Your source for poker information, culture, and community
Views: 1028
Date Posted: Apr. 24, 11:34pm, 2 Comments

Over the last five plus years that I've been involved in the poker world, I can't easily recall many weeks where I didn't play some poker. Those weeks that I didn't play were likely due to being too busy, rather than being prevented from playing. Thus, I wanted to share what I learned from not playing poker this past week in light of the tumultuous news from last Friday.

1) I miss poker. I've never played for a living so I've never been required to play. I played simply because I enjoyed the game and the challenge. My work and life responsibilities came first. But after a few days of being engulfed in the news and reaction to Black Friday, I noticed that I missed not being able to take a 20 minute Rush PLO work break. I missed those occasional evenings or weekend hours when I would try to grind out a win, some bonus, or accumulate some rakeback. I miss not being able to rail and support my higher profile friends and high stakes American poker players. I missed the opportunity to play some low limits to distract myself from the stresses of my daily life and blowing off steam.


2) There are a lot of smart and talented people in the poker world (i.e. lawyers, accountants, processors, poker room owners, pros etc.). I read more articles and blogs than I have ever in a single week. I listened to more podcasts and poker radio than I ever have before. I discovered a cadre of talented and passionate poker players who shared their perspectives on the issues surrounding Black Friday and its aftermath.


3) There is a massive ripple effect that touched every part of the poker industry as a result of the Black Friday indictments. Players couldn't play, transfer or withdraw money. Live events were canceled (e.g. Onyx Cup and NAPT). Poker TV shows were canceled. Many sponsored pros will be let go. Many backing arrangements will collapse. Live tournaments, including the WSOP will have a very different dynamic. Most of the online poker affiliate dependent sites will be severely affected, with many in media and elsewhere eventually losing jobs. Prizepools, guarantees and overall numbers were down at the big three sites in the wake of losing all American business.


4) PokerStars and Full Tilt were not the ideal poker companies that they self-portrayed. They are alleged to have defrauded banks, laundered money, deceived customers and willfully manipulated everyone to continue their profitable business in the U.S. Ironically, they seem to have contributed to their own present trouble by ratting out a credit card processor who had stiffed them, Daniel Tzvetkoff, who once in custody then turned around and revealed enough to finally expose PokerStars and Full Tilt's processing and bank impropriety.


5) Daniel Tzvetkoff, an Australian citizen who seemingly cut a lenient deal in return for crucial information leading to the present indictments, is now apparently in a US. witness protection safe house (rumored to be in N.Y.) with his fiance and two young children. If he were ever to return to Australia, he would face even more severe charges and face a stint in the federal penitentiary.


6) Absolute Poker (and UB) were further exposed for the corrupt company that they seemingly always have been. Claims of new ownership and a clean new business approach after having dealt fairly with their dark history were called into question once again.


7) Speculation runs rampant. Everyone in the poker world seemed to produce opinions about almost every facet of the poker world this week with little consensus. From poker insiders to average joes, people funneled their anxiety into an opportunity to critique or make wild often baseless predictions.


8) Something positive can come from something negative. As I mentioned in my previous blog, many media, insiders, players and pros came together to contribute a week long continuous 24 hour a day podcast over at QuadJacks to educate, vent, joke, share and deliberate their thoughts in the wake of Black Friday.

9) The priorities of players became evident. They want their money back from PS, FTP and UB. They want to know where they can find a new trusted poker room with volume to play next. And they want an accurate picture of the future of poker in the United States.

10) Lastly, I learned that poker hasn't stopped.
For almost every other country in the world, poker is thriving and the players are wondering what is wrong with the U.S. American poker players are adapting; finding ways to play live and online. As I indicated in a previous blog, passionate players will find a way (e.g. Be water, my friend).

Eventually I'll deposit a little money on one of the smaller peripheral U.S.-facing sites so I can play again while I wait out the legal and regulatory process to poker's comeback in the U.S. It will happen eventually, but it's a shame that the powers that be are so thoughtless and short-sighted to not ensure a better transition and environment for Americans to pursue online poker.

Views: 1055
Date Posted: Apr. 21, 11:45am, 0 Comments

From crisis can come community
From chaos and confusion can come clarity
From darkness can come light

Friday April 15th, now called Black Friday in the poker community, was a dark day as the DOJ and FBI announced indictments and domain seizures of the three largest U.S.-facing poker rooms. The poker world was thrown in chaos as the news spread and access prevented for U.S. players.

At roughly 8 p.m Friday the relatively under-the-radar QuadJacks.com podcast/radio show went live. Previously a small boutique poker podcaster featuring interviewer Marco Valerio and his small team determined to make some noise. With a mix of humor, outrage, education and community, QuadJacks created an uninterrupted forum for the poker community to react to the incredibly disrupting news.

QuadJacks.com has performed a great service to the poker community by continuously streaming on UStream for over 130 hours straight with no end in sight. Marco hosted the first 60 hours without any sleep. As time passed, the poker community caught on to the noble goal and started embracing the podcast by coming on the show in droves with viewers keeping between 500-2000 for most of the time. Some of poker's best and brightest have taken time away from their normal duties to contributed on the show; tackling every conceivable angle for poker players to better understand Black Friday's ramifications. They created an uncensored and relatively unbiased environment for anyone in the poker community to contribute, vent, or even pimp their own cause.

