Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Of Bond, hobbits and poker

Check out online poker here:

If you haven't seen Skyfall proceed directly to the theater. Even if you don't like James Bond movies I think you'd enjoy this one. I'm a big Bond nut so as you can guess I thoroughly enjoyed Skyfall.
I'm looking forward to The Hobbit, which I'll probably go see over Christmas break. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a delight, I think in part for the New Zealand landscape as much as anything else. I'd love to one day visit New Zealand or Australia, but that's no cheap plane ticket.

I haven't played poker in two months -- I mean ANY. Sometimes it's nice to take that break. My new full-time job (check out Missouri Watchdog here) has kept me plenty busy, and our nationwide network just met at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida, for a conference and a little R&R. It's not a bad gig, believe me, and I get the entire week off between Christmas and New Year's.
I'm getting back on that poker horse this Friday, with a visit to St. Charles, where Harrah's completed its sale to Hollywood. I doubt much has changed over there but the signage. The poker room seems to be running as it was before, from what I hear. Hopefully, I can get done with work early enough to hit the $5-$10 w/ FK Omaha/8 game at Ameristar. It's truly one of the easiest games in the area.
I'm also planning a Tunica trip this January to finally go play in the World Series of Poker Circuit event again. It's been about five years since I've been to Harrah's (it was still the Grand Casino at the time) and I still possess a $100 tournament buy-in chip. Thankfully, those don't have a date on them and they've used the same ones perpetually.
If I'm feeling frisky I might dabble in some casino games, perhaps some leisurely roulette. A good source for information on the game is at I believe that Bond played some roulette in Skyfall, which might be a first for 007 in the series.
I'd love to make a return trip to Las Vegas for a brief time this summer, but we'll just have to wait and see on that one. Family vacations come first. John Harper, who turns 3 on Dec. 8, had a blast at Disney World last month and I can't wait to figure out another cool place to take him -- Las Vegas is not one!
Woody, Buzz, Andy, Jesse and Mr. Potato Head. You guess which is which!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

From the Silver State to the Heartland

Will we see online poker in the United States before the end of this year?

Things seem to be moving along quite quickly in Nevada, where the company that owns Binion’s – the birthplace of the World Series of Poker – has now applied for a license.

They’re just one of many who want to offer online poker in the Silver State. I read an interesting Card Player column lately that noted that visitors to the state would be able to play. So even if you don’t move to Nevada and are just on a one-week Vegas bender, you can create an account and play while you’re there.

I hear Delaware’s moving quickly too.

I don’t think I have to worry too much about my home state (Alabama) or current residence (Missouri) legalizing online poker anytime soon. Very red, very conservative.

This is the home of Todd Akin, after all.

It would be great to see the U.S. take back its rightful place as king of online poker. Obviously, while it was never technically legal here (and, of course, not illegal for us Americans to play either) we certainly offered up the most customers.

These days, the top counties seem to be places like Canada, and you can visit this site to see the offerings there, and Australia – click here to see what they’re doing Down Under.

While I look forward to the day I can again play online poker, at the moment I’m looking forward to the Heartland Poker Tour, which hits St. Louis beginning Friday.

Some familiar faces are likely to drop in for the main event that begins Sept. 28, including St. Louis native Greg Raymer, as well as everyone’s favorite, Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler.

Back in my poker writer days, I interviewed Greg on multiple occasions (and hung out with him and others at Hoyt Corkins’ barbecue in the summer of 2006). The first time I met Kessler, in Tunica, he tried to get me to sign up for some rinky-dink online site so he could get a referral bonus. I later interviewed him for Rounder magazine. Say what you will about the “Chainsaw,” he does work to get improvements made to tournament structures, including the HPT.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Building the bankroll

There was no World Series of Poker for me this year, and truth be told, even when I did go in recent years it's not like I had a big-ballin' bankroll.

There is, however, the Heartland Poker Tour.

Now compared to the WSOP or the Venetian Deep Stack or any of the various tournaments I've frequented in Mississippi it's fairly small potatoes, but the HPT being held at River City Casino in St. Louis at the end of the month fits perfectly in my current poker situation.

After diminishing freelance opportunities and the increase for other certain needs (such as diapers) my former poker bankroll slowly melted away as that cash was used to pay for needed family expenses. And the truth is I never really separated my poker bankroll from the cash-on-hand fund and would thus spend that money on anything we needed or wanted to do.

So a poker bankroll? I never really had one. It was more of a collection of poker winnings that could be used for any purpose.

Now we're doing the Dave Ramsey thing, and trying to set a family budget and stick to it. Along with that I'm taking what I have as my current bankroll and finally keeping it separate. (It helps to now have a steady job that also pays me enough to allow me to do this.) No money from the bank account goes in the bankroll, and no money from the bankroll goes toward other expenses.

It will help when I get my old Full Tilt Poker money from the good ol' Justice Department -- definitely a bankroll builder.

For now I'll be trying to build my bankroll this month at the HPT. It's got some $200 and $300 tourneys, lots of satellites (my specialty, I think) and a $1,650 main event with plenty of chances to satellite in.

Call me eager to dig in.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The quirks of St. Louis and Missouri casinos

Watch out now. I had a winning session last Friday night!

After three thudding poker games in a row, I decided I was only going to play some Omaha/8 so I couldn't make some donk all-in call or bluff in NLHE and lose all my chips in one feel swoop. (I have gotten rather good at that lately.)

I tried to get into the 5/10 full kill game at Ameristar, but check this out: I get there, put my name on the list and they forget to call the names as the players leave. By the time they realize this and call me there are four guys leaving the table as the game breaks up. OK, now I see why everyone who plays across the Missouri River at Harrah's disses the Ameristar poker room.

