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Views: 942
Date Posted: Jan. 15, 4:03pm, 2 Comments

One of the great aspects of the internet is near instant access to information and answers.  The secondary innovation is that as you seek your intended information, you begin a new journey.  The most compelling sites offer multiple directions and suggestions of where you can go from there.  Let's take music for instance.  YouTube offers related videos that can send you off in many directions.  Pandora uses your starting point suggestion to introduce similar styles of music that you may not have heard.  Recently, I shared some Phoenix videos on the blog.  I started a Pandora 'Phoenix' station and it introduced me to a group I immediately liked, The Kooks.  Today I looked up some information on them in Wikipedia and noticed that they had feuded with a group called Razorlight for being too similar.  So that brings me to a couple of Razorlight videos I wanted to share; Golden Touch and Stumble and Fall.  Enjoy where your journey takes you.




Have a great weekend!

Views: 968
Date Posted: Jan. 13, 1:25pm, 2 Comments

Two of the things that really bother me are judgment and hypocrisy. In my view of things, they go hand in hand.  No one should be in a position to negatively judge when they are likely to be doing something similar or related.

Let's take gambling as an example.  Mention the word and you are likely to be looked down upon by the vast majority of society.  Say that you do it for a living and unless you are mega-successful, you are probably scorned.  There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the role gambling plays in all our lives.

Life is a gamble.  You would be hard pressed to name many occupations or activities that aren't a gamble.

Simple every day activities are fraught with risk.

- If I drive my car, it's a gamble.  I can be prepared, drive the speed limit, obey the laws and still have a car hit me.  Some animal, child or a ball may roll in front of me suddenly causing a terrible accident.

- If I decide to take my wife to the movies, I am basing my decision off some review or some trailer I saw on TV.  I am risking my time and $25 investment on the hope that the movie is good and worth it.  I know there are plenty of times I will feel it's not, and yet I still take that chance.

- If I go to a bar or party and start drinking, I am gambling that my decision making will remain reasonable.  There are a host of decisions I could make that I will regret (drunken driving, acting like an idiot, select a sexual partner I will regret later etc.).  You can't predict the result once you've had a few drinks and yet you still put yourself at risk.

Gambling is nothing more than taking calculated risks, something we do every day.  Wiktionary phrases it as any activity characterized by a balance between winning and losing that is governed by a mixture of skill and chance.  To me that encompasses most things we do. I think the problem is that society associates gambling with losing propositions, but there are no guarantees in life, except for death and taxes.  Poker is not a guaranteed  losing proposition if you have discipline, put in the time to learn your edges and game select well.

Risk analysis is something we all do daily. Most occupations involve the exact same elements that we associate with gambling.  I'll give some related dynamics from respected occupations as examples.

Doctor - An emergency room doctor or surgeon may be well educated and trained, but they don't know who may come through their doors or the severity of their condition.  They apply their skills to try to repair or heal the patient, but the injuries or sickness may be too great.  They can make errors in judgment that decrease their odds of success.

Politician - Someone running for office has no guarantees either.  Depending on their political party, policy stances, the present environment or even their looks can affect the outcome of an election.  They hope to use their intelligence and connections to outmaneuver their opponents and manipulate the electorate to their advantage.  Once elected, they are constantly assessing how they can forward their agenda while gaging public opinion.

Farmer - Every season, a farmer gambles by investing thousands of dollars of inputs into the ground in the spring with hopes that the weather, pest and rain will cooperate to allow a reasonable return on their investment when harvest time comes.  They manage some of that risk by acquiring crop insurance.

Futures trader/Stock Broker - There are tremendous similarities between poker and trading.  You are applying your knowledge and experience to make calculated risks on some future event that is unknown.

So if most occupations and activities contain a heavy element of gambling.  Why would we demonize the word?  I would argue that you can make both smart and dumb gambles.  It is up to each one of us to evaluate the risks and try to make educated plus EV decisions.  There is nothing inherently wrong with taking a chance in life.  We do it all day every day.  I'm thankful to have survived some of my poor ones and that I continue to benefit from some of my wise gambles.

Good luck with your gambles... 

Views: 1125
Date Posted: Jan. 8, 2:50pm, 2 Comments

In early December, I stumbled on an article slamming legalizing online gambling that really disturbed me.  I didn't have the time to look at it closely, so I 'favorited' the link so I could return at a more opportune time.  The sensational title of the article sums it up succinctly "Online gambling a threat to global economy." The entire article is essentially the opinion of one University of Illinois professor and national gambling critic - John W. Kindt.  He feels that legalizing online gambling (I will focus mostly on poker for the sake of this blog) "would fuel an epic surge of betting in the U.S. leaving lives in tatters and the world's economy in jeopardy."  I found every one of his assertions so far fetched and ludicrous,  I thought I would put together a blog with his statements and my brief counterpoints in bold.  Each one of his statements could be argued against much more deeply, but I don't have the time or inclination to invest any more time on his confused perspective.

