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Buddathon Week 1

Posted by GiantBuddha

I'm just 8 days into my Buddhathon and I've already discovered what a wonderful and stupid idea I've come up with. That's pretty much how I roll, so I should just deal with it.

On the poker front, I've played a little more than 10,000 hands. That's not exactly on pace to hit 100,000 by the end of the month, but goals are made to be broken. Or is that rules? The list of excuses is formidable:

  1. I never play more than 6 tables.
  2. It takes up to 30 minutes to get 6 tables running on NJparty.
  3. NJparty bumps me off every 90 minutes, forcing me to get new tables.
  4. NJparty often crashes before 90 minutes, just for fun.
  5. is even worse than NJparty.
  6. Sometimes there are fewer than 6 tables of the stakes I play.
  7. The other sites are worse and/or have less traffic.
  8. I made two videos and wrote a book.

Now that I've sufficiently buried the lead, let me tell you about my new book. It's more of a booklet, really. 8,000 words. It's called Turn Your Hand Into A Bluff, it's available on Leanpub, and it's a collaboration between me and Dusty Schmidt. It's about turning your hand into a bluff. More specifically, I get into The Math of how you decide whether your hand has more value at showdown or as a bluff. There's also a section titled The Not Math. That part's filled with guidelines to help you find the best play without crunching a lot of numbers.

This is Part 2 of Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts, and as such it contains 10 real-life hands, thoroughly dissected. It's just $2.99, so it's a bit of a steal. That's funny, because, like, bluffing.

Anyway... back to the grind. At a minimum, I want to push my way through $.10/$.25 this month. I've been running like garbage, suffering from "they always have aces" syndrome, or TAHA, but things will turn around. They always do. Small sample size and all that.

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February Buddhathon 2014

Posted by GiantBuddha

January is over. The Year of the Horse is here. That means this immovable object is getting ready to become an unstoppable force.

February is my least favorite month. Good thing it's short. 28 days. Four years ago, I managed to do something pretty useful with 28 days. I did this Grindathon, where I locked myself in my apartment building and played 200+ hours of poker, made 28 poker videos, and did 28 video blogs. I raised a few grand for some causes and made ten times that playing poker. It was a good month.

So yeah. I'm gonna do that again. I'm playing smaller stakes these days. It's part of my 2014 poker plan. I want to put up statistically significant winning samples at every limit from $.05/$.10 through $5/$10. Ideally, I'd like to get even higher than that. Maybe I'm dreaming.

In January, I eked out 31k hands of nickel and dime with an 8.90 bb/100 win rate. My all-in EV adjusted win rate was 13.62. That gives me 99.8% confidence that I'm beating that limit. I'm gonna call that statistically significant and move on up to $.10/$.25.

Dime and quarter poker is still the micro-stakes, but I imagine there are more decent players there. Weren't many of those at nickel and dime. Regardless, I hope to give the limit a sound thrashing for 50k hands and then play another 50k hands at $.25/$.50. That's where you can almost start making some money to live off of.

So if that's my February - 200 hours, 100k hands, and pushing through 2 limits - then in March I'll be ready for $.50/$1. Maybe that's optimistic. I'd call that an upper-quartile outcome. I need to run good, play well, and keep improving. Still, it doesn't sound like that much of a challenge, does it? Let's make it harder, then.

I'm also going to spend about 90 hours working on four new poker booklets, Parts 2 through 5 of Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts. That's a lot of writing and not a lot of time. I can write between 500 and 2000 words per hour (or up to 3600 if it's just a stream of consciousness), so the actual writing won't take a terribly long time. Maybe 30-odd hours. But then there is editing, proofreading, publishing, and shameless self-promotion to think about. All in all, it's a lot of work.

We're still only looking at 280 hours of work, which is a 70-hour work week. So let's tack on up to 7 new poker videos for DragTheBar. We're three hours in and I've already knocked one of those off the list, so maybe this will be easy.

Then again, probably not.