I saw there's a 4/8 O8 game with half kill going at Harrah's so I darted over there. I had to wait awhile so I chilled out to some 3-6 LHE (been a LONG time since I played that.) By the time I got in the O8 game players were dropping like flies, but I ended up playing a Mizzou fan heads up and cleaned him out.

Welcome to the SEC!

I promised a post about the weirdness of the rules in the area's casinos because this place is quite quirky. Here are some of the oddities:

-- No free drinks! What?! You must buy your beer and liquor here, though you will pay a little less than you would in most bars. Example, a Blue Moon in a 20-oz glass is $3.75 or so. As a trade off, they have free beverage stations where you can grab a cup and fill it up with various soft drinks or coffee. No lids, though. They wouldn't want to make it easy for you to leave the casinos with the drinks, now would they? I assume the policies on the paid alcohol and free non-alcoholic drinks must be written into the state casino gambling laws. I understand that you must also buy your drinks in Illinois and Oklahoma so this seems to be common in the Midwest.

-- No buying chips at the tables. And by tables, I mean poker tables. You can buy chips at the table games all day long, but in all of the poker rooms in the St. Louis area you must buy chips at the cage. Why? No clue. This is really annoying at Ameristar because there's no cashier's cage in the poker room. You have to walk about 100 feet out and then back in. On the other hand, at Lumiere Place for some reason you can buy chips at the desk. Why not at Ameristar? Who knows?

-- Cash doesn't play Of course, this is common in several jurisdictions, and really it's not a bad rule because it reduces the chance of you getting passed a counterfeit bill.

I hear rumblings that a new rule may take effect that all electronic devices will be banned at the poker tables. I rarely listen to my iPod while playing anymore, so it wouldn't effect me much, but I'm sure this would highly tick off a number of players.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Harrah's Hotel 3535 coming soon to the Las Vegas Strip?

I got an interesting email from Harrah's Total Rewards yesterday asking me to complete a survey about a potential new casino hotel on the Strip.

I assume this would be in the location of the recently closed O'Shea's, across the street from Caesars Palace. The survey mentions the name Hotel 3535, but I'm not sure if this is potentially a real name or just an idea they're throwing out there. The survey questions respondents frequently on the name itself. (I panned it.)

Among the questions I found interesting were this one:
Which type of casino would you think a casino named “Hotel 3535” would be?

Type 1 (Similar to casinos like Caesars Palace, Bellagio, Wynn, Venetian, Cosmopolitan)

Type 2 (Similar to casinos like Planet Hollywood, Mandalay Bay, Paris)

Type 3 (Similar to casinos like Harrah’s, TI, NY NY, Monte Carlo, Rio)

Type 4 (Similar to casinos like Excalibur, Tropicana, Stratosphere)
I found it insightful how Harrah's evidently categorizes its own Vegas properties. I wonder how the execs there would describe each of these categories.

There was also this:
Here is a description of this new casino and what it would look like inside.

This new casino fuels connection among friends, visitors, and social networks by immersing guests in a world of energetic and eclectic experiences.

The new casino is home to a unique and diverse collection of restaurants, bars, and entertainment experiences that welcome everyone. Guests can fill up on food with a twist, at their choice of lively dining establishments and experience even more entertainment on the casino floor, where the one-of-a-kind dealertainers steal the show. Or they can spend the night bar-hopping with friends new and old as they uncover different and distinct scenes. And with its prime location in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, guests of this new casino can see, do, and share even more as they explore the destination for socializing, for energizing, and for orchestrating a complete Las Vegas experience.

With something different and intriguing around every corner, this new casino is a gathering place full of accessible yet unexpected discoveries so guests can create and share their unique Las Vegas adventure.
Honestly, I told them it sounded like half of the existing places on the Strip.

I liked this one too:
Now we'd like you to pretend you are an investor of this new casino and you have 12 new ideas to invest in across various activities, amenities, events, etc., available at this property. As an investor, your goal is to attract as many guests to this new casino. Which idea would you invest in first, second, third and so on? Please rank the ideas from most appealing to least appealing.

Pop-up restaurants (i.e., temporary/limited availability outlets featuring local and/or up and coming chefs)

Open lounges with big/oversized couches to encourage socializing

Provide photo booths throughout the property connected to screens that stream guest photos. Guests could also upload these photos to Facebook directly from the photo booth.

A scavenger hunt throughout the property

Interactive and artistic installations

Public auditions to be a dealertainer

Telephones on gaming tables throughout the property that connect to each other to stimulate conversation

Print Tic-tac-toe and Hangman game boards on cocktail napkins

Sponsor a local roller derby

Beer pong tournaments
It would appear from the survey that Harrah's might incorporate ideas from its other properties, such as O'shea's beer pong tournaments or Imperial Palace's Dealertainers into its new property.

The survey also included some renderings:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The St. Louis poker scene

The Kampises are getting settled into St. Louis, having moved our belongings to our Lindenwood Park rental home last Thursday.

We're enjoying city life -- having a large park 100 feet from our house, being able to walk a couple of blocks to a decent restaurant, receiving mail at our door.

It's also quite nice to have a selection of poker rooms within 30 minutes driving distance. While my attendance is bound to be much more sporadic now that my wife and son are with me, I got a good feel for the St. Louis poker scene during my first three weeks of "bachelordom." (I also turned a nice four-figure profit in that time.)

There are four casinos with poker rooms in the general area -- River City and Lumiere Place are along the Mississippi River in St. Louis proper while Harrah's and Ameristar are along the Missouri River in the St. Charles area.

Harrah's easily has the most action of the four, not that surprising given the company's reputation for poker. In fact, Harrah's sometimes has as many games going as the other three combined (information easily obtained by the Bravo Poker mobile phone app as all four use the Bravo system).