It's difficult to capture or represent the massive podcast and the dozens of guests. While I have listened to many hours, there are many hours that I have missed as well, so I hope readers will add in the comments any holes in the contributors or share their own personal highlights from the first five plus days of the podcast.

Some of my highlights:

- So many great and candid interviews with many poker players and industry insiders from Dan "Jungleman12" Cates to Joe Tall, Shaun Deeb to goofing on Allen Kessler, Jamie Gold and Jason Senti.
- Fascinating and insightful interview with PPN CEO and payment processor Chuck Kidd
- PokerCPA interview about poker tax and accounting issues
- Fleyshman CEO interview then NJ/NY lawyer who advised him to keep quiet, and next day Victory pulled out from US.
- Kathy Liebert (the most frequent pro contributor) constantly sharing her dislike for Howard Lederer, honestly sharing her perspective.
- Excellent interviewing and questioning by Karak2p2 and Carol the gaming lawyer
- Quality information contributed from noahsd, gary wise, mark gahagan, kevmath, dan michalski, steve tt, and others.
- The birth of the Wombat poker room on Saturday, basically a satire of creating a new poker room from scratch
- Mike Matusow blowing up on the show when his brother was on too.
A member of Team Full Tilt, who opened his mind on lots of issues before a phone call in the background shut him up.
- Charlie the conspiracy theorist who was on at 3 am spreading lots of amusing conspiracies.

QuadJacks/Wombat Crew

@AgentMarco - Main/original host - Quirky but has given a marathon herculean sleep-deprived effort (was up around 60 hours straight broadcasting)
@Zekday0 - Co-host who can do serious, funny or prank interviews with equal skill
@petegotaplan - brooklyn 420 humor specialist and CEO of Wombat Poker
@SrslySirius - 2p2 poker song parody legend
@pokeraust - Australian with good contributions
@zbthorton - Another host who has carried a large load too
Assorted friends of QuadJacks - Swag/Eduardo Jackson, @ejace1/Eric Brewstein, @vilageidiot1, @shermanash, @boohaa12

Media members that have contributed

@pokerati - Dan Michalski, covering legal and business issues
@kevmath -
Kevin Mathers, poker's master of facts & keeper of knowledge
@Mark_Gahagan - Mark Gahagan, podcaster and writer
@BJNemeth -
BJ Nemeth, tournament reporter/photographer and poker analyst
@jesswelman - Jessica Welman, Managing Editor of Bluff Magazine/tournament reporter
@WhoJedi -
Jay Newnum, tournament reporter and poker social media expert
@garywise1 - poker blogger and ESPN correspondent
@jonFriedberg - Jon Friedberg,
professional poker player and video podcaster
@BartHanson - Bart Hanson, poker commentator, podcaster, cash games player
@noahsd - thoughtful and insightful poker player and 2p2 mod
@veeRob - Rob Perelman, poker reporter who also works with several poker TV crews
@MatthewParvis - Matthew Parvis, Editor in Chief of PokerNews.com
@webjoker - Holland based poker reporter
@bryanmicon - Bryan Micon, professional poker player, podcaster, and co-owner of DonkDown
@happyfreaked - Holland based poker reporter
@MattCWaldron - Matt Waldron, Poker writer
@alcanthang - FTP blogger

Law-minded contributors

@ckrafcik -
Chris Krafcik, Editor at Large for GamblingCompliance.com
@ckbwop - Carol, poker player, blogger, and gaming lawyer
@karak2p2 - law student, top interviewer
@toddbterry -
Todd Terry, professional poker player, former defense attorney
@PokerLawyer - lawyer and recreational poker player

Poker industry contributors

@_tizzle - Steve, PT executive and poker insider
@PokerCPA - great poker tax and accounting contributions
@PPNCEO -
Chuck Kidd, CEO of PPN Poker and also a payment processor. He provided a detailed description of how payments are processed for online poker, and is confident that his process is legal in the U.S. His site continues to accept U.S. players even after Black Friday.
@billrini - Bill Rini - poker blogger and poker insider
@DanFleyshman -
Dan Fleyshman, CEO of Victory Poker. His site accepted U.S. poker players before Black Friday, though as a skin of the Cake Network, he processed no transactions and is confident he isn't personally at risk. He made the announcement on Quad Jacks that his site would no longer be accepting players from the U.S.
@JohnWray_pkr - Micros co-creator
@ScottMatusow - brother of Mike Matusow/conspiracy fan
@joetall - DC coach and executive
@dckrantz - Jay Rosenkrantz, DC owner and Micros co-founder
@dutchboyd - Dutch Boyd, player and poker affiliate
@SAMCHAUHAN - Sam Chauhan, mindset coach
@TheTommyAngelo - Tommy Angelo, mindset coach
@vegascoachjen - mindset coach
CEO of Chili Poker - I missed her interview

Professional players interviewed

@pokerkat - The most active contributor Kathy Liebert
@junglemandan - Dan Cates
@PBJaxx - Jason Senti
@steveodwyer - Steve O'dwyer
@NicolakPoker - Jon Nicolak
@jasonkoon - Jason Koon
@allenkessler - Allen Kessler
@jamiegold - Jamie Gold
@realcharder30 - Christian Harder
@tim00 - Tim Fiorvanti
@shaundeeb - Shaun Deeb
@mattStoutPoker - Matt Stout
@TheMavenVT - David Chicotsky
@Jennicide - Jennifer Leigh
@themouthmatusow - Mike Matusow
@shaneschleger - Shane Schleger
@jfricke - J. Fricke
@chicagocards1 - Mohsin Charania
@jonaguiar - Jon Aguiar
@jcalvarado1 - JC Alvarado
@DanBilzerian - Dan Bilzerian
@SUBIIME - Joseph Cheong
@collinmoshman - Collin Moshman
@MattVengrin - Matt Vengrin
@sketchy1poker - Jon Eaton

A big thank you to everyone who has contributed to enlightening and entertaining the poker community during a dark time. I can say I have learned more in the past week about the poker industry than any other week since I started playing poker. While it may vary by guest and hour, I recommend checking out the QuadJacks podcast - http://www.quadjacks.com

THEY TOOK OUR JOBSSSSSS, BRO!

