I thought I’d briefly share one idea that came up in that conversation, ripping it free from the context entirely to apply it in ways other than its original intention. It’s not too complicated of an idea, but one that I found myself thinking a lot about afterwards.
Was something someone had told him. Then he told me. And now I’m telling you.
Referring to this writing project of his -- on which he’s been working for quite some time -- he noted how another friend had humorously pointed out to him that he probably wouldn’t have even embarked on it in the first place if he hadn’t been somewhat naïve to have begun it.
Hearing him share that self-deprecating observation, I couldn’t help but think about how I, too, will sometimes think similarly about myself and various projects I’ve begun in the past -- some of which I have finished, some of which I have not.
Just yesterday I wrote a blog post in which I made a reference back to an earlier post written a couple of years ago. Rereading that old post led me to click around for a little while and read a few others. At one point I found myself lingering over one of them thinking to myself a couple of thoughts.
One was to marvel at the energy and enthusiasm I’d pumped into the post, so full of opinions being confidently delivered one after another.
The other was to think how naïve I was when I wrote it, and how knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have bothered.
I shared that story with my friend, adding that it seemed like there was probably some sort of “life truth” embedded in that observation about needing to be naïve in order to do most things that are worthwhile.
Think about the first time you sat down to play poker and how naïve you were. Think about how much more you know now about the game and how to play it. Then answer the following question...
If you knew then how much you didn’t know about poker, would you ever have played at all?
QuadJacks who after leaving for a stint with the Global Poker Index has recently returned to revive QJ in time for the upcoming World Series of Poker, has penned an interesting article for the May issue of Two Plus Two Magazine. The article is titled “The Poker Community versus the Poker Public,” and among the topics addressed is the distinction between the two groups identified in the title.
In the article, Valerio comments on frequent, often loosely-defined references to a “poker community” which often seems to include players, Two Plus Two posters, and others fairly in tune with the game as it is played in cardrooms, online, and on the many tourney tours. I like his suggestion that those belonging to the group have an “affinity for poker goes beyond merely playing it.”
He then discusses the “poker public” as a larger group of which the “poker community” might be understood as a subset, encompassing people who aren’t necessarily living and breathing poker the way the “poker community” often does. Some play, but not all do, as there are some in this larger group who are content merely to watch others play on television or in person. All, however, are interested in poker in some fashion.
Valerio ultimately offers advice to all regarding the significance of this distinction, in particular directing his comments to those working in various poker-related industries (esp. online poker) who have a vested interest in trying to attract members of the “poker public” into the “poker community” as players.
In other words, while the title of the article might suggest an adversarial relationship, Valerio’s clearly petitioning for better communication and respect between the groups. It seems a worthwhile point to make, perhaps of special significance to certain parties within the “poker community.”
The article reminded me of various debates that have popped up before over recent years, including some of those “Is it good for poker?” discussions focused on moments when poker occasionally earns brief attention from so-called “mainstream” popular culture. A reference by Valerio to Two Plus Two’s central place in the “poker community” also made me think of a post I wrote here a couple of years ago “On Poker Communities” that overlaps a little with some of what he discusses.
However, a lot of my thoughts after reading the article centered around the experience of teaching my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class for the past couple of years, one consequence of which has been being frequently forced to think about the larger “poker public” Valerio describes.
Most (not all) who sign up for the course have at least some interest in poker, with a few being players themselves. Readers of this blog -- most of whom are probably best considered part of the “poker community” Valerio is describing -- might be surprised to learn that very few among those who take my class play poker regularly, let alone are as serious about the game as most of us are. And I even have a few take the class who have never even thought much about poker before at all, let alone played.
It might have been different if were teaching the class a few years ago. Black Friday happened during the first semester I taught the course (spring 2011). I know I had quite a few online poker players enrolled in that first installment of the class, but obviously the situation has changed since then. These days there are usually only a few who take the class each time around whom I’d unequivocally peg as coming from the “poker community” group.
In any case, talking with groups of people who mostly belong to that “poker public” about poker and its place in American culture has forced me to think a lot about how people outside of our “poker community” view the game and its significance. Often there are some great differences between how the two groups think of poker, the most conspicuous usually being the way the “poker public” views poker as essentially just another gambling game while those in the “poker community” often consider poker as something much different.
Being the teacher in this dynamic, I guess I’m also quite conscious of how those in the “poker community” sometimes recognize a need to educate the “poker public” about certain important elements of the game (including its skill component). But I’m also aware that I often learn a lot from my students, too, regarding the topics we discuss, and thus can say from experience that the “poker public” can teach the “poker community” a lot, too.
Here’s a link to the iTunes preview page for the app (doesn’t load iTunes, like some links irritatingly do), and here’s the link to a page discussing it for the Android.
The app has been created by the PokerNews folks and is connected to PN’s live reporting. Speaking of apps and PokerNews, the PokerNews app has also been updated considerably over time to include not just live reporting but news, videos, the podcast and so on. The sucker is a lot less buggy, too, than when it first surfaced back in the summer of 2010.
Players who download the free My Stack app onto their phones or iPads can now update their own chip counts as often as they like. I noticed today that a couple of players have already started to use the app at the WSOP Circuit Harrah’s Philadelphia event as well as the EPT Grand Final which has just gotten underway.
From the WSOP-C event, Matt Glantz updated his count a few times yesterday before busting shy of the cash. Meanwhile, Jeff Rossiter updated his count once today during the early going at Monte Carlo before he was eliminated. Just below is a screen shot of what it looks like when a player updates his or her own count, with an icon distinguishing the update from one made by a PN reporter.
Players can also add comments to their updates, which can be seen if you check under the “Player Updates” tab on the PN Live Reporting page. Glantz took advantage of that feature to add some funny comments to a couple of his Day 2 updates yesterday, if you want to see some examples of that.
Am intrigued by this new development, which makes me think back to the first days of seeing players reporting via Twitter and by other means their tourney progress, something that really only started happening a short while after I began reporting from tourneys back in 2008. I’m remembering a post I wrote during the 2009 WSOP titled “Land of 1000 Reporters” in which I believe I reflected for the first time on how it wasn’t just me reporting from these tourneys, but a lot of those participating in the tourneys were reporting as well.
