey should be able to at least break even in these games.

    Frankly, I am heavily rooting for Poker Tracker to not support this site. Once that happens, many sharks will give it a try. I recall that six months after HandGrabber came along and made PT work for Pacific, the games started to decline. Now, Pacific is nothing special — just another crappy software poker site.

    I am so amazed at the near-exact parallels between Pacific and Cake Poker: another gambling site sending players over (888 and Sports Book), bad software, no Poker Tracker support. In poker, you have to live where the fish live, even if it puts you out of your comfort zone.

  • Completely readable, loose passive players: This is key here. They slow-play when they shouldn't, and min-raise with monsters. They just call down with any top pair, but let you manipulate the pot size. They stack off every time with any two-pair or better holding. You basically have to be a moron to get a lot of chips in the pot bad against them, since they are trivial to read.

  • Profitable Promotions: They have this “gold card” thing where you collect cards from their vault. They are used for a number of their promotions. The most interesting one is the weekly “GC 500”. There's a lot of luck involved, but if you play every day for five hours or more, odds are you are going to win an average of $250 in the thing a week.

You may note that this post was originally friends only. I didn't initially want to tell the whole Internets about the fish pond. These days, it doesn't matter as much.

Anyway, I might not be posting a lot, as I want to suck down this money before it runs dry!

shipitfish: (partly-cloudy-patriot)

As my regular readers know, I am actually only a part-time poker player. I have a day job in the Open Source and Free Software field.

Anyway, I just noticed that Sunday night, my worlds collided again, as they do on occasion. Robert Boyd announced that the Pokerspot source code has been released.

Those who weren't around for the extreme early days of online poker (when all we had was PlanetPoker, where I refused to play; I didn't start playing myself until Pokerroom came along and made a client that ran on GNU/Linux). Back in those days, Robert Boyd, along with his brother (the now ESPN.famous Dutch Boyd) called PokerSpot. Their site failed due to payment processors going bankrupt, leading to cashflow problems, panic, and a scenario akin to a bank collapse.

There's more history than that, and some people claim Robert and Dutch stole money. What really happened is their business failed, like so many others, and they couldn't pay their creditors, which included in part the “bankroll investors” in their site. This doesn't upset me much, and wouldn't even if I'd lost money myself, because there are serious risks in putting your money into anything (including your mattress — after all, the currency could always suffer mass-inflation now that the gold standard only exists in history books). Of the risky places to put your money, poker sites have always been one of the most dangerous.

That aside, I'm glad that Robert did the right thing with the source code, even if it is only marginally useful. Companies that fail should always do this with their software. Otherwise, it sits and bit-rots on hard drives in warehouses. I'd like to see someone use the software to study the code base to look for errors and mistakes that could have caused games to be run incorrectly. It would be a useful service to the industry and of historical interest in considering the questions of how likely it was that software problems caused any incorrect game play in the early days of online poker.

However, we have another hoop to jump through before that can happen. Those of you that know something about Open Source and Free Software will notice that Robert did not actually DTRT here, because he failed to put a proper license notice on the software indicating what license it is under. I've written to Robert and explained this to him and encouraged him to put the GPL on it. Update: Robert decided to license the software under a GPL-compatible license (a modified BSD) and has updated the SVN repository with the licensing information.

(My clueful readers will note that since the server code clearly includes Poker Source, that it would be a GPL violation for Robert to release the rest of the server software under a GPL-incompatible license. You'd of course be right, but it's much better if we get clarity from Robert on the front end on his own accord. Ok, everyone, now you know how boring my day job is and why I don't keep a journal about it. :)

I should, since I'm talking about Open Source and Free Software online poker, put in a strong plug, as always, for my great friends over at Mekensleep who are the authors of Pok3d. I haven't played their site yet because it's a 3D only client and I don't have a machine to run it on (I use only laptops and extremely old server hardware in my personal life), although they're working on a mundane 2D client like we're used to on other sites. Of course, I can't buy in now either because I live in the USA. But, I encourage my non-USA readers with 3D-capable hardware to give it a go!