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Pay Attention To Bet Sizing

Posted by GiantBuddha

I've been a busy bee.

Aside from playing and studying lots of poker (more on that in my end-of-the-month post), I've finally managed to hack through Skynet's defenses and get my new written poker product posted for purchase.

"What's this written poker product?" you might ask. (You might not ask, but I'm sitting alone in front of the computer, so I pretend you're asking anything I'd like. And yes, how thoughtful; I would like a cookie.)

Pay Attention To Bet Sizing. It's Part 1 of Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts. I've written it with the help of my Don't Listen To Phil Hellmuth coauthor, Dusty Schmidt. We used 10 of his real life hands to illustrate this most critical concept of No Limit Holdem.

"Where can I get this and how much does it cost?" You click on either book title to follow the links above over to Leanpub, or you can visit my publishing home on Part 1: Pay Attention To Bet Sizing is a whopping $2.99. That's two hundred and ninety nine pennies! (Though we prefer paypal.)

"Why is it so cheap?" At roughly 8200 words, it's more of a booklet than a book. That's why I referred to it as a written poker product. It's a complete idea. A thorough treatment of a single subject.

"How many parts are there?" So far, just the one is finished. But there are eight more already in the pipeline, at various stages of development. Our plan is to polish up one of these each week and send it out into the world. So the full book, Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts, is available for pre-order on Leanpub for $19.99. If you buy that, you'll get weekly updates with new sections and edits on prior ones. Once we're completely finished with the series, we'll probably bump the price up to $29.99 or something, but we'll see how it turns out first before deciding on a final price point.

I'm very excited to be releasing written content again. The best thing I can say about the booklet is that I gained a tremendous amount of confidence in my bet sizing by writing the piece. So if writing it helped me that much, I hope reading it can do the same for you.

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GiantBuddha’s 2014 Poker Plan

Posted by GiantBuddha

I like challenges. Fun challenges. Difficult challenges. Weird challenges. This time I've decided to keep it simple. Sort of.

My single poker goal for 2014 is to play at least 100,000 hands of No Limit Holdem at every limit from $.05/$.10 through $5/$10, winning at each level.

As I pursue my poker goal, I will record 3 DragTheBar videos per limit. The first will cover my assumptions going into the limit, the second will track my progress through the first 50,000 hands, and the third will review what I’ve learned throughout my 100,000 hands at the limit. All videos will focus on reviewing hands that I play at the particular limit.

I’m also working on an enormous series of books called Poker In Practice. I’ll be working with various co-authors on these, including my previous collaborator, Dusty Schmidt. More details to come in the very near future.

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New Poker Plan

Posted by GiantBuddha

I love it when a plan comes together, but I don't have one. Technically, I've got two plans - to do 30 consecutive days of hot yoga and to write a novel in that same timeframe - but I have no poker plan. Assuming I spend 100 hours writing and 100 hours on yoga practice and travel, how many hours of poker should I play? I'm going for ambitious, but achievable. I want something to build on instead of something to break myself on. I'm thinking 100 hours, as light as that sounds, since a poker job includes more than just those 100 hours at the tables. There's at least another 25 hours of studying and reflecting to consider.

I'd like to say I'll make some videos and write daily blogs, but I don't want to over-commit and under-deliver. I've made that mistake in the past. (See: 100 Days of the Zen Madman.) Maybe I'll wait to launch a more ambitious poker challenge until the regulated sites go live in New Jersey.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Bueller?

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25th Hour

Posted by GiantBuddha

I’m running from the law down a too-well-lit corridor. In my hand is a magenta sheet of paper bearing my sentence – 5 years, 9 months. I can recall neither my crime nor how I got cornered in this stupid building. All I know is the fear of confinement. I must be free.

I open my eyes in a too-dark room. I can recall neither where I am nor how I got here. All I know is that I’m not running.

Germany. I’m not breaking the law, but I have run from it, from what calls itself the law and then changes its mind. I’m here to play poker, and I sleep with my computer.

