Monday, 3 December 2012

Back to Stars and Stars 2013 Changes

Quick Update.

I managed to clear out about 1/3 of my Deal Me In bonus on Full Tilt before it expired. I took another week off during that promotion to work on some other things I'm enjoying like my self-paced programming courses. The old me would have played 24/7 to get that free money. The new me still couldn't care less about anything volume related

As much as I like FTP's VIP/rakeback program for the amount of volume I'm playing now, I just can't stand the software. Plus my current strategy doesn't seem to want to work out for me as well there. I can't figure out if games are just reg-infested or what, but the winrate took a nosedive into the slightly negative over 15k hands there.

So I'm back to Stars now and continuing with the run-good and play-good, tilt-free sessions I enjoyed before FTP re-opened. Graph since the day I 'quit.'

Stars Graph
 I'm pretty comfortable at 25NL right now with some 50NL mixed in, so I'll have to wait and see what kind of requirements there are for January's promotion on 100k VPPs (see VIP below). If I can do it comfortably (see volume related above) and it's a significant amount of money, I might consider opting in for that.

2013 VIP Changes

The 2013 changes were announced recently, live at the Amsterdam VIP Party by Steve Day (aka Steve D). Overall I think they're pretty small, yet decent and there were no downgrades which is always a good thing.

They started a Hall of Fame that will include a handful of players. The group of 5 million lifetime VPPs is obviously small, but I think they're headed in the right direction if this is going to lead into making Pokerstars more social. Looking around at all of the free and for-pay social gaming sites out there, it seems like a no-brainer direction to take regarding casual players.

They've also added a ChromeStar level at 100 monthly VPPs. There is no real benefit to it over Bronze except for being entered into the new weekly $5k freerolls with Silver+, but I think it's a good stepping stone to get those Bronze players to play a bit more to get to the now reduced requirement of 500 VPPs from 750 VPPs for Silver.

The other potentially big thing is the 2013 VIP goals. Specific announcements on this are not yet available, but it is supposed to be some sort of system where you can risk FPPs in January and be rewarded later for staying on pace for your 100k, 200k or 300k VPP goals.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Updated: Nate Silver and the Election

Update - Nov 7: Results posted below.

I've been following Nate Silver's numbers on the 2012 US presidential election. Simply fascinating. If he's right, and I'm led to believe his predictions are scary-accurate, this is not a race at all despite how badly the news wants to portray it as one.

They have all the predictions posted on FiveThirtyEight.

Not being American but still wanting to play along, I compiled his state by state predictions into a spreadsheet I'll be using later tonight. I'm actually much more interested in how close Silver's estimates will be to results than I am in the actual election at this point. You can download my spreadsheet below if you want to play at home, too.

Just enter the results in the Obama and Romney "Actual" columns as they roll in and you'll be able to see the difference between results and Silver's numbers.


With 90%+ of results in now, I am both amazed, yet not surprised, at the results of Nate Silver's predictions. I've learned previously to take poker players proficient in statistic's predictions seriously, especially when they come out with a 91% confidence rate.

Florida still hasn't been given to Obama, but assuming he retains his slight, predicted lead there, Nate will have picked every single state correctly.

I changed my spreadsheet a bit to give me a Vote Share Accuracy (100% - absolute value of the % difference) column instead of just the % Difference from predicted. Not only did Nate pick every state correctly, his Accuracy with respect to vote share by state averages out to 96.8% with the biggest outlier being West Virginia where Obama received 14% less support than expected. He had 17 states where his predictions were 99%+ accurate.

You can download a completed version of this spreadsheet below.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

FTP Relaunch VIP Preview

Full Tilt Poker will be relaunched on November 6th. They have recently released more information regarding their new VIP program "Edge." I am contemplating a move to FTP, given my current Silver/Gold volume on Stars.

This is my comprehensive breakdown and comparison of the FTP program. Stars has a comprehensive breakdown of their VIP and Milestone tier levels complete with effective rakeback percentages here.


Similar to Stars, there will be a VIP tier system based on how much you rake called Edge. Whereas Stars uses monthly and annual measures of VPP accumulation, FTP will use 7, 30 and 100 day rolling averages of FT-Point accumulation. FT-Points will be earned at a rate of 10 points per dollar raked under the Weighted Contributed model.

There are varying tiers where you will be paid back at different rates/100 points on a weekly basis, with the top tier being $2.50/100 points for 25%. These weekly payments do not affect your FT-Points at all, and you retain all FTPs to be used in the store on Ring or Tourney tickets, and cash bonuses for Diamond tier players.

I've put together a spreadsheet encompassing the Edge program which I've posted below.

  • At the top you will find a duplication of the Edge Status Requirements along with the equivalent daily rake paid averages.
  • Beside that is a breakdown of the Ring Game and Tourney tickets currently available in the store. The ticket values used in the rest of the spreadsheet are an average between the cash and tourney values that players with those annual volumes would typically buy (this is a marginal, less than 0.5% difference no matter how you put it together). I have not included any unknown freerolls in this.
  • The bottom three sections provide breakdowns of the tier based rake requirements for each set of rolling averages, the effective rakeback percentages, and a comparison to the approximate correlating tier on PokerStars with my estimates on average new vs. continuing effective rakeback percentages from the Stars VIP breakdown sheet.

As you can see, the FTP tiers and their rakeback percentages correspond fairly well with the Stars tiers based on the same rake paid for the most part.

There are however a few differences to note:
  • New or returning players can get up to speed much more quickly, being able to reach an intermediate tier within 7 days compared to 1 month on Stars, and to the top tier within 30 days as opposed to up to 1 year on Stars.
  • Over a longer period of time, it requires fewer and fewer FT-Points to maintain your tier status as opposed to Stars fixed tier system.
  • Using the rolling averages instead of monthly or especially annual calendar programs allows players to jump in and start receiving their maximum benefits right away, any day of the week or year instead of waiting until the first of the month or January 1st.
  • While the top tier is certainly easier to attain than the top Stars tiers (Elite and Supernova), keep in mind that Diamond is still the equivalent of somewhere between Stars's Gold and Platinum when you take rake and rakeback into account. If you are a Supernova+ volume player, there is no equivalent FTP tier at this time and you will max out at 29.9% fairly easily.
Based on my current volume of play and my inability to regain Supernova status by the end of this year, I will be giving FTP a shot and re-evaluate both programs for January 1st, given that FTP is not completely reg infested due to fear and misunderstanding of recreationals. I'm hopeful that the rolling average requirements and weekly cash payments should help to smooth things out for people that prefer the rakeback system.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

I'm back

I almost threw in the towel.

People seem to blog less when they are losing. I'm no exception. Over the summer I had a couple of my best months this year followed by my two worst months ever.

There were two main problems with my game.

My daily struggle just to tread water on the reduced Supernova pace was the first, and somewhat the cause of the second -- the tilt spiral between some run bad, a lot of playing bad, and letting that seep into my offline life.

It's tough to sit down after 6 weeks of nothing but losing fistfuls of cash every day, never mind trying to put in the volume to maintain Supernova, minimal as it is. I dreaded it every day, often finding myself sitting down, firing up HM2, and then closing everything down before I even got started. This of course led to more Supernova stress, playing higher to earn more VPPs, losing more, more tilt, and more general unhappiness.

I wasn't even worried about losing the rakeback percentage. It was simply the thought of losing something that takes so much work to achieve. I was tired of it all and sincerely ready to quit.

And I did quit. At least, for two weeks at the end of July, I was finished. I withdrew 95% of my bankroll and gave up on the VPP chase. It was the first time in 4 years where I didn't even think about logging in for an extended period of time.

