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Very Important

For VIP read Very Important Promotion!

Congratulations! You have been promoted to EmpirePoker.com’s VIP program.

Our VIPs enjoy some of the best benefits on the Net.

This has been something of a mission of mine for a long time, but it’s taken a long time to get there.  The Empire Poker loyalty points program doesn’t let you spend anything on junky merchandise until you’ve earned 5000 points and become a VIP, so otherwise all those hard earned FPPs are useless.  Points are awarded in bizarre fashion, with ring game players penalised for playing too much - they number of points they get is the square root of the number of hands played in a day - whereas tournament players are rewarded for playing insane sessions – bonus points are awarded equal to the square of the number of tournament they play.

Since Party Poker took over, the number of qualifying daily tounaments has increased, and it would be possible to play over 40 tournaments in a day – thousands of bonus points! - if you were so inclined.  I’m don’t quite have that stamina yet, but I’m getting there… On Sunday I’d worked out that I needed 642 points to become important, and so I played 25 tournaments – 625 bonus points, plus a few others based on the entry fees – which just pushed me into VIP territory.

5000 points should be enough for several shirts, caps, stress balls or blankets (I really wanted an Empire Poker blanket).  But now that I finally made it, the VIP store appears to have been cleaned out.  No key fobs, no playing cards, no mouse pads.  Just cash.  5000 points is $50 cash, which is not to be sneezed at, but I wanted junk!

I ended up about even.  Of course.  About $50 down in real money, but also with a seat into a $215 tournament on Friday.  In real terms, it’s a profit.  Not bad at all, considering I was having to play 6 tables at a time at some points, and clearly wasn’t making great decisions when some all-in gambles I wouldn’t ordinarily take would have the upside of having more chips and the downside of being able to concentrate better on other tournaments.  To get that far, I’d played 13 hours non-stop and was thoroughly knackered.  Better get in training if I want to go for maximum points next time…

I also fell foul of bad karma after turning down a final table deal for the first time ever.  My stack was crippled with four left, but my chip count offer was still less than third place money, so I didn’t think it was worth it.  Of course, I busted on the next hand.

So my next goal is the Royal Flush Club at 15,000 points.  This opens the door to a monthly $100 bonus with no play requirements.  It’ll be worth it in the end… probably take a year or so to get there though at the rate I’m going!

Five pound coming round

I’m not sure how many different B&Bs it took before I started to become bothered by the widely adopted "leave your key at reception when you go out" system.  They always tie the key to a larger than usual key fob to stop you running off with it and yesterday’s blue plastic tag was eight inches long, not much less subtle than a breeze block.  When I returned, it was a different receptionist to the one who checked me in, so I was hoping she’d want me to say a little more than just "room one" to let me back in.  But no.

This was Thursday night, and I’d been to Gutshot for the tournament but stayed for the live action after busting out very early.  I played the hand that crippled me dreadfully, check-calling on the river for most of my stack with just an eight-high flush on a paired board.  I was out of position and any hand I could beat would have been silly to not check behind.  After much palaver over whether one player should deal for everyone – in theory to keep things moving more quickly – but then finding that he was not really that great (beginning with a misdeal on the first hand, and not really improving) we’d reverted back to self-deal just in time for me to bust myself with 22 against AT for what few chips I had left.

So by 8.45pm I was in the £25/50 game.  Played for nearly 3 hours, came away with £99 profit. Yes, triple digits would have been a nice achievement but I wasn’t going to chase it, especially as I wanted to catch the last tube.  I started off buying in for £60 because I didn’t have any tenners, and that’s OK apparently when one of the regulars already bent the rules, topping up a few minutes earlier to £100 because "there’s a lot of money on the table".

I got lucky with QQ early on, turning a set and doubling up, funding some of my future donkishness.  I still have too much of a limit hold’em thinking, but at least I’m recognising that, even if I’m not doing enough about it when it matters.  For example, calling a river bet after the turn was checked through, holding just AJ on a board A7472 with three hearts.  Just because it wasn’t a pot-sized bet doesn’t make it worth the call, like it does in the fabulous $2/$4 games in Vegas.

