Tuesday, January 25, 2005

For the Party Poker fans

From a RGP post:

Virtually every aspect of PartyPoker is geared towards encouraging bad play at extortionate prices. From the ludicrous SnG structure, the 5+1 SnG, through to the .50/1 minimum table (so ensuring that players who are stilllearning have to play where it costs quite a bit) and the really pricey rake at virtually every level. It's a meat grinder with the house keeping the best cuts, the sharks picking up the droppings. the fish crapping some ofwhat's left back and forth between each other and the learning players thinking they are getting good when all they are really doing is learning how to play fucking badly.

Every time I play there I feel slightly soiled, like dipping your hand into a bucket of slim-covered shit in order to try and find a prize. A demonic lucky dip, if you will. In order to win there you have to swim in filth and, I'm afraid, I just can't stomach it any more. I'll take my 23bb/hour rate that I get at [other sites I would rather not mention] thank you very bloody much.

Some people say they can't take the bad beats. It's not the bad beats I can't take, it's the fact that 98% of the people I have played at party have so little idea of what constitutes a good hand or reasonably solid play that consistently beating all of them is so damn frustrating that it drives me nutso. It's like those scenes in Dawn of the Dead/Day of the Dead where one of the secondary characters is surrounded by hordes of zombies and, despite the fact he has a fucking big gun, he's going to get all his limbs torn off and then be eaten by mindless, walking dead.

PartyPoker. The rotten core of online Poker.

Shame on you Mike Sexton.

And this response from another poster:

Don't sugarcoat it, tell us what you really think!!!

What spurred the post was the extra chips that frequent players at the site get in some of the big tournaments, like the Party Poker Million semi-finals. I've never entered one of those, but had thought about it and was not aware of this discrepancy. I'm not hating on PP too much here, but they should be more up front about some of their practices over there.

And in a nod to Iggy,

Killian's > Guinness

Monday, January 24, 2005

Poker as a video game

I'm posting my review of a recent poker video game for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox here. I'm writing video game reviews weekly for the newspaper now, hoping to syndicate them. I'm nothing if not an entreprenuer (even if I might not be able to spell the word.)

By Johnny Kampis
Staff Writer

If you have World Championship Poker in your hand it’s best to fold, because the poker simulation from Crave Entertainment is about as good as a busted straight draw.

The game for PlayStation 2 and Xbox offers a variety of poker games to play, from the most common forms like Texas hold’em to the seldom seen Pineapple, but only a few ways in which to play them.

Capitalizing on the popularity of poker on television, the game takes players from the shores of a tropical island to the basement of a seedy casino in one-table or multiple table tournaments. Players sit six to a table like those tournaments you might view on the World Poker Tour and the graphics used to show the hands are modeled after those on the WPT. The arrangement is not very realistic, since actual tournaments start out with nine or 10 players at a table and only when there are six players left will there be so few players at a table.

You start out with a modest bankroll and can only enter smaller tournaments initially. By playing these, you unlock other tournaments and by placing high in the games you can build your bankroll and begin entering bigger buy-in tournaments, ultimately attempting to be the world poker champion.

This is essentially it. You play tournaments against the same set of goofy looking characters in the same locations over and over. The artificial intelligence of the computer characters is lacking too. They make awfully strange plays sometimes. The tournaments are fast moving, usually taking about an hour to play, so the action doesn’t get bogged down. What doesn’t make sense is that after you are eliminated you can’t skip the end of the tournament and must let the tournament run its course.

The one saving grace of the game is the ability to play online against other gamers, but better action can be found for free on online poker Web sites. The game also has a suggested retail price of only $20.

Graphics get 2 aces. The characters look deformed. The background scenes, such as water lapping onto the shores of a tropical beach, don’t look very realistic.

Sound gets 1.5 aces. The announcer repeats the same clich├ęs too many times. The background music doesn’t add much to the action. When you go all-in, the game recreates the sound of your heart pumping.

