Friday, January 18, 2008
Is poker and ethics an oxymoron? I think not, for obvious reasons.
And so I have grudging permission from my pal, DB, a pretty-much-retired American expat, long-time writer, poker greenhorn, cocooning in Ireland in Baja Cork, overlooking the Irish Sea, to re-print the email he sent me on this very topic.
Enjoy and TGIF:
Interesting that we return once again to the issue of ethics and the ironies of the poker tradition.
As a former combat military officer, it is no surprise to me that the children of a country whose operational national philosophy is based, fundamentally, on greed, should emerge in early adulthood with no sense of honor, duty or service. It is difficult (but not impossible) to blame them when we have not imposed a system of ideals or culturally reinforced a generally recognized framework of right action. I don’t consider them fully fledged sociopaths. Just staggeringly morally malnourished.
You refer to the relative wonderfulness of poker professional Barry Greenstein… I have great respect for Mr Greenstein, particularly as a rookie book publisher (me being an editor), and particularly in contrast to Mason Malmuth, whose haughty, cheap unprofessionalism makes my teeth hurt. (I refer only to the editing, design and production values of Mr Malmuth’s products and what I perceive to be his general public tone.)
On the other hand, Greenstein takes a sublime combination of skills, talents, attitudes and life experiences and consciously employs them as just one predator among a school of sharks, trading scraps back and forth, until a suitable victim stumbles by, to be shared and devoured by all. This is his basic life strategy -- his vocation and his avocation, as Frost wrote in one of my favorite poems. Greenstein acknowledges freely, with a clear conscience, that his working philosophy is to avoid the strong and feed on the weak. That is the poker tradition, distilled. But it is not my ideal of the very model of an Ethics Hero.
I suspect Mr Greenstein might point out that killing people for a living was not a good bet for sainthood, either. He would have a point there. These matters might be relative. But probably not.
(I should also note that Mr Greenstein created his own, charitable, wealth-distribution plan. Whether this is atonement, or mitzvah, or something else, is none of my damn business.)
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I was doing some research for a client about reviews and the sites that use them best. Of course, Trip Advisor is right up there.
And so I dug around in the Las Vegas reviews and discovered the Good Day Inn is the worst – or at least worst reviewed place to stay in Las Vegas. Reviewers say that the pool isn’t filled, strange odors greet guests, and those brave enough to stay should bring their own Lysol. For example:
When we went down the stairs the first morning there was a person sleeping on a piece of cardboard. He had better accommodations than we did.
The elevator also smelled of urine so we even had to spray it the one time we rode it.
The rooms were very filthy. Rooms that are rented by the hour are probably better than this one!!!!!!!!!!! DO NOT STAY HERE!!!!!!!
Las Vegas: Good Day Inn - Traveler Reviews - Do NOT stay at this facility - TripAdvisor
I highly recommend reading the reviews from the link above. Just page after page of grossness.
And damn, I just watched this video so this post is just an excuse to post this first person view of an amazing bike trail. This is crazy:
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
"As Brandi threads grow all over the world, millions of people at work spend the mornings reading about Brandi. Productivity dives as does the stock market. It will be called the Brandi recession."
As the original thread dies down, there's been a few off-shoots.
Brandon started a new thread of insanity (link below) and had lots of folks weighing in on his post, including detectives and lots of pretend lawyers.
Here's his post:
The Prosecution Of Brandi Hawbaker
Basically this is the situation. No matter how much of a fool I was for involving myself in something that I didnt have the ability to handle or even remotely come close to grasping, I am not letting this go.
A severe crime has been committed and I am going to be the final person in the poker world at least that Brandi is able to do this to. So there will be no more Mark Newhouses, any the many other countless pro's and recreational players and just good hearted people in this world that Brandi has stolen from in the past.
While I was away from my home, Brandi systematically over a short period stole and sold every item of value from my home. This includes all electronics, furniture,computers, even appliances (i know what a sick bitch). Everything. I am sure she got no where near the face value of anything although the police report and affadavids list the loss at approximately $45,000.
Neighbors witnessed unknowing what was going on and gave statements to the police. The Las Vegas Police right now are basically just calling her a person of interest and are looking for her. Its takes about 10 business days from how it has been explained to me for all of the paper work to be processed and the information forwarded to the Clark County States Attorneys Office, in which a warrant will then be issued.