1. He says "U.S. Rep. Barney Frank’s renewed push to overturn the decades-old ban on online gambling would put the nation at risk of an economic collapse rivaling the 2007 sub-prime mortgage crisis that sparked a deep and lingering global recession."  This is the worst kind of hyperbole.  His comparison to legalizing online gambling as having a similar to the much bigger economic issues and government policies have led us to our present struggles is laughable.  How can you call for more regulation and supervision in other industries but less in another makes no sense.  Sub-prime mortgages, cheating/derivative company failures undercut jobs and wealth to millions.  Legalizing and regulating a recreational area like online gaming wouldn't have nearly the same impact or potential downside.

2. He says "Barney Frank has been railing against the lack of regulation on Wall Street and now he’s trying to create an even more dangerous threat by throwing the prohibition against Internet gambling into the toilet".  That is not the case at all.  The idea is to legalize and regulate openly the business of online gambling so that Americans can pursue their given rights to play games of skill and chance with their own resources in a trusted environment.

3. He says "Legalizing online gambling and the firms that run it would create a potentially disastrous speculative bubble in U.S. financial markets similar to the sub-prime mortgage crisis, spawning fast-growing companies with exaggerated earnings expectations that far outstrip real value."  He clearly doesn't understand how the US government works.  A measured system would be put in place over time to introduce approved companies to participate in this newly regulated industry.  There are numerous publicly traded and experienced international companies presently profiting off this international industry.  This would finally allow American companies to do the same. It is absurd to single out online gaming when the US has had numerous speculative bubbles in regulated and unregulated industries previously.

4. He says "I actually think a speculative bubble on Internet gambling would be worse because it’s based on nothing. With the sub-prime crisis, there was at least some real property involved. With online gambling, there’s nothing but people dumping money into their computers.”  Poker uses money to determine the results of a card game of skill with significant elements of chance.  It redistributes wealth, but doesn't destroy it.  It is entertainment for others, and many business reporting on poker are based off the top players. Sports betting is based on your assessment of an outcome, which is similar to futures trading and stock trading. 

5. He says "Global markets have already seen the consequences. The London Stock Exchange, which permits trading of online gaming company shares, saw its value plunge by $40 billion in one day after the U.S. strengthened its ban on Internet gambling in 2006." His supposedly shocking statistic is very misleading. As one commenter stated...The LSE has an estimated value of 2.9 Trillion Pounds. That makes his mentioned "plunge" roughly 1%, even with the best possible currency conversion rate. The DOW and S&P 500 fluctuate more than that regularly, off little more than individual earnings statements, or less. The valuations of companies are based on their perceived worth, so adverse news would negatively affect a company, regardless of its industry.  If a company is consistently profitable, its valuation will increase.  There is nothing alarming about his stated history of their valuations tumbling when they lost access to the largest market.

6. He says "Online gambling also would “throw gasoline” on a recession that has already cut deeply into Americans’ savings and put more than 7 million people out of work."  I have heard that lottery ticket sales increase in a recession, so he may feel that people would gamble more in similar times, but they also have less money to risk at it as well.  The truth is that the regulation of the online gambling industries would increase employment in the US, by encouraging home grown companies to profit off this industry instead of just foreigners.

7. He says "Money that should be spent on cars, refrigerators and other goods that build the economy and create jobs would instead be wasted on Internet gambling in every living room, at every work desk and at every school desk."  He doesn't understand human nature. Firstly, there is a long standing stigma against gambling that wouldn't disappear.  Secondly, people don't like to lose.  If you lose at something, you call it quits.  It stops being fun.  Most people are not compulsive and are in control of their decisions using fundamental and responsible parameters with their financial resources.  The money isn't wasted and doesn't disappear, but is simply redistributed.

8. He says "Frank’s bill flies in the face of research that supports maintaining a ban that traces to the 1961 Federal Wire Act, pushed through by then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to curb the flow of money for organized crime. In today’s world, that money-laundering threat also applies to terrorist organizations." These are absurd claims.  The Internet did not exist in 1961 and there is no ban on Internet Gambling.  Prohibition never stops an activity that people enjoy.  It only somewhat minimizes the access, but increases the societal cost by increasing the crime elements and unscrupulous tactics in an unregulated environment.  His thinking is backward.  Money laundering and terrorism funding would be more prevalent in the present unregulated environment.