The screen sears my eyes as I ask it the time. It’s almost low noon. Another six hours on my Kickstarter. I visit the page and find my project fully funded.

It’s like Christmas morning. An emotional one-eighty. Two people put me over the top at the same time – a friend and a stranger – and then there was a third.

More pledges roll in before the closing bell rings. I smile in gratitude, just before dawn in Germany.

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It. Is. On.

Posted by GiantBuddha

2012 grind in full effect. I'll be playing 6 to 10 hours per day, almost every day, for the rest of the year. I'm going back to the method I used to build my game up in 2008. Two shorthanded tables or one table heads up. High focus, quality over quantity, repeated hour after hour. Warm up and review, video and study.

In other poker-related news, I've been on a video-making tear. Sledghammer and I just recorded a two-part small-blind mini-series. We covered some fundamentals and some not-so-fundamentals. I've also got four new table play videos in the queue, so look for an increase in Limit Holdem content on DragTheBar.

I'm also doing a small amount of private coaching, available for $75/hour or $300/5 hours, only through my Kickstarter for Zen Madman's Flash Fiction Folio. I'm excited about publishing my fiction for the first time, but it will be easier to focus on poker once the project is done. Only 65 hours left on the Kickstarter, so act fast if you want coaching, the book, or a postcard from online poker tour 2012!

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The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd’s Lawn

Posted by GiantBuddha

Getting close to the completion of my Kickstarter. Towards that end, I wrote an extremely short mystery today. Very short. I imagine I may write a shorter one someday, but not tomorrow. I'm posting one piece of fiction per day on my new Tumblr:, but the story here will follow:

Roger Ackroyd lived in a handsomely appointed house in King’s Abbott. Despite the numerous comings and goings on the day in question, my focus was not on the contents of the house. No, I was sniffing around the verge, uncovering clues that no man could divine. Yes, she had been there. I knew this even before I found one of her curly white locks. I patrolled a minute more and found a suitable locale.

I did what I was there to do and left.

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Discount Coaching For Fiction Fans

Posted by GiantBuddha

As part of the Kickstarter for my Flash Fiction Folio, I’m offering coaching at about half my normal rate. That’s $75 for one hour or $300 for a five hour package. Each of those comes with the eBook and paperback editions of my first collection of fiction. Sessions can be for limit (small to mid-stakes), no limit (small stakes), or poker theory (including EV calcs and combo counting), and you can split the cost with a study buddy or group.

It’s super simple. All you have to do is participate in my Kickstarter at the $75 or $300 reward levels. Where else can you buy coaching through Amazon?

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Out of the Clouds

Posted by GiantBuddha

I’ve been in Germany for a solid week now, and despite all the novelty – new language, caramel soy pudding – the time has flown by. It took a few days to get some poker sites set up, and I’ve yet to play a substantial number of hands. It’s time for that to change.

That’s not to say I haven’t been working. I’ve drafted an ambitious year-long plan, worked on my flash fiction project, and finished up my Poker Player Bill of Rights. But it’s time to get my grind on. Head out of the clouds, feet on the ground running. Running good, I hope.

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Poker Player Bill of Rights

Posted by GiantBuddha

From superusers to colluders, from shady sites to greedy governments, poker players are constantly at risk of being cheated, swindled, and defrauded. While intelligent players look out for themselves and each other, not everyone has access to enough information to keep safe. There should be an organization keeping an eye on these things, allowing players to focus on playing.

Before an organization can fight for our rights, we first must establish what those rights are. To this end, I have drafted a Poker Player Bill of Rights. I have defined and explained each right, and followed that with an assessment of where we currently stand on protecting these rights.

The full article is on, an independent news outlet built by our own Nick "Hood" Jones.

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German Soy Pudding

Posted by GiantBuddha

After mixed success on the soy milk front, I decided to brave the soy pudding frontier. As you can see, I went a bit overboard and bought all four varieties. Again the results were mixed. The vanilla is mediocre, the dark chocolate is decent to good, the "milk" chocolate is very good, and the caramel ist die Bombe! This may be my lack of recent sugar intake speaking, but it's one of the best puddings I've ever had.