The dilemma is this. I know where she is staying (commerce). Staying there and gambling with my money. When that money runs out she will have no where to go. I have informed the police of this. But obviously due to the overall small magnitude of the crime and the fact it is considered a non-violent crime, nothing can be done until she is spotted in the state of nevada, where she could then be detained and arrested.
So I ask any of you that wish to help me make sure she finally has to face some responsibility and accountability for her actions to help me. If you spot her anywhere in the state of nevada, contact me or the police immediately. She has a storage unit on West Flamingo (filled most likely with whatever things she couldnt sell off of mine). She will have to make an attempt at some point to come back here.
I don't care what any of this costs me. Im not accepting this and letting it go. Im going to do whatever it takes to make sure she realizes she is not going to be able to go through life this way and receive a get out of jail free card each time.
Uber strange old poker dude, David Sklansky, sad that the drama is dying down, decided to create some hubub by starting yet another thread: Immunity For Brandi. David has become such a traffic whore.
Here's Mr. Sklansky:
I have a feeling that there is another side to this story. And that Brandi would like to tell it. But if she does, she has a problem. Because even if she would dispute the vast majority of Brandon's accusations and even if she had good reasons for her actions, she is better off legally, saying nothing.
For instance she can't say "I came home one night to find Brandon in bed with eight girls and he gave one of them my engagement ring. So I pawned his dishwasher." Because even though we would all forgive her she would be admitting a crime.
But that means we are all deprived of her side of the story and 2+2 is deprived of a thread with 600,000 views.
To get around that all that is necessary is that Brandi avoid any direct admission of a crime and that no one here tries to make her comment on anything her lawyer would advise her to keep silent about.
I say 600,000 but deep down I am dreaming of a million.
And finally, I thought I'd include one of David's replies in the thread itself so you could get his take on Brandi. And also, the HUGE poker person he referenced below was Bobby Baldwin. Just so you know.
You are just wrong. There could easily have been mitigating circumstances or inaccurate portrayals that she would have wanted to get out to the public. Regardless of whether posters here would have been insulting in return. It occurred to me that she was not posting for legal reasons only, so I made a suggestion. Of course it helps 2+2 but I would never have let that be an excuse to knowingly lead her down a path that would hurt her. We had actually become pretty good friends. She had told me many personal things about her life and she never did me wrong. Except, apparently, seriously exaggerating what I suggested to her regarding getting staked for tournaments.
When she stopped talking to me I really thought it was because someone asked her to. Either Brandon, or someone not yet mentioned, who was smitten with her, was HUGE, and who might well have wanted to insure discreetness. In fact when I first saw him flirt with her I actually TOLD her that I would understand if he insisted she and I didn't talk anymore. Maybe that didn't go over well. When she stopped calling me I accepted it for that reason and one much more important. She left her kittens with us before going to LA and my girlfriend fell in love with them. The more time that passed without me speaking to her the less likely Brandi would ask for them back (she was aware we wanted them). True story.
Is Brandi a little nuts? Does she overestimate her poker prowess. Duh. You know as well as I do. But I never saw anything that suggested she was a con artist or a thief. And I would not have knowingly suggested a course of action that would actually harm her. Even for a million views.
"We used to do it, buying in other people for the majors and then having extra accounts in case we busted out."
"I'm sure people who have bashed you have multi-accounted themselves....maybe they've done it and haven't been caught. I want to let you know it was a bad thing that you got caught, young man; next time you do it don't get caught."
This whole thing just burns my ass. For people like me, who have played it straight for years and years, it's a kick in the nuts.
Poker Road Radio: Are you remorseful because maybe you felt like what you did was wrong, or are you remorseful because you got caught?
Josh “JJProdigy” Field: Well, I think first I got caught. I mean, it had to take them to catch me for me to realize that I was wrong and what I was doing was wrong.
Poker Road Radio: So you are telling the world right now that . . . you right now are not playing on the sites that you’re banned from and you have no plans to play on the sites that you are banned from?
Josh “JJProdigy” Field: At this moment in time, yeah. I can’t tell you in a month I’ll be thinking the same, because it’ll be really hard not playing all those sites. But right now, yeah.
