May 2008
« Apr   Jun »



Poker Tracker 3 says I’m great

Since Poker Tracker 3 was finally released a couple of weeks ago I’ve been dying to try out it’s graphing features, hoping that it would mean I’d be able to stop using my clunky Excel spreadsheet to keep track of tournament results and let it do all the hard work for me instead.

Indeed it does look very promising, converting my old effort (which I used in this post) into this piece of exquisite chart art (click for full size):

However, getting to this stage wasn’t particularly easy.  The database conversion tool would not run (reporting a lost database connection after about ten minutes every time I tried) and even though I’d tried to keep all my hand histories and tournament summaries in anticipation of PT3, it turns out I didn’t have a complete set.

I had still been loading my results into PT2 as well as keeping them in the spreadsheet.  It’s not that I don’t trust the older Poker Tracker, it’s just that it could only tell me how great I’ve been playing with numbers.  For as much as I love the raw stats, if you can’t show it on a graph, it didn’t happen.

The data had tallied exactly for months, so nothing less than a perfect database migration would be good enough.

To get there I ended up exporting my hand histories from PT2 into text files and loading them into a fresh database on PT3.  This actually isn’t such a bad way to do it if you want some control over the data you bring into the new version.  You can put a filter on the hands that are exported, so for now I selected only Poker Stars and only the turbo SNGs I cared about.  I left out the couple of hundred EPT Steps that I’d played earlier in the year that had been stinking up my results as well as about 200,000 datamined hand histories on iPoker that I didn’t need any more.

About 20 minutes later, it had almost worked.

1,029 tournaments is the magic number, and this added up, but why on earth did it think 11 of them were different?  They should all be no limit!

I wasn’t going to put up with that, but not to worry.  I put on my robe and database wizard hat and got down to business, uttering the secret magic words:

UPDATE tourney_holdem_summary
SET id_tourney_type = 200
WHERE id_tourney_type = 0

After that, all was right in the world.

So, what better time than now for a bit of results-oriented analysis.  A thousand hands is getting into the realms of a significant sample size and the signs are still fairly good.  A 13.3% ROI from turbo SNGs is fairly satisfying as far as I’m concerned.  $2193 profit is also something I can take to the bank, even if it is a bit depressing when the graph reminds me that I’ve been going mad at these sit-and-gos for what equates to an actual a win rate of about $2 per tournament.

I play four at a time and each set usually takes about 45 minutes to complete.  I could try playing more, but I already struggle a bit the times that I get short handed on all four tables, so giving myself more things to think about at a critical time is probably a bad idea.  There’s a little extra value to be gained from player points, deposit bonuses and buying tournament dollars but even so (assuming this is sustainable) I won’t be giving up the day job for what would be – at best – about $12 per hour.

This is going to be a disruptive month with my trip to Las Vegas and Laughlin around the corner, but if I get chance for a few serious sessions I think it’s about time I took a shot at the next level up ($25+$2) and see how I get on.  Good luck to me.

Zero B

When I logged in to Empire Poker today, I had the following fabulous bonus offer waiting for me.

I had to double-check so I clicked to get more details.  It confirmed the same deal.

The release requirements for a $0 bonus?  One raked hand apparently.

I think I’ll probably not bother with this one.

In buttocks

After five weeks of repeatedly shifting money around from one poker site to another (to earn free money from this Neteller promotion) finally someone has actually noticed.

The Cryptologic sites use the shared Ecash Direct cashier service which charges $1 per withdrawal via Neteller, but when each $1000 transfer is set to earn me $15 in cash back it’s still a no-brainer to have to pay this.

Up to today, I’ve been able to deposit a grand and then take it out a couple of days later without playing a single hand on Inter Poker, Sun Poker, Poker Plex and WPT Online.

However, here’s what they said this morning:

Hello from Ecash Direct.

Kindly be advised, you have been requested to send in verification documents as your account has been found to be in breech of our terms and conditions.

Your account has breeched our terms and conditions due to your current deposit and withdrawal methods. You have been found to be depositing large amounts and with little game play withdrawing your funds back in order to take advantage of our payment providers current promotion offers.

Please note if you continue to deposit and withdraw in the same manner we may have to take further steps in order to prevent the abuse of the payment providers promotion.

It’s all sorted now, I sent in my ID and apparently I’ll my money back soon.

But why couldn’t I stop myself putting this in my reply? :

FYI the word "breech" with two "e"s means trousers or buttocks.  If it were a verb, you would be saying that I have buttocked your terms and conditions.

