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O four colour deck, how I missed thee

It’s been five weeks since I played online poker, and I’d missed those sweet green clubs and blue diamonds so much.

Not to mention the "so sick" suckouts on PokerStars that conspiracy theorists love so much.  Of course it’s rigged.  They’re watching you too.

In my first sit-and-go back (actually I played six at a time, but it was top left on my screen as well as the first one where I had a hand of note) I ran my pocket kings into pocket queens, getting it all in on a low paired board, with an inevitable queen on the river.

Down to 75 chips, I doubled up thanks to not really paying attention to my stack size (I limped for two thirds of my stack with JT, then got pot-committed before sucking out) then cracked aces myself with JJ and several miracles later ended up finishing in second place.

I’d forgotten how random this turbo poker malarky was.

I’m pretty out of practice at multi-tabling too and when I played 6 steps at the same time and ended up going deep in 5 of them, all hell broke loose.

I had pocked jacks somewhere, but somehow hit the "raise" button on a different table.

I’ve cried bullshit at being on the other end of a hand like this many times in the past.  Now it was my turn.

Preflop: Hero is BB with 8Image 3Image
1 fold, MP1 raises to 300.00, 2 folds, Button raises to 1870.00 (All-In), 1 fold, Hero calls 1094.00 (All-In), 1 fold

Flop: (2863.00) 9Image 4Image 8Image (2 players, 2 all-in)

Turn: (2863.00) JImage (2 players, 2 all-in)

River: (2863.00) 7Image (2 players, 2 all-in)

Total pot: 2863.00 | Rake: 0.00

Button had AImage KImage (highest card, Ace)
Hero had 8Image 3Image (one pair, eights)
Outcome: Hero won 2863.00

Wannabe bank in greed shocker

Neteller just got really greedy, and not at all in a smart way.

Their promotion during April and May was awesome.  I ended up churning about $36,000 through various poker sites and had a $507.90 adjustment credited to my account as promised.  By my reckoning, it should have been $516.15, but I’m not going to argue over that.  Besides, hard as it is to believe, I do sometimes get things wrong.

The same kind of deal is back this month.  Here’s a snippet from the email I got:

Twenty two thousand, three hundred and twenty dollars.  That’s my target.  The amount I need to transfer to merchants in a four week period in order to get any cashback this time. 

Then if I do manage to reach the target, the cashback rate is only 0.5%.  It was 1.5% last time.

And just in case I manage to get really busy, there’s a $500 limit on the bonus.  Although, with these rules I would need to transfer $100,000 in total to max it out – that’s more than three grand a day.

I can appreciate the idea of wanting a promotion that gets customers to use Neteller more than they usually would, but this one just wreaks of greed and comtempt for their customers, as well as their merchants.

I have two major problems with this.

Firstly, the drop in cash back rate by two thirds is taking the piss.  If they could do 1.5% last time, they can do it this time.  We all know that this money doesn’t come out of Neteller’s pocket – they charge a fee to the gaming sites they’re encouraging us to abuse.  This is simply an exercise in seeing what they can get away with; seeing just how little of that extra revenue they need to pay out to keep it coming.

Last time they gave back about 25% of the fees they collected.  Now it’s about 8%.

Secondly, it absolutely penalises loyalty.  By loyalty, of course, I actually mean willingness to assist Neteller in fucking over their merchants for a kickback.  But let’s be honest, that’s a cause I’m prepared to be extremely loyal to.

I made Neteller a lot of money in the last promotion – a lot for one customer, anyway, and more in one six week period than they’ve made from my account in the previous six years.  How do they thank me?  By imposing an all-or-nothing condition on the next promotion that makes sure I have to work at least as hard as last time, otherwise I lose everything.  No slacking now.

It’s pretty clear that my target is the amount I transferred during the last promo, scaled down to the slightly shorter timeframe.  I don’t get any cashback until I exceed $22,300 in transfers which means Neteller can make up to $860 without giving me a penny if I fall short.  If I do make the target, I get $5 per $1000 transferred while they get the other $34.

This makes no sense.  If they offered me a good deal, I’d be making them money every day!  It’s a win-win situation!

Dozens of online poker sites which are prohibited from offering rakeback find ways around this by calling it another name and then inviting their high volume players to join the scheme and saying "Ssshhhh".  They go to whatever lengths they have to to offer the cash incentive because they know that 70% of all that player’s revenue is better than 100% of none of it.

It’s a bit different with Neteller, because there’s no game that you can play more frequently or at higher stakes.  They essentially want you to conjure transactions out of thin area to generate these bonus payments.  Day-to-day you would usually have no reason to move money from one place to another, so you have to look for excuses to make deposits.    It’s not like you can Neteller for your everyday shopping instead of cash or a credit card.

So surely 75% of a transaction that just wouldn’t otherwise exist any more is better than nothing?

I have obviously let my feelings be known to the Neteller VIP Club, of which I am a member despite not actually having the first idea what its benefits are.

This is a ridiculous target.