There's usually several 1-2 NLHE games going, as well as a 3-6 LHE. The game du jour here is a 1-2-5 PLO game that runs around the clock, sometimes with two tables. On Thursday they rotate PLO and PLO8. (That's the one game I got squished in up here when I flopped middle set and got stacked by top set.) There's a 20-40 LHE game that runs one day of the week -- Wednesday maybe? Harrah's also has daily tournaments with buy-ins of $60 to $160 that draw three to four tables of players.

On the other side of the river is Ameristar, which has a nice but usually dead room. There's normally one 3-6 LHE game and one or two 1-2 NLHE games. A 5-10 L08 with a half kill normally runs Friday and Saturday nights and may be the softest game in the area.

I've only played once in St. Louis city limits -- at Lumiere Place a few blocks north of the arch -- but the action was crazy. The biggest game there is 1-3 NLHE, but straddling is allowed from any position, and players can straddle for $15 if they want (and do, not so infrequently). I played a long late-night session and cashed out a $25 winner after getting up $200 or so. I felt like I should have won a grand, but the cards just didn't work out for me despite the donk action.

I have not played at River City yet, but according to the handy Bravo app the action is one or two 1-3 NLHE tables and a 3-6 LHE (otherwise known as the "who cares" game.) This is a stop for Heartland Poker Tour in late September, however, so I plan to darken its doors soon.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

St. Louis & beyond

Wow, has it really been nearly 40 days since my last post?

Well, since May 1 I worked out of a hotel in St. Charles for two weeks, went back home to visit the family, moved into our rental house in St. Louis and lived for about a week there before flying to Providence for a conference with my new job.

And yes, in St. Louis with no family around I did find my way to the poker rooms there quite frequently. I'll share much more on the area poker scene and the quirky Missouri casinos laws with you in future posts.

Did I hear there is a thing called going on?

Finally, my streak will end this summer. Each of the last two years -- maybe three -- I would say I'm not going to Vegas in the summer, but I would start some other project that would find me with reason to go. Not this time. I've got a great new job, and I just won't have the time.

By the way, you can visit Missouri Watchdog here to see what I've been up to. It's a pretty fun gig as I get to choose what I cover, and once you dig in any state you can find issues relating to everything from open records to extravagant industry subsidies.

While I will miss the WSOP for the first time in nine years, I made my first visit to Foxwoods in seven years Thursday night. The place is as big as I remember, and what's odd about the resort are the floor to ceiling windows with views of the Connecticut woods outside. Clocks and windows are two things you just don't see in casinos.

I have followed the WSOP a bit from afar, and dispensing advice to those I know who plan to go this summer. I was happy to see Andy Bloch finally get his first well-deserved bracelet. I know some point at him in the FTP scandal, but I like to think he was ignorant of the malfeasance. Andy's a nice guy who I don't think would intentionally cheat anyone.

For more poker discussion as I bid you adieu, visit here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Moving to St. Louis!

Can you believe it? "Tuscaloosa" Johnny is headed to the Midwest!

In two weeks I will become the bureau chief of Missouri Watchdog, the journalism arm of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. My mission: to uncover waste, fraud and abuse in state, local and federal government in Missouri. Fortunately, the job has a lot of autonomy and telecommute ability so we'll be back in Alabama often for visits. I finish up at the Decatur Daily this Friday and then it's preparation time next week.

We're hoping to rent a house in the city close to everything, but it'll be an adjustment to go from a 2,000-square-foot house to one half that size and a half-acre lot to a postage stamp back yard. But it will be fun to try that for a year and then re-evaluate next spring.

Yes, there's plenty of poker in the area, but I assure you that's only an added bonus and not the reason we're moving! I'll continue to bring the online poker updates here on good ol' Poker Nation, and at a more frequent rate once I get settled.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

PokerStars to buy Full Tilt Poker?

Yes, please.

The worst kept secret of the last two days is that the Department of Justice's plan to sell Full Tilt Poker to Groupe Bernard Tapie fell through, largely because the DOJ is negotiating with a bigger fish that is more likely to have the resources to repay all players -- PokerStars.

In my humble opinion, it's certainly a smart move by PokerStars to acquire its biggest rival in a time of great distress, ensuring continued large profits and making it look like a hero in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of online poker players.

Here's an encouraging quote from a Wall Street Journal story on the issue:
PokerStars executives have been conducting due diligence at Full Tilt's Dublin, Ireland, offices for the last few days, according to the person. "Full Tilt Poker is more optimistic than ever that its number one goal will be obtained: Full Tilt players will be repaid," the company said in a statement Tuesday. "Full Tilt Poker has been in settlement discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice. As such settlement discussions are always confidential, we are unable to comment on any rumors related to the details of those discussions."

Maybe I'll get my $1,500 back -- heck, maybe I'll be reimbursed in some way for the $300 in FTP points I had earned (and maybe, um, Blair Hinkle will get his million dollars too.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Anti-online poker rants from the ignorant