The word should be "breach".

Roam if you want to

After someone told me their iPhone contract on O2 had an optional upgrade that for not much extra would allow them to use unlimited data when roaming abroad, I decided to call T-Mobile to see if they could give me anything similar.

Currently I pay them £15/month for "Web’n’Walk Plus", which means I have unlimited data use (exceeding the "fair usage" 3Gb monthly limit would be quite impressive) on the phone itself, and can hook it up to my laptop to surf and play poker when I’m travelling.

No such luck, they don’t offer any unlimited data plans for roaming.

However, they have a discount package for international data usage, which brings the roaming cost down from £7.50 per Mb to £3.00 per Mb.  "It’s free, so I’ll just add it to your account", she said.

One Mb lets you check your email about twice, so it’s still an extortionate rate and I’ll probably not use it (unless I really can’t resist the urge to crank up Google Maps in the middle of the desert, just for curiosity’s sake) but suddenly the rate less than half what it would be otherwise.

What I don’t get is why isn’t that just The Price?

The biggest chip lead in the world ever…. part 1

I don’t think I’ve ever begun heads up play with an 18:1 chip lead.  Until today.

You can see from the chips on the table (click the image to enlarge it if you want) that it wasn’t even a huge pot to knock out the 3rd place finisher.  On the previous hand, I already had 86% of the chips in play!

It was the kind of situation that I just love in high blind tournament play, where it gets to the point that it’s almost impossible for anyone to put up a fight.

I’d just managed to get large stack as the blinds became significant.  With five players remaining, a couple of them with only a handful of big blinds left and nobody who could dent my stack by more than half, I was able to just move all-in on any hand where nobody else did it first.

The shorter the other players’ stacks got, the more they tried to just try to hang on to make the money in the hope that someone else busted out first.

I can’t deny I got lucky to be in this situation.  You have to.  I found pocket aces against an ace-king with almost as many chips as me, and he made getting it all-in pre-flop a breeze.

After that I raised relentlessly with whatever crud was thrown my way and picked up all the blinds I could.  I started to get walks in my big blind because nobody wanted to gamble and I could probably make a correct call with any two cards.  Eventually I ran my ten-seven into an ace-queen and lost, but it was hardly a dent, and my attack continued.

54s, I push, they fold.

A5o, I push, they fold.

AA,  I push, two players call.  Didn’t see that coming.

Facing AT and TT, the only way I could lose was with if the case ten fell or a miracle straight appeared and PokerStars was kind to me.  After that double bust-out, the two surviving short stacks had less than $2,000 of the $13,500 in play between them.

Of course, winning from there was still not a certainty but I like to think I was in fairly good shape.  It actually took four attempts but eventually my garbage was slightly better than his garbage and I took the victory.

Poker Jokes in GTA IV

The very first mission on Grand Theft Auto 4 begins with you having to drive your cousin to a back room poker game.

Because I’m crap I had to tackle this mission twice, but that did mean that I heard two different versions of the conversation between the Bellic boys as they drove around Liberty City.

Both times I was treated to an extremely clever poker joke.  I wish I could play this mission over and over again to see if there are any other gems I’ve missed.

This may not be 100% accurate as I’m doing it from memory, but the dialogue is so good it’s hard to forget.

First time:

Roman: "You know why they call me The Janitor?  It’s because I always clean up".


Second time:

Roman: "I read this book called May Contain Nuts.  It’s about how you have to convince the other guy that you have the nuts in your hand".

Nico: "If you have his nuts in your hand, wouldn’t he already know?"

Just sheer genius.

Who fancies a nice juicy stake?

It’s been a scheduling nightmare, but I’ve finally settled on three tournaments to play during the Las Vegas portion of my trip in June.

There are four casinos holding poker tournament series at the same time as the WSOP (at Binions, Caesars Palace, Golden Nugget and Venetian) and I really wanted to play in one event at each but I just can’t fit it in.  With the package for my freeroll satellite meaning I need to check in at Harrah’s Laughlin on Friday evening, I can’t play anything that day that might run for more than a few hours.

So, after looking at all the tournaments on offer I have prioritised and picked the ones that are the most appealing and have tried to fit them around my schedule – and each other – as best I can.

