Saturday, April 23, 2011

Party Poker Making a Push?

I got an e-mail from someone at an ad network yesterday asking about advertising on my blog. In 5 years of posting this is the first time I've been contacted by an advertiser (not surprising given my very lite traffic).

I've had those silly banner ads for Pokerstars and FullTilt in my sidebar for years and never made a dime so when someone told me me they'd give me $250 to take those down and put up an ad for their client it took me all of 7 seconds to write them back and say yes.

I was guessing that I'd find myself with an ad for some small site I'd never heard of, but much to my shock it was Party Poker! Party left the US market within weeks of the UIGEA passing in 2006 and I'm sure they've been waiting eagerly for these past 4+ years to be rewarded for following the rules.

I see this as a good sign for the future of U.S. online poker. If Party thinks they'll be making a comeback and they're willing to bet on it by paying to get their name out there, then I tend to think they know what they're doing.

Right now I've got the over under for above board U.S. based pokersites launching at 24 months.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Were the Feds Bribed Into Shutting Down Major Online Companies?

When I originally heard the news that Pokerstars, Absolute Poker and FullTilt had been shutdown by the feds I assumed this meant curtains for the entire U.S. online poker industry. But so far that's not the case.

The big three had maybe 90% of the market share, but there are a half dozen other sites that have had small, but significant player bases. Is it possible that one of these sites will become the new leader in the U.S. market or will the rest of these sites get picked off as well?

I'm not one to put forth conspiracy theories and I don't spend much time thinking about what goes on behind the scenes in government, but something just doesn't add up here.

About a year ago the state of Kentucky tried to seize the domain names of a bunch of online casinos, poker sites, and sports betting sites just like the federal government did on Friday. They weren't able to do it because the state government just didn't have enough muscle behind it. But many of the sites took action and blocked users who lived in Kentucky so they wouldn't get sued.

Did Kentucky go after Pokerstars, FullTilt and Absolute? Of course they did. But here's where it gets interesting. They went after over 140 other sites as well. Online poker rooms and casinos are not trying to hide so I'm sure all it took was an afternoon pounding the keys on Google to generate that list.

There is a pretty big difference between 3 and 140. I get spam e-mail from 3 online casinos a day and you'll find ads for at least 7 or 8 in every issue of every poker magazine.

So why did the feds stop at the big 3 instead of going after everyone? Because someone at one of the other half dozen sites that has a chance to inherit the U.S. online poker kingdom bribed someone high up to make sure the shutdown only affected the big 3.

It's like in the movie Heat when Tone Loc trys to trade information about Robert De Niro's crew to Al Pacino in exchange for Pacino shutting down the chop shop across town so that Tone's chop shop can prosper. It was a minor sub plot at most, but you get the idea.

Pokerstars was making billions of dollars off the U.S. market. Not millions, not tens of millions, not hundreds of millions - BILLIONS! All that demand is still there and all you have to do is look at what happened in 2006 to see the effect of the industry leader stepping aside.

Party Poker was King in 2006, Pokerstars was a Duke and Fulltilt was more like the manager of the local brothel. But when the Unlawful Gaming Enforcement Act passed Party Poker left the U.S. market and in a matter of a few short months pokerstars had swallowed up most of their customer base with Fulltilt scooping in some sizable crumbs.

If things stand as they do today, one of these smaller sites like Cake Poker, Carbon Poker, Bodog or Doyle's Room is going to blow up and a handful of people are going to get very, very rich. Actually there's no chance of it being Bodog because their software is a steaming pile of shit.

Maybe these other dominos are going to fall...but maybe not.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Should Online Gambling Be Illegal - A Mashable Poll

As part of my new job I read a half dozen daily e-mail news letters to stay up to speed on what's going on in the worlds of technology, the web, advertising and online media. One of the newsletters I skim a few times a week is Mashable.

On Sunday Mashable had an article about the shutdown of Pokerstars, Fulltilt, and Absolute Poker part of which was a poll. More interesting than the poll results was the question - "Should online gambling be illegal."

This is a much different question that should online *poker* be illegal. Even though this is an online poker story and series of events, Mashable has done what so many other news outlets have done in the past and lump poker together with other forms of wagering.

So should online gambling be illegal? Probably. Games of chance that have totally fixed odds (meaning they're always the same not 'The Fix is in!' - actually the fix is in and everyone knows it) and little or no chance for the player to affect the outcome do not belong on the Internet. Those are my personal feelings, but frankly I can't back them up with logic.

If you want to be a total fuck head and play online craps it really shouldn't be up to the federal government to make that decision for you. They're not trying to save you from buying a TV that costs as much as a months pay or buying some sweet rims for that 86' Buick Skylark.

