Friday, April 18, 2014

Filled One Table Within 15 Minutes for 1st Poker Game in New Room

It's official.  I have a full table for Sunday night poker.  Low stakes limit game.  Dealer's choice.  8 participants will be coming -- maybe a few more, in which case we'll break into two tables.  It will be good to kick this off -- while planning a grand opening in a few weeks.

I'm wondering whether it will be possible to host a game at least once a week.  I hope so.  The room is pretty large to sit in by myself -- though it will allow me to write more.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

First Poker Game in New Room: Sunday

I'm going to have a few folks over this Sunday to play some poker in my new poker room.  Nothing huge; nothing fancy.  I'm even going to wave the game fee.  Just $3/6 limit dealer's choice.  Yes, I know it's Easter Sunday -- but I just can't wait.  I've got the bourbon.  I've got the food.  Now all I need are some players.   We'll probably play on the eight person table I'm getting from my friend Eric.  Even if there are only a few of us it will be a worthy beginning.


Poker Room Looking Good

They're just about done -- the guys who have been working on my poker room.  I would have preferred a bigger space -- the build out that we had initially planned -- or the basement space.  But for reasons not worth going into, we couldn't pull the permits that any expansion of space would require.  So we were limited to the footprint we had.

Even so, they've done an amazing job.  First they had to dig down, removing the "patio" floor on which the extra room had been build.  Then they had to pour gravel, topped with concrete -- that provided a level sub-floor for the first time.  Then they had to work on the walls, blowing in insulation that had never been put in.  Then the plumbers and electricians got to work.  There's now baseboard heat and many electrical outlets that didn't exist before.  Then they build a couple of closets for poker supplies.  Then they installed track lighting -- so I could adjust it to suit the table configuration I had for the game (different lighting for three tables than for one table.  They then installed the two flat screens that I purchased.  They seem enormous to me at 42" -- though some of my friends ask me why I didn't get large ones.  They then put in the final floor -- some durable wood-looking material.  I think it looks great.  They installed the closet doors yesterday.  Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part: 50 linear feet of bookshelves -- built out from one wall in a framed way with adjustable shelving -- to hold my 700 or so poker books.  I can finally move them down from the attic, where they have been largely invisible.

The custom built Eastern Poker League table gets delivered today or tomorrow.  The final punch list will be gone over today and tomorrow.  I haven't yet scheduled the inaugural game -- but I will soon.  And you'll all be invited!

Yay!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Is Decline in On-Line Poker in France A Leading Indicator?

Did you ever ask yourself how and whether the gambling river would run dry?  Is there a limitless supply of money for gambling?  Certainly not.  Money is a finite commodity.  True, money supply can be expanded by the Federal Reserve and monetary policy, but the money we each have is surely limited.  Even as some get much wealthier, the overall amount of money that remains after life's necessities are taken care of is not limitless.  Surely at some point, new gambling venues will have to rob other gambling venues of their customers in order to survive.  Eventually the weak will die and the mighty will triumph.

With poker, I would guess that his is an even more acute problem.  The universe of poker players cannot forever expand.  And, I'd argue, eventually it will contract.  It will contract as bad players lose their money and their will to play.  At some point even the densest loser decides to quit -- either by not gambling or by trying another game.  The skilled players can't fleece the fish (to mix my metaphors) forever.  At some point many players either smarten up, go broke, or leave.  If we're not attracting a steady stream of new players to the game, then the games themselves decline.  And those that remain get tougher, as the percentage of bad to good players diminish.  When the games get tougher, borderline players become losers, good players become borderline players, and even the really skilled lose much of their action.  It becomes a vicious cycle until the game reaches the stage it was in in the 90s -- the best players trying to grind out a living from the regulars and rocks and the few live ones that stay for the action even though they're losing.

This seems to be the case now in France -- in on line cash games at least.  There was an article about it recently on pokernews.com. I reprint it below:


According to a new report released by France’s online gaming regulator ARJEL, the country’s online poker regulated market has continued to decline despite tournament poker showing positive results.

