Archive for the ‘General Chatter’ Category

Allowing Fish to Spawn

Monday, May 13th, 2013

One of the epic fails of the online poker industry has been protecting the fish. Back in the day (think 2003), there were significant player protections so newbies didn’t get completely hosed. For example, players were limited to the number of tables they could play at once (just one for awhile  at 888 Poker). Limit poker was also far more popular back then, and no limit tables were a bit of a rarity.

While limit poker is more boring than no-limit (which is why no-limit eventually won out), limit does help protect newbies from losing too much, too quickly. For example, a common newbie mistake is calling a raise cold with a non-suited ace and rag. In limit, they won’t lose their whole stack if they hit an ace but lose the hand. In no-limit, they will.

If someone calls with A6 offsuit and manages to just win by hitting an ace, they likely will win a small pot, but will lose a medium to large one. Since the variance in the size of the pots is much smaller in limit than in no-limit, this means that your wins won’t be drastically smaller than your losses. For example, if the blinds are $1-$2, winning with A6 just by hitting an ace may net you a $10-$15 or so in winnings in both limit and no-limit. However, in limit, the most you’ll likely lose with this hand is maybe $20, but one could easily lose $40+  if they don’t know any better at no limit.

With limit poker on the backburner and multi-tabling the new norm, the fish eventually died out of poker rooms. However, the past few years of prohibition in the US may allow a ‘respawning’ time. Once legalized online poker catches on (by this I mean more than just one site in Nevada… more like  people in California, New Jersey, and a couple other states playing too), there will be a significant increase of interest in poker. A lot of these people interested used to play poker back in 2004-2006 and have forgotten about how much money they may have lost back then.

With all of this dead time in the poker world, recreational players will be able to muster the courage to give it a go again. I don’t think we’ll have a boom similar to the first poker boom, but we’ll certainly have an increase in casual players. Hopefully though, the poker rooms will build in some player protections (the number of tables someone can play at once, disabling tracking software/player notes, or pushing limit poker again, etc.), so that the fish don’t go the way of the dodo again.

Phil Galfond’s Condo Slide Featured on Yahoo!

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Professional poker player Phil Galfond, whom we recently interviewed for our Weekly Shuffle column, had his Manhattan penthouse featured in a column on Yahoo!

Galfond, who has won millions playing the highest stakes cash games online under the screenname “OMGCLAYAIKEN”, purchased two Manhattan condos in October of 2008. Since one of the condos was on top of the other, Galfond got the novel idea to build a slide connecting the two properties:

The Yahoo! real estate section interviewed the architects of the slide who said, “this adventurous client requested something we’d never seen before.” Galfond’s place does include a staircase for times when taking the slide down to the bottom floor is not desirable.

The article questions why Galfond doesn’t have a ball pit at the bottom of the slide which is a pretty good point. Maybe we can get another interview with him to get to the bottom of that obvious oversight.

Vegas Taxi Stand Attendants Rant

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Upon arriving in McCarran International Airport, most visitors to Las Vegas will take a taxi to their hotel. The taxi line can often be quite long, as many as 100 or people will be ahead of you. But the line moves at breathtaking speed. The sole taxi stand attendant at the airport quickly ushers visitors at the front of the line to one of (I think) sixteen spots, and about sixteen cabs can take off at a time without problem. Even when it’s most busy, a visitor will almost never have to wait more than 20 minutes or so to get a cab.

The airport experience is a stark contrast to the experience of a taxi line at a hotel. If you are at a busy hotel, such as the Venetian, the line moves about six times slower than the airport line (that’s being generous to the Ventian I might add). Both the airport and the Venetian have one guy directing the cabs. While the airport taxi attendant seems to be able to move people into cabs at a rapid pace, the Venetian guy only does a couple of people per minute.

If the airport taxi line moves at breathtaking speed, why do taxi lines at strip hotels, such as the Venetian, move at a snails pace?

The answer: tips.

The airport taxi attendant is paid a flat salary by the city. His only motivation is to keep the cab line moving. In contrast, the taxi attendant at the casino largely relies on tips. To get people to tip him, he will often do a bunch of unnecessary extras. He’ll whistle the cab over (like he’s getting you the cab instead of the reality which is that some cabbie has been waiting there all along). He’ll open the door for you. If you have any luggage, he’ll put it in the cab for you (instead of having the cabbie do it like they do at the airport). He’ll ask you where you are going and then tell the cabbie (the driver will generally ignore him and ask you again anyways). He does all of this so you will hopefully tip him a dollar (more if you have luggage).