Views: 497
Date Posted: Apr. 21, 11:45am, 0 Comments

From crisis can come community
From chaos and confusion can come clarity
From darkness can come light

Friday April 15th, now called Black Friday in the poker community, was a dark day as the DOJ and FBI announced indictments and domain seizures of the three largest U.S.-facing poker rooms. The poker world was thrown in chaos as the news spread and access prevented for U.S. players.

At roughly 8 p.m Friday the relatively under-the-radar QuadJacks.com podcast/radio show went live. Previously a small boutique poker podcaster featuring interviewer Marco Valerio and his small team determined to make some noise. With a mix of humor, outrage, education and community, QuadJacks created an uninterrupted forum for the poker community to react to the incredibly disrupting news.

QuadJacks.com has performed a great service to the poker community by continuously streaming on UStream for over 130 hours straight with no end in sight. Marco hosted the first 60 hours without any sleep. As time passed, the poker community caught on to the noble goal and started embracing the podcast by coming on the show in droves with viewers keeping between 500-1200 the entire time. Some of poker's best and brightest have taken time away from their normal duties to contributed on the show; tackling every conceivable angle for poker players to better understand Black Friday's ramifications. They created an uncensored and relatively unbiased environment for anyone in the poker community to contribute, vent, or even pimp their own cause.

It's difficult to capture or represent the massive podcast and the dozens of guests. While I have listened to many hours, there are many hours that I have missed as well, so I hope readers will add in the comments any holes in the contributors or share their own personal highlights from the first five plus days of the podcast.

Some of my highlights:

- So many great and candid interviews with many poker players and industry insiders from Dan "Jungleman12" Cates to Joe Tall, Shaun Deeb to goofing on Allen Kessler, Jamie Gold and Jason Senti.
- Fascinating and insightful interview with PPN CEO and payment processor Chuck Kidd
- PokerCPA interview about poker tax and accounting issues
- Fleyshman CEO interview then NJ/NY lawyer who advised him to keep quiet, and next day Victory pulled out from US.
- Kathy Liebert (the most frequent pro contributor) constantly sharing her dislike for Howard Lederer, honestly sharing her perspective.
- Excellent interviewing and questioning by Karak2p2 and Carol the gaming lawyer
- Quality information contributed from noahsd, gary wise, mark gahagan, kevmath, dan michalski, steve tt, and others.
- The birth of the Wombat poker room on Saturday, basically a satire of creating a new poker room from scratch
- Mike Matusow blowing up on the show when his brother was on too.
- Conspiracy theorist that was on at 3 am

QuadJacks/Wombat Crew

@AgentMarco - Main/original host - Quirky but has given a marathon herculean sleep-deprived effort (was up around 60 hours straight broadcasting)
@Zekday0 - Co-host who can do serious, funny or prank interviews with equal skill
@petegotaplan - brooklyn 420 humor specialist and CEO of Wombat Poker
@SrslySirius - 2p2 poker song parody legend
@pokeraust - Australian with good contributions
@zbthorton - Another host who has carried a large load too
Assorted friends of QuadJacks - Swag/eduardo jackson, @ejace1/eric brustie, @vilageidiot1, @shermanash, @boohaa12, hue jordon

Media members that have contributed

@alcanthang - FTP blogger
@pokerati - knowledgeable insider
@kevmath - master of poker knowledge
@Mark_Gahagan - thoughtful questions and contributions
@_tizzle - extremely insightful PT owner and 2p2 legend
@BJNemeth - active poker reporter and poker enthusiast
@jesswelman - limited contributions, but always insightful and entertaining
@WhoJedi - poker reporter and insider
@garywise1 - poker blogger and ESPN correspondent
@jonFriedberg - poker interviewer and player
@BartHanson - poker podcaster and cash games player
@noahsd - thoughtful and insightful poker player and 2p2 mod

Law-minded contributors

@ckrafcik - very knowledgeable gaming consultant
@ckbwop - excellent poker gaming lawyer
@PokerLawyer - amateur player
@karak2p2 - fantastic interviewer and law minded contributor
@toddbterry - former lawyer who is also insightful

Poker industry contributors

@PokerCPA - great poker tax and accounting contributions
@vegascoachjen - mindset coach
@PPNCEO - fantastic insight into poker processing and poker room operation
@billrini - tremendous poker blogger and poker insider
@DanFleyshman - Victory Poker CEO
@JohnWray_pkr - Micros co-creator
@ScottMatusow - brother of Mike Matusow/conspiracy fan
@joetall - DC coach and executive
@dckrantz - DC owner and Micros co-founder
@dutchboyd - player, and poker affiliate
@SAMCHAUHAN - mindset coach
@TheTommyAngelo - mindset coach
@ChiliPokerCEO - not real twitter, I missed her sharing about her poker room
@veeRob - poker reporter