Control gets 2.5 aces. There’s not much to control in the game. You can call, raise or fold. Prior to beginning the tournament circuit, you can create your character, deciding everything from skin tone to facial hair to the type of hat and sunglasses you will wear. This is probably the most entertaining aspect of the game.

Overall, World Championship Poker merits 1.5 aces. You’re better off seeking the Web or some of your buddies if you want to play a good game of poker.

The game is rated E for everyone.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Poker crackdowns

Pay close attention to the last quote in this article. The ignorance some people show about poker is unbelieveable -- hearts and gin rummy require more skill than poker?

ST. PAUL, Minn. David Bischoff thinks he got a raw deal last year when state gambling regulators raided his bowling alley, shut down his weekly Texas Hold ‘em poker tournament and confiscated his cards and chips.

For months afterward, the threat of criminal charges hung over Bischoff — and his card tables sat vacant — until prosecutors concluded that Minnesota’s laws against poker were too vague to enforce.

Minnesota is now one of several states where legislators are looking to rewrite their laws to strengthen their hand against card games at a time when poker is becoming an all-out craze. “These are just people who have been watching poker on TV and they want to come out and play and be like the people on TV,” said Bischoff, whose tournaments are up and running again. “It’s not about spending money and winning money. It’s just about the competition and seeing who can be the best.”

The game at the center of the poker mania is Texas Hold ‘em, in which players are dealt two cards each and can use five community cards flipped over in the middle of the table to make the best hand. Players can risk everything on a single turn of a card.

As the popularity of the game has grown, so have problems for gambling regulators. In Iowa, a couple of American Legion posts heeded warnings and halted their regular tournaments rather than jeopardize their charitable gaming licenses. A similar concern led a firehouse outside of Pittsburgh to call off its games. Police in Wyoming started breaking up Texas Hold ‘em tournaments in bars, and the state’s attorney general advised that the events were probably illegal. In Texas itself — where the game thrived in smoky back rooms before becoming a smash hit on cable TV — prosecutors are questioning whether bars are improperly profiting from tournaments.

“The popularity of the poker shows has created a whole new beast for us as far as regulations,” said David Werning of Iowa’s Department of Inspections and Appeals. Inquiries about poker became so common that the agency recently compiled a fact sheet on poker laws. Minnesota law allows card tournaments at bars and businesses as long as the hosts do not directly profit from the play and players do not gamble with real money.

Bischoff said he complied with those rules by charging no entry fees and limiting awards to hats and T-shirts. His situation drew the attention of state Sen. Dave Kleis, who this month introduced legislation that would define Texas Hold ‘em as a “social skill game” and lump it with card games like cribbage and rummy — games in which players are allowed to win money in Minnesota. Kleis’ bill would explicitly permit poker tournaments as long as the prizes do not exceed $200. “It’s no different than cribbage, 500, euchre or bridge. Those are played all over the state, whether it be in nursing homes, restaurants or bars,” Kleis said. “Why don’t you raid the nursing home for playing cribbage and bridge?”

Kurt McPhail of the Amateur Poker League, a Kansas City-based business that runs more than 400 events a week across nine states, complained that regulators are unfairly clamping down on poker tournaments. He said regulators in some states are blurring the distinction between high-stakes games and those that do not require players to put in their own money. “You hear poker and you immediately think gambling. We’ve taken the money issue out of it and are doing it strictly for entertainment,” said McPhail, the league’s vice president. “It’s on the line of a band or karaoke. It’s just a form of entertainment the bars are bringing in to attract customers.”

