Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Rules of Engagement Redux

Shamus checks the rear view mirror“No man can say what he is. But sometimes he can say what he is not.” --Albert Camus, “The Enigma” (1950)

Exactly one month ago I posted some “Rules of Engagement” I intended to follow when playing my usual $1.00/$2.00 limit games (usually 6-max). The idea was to figure out a way to avoid those lengthy losing sessions. Looking back over my stats, I had noticed that while I was enjoying more winning sessions than losing sessions, the average losing session was considerably longer than the average winning session. Additionally, my typical losing session usually saw me losing more than I’d win during a typical winning session. Even though I saw a small profit for January, I knew I could have done better had I resisted getting mired in those “stuck” sessions.

So I thought about it and came up with eight rules. Discussed ’em at length a month ago, so I won’t go over the rationale for each here. Here are the rules:

1. One table at a time.
2. Leave after 100 hands if not up at least 5 big bets.
3. Leave after 50 hands if down (any).
4. Leave if ever down more than 10 big bets.
5. Leave if less than four-handed.
6. Leave the moment I don’t know how to play Ace-rag.
7. Don’t concern self with getting back to even.
8. Avoid chat.


As I think back on how February has gone, I can say that I’ve managed to break every one of these rules -- some of them frequently. To be perfectly honest, I found it much easier to abide by the rules if I were winning, and couldn’t always resist the temptation to bend or break the rules once I found myself losing (thereby completely ignoring the entire purpose of having the rules in the first place).

The first two weeks of February went well for me -- by Valentine’s Day I was up about $140, having followed the rules fairly closely each time I sat down. The last two weeks have been the reverse, however, as I’ve gradually slid back down to just about where I began the month. I say “gradually” even though the slide has been marked by largish swings in both directions the whole way down.

I’d like to confirm that the rules have helped, but I haven’t been a very disciplined test subject and so can’t really say one way or the other. I can, however, remark on the relative difficulty I’ve encountered in my efforts to follow the rules. Here are the eight rules again, to which I’ve added a grade and comment on how well (or poorly) I managed to keep to each.

1. One table at a time: C+. Have gone ahead and opened that second table on a number of occasions -- usually when the action slows down due to a slow-moving player. And, a few times, I know I opened the second table after falling behind, a definite no-no.

2. Leave after 100 hands if not up at least 5 big bets: A-. Broken once or twice.

3. Leave after 50 hands if down (any): D+. Broken on multiple occasions. In fact, I essentially rewrote this rule early on to say “Leave after 50 hands if down 10 big bets or more.” Having established reads on my opponents, I often just couldn’t bring myself to walk away after just 50 hands.

4. Leave if ever down more than 10 big bets: C-. Also a tough one. Let me show you why. Just today I found myself at a $1/$2 table where after 20-25 hands or so I was down $9.50 (or 4.75 big bets). Had suffered one semi-expensive suckout and had a draw of my own fail to pan out; otherwise, those 20-25 hands hadn’t been terribly remarkable. Then I got KhKc in the cutoff and raised it. Only the big blind called. Flop came 9hQd7d and my opponent check-called me. The turn was a 2c and again he check-called. Then he bet out when the river brought the Th. I thought for a second and decided just to call, figuring him for having lucked into two pair or a straight. He turned over TcTs for trips, taking down the $14.50 pot. I’d dropped $7.00 altogether on that hand, and so suddenly found myself down a total of $16.50 for the session -- 8.25 big bets. One more orbit and I find I’ve reached the 10-big bet threshold already -- thanks, essentially, to just three three unfortunate hands. I feel I’m at a somewhat weak-passive table where I can succeed, and so I talk myself into bending the rule and stick around.