9. He says "The threat of addiction is especially high among younger people, who studies show are already twice as prone to gambling problems as older Americans. It’s getting worse and worse as gambling spreads and would soar if online gambling is legalized. Internet gambling is known as the crack cocaine of creating new, addicted gamblers because it’s so accessible. Bankruptcy and crime rates also would balloon as people deplete family finances or raid their employers’ accounts to cover online gambling debts."  Yet again, absurd conclusions.  I have yet to see studies that have concluded that online gaming in other countries where it is fully legal and regulated has had this affect.  It's the same failed argument as the US insistence on having 21 be the legal drinking age.  With his logic, Europeans, who can drink at any age, would all be alcoholics/out of control addicts.  If anything, you see a more reasoned approach to handling an issue by introducing it more reasonably.  While in sports betting, everyone can lose, in poker, for every loser, there is a winner (assuming the rake isn't outrageous) so while one family may deplete some finances, another would benefit.  The idea is to create a responsible environment in which to view the gaming industry and its role in our lives.

10. His final summation... "Online gambling should not be legalized for the same reasons that hard drugs remain banned. The social and crime costs are enormous and if gambling is easy to access more and more people will get hooked.”  The argument that you should ban an activity because 5% (big assumption to even say that much) of the population can't handle it responsibility is both unfair to the responsible 95% and historically a failed one.  Education and proactive solutions can be introduced to address the vulnerable population.  The reason to regulate something is to remove the crime costs that presently influence the nether regions of sports betting and online gaming. The comparison to drugs, that physically affect our bodies, is an unfair one.  We are all capable of addiction to almost anything in our lives.  To single out online gaming as worse than the others is irresponsible.  Online gaming is a enjoyable, stimulating, and challenging activity for many millions.

While I accept different perspective regarding online gambling, this professor seems very misguided and misunderstands most of the fundamental issues surrounding it.   Thankfully, Congress and the US government is slowly coming around to the perspective that online gambling should be legal as a matter of personal liberty and that it could gain significant tax revenue while gaining employment and new business if Internet gambling is properly regulated.  We should encourage healthy discussion of the best ways of regulating and supervising a fair playing field for players and operators, not fall into confused and incorrect assumptions that this professor mistakenly asserts.

Views: 813
Date Posted: Jan. 6, 1:47pm, 1 Comment

The first step to enjoying poker, specifically PLO in my case, is to stop losing.  No one likes to lose.  Many recreational players feel like this when they start playing Pot Limit Omaha...

Yesterday, I was playing some micro stakes PLO, while doing work.  I sat with a player that seemed to typify all the major issues that losing players embrace. 

1. He got frustrated easily and whined a lot in chat
2. He felt PLO was mostly luck
3. He felt online poker was rigged
4. He felt everyone sucked out on him

Usually these types of players annoy me to no end, but I felt a certain sympathy for him as he rebought over and over.  A part of me also wanted to keep him at the table so I engaged him in conversation to learn more about him.  Another part of me wanted to tell him that in an hour I could tell him how to stop losing.

I'm not claiming I could teach him to be a winning player in an hour, but you have to start somewhere.  Once someone can reach break even, win some and lose some, they can begin to understand the dynamics of winning and start to take their playing and learning more seriously.

Every decision you make affects the outcome.

1. He played too loosely - playing 80% of his hands.  Obviously any decent player understands that playing starting hands that have better starting value or that can draw to the nuts with good ending potential are key.  He limped and called raises too much.

2. He raised too many hands from every position - raising 23% of hands.  He needs to understand position better to pick his spots better when raising.

3. He didn't understand how to size his post flop bets well, often stabbing or min betting on flops and turns that gave odds to players with marginal hands to draw on him if they were behind, or that needlessly inflated the pot when he was on a draw. 

4. His bluffs weren't ever believable.  He took strange lines that made no sense.  His track record lent him no credibility on the table so anyone with a decent hand always called him down.

5. He chased too many hands where he didn't have the odds to continue.

In talking to him further, he seemed like a pretty normal guy.  He's a software developer in California, coding and working on UI.  He plays at work sometimes, which he was doing yesterday.  He had played NLHE for a couple years but had tried PLO a couple months ago. He has lost several hundred dollars playing the last few months recreationally.  He makes a decent salary, so he can easily afford his losses, but it is the frustration with the game that might drive him away.

