Monday, February 27, 2006

More on Gambling and Ethics

I've followed the ongoing saga of JJprodigy and ZeeJustin with a combination of incredulity and dismay.

There's no doubt what these guys did was wrong, and I'm pretty surprised Party and Stars took so long to get their act together.

I'm even more dismayed at the laissez faire approach being taken by Stars to the reports of soft play at the big NLH games.

No doubt in the short term this is all bad for the image of the game, and will be seized upon by opportunistic politicians and special interest groups as evidence as to why online gambling must be banned.

However, I'd like to offer an alternative viewpoint.

As Bill Rini mentions in his summation of the ZeeJustin/JJprodigy cheating, these guys are actually getting off lightly, since if they were caught cheating in a B&M casino they could be looking at jail rather than what is effectively a substantial on-the-spot fine levied at the discretion of the affected poker rooms.

Were the poker rooms to be legitimate, and accountable to national laws, it would be perfectly feasible for Party or Stars to hand over the evidence of wrong doing and expect to see these guys put before a court.

Furthermore, acts of collusion online would easily fall within most nations definition of conspiracy to defraud, which I'd imagine would give most online cheaters reason to think twice before logging into MSN or picking up their mobile phone.

As I argued previously in my Ethics and Economics of Gambling post, the US government would be better served by legitimising, rather than demonising, online gambling.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

This Post Brought To You By The Letter 'S'

'S' is for supremely stupid.
'S' is for sickening suckout.
'S' is for schooling simpletons.

Most importantly 'S' is for stupendous self-control.

Seriously, my mind is boggling right now. I've just lost a big pot to a guy who called a raise and a re-raise pre-flop in a PLO8B game with an incredible:

Old Div would have given him a free lesson at the table. New improved Div turned beetroot purple, emitted a gurgling, strangulated grunt, and got on with the next hand.

Turning off chat may be unsociable, but I think it's +EV for me (even though I am losing tonight!). A theory which I passed on to The Tank - Scotland's own SNG specialist, and a man whose blinds are somewhat difficult to acquire.

He has just started his own blog, so pop over and check out his musings.

(Swift Edit: Vindication. I've just wiped out the aforementioned moron when, me having flopped the nut straight, and turned the nut low, he called off all his cash against me with an overpair and no low!! Rattling off the above post in 5 minutes was all it took to bring me back to a level keel. Possibly my most productive post ever, in it's own way.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Book Review: How Good Is Your Pot-Limit Omaha?

In his book How Good Is You Pot-Limit Omaha, Stewart Reuben guides the reader through over fifty hands played out in various casinos throughout his extensive poker career.

Each hand is discussed and evaluated, with a range of options presented at each decision point, and an overall rating awarded to the reader based on their points tally.

The focus is very much on cash games, and some hands will find very thin edges being pushed by the author.

As readers progress through the book, they will become familiar not only with Reuben's aggressive, and slightly hyperactive playing style, but also with that of several of his regular adversaries and their varied approaches to the game.

To understand the lessons proferred, it is important to recognise a few differences between the games Reuben plays, and those most 'normal' players will encounter online.

In general the stakes are much higher. Blinds of £10 or even £25 are not uncommon - roughly $17 or $43.

The stacks tend to be very deep too, with 500 or 600 big blinds often to be found in front of each participant in a hand. Combative play is often in evidence, with raising and reraising both pre and post-flop.

Such deep stacks offer big implied odds, and may make drawing hands more powerful than in smaller games.

By contrast, most online games are smaller stakes, generally the max buy-in is capped at 100BB and, at the lower stakes, players will be predominantly looser and more passive.

That said, Reuben is anything but tight, and is willing to see some very speculative flops.

Where the book excels is the detailed hand analysis, based not only on cards in hand, but on the board, the nature of opponents, and the relative stack sizes.

Some actual situations are varied for the purposes of comparison.

Relative stack sizes are changed, alternative turn or river cards are proposed, and Reuben explains how this would change his approach.

