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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Sunday, 19 November 2006
Topic: Misc.

I can't make up my mind whether to see the film 'Borat'. I've seen clips on TV and some of it seems funny. But other bits seem to drag on too long. I've had the same feeling watching Ali G before - wishing he'd just conclude the interview after he's got a few gags in (a la Dennis Pennis) instead of dragging it out. Fry and Laurie got it right with their 'vox pop' gags: no painful pauses.

But that's not my only problem with 'Borat'. I'm also frankly sick of British comics making fun of Americans. I can't help thinking that it reveals an inferiority complex that we have - that sense of faded imperial glory that comes from no longer being a major world power. We get our revenge by having Daisy Donovan, Louis Theroux or Sacha Baron Cohen crossing the Atlantic and showing us that while the yanks may have a bigger economy, higher incomes, a bigger military and a major film industry, they can't spot when some crafty English comic is pulling a fast one on them. Perhaps that's fun for you, but for me it just emphasises the fact that we have a chip on our shoulder about them. At least Clive James varied the schtick a bit when he mocked the Japanese game show 'Endurance' all those years ago. Then again, he did it at a time when many British industries were being decimated by competition from Japan. Revenge tasted sweet.

But the chief problem I have with Borat is that it mocks the fact that Americans try hard to see the best in outsiders, rather than immediately assuming the worst. Of course that can be naive. But I think it's a rather charming feature. In general I find most Americans to be far more pleasant and friendly than Europeans. It applies less to the people in New York and California, who can be a bit brash, and to the natives of Las Vegas, for whom meeting foreigners is no big deal. But get into the heartland of America, to places like Oklahoma, and prepare to be amazed at how polite most people are.

I could go on, but Christopher Hitchens has seen it and says it so much better:

_ DY at 2:29 PM GMT
Updated: Monday, 20 November 2006 12:31 AM GMT
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Thursday, 16 November 2006
Guest contribution by Dominic Bourke.
Topic: Misc.

Give us a K, give us an E, give us an N

by Dominic Bourke

I think this is great:

My main issue is a safety one. The types of 4x4 that are driven round my area are way bigger than the average car, considerably heavier and have a far higher point of impact in any collision. If I get hit by a Ford Focus at 25 mph, I fancy my chances of walking (ok then hobbling) away from it. I would make myself a decent favourite not to suffer injuries that would diminish my quality of life on a permanent basis. If I get hit by one of the tanks that are the vehicle of choice round here, then you are pretty much attending my funeral. The fact that I keep reading studies that show these cars are in disproportionately more accidents than regular family saloons does not fill me with joy. The main theory behind it is that because the car is so big they drive in a more aggressive/reckless manner, as they feel so safe and confident. I have another theory....

I live in 4x4 central, and in this case, the C in C-Charge very much stands for ****. I would guess that about 70% of the cars that park in the bus stop outside of Raoul's and then want a shout-up with the Parking Warden would be subject to this charge (it irritates me so much because there is no lack of parking within a 5 minute walk, and it's a bloody bus stop so there is no doubt about the legality of parking there!) It just demonstrates their view that rules don't apply to them, and are merely there to tell other people what to do. They are driven by the same upper middle class couples that Dave always says aren't breeding enough and on any given day when I go to Tesco's and back I will see far more of these being driven by idiots with a mobile phone clutched to their ear than I will see being driven by a parent with a kid in the back seat.

The truth of the matter is that this car is the middle class version of the tattoo. It lets the world know they are a twat without anyone needing to speak to them.

_ DY at 3:21 AM GMT
Updated: Friday, 17 November 2006 5:50 AM GMT
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Thursday, 9 November 2006
You must have thought I was bluffing, Mr Bond.
Topic: Poker

SPOILER WARNING! Casino Royale discussed below. 

click on 'clip three' to see a disgusting slow-roll. I hope the villain dies in a really nasty way.

_ DY at 3:44 PM GMT
Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006 3:50 PM GMT
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Saturday, 4 November 2006
Advice for idiots.
Topic: Poker

What would we do without blonde presenters?

Saturday, 28 October 2006
Some light relief.
Topic: Misc.

And now for something completely different....

After you've got used to seeing people dressed up as mascots for theme parks or sporting occasions, it can get rather hard to look at some real animals without thinking that they are really just people in costume.

In particular, I find this applies to pandas.

