Saturday, 30 April 2011


I think I've decided what I want to do poker-wise for the rest of this year now that everything has pretty much shaken out.

The Plan
8 - 12 table 6 max cash
Focus on learning
Forget about VPPs goals
Take maney

I've changed my vpp goal progress bar to 100k to essentially forget about grinding out a larger number. I'm certain I'll earn more than that at this point since I'm going to be winning at 50NL+ and should play about another half million hands this year. This will result in about another 100k vpp from today forward. But I'm not going to kill myself trying to get the 200k milestone while breaking even mass tabling and if I don't feel like playing I'm just going to take a day off. If I move up and earn more vpp/hand and make it there then I will consider it a true bonus and good for me. Breaking even for another 8 months to earn a milestone is kind of a non-bonus and more of a stress inducing lifeline imo.

I've done the mass tabling micro stakes for marginal winrates thing long enough. It's time to become good at this game and put some real effort into it again. I've fallen way behind the curve, or at least everyone's started to pass me. I'm going to make some smart investments in my poker knowledge and have already re-sub'd my training site accounts and I'm watching videos like a mad man which I haven't done in well over a year. It's amazing how much the confidence and anti-tilt zen come roaring back when you actively focus even though I don't have any real results to show for it yet.

I'm already in the process of creating my own Poker Bible (ty King Spew for this wonderful idea) based on info I glean from those videos and insightful forum posts. Right now I'm basically taking 3-5 pages of notes on a video, similar to how I would take notes in a uni lecture breaking everything down. I then have a video summary page where I list point form the two or three things I learned and can try to implement. Once I start to build up a decent repository of video summaries I'm going to take those point form ideas and throw them into my Final Poker Bible classified by skill set and topic. Need to work on my blind stealing? Chapter 3. Need to work on when to barrel? Chapter 7. All backed up with references and links to where I got the info.

This will create my growing overall game strategy base. Two benefits to this. I have a default to go back to if I start getting off my game, like a system restore. Secondly, I can see how and when certain changes were made and hopefully can roll them back if they're not working out.

In a way this whole Black Friday thing has been good for me personally. I don't think I would have changed what I'm doing if I hadn't safety cashed out 1/2 of my BR and forced myself to rebuild. I've thought about joining a discussion group but I just don't think I have the time to make that work in addition to my poker hours, plus I find Skype and AIM really distracting while playing. I'm starting to gain a real appreciation for the work ethic and discipline the big winners must have and I think I'm finally going to do this right.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

10 Days Later

Ok well more like 9.5 days later.

This will likely be the last post I make regarding Black Friday unless something major develops. This whole situation is so messed up and I don't really see that much point in rehashing catastrophic developments that are at the same time meaningless to discuss with the same people who experienced the whole thing. What's the point in discussing the bomb that we all witnessed go if in front of us with the people who witnessed it or personally had their legs blown off? It is what it is and it feels like the poker community is powerless to do anything about those issues anyways. More disjointed thoughts to follow -- probably not going to link source very much of it since it's fairly easy to find all over the place and this is more my opinion than anything.

The Good (Great!) News

Much to everyone's surprise and contrary to popular predictions just prior stating no one would see a penny within 6 months if ever, there has been a remarkably fast deal made between the sites -- Stars and iirc FTP, unsure about UB as of right now -- and the DOJ to get the players' money back to them once a suitable processor mechanism is decided on.

More Fallout

Business partnership deals hastily cancelled between casinos and online sites.

TV poker being cancelled left and right. ESPN and Fox Sports both cancelling all of the online site produced shows. Who knows if ESPN is even going to cover the WSOP now that a ton of the money to run the production is gone.

All that build up of the illusion of legitimacy has vanished.

The continued silence from sponsored pros who normally have everything to say about anything is becoming rather deafening.

I lose a little more respect for Doyle every time he opens his mouth.

So to sum up the current situation:
People that should be speaking up are not. People that should not be speaking are.

All of the rats that were more than happy to take a ride on the "illegal" Stars/FTP/UB pirate ship and take their share of the plunder and knew that the DOJ armada was lurking somewhere cloaked in stealth mode have abandoned ship and are trying to save face by distancing themselves from those dirty, criminal pirates now that the DOJ has opened fire.

There's a ton more stuff going on out there but it just makes me very pessimistic even thinking about it so I think I'll leave it at that.