What does this mean for everyone else in line? It means they wait longer. He deals with one person at a time, even if there are 15 people waiting in line and a dozen or so cabs waiting. If he operated like the airport guy and loaded several cabs at a time (which isn’t hard to do), he’d be able to push through a line of 15 people within 5 minutes, no problem. But no. He needs those tips since the casinos are apparently too cheap to pay for a taxi attendant salary even though they’ll blow billions on all sorts of random visual crap for people to see. So guy #15 will have to wait a full 15-20 minutes instead of getting his cab in 3-5 minutes.

This doesn’t matter for most tourists since they’re not in a rush… or are too dumb to realize how incredibly inefficient the taxi stand system is at strip casinos when there is a long line. But what if you have somewhere to go in a hurry? What if you are late for the Main Event or some other poker tournament? What if you have tickets to a Cirque du Soleil event? Do you really want to be stuck in a cab line for an extra 10-20 minutes because some attendant is doing a bunch of extra, meaningless services and slowing down the line because the casino can’t shell out an extra $10-$20/hour?

One time my (now ex) girlfriend and I were almost late for a show. I was guy #10 in the Venetian taxi line. I didn’t have 10-20 minutes to waste, as this taxi attendant was incredibly slow. Worse, there were so many cabs in line waiting to pick up customers, and the guy was moving so slowly, that many cabs simply left the line to move on to another casino! Empty cabs would literally drive right past the cab line repeatedly while everyone stood in line and watched the taxi attendant load the cabs, one person at a time. We all had to wait for Sir Taxi Stand Attendant to whistle for the cab of his choosing to pick up one person, while the rest of the visitors and cabs had to sit waiting.

I had a choice to make that day. I was going to have to piss someone off. In the right corner, I had my ex-girlfriend. Weighing in at 115 pounds, she packed a strong punch of craziness, fake tits, and keen knack for being able to blame me for everything wrong in the world. In the left corner, weighing in at 160 pounds, was the pimply-faced Sir Taxi Stand Attendant, who seemed oblivious to the long line and his slow loading time.

Seeing all the taxis blow by us, I decided to grab one of the them once they had passed the taxi stand by about 10 yards or so. What’s the worst the could happen? Was Sir Taxi Stand Attendant going to realize what happened, run out of his way, wrestle me out of the car, and throw me down Hulk Hogan style?

Yes, that’s exactly what happened. He ran, stopped my taxi from leaving (it was going to leave anyways, better having me in it than empty I would think!) and demanded I got out of the car. Most likely intimidated by my extra 15 pounds of Slim Jim created gut I had on him (and the 115 pound bag of craziness next to me), he decided not to throw me to the turf and instead yelled at me for a few minutes. I yelled back and told him I’d try to get him fired. He went back to his precious cab line. I just went another ten yards away and grabbed the next cab that was leaving empty and managed to avoid Sir Taxi Stand Attendant that time.

I managed to make the show and nothing really came out of the situation. But the fact that a few dollars an hour in tips creates such an inefficient system astounds me. All of this in a city that prides itself on efficiently separating each and every tourist from his last disposable dollar.

Super Bowl Prop Bets Recap

Monday, February 8th, 2010

The Super Bowl is a prop bettors paradise. You can bet on seemingly anything. And I do mean anything.

Even if you’re not a fan of American football, there’s something for you when it comes to Super Bowl betting. At the viewing party I attended, some others in attendance had some pretty creative bets. Personally I kept it pretty “normal”; most of the money I had on the game was on Under 57 points (woohoo!). Here’s are some of the bets I heard others discussing throughout the night:

One person started off the night with taking under 1 minute and 42 seconds for Carrie Underwood’s rendition of the National Anthem. This bet was actually looking pretty good until she got to the “land of the free” verse. She really held out “freeeeee” for a long time which helped the over come in by just a couple of seconds. Here’s the video if you want to see what I mean. (How hot does she look by the way!!?)