The push for intrastate online poker will inevitably bring out the backlash from some. Several newspapers ran this op-ed in the last week from Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor and professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. In it Reich uses the standard logic from the ignorant of comparing poker with other forms of gambling as if they are equatable. Such as this paragraph:
That decision is about to create a boom in online gambling. New Jersey is close to approving a bill to allow gambling online in virtual Atlantic City casinos. Delaware, Nevada, California and Florida are considering similar bills. Within the year, high-stakes poker will be available on every work desk and mobile phone in the nation.
So Robert, are we talking about online poker or all forms of online gambling because you're mixing and matching here? Yes, I'm calling a former U.S. labor secretary and college professor ignorant. Either he is mixing apples and oranges by comparing poker and other forms of gambling as if they are the same because he truly is ignorant about it, or he does so purposefully to make his point, which would make him dishonest. It's one or the other. The San Francisco Chronicle also ran an editorial against a proposed online poker bill, throwing in the usual comparison to earlier gambling efforts, including the state lottery and the addition of tribal casinos to California.
Some bad ideas just won't go away. Case in point: a revived law to allow online gambling in California. This time around, all the big players - casino tribes, cardrooms and racetracks- want to bring online poker and its devastating social impact to homes and smart phones across the state.
Does the Chronicle have a crystal ball where it can predict that online poker will have "devastating social impacts" in the same vein that slots and blackjack might? How about the boom for others, from the jobs provided for those who run the games, market the games, write about the games, to those who supported their families by playing poker who were suddenly out of a job a year ago? The Chronicle says "there's no reason to double down" now. I can't recall ever doubling down in poker, can you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Interesting California online poker talk -- no fooling

The San Francisco Chronicle has this interesting article on the intrastate online poker fight in California.

An interesting point of the piece is how entities in the state, such as cardrooms and Native American tribes, are talking of joining forces to get licenses and keep out the Harrah's, MGMs and Zyngas of the world. Meanwhile, there is also infighting, as horse tracks are pitted against tribes and cardrooms.

The bill under discussion has this provision:
Anyone who launches a site would have to pay the state 10 percent of gross revenue. Players would have to register with the sites, using their Social Security number to prove they are at least 21, and pay taxes on any winnings.
Author Demian Bulwa also makes an interesting point about the limited market. A high license fee would provide a barrier to entry, plus there is the likelihood that only a handful of sites would survive if the market were deluged with online poker offerings.
"The question is whether they can work out the politics over who should get licenses," said I. Nelson Rose, a Whittier Law School professor who blogs at "Nothing makes as much money as a legal gambling monopoly. And if you can't have a monopoly, you want an oligopoly." Ultimately, just a few websites are expected to go live. That's because of a proposed $30 million license fee - which would be credited against the 10 percent cut of gross revenue - and the expectation that consumers will flock to only about a half-dozen well-marketed sites. The result is alliance building. Dozens of tribal casinos and cardrooms, including Pete's 881 Club, joined the California Online Poker Association, which recently started a free online poker site called as a way to work out the kinks and start building a brand.
I think companies that one day hope to get into the U.S. online poker market would be wise to start building their free-play sites as a marketing tool now. Or yesterday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Maximizing profits from your poker blog

And now a world from our sponsors...

When I started this blog in 2004 it was to chronicle my impending travels across the country to play poker the next year. It was merely for my amusement and, I hoped, for some of you.

It wasn't until I got the occasional email from marketers wanting to buy ad space that I realized I could make a little coin, too.

Without doubt, I have not maximized this blog's potential over the years, a situation I am now obviously trying to correct with a new design and more useful and frequent content. Having been in existence for eight years and with a page rank of three this web space has a little value I've realized.

Recently, I went down the blogrolls of other poker bloggers, clicking and viewing to see 1) who is still active or at least semi-active, and 2) who has advertisers. I then found emails for those bloggers and sent out a mass email inviting them to trade advertiser info with me.

Only one replied.

We emailed each other our spreadsheets, and then I went down the list and sent an email marketing my blog to each one. I got two positive replies, and sold two ad deals for $400.

Lesson here to other poker bloggers: email me back!

But seriously, I am happy to share any info I have that could help you maximize profits from your poker blog (or any type of blog) if you'll do the same for me. I can be reached at

Monday, April 09, 2012

Stock trading: The legal version of online gambling

I finally blew the virtual dust off my TDAmeritrade account a few months ago.

Years ago, in the fat single days when I made a decent living at The Tuscaloosa News and a sweet supplemental income playing poker several hours a night most nights, I plunked $6,000 in an Ameritrade account. Being the wise trader, I bought up stocks like Blockbuster, Sirius and Southwest.

More than 50 percent in losses later I kinda put the stock trading to the side.

Since I play almost no poker these days, and with the economy on an upswing, it seemed like a good time to get back into stock trading. Part of my long-term plan to take advantage of the second poker boom is to invest in companies likely to benefit.

I already owned Shuffle Master, having bought it nearly a decade ago for $34 and change. At one point, the stock dropped under $3, but has since climbed to around $18. I actually sold what I had about a month ago for just under $15 to invest in Zynga and liquidate some of my account for home improvements.

I did well with Zynga, buying it for $9 and selling it for $15. I sold my shares to invest in Apple, planning to reinvest in Zynga if it dropped below $12. The plan has worked out great, as I've made nearly $300 in profit from three shares of Apple (bought at $530, about to sell at around $630) and Zynga is down to $11.50 this morning. Hopefully, I can make a few hundred bucks on Zynga in the next few months.

If this stuff is legal why can't poker be? I'm merely "running hot" at the moment in my amateur stock trading career, which shows a net loss over time.

Friday, April 06, 2012

California sports betting?

I generally hate to link to TV news stories, but well here we go.

The cliched phrase "a day late and a dollar short" is pretty apt when it comes to TV news. Generally speaking, TV stations find their news from reading that morning's newspaper unless the news just lands in their laps in the form of scanner chatter or a press release. Don't believe me? Study your area's newspaper and TV coverage for a week. You'll figure out how the news organizations work pretty quickly.