5. Leave if less than four-handed: B+. Not such a problem, though I have stuck around for some heads-up once or twice.

6. Leave the moment I don’t know how to play Ace-rag: Incomplete. Not sure how to evaluate myself, here. When I came up with the rule I essentially meant to tell myself that if ever I was uncertain about whether to fold, call, or raise with this hand, that meant it was time to go. (In other words, I was not giving myself a hard-and-fast rule about how to play Ace-rag in every situation.) I want to say I haven’t allowed Ace-rag to perplex me that often this month, but I cannot be sure. (The fact that I’ve played a lot of hands on Bodog -- which aren’t entered into Poker Tracker -- doesn’t help me figure this one out, either.)

7. Don’t concern self with getting back to even: F. I’m always friggin’ concerned about getting back to even, every single time I sit down. Somebody out there, please teach me how to think otherwise . . . .

8. Avoid chat: A-. Can only remember a single occasion all month when I couldn’t avoid a sarcastic “nice flop” when a player cracked my rockets w/Jc9s on a board that came Kd7s4h8dTc.

Overall? I’d give myself no better than a C- for the month (as far as following the rules goes). I do think there is some value, here, in giving myself some guidelines in order to avoid the long losing session, so I’m going to give the rules another go in March. I am going to revise rules #3 and #4 slightly so as to make them more realistic. I am also going to keep better track of how well I’m actually following the guidelines -- the only way, really, to know if the rules are helping me or not. Here are the revised “Rules of Engagement”:

1. One table at a time.
2. Leave after 100 hands if not up at least 5 big bets.*
3. Leave after 50 hands if down 10 big bets or more.*
4. Leave if ever down more than 15 big bets.*
5. Leave if less than four-handed.
6. Leave the moment I don’t know how to play Ace-rag.
7. Don’t concern self with getting back to even.
8. Avoid chat.
*Allowed to remain at table until blinds come back around.


(I figure if I’ve paid the blinds for another orbit I might as well permit myself to see those remaining hands for free.)

We’ll see how the next month goes. Could well be that I’m an example that dreaded “Peter Principle” here . . . having won consistently at $0.50/$1.00, I am now only breaking even at $1.00/$2.00, having (perhaps) risen precisely one step beyond my level of competence.

Hard to know, though . . . . Nothing more difficult, really, than knowing what one is.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Frank Approach

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)Reports that former Senator Alphonse D’Amato may become the chief spokesperson and lobbyist for the PPA have encouraged speculation that a Congress member will soon attempt to introduce legislation to repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Rumor is that representative Barney Frank (D-MA) might be the one to bring such legislation to the House floor. (Frank has not commented on the rumor as yet.)

Frank was one of a few members of Congress who were willing to speak out against legislating online gambling last year prior to the UIGEA’s passage. In May 2006, Frank appeared on the Pocket Fives podcast to discuss how such legislation amounted to unfair restrictions on civil liberties. I’m not seeing that podcast showing up any longer in the P5s archive, but PRWeb’s report on that interview can be read here. In the report, PRWeb mentions how “Frank likened the online gambling ban to the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution” that ushered in the era of Prohibition.

As the issue of legislating online gambling was being debated last year, many others (including yours truly) also pursued the Prohibition analogy. Even conservative pundit George F. Will dubbed the Act “Prohibition II” in his Newsweek column that appeared shortly after the Act made it through the Senate. History has branded that “great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far reaching in purpose” (as President Hoover described Prohibition I in 1928) a clear-cut failure. Indeed, the 18th Amendment (ratified in 1919, put into effect in 1920) is the only amendment to the Constitution ever to be repealed by another amendment (the 21st, in 1933).

One would anticipate, then, that those set to argue for the UIGEA’s repeal would want to exploit its several similarities with Prohibition. Yet there are some profound differences that might make using such an argument a less than optimal strategy to maximize expectation against our nemesis here. (Whoops . . . sorry about that. Can you tell I have been reading Bill Chen and Jerrod Ankenman’s The Mathematics of Poker?)

I’ll just run through a few of the similarities and differences here, then we can think about whether or not members of Congress in our corner should spend much time evoking Prohibition as they make the case for repealing the UIGEA.

Ways the UIGEA is like Prohibition

(1) Both emerged from much broader, conservative agendas.

