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Talking with Jared on his radio show

Posted by Hunter Bick

Hey guys, I went on Jared's radio show yesterday on QuadJacks, we had a great time talking about learning poker, the path to playing high level poker, and how to make the most out of your study time.  I also hit on some very common mistakes I see players make, and a couple things that generally irritate me that make the path to success harder in my opinion.  You can stream it below, let me know what you think.

-Hunter

Also, be sure to check out other editions of Jared's weekly show, he had Phil Helmuth on last week, so you know, he's becoming kind of a big deal...

http://quadjacks.com/category/thementalgame/

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Steve Jobs, Rest in Peace

Posted by Hunter Bick

Steve Jobs passed away tonight.  I wrote a long blog about it, but then I decided nothing I wrote seemed adequate, so I scrapped it.  Over the next few days there will be thousands of articles written trying to capture his genius and summarize his amazing work.  None of them will succeed, because it will take a book of hundreds of pages to even get close.

So my thoughts will be short, because it feels disrespectful to attempt and then inevitably fail to pay adequate tribute to Steve Jobs in my blog.

There is no one else in business that I admire more, and there is no company I admire more than Apple. In 1996, Apple was literally a week or two away from bankruptcy and was losing hundreds of millions a year.   Then they re-hired Steve Jobs after the board forced him out in 1985.  15 years later in 2011, Apple has the biggest market cap of any company in the world, surpassing Exxon-Mobil.  That is a jaw-dropping, mind-numbing, unbelievable achievement.  And Jobs did it through invention, innovation, and a laser-like focus on raising the bar for how technology can improve human life.

He understood people better than anyone, and he changed the way people live, how they read, how they listen to music, how they work with computers, and how they interact with technology in general.  Ideas that originated in Apple products are present in some form in pretty much every computer or device out there today.  Nearly every single major Apple product was a total game changer, going back to the early '80's.

Steve succeeded where others failed (and still fail even with his blueprint) because he knew people and he never compromised on the quality of Apple products.  Apple products succeed where others fail.  It literally was a relentless pursuit of perfection.

I feel very fortunate to have been in attendance at his famous Stanford University commencement speech (was my sister's graduation).   Well worth a watch if you haven't seen it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc

Its particularly tragic that Steve was only 56.  There's not another mind like his out there, and it hurts to think what he could have done with another 20 or 30 years.  Rest in peace Steve, you will be missed.

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The New Merge Regs must HATE Money

Posted by Hunter Bick

Stay Classy Merge Regs Poker is about +EV decisions. I'm absolutely amazed that people so consistently make huge -EV decisions when they to interact with the casual players that drive the games. I'm of course talking about regs who berate fish. Its one of the most unnecessary and costly mistakes you can make at the table, yet its so common its ridiculous. And the the problem has gotten much worse on Merge since Black Friday. I know because I've been playing on Merge consistently since 2008.

I, and many other pros and coaches, have written at length about how -EV it is to berate casual players. The reasons should be obvious, but apparently its just too difficult to not be an asshole at the tables these days, so let me spell this out one time, starting with some facts about where the casual gamblers on the Merge network come from.

The Merge network is made up of several poker-only skins and several sport books, including sportsbook.com, which has the best domain name in the entire online sportsbetting industry, and that domain makes them a ton of money and gets them crazy traffic. The fish on the Merge network mostly come from the sports books. They are casual gamblers, they know they don't win at poker, and they are there to have a good time. I'm going to repeat that. THEY ARE THERE TO HAVE A GOOD TIME.

Before Black Friday, the games at Merge were usually very friendly and very chatty. Lots of the recreational gamblers recognize each other, and they were generally nice and polite to the pros. They knew who the winners were because they usually had big stacks, and the regulars were not afraid to make friendly conversation with other regs and the recreational gamblers. Overall, it was a very pleasant place to play and was a good experience for everyone.

After Black Friday, there's been an influx of regulars on Merge. Even though the games are still good, the games are dramatically less friendly and often downright hostile. I've seen many multi-tabling regulars say things like "God I love all the stupid ****ing fish on this site," or "OMG that was the worst play I've ever seen." Nice job guys, because ruining the friendly environment is exactly what is going to keep these guys playing poker.

I understand that we all got screwed on Black Friday, whoever you want to blame for it, the fact is that its a lot harder to make a living as an American poker player or as an American poker-related business. I get that, I fit into both categories. Furthermore, people still have money tied up on UB and FTP, and there are very few places to play online. No one should be happy about our new reality.

But of all the people on the planet to be taking out your anger on, you're berating the only group of people left that you can make money from??? Think about that, berating the Merge gamblers is so counter-intuitive to making money at poker its ridiculous, and furthermore, since black friday its even MORE detrimental than it was before, because you can't just go to another site and play with their fish.

The casual gamblers at Merge are basically the only significant group of fish left to American poker players online. There is not an infinite supply of them. They are playing poker as entertainment, by making poker less entertaining for them, they are less likely to return because no one wants to be berated and told how much they suck and get treated like shit. The Merge regs should be bending over backward to make poker a great time for these people, because if one by one they decide that poker "just isn't that fun anymore," then US players will be making even less money, and the one good option left for online poker will gone, and then where will we be?