German vegan tip of the day: look for food with the 100% pflanzlich symbol. All plant, all the time. Unfortunately, it's found almost exclusively on soy goodies, but that's a good enough place to start.

This will be my last food blog for a little while. I've got a big piece coming out on pokerfuse tomorrow, and I'm getting some poker sites up and running. More on that soon.

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Ich Bin Strikter Vegetarier

Posted by GiantBuddha

Well, that's what Google Translate tells me, anyway. On Day 2 of my journey, I did a little language research to prepare for the supermarket. It turns out there are a decent number of soy products, including banana soy milk! It's quite tasty. I'll buy some seitan and soysages tomorrow. Sadly, I haven't found any black beans. They're all kidney and baked beans, and all with sugar added. But I got a nice bag of apples for only .99€. The euro is losing steam on the dollar, so my money's going a bit further than I'd anticipated.

My attempts at opening a local bank account were thwarted by my lack of registered address here. I'll try again tomorrow at HSBC, which advertises exceptional service for expats. Hopefully sleep will come for me now and erase the insomnia of yesterday.

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Welcome to Düsseldorf

Posted by GiantBuddha

I've arrived in Hamburg without incident. New Year's on a plane was frightfully uneventful. I can't decide whether the highlight was when they gave us champagne and people arbitrarily clinked glasses (even more arbitrarily than normal, since it was 11:37 somewhere and 12:37 somewhere else), or when midnight EST passed and no one blinked. But my personal highlight was going through immigration in Düsseldorf.

"What is the purpose of your visit?" the stone-faced officer asked.

"To visit friends and to see Europe," I answered.

"How long would you like to stay?"

"89 days."

He looked up from my brand-new empty passport, then back down at my passport and leafed through it disdainfully. It felt like five minutes before he spoke again.

"So you've never been here before?"

"No, well, not since I was three."

"I see...and how many dollars do you have with you?"

Now, if this was New York, I'd assume it was a mugging attempt. But this is a common immigration question and I was prepared.

"Two thousand in cash, and another ten thousand in the bank." Hopefully not too much and not too little.

"And you can take a long vacation from work like this?"

"I'm a writer, so I don't have to be at home to get work done."

He nodded his approval and turbo-stamped my passport.

"Enjoy your stay."

So I think I found the magic answer to getting approved for a 90-day visa. Have money and be a writer.

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Gifts From The Dead

Posted by GiantBuddha

I’m leaving my homeland on Saturday night, spending the year abroad. Hamburg, Soderhamn, London, then expedia knows where. I don’t self-identify as an American, even if I am quintessentially so. But I am interested in being a citizen of the world, seeing the sights, learning the language.

In the process of putting my affairs in order, I’ve divested myself of the majority of my worldly possessions. Ideally, I’d like to own only what I can carry, but I have this really cool sword, and I don’t want to cause a scene going through airport security. So I’ve kept a few things at home.

Throwing things away is a difficult process, empowering as well. But how do you cast off gifts from the dead? So many of my belongings were presents from those no longer present. I can’t say I’ve discarded those as ruthlessly as I intended. But the greatest gifts from the dead are not things, but memories. And those I hope I never let go.

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A Little Help From My Friends

