Thursday, October 28, 2004

I'll likely post tonight. But for now, here's the press release on Paradise Poker being purchased for 300 million.


Sportingbet Plc Acquires Industry-Leading Online Poker Brand, ParadisePoker.com; Deal creates world's first global online poker, sports betting and casino operator

LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 28, 2004--Sportingbet Plc (LSE: SBT.L), the world's largest publicly traded online betting, gambling and gaming company, announces the acquisition of ParadisePoker.com, a leader in the fast-growing online poker sector, creating the first global online poker, sports betting and casino operator. The deal brings Sportingbet's customer base to more than two million players and provides a popular online poker product to serve the rapidly growing online poker market in the United States and worldwide. ParadisePoker.com is the world's third largest online poker operator with a market share of approximately 10 percent.

Sportingbet acquired ParadisePoker.com for an initial consideration of $297.5 million, creating the world's largest online gaming business. Sportingbet itself today reported turnover of $2,620 million and an operating profit before goodwill and exceptional costs of $39.57 million for the 16 months to July 31, 2004. Sportingbet operates more than 30 brands in 200 countries across the world including its flagship brand, Sportsbook.com.

"Sportingbet's acquisition of ParadisePoker.com has a significant impact on both our company and the online betting, gambling and gaming market," said Alex Czajkowski, marketing director, Sportingbet Plc Americas Region. "Like Sportingbet's Sportsbook.com, ParadisePoker.com is a strong brand with a large and loyal customer base."

ParadisePoker.com's business model benefits from high operational gearing, due to its small, predominately fixed cost base. Operating costs relate largely to processing fees; personnel and IT costs are low relative to rake and tournament fee income. Discretionary marketing spend is the single largest cost incurred by Paradise. The financial model has historically resulted in Paradise generating both high operating margins (57 percent) and strong cash flow. In August and September 2004, Paradise's aggregate monthly rake and tournament fee income was $6.6 million and $7.0 million respectively.

ParadisePoker.com has over 721,000 registered customers and 97,000 active players. With strong site security, policies and independent auditors, it is a respected brand focused on integrity and quality. In addition, ParadisePoker.com regularly offers free tournaments where players can win a seat at some of the world's biggest televised poker tournaments.

Poker is one of the world's most popular card games, with an estimated 50 to 80 million players in the United States alone. The game has gone mainstream in recent years with the emergence of televised poker tournaments on ESPN, Bravo and other major cable networks, and become more popular with the presence of Hollywood players such as Ben Affleck, Matthew Perry, Leonardo DiCaprio and Carrie Fisher. Online poker has exploded in the last two years and remains a rapidly growing, dynamic and sustainable market.

About ParadisePoker.com

Established in 1999, ParadisePoker.com was one of the first online poker destinations and the site now leads the way in this rapidly expanding online sector. It has dealt more than 500 million hands - the first single online operator ever to do this. Unbeatable site security has led ParadisePoker.com to achieve a strong reputation for integrity and quality, helping it to become one of the most popular and successful poker rooms in the world. The site is an exciting destination with a full range of poker games. Unlike online casinos, ParadisePoker.com does not participate in the games, but acts solely as the host, ensuring that play is both fair and honest.

About Sportingbet Plc

Sportingbet Plc is the world's largest online betting, gambling and gaming company. Since its creation in 1998, the company has helped to create a $6 billion industry and itself grown to become a $2 billion turnover business. Based in London, Sportingbet has a strong presence in the U.S., Europe and Australia, with 1.2 million registered customers in 200 countries. It has built a series of leading online brands in these key markets and offers a mix of sports betting, poker, casino and virtual games that traditional "bricks and mortar" operators cannot match. Sportingbet is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

About Sportsbook.com

Sportsbook.com, America's sports betting destination, is the flagship brand for the world's largest publicly traded online betting, gambling and gaming company, Sportingbet Plc. Sportsbook.com offers the largest online selection of sports betting, gambling and gaming. In Gambling Online Magazine's 2004 Reader's Choice Poll, Sportsbook.com was recognized with several awards including the Editor's Pick Gold Award.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Quick post. My favorite kind.

I just now finished Wil Wheaton's book, Just a Geek.

And I'm not even a trekkie, damnit. Not that the book is about Star Trek, because it most certainly is not. It's about self-doubt and loss and the web as a new form of communication and Wil discovering who he is. It's truly fucking great. Trust me on this, I'm a voracious reader. Not to mention a geek.

Here's the Amazon link straight from Wil's site. Go buy the damn book. Seriously, Wil is one fine storyteller and I'm looking forward to his future work.
Just a Geek

What I really want to know, is that a freaking Guinness that Wil is holding on the back cover? And don't think I didn't notice that copy of SuperSystem on his desk.

Oh the humanity.

I almost blogged 3,000 words on personal web sites, a topic near and dear to my heart, but I shall spare you, gentle reader. This is a poker blog, damnit.

So allow me to follow up my prior post where I off-handedly remarked that I believe Pot-Limit to be the toughest form of poker to play. That caused a few comments so here are some perspectives beyond my own thinking. I love PL, don't get me wrong. But it's a far more difficult post-flop game than no-limit. It's not even close, in my mind.

First off, here's a column by the late, great Andy Glazer:


As Lexus Replaces Cadillac, Will Pot-Limit Replace No-Limit?
by Andrew N.S. Glazer

Poker is the ultimate context game: holding identical cards all the way around, the right play against Opponent X can be the wrong play against Opponent Y, and the right play against Opponent X under Circumstance A can be the wrong play against that same Opponent X if Circumstance A changes to Circumstance A-1(b).

Although that general observation stands players in good stead in an almost unlimited number of poker situations, I make it here to argue that the greatest poker book ever written was Doyle Brunson’s Super/System, simply because when placed in context — when measured against the then-existing poker literature — Super/System represented such a quantum leap forward that it revolutionized an industry.

Today, there are many great poker books. When Doyle first published Super/System, there was one: Super/System. (And even as great as Doyle was, he was smart enough to utilize specialists to add to his own work and write chapters about their areas of greatest expertise.) There were many other good books (particularly if you were a beginner or a low-stakes home-game player), but only one great one.

It is against the backdrop — the context, if you will — of my respect for Super/System that I not only eagerly await the revised edition coming later this year, but also question the current accuracy of one of Doyle’s most famous lines: “No-limit hold’em is the Cadillac of poker games.”

When Doyle first wrote that, the Cadillac was the ultimate American prestige car. If you owned a new Cadillac, you had “made it,” even though there were superior foreign cars. You were one of the Jones with whom the neighbors were trying to keep up. Today, while the Cadillac is still a fine automobile, if you really want to turn heads, you drive something else — a Lexus, a Mercedes, a BMW, a Viper, and so on.