The formula for him to stop losing is straight forward. He needs to accept responsibility for his wins and losses.  He can't blame the RNG or luck.  He needs to show discipline and patience.  He needs to set a limit to his losses (he did quit down 5.5 buyins at that table, but I think it was his work that called him away).  The more he lost, the more hands he played and badly.

As a long term micro stakes player, I can't guarantee to teach someone to be a big winner, but I do feel confident that if people listen and follow basic advice, they can take the important first to stop losing.  He represents a big part of the poker economy.  His willingness to donate his recreational dollars to that economy is important, but so is the delicate balance between his enjoyment or possible disenchantment that might drive him away from the game.

Views: 791
Date Posted: Jan. 4, 4:16pm, 1 Comment

I felt like this today...

It's only been 5 days, but I strive to be a regular blogger, so even that time break seems long.  It's all about expectations.  What you set for yourself, or what expectations you feel are thrust upon you.  In my case, I'm not paid and no one expects me to produce.  It is simply my own internal expectations for keeping a professional and interesting blog.

And that is the issue.  Sometimes, it is hard to live up to expectations.  I have always been good about that in most areas of my life.  I live to satisfy the needs of my wife and kids.  I live to satisfy my own desire to find happiness and meaning in my life.  Besides that, I'm not heavily impacted by the world around me.  I don't live to impress others.  I don't feel I need to prove myself to anyone outside of that circle.  I am secure in the effort I put forward. They can judge me all they want, but I feel it reflects more on them than on me.

I was reading Jay 'Seabeast' Kinkade's Resignation blog today.  In it he talks about the pressures of constantly having to prove yourself.  He is a visible pro on a training site, who has had some good success in the MTT world. He wants to get rid of his public image.  He wants to live his life how and when he feels comfortable.  Poker was playing too big a role in his life. He didn't feel comfortable creating videos that weren't up to his high expectations.  He didn't want the pressure of constantly having to prove himself in his playing or be criticized if he didn't have a big score every month.  Living up to the external and internal poker expectations had gotten to be too much for him.

When it becomes difficult to live up to expectations, you have three choices; push hard to live up to them, adjust the expectations, or drop out.  With any goals or expectations, they are not fixed.  You need to constantly revisit and re-evaluate the merit of them.  You are the final arbiter.  Don't let the outside world dictate them to you.  They can be a positive or negative influence, but they don't know your true desires.  Life is a constant journey of self discovery.  You are the only one accountable for your decisions. 

In my case, I like blogging regularly every 2-3 days.  It is not an unreasonable goal or expectation and I intend to keep it up in 2010.


P.S.  I have to admit I was a little disappointed to not get a few more comments in the last Interviews blog. While I figured you may not have read many of the interviews, I figured a few more people would have taken a few seconds to indicate who they would like to see interviewed in 2010.

Views: 1634
Date Posted: Dec. 31, 2:27am, 1 Comment

One of the favorite things I do at Poker Curious is interviewing online poker pros.  The interviews have been the most popular original content we create.  I have tried to have a variety of interviews representing both the MTT and cash game world.  I wish I had more time to devote to them, but I have to balance it with the many other things I do to run the site.  I conducted 20 interviews in our first 7 plus months.  As I head into 2010, I was interested in hearing feedback on what were your favorites from those first 20 and your suggestions for good candidates for the coming year. 

Happy New Year everyone!
Views: 1629
Date Posted: Dec. 26, 2:48pm, 3 Comments

When I ask this question, I'm not talking about the right poker strategy, but the right legal, moral and ethical approach to the game.  First I want to share the issue that set me off this morning, then get into the more important issue it inspired.  As I was doing my daily round of checking on the latest in the online poker world, I came across this tweet from Poker News Now that perturbed me.

Poker News Now - How To Hack Any Online Poker Game: New software that can hack any online poker g m.. (*link not shared)

While it is not officially affiliated with PokerNews, the news source, it gives regular news-like tweets throughout the day, most of which seem credible from outside sources.  A number of questions came up when I read this tweet. Do they have a responsibility to differentiate between news items and product endorsements?  Do they have a responsibility to verify those items that they feed and distribute?  Are they vouching for the product by tweeting about it? Are they deriving financial benefit from it? Should any credible poker site be advertising someone claiming they can cheat the poker sites and other players?  Regardless of whether the product/program can do what it says or not, it's a very disturbing situation.