The negative trend that France’s online poker industry began experiencing in 2011 isn't showing signs of recovery in 2014, as the number of active accounts in the first quarter of the year is 12% smaller than 2013. The decline in numbers is estimated to cost operators a 10% of their turnover.

According to ARJEL’s report, bets at cash game tables fell by 19% during the first three months of the year, with a 28% drop in comparison with only two years ago. However, things went better in tournament poker, where the industry witnessed a 9% growth.

Bets at cash games dropped from a total of €1.476 million during the first quarter of 2013, to almost €1.2 million during the first three months of 2014. Things went slightly better for tournament poker, where the total of buy-ins moved from €375 million (2013 – Q1) up to €407 million in 2014.

Unfortunately, the growth witnessed in tournament poker is not enough to compensate the fall of cash games, as by ARJEL’s own admission, the combination of the two different numbers implies that poker operators "are experiencing considerable losses for yet another quarter," as their turnover moves from €72 million (2013 – Q1) to €65 million (2014-Q1) showed a 10% fall compared to last year.

The overall negative performance of France’s legalized and ring-fenced online poker market is made even more evident by the numbers related to players active on dot-fr online poker rooms. Here, the difference between 2013 and 2014 shows a decline of around 12%, with the total number of active players moving from 299,000 in 2013 to 263,000.

Yet, the contraction of the French legalized online poker market should not be misinterpreted as a result of a lack of interested in online poker similar to the one France’s Rapporteur of the Committee on Economic Affairs Razzy Hammadi discussed in the country’s parliament last December. Speaking in opposition to the creation of a trans-European online poker market with Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, Hammady said that the assembly had to "simply realize that despite significant investments in advertising and development, poker has now gone a little out of fashion," and therefore the country had to accept its unavoidable decline.

Although the parliament agreed with Hammadi's words and decided to opt out from the European shared liquidity project, another report released by ARJEL in February highlighted how most of the problems related to the decline of France's online poker market may be connected more to the development of the regulated market than anything else.

Poker Imagine -- Funny Story

I had decided to transfer money from my safety deposit box at Foxwoods to my banking account.  I wanted to start getting some interest on it.  I was looking at some stocks -- and figured it would be better to have access to money in a bank account, where I could complete a transfer to a brokerage account.

I went down to Foxwoods, played some poker, and then went to my safety deposit box, took out the sizable sum.  I tried to look nonchalant as I walked to my car, with the many packets stuffed into my inside jacket pocket.  I knew that it bulged -- and hoped no one would notice.

Fortunately, no one robbed me.

The next day I went to the bank.  I was impressed with myself, making such a large cash deposit from poker winnings over the years.  The teller, who has been there for a while, knows I'm a poker player.  He and another teller laughed and talked about where the money came from.  "He's a poker player", said one of them "He must be a good one" the other responded.  Huge ego strokes!

They had to count the money out by hand -- not being allowed to use the automatic bill counter.  I asked about this and they told me it was some rule about money that comes in bundles.  There are a lot of bills to count out - so all three tellers are pulled form the window to help count them out and put them back into bundles, using $10K wrappers.

At the same time, I had decided to bring in all of the change I had collected over the years in jars for just that purpose in my bedroom.  There's something about hoarding change that I picked up.

So while they assiduously counted out the hundreds I was counting out pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

As this was going on -- their counting my stacks and stacks of hundreds behind the counter, me counting out pennies, the one guy I know who is a professional gambler and author walks into the bank.  I had never seen him in any bank -- and certainly not mine.  I knew him because he had written a review of my stud book and had put me in touch with a publisher for my second book on no limit hold'em.

He walks in and I am thinking how nice for my image to have him see the tellers counting all of my poker winnings.  How often do players actually have anyone else literally see how much they have won over the years?

I say hi.  I'm trying to figure out a way to get him to know that all of the commotion over the cash is caused by little old me, having brought so much cash into the bank.  Ridiculous I know -- but, well, I'm built that way.

As soon as I say hi, he looks over, says, "Hey there Ashley" -- and then says, as my heart sinks,

"things a little tight in the poker world that you're down to counting out pennies?"