Professional players interviewed

@pokerkat1 - The most active contributor Kathy Liebert
@junglemandan - Dan Cates
@PBJaxx - Jason Senti
@steveodwyer - Steve O'dwyer
@NicolakPoker - Jon Nicolak
@jasonkoon - Jason Koon
@allenkessler - Allen Kessler
@jamiegold - Jamie Gold
@realcharder30 - Christian Harder
@tim00 - Tim Fiorvanti
@shaundeeb - Shaun Deeb
@mattStoutPoker - Matt Stout
@TheMavenVT - David Chicotsky
@Jennicide - Jennifer Leigh
@themouthmatusow - Mike Matusow
@shaneschleger - Shane Schleger
@jfricke - J. Fricke
@chicagocards1 - Mohsin Charania
@jonaguiar - Jon Aguiar
@jcalvarado1 - JC Alvarado
@DanBilzerian - Dan Bilzerian
@SUBIIME - Joseph Cheong
@bryanmicon - Bryan Micon
@collinmoshman - Collin Moshman
@MatthewParvis - Mathew Parvis
@MattVengrin - Matt Vengrin
@sketchy1poker - Dan Martin
@MattCWaldron - Matt Waldron

A big thank you to everyone who has contributed to enlightening and entertaining the poker community during a dark time. I can say I have learned more in the past week about the poker industry than any other week since I started playing poker. While it may vary by guest and hour, I recommend checking out the QuadJacks podcast - http://www.quadjacks.com

THEY TOOK OUR JOBSSSSSS, BRO!

Views: 483
Date Posted: Apr. 18, 11:44pm, 2 Comments

While I was flicking some channels looking for the NBA playoff games, I noticed that the ESPN2 was showing a college football all-star challenge game instead of the North American Poker Tour's scheduled coverage of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure High Roller Event.

Old ESPN WSOP episodes are being pulled from airing.

On our local KATU news had a piece on DeucesCracked coach and online player Andrew "BalugaWhale" Seidman about the shut down of online poker, preventing Seidman from playing online or retrieving his $64,000 of poker funds.

In 2006, nearly 85% of the staff of PartyPoker lost positions as part of their departure from the U.S. and their restructuring.

Stars has roughly 1400 employees and Tilt has 800 employees.


PokerStars was recently revealed to have offered lobbyists and lawmakers trips to "sell" their position, while also contributing hundreds of thousands to 48 Nevada lawmakers.

PokerScout indicated that there are 1.8 million real money cash players in the U.S., while KATU news revealed their 2009 research that there were over 10 million online real money poker players.

PokerScout has Stars down 25%, Tilt down 48%, Cereus down 39%, while Merge up 23%, Bodog up 26%, Cake up 19%, Everleaf up 8%. Smaller gains were made from Europe only facing poker rooms.

Sunday evening I witnessed one known U.S. player employing a VPN in the first FTOP event, showing up with Sweden, Niger, Germany and other locations at various times during his deep run.

Dan from Pokerati claimed that his sources said that Barrack Obama signed off on the DOJ investigation, okaying it before it was announced. He felt there was some connection with the White House's announcement on the cyber-space security initiative.

The U.S. government has culpability in contributing to future illegal action by driving out public-owned poker companies as part of UIGEA, leaving private and less legality motivated companies to serve the U.S. public, seriously weakening consumer protection.

Poker Royalty's CEO Brian Balsbaugh indicated he thought the WSOP main event might have as few as 2500 players, while others felt it would likely be under 5,000.

Balsbaugh indicated that Stars and Full Tilt's market value likely dropped in half from 20-30 billion to 10-15 billion.

Poker players and backers often have 70-75% of their net worth online.

There was much debate about the possibility of getting access to online funds, if or when they get it back at all.

One glimmer of hope was gleened from the following statement...


"These funds are currently being reviewed by the U.S. as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, and we are looking at the funds and accounts to determine if they are the profits of an illegal enterprise," Langmesser said. "The funds won't be available until a determination has been made."

 

The investigation is focused on "the larger criminal enterprise of those who operate online Internet gambling sites and the individuals behind these sites," said Langmesser of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

PokerStarsSteve indicated that poker players with the resources can establish residency and a bank account in another country and immediately access all their funds on PokerStars without establishing a new account. Trouble could arise in moving the funds back to the U.S. if it were tracked and considered gambling funds.

Interesting that Rep. Barney Frank chose to lambaste the Obama Administration, instead of the Eric Holder, SDNY, Bill Frist, Spencer Bachus, or Republics for not protecting the public's rights "protecting the public from the scourge of inside straights." Frank said "go after the people responsible for empty houses, not full houses."

Kathy Liebert is confirmed busto but that doesn't stop her from sharing her perspective and dislike of Howard Lederer.

Marco, the main host of the forever running pokerpocalypse podcast on http://www.quadjacks.com, is an odd duck, but a superhero to rally the troops to create an excellent forum for the community to come together in a time of crisis. Marco's voice seems like he's 40, but he's only 23 and his father is a nuclear physicist.

The strength of the DOJ or defense will depend on if the poker room's underlying activity is illegal by some federal statute. The poker rooms have steadfastly asserted that the UIGEA doesn't apply to them due to poker's status as a game of skill.