That same person had one of the funniest bets of the night: they bet that, during the halftime show, the guitarist for the band The Who would do a 360 windmill on his guitar less than 5.5 times. What made this bet so funny is that it lost and it wasn’t even close. There was a stretch during one song where he did the windmill probably about a dozen times in a row. We were all laughing pretty hard about what a big FAIL this bet was. It wouldn’t have been so funny if it was for a lot of money, but it wasn’t.

One person bet that CBS would pan to show Archie Manning (Colts quarterback Peyton’s father) under 4 times. This was a really smart bet that easily won (they only showed Archie one time). In general, it seems like people tend to significantly over-estimate how frequently celebrity audience members will be shown during the broadcast. For instance, the line on how many times Reggie Bush’s girlfriend Kim Kardashian would be shown was 2.5. They didn’t even show her at all! Next year, I’m loading up on the under on all of these types of bets. It might be about as close to free money as you’re going to get from a sportsbook.

Another fun bet, and possibly the funniest bet of the night in terms of how funny it sounds talking about it, was whether or not the game MVP would thank God before he thanked anyone else. A friend bet the “no”. Interestingly enough, this bet probably could have been graded either way. Game MVP Drew Brees said “God is great” at one point, before giving praise to anyone or anything else, but technically he never used the phrase “thanks” or “thank you”. If I ran a sportsbook, I would probably call this prop a push out of the sheer controversy that will surely arise no matter which direction you grade it. However, my friend was fortunate enough that the book graded his bet as a win.

If you didn’t believe me earlier when I said that you can bet on anything in the Super Bowl, you might be starting to have second thoughts after reading this, huh?!

How To Not Be A Fish At Sports Betting

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Many poker players bet on sports as well. Some do this as a hobby, while others take the matter quite seriously and hope to grind out a profit over time.

While sports betting is theoretically a beatable game, it’s a much more difficult game to beat than poker. With sports betting, you can’t drop down levels and find ‘fish’ like you can do at poker. Of course, with poker, if you don’t practice proper game selection and overestimate your abilities, you can be that fish and has a hugely negative ROI/hourly rate, so it works both ways.

On the bright side with sports betting, it’s much easier to bet with confidence knowing that the edge on your bets is at most 2-3% in either direction. In other words, you can have fun flipping coins. So while you will not be able to find the huge edges with poker, it is much easier to avoid being on the bad side of a huge edge.

Sharp sports betting is not so much knowing the sport as much as knowing the market. Most people who lose a lot of money at sports betting think they know a lot about a team, but really just piss off money making dumb bets.

Here are the top 3 ways to make money at sports betting and avoid being a fish (or in sports betting lingo, a ‘square’)

1. Always know the vigorish charged and minimize it

This is pretty straightforward. Standard bookmaker commissions on matches between two teams is generally 4.5%. In bookie lingo, they make you lay 110 to win 100 (or in terms of decimal odds, a $1 bet results in a payback of $1.91 with a win).

Commissions on football (soccer) are often higher. The bookies can get away with this since they offer a bet on each team as well as a draw, and most bettors don’t take the time to calculate what the vigorish is.

To reduce the vigorish, you should have multiple accounts with a few bookmakers. This way, you can shop for the best line. If the total theoretical vigorish is 6% or more, you probably should just avoid the bet to begin with, since even if you found a good line, it is still probably still quite -EV.

Also, having an account with a betting exchange is a must. For example, at Betfair, you match other people’s bets and Betfair just charges the winner 5% on the net win. This results in a vigorish of 2.5%, which is considerably lower than a standard bookie.

2. Take the side against the popular bet

Often in sports, the most bet on games feature a popular team versus an unpopular team. In American basketball, this may be a game between the LA Lakers (popular team) versus the Washington Wizards (unpopular team). Whatever the point spread may be, it will likely be a point or two higher than it should be because the vast majority of people will bet on the LA Lakers. Since everyone is betting on the LA Lakers, the bookies will want the Wizards to win against the spread (since they are essentially betting on the Wizards). By shaving a point or two, they can increase their chances of holding the bettors money instead of paying out.

Also, by moving it a point or two, the bookies can attract more money on the Wizards and have more even action. This will allow the bookmakers to just collect the vigorish on the game and not have as much of their own money at risk. In reality though, even after moving the line a point or two, most of the money will still be on the Lakers, so the point or two line movement represents the bookies increasing their chances of a favorable betting outcome for them. So in this case, bet with the bookies by betting on Washington.