Wow. I can't help but start to feel like a sucker: if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying? Is that really what it's come to?
Anyway, in the Open letter to the poker community on integrity thread, I found this post by Barry Greenstein as people were debating all the gray areas of poker, both B&M and online:
I'm confident that I could pass a lie detector test that I've never cheated at poker. That means that I don't think I've done anything wrong, but not everyone will agree. Some people don't think that I should have been able, in the past, to play under more than one screenname. Since I signed with Pokerstars a year and a half ago, I was told that I could only play in one account and that no one else could play my account. I have had no problem abiding by those rules that weren't always in force.
I was at the Commerce casino today and I asked about 20 people who also play on the Internet if they had ever played in someone else's account or if anyone had ever played in theirs. Everyone had done both. It used to be accepted, but now it's not on Pokerstars, and I think other sites are following suit. But to accuse me of being unethical for doing this when it was not against the rules seems ridiculous.
Someone asked what is legal to do online, but not in live poker: My girlfriend was playing in an online tournament. She had a difficult decision and screamed across the room the details of the hand and asked me what she should do. I told her to move in. I have talked to the higher-ups at different sites and that is not against the rules, but some people here would claim I was unethical. Obviously, I would never give advice during a hand of live poker.
For those who think we deserve to be punished: she moved in, got called and went busted. So much for my advice!
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
It gets more difficult to find sane voices in the poker wilderness as the level of discourse and intelligence has dropped over the years.
But this gets my early vote as Post of the Year. Cheaters are cheaters and crooks are crooks. You can't have it both ways.
Open letter to the poker community on integrity, and our responsibility as gamblers.
I recently listened to the PokerRoad webcast with JJProdigy, and within minutes felt sick to my stomach. I was genuinely ashamed as a professional poker player that these were my peers. Gavin Smith and Joe Sebok showed a genuine apathy toward JJ’s malicious pattern of cheating at online poker, even sympathy for his situation. Late in the show, Gavin mentioned that he knew of players who stole tournament chips from prelims at the WSOP to save for the ME, and stakers who would confiscate their horses chips for their own tournament, and yet they are still accepted members of the poker community. This is a travesty, and just because there is nothing the tournament directors and casinos are doing about it, does not mean that you Gavin can do nothing. You are a voice for the poker community. OK, you are not exactly the Jay Leno of poker radio, but at least do your part, NAME NAMES.
This is an incredibly fragile time for poker in America, and one thing that is sure to help us, is maintaining a reputation as people with integrity. The old image of card sharks as cheats and liars has been really cleaned up, especially with Travel Channel, ESPN, and every other mainstream and clean representation of poker. People like JJ, who Joe referred to as a “stand up guy for coming on the show,” are the rotten apples that spoil the bunch. Thirty years ago, who would have thought that the stereotypical image of a poker player in 2008 would be 21 year old college kids with silly hoodies and sunglasses, who play most of their poker on the computer? We are no longer the seedy backroom hustlers, we are out in the open, honest, and fair—most of us.
When I play live poker, I often talk to live players and ask them if they play online. Frequently their response is “nah, I don’t trust online poker, I think its rigged.” I used to always assure them that online sites are as safe as Visa or Mastercard, and they have nothing to gain from cheating. Can I really tell them this honestly though? I used to always tell them the mere possibility of being caught is way too much of a risk for the sites, especially when they can earn easy money being legitimate. But is the risk truly too great?
I was at a sports bar the other day, and I have gotten used to the site of poker on the TVs at bars at this point. Something that has not yet been conditioned in my brain though, was the site of AbsolutePoker ads during the commercial. Did ESPN really sign a contract, to show advertisements with a site that was unequivocally caught to have a major cheating flaw in its system? A site which scrambled to cover up the evidence, a site where the major cheaters in question were executives from the company itself? If that contract was signed before the scandal, then so be it, let it run its course. I truly hope though that there is at least one advertising executive at ESPN who remembers his business school course on business ethics. Just like it would be frowned upon to give press to a company known to be corrupt and illegitimate in another field, so too it should be frowned upon for a massive network like ESPN to turn their cheek to any ethical standards. If they were contractually bound before the scandal, then I truly hope that someone at ESPN will end their relationship with Absolute.