What I'm going to watch for from this point on:

Legal proceedings, if any actually go forward.
Where the player pool gravitates to.
Developments in competition between sites or continued lack thereof.
Watching for a wild turn of events somewhere in the world that could trigger a new mini-boom.
Working hard and preparing my game for the next mini-boom if it happens.
Preparing my life for that hissing sound of the online poker flame going out if it doesn't.

On a positive note to end this, online poker has effectively hit near rock bottom. At least as close as it can get while still being profitable and worth playing. There's only moving up from here. A year in this industry is 5 years in the real world. 5 years online is an eternity. Just remember, 5 years ago Party was the biggest site on the planet. Anything is possible.

Doing the Blogroll Shuffle

I've begun the process of migrating the non-updated blogs in my list to a blogroll archive page over there on the far right side. I want to keep the sidebar manageable, legible,  fresh and up to date with new content so I'm setting the bar at around 1 to 2 months without a post before links get sent to the archive. They will of course be reinstated if they happen to revive themselves at some point in the future. There's just too much good information and interesting and funny stories out there to delete them forever.

I imagine there's a good possibility that given the events of the past week a lot of people will stop blogging and I wanted to be ready to add some new blogs. I hope that's not the case and that everyone affected can turn their blog into a fun live poker trip report log.

If you have a blog and would like to swap links give me a shout here or on 2p2.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Time to Recalibrate

At this point everyone out there who's been effectively banned is trying to figure out if they should join one of the smaller sites that are still servicing Americans and decide if it's worth playing at those sites considering ability to multi table, traffic and implications of the DoJ going after them, too. At this point the "no notice of UIGEA breach because poker is a skill game" defense for sites still transferring with Americans holds no water imo although it's a pretty solid defense for the Big 3. I'm obviously not a lawyer though so I could be wrong. Good luck to all of you in whatever you choose to do.

For the rest of us it seems like things are ok on the surface as much as they can be. It's hard to comprehend how there's now these two separate poker worlds existing in parallel universes. One continuing on as if almost nothing ever happened. The other living in complete chaos. The ability to see the chaotic world without having to deal with it's problems still makes our world feel like everything's still a bit up in the air when it probably isn't.

Personally I am scrubbing any goals and plans I have made. It's time to recalibrate and see what the landscape looks like when the dust settles. No immediate goals for stakes or number of tables or VPPs or even what site although Stars has been the most trustworthy in the past which is what we need now so I'm willing to put my eggs in that basket for the time being.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Black Friday

Just a couple of disjointed thoughts on this. The more that the implications of this sink in, the harder it is to believe it. This post came out a little pessimistic so save it for a rainy day if you're enjoying a day off.

No news is frustrating. What can we really expect in terms of information at this point? Nothing is really going to make a difference at this point with respect to Americans being able to play online. So I guess the question that needs to be answered is what's happening with the money. I don't know which is worse: not knowing what's happening with your money or the prospect of not playing for an indefinite period of time.

We apparently have Mr. Tzvetkoff and the sites themselves to blame for this entire situation in a payback for payback kind of way. In retrospect I suppose we have ourselves to blame for silently accepting this arrangement instead of clamouring for an above board deal.

I haven't done a thorough search of the internet but the complete lack of sponsored online pro statements is somewhat conspicuous. Most of the sites have been really good about letting players speak their minds, but I guess when it gets down to real business and political / legal fights it's better just to keep your mouth shut if you're a 'representative' of a company in the loosest sense of the word. EDIT: Somewhat confirmed by DN on his twitter page: "Not ignoring #BlackFriday and as much as I'd love to discuss it, I've been advised not to for now. As soon as I can, I'll add my two cents."

Mpethy has written up a good summary of the charges.

Seeing new HHs irrationally gives me that feeling you get when you're embarassed for someone who doesn't realize what's going on. I just kind of feels like, "Seriously? You want to know whether Baluga Theorem applies to the hand when Mr. Seidman can't even play poker in his own damn house?" Everything seems to be of secondary importance at this point.

It's going to be interesting to see what happens with all the poker TV shows out there now. How many networks are going to want to air shows sponsored and produced by alleged criminal corporations who's founders are either on trial for fraud -- that's a great word for instilling confidence in future customers and investors whether convicted or not -- or fighting extradition. CNN Money brought to you by the honest folks at Arthur Anderson.

And will they want to even put patched up players for said corporations on display for non-sponsored broadcast events like the WSOP now that every aquaintance and family member of every semi-pro in America is going to be running around saying "I told you it was illegal!" I can very much see ESPN mandating 'no patches allowed' this summer. I suppose that would depend on whether they're even going to try to restore online's image in the US and if not then they might ad well patch up for the benefit of the Euro and Canadian broadcasts.