Top of the list is a $500 tournament at Binions on Monday 9th.  The cheaper Binions tournaments only have a 30 minute clock and this one has 45 minute levels, but the main appeal is that it’s a chance to play a 10,000 chip event at the birthplace of tournament poker.  Without a time machine, this is as close as I’m ever going to get to the old school World Series of Poker experience.

The best value structures overall seems to be at Caesars.  You can get 7,500 starting chips for $225, 12,500 chips for $330 and 15,000 chips for $540.  On a chips-per-dollar basis the $330 comes out in front, but the $225 isn’t bad – which is fortunate as it’s the only one that fits with my trip dates.  It’ll be the first one I play, on Thursday 5th.

I considered the $330 on Tuesday 10th (my last day) but as there’s a chance it could spill over into a second day, I can’t risk it.  There’s not much point playing for 14 hours if I’m not going to be around to compete at the final table.

The Venetian’s Deep Stack Extravaganza is the one I have to miss.  The dates just don’t fall right.  These are $540 tournaments with 10,000 chips and a 40 minute clock, but with the high likelihood of needing to play two days if I got into the money (they play until 2am, then re-start at 4pm the next day if necessary) the only dates I could do this would be Thursday 5th (which is actually an Omaha hi/lo event, and I’m not donating $540 to that) or Monday 9th (when I’d rather play at Binions).

So that leaves the Golden Nugget for my final day, and they have a $225 tournament with 40 minute levels and 5,000 chips.  It looks like a bit of a downgrade from what you could get at Caesars for the same money, but I need to make sure I can catch my plane on Wednesday!

So that’s a total buy-in of $950 for the three tournaments.  Should anyone be so inclined, I’ll be selling 1% stakes for a nice, round tenner.  Time to get Team Donut back together!

When room offers go good

I haven’t quite figured out which tournaments I’m going to play on my next gambling trip, but I have sorted out all my accomodation – without it costing a penny.

Three nights in Laughlin, Friday to Sunday, were included with the poker tournament package, so I just needed two weekights on either side in Las Vegas.

I’ve booked Imperial Palace for my last two nights.  I was sorely tempted to try their Luv Tub room, but I’ve passed this time.  It seemed a little sad, and perhaps a little creepy, to chose a room with an oversized bathtub and mirrored ceiling when I’m travelling by myself.

IP usually shows a comp on any weeknight.  The funny thing is that the comp is for a Deluxe room (usual rate: $59) whereas the cheaper Classic and Capri rooms (usual rate: $49) are listed at full price when I’m logged in.  Are they really so bad that they wouldn’t want to let a VIP player book one by accident?

My first two nights managed to throw up a two night complimentary stay at the Rio, which is awesome.  I thought it was amazing enough that I was offered these for the very quiet time before Christmas (the listed room rate for most that period is just $70) nevermind while the World Series of Poker is in the house.

I already know I’m not going to play in any bracelet events, but living that close to the action I’ll almost certainly poke my head in and check out the side action.

So, it seems that the decision on January 1st to pump $30k through a video poker machine to get Diamond status was worth it, even if it did take a little more action in March to trigger the Las Vegas room offers.

In fact, it’s been very much worth it.  For this trip alone, those rooms would normally cost $539 ($220 for Rio, $119 for Imperial Palace and somehow a total $200 for Laughlin, which is a bit OTT when you can easily get rooms elsewhere in town for $19/night).  Of course I’d never pay that much when all I need is a place to put my head at night, but it’s definitely worth something.

Add to this the room in Laughlin in March, some bookings I’ve made for the summer in Laughlin and San Diego as well as three nights in the Flamingo (which I won’t use except to steal the soap, but the reservation qualifies me to play in a blackjack tournament) and the bargain five nights at the Rio for $50 at Christmas, and already I make that nearly $1,700 of room value.

To get there, Claire and I have gambled a fair bit to be sure.  Nearly $40,000 in total action, but with an expected loss of just $240 (and an actual win, so far, of $62 – the downswing is on the way!) and about $150 of that back in food comp, I’ve made worse investments.

How much is too much?

This year it looks like I’m trying to prove whether it is actually possible to have too much of a good thing.

The trip to Las Vegas and Laughlin I just booked for June really isn’t necessary.  We just came back at the start of April, and it’s less than ten weeks until the summer trip.  So adding another week to the time I’ll be spending in Nevada this year is somewhat excessive.

It all started when I got this offer in the mail from Harrah’s Laughlin.