For now, Minnesota regulators are not wavering from their hard line on Texas Hold ‘em, even while acknowledging it will be difficult to keep a lid on it. “It’s the soup of the day. It’s very popular,” said Frank Ball, director of Minnesota’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division. But, he said, “It’s not gin rummy. It’s not 500. It’s not hearts. Those are all games of skill. This is a random game, and it’s a gamble.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Getting paid to write about poker

Few things are better in life than getting paid to write about something you love to do. As you are well aware, I'm in the process of trying that with the book idea, but a new avenue looks to open soon in the form of a weekly strategy column. I mentioned this briefly in an earlier post. Essentially, I would write about basic strategy situations for new players to the game, hopefully with the occasional comment from the poker pro. This would be part of a revamped Friday Weekend section in the T-News. This looks to be a go around the beginning of February and, unlike my other work at the paper, I will write this at home and sell it to the paper (and then of course attempt to sell it to other papers through self syndication.)

On another note, I finally listened to the Iggy voices in my head and deposited some money in Party Poker for the first time in many months last night. I then proceeded to enter the 7 p.m. $30 NL hold'em tournament and finished 5th out of 1,150, pocketing $1,700. Thanks Iggy!

The following is part of a recent post by Daniel Negreanu on the poker journal on his Web site. To see more of his musings, go to www.fullcontactpoker.com

I was anxious to see the first episode of TILT last night and I was pretty shocked to see that ESPN would air a show that won't help their long term goals of promoting a WSOP tour. Painting us all as gun slingin' cheats, crooked casino bosses, and all around thugs isn't the best way of selling the public on the WSOP being a contest of champion poker players.Yes I know I did a cameo in the show... but man, I never expected them to go out of there way to show poker in the most negative light possible. With poker's growing popularity it was a given that it would receive more scrutiny and this program will certainly add diesel fuel to the fire. The show I saw last night is absolutely nothing like any poker world I've seen or been a part of. Let's all just hope that future episodes get better rather than worse.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Tunica Day 3

I got up just in time to grab a buffet (breakfast and an ice cream sundae) before the tournament. I found my seat and glanced up at the televisions hung above the tables in the Gold Strike poker room. On the screen was an ad for the ESPN poker show "Tilt," a promo I had seen at least a hundred times in the last few weeks. The audio was on mute, but I could hear in my head the old man counseling the young bucks, who I suppose could be better looking versions of Phil Ivey, Jennifer Harman and pick your favorite twentysomething dark-haired pro.

"If you want to hurt him in a cash game, you've got to get out of the kiddie pool and start making moves," the poker Yoda said of the Matador, the apparent big shot of the show.

Unlike drama, in the real poker world there is no one stud in poker. You've got a collection of names who at one time or another will accomplish something (say, win a tournament or get busted for drugs) and get their name in the spotlight. And then you have some no-name like Chris Moneymaker or Greg Raymer who seemingly pops up out of nowhere. I guess that's my goal too. It's all I have.

I certainly wasn't going to do it Saturday in a $500 limit tournament, but you've got to pay your dues and work your way up. Unlike at the Grand Casino, the folks at the WPO allow players to have electronic devices so I popped out my iPod and settled into the six seat of table seven.

The tournament was spread from the Gold Strike poker room to the main tournament area in the ballroom down the hall, over to the Shoe and more tables set up in the back of that casino. I had a seat in the Gold Strike poker room, but would have preferred a seat in the ballroom with its 50 or so tables. You feel like you're more a part of the action when you're playing in there.

The tournament was sadly another short one for me thanks to a beat from drawout artist extraordinare in the eight seat. This fellow would call with any two suited cards in the BB to a raise and seemed to make a flush or other winning hand nearly every time. He crippled me when I raised with QQ and he called. The flop was 7-10-J with two hearts. He called my bet. The turn was a duece of hearts. He called again. The river was an 8 and I checked. He bet and I made a crying call. While the guy loved to chase, he usually had it when he bet. He turned over 88, hitting the set on the river. He did have a gut straight draw on the flop and picked up a medium flush draw on the turn, but those aren't the kinds of chances you want to put your tournament life on. I was eliminated in short order after that drubbing.

I waited a couple of hours for another $10-$20 seat and was put at another tough table with a bunch of ringers in it. George, a retired heart surgeon from Miami sitting to my left, kept bragging on me and the two guys to my right, saying how good we are, but he had nearly $1,000 chips in front of him.