Lastly, it's so important at this stage that every U.S. based poker player needs to have their voice heard. Use social networking. Use local media. Someone step up and ask a question of Barrack Obama at his Wednesday Facebook town hall. As a poker player himself, he has let down the American people not prioritizing proper legislation, regulation, and legalization so U.S. citizens and their government can benefit from our enjoyment of playing the game of poker online.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxqQmt_F240

Views: 509
Date Posted: Apr. 15, 10:11pm, 0 Comments

Today was a turbulent day in the poker world as everyone reacted to the news of the U.S. indictment of PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute's owners and the impact it will have on the poker world as the sites are blocked from U.S. access with the resulting funds access issues.

I have been around for days like this before.


1.
UIGEA was announced.
2.
Party Poker was once the Stars of the poker world and left suddenly.
3. Neteller and other major funds movement facilitators was no longer an option.
4. UIGEA was implemented

Each time, after a period of uncertainty, the flow returned to poker.

Turbulence is a state of mind. No matter how much things are moving around, at any particular moment in time you are still at one point. If you live in the moment, you simply must allow the motion to take its course.


Certainly having experience with surviving prior turbulence helps. While venting and worrying may feel a proper reaction in the moment, it rarely serves much purpose.


Your energies are better spent adapting to your new place.


Poker players and the poker world are a resilient lot. We adapt to changing games, game dynamics, and even big shifts in the environment that may results from today's events. We are a river of passionate poker playing people. Obstacles may occur spraying us in chaotic directions for short periods of time, but the gravity of our purpose re-unites us in our desire to play a fun game that should be legal for any person on the planet.


At various times in my life I have been arrested, nearly thrown in prison, black-mailed, threatened and sued. Each time I accepted their aggression and tried to keep a cool head to try to find a solution to minimize the damage. You can't control the aggression of others, but you can keep your wits to respond in the best way possible to avoid any possible escalation. While their aggression can seriously inconvenience or harm you, if you are able to react positively and adapt, you can find a solution that will return the flow back to your life.


Like Bruce Lee once said "Be water, my friend."

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO3sBulXpVw

Views: 567
Date Posted: Apr. 12, 1:40pm, 1 Comment

Tuesday marks 44 years for me on this planet. I'm not one for much attention on myself, especially on my birthday.

The card my sister sent me said it best... "I know you're a low-key kind of guy. You don't want people making a big deal over you on your birthday! All that singing and celebrating just because you were born."

After all these years, I'm not sure if my long-standing feelings are from a lack of self-worth or from a keen sense of my true worth in respect to the world in which we live.

One of the reasons that I've enjoyed being involved in the poker industry for the last half decade is that poker is a game who's goal is to make good decisions. If you make more good decisions than your opponents, you will usually come out a winner. That is a similar mantra I have in my own life. Yesterday was not one of those days. I made a poor decision and nearly paid very dearly for it. We humans are intensely needy, fallible and intransigent beings.


So instead of being as verbose as I usually am in my blogs, I thought I would share a few quotes I encountered as I tried to gain perspective on my poor decision making.


"Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment." - Rita Mae Brown


"There is no formula for success except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings." - A Rubinstein


"Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity." - Frank Leahy


"If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it." - Andy Rooney

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Churchill

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go." - Oscar Wilde



I think when I have some time in the near future I want to delve into a blog on the different types of decisions we make in life and poker. Until then, have a great day.

Views: 507
Date Posted: Apr. 7, 4:04pm, 0 Comments
Under the sweltering mid-day African sky, troops loyal to democratically elected Ivory Coast president Ouattara were closing in on the presidential mansion of long time strong-man Laurent Gbagbo. For weeks and months, opposing forces had been battling for control of this West African Nation. Gbagbo has managed some kind of political control in the Ivory Coast since 2000. Since 2005, he has been clinging to reduced power as the north of the Ivory Coast was occupied by his opponents. All the while Gbagbo kept his cool.  A skilled orator who came up through the union trades before going into exile, Gbagbo is no stranger to power politics. Despite losing the internationally recognized election to his opponent from the north, Gbagbo has steadfastly refused to relinquish power or accept the legitimacy of the election.
 
In recent days, United Nations forces initially brought in the monitor an uneasy truce, have taken a more active military role teaming with the French military in trying to push Gbagbo from power.
 
Choi Young-jin, the Korean top United Nations envoy asserted yesterday "He accepted (the) principle of accepting the results of the election, so he doesn't have many cards in his hands. His surrender is imminent, the key element remaining to be negotiated is where Mr. Gbagbo would go."
 
Gbagbo, later that day in his first interview in months to French television, defiantly insisted he had no intention of surrendering power. "I won the election and I'm not negotiating my departure. I find it absolutely incredible that the entire world is playing this...game of poker."
 
It immediately struck me that it's highly unlikely that either of these men, one Korean and one Ivoirian, has ever played No Limit Texas Hold'em. And yet they understand what the game of poker entails. Poker is a game where you struggle for supremacy at the expense of your opponent. Each participant has conflicting goals requiring you to use all the tools at your disposal to achieve your goals. Those tools involve aggression, bluffing, misdirection, misinformation, assessing your opponents strengths and weaknesses and looking to exploit what you find. The most successful players in both politics and poker will create the air of superiority or dominance, more so than the actual cards held in the game.
 
While poker is claimed as an American phenomena, as it was developed on the riverboats of the Mississippi, it is really a global game. The international popularization and spread of poker over the last half decade has easily outstripped growth in the American homeland of the game.  The growth of international poker tours (e.g. ANZPT, LAPT, EPT, PPT etc.) demonstrate how the international popularity has waxed while the American poker tours have generally waned in a more restrictive legislative environment.
 