With basketball and American football, generally the better bets are taking the points with an unpopular underdog against a popular favorite and sometimes a bet on the under. In European football (soccer), the better bets are generally the draw and betting against the favorite. With a lot of bookmakers, you can only bet on the favorite, bet on the draw, or bet on the underdog. However, at betting exchanges, you can generally lay the favorite (so you are betting on the draw or the underdog) and this is the best bet when the favorite is a popular team and the underdog is an unpopular team. Most bettors will bet on the favorite to win, which will push the odds in to a more favorable direction for those betting against the favorite. So in a game between say Manchester United and Everton, the squares will be all over Manchester United and if you like money, you should probably lay Manchester to win (or bet on the draw).

3. Don’t think you are some sports guru

The biggest reason people lose a lot of money at sports is the same reason people lose a lot of money at poker; they think they know a lot more than they do. At sports betting, most people think they know the teams and can analyze the games. The truth is the bookies do a much better job. It’s a lot easier to analyze the betting markets and find opportunities for bets that are minorly +EV (or about neutral) than attempting to handicap the lines yourself and finding opportunities where you think the bookies set the line incorrectly.

Most people who think they know a lot about sports just end up doing what most of the betting public does: they bet on the favorite team. Most people get caught up in a superstar player thinking “he can never lose” or whatnot.
Sharp sports betting is just value hunting. Find places that have low vigorish and good lines and make bets against the popular teams. That’s all there really is to it.

Believe It or Not… +EV Lottery

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

No one has won the Texas Lotto since May 13. Because the jackpot builds until someone wins it (reminiscent of the old Party Poker Bad Beat Jackpot), the current jackpot is now $59 million. Normally, the jackpot is paid out over 26 years, but the winner has the option to take a $38 million lump sum prize.

The odds of winning the jackpot are about 1:25.8 million, so the lottery is pretty +EV right now.

Given the long odds of winning, it doesn’t really matter unless you bought all of the lotto tickets and guaranteed yourself the winner. Of course, you’d screw yourself over if someone else won at the same time and had to split the pot.

I estimate the lottery sells about 3.2 million tickets for each drawing, based on how much the jackpot builds and the number of small winners. The Texas Lotto claimed there were a total of 45,282 winning tickets (the vast majority of  these ‘winning’ tickets are people hitting 3 out of 6 numbers for a whopping $3 prize). The overall odds of winning anything are 1:71, so that would bring a guesstimate of 3.2 million tickets.

So, there’s about a 1/8 chance of someone else winning the lottery right now. This means if you bought every ticket, there’s a 7/8 chance of taking home 38 million (worth an EV of $33 million) and about a 1/8 chance of getting $19 million (worth an EV of $2.4 million). Total EV is $35.4 million and you spend $25.8 million on the tickets, so you’re up almost ten million.

This doesn’t even factor into the fact that if you bought every ticket, there would be an extra $25 million added to the prize pool that was more than expected, so the actual jackpot would be even higher. Also, you’d hit a lot of little winners (hitting 3 of 6, 4 of 6, and 5 of 6), so you’d make a lot of money that way too.

Anyone got $25.8 million to put up, a crew of ticket bubblers, and the cojones to try this out?

Is Monogamy +EV?

Monday, September 21st, 2009

While most gamblers are known to be superstitious, we poker players pride ourselves on only focusing only on expected value. Sure, there are some poker players that will move to the ‘hot’ seat at the table and carry a lucky rabbit’s foot, but they are generally the donators at the table.

I’m generally incredibly rational myself and don’t delve into any superstitions. However, over the past few years, there has been one odd correlation that I can’t seem to explain. I’ve ran regression analysis and found the correlation to be technically statistically significant, but there doesn’t seem to be any causation to result in the correlation.

You see, it all started back in early 2008. I had one of the most amazing gambling runs of all time. Anything I touched turned into gold. Whether it was poker, dice, or sports betting, everything went well for me.

Now, before  I go any further, I want to clarify to all the nits out there about betting on dice. While it is -EV like all casino games, the house edge for dice in American casinos if you play pass line/max odds is about .02%-.3% depending on the rules. When you factor in comps, the comps make up for the EV you bet., so it’s fairly EV neutral, but with high variance. A more detailed description can be found at Wizard of Odds.