When you click on the link, you are taken to a standard formatted site titled "How to Hack or Cheat Games and Software."  That particular page's headline is how to Hack Any Online Poker Game and shows an out of focus YouTube video with narration of how to use the cheat software to your advantage when you can see your opponents hands. It then offers a link, that turns out to be an affiliate link to a questionable site I had come across before, that offers to show you multiple methods to make huge sums of money by seeing opponent's hole cards, how to program your own custom super automatic poker bot along with using poker calculators, poker profiling software, poker spy software and random number generators to your advantage.

The bigger consideration that this issue initiated in me was what is the right way to play poker? I have been deeply involved in the poker training world which encourages players to work hard and seek any legal edge they can to profit from their playing.  These include:

1. Subscribe to a training site where you can view educational videos of other players playing and describing their thought processes.
2. Visit poker forums to seek opinions and feedback on how to play certain hands, or read other people's hands.
3. Purchase software that will help you analyze your play and results (e.g. PT, HEM etc.)
4. Utilize Heads Up Displays (that utilize the stored and session information to provide statistics on your opponents
5. Seek coaching to accelerate or personalize your instruction. This can often involve screen sharing software as the coach observes or is observed.
6. Organize sweat sessions with players who play similar levels and face similar challenges.
7. Get rakeback to make sure you are getting some rake back on the sites that allow it.
8. Use the chat rooms for ask a pro type scenarios, or real time rail a player calling out their hands for educational purposes.

Each of these suggestions done carefully is a legal method to accelerate your learning, improve your game and gain an edge on your less motivated opponents.  But each can also run afoul of the poker sites and their Terms and Conditions that we all accept when we sign up to play.

1. Training sites vary in their their teaching techniques and respect for the rules that poker sites put out.
2. Forums are open exchanges that can lead to multiple offenses. Some poker forums share private tournament/freeroll passwords that are not theirs.  Some forums are look to exchange hand history databases.  Forums are often loosely moderated, allowing free exchanges between individuals that want to skirt the rules.
3. Certain software is banned on poker sites, while others are not.  Not every player makes a distinction if they feel it gives them the edge they seek.
4. While some debate their effectiveness on their own play, HUD's are credited with giving a great deal of information and advantage to most players, especially if they utilize hands not personally played.
5. Some coaches ghost their players, influencing decisions during live play.
6. Sweat sessions can also drift into 'group play' dynamics that are frowned on by the playing sites.
7. The uneven approaches taken by the sites regarding establishing rakeback accounts often motivate players to establish multiple accounts to skirt the unfair system.
8. Chat sessions also can drift into multiple players weighing in on live play decisions.

Players want to profit from their playing experience.  That greed creates a strong temptation that can blur the lines of acceptable and unacceptable forms of play.  The playing sites contribute by not being clear or fair in determining the rules for their sites.  The outrage seen on 2+2 recently is partially due to the perceived uneven approach taken in handling visible players from the low stakes players.

Unfortunately, these same outraged individuals casually lump in all types of cheating as being equal.  But they are not.  Our innate sense of degree and proportionality recognizes differences between offenses. Our criminal system is categorized by degrees, the two main categories being misdemeanor and felony. Even within those larger categories, crimes are designated by degree (i.e., first degree murder and second degree murder) to denote the range of culpability, mitigating circumstance (was it provoked, premeditated or a crime of passion, etc.,) and therefore the severity of punishment to be meted out by the state.  If I speed 5 miles over the speed limit, I am given a lesser penalty than if I speed 40 miles over the speed limit.  I feel Full Tilt exercised that discretion in meting out a lesser penalty to Brian Townsend on this most recent offense, than to his earlier transgression.

As I stated in previous blogs, I feel it is the responsibility of the playing sites to create a fair and even playing field for their players.  Any disparities are readily noticed by the players and creates an environment of distrust and hostility.  Most players want to play fairly.  Most players recognize that working harder on your game should be rewarded.  I sincerely hope that most players are able to see the folly in trying to cheat the system.  The potential risk of capture and illegally obtained rewards isn't worth the temptation of 'easy money'.  Programs like the one that Poker News Now tweeted about today are most likely scams preying on your greed.  Even in the rare circumstances that they are true cheats or hacks, is that the way you want to profit?  Are you really wanting to set the precedent that all others should cheat you at every turn if they have the opportunity?

For as long as I can remember I have lived by one simple rule...  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".  If you apply that to your poker playing, you gain respect for the mechanics of the game.  Have respect for your opponent, the game and especially yourself!

Views: 1673
Date Posted: Dec. 23, 1:39pm, 4 Comments

In light of the recent ongoing discussions surrounding high stakes poker, I thought I would lay out my top 10 poker pipe dreams for 2010.  I fully expect none of them to be realized in the calendar year, but you can't blame a guy for dreaming.