Oddly enough I already have the requisite 65k VPP on the reduced 2012 plan, but unfortunately they're not spread out over 10 months. My volume took a beating at the beginning of the year when the Weighted Contributed shit hit the fan. I became so heavily involved in the discussion that I missed my January target and missed March as well due to all the travel associated with my IOM invite plus the hours spent at home crunching numbers instead of putting in volume. I don't regret the trip or the work I did, it's just a factor in what transpired.

I was happy again. No stress. The weight of Supernova off my shoulders. I could do whatever I wanted instead of being chained to my desk. But after two weeks, I started to miss the game. I didn't miss the money (or rather losing money). I missed the competition and the puzzle.

It's funny how you sometimes need to be done with whatever you're doing before you can see it objectively. And then it seems so obvious. And it's likely something you already knew, but couldn't accept because you just couldn't give up the ghost.

What did I want out of this game? Not the stress. Not the tilt. Not my offline emotions riding the rollercoaster of my online graph. The money was a nice bonus, but I obviously didn't care about it as much as I thought I did.

The answer was simple: as a naturally competitive, analytical person, poker was my creative outlet.

That's where my passion for the game originated, and that's what became lost in the stress and the tilt. I hated poker and the person I was becoming because of it. Or rather, because of these things that had tainted it for me.

I decided that if I were going to play this game again, I needed to stay focussed on the passion and find a way to take control of the things I didn't like.

The Supernova volume part was already taken care of as it lapsed at the end of July; a huge weight taken off my shoulders. I have reduced my volume stress to zero. I simply do not care how many VPPs I have. I will play when I want and for how long I want. The monetary value of the lost rakeback is worth far less than my sanity.

The tilt problem. I've read countless books about the mental game and even listened to some of Tommy Angelo's Eightfold Path over the past number of years. But none of it really stuck with me in the past. My mindset was that these books had good reviews, the authors know what they're talking about, and I found them to be good, interesting reading material, and that's all they were to me.

I went back to Angelo's Eightfold Path, but this time I was really listening because I knew if I couldn't conquer the tilt demon, I was going to give this up for good. And so far, the mindset and techniques have been working really well

I've really tried to embrace lopping off my C-game, mindfulness, and right-view, which in turn brings me back to what I really want out of this game:

Competition -- Trying to play my best at all times.

Creative, Analytical Thinking -- Finding ways to outplay my opponents using factual information.

I don't ignore the beats to avoid the tilt. Sticking my head in the sand would be no better than stumbling through the fog of tilt induced insanity I was in before. I now acknowledge that my opponent played XX a certain way, had Y% equity, and happened to hit his hand. That's it. I just plug it back into the analytical process and think about ways to exploit this in the future. Next hand.

I'm certainly not tilt free yet and I don't think it's completely possible. We are human after all. But I've reduced the most destructive versions of it drastically, and I leave it all at the table. When I log off, I am logged off.

To date, I've had three sessions since mid September where I could feel the bankroll busting anger coming back. In the first two, I recognized it quickly, but wasn't able to get away from it in the next 5 minutes and decided to shut it down, likely saving myself a number of buyins. In the third, I recognized it quickly, was able to process what I was thinking, and bring myself back.

Also note that these three sessions were at relatively nano stakes considering I haven't put anything back online. Given that I was still able to feel the monkey tilt coming on, I have to say that I've realized it's not the loss of $X that bothered me at higher stakes. It was the frustration of doing everything "right" and still losing, and probably a good measure of embarrassment that a clearly inferior opponent was taking stacks off me.

During my time off I also picked up a couple of hobbies. I didn't really plan this as part of my get back to poker plan, but it worked out really well anyway. I'm finding it very helpful to have other outlets to occupy myself with when I don't feel like playing poker.

At first I was planning to get back into digital art and got myself a subscription to TutsPlus. There's a ton of great stuff there from photoshop to illustrator to mobile and web design. I thought about doing some of that again commercially in my spare time, but reconsidered when I looked at the market flooded with freelancers willing to do anything for nearly free just to get noticed.

I've also discovered a plethora of free online classes and started re-learning programming. This is essentially what I wanted to do out of high school but I found some of the required college math ridiculously difficult and unfortunately gave up on that before I found out I just had a shitty professor. Screw degrees. I just want to have a tool and the skill to be able to implement my ideas instead of perpetually leaving them on the drawing board.

I've started studying poker a lot more as well, coming up with my own game strategies based on analysis of tons of different situations. This is something I would always skip in favour of putting in volume before. It's easy to coast for a long time when you're winning. The lack of tilted sessions and some nice self-discovered nuggets in my study have produced some nice results. I don't mean that in the traditional way of I won a bunch of money and ran at expectation. It's just really satisfying to come up with a hypothesis, test it out, and have the results reflect your work.

Small sample so far. I've probably put in 50% play, 50% study instead of 90/10, and I'm actually enjoying the study part as much as the playing part. I started from the bottom of the ladder again but nonetheless I'm ecstatic with my attitude and how I've played controlled poker for the past month.

At least now I know that I can play poker and be happy. If I happen to improve enough, I'll have Supernova again. And if I don't, that's fine. But then it will be on my terms and my de facto tier once I'm again playing stakes where it doesn't matter how much you play and minimal volume gives you the required VPPs. There's nothing wrong with being an FPP Pro either since you won the rake in the first place, but personally, I find myself much more motivated and having fun when I'm not grinding for the next bonus instalment.

It's good to be back!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Google set to win the Internet

I just saw this and the implications seem exciting! Google Fibre, starting in Kansas City, is going to be offering 1gb speeds for TV and/or Internet with no data caps, or 5mb for free after a $300 set up ($25x12).

Coming from the land of $35/month 100mb, no data caps and no contracts, even I am impressed.

Edit: 1 gigabit. Not 1 gigabyte. That's 0.125 gigabytes. Not as awesome but still way better (below).

On my last trip to the US, I was absolutely amazed at some of the offerings that the most advanced nation on the planet had for their tech-savvy population, proudly posted on interstate billboards. 24mb 1 year contracts for $50/month with ridiculously low data caps and outrageous price gouging on extra data as the best plan available. It boggles my mind how a country with 10x the population and the ability to scale services to a far greater degree is living in a technological stone age.

If Google comes through on this in the next few years it's going to change all that. The free option is basically the same as a lot of the shitty $25/month options available to Americans right now, sans caps. So good luck to everyone living down there currently being ripped off by their ISP providers and make sure you get yourself and your neighbours pre-registered to get the infrastructure put into your area asap.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Micro Millions Schedule

I'm planning on playing a few Micro Millions events on Stars over the next couple of weeks with my time off. The schedule looks fairly intense at 100 events over 10 days so I put together a bit of a spreadsheet to keep track of it.

You can download a copy here:

All you have to do is use the colour coding to find the formats you like, then put an "X" in the Play column to highlight that event on your list. The Event # column will also update itself to follow the date so you will know which events are being played that day.

Edit: I've added a new version (1.1) available at the same download link above, after a request that adds columns for rebuys/addons and $ won. Simply enter the number of rebuys and it will automatically add it to your total series buyin at the top of the sheet.

The sheet is protected so you won't mess up formulas by accident, but there's no password to unlock it if you'd like to make changes or additions.


Saturday, 30 June 2012

Poker Rust -- Possibly Burnout

I haven't updated in a while until my previous post today regarding the WSOP Ladies Event (see below). I've had this nasty cold/flu that's been lingering for the past 6 weeks. I've been completely exhausted, although I am actually starting to feel much better this week.

It kind of put a damper on my poker volume this month. I believe there was a 6 day stretch in there where I didn't even sit at my computer at all nevermind log in to Stars. I probably haven't spanned more than 36 hours between log ins at any point in the last 5 years until this month. I just didn't have the will power to put in any sessions.

My break was somewhat mentally refreshing, but now that I'm back at it I'm feeling either a bit of rust, or perhaps it's cash game burnout. Either way my tilt meter has been off the charts and I haven't been able to get back in the zone I was in the past two months and decided I needed a change of scenery.

