Friday, May 27, 2005

Online poker is a rattlesnake

Interesting article in Sports Illustrated on online poker in Thursday's issue, looking at how many of us (particular the college kids) win and lose large sums of money at our computers. I had one of those crazy experiences last night that falls right in with this issue. I had just taken a $300 beating at the local $5-$10 game, suffering drawout after drawout from the many donks in Tuscaloosa, when I decided to log on to Noble Poker at 1 a.m. this morning. I put my $500 bankroll on the site into a short handed $10-$20 game and proceeded to get down to my last dollars, winning an all-in at about 2:30 a.m. Ninety minutes later I had $1,200.

Now, I'm not one to complain about a $700 session win, but it's a bit scary to think how quick and easy it was to go from $500 to $0 to $1,200. As I said to a co-worker this morning, "That goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week." There are a ton of players in these games that have no business, either financially or experience wise, participating. It's nice to turn a big profit for yourself, but you have to wonder how many lives are being ruined in the process.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Many of us may claim we don't do our jobs for the accolades that may be thrown upon us, that it's just a job, a means to make a living, a way to support our families, but I think for most of us it's more than that. I've realized recently how important recognition for a job well done is for a person's psyche, at least my psyche anyway.

Last year, I investigated voter fraud allegations in a couple of Black Belt cities here in Alabama and I was able to prove that some absentee voters did not live in the addresses they claimed to reside. I took pictures of abandoned homes, knocked on doors and made phone calls to unsuspecting residents who told me that no one by the name on the absentee application lived there. A mayoral candidate filed a contest of the election, which is still pending. Investigators with the attorney general's office, I'm told, used my reporting as a roadmap to begin their look into the fraud allegations. Local citizens, finally fed up with the fraud, formed the Democracy Defense League to try and put an end to it.

Yet these stories I wrote did not win an award in a single contest that we participate annually. In six years of newspaper journalism this is the work I'm most proud of and it wasn't good enough in the eyes of some judges to be considered among the best in the state. (And no, these were not judged in state. The way these contests work, the states swap stories and judge. I believe in two of these contests, we were judged by New Mexico and Maryland/Delaware.)

And what can I say? It just takes the energy out of me. To create a body of work that you feel is such a great thing and to receive no recognition for it just makes you completely lose your desire to do this kind of stuff anymore. It makes you wonder if you've lost your grip, that you wouldn't know a good story from a bad one, newsworthiness vs. trash.

But a positive benefit of my slight is it pushes me harder to write the best book I can, one that will hopefully sell thousands upon thousands of copies and allow me to thumb my nose at anyone I think dissed me in the past. :P

Monday, May 23, 2005

Everyone has a story

I make my living telling other people's stories, from the family who flies a hot-air balloon to the family who lost a son in Iraq to the man who makes his own fiddles to the woman who was once the national spelling bee champion. Everyone, no matter how significant they think their own tales are, has an interesting story to tell.

The other day I was driving down a local highway when I saw a black man in a cowboy hat, a cane in one hand and a jug of Wesson oil in the other, trying to cross the road. What's his story? Where did he come from and where is he going?

I was in another city the other day, one of the many I cover in the West Alabama region, and riding behind a red mud covered Jeep Cherokee I spotted the words, written in finger, "Wash me" and "We love you, Daddy." Who is this man? What is his job? How old are his children and what are their interests?

Let's take this discussion to the realm of high stakes poker. Consider that a former Miss Teen Oklahoma, a Vietnamese refugee, a cattle farmer from Alabama and a Harvard law and MIT engineering grad all travel the tournament circuit, going from city to city hoping to strike it rich. What is it about the game of poker that has attracted such a diverse group of people to its ranks?

It's a story I begin to tell in 30 days. I can't wait.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Felt Vol. 1

With apologies to Sports Illustrated humorist Bill Sheft, I present to you The Felt.

It's getting stormy in the poker room. The other day Men Nguyen asked the waitress for a Corona and his fellow players asked for raincoats.

Good hygiene and manners have never really been important things to practice in poker rooms. Men Nguyen sniped at Phil Hellmuth during the National Heads-Up Championship and Hellmuth, of course, sniped at everyone within ear shot. I heard his imaginary friend is suing him for slander.

The cattiness of all this back and forth between poker pros is enough to inspire a soap opera, the only problem is 95 percent of the players are men. Maybe they could call it "The Young and the Breastless," Greg Raymer notwithstanding.

It's really not surprising that "Tilt" was not well received. The game of poker is not filled with murders and extortionists. Well, there was that one time when Phil Ivey called the fashion police to apprehend Freddy Deeb during the 2003 World Series of Poker.

And of course a certain mouthy player found himself in jail recently. There was an unfortunate incident the other day. He was playing a friendly game of strip poker with cellmates in the Clark County Jail when he dropped the deck and bent over to pick it up only to find a seven in the hole -- inches that is.

The prize pools of tournaments are getting bigger and bigger. You can thank Annie Duke for this. The winner of this year's after-WSOP Tournament of Champions receives $2 million and a case of Dr. Scholls.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Heads-Up Challenge

I was reading the Major League Baseball standings in Thursday's sports section when inspiration struck.

Why not have a heads-up league?

Whoever wants to participate would sign up before the "season" starts and a schedule would be formed where each player plays every other player in the league in a three-game match (or two three-game matches) over the course of the season. Divisions would be formed (the number of them depends on the number of sign ups) and the winners of each division, plus perhaps wild cards, would meet in the playoffs, with one eventual champion in a best of seven match from the winner of each league.