I wish...

1. to level the playing field.  Either all players can have access to all hand histories they want directly from the sites they play on or alternatively all players would be restricted to only access their own HH's.  Datamining sites like PTR and HSDB would be shut down.
2. that all players are automatically given rakeback if a site offers it, regardless of when or how they signed up.
3. that the poker sites invest the same energy and resources into player rules explanation, security and fraud issues that they do on marketing and recruitment.
4. that poker players don't hate on those that have success.  Spend that energy on your own attempts to achieve that success.
5. that poker players that do achieve a high level of success express it humbly, appreciative for the good fortune they have had.
6. that all poker forum posters focus on the issues in the post rather than personal attacks on the people making the posts.
7. that the general public realize that poker is a game of skill, with a significant component of luck and not the other way around.  Poker is a competitive game that isn't inherently good or bad.
8. that poker players realize that there are many definitions of success or how to achieve it.
9. that the general public learn that most of the best poker players in the world play online.
10. that online poker becomes licensed, regulated and fully restored as a legitimate right of every citizen to play.

Views: 733
Date Posted: Dec. 21, 7:50pm, 2 Comments

Each year at this time you start seeing the yearly top 10 lists.  I was looking over Time's top 10 lists the other day and quickly realized I'm not versed enough on pop culture to really contribute much in doing one of my own.  Then I checked out the ESPN Poker Top 10, but their list included a number of live players, which is a realm I don't follow that closely.  So I thought I could contribute a top 10 list of the ten online poker players that made the biggest impacts in 2009.  This is a subjective list based off my sense of the buzz and following of these players and their results in the online world. You will notice that the successful predominately multi-table tournament players are at the bottom of the list as I feel they don't generate the buzz or following of the top cash game players.  This list also doesn't base its ranking purely on results, as some players lost money in 2009, but generated considerable buzz and following.

Zimba's Top 10 online poker impact players of 2009 (financial figures are estimates based off of HSDB, PTR, P5, and PKB reports)

1. Phil Ivey - Phil Ivey continues his run as the highest regarded online pro.  Combine his over $6 million dollar winnings online with his amazing showing at the WSOP winning two events and final tabling the Main Event and he has cemented his legendary status.  He plays on his terms; resisting playing more tables than he's comfortable playing, or playing long sessions if stuck. The best poker player in the world overall.

2. Patrik Antonius - Antonius has been one of the most successful and consistent online players for years, and 2009 was no different.  He rebounded from early losses to Isildur1 to push his total profit to over $7 million on Full Tilt.

3. CardRunners Crew (Brian Hastings, Brian Townsend, Cole South) - It could easily be argued that each should be viewed independently, but this simplifies my goal to only have 10 entries, and emphasizes the impact of training site lead pros on the online poker world, so I'll combine them for convenience.  Brian Hastings had the biggest single day in online poker history winning $4.2 million against Isildur1 in early December and well over $5 million for the year.  His volume of play was less this year as he balanced college and poker while nearing completion of his Ivy league college education.  Brian Townsend had a successful year remaking his game, expanding successfully into 7 game territory, and returning to the biggest games on the net.  His impressive results were marred recently by a controversy over the acquisition of hands he didn't play against Isildur1. Cole South's volume was down as he traveled and returned to school as well, but he continued to do well in high stakes PLO, while struggling with results in NLHE.

4. Ilari "Ziigmund" Sahamies - Known for huge swings, fearless behavior at the table and his occasional drunken degenerate behavior, in 2009, Ilari demonstrated that he is a long term force in the high stakes world.  Before a $2 million session loss against Isildur1 in early December, he had had a more consistent, visible and self promotional year.

5. Victor "Isildur1" Blom (*reportedly) - This 20 year old from Sweden burst onto the ultra high stakes scene from his Euro-poker room prior environment.  He stormed to a $6 million profit against a variety of players, especially Tom "durrrr" Dwan, with his super aggressive high volume style.  He took on all comers in multiple marathon matches before giving it all back and more.  If not for his $2.5 million loss on Full Tilt, I would rate him the most influential player of 2009 for temporarily reinvigorating the stodgy and predictably slow ultra high stakes world.

6. Ashton "theASHMAN103" Griffin.  A streaky player who goes on huge rushes in either direction.  He won the May Full Tilt $25K Heads Up Championship for $550k.  He had a monster August, winning over $2.4 million to reach nearly $4 million on the year before taking an extended break from the game while at school.