Almost every hand is played from inception to showdown, and points are awarded dependent not on actual result, but on quality of decision making at each stage of the hand.

Often the actual decisions made by Reuben are not those which he awards full points to in a theoretical sense. In the heat of the moment, everyone makes mistakes it seems.

In truth, the point scoring was almost an irrelevance to me. Of much more interest was the train of thought which guided Reuben to each decision. This is the most interesting aspect of the book.

On the negative side, I was somewhat concerned that the nature of the book meant a lot of fairly speculative starting hands were taken to showdown.

In another of Reuben's publications Pot-Limit and No-Limit Poker(with Bob Ciaffone), he is described as 'attacking' and 'fierce' by no less an authority than Mr Ciaffone.

As might be expected, many of his starting hands are not those which would be recommended to a novice.

If a multitude of chapters started out with loose pre-flop calls, and insta-folds on unhelpful flops, there would hardly be a strong page turning imperative.

Therefore it follows that we tend to see only the successful calls, without a representative sample of whiffed flops.

This led me to be concerned that a novice might interpret the starting hand requirements to be recommendations, when Reuben himself would presumably agree it is the way the hand develops which should be instructive.

A degree of prior knowledge is assumed, and for someone entirely new to Omaha, this is perhaps not the ideal starting point.

This is very much the Porsche of poker books. Great fun when you have the skill and environment to exercise it to the max, but unsuited to learners navigating the slower poker lanes.

For those with prior experience, wishing to move their game onto a higher plane, this is a worthwhile read, but not an essential buy.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Ultimate Poker Blogger

Now blogging
from the
LA PokerClassic

Commerce Casino
I want Pauly's job.

Even though, since he doesn't always get paid for it, it doesn't strictly match my precise criteria for a proper job.

Still he has played poker with Shannon Elizabeth, which has to be some sort of compensation!

Since the Etims guys kindly pimped me in their Rumour Mill, this seems an opportune moment to link to an old post of mine - How To Play Online Poker - as there will probably be quite a few poker newbies passing through the site just now. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


The Brit Awards never fail to come up with a humorous moment or two.

Last year it was the Bedingfield siblings cringeworthy 'performance', that wouldn't have looked out of place in an old Brookside episode.

This year, hats off to the genius who had Paris Hilton presenting the Best International Album award to Green Day, for their album American Idiot.

I doubt the joke - whether intentional or not - registered with the vacant blonde one.

I foresee another big Green Day award, coming up sometime in (probably) April.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Donald McVicar, The Whistleblower, and Me

Some of you may recall that in December I posted some thoughts on the SFA Whistleblower website. In particular, I pointed out an apparent discrepancy in their explanation of a key penalty incident.

This was picked up by Celtic Quick News, and got me quite a lot of traffic for a few days.

It was suggested to me that I contact the SFA, and ask for an explanation, which I did.

There then followed a short correspondence with Donald McVicar - SFA referee-in-chief.

After this correspondence ceased, Mr McVicar was contacted by Celtic Quick News, but did not respond to their requests for information.

I then passed the story along to one of the more esteemed Scottish sports journalists - an elite club indeed - who initially indicated his interest, but failed to follow it up.

So, for posterity, I am recording my full correspondence with Mr McVicar below.

I shall leave you to form your own judgements on why Mr McVicar ceased to correspond with me.

21/12/05 Div to SFA:

"Dear Sirs

In your most recent update to the Whistleblower website, Stuart Dougal states that a penalty was awarded to Inverness Caledonian Thistle when Stephen McManus committed the offence of 'impeding'.

However, as Mr Dougal should be aware, under Law 12 of the Laws of Football, 'impeding' is punishable by the award of an indirect free kick.

Therefore, as Law 14 of the Laws of Football clearly states a penalty should only be awarded for the ten offences punishable by a direct free kick, Mr Dougal has confirmed that a penalty was incorrectly awarded.

Instead, an indirect free kick was the appropriate punishment.