As per usual when I feel like this, I somehow immediately think PLO is the interesting choice only to be quickly reminded that this is not a game for someone looking for stability. So I've been dabling in SnG's again. I think what I like about them is that it negates the waiting game that you usually experience in cash games with rising blinds forcing the action. I like MTTs for the same reason but the time committment with usually nothing to show for it is a game breaker for me. I also seem much more capable of compartmentalizing a beat in an SnG as well and not letting it affect my other games.

I started with the $7 turbo 9-mans and ran like absolute death. I don't know how accurate or to what degree to trust the HM2 Luck Adjusted Winnings, but over my first 50 games (lol sample size) I was at +3% EV while at -65% reality.

I then decided to drop down to the $3.50 turbo 6-mans. I always did reasonably well converting FPPs into T$ in the 235 FPP Sunday Million satellites before Stars made the cash bonuses much more managable (yay result of my March IOM meeting presentation! toot toot!) and these are the closest thing I could find without playing the actual hyper-turbos as I wanted something with a bit more depth and ability to multi-table. I instantly flipped the switch and ran like god. My EV line is matching my results but I started getting dealt premiums left and right and getting them AIPF and holding a lot. Currently running at 26% ROI in those games over about 100 so far. I think I'm going to stick it out there for 1000 games and then move back up.

In that short time span the one thing I've learned so far is to really get a feel for how the final three is going to play out on top of the standard push fold strategy. With the $7's I think I was much too happy to push a tiny edge against wide range donks and maniacs only to end a ton of them in 3rd place on a 55/45. I've realized for this level I can abuse the weak tights to no end, but can sit back and outlast the shove calling fest of the people donking around and then outplay HU and tailor my three handed play accordingly.

I've created a spreadsheet with every 6+ man NLHE SnG variant which I'll add later tonight. Super handy if you're trying to figure out where to start by filtering for game formats, speeds or buyins to see what's available in that stream as you move up.

I'm sure I'll inevitably go back to cash games assuming the VPP fever catches up to me again. It just seems like right now games are super nitty and there's not much running between the European segregation and Zoom splitting the pool. So I'm not finding cash all that enjoyable which inexplicably makes me want to force action against nits -- a bad idea leading to tilt and punting more stacks.

Ideally I would like to put in a solid 5k games a step or two up the ladder before deciding which way I want to go.

Thoughts on the Existence of the WSOP Ladies Event

I'm definitely on the "equal" should mean equal side of the fence when it comes to racial and gender issues such as affirmative action and the like. From a principal based stance the men have every right to play in the WSOP Ladies Event. In my experience, poker tends to attract one notable mindset in particular: the true capitalist stemming from an equal rights and equal responsibility worldview provided by reason and logic.

So it's entirely expected that a gender specific annual event is going to draw the ire of part of the poker community -- it's hard to consolidate emotion and principal with reason in this case.

However, unlike the vast majority of social engineering programs, those being descriminated against in this event are not being harmed -- and no, enduring someone freely speaking their mind about your presence does not constitute harm, which I would define as being purposefully disadvantaged based on your gender or race or some other non-merit based factor.

To the contrary, this event is helping everyone in the community, including the people it is discriminating against. There is 49.5% of the population out there that could very well help this game grow by leaps and bounds and my impression is that there is a very real perceived barrier to entry preventing them from doing so, even though I think it has already been breached more than most realize due to the younger, more open minded internet generation taking over.

Gender equality, while still not yet perfect, has been well on it's way in the Western world for the last two decades. Yet poker, the supposed perfect meritocracy, has severely lagged behind in terms of population representation despite being clearly shown that women can compete at the top levels of the game. Events like this one help to break those barriers down, letting women feel comfortable by avoiding some of those old preconceived notions of how poker is "supposed to be" and get their feet wet.

Lets take a look at three discriminatory analogies:

1) The harm one to benefit another discrimination

You live on the even house number side of the street. One day you hear a knock at the door. It's the House Number Registrar, Steve.

Steve: I'm here to collect the Even Number House Tax. That'll be $500.

You: What are you going to do with it?

Steve: Well there's not many odd number houses across the street due to a previous mayor with numerophobia several generations back, so we're giving it to the home owners across the street and anyone that wants to build a house in the empty lots over there.

You: That's %$*!ed up. I had nothing to do with that, why should I be penalized?

Steve: $500, cash or check.

2) The benefit one with no additional effect discrimination

You look out your window the next day and see Successful Greg walking up to houses across the street and handing everyone that opens their door $500. You run out to ask him what's going on.

You: Greg what's with the free cash?

Greg: I decided I want to use my money to help out those odd numbered home owners.

You: But what about me? You're discriminating against me!

Greg: Tough luck, I like helping odd numbers. Whether I ever came down this street or not has no bearing on your life positively or negatively. Why are you upset that your neighbour benefits when I'm not doing anything to hurt you?

3) The benefit everyone discrimination

A week later you see Greg's business partner, Sam going to houses across the street and handing out notifications. Still upset about the incident the week before, you storm out the door hoping to talk some sense into Sam.

You: This is enough already! First I shell out $500 for a discriminatory tax that's been given to the people across the street, then you and Greg hand them another $500 and some sort of deal!

Sam: My proposition is a little different than Greg's. I like his idea about encouraging odd numbered development. But I want to take a more proactive approach. I'm giving everyone across the street $100 annually multiplied by how many houses are on that side with the stipulation that their equity is whatever percentage of people were home to accept the money, minus 10% of that total for their neighbour directly across from them, and $100 for anyone that refers someone to building on an empty lot in the next 6 months.

As you can see, everyone on your street has a vested interest in making sure that everyone around them is home to collect the money and to help build their community. Your neighbour was home, there are 6 houses on that side, and if 50% of people on your street are home, I will come back tomorrow and give them $300. They will then come over and give you $30. I hope you can see that while I am being discriminatory, you benefit along with everyone else.

While it may not benefit you very much right now, nor as much as your neighbours, it is in your best interest to get on the phone and help build your community. Of course there's nothing stopping you from setting up a lemonade stand in an empty lot across the street and claiming your $100 for personal gain, but it is against the spirit of the community development plan.

In summary with cookie math breakdowns:

1) Harm one to benefit another represents the majority of government and institutional discrimination in my opinion. I believe this amounts to two wrongs and should be done away with. You make your own cookie and someone takes it and gives it to someone else based on nothing other than which straw you drew in the birth lottery. You have every reason to be outraged.

2) Benefit one and do not affect anyone else represents most philanthropic endeavors. Most people don't have a problem with this because it's voluntary and doesn't affect their lives in any way. The irrational person will be upset that their neighbour has a cookie and they don't. The rational person will choose to be happy or indifferent towards their neighbour since no one had any cookies in the first place. No harm, no foul at worst, good for them at best.

3) Benefit everyone, sometimes unequally or not immediately, represents the rare situation that I think the Ladies Event at the WSOP occupies. The irrational person would rather no one have any cookies than to receive one while their neighbour receives two in some twisted sense of fairness. The rational person is again happy or indifferent to their neighbour's cookies and happy about their own because they now have one where there was none with possible future implications for more.

The guys playing in this event are either letting their emotional worldview of perceived rights and equality override their logic or are doing it for personal gain. Either way they are essentially trying to sneak a bite off the extra cookie the women received to make a point or make a buck while actively working against the community's chance at 10 new cookies down the road.

Of course Greg and Sam's alterior motive is to grow their customer base, the same as the WSOP's. But as poker players we need to remember that our goals are aligned in that regard because we have the same customer base and if no one is harmed, or better yet everyone benefits, I think the end justifies the means.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Stars 'Monopoly'

I just wanted to address some of the 'monopoly' talk going on since the jaw dropping news came out about a potential Stars purchase of FTP. There's a lot of worry out there about what Stars would do with an outright monopoly on the online poker industry. After thinking about this for a while here's some of my thoughts.