In both cases legislation passed thanks to relatively small -- but politically effective -- groups who were able to marshal support by exploiting fears about threats to family and country. The Anti-Saloon League -- the single most powerful lobbying group in Washington that worked to push through the 18th Amendment -- frequently reminded Americans of the fact that a number of saloons were owned by German immigrants, thereby exploiting then-potent anti-German sentiment to their favor. The League loudly publicized how the “alien enemies” and their “Kaiser brew” posed a dire threat to Americans’ safety and morals. Similarly did the UIGEA’s proponents also routinely link legislating online gambling to issues of national security. Rep. Jim Leach (then R-IA) even tried to include a prohibition against online gambling in an early draft of the Patriot Act, arguing that online gambling presented “the greatest potential for money laundering that exists in the world.” Arguments against online gambling were also folded into conservatives’ “morality” platforms, becoming part of the “pro-family movement” advanced by former Senator Bill Frist (then R-TN) and others. As Frist told the Senate on 9/5/06, “internet gambling threatens to undermine the quality of life of millions of Americans by bringing an addictive behavior right into our living rooms.”

(2) Both fail to criminalize the targeted behavior.

The terms of both the UIGEA and the 18th Amendment are similar, as well, insofar as neither criminalize the consumer, but rather take aim at delivery mechanisms. The 18th Amendment did not make it illegal to drink alcohol, but rather prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” Similarly, the UIGEA does not expressly forbid any American from gambling online, but does target the “financial instrument[s] for unlawful Internet gambling,” “designated payment systems,” “financial transaction providers,” and “interactive computer services.” Just as Prohibition did not criminalize the act of taking a drink, the UIGEA does not make it a crime to log on to an online poker site and play.

(3) Both are unenforceable.

Although Prohibition agents during the 1920s did make approximately 500,000 arrests under the Volstead Act (the act that provided enforcement for the 18th Amendment), no law could wholly prevent the “manufacture, sale, or transportation” of alcohol throughout the country. For example, during the Prohibition era, Americans could readily visit boats parked offshore to purchase alcohol. The UIGEA’s reach does not (legally) extend to offshore online gambling sites or third-party vendors, either. Prohibition was difficult to enforce within our borders, as well. Surveys showed that the Prohibition Bureau’s agents were only able to shut down around 10 percent of the country’s operating stills. This ineffectiveness parallels what many have said about the UIGEA asking too much of America’s financial institutions to police its patrons’ activities. Many have noted how banks haven’t the capacity to monitor the source of each and every check passing through their hands. Most therefore believe that whatever regulations the feds ultimately deliver to the banks to halt online gambling transactions -- what they have 270 days to do, according to the Act -- those regulations will likely be impracticable.

Ways the UIGEA is NOT like Prohibition

(1) The 18th Amendment was ineffective; the UIGEA is effective.

It should be noted that Prohibition might well have caused some decline in the overall consumption of alcohol. An Ohio State University study documents the differences in consumption between the late 1910s and the mid-1930s. (Other studies suggest consumption actually rose during these years.) In any event, for those who wanted to drink, there was no shortage of outlets where they could satisfy their desire to do so. Many of my favorite hard-boiled novels set during the Prohibition era depict the ready availability of alcohol at “speak easies” and other establishments. For the American who wishes to gamble online, however, the UIGEA has succeeded already in reducing our options considerably. Various factors -- most particularly the sudden unavailability of Neteller -- have accelerated this trend. The list of online poker sites recommended by Poker News has now dwindled to just six sites.

(2) Prohibition glamorized drinking; the UIGEA has not glamorized online gambling.