As the SFA has now confirmed on the Whistleblower website that Mr Dougal saw the offence as 'impeding', but incorrectly punished it by awarding a penalty, can you confirm what steps will be taken to remedy this situation?

Thank you."

22/12/2005 Donald McVicar to Div:

"The offence was of an impeding nature with physical contact which, if inside the penalty area, is considered to be a penalty kick. Your obvious knowledge of the Laws of the Game will remind you that obstruction formerly produced identical punishment but the term impeding the progress has taken its place."

22/12/2005 Div to Donald McVicar:

"Dear Mr McVicar

Thank you for the very swift response to my query.

I was not aware of the existence of the offence described by yourself as being of an 'impeding nature with physical contact' which is punishable by a penalty kick if committed within the penalty area.

Upon receipt of your email I tried to locate a description of this offence within the Laws of the Game.

I also checked the SFA website, but the only reference to impeding was to document the impeding offence as defined in Rule 12.

Finally I checked the latest clarifications to the Laws of the Game, issued by FIFA and available at:

Unfortunately I could not locate any reference to such an offence. Can you tell me if this offence is defined separately, perhaps as an addendum to the Laws of the Game, or is this an offence sanctioned at a local level by the SFA but not enforced internationally?

In either case, I would be grateful if you could refer me to some documentation which describes this offence.

Thanks again for your assistance."

22/12/05 Donald McVicar to Div:

"I take it that your name is not DIV 1970 and since it is the practice that we only correspond with those who identify themselves with a name and address please do so and I shall respond.


(Editors Note: This left me in something of a quandary, since I have not sacrificed my anonymity on my blog. After some consideration I passed the details on to Paul at Celtic Quick News, who agreed to take up the reins. I also emailed Mr McVicar on Christmas Eve, to let him know someone else would contact him, who was happy to identify themselves to him.)

24/12/2005 Div to Donald McVicar:

"Dear Mr McVicar

Thanks again for your swift responses.

Since you do not wish to respond to me, I have passed on our correspondence to someone who complies with your practises.

May I take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas."

26/12/2005 Donald McVicar to Div:

"I do wish to respond to you but you seem keen not to reveal who you are!

Happy Xmas"


As I stated earlier, Mr McVicar seemed to take a vow of silence at this point, and did not respond to Paul's approach.

Which is a shame, since I'd be very interested to find out more about the offence which is of 'impeding nature with physical contact' as described in his email.

That must be an interesting offence to document and interpret.

Or, maybe he tried to bluster his way out of an obvious mistake, and simply dug a deeper hole for himself? I genuinely don't know.

Perhaps Mr McVicar will be happy to provide an explanation of this offence to anyone who wishes to contact him now. It would be somewhat crass of me to publish his email address on the internet for spambots to harvest, but suffice to say it should not be difficult to work out when you know that the SFA domain is:

Monday, February 13, 2006

Getting Better

Well, faithful readers, it's been six days since my last post, so surely I have lots to report?

Think again.

Not been a huge amount of time for poker this week, though in my short time at the tables I have managed to stem the flow and keep the bankroll on an even keel.

Really I should be ahead, but I've made the mistake of betting several decent but non-nut hands into people holding the second or third nuts who don't raise, but don't fold either. Very frustrating.

The other problem I've had this week is that while I'm perfectly capable of the occasional donkey moves, sometimes I just play too well.

Yes I did just write that, and I kept a straight face while I did.

Don't believe me? Well, let me offer up an example...

PLO8 game - I'm on the button and limp into a family pot with A3xx single suited.

Not a monster, but the right flop would give me scoop possibilities, and I'm in position.

The flop is 2xx - all low cards, giving me the nut low. But it's also a flush board, and not in my suit.

By the time the action reaches me it's gone - bet, raise, re-raise. This is pot limit remember!

I fold, exactly as Ray Zee or Bobby Baldwin (in SS2) would tell me to. With action like that, my vulnerable low is definitely getting quartered. I must be up against a made nut low, and the nut flush.