The matches would be low buy in, $5 or $10 per match, and if a player can't make the scheduled time for his games, he can work out a rescheduling time with his opponent.

I posted this on RGP, with a fair amount of interest shown. Most want to play multiple games and prefer we play on Full Tilt or PokerStars.

So my question to you, are any bloggers or readers here interested in this?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bluff Poker Tour

This ought to be interesting, and you get a chance to win free WPT seats. Sweet!

May 10, 2005 (ATLANTA, GA) - Bluff Poker Tour: First International Online Poker Tour
Bluff Magazine, the world's leading poker publication, has announced the Bluff Poker Tour (BPT); the world's first international virtual poker tour. Participants of the Bluff Poker Tour compete in weekly tournaments at official BPT tour stops across the web.

"More people play poker online then they do in Las Vegas and California combined," said Jeff Markley, VP of Online Operations for Bluff Media. "With the Bluff Poker Tour, we've tapped into the venues that they play at most and arranged a unique mix of virtual poker combined with the tangible anchor of America's favorite poker magazine."

The Bluff Poker Tour's weekly online poker tournaments are all No Limit Hold'em events and allow players to be ranked online as they are in terrestrial poker. The Bluff Poker Tour also allows players a chance to compete with heavyweight poker muscle like tour host, Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, who will be playing in many of the upcoming BPT tournaments. Players who go head to head with Mizrachi have a chance to win an additional bounty should they be lucky or skillful to felt The Grinder.

Top players at the end of the season will qualify for the BPT Championship Tournament. The BPT Champion will receive buy-in to three World Poker Tour tournaments.

"It is our goal to offer the poker enthusiast the type of excitement normally reserved for those fortunate enough to quit work and join the tour," said Jeff. "By making the BPT an online tournament, we've made professional quality tournament poker available to everyone. And by placing the winner of our online tour into three World Poker Tour events, we will give them the opportunity to live the life of a poker pro without having to give up the lives they have."

To participate in, or view more information about the Bluff Poker Tour, visit

The American dream?

I sat atop my riding lawnmower yesterday, 12.5 horsepower between my legs, slowly circling my yard to get every patch of grass, and wondered is this the American dream?

Truly, what is the American dream? Is it residing in the penthouse suite of Trump Tower in New York, or is it mowing your yard on a Tuesday evening with the sun setting over the Southern pines, all the while fretting how weeds have taken over your lawn?

Is it waking up to the piercing alert of the alarm clock every morning and heading to that 9 to 5 job, or is it running several multi-million, even billion, dollar businesses in the economic capital of the world?

(By the way, I bet Trump sucks at poker.)

Different dreams for different folks.

I believe the true test of what makes a man is happy is to turn his world upside down, completely changing his daily routine, and examining under the microscope the effect on his emotions and attitudes. I'll be going through self examination soon enough; I just wonder if I will like what I see.

Although I hate the thought of trying to make it around Vegas for almost a month without my own car, I've decided to fly to Sin City and try to get by on public transportation. (Yes, I know, yuck.) Renting a car every day will get expensive, as would taking taxis everywhere. Luckily I know a few people in town who I can probably get a lift from when the need arises.

I'll be staying downtown for the first time, partially because it's cheaper and I'll be living on a shoestring budget for the next year and partially because I just love the smell of piss, but mostly because it fits in nicely with the theme of the poor man's gambler among a world of high-stakes Moneymakers. I'll be taking the Citizens Area Transport from downtown to the WSOP everday while Daniel Negreanu wheels his Lexus over from his suite at the Wynn to the valet of the Rio. It will be quite the contrast in styles.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Bad play rewarded

Post on RGP today

We'll be in Deadwood the third week of this month. Can anybody recommend a good poker room or two?

More important, are any poker rooms in Deadwood nonsmoking? Thanks.

And the reply:

Even more important, make sure you get a seat facing the door.

It's hard to underestimate the wittiness of some of the people posting on that forum.

On a less witty note, I am continually frustrated to see bad play get constantly rewarded in my local games in Tuscaloosa. A very good example was last night, when during a $5-$10 game I noticed when we got down to seven players that the worst players at the table had the most chips and the best players were all short stacked.

One of those bad players would raise in the big blind after about five or six people had called with A-K and 10-J. He would play any ace (as do most people in this game) and even call down to the river with ace high.

Another player re-raised me twice last night when I raised with QQ. His hands? KJ the first time and AJ the second, and he flopped two pair both times.

And before all this happened, "Tom" (that's a pseudonym to protect the innocent), whose entire poker game has devolved into a challenge to put the worst beats he can on other players, cashed out $1,200. He has been tearing up the games for two months playing trash hand after trash hand.

It's as if something has ripped a hole in the poker universe, upsetting the balance of the deck and allowing the chips to be pushed to the dark side. That hole was torn in Tuscaloosa. Stay away. Stay very far away.

I finally struck gold by re-depositing at Ultimate Bet, and am now up about $900 there playing heads-up sit and gos over the past week, having won 22 of my last 25.

Heads-up poker in my opinion is the purest form of the game, having to mix up your play against only one opponent, shifting from bluffing with nothing and betting strongly your great hands to slow playing great hands. It's a great feeling to raise pre-flop with junk, get it off and bet out. Your opponent thinks you have nothing and check raises and then you gig him good.

I can be found playing stakes between $20 and $50 there under the name TuscalosaJohn. If you want to play, bring it on!