During the 1920s, arrests for drunken driving went up considerably (some estimate close to 500%). So did deaths from alcoholism -- some cities (like Chicago and New York) reported deaths from alcoholism rising as much as 600% during the 1920s. Opponents argued that laws against drinking actually encouraged consumers to drink more, thus leading to such abusive (and dangerous) behaviors. Such is hardly the case with the UIGEA and online gambling. Gambling -- even poker -- continues to be regarded as a kind of “outlaw” behavior, and the passage of the UIGEA has only reinforced that view for the general public. I recall an item on Two Plus Two from back in October in which a poster described what a lobbyist for the Poker Players Alliance had told him about the atmosphere on Capitol Hill last summer and fall. Among the several points the poster brings up, he mentions how “even though many Reps, Sens, and staffers played poker, it is still generally seen as a ‘sin,’ which made it extremely hard to get anyone overtly to support poker, its players, or the industry.” Even though the UIGEA doesn’t criminalize playing poker online, the law has hardly made doing so seem glamorous. If anything, the law has only further reinforced the notion that poker and gambling is “generally seen as a ‘sin.’”

(3) Prohibition invited public outrage; the UIGEA has not.

In 1926, a national poll showed that less than 20% of Americans were satisfied with the law as it had been written and was being enforced. Nearly half thought the law should be changed to allow for the sale of beer and wine, and over 30% percent thought it should be repealed altogether. Such overwhelming opposition simply doesn’t exist when it comes to online gambling, mostly because most Americans don’t do it. A Harris poll back in February 2006 showed that only very small percentages of adult Americans who use the internet ever play poker for real money, gamble on sports, or visit casinos and wager real money when they are online. 95% of respondents said they never visited online casinos, 94% said they never played online poker, and 97% said they never bet on sports online. Whereas laws prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol affected a great majority of the population, laws about online gambling matter to relatively few. There have been several non-scientific polls -- much cited in the poker community -- that show high percentages of respondents opposing laws against online gambling. (Here’s an example of one from The Wall Street Journal.) Still, for reasons cited above, Americans -- and, even more importantly, our elected officials -- aren’t nearly invested in online gambling as they were in being able to purchase an adult beverage.

* * * * *

So parallels exist, but there are some key differences, too. Differences that in my opinion will lessen the effectiveness of continuing to compare the UIGEA to Prohibition as we move forward and try to get the Act repealed.

Had a brief email exchange over the weekend with poker pro and author Lou Krieger about some of these things. His blog is a good site to visit if you are interested in following the issue (and for lots of other reasons, too). I mentioned to him how it seemed to me that differences between the UIGEA and Prohibition might make the Prohibition “argument” less effective.

“Arguments don’t work nearly as well as public sentiment or money,” Krieger responded.

He’s right, of course. If Barney Frank does try to introduce legislation to repeal the UIGEA, he might gain some ground making comparisons to Prohibition. But I think that tactic will only go so far, mainly because it doesn’t really involve either “public sentiment or money.” A much better strategy will be to show Congress how repealing the UIGEA and then regulating online gambling would bring much needed tax dollars into the nation’s coffers. Such a practical approach would likely garner more support than pathos-filled laments about Prohibition (or, perhaps, even more serious discussions about the infringement of civil liberties).

We’ll see what -- if anything -- happens. If Frank does turn out to be our man, let’s hope he (and others fighting for our cause) can figure out how to present the case in the most practically effective manner.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

The Caveman, Cub, and Donkey Are Back

PokerWire Radio debuts this SaturdayFans of the old Circuit hosted by Scott Huff, Joe Sebok, and Gavin Smith will be glad to learn that the trio is returning with a new show on PokerWire radio (located at the PokerWire site). According to Huff’s MySpace page, the new show will make its debut this weekend at the L.A. Poker Classic. Joe Sebok also has made an announcement over on his blog. According to Sebok, Huff “will be jumping on board only for the Los Angeles shows, to give us a solid kick in the ass, and also so we can get the proverbial band together once again. Rest easy though, as we will be transitioning to a new and quite able host for subsequent shows.”

Good news for just about everyone, I’d think. Everyone except those involved with the current Circuit.