Just as the Cadillac is no longer the symbol of American affluence, I think the day has come when the other half of Doyle’s famous line may have similarly fallen behind the times (in a way, then, Doyle’s line continues to be correct, although not in the way he meant it). Although no-limit hold’em remains my favorite and best form of poker, I believe no-limit hold’em is no longer the ultimate test of poker skill, especially the way it is being played these days.

That status is reserved for pot-limit poker — hold’em, if you will, although I won’t disagree strongly with someone who wants to claim pot-limit Omaha as the ultimate test. My argument goes back to a point I started making two issues ago, when I explained that the style preferred by most experts, “small-bet poker,” is becoming more and more difficult to employ, because tournaments are becoming increasingly full of players who utilize the “shove ‘em and pray” style of play.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect that the championship events at brick-and-mortar tournaments throughout the world (the World Series of Poker and its lesser known but increasingly important and wealthy cousins), as well as the made-for-TV tournaments like the World Poker Tour, are going to shift over and become pot-limit events. No-limit is sexier, it’s faster (none of those boring splitting-up-the-pot moments), and, perhaps most important, it’s easier to understand.

Make no mistake about it, poker is undergoing an era of rapidly expanding audiences, participation, and sponsorship, and that’s primarily because of television. Television, in turn, became a viable viewing option because of “the viewer can see the players’ holecards” technologies.

It is already hard enough to explain Texas hold’em and the accompanying concept of community cards to a viewing audience that grew up playing five-card draw (or watching movies or TV shows involving poker scenes from the same game). It’s easy for a non-player to “get” that a player holding four aces in his hand is going to beat someone holding four jacks: The cards are right there next to one another.

Television and movie directors are still searching for the right way to explain how players combine their own holecards with the community cards, let alone the far more difficult way to show it in a series of rapidly moving shots back and forth of players checking their hands. In the MTV generation, deathly slow explanations don’t cut it.

There is nothing intuitively obvious (to a non-player, and no matter how many players there are among us, we are still outnumbered) as to why someone holding the Ahearts Khearts is crushing someone who holds the Qspades Qclubs when the board reads Qhearts Jhearts Qdiamonds 10hearts 4spades. Yes, a royal flush beats four queens, but it takes a while for a non-player to recognize that the cards combine that way. In five-card draw, the relative hand strengths are instantly obvious.

Nonetheless, because certain other elements of hold’em are more exciting than draw (the visible cards, the drama of a turn or river card, the extra rounds of betting), and because the reality is that few good players play five-card draw anymore, TV and the movies have finally managed to make hold’em work, by letting viewers see the holecards.

If we have to add the complexities involved in maximum bet sizes (“OK, before the flop, an initial raiser can make it seven times the size of the small blind under World Series of Poker rules”) and/or the delays involved in split pots, TV loses the gold mine of an audience it has so recently unearthed.

As a result, there is virtually zero chance that the important championship events will switch to pot-limit, even though pot-limit involves many more complex decisions (most but not all of which are post-flop). Insiders may respect the winners of huge pot-limit tournaments more, but the world’s most famous champions will remain no-limit players for a long time — probably longer than any of us reading this will live.

Small-bet no-limit hold’em is becoming more difficult to play because of the increasingly large number of players who are employing the preflop all-in move (mentioned above as the “shove ‘em in and pray” style of play). Great players are adapting, and are becoming more willing to gamble (usually, unless they’ve badly misread the situation, while holding the advantage) large amounts on a single hand.

Nonetheless, this change in style is making no-limit poker more “democratic,” if you will. We’ve just had consecutive world champions whose prior experience was relatively minimal: While the large number of entrants combined with the availability of excellent literature and computer software made this more possible than it would have been 20 years ago, I think it a virtual impossibility that two unknowns could have won “poker’s ultimate tournament” if it had been played pot-limit rather than no-limit.

In other words, even though no-limit hold’em is a frightfully complex game, it is not as difficult to master as is its pot-limit cousin.

This increased accessibility to the masses isn’t necessarily “bad” or “good.” Indeed, some very strong arguments can be made that it is a very good development, indeed. It just means it’s less likely that poker’s world champion will be poker’s best player; looked at from the other side of the same coin, it makes it less likely that poker’s best player will win poker’s world championship. It’s still a feat worthy of fame and celebrity, but it just doesn’t prove as much as it used to.

Two issues ago I promised some more analysis as to why small-bet poker was becoming more difficult to play, and what good players were doing to combat that. I’ve found that discussing some of the larger issues about poker’s future have used up some of the space I’d planned on devoting to specific technical examples, so I’ll have to continue with this theme again next issue. Before that, though, I want to share some feedback about one example I cited in that earlier (Oct. 24, 2003, issue) column.

To explain what I meant by “small-bet poker,” I created a purely hypothetical example of a situation in which a small-bet stylist might fold despite holding an advantage, because he didn’t want to risk his entire stack with just a small edge. I used an example involving A-K suited vs. A-K offsuit, rather than something like A-K vs. Q-Q, because I wanted to find an example involving a very small (5 percent) edge. Fortunately, I called my example “less than ideal” because it depended on so many artificial and unlikely circumstances — knowing your opponent’s hand because he’d flashed it, and knowing that he’d call a huge bet with A-K offsuit.

Reader “CoolKen” from Evires, France, wrote me to say he loved the point behind the column, but that my admittedly less-than-ideal example was even less ideal than I had realized, because the advantage wasn’t really 5 percent. True, 91 percent of the confrontations are splits, 7 percent are wins for the suited A-K, and 2 percent are wins for the offsuit A-K … but that’s not a 5 percent advantage!

If you stop to think about it, 91 percent of the time the decision doesn’t matter. The only times when the outcome matters (remember, I’ve already established zero chance of a fold) is when the bet gets called, and that’s not a 5 percent edge — that’s a 7-2 edge! If you’re not willing to intentionally risk your chips with a 7-2 edge, you shouldn’t be playing poker tournaments, because if you do, you won’t be choosing between a Cadillac and a Lamborghini, you’ll be taking lots of buses.

To CoolKen, my thanks, and to those of you who want to know how to battle these “all-in to win” stylists, please be patient for two more weeks. You’ll need that quality to win, anyway.

Random, strange picture:

And now I'm going to do something I've never, ever done. I'm breaking the only rule I had when I began this blog. I'm going to quote that crazy fucking poker cheater, Russ Gorgiev. It pains me to do so, but even crazy people are right some of the time.

Poker Theory - Pot & No Limit

No Limit or Pot Limit

When speaking of holdem, the best way to play this game is pot limit.
Obviously limit is an acceptable way to play any game, though far from the
most skillful. Playing holdem for maximum results with the best player
having the best chance of winning, should only be done in one manner, and
that is pot limit.

Of course you will get the clowns or the incompetents stating that No Limit
is the best way to play this game, but this has been a fallacy perpetrated
on the public since they brought the WSOP into play. By far, the pot limit
players of the world are the best players in the world. Certain games need a
no limit structure, such as low-ball [any variation], five card stud [any
variation], but not holdem. Holdem should be played in a pot limit style for
the best players to have the greatest edge.