Stars basically already had the market share post-FTP-shutdown that they will have with a FTP2 acquisition. So whatever you're worried about now, you should have already been worried about when FTP switched to server upgrade mode and went silent. I say this because, while some of the ROW players have of course gone to iPoker or Party, by scale of sites it stands to reason that the vast majority moved to Stars. I also don't recall another site seeing a massive boost in traffic when FTP closed their doors, which leads me to conclude that they were quietly merged into the Stars player pool where the effect would not be as pronounced. Based on this line of reasoning, it would seem to me that, while there might be a few people coming back from the networks, by and large FTP2's customers are going to be coming directly out of the Stars player pool.

There's also an issue with how you define monopoly. Stars does have the lions share of the market, but if you look at cash game traffic, they don't even make up 50%. The perception, I think, comes from the fact that if you take any of the other market slices and compare them with Stars one on one, it's David and Goliath every time. When we use the term industry standard, Stars is the industry, but what does that mean in terms of how far they can push the envelope?

I've put together a couple quick charts here. The first is based off of peak time cash players for all sites listed on Pokerscout. The second is if there were magically 15% more cash players out of nowhere on FTP2 to illustrate what I think would be the far upper bounds of Stars total market share with the new company. It's much more likely that the Stars slice from the first image decreases somewhat to make room for the FTP2 slice and the larger mini slices get a bit of a shave.

Stars 46% (Current traffic)

Stars 40% / FTP 12% (Max future traffic)
So I don't really think the comments about runaway rake increases, degradation to customer service and software innovation due to lack of competition really have any merit. If that's what they want to do, it's going to happen whether they own FTP2 or not. It's a massive shock to the online community right now because it is the most outlandish thing plausible, but that's really all it is. Nothing's changing that much in terms of industry share or control.

Contrary, assuming FTP2 retains somewhat of a resemblance to their former self, the players that liked playing there and plan on going back are going to be extremely happy, never mind recouping their bankrolls, considering that they will know their money is safe with a company that has proven it handles player funds appropriately and, by virtue of economies of scale, should be able to see a huge boost in the level of customer service.

The angle I can see here, besides having their legal problems reportedly cleared up with the DOJ, is that Stars/FTP can now work towards that monopoly from two separate approaches. They can run abc type of promotions, VIP structure and player experience on Stars to attract a certain type of player while simultaneously running xyz type of promotions, VIP/rakeback structure and player experience on FTP2 to attract a different type of player. It's much easier to make everyone happy when you have two products.

The only way that Stars/FTP2 is going to end up with a true monopoly, though, is by continuing down the path that got them where they are: keeping customers happy.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Full Tilt / Stars Rumors

In case you haven't heard, here's the quick rundown for today's big news:
  • Group Bernard Tapie's deal with the DOJ has fallen through, and they're saying their dealings were sabotaged.
  • PokerStars is rumored to have reached a deal with the DOJ for a sum of $750 million to both settle their legal issues and purchase Full Tilt Poker. $330 million of that will go towards paying back FTP customers.
Pokerfuse Article

My facial expressions as I read the initial reports, checked dates to make sure I wasn't reading some bumped April fools joke, and realizing this is for real:

GBT apparently wanted to issue cashout privileges for rest-of-world players over time according to how much was in accounts and how much the accounts were played on. The DOJ was set on full withdrawal options within 90 days for all ROW players even though GBT's plan would have paid back 94.9% of all players the first day.

MTT grinder Shaun Deeb made a post on 2+2 (now removed) stating:
"Anyways the deal is already done by what I am told;

Players will be paid within 90 days
FTP will be open in the US  market
Isai will be stepping down from the company

If these statements are true I feel that Isai deserves all our thanks + business in the future with his company he is bailing out the igaming industry's tarnished reputation."
PokerStars corporate responded to the speculation by posting a 'no-comment but we'll comment soon' post in the PokerStars Blog. Considering they are typically fast to squash rumors with no basis, neither confirming nor denying says a lot in my opinion.

FTP's lawyer sent the following response to DiamondFlush confirming that the GBT deal has fallen through, yet are very optimistic:
"To address issues reported today in the media and on blogs, Full Tilt Poker confirms that its agreement with Groupe Bernard Tapie has in fact been terminated.  Despite this development, Full Tilt Poker is more optimistic than ever that its number one goal will be obtained: Full Tilt players will be repaid. Full Tilt Poker has been in settlement discussions with the US Department of Justice.  As such settlement discussions are always confidential, we are unable to comment on any rumors related to the details of those discussions.  As soon as we have information to share publicly we will do so."
Posting about the cease and desist letter Stars has sent to dataminers PTR, which they are playing up as the poker community watchdog turned victim while complying with it, seems rather like small news at this point.
I am beyond blown away at this FTP development. I didn't have anything in my FTP account when they unceremoniously switched to indefinite server upgrade status since I felt like my last $200 remaining when all of my cashout options were removed was basically monopoly money, which inevitably leads to a 5/10 or bust session. I've felt really bad for the people that had liferolls there, but I haven't been following it closely recently because as they often say on the Pokercast, developments kind of felt like Lucy holding the ball for Charlie Brown again.

I'm not sure what to think about essentially making the online poker industry monopoly virtually complete, but if the substantial number of rumors out there turn out to be even close to true, this is great news for anyone that has had money tied up for the past year.

Things are about to get interesting.

Book Review: Crushing the Microstakes

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, Nathan Williams sent me his book, Crushing the Microstakes, earlier this year for a review. You can find it on his website at

Now with my schedule and my mind cleared, I read through it over the past week. It's nice to see some of the smaller stakes online players starting to publish with relevant strategy for micro stakes as opposed to the standard authors that have never played online or online players that play much much higher.

It's a solid 230+ pages plus glossary. The layout is very easy to read and concepts are grouped together well and in logical order. He's generally nailed the his audience with the level of detail and difficulty in the content, that being those trying to become winners at 2NL and 5NL.

He covers pretty much all of the fundamentals: player types, how to identify them and how to play against them, positional awareness and hand selection, cbetting and barreling, 3bet pots, bet sizing, equity, and even a bit of pyschology along with other concepts.

I like the way he's structured his explanation of the more difficult concepts. As a more advanced player I often found myself reading a concept definition and explanation followed by an example, leaving me thinking "That's not all there is too it, there's also _____." And then he followed up the example with the appropriate caveats and addendums to complete the concept. This should make it much easier for beginners to grasp these ideas in small pieces rather than trying to wrap their heads around the entire bit all at once. Nicely done.

I've found with some of the recent ebooks (and even a few in print) that authors are taking full advantage of the platform to promote their site and their affiliations a redundant number of times making me feel as though I'm reading an infomercial. So I'm quite appreciative that Williams put his full disclosures and affiliate links up front and did not mention them again.

I only had two small disagreements with the book:

The first being what I think is an over-statement that he has the most experience and highest winrates at 2NL and 5NL. That may be technically true due to the shear number of hands played, and while his results are very good, I don't think they are extraordinary. I don't believe any of the good 50NL and 100NL regs would have any trouble sustaining the same winrates immediately at those stakes if they dropped down today. I'm of the mindset that logic should stand on it's own, and it certainly does in this book, but posting results is of course expected by the community at large in today's poker climate.