You can go spend $5,000 on Superbowl tickets for a game that lasts 3 hours and most people would think that it's fine if you want to spend your money that way. But most of those same people would think you were totally nuts if you went to a casino and lost $5,000 even if it took you a week. To them it doesn't matter if you had a great time. All that matters is that they know that gambling is bad and wrong and you shouldn't do it because that's been beaten into their brain from the time they were 5 years old.

Should wagering on games of skill online be illegal? Absolutely not! (If you'd like to argue that poker is a game of chance and not a game of skill, just don't - you're wrong). Don't tell me what I can and can't spend my money on. If I want to piss it all away, that's up to me.

I'm in favor of any game with any element of skill being played for money online. I'm talking everything from Chess to Hearts to board games. I'd love to play a winner take all game of Monopoly for $5 every now and then.

Now some of you might say Monopoly is a game of chance. I would disagree there, but would say there's room for debate. I tend to think that anything that involves decisions and certainly negotiation of trades means it's a skill game with an element of short term luck. Think about it this way, do you think you could beat an average 10 year old more times than not?

So what was the exact poll at Mashable and what were the results?

Yes, it's now a victimless crime and people will do it anyway - 2,888 votes (53%)

No, it makes it too easy for people to become addicted to gambling - 793 votes (15%)

Maybe, if it's tightly regulated to prevent cheating and fraud - 1,727 votes (32%)

I have to say that this poll is garbage because they didn't ask the right question and they put to many qualifiers in the answers. Can't I think no without the reason being my concern for gambling addicts? Can't I think maybe without my only concern being cheating and fraud?

What's interesting is that despite what the average American might think online poker on the sites that were just shut down was EXTREMELY regulated to prevent cheating and fraud. Now players will be shifting to other less reputable sites which are less regulated and more dangerous.

Even with my complaints I'd like to note that only 15% of people said flat out no.

What do you think? Leave me some comments if you have an opinion.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

More on the Fate of Online Poker

24 hours after the Federal Government shut down online poker in the U.S. you now get a message from the FBI if you try to log on to Pokerstars, Fulltilt or Absolute Poker from the web. If you open the software you get a message telling you that U.S. players can no longer play for real money, but your money is safe and they've had to rework the guaranteed prize pools for their tournaments.

My prediction is this will be the effective end for many of the medium sized sites. Pokerstars and Fulltilt are so big that even though they've lost 50% of their customers overnight they'll be able to survive.

I don't think others will be so lucky. I expect familiar names like Cake Poker, Doyle's Room and maybe even Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker (who were all in trouble anyway) will become total ghost towns and may close up shop.

Like I said in my last post, in the long term this is good news. Pokerstars and Fulltilt are losing tens of millions of dollars *every day* that poker is shut down in the U.S. They and all the people who have been playing poker online in the U.S. finally have some real motivation to get pissed and give a real push for change.

When the day comes that Average Joe U.S.A. can deposit with a credit card and be sure that his money is safe the influx of players who have no clue what they're doing is going to be overwhelming.

I'm not just talking about people who have never played poker before. I'm talking about people who play in Vegas and people who have played in home games or local casinos too. People who feel like they know what they're doing, but are playing at a pretty basic level will be everywhere. They will certainly have no chance against me or other online pros (and former pros), and will probably get crushed by even the players who are skilled enough to be small to medium losers in the current online poker world. A pit bull might be pretty tough, but not in a fight against a lion or a grizzly bear...or a T-Rex! CHOMP!

In related news I've read that "online poker" is being legalized in Washington D.C. As far as I can tell sometime around September if you're within the boarders of D.C. you'll be able to play against other people who are within the boarders. Also there will be terminals in bars and hotel lobbies and other hot spots where you can play even if you don't have a computer.

The big red flag here is that it's going to be run by the D.C. Lottery. The worst thing for players is to have one entity as the only game in town and to make it worse it's a government agency. The software they're going to roll out is going to be a steaming pile of shit. Paradise poker circa 2000 will look like Pokerstars software circa 2015 compared to what the people at the lottery are going to put out.

More importantly - IT'S THE LOTTERY! The Lottery is the one wagering entity that is more used to squeezing every drop of blood out of it's customers than any other. Typically 40% to 50% of the money wagered on lotteries goes to the government that is running it. That is roughly 3 times worse than the *worst* bets in a Vegas Casino 10 times worse than the bad games like roulette and 30 times worse than blackjack and some of the bets on the craps table.

My guess is the D.C. "Online Poker" will have the highest rake ever seen at a poker table with the shittiest software.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Online Poker Goes KA-BOOM!

It only took 4.5 years for the federal government to act on the bullshit, confusing legislation they passed in late 2006. Legislation that was 40 pages long and didn't define anything. Honestly a better bill could have been written by most college freshman.

In a speedy 4.5 years the fuckheads in Washington finally decided to do something to shut down online poker in the U.S. They froze all of the payment processor accounts and more importantly seized the domain names of Fulltilt, AP, Pokerstars and others.