I learned this lesson the first time I played live for decent stakes, it was a deep-stacked $2-$5 game at Caesar's Indiana, a riverboat on the IN/KY border. It was 8 handed with one huge gambler, the guy was all in every other hand with weak pairs and gutshots. He was the only one ordering drink after drink and trying to have a good time. Everyone else was too focused on getting his money. So he picked up his stack and left after an hour because the table was "no fun," as he put it. Its the same thing online, do you really think a guy like this is going to keep depositing when the guys who play 8 tables are always assholes to him?

If you are a US player on the Merge network, these regs who berate casual players are costing you money, and if you are doing it, then you are costing yourself and other Americans money and shrinking the US poker economy. Its that simple. Things are hard right now, don't make them harder. All you have to do is keep your hands off the keyboard, and that +EV decision will increase your bottom line. Before you start to be an asshole at the table, ask yourself this question: What would you do if the games completely dried up on Merge?

I'm closing this out with a quote from my buddy and fellow DTB coach Jade Lane. Jade played live in Vegas for years before transitioning to online play.

Jade Lane: "I think every internet player should play live for a year or so. They would learn things like keeping the games going, so the cards are in the air when a fish does come. And in Vegas, at $1K NL and higher, if you are berating and chasing away the fish, another Vegas pro will kill you."

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More on Black Friday: Talking with Joe Brennan Jr., Chairman of iMEGA

Posted by Hunter Bick

I think one of the most important things that US poker players do post-black friday is inform themselves as much as possible about what happened to Stars/FTP/UB and why.  There is a ton of confusing information out there, and I've done what I can to help clear things up.

After a buddy read my last blog, he put me in touch with a friend of his, Joe Brennan Jr., who happens to be the Chairman of iMEGA, and probably the top legal mind in the country regarding the legal and legislative situation for online gambling and online poker.  For anyone who doesn't know, iMEGA is a Washington-DC based industry association that represents the online gambling industry.  They pursue lobbying efforts both on the state and federal level, and in addition they litigate online gambling cases all over the company.  Two recent examples are that they have worked with several state senators in New Jersey to pass the intrastate gambling bill there, and they are the lead plaintiff in the case against the State of Kentucky, who tried to seize 141 online gambling domain names because they claimed that the websites violated state gaming laws (even though its legal to bet on the ponies inside Kentucky).

Joe is a super nice guy (very funny too) and spent a generous amount of time with me during what has to be a very busy period for him.  I recorded an hour of our conversation and got his views on several subjects regarding poker's legal fight, black friday, and what poker players can do to affect change.  My hope is that this answers some questions for poker players and gives a clearer picture about poker's legal and legislative state in the US.

Here's the link to my interview with Joe, I uploaded it to the new member video feature here at DTB so the link is free and does not require the user to be logged in.

http://www.dragthebar.com/poker-videos/members/Interview+with+Joe+Brennan+Jr.+-+An+Expert%27s+Take+on+Black+Friday+and+the+Legal+Landscape+of+Online+Poker/watch/14

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Black Friday: What Happened, Why, and What it Means for Online Poker in the USA

Posted by Hunter Bick

Black Friday: What Happened, Why, and What it Means for Online Poker in the USA

I've been reading as much as I can about what happened on Black Friday to PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/Absolute Poker, and I see a ton of confusion and fear about the whole situation. Understandably, there are lots of questions and very few answers about the indictments, what they mean for online poker in the US and abroad, how the remaining sites can still operate, and the current legal situation in the US regarding online poker. Its pretty complicated stuff, so I'm going to break it down and hopefully make it easy to understand and get all the information in one place.

Before I dive in, I want to make it clear that I'm not a lawyer or a banker (my brief stint in corporate banking does not make me an expert), so this is information I have researched and put together, and reflects the understanding of someone who not only has been around online poker for 8 years, has been in the industry for 2, and who has closely followed the legal landscape for online poker in the US.
What happened on Black Friday?

PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and UB/Absolute Poker were indicted on nine counts and their dot-com domain names were seized, and player funds for US players were frozen. 4 of these charges were UIGEA violations, 3 were for "Operation of an Illegal Gambling Business" (one count for each poker site), 1 count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, and 1 count for money laundering conspiracy. The 4 UIGEA charges and the 3 gambling charges all hinge on the presumption that poker is a game of chance and that poker is included in UIGEA, this is a very important point, and we'll get to that later. The UIGEA violations are fairly straightforward, they assert that the sites processed transactions for online gambling. The illegal gambling indictments rely on parts of the New York State Penal code for offering games of chance. The bank fraud and money laundering charges are very serious, and fairly cut and dry based on what I have read from lawyers commenting on the issue, if what is alleged is true, it doesn't look like Stars and FTP have much ground to stand on there. (Please see TeddyFBI's excellent cliff notes post on 2p2 here for more info on the details of the indictments).

Before Continuing, Some Basic Facts about the Legality of Online Poker in the USA:

1. It is NOT illegal to play online poker in the United States, except in the state of Washington. There is no Federal law that makes it illegal to play poker online.
2. As a player, it is NOT illegal to deposit or withdraw money from an online poker site while in the US, or as a US citizen.
3. The legal landscape for online poker in the US has NOT changed, its the same today as it was last Thursday, the day before Black Friday.
4. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) does not mention poker players. It only mentions payment processing for financial institutions. It stipulates that financial institutions cannot lawfully process "unlawful internet gambling" transactions. However, the law never defines what "unlawful internet gambling" is, what games it applies to, nor does it provide any guidance whatsoever for what "unlawful internet gambling" even means.