I imagine there will be some issues that will arise with the new app. I am sure there will be some instances of erroneous counts being reported now and then, although the designation that a player entered the new count should help minimize the problems that would ensue from that. There could be other hiccups associated with the app and/or its use that haven’t been considered as yet, too, although my sense is it will be an overall positive when it comes to reporting.
I’d be curious to hear others’ thoughts about the app. I’ll be interested in hearing what those who end up using it think about it, too.
The Daily Currant guys for a short while as I believe a couple of people might have thought my faux app to have been an actual one.
I’m calling my app the Mickey123. It harnesses the considerable resources of the world’s foremost chip counter to provide an easy point-and-click method of tabulating one’s stack, as demonstrated above.
As Mickey Doft would say, it’s unbelievable.
Just as New Orleans is often identified as a starting point for poker in the U.S., there, too, have some speculated the first strip poker games took place. Others have located the game in 19th-century brothels, introduced as a way to enliven further the usual negotiations occurring in such establishments.
In American popular culture, references to strip poker can be found in cinema dating back to the silent era. One of the more famous (or infamous) examples comes in the 1928 silent film The Road to Ruin starring Helen Foster as the wayward youth, Sally Canfield.
Blurring the line between “educational” and “exploitative,” the film was highly controversial in its day, banned in several U.S. cities yet apparently shown in high schools as a stern warning against delinquency’s dire consequences. It was also one of the top grossing films of the year, earning a not-insignificant $2.5 million at the box office.
From the start, sweet Sally, her neglectful parents having failed to provide her proper guidance, falls in with the “wrong crowd” and swiftly slips into a downward spiral. Before her sad story concludes, it will involve smoking, drinking, drug use, premarital sex, prostitution, and abortion.
Remade as a talkie in 1934, The Road to Ruin again starred Foster (with a different name), in what was in fact a relatively tamer version of the same story, though still plenty controversial by the day’s standards. Among the several mostly incidental changes to the story, the partygoers play dice rather than poker as they gamble away their garments.
Other strip poker scenes pop up in ’30s and ’40s films, such as in the 1932 political satire The Dark Horse starring Bette Davis. That one begins with a party choosing a woefully-unqualified gubernatorial candidate out of a hat, then finds his campaign manager struggling throughout to keep the candidate in line. Eventually the rival party employs the campaign manager’s ex-wife to woo the candidate to a mountain cabin for a game of strip poker, leading to further hijinks. And long underwear.
The witty and provoking Mad Youth (1940) also features strip poker being played by a group of teens while their parents are away having their bridge club, with some clever cross-cutting between the two card games affording a few grins.
We hear a mother commenting at the bridge game over her cards about her dutiful daughter. “Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about my Beth,” she says at one point, calling her a “model youngster.” Back to the poker game, where Beth is removing her top. “She’s such a modest little mouse,” adds Mom later. Jump cut back to Beth, now wearing the tablecloth!
Strip poker became increasingly popular in America during the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in popular culture with increasing frequency -- along with other formerly forbidden fare -- as the nation embarked upon what would come to be called a “sexual revolution.” Milos Forman’s 1971 comedy Taking Off comments on such cultural shifts while also incorporating strip poker into the story.
Eventually the Tynes and another couple find themselves at the end of an enjoyable evening, drunk, stoned, and playing a game of what is described as “Texas one-card showdown.” In the game, each player draws a single card, with the one drawing the lowest having to remove an article of clothing.
The game progresses -- providing a kind of literal reference to the film’s title -- with Larry ultimately the big loser. He delivers a rambunctious song in the nude, the performance having the others in stitches, when his singing is interrupted by the surprise return of their daughter.
Further evidence of strip poker’s popularity around this time is provided by the 1972 publication of Playboy’s Book of Games in which is included a detailed section describing how to play.
“This exciting game, though very popular in some circles, is rarely if ever discussed in card books,” writes author and noted gambling expert Edwin Silberstang (who sadly passed last year). He goes on to present the game as a great way “to break the ice” at social gatherings.
Strip poker’s popularity faded somewhat thereafter, although if references in popular culture are an indicator, the game remains firmly in the public’s collective consciousness.
In the early 1980s, among the first games created for home computers were forms of strip poker, with players rewarded with static, monochrome images for winning hands -- crude and crudely-rendered. Such games have progressed with the times, of course, and continue to be played today.
There was a short-lived game show, Strip Poker, on the USA Network (in 2000-01). Unsurprisingly, Lady Gaga and her supporting cast play the game in her 2008 video “Poker Face.” The American Pie franchise has alluded to the game more than once.
And in the opening of The Social Network (2010) we see Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg busily creating and launching his “Facemash” site (a Facebook prototype) while students across campus party it up, with strip poker among their chosen festivities.
In that latter example, one might read an implied analogy between the sometimes intimate “revealing” that social networking sites like Facebook can encourage and the literal exposure that happens in a game of strip poker. Both could be said to satisfy in different ways humans’ voyeuristic tendencies.
Not to mention the desires of some to “showdown.”
I’m not an NHL fan, but I’m aware their playoffs have begun as well with the 16 teams making it to the hockey postseason similarly engaged in best-of-seven matchups as they start the lengthy process of determining a champion.
Was thinking today how the shifting dynamic of a best-of-seven tournament can resemble a Texas hold’em hand.
The first two games of a series -- both played at the higher-seeded team’s arena -- are a bit like preflop play. Having home court/ice could be said to be like playing from late position, where you are going to be able to operate a little more freely than otherwise and where expectations of winning are greater.
Then when a series reaches Game 3, that’s a bit like what happens after the flop. The first three community cards further define how players can proceed in a hand, much as the results of the first two games in a series can have influence on how teams perform going forward.
Game 4 continues in the same vein, sometimes ending with a sweep (like a bet-and-fold winning the hand right there), a team moving ahead 3-1 (assuming a position of strength going forward), or the series getting knotted 2-2 (as though flop betting -- or checking -- failed to establish one player as having the “lead” or appearing at an advantage to win the hand).