Friday, 27 October 2006
Super-sat lunacy.
Topic: Poker

Not long ago I outlined my concerns about super-satellites and in a later posting, considered the circumstances in which it could be correct to play them. One situation was where there was a freeroll or added money. I also considered the possibility that the standard of play in them could be very bad indeed.


Today both factors came into play. I have just completed an FPP super-sat online that gave 10 per cent of the field a chance to play in a $100,000 freeroll tomorrow. Obviously this is far too good to miss. Play got down to 24 players, with 23 qualifying. I was the lowest in chips, with only about 4000, while the blinds were 600/1200 with a running ante of 75. I opened up one of the other tables to see what was happening there, when I saw this:


Seat 1: robert7777 (33195 in chips)

Seat 2: affirmed317 (12498 in chips)

Seat 3: BruceLi (4355 in chips)

Seat 4: harryspeed (13735 in chips)

Seat 5: balerno (16269 in chips)

Seat 6: RainerW70 (23870 in chips)

Seat 7: keshi1 (11557 in chips)

Seat 9: Dorf42 (11000 in chips)

They all post a 75 running ante. 

keshi1: posts small blind 600

Dorf42: posts big blind 1200

*** HOLE CARDS ***

robert7777: calls 1200

affirmed317: folds

BruceLi: folds

harryspeed: folds

balerno: raises 1200 to 2400

RainerW70: folds

keshi1: raises 9082 to 11482 and is all-in

Dorf42: folds

robert7777: folds

balerno: calls 9082

*** FLOP *** [3s Jd 4s]

*** TURN *** [3s Jd 4s] [8h]

*** RIVER *** [3s Jd 4s 8h] [4h]

*** SHOW DOWN ***

keshi1: shows [Ah Jc] (two pair, Jacks and Fours)

balerno: shows [Kh Ks] (two pair, Kings and Fours)

balerno collected 25964 from pot

Woohoo! I’m through.

Incredible stuff. The AJ has no reason to get involved at all. There is no upside whatsoever. There were plenty of other players who had smaller stacks. There is a player on the same table with less than 5,000!


Is this sort of blunder widespread, I wonder? Have I been missing something? I still think super-sats are wrong in principle, but in practice if this sort of lunacy is commonplace, I may have to try some one day!

_ DY at 5:05 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 27 October 2006 5:17 PM BST
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Tuesday, 24 October 2006
The Mean and the Keen.
Topic: Misc.

I bumped into an old friend on Friday last week, someone I knew before I started playing poker. I shall call him ‘the consultant’. Like most of my pre-poker friends, I’ve not kept in touch with him properly, so we had a lot of catching up to do.  I was surprised to learn that he’d got engaged. He’s always had a pathological need to chase women so it was a shock. In this regard he’s the opposite of me. I’ve never been one of those men who’s in love with the thrill of the chase. I hate small talk. I'm far too lazy for it. 


As I’m not getting any younger, I took the opportunity to learn about how he’d got together with his fiancé when we all went out for a meal. Listening to her side of the story was illuminating. Actually, it was hilarious.  Everything she said a man should do was the total opposite of what he’d done.


"We went out twice. After the second date, he dumped me because I wouldn’t sleep with him."


This was a slight shock. The old consultant wouldn’t have waited until day two. He had clearly mellowed a bit.


"Then I thought that we’d got on rather well. So I texted him back."




"And he texted me back at work, telling me what he had wanted to do to me".


I asked whether this was a good idea.


"Not usually, no. But [grinning]…. Anyway, we got back together and soon after that he cheated on me with my worst enemy – a girl I can’t stand. She’s now stalking us. I know he thinks that he’s treating me mean to keep me keen, but that doesn’t work. Really".


And so on, and so on, with her explaining at every twist and turn that this was how not to treat a woman. It was touching that she really believed what she was saying. It really didn’t occur to her that her estimate of his worth as a partner was enhanced by the fact that she had evidence that he was desirable to other women and that this made her more competitive.


I’d love to be able to learn from him, but it’s just not in me. Those of you who fear that I may one day reproduce can draw comfort from the fact that I don’t have what it takes to behave the way the consultant does. In the few relationships I’ve had, I've  stayed considerate and faithful. After a few weeks or months, they can’t take it any more and it’s over. Without evidence that I’m desirable to other women, their estimate of my worth falls to the point where it’s not worth bothering any more.


It's my fault of course. I don't care enough.