Card counters in blackjack, are not cheaters. They are simply people smart enough to discover a flaw in the system. Multiaccounters, colluders, chip dumpers in tournaments, are all cheaters. Yet all these people can roam free in any casino, any tournament area, and feel free from any scrutiny by any tournament or casino bosses. The casinos are brutally efficient in weeding out the card counters, they even keep records with rival casinos about the card counters because it suits both their interests to do so. If someone is caught counting cards at the Bellagio on Monday, do you think he will be able to walk into the Venetian the next week? Fat chance.
Card counters are not cheaters, and yet they are so vigilantly and unequivocally barred from casinos. Yet known cheaters are banned from one site and not the next, or are banned from one tournament and not the next. Why is there no unity amongst the casinos or the sites in this case, but such fervor for unity in the case of card counters? Oh right, money, it’s always about money, and never integrity. Card counters win money from the casinos, multi accounters and cheaters pay rake just like everyone else, they are only stealing from us. This is why the burden is on the PLAYERS to pressure the casinos, the sites, and even TV networks to be harsher about this, and why people like JJProdigy should not feel comfortable enough to sit down face to face with two important figures in the poker community.
I realize I am being optimistic, and perhaps naïve, but what do we have to lose? When users on PokerStars demanded that JJ not be allowed to play at PCA, he was banned. This is a perfect example of what we are capable of if unified in our belief in integrity and honesty. And I call on PokerStars and FullTilt to show the same enthusiasm and dedication to a preservation of integrity that I hope all poker players believe in.
Every day we are getting closer and closer to the possibility of an improvement with regard to UIGEA, and yet far too many of us are sitting here and watching the rotten apples fall right into the basket with the ripe apples. In all my time in poker (a mere four or so years), I have always been told that a gamblers word is everything. Integrity, honesty, ethics, were all virtues in poker that anyone in the community had to have, as it was an integral part of the oil that keeps the poker machine running. I can’t even count the number of times I have made financial deals with trusted poker friends who could easily have run off with five, and even six figure sums of my money or equity, and I would have no way of doing anything about it. Why do I put myself in such situations? Because I know there are certain people in this world that I could hand my whole roll to and say, “hold this for a second,” and in no dimension or situation, would the thought of stealing from me ever occur to them. These are the people that gamblers are supposed to be. That is how our world should work, and how it works when it is at its best.
Make no mistake, multi accounting is not light cheating. It is as heavy a form of cheating as you can have in tournaments. On the radio show JJ said that he rarely, but occasionally did play with one of his own accounts in a tournament. We all probably remember ZeeJustins infamous “open more sit and gos to negate the ethical advantage” line. The fact of the matter, is that it doesn’t matter how many tables there are in the tournament, you will eventually wind up at the same table as yourself. Even if you aren’t, the mere presence of two accounts in the same tournament is a travesty.
Perhaps one of the only moments where there was a hard question, was when Joe (or possibly Gavin) asked JJ why he wouldn’t give the money he won cheating to charity, and JJ had no answer. Why not Josh? Why is it so difficult to come to terms with the fact that you are in possession of illegitimate funds? The money is yours in name, but we both know most of it does not belong to you. And how dare you have the audacity not to think it a responsibility as a demonstration of repentance and of reform, that you must give up your illicit funds. What kind of apology of “I am sorry, I stole your money,” ends in “but I am going to keep it, sorry.” As long as you keep your million dollar savings account, or whatever it is, you are still no better than bank robber to me.
Shame on both Gavin and Joe for saying that Greg Raymer was out of line for the following quote: “It is obvious to me that he has no real remorse. If he's at my table in a live event, I'll gladly out him to the table, and point out that we all need to be alert because this guy is willing to cheat anytime he thinks he won't be caught.”
Out of line? I only hope that every WSOP winner, as an ambassador for poker is so morally and ethically conscious as Greg. I applaud you Greg, as being a person who can shape and alter this little world of ours, showing integrity and class first, and greed and ignorance last. JJ responded by saying that Greg doesn’t know him, and thus should not pass judgment. You are in no place to say who is right and who is wrong to pass judgment in this community. Once you have shown such a clear breach of ethics and integrity in this business, the worst should be assumed. I am friends with several people who know JJ well and they all say he is a good kid who is trustworthy (aside from cheating). I have no doubt this is true, but to expect that you won’t be bashed and labeled as a cheater, after being basically the biggest cheater at online tournaments, in the history of the game, are you serious?