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

Excellently insightful as always, Ed Miller posted an excellent piece on the Neteller situation and the danger that has always been inherent with online poker that many don't see. I recall distinctly when I started playing on Pokerroom in 2001, and then again Pacific a year or so later, that it was extremely important for me to be playing not on my preexisting bankroll, but with a new bankroll won on that site. I still try to follow this rule, whereby I attempt to cashout my initial investment as quickly as possible. In this way, I can view any collapse or inability to pay as merely wasted time, not wasted bankroll.

I've modified that somewhat since buying in became difficult; I'm keeping more in online poker accounts than I used to, due to fear that I can't buy in again if it falls. That is probably a mistake, because the trustworthiness of online balances is actually most in question. Miller's right that an online version of the proverbial 1929 “run on the bank” could cause a serious collapse due to cashflow problems.

The most important thing for all of us to do — particularly those of us that receive a serious portion of our real income from online poker — is, in the words of Douglas Adams: Don't Panic. Keep playing your usual games. Do your usual cashouts. We all know we'll see a steady slowdown in the action, and eventually the games will move towards empty as the USA players disappear. But, online poker isn't changing much outside the USA. I hope my non-USA friends can comment, but I bet the feeling outside the USA is these silly USAmericans, always with their morality-oriented legislation. We'll keep doing what we're doing and forget them and their idiot president. If that's the sentiment, which I hope it is, that's the right one. The USA is an important market, but it's not the center of the universe.

I expect I have lots of online poker in my immediate future, and lots of live poker in my medium-term future, which just can't get the EV pumping the way my current online work can. But, I'm happy to let the online scene wind down gracefully around me, and then make my decisions based on what the post-UIGEA and post-Neteller-arrests world looks like. I hope everyone else will do the same. Keep your heads cool; let's all put our chips in, take a flop, and see how this hand plays out.

Update: I forgot to put this link into the slashdot story on the Neteller arrests. Like all slashdot, there are a very few excellent comments and lots of useless ones. Here's a particularly interesting one from a former Neteller employee.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

I've never liked nor used Neteller. It was mostly because I thought it was wrong to have to give an SSN just to do an online payment, but I also thought there was something funky about their post-UIGEA position. At that time, I became convinced that the safest cashout method was paper check, at least while we wait out our (as of today) last 172 days of USA online poker.

There were some arrests of Neteller officials on non-UIGEA (money laundering) charges, and then without warning (other than the omen of the arrests themselves), Neteller service has been suspended for USA users! At least Firepay gave us some time to process final cashouts, even if Pokerstars refused to let you use it.

But, I don't have any time to gloat that I saw Neteller's position as particularly dangerous post-UIGEA (nor is gloating a good thing to do in general, of course). The important item that needs my attention is that most of my opponents use Neteller. I suspect there's going to be an en-masse chip dump (for people who respond with the whole thing is rigged anyway, I'll just ‘play these chips off’ or see if I can double them up), followed by a mass exodus over the next week.

So, for the next 5-10 days, I've got many hours of online poker ahead of me trying to get the last of the money in play from players here in the USA. I was certainly wrong in thinking that we'd get the majority of the remaining days of UIGEA implementation. I figured about 90 days before, we'd start to see a gradual slowdown approaching a crawl of USA players as banks started to roll out implementations. As it turns out, I was off by about 82 days.

Good luck, USA online players. The clock is really ticking now.

shipitfish: (Default)

It's been a long time since I've seen something even close to this — probably a few years. After a $15 preflop raise in a $1/$2 NL HE game where five people saw the flop, three stacks of $200, $250, and $450 got it all in on the flop of: 4h 8s As

Of course, it's set (4s 4h) over set (8h 8d) over set (Ac Ad). This was only the second time in my life I saw this in a hand I was dealt into. (I folded preflop in both cases.)

Then, I proceeded, for the first time in probably two years, to actually be surprised by a draw out. Board finishes: 7s 3s. Bottom set wins — the only one that can make a flush on the unpaired board.

What I do think: it's two people's stories about how online poker is “rigged”.

Seeing it made me feel good in a way. I know I've been playing poker for a very long time when I finally see situations this unlikely. I have to get to bed soon, so I don't have time to calculate the odds on flopped set over set over set yielding a win for bottom set with a four-card flush on board. I am curious how the odds compare to other unlikely random events in life. Some days, I think all of poker is just a world wide experiment in confirming that statistically unlikely events do happen at roughly the theoretically proposed frequency.