I completely disregarded it at first, along with a handful of other mailers they sent me that I figured I’d never use: two tickets to see Boz Scaggs in concert on May 17th; an invitation to a Golf Weekend May 23rd-25th; a Blues Brothers tribute show on 14th June.  This one – a free World Series of Poker satellite tournament – falls on the weekend of June 6th-9th.

Put them all together and that’s four offers in four weeks.  I’m about due another batch of American mail (it’s forwarded from my California mailing address every 3-4 weeks) so I’ll should soon get an idea of whether they have some kind of offer every single weekend, or if most Laughlin players had been waiting months for something, and then four came along at once.

As silly as it seems to fly half way across the world for the sake of a freeroll, I just kept on thinking of too many good reasons to be able to say no to this.

The value of the tournament is unknown, but it could be pretty good.  It’s a $25,000 prize pool with a $6,000 bonus drawing, so if they get 100 runners that’s a $310 entry for each one.

When I booked it, they told me 400 rooms were reserved for the promo so there could be 400 players, which would clearly be much worse but unless I’m being extremely naive I can’t see that happening.  This can’t be taking place in the poker room (it has a total of 8 tables) it’ll be out of the way in some meeting space, but even so it’s taking place during the WSOP and on a weekend.  Will they really ship in dozens of dealers from Las Vegas for a freeroll when they could be dealing tournaments or side games at the Rio?

However the major factor that got me considering this silly plan was my frequent flyer miles situation.  Yes, it’s a serious concern!  With my bargain business class flights coming up in July and returning in August, I was set to reach gold status on the return trip but taking this trip in June means I’ll actually make that status on the outbound jouney instead.

The big deal with this is that I’ve decided to try to retain gold status for the next ten years (which awards lifetime membership) and having the new status begin in July rather than August will make it much easier because of when our travel dates (determined by Claire’s school holidays) are likely to fall the next few years.  Sounds like a feeble excuse, I’m sure, but I’ve worked it all out and it does make a lot of sense to take one extra flight now to make sure the trips we’ll take regularly will be enough to re-qualify me for gold each year.

By the same logic, it’s actually going to be a easier for Claire to retain her own gold status if we take another trip in before Christmas, but the jury is still out on that one.  I’m rooting for Atlantic City in October, but I know that it’s a long shot.

Every set of dates I looked at came up with a US Airways flight that was much cheaper than any other airline (it cost £368 in the end, making me remember just how much we get shafted having to travel in school holidays).  US Air awards miles in the BMI Diamond Club so it was a perfect fit.

Additionally, the miles I’ll earn from this flight, and by getting the status upgrade early, are worth about £180 – that’s half the cost of the flight back!

I can also use this trip to get some extra play time at Harrah’s Laughlin to get a head start on retaining Total Rewards Diamond status for next year.  It’ll definitely help take the pressure off for the summer if I can get a few thousand tier credits racked up on the almost-positive video poker machine there.

The final justification to myself was that I had been thinking about going to Bristol for the Gala Tour later in June, which would have been an £880 buy in for 3 events, plus a fair chunk of cash to stay down there.  Accomodation is included with the Laughlin offer, and I have plenty of comps to be able to stay in Las Vegas without paying a penny the other nights, so in fact there’s not that much much in it overall.  Could I get to Bristol and stay there for four nights and get much change from £200?  I doubt it.

I’m not particularly bothered about playing a World Series event (the choice would be $2,000 No Limit, $1,500 six-handed or $1,500 shootout) but there are several other tournament series in town at the same time.  Golden Nugget, Binions, Caesars and Venetian all have their own tournaments in the $200-$500 range.

Once I’ve decided what I’ll actually play, I’ll probably be selling pieces of myself again.  If you fancy a solid, just-about-break-even investment, stay tuned.

By the way, I’m not knocking Bristol – I’ve never been, would quite like to, and was actually going to go there using my Virgin Traveller ticket until they lost the West Coast franchise – but it’s no contest when I can get to Vegas almost as easily.  OK, it takes about 12 hours longer, but I’ll just about live with that…

This is Vegas

I’d seen plenty of screenshots, which in themselves were enough to get me very excited, but only just discovered this gameplay movie of the forthcoming video game This Is Vegas.

I thought I’d be more interested in being able to drive around a neon-lit virtual world of fake casinos than the clubbing elements, but the dancing missions do look pretty special.  I particularly like the way the character’s walk changes the minute he sets foot on the dancefloor.

If it’s possible to connect a dance mat controller, this definitely has the potential to be the best game ever.