For various reasons, the new crew has had a rough go of it since it restarted the CardPlayer poker podcast back in mid-December. One factor plaguing the new Circuit from early on has been the hosts’ near-obsessive, oft-expressed concern with how the show is being received. One could allow for such self-consciousness early on, and indeed, during those first few shows from the Five Diamond World Poker Classic, the hosts gained some points by sharing on air some of the early negative feedback in humorous ways. But constant reminders of how “good” the show is (not to mention frequent references to its status as the top poker podcast download on the ’net) haven’t played as well.

Then came that much-ballyhooed video “exposé” in which CardPlayer accused a Bluff reporter of allegedly appropriating content from the CardPlayer site. The video is “authored” (so to speak) by Circuit co-host Rich Belsky. (Belsky is also an agent who represents Mike Matusow, John D’Agostino, and Jennifer “Jennicide” Leigh.) As anyone who has seen the video can attest, the evidence it presents is highly dubious, not least because of CardPlayer’s use of an “anonymous eyewitness” -- with pixellated face obscured, Cops! style -- explaining what “it seemed like” we were watching. While the Bluff reporter’s actions depicted on the video are ambiguous, the intentions of CardPlayer and Belsky were crystal clear. Having observed an opportunity to slight a competitor, CardPlayer ran with it.

With the coming of PokerWire radio’s show, we’re starting to see such unseemly insecurity surface yet again over on The Circuit forum (located on the CardPlayer site). Since The Circuit’s revival, several threads have been devoted to various criticisms of the new hosts and certain episodes. A few contributors have been supportive, but the overall tenor of the feedback has been unfavorable.

I joined the CardPlayer forums last summer and have taken part in discussions about The Circuit only sporadically. Like many, I have been less inclined to follow the discussions over there since Scott, Joe, and Gavin left the show. I happened to go back over yesterday, though, and saw that late Wednesday afternoon a new thread had begun titled “Why keep deleting our posts?” The original poster, rj2658 -- probably one of the single most active contributors to the CP forums -- writes “I’d just like a member of ‘The Circuit’ to explain why they are deleting all of our posts regarding other radio shows. If you are going to continue to do so, I think you at least owe an explanation to your loyal listeners.”

Several others responded, echoing the complaint that their posts mentioning other poker podcasts had been deleted from the forum. After a half-dozen such posts, Circuit host Konan Luce posted an explanation that “the posts that were removed had links within directing people to competitors’ sites” and that “as is standard with most forums, links to other sites can be considered spam.” Some immediately pointed out that a few of the deleted posts had referred to other shows but had not contained external links. Furthermore, as rj2658 explained, “all you have to do is delete the links, which is what most of our forum moderators do. There is no need to delete entire posts or entire threads.”

Curious enough that The Circuit would actually consider other poker podcasts to be direct “competitors” -- as if people choose poker podcasts the same way they choose, say, a family doctor or computer operating system. And while forum moderators are correct to remove unwanted “spam” links unrelated to the discussions they contain, to remove simple references to other shows seems overly tyrannical. Now threads and discussions about the new Poker Wire show are starting -- and disappearing. And at least one poster, Justin “jshronk” Shronk who interned for the show last summer and has continued to contribute frequently to the forum, has apparently had his user ID banned. (He reappeared late last night as “shronkdaddy.”)

Should be interesting to see what comes next over on the forums. Meanwhile, I do look forward to the new PokerWire show. Best of luck to the Caveman, the Cub, and the Donkey in their efforts to negotiate space in this eccentric world of poker media. Can be difficult, sometimes, with that elephant that calls itself the “Poker Authority” in the room.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Good Guys Lose Two More

James M. Cain's 'Double Indemnity' (1935)One of my all-time favorite hard-boiled novels is James M. Cain’s 1935 thriller Double Indemnity. If you haven’t read it, you might’ve seen or heard of the terrific 1944 film adaptation directed by Billy Wilder and co-scripted by Wilder and Raymond Chandler. The story concerns an insurance salesman, Walter Huff, who comes up with what he thinks to be the perfect plan for a murder. Walter is partly inspired by femme fatale Phyllis Nirdlinger, the woman whose husband stands to be the victim. The idea for the plot originates with Phyllis, although it is Walter who is the first to articulate the idea out loud. And it is Walter who ultimately hatches the scheme to kill her husband and recover a large insurance claim for “accidental” death (i.e., double indemnity).