I did fairly well from the last promotion and Neteller must have made a bunch of money from me.  My payout was over $500, so Neteller must have made about $1500 that they wouldn’t otherwise have had because of my increased activity!

I’d find ways to inflate my usage every month if you always ran this offer, and we’d both be happy.

So why punish me now for having made you money in the past?  It’s dumb and insulting.

Sure, it’s a bit on the stroppy side, but if they want me to keep generating free money for them, I’ve let it be known that I’m open for business.

You can expect an update if/when they reply.

EDIT – the response:

I hope you know that the email that was sent wasn’t our intention to insult you. I sincerely apologize if it made you feel that way though. The reason why this offer has a lower cashback value is because this offer is for all of our NETELLER members. The cashback value was higher before since the last offer was exclusively only for our VIP members.

Again, I apologize for the way this offer was rolled out to you in the email. It is not necessary to participate in this offer if you feel against it.

Indeed everyone is invited.  Claire’s target is an easily achievable $1840 and my mum’s is the minimum $1000.

Glad it’s not necessary to participate though.  I would hate to have to accept some free money if I didn’t agree with it.

An interesting use of the word “tampons”

Chat from a Poker Stars sit-and-go tournament:

I am going to be looking out for the perfect opportunity to say "I think you’ve got tampons" in a live game.  I can’t wait.

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".

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.

Ooooh hokey pokey cokey

Apparently Neteller think I’m a VIP.  Not really sure how that happened, although I did notice that I now have more than a million Netpoints.  They’re probably worth about a buck fifty.

All you can do with Neteller’s loyalty points is use them to enter a prize draw that typically has thousands of entries, and although I’ve no reason to doubt the integrity of the draw this just seems like it would be pouring my points down the drain.  I’d rather have the impressive seven-figure balance, thanks.  Maybe they’ll even let me buy a t-shirt with them one day too.

But this VIP promotion which I had in my email is very, very juicy:

It’s taken a while to get my head around what I actually have to do to get some free money here.  I wrote to ask them to explain exactly how the calculations had been done, because whichever way I looked at my statement I couldn’t see how on earth they had worked out such a high six-weekly average.  My total transactions since the start of the year are only slightly more than that!

They replied:

The six week average was calculated by taking the average of your weekly transactions between January 1 2008 and March 31 2008. Only weeks that you had at least one accepted transfer to a merchant were used in calculating your average. The weekly average was then multiplied by six to give a total average for six weeks (because the offer period is six weeks long we had to calculate your original average over the same time period).

The VIP bonus offer is based on your total transfers to merchants between April 20 2008 and May 31 2008,only transfers to merchants will be included in calculating your bonus (only funds that you send to merchants).

So it sounds like they’ve inflated the six-weekly average by ignoring weeks where I had no activity.  It doesn’t really matter though.  They’ve said that this offer is based on precisely my next six weeks of activity – no further calculations required – and because they’ve told me what my target amount is, I can make sure I achieve – and surpass – it.

Basically, Neteller is going to pay back a percentage of their fees to users who exceed the target level of transactions.  Using Neteller to transfer money in and out of gaming sites costs the player nothing – instead Neteller charges transactions fees to the merchants.

They charge 3.9% on deposits (the same that you pay as a user for a person-to-person transfer) and 2.0% on withdrawals.  Getting back 1.5% of your total deposits amounts to nearly 25% "fee-back", however because you never actually pay those fees yourself, it’s just free money.

It’s Neteller that’s the real winner of course – they just want to grab as much in transaction fees as possible – but it’s a no-lose proposition for the player.  It’ll be the casinos and poker rooms that get hit who pay for it.

Just think about the numbers.  I’ve started off abusing this promotion with a $1,000 deposit into UltimateBet, who were offering a 20% (max $200) deposit bonus today.  I already had more than $500 in bonus dollars sitting in my account that I’ve never had the inclination to play for.  Apart from a few satellites and the odd game of roshambo, I never play there.  Hopefully, depositing in response to an email promotion should make my deposit look a little less out-of-character than it really is.

This deposit cost UB $39, and I intend to cash it out as soon as possible which will cost them another $20.  This is one of the fussier sites in terms of getting your money back because you have to be seen to play some poker before a withdrawal is authorised.  Still, there’s no way I’m going to generate $59 in rake before getting my money back.

Clearly, the optimal strategy is to cycle as much money as you can get your hands on as often as possible.  I don’t think it’s worth adding money to my Neteller bankroll just for this – you have to pay fees to deposit and then again to withdraw that will reduce the value of the promotion considerably – but certainly for the next six weeks my entire bankroll is going to be in play.  In, out, in, out, play a few hands, do the hokey pokey cokey and turn it around.

That’s what it’s all about – easy, risk free money.

I used to cycle funds like this at Party Poker all the time.  In the good old days, you could earn 1000 bonus PartyPoints just for making a deposit of $500 and not withdrawing it for a week.  This was way out of proportion to the number of points you’d earn from actually playing as a casual player (if I remember right, 20 raked hands earned 5 points) so this is the only reason I have so much Party gear.  At 2000 points for a polo shirt, you could order one for free after every two deposits you made – without playing a single hand of poker!