Anyway, enough ranting. This piece actually spreads some new light (at least new to me) on potential plans in California. To wit:
And no more going to Vegas, another proposal would allow sports betting at current gambling establishments like card rooms and race tracks, but California would have to ask the feds for permission because that's currently illegal except in four states.
I knew neither that California was considering legalizing sports betting nor that the act was legal in four states. Honestly, I thought you could only bet sports in Nevada. I sort of wonder in which other three it's legal, but I don't care enough to look it up. It's no skin off my nose either way because I only bet sports occasionally and for fun.

My only concern is on the latest online poker rooms, and better sooner than latter.

According to the story on California, two million residents are currently wagering $13 billion on online poker sites. The report does not provide any info to back up that statement, or the source of the statistics. Given the current state of affairs I have my doubts that is an accurate number. However, I'm sure when California legalizaed online gaming it will provide the biggest casino sites for US players.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

One step closer for online poker

A bill for online gaming passed a Senate committee in New Jersey recently. This guy's in a rush:
William Pascrell III, a lobbyist representing the online gaming industry, warned that New Jersey had better move quickly or Delaware, Nevada and California — nipping at the state’s heels — will reap the financial benefits. "We must be first," Pascrell said. "We need to create the Silicon Valley of Internet gaming in New Jersey."
Meanwhile, Delaware's getting in the game. If these states want to rush to be the first I got no problem with it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Poker Nation -- Now New and Improved!

So I finally decided to upgrade to the new Blogger software last night, and redesigned the site. My fear before was that I could lose some of the info in my sidebar (including those all-important advertisers), but I figured out how the new stuff TA DA. I hope you like the site's new look and thanks for your patronage.

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Indian Wrinkle & Were You an April Fool?

During my usual morning troll of Google news "online poker" article I came across this article on a Native American publication.

What picqued my interest was this line in the piece:

Tribes should have the right to offer online gaming even if a state “opts out” of the federal regulatory scheme

As you probably know, the most discussed federal possibility for online poker legalization would involved an opt-out clause for any state that did not wish to participate. Utah has preemptively agreed to opt out of any legislation, for example. (I'm sure Alabama would too, lame-o lawmakers -- and to be fair, constituency -- we have here.)

What would happen if tribes were allowed to offer games in "opt-out" states? As I understand current federal gaming laws, tribes can offer the same "class" of gaming that the state in which the tribes are located allow. If your state has a lottery (Class 2) you can offer the same, but not a a full-fledged casino (Class 3).

I would love to see a situation where a state opts out, but tribes can opt in, but I don't see how that would work. I assume you wouldn't just limit players to fellow Native Americans in the tribe. So if all players in a state were allowed under such a scenario, you have effectively opted the entire state in anyway.

On another note, you didn't fall for my third April Fool's Day post did you? I admit I get a kick out of my little jokes. If you missed my first two, you can see them here and here.

Mega Millions -- for lottery players and Nevada coffers

Americans fell all over themselves buying handfuls of lottery tickets late last week, with three splitting the $650 million or so grand prize of Mega Millions, the grand jackpot linked to all the states that have lotteries.

The Daily sent me up to Ardmore, Tenn., about 35 miles north of here, where people were parking on the sides of the road at the first Interstate 65 exit to buy tickets at two gas stations and a lottery store.

That was the closest stop for north Alabamians seeking tickets (we are one of only eight states that does not have a lottery).

I believe the prevailing theory around the newsroom is that I am into all forms of wagering, but no I'm just about the opposite of what one might think of a degenerate gambler as I seek to make wagers where I have the advantage -- or at least a fighting chance -- and the lottery is definitely not that.

I didn't even buy a ticket.

It was a fun article to write, nonetheless, because the chance -- however minute -- of winning a life-changing sum of money gives people hope and happiness.

I used some material from an Associated Press article written earlier in the day that had this interesting line:

The jackpot, if taken as a $462 million lump sum and after federal tax withholding, works out to about $347 million. With the jackpot odds at 1 in 176 million, it would cost $176 million to buy up every combination. Under that scenario, the strategy would win $171 million, less if your state also withholds taxes.

What's wrong with this theory?

Even if it were physically possible to buy every combination, you have to account for multiple winners that reduces your prize (which was, unsurprisingly, what happened.) I joked with the folks at the Daily that's why you need to send a "degenerate" like me to do the gambling stories. I know the math and logic.

Great editorial from the Las Vegas Review-Journal this morning urging state honchos to move forward with online poker efforts.

I found this line interesting:

"We estimate the U.S. online poker market at $5 billion in revenue, relative to the current $24 billion global Internet gaming market and (the) $33 billion commercial casino market in the U.S.," Union Gaming Group analyst Bill Lerner wrote in a report last year. "In our opinion, the commercialization of online poker is a 2013 event."

Let me just say, for the record, that post Black Friday, but before the DOJ ruling I also predicted federal legislation in 2013. Here's hoping Lerner and I are proven correct.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

California legalizes online poker, games should be running in May

Can you believe it? The day is here, and in surprisingly quick fashion.

In an unusual Saturday session of the California legislature, lawmakers met late into the night with tribal gaming interests, finally hashing out a plan that they both could abide by. Leigslators signed a bill into law at 12:01 this morning that lays the groundwork for online poker in California.

The state is expected to move quickly, issuing licenses this month with hopes that games will begin in late May.

Read the full story here.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Interesting development in N.Y. online poker case

Read the latest story here.

The judge hearing the case against the Utah banker accused of processing payments for Full Tilt and PokerStars put off the plea bargain that U.S. attorneys had negotiated, and is making the prosecution explain why they want to avoid trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown said the deal given Campos was also an acknowledgement that there were trial risks, especially after people working on behalf of the gambling outlets had given Campos legal opinions suggesting that it might not be illegal to process the money for Internet gambling companies.

"There would be a risk that a jury on that basis could have a problem," Devlin-Brown said.