Believe me when I say, pot limit separates the men from the boys. Obviously
No Limit requires great skill. However, if No Limit requires great skill, go
to the ten power to understand the difference between the two games. I will
go into detail on why soon. Any one with any ability can play No Limit
holdem. As long as they are aggressive, they have a chance. Far more chance
than they would have in Pot Limit. How much brain power must you have to
just be able to stick all your chips into the pot anytime? Reading any book
will give you the knowledge of knowing when you can 'flip the coin' or stick
all your money in with a coin flip type of outcome. Same as picking a pro
football game with the spread.

Take a game of No Limit or Pot Limit with the blinds being $15-$25. Normally
the buy-in on a game would be about 40 times the large blind, though some
games may make it 20 times the large blind. However, we are not here to
discuss the buy-in. It will be one of the two, or close enough to where it
doesn't make a difference.

Now the No Limit player can play the game with limited success, provided his
stack doesn't get too big. Most No Limit players, and I mean most No Limit
players know very few moves, even if considered to be world class. The
reason behind this is there are fewer moves to know.

Take a game as I just mentioned, with blinds of $15-$25. Have your normal
player buy into the game with the normal buy-in of $1000. Basically, it is
very easy for him to play this game. Far easier than pot limit. In fact, I
believe I could train a monkey, Dave Keiser, or even Razzo to do play this
game where they could be winning players in a very short period. Playing No
Limit requires basically 3 moves. The opening, getting the raise or betting
the flop, and stacking off on the turn. Making it even simpler, opening,
getting a raise, and stacking off before the flop. Very simple, even a
monkey could be trained to do this.

They turn the cards over and one person is an 11-10 favorite or a 6-5
favorite. Big deal, for as often as these guys are the favorite, they are
also the dog. However when they don't, you don't see this or even understand
this. The play begins when these people get larger stacks. Say they get
there stack to $5000. Do you think by playing very tight and having your
opposition know what you hold when you play a hand, you will be able to hold
onto your chips? The answer is NO.

You see games in No Limit and in Pot Limit where some people have Big Stacks
as compared to small stacks. The better players always want to be able to
cover all stacks. The players who are not so good, prefer to play a smaller
stack. Obviously there is a skill to playing both stacks. However, the skill
to playing a large stack in comparison to a small stack is so great, that
the ones playing the small stacks are limited to their potential, as they
must quit when they reach a certain amount, as they don't know how to play a
big stack.

Take a No Limit situation where the blinds are $15-$25. Easy to play when
your stack is $1000. What happens when you make a few hands and your stack
gets to $5000 or more? You are playing one a hand a half hour, and at this
level your opposition knows this. What happens when you are dealt AA?
Raise a lot, raise a small amount. raise a larger amount. No matter what you
do, players will realize you have not been playing many hands and will play
many hands against you, provided they can cover your stack and you stack is
large enough to go after.

Number 1 lesson in No Limit or Pot Limit poker is not to tell the opposition
what you have, until the majority of the money is committed to the pot. This
is where the strength of the best players lay. For once you tell your
opposition what you have, they know what they must do to win or to minimize
your position. Believe it or not, I was once fortunate enough to have a
proposition given to me where we both bought $10,000 worth of chips in a no
limit holdem game and I gave the opposition two black aces. One stipulation,
he could not stack off until after the flop. Blinds were $15-$25. Needless
to say, he lost within the first five minutes when a flop came 2,3,4, and I
held 5,6,. He had made it $100 as usual, before the flop, the rule being 4
times the big blind. Then stacked off every time after the flop.

Think of this while playing No Limit for cash. This is one of the reasons
that the tournament players have no chance against the cash players.[I will
leave cheating out of this post] The cash players can always put these
tournament champions on a hand. While a cash player can have anything and
will gamble with it, the tournament player doesn't have the skills, as far
as even giving you a free card, when warranted to trap you.

Hopefully, I have explained to you that most No Limit players know only the
most basic moves, compared to the Pot Limit Players.

Now we come to the Pot Limit Players. The best Pot Limit Players always have
big stacks. They think more like chess players as they know 3 bets isn't
going to get the job done. The dominant Pot Limit players usually divide the
table in to sections. Position is everything and Pot Limit and No Limit
players know this. Don't even think you will get position on a good or great
No Limit or Pot Limit player. It isn't going to happen. Best way to face
this situation is to space yourself between each other and divide the table.
I know if a player with a big stack sat down behind me, I would just offer
the player behind him $100 or more to change seats. In fact, I have paid as
much as $2600 to change seats in a game.

This is why you should not attempt to gain position on the other players you
consider you opposition. Always space yourself at least 2 seats between the
opposition. Some times they will have to give you a seat the best of it.
Believe it, they do know it and seat changing is a variant that occurs as
frequently as possible in these games. It is almost comical as they may be
playing four handed and everyone is sitting next to each other. One of the
ways to get more room is to lock the seat up to your left. Courtesy will
allow you to have space, but don't you believe that another individual can
take that seat without your permission.

Now we get to Pot Limit games, the games where the best professionals excel.
Pot Limit players realize they must think many moves ahead in this game. They
understand they must play more hands than normal, when playing big stacks.
The edge they have with the big stack is that everyone knows if they [little
stacks] screw up, they go broke. The big stack knows this also and thus
plays accordingly, never telling his opposition anything, especially the
small stack. These he will gamble with on many occasions knowing he may have
the worst of it, but also knowing when they get larger stacks, these people
are his, provided they don't quit.

World Class Professionals will play Aces before the flop the same way they
will play any other type of hand. Provided the opposition faced has small
You raise, they wait hoping a raise behind them enables them to get the
majority of the money in before the flop. If they can't, so be it. They will
do everything they can, and you will have no idea to what they have.

Many times they will have nothing, but you will have told them what you
hold. Boards like 6,7,8 and similar boards are very dangerous to the people
that play extremely tight. Those without the moves needed to play big stacks
are most susceptible. Since bluffing is such a large part of the game, they
will use the 'call bluff' when certain flops come down, gambling on the
large pair you have. When you have a large stack and you are a No Limit
player, you are a Pot Limit players dinner. You can't stack off and they
know how to get position, since this is the name of the game.

Playing big stacks in Pot Limit makes the players think ahead. They think,
what if I call this bet, what will I have to call the next time? They think
of how much to raise in each instant, as to get the pot to maximum value to
bluff or to win on the river. The great players don't bet to get called all
the time, even when they have the nuts and know they will be able to get X
amount if they bet this amount. There way of thing is this, if I bet this
amount to milk this guy, then when I try to steal with a big bet, it will
strike him that I am not milking him. They would rather not get called, as
they can steal this much or far more. They put you to the test as far as
calling. In pot limit, if you are always in the position of calling, you are
the loser. For the big stack is not the big stack by accident.