Game 5 is then very much like the turn. In both the playoffs and in poker, it’s the “pivotal” game or street. Again the series (or hand) can be over right here, but if it doesn’t, the team who wins Game 5 -- just like the player who plays the turn most effectively -- is often now in good position to end as winner.
I’d finish the analogy by referring to both Games 6 and 7 as the “river.” I’m more familiar with the NBA, where relatively few series actually get all of the way to Game 7. But however you look at it, both of those games are like the “endgame” portion of a poker hand where final, decisive moves are being made.
And I suppose when those series do get to a game 7, weird, unexpected things sometimes happen as well, much like a surprising river card that gives an underdog the win.
I’d explore all of this more thoroughly, but I think before watching tonight’s games I need instead to watch “The Adventures of Christopher Bosh in the Multiverse” again, starring Miami Heat forward and superhero from Zorg-nok Chris Bosh.
Been trying to follow all of the online poker-related developments, although it’s starting to feel a little like I’ve accidentally sat down at a table where they’re dealing some brand new variant with multiple flops and extra streets where I’m not sure about hand values and I don’t even really know how many betting rounds there are.
Kind of makes me want to sit back and take a hand or three off, just to avoid playing out of turn or any other missteps.
On Monday I was writing about the current troubles at Lock Poker, the latest issue to emerge symbolizing the confusing and highly uncertain world of so-called “rogue” offshore U.S.-facing online poker sites. Easy enough to draw a conclusion there to steer clear of Lock and other such sites, although it’s still a bit headachy trying to delve into the specifics of what is happening with the communications and cashouts (or lack thereof) and ever-shifting landscape for players.
Then yesterday came the sudden launch of Ultimate Poker, which created some huge buzz and various conversations and commentary throughout the day and night.
Again, lots of questions linger as the site moves into its second day of offering actual U.S. licensed and regulated real money games to players in Nevada. PokerScout reported a peak of 136 players on the site during its first day of dealing, and a quick check of the “Hand ID” numbers at the moment suggest more than 25,000 hands have been dealt at the cash tables and in sit-n-gos.
Amid all of the talk of triangulation -- a word that always sounds short of breath -- and other matters related to players’ attempts to get up and running on Ultimate Poker, I wondered some more about how quickly the sucker went live, with only a few hours in between players being able to make initial deposits and the games getting underway. (No free play games, either, to test out things beforehand.)
But like the great majority of those talking about Ultimate Poker right now, I’m not actually playing on the site as I am not in Nevada. Thus am I hesitant to say much at all regarding how things appear to have gone during UP’s first day, although I have been following with interest the various posts, forum comments, tweets, and other talk about what’s happening.
Then last night came what appeared to be another item of apparently uncertain significance as Alexandra Berzon of The Wall Street Journal reported that the deal between PokerStars (or, rather, the Rational Group) and the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel (or, rather, Colony Capital LLC) had reached an impasse thanks to the passing of an important deadline established between the two entities.
According to Berzon, the deal had been contingent on Rational obtaining a Preliminary Casino Authorization (i.e., a temporary license) to operate in NJ by last Friday. That day came and went, and thus the agreement between the two parties expired. While the significance of the news was initially unclear -- neither side had offered any on-the-record comments for Berzon’s article -- this morning it sounds like the deal is well and truly nixed, as the Atlantic Club’s CEO is confirming that to be the case. Though again, it is hard to pin down what it all means for New Jersey and/or PokerStars going forward. (Hard for me, anyway.)
Finally, there was one more item popping up this morning over on Politico suggesting that yet another federal online gambling bill was about to be proposed by House Rep. Peter King (R-NY). Actually that item initially suggested another Congressman (Jay Rockefeller) was to propose the legislation before a correction soon followed.
Of course, it seems like just about every story we’re hearing at present having to do with online poker seems in need of correction. Or at least revising to add further clarification. And the fact that half of these stories are hidden behind pay walls doesn’t make it any easier for the majority of us wanting to know what’s up.
I’ve made the analogy before here about how reporting on poker -- like poker itself -- is often a “partial information game,” although when I have it has been in the context of reporting on tourneys in which those of us on the side cannot see hole cards or know players’ thoughts, entire shared history, and so on.
Such a characterization seems appropriate with regard to stories about the status online poker in the U.S. at present, too. Like I was saying above, the whole scene regarding online poker’s present and future in the U.S. is getting so muddled it’s becoming increasingly difficult even to follow the order of play.
Makes the game more unpredictable, I guess, and thus more apt to surprise us. Even so, I think I might just sit out and watch for a while before getting further involved.
Ultimate Poker site in Nevada suddenly springing to life this morning to deal its first hand. The site went live just about an hour ago at 9 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, noon here on the east coast.
Like you, I awoke to the news that UP was going to be going live today. Kind of surprised, actually, that there wasn’t a lengthy roll out or even any real advance notice beforehand, although I guess we all knew the launch was going to be soon. I went ahead and registered with the site, even though I’m in North Carolina and cannot play as yet. I will be in Nevada this summer, however, for the World Series of Poker, and so might well get on there to play a bit while I am there.
That said, there are other issues presently in the way of my playing on Ultimate Poker besides not being physically located within Nevada.
My cell phone carrier is Verizon, and apparently that’s going to exclude me right now as well. In order to play on Ultimate Poker, one must have a cell phone in order to use the site’s “location services” function. In order to determine that a player is in Nevada, the player has to respond to a text message sent to his or her cell phone, which theoretically confirms for Ultimate Poker that the player is within Nevada’s borders. (Easy to imagine folks scheming to work around this method of confirmation.) Anyhow, apparently Verizon customers are out of luck with regard to this system, and so cannot presently get verified to play.
Another hiccup for me is the fact that there really isn’t a good option for Mac users to play at present. There is a workaround, apparently, but it’s more than I want to deal with, especially as I’m not even in NV.
Hopefully both of those issues get resolved before mid-June when I get to Nevada with my Verizon phone and Mac laptop. Not going to get too worked up over the various snags as yet, though, as I think it is only fair to let the site get up and operational before any judgments can be meaningful.