He also said the bulk of the case brought by the government concentrated on people who duped U.S. banking institutions into accepting gambling proceeds by hiding them behind sham companies. Campos, he said, came at the "tail end of the conspiracy."

Sounds like they're scared of setting a precedent that might not go in their favor. Lawyers and lawmakers are scared of what would happen when the sham anti-online poker laws were put to the test in court, don't you think?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Money's relative in poker and journalism

I occasionally have interesting discussions with co-workers about my previous life.

Most people who have spent their entire lives in the cubicle farm can't fathom the lifestyle of poker players, which from the outside appears much more lavish than reality.

For example, I was joking the other day about not having a $5 in my wallet to pay my entry in a NCAA tournament bracket pool.

"I used to walk around with a wallet full of C-notes," I said.

"Then why did you stop doing what you were doing and come here?" was the reply of one person.

I haven't really tried to explain the whole sordid issue to him. (Got a few hours?) But put simply, my exit from poker playing/writing and re-entry into newspaper journalism was out of my control -- and largely in control of Congress and the DOJ.

The editor probably thought I was indicating a certain richness by my comment. What he doesn't understand is that money is just a tool of the trade. If you DON'T walk around with a wallet full of C-notes, you can't get in the game, or at least I haven't found a poker game that takes checks or credit cards.

If you're a poker player with $1,000 in your billfold, that cash isn't for walking into Best Buy to get a big screen, it's your stake for the $2-$5 game.

The volatility of poker also confounds outsiders. I've been asked what's the most I've won and lost in a single day. For cash games, the answer to both questions is about $2,000. For tournaments, it's probably $4,500 in a single day. (Of course, I cashed in the WSOP main, but that was three days of play with several days of breaking in between).

You share those numbers with a guy who makes about $600 to $700 a week and it seems astounding, but what I try to explain is that you might win $600 one day and lose $300 the next. Over two days you've made $150 per day. Poker playing is a roller coaster that -- if you're good -- you'll come out similarly to what you would have made if you sat in that cubicle farm all day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Intrastate online poker update

A few news and notes on the race for the first state offering intrastate online poker:

Iowa -- The House there approved a bill for online poker, but it was a non-starter in the Senate, whose members seemed unprepared to even discuss the issue. See this story. That's our elected leaders for ya. Poker seems unlikely in the Hawkeye state this year.

Nevada -- Although my understanding was that online poker there would only go if it was federally legislated, it seems the DOJ ruling is allowing Nevada to move ahead. Licenses continue to be granted, and experts expect games to be running in the Silver State before the end of 2012.

New Jersey -- There's still talk of legislation passing this year. If people don't have to vote on legalizing online poker, as some argue must be done in accordance with the state law that allowed Atlantic City gambling in the first place, N.J. could have poker in 2012 too.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

New poll

Amy says my blog posts lately have been lackluster, especially the one about Big Deal. If so, I apologize.

For some interaction, I've added a new poll...after only TWO years of the last one, no less!

I want to know which state or area you think will be the first to have intrastate online poker up and running (this year, I hope.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A New Jersey referendum?

Sorry, forgot the source I copied and pasted this from, but the latest news from NJ is that any legislation concerning online poker would likely be voted on by residents. Essentially, people there would vote on an amendment to the state constitution because the state's charter only allows gambling in Atlantic City:

The state constitution prohibits gaming anywhere beyond Atlantic City.
While there is a technical rationale for saying that having the internet servers located in Atlantic City is sufficient, it’s also true that if a Jersey resident is betting in their living room 100 miles away, that doesn’t “feel” like an Atlantic City bet. So someone might try to make the latter case in court, even if Governor Christie’s Attorney General’s office doesn’t insist on a referendum come November.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Good story advocating online poker

I may have mentioned before that I often do a Google news search for "online poker" to see what people are writing about. Not a lot of legislative movement in the states this week, but this interesting article is making the rounds.

I've seen it in a number of publications, which seem to be a network of alternative weeklies in bigger cities across the United States. I think it lays out the situation well, and will perhaps get people thinking and talking about online poker legalization.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Big Deal

The tables turned for me Saturday as I slid into the dealer’s chair.

The event was The Big Deal, a fundraiser by the Decatur Jaycees to raise money for the Red Cross.

This casino night included a couple dozen blackjack tables, a few roulette and craps tables and a handful of slots – in the form of those Japanese skill machines.

About a few hundred people bought $25 or $30 tickets to get 500 in play chips and then tried to build up their money to buy raffle tickets for the chance to win prizes.

There were five poker tables set up, but most were empty for the first hour. Finally, a couple of games started, but I was sitting alone.

Two women and a man walked up and asked the game.

“Texas Hold’em,” I replied.

The idea was to deal 5-10 blinds NLHE on each felt.

“We don’t really know Hold’em very well,” one of them said. “Can we play five card?”

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll deal whatever you want to play.”

So I became the lone table offering a non-hold’em game, and we played five-card draw all night (with deuces wild.)

A couple others joined. Most people who sat down quickly scurried to other tables when they learned what we were playing, but these folks had a good time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I went to Tunica...

...and the only thing I caught was this cold.

Actually, I probably got it from my son, who was diagnosed with some respiratory virus yesterday. I finally broke down and visited a doc-in-a-box this afternoon after I developed a major earache. The nurse gave me a steroid shot so I am much, much better at the moment.

I spent most of my Saturday in Tunica in the hotel bed, sleeping off my sickness. Well, that and the poker. I brought a limited bankroll so I was playing with short money. It didn't help when I lost some right off the bat on Friday, and the monkeys finished me off Saturday morning. I ended up playing mostly small games -- primarily $4-$8 Omaha Hi-Lo with a half kill.