Big stacks don't just get to be big stacks. Many make sure they have enough
to cover all players when they sit down. If you consider yourself the best
in your game, or even one of the best, you will have the big stack, or close
enough to the big stack to not make much of a difference.

Remember in Pot Limit, there are more moves than in No Limit. Basically it
takes at least 5 bets to get a big stack all in in pot limit. I mean Pot
bets. Usually it would take seven or so. No Limit players are used to making
3 moves as this is all they can think to. Pot Limit requires greater skills,
far greater and more bets. You must analyze the hand from the beginning. You
thoughts must be HOW, WHEN,and WHAT. How much to bet, when to bet, and what
to bet. This is something that No Limit holdem players lack.

Remember, any fool can play a large stack and stack off on a coin flip, as
in No Limit. It takes architectural skills to build a pot and win it in Pot
Limit. I used to have a standard joke when I played Pot Limit and someone
asked me what I did for a living. I would answer I was an architect, meaning
I build pots. This is a skill to the game that most players can never
comprehend. I could play every hand in pot limit and still beat a World
Class Game. This means seeing more than 90% of the flops. For, I will know
what they have, let them GUESS what I have. After all, the name or the
slogan of holdem is any two will do. And it will, when played with the right
position against the right opposition.

Crazy Russ has obviously never played on Party Poker. There are plenty of players seeing LOTS of flops there.

Let's move to one last perspective, shall we? This is several years old, from long-time RGP poster, Vince, with a response from 2004 WSOP Champion, Greg Raymer.

There has been much debate as to which type of poker game requires the greater skill to be a consistent long term winner. Many have professed that NL is the hardest game to at which to win in the long run. The place where the most skilled players live. Russ has just posted his thing he calls a theory in which he claims that pot limit is where the best poker player are and no limit is nothing more than a move in game requiring little if any skill. Mason Malmuth has written
that Limit Poker requires the most skill to be a long term winner. I agree with Mason.

Each type of play requires a varying degree of each of the necessary
poker skills to be a winner. NL is unquestionably the most dangerous
way to play poker. One mistake or just a very unfortunate
happenstance can cause extreme stress to your bankroll. One miscue and
your opponent can get all of your stack or you his. Pot limit requires
your opponnent to be a bit more skillfull or lucky to get your chips.
He cannot usually get them with one swoop. He must help build the pot
before he gets you to commit. However, neither of these way of
playing poker require great skill to get all of an opponents chips.
As you can see one or two miscues during a session and you can take a
lot or lose a lot. In fact you could play perfect poker for almot an
entire session and be very fortuante or misfortunate on the last hand
of the night and have your session decided. You might argue that a
session is not the long run and you would be correct but that does not
in anyway discount the fact that these types of poker are one or two
shot games whose betting options do nothing that requires great skill
to get your opponents chips. However the design of these games are
great for tournaments and also a good place for scammers and cheats to
prosper. Scammers and cheats prefer these types of games because they
lack the poker skill necessary to win at limt poker.

Limit poker is the toughest form of poker to be a long term winner.
It requires great patience and I do not mean waiting for a hand. In
Limit poker most bets, if not all, are relatively small compared to
pot size. Given that most hand vs hand strength is not overwhelming
and the relatively small betting vs pot structure limit requires a
player to win more often (more hands) than in both NL or Pot Limit.
It is very very unusual and extremely unlikely for a limit poker
player to play an eight hour session, win one pot and go home a
winner. Unless of course you play in those low limit passive games
Gary Carson always talks about. The point is you've got to play more
hands at limit than NL or PL. When you play more hands you have to be
better at playing the game because each play carries with it the
potential for a mistake. Certainly the relative cost of a mistake at
limit vs the pl and nl is small. But that is not the driving force
behind winning at poker. The relative cost of the mistake may be
small when compared to each game but the cost of a mistake within each
type of game is what poker is about. In limit the cost of a mistake is
the greatest. It is because the edge that one has is so much less in
limit that a mistake is much harder to over come. In NL you can make
an abundance of mistakes on a number of previous hands and then play
one hand perfectly against an unsuspecting or even a suspecting
opponent and recoup all of your losses caused by your previous
mistakes. PL is similar although a bit harder to make up for a lot of
mistakes. In limit one mistake could require hours and hours of
playing and winning to nullify it's effect.

I will admit that I like playing NL and PL, poker although I confine
my play mostly to tournaments. The reason is obvious. These forms of
poker are exciting. But hey are not "Cadillac" poker games, they are
gunslinger poker games. Something limit doesn't offer except playing
heads-up or 3 or 4 handed.

I wrote this in defense of all of my limit playing poker buddies. I
may not have done a good job. I'm sure others can do better. I would
be interested in hearing others opinions.

Vince Lepore

Mister Raymer responds:

Define "skill".

BTW, I'm serious. This is not a Clinton joke.

Many of us (especially me) would argue that reading your opponent is the
hardest skill to learn in poker. Thus, if it is the one most-essential
skill for PL/NL poker, then it is implied that PL/NL are the most
skill-requiring forms.

Just because the edge you get from maximally skillful play is smaller in
limit than in PL/NL does not mean that limit requires more skill. It just
means that limit involves more luck, as skill will not win as readily.

Later, Greg Raymer (FossilMan)

OK, enough on that. Feel free to agree to disagree.

Thanks for reading. Much, much more pending....

Monday, October 25, 2004

"You guys playing cards?"
Flounder, in Animal House

"Thank God for Party Poker. Iggy, of course, has been harping on this forever, and we all knew he was right. Just sometimes, you don't realize just how right he is."
Stick and Move Poker Blog

Damn straight, my man, and thanks. If there's only ONE thing I know, it's where the easy money is located. By far and away, Party Poker. Go dump $50 damn dollars on there and try some 50 cent - dollar games or $5 sit and goes (one table tournaments for my new readers). You'll be shocked, amazed and thanking me later. That's Bonus Code IGGY, k? 20% deposit bonus. Do it now, damnit.

For the record, my faithful reader whom I played for this past weekend in the Party Poker Million, won his way into this $600 buy-in tourney through a $9 satellite seat. That's some nice return on investment, eh?

Party Poker rules.

Thanks to all who read this humble poker blog. That alone makes it worthwhile to come on here and pound out 5,000 word posts. That, and the fact I'm deeply deranged. But I'm committed to blogging more posts, more often. That may mean less uber-posts over the long-term, but you'll get more fresh content to destroy workplace productivity. And that's always a good thing.

The 29th, this Friday, is my last day of work.

Oh the humanity.

Funny how everyone who tries Party Poker is always shocked at how loose the games are, especially after playing somewhere like Stars, Paradise or UB. Damnit, feel free to use my bonus code, IGGY, or not, but please, just give it a try. Your bankroll will thank me. Again, as someone wiser than me stated, 'it's not shilling if it's true.'


Interesting debate on 2+2 about which game has more luck - no limit poker or limit. That's not necessarily the way I would look at it - I would prefer to figure out which game has a greater "edge" to the skilled player, no limit or limit. One of the few things I agree with Crazy Russ Gorgiev about is that pot-limit is the most difficult poker game to play of all. Too bad I can't talk my home game into playing it, damnit.