I watched the first hand being dealt on Ultimate Poker a while ago. A $4.55+$0.45 turbo sit-n-go appeared in the lobby at the top of the hour, and after about nine minutes or so the nine spots were taken and the single-table tourney got underway. Check out the Hand ID# in the top left corner:
The player chazman then knocked out prognostic on the very first hand of the SNG after the latter flopped top pair then chazman turned a spade flush and they got it all in on fourth street with prognostic drawing dead. In the end, chazman finished third for $8.45, jharrington took second for $12.50, and a player simply named Ken won the sucker for $20.
Shortly after that SNG began the lobby began to fill with many other sit-n-go options with buy-ins ranging from $0.25 up to $100. Cash tables appeared in the lobby as well, with limit hold’em games ranging from $0.05/$0.10 up to $10/$20, and NL games from $0.01/$0.02 to $3/$6. All games are hold’em right now, as well.
Not too much is happening as yet, though. At the moment it looks like only seven players are sitting at the cash tables. Meanwhile there haven’t been enough players to get a second full-ring SNG going, although two have started a $5 heads-up one.
Of course, as I mentioned, it was only hours ago that most even heard the news that Ultimate Poker was going live, and given the hoops those who are in Nevada presently need to go through before being able to deposit and play, I wouldn’t expect the site to get too much traffic during these first few hours or days.
It could be that part of the thinking behind surprise-springing the launch in this way was to prevent having too much business right off the bat, thereby enabling those running the show to ease into things a little more carefully. A better explanation, though, is that Ultimate Poker simply wanted to be the first to deal real money hands, period, as the benefits of being the only option in what is necessarily a small marketplace are obviously huge.
In other words, I sincerely hope the rush to be first doesn’t mean any unforeseen (or yet-to-be-dealt-with) issues arise to create problems going forward for U.S. Online Poker 2.0.
I had a conversation with someone a week ago about online poker, a person entirely unfamiliar with its history as well as all of the recent legal machinations here in the U.S. He couched his questions to me within the very reasonable skepticism a lot of people have had about any form of online gambling.
“Is it really safe?” he asked.
People asked the same question before Black Friday, thinking about all sorts of potential issues that gave them pause when it came to online poker. Indeed, they asked the same question even before the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 came along to force all of us to start adding certain disclaimers when arguing for the relative safety (or legality) of our favorite game.
There was a period prior to the emergence of the insider cheating scandals on Absolute Poker (news of which first broke in October 2007) and UltimateBet (which surfaced soon after, finally acknowledged by the site in March 2008) when I think most of us would answer such a question defensively. “It’s totally safe,” we quickly retorted, noting how cheating was unlikely -- why cheat when so much money can be made without doing so?!? -- and how depositing and cashing out posed little problems, if any.
Sure, after the UIGEA the business of moving money on and off sites became slightly more troublesome than before. But few harbored much concern about the games being safe to play.
The scandals certainly introduced seeds of doubt, but even then -- from early 2008 to early 2011 -- most of us continued to play without much fretting, some even on Absolute and UB. There’d be occasional problems with certain sites when it came to moving money, with those issues starting to multiply considerably during the last months of 2010 and first part of 2011. But few players felt too much concern, and indeed, there existed thousands of American players who were secure enough with the situation to consider themselves full-time online professionals.
Thus was the shock of Black Friday made all the more intense (for most). Going forward, nothing seemed certain about playing online poker from the United States, even if the many smaller sites continued to operate without interruption. Indeed, for a short period -- say six weeks or so -- it almost felt like a few of those tiny sites might soon be moving up to claim the spots formerly occupied by the giants who’d been suddenly struck down and driven from the U.S. market.
to become Bovada).
It wasn’t always simple, but some of us managed to get some cabbage onto those sites and continued playing. I personally looked into it, found the whole process less than inviting, and quickly gave up. However I did win some money on a freeroll over on Hero (a Merge skin), and so kind of kept my hand in that way playing for nickels and dimes without having to deposit.
Lock Poker was then part of the Merge Network, too. Lock had first launched back in late 2008 on Cake, and not too long after signed noted pro Eric “Rizen” Lynch as a representative who I believe also had a position as a VP in the company. They also signed about a dozen more players to sponsor in 2009, then in April 2010 made the move over to Merge.
By 2011, Lock had become slightly better known thanks in part to sponsoring the BLUFF Online Poker Challenge (starting in 2009) which got the site some extra publicity. Not all of that attention was positive, however, especially when one of the players allowed to participate in that initial challenge was noted multi-accounter Josh “JJProdigy” Field. Previously Field had been caught and prohibited from playing on other sites, then went on PokerRoad Radio (in early 2008) to say he couldn’t promise he wouldn’t find a way back onto the sites from which he’d been banned.
But Field ended up not partaking in the challenge after all once “a situation” arose regarding possible account-sharing on Cake. In any event, by the spring of 2011 that’s pretty much all I knew about Lock Poker. Then a few months later came that whole ugly “Girah” saga on the site, another negative story partly concerning a site-sponsored competition that seemed to show the site failing to act responsibly in response to a cheating scandal.
All that was more than sufficient to reduce my interest in possibly playing on Lock Poker to nil. Actually for a brief period in there (from around June 2011 to October 2011), Lock wasn’t even accepting new U.S. signups. But they did begin taking Americans again, and during the last year-and-a-half I noted in passing the site gradually building a large roster of nearly 30 sponsored pros, among them Lynch, Michael Mizrachi, Chris Moorman, Paul Volpe, Melanie Weisner, Casey Jarzabek, Brett Jungblut, Matt Stout, and Annette Obrestad.
start their own Revolution Network.
Now the situation at Lock has apparently taken an especially unpleasant turn. Complaints from players facing lengthy cashout delays -- as in several months -- have recently come to dominate all current news about the site. And after a long time simmering, that situation presently appears to have reached a kind of boiling point with reports of players being informed they can no longer cash out funds received via player-to-player transfers on the site.
The sudden introduction of the new ban on cashing out transferred funds -- the news of which was delivered to players via an email last week -- considerably heightened already significant player concerns about the money currently sitting in their Lock Poker accounts. You can read some details of the current situation over on 4Flush. Haley Hintze has a story on it for Pokerfuse as well (although you can only read the first half of that one without a “PRO” account).
