Saturday, January 20, 2007

The next step in the evolution of on-line poker

NETeller has stopped processing money transfers to and from on-line poker rooms for US players. This is obviously a huge blow to those of us in the US that used NETeller to move our money into and out of the sites where we play. It is also a huge blow to the poker sites themselves, who will have a much harder time keeping their existing US players or getting new ones to sign up. Other funds transfer services either already have stopped dealing with US players or are likely to stop soon.

Bill Rini has posted a couple of very good articles on how bad it looks for the future of on-line poker for US players and for the industry in general. The subject appears to be the main topic of discussion among on-line poker players today. Here are a few personal thoughts of mine.

I have maybe $300 tied up in poker sites right now. I know that is peanuts compared to the bankrolls that some players have out there, and I am fortunate that I don't need to have access to that money. One goal that I set for myself at the beginning of 2007 was to build my roll by winning, and without making any more deposits. Well, it looks like winning is my only option for increasing my balance now. But you know what? I will take this as a challenge to myself. If I want to keep playing on line, then I will have no choice but to play well enough to sustain, if not build, my bankroll. I know it won't be easy, because variance can be a bitch. If I can succeed at this, then I will feel a real sense of accomplishment.

There are still the play money games. Yeah, the players at them usually suck, and they aren't the best place to improve one's skills. But they are a place to enjoy the game without worrying about whether I will have to launder any cash to play.

But what does the future hold for on-line poker as a business for US players? Here is an uninformed and naive idea. The UIGEA is a Federal law, and it says in it, as I understand, that it doesn't preclude state laws on gaming. So what we need is for one or more of the states here to allow on-line poker, and then have some companies set up shop for players in that state. You may say, if they can only allow players in one state, will it be worth their while? I expect that the answer would be yes. I'm sure there would be some initial investment, but it doesn't seem far-fetched to me that running an on-line poker site is not that costly and could make a nice profit even with a more limited customer base.

But which states might take this step? The two most likely candidates that I see are California and Texas. California already recognizes poker as a game of skill and has legal cardrooms. Because the cardrooms can't expect that everyone in the state who would like to play can physically come to their B&M sites, why not take the games on line and attract more customers? I can see this as a big opportunity for the California poker rooms to lobby the state government to allow them to open on-line versions of their rooms, and pay the requisite state taxes of course, making the state happy.

Texas is bordered by two states that have legal casinos, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Thousands of Texans travel to these states to play poker and other games, taking their money with them and leaving it outside Texas. There has been some discussion of allowing casino gambling in Texas, to keep that revenue here, but no bills have ever gotten very far in the legislature. If we can get the sentiment moving in that direction, though, I think a case could be made to allow on-line poker as a first step. Texas is a place where poker is well known and has a rich history. It makes sense, to me anyway, that an on-line seed for it could be planted here.

I fully understand that this whole scene is much more complicated than I just described. There is the possibility that a carve-out for poker could be developed for the UIGEA. The idea of individual states allowing on-line poker may never fly. But I want to remain positive that, in the long run, there will be a safe, legal means for us to play poker on line for real money. I think that the creative and determined minds in the poker and business communities will find ways to make it happen, eventually. Meanwhile, I will play however I can and continue to enjoy my favorite game.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Week Two 2007

Another week is in the books, and a few more games are in my record sheet. I played in a few tournaments but only one session of cash game. I played in my first blogger tourney in a while, the Mookie last Wednesday. My showing was less than stellar: 39th out of 57. But it was fun to get back into one of those games with some familiar names. I did cash in a $11 two table SNG on Full Tilt, finishing fourth. I used most of my $7 profit from that to enter a token satellite on FT today, which I am playing in as I type this. I was chip leader for a while, but lost a couple of pots to drop me down, with the blinds going up. I'm going to have to make a move soon but haven't had any cards to work with lately.

Well, there goes that. UTG, I pushed with KJo, got called by AK. Didn't improve, finished 7th. I was hoping to win a $26 token so I could enter the WPBT tourney later this month. Now I guess I will have to try again for a token (or a cash win) and risk what's left of my miniscule FT bankroll. I'd rather not make more deposits if I can avoid it, but we'll see what happens.

