Get It Quietly

Football, bollocks and a bit of poker if you're lucky.

Location: Enfield, London, United Kingdom

Friday, August 29, 2003

On the Move

First of all I must apologise for the delay in updating the diary. I have been moving house - I am now resident in Enfield's premier yuppie apartment block (and that's saying something). Hopefully the minor technicality that I haven't finished selling my old flat yet won't result in me moving once more, into Enfield's premier gutter.

While this was ongoing, literally one E-mail dripped in demanding an update. So here it is :

Bonified Trip Report

I did promise you some gossip from Tunica, but unfortunately the fact that Eskimo Clark sleeps in his car is apparently common knowledge - well I didn't know. Glamorous all the same though isn't it ?

Apart from that I did catch a couple of the WSOP programmes on ESPN. There was a 1-hour programme devoted to each day, I saw the ones covering days 3 and 4. These are very well done, the commentary is good and the atmosphere comes over very well. However I did hear something that calls the whole concept into question.

Now this is hearsay (I heard a guy say it), he seemed sincere to me and I can’t think of any reason why he would make it up – anyway judge for yourself. There was a hand on day 3 where on the ESPN show, Chuc Hoang (sp ?) has KK in his hand, and Scotty Nguyen has AK. The flop is Kxx. Hong goes all in with his trip Kings, Scotty has a bit of a dwell-up and passes. A great pass, yes ? Well maybe. This guy I was talking to said he was at the table, and there were no card-cameras (it was not the main featured table). Furthermore, NOBODY saw Scotty’s cards. He just mucked them. Our confidant went on to say that, from the play of previous hands, he thought there was no way Scotty could have had AK and that other players at the table agreed.

So, did Scotty really pass AK ? Or did he just tell the ESPN guys that was what he had ? It’s not hard to think of reasons why he might want to do that. Should we take all this coverage with a pinch of salt ? One to think about.

Finally in an attempt to shame myself into never doing this again, here is the worst play I have ever made. Midway through the Omaha tournament I am doing OK with average chips. In the big blind I pick up something including 98. No betting until the turn makes the board 765x, so I have the nuts, with 2 diamonds out. I bet the pot (400) 1 caller. On the river I still have the nuts. I bet 400 and he raises 1000. At this point I must have suffered some kind of brain freeze because even though it's true that he really can't call a reraise without the nuts, it wouldn't hurt to try - but I just call and he shows 48. DOH !! At least the Devilfish was on the next table, not there to pour scorn on me !

He asks not if you won or lost ...

... but how you played the game. Is how you play the game more important than whether you win or lose ? Most people would say of course not. Most people, in this post-Thatcher world, would mock someone who said that. Would you ? Listen up before answering …

I used to play a lot of cricket. I suppose it was my main hobby, much like poker is now. However, when the game became full of oiks with no respect for their opponents, their team-mates or themselves, I lost interest (hmm sounds familiar). Now I look back on my cricketing “career” (in quotes because I really wasn’t very good at all). What do I regret ? Losing this game, being relegated that season ? No. None of that matters now. What I regret is that we had a bent umpire and we never did anything about it. I’m still embarrassed about the cheating that went on, to my benefit. It got to the point where I would never appeal unless it was stone plumb out but that wasn’t enough. There were reasons, or should that be excuses, as to why I didn’t stand up to it. The guy was in his eighties I think, he was a lifelong member of the club, there were pictures on the wall from 1927 (for once I am not exaggerating) with him in them. In fact he passed away shortly after I left the club. Anyway, that’s what I regret. I think of the times when opponents would as much as call us cheats, and we couldn’t say anything, because it was true. And I hang my head in shame.

I hope that when I look back on my poker playing I will have a clearer conscience. Incidentally the other thing I regret (though a lot less) is that I didn’t just stop worrying about what people thought, whether I was good enough, whether I would be dropped next week, and just PLAY. Do my best and nuts to what anyone thought. I’m still working on that. Getting there though !

Help needed at the top, or the bottom ?

On my return I had a good old trawl through the Hendon Mob Forum, which seems to attract about 10 times as many posts as the rest put together ! Right down near the bottom of page 2 was a rather vague post about “helping” British players to do better at next year’s WSOP. No doubt the poster has good intentions, but asking low-limit poker players to “help” the Devilfish & co is a bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas, IMO, and here’s why.

There is no doubt in my mind that every May a big chunk of money leaves the UK poker economy, never to be seen again. Most of it is simply lost by players who aren’t ready (and maybe never will be ready) to mix it at that level. A few people, whether by luck or ability, get a result or two in the tournaments, only to give it back in the cash games, the pit, or the remaining competitions. Even fewer record a good result and are sensible enough to keep hold of most of it. So most of the money stays in Vegas, and that which doesn’t is concentrated in a few (like two or three) pockets, and not much of this is going to make it back into the UK poker economy.