I have to look no further than the site I launched a couple years ago - Poker Curious. Initially the demographics of members showed a slight majority of US players, but as the months have progressed those newer players most hungry to play the freerolls that we sponsor weekly has tilted more and more to a more international majority of nearly two-thirds. Five new members I've recently interacted with:

  • A 22 year-old Senegalese college student
  • A mid 30's Brazilian businessman
  • A 19 year old Ukrainian female who is training to be a teacher
  • A retired British man
  • An Australian stay-at-home mother
Members who have trouble speaking English well understand the language of poker (i.e. raise, check and fold). There is a simplicity to the interaction at the virtual poker tables that crosses cultural and language barriers. What you do, who you are, where you come from matter little in your desire to outwit, outplay and outlast your opponent.

Another key element to the game's popularity that can't be ignored is the desire to acquire wealth. Virtual chips and the money they represent is how the score is kept. Poker is an extremely egalitarian game that allows any player to attempt to assert their dominance, or at the very least their better luck quotient.

For most avenues of wealth creation, there is an education expectation, a connection necessary, or a significant investment required that precludes many making a serious attempt. In poker, you can start playing with literally no money and build it into something quite impressive, if everything comes together. In fact just today I saw poker pro Nick Rainey asserting on Twitter that he would easily take eight good grinding poker players vs. eight top day/stock traders in a battle of wealth creation from $10,000 to $1 million. He felt, and I agree, that the disciplined and talented team of poker grinders can make more money out of little or nothing than experienced stock traders, especially factoring in the risk of ruin

The mechanics of the online poker industry allow for the right combination of drive, discipline, strategy and luck to accumulate more from less than almost any other endeavour. I say all this with the full knowledge that for every winner, there is a loser. Those without drive, discipline, strategy, or luck will suffer losses. But for those with the right initiative, poker provides the ideal environment to attempt their assault.

Returning to the heavily fortified presidential Abidjan mansion with Ivoirian strong-man Laurent Gbagbo hunkered down in his underground tunnels, the question arises why and how he is able to hold on for so long? The fact is he is no stranger to conflict. While I oppose him politically and morally, he has many of the essential skills it takes to succeed in poker. He is not afraid to represent a better hand than he actually has. He will manipulate the information available, giving misinformation if it serves his purposes. Determined to arrange the best possible scenario for himself, he will probe bet, check raise bluff, and try to out-aggress his opponent to achieve his goal. In the end, he may run into an unbeatable hand. But until that point, Gbagbo will attempt to manufacture a winning hand because he understands that it's often not the cards you are dealt, but how you play them that matters.

That international leaders so commonly use poker references in their language of power politics is a testament to the universal language that poker speaks. The global appeal of poker at all levels reflects the egalitarian desires of competition, supremacy and wealth.
Views: 534
Date Posted: Apr. 1, 1:00pm, 0 Comments
For several weeks now I've wanted to write a blog about the concept of "poker empathy", but I couldn't wrap my mind around what I wanted to say exactly. We commonly consider empathy to be the capacity to recognize and share the feelings of another sentient being. For instance, many of us feel empathy for those who suffered from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. We didn't endure any hardship ourselves, but we can identify with the devastation, loss and disruption in their lives. It inspires some of us to donate, others to volunteer, and most of us at the very least contemplate what it would be like to go through ourselves. We often emerge from our empathy feeling appreciative and thankful for our relative good fortune.
 
Poker empathy is a related characteristic that distinguishes many of the best poker players from the rest of us. Poker empathy involves the reading of your opponent; more than just their cards but their thoughts and motivations too. We are playing a game where the goal is to beat our opponents and take their chips. Most serious poker players naturally seek to employ a superior strategy to our opponent. As we improve as poker players we realize there is more to the game than our cards, our math and strategy. There are different levels of thinking involved. By being able to understand our opponent and their thinking, we can try to manipulate them to our advantage.
 
Some of the questions we want to ask in trying to develop our poker empathy are...
 
1) Why are they playing? Is it to win the most pots, make the most profit, to have fun, or to release tension?
 
2) Why do they play a hand a certain way? What does each of their bets, checks or calls mean?
 
3) What situations frustrate your opponent and cause them to alter their play (e.g. tilt)
 
4) How aware is your opponent to your actions and moves? Do they make adjustments?
 
Ultimately, your goal is to understand why your opponent does what they do? When you begin to understand them, "putting yourself in their shoes," you are in a position of extreme advantage if they can't do the same to you. In heads-up or short-handed situations, that poker empathic advantage can be greater than any other.
 
Gaining that psychological and empathic understanding is harder than it appears. It is much easier to determine our motivations, desires and perspective than to understand those around us. It is difficult to think outside ourselves. We see our opponents through our own prism of experience.
 