Snippet from said debate:


If what you believe in is "short-term" luck, ask yourself whether, given basic math, a short term "cards" variance is accentuated or diminished financially by the amount of money which can be potentially risked in each case.

Doesn't the fact that there is a LIMIT to losses in any given hand in limit holdem sort of overwhelm a luck of the cards factor, compared to where there is no such limit ? (The corrollary, that there is a limit to the amount won in a given hand, also supports the same proposition.)

In a Guinness-fueled way of thinking, this kind of ties back into risk management in poker. Or degree of risk, per your poker bankroll. I remember reading an old column by Mike Caro talking about "Plodders" versus "Adventurers." The point of his article: it was nobody's business but your own how much of your bankroll you risked on a single wager or on a single bet.

As a ring game grinder, I consider myself a plodder. As a no-limit tourney player, I'm an adventurer. When I moved to Vegas in '92 on my 25th birthday, I had begun reading about that magical elixir, money management and/or betting systems relating to other games besides poker. To misguided minds (me, back then) or others who bandied about the term money management - it meant some kind of magic salvation from losing. I know people today who still believe in this clap-trap - a secret to beating casino games where the odds are against them.

Caro's point was that the more you risk, the more you stand to gain, and the more likely you are to go broke in the attempt. Whether or not the risk is worthwhile is a wholly personal decision. Only you know what the factors in your life are.

So allow me to come full-circle with this thought - money management systems DON'T WORK. I see it over and over, this pre-conceived notion of Stop-win or Stop-loss sessions. I read about it on RGP, 2+2 and even in a few poker blogs. Hell, I've been known to do it, even though it's utterly incorrect. IE: once I win/lose X amount, I'm done....

Losing in poker, by Mr. Mike Caro:

Player react differently when they're behind. It's practically a universal trait - this single tendency is responsible for more bankroll failure among capable players than any other fault. We've all done it - gotten punished, sucked out on by horrible hands and lost a nice chunk of money. Beyond a comfortable loss. From that point on, adding to the loss doesn't seem like the same thing, dollar for dollar. In fact, since the sorrow of losing is already heavily felt, additional losing doesn't register at all.

Mike Caro calls this "crossing the threshold of misery." Once you're past it and feeling sufficiently singled out and betrayed by the Poker Gods, you just quit caring. Low limit players turn $38 worth of bad cards into $80 losses. Middle limit players stretch $460 into $1000 losses. It happens every day.

Why? Again, because players are looking at session based results. Each time you sit to play, it's not a win-lose proposition. You don't need to play to "get even." The correct attitude is very different. You are always EVEN at the start of every hand - no matter what's happened, you should only pay for a hand what it's worth NOW. And the next hand, and the next.... This is an important concept - it prevents you from squandering your bankroll.

Poker is hard. Even if you are winning. Hell, I know certain guys who stop playing quality poker once they are winning significantly. That's because the money won isn't yet theirs in their minds. So they treat it as less important.

Tip of the day: play each hand as it should be played. Forget about the last one. Forget about the last 60 minutes, the last session. You are even from this moment on.

Lord, I sure can ramble, eh? I can tell you are getting restless, so let's get to the good stuff. The best of poker linkage for today:

Brand new home game - local player resource. They claim to be the largest database on Earth. No reference located.

I know we have lots of movie buffs out there, so here's a fun trailer for a new indie poker movie coming out, entitled Freeze Out. Here's the synopsis:

Thursday night only means one thing for John and his friends: Poker Night.

A sanctuary from the horrors of living and working in Los Angeles, their weekly poker game is a ritual of jokes, beer drinking, and talking movies, politics, and sex. In short, it's a good time and the max bet is 25 cents so no one is going to go broke.

But something is bugging John. His friends don't respect him; any chance they get they cut him down, tell him he's boring, make him feel small. He's tired of being the butt of their jokes and he's not going to take it anymore…

So he raises the stakes, engineering a winner-take-all Freeze Out, never realizing it might cost him $100 bucks and his 7 best friends.

View the trailer here: Freeze Out

Anyone interested in reading about Phil Helmuth's new poker book? It's been listed on Amazon now:
Bad Beats and Lucky Draws : Poker Strategies, Winning Hands, and Stories from the Professional Poker Tour
Phil Helmuth Poker Book

Thanks to Bill Rini's fine poker blog, I discovered how to Kill A Man by Throwing Playing Cards. Wild stuff.
Fun With Cards

You know, I'm REAL tired of the election news. I'm proud to have mostly avoided political talk in this here humble poker blog. There's already far too many pundits and polls and predictions. Plus, my fear is this thing ends up in post-election court chaos (think legal wranglings in FIVE states, not just Florida) for the next six months, further skyrocketing cynicism...

Plus, I keep reading about this electoral college thingy.
I only have one thing to say about that:

Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well use Bonus fucking Code IGGY

I can't recommend this column enough on Poker Pages. Some wonderful subtle insight, imho.
Poker and the gambler's fallacy

Anyone else out there remember Cecil Fielder? Here is an awful expose from the Detroit News on the dark side of gambling about the once proud all-star first baseman. Worthy reading:
Gambling shatters ex-Tiger's dream life
Detroit just loved Cecil Fielder, the burly Tigers slugger who ushered in the Decade of the Home Run in the early 1990s

Fielder had his nickname -- Big Daddy -- outlined in brick on the driveway entrance to the 50-room mansion that has nine fireplaces, a gymnasium, a theater and an 8,000-bottle wine cellar.

K, back to poker.

OMG. Bengals scored.

Here's a post on the new kids in poker.

>I'd rather watch Raymer. I grew out of watching pro wrestling ten
>years ago. The thing that sickens me the most is the influx of
>20-somethings in the casino poker rooms that act like that and make
>jackasses of themselves. It's gotten so bad that I avoid HE and just
>play 7 stud in casinos since the average age of the players is much


This was posted as a response down-the-thread far enough away from the main
messages where I am sure it was missed. Nothing too profound but it touched
a nerve based on my experience last Friday night at Foxwoods.

I was playing 5-10 holdem (+ 1/2 kill) and at my table were 4 very young
players, certainly college age if they were in college or not. They were
chatting throughout the night about pot odds and what not in that "I know
everything there is to know about poker and I will tell you all about
whether you want to hear it or not" type of tone.

One of the players was actually pretty good, the others were scrubs. One of
the scrubs was playing maniac and running off at the mouth, hands like 10-2
off suit, cold calls a raise, flop A-10-2 rainbow and he beats A-K. Then
laughingly says "I'm sorry" to the 61 year old guy sitting next to me.

I see things like this more and more often with these kids who think they
own the poker world, it kills me. This scrub was up like 300 bucks in an
hour and was playing like such a jerk, you KNEW he was going to lose it, you
just knew it.