The second was a theoretical issue where he prefers to incorporate a polarized 3bet range into his overall game strategy because it's easy to fold the light end of it while he doesn't want to have to 3bet/fold strong hands like AQs which can't stand a 4bet. He correctly states a few pages later that 4bets are rare due to the passive nature of the game. I would argue that you should have a wide value 3bet range instead of a polarized range in these games because you're often going to get called and you want to have hands where you can value bet often postflop instead of the occasional flopped monster. For example, I would rather 3bet AQs and get value from all the Ax and QT+ that's going to call (along with all the worse suited connectors and low pocket pairs that have to fold postflop) and cold call 76s with massive implied odds on our speculative hands. On the flip side when they do have the nuts and 4bet, everything's a fold anyways and I'd rather 3bet/fold AQs to avoid the reverse implied odds against the top of their range and call with 76s to stack them. I can see how his method would keep newer players out of trouble if they don't have the discipline to fold preflop, but I do think in theory a wide 3bet range is much more profitable.

Other than that I was really impressed with the overall flow of the book and the concise covering of all of the topics a beginner or struggling micro stakes player needs to get on their feet and moving up the ladder towards small stakes. The concepts discussed are the building blocks to a solid game and Williams explains them very well and in context for the games his audience will be playing.

I would highly recommend this book to new players, live players transitioning to online, your friends and family that keep asking you to teach them, and even the intermediate player that is looking for a refresher course to tighten up their game.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Awesome and then not.


The first 2 weeks of the month were so amazing. I was on track for my best month ever running at something crazy like 12 bb/100 over every stake I was playing. Obviously unsustainable but I didn't think it was a requirement to even out variance by having massive downswings accompany massive heaters, haha. The last week has put me in the tank where I just can not win at showdown, and everyone always wants to see a showdown, and the board can never just brick off when I have a flopped monster and get action.

So because of my run good I'm still at an above average for me 5 bb/100 on the month, but despite that I'm feeling kind of shitty right now. Zoom has gone from super passive to super aggro, and it doesn't help that I'm running really terrible in 3bet pots right now, like getting my 4bets called by half stacks who think it's a good idea to 3bet to $7 and call my 4bet to $14 leaving them $36 behind to set mine getting 8:1 stack+pot odds with their 22-66.

I'm considering heading back to regular tables for a while to see what game quality is like there. I'm kind of interested in how Zoom has affected liquidity and I'm kind of surprised that they added 200NL and the new 500NL for full ring considering the traffic at regular tables for midstakes was already pretty sparse.


I was sent an eBook by Nathan Williams (BlackRain79) a while back. I didn't get around to actually reading it with everything rake and meeting related going on. I am now more than 90% finished so you can expect that review posted here over the weekend.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

IOM Trip / Zoom

Another long interval between posts... I need to start updating more often again.

Edit: The lack of photos that I took is really an injustice to how nice the island is so I took some pictures to add in when I got home (from Google street view).


I returned from the Isle of Man meetings with Stars several weeks ago at their headquarters. Thanks to everyone who gave me their messages of support and ideas, it was very much appreciated. It was a really long flight there for me and flying ~14 out of 20 hours was pushing the limit. I basically didn't sleep at all on the way there and was feeling the vertigo, but American played a decent selection of movies and TV from NBC which kept me entertained.

After a day of recovery and meeting up with the other invitees, we had two brain storming sessions on subsequent days in mid March with Stars staff. I obviously can't say a lot compared to what the January elected reps were able to report back as their meeting suggestions were implemented immediately and public knowledge, while the March meetings were pretty much all regarding future considerations.

Here is the list of what was discussed. I'm not going to go into detail on anything:

  • PokerStars Financials
  • VIP History
  • Game Security
  • Software
  • Impact of WC Change
  • VIP Program
  • High Stakes Issues
  • Micro-Rake
So I can't really offer much else up besides my opinion. I found the meetings really productive from a problem solving and site improving perspective. I'm cautiously optimistic that things are going to improve given that Stars follows through of course.

There is still the odd concern out there that I would like to address that reps/invitees are just in it for their own personal gain. Logically I think that's actually impossible to accomplish even if it is their goal since there are always more than a handful of extremely intelligent players and staff around the table that are more than capable of picking any of those self serving interests apart.

Our schedule was pretty full so there was pretty much zero time for any sight seeing. I managed a half hour walk attempting to go around the block early one morning. That plan does not really work when you keep spiraling up around a hill. I also managed to run around 5 minutes prior to my taxi showing up to take me back to the airport trying to snap some poor quality, non-post worthy pre-dawn photos.

We didn't have any pizza, but the "chips" in the hotel bar were excellent! We also happened to have a few minutes left on our lunch break in the meeting room when real money Zoom was launched on .com. One of the other players grabbed the laptop hooked up to the projector to try it out while I loaded up my laptop. Despite my ability to super use him via projector screen, 4 tables of $0.01/$0.02 PLO was too much for me to handle on a tiny screen to even realize he was at my tables and bluff raising me off a number of pots, much to the amusement of everyone else watching the projector.

Edit: Here's a few pictures I've taken from the internet and google street view. They are basically the pictures I would have taken had I had a spare minute =)

Recovering from the flight, playing poker on the balcony

Out for chips and beer at the hotel on arrival the night before meetings begin.
Out for dinner with players and Stars reps and management at JAR - 2nd night

King Edward Road - Sefton Hotel
Out for a walk early morning
Driving up to Stars HQ
A view of Douglas Bay

I had a great time though interacting with the other players and the staff and would recommend that if you have the opportunity, you should go. The ability to actively discuss issues and ideas is orders of magnitudes greater than forum or email interaction.


The main reason for my lack of posts lately has been a direct result of Zoom, which I've played exclusively since they released it. Along with my new G13 which was super easy to program with Table Ninja, I've been playing some monster sessions that feel like nothing.

I got an email response earlier this from Stars that my January VPP reduction due to WC was 19%. I got a follow up email last week saying 15% of players had been calculated wrong and my actual reduction was only 12%. I am a bit on the laggier side.

However with Zoom, I seem to be a lot more laggy given that I'm only playing 4 tables and can concentrate so much better on postflop hand reading and identifying +EV situations. I'm actually seeing significant VPP rate increases over 2011 rates at all stakes I've played (25NL-200NL). I've also been running really hot and playing fairly well and am currently maintaining a whopping 12-14 bb/100 at 100NL Full Ring over a growing sample. I've also had a good amount of similar uccess at 200NL over a smaller sample, but I had a bit of a 16% W$SD implosion yesterday which wiped out nearly all of my profits from that stake for the month.

I think this is exactly what I needed. For the longest time I've wanted to cut tables to improve and focus more but I just can't bring myself to give up the volume. This lets me keep the volume and cut tables. I've considered trying to 6 table it, but right now I'm thinking why mess with something going so well?

The other great thing about Zoom is the complete lack of startup, sitout and shutdown times. If you're a mass tabler, with the state of the waiting lists in the lobby it's going to take you upwards of a half hour to get 12-24 tables going, and probably longer yet the higher you play. Which means you can't really take a break either once you're in full swing. It's also going to take you a considerable amount of time to shut down while waiting for hands to play out to finish your orbits. Plus you're always going to have that one troll table where someone sits out ahead of you giving you the privelege of playing a discounted orbit at the expense of your agitated wife wondering where you're staying 30 minutes after she told you dinner would be ready in 15 minutes. The discount is all fine and good if you're happy with slashing your hourly rate and don't have anything better to do than not give up that dollar in EV to go do something else. I would literally rather volunteer 3 hours a month at McDonalds if I could get back those 10 extra minutes every session.

With Zoom, you are instantly dealt in to all your tables the moment you join the pool. If you want to take a break you have a reasonable amount of time where you can sit out and come right back where you left off. And shutting down your sessions is as simple as fast-folding your hands to the big blind. This takes a matter of minutes depending on how many playable hands come up.

So with all of this time removed, it makes mini-sessions extremely easy to put in. Instead of playing mindless games on my phone to waste 10 or 15 minutes before leaving the house for something, I can fire up Zoom, put in 50 VPPs and 200 hands. If I did this on average every day with a very modest winrate, it would come out to an extra $1k FPP value and $1.5k winnings on the year and a significant boost towards my next milestone.