Understanding Different Types of Banking Transactions Used by Poker Sites
The next two sections are boring but necessary parts of the story. To understand why the Big Three were indicted, we need to understand how the poker industry uses payment processing, and the type of processing The Big Three were engaged in and why that led to money laundering and bank fraud charges.

How Processing Usually works with Traditional Methods to Fund or Withdraw from a Poker Site (Post - 2006)

The Poker sites rely upon payment processors to handle the transactions with their players. These companies provide various banking services for the poker sites like debit card processing, issuing checks, collecting money from e-wallets, etc. These companies run the risk of DOJ seizures as they are committing UIGEA violations, so to shoulder that risk, they charge high fees to the poker sites. There have been several payment processor seizures in the last few years, and usually this led to the sites delaying withdrawals while they found a new processor willing to work with them. When a payment processor was seized, 99% of poker players never knew about it, because the sites would absorb the losses. This is why players would experience occasional problems with checks bouncing or withdrawal delays.

The benefit to the poker sites to using a processor is pretty straightforward. UIGEA targets the financial handling of gambling transactions, so the sites use payment processors as 3rd parties between them and the players, so that the sites would not handle their own processing and thus, would not be UIGEA targets. That's why up until Black Friday, any seizures related to online gambling were payment processors being shut down. The obvious problem emerges that as more and more payment processors got shut down, there were fewer of them willing to take the risk, and the people behind them got shadier and shadier, and they charged the sites more and more for their services. On top of that, the tremendous volume of money processing needed by The Big Three would automatically make any processor willing to work with them a target for the DOJ.
Since UIGEA, the traditional methods of deposit and withdraw methods have been paper checks, bank wires, e-wallets, cash transfers such as western union, and debit cards. There have been some other more obscure ways to do it like prepaid visas and prepaid phone cards as well.

Wires and Electronic Fund Transfers

These are the two basic types of electronic types of funds transfer, they look similar on the surface, but are very different. The first is standard bank wires, and these have not been a problem post-UIGEA. Wires are bank-to-bank transfers, and are what are used every day all over the world. They work internationally, are secure, and work for large amounts of money. They also come with high fees, usually $30 - $50 on each end. Because they are account to account, there is no transaction involved, so they do not require electronic coding to classify the nature of the transaction. This makes them a safe way for the site to collect from and distribute to Americans.

Now, the maximum wire deposit and funding options with the poker sites were usually very high, up to a million dollars if I am not mistaken. Of course the sites never put this in the cashier page, but they had VIP services available to high stakes customers for this purpose. So I don't know if they used processors for their 5-figure plus wire transfers or not (maybe someone can comment on this below), but I would not be surprised if their banking department handled this themselves, because of the very low risk of a wire transfer being identified as an internet gambling transaction, since there is no coding required or other information required. But it also is far too costly and cumbersome (each wire has to be manually inputted) for the mass of customers looking to deposit or withdraw an amount smaller than thousands of dollars. So its not a viable option for the masses of small stakes casual players who really drive the liquidity behind the big poker sites.

That brings us to the next type of electronic transfer that operates inside the ACH system (wires do not), and these commonly referred to as Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) or ACH transfers. EFTs are a newer form of electronic transfer, showing up in the last 10 years or so. These are what we use for everyday for electronic transfers like purchases, automatic mortgage or insurance payments, payroll payments, etc. That is a fundamental difference between EFTs and wires, with an EFT something is being purchased, wires are simple transfer of funds. These have become very common for smaller transactions, usually a few thousand dollars and less. Because there is always a transaction involved, EFTs require electronic coding to specify what type of transaction is taking place, per money laundering laws.

The advantages to EFTs are significant. They can be automated, so anyone with a bank account and routing number can use them and they require no manpower for the poker site(wires require manual inputting). They also are far cheaper than wires, usually being free on one end and costing less than a dollar on the other. Compare that to a total of $60 or more for a wire transfer. So they are cheap and they are easy, but they also require coding to designated the purpose of the transaction, AND THEY CAN ONLY BE USED DOMESTICALLY. Many countries have EFT systems like this, but they can only be used within each country, but you can't use an EFT to pay someone in another country for a purchase, a service, or anything else.

How The Big Three Used EFTs

If EFTs are starting to sound familiar to American online poker players, its because The Big Three were using eChecks as deposit options, and instant bank transfers as cashout options. These were EFT transfers that required a description code. Party Poker did this before UIGEA, but no other sites have attempted to use these transfers since UIGEA. Obviously there are major advantages for a poker site using EFTs. They are very cheap, they are relatively fast, they are easy, and all a customer needs to use them is a bank account and a routing number.

Instead of asking their customers to mail in checks, sign up for an e-wallet, try a debit card that probably won't work (thanks to the customer's financial institution), or do a western union to a random person in Indonesia, they could simply supply basic banking info, and be playing poker minutes later. So for the Big Three, there was serious upside to being able to offer EFT payments to US customers. As a poker site, the more money your players can get online, the more games you have and the more rake you collect. The upside is amplified when you can tap the world's biggest online poker market with a huge advertising budget, profit tremendously by offering easy payments, and then use the profit to dominate the international market.