Posted by GiantBuddha

Dear Friends,

I'm putting together my first work of published fiction, and you can help make it a success. My project is a collection of (mostly dark) short stories titled Zen Madman's Flash Fiction Folio.  For $9 or $15, you can pre-order the book (PDF or hard copy, respectively), and there are bigger rewards as well, like discounted coaching sessions. My goal is to raise $777 by January 16 to cover the cost of printing, shipping, and design. While financial backing would be outstanding, Kickstarter is as much about promotion as it is about funding. There are lots of totally free ways you can help:
  • containing my project link:
  • Share: Throw my link up on your facebook, tumblr, blog, or anywhere fiction lovers might find it. If you're more ambitious, you can embed my project video or even a full widget by using the Embed button below the video on my project page.
  • Forward: Perhaps the most helpful thing you can do is forward this email to everyone you know who likes fiction and might forward it on to their friends. Friends are awesome, but friends of friends of friends are geometrically more powerful.
  • Comment: Put a comment on my Kickstarter page letting me know what you think of my stories, what you'd like to see, and any questions you have.
And of course, you can:
  • Pledge: If you have an amazon account there you don't even have to reenter your credit card info. You can pledge as little as $1, get the ebook for $9, the hard copy for $15, or both for $20. There are a bunch of higher pledge levels, too, but i'd rather get lots of little ones than a few big ones. Of course, no pledge will be turned away. :p


My long-term goal is to become a professional writer (and publisher) of fiction, so this is a huge first step. Not only is your help (in any form) useful, but knowing that my success comes with a little help from my friends means more to me than doing it alone.


Signed in virtual blood with actual undying gratitude,


- Paul
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Christmas Solitude

Posted by GiantBuddha

Today I'm alone on Christmas for the first time in a decade. My mom's moved west, so I have no family left in New York, and my girlfriend's off on a cruise with her family. "Here I go again on my own" blares from my computer speakers as I try to psyche myself into being productive, casting off the feeling of loneliness by reveling in it.

That's all well and melodramatic, but the truth is that I'm not alone at all. I spent the 24th and 25th with friends - chosen family, as one of them says in his sermon. I'm lucky to have good friends that welcome me to their family events. I'm also lucky to have people whose absence I actively miss. I'd rather have family that I miss than family that feels like an unfortunate obligation. It's sort of the better to have loved and lost thing.

I've always felt comfortable by myself. That could be an artifact of my one-parent, only-child upbringing. Even when I still had two parents, I could spend hours alone, engrossed in activity. I can't say that I really get bored. There's always something to be doing, and a lot of things are better done alone. So today I'll value my friends and family, but also my solitude. I'm lucky to have both.

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No Balls, Two Strikes

Posted by GiantBuddha

I just finished up a new story for my Flash Fiction Folio. This one's about baseball and may have too much lingo for those who aren't fans. Let me know what you think, though. I'm always interested in the opinions of fans and critics alike. You can read it on Free Association.

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Low Noon

Posted by GiantBuddha

You know how 12:00 PM is called high noon? Well, I like to call 12:00 AM low noon. It's gonna be a thing. When in doubt, talk about the weather.

A few days ago, it looked like winter was finally here. The temperature dropped into the 20s for the first time since last winter. But now, on the winter solstice, it got up to 59°F, and at low noon, it's still 55°. What's that all about? Sounds like Armageddon to me.

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I ♥ NY

Posted by GiantBuddha

New York is the Greatest City in the World. I say this not out of any disrespect to other cities. Sure, there are bigger cities, and yes, there are friendlier cities. And god knows there are cleaner cities. But nowhere in the world are more languages spoken, more cultures mingled, or more stereotypes debunked.

I used to love New York in an elitist way. I kind of thought everywhere else sucked, and The City ( The City) was just better. But I had it backwards. What makes The City great is all the good things from cities around the world, and maybe some of the bad things too. It's not all here, but in one form or another, most of it is. And that's why this will always be my home, no matter where I am.

On that note, my New Year's countdown starts tomorrow at 10. That's 10 days until I leave New York, New York, and America for the better part of next year. I'm going to Germany, then Sweden, then the UK, then who knows where else. It should be an exciting journey, seeing some of my roots and some of my city's roots. Fragments of those places are found here, but I want to see the source.