Alas.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Something Funny About Poker Obsession

I suppose it's not a good sign that I'm posting two "re-runs" instead of a blog entry with some original content.  I don't know, frankly, which is worse -- that I'm not coming up with anything new or that I'm actually spending time reading my own writing.  Well, either way, I did read this article I wrote five years ago -- and I found it very amusing.  I hope you will too!


Are You a Poker Junkie?

By Ashley Adams | July 30, 2009
Gambling compulsion is a serious subject. I’ve seen players ruin their lives with compulsive, addicted poker play. During my recent trip to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker I sat with a player at the Sahara who played terribly, in two hours lost about $1,200 (none of it to me, unfortunately) in a $1/2 no limit hold’em game, and seemed miserable while doing it. There is nothing funny about such a self destructive addiction. If you think you may actually be a compulsive gambler, please refer to my immediately prior column – Gamblers Anonymous.

On the other hand, I find that it’s possible to be obsessed with poker without that obsession rising to the level of a disease or something harmful. With that in mind, here is my list of the top ten signs that your poker game may be taking over your life. Lest you get too depressed from the observations, you’ll see from my comments that there’s something positive about each of these experiences.

1. You go to a bank and ask the teller to “color up” your five $20 bills into a $100.

Mistaking a bank teller for a casino cashier is a sign of a serious obsession. But, on the other hand, you actually have five $20s, meaning you aren’t flat broke. This incident also shows that you’re smart enough to do simple arithmetic.

2. You’re eating at a restaurant with three of your buddies. When the check comes you say to everyone, “Let’s chop it!”

There’s a silver lining here. Although you use a poker phrase unintentionally, once again, while partaking in a non-poker related activity, you demonstrate that you still have friends – and that you’re at least doing well enough to eat out. And though you are probably not a huge winner, not having offered to pick up the entire tab yourself, at least you’re not so destitute from playing poker that you’re bumming meals off your friends.

3. You come home from work, have dinner with your lovely wife, go on the computer to check your email, sign into an online cash game while you’re there. You continue to play poker as your wife comes up behind you, starts to rub your neck and shoulders, whispers in your ear, “the kids are staying over at their friend’s tonight dear” as she kisses you softly. You reply, “There’s a $10 tourney starting in a few minutes; maybe when it’s over …”

This is almost entirely a bad thing. There is one positive note, however. In spite of your obsession with poker, you are still married and your wife is still interested in you. Unfortunately, given your tepid response to her amorous ovations, you may soon find yourself with only a computer mouse to play around with.

4. Your wife calls you to dinner while you’re playing $.25/.50 no limit online. You yell back “Roll me over dear”.

While it’s generally good for a poker player to feel at home in a casino, it is not a good idea to confuse your home for the casino. On the other hand, your wife is still cooking you dinner and is still willing to have you eat it with her.

5. You come home from a weekend of playing poker, get greeted at the door by your beautiful twelve year old daughter – who then runs away screaming, “Mommy, a stranger’s breaking into our house!”

It’s truly a bad sign when your own children don’t recognize you any more because of your frequent poker-related absences. But, look on the bright side. At least you recognized her.

6. When, on your girl friend’s birthday, you scroll down the web address list on your computer to find the web site for that great Italian restaurant you went to a while back, all you see are poker sites, online casinos, and poker discussion groups.

There are two positive points to be made about this. There’s something to be said for wanting to go out to eat with your girlfriend instead of playing poker. And, perhaps most important, even though you’re away playing poker much of the time, you still remembered your girlfriend’s birthday.

7. You stop going to church because you don’t want it to interfere with the Sunday Million Tournament.

Though you’ve had to sacrifice your spiritual side in the interest of your passion for poker, it’s good to reaffirm that you don’t believe in that superstitious notion that praying to God in church is necessary for you to win. Plus, there’s the added bonus of not having to diminish your bankroll by dropping anything into the collection plate.

8. You categorize all of your friends as “loose”, “tight”, “aggressive”, and “passive”.

Well, at least you’re not hanging out with only maniacs and rocks – and you still have friends.

9. Your poker losses have been so big lately that your rent no longer accounts for most of the money you spend each month.