Amanda Leatherman almost always does a good job as a representative for poker in her interviews. She isn’t the most knowledgeable about the game, but she gets the job done and is generally on point. But take a step back for a moment please, the next time you are about to interview the Jesse James of online poker, do not sugar coat the questions and smile at him like you smile at Daniel Negreanu. He does not deserve those smiles, he does not deserve the “how are you” introduction. By breaking that code that we as gamblers almost… ALMOST unanimously follow of morals and ethics, he loses the right to get treated like everyone else. People should not ask him, how are you, they should ask him, why the **** are you in this room, why are you flying to poker tournaments, crawl back under the hole you crawled out of, and stay there because you are not one of us.
Gavin, do not let JJ of the hook either, by telling us how much other people have done it. Mob mentality exists because people feel that when in the presence of their peers, their responsibility is deflected from them to the rest of the group. Do not let JJ become one of the group, because no, not everyone did or does it. I have never multiaccounted. Not when I was 16, 18, or now that I am 21.
JJ, you said you have changed your beliefs because you realize you are no longer a child, and you are becoming an adult. If you want to be a man, then act like one. Criminals who confess and agree to give information for a free pass do just that, they give information. Saying “I am sorry” is meaningless without action. Give the money to charity, name names of other cheaters, tell us exactly how to catch people like you, and show a general commitment to ethics and moral values which are expected of you, and you will be forgiven with time.
The only chance we have as poker players of keeping our game clean, is a complete and utter revulsion and rejection of cheaters. Casinos and poker sites need to start working together to develop black lists and suspected cheaters. Sites say they do everything they can, but they do not. If someone is banned from one site for cheating, they should then be banned from every card room in the world, and every other site. This is possible, entirely possible, and it would put a MAJOR damper on the willingness of cheaters to cheat. Let’s face it, JJ cheated because he was “underground” anyway, and there would be no repercussions in the long run. If cheaters know the punishment will fit the crime, they won’t cheat anymore.
I do not know what I can expect to accomplish with this, but at least I will go to bed knowing I did my best. I plan to play this game for a little while longer, and I am concerned for its legitimacy knowing that cheaters can sit with the peers they cheated money from, and smile and joke about someone calling them out for their actions.
I am well known/connected in the online poker community, but I have no real connection to the bigger names in the live game, I only hope that this gets read by some of the role models and important figures in the live community, because they are the ones who are mainstream and well regarded by the public. Please do not let JJ be an example of what you can do in this world, cheat for 3 years, decide to stop, and carry on normally. Please let his kind know that they are not acceptable.
Weee. I went in to check how many pages the latest Brandi thread had grown to (68, as of this moment) when I noticed that someone posted about alleged cheating at Ultimate Bet.
I say alleged because someone fanned the flames by posting an email from Phil Helmuth, conceding that cheating had occurred, which later turned out to be a fake. It was pretty well done - duped me.
Anyway, here's the thread if you wanna go dig in and watch the online poker detectives at work:
Suspicious Plays on UB 25/50 and 50/100
But really. Good grief. Absolute and now possibly UB?
Did you know that they are both owned by the same firm?
"Tokwiro Enterprises is a private company that owns two online poker cardrooms, Absolute Poker and UltimateBet." from wikipedia.
Ah well, hopefully the above is a non-story but nothing surprises me anymore.
Plus, apparently nobody gives a red nickel about this. Which is surprising. I mean, how in the hell does one of the major online poker sites get exposed for massive cheating and their player base isn't affected? They are still in the top ten online sites, for Gods sakes. Honestly, now.
I suppose this just goes to show how deeply and profoundly retarded your average online poker player is. I can come to no other conclusion.
And sure, Absolute was just levied with a 500k fine after an admission of guilt. Big honking deal. If you want to read the full report it's in PDF format at the Kahnawake Gaming Commission web site.
Yawn. Nothing to see here.