However there's a couple problems. UIGEA prohibits "unlawful online gambling" transactions, and EFTs have to be coded. So what's the answer since you can't code an EFT "online poker?" Secondly, EFTs only work domestically, they have to processed inside the US for US customers. Clearly these are tough issues to circumvent for an offshore poker site; first the EFT needs to be disguised, and then there has to be company inside the US willing to intentionally disguise them.

So, to get around these obstacles, and this is what the DOJ alleges that they did, The Big Three apparently bought shares in a bank in Utah called SunFirst. In exchange for the liquidity that this bank probably needed after the financial crisis, and along with a cash bonus for the CEO, the bank agreed to handle the EFTs for American players AND agreed to intentionally mis-code the transactions as other items completely unrelated to online gambling, things like golf equipment and other random items that had nothing to do with online poker. That's where the money laundering conspiracy and bank fraud charges come from. The scheme to buy part of this bank and pay the CEO to do this is the conspiracy, and the mis-coding of the transactions is bank fraud. These are serious crimes no matter if you are a poker site or a charity for homeless animals. The experts who've weighed in on this tend to agree that the DOJ is not going to indict a company for money laundering and bank fraud if they don't have a very solid case, so these charges are likely bad news for these sites.

This is why these seizures are different from past seizures. This time the actual poker sites were the ones doing the processing because they owned shares of the bank that was processing and mis-coding the EFT payments. That makes all the difference in the world. Because they were disguising the intent of the EFT transactions and miscoding the transactions, they got hit with bank fraud and money laundering indictments. On top of that, the DOJ has an argument about UIGEA violations, and lastly, the illegal gambling charges were probably thrown for good measure.

What About the UIGEA and Gambling Indictments?

At first glance, it looked like Black Friday was all about a crackdown on online poker, that the UIGEA and gambling violations were the reasons The Big Three were indicted and had their domains seized. Most likely, the confusion arises because counts 1 through 7 were charges of UIGEA violations and operating an illegal gambling business. Counts 8 and 9 appear to be the crux of this case, but they easily got lost in the shuffle because the UIGEA and gambling indictments made this look like a big attack on online poker. However the story of an online poker crackdown doesn't make sense to me.

First, if these sites were indicted under UIGEA and other gambling laws, why hasn't this happened before? UIGEA was passed 5 years ago (has been enforceable for 10 months), and the gambling laws cited are much older than that.  If this was a case about offshore gambling companies serving US customers under the gambling laws cited in the indictments, why are these the first domain seizures of online, offshore gambling companies by the US Department of Justice?  Why didn't this happen sooner?   Next, why did it happen to poker companies instead of online casinos or sportsbooks?  Furthermore, if this was a UIGEA case, even though UIGEA has just become enforceable in the last 10 months, why would the DOJ target poker companies who have a stronger legal argument than casinos or sportsbooks?

After reading a lot of opinions by lawyers and people more expert than me on the law, it looks like the answer is because those are very difficult charges to prove. Remember in the beginning I said that these charges hinge upon the presumption that poker is a game of chance? Well the question of whether poker is a game of skill or a game of chance has never been litigated in federal court. There's obviously a good argument to be made that its a skill game. But more importantly though, UIGEA does not define "unlawful internet gambling," so whether or not poker even qualifies under UIGEA is another legal question that has not been litigated. These are not easy arguments for either side to make, and I've read repeatedly that the DOJ does not issue indictments for cases its at risk of losing or not getting a strong settlement out of. So it seems unlikely that the DOJ is going to the trouble and expense to indict billion dollar companies and seize their assets, when the laws being applied are on shaky legal grounds when it comes specifically to poker companies. Especially considering that such a case could end up in litigation for years.

So that brings us back to the questions one paragraph up. If the DOJ was going to issue indictments for UIGEA violations and gambling laws, then why not go after an online casino? Casino games have no argument for the skill versus chance debate since the house has a provable mathematical edge, so the UIGEA and gambling charges would be a much easier case for the DOJ. Why would they pick a poker company to indict under these laws when its a much harder argument and there is no legal precedent available to classify poker? That does not make sense... until you remember that The Big Three are accused of owning an equity stake in a US bank. Now they ARE guilty of all this stuff because they own a piece of a company that is processing gambling transactions (UIGEA) and now have US assets are offering gambling to Americans (State of NY gambling violations).  I don't think Black Friday would have happened without the alleged equity stake in SunFirst bank, that allows solid cases to be made on all charges.

Conclusion

After examining this situation, I'm now less upset at the government and more upset at the poker sites. If what they are accused of is true, then they took some big chances in order to reap the rewards and liquidity that easy EFT transfers brought their sites. We all agree UIGEA is one of the worst laws ever passed. Its hypocritical, its short-sighted, it was politically motivated, and it was an attack on our freedoms as Americans. But this wasn't about online poker or even UIGEA, it was about bank fraud and money laundering, two very serious crimes. Yes, Stars and FTP may have committed those acts in order to skirt a stupid law, but that doesn't make those actions acceptable, nor is it reasonable to expect a law enforcement agency to look the other way because a few million Americans enjoy playing online poker.

