It’s a while since I wrote about poker. Here are some scattered thoughts about the game.
I continue to be amazed at how blase people are about the whole Potripper fiasco at Absolute Poker. For those who don’t know, I should explain that late last year some players at one online poker site (Absolute Poker) noticed that some of their opponents had a win rate that was hard or impossible to explain away as being due merely to better play. Having gathered hand histories together, they realised that certain players had to be able to see the cards of their opponents. Nothing else could account for how these users (perhaps all the same person) never made a losing call on the river, among other things. They alerted Absolute and were initially given a denial. But they pressed on until Absolute investigated it again and concluded that something was seriously wrong. That’s a brief summary of the story. The upshot was that Absolute paid back $1.6m in compensation to those who were cheated.
What hardly anyone seems to comment on is that this shows how poor the cheating detection must have been at the site. How was it possible for certain players to have such a high win rate compared to their peers without suspicion being raised, especially users who played such a high proportion of the hands dealt to them? Doesn’t anyone wonder whether there are others out there who’ve done the same thing, but are much more subtle about it? What made people suspicious about the player named Potripper was that he made a big call with a Ten High to win a tournament when his opponent was bluffing with Nine High! What a giveaway! What if he’d been more sensible?
But nobody seems to care. Some people closed their accounts at Absolute, but others have joined up since the exposure of the security breach and the overall traffic is not harmed. I’ve heard some industry insiders tell me that Absolute’s turnover has increased. I have heard many people tell me their theory that only good players would know about the breach and close their accounts and that therefore the games must consequently be softer, so now might be a good time to sign up. I fear for the future of satire when I hear logic like that. Frankly, if I ran an online site with a well resourced cheating detection department I would wonder why I bothered given that customers don’t seem to consider security that important a feature.
World Series Sats
I see in one or more of the poker magazines floating around card rooms these days that online sites are being told by the UK Gaming Commission that they can’t offer satellites for main events taking place outside the European Economic Area. That might prevent the giant sucking sound that I’ve heard in previous years when thousands of Britons splash their money away trying to qualify for the World Series. Most come back with nothing.
One of the key advantages of online play is that it deals many more hands per hour than the live game. I’m all for speed, so can I suggest that online sites with a large contingent of Scandinavian tournament players install an ‘Auto-Squeeze’ button? It would save a lot of time.
Live poker –
Solving the drugs crisis in Britain
The War on Drugs can be won! Here’s how. All the government has to do is legalise all drugs, on condition that they can only be distributed at British casinos. Ensure that card room managers are put in charge of customer service and sit back and watch the fun. Picture the scene if you will. A keen newbie junkie comes to the room and asks to be put on the list for Heroin
Manager: Sorry, but we don’t have any dealers yet. If you wait a couple of hours we might.
Junkie: But I want some now.
Manager: We’ve had three dealers phone in sick today and I can’t get any more from the pit bosses. Etc
The rigid way that British casinos are staffed is totally archaic and is one reason why I go to Gutshot from time to time rather than licensed casinos. You never have to wait for hours to get a dealer at Gutshot, because the staffing system is so much more flexible. Casinos can’t forecast with absolute certainty what demand for their services will be. It’s crazy that they are held to staffing rotas that don’t reflect reality. The upshot is that you feel that the business is orientated towards minimising costs rather than maximising profits.
While I’m on this subject of casino mismanagement, can I ask whether I’m the only person who keeps thinking of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore and the character of Sir Joseph Porter, who becomes Head of the Navy without ever having been on a ship?
He explains his career in this hilarious song -
ending with this vital advice:
Now landsmen all, whoever you may be,
If you want to rise to the top of the tree,
If your soul isn't fettered to an office stool,
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule.
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
And you all may be rulers of the Queen's Navee!
It seems like that’s the way to go if you want to rise to a position where you make decisions about card rooms. On no account should you ever actually have played or worked in one. So many things are wrong that would never happen if seasoned players had any say in the matter at all. The lighting of most rooms is wrong. The kidney-shaped tables have a pointless indent for the dealer that means players One and Nine can’t see each other. Sometimes player One can’t see seat Eight either (ditto Nine/Two). I’ve long thought that this makes a mockery of the idea that poker is a game of observation of physical tells.