I say Walter is partly inspired by Phyllis, because the way I read the novel he seems even more motivated by the cynicism he’s developed after fifteen years in the insurance business. Having been so intimately involved with the business, he thinks he knows how to crack it. In fact, Huff has come to believe that insurance isn’t a “business” at all, but “the biggest gambling wheel in the world.” It’s all an elaborate game, he’s realized. “You bet that your house will burn down, they bet that it won’t, that’s all,” as he puts it. Some try to cheat the game, but they usually get caught. Indeed, Huff has learned all of their tricks, seeing all of the “awful things that people had pulled to crook the wheel” in their favor. All of which has led Huff to adopt a pretty dim view of human nature.

It isn’t just the insurance business that’s a game to Huff. It’s life itself. There are those who control the game -- life’s croupiers, so to speak -- and the rest of us suckers who are merely players. “If you don’t understand that,” says Huff, “go to Monte Carlo or some other place where there’s a big casino, sit at a table, and watch the face of the man that spins the little ivory ball. After you’ve watched it a while, ask yourself how much he would care if you went out and plugged yourself in the head. His eyes might drop when he heard the shot, but it wouldn’t be from worry whether you lived or died. It would be to make sure you didn’t leave a bet on the table, that he would have to cash for your estate. No, he wouldn’t care. Not that baby.”

Here Huff instinctively employs the metaphor of an unfeeling casino to describe a cutthroat world where everyone is in it for him or herself. Some real-life casinos live up (or down) to this characterization. On a recent episode of Bluff Poker Radio, host Nick Geber told a story about having witnessed the untimely demise of an elderly female slots player at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Geber then invited callers to phone in similar “crazy casino” stories. The first caller described an episode at the Tropicana in Atlantic City where he saw a player having what appeared to be a heart attack at the poker table. The entire poker room was “freaking out” about what was happening, but that didn’t prevent the casino operators from following what sounded like standard procedure in such cases: “Long before any paramedics or any medical personnel got to the poker room, all of the security guards came into the poker room and locked down all of the dealer trays on every table . . . . That was the casino’s first response to this guy dying in the poker room -- to get in there and lock down every table.”

One encounters varying levels of treatment from online poker sites as well. There are still some good ones left for us American players, but the number is dwindling rapidly. You no doubt heard this week that Doyle’s Room has left the U.S. market. Interestingly, players at Doyle’s have been invited to transfer their accounts over to Full Tilt Poker. Saw something similar ten days ago when Tony G Poker decided it could no longer serve U.S. customers. Facing head-on what would have been a difficult, arduous procedure for American players to withdraw their funds, the site instructed players to transfer their funds to “Tony G” himself, then send an email to support listing their player IDs, the amount they had transferred, and the name of the poker site to which they’d like their money moved (UltimateBet, Full Tilt, or Poker Stars).

Both sites appear to be trying their best to do right by their customers. It has been reported that Doyle’s wasn’t exactly forced out of the U.S. market (not yet, anyway), but instead allowed Full Tilt to buy it out, customers and all. And I have no idea how smoothly (or roughly) the transfer of funds is going over at Tony G Poker -- I can’t imagine it has gone trouble-free. Still, it seems to me that here we we’re seeing two more customer-friendly sites pulling out of the U.S. market. We Americans still have a small number of sites (Stars, Full Tilt, Bodog, Absolute, UltimateBet, and Poker.com) with favorable reputations and acceptable customer service. Although these, too, are starting to feel the pinch thanks to dwindling payment options.