_ DY at 5:02 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 24 October 2006 5:05 PM BST
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Sunday, 22 October 2006
Birks was wrong shocker!
Topic: Television

SPOILER WARNING. If you've taped last night's Prime Suspect and haven't yet watched it, stop reading now.

I was delighted to see Peter Birks proved wrong last night. Not because I've got some desire to see him look bad, but because if he'd been right about what he wrote earlier this week then it would have meant that he'd spoiled the second half of Prime Suspect for me. Essentially Peter stated that if you're watching a whodunnit mystery and one actor is more famous than the others, then it's him. That didn't bode well for Prime Suspect, as one of the suspects was played by a famous actor, while the others were total unknowns. Mercifully the producers managed to avoid that trap and my two hours weren't totally wasted.

Thursday, 12 October 2006
Minimise casualties or minimise regret?
Topic: Politics

If you know anything about the 'basic strategy' of blackjack, you'll find it painful to watch people play the game in a UK casino. Unlike the US, most people here know nothing whatsoever about the correct tactics and therefore lose at a much faster rate than they should. Watch any table where the same people have been in action for a long time and you'll notice a semi-circle of miserable faces. They're barely even gambling. Most are just giving their money away.

There's a common mistake that most of them make. It comes in situations where they are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, or in this case, between two plays, both of which are negative equity. An illustration would be the common situation where you have a 15 facing a dealer's upcard 10. It's essential that you hit here. Although the probability is that you'll bust, you'll win more often than you will if you stand and hope that the dealer busts. So why do so many people stand? I think it's because their main concern is to minimise regret. In their reasoning, if they take the card and bust they have brought the loss on themselves, while if they stand and the dealer beats them, it was just an unlucky turn of the cards. Standing pat, while failing to minimise the loss, does succeed in minimising regret.

I didn't think I suffered from any variant of this flaw until I recently read about a couple of moral dilemmas, both of which involve making decisions about whether to kill one person in order to save the lives of others. In situation one, you're standing next to a railway track and you see a runaway train about to collide with five people on the track. If you do nothing they will all die. Near you is a lever that will divert the train to another track. The five will live, but there is a man on the other track who will be killed. Do you pull the lever? My answer is yes. The second situation involves the same out of control train, except that this time you are standing on a footbridge next to a very fat man. You realise that you could push him onto the track in front of the train and it would save the five on the track, but kill him. Do you push him over? Strangely, my answer is different. Even though I can see logically that it's the same question posed twice, my emotions override the logic. Pushing the man over feels like murder, yet pulling the lever doesn't.

I'm interested to know how this affects people's attitude's to war - in particular why the war against Iraq has provoked massive outcry around the world, yet the failure to intervene in the 1994 Rwandan genocide (when 800,000 people were killed) got nothing like the condemnation, even though it killed more people. Or why far more people hate George Bush for the Iraq War than hate Madelaine Albright, who claimed that the death of 500,000 Iraqis due to sanctions was a 'price worth paying'.

This week all eyes are on North Korea. What will our leaders do, faced with a choice of minimising casualties or minimising regret?

_ DY at 3:48 AM BST
Updated: Thursday, 12 October 2006 3:54 AM BST
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Monday, 9 October 2006
Mark Steyn replies.
Topic: Politics

Mark Steyn is doing a live question and answer session to promote his new book, America Alone. Despite being a Steyn junkie I've not read it yet, but I know that demographics play a key part and asked a question about family formation. He responded within half an hourL

The whole Q and A is here: 

But in case that link is broken before you read it, I'll quote our correspondence:

QUESTION: Do you think the birth rate of indigenous Britons would increase if there were more new property being built in England? I'm in my late 30s living in London and like a lot of my friends I missed out on the great house price boom of the 90s onwards. Many of us live like adolescents because the one thing that's worth saving up for isn't available -so what's the point? Almost none of us have children.

In my case, I can't see how I could ever afford to own a home unless their prices fell by about 60 per cent. A three bedroom house, which I would want in order to have a two-child family (needed to keep the population stable) is hopelessly out of reach.

Will there ever be the politcal will to build more in the South-East, where I live? I'm encouraged that the Tories have at last seen what the Green Belt has done to people like me, but will they permit enough building to make family formation affordable or will the votes of the older generation who don't want new houses spoiling the view from their windows win out?

I feel like Britain is turning into a big retirement home.