Not that it really matters as the WSOP and a ton of other events like the Stars sponsored tours (NAPT etc) and PCA are going to take a huge hit in the turnout department without all those luckboxing mega satellite entries out of the US.

This has unbelievably huge negative ramifications even if you are still allowed to play. Marketing has probably got to cool it with the outright promotion while they go into damage control mode. I assume guaranteed tourneys are going to be chopped up into itty bitty pieces. The only thing that will probably be up in the air is the loyalty programs -- I don't know if they'll all cut back due to decreased revenue, or if they'll fight over the rest of us even harder. Mpethy did make a good point about profit margins being higher though now that they are rid of the processor fees so there might be more cash per player to go around.

Will also be interested to see the effect on training sites and how poker theory progresses without a huge portion of the contributors. This might be a good opportunity to get back ahead of the curve.

It's tough to be optimistic at this point and I think a lot of us, and especially Americans are going to need to see a glimmer of hope before pessimism isn't purely realistic speculation.

EDIT: Stars has gone ahead and adjusted (in some cases slashed) the values on their guaranteed tourneys to reflect their new target demographic in Europe.
Sunday Kickoff $50k (iirc) --> $75k for European friendly start time
Sunday Storm $250k --> $300k in the last couple weeks --> $200k
Sunday Warm Up $750k --> $500k
Sunday Million $1.5M --> $1M

Image of the day: Significant blog graph.
Spike on April 15th. Rest of the graph is a fairly representative 75-90 visitors per day and I've never had more than 120 before.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Attack On Online Poker

Note: I have changed the title of this post. It was meant to be somewhat of a dry, witty remark based on the December blackout crisis, but I don't think it helps the situation considering the traffic I am receiving and the realization of how serious this actually is. I do not think this is a good time to panic. We all know what happens when people spazz withdraw en masse and I don't want to contribute to that.

3:52 EST Friday
Pokerstars, Full Tilt and Cereus have just been charged with a litany of offenses regarding fraud and money laundering. Web sites apparently seized. So far only UB's website shows the FBI warning for me although there are many Americans stating all four show this message. American players are reporting widespread notices when attempting to sit at cash tables on Stars that US government regulation is preventing them from allowing Americans to play.

From Reuters:
Prosecutors also filed civil money laundering charges seeking to recover at least $3 billion from the companies, which are all based overseas, court documents said.
Two of the men were arrested on Friday, one is expected to turn himself in to law enforcement and eight others are not currently in the United States, prosecutors said.
Raymond Bitar, 39, of Full Tilt Poker and Isai Scheinberg, 64, of PokerStars were charged with violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and other laws. Absolute Poker owners Brent Beckley, 31, and Scott Tom, 31, faced similar charges.

This could actually be the end for our American friends. It might be a while because 2+2 servers appear to be completely overwhelmed and I can't navigate there with any consistency but I will update later as more information becomes available.

As far as I've seen there has been no official statement from the PPA as of yet.

4:55 EST
Just managed to get back on to the 2+2 forum homepage.
"Most users ever online: 13,237, Today at 4:31 PM."
That's as far as I got. This is huge.

5:21 EST
Managed to get back into the Leg forum shortly with no new updates.
Made a quick perusal of the 50NL FR Stars lobby. 3 Americans, each 1 tabling. I assume this is the remnant that were still playing those tables when the shit hit the fan and hadn't sat out and closed those tables yet.
15,471 on 2+2
Took a couple of screenshots off of Pokerscout traffic counter. The first is around 3:50 PM EST. The 2nd was at 5:20 PM EST.

7:30 PM EST
Played a session on Stars over the last couple of hours . American-free and the lowest number of people I've ever seen during peak Friday time. I can only imagine the feeling of dread American grinders must be going through right now knowing that this is most likely the much anticipated doomsday.

First Impression of the New American-Free Cash Games
Of course this is really preliminary and I have no idea what traffic will do once Americans are gone for a couple weeks, but it looks like us foreigners will be ok. There's a noticeable volume drop, but games were extremely good. I got crushed by a wave of ATC 2 pairs of course, but we're generally left with legitimate Euro fish and Asian half stacks. Considering that (luckily) the games are now 40bb, the current state of the game if it remains as is is tenable for those of us still able to play. If they weren't 40bb, poker would be dead at least on Stars -- read: overrun by 20bb Euro / Asian players filling 95% of the lobby with 20-50.