I’ve also been looking for a way to cycle money on a credit card that awards frequent flyer miles, worth about 3p per £1 spent.  The dream is to use up my entire credit limit every month, then settle the card immediately, rinse and repeat.  Unfortunately, unless it’s genuine spending this is pretty difficult.  I’ve looked into laundering through online gambling sites but it doesn’t work – you have to pay a cash advance fee on the deposits which costs more than the benefits you get from spending on the card.

No such problem with Neteller though, it’s just money transfers and it costs me nothing.  As long as it’s a casino or poker site that accepts payment directly in US Dollars, and I’m confident that I’ll get my money back pretty quickly then it’s fair game.  Even the Cryptologic cashiers that charge $1 for a withdrawal are profitable plays!

After I meet the $2,530 target, which won’t take long, every $1,000 I can shift is going to earn me $15.  Doesn’t sound like much, but don’t underestimate how often I’ll be trying this – I’ve got six weeks after all!

G-Force

A week ago, Poker Stars launched their "Battle of the Planets" leaderboard week for sit-and-go tournaments. You get points whenever you finish in the money, then your best blocks of 20 results (the "low orbit") or 100 results (the "high orbit") determine your league position.

As I happened to be playing quite a few SNGs at the moment anyway, it’s looked to be a nice free shot at some extra money.

My first set of results is now in: not even close.

The likely difficulty for single table sit-and-go players like myself is that although the leagues are divided by entry fee you also have to compete against players in the 18-man and 27-man tournaments, and they receive nearly twice as many points for a first place finish as you do for winning a 9-man SNG.

Of course, whatever you play it would take a pretty insane run of luck to win one of these things, but five or six first places in 3-table tournaments from a block of 20 seems much more achievable than ten or eleven single table victories in the same period – that would be first place at least every other game – to get the same number of points.

ryan422323, this week’s winner in the "Earth – low orbit" (blocks of 20 for $10-$19 tournaments – the level I’m playing at), looks like a losing player who suddenly got lucky at the right time. It happens.

As expected, Sharkscope reveals his most recent results are from a mixture of 18-, 27- and 45-man sit and go tournaments (although the 45-man results don’t count for this leaderboard – that’s apparently enough players to be considered a real tournament).

Second place finisher jellycz has had a rather better tournament career, with Sharkscope showing a long term return on investment of 19% across his PokerStars tournaments.

Still, he would have had to do much better than that over the block of 20 that counted towards his leaderboard position.

In fact we can work out just what kind of return is needed to win the Battle of the Planets from the final points totals.

Regardless of the buy-in, the points you receive are based on the prize distribution rather than the actual dollar amounts won. The number of points is the same as the prize money would be for a $10 buy-in. For example, first place in a 9-man SNG gets 45 points – although you actually win $67.50 for a $15+1 stake or $112.50 for a $25+2, the prize is always 4.5x your stake. First place in a 27-man SNG wins 8x the stake, so you receive 80 points.

So, with 637 points the winner would have received $637 in real money if he had played 20 sit-and-go tournaments that cost $10 each. That’s an amazing 219% ROI! Second place with 552 points is still-insane 176% ROI.

My hottest block landed me 369 points, with 11 in-the-money finishes out of 20 (5 x 1st, 4 x 2nd, 2 x 3rd). That’s a fiendishly good 85% ROI, and I finished 256th.

Joseph and the amazing technicolour check-raise

The Rt Hon Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, spotted this evening on BBC television wearing a Party Poker shirt.

OK, it’s actually a Leyton Orient football strip so it probably doesn’t count.  But I did get a bit excited for a moment and think that maybe he’d bought it using his PartyPoints.

Something beginning with “L”

I was sure I’d done a player-to-player transfer on Full Tilt before today, when I just sent a few bucks to Paul Sandells for a stake in his action in the WSOP Circuit event next month.

But I’m sure I would have remembered this screen.

I just don’t get why this is useful.  If you’re going to give me some kind of verification that I entered the right username, what’s the problem with telling me the full name of his city?

This is what other poker sites do, if they even give any verification at all.  I mean, really, anyone who is transferring real money to another player is going to make sure they have the right username and look back at what they’ve typed, not just hammer the keyboard randomly and hope it ends up in the right place.  Are they?

Is that actually this player’s avatar displayed?  How would I know unless (a) I’m sending money to someone I’ve actually played with before (which I’m not) and (b) I have your horrible cartoon monkey/gnome/dude with afro avatars switched on (which, for the sake of sanity, I don’t). 

Sometimes you won’t even be sure what city the other guy will have put on his account, but you’ll know roughly – and this was the case with Paul.  Even seeing London rather than Lisbon, Lima or Los Angeles here would give me a clue as to whether this is the right guy.  That "L" really doesn’t narrow it down much.

Jeez, if you’re worried about giving out too much personal information just show the name of the country he’s from, or a little flag picture if you want to be super cool.  You can already see any player’s country at the poker table without even siting down.

That would be much more useful than making me play bloody I Spy whenever I want to send money.