Err, but wait! Here's a pretty sickening post from Pocketfives from November. And Gank is a well-known poster so it's not completely off-base, but then again, I can't verify the veracity of the following post in anyway.
Enjoy the games at Ultimate Bet!
The UB skinny: An insider talks
by gank on 11/9/2007 23:32
Well, I guess I have become the reporter everyone trusts to talk about what goes on behind the scenes while protecting my source's identity, as I have been contacted by and had a long conversation with an employee at UB who wished to shed light on the company. Again, I will protect my source and not be releasing his/her name to anyone, ever.
I will list the all the important points from the conversation as best I can.
1. It is possible to have upto 25 usernames registered to 1 players name on UB, they know about this and are ok with it as a company.
2. If someone does have multiple accounts, even if they are registered to the same name and use the same IP address, they are permitted to play at the same table, cash games and sitNgos and tournies. UB knows about this, and are OK with it.
3. Although my source is not sure if hole cards could be seen during the hand by a superuser account, my source does know that as soon as a hand is over with, UB personell has access to see everyones holecards even those that didnt go to showdown. This has been used by some UB higher ups at times while they were playing. Not a direct form of cheating, but definitely an unfair advantage if the person has access to this while playing.
4. A higher level executive was fired not to long ago, because her 19 year old son, who she got a job at UB, was caught cheating games at the UB office. It is unclear to my source if holecards were able to be seen during the hand, but it is a possibility. He definitely was cheating customers somehow, maybe a cobination of the above things mentioned at the very least.
edit: Another close, reliable source has just talked to me and told me "the woman's son had"administrative access" which let him see hole cards." and that the source "wouldn't besurprised if administrative access still exists" The person went on to say "there's also evidence that at least a couple months agoAJ (Green) was overseeing day to day operations"
5. "Someone" was brought on board by UB to help clean up the site. He figured out the problem was that they were using a version of the software from 1998 that had security holes in it(i.e. no security firewalls were/could be put in place) that couldnt be fixed without a complete overhaul of the software, which was estimated at costing 6 million dollars. UB decided it was not in their best interests to upgrade the software.
6. My source also voiced their concern for my safety for vocalizing these points.
I bring this to light because I feel that this is the important stuff that our community needs to be aware of.
Monday, January 14, 2008
I read about this in the Las Vegas Review Journal. I guess I'm surprised it didn't actually happen in Vegas.
And I'm only blogging this because it reminds me of the time a friend of mine got kicked out of a buffet when I lived there.
A 6-foot-3, 265-pound man says a restaurant overcharged him for his trips to the buffet line, then banned him and a relative because they’re hearty eaters. A spokesman for the restaurant denies the claim.
Ricky Labit, a disabled offshore worker, said he had been a regular for eight months at the Manchuria Restaurant in Houma, eating there as often as three times a week.
On his most recent visit, he said, a waitress gave him and his wife’s cousin, 44-year-old Michael Borrelli, a bill for $46.40, roughly double the buffet price for two adults.
“She says, ‘Y’all fat, and y’all eat too much,’” Labit said.
Labit and Borrelli said they felt discriminated against because of their size. “I was stunned, that somebody would say something like that. I ain’t that fat, I only weigh 277,” Borrelli said, adding that a waitress told him he looked like he a had a “baby in the belly.”
Houma accountant Thomas Campo said the men were charged an extra $10 each on Dec. 21 because they made a habit of dining exclusively on the more expensive seafood dishes, including crab legs and frog legs.
“We have a lot of big people there,” said Campo, who spoke for owner Li Shang, whose English is limited. “We don’t discriminate.”
Labit denied ever being told he would be asked to pay more than the standard adult price.
The argument grew heated, and police were called.
The police report states, “The incident was settled when the management advised that the bill was a mistake and, to appease Ricky, the meal was complimentary.”
Labit said he insisted on paying but was told not to come back. He complained that when seafood on the buffet line runs out, the restaurant only grudgingly cooks more.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Well hell, I wanted to come on here and do some poker writing but hit 2+2 before doing so.
And it's deja vu all over again. Posted a little over an hour and half ago. Destined to be another epic thread, I'm sure.
The Real Truth About Brandi Hawbaker
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