The City Boys Myth
For a long time I used to believe that there was an huge missed opportunity for poker clubs to get ‘City Boys’ playing poker. I’m not the only person who’s fallen into this trap. It seems to make sense that people who earn money trading shares, currencies and derivatives for a living would enjoy using their wits to play card games for money.
Yet it never seems to work like that. In my experience, City Boys tend to come to card rooms only when they are with a few friends from the same career and whilst totally pissed. They only want to play for a couple of hours and are incredibly slow. They are also the worst slow-rollers you’ll find anywhere and seem to think that giving people the rub-down when they beat them is part of the game. I actually walked out of one very slow game recently because of one such player who thought for about a minute on the turn whilst holding the nuts against a player who’d bet all-in. The long dwell up served no purpose except for the pleasure of springing an unpleasant surprise. There’s no need for that.
Do you remember the great furore when Vanessa Rousso talked about making some "aggressive calls" in an interview she gave last year? It’s on YouTube somewhere if you look for it. It caused great hilarity on 2+2. But why did Dan Harrington not get the same abuse for implying the same thing in his second ‘On Hold’em’ Book? I can’t find the exact references now, but on more than one occasion he describes making certain calls as "aggressive".
No Limit has finally beaten Pot limit at the entry levels of the game at the Vic
It used to be that all the cash games at the Vic were pot limit. Now I would say that the No Limit games have taken over at all but the highest levels. All the games below £100 buy-in are now No Limit games and the £100 No Limit is now spread more often than the Pot Limit game of the same price. In fact the latter is often not spread at all. The increasing frequency of £250 buy-in games has sucked a lot of money upwards. The £100 games are now a lot shallower than they used to be and I may have to adjust my play accordingly.
Conspicuous Consumption in Las Vegas
From time to time I’m reminded that some poker players don’t like Las Vegas. To be honest I was pretty bored during my trip there last year. I found a lot of the games tighter than the ones I was used to at home and I was bored by the sterility of the conversation at the tables. I began to miss listening to David Binstock (yes really) babbling on about the issues of the day. It annoyed me that so many people there had no idea what was going on in the outside world.
But that isn’t the reason that Miriam from Gutshot dislikes Vegas. Apparently she’s put off by the sight of ‘Conspicuous Consumption’. I suggested to her that she should play Downtown, where the Consumption was a great deal less conspicuous … unless you’re looking for the Tuberculosis variety.
Don’t flatten the prize structure
I came second in a competition a few weeks ago. It didn’t have many players and so there were fewer prizes than players on the final table. When we got down to six players, with five prizes, the guy with the smallest stack started asking that there be an extra prize for 6th. I vetoed this and got the usual insults in return. The player in question is fairly tight and had done little in the final apart from waiting for others to knock themselves out. I saw no reason to reward this. Pleasingly, despite doubling up in the next hand, he still went out 6th and got nothing.
The next day I played a competition at other casino and he came up to talk to the woman sitting opposite me on my starting table. She asked how he’d fared and he explained that he’d won nothing because of me (pointing at me). When he left I said that I generally don’t do deals on tournament finals until the very late stages and even then don’t usually bother.
She said she would have agreed to his deal because she thought it was polite to ‘give something to the bubble’ – an unfortunate choice of words given the ethnicity of the man in question – but I strongly disagree. He was low stacked at that particular stage of the tournament for a good reason. It’s the way he plays. And there is no reason for that style to be rewarded. It’s not "polite". If anything it’s an insult to the people who went out just before him trying to build a decent stack.
The Vic has bought and installed shuffling machines on two of its tables. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are only being used on the raked £50 No Limit games. Quite why I felt shocked by learning this I don’t know. The only reason to use them on hourly-charged games would be enhanced customer satisfaction and we all know how important that is in the UK gaming industry.
On a couple of occasions last year I went to Brighton and Luton and found that there were league deductions being taken from tournament prize pools. The money raised was set aside for a free tournament held on a given day in the future for those who accumulated points from play in other tournaments.
I am dead set against this idea. It penalises people who can’t play regularly at the same place, as well as anyone who has other plans for the day of the Freeroll. The manager at Brighton said that they wanted to reward the regulars. That’s fine by me if it comes from their profits but I don’t see why out of town visitors should have to pay for it. I am pleased to see that so far this madness hasn’t been repeated when I’ve been to Luton this year.