I think this goes to show just how many American multi-tabling TAG Supernova semi-pro seats were being taken up compared to how few American recreational seats there were. It's a sad day when the games actually appear better with Americans gone and captain hindsight can see how untenable the status quo was with the difficulties of getting money online for people that want to gamble it up and the appearance of questionable legality. It really demonstrates the need for meaningful regulation to kickstart another mini-boom in the US.

Perhaps this is the final shove needed to force US lawmakers to finally write up real regulation legislation if for nothing else than to prevent this from both going further underground and to stop the courts from filling in huge voids with their own opinions now that this fight is front and centre.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Here We Go Again: Canadian Election Primer

Here's a quick primer on the quirky institution that is the Canadian political system for those non-Canadians out there. The government is dissolved and they're off to the races. Some of them have yet to realize that the gates have opened -- at least that's how much I've been paying attention, and I'm the most politically interested person I know. Thankfully we only have to listen to the rhetorical drivel and mudslinging, I mean campaign promises, for one month. This is quite merciful compared to the 18 months Americans are subjected to. This will be a bit tl;dr but you'll get a good idea of how Canada actually (de)funtions when the veil of textbook definitions and theoretical purpose is pulled away.

When are Federal Elections held? There are 3 possible situations where an election can be called:
1) 5 years since the last election.
2) If the government (governing party) decides they want one.
3) If the government is defeated on a confidence vote (must-pass bill), such as the current situation with the budget. This isn't ever an actual disagreement with the bill, it's just when the opposition thinks they are ready for an election.

Majority vs Minority Governments:
If a party wins 50%+1 seats they have a majority government. It is then their sole discretion as to when the next election is (option 1 or 2) since everyone in the party always supports the motions of confidence put in front of them because they're obviously not going to do anything that could cost them their job. If a party wins less than 50% but garners the most seats (possible in a 3+ party system) they are traditionally given a minority government where all options are possible. A third type of government is theoretically possible in a coalition which would combine their seats to create a majority. This would cause a lot of unprecedented drama (understatement).

Pros and Cons: I'll preface this with the fact that Canadians hate elections. We hate elections in winter when we have to trudge through a blizzard. We hate elections in spring when we're dealing with flooding. We hate elections in summer when we want to turn off the TV and go on vacation. We don't quite hate elections as much in fall as the kids are back to school and we're looking for some entertainment, but most would still rather watch a few episodes of the new soon to be cancelled sitcoms. Majority governments sit back and enjoy the status quo getting absolutely nothing done - don't rock the boat - but we don't have the overwhelming dread of elections around the corner. Minority governments get a lot done because the opposition is just chomping at the bit to bring them down so they have to keep up with doing what we want them to so they don't at any point look bad if at all possible.

Political Structure - From the ground up:
The way the power structure actually works in Canada is precisely opposite of the way it is laid out in terms of authority. Messed up, I know. But the thought of having it set up the 'right' way is horrifying.

Bureaucrats: In Canada bureaucrats are typically known for being huge policy wonks and are able to hold rather long term positions because of their willingness to use any playbook put in front of them. A fairly stark contrast to the rabidly partisan counterparts who get swapped out fairly quickly en masse when power changes hands in the US. I had a political science professor who always said if you want real power in Canada, don't be a politician. Be a bureaucrat. They decide how, where and when policies are implemented and enforced.

House of Commons: We elect Members of Parliament to represent us nationally in the House of Commons in Ottawa. This is considered to be the lower house, similar to the House of Representatives in the US. Everyone votes only for their local rep who is part of a national party. The party that wins the most seats becomes the government. The leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister and head of the country, kind of like if the House majority leader would become president. Geographic distribution of the 308 seats is determined by population, roughly trying to encompass 100k people per seat with one caveat. During the 1980s Quebec thought they were so special that to protect their specialness, they needed to be more special than the rest of us and held the country hostage trying to hammer out a new constitution demanding minimum 25% of all seats regardless of their relative population. This is apparently not enough, see below.

Senate: This is the upper house, meant to be a "sober second opinion" free of the ramifications of being unpopular because they are unelected but rather appointed by the Prime Minister (GG, see below). Essentially what this boils down to is a bunch of politically rewarded old guys rubber stamping every bill that comes up because they've got better things to do in their retirement. Everyone is pretty much in agreement that this needs to be abolished or turned into a regionally based elected house. That is, except for the old guys raking in a nice paycheck for nothing and the politicians losing the utility of an effective loyalty gimmick.