Such is an expected consequence of “prohibition” -- which is precisely what we’re being made to endure here. Trustworthy businesses (poker sites, third-party vendors) who actually concern themselves with running afoul of the law pull out, leaving the arena free for less savory types to take their place. How long before all of the legitimate sites go away, leaving us with less than reputable, fly-by-night outfits with attitudes resembling that of Huff’s Monte Carlo croupier?

Don’t ask me. Just another player, here.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Community Watch

Community WatchWas skimming through my usual reads this morning when I noticed DuggleBogey’s terse reference to a recent post by Hammer Player, a.k.a. Hoyazo. Followed the link and read through Hoyazo’s long entry about (among other things) how another blogger had criticized him (and his blog), thereby putting Hoyazo on “life tilt.” The post is thoughtful and well written, and had generated over thirty comments by the time I got over there. Most of the responses came from other bloggers (some of whom I regularly read) who in various ways were voicing their support for Hoyazo.

Most of the post details Hoyazo’s play in the ongoing FTOPS tourneys, but he stops at one point to wonder aloud how “‘big’ bloggers” are able to endure abuse in comments, forums, and other media. Hoyazo recognizes that he shouldn’t allow criticism to affect him, but in this case it has and so asks others how they handle such pressures: “How do you just keep going on when you know there are people out there who would do this kind of thing, and say bad things about you personally, and make those bad things publicly available in a medium like a blog where anyone else can see them?”

I’ve seen other bloggers occasionally forced to defend themselves from various forms of abuse (usually turning up in comments on their blogs). Not always pleasant, but frankly whenever someone publicizes his or her thoughts there is always the chance someone reading might disagree. And might bother to make known his or her disagreement.

Besides this here blog, I’ve had some experience writing in other media, including having a regular column for a while in a newspaper with a fairly wide circulation (about a quarter of a million, if you can believe that). I recall having gotten the job, then spending weeks pulling together my first column. It was an op-ed piece, and I admit to having felt some pride when seeing it finally appear in print. A day or two later, I noticed my column had generated a letter to the editor. The letter was only a couple of sentences long, but managed both to dismiss my entire argument as a grand “non sequitur” and seriously call into question my credibility as a commentator.

I felt terrible. Part of me felt like I’d been set up, somehow, by the paper who had hired me. Of course they’d only print the letter that tore my article apart -- that’s what people want to read in the “forum” every day. Another, even less secure part of me felt like the letter writer might be onto something -- that, in fact, I really didn’t know what I was talking about and perhaps should stop this here charade before anyone else learned the real truth about me.

Needless to say, I got over all of that and continued with my column, and ultimately the experience was both enlightening and gratifying. I still write the occasional book review for that paper -- much less controversial are those, let me tell you -- though am no longer writing the regular column. (It was only a year-long assignment.)

In some ways the blog has (in part) turned into a place for me to continue whatever it was I started over there. Of course, blogging is different. This here is a complicated, overlapping set of communities where (one might argue) we all eventually get around to hearing from each other. Unlike the world of print media, we ain’t so bound by time and space -- or even other factors that make it hard or even impossible for us otherwise to communicate with others. Here the interaction seems more alive (if that makes sense), and usually more meaningful.

It is clear from the comments to Hoyazo’s post that a lot of us appreciate being able to communicate so readily with one another. That much is made obvious by the swift, spontaneous encouragement from his many readers for him to keep writing, to keep sharing his thoughts and experiences. And he will, I’m sure.

That -- to me -- is most heartening, and probably makes blogging even more meaningful to me than writing the column (usually) was. That sense that there is a community out there, I mean. And, for the most part, it seems to me to be inhabited by a lot of pretty cool, smart, & funny folks.

Even though I don’t know Hoyazo, I’ll go ahead here and echo one of the comments on his post and add my own “got your back.” Yours, too, reader.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

AIPS II Event No. 2 -- Stud

7 Card Stud90 players signed up -- about twice the number I thought might show. Hung out in the chat room prior to start of the tourney and conferred a bit with a dozen or so others who had shown up. Mike Fasso, a.k.a. the Bard of Ante Up! -- arrived and soon observed the rapidly increasing pool of players to be “tumescent.” Finally 9:00 p.m. rolled around and the cards were in the air.