7. Tom “durrrr” Dwan - The Full Tilt red pro curse hit Tom harder than any player before, as he gave back over $6 million of his lifetime profits to Isildur1.  He remains one of the most creative poker players in the world who is unafraid of any opponent.  He is currently rebuilding his online roll at lower stakes, but winning consistently again and determined to continue his influential live and online presence.

8. Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier - He won Two World Championship of Online Poker titles in September. He has won over 2 million in tournaments this year live and online and is currently ranked #2 on PokerStars.

9. Yevgeniy “Jovial Gent” Timoshenko - He has been on a tear in 2009, winning both live and online tournaments, WPT Championship tournament, WCOOP main event and $1K Monday win among them.

10. Daniel "djk123" Kelly - The top ranked online MTT poker player on PocketFives puts in a tremendous volume.  In September, he took 4th place in the WCOOP Main Event for $643k and won the $10k buy in WCOOP HORSE event for $252k.

(Other players that made an impact but not the top 10 list  - OMGClayAiken, aejones, POKERBLUFFS, Martonas, Richard Ashby, Urindanger, trex313, Gus Hansen, and howisitfeellike)

Views: 751
Date Posted: Dec. 18, 4:09pm, 2 Comments

I can honestly say that I've visited 2+2 less than 30-40 times since I got into poker.  From the moment I first visited the site, to this day, the same elements bothered me.

1. I didn't like its organization, layout and look.
2. I despised the hating, inane comments, and challenge of determining credible from non credible replies.
3. It was too big. The typical threads are much too long to make sense of with the time I had available

They seem to have a 98% rule in effect at 2p2, that you can discount 98% of what is said as fluff, idiocy, inaccurate, and unhelpful.  Most post devolve into arguments for the sake of arguments, sophistry and various tangents. The remaining 2% are strategic gems or very entertaining.  But honestly, I don't want to work that hard, or waste that much time finding those gems.  I will give credit to the fact that when you have that much energy going into a forum, some positive elements come forth (e.g. advancing the superuser cheating scandals or very entertaining photo shops).

Today, I visited 2+2 for the first time in a couple months.  The times I do visit it's always because someone has linked a particularly epic or controversial thread on the CR forums.  Today's thread was concerning the Townsend/South/Hastings vs. Isildur1 matches.  I don't want to rehash the whole episode, but in essence some people were claiming the CR guys violated FTP's TOS (terms of service).  As is typical, the thread was 65 pages long, and most people don't have the time or interest to get that involved in the various arguments.  I spent one hour perusing the various perspectives and here's my take.

1. Online poker is still a new landscape.  The dynamics are constantly shifting and evolving.
2. Terms of Service by all the poker sites are not fixed and have shifted many times over the years.
3. FTP is largely responsible for this mess, by not more clearly defining what it considers is acceptable or not acceptable.
4. I have sympathy for each of the perspectives shared.

Any business that deals in the online realm has to be responsive to the constant shifts in technology, software etc.  Poker players have access to poker tracking software (e.g HEM, PT, HUD's), hand history database sites ( e.g. chatting by AIM, ventrilo, phone, screen sharing software), training sites, hand history replayers, extensive strategy forums.  Every poker player is looking for an edge.  The ethical ones are looking for every legitimate edge.  So they need a clear understanding of what is acceptable.  If there is a gray area, or one that isn't clearly explained they will likely interpret it to their favor. 

I want to be clear that I am not hear to defend or accuse any of the parties of any wrongdoing.  That is not for me to decide.  What I am emphasizing is that it is from the perspective of a poker player, it is a murky environment that needs more clarity.

For example, here is an email from Full Tilt.

xxxxxx: Hello,

Thank you for contacting Full Tilt Poker Support.

Full Tilt has a strict policy of one player per hand.  It is not permitted for you to receive advice from any other person during the course of the hand, however, if the coach discusses that hand with you after the conclusion of the hand that is acceptable. 

For Poker Tracker and other 3rd party programs also, you can only import your own hands.

If you have any other questions, please let us know.


Poker Specialist
Full Tilt Poker Support

To be fair to Full Tilt, I don't know the specific questions asked of their support in the original email, but that explanation isn't clear enough for me.  Next, let's look at the TOS clause the objectors were referencing:

Not Permitted Under Any Circumstances:

2. Shared hand history databases and "data mining" software, including subscription services and the exchange of personal databases:

The use of shared hand histories provides detailed information on opponents a player has little or no personal experience playing against, and is deemed to be an unfair advantage. Violating this policy is subject to the maximum penalties for prohibited software use.