Governor General: The representative of the 'official' head of state, the queen. We're still part of the British Commonwealth (royal family and all that jazz) even though they couldn't be bothered with us. The feeling is mutual. What this means is that any time the Prime Minister makes some sort of traditional or formal declaration, decision or appointment, he sends it off to the GG as a 'recommendation' and she/he reads it to make it official. Imagine Barack Obama having to be a ventriloquist and whip out the Mini-Me version of the queen every time he says something formal. However the potential for the previously reffered to coalition may actually give the GG the first real, meaningful choice they've had to make in the past century as they are officially responsible for handing over governing power.

The Parties:
This is essentially a perpetual dual between the Liberals and Conservatives with a few odd people wanting to jump into the middle of the action but haven't heard that you shouldn't bring a knife to a gun fight. I'll rate these on a left to right 0-10 scale using the US Democrat and Republican parties as the 0 and 10 standards.

Conservatives (5):
Led by current Prime Minister Stephen Harper. General all around control freak appearing rather cold and calculating most of the time who is fairly effective at getting his message across and getting things done the way he wants. You know it's almost election time when the snapshots of sweater-wearing, piano-playing-and-serenading Steve at the Conservative Christmas party start showing up to lighten his image. Steve and the Conservatives are as far right wing as this social program loving country allows, kind of like George W. Light. This party is the phoenix of the Progressive Conservative ashes Brian Mulroney left behind combined with the ultra-right wing now defunct Refoooooorm and Alliance parties of Preston Manning who Don Ferguson does an amazingly good imitation of. Originally combined to avoid the right wing vote splitting keeping the Liberals in power, they were to be called the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party (CCRAP). Also known as the Tories.

Liberals (0):
Pretty much the definition of a US Democrat, considered slightly left of centre here (fun fact: English Canadians use the French spelling of center). Led by Michael Ignatieff, Cambridge / Oxford / Harvard professor known for thinking rather highly of his intellectual self. This is the party of more well known Prime Ministers such as Jean "a proof is a proof" Chretien and Pierre "just watch me" Trudeau. Also known as the Grits.

New Democratic Party (- 4):
These are your run of the mill union heroes. Current leader is Jack Layton. The very existence of this party is what prevented the Liberals from grasping a permanent majority government by splitting the left wing vote and allowing the new Conservatives to get a foothold. Kind of ironic that they're the ones giving the right wing party they ideologically despise the opportunity to form government. For that, they are eternally doomed to shout from the far side of the House and current forecasts state they don't have any reasonable chance at actually becoming the government in the next 100 years. The Bloc has more seats and a better chance at 0%. Exercises in futility repeated election after election. Insanity.

Bloc Quebecois (?):
Somewhat of a ragtag group led by Gilles Duceppe. This party only runs in Quebec. I admittedly don't know a lot about this party because of that. It's tough to say exactly what kind of ideology they represent as they tend to be supported by rural conservatives and urban unions. I do however find it odd that not only is a political group who's stated goal is the destruction of the country not charged with treason, it is welcomed with open arms into the House. Democracy at it's finest.

Current Seats

There's a few other odd parties, notably the Green party who runs across the board and are obviously left wing environmental types yet to be elected to a seat, but these are the important players.

The interesting situation here is that we've been in this stalemate where we have election after election after short stints of minority government for the greater part of the last decade and everyone's getting sick of it. My suspicion is that if we get the same result again, the 3 opposition parties will be trying to catch a good public vibe on proposing a coalition majority government of Liberals, NDP and the Bloc for stability's sake as opposed to the instability of another minority Conservative government -- at least that's what they'll say to the GG. This could also easily backfire if the vibe comes down as a government no one voted for takes over by ironically installing the Separatist Bloc as the ones propping the whole thing up. We'll have to see what the 3 Stooges have in mind.

Friday, 1 April 2011

April Fools: 7am and already leveled

Woke up this morning and fired up Firefox and see an unassuming line of text below a plain Google logo.

New! Gmail Motion: Turn your email into a true body of work.
 I actually thought they were totally serious until I scroll down to this image and think, "You have got to be joking. I will stick with my mouse and keyboard. Idiots."

I then scrolled a bit further and realized today was April 1st. Should have realized right away after hearing about the Brett Favre nth unretirement last night.

There need to be more days when people can be stupid and creative. The world would be a better place if people would better learn to relax and how to efficiently waste time for fun's sake.