Lot of chasing, lot of hitting by my opponents.

At least the comps were exceptional, as usual for Tunica. I played about two hours of $1-$2 NLHE at Gold Strike Friday night and scored a breakfast buffet the next day (value $10).

At the neighboring Horseshoe I played about eight hours over the two days before going broke. When I asked for a comp, the shift manager said I only had $5 in comp dollars on my card. Since I was supposed to get $1 an hour something was amiss with the computer system. It didn't matter, however, as she granted me a lunch buffet (value $19) anyway.

In total, $30 plus dollars in comps (when you consider the tax I would have paid) for about 10 hours of play.

I wonder what kind of rate Canadian poker might bring.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tunica Yeehaw!

Headed to Tunica this weekend for a little poker action.

Got the itch for sure, since I just don't get out much anymore -- my last casino trip being to Vegas last summer.

I'll stay at the Gold Strike with my pal Brian. A tip to the wise if you've never been to this land of cotton fields and casinos: Gold Strike is your best bet. This casino has nice rooms (at reasonable rates), a good poker room, and is 100 yards from another casino with a poker room that might even be a bit better (the Horseshoe).

I miss that poker mural they had at the Shoe when they used to have the room at the front of the casino.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

WSEX is run by idiots (in case you were wondering)

Here's my next-to-last rakeback statement email from WSEX since they close tomorrow.

Hilarious how they forgot to mention the site is closing while promoting their VIP tournament and deposit bonus in this form email.

Perhaps a bigger question: what did I do with that $16,741.49 in rakeback over the last six years???

Dear TuscaloosaJohnny,

We are pleased to present you with your weekly World Sports Exchange Pay Stub. This sum has been posted to your account during the rakeback procedure. Now more than ever, it truly pays to play Poker at

WSEX Pay Stub Details:

Last Week's Pay: 5.69

Your lifetime Pay to date: 16741.49

Largest player payment this week: 276.57

Along with offering you the very best pay incentive program - Get Paid To Play, World Sports Exchange - The Original Online Sportsbook is your home for so much more. We have pioneered the online sports betting industry, and for the past 12 years it has been our goal to provide you with the very best wagering experience. Straight wagers, Live Betting, parlays, teasers, and proposition bets, we have them all. Try our "No Download" Casino, the mobile casino games.

We are thankful for your loyalty with us over the years, and we very much look forward to see you participating in at our Poker Tables. As you might already know, we run a $2,000.00 VIP Bonus Event Tournament every Sunday. To participate players must simply contribute $50.00 or more for the previous Week in rakeback or win a token in any of the Daily Qualifier tournaments.

Additionally, World Sports Exchange is pleased to offer a 100% Poker Deposit Bonus up to a maximum of $1,000.00 USD!! Deposit money at and we will start tracking your 100% Poker Bonus up to a maximum of $1,000.00 USD.. YOU MUST EMAIL after you have made your deposit. Enter “Poker Bonus” in the subject line. Please go to our webpage,( and click on 'Promotions' for more information.

If you have any questions regarding your weekly statement or anything else, you can always reach us via live chat, email ( or toll-free at 1-866-234-0575.

Best Regards,

World Sports Exchange

Monday, February 13, 2012

Keeping tabs with online poker regulation

I’ve been keeping close tabs on the various discussions of federal regulation and intrastate regulation of online poker, and there has been plenty of chatter taking place in recent weeks.

As the author of this article points out, state legislatures are now going into session so there should be plenty of debate on the merits of online poker in the coming months. Hopefully, we can get somewhere on the issue.

Intrastate poker is no good for me as a player (as I said before, you can forget about any online poker in Alabama anytime soon – although we had plenty of “bingo” machines across the state in recent years before the governor’s office shut them down). However, intrastate poker could provide plenty of opportunities for me as a writer, perhaps through blogging about the games for the companies that operates the games or by writing weekly newspaper columns for publications in the states in which the games are held. Truly, there could be lots of opportunities if I hunt hard enough.

I take exception with the author’s comment that 15 million Americans “illegally play poker online” every day. In fact, zero Americans do so, because it’s not illegal for us to log on and play. I think the author is trying to emphasize his overall point by writing false statements. The point he is trying to make is plenty valid without resorting to these tactics.

The best point he makes is this:

The argument that this is an expansion of gaming and somehow corrupting the moral fiber of the nation is as old as the Wishbone offense. It is no longer relevant, with 48 of 50 states having some sort of gaming and, 43 states having more than three types of legalized gambling. With millions playing online in their living rooms or offices without any controls, wouldn’t it be in the best interest of law enforcement and financial regulations to manage this sub-culture of illegal activity?

Indeed. Indeed.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

WSEX is closing WPX

World Sports Exchange announced in an email to users Friday afternoon that they will shut down the poker software on Wednesday -- leave it to them to do it on such short notice, by the way.

No great surprise, really, given how little traffic they've had for a long time. What few players there were around were terrible, though, and I and others made a killing...too bad we may never see our money...

Dear Poker Customers and Affiliates,

It is with great regret that we announce the closure of World Poker Exchange.

As of 1pm ET on Wednesday 15th February 2012, our poker software will no longer be available, and any active poker room balance you may have will be transferred to your World Sports Exchange account. Rake will be paid out as normal on the following Monday.

We deeply apologize for the inconvenience caused. Our attention is now focused on improving our sports betting and casino products.

Thank you for playing at WorldPX, and we hope you continue to enjoy playing at World Sports Exchange Sportsbook and Casino.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email us at, or call (866) 234-0575.

Poker room software inquiries may be submitted to


Management & Staff

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jimmy Sommerfield retires

If you are a serious poker player in the South, you almost definitely know who he is. If you are from other regions you may have heard of Jimmy Sommerfield. He mostly conducted WSOP circuit events in this region, and also assisted at the big WSOP each summer.