I also feel better knowing that the remaining US sites do not, and have not offered e-checks or other types of instant ACH transfers, since it seems very likely that is what made this happen. Black Friday was a very bad day and hopefully something positive emerges from it like favorable US legislation, but I don't see why it should stop Americans from playing online poker. The law has not changed, and its hard to see how Black Friday would have happened if The Big Three had not tried to skirt UIGEA by breaking other laws in order to offer easy ETF transactions to US customers.

None of the remaining US sites have offered this service post-UIGEA, and hopefully they have studied Black Friday and won't try to. I also anticipate that they will all be looking to keep a lower profile than the high-flying Full Tilt and PokerStars. Maybe this will make the games tougher, maybe it won't, we'll see. But we all want to keep playing online poker, even if that means making some adjustments to a different landscape or facing harder games. America is the biggest poker market in the world, twice the size of second place Canada, there will be games, and there will be ways to play them. The good news is that we can still play and we can do so with a solid expectation that this won't be happening again anytime soon, unless another site tries the same things The Big Three are accused of doing, which seems highly unlikely now that we've seen the consequences.

For more reading, particularly on the complete legislative history of online poker on the federal level, check out Nate Silver's excellent blog on the New York Times website.

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What a Complete Joke

Posted by Hunter Bick

I'll start with the obvious: American's don't care about soccer. That's not a surprise to anyone. Its on at weird times for us, and its a little slower than our other sports which doesn't help in the eyes of Americans with short attention spans. But nonetheless, plenty of us do start paying attention every 4 years because the USA national team generally does pretty well at the World Cup. A lot of Americans also recognize the superb athleticism and do appreciate the talent, some of these guys are without question some of the top athletes in the world. There's also a deep level of strategy that once you understand a little of it, is pretty cool and entertaining. I also respect soccer because as my wife pointed out, its the least elitist big time sport in the world. It requires zero equipment to learn how to play, and skills can be developed without even a pair of shoes. Obviously thats a big reason its the world's sport, and deservedly so. Its simple rules, accessibility, and underlying deep strategy and talent base make it a great game, there's no question about that. So please don't confuse this blog to be about soccer, its not, its about FIFA, the governing body of the World Cup and the other top international leagues.

This year especially there are plenty of reasons for Americans to be excited about soccer, Landon Donovon is in his prime, Tim Howard is a phenomenal keeper, and the games are on at reasonable hours on normal channels , so we don't have to get up at 4am to watch our guys play, because lets face it, that just wasn't going to happen. Our tournamnet even started strong with an upset tie against England.

So it was all great until this absolutely ridiculous call that disallowed Maurice Edu's game winning goal today. No commentator saw anything, but it was hard to miss the 2 Americans being bear hugged while Edu was busy winning the game. So naturally, when it was disallowed, I naturally, along with every other American watching, wanted to know what the call was and who it was called on, no one mentions either, and I remain confused. After the game, I find out that these refs don't actually have to specify what the call is or even who its on. Are you kidding me?!?! I'm still blown away by that. I was informed by our friend goretexg in the forum that Sepp Blatter, FIFA's corrupt head, is adamantly opposed to any form of instant replay. But that's not event the main absurdity here, but we'll get to that in a minute.

I did a little googling of "FIFA corruption" and there hundreds of articles detailing various investigations into FIFA regarding payoffs, kickbacks, bribes, and sleazy ticket hocking. These investigations finger people all the way to the top, including Sepp Blatter, FIFA's head. For our non-US friends, I'm sure this is common knowledge for you guys and you're probably very surprised I'm just now outraged about all this. But again, Americans check in on the sport every 4 years for the World Cup, and for the most we don't pay attention because corruption in FIFA, or any soccer news for that matter, never ever hits our sports headlines. So anyway, yeah there's a ton of corruption, most of it appears to be pretty brazen and blatant on the organizational level.

So now this all makes sense. If FIFA has a culture of corruption, then why would they WANT the refs to have to record against who or what the foul is? Because this little rule as it is opens up the entire sport to incredible poisoning, making it so much easier for an official to hide his intent of turning the game one way or the other. A billion people are expected to watch the world cup. I'm sure that comes with incredible action and unparalleled incentive to buy the results of games. Russian and Chinese mobsters that are have hundreds of millions dollars could easily make that happen. And its probably the easiest sport to manipulate with such an archaic rule set. This rule is so outrageous to the spirit of fair competition, that I can't imagine that FIFA doesn't WANT to invite in the corruption, poisoning, and controversy. Because its just too easy and to obvious to fix. "Refs now have to disclose what infraction they are calling, and what player is being penalized." Done.

Next, theres FIFA's adamant refusal to utilize any sort of instant replay. If FIFA had any interest at all in making sure the outcome of these games was fair, then why NOT put in instant replay? Instant replay has made Tennis, American Football, and the NHL much better and fairer. The challenge system works great in Tennis and football, and the NHL has a board of people in the Toronto headquarters standing by to review video for EVERY single game played. Close calls get elevated to the headquarters, they decide after looking at all the angles, and thats the decision. And thats just the little ol' NHL, which is eclipsed in North American in revenue and popularity by baseball, basketball, and football.