Players are not permitted to use the hand histories for hands that they have not personally participated in. Software designed to collect hand history information from games that the player did not participate in is prohibited. Some specific examples include:

•community shared hand histories
•exchanging hand histories with a friend

I understand Full Tilt's efforts to reduce the influence of data mining and shared hand history databases, because they have given unfair advantage to players utilizing them.  I understand that they want to emphasize that you analyze hands that you have played in only.  But what good is a rule if you can't evenly and fairly enforce it.  Are they really saying that you can't exchange or share hand histories with a friend?  Isn't that what every poker strategy forum does?  Would that make us all guilty?  Some high profile high stakes matches have most of the major hands documented and discussed for the public on various forums.  Is that illegal?  What number of hands constitutes a database? Does watching a training video where instructors walk you through hundreds of hands, showing the play and results also fall into this same gray area?  What if you were to analyze your own personal hand histories, but then shared your findings, not the hands, with others?

I haven't bothered to mention the live poker parallels, but the ethics shouldn't change.  If you can freely watch TV poker, or discuss hands ad nauseum after they are played, what is fair for the online world?  If the 'FTP corporation' as represented by Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer and the others can essentially take down Andy Beal for $16 million in a live setting by working together in similar fashion, why is it not reasonable online?

I sympathize with those that want a fair and even playing field.  I sympathize with those that want offenders of the rules properly punished, because we don't need more disrepute brought to online poker.  I also understand player's desires to gain any legal edge they can gain to profit from poker.  I even understand is isn't easy for Full Tilt to anticipate and explain every possible situation.  But for a billion dollar online business that is constantly evolving, it is necessary to more clearly define what is acceptable and what is not.   The intent of the law and the letter of the law can be two very different things. That is why I feel it is ultimately Full Tilt's responsibility to better define their TOS for all players.

As for the 2p2 thread, I found this comment summed it up best:

"People on 2+2 getting upset about a group of people getting together to analyze poker and go over hand histories seems strange to me." - manwithbrisk

For the other 98% percent of stuff there, my lifetime isn't long enough to bother with your negativity.


*link to the original thread


Saturday addition -

I thought I would add the official FTP response from FTP Sean (Brian Townsend also added his own remarks in his blog today)
Sorry for the delay in posting, I just wanted to make sure I had all the facts together prior to doing so.

First, to clear up some of the current confusion about the current state of the rules at FTP:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with discussing hands, discussing opponents, or discussing strategy with other players while away from the table. I think most people are aware of this, but I just wanted to ensure that was clear from the beginning.

We have rules (quoted many times in this thread) about collusion, datamining and sharing hand history databases. I only make mention of collusion here to emphasize that nobody involved is suspected of collusion. If we were talking about collusion, we’d be seeing a much different outcome for this case (since in the poker world, there are very few rules as important).

Importantly, our rules apply to our Red Pros just as much as any of our players. In fact, we often have to be tougher on our Red Pros than our players because not only do they represent our site, they are looked up to by players as role models.

After doing an investigation and speaking with Brian Hastings, Brian Townsend, and Cole South, the Fraud and Security team have come to the conclusion that the statement taken from the ESPN article describing the three combining their hands into a shared database was inaccurate. Further, Brian Hastings and Cole South were found to not have breached our rules in any way. They did discuss hands, an opponent, and a strategy for that opponent, but it was all done away from the game. While they were playing it was always one player to a hand.

A breach of the rules did occur by Brian Townsend, and was related to datamining. Normally we wouldn’t share that information (for privacy reasons), but due to the fact it was a Red Pro who represents the site, we feel it’s important to clarify the situation.

As for the punishment:

On the spectrum of rule breaking, datamining, while serious, isn’t at the top of the list. Contrary to popular belief, we almost never close an account for a first datamining offense. We understand that not all sites have the same rules, and there is definite confusion surrounding datamining specifically. For this reason, we try to give our players the benefit of the doubt in many cases and allow them a warning to make sure they’re now aware of the rules and agree to follow them moving forward.

However, like I said above, we have to hold our Red Pros to a higher standard. So in addition to the warning, we’ve stripped Brian of his Red Pro status for a month. I understand this won’t feel like enough of a punishment for many of you. Many options were considered, but at the end of the day we felt this punishment best fit the offense.

It’s certainly embarrassing to all of us that this has happened and upsetting that the facts of the incident were not reported correctly. We will ensure that all our Pro’s understand that they are under the utmost scrutiny and are held to the highest standards of all of our players when it comes to the integrity and promotion of our brand.

We apologize for the delay in responding, and for the confusion that resulted from that delay

Rounded border
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