It’s comforting to know that by cutting back on the hours you play or by turning around your game you can afford a much nicer apartment or maybe a mortgage on a place you own.

10. You keep a toothbrush and a razor by the computer so you don’t ever have to miss a hand.

Your poker playing hasn’t interfered with your desire to be well groomed. And you’re coordinated and dexterous enough to multi-task in this way.

If even one of these ten items rings true for you, you are probably a poker junkie. But if you are, don’t despair. Misery loves company. And there are tens of millions of us.

Betting on the River in Stud

As long as I'm awake in the middle of the night -- surfing around and reading old articles -- I figure I'll share this one -- that appeared initially in Card Player.  It's one of my favorites -- though the topic is a bit narrow.  It was copied by some renegade site without compensation to me or to the magazine that paid for it, Card Player.  Even so, I enjoyed it when I wrote it; and I enjoy it today.


Articles - Ashley Adams

Betting on the River
by Ashley Adams

I engage regularly in Internet discussions about poker at rec.gambling.poker. It's part of the wonderful world of Usenet. RGP, as rec.gambling.poker is familiarly known, provides me with an excellent opportunity to peer into the thinking of many thoughtful poker players. It's an interesting scene — with players frequently expressing their opinions about how they would play a hand in various situations that typically arise in a poker game.

Most of the discussions focus on hold'em, but every so often a thread revolves around a stud hand. The people who post often disagree about what to do in different situations. Interesting debates develop. Less frequently, a consensus develops — reflecting the group's collective wisdom about how to play a hand.

What's interesting for me is to notice what conventional wisdom seems to be about how stud hands should be played in certain situations — and then to consider whether in fact it is correct, in my opinion. Two recent threads developed that had me thinking extensively about this. Both involved play on the river in seven-card stud. Let me share these thoughts with you.

The first thread questioned whether a player should call or fold on the river when faced with a final bet from someone who seemed to have the winning hand. The player pondering whether to call or fold had been betting, since third street, his pair of kings. His opponent had been calling with what appeared to be a flush draw. On the river, the guy with the kings, who didn't improve, checked. His opponent, showing a pair of eights and a three-flush, bet. The question that was discussed was whether the guy with the pair of kings should call this final bet.

We all concluded that he should surely call the bet. It seemed obvious because of the pot odds he would be getting for his call. The pot held about nine big bets. Although the guy with the kings thought his opponent probably either made a flush or had two low pair, he wasn't certain enough to warrant folding when he was getting 9-to-1 odds on a call. The possibility that his opponent, who showed a pair of eights, was bluffing with no more than his exposed pair was enough to warrant a call. Conventional wisdom, which dictates a call nearly all the time when your opponent bets on the river in stud, seemed to ring true.

I had to disagree with conventional wisdom in another instance, however. One stud player asked whether it made sense to bet with aces up into an obvious flush draw on the river if he was first to act with the highest board. He received 20 or so responses from players all over the world. They were unanimous in recommending that he check the river. The "group think" was that there was little if any advantage to betting into a drawing hand, since the opponent wouldn't call unless he could win. The initial bettor would face either a fold if his opponent were beaten or a raise if he were beaten. Everyone concluded, what would be the point in betting? He could only end up losing money.

Theoretically, this may make sense. Betting with no expectation of gain but the possibility of loss surely is an error. In fact, however, there often is an expectation of gain when betting into a drawing hand. Contrary to conventional wisdom and the consensus of this poker discussion group, I thought it surely made sense to bet into the drawing hand in this instance — and in any similar instances.

Let's look at this specific hand more closely and see why this is so. Let's say you are dealt a pair of aces and get called by a couple of opponents when you raise the bring-in bet. On fourth street, you don't improve. One opponent catches a suited card; the other doesn't. You bet and your suited opponent calls. The other opponent folds. So, it's heads up going to fifth street.

On fifth and sixth streets, you don't get a second pair and your opponent catches unsuited cards. You believe that he is on a flush draw. You bet on each street, correctly attempting to induce him to fold or at least make him pay to draw his flush card. He calls you to the river.