I'll leave you with the following clip, the most stirring performance of The City's municipal anthem:

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Flash Fiction Folio Kickstarter

Posted by GiantBuddha

Yesterday's blog was about writing every day. Continuing in that trend, I'm happy to launch the kickstarter for Zen Madman's Flash Fiction Folio. is an all-or-nothing funding site, where you can pledge to help me publish my first collection of fiction. Pledges are not donations. Instead, you receive rewards based on the amount of your pledge. You can essentially pre-order the book, get special stories just for you, or receive copy-editing, proofreading, or discount coaching services. Click here to pledge or learn more, and check out the video below.

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Write Now, Every Day

Posted by GiantBuddha

Almost every book ever written on the subject of writing contains the following advice: "If you want to be a writer, start writing every day." Now that may seem obvious, a less generic version of "Just Do It." And while everything in life may seem as simple as that, two things make it particularly applicable to writing.

The first is that anyone can be a writer. In fact, you don't even need to know how to write. You only need to know how to speak. A friend recently related to me the story of his father, an illiterate man who wrote technical manuals by dictating to his secretary. Only if you're mute and illiterate are you precluded from joining the ranks of writers worldwide.

So it's easy to be a writer? Well, yes and no. The other side of writing is its permanency. Most would-be writers fall short because of a fear of commitment. When you write something, you commit those words to the page (or computer). Yes, your words can be edited, erased, or deleted later, but there's a special terror that comes with putting your thoughts down in a semi-permanent fashion. Even for those that overcome this initial fear, there is a secondary fear of showing your writing to another person, and the tertiary fear of the finality of publication.

How many great stories are left untold because of the teller's fear of telling? I fear many. So if you have a story to tell, put pen to paper, hands to keyboard, chalk to cave wall, and write now. I'll be going with the "every day" thing, writing an entry in this blog every day for the rest of the year. To put my money where my hands are (on the keyboard), I'll give 2 books or 1 hour of coaching to the first person who calls me out should I fail to make a post on any day between December 19th and December 31st (EST).

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I Am Entropy

Posted by GiantBuddha

“You have, like, the worst superpower ever,” she said. For the third time in my life, I had just shattered a glass in my hand. Now, I’ve broken dozens of glasses. Most of them were on purpose. I’ve also smashed phones and lamps, computer mice and headphones, and even a television set. Breaking stuff is fun. My policy of non-violence towards living things apparently doesn’t extend to inanimate objects. But that’s not what this is about. This is about destroying things through no more than physical proximity.

A few years ago, a friend lent me his cell phone to make an emergency phone call. He dialed the number and handed me the phone. I spoke for five minutes, then handed the phone back. It never worked again.

I’ve never owned a phone or computer that’s lasted more than a year without some major malfunction. My last phone just stopped dialing 1, 4, or 7. Try to dial an NYC area code without those numbers. Others phones physically lost buttons or simply stopped working.

A friend and I used to walk around the Upper East Side a lot. Every time we passed this one streetlamp, it would go out. When we’d pass it going the other direction, it would go back on. When we formed a new band a few years later, we scheduled our first practice for September 11th, 2001. When that band went on to record a CD in August of 2003, the entire City of New York lost power.

Recording for our next band hit speed bumps when my guitar mysteriously caused the recording computer to malfunction. Drums were recorded fine. Bass was fine. Vocals went off without a hitch. But when I plugged in my guitar, the computer stopped working.

I don’t tell you this with a woe-is-me intent. It’s frustrating when mechanical devices malfunction, but sometimes it feels like there’s a little magic to it. That much is fun.

It’s not fun when people start dying, which has been too common a theme. For someone who’s never seen war or famine, I’ve seen too much death in my life. Sometimes it feels like a curse. I know that people die and things break down. These are laws of biology and physics. But it’s hard to feel like it’s not me.

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Facebook Poker?

Posted by GiantBuddha

According to eGaming Review, Facebook is poised to enter the real-money gaming arena. How long before Facebook becomes the world's largest poker affiliate? I wrote an editorial for Pokerfuse pondering the question:

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Why Merge Should Lower Their Fixed Limit Rake

Posted by GiantBuddha

Some poker players sing a requiem for Limit Holdem. They think it’s dead. It’s not. About 20% of all poker hands played are still of the Fixed Limit variety of Texas Holdem. But only a small portion of these are played on the Merge network. Why? Because they’re strangling the games with high rake.