To illustrate further my idea of poker empathy, I want to use a non-poker example that was tangentially introduced by poker blogger Nat Arem. In his recent blog, he shared a recommended link to check out the traveling exploits of a young couple who were traveling around the world on their own. I saw several other poker players retweet the link, so it must have spread somewhat in the poker community. The couple did a great job of regularly posting compelling pictures and written accounts of their travels. This particularly protracted series of forum entries that Nat linked to covered their two week adventure crossing the Democratic Republic of Congo from Lubumbashi to Kinshasa in their private vehicle on a road they claimed hadn't been fully traversed in a couple decades.
 
http://www.natarem.com/2011/03/22/versace-silliness-congo-trip-report/

http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=50799

Anyone who knows me or who has followed my blog the last few years knows the important role that growing up in several African countries and subsequent African travels and experiences have played in shaping who I am. Years ago, I experienced many similar and related circumstances to theirs so in some ways reading their account made me quite nostalgic. Unfortunately, the more that I read the more I noticed a disturbing element to their narrative. They lacked much empathy for the people and circumstances around them. I don't mean they didn't feel any sympathy for the poverty and hardship of the people, but rather they chose to prioritize their prism of experience rather that trying to empathize and understand the motivations for the actions and reactions that their journey through their countryside caused. Their perspective was one of discovery and survival, not one of understanding or cultural immersion. They didn't try to learn the language, eat the local food, or understand the local customs. They were always in a hurry to move on. Their journey was much like the early European explorers of Africa who marveled at what they encountered, discovering it for the first time. They didn't understand much of the reaction, both positive and negative that they received in their travels. They didn't really empathize with their environment. They were content to view it through a foreign lens, somewhat insensitive to the local history they were disturbing by their journey.
 
For instance, when given the opportunity to seek help from locals when their vehicle got stuck, a regular occurrence on some of the world's most treacherous roads, they preferred self-reliance than seeking assistance that might cost them some small pittance. They sought out foreign missionaries and foreign aid workers at every opportunity. Their journey was one of haste not empathy. Unfortunately, their lack of empathy put them in more difficult circumstances than they might have been in otherwise. As they sped across the devastated and demoralized countryside, they missed the opportunity for much growth or understanding. There wasn't much they could take away from the experience to use in the future, except one of survival and ticking off that portion of their journey.
 
Returning to a poker context, you too can blaze your own trail across the poker landscape. You can remain oblivious to your opponent's motivations and thought process. Your self-directed approach can even be a profitable one, but the best poker players realize that they can benefit greatly from understanding from where their opponents are coming. Whereas we will often wrongly assume that our opponents think like us, or act like robots playing hands the same way time and again, the more empathic player will dig deeper. They realize their opponents don't think like they do. They don't assume others play for the same reasons that you do. They try to genuinely understand them.
 
At the poker table, it is usually the keen LAG (loose-aggressive) players who are most successful at probing the psychology of their opponents. They have learned to press our buttons for wanting to play in a safe TAG (tight-aggressive) manner. When they raise five hands in a row we want to scream and fight back at the perceived injustice. We often choose sub-standard hands to make an over aggressive play back at them. Ego plays such a big part in our poker decisions. We don't want to get shown up. We don't want to get bullied. We don't want to be bluffed. The smart LAG player is prodding us to get a predictable reaction that they can exploit. They are attempting to employ poker empathy to their advantage.
 
Top poker players are rewarded for going the extra step in trying to understand the thoughts and motivations of their opponent. They craft that knowledge into their strategy to defeat and confuse you. Poker empathy isn't about feeling sorry for your opponent. When two warriors enter the ring, they understand and accept the rules and goal of the challenge. One will win, while the other will lose. No hard feelings.
 
My money is on the player who understands their opponent best.
Views: 875
Date Posted: Mar. 28, 12:22am, 0 Comments

At Poker Curious and at other sites where I contribute, I interact with thousands of newer poker players. I occasionally get asked for advice on their potential poker career. It is completely understandable as poker is a stimulating game which can become infectious, especially if you happen to make money playing it. Everyone dreams of making it big in poker.

There are many ways of making money in poker:

  • You can specialize in a particular variation of poker (LHE, Stud, Razz, PLO etc.).
  • You can play tournaments, SNG's or cash games with their many specialized versions (HU, 6 max, FR, Rush, ME, rebuy, deep, short stack etc.).
  • You can focus on your BB/100, ROI or buy-ins looking to constantly move up stakes to the greatest heights.
  • You can work the high volume angle where rakeback, FPP's or other incentives reward you more so than outright winrate.

Many players will look to leverage any particular success into sponsorships, poker room pro status, rakeback deals, coaching, authoring, or other perks associated from demonstrating some success in the game. Women in particular, because they are such a minority in the game, can achieve significant attention and promotion in the industry if they achieve some success.

But a career in poker doesn't mean that you end up playing the game for a living. It is similar to the passion that many men have for sports. The reality is that their athletic ability or situation doesn't allow them to compete at the highest levels, but there are many sports related opportunities to work in and around the industry that they so enjoy. There are also a myriad of ways that you can make a living in the poker world without ever having to rely on beating significant stakes.

1) Poker Media - announcer, host/hostess, interviewer, writer, tourney reporter
2) Live Poker Room - being a poker dealer, poker room staff/management or even a poker masseuse
3) Work for an online poker room - For instance I checked out the latest Career Opportunities listed on PokerStars' website

Accounting/Finance

  • Director, Financial Planning and Analysis, Isle of Man

Game Security

  • Game Security Specialist (Italian), London or Rome

Events

  • Security Manager Live Events, London

Human Resources

  • Project Manager, HR, Isle of Man
  • Senior Learning & Development Manager, London

IT Development

  • Analyst Developer, Isle of Man
  • DB Developer, Isle of Man

Legal

  • Compliance Auditor - France

Marketing

  • Online Marketing Manager (Paid Search), London
  • VIP Relationship Coordinator, Sweden
  • Live Tournaments Website Manager, Isle of Man
  • Player Communication Co-ordinator, Germany