Now, it's the river, and you improve to aces up. You haven't picked up any tells, so you don't know whether your opponent made his flush or not. All you know about him is that he seems to be a typical player — neither extraordinarily tight nor particularly loose.

We've seen that conventional wisdom says you should check. And I can tell you from a lot of experience at the tables that this is what many good players do all the time in this situation. They reason that their bet has no value, since the opponent will fold if he doesn't hit his flush and raise if he does hit — forcing them to call a raise or risk getting bluffed out of a large pot. So, they check and call if their opponent bets.

It's usually true that if your opponent made his flush, he will raise. And, unless you really know his play very, very well and are dead certain that he would never make this raise as a bluff, you'd have to call and spend two bets instead of the one you would have spent if you checked and called with your aces up.

But — and this is a very large but — far more often, your opponent will call your river bet even if he doesn't make his hand! That's because he may well have some kind of hand to go with his busted flush draw. He may have made a pair on the river. He may have had a flush draw and a pair to go with it and made two pair. He may in fact have only looked like he was on a flush draw, but may really have been drawing to a pair or two pair. In any of those instances, although he would have missed making a flush, he would have made some kind of hand and probably would have called your final bet on the river.

Think about it. If you were playing against someone who had bet every street with what appeared to be a pair of aces and were faced with a bet on the river, what hands would you call with? Remember the initial discussion I alluded to at the beginning of this column — in which everyone concluded that it was usually wrong to fold any but the absolute weakest hands to a bet on the river. You'd call with just about any pair and certainly with any two pair, wouldn't you? You'd conclude that although you were probably beat, you were getting sufficient odds to call with a likely (but not certain) losing hand like one pair or two pair.

You must assume that your normal opponent would play his hand in a similar fashion. He's not going to fold unless he's absolutely certain he's beat. In other words, with just about any hand at all, he's going to call you down — just as you would call him — because the pot is so large relative to the size of the final bet.

The people who argue that you should check into a drawing hand will point out that you risk nothing by just checking and calling. But in so doing, they miss the essence of correct play. While they are correct that someone who checks and calls isn't overtly risking chips by checking, he is losing out on the opportunity to earn an additional bet. That missed opportunity is the same as lost money. You need to earn it, not pass it up when it is available. The successful poker player must be able to take advantage of potentially profitable situations, not just avoid risks. By failing to exploit the profitable potential of a river bet into a drawing hand, you are losing money in the long run.

OK, maybe I've convinced you to bet your aces up. But perhaps you're wondering if I'd extend that to a pair of aces that doesn't improve to aces up on the river. What if you have only the same naked pair you started with?

Much of the time, although not automatically, I would still bet the hand on the end. Against at least fairly good players who understand pot odds, you will get calls from just about any pair. While it's true that your unimproved aces might get called by a better hand, like two pair, that would have checked the river, these occurrences are, I submit, more than outweighed by the losing calls you'll get and, significantly, by two intangibles: image and confusion.

Think about this a bit more. In general, you want opponents to have an excuse to call you on the river when they have weak hands. You, after all, generally play only high-quality starting hands. Most of the time when you play, you have a strong hand on the river. You want your opponents to have at least some doubt about the true strength of your hand when you bet — so they will continue to call you when you're strong. If you habitually check into drawing hands on the river, betting only when you are loaded, you'll get little or no action unless your observant opponents are also very strong. Creating an image of a player who may be betting with a less-than-powerful hand will induce calls in the future when you have strong hands. And that's what you want.

There is a final collateral advantage to betting on the river into a drawing hand. Consider the suggestion of those who caution a check. A little more than four times out of five, your drawing opponent will not make his hand. When you check, he'll check, and you'll both show down your hands. But if you bet and he folds, while you won't be earning any extra bets, you'll be depriving your opponent of the knowledge of what you had. Although it gives you no immediate economic advantage, this bet is still good for you. Although your opponent may have guessed correctly that he was beat, he won't be certain about it. Uncertainty on the part of your opponent can only help contribute to your bottom line. So, bet into a drawing hand on the river and keep them guessing.