But right now we're talking about the World Cup, the biggest sporting event in the history of the world, how could you possibly resist rules that ensure fairer outcomes, if you don't have a monetary interest in to the contrary? It's such an asinine stance that again, its just impossible to imagine another reason why they aren't for it except for their culture of corruption and graft, and that someone or everyone is on the take to keep it from happening. After all, it would certainly make it harder to fix games if an independent board of review were reviewing close calls outside the authority of the on field refs.

Even I remember the controversy over the refs in the 2002 world cup where the Italians got jammed. How many upset wins or upset ties have there been in this year's tournament alone? After seeing that goal get disallowed, and how FIFA has handled it so far ("no comment" from anyone), how can I even watch another game under the assumption that the outcome is not predetermined? The more I read and learn about FIFA, the more disgusted I am. I can't help but see my suspicions exemplified every time there's a big upset or a hugely controversial call.

Honestly, I feel cheated not only for the American team, but for myself for having started to care and pay attention in the first place. Its obviously a huge waste of time considering not even the most basic measures are taken to protect the integrity of the game by its governing body. I also feel badly for the fans elsewhere, this tournament means so much to so many people (most of them are outside the US), that its simply a tragedy that its being run by these assholes who clearly have no concern to even an interest in keeping the sport pure.

So you know what FIFA? American's shouldn't care about soccer, because obviously you don't. Wait, thats not quite fair. You don't care about the GAME of soccer or the World Cup and what it means to so many people, but you obviously love the money attached to it. The game, the fans, and the World Cup tournament are simply ways to funnel in some easy, under the table, tax free revenue. Because if you actually cared about the game one iota, these ridiculous rules would not be in place, period.

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Part 2: Brother’s Graduation / Unreal Travel Variance

Posted by Hunter Bick

So we get to bed around 4 or 5, only to get up at 7:00 so he can go pick up his cap and gown and all that. We both feel like death so we got dressed in like ten minutes, he put a suit on which I'm sure he regretted once he got out into the 95 degree sun. We ran to McDonalds breakfast, I got some coffee, the standard mcmuffin and B, E, & C biscuit, and for some inexplicable reason, my brother orders the "Deluxe Parfait." Its this yogurt and granola thing that doesn't exactly fit with the rest of the breakfast lineup, which means I'm not getting it. Plus, since when does yogurt make you feel better after drinking? Reminded of when a buddy of mine got "The Big Fish Sandwich" at the Burger King drive-in coming home the next day from a New Years eve party while home from college.

We get to campus, he gets his cap and gown and I go find my family in this sea of about 15,000 people, they found a good spot under a tree in the shade, so the 95 degree heat was bearable. There was hahaa lot of bottled water floating around, so that helped, but I still felt like we could possibly see the egg mcmuffin again. Fortunately I kept it together, although my brother, as I found out later, was much less fortunate with his parfait. I then noticed some woman wearing a set of ear rings where the left was a little diploma, and the right was a little tassle, and laughed for about 20 minutes at her expense. I had to wonder how long she'd had those bad boys in the holster.

Then the ceremony starts, the Chancellor gave a mediocre speech for 15 minutes, then they started going through the various graduating classes, you know, the Bachelor of Arts, sciences, Accounting School, etc. Ironically, in his speech the Chancellor used the word "Tedious" not once, but twice. They start reading names, then it dawns on me that they are going to read every single graduating name, and each kid had to walk across the stage. There were over 1,600 kids graduating. SIXTEEN HUNDRED NAMES! I seriously couldn't believe it, it was every bit as brutal and yes, wait for it, tedious, as it sounds, and it took well over 3 hours. But hey, at least I wasn't in the cap and gown, in direct sunlight, with zero access to water like all the graduates were. Way to work that one through Vanderbilt, your students are graduating and you have them baking in black cloth in direct 95 degree sunlight for 4 hours, and you make no effort to get them water. Nothing says "Thanks for the memories, not get the **** out of here" quite like that little sendoff. I'm surprised no one passed out, maybe they did but no one noticed because they just kept reading the names.

We went out to lunch, but neither my brother nor I could eat much, its a good thing he ordered a full rack of ribs that pretty much went straight to the to-go container. Then we went back to his place and crashed immediately, so I said alright I might as well just get to the airport so I can return the Yaris and get home for some much needed sleep. So I said goodbye to my brother and rolled out.

While I'm driving to the airport it starts thunder storming, complete with lightning, and I can't help but remember I have to connect in Memphis. It appears to clear up as we're boarding the plane, we get on and head to the runway and things look good. Then the captain gets on the horn and explains that we're at the back of the line for takeoff because planes are late leaving because of the weather. After 30 minutes, we're informed that we have to head back to the gate for more gas, because planes are holding over Memphis because of too much weather-related traffic. As we pull up to the gate, it starts lightning again, and understandably its not very intelligent to gas up an airplane during an electrical storm. We even de-planed and chilled by the gate for a little while during this.

By the time we land in Memphis, I'm not optimistic about my chances. While we're taxing I decide to use my 7 minutes of iphone juice to check my next flight's status, and sure enough it says "in flight," ****. Then the woman next to me, who was very pleasant btw, says she lived in Memphis for a year and doubts there are any hotels available because of "Memphis-Fest." I say "what's that" almost dreading the answer. Apparently its a whisky & BBQ festival that is a big enough deal that people drive from all over to take part. Sure enough, she was right on the money and there were no hotel rooms, nor were there any flights out, and Delta's next flight to Charlotte was at 8:30, the NEXT NIGHT. No way in hell was I going to sit there for 23 hours. I found an outlet and called my wife (at this point the charging cord was always in pocket with the phone), and she did some fast research and found 2 flights on USAIR and United for 8am the next morning, direct flights thankfully.