"Sometimes pigeon flies like eagle and shits on your head," he said.

George, who said he knows Sam Farha, was full of interesting tales, including one of Bill Gates playing a white chip game at the Bellagio. Supposedly, the high limit players in the back sent a letter inviting Gates to leave the $6-$12 game and join them. Gates allegedly sent word back that he would join the pros' game only if they raised the stakes to $1 million-$2 million. Both offers were declined.

I escaped from that tough game happily with an $80 win, but decided late at night to try my luck in another $10-$20 game. Even though the game was easier, I booked a $150 loss. Perhaps it was due to the distraction of the rather plump man getting a deep massage from a hot chick to my right. Perhaps it was just bad luck. Perhaps it was playing too late. Poker, like life, is just one long session, so I can't worry about one weekend of misfortune.

I headed up to the room at about 5:30 a.m. to catch some zzzs before the drive home. In the elevator an Asian man spotted my World Series of Poker baseball cap.

"You play poker?" he asked.

"Not very well this weekend," I replied.

"You play poker too late," he said. "Poker makes you dead."

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Tunica Day 2

OK, finally getting around to posting on the second day of our Mississippi adventure. Yeehaw!

Lane and I grabbed a lunch buffet after waking up Friday. The great thing about the crowds is that the poker room bigwigs just hand out complimentary buffet tickets like tap water rather than checking to see if you've actually played any poker. It's a great opportunity for any casino angle shooters to score free food if they are knowledgable of the situation.

After Lane and I grabbed plates full of food (I believe I had one with quesadillas, egg rolls and sweet potatoes...yum, gotta love buffets) we overheard people's conservations about poker hands at other tables. The only thing poker players love nearly as much as playing poker is talking about poker.

"Those conversations go on for every minute of every hour of every day, 365 days a year," Lane said. And then in his best disbelieving voice in mimicing one of the other players, he added, "How could he call with that hand?!?"

Lane hung around the Shoe waiting on a game while I walked back to the Gold Strike to see how the tournament was going. I spotted Clonie Gowen talking with Robert Williamson III, but did not want to interrupt. She had agreed to an interview online a couple of weeks earlier and I hoped I might catch her at a more convenient time. Unfortunately, I did not see her again.

I spotted my buddies Joe and Scott from Tuscaloosa in line to buy into the $500 limit hold'em tourney the next day and snuck in line with them. Hey, no honor among theives. I bought my entry and headed back to the Shoe, passing tournament players walking briskly through the cold and rain to the Gold Strike with plastic bags full of chips. And they say poker is not a physical activity.

I later settled into a $10-$20 game, with a classic player two seats to my left. The man in his 40s had greased back hair, a leather jacket, four-day stubble and an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth Farha style. When a woman hit a $990,000 jackpot on a Wheel of Fortune slot machine behind us, we started chatting about what we would do with that money.

"I'd find a higher limit table," said the guy with the cigarette.

Shortly afterwards, a new player sat directly to my left with an elaborate poker tattoo on his right arm that incorporated kings, jacks and the four suits. He had nearly every part of his face pierced and said he was from Long Island. And to break stereotype he was probably the nicest guy at the table. He apologized profusely to me when he hit quad 4s against my set of 10s on the river to put a sweet little bad beat on me in a $500 pot. That one stung. Less than an hour later I was busted out of my $400 buy in and headed to the room for sleep before the big tournament.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Tunica Day 1

Well, as you can probably guess, I was not able to to connect to the 'net from my hotel room. Unfortunately, I hadn't signed up for AOL yet and so had no local number for an ISP to call to connect through. Given that Tunica is in the middle of nowhere, there may be no local number anyway.