David Young


MARK: That's a very interesting point. When I was in Australia, I said that I thought one of the biggest threats to their relatively healthy birth rates was the fact that Aussie cities are among the most expensive housing markets in the world. Obviously London and most of southern England fall into that category, too. Conversely, one of the reasons why America has the healthiest fertility rates in the western world is that it's the country in which it's easiest to get a four-bedroom house with a big yard in a nice neighborhood. Nobody wants to raise three kids in a small apartment. I happen to think that also explains the difference between the US and Canadian birth rates. Canada is, paradoxically, more urban than America, mainly because 99% of it's too bloody cold so the population huddles in cities strung along the border. Londoners earning what by most standards are huge salaries claim not to be able to "afford" children, in part because they've paid half-a-million quid for a bedsit in Hackney. It's not the money, it's that they're paying family-estate-sized money for a bachelor pad. 

Sunday, 8 October 2006
Oil is fungible!
Topic: Politics

A few weeks ago, I used the word 'fungible' to describe money. In case some of you don't know what it means, I quote a definition -

(esp. of goods) being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind.

When I used it before, I was making the point that money received from one source has the same value as money received from another source, even though people often treat them differently.Today I'm reminded of it because I've stumbled on what I consider to be some well-meaning idiocy - a campaign designed to persuade Americans to purchase oil from countries that don't finance terror. I realise how seductive this notion is (though Canada is actually America's largest foreign supplier) because it's painful to think that you're funding jihad when you fill your tank.

But the idea is utterly flawed. Oil is fungible. If the US were to somehow buy all its foreign oil from sources like Nigeria and Brunei, that would merely remove from the market oil that other nations, like China for instance, could buy from them. And since the US would not be buying from terror-sponsors, China and others would switch to buying oil from terror sponsoring states. And everything's back to square one.

_ DY at 3:57 AM BST
Updated: Sunday, 8 October 2006 4:03 AM BST
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Tuesday, 3 October 2006
Bad news for Al Qaeda.
Topic: Politics

However bad you think things have gone for the coalition in Iraq, its setbacks and mistakes are as nothing to the catastrophic failure facing Al Qaeda's mission in the country. That well known right-wing Neo-Con cheerleading rag The Guardian reports:

'Iraqi tribes launch battle to drive al-Qaida out of troubled province.'

The province in question is Al Anbar, Iraq's largest, and a major part of the so-called Sunni Triangle where opposition to the American occupation was at its most fierce in the aftermath of the war. Its long and pourous borders with Saudi Arabia and Syria made it the entry point for jihadi from both countries. Now it seems they have worn out their welcome. Iraqis have seen up close what they have to offer and are overwhelmingly rejecting it. A recent opinion poll in Iraq shows that 94 per cent of Iraqis reject Al Qaeda, with majorities against it shown in all the ethnic groups: Shia, Sunni and Kurds.

I'm not suggesting that this is the end for them, merely the beginning of the end. Its hard to see their popularity or influence being restored. The government's task now is to stop the disgusting sectarian slaughter in Baghdad, where rival militia groups seek to expel those of the opposite side in order to increase their influence.

_ DY at 7:31 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006 8:42 PM BST
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Monday, 2 October 2006
Those we have loved.
Topic: Poker

What has happened to the Victor Poker Cup? The website merely refers to 2005. I can find no reference to this year.

What about the World Sports Exchange London Open? Last year's event at Billingsgate was described as 'inaugural'. There is no mention of 2006 on the website.

While I'm at it, has anyone seen the Walsall Quartermillion kicking around anywhere?

They all seem to be suffering from a chronic case of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome!

Friday, 29 September 2006
History of the Middle East
Topic: Politics

The Egyptians, Assyrians, Hittites, Ottomans, Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, Jews, Romans, Byzantines, Caliphs, Crusaders, Saladin, the Mongols and the Europeans have all at some point controlled some or all of the area we call the Middle East.

This 90 second video shows the history of the Middle East from 3000 BC to the present day.

Fascinating viewing.

Wednesday, 27 September 2006
'Getting in cheap', continued.
Topic: Poker

So when is it correct to play a satellite for a big event? Before answering that, I'll just summarise the problems with satellites:

1) Inflexibility. If you win a ticket and can't exchange it for cash then you're commited to being in a given place at a future date. You may fall ill or have some other emergency in the mean time. What happens then? In addition note that in the UK, if you don't arrive in time to play the first hand, you are disqualified. If you have paid in cash, you'll get a refund. If you won a satellite you won't.