Now, if you want to go and play the WSOP for whatever reason (although I suspect that most of those who go West are being led there by their egos), fine, it’s your money. But to suggest that you need “help”, in whatever form, from the UK poker community at large, is little less than insulting. Bugger off and lose your own money :-). As you have noticed I have typed the word help as “help” throughout this because it was not at all clear what kind of help the proponent had in mind, although sponsorship and satellites were mentioned. Satellites I have covered elsewhere, though I will add that I believe the whole “festival” scene in Europe, and probably all over the world, is propped up by the dead money put in through satellites and over-optimistic local players. Corporate sponsorship (although unlikely to happen anyway IMO) would be much better for poker if injected at the bottom, not the top. Money added to smaller, local tournaments and cash games (high hand prizes maybe) would tempt more people into cardrooms more often and keep the game alive at the bottom of the pyramid.

What little corporate sponsorship there is at the moment is all directed into large buy-in tournaments. Most of it ends up in the casino vaults and what remains is in very few pockets. This doesn’t help poker at all IMO, in fact it might harm it by directing even more attention to these ego-fests. Quite frankly the reason that European players have struggled in the WSOP recently is down to one very simple fact. The “faces” aren’t as good as they think they are. And you’ll have to help yourselves on that one.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

System working well, send more money

That was the deal in Tunica last week on my poker holiday. The games were good, I was playing reasonably well, probably the best I have played abroad, but I couldn’t make a decent score. Never mind ! Stay tuned over the next few weeks and I will give you all the gossip, including the worst play I ever made, why you shouldn’t believe everything you see on ESPN and which American “face” is so broke he sleeps in his car !

Losers and Winners (or Why I Suck at Internet Poker)

Apart from environmental factors that boil (literally at times in this weather) down to more comfortable playing conditions, any other change will benefit some people at the expense of others. Structures, for example. If you believe what you hear, everyone wants slower tournaments with more play in them. Maybe they believe it too, but it’s a simple fact that weaker players shouldn’t want this at all. If will give the better players more time and scope to outplay them. Or maybe no one wants to admit (especially to themselves) that they are one of the fish !

A more subtle example is an argument put forward by fans of Internet poker. You don’t have to drive to games and hang around waiting and so on, you just switch on your computer and it’s there. How could that possibly not benefit everyone ? Well it doesn’t help me !

I am about half an hour each way from Luton , and an hour from the Vic. Not excessive but enough to make a difference. If when I get there I receive terrible cards all night (or however long it takes) I can fold them. Not a problem. But other people can’t. Other people didn’t drive miles and miles to fold, they came to PLAY. Thus, they play hands they shouldn’t. They buy in again when they should quit. They make terrible plays “because I’m bored”. Incidentally the record for the soonest I have heard someone say that as they reach into their pocket is 9 minutes into the game – seriously. If someone gets bored playing online they just quit and surf for porn instead. Or is that just me. Anyway, online you are also dealt twice as many hands per hour, and you can play 2 or 3 games at once. The games rattle along and it’s much less common to see people go on tilt out of sheer boredom. Players with good card sense but problems with impatience will do a lot better on-line. Players with no card sense (like me) who gain a big edge in real life just through patience and discipline lose out.

In tournaments, it’s different but kind of the same. In the B+M world, many players overdo the survival tactics because if they get knocked out, they can’t play again till tomorrow, or Wednesday, or next week. Online, what the hell, there’s another one in an hour. You simply can’t pressure opponents as much, or knock them off the best hand as often, because of this.

So the convenience, regularity and speed of online games, which you might think benefit everyone who plays, are major drawbacks for a player like me. I have a big edge in the real world because I know enough, and I have the discipline, to make the right plays (as I see them anyway J) even if the games are inconveniently located, or infrequent, or slow. Anything that benefits me a little and my opponents a lot doesn’t in fact benefit me at all, can you dig it ?

Add to that the edge I gain in real life from knowing my opponents, using my image and picking up tells, most of which I lose on-line, and really the only surprise is that it’s taken me this long to work out that Internet poker is not for me. Maybe I should pledge my support to that campaign in the US to ban Internet poker and force everyone out into the cardrooms. Imagine the flak I would get for posting that on a forum J.

A Cunning Plan

It seems to me that certain people [as I have mentioned before] derive some kind of self-esteem from being seen in the biggest games around, specifically the biggest comps. Each to his own I suppose. Expensive business though. Unless …

It strikes me that in a casino like the Vic, with tables in the cardroom and the bar and upstairs, it wouldn’t be that difficult to pretend you are playing even when you aren’t. Large it up in the bar beforehand, I feel lucky tonight, this is the big one for me. Once the comp is called, give it all the “right, good luck mate, see you in the final, just going to freshen up”. Nip into the Gents and then nip out unobserved while everyone is milling around finding their seats. All your audience will assume that if they’re in the bar, you must be upstairs, and vice versa. Anyway pop down the road for a drink or two, or a bite to eat, and roll back 3 hours later “how d’you get on mate ? Yeah me too, bloody Aces, some bozo I’ve never seen before called me with 7s and made a straight on the river, can you believe it ?”. No one is any the wiser. Kudos maintained at no cost.

Such a foolproof scheme that I can only wonder if anyone is doing it already. I wouldn’t be surprised. And if you can swap a few percent beforehand, ching ching !! Now that’s a freeroll. See you in October !