You can read the whole indictment here: INDICTMENT!

The software still works and you can still go to the website, but you can't sit in a real money game and I hear that you can't cashout from some sites.

Personally, I did however manage to cash out the last $500 bucks I still had sitting on AP (luckily I cashed out everything but that last week and the money hit my bank account today), but that doesn't mean I'll get it anytime soon or ever.

I have about $100 on Bodog and just to test the waters I put down a $10 bet that Derek Rose would average less than 25 points per game in the 1st round of the NBA playoffs. Surprisingly everything seems normal there.

The dream is that online poker will be 100% destroyed in the U.S. and will then come back with U.S. based poker rooms. If the day comes when average Joe USA can deposit with a credit card and feel sure that his money is safe, the cash is going to start pouring down from the heavens for people like me.

If I could go back to early 2004 with the skills I have now I could make $200 an hour. Full blown U.S. based online poker could bring games as good as those of that era.

My condolences go out to everyone playing online poker for a living. It's a sad day for all of you and best of luck in the transition to the next chapter of your professional lives. And a BIG fuck you to the handful of people that tacked the UIGEA onto the Safe Port Act of 2006. You're all a bunch of cowards.

Now that I've taken some time off I'm actually excited to play some poker every now and then. I imagine I'll join the ranks of the weekend warriors at the Oaks club and other bay area card rooms. I think the 2.5 million hands I've played online might give me a small advantage. :)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Beating the Shit Out of Low Stakes Players

While writing my last post I jumped into two $10 multitables, and one $20. I cashed in all three for a net of about $75, and then took $150 off the $1/$2 tables on bodog and AP in about 200 hands. $150 isn't exactly a ton of money, but it is 75 big bets which is a beatdown no matter how you spin it.

$1,000 bankroll increased by more than 20% and up to $1,225. Suck it low stakes jerks!


My bankroll is at it's lowest point in 10 years. I was a skinny, wide eyed 21 year old (OK not that skinny and maybe more squinty and shifty than wide eyed) playing $3/$6 limit hold'em 10 handed at the Oaks club about 10 hours a week the last time I had this little to work with.

But I don't really need a bankroll anymore. The crushing vise of monthly expenses is now being held open by a paycheck. A paycheck that comes in good times and bad and reads exactly the same, down to the cent, every month.

I've seen a few of the top pros start with very small bankrolls (orders of magnitude less than I have) and turn them into something significant as a personal challenge. The point is to prove to others and themselves that they could start from scratch and make it all over again.

I've forgotten his name, but one of the top SNG players set a goal to take $5 and turn it into $10,000 in one month. One thing he had going for him was that he was a mental freak of nature and had an ideal set up in terms of many huge monitors allowing him to play up to 300 SNGs in a day.

Also he cheated. He lost his $5 bankroll many times and simply started again with another $5. I could make $5 Keno bets until one hit big and then say "Look! I turned $5 into $1,000 playing Keno! In the end, if you ignore the cheating aspect, he did it.

More impressive was Chris Ferguson turning *zero* dollars into $10,000. He started with freerolls only until he could scrape together a couple dollars and then shifted to playing at the micro stakes. Once he had $50 or $100 it didn't take him long to go the rest of the way.

I had about $3,000 when I started my career as a prop player in July of 2003. In April of 2004 when I went off totally on my own and starting playing 90% online I had about $10,000. In the good times from 2005-mid 2008 I kept at least $30,000 to work with and made a great living working about 30 hours a week. From the end of the flush years until the fall of 2010 I typically had a $10,000 bankroll and was still able to support my family of three entirely from poker winnings.

Now I have a job and a $1,000 bankroll. The job pays for the 3 bedroom house in Northern California, keeps the lights on and puts food on the table, but not much else. Playing poker is going to be the difference between bud lite and burgers or pinot noir and filets for a while.

For some people it might be hard to drop so far down in stakes. After all, I've played 6 tournaments with buy ins of $5,000+, 75-100 with buy ins of $1,000+, I have no idea how many $200-$500 buy in tournaments, and now I'll be locking horns with the $10 and $20 players. For me, I don't really care. It's not about the thrill of victory or getting in Carplayer magazine any more. It's mostly about dollars, partially about about fun, and a little bit about delivering soul crushing beats to egomaniacal college kids (You know who you are! I'm coming to crush you!).

My new job has exposed me to google analytics and I've discovered that I have about 500 people visit my blog each month which is more than I thought and makes me feel like I should get back to writing at least weekly.

I'm not sure what I can do with $1,000 playing 10 hours a week, but I'll try to keep you posted. Hopefully it will all be good news.

My WSOP 2023 Plans and Missions

After four and a half years working for StubHub I wrapped up my time there in March. I've been at the poker tables 3-4 days a week since...