Or must I? Imagine my reaction when after heavy action, showdown is between two moderate flushes for high. The lesser of whom gets out of jail with a very rough low for half the pot.

Disaster! That would have been a very juicy pot. I did have a nagging urge to call, but clearly it would be the wrong move, even although in this particular case it would have been rewarded handsomely.

But there's the predicament for someone such as myself who is slowly building up their bankroll. The games I play in are populated by a lot of bad players, and sometimes bad play can be rewarded.

Which can lead to bad habits, and a failure to improve my own game.

It's times like this, we need to grit our teeth, and focus on the *fact* that better performance will lead to improved results. In the long term!

That's where my motivation lies. Sure I want to make money, but more than that, I want to become a better player.

On Poker 425 this week there was an excellent interview with Paul 'Action Jack' Jackson, in which he discussed his heads up duel with Phil Ivey in the Monte Carlo Millions.

The depth of thinking was incredible, and Jackson himself admitted that just playing Ivey had given a new level to his game. The relish and awe permeated his every word.

They went for a drink after the tourney and had a chat about how the key hands had played out. Imagine that!

To get to that level is an unlikely dream, but it wouldn't be a worthwhile dream if it were easily achievable.

Poker 425 is legitimately available on Bit Torrent and can be downloaded here. It's well worth viewing!

(EDIT: The interview starts at 35 minutes into the programme)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Playing With The Bookies Money

I've never been much of a gambler. Which perhaps explains why I've settled on poker as my preferred vice.

The local casinos are always fun to visit. Pre-poker I'd play a little roulette and some blackjack, but never for great amounts, and I'd always have a stop-loss amount fixed before I crossed the threshold.

Usually I'd lose. Sometimes I'd win. That's the way of table games. In my mind the losses are the fee for a good night out. Winnings an unexpected bonus.

The local horse track is fun to visit too. Though it's more of a social thing, than a serious betting expedition for me.

My horse racing knowledge is almost non-existent, and again there's a stop-loss.

Fiver a race does me fine. Usually there's six races, so the thirty pounds is filed in the 'necessary expenditure' section of my mind, alongside gate money, taxis, and beer.

As with the casino, any winnings are an unexpected bonus and a great buzz.

Winning the first or second race is fantastic, since any decent price winner effectively makes the rest of the event a freeroll. This is what we refer to as 'playing with the bookies money'.

Which is how I found myself lumping a big - by my standards - wodge of cash on the Pittsburgh Steelers at the weekend.

The story starts some time ago, when I dabbled with betting on the financial markets on Betfair. Strictly small beer, but it was interesting for a while, until a change of job took me out of reach of the Betfair site during market hours.

The way the market worked, there was always some odds available on what were almost guaranteed events, albeit at ultra short prices.

So, it was never going to be a way to get rich quick, but if I was in front of a PC and had 2 minutes free to check the charts and stick on a bet, it was a sure fire winner.

The dregs of my account lay dormant until May last year. I was one of the sizeable minority of Celtic fans who still harboured misgivings about our league campaign even after our defeat of Rangers in the final head-to-head of the season.

The suggestion was posted on one of the many Celtic online forums that any pessimists should get their money on Rangers for the league, at the very generous odds then available, as a sort of insurance policy against Celtic losing.

It seemed like a reasonable suggestion to me, and despite my misgivings over having a punt on Rangers to win, I figured it was a fair way to invest my Betfair winnings.

Alas, it was not to be. The account had been dormant for so long it had been frozen, and by the time the necessary paperwork was complete to release the funds, Celtic had crashed to Hibs and the odds were no longer so long on Rangers.

As history records, Celtic went on to throw away the title on the final day, and I was left with not even the winnings from a slightly traitorous bet to show for my disconsolate state. Winnings which would have comfortably funded a Vegas return flight from Glasgow!