2) Tying up the money in the poker economy. If a card room runs satellites for an event that is far in the future, it ties up money that could otherwise be in circulation in the room's other tournaments and cash games. This can't be good for business. Of course not all that money is lost, as there are people who would play a satellite who wouldn't play a tournament or cash game with the same money. But even that extra money can't be a net gain for the core business, except in the rare situation that it generates another seat for someone who wins big in the main event and returns to the room to play with it.

3) Vulnerable to cheating. Satellites with more than one seat on offer are more vulnerable to cheating than any other form of the game. This is a tricky one to explain, as I don't really want to inform dishonest people why it's true, though it's fairly obvious once you realise that there is no difference between first and second prize. The silver lining in this cloud is that satellite finals tend to be watched and supervised closely, so that chip-passing ought to alert attention.

Before addressing the reasons why it can be correct to play in a satellite, I should make clear that I'm not addressing 'Grand Prix' events like the William Hill Grand Prix and the Grosvenor Grand Prix. These aren't satellites in the true sense, as you cannot buy in to the final with cash. However the point about the vulnerability to cheating is still true in the heat stages. It could be said, however, that someone who plays in a Grand Prx heat could just as easily play in a regular tournament of the same size and structure and use winnings to fund themselves in a big tournament of the same size and structure as the Grand Prix final. To illustrate by example, consider the Grosvenor Grand Prix. The Heats are £100+10 to enter and a seat is worth roughly £1,500 give or take a hundred. A player could just as easily enter a £100+10 competion, win £1,500 in it and then enter a £1,500 event at a future festival. This would achieve the same thing as winning a seat in the Grand Prix, with the added benefit of flexibility and reduced vulnerability to collusion.

I'm also not talking about one-table satellites. I'm less critical of them for two reasons. Firstly the collusion issue is either much less important or totally absent; I'm not sure which. Secondly they tend to be held much sooner to the event for which they are being held than multi-table satellites. If you relish the chance to play a sit'n'go with only one prize and you would have every intention of entering the main event if you won the same amount in cash obtained in some other way, I don't see anything wrong with playing a one-table satellite, particularly if it's held less than 48 hours before the main event.

So when is playing a super-satellite correct?

1) Only game in town. You may find yourself in a card room where there is nothing else to play. It's happened to me a couple of times, such as recently when I drove a friend up to play the second day of a two-day event in Luton on a weekday afternoon. In this situation, I didn't mind participating in the afternoon super-sat, as my time would otherwise have had zero value.

2) Added money, freeroll, FPP, guarantees.. There are times when money is added to the prize pool by sponsors, such as Blue Square does in the fortnight before each festival at the Victoria. That adds value. There is also nothing wrong of course in playing a freeroll or using up FPP online. You may sometimes find a satellite with a guaranteed seat where the number of runners is so low that the sponsor is forced to add money. It's fine to play in all these situations.

3) The standard of play is worse than in similarly priced tournaments.. This is perhaps the most important consideration of all. Given the nature of the satellite philosophy - the idea of turning a small stake into a very large win - it's possible that satellites attract some very poor players with big dreams. I certainly notice that there are some people who appear in the Victoria in the fortnight before every festival whom I don't see at any other time of year. I hear reports from friends who do play satellites that there is some seriously bad play in them and that many people don't grasp the increased importance of survival. I would have thought that this was obvious, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it isn't. Some people I consider decent but not spectacular tournament players do seem to reliably win seats for big events through satellites and this may support the thesis that the standard of play is far poorer.

Despite arguing against the expansion of satellites, I must confess that I have moments when I get caught up in the idea of 'getting in cheap' and going on to win a big score. I'm soon brought back to Earth when I remember that there is now no shortage of tournaments in London where sums of two to five thousand pounds can be won against a field of 25 to 60 opponents and money won in those can be used for any main event you fancy. Check out the schedules for the Sportsman (Monday+Friday), Western (Tuesday), Palm Beach (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday) and Gutshot (Saturday). I didn't understand why I had these moments of satellite daydream irrationality until I read that FT article I mentioned before. It's a common behavioural trait that people value money differently according to how it is obtained and knowing that it's irrational doesn't make the feeling go away. It merely tells us to think again.

_ DY at 2:53 AM BST
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