Next up, I had to get on one of these, and that took almost 3 hours. I asked 2 people who said it wasn't possible, then another who said it was possible, but I needed to call the courtesy phone to Delta's national phone support. I waited 50 minutes on hold, finally got someone who said she had to check with her supervisor, which took another 20 minutes. Then she says she can't do it, that I need to speak to a Delta Supervisor in person at the airport. Now its really late, around 10:30, and I'm worried there aren't any around. Thankfully there's one left, Lekeila, and I found her and told her my story about what the phone person said about not being able to move me to another airline. Lekeila shakes her head and goes "Emmmmmm Hmmmmm, she lied to yooouuuuuu."

Nice, great to hear. I spent over an hour on the phone and the person who's job it is to help me, didn't feel like it. I'm starting to see a pattern at Delta between her and the pilot from the day before. Anyway, Lekeila is an ass-kicker and the most helpful Delta person I encountered on the entire trip, I guess that's why she's a supervisor, I told her that and thanked her profusely. Seems to me that she should be running the company. So she spends 20 minutes on the computer and gives me very good directions on what I need to do next, and I have a ticket for the USAIR flight at 8am, ship it.

Now, I have to find a place to crash in this airport, and of course, you can't spend the night by the gates behind security where there's carpet, you have to be in front of security by the check in desks, where there is tile. Amazingly, this airport had a room full of air mattresses they were blowing up for people, along with blankets. There were about a hundred people in this situation, so there mattresses everywhere, usually clustered around the power outlets. I went up on the balcony and found an isolated spot where I probably wasn't going to get robbed, and I had my own outlet (which is key so I could make phone calls) and tried to get comfortable. I called my wife and we talked for a while and I gave her all the updates. Then I pulled out the ipad and watched "The Color of Money" which I had on there, such a great gambling movie. I'm so exhausted at this point I can barely think straight, I only had 2 hours of sleep the night before and now I'm at the point where I'm trying to just do one thing at a time and not forget my bag somewhere. I do manage to crash for a couple hours, but its not exactly the most relaxing sleep when every time you shift or wake up, you have to feel to see if your stuff is still there. Plus the automated intercom announcements don't shut off at night.

Thankfully, there were no more issues, I was up at 5:30 when the airport got noisy, I packed up my **** and returned the air mattress, went through security chilled by the gate for 2 hours. I got home at about 11am Charlotte time, took a shower (I hadn't showered since before I left town, nor had I slept for more than 5 hours) and crashed for 5 or 6 hours. That night I slept for 10 more and was still useless the next day.

So yeah, pretty hilarious that a 1 day trip could have so much bad travel variance, but the actual time in Nashville was great and I think next time (a buddy is getting married there in August) I'll just suck it up and drive the 6 hours each way, actually no, that probably won't happen, I'll just be sure to book a couple months out so I can have a direct flight, and it won't be on Delta.

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Brother’s Graduation / Unreal Travel Variance Part 1

Posted by Hunter Bick

My brother graduated from Vanderbilt on Friday, so I went down Thursday for the dinner and so he, our sister and I could do a little celebrating that night. I decided to just fly instead of making the 450 mile drive partly because part of that drive is pretty mountainous and dangerous, I had those fainting spells last fall, and didn't really want to do it by myself. Its also a pain, 6 hours in the car is a long time. Anyway, so I decided to fly, but the direct flight was going to cost $900 for some absurd reason, so I settled with the connecting flight for $450.

Alright so I get to the airport, get on the plane for the 11 o'clock takeoff, and then there's a problem with the ice sensor on one of the wings. I'm all for safety, so I have no problem with them spending 90 minutes getting the part, replacing it, and testing it. Except for the fact that it will be very close with my connecting flight in Cincinnati. At least I'm sitting next to a very smart guy who's got his own sports marketing research firm in Charlotte, and we had a good time talking about each others' business and laughing about various athletes' extravagance, so the delay wasn't a big deal except for the whole connecting thing.

We land in Cincinnati 5 minutes after my connecting flight was supposed to have taken off, its one of those little planes so I have to wait for my carry on to be brought up, then I check the gate, and its at the other end of the terminal. For those that haven't been to this airport, its one huge long terminal, with a concave roof like a football stadium, and you can see from one end to the other. So I sprint like 400 yards with my bag, and I get to the gate and fist pump because the plane is still there, and its door is open.

Then I notice the door leading to the plane is closed, which apparently is a big ****ing deal, I ask a guy at another counter and he just says "yeah sorry, once we close that door, that's it." Well considering the plane is still at the gate with its door open, I'm not buying that nothing can be done, so I find someone else and explain the situation. Besides, there are 2 other people trying to get on this plane, and its another small one that only holds about 50 people. So this guy is much cooler, and volunteers to go explain things to the pilot and see what he can do. He comes back up and says "Yeah sorry, the pilot's not letting anyone else on, he's already started the paperwork."