In my one cash game, I played just over a half hour of $0.05/0.10 LHE at PokerStars Friday night, and finished ahead by $1.43. My best hand was when I flopped quad 3s and got a couple of players to stick around for a few more bets. I made some notes on a few players and used the information to my advantage on a couple of hands. I plan to take more notes, especially in the cash games, because I am seeing some of the same players again and again.

I'm not sure if I will play any more today, as I have some other, real life, things I could stand to do.

I will report that I am considering the possibility of going to Las Vegas in June to check out the WSOP. I would probably try to go over the weekend of the blogger gathering, which may be June 7 - 10. I don't have any grand plans of actually playing in any WSOP event(s), but if I were to get lucky enough to come up with the entry fee for one of the smaller events, I would be thrilled to try it, if only to say that I played in the WSOP at least once. And I would love to play in a blogger tourney, or in a tourney with other bloggers if it was a case of storming one of the scheduled casino tourneys. Just meeting some of them in person would be a good time in itself, I expect.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Week One update

I have played a little since my last post. Not as much as I might have liked, because my evenings have been occupied with play rehearsals.

A couple of sessions of $0.05/0.10 Limit HE at PokerStars have left me down a little less than $3. I got very few hands worth playing, and when I got some cards, they either didn't get any action or they ended up second best.

I entered a $1.25 90-player SNG at FullTilt yesterday and finished 16th, for a profit of a whopping $0.37. At least I feel like I played fairly well and didn't make many donkey moves.

As I type this, I am playing in a PokerStars 180-player $4.40 SNG. I have been card dead almost the entire time (about an hour now), and have only won a couple of small pots. Pretty soon I am going to have to double up or go home. I have seen some sick suckouts and highly questionable play, which makes me more frustrated that I haven't had anything to play back with.

As of a few minutes ago, I had a stack of $635 and blinds of $50/100. With one limper in front of me, I pushed with A3s, got two callers with KK and 99, but couldn't spike the Ace or flush and was busted in 69th place.

I'm not getting off to a stunning start for the year, but I'm glad to be getting back into the game. I've been re-reading some of my books and will continue to do so. Another thing I'm doing occasionally is playing some fake money games. Last night I played some deuce-to-seven triple draw on a play money table on Stars. Mainly I get on the play money tables so I can get a feel for how the games that I am less familiar with, such as TD or Omaha, are played. The other players tend to be pretty loose on the play money tables, so devising strategy is mostly a waste. But I do find it to be a painless way to get used to the mechanics of the games, and think about how a hand should be played even if I'm not seeing the other players following what might be proper strategy. If I can pick out what I think they are doing wrong, then I can try to avoid doing those same things when I play. Incidentally, I finished my TD session about 20 big bets ahead, so that's nice.

I might play a few hands of Limit now that I am out of the tourney, but I have some other things I need to do so I may not get much more poker time in today. But every little bit helps, especially if I can learn something from it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

It makes a start...

Yes, I'm back. One of the things I plan to do this year is work on my poker game. To do that right, I have to review what happened over the past year. A quick glance at my poker records (thank goodness I've kept them) for 2006 tells me this:

I actually had a positive year in Limit Hold Em games, although my profit won't even buy me a Happy Meal.

I was way behind in No Limit ring games; those are my weakest spot.

I lost money overall in tournaments, almost all of which were NLHE. However, if you count the value of the iPod that I won in the PokerStars blogger tourney, I came out well into the black.

I played in 92 on line tournaments last year. I finished first five times; second, six times; third, four times. I cashed in 25 of the 92 tournaments I entered.

Of the notes that I made about how the games went, a lot were about being card dead, but a bunch of others, especially in the second half of the year, were about me playing like a donkey.

I know I have leaks in my game. I have already started re-reading Lee Jones's Winning Low Limit Hold Em, and the Harrington books. My plan is to get back on the micro-stakes Limit tables on PokerStars and work on my skills while trying to (very slowly) build my bankroll back up. I will probably play in some micro tourneys, and any freerolls that are available, to sharpen my tournament game. I'm not sure if I will make the effort to play any live cash games or not. I will continue to play in the free Amateur Poker League games when my schedule permits.

I will be playing poker, and I will be blogging about it, however often I can. Maybe writing about it will keep me going, and inspire me to work harder on improving my play. That's one resolution that I expect most of us can agree on, eh?