Skimming the various 2+2 threads concerning players’ present predicament, it sounds as though there were a decent number of full-timers in the U.S. who had found themselves ultimately choosing Lock Poker as a current option for playing significant volume and at meaningful stakes. Weighing all of those risks discussed above, a number appear to have stubbornly taken to Lock and tried to treat it as a replacement for Stars, FTP, Absolute Poker, and/or UB.
Considered in a vacuum, a prohibition against withdrawing funds that have been obtained via transfer is not unreasonable. I remember once long ago getting paid for an article I had written via a transfer on an online poker site, and when I tried to withdraw the money immediately I was informed that I could not do so without first playing a certain number of hands.
I understood the purpose behind the policy. The site felt obligated not to allow willy-nilly transfers and withdrawals as though it were a financial transaction provider -- not to mention one with zero transaction fees -- and not an online poker site. In fact, even though the exchange of funds between players has always been a significant part of poker, generally speaking, I’ve always thought it would be perfectly within reason for sites not to allow player-to-player transfers at all.
Such a prohibition certainly seems like it could be in the sites’ interest from a legal perspective, as talk of money laundering and other questionable practices that sometimes get associated with sites would become less applicable. It also would probably help lessen problems with collusion, multi-accounting, and other terms-and-conditions-defying behaviors if swapping funds back and forth between player accounts weren’t possible.
I’m not entirely up on how the regulations have been drawn up in Nevada (or where they are headed in New Jersey), but I am guessing player-to-player transfers aren’t going to be an option when it comes to Online Poker in America 2.0. (Perhaps someone better informed on this can let me know what to expect along those lines.)
As I say, I was never too tempted by Lock to try them out, but I can’t imagine anyone would be today. Thinking back, the name of the site probably turned me off right away.
I mean, sure, I might have been able to figure out how to get some funds on there. But was I ever going to be able to withdraw money from a site called Lock?
“You’d be in second grade by now,” says Vera.
Yesterday I spent a little bit of time bringing all of the archive pages up-to-date once again. I usually keep adding the new items to those pages as I go, although will sometimes fall behind by a few weeks.
If you scroll down and look on the right-hand column, you’ll see pics with links to the five different categories of posts -- “On the Street,” “The Rumble,” “Shots in the Dark,” “High Society,” and “By the Book” -- which take you to the pages to which I’m referring. (Or just click the links in this paragraph.)
There I’ve listed links to every post I’ve written on Hard-Boiled Poker, all 1,917 of them (including this one). I remember when I started building the archive pages, I would add a sentence to each summarizing what the post was about. That proved too much of a hassle after a while, and so all you get are the clickable post titles.
The largest category over the years has become “The Rumble,” which really ought to have been a couple or three categories. That’s where I have placed any post having to do with “how poker is presented & discussed in various media,” and so usually any hard-to-categorize post (like this one) ends up in that box.
Vera has been suggesting to me that I should think about collecting some of these posts and perhaps put them out as ebooks or in some other fashion, and I’m starting to edge closer to doing something along those lines. Not all of the posts are worthy of such treatment, of course, but some are and I think it would be fun to try.
Despite the high volume of posts, I’ve always tried to include at least something worthwhile in each one to reward those giving a few minutes of their day to reading it. It’s tough sometimes -- especially continuing with this at-least-once-every-weekday schedule as I do -- to remain inspired. But as anyone who has stumbled onto this blog well knows, the poker world seems to provide an inexhaustible supply of stories and characters about which to scribble.
Thanks again, everyone, for coming around and further inspiring me to keep this sucker going. I feel especially lucky to have had readers all this time, not to mention fortunate when I think of all the places the blog has helped take me over the years. And, most importantly, I’m grateful for all of the great people and friendships I’ve been privileged enough to enjoy thanks in part to our finding each other here at HBP.
While that hearing was nominally about online gambling, generally speaking, much of the talk focused more specifically on poker and the prospects for federal legislation regarding online poker in the U.S. Nothing would come of that discussion, and the bill went no further. Meanwhile some states have moved forward on their own, most notably Nevada and New Jersey.
I found Barton’s comments in the hearing interesting, though. I remember at the time sharing them with my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class that semester. I wanted to give the students an update on how Congress was then talking about poker, but also I wanted them to hear Barton make reference to some of the stories and ideas we’d been discussing in the course.
“Poker is the all-American game,” Barton began. “President Richard Nixon financed his first Congressional campaign partially with poker winnings from World War II. Our current president, President Obama, is reputed to be a very good poker player. I learned to play poker, believe it or not, in the Boy Scouts. So if you learn something in the Boy Scouts, it's got to be a good thing, right?”
The stories of Nixon and Obama’s poker playing are both fairly well known, especially that of “Tricky Dick” reportedly taking $6,000 off his fellow Naval officers during a couple of months in the Pacific, then using that money to help fund his first successful Congressional campaign in 1946. Indeed, we’d read about both Nixon and Obama and their poker playing in the class already.
As Barton was implying when sharing the story, his having learned poker as a scout is not unique. Many who have participated in the Boy Scouts of America learned how to play card games, including poker, along with the many other activities that form part of the scouting experience.
I was a Cub Scout for a few years, and remember making it to Webelos and perhaps even getting the Arrow of Light, although I didn’t continue on into the Boy Scouts. I do remember playing card games as a scout like “War” and “Navy,” and while it’s possible I learned about poker hand rankings back then I don’t have any clear memories of playing poker back then.
Many others do, however, have memories similar to Barton’s. Among professional players, Andy Bloch has noted in interviews how he first learned to play poker as a Boy Scout. WSOP Circuit regular and ring winner at the 2007 WSOP-C Tunica event Robert Castoire has likewise noted that he first learned the game in the Boy Scouts.
Indeed, many who learned how to build a fire, pitch a tent, and other lessons for life in the Boy Scouts similarly found themselves learning to bet their big hands, not to chase inside straights, and that accurately anticipating an opponent’s move is another way to apply the Boy Scouts’ motto to “Be Prepared.”