There’s only really one winning hand worth relating.  It earned me two players’ stacks, as well as plenty of abuse from Goscars "Best Moody" winner Feroz, who had delighted us all with a bad beat story before even sitting down.  I was happy to give him another.  "What a fish.  I hate bad players.  How could you think you were winning?".  After taking his stack, I took great pleasure in simply telling him, "I didn’t".

I have Ace Ten in spades in the small blind, but it’s £1/£1 blinds so it doesn’t even cost half a bet to play.  After four limpers, I just check and the big blind raises the pot – five quid more.  A passive player trapped in middle position calls, so the pot is £21 and it’s £5 to me.  It’s worth seeing the flop for sure.

Ace Seven Four.  Top pair for me, but there’s no spades so I don’t have any redraw and I probably need help already.  The big blind bets £10 after I check, and the middle player calls.  I’m facing £10 for a pot of £41, and though I’m probably not ahead I figure the "worst call I ever saw" is actually worth it here for a combination of reasons.

There is a small a chance I’m actually ahead, against some combinations of pocket pairs, aces with poorer kickers or even worse.  A pocket pair 88-KK for the big blind is very possible, and so I’m more concerned about whether the caller slowplaying something much stronger, or just coming along for the ride with any pair.  I also have a chance to improve to a hand that’s most likely a winner.  It’s only 3 outs at best (assuming nobody flopped a set) but it will make top two pair which should get me paid off by a big ace or a worse two pair.  My call closes the action, and it gives me enough information to tell me how to proceed.  The original raiser would have to suicidal to bet out again with any hand worse than a pair of aces after facing two calls with an ace on board, and I’d have to respect any bet from the middle player.  I can easily fold on the turn without losing sleep if I’m facing a bet, so I think it’s £10 well spent.

The turn does brings a lovely – some might say miracle – ten though, and the big blind moves all in for £24, out of turn and without even looking at the next card.  Really, what does this achieve here, except letting me make the easiest trap-check ever?  The other player calls, which worries me a bit, but not enough.  I’m ahead more often than not here, and the pot is huge.  I push for another £27 and get called, they both table Ace King and don’t improve on the river.  The small flop bet and middle player’s smooth call cost them both the pot – it was just cheap enough for me to get a little bit fishy, so I did.

I make it £160 to me and £8 in "donations" to the club.  Everyone’s a winner.  Nearly. :)

Do doo be do do

There was a text vote on 6 Music this morning to choose a Muppets song to play later.  The candidates are Kermit the Frog, Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, and the one that I’m sure you’re already thinking of.

I had to Google around a bit to find the spelling of Mahna Mahna (and I’m so glad I did, because I also found the complete lyrics).  To be honest, I’d never even thought about it before, but I was a bit disappointed to see that it contained vowels.

So how the hell did this win a text vote?  What a fix!!

Bad sock day

I promise I won’t make a habit of taking photos of my feet and putting them here.  That would be a whole different blog.  But I wanted to show off my latest casino socks which I wore for the first time today.

I have quite a collection.  It all started with a pair from the Hard Rock, which were very cool (if you like socks) but are now wearing pretty thin and appear to be irreplacable.  It’s only because I’ve started habitually checking gift shops everywhere I go that I ended up with these from Bally’s – the most unlikely place I ever expected to find a pair really, and the dullest logo socks you’ll ever see (because Bally’s pretty much have the world’s dullest logo).  Still, I couldn’t resist.

Six Great Movies?

This began as a comment for an entry in Mike’s blog, but then I selfishly decided I’d keep it for myself instead. :)

Last week finally got to watch Tom Cruise running lots and doing very little else in War of the Worlds.  I’d been looking forward to this for ages, and then it was such utter bobbins that we had to watch a good film afterwards to try and forget about it.  I picked six DVDs and Claire was to have the final say – the way we choose what to watch so very often in fact.

Given the circumstances, this shortlist could be considered my de facto greatest movies of all time.  Or at least greatest movies that I have the DVD of.  Not sure I’d completely agree with that – I chose one of them purely for it’s short running time, and avoided some I’d seen recently or didn’t think there was any chance of Claire actually picking! – but it’s definitely not without its merits.  And quite diverse too.