We left around 6:30 a.m. Thursday for the four-hour drive to Tunica because we wanted to arrive early to ensure a seat in that afternoon's $200 limit hold'em tournament at the Grand Casino. The Grand's Grand American Poker Classic may best be described as the red-headed stepchild of the World Poker Open over at the Shoe (that's a self-given nickname by the PR flacks at The Horseshoe, not some crazy creation of my own.) The buy-ins are less and the entries are limited to 240 at the GAPC so get in early or get left out. As it turns out there were still plenty of entries available when we signed up at 11:30 a.m. Limit just doesn't have the same luster as no limit after the TV craze.

In an attempt to get the tournament over earlier and get players in the live games where the casino really makes its money, tournament officials shortened the levels and increased the blinds at a greater rate than last year. Whereas the 2004 GAPC tournies would start at 4 p.m. and end around 12 to 1 a.m., the ones this year lasted probably around five hours. But I really wouldn't know since I got put out after a couple of hours on a river beat. I'll spare you the details, but I will say the guy who put me out (one of about five fellow Tuscaloosa players in the tournament) had, as I recall, 13 outs on the river. My friend Lane was eliminated shortly afterwards and we headed over to the Horseshoe.

The World Poker Open is quickly becoming a monster. The tournament was initiated by the Horseshoe, but due to the problem of the casino's ballroom not being located over water as state law requires for any gaming activity, the Shoe partnered with the Gold Strike next door. The main tournament area is located in the Gold Strike ballroom and even that is now proving not to be large enough. Lane and I walked up to the ballroom to try and play some satellites for the next day's $500 NL hold'em tourney and found lines that would make Disneyworld blanch. A line to enter into the $500 tournament stretched about the length of a football field, from the desk at one end of the ballroom, out the door and through the hall to another room that serves as a lobby for the concert hall. People waiting to play satellites stood in a line at the back of the ballroom that snaked all the way to the front. I recalled the WPO being busy in 2004, but I would gauge there to be at least twice as many people around for this one. The growing popularity of the game is amazing.

We were finally able to get into a 10-20 game at the Shoe and cemented ourselves to our seats, for a man would leave a game at his own peril. The lists to get in many games at either casino were 100 or more people long and even though there might be many tables dedicated to a certain limit, I heard of people waiting for seven hours or more for a seat.

I walked back over to the WPO tournament area at 3 a.m. and was able to hop right into a $120 satellite. Even though the NL tourney had sold out (at 1110 entries and 400 alternates -- that's right -- 400 alternates) I hoped to win a buy-in chip for the Saturday limit tourney and an extra to sell. I figured also that I could chop half the chips if I made the final two. But I finished 4th and my perfect run of satellite wins at the WPO ended (3 for 3 at the 2004 one.) I was too lucky in 2004.

Before I left for the evening and went to bed I heard the story of some unlucky souls who stood in line for four hours to buy in to the NL tourney and were turned away by tournament officials who said it would fill up. A few hours later, officials decided to form another line for alternates. There were some steaming people after they heard about that. It was apparent after the first day that the casinos had not adequately planned for the poker masses that had descended upon them.

Another thing that puzzles me is the crowds at Tunica compared to those who went to the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods in Connecticut. The $500 buy-in tournies at Foxwoods did not fill up and the crowds were not as large as those in Tunica, where the tournaments were overflowing. This despite Foxwoods' location within four hours of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Do Southerners have more affection for poker than Yanks?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

And to Tunica we shall go

It's rise and shine time tomorrow at 6 a.m. as myself and a couple of friends head to Tunica for four days of poker madness at the World Poker Open. I'll try to post daily reports if I can get my new laptop to connect to the 'net up there.

On another note, rumors of my impending book efforts reached the higher ups before I could even broach the subject with them. In a meeting with the managing editor, I was encouraged by his enthusiasm for my plans. So the newspaper may work with me and give me a year off, but that's still up in the air. We'll cross that bridge in a few months. There's even talk of me writing a weekly poker strategy column that would run in the T-News and sent over the wire to other newspapers in the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group of which we are a part. More details to come...