I dug a little further. As it happens, poker and card playing form part of the story of the origins of the Boy Scouts of America.
William D. Boyce, a newspaper publisher from Chicago, first founded the BSA in 1910. Boyce was himself an avid poker player, and his wife, Mary Jane, was said to be a good player, too. A highly successful entrepreneur, the 51-year-old Boyce was already a multi-millionaire when he started the BSA. In fact, some have even speculated that Boyce’s financial well-being might have been significantly bolstered by his poker playing, although no evidence exists to support such a conjecture.
The reference appears amid a sequence of stories and essays about American wars, politics, presidents, government, the military, and other matters falling under the heading of the chapter’s title, “Patriotism and Citizenship.”
Among the stories told by the chapter’s author, Waldo Sherman, is that of the War of 1812 between the U.S. and the British. Interestingly, rather than provide an account of the war itself, Sherman focuses instead on the story of a 10-year-old boy, David Glasgow Farragut.
Farragut would go on to make a name for himself fighting for the Union in the Civil War, but he was just a boy in 1812. Nonetheless, when his father (a naval officer) was sent to New Orleans to help fight off the Brits, young David was taken along to serve as a cabin-boy. Sherman shares some of Farragut’s memories of the trip.
“I had some qualities that I thought made a man of me,” said Farragut. “I could swear like an old salt, could drink as stiff a glass of grog as if I had doubled Cape Horn, and could smoke like a locomotive. I was great at cards, and was fond of gambling in every shape.”
However, David’s father was less than pleased with his son’s precocity, and thus following dinner one night confronted him with a question: “David, what do you mean to be?”
David’s answer was that he wished to be like his father and “follow the sea” as a navy man. But his father objected, telling the boy “you will have to change your whole course of life if you ever become a man.”
Young David understood the implication of his father’s words, and from that point made a resolution. “I’ll change my life, and I will change it myself” he decided. “I will never utter another oath, never drink another drop of intoxicating liquor, [and] never gamble.” Telling the story years later, Farragut was able to proclaim that he had “kept these three vows to this hour.”
The implication, of course, is that by setting aside the card-playing -- a vice here associated with drinking, swearing, and other activities to be avoided by civic-minded citizens -- Farragut did successfully grow into the sort of man that boys reading his story might well take as a model to follow.
As an organization designed to build character, foster citizenship, and improve physical fitness (among other goals), the Boy Scouts of America has never officially included poker as a scheduled activity. Even if over the years it has been proven time and time again that a game of cards has repeatedly proven an inviting option when sitting around a campfire.
by the same folks who came up with merit badges for making popcorn, snoring, belching, and outhouse tipping.
That said, the idea of there ever being a real poker merit badge perhaps became marginally less far-fetched when the BSA not too long introduced a new merit badge for chess. Among the requirements for earning the badge, scouts must learn the rules and scorekeeping, chess notation, play in a tournament, organize a competition, and teach someone else how to play chess.
Who knows? Perhaps these stories of Boy Scouts learning poker might become even more common, especially if the decision is made to create actual poker merit badges.
After which point, the scouts could then play for them.
Of course, here in the U.S. a lot of us have been in what might be called “resting up” mode for a long time now. Or perhaps more appropriately, “wait and see.” Looking forward to the second part of the year when some of the Nevada sites start going live (for real), and perhaps even something starts to happen in New Jersey, too, before the year is out.
The items coming over the news ticker this week are arriving a little more slowly than usual, although there were a couple of odds and ends that caught my eye over the last few days.
That story out of Los Angeles about Joe Sebok, nude photos, email hacking, and an extortion attempt was kinda-sorta surprising to see. You probably heard about that one. Coupla dudes had already pleaded guilty to trying to extort Sebok and on Monday were back in a U.S. District Court to be sentenced for their crimes.
Sebok offered testimony to explain how the extortion attempt affected him, including negatively impacting his ability to work in poker. “I was no longer able to maintain my then-current level of participation in the poker industry, representing the brands that I had been previously, as well as greatly destroying my ability to do so with new companies moving forward,” Sebok told the judge.
The attempted scheme began in November 2010. Of course, by mid-April 2011 other factors arose quite suddenly also to negatively affect Sebok’s ability to represent the brands he had been previously. And by having associated with those brands, he had already more or less destroyed his ability to work with new companies in the poker industry moving forward.
a so-called “poker card murder” in China. At first I thought of that CSI episode from a couple of months ago, the poker-themed one I wrote about both here and over on PokerListings in which an actual playing card really is used as a murder weapon. I also thought of that “Killer Cards” story I’d read about not too long ago and shared here, the one involving a prisoner making a pipe bomb out of playing cards.
But reading this story, it appears the connection between poker and murder was entirely incidental. Rather the murderer had sealed up his victim in a carton box into which a few playing cards had accidentally fallen, thus igniting lots of misplaced speculation regarding the possible significance of the cards -- which, in fact, had nothing at all to do with the crime.
Even so, the story was kind of interesting insofar as it illustrated the deepy-rooted symbolic value of playing cards that transcends many cultures.
hilarious Tweeter Michael Ian Black appeared with poker player Matt Matros on the show “Ask Me Another.”
The show is one of those live quiz shows performed in front of a live audience. Black and Matros were pitted against one another in a trivia game in which all of the questions were about poker. Black appeared multiple times on the old Celebrity Poker Showdown show, winning a couple of times, which I suppose partly explains how he ended up talking poker on the show.
As fans of both guys -- I wrote about Matros here once last summer -- I enjoyed the segment, which concluded with a Jonathan Coulton performance of Kenny Rogers’s “The Gambler.”
a new Pop Poker piece over at PokerListings that just went up yesterday that focuses primarily on Puzo’s most famous novel and some of the reasons for its appeal to poker players.
Once upon a time while a graduate student I served as a teaching assistant for an especially interesting class titled “American Bestsellers and Their Movies.” We read bestselling American novels going all of the way back to the early 19th century then watched film adaptations, and I got to lead a discussion section and even lecture some. Among the titles we covered were James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Grace Metalious’s Peyton Place, John Grisham’s The Firm, and a few others, including The Godfather.