Sites like PokerStars understand that Fixed Limit needs a different rake structure from No Limit. Due to the nature of the game, a typical player will see more than three times as many flops in Limit as in No Limit. (In a sample of 90k hands, I saw the flop 31% of the time in Limit compared to 7.7% in No Limit.) Under a no flop/no drop policy, this means a Limit Holdem player gets raked three times as often as a No Limit player.

The solution is to increase the increments by which rake is taken. In a $1/$2 game, that means not raking the pot until it hits $5. In a $2/$4 game, it means not raking until the pot hits $20. This allows the Limit Holdem rake to fall closer in line with No Limit. Merge is raking the pot as soon as it hits $.20. The charts below illustrate the difference in rake between Merge and its US-friendly competitor, Cake. Notice how Cake rake moves up in steps while Merge rake follows a smoother line.
$1/$2 LHE Rake Comparison
$2/$4 LHE Rake Comparison
The pale yellow area shows the extra rake that Merge is taking. Does this mean that they’re making more money than they would with a lower rake? No. The rake is so high that playing Limit Holdem below $10/$20 is an unsustainable endeavor. They’re suffocating their traffic by preventing anyone from flourishing. There are many high-volume players who won’t play on Merge because of the rake. If they cut rake by 30% and double their traffic, they could increase profits by 40%.

Limit Holdem should be a goldmine for online poker sites. Edges are thinner than in No Limit, so recreational players last longer. They can’t blow off their whole stack in one hand. And the typical loose style of a recreational player is less costly in Limit, since proper play involves playing many hands and seeing lots of showdowns. Being stubborn is an asset, not the liability it is in No Limit.

I sincerely hope Merge listens to its customers, because they have the opportunity to be a leader in online Limit Holdem. They have quality software and reasonable deposit and withdrawal options for US players. If they make their rake equally reasonable, Limit players will flock to their tables.

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Where the Hell Have I Been?

Posted by GiantBuddha

Casinos, not-so-seedy underground New York card clubs, and on my couch, watching Mad Men, mostly. I was going to write a blog reviewing the first six months after Black Friday, but it's looking more like seven now. I've enjoyed live poker a fair bit, but while the games are softer, it turns out to be a harder way to make a living than playing online. That's not to say it's impossible or not worthwhile. It just requires a larger bankroll relative to your hourly expectation, and even more patience.

I've played around on the US-friendly sites a bit, although the high rake and lack of game selection is frustrating. And the software! If you live anywhere but here, count your lucky Stars. It's easy to take excellence for granted.

I've managed to squeeze out a few videos here and there, even dipping my toes in the No Limit Holdem pond. But lately I've been thinking about writing a lot. I banged out this little story on 11/11: It's my first flash fiction piece. More to come. For now, it's back to the poker tables, both physical and pixelated.

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It Won’t Rain For You

Posted by GiantBuddha

I didn't listen to much music when I was a kid. I had some singles on 45, like "We Are the World" and Weird Al's "Eat It." But it wasn't until I was thirteen that music really struck a chord with me. A friend of mine told me to get Nirvana's Nevermind and GNR Lies for these two girls who were sharing a birthday party downtown. Not only were the gifts well received, but when they played the tapes, the sounds filled me with an intangible feeling. It was something I couldn't lay hands on.

From Nirvana and GNR I moved on to Metallica, whose black album is one of the best selling yet most underrated albums of all time. For hardcore metal fans, the record represented the sell out of the most respected band in the genre. For me, it bridged the gap. I wasn't a metal head. I was a kid who wore grey sweatpants and pastel t-shirts from my aunt and uncle's Florida Keys retreat. But the black album showed me something about music. It showed me how heavy it can be, and how sad. While Metallica doesn't have the complexity of structure that albums like ...And Justice For All or Master of Puppets contain, it does have the dynamics and range of emotion. After investigating those earlier albums, I realized something. There was a way to lay hands on these emotions. Literally.