Then the BEST PART of the night happened, this obnoxious punk goes against
the old guy with crap and wins again and starts telling the guy how sorry he
was (with a smile from ear-to-ear, smug barely describes it) the old guy
stands up and GOES OFF on the kid.. Telling him what a punk he was, telling
him he'll step outside (the guy actually started rolling up his sleeves),
telling the kid to learn how to play the game right and when he makes bad
plays and wins he should take a cue from the guy who lost with the better
cards and just throw his cards and wait for the next hand (or take down the
pot). The guy was obviously Ex-Navy because the language was pretty
colorful. IT WAS AWESOME - no one stood up for the kid at all - the whole
table was smiling and the kid must have felt like he was 6 inches tall.

Needless to say when I left the table 2 hours later (Up 100 - yay for me)
the punk was sitting there with the 300 he started with and the other 300
had long been pissed away.. the guy was no longer running off at the mouth
and he tightened up considerably. But his table image was shot and people
kept playing at him.

Is this just a by-product of youth? Is it a by-product of the Matusow/Laak
persona's on TV? If you REALLY love poker is this what we want the "poker
world" to be like?? I think its an important question. Personally I would
much rather watch the gentlemen in the FOX Superstars tourney play their
game with quiet class and dignity, the POKER is enough for me. If I want
all the NOISE that guys like matusow constantly throw out there I'll go
somewhere else. Anyone else feel this way?

Thanks for reading this long post.


I've been paying even more attention to players who are posting about their pro experiences. Here's a low-limit semi-pro kid with his latest update:

Subject: Semi-pro experiment week # 20

Well here I am 20 weeks into the semi-pro thing and I figured I better give the
peeps an update.

For those who don't know I started playing "semi-pro" (playing seriously
20 hours or so a week) in an attempt to replace my wife's income so she
could stay home with the new baby.

I'm happy to say that after 20 weeks I'm doing quite well. I'm up
$27,032.79 which is well ahead of my initial goal of $1000/week. I have
seen a slip of late as my game has been in the midst of change. There is a
big difference between the 1/2 patience pays game and the 5/10 steal the
blinds, play position game and I find myself in a hybrid mode right now.
I'm learning, but I still have a long way to go.

Before everyone has a fit....a great deal of that income has come from
bonuses and prop pay. I currently average about $400/week propping and
$250/week in bonuses so that's half my income. The other half comes from
poker profit. I just got another prop contract which will really enhance
things and potentially get me up to $700-$800/week in prop pay alone so
things are looking good going forward. On a negative note, I'm down $150
this week even after getting prop pay so I'm really down more like $600 at
the tables. I have been bad beated to death and quite frankly it has
caused me to play quite poorly. As a result I am taking tonight off
completely from poker. I'm going to spend time with my wife and kids and
just take a break to re-focus.

I'm playing primarily 3/6 these days. I also play a lot of 2/4. I play
some 1/2 and some 5/10 but I haven't had as much success at 5/10 as I
would like so any plans on moving up in limits are on hold for now.

I just want everyone to know that between propping and bonus hunting there
is a nice living to be made. I honestly believe I can make upwards of
$10K/month if I were to play full time and am giving serious consideration
to doing so at the end of the year. There are some drawbacks to doing so,
and the more I research it the more drawbacks I find. That being said,
it's still awfully appealing. My wife and I just bought a new house mainly
with poker money for the down payment so that makes it a little scarier as
well. I'll probably make the jump to full-time Jan 1 but we will see. (For
those of you who care I am starting a new category - I will call myself a
"full-time poker player" rather than a professional poker player. I don't
belong with the likes of the true professionals...I'm just a guy making a
living from it)

Best of luck to all you low limit newbies!!! There is money to be made
without swimming with the sharks!!!


Just re-read this old article written by Phil Hellmuth about Stu Unger. I forgot about these - very fun to read and included next:

Mansour Quits Playing Against Stuey Forever!
by Phil Helmuth

Back in 1992 at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), world champions Mansour
Matloubi and Stuey Ungar faced off in a series of $50,000 buy-in heads-up
freezeouts. Mansour tells me he was at the top of his game at that point
in his poker career, having won the WSOP in 1990.

The game they were playing was no-limit hold’em, and the blinds were
$200-$400 when the following hand came up. Stuey opened for $1,600 from
the small blind, and Mansour called with 5-4 offsuit. After a flop of
7-3-3 rainbow, Stuey bet $6,000 — he started the hand with $60,000 to
Mansour’s $40,000 — and Mansour called. On fourth street, a king came off
and both players checked. On the river, a queen came off to make a board
of 7-3-3-K-Q, and Mansour, sensing weakness in Stuey, bet his last $32,000
or so. Stuey looked “right through” Mansour, and within 10 seconds he
said, “You have 5-4 or 6-5; I’m gonna call you with this.” Stuey then
flipped up 10-9, and called the $32,000 bet with a mere 10 high. Wow, what
an unbelievable call! Stuey couldn’t even beat a jack-high bluff with his
hand, never mind any pair. In fact, Stuey could beat only 5-4, 6-4 or 6-5
in this scenario.

Give Mansour some credit, as he did read Stuey right and made a great
bluff. But Stuey deserves even more credit! He not only read Mansour
correctly, he then made an amazing call. After Stuey called, Mansour
looked up at the ceiling, thinking, “I feel crushed; it’s almost like a
bulldozer just ran over me. I still love Stuey, but what the heck is going
on?!” Mansour told me, “When a guy makes a call like that against you, you
just give up. It’s like he’s taken all the wind out of your sails. I
decided that I couldn’t play him any more heads-up no-limit hold’em, at
least on that day, if not forever.” Indeed, it proved to be the last hand
that Mansour ever played heads up with Stuey.

On another day at that WSOP in 1992, Stuey was playing in a fivehanded
$600-$1,200 game with Mansour on table 59, while Bobby Baldwin and Chip
Reese were playing gin on table 60. All of a sudden, Chip turned to Stuey
at the other table and asked, “How did you like the way I played that
hand?” Stuey, who was in the middle of a hand, said, “I would have knocked
four draws ago with five (points).” Chip said, “Thanks,” and rolled his
eyes. Of course, Chip knew that Stuey was right, because Stuey was
considered all but unbeatable in gin. In fact, he was so good at gin that
he couldn’t get a game with anyone anywhere for many years. But Chip
didn’t roll his eyes because Stuey was right; he rolled them because he
couldn’t believe that Stuey was watching his every move while
simultaneously playing high-stakes poker!

In the 1980s, Stuey was considered the best in the world at gin (in fact,
he was the best for two decades), the best no-limit hold’em player ever
(by then he had won two world championships, with one more to come), and
one of the best backgammon players in the world. To be at the top in any
one of those games is quite a feat, but to be at or near the top in all
three at once was truly unbelievable.

There are many other great stories about Stu Ungar and his amazing
abilities. Soon there will be a book coming out about him, as well as a
movie. I’m looking forward to both.