It was a fun course to take and to teach, insofar as the novels helped shed a lot of light on American culture thanks to their status as bestsellers, and the films also gave us many ways to explore narrative and the various methods of telling stories. I found it all fascinating, and ended up trying to employ some of the ideas I gathered regarding plot construction and the creation of commercial art when I came to write my novel, Same Difference, which has yet to reach bestseller status or be adapted into film, but I remain patient on both fronts.
Of all the films we watched in the course, The Godfather was easily the most accomplished and probably the only clear cut example of a film representing a greater artistic achievement than the book on which it was based. I always appreciated Puzo’s novel, though, as extremely effective in its plotting and filled with memorable characters and scenes.
There are a couple of needless digressions and other indulgences in the book (all dealt with smartly by the film, actually), as well as other small issues I complained about here and there in the margins of my copy. But overall the book is definitely a triumph of commercial writing and the influential place occupied by the Corleone family in American culture cannot be questioned.
Of course, Puzo did stick pretty closely to The Godfather over the next several years, with the breakthrough success of the book profoundly altering his writing career. Soon he’d move from Manhattan to Hollywood where he’d work in an office at Paramount as he assisted director Francis Ford Coppola with the screenplays for both the 1972 adaptation and the 1974 sequel, the latter of which extended the story beyond the scope of the original novel.
From there Puzo then became involved with screenplay writing for other films as well, including co-scripting the first two Superman films. In fact, it would be nearly a decade before Puzo would publish his next novel, Fools Die, which is in fact partly set in Las Vegas.
I ended up writing a lot of additional material about both Inside Las Vegas and Fools Die for the Pop Poker piece, although in the end we decided just to stick with a discussion of The Godfather over there. Meanwhile, for those who are curious, I thought I’d share some thoughts about the latter two books here today.
Going Inside Las Vegas
The book also contains some highly personal anecdotes about Puzo himself, revealing him to have followed the footsteps of one of his favorite writers, Fyodor Dostoevsky, to become a problem gambler. He even admits in the introduction that he was likely chosen to write the book “because I have the reputation as a degenerate gambler.”
The stories he tells about himself confirm this reputation, showing that he lost so much gambling he basically had reached a point at which he was forced to swear off it altogether. Having become immensely rich from The Godfather book and films, he realizes that ironically he could no longer afford to gamble now that he possesses real wealth.
“Now for the first time in my life, making more money than I have ever made in my life... now I have too much to lose,” he admits.
Like The Godfather, Inside Las Vegas defends gambling as a “natural” vice, “one of the primary drives of mankind.” But Puzo also recognizes its destructiveness, and characterizes the casino games of Las Vegas as eminently unbeatable. “Sure, you may win on some trips,” writes Puzo. “But eventually you will get wiped out.”
Poker was not nearly as popular in the 1970s as it has since become, so it is not surprising to read of Puzo playing nearly every other game in the casino except poker. Thus does he repeatedly succumb to the house’s percentage edge, coming away with the conclusion that while Vegas is great fun, one can only (ultimately) lose while there.
The book provides a subjective, loosely organized study of Las Vegas of the era, with Puzo’s anecdotes populated by a large collection of character sketches of casino managers, pit bosses, floorwalkers, boxmen, stickmen, croupiers, dealers, shills, hosts, junket masters, collectors, and call girls.
I’d recommend it without qualification for the photos alone, but the essays by Puzo add further insight and are quite diverting for those of us with an interest in gambling, casinos, Las Vegas, and/or the 1970s.
People gamble... and Fools Die
There’s more sex and less violence in Fools Die than in Puzo’s previous novel, although the overall tone is similarly dark. And this time Puzo more directly explores the culture of gambling, beginning and ending his novel amid the adult-themed excesses of the Las Vegas that captivated him so.
Some of the anecdotes and characters from Inside Las Vegas find their way into Fools Die, with the story focusing initially on a group of gamblers thrown together in Las Vegas, then separating as the story narrows to concentrate upon one of them -- Merlyn -- whose life most obviously parallels Puzo’s own.
Like Puzo, Merlyn is a novelist who eventually writes a best-seller before getting involved in movie-making. He’s also a losing gambler, although avoids the debilitating losses Puzo experienced. Again, poker isn’t really given much prominence in the book, although the baccarat games are sometimes described in terms that resemble the dynamics of a poker table.
While not as carefully plotted as The Godfather and even somewhat experimental in places -- including frequent shifts between first- and third-person narration -- the book offers much of interest to gamblers and poker players. There are numerous quotable lines about gambling throughout, too, including one frequently delivered by the casino owner Gronevelt who wields Don Corleone-like power over his casino, Xanadu, and beyond.
“You have to get rich in the dark,” Gronevelt says, the point being that like was the case with the Corleones in The Godfather, he’s determined it best to operate outside of externally-imposed “systems” if one hopes to get ahead.
I was fairly energized by the first third or so of Fools Die, but to be honest found myself less and less enthused by the latter chapters. Those indulgences and digressions I mentioned popping up in The Godfather happen again in this novel, and while I did find some of them interesting after a while they caused me to become less engaged and not terribly motivated to discover the ultimate fates of Merlyn and the other characters.
There’s a ton of stuff about Hollywood culture and its artist-killing influence, and in fact at times the novel seems to read like a roman à clef-type exposé of particular figures as well as the general corruption of the studio system. And while the introduction of a Norman Mailer-like character, Osano, sparks interest about halfway through, he -- like Mailer -- gets tedious after while.
For those who have read this far, thanks for permitting me to be like Puzo and indulge in these digressions from that Pop Poker piece. And if you’ve read any of these books (or other titles by Puzo), I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about him, too.
What Annie Duke can teach you about decisions.”
I know... the sort of headline that is practically impossible for anyone involved in poker over the last several years to read without an exaggerated eyeroll, followed thereafter by a quick click to move on without reading further.
Hooked me, though, and so I kept going.
It’s an earnest report from Sherwood, aside from her occasionally tipping her hand regarding what seems like gushing fandom of Duke. She explains early on how the theme of Duke’s PowerPoint presentation was to explore the reasons “why most people -- gamblers, brand marketers, business owners and employees -- fail to learn from bad decisions, and how companies can counteract that.”