During my gambling heater, I was near the end of my relationship with Girlfriend #1. While Girlfriend #1 was a nice girl, I was tired of just jamming her. Eventually, around April, we broke up, and I began dating around again. My gambling started to suffer from more bad beats. Things began to spiral downwards and more downwards, especially once I began dating more girls.

In early December, I picked up Girlfriend #2. Soon after we became exclusive, we went to Vegas and I booked a nice 5 figure win. Things began to turn my way.

We took our second Vegas trip right around New Years. Gambling started off well again. On New Years Eve, we decided to ring in 2009 with a three-way with a random girl. The next day, I got owned at gambling. We had another three-way in Vegas a couple days after, and again, gambling did not go so well.

Upon returning home, we kept the ménage à trois thing going as a once a month thing. My gambling cold streak also kept going. If I had kings, he had aces. If he had kings and I had aces, he hit his king. Any team I bet on was destined to lose. Dice was no longer a game with a .1% house edge. The gambling gods somehow made it a 30% house edge when I was playing.

Girlfriend #2 and I broke up in early May. I returned to dating around and the gambling losses continued. I started to think that perhaps the gambling gods just had it out for me for some reason. Why were they so good to me in early 2008 and so vicious now? While variance is annoying, these swings seemed to be beyond several standard deviations from what I would expect.

In comes in Girlfriend #3. We started dating mid-August. She’s not into the three-way thing, so I ‘m stuck with hitting the same hole all the time. At first, I lamented this situation.  However, I’ve noticed that I seem to be able to win again. No longer is every bet destined to lose. I’m starting to….win again. What does this mean?

Quite frankly, it appears the monogamy gods and the gambling gods seem to be colluding in regards to me. What sort of devilish pact do they have? They seem to want to exercise some sort of vicious control over the vice in my life.

The true test came a few weeks ago at the strip club. My girlfriend and I were hanging out, and one of the strippers came over. Sure enough, it became increasingly clear that the stripper wanted to hook up with my girlfriend, and would let me join in too as a sort of ‘tax’ she’d pay for the privelege of fooling around with her. My girlfriend made it clear to me that it wasn’t going to happen.
While all I could do was feel sorry for myself at the time, I just won $1k playing Omaha while writing this entry. I guess monogamy really is +EV. Damn colluding gambling/monogamy gods.

Between polygamy and money though, the choice is clear. Money.

Welcome to the PokerTips Blog!

Friday, September 4th, 2009

We here at PokerTips decided that if everyone else has a blog, why can’t we? I mean, most teenage girls have a blog where they write about glitter and pencils and whatever else. Surely we’re more interesting than them, right? Right?!

Okay, don’t answer that.

In our effort to prove that we are indeed more interesting bloggers than your average teenage girl, we will strive to maintain mediocre or slightly better than mediocre commentary on the poker world on this part of the internet, including poker strategy advice from a varying group of top players.

Additionally, keep an eye open for special online poker offers that we are able to share with our readers through this blog.

Alright, now that we have those formalities out of the way, did anyone hear about the guy who won the ladies-only event at the Borgata in Atlantic City? Apparently casinos are disallowed from prohibiting entry into an event based on gender. For years, most “Ladies Only” events at casinos operate under a gentleman’s understanding that only women should play in the event.

Abraham Korotki chose to turn a blind eye to this arrangement and entered the $300 ladies-only event last weekend. Out of a field of 260, Korotki made it all the way to a heads-up battle… against a woman that was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and was hoping that top prize would pay for her living expenses while she recuperates from an upcoming mastectomy. Ouch.

**Editor’s Note: If she’s really that concerned about her living expenses, what’s she doing playing in a $300 buy-in poker tournament?**

Apparently the guilt must have set in a little on Korotki, because after he defeated Nicole Rowe, he said he will donate all of his winnings to three charities, one of which is dedicated to breast cancer research. He explained that his motives for playing the tournament were purely innocent and that he just wanted to play some poker and thought it would be alright since he saw 5-10 other men playing too.

Alright, Korotki, alright. We’re putting our flaming torches down for now. Just don’t let it happen again!