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.