With all that combined now, I've gone from a 65k VPP reduced Supernova maintenance goal to a 200k VPP goal. I could potentially go for 300k but it's going to require a significant amount more work so we'll have to see what kind of volume I can put in over summer before deciding. Right now I need a 650 VPP pace for 200k and a 1025 VPP pace for 300k.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

We Are Loud


A few weeks back we managed to snag some Winnipeg Jets tickets in great seats. No, not for a game in Winnipeg. That's impossible due to the brilliant marketing plan of making season tickets the hottest commodity in the city at multi-year and 85% of arena capacity making the remaining single game tickets incredibly scarce. We made the trek down to Minneapolis-St. Paul a few weeks back to watch our beloved Jets play their first game in Minnesota against the Wild.

  • Pulling up to the border with all Manitoba license plates? Standard.
  • Stopping at a Fargo, North Dakota convenience store and seeing literally 5 people with Jets gear on? Interesting. I spend 5 minutes staring at the confections stand trying to figure out what's what with all the different packaging of the same products. I settle for the discontinued in Canada Cherry Coke and a never before eaten PayDay bar. Delicious.
  • Driving south-east through Minnesota and seeing increasing numbers of Manitoba license plates? Not just any license plates either. Swarms of public insurance legal issue Jets license plates and Jets window flags the closer we get to Minneapolis? Fantastic!

After we dropped our luggage off at the hotel we made a quick trip over the Mississippi to downtown St. Paul and the Xcel Energy Center. I did a walkthrough of the area on Google Street View while at the hotel and found a ton of parking across the street. Apparently it was crazy expensive so I'm pretty happy that we chose to heed the advice of a friendly Minnesotan who told us to pull in at the event parking being offered by businesses with empty parking lots 3 blocks away. $10 for Dairy Queen parking was definitely a good deal based on the increasing amounts being charged the closer we walked to the Xcel Center.

After wandering around an hour before game time walking into and out of eight or nine pubs and Italian bakeries and random "Go Jets Go" chants with literally 150 people in line for some wonderful smelling bruschetta we decided to grab something at the game and go for supper afterwards.

Absolutely beautiful building. Tons of room to walk around inside and a perfect balance of different foods repeating at decent intervals around the arena. Want a baked potato while watching a hockey game instead of the same old hotdogs and chips? No problem.

The blue jerseys were everywhere. I've never high-fived that many complete strangers in my life.

The official tally on the night was a sell out 19,060 people packed in to watch a barn burner of a game. For reference, when the NHL All-Star game was in Minnesota in 2004, they managed to cram 19,434 into the arena. The next day, local Minnesota papers acknowledged but severely downplayed the number of Winnipegers invading the city to a couple thousand. Based on my observation of the inside of the arena I would peg it around 7000.

Which means we can officially dispel the notion that we are -- by far -- the loudest fans in the league due to only having one of the smallest, acoustically best arenas in the MTS Centre. As you can hear in this video, we are very clearly able to taunt Wild goalie Backstrom in his own house at 1:00, which continued throughout the game. Until Wild fans really got ramped up in the third period, Go Jets Go, GST (Glass, Slater, Thorburn) and Baaaackstrom were by far the louder chants and drowning out the odd Lets Go Wild. Go ahead and compare the volume between our 7000 and their 12,000, or as the Minni papers would have you believe, their 16,000+ to our 3000- during goals.

And in this video of the national anthems where we emphasize "The TRUE NORTH strong and free" in tribute to the owner of the Jets, True North Sports at 0:30:

We got the most hockey possible out of the game with regulation ending in a 3-3 tie, overtime resolving nothing, and Winnipeg winning in a Sudden Death shootout after the first three shooters per side matched each other.

Make sure to check out 3:15 where Danny Heatley's attempt doesn't do justice to facepalm.jpg =)

It is now official. 1 Jets fan = 2 to 3 fans from anywhere else. How else do you explain a team with a 17-17-7 home record in a city that only got up in arms when offside was called and they didn't know what was happening going to 21-10-4 at home so far and on pace for 25-12-4 after relocating to somewhere that actually has snow? Granted they are doing terrible on the road right now but I think I'm allowed to blame that on them still playing an away schedule as if they are still in Atlanta and on the road as far away as possible a ton. Neverthless we are on playoff pace as of the time of this post!

A few quotes from the people of the well deserved title "State of Hockey" after the game:
  • "I hope the re-alignment goes through [putting Winnipeg and Minnesota in the same division and having them play up to 6 times per year rather than twice]. You guys are awesome!"
  • Visiting with the usher for our section: "This arena has never been this loud. Ever."
  • Joining the throng of 19k people exiting the arena, shuffling beside a couple wearing Wild jerseys: "Are we in Winnipeg?"

To cap it off there were 75+ Blue jerseys at the front entrance a good half hour after the game singing Steam's Nah Nah Nah Hey Hey Goodbye in good fun with a bunch of Green jerseys taking pictures of them. Every pub down the street was packed like sardines to the windows with mostly Blue but a fair number of Green intermingling as well. Reports of soccer style jersey exchanges in the pubs surfaced over the next few days.

This could definitely turn into a great rivalry if we eventually get the re-alignment through, but it was more of an all-around celebration for both sides that night. We both lost our teams in the mid 90s, ours to Phoenix and theirs to Dallas and it's nice to see that two cities with the most rabid yet friendly hockey fans finally both have their teams back.

Thoughts of Interest (mostly food related, because what else do you do in Minneapolis?)

If  I lived south of the border, between all of the Super Target stores, TGI Fridays, IHOP, and Ruby Tuesday, I would be broke and fat. They take their food very seriously down there as evidenced by the unending wave of interstate highway fast food signs. Here in Canada we tell you where the hospitals, airports and museums are. In the States they tell you where the next two McDonald's are. My wife had her very first McDonald's breakfast ever on the trip home and said "Wow that's actually not as terrible as I thought it would be." I literally said do not try this at home. I didn't have one bad meal anywhere. It's probably 50/50 or worse at home.

I later walked into KFC to pick up something for the rest of the drive and asked for a Spicy Big Crunch. "You want a what?" I thought the entire point of KFC was Spicy Big Crunch chicken burgers. But no, they just offer you an entire Thanksgiving dinner buffet instead.

$8+ per drink is standard. Shocker. $5 happy hours. I guess they don't want everyone drinking like a fish like they do at home.

We tried out a fancy new restaurant in the Mall of America called Crave. I ordered a ceaser salad starter. What I got was a whole, grilled romaine heart, still intact, with dressing in a pool on one side, croutons on the other. At first I thought wtf, and then I tried it. I didn't know you could get that barbeque hamburger flavour into a ceaser salad. Good stuff

Props to Antonio from IHOP across from MoA! We got there at 7am and he was super excited to see us. He must have been up for hours. I've never seen anyone that happy, that early in the morning.

I tried to order gravy for my fries at TGI Fridays -- true story:
TGI: "We don't have gravy."
Me: "Seriously?"
TGI: "You mean like, Disco Fries?"
Me: "Disco Fries?"
TGI: "Yeah, you know, fries covered in all that gravy and cheese."
Me: "Oh you mean poutine! That's what it's called in Canada. We invented it."
TGI: "Yeah something like that. I think Canada copyrighted the name poutine though, so we can't use that name in restaurants here in the United States."
Me: "... [poker face]"
TGI: "Don't worry. I got you covered."
I receive a side of Jack Daniels sauce and said close enough.

LuluLemon cashier guy told us to get on the light rail and take it to the far end downtown, get off, and follow the people to find some really cool places. That theory fails at 10am and we wandered downtown Minneapolis feeling like tools wandering in and out of what are probably $500+ per night hotels with old school doormen before finding an upscale place for breakfast. A friend did confirm when we got home that LuluLemon guy's theory is correct, so we'll try again later in the day next time.