Regional Marketing

  • Content & Localisation Specialist, Estonia/London

Payments

  • Payments Analyst, Costa Rica
  • Payments Regional Business Development Manager: Eastern Europe
  • Payments Regional Business Development Manager: LATAM
  • Transfer Affiliates Manager, Isle of Man
  • Payments Analyst, London

Poker Room Management

  • Sit & Go Tournaments Manager, Isle of Man
  • VIP Relationship Manager, Isle of Man
  • Product Development - User Interface Specialist, Isle of Man
  • Belgium Poker Room Operations Manager, Isle of Man

Support/Security

  • Customer Service Representative – Language Specialist, Costa Rica
  • Bi-Lingual Fraud Investigator - Danish, London
  • Bi-Lingual Customer Services Representative - Dutch, London
  • Bi-Lingual Customer Services Representative - Flemish, London
  • Bi-Lingual Customer Services Representative - French, London
  • Chat Specialist – Dutch/Flemish with French – Remote
  • Language Specialist, Canada

Tours and Events

  • Trainee Tournament Director, Macau

There are dozens of poker rooms each needing staff to handle important aspects of their poker business; including management, accounting, security, promotion, translation, customer support, software, hardware, and content.

4) Online Poker Businesses Opportunities 

As there are really too many to list easily, I will use my fiver years in the poker world as an example of the variety. I have worked for a poker training site, started my own informational poker and community site, and currently work for a family of poker related sites that deal with poker rewards, gaming, rakeback, poker forum, blogging and community. My roles for each of these sites have varied; including news reporting, various content, community development, managing a poker forum, management, new site development. Developing my own site involved every aspect from coding, design, strategy, financial and customer development and support. During my time at the poker training site  I was involved in management, hiring and training, strategic planning, content, forums, video production, and customer support.

Each role in the poker industry puts you peripherally around the game you love.  Each role has some influence to help the game develop and grow. Each role allows you to contribute a particular skill set. Each role has different perks and advantages like attending poker functions or tournaments where you can interact with those who have excelled in the game at the highest levels.

So while you may not be destined to reach the highest echelons of the game of poker, and I certainly hope you are, that doesn't mean you can't contribute significantly to the game and interact with those that do. Sometimes it's nicer knowing that each time you bet, check or fold it's not costing you a car or house.

Views: 882
Date Posted: Mar. 19, 12:20am, 2 Comments

This week I finally got around to applying for my press credentials for the 2011 WSOP. I've had a press pass for four out of the last six years and it certainly gives you better access to the players and tournament. Over the last few years, the WSOP has slowly diminished the access of independent media in order to prioritize ESPN firstly and PokerNews secondarily. I understand that they are the official TV and news outlets, and pay for the privilege, but sometimes you can feel quite marginalized. Overall having a press pass is still much better access to the players and the tournament than the casual fan. That is until this year.

At the bottom of the 2011 Media Credential application page are two notable changes limiting media MUCH further.

"...we will limit media access to an individual poker table to no more than five minutes every half hour. So, if you are following a particular player, this will be problematic for you. But for the integrity of the tournament and security of our players and staff, we must enforce this new rule."

I can understand the concern of having too many press members lingering over certain tables. You will often see a media gaggle surrounding the table of well known players like Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu. They are the big names and press sometimes get carried away in trying to cover their every important move, so reducing that I can understand to a point. But many independent media are following the story of certain individuals, often a lot less well known, and want to be able to regularly report their progress.

 

"Another new rule involves talking to players at the table. There will be a zero tolerance policy in effect this year. While you will be free to talk to players during breaks, conversations are strictly prohibited when players are seated at a poker table. Please note, this prohibition will be strictly enforced regardless of whether a player is in a hand or not. This rule includes any manner of verbal or non-verbal communications with any player competing in any event."

 

This rule will have an even more profound effect on media coverage. Being able to ask chip counts or a prior hands details is often essential to reporting. Simple greetings and small talk when the players are not in a hand is a necessary part of the relationship between player and media. How do you have any information transferal without any communication allowed? It's more disrupted and unreasonable to ask the player to step away from the table to pass along a quick message when they might risk being dealt out of a hand.

 

I fear this zero tolerance policy is an over-reaction to something I'll call the "Tekintamgac" issue. Ali Tekintamgac is a German poker pro, former winner of the World Poker Tour - Barcelona, who was suspected of cheating at both the EPT-Tallin and the Partouche Poker Tour. The method of cheating used was enlisting the help of pseudo-tournament bloggers/reporters to stand behind his opponents and inform him of their cards via hand signals. It was other media who noticed the discrepancies and Tekintamgac was disqualified from the PPT final table that Vanessa Selbst ultimately won.

 

Some of the best reporting at massive events like the WSOP Main Event is done by independent media who toil in relative anonymity to find and bring interesting stories to the forefront where the highly limited and stretched PokerNews staff can't realistically do in a 7,000 plus player field. The vignettes and hand histories won't always wait for the once every two hour breaks when the players are rushed and looking to hit the restroom, chat with their friends, or grab a snack.

 

I haven't heard any media member express their concern about this issue, but only being allowed to observe a player or table for 5 or 10 minutes an hour, and not being able to physically talk to any seated players at the tables will have a profound effect on this year's WSOP media coverage.

 

I hope some other media members will speak up about their feelings about these new limitations.

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