In alphabetical order:

And the winner is….?

World’s Largest Bronze Statue of a Lion Wearing an NBA Jersey

There’s apparently some basketball game in Las Vegas tonight, so I really shouldn’t have been surprised by this :

 

EDIT: Finally found some much better pictures
http://www.vegasrex.com/photos/nba-allstar-weekend-2007/

VegasRex.com also reports on the violence and even worse than usual traffic over the weekend, with pictures.  Of the traffic, not the violence.

Sadly all the interesting-looking videos have been pulled from YouTube.

My musical legacy

I’m finally getting round to selling a load of old stuff on ebay and my Creative Zen MP3 player is amongst the casualties.  I just cleared off 20Gb of stuff (resenting the fact that as sweet as my iPod nano is, 8Gb just isn’t enough) and then thought I should probably leave somthing on there so the buyer can see that it actually works straight away when he or she gets it.

So, having to choose just one song to leave behind (with the condition that I couldn’t be bothered to rip anything from CD, so it had to be on my hard disk already) here’s the absolute cheesiest thing I could come up with, proving that I really do download some utter crap.

Legendary composer John Williams’ theme from the classic movie Jurassic Park.  Remix.  Press play and be ready to cringe.

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Are you scared?

Got my PokerDome show DVD at last!  I said after the pre-game interview that I was "trying to smile and not look like a psychopath".  Well, it didn’t work.

Only skipped through it so far. I’m sure I’ll have more to say when I’ve seen it properly…

Too many zeros

Video poker legend Bob Dancer has a brain meltdown on the American Casino Guide podcast.

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(It’s only a 30 second clip, I promise!)

60 hours a week, 50 weeks a year … three million hours in one year.

Does this mean that in his book Million Dollar Video Poker, he actually just won a grand one time?

How could I refuse?

Seriously, how could I refuse Neteller’s kind offer of some complimentary NETPoints?  Well, probably because they’re the most worthless loyalty points ever, and I’d much rather just have them pay me the amount I got stiffed on my last withdrawal.

The sky appeared to be falling in yet again for online gamblers in America when Neteller announced last month that they were pulling out of that market.  Last week, they revealed that they had $55m seized by the US Government and wouldn’t be paying out to any US players.  In light of that, my beef does seem a little bit petty.

I decided that, even though in the UK we have the luxury Neteller being regulated by the FSA, that I’d be happier to see my money sitting in a proper bank than in Neteller right now.  I cashed out $3000, paid Neteller’s $1 bank wire fee and then today got a text alert that a large deposit had been made to my bank.  The amount: $2887.39.  My last withdrawal was also for three grand and landed about $6 short (neither Neteller nor Citibank could explain where it had gone) and I decided it wasn’t really worth taking any further.  But this time, $113 had gone walkabout.

It turns out Neteller don’t operate in US Dollars any more.  Instead, they cashed me out an equivalent amount in Euro, leaving Citibank free to use whatever the hell exchange rate they felt like.  Turns out it wasn’t a great rate – in fact, xe.net says the amount Netellersent works out at $3015, so it’s actually about $130 that Citibank are making on the deal – a handsome price, and the very reason I have a US Dollar bank account.

Some kind of warning that this is how they had to process a dollars withdrawal might have been nice.  I’d definitely have found another way to withdraw if Euro was the only option, knowing that it was going to cost me to receive it into any account.  My best option probably would have been to deposit into PokerStars and then ask for a cheque by mail.  But if Neteller had offered to send the money in US Dollars using a reasonable exchange rate, that would work for me too.

As it stands, I’m $113 out of pocket and Neteller – so far – have basically told me tough cheese.  I don’t think I should have to pay for this – after all, I asked for $3000, not EUR 2505.  They recommended I lodge an official complaint, which I’ve done but don’t hold much hope for.  You send that by email to complaints@neteller.com, for anybody who doesn’t want to have to wait forever on the phone to be told this.  In my 45 minute phone call there was nearly five minutes of real actual talking, and almost none of that was useful.