I did not play well at all for the first 45 minutes or so. Made multiple mistakes that cost me extra bets. Usually with utter awareness of what was happening. I’ll give one quick example.

After losing some chips early, I’d won a couple of small pots to get nearly back to the 1,500 starting stack. We were in Level 3 (stakes 50/100, ante 10) where I was dealt Qd8d3s and had to bring-in for 15. There were four callers, so I got to see 4th street with no further expense. I was dealt the Jd. No one else paired their board, and all five of us checked. Then on 5th I picked up the Jc. Again, no one else had paired, so I bet out and got one caller who had down card 1down card 29hJsTc. Has to be on the straight draw, I’m thinking (if not, my jacks are probably good). I consciously tell myself to let it go should his 6th street card look scary. Sure enough, he gets the 8c. But I get the 3h and so have two pair on board. I have the lead, but just check to the possible straight who bets. I know he’s got it -- any 7 or Q in the hole and I’m drawing dead to three outs (since he has one of the jacks). But I call, then after not picking up the boat on 7th make the crying call as well. Sure enough, he’s made that straight, and I’ve dumped nearly a third of my stack, most of which could’ve easily been saved had I not chased down three outs.

I dropped down dangerously low -- under 600 chips at one point -- before climbing back to a relatively decent-sized stack of 2,286 chips at the break (putting me 28th of 59 remaining players). My confidence had started to return as well, as right before the break I had won a decent pot. I’d made a value bet on the end when I thought my two pair were good and my opponent would probably call. And he did. So I was feeling fine as the second hour began.

Finally started to get some decent starting hands after the break, and quickly built my stack up over 4,000 chips. The stakes were starting to get high enough that players weren’t so willing to chase their draws. We reached Level 8 (stakes 150/300, ante 25) and were down to 32 players or so. I had about 3,500 in chips, still right around the middle of the pack, though 2nd best at my table.

Then came a flood of crummy rivers for your humble servant. Three heartbreakers, all told, and I was gone.

For the first, I was dealt 2c2d2s. Quack quack quack! Another player had a deuce showing as well, so when I three-bet the hand on third, it was unlikely anyone suspected I had rolled up trips. As it turned out, I ended up getting two medium-sized stacks all-in by fifth street. One had aces in the hole, the other kings. The perfect storm for me, right? It was until the river, when AA ended up making this board: AdAh9cJh8s8hAs. Runner runner boat, and I was down to 2,147.

Three hands later I was dealt KcKd7s and ended up heads-up against none other than Fasso, who besides being a poet is the show’s seven card stud laureate as well. I had Fasso covered by about 800 chips at the start of the hand. Fourth street brought me a jack and him a board of TdJd. Fasso bet out and since I figured his jack hadn’t given him two pair or trips -- and thus he was on a draw -- I raised. He just called, and so it was fairly apparent he was drawing. (He confirmed afterwards he had started here with four diamonds.) Fifth and sixth streets looked like bricks for him -- a deuce and a four, neither diamonds -- and so I kept betting and he kept calling. I put him all-in on seventh, but he had picked up two pair (with that four on 6th & a five on 7th) and took it down. Again, runner runner -- although to be fair, Fasso had something like 20 outs there on the end to beat me (if I didn’t improve upon my kings). Not only was my chip stack no longer tumescent, it was positively exiguous. I was down to 821.

I hung around until Level 10, where I received QdAhAc and committed the 1,100 chips I had remaining by 4th street. I had two opponents who battled back and forth while I picked up a third ace on 6th street. Thought I might be okay, but alas, one of the others ended up making a boat on 7th, knocking me out in 29th place.

Was glad not to go out early, but would’ve liked to have seen what might’ve happened had I won either of those two Level 8 hands. Next up, Pot Limit Omaha. (Click here for details.)

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