So the cash remained in the account until last weekend when on the Blonde Poker forum, Brian Wilson was sending out good vibrations about the Steelers chances in the Superbowl.

What the hell, I thought. It doesn't even feel like my money anymore. It's been on Betfair for so long.

So, I lumped the lot on the Steelers, at not very generous odds, and spent the Monday morning drive to work straining for a mention of the score.

I won't be paying for a trip to Vegas with the winnings, but it's always nice to see the balance moving in the right direction, though I suspect Pittsburgh's most decorated poker blogger was somewhat more elated than me.

Friday, February 03, 2006

January Summary

There's an oft quoted saying that in poker it's not about the result, it's about the performance.

Which I tend to agree with. Though it still hurts like hell to see chips sliding across the table to someone who displays scant knowledge of the rules, and even less awareness of the location of their fold and raise buttons.

That said, performance was my crutch, in the face of some very nasty results during January.

On the whole, I was very happy with the way I was playing. With the exception of one very tilty session which contributed half my total losses of about $230.

A painful lesson learned. Big bet poker punishes tilt much more than wimpy old limit betting.

Even that session may have been worth it, since it's the first time I've experienced such an excrutiating explosion of pent up frustration, built up over a series of punishing sessions.

Everyone runs bad sometimes, and everyone has sessions where they can't win a hand. But I've never gone through such an unremitting run of bad cards, and vicious suckouts spread over a sustained time period.

Suffering the run, and the consequences, should set me up well for the future.

Reading through the inhabitants of my bloglines account. January seemed to be very much the month for bad runs, and bad feelings about out games.

It was nice to find the antidote within the very same pages, as Maudie succinctly summarised some of the thoughts of Michael Craig.

My focus for the entire month was almost exclusively on Omaha - more by accident than design. The only Hold Em I played was two NLH freerolls. One for a juicy $50k from Party Poker, and one for a very decent $10k from Rake The Rake.

Mrs Div actually played some of the Party Poker tourney for me, as I was on baby bathing duties. She did ok, too. I've set her up with her own Party Poker account now.

Look out TPT - the Mrs will be gunning for us all soon!

Only playing one game type worked out pretty well for me. I want to learn a few new games this year, but chopping-and-changing too regularly can be distracting and off putting.

Sticking with one game forced me to think harder about how I was playing, and gave more of a focus on maintaining discipline rather than stomping off in the huff to play with other toys when things were running bad.

So, I've decided to follow up Omaha January, with Omaha Hi-Lo February. A gentle transition into split pots.

I've also got reviews pending of two Omaha books, which should be on the site soon.

Away from the wonderful world of poker, the new job continues to run much better than my poker playing.

The role I'm performing is old hat technically, but involves a lot of delving into how the business is operating, and the interactions between various systems - seeking out clues as to why strange faults are occurring.

My job is to fix the complicated faults which have been set aside over a period of time, in favour of resolving bigger numbers of simpler problems.

I'm cautiously optimistic I've found a nice little niche, and I'm already hoping the contract will be extended. The management seem pretty decent and I'm pretty much left to my own devices to forge ahead.

Parenthood continues to go very well too. We had Baby Div out with the grandparents and my brother tonight for my dad's birthday, and she's now happy enough to keep herself occupied in a restaurant high chair.

Still no teeth, but rosy cheeks have been promising an imminent arrival for weeks now, and she has a rottweiller-like bite on hand for anyone, or anything, which passes within range.

The most noticeable change is in mobility. Whereas previously she hated lying on her stomach, now she can't wait to roll over and make strenuous - though as yet unsuccessful - attempts at crawling.

When all else is going bad, the baby is an eternal source of joy and an all encompassing feeling of wellbeing. I only have to look at her to feel simultaneously inspired and restful.

Heck, I think I'll sneak in a picture down here where Felicia might not notice ;)

Mrs Div was experimenting with some black and white shots...

Close To Crawling

Finally, I didn't win Euromillions. A 76 million to one shot, and I didn't even get close. How unfair is that?