I didn't want to play music. I had to play music. Like a junkie needs a needle, I needed a guitar. I needed to have it in my hands. So for my fourteenth birthday, my mom took me to Sam Ash where she told the salesman I was looking for a guitar.

"What kind?" he asked.

"A black one," I answered. And with that, a young metal guitarist was born.

I'm 33 now, and I've been playing on and off with varying degrees of seriousness for the past 19 years. I've recorded an album, a couple EPs, and a swath of demos. It Won't Rain For You is the first recording that sounds almost exactly the way I want it to. (I say almost exactly, because if you can't find something you'd like to improve, you're not trying hard enough.) It's just three songs, but Villain's Lament and I took our time crafting them, demoing them, and finally recording them.

I play almost all of the guitar and bass on the recording (Logan pops in for the third of four solos in "Fifth Time's the Charm"), and I think you'll find that I'm still that metal guitarist that was born 19 years ago. The rhythm guitars are heavy, and the leads are abundant. But like the black album, the arrangements are modest and the vocals are accessible. We have two lead singers, and I'd like to think they both have nicer voices than James Hetfield, if not the same rugged enthusiasm. You can judge for yourself:

If you like what you hear, the disc and downloads are available in the following places:

More from Villain's Lament at:

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Good Game Stars

Posted by GiantBuddha

I signed on to PokerStars today to convert my remaining Frequent Player Points to cash. Having purchased a $4k Supernova bonus shortly before Stars closed shop to US players, I only had a few hundred dollars worth of FPPs to convert. When I opened the cashier, I was surprised to see almost a thousand dollars sitting in my account. Thanks to Stars’ quick agreement with the Department of Justice, I had been able to cash out my previous balance within a week of the US shutdown. So why was there money in my account? Because Stars is the best.

The PokerStars VIP program is built around milestone bonuses, where you earn a few thousand dollars every hundred thousand points or so. Since I was caught between milestones with 8 and a half months left to play, they prorated the bonus and deposited the cash into my account. While this seems like the logical course of action, few online poker sites would make good on their promised rewards in this fashion. But Stars does the right thing.

I’m saddened that due to my government’s rectal-cranial inversion, I can no longer play poker on the best site on the internet. What will happen in the future? Who knows. Maybe Stars will fight the DoJ and win. Maybe regulation will come in the form of legislation. Maybe the smaller sites will learn from Stars’ example and pick up their game. But for now, it’s good game, Stars.

Good game.

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Patriotism Is A Character Flaw

Posted by GiantBuddha

“USA! USA! USA!” the crowds chanted outside the White House. “USA! USA! USA!” the crowds chanted at the ballpark. What few of these people realize is that this feeling they have coursing through their veins as they shout their brains out - that’s the feeling that inspired the murder of everyone in the World Trade Center. That feeling is the cancer that has had the human race destroying itself for all of recorded history. It’s us against them. They call it patriotism. I call it disgusting.

I wrote a piece about my views on patriotism. Read the rest on Free Association:

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Bin Laden Is Dead

Posted by GiantBuddha

Can we focus on something important now, like explicitly legalizing online poker? To be honest, I find it hard to care about world politics and missions of vengeance when U.S. domestic policy is so embarrassingly hypocritical.

Speaking of embarrassing, I wrote a little piece about Mason Malmuth's recent behavior on his internet forum:

Yesterday was my birthday, so I took a day off from the live grind. I ate lots of vegan banana cream pie, too. Now it's up to Foxwoods for a two day session, back home for music practice, then down to Atlantic City for another two day session. Then it's time to make some poker videos over the weekend. It's not a bad life, but I could do without the travel. Some explicitly legal live poker in NYC would be nice. But I guess I'll have to settle for dead terrorist leaders on my birthday.

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