Here is something I pulled from a link on the HIGH ROLLER movie link. I enjoyed the story, so hence, I'm sharing it:

Stuey and The Wolf - Part I
I guess this is a story about death and redemption, about the different
paths people take. One is dead and the other is on the long road back.

I first met Stuey around 1982 when he was the king of the world. I
always got along with him and though most of the stories about him
being this and that, and though I agreed with most of them, I always
found him to be funny and brilliant. We were never real close, but
around the table we had more than a few talks.

He scared me. Playing against Stuey in a big bet game, especially if it
was shorthanded, was suicide. I think this is the common consensus, that
shorthanded, he was the best player in the world, ever.

A couple of years later in Las Vegas I met The Wolf. Through Stuey, in
a round about way. One day, I asked Stuey if he feared anyone in poker.
In a rare streak of humility, he mentioned that not in no limit or pot
limit, but in stud there were a couple and in limit hold'em a couple
more. Stuey was never keen on ring games. They cramped his style. As I
was, and am, a hold'em player, I asked him who in limit hold'em he
admired. He looked around the room and said, "The Wolf". I had no idea
who he was talking about. I was playing thirty-sixty in the room and
knew all the players. "No.", Stuey said, "Over there." He was pointing
to the three-six game. I thought it was a joke.

Stuey and The Wolf - Part II
His name was Peter Wolf and sometimes he played high and sometimes not.
The word was that he was backed by some heavy people. He was from New
York and knew Stuey from back there. He was some sort of chess whiz who
made money in speed chess.

Was he good? He had really long hair and a beard and wore sunglasses
all the time. Quiet and deadly. As I got to know him at the table, I
thought this guy has a gift. He was probably the most aggressive limit
player in Vegas at the time. He was, I thought, a rising star. Can't
miss. Though he played like Stuey, their styles were as very different
as the games they played. It seemed to me that The Wolf never lost. I
asked Stuey about it and he said that when he wanted to, The Wolf would
always get the money in the end.
When he wanted to?

Stuey and The Wolf - The End
The Wolf got sick. He lost his backing . He disappeard. Another
casualty of drugs or whatever. I figured he went broke. I would have
asked Stuey, but he was facing his own demons. Besides, The Wolf played
my game. And, also, he was better than me.

i went to California in 1988 to start playing there. Times were good
and The Wolf was no where in sight. Until four years later. He walked
in with a gorgeous girl on his arm and played forty limit and took the
game for about three large. He was back. And with a new nickname. He
was now Grey Wolf or just Grey. And he had changed. He didn't remember
me. He hadn't talked to Stuey in years. It was apparent that he had
developed some memory loss. Nothing more was revealed.

He struggled. No longer backed. He seemed to change his game every day.
Good players thought he was a live one or just lucky. I think the
feeling was that, in general, he was a good amateur who could go on
tilt and then you would get him. In a way, I felt bad for him. I never
said much about how good he once was. I just waited.

As I said, his game would change. He was trying, like the rest of the
Vegas players, to make sense of the California game and style. Would he

The last time I saw Stuey was at the Commerce playing in a hundred
limit omaha eight or better game and Grey was playing eighty limit
hold'em. Who put who in what game is a mystery. I saw them talk only
once and it made me think. Stuey was famous. The Wolf , now Grey, was a
shadowy figure who most could not remember or would give him his due.

The wolf plays regularly now. The demons beaten. The gorgeous girls are
gone. And the game is starting to come around. Like Stuey, his game was
never gone, Just not there on a regular basis. But he is starting to
dominate. Does he still get the money? When he wants too. Which seems
to be every day now. He has a style that is a perfect merger of Vegas
and California. Live, aggressive, gambling and solid. As one player
once said to him, "I never know what you have."

So, Stuey, rest in peace. You were, without a doubt, the best high
limit player in the world. Whatever it was that Grey did to get back, I
wished you had. Though your friendship with each other is a mystery as
Grey says little about it. I know that he is in Las Vegas this week. I
wish I knew more.


And in the interest of full disclosure & Guinness-fueled poker blogging, here is the best tribute to Stu on the web. Ken Churilla's site:
A Poker Tribute to Stuey Ungar
1953 - 1998
Three Time Champion of the World Series of Poker

Damn, I might as well go all the way and attempt to Destroy Even More Workplace Productivity. Here's the Poker Pages tribute to Stuey, written by Mike Sexton.
"Poker Greats" - Stu Ungar

Well, hell. Thanks for reading. I'm gonna go watch my hapless Bungals and thumb through the two new poker books I've received.

This ain't exactly up to my usual standards but this is the start to a rough week for me. Lucky for you, much more to come.

I remain,
Your Humble Working Boy

Link of the Day:
Cuddle Close and Hurl
There's a poetry crisis in the lesbian community, according to OutGrrrl: "Nothing more irritating than bad poetry from an emoting dyke."

Sunday, October 24, 2004

"That's poker. I'm tired of saying it, but that's poker."
TJ Cloutier

Quick update here. More poker goodness coming...

One of my readers was in a quandry. He had won a $600 +40 seat into the Party Poker Million Guaranteed Tournament this weekend. Due to extenuating circumstances, he could not play and Party would not allow him to transfer a seat to another tourney. Use it or lose it, they said.

So he thought, hell, why not Iggy?

Why not indeed?

It was pretty cool to have a reader trust me enough to log into their account and attempt to win them some money. Thank you, sir.

1700 players in the tournament.

I finished around 70th, winning nearly 3 grand. I can honestly say this was one of the coldest card streaks I've ever hit. I scratched and clawed and nursed my stack to the bubble, and then had this conversation with Fast Eddie:

iggy: once im in the money im gonna shove and pray
fast_eddie : no you wont
iggy: its not ten k till you hit tenth place
fast_eddie : so 5 k isnt bad
fast_eddie : just play smart poker
fast_eddie : you make the final table ill rap at it
fast_eddie : even more incentive

Oh the humanity.

In celebration of my inaugural play in the Party Poker Million, as well as avoiding a final table rap performance by Fast Eddie, let's post this wonderful pic of Anna:

Anna says use BONUS CODE IGGY on Party Poker!

I truly have a ton of stuff to blog about but it shall have to wait. I'm overdue for a genuine uber-post, damnit. I might just start posting all this random stuff in quick short bursts, so stay tuned.

For now, here's a 2+2 post by a naysayer about playing poker professionally. He was flamed pretty hard by the regulars, so he then posted a follow-up article by the great Mike Caro. I'm including both of them here, along with one thoughtful response.

Quit dreaming

This is my first post and probably my last but I had to respond to the dreamers who think they can make a living at internet poker.

Trust me boys, I have been doing this for 30 years and I have seen far too much hurt, both personally and as a outsider. I laughed my ass off when I was reading buddies version of getting rich. And then to make things worse, you got a bunch of clowns responding to his thread and considering doing the same thing.