We learn in the article that over the last year Duke has “put poker on the back burner” in favor of such speaking engagements. The audience for this one was about 65 professionals, most of whom Sherwood pegs as venture capitalists or techies.
It’s a curiously pitched piece, actually. Sherwood shows she has knowledge of Duke’s educational background and career as a player, at least up through 2004 when she won a WSOP bracelet while also earning that $2 million score in the invitation-only, 10-player WSOP Tournament of Champions. But if she has any awareness of UltimateBet/UB or the Epic Poker League -- the contexts for some truly poor decision-making by her subject over the last decade -- she doesn’t let on.
Sherwood shares some of the persuasive analogies between business and poker included in Duke’s talk, such as the way people often believe their successes come primarily from skill and failures the result of luck. Duke also passes along the very practical advice that “you have to be willing to admit the possibility that you’re a bad decision maker, but that’s very painful.”
It’s impossible to read such ideas and not think about the myriad bad decisions made in association with the EPL debacle, or about Duke’s involvement with UltimateBet/UB all of the way through its scandals and up until the very end of 2011 -- i.e., the very precipice of the site’s final, Black Friday-hastened implosion.
Duke mentions some companies encouraging employees to address publicly the process of decision-making by having actually “created a prize for the stupidest idea or biggest failure of the month.” An interesting idea, although again one wonders if Federated Sports + Gaming (the EPL’s parent company) had such a contest -- and to think that if they did, how incredibly competitive it must have been!
To Duke’s credit, following the talk she did share with Sherwood a little bit about her own missteps with regard to Epic. “I had a business go into chapter 11 last year,” she tells Sherwood. “I think I made pretty good decisions along the way, but when I look back I realize, oh, I should have seen this and I should have seen that and I was overconfident here, and I really believed in my own idea too much in this place....”
Is Duke following her own advice? Is she admitting the possibility that she was a bad decision maker? Perhaps, in the most delicate way possible. I can’t help but think of the interviewee who upon being asked to name a greatest weakness can only answer “I work too hard.”
Sherwood says “that seemed like a good place to end our conversation,” articulating exactly the opposite thought that most of us from the poker world would have when reading the article. Indeed, for a good number of us that seemed like a good place to start the conversation.
It’s sort of interesting to step back and think of Duke’s new career as a public speaker and how it perhaps can be understood as an extension of a career in poker.
In 2005 Duke published an autobiography titled How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the World Series of Poker. (In fact, reading Sherwood’s piece again, it almost feels like consulting that book represents the extent of the author’s research into her subject.) Duke is no longer raising and folding, but I suppose one might say she is bluffing her way to more modest sums at the moment. Maybe flirting, too, some, I guess.
Like I say, ironies abound here. I’m tempted to end with a snarky one-liner about people attending a talk about learning from one’s mistakes coming away having decided not to attend such talks again. But to do so would ignore another irony.
After all, I just read an article titled “What Annie Duke can teach you about decisions.”
The second anniversary of Black Friday came and went last week. A few folks here and there marked the occasion, although there was not nearly as much focus on the events of April 15, 2011 and their aftermath as was the case a year ago.
Last Monday I was busy helping cover the final table of the WSOP Circuit Main Event at Harrah’s Cherokee (while also being considerably distracted by the bombings at the Boston Marathon). Jeff “yellowsub86” Williams was there railing the final table -- he’d finished 37th in the event -- and I remember at one point overhearing him and one of the remaining players casually noting to each other how it was April 15th. Was just a brief reference to the anniversary in passing, with no further conversation other than to acknowledge it.
Just nods of recognition. I remember I, too, felt myself nodding as I overheard the exchange.
I realized at the time I hadn’t really thought much at all about the date having come around again. Nor did I have much urge to write about it or make any pronouncements about the significance of two years having passed since online poker had been more or less erased from the poker landscape in the U.S.
Things have always moved hyperfast in poker world, particularly when it comes to online poker where the accelerated pace of the game mirrors the always shifting, always evolving contexts in which the game has been played during the decade-and-a-half or so of its existence.
The growth of online poker was blindingly fast, and the soon-to-follow scandals and legal crackdowns kept the situation in constant flux. And, of course, the suddenness of the shutdown two years ago came as quickly as running kings into aces to be hastily bounced from a tournament.
It’s probably safe to say that the great majority of the recreational or part-time U.S. online poker players have now moved on from poker entirely. Some occasionally find themselves in live rooms now and then, but most have no doubt moved on to other hobbies and interests.
There was that exodus of a select few full-time grinders to Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere to keep their careers alive, although in truth the numbers who did make such moves were relatively small. And I know there are some still figuring out ways to play surreptitiously from the U.S., with that group most certainly even smaller (and necessarily hiding in the shadows so as not to advertise their doings).
Poker remains, of course, and continues to fascinate many here in the U.S. The turnouts at Harrah’s Cherokee last week most certainly proved something along those lines, and as WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla mentioned to me in a short interview while there, the “myth about how ‘poker is dying’” is most certainly being disproven time and again at various venues around the country.
But the game has most definitely faded from mainstream culture’s consciousness in America. The occasional appearance of shows such as the conclusion of the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship last weekend barely registers in terms of ratings or reaction. (Did you watch the big Phil Hellmuth-Mike Matusow finale on Saturday? Neither did I.)
I know the online game is in the midst of returning to the U.S. in a fragmented, chastened way via individual states. But we’re definitely on the other end of a particular phenomenon with a beginning and an end.
It’s interesting to step back and think of poker as it existed (and persisted) in America before the online game came along. Then came the period when the two (live and online) existed in competition with one another. Then suddenly both were entangled in a complicated collaboration for several years leading up to 4/15/11, influencing one another and existing as a continuum along which everyone moved freely back and forth.
But online departed, and in the two years since the live game has pushed forward alone having been changed by the experience.
The intermingling of the two will occur again soon -- is starting to occur -- as the casinos will be driving the newly-furbished online poker machine in the states. And given how quickly things tend to happen in poker, I imagine much will be happening between now and the next April 15 to distract us even further from thoughts of anniversaries and what once was.
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