For those of you keeping score on me, this doesn't count as a bad beat story being told in my journal because I didn't have a single $1 of my own in the pot, therefore it isn't my bad beat story.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

(To be bloggy again,) I'd like to point people to Lou Kreiger's coverage of former indictments of Neteller officials for money laundering (an earlier post on the same topic, and (update) actual news story).

Yes, it's former executives/directors and this isn't really an UIGEA issue per se, but it indicates some desire by the USA Attorney's offices to continue enforcing existing legislation, getting closer and closer to poker itself. (Previous actions have been against online sports book executives.)

You all keep acting like I think the sky is falling when I say online poker is doomed and it will lead to a crash of the poker economy, but the evidence is all around us. I feel like Dumbledore trying to tell everyone Voldemort is back. :)

I should note to those of you who read my journal not logged into LJ that I have begun making a few “friends only” post. They likely will become public at a later date, but will remain locked for some period. If you want to be on my friends list and have just created an account, please comment on this post to tell me so.

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. :)

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

A blog, as originally conceptualized back before most people in the industrialized world had Internet access, was a regular post by someone about things they were reading online. That's why I've always called this an online journal, not a blog.

Anyway, occasionally, I act blog-ish. Today, I'm going to.

Ed Miller wrote an excellent entry on Sunday regarding his analysis of whether or not poker games are getting tougher (you can also go to the non-livejournal-syndicate version). If you haven't read this entry, I believe it's an absolute must-read. I agree with every one of his sentiments, and it basically renders pointless a number of journal entries I had under development.

I think we really don't know what will happen to online poker. Having done the low-limit multi-table thing, I believe he's right about multi-tablers being glorified “bots” that make it extremely difficult to win. I find myself that my edge is better playing only two tables right at the top of my stakes threshold, in part because I can get a nice edge against the rock multi-tablers in orphaned pots. (Frankly, massive-multi-tablers rarely notice when pots are orphaned.)

I also absolutely love the fact that he makes reference to my day-job politics. I find it wonderful that Ed Miller turns out to be someone who believes, as I do, that generally useful technical information should be free as in freedom.

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, [ 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: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

This is an online hand that I played very poorly. (Maybe I should post the good hands once in a while, but what's the point of talking about the right things one does? Focus on the mistakes to get better, right?) There are so many mistakes in this hand, I'm not sure which one to focus on. I will just lay them all out to you.

In a six-handed NL HE $.50/$1 game. I am in the $.50 small blind with $218, Jagsmith84 (with $42) is is in middle position, followed by BigGross ($99), followed by rotncotn ($473).

Jagsmith84 limps, BigGross min-raises, rotncotn calls, and I call with Ad Ks . I usually call with AK out of position rather than raise, as I don't want to build a big pot preflop.

The flop was Th 9d Ah. Checked to BigGross, who bets $9, and everyone calls. Perhaps I should have bet out. I know there is a heart draw out, but I don't know where, and check-raising is going to built the pot too big if aces-up are out (people on this site generally overvalue weak aces). I decided to take a turn and see if it's a safe card. Probably a mistake.

The turn was Kc with a pot of $47. Something possessed me to check-raise. I figured that if I had one bettor into me, and only callers behind, a check-raise would clear the field of draws and isolate me with a weaker two pair most of the time. I'd learn quick if something better than that was out. Again, probably a mistake.

This time, BigGross gives up, rotncotn bets $24, and I make it $60 to go. Obviously, I have to put more in there, but rotcotn is deep, I think, so I figure even a small raise will put him off most hands. He calls relatively quickly. Ok, a flush draw is his most likely holding, right? Other possibilities are AT and T9, and he want to see the river too without committing too much more. The river falls 9h, pairing the board and getting the flush draw there. I bet $50 into $167, hoping that I can get called by AT. He check raises all-in (another $97 to me), and I fold.

I probably should have led for the pot size on the turn, but given that I didn't, I should have considered seriously check-folding the river. But, I probably made more mistakes too. I figure some will say reraising from SB with AK is correct, but I really don't like that play most of the time. Any other things I did wrong? (There have got to be tons; I am really unhappy with my play here.)


shipitfish: (Default)

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