I suspect, these guys are a bunch of 18 year olds who think they know it all. Well, let me save you the heartache.


Say goodbye to your job, money, family and self respect. Trust me when I tell you this, when you do this for a living its not fun anymore...ITS A JOB. And then the inevitable will happen, YOU WILL GO ON TILT. When this happens you will press and lose everything. It may take 1 year or 6 months but it will happen.

Think it wont happen to you...well, tell it to the other millions it has happened.

So Mr. Dreamer...get the "Moneymaker" thoughts out of your head and dont quit your day job.

Reply from uber board veteran, MS Sunshine:

Nice ranting post.

If someone, even an 18 year-old, is reasonably good at games, studies, works hard, plays within their BR then it is relatively easy to make a decent wage playing winning internet poker. They don't even have to be that skilled at the game if they use good game selection and don't play above "their" skill ceiling.

If there is even a chance of tilting issues then internet poker is not right for you.

You have to love the game.

MS Sunshine

Here's the old Caro column:

How Many Americans Make Their Living Gambling?
from Mike Caro "America's Mad Genius"

Why is it that every time I agree to do an interview, the questions are the same? For instance: When was the first time you played poker? Who cares? I mean, let's be honest -- I don't even remember that first time. I was a little kid, for godsakes.

What interviewers should really ask is: What didn't you know the first time you played poker that would have prevented you from getting kicked in the ass? Truthfully, I don't remember that, either; but I can speculate.

The first time I played poker, I didn't know that you weren't supposed to try to win the pot. I mean, it just seems obvious when you're a little kid that winning the pot is what poker is all about. Unfortunately, most casual players bring this little-kid attitude to the tables as adults. If you went to the table the first time knowing that you'll get paid in the long run for making quality decisions, knowing that throwing a hand away (and surrendering any chance at the pot) actually can put money in your pocket, you'd be successful almost immediately.

What else didn't I know in that first poker game when I was a little kid? Let's see. Oh, I didn't know that anyone actually played poker for a living. I probably thought it was a game of luck, like Old Maid. So, here's the really intelligent question I've never been asked:

How many Americans make their living gambling?

Many millions, if you define gambling as the art of taking chances, including business ventures. But that's not what you mean. You mean games of chance and formal bets on the outcome of events. First, let's qualify this by specifying that not everyone who is money ahead from this sort of gambling is making a living at it. I'll exclude two categories: (1) Those who are currently ahead, but whose results are luck based and who can't expect to win regularly in the future; (2) Those who are skillful enough to win and augment their incomes gambling, but not by enough to make a living from it.

So, now -- under that definition, how many American's make their living gambling? Well, wait! Do you we include those that are on the business side of legalized gambling, such as casino owners and even employees? No, we're not talking about them; we'll only count players who make their living beating the casinos, players who make their living beating other players, gamblers who make their living on winning bets on the outcome of events, or gamblers who combine any of those.

Are we ready now? I guess not, because we need to define what a living is. Does it mean not working, but barely scraping enough to get to the tables while begging food and sleeping in the back of a car? No, not in this definition. To qualify, let's say a gambler must make at least half as much as he would if he held the job he'd otherwise hold and must make a minimum of $30,000 a year gambling. There, now -- even though we still have things to quibble about -- we can work with this definition.

To sum it up, I'm about to tell you how many adult Americans win and have a winning expectation of at least $30,000 a year, that sum being at least half of what they could earn if they chose another profession, who are primarily involved in formalized wagers or games of chance (as opposed to taking business risks) and who are not benefiting from the casino's side of it. We will also exclude illegal bookies, considering them to be more like casinos with a built-in edge.

Here's the over/under: 32,813. Don't ask me how we got that number, just some rough estimates here and some wild speculation there. But, I think it's very accurate. In other words, I'm saying there are just as likely to be 32,812 or fewer American gamblers earning a living as there are to be 32,814 or more.

If that sounds like a large number, just keep in mind that it means fewer than one in 5,000 adults makes a living gambling. But let's break this figure down some more.

How many of these don't cheat? Answer 19,124 (again a ridiculously exact number arrived at by compromise). Repeating, there are only about 19,124 honest gamblers earning a living in the United States under my previously explained definition. That means, of the estimated 32,813 total gamblers making a living, only 58 percent make that living honestly. The rest have various schemes or angles going for them. This includes some blackjack players who go against the house, although the vast majority of these do so honestly -- if you consider counting cards as honest. I do; casino management sometimes doesn't.

But let's take poker. First of all, of that 32,813 gamblers making a living in America, how many are primarily poker players? OK, you want another over/under, here it comes: 18,100. How many are totally honest in the way they exact this living? It's 6,914. That means 62 percent of American poker players making a living are scamming.

Why so high a number of cheats? First, you should know that the figures are probably similar for other card games for which there are a far fewer numbers of professionals. Gin rummy and hearts come to mind. There is also a considerable amount of cheating in games like backgammon.

Since poker is an easy game to beat through skill, why would more players choose to beat it through cheating, instead? Interesting question, but there's a profound and powerful answer. More players do NOT choose to earn a living at poker by cheating. By far the majority of players capable of earning a living at poker are strongly opposed to cheating. The reason the percentages are as stated is simple: Honest poker players with great skill seldom win when they end up unknowingly in games where unscrupulous poker players with lesser skills cheat. The result is that the original pool of potential players who could make their living at poker is overpopulated with predators.

Why am I telling you this? I'm telling you so that, assuming you're an honest gambler and especially if you're an honest poker player, you can redouble your vigilance. Don't play in games where you worry about being cheated. Even if the game turns out to be totally honest, you will waste valuable mental energy on your concern that you're being scammed. When that happens, you don't have your full mental faculties available to make best-quality strategic decisions.

As many of you know, I've fought against unethical poker practices for over 20 years. I even had an independent office at the Bicycle Club Casino near Los Angeles when it opened in 1984. Players were invited to report any facts or suspicious to my Cheater Monitoring Service. You can still bring scams, unethical behavior, and poker partnerships to my attention by e-mailing caro@caro.com.

And one response to this thread that I enjoyed:

I would have to think that Caro (and others) would revise their ideas of how easy/hard it is to make a living playing poker in light of the internet-poker explosion and all the TV coverage that is bringing thousands of newbies to the game.

In other words, I bet that the person whom you are quoting would even disagree with you.

Come on. Everyone here knows playing poker for a living is a scam. We're all pretending to make money, just so everyone doesn't find out what utter fools we are.

To the original poster, right on! Tell the world please. You can't make money playing poker. Not even on the internet. And don't stop there....

Could you also let the world know

- That reading poker books doesn't help.
- That 2+2 won't help either, it's just a bunch of phonies posting fake hand histories to try to impress some other losers.
- That any amateur who plays occasionally should have no problems winning as long as he's really self confident, because poker sites are just full of other amateurs who won't have his natural abilities.
- And even if he loses for a while he should keep coming back cause it's just a matter of time!

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