Overall a great trip. Great game. Great food. Will go again.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

IoM Preperation

I've received a good amount of feedback through my input form and on the forum. Obviously rake is still a huge issue and honestly think some stakes and games are severely struggling because of it. Given the volume of ongoing discussion I am fairly confident that there will be more than enough other invitees bringing up rake concepts and topics. I'll obviously still participate in these and have some input, but I think it might be overkill given the amount of time if I go about preparing rake related topics myself.

A close second in the responses I've received has been issues regarding liquidity and structure of the VIP program and I think I'd really like to try to tackle those problems from a few standpoints. I'm working on a comprehensive set of ideas and alternatives to help several of these inter-related issues. Thanks again to everyone that gave me some input and some really great ideas!

... and now for something completely different...

I was recently reading an article in one of the national papers stating how completely unnecessary the change in Tim Horton's cup sizes was. For those unfamiliar with our second national pastime - Tim's runs - our national coffee beverage provider added a new size to the top end of the list, which was Extra-Large. The result was that this new largest size is now called Extra-Large and everything below it got bumped down in name-size. Old Extra-Large is now Large, Large is now Medium, Medium is now Small, Small is now Extra-Small.

The argument in the article was a fairly intuitive "They should have just called the new size Extra-Extra-Large and left everything else alone!" In my experience, intuitive arguments don't make a lot of money because intuitiveness is derived from being standard.

The ensuing mass confusion subsided after several weeks of the following types of exchange heard across the nation. Here's one relayed to me by a co-worker on his 4th visit 10 days after the change:

Tim's: What would you like sir, and by the way have you heard about our new cup sizes? If you used to order large, it is now medium, but the price hasn't change. That's to say that the large, while now called medium, is still the old large price, not the old medium price. Makes sense?

CW: Yeah I know, Medium Double-Double please.

Tim's: Is that the old medium or the new medium?

CW: New medium.

Tim's: Ok, new medium, which is the old large.

CW: I think you're more confused than I am. Just give me $1.61 worth of coffee.

But here's the genius of the entire switch: If you used to order a Large Double-Double, you're either going to go the new Medium Double-Double for the same price and amount of coffee as you used to order, or you are going to go with what you've ingrained in your brain over years and now comes naturarlly,at least some of the time, a Large Double-Double for more coffee and a higher price.

Boom! Fail-safe Insta-Profit.

Moral of the story: If you are making changes to a system where the change has no downside, do not take the simple, intuitive route. Make the change as confusing as possible which will increase profit by create a mistake rich environment of people not realizing the system has changed or making the wrong and always more expensive choice.

Tim's has no downside here, no one is actually going to reduce the size they order due to this change. You would have to go from old Large to new Small in order to do that and it's just not going to happen. If Tim's simply makes an intuitive new Extra-Extra Large, the only new profit they get out of it is people who actually want more coffee. By making the change confusing, the get that same profit plus extra by people making the mistake of not ordering their now reduced in name only regular size coffee.

Monday, 20 February 2012

New Trip to IoM

I haven't posted in a while since not a lot has been going on but I wanted to post this and get some input from you guys out there reading my blog.

I have been invited to the second 2012 meeting with Stars on the Isle of Man and have accepted the offer this time. I am not going as a player rep and don't plan on participating in any sort of forum flame war when I return. I'm simply going as an unelected individual player.

However I would really appreciate input from everyone on what your issues and struggles are as well as any ideas for improving yours or others' experience playing on the site. Anything and everything from software to VIP program to game function etc is more than welcome. I do think the individual rake per stake issue has been talked to death and unlikely to change in the near future, but I would still more than welcome any comments or ideas on the overall rake and VIP structures as a whole.

You can use the Google Docs form I created to leave your comments.


Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Preliminary Rake Opinion

Long time no blog.

Not much going on. I've been taking it pretty easy with poker. I've been way too distracted with rake change discussions. The IoM trip is over and reps are back and unfortunately getting flamed for making counter-intuitive statements after having seen Stars' data. I thought this was inevitable given the way the community tends to work which, apart from the unecessary delay and feeling like not much would be added than what was originally offered January 1st, was precisely why I turned down an invitation to go. I felt the logical outcomes were going to be one of:
  • Stars is telling the truth and we come back with the same as January 1st. This is the basically the reps' version although they say that Stars is actually taking a bit of a hit now in addition to making large maintenance concessions for this year as a gift for SN/SNE as a good faith measure for handling things so poorly in the first place.
  • Stars is not being truthful, would have a short chat with the reps and send them back not being able to say anything under an NDA and end up with the same as January 1st.
  • Stars is not being truthful and would present false data to the reps, sending them back with a good impression and ending up the same as January 1st. This has been the outspoken response by a significant portion of the community, effectively shooting the messenger which is only made worse by the fact that the reps were put in charge of making the annoucnement and therefore they put a target on themselves. These are Stars' decisions and they need to take the credit good or bad.

The one huge red flag that goes up for me is the statement that Stars was completely unprepared for the meeting and that they went through the raw data for the first time with the reps. It just sounds too unbelievable to me that a bunch of incompetents stumbled their way into a full scale monopoly on the industry without any player valuation metrics or revenue forecast tools, effectively being taught how to analyze their own data by the player reps and through trial and error for the first time at the meeting and relying on customer service up to this point. I would tend to think a company that large has some of the best number crunchers in the industry on their payroll.

That said, I do think the reps did as good a job as possible given the situation they were put in and I'm grateful to them for that.

Despite what has transpired here, and we're not completely sure yet as we're still waiting on official numbers from Stars, I would still be more than willing to attend a meeting in the future where the discussion isn't quite as urgent as the beginning of year changes require and now that people have a better idea what to expect out of them.


In non-poker related news, I'm trying to get back on the healthy eating bandwagon. I started at 238 lbs last summer and managed to drop 30 lbs by Novemeber. Unfortunately the holidays were not kind to me and I gained back 10 lbs. My goal is still to get down to a much more healthy 180 lbs which is about what I was in high school.

I stumbled across MyFitnessPal the other day and it's really opening my eyes to a lot of things and the app is super user friendly. My achilles heel is obviously Tim Hortons. Bye bye 500+ calorie breakfast sandwhiches known as the best tasting breakfast food ever invented, 150 calorie double-doubles and 300+ calorie fritters. Hello 50 calorie Splenda+Milk coffees and the occasional 220 calorie yeast based doughnut. Of course I could just drink my coffee black like I do at home, but I'm more addicted to that specific flavour that you can only get by mixing theirs with copius amounts of sugar and cream.

You hear a lot of people out there talking about just having to control portion sizes. While that may be true in that you can basically eat anything as long as it's small enough, it doesn't work for me. I just end up feeling hungry and it ends up not being worth it and discouraging. The key for me is going to be finding decent enough tasting food that's low in calories so that I can eat a better sized portion and say "close enough." I've been obsessed with MFP's food database for a few days now and am starting to slowly fill out a spreadsheet with substitutes:

  • Boston Pizza is out. Their cactus cut potatoes are definitely out. If I want pizza, thin crust Delissio or Dominoes is the way to go.
  • If I drink soft drinks it's going to be Coke Zero or Diet Dr. Pepper, both of which taste remarkably close to the real thing. But I am going to try to stick with my Crystal Light singles packs more than anything. Trying to drink straight water in sufficient amounts is a lost cause for me. I need flavour.
  • I've been avoiding McDonalds like the plauge since last summer. After going through a number of restaurant's menus over the past few days, they actually seem like the better deal cost and calorie wise if you stay on their value picks menu considering the sizes of the meals that you get everywhere else. If I go to Boston Pizza I'm inevitably going to end up paying $20+ and eating 1100 calories between appetizer, salad and pizza which is 2/3 of my daily intake. At McDonalds I can get a McDouble or a Junior Chicken, or even get one of each with a Coke Zero and be at 400-500 calories for the meal under $5 for less than 1/3 of my daily intake. Of course some people are going to be partial to what is considered good food, or at least better prepared food like at BP's, but I've always been somewhat of a processed food freak.
  • Eating at home is typically best overall as long as you stay reasonable there too. You're still better off running out for a cheeseburger if you're going to fry yourself a ham and cheese sandwhich at home. Homemade salads, sandwhiches, chicken, and fish and even hamburger seem best and I'm fairly happy about that.
  • I'm not much for snacks, but I do love chocolate, KitKat Chunky bars to be exact. Chocolate chip granola bars seem like a rather poor substitute but they are a 67% reduction. But I did find Quaker Oats Dipps, which are simply granola bars smothered in a layer of chocolate and I can definitely say close enough for a 50% reduction. The Black Diamond cheese strings my kids like are also surprisingly decent and rather filling and I really do like Sun-Rype Fruitsource bars.
As a general rule based on my spreadsheet so far, it looks like I'll be ok as long as I stick to meal items that are 250 or less, snacks at 150 or less, and beverages that are 100 or less with as many at 0 as possible. That will let me easily come in at 1800 per day and hit my goal weight in about 4-5 months.

As for exercise, I've been looking at the big picture as a simple EV calculation. 20 minutes of jogging is about 270 calories burned, the same as eating a doughnut. The enjoyment I get out of that stupid doughnut is less than the misery I get out of jogging for 20 minutes so maybe I should just say no to the doughnut and skip the exercise. But I do plan on getting some amount of exercise in, I was surpised that some of the numbers for Wii Sports are quite high -- Wii tennis comes in at 400/hour compared to real tennis, which I also enjoy immensely, coming in at 900/hour -- and that's something I could do with my family indoors in winter even though it's not quite as efficient as jogging. But it's still a win/win.

This whole health thing seems to be 80%+ what you eat and 20%- exercise when you look at just how much work is required to burn off small amounts of food so that's going to be my main focus for now. I did the original 30 lbs with zero exercise so I think this theory is correct although from what I understand there is some correlation between muscle mass and your Basal Metabolic Rate (how much you would burn if you stayed in bed doing nothing all day).

MFP had a nice little widget so I've gone and added that to my sidebar so I feel like I have some accountability to keep up to. Hoping to get down to my goal weight by later this summer.

Monday, 9 January 2012

2012 1st Quarter Plan

A few general thoughts first:

  • The state of online poker seems to be on a gradually worsening downward slope since BF and throughout 2011. Game quality is rapidly deteriorating.
  • 2012 has started off with a vitriolic bang and the community as a whole seems even more venemous than during the Fullstack-Shortstack Wars. Hard to believe.
  • I do want to say that there are still some very good people in the community. But 2011 was the year I grew up and realized that poker players are humans. It was kind of the same feeling you get when you're mid-teens and people start to talk to you like an adult and you realize that society isn't this wonderful world of heroes that you thought it was. It's just a bunch of people looking out for number one. I do realize how naiive that sounds when applying it to the poker community, but that was my pre-2011 mindset. And I'm fine with people looking out for number one, that's what the game is about, until people come to the illogical conclusion that it's better to have their cookie taken away if it means someone they hate has two cookies taken away rather than to let everyone keep their cookies.
  • I know that this sounds fairly cynical, but I also think cynicism is fairly realistic at this point in time.

Coming to and admitting realizations:

  • I'm a winning recreational player. The adage that you can't be a pro until you're a pro -- or however that goes -- is very true. I'm a busy person with a full time job and family with very little time to study and even less time to review. I can't pick when I play, so I play when I'm tired, hungry and life tilted. This is not going to change. This year I have to admit to myself that it's just not going to happen in the foreseeable future and stop being disappointed when it doesn't.
  • As a winning player you have to choose between one of two evils. You're either going to be a hated mass-tabler who's killing the games or you're going to be a greedy, talentless bumhunter who's killing the games. I believe the latter is the going term for table selection, once deemed a skillset in itself. I suppose you could be a real ego-driven poker player and just close your eyes while clicking on the lobby and play whatever pops up but that just seems, well, stupid.

2012 -- Quarter 1 Plan

My original plan pre-January 1st was to amp up the volume and hit 300k VPP for the year. But now, based on my outlook outlined above and due to a significantly smaller component for rakeback, I'm going to be taking the bumhunter approach for the first quarter of the year. I'll re-evaluate after a few months to see where this is going. I'm going to do my best to lower tables to the point where I'll just barely be maintaining Supernova status. I believe I can get that done with ~12 tables of 50NL given the number of hours I play.

I'm not quite committed to it yet, but ideally I'd almost like to set a volume ceiling target rather than a minimum volume target. I think that may just push me over the edge into making sure I once and for all play for quality over quantity. Needing to cut tables and increase winrate has been a long time goal of mine but  it inevitably falls by the wayside in the quest to stay in the VIP prison system (metaphorical prison, before the analogy police show up with a relevance related bone to pick). Now that they've blown the walls out of the prison, I'm finally free to do it. Of course I could have done it before, but the appeal of regularly scheduled prison food always outweighed the appeal of the unknown.

I'm going to be playing on Stars while I research the software, rb/vip and cash out efficiency of a few other sites. I'll re-evaluate everything once FTP is up and running again and will likely make a committment to one site after that.

Good luck to everyone in 2012.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

WTH Stars?

I don't know what's going on at Stars lately. The following is my opinion:

  • Turning your back on the system that made you what you are by switching to Weighted Contributed to reduce VPPs and FPPs given to nearly all higher volume and/or winning players in order to give back more VPPs but only a small fraction of lower value FPPs to losing players who in all likelihood don't really care about getting a >$0.003 increase on the value of their 10k annual VPPs.
  • Snap "responding to player input" to remove the mitigating, helpful rake changes after delaying the announcement for 2 weeks because they were "undecided," resulting in all of us getting screwed over for a month before anything is done in a completely unnecessary Isle of Man meeting where player reps are going to be required to sign an NDA which I can easily see resulting in the creating of scapegoats. I still don't know how you go about altering your entire business plan overnight when it apparently took you the better part of 360+ days to figure out in the first place.
  • I was originally contacted to be a player rep but declined because this can easily be done with online meetings and the only sensitive numbers that may need to be seen are VIP tier breakdowns, I honestly do not care exactly what Stars' bottom line or business plan is, so I was unwilling to waste the player pool's time in order to potentially come back with nothing and not be able to legally explain the situation.
  • Nanonoko being allowed to exceed the 24 table limit in order to set a most hands profitably played in 8 hours Guinness World Record, which according to the Stars Blog may be open to other players in the future. In my opinion, if this is supposed to stand as an official record, lifting the table limit is an absolute must otherwise it's the same as letting me set the 100m record starting at the 20m line. That's obviously going to result in a further surge against the fish:reg ratio which is already in tatters on most of the site at a time when winrates are at an all time low to go with the massive reduction in rakeback value.

If this is all part of some sort of make poker as close to a breakeven game for regs business strategy, then well done. Otherwise this is just an absolute gongshow of terrible policy change after terrible policy change. I could understand if this was anyone else, but it's so disappointing after being able to put them on this better than the rest pedestal for so long.

What makes this worse, and most likely possible, is the fact that they control the vast majority of the market leaving players with nowhere to go. I don't think any of this would be happening if FTP was still around.

And if you ever wanted to give the new FTP a golden opportunity, this is it. I think a lot of players are starting to reconsider their stance of snap-withdrawing their FTP money as soon as GBT gets it up and running. I never thought I'd say this, but I know I for one will definitely be giving them a shot if they are at all similar to what they were in late 2010.