Sommerfield recently announced his retirement from directing on 2+2. Evidently, he's going to open his own auction house in Southaven, just a hop, skip and jump from Tunica.

Here his post:

I started in the poker business some 18 years ago, because I was a bad 1-5 seven card stud player. Yesterday , I turned in my resignation as Tournament Manager for the WSOP. I will be resigning the WSOPCE effective March 1, 2012. I will be the Tournament Director at the upcoming circuit events at Choctaw, Tunica, and Palm Beach.

This decision was based solely on the fact that I want to spend more time with my wife, 3 daughters and my first grandchild that was born this morning. I want to thank Ken Lambert( First Poker room manager that had enough confidence in me to promote me to Tournament Director of Horseshoe), Jack McCleland( For teaching me all the ins and out of directing Major Tnmts), Jack Effel (For allowing me to be Poker Manager at the WSOP), All the staff and dealers that work for PTC( For their hard work , dedication), and a special thanks to all of the players that have supported me and PTC. There are also many other people in the business that have been an inspiration to me. I hope that somewhere in my 18 year career, that I have made a difference for the Poker Industry.

Thanks to all, and I hope to see you in Choctaw, Tunica, and Palm Beach!
Jimmy Sommerfeld

Jimmy's a great guy, and his wife, who assisted him at many tournaments, is also a great person. I had the chance to speak to him a number of times along his career, and once interviewed him for a Q&A for Rounder. He'll definitely be missed by those on the tournament trail.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Poker & Survivor

Follow this link to read the recent article by Gary Wise on poker players and how they fare on Survivor.

Like Gary, I’m an avid fan of the show, having watched it since its first season. I also see plenty of parallels between success in poker and success in Survivor.

I find it interesting that Albert Destrade plays poker as his primary occupation, a fact that was not discussed on the show. Unlike Jim Rice, he kept his cards close to his vest, no? (Never mind that he mostly walked around shirtless.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Treasure Island's gonzo promotion & "soft" Vegas rooms

Those of you who keep up with the goings on in Vegas may have heard about this crazy good promotion that Treasure Island is running. You can earn up to $599 in cash back by playing up to 60 hours a week. (Why $599? That's for tax reasons.)

They pay you in cash at the end of the getting a paycheck without the check. In addition, you get the standard $2 in comps per hour played. So if you grind for 10 hours a day, six days a week you'll earn $599 in cash, plus $120 in chow (or whatever else you spend it on there).

As one 2+2 poster wrote, "If I was in Vegas I know where'd I'd be." Yeah, me too.

Nothing comes easy, though. In reading more discussions about this promotion online, I hear plenty of people complaining about how tough the games at TI are during this event -- which the manager said has an indefinite end. They say you have eight sharks and maybe a tourist or two per table, as the wise grinders of Vegas are making their way to this room.

That reminds me of the question constantly posed on 2+2 that asks which room or rooms have the softest 1-2 games in Vegas. The correct answer may be all of them...and none of them.

You can think of it like "market correction" in business. Any Vegas room that gets the reputation of having plenty of "soft" play will attract the better players, and over time that room would probably become tougher than the average room for a period. That way, the average skill level in a room is elastic. I'd say that TI will become a harder place to win during this promotion, and will continue to be for a short time afterwards. Still earning $12 an hour in cashback and comps may still make the room a good bet if you play smart.

I do have one theory concerning "soft" Vegas rooms, though. Since Mandalay Bay attracts plenty of convention traffic, and is in an inconvenient location on the south end of the Strip, that room probably has a better chance than any others of being consistently "soft." Or maybe I just think that because I've always won the few times I've played there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Could D.C. be ground zero for American online poker?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Where have all the bloggers gone?

The first few months of my new job I went headfirst into work.

It's not unusual, I think, too be very eager when you start a new endeavor, and it's been fun to be back at the reporting game again. One day you're writing about a crime, the next a new business, the next a feature on a humanitarian. Variety is the spice of life, right?

Between commuting two hours a day while trying to sell a house, then selling the house and moving to storage, then buying a house and getting ready to move in...well, I've been preoccupied since the first of October.

We are finally settled into Decatur, having closed on our new home on Dec. 31. We moved in a couple of weeks ago and now my commute to work is about nine minutes.

Yes, I can breathe again!

It's also got me thinking how much I miss poker. I'm sure there are live games somewhere around here, but I am not at all in tune with the underground scene. (And I would be surprised to find an afternoon $2-$5 NLHE game with an average of $5K on the table, but I digress).

I still dabble online at World Sports Exchange, but I have to treat it like play money. If you haven't heard, they are at least $600K behind in paying players. That's just the known delinquent payments on the top sportsbook forum, Sportsbook Review. The nearly five figures they owe me, for example, would not be included in that total since I have not reported it to the forum. There's no telling how much they owe.

The good folks at WSEX claim they are behind because payment processors won't process enough money. I would say the smart money is on another Full Tilt situation where the till got raided and player accounts were not segregated. WSEX seems insolvent. Stay away. Stay far away.

I've taken some time lately to catch up with some of my favorite bloggers. Unfortunately, they seem to be more scarce online than even me! It's sad to see many who haven't posted in at least six months. Perhaps the worse sight of all was going to and finding a Go Daddy placeholder page. Oh, the humanity!

The temporary death of American online poker seems to have scattered the online poker blogger community too. Both will be back in time. I just hope Congress comes to its senses and creates federal legislation before we have a patchwork of intrastate poker from sea to shining sea. Besides, can you imagine Alabama online poker? Yeah, me neither...