You have got to be kidding me. I understand that they have to calculate the plane's weight, and do some pre-flight stuff, and they'd have to redo that when more people and bags get on board. However, there were 3 of us, and this is a freaking SERVICE company, how can you just totally screw 3 people who are trying to get where they need to be, because you don't want to spend 10 extra minutes redoing some paper work. Its not like the plane is waiting in line to take off, its door is still open. So we all miss the flight because this asshole won't budge and prevent our travels from being ruined. Naturally, the next Delta flight to Nashville is 9am the next morning, when Vandy's graduation starts, not exactly an option.

This is a good time to point out my ridiculous cell-phone situation which plagued me throughout the trip. I've got an iphone like everyone else and I've basically used it like crazy, so the battery only holds a charge for about 20 minutes on standby, or for about 7 minutes of talk time or internet time. In other words, I have to have it plugged in to even make a call. So I get out the charging cable and find an outlet at ear-height next to a bank of payphones (the irony of that scene did not go unnoticed) and start calling my wife and my family to update them. My wife checked out the other airlines for flights to Nashville, and there was nothing that could get me there faster than if I just drove the 280 miles.

With that, I have to find a rental car, but first I have to buy an iphone car charger at an airport store and I scored one at one of those dvd places, then I hit up Sbarro, then Starbucks, and then went down to the rental car offices. It turns out all these offices were not connected to the baggage claim like most airports, you have to get on a shuttle for each one. There's an Enterprise shuttle waiting outside, so I get on that because its the first one there and I need to get on the road so I can still make the graduation dinner.

As it turns out, Enterprise wouldn't rent me a car to drive to Nashville. "We're not really set up for that," I was told. Whatever that means, haha, its not like they are in the business of renting cars for transportation purposes or anything. So I have to get a ride back to the terminal, and this time I use the courtesy phones and a couple places will rent me one, but "compact cars only" for Nashville. So while I'm on the shuttle dreading to see what Hertz considers to be a compact car, we pull up and there's a new Camaro parked in front of the office. I head in there, praying they will rent me something that can behave itself at 90 MPH for 3 hours and not be all over the road. I fill out the info and then we get to the car options: A Chevy Cobalt or a Toyota Yaris. Now I had no idea wtf a Yaris is, but I have rented a Cobalt before, and let's just say I was underwhelmed at its highway abilities. So after desperately trying and failing to convince this woman to rent me the Camaro or at least something bigger than a cobalt, I rolled the dice on the Yaris.

I get into the Yaris and take off. Ironically, the Yaris had an Aux input for my iphone or ipad, and the dvd store back at the airport probably sold the cord I needed, but sadly the thought of the rental car having an ipod hookup did not even cross my mind. So at first I just cranked up the ipad's speaker, which is surprisingly loud btw, but then just said screw it and put the white apple headphones instead, I was on the phone half the time anyway. All in all the drive went by pretty smoothly. Oh, and while the Yaris isn't exactly a BMW at 90 MPH, it's got the edge over the Cobalt for sure, so I made the right choice there.

Pulling into the restaurant's parking lot just in time for dinner, I threw on a fresh shirt and went in, it was a banquet style dinner for my brother's entire fraternity class where each family had a table. It was a good time, I got to meet a bunch of my brother's friends I've heard about, and after a drink and some water the stress of the day of travel started to fade. Although I was still irritated at myself for not just driving myself directly from Charlotte, that would have cut have cut the travel time in half, ironically.

After dinner I went back to my brother's place, and it was about what you'd expect from 4 22-year old dudes about to graduate college. We chilled for a while and had a couple drinks before calling a cab to pick up my sister from her hotel and the three of us and my brother's friends went to downtown Nashville to hit a few bars. Its a nice scene, even though I can't stand country music, we weren't actually inundated with it since there was a lot of indie rock to go around. The one band that was just too country for me kept playing songs where I was literally the only person there who had not only hadn't heard the song before, but was the only one without my hand in the air singing along.

My brother told me to join in, and I said that would happen when they played some Guns N' Roses, which he laughed at and said don't get your hopes up. However, just 2 songs later, they closed out their set with a really good cover of "Sweet Child," and that was adequate redemption as far as I was concerned. The timing of it was hysterical though, given the chat we'd just had. After the bars closed we went back to his fraternity house and hung out for a little while with some more of his friends, all in all, he was a good host and showed us an awesome time, and it was cool to get a glimpse of his college experience.

Part 2 coming in a couple days.

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Pros and Cons of Different Video Formats

Posted by Hunter Bick

Pros and Cons of Different Video Formats

I’ve seen a lot of discussion lately about the effectiveness of different types of poker videos. I think its great that people are starting to think more about the methods that coaches use to teach them, but I also think many of the arguments against certain types of videos are fairly short sighted. There are basically 3 styles of poker videos. There’s “classic” live-play, replay videos (these include live footage made with commentary recorded later and hand replayer videos), and powerpoint based lesson style videos. I think all 3 formats are very valuable, but they each have particular strengths and weaknesses. I’m just going to discuss the pros and cons of each format, and why I think a balanced coaching program includes all 3 types of videos.

Live Play Videos: This was the original format of poker video where the coach simply fires up the tables and talks about what he’s doing. They have some very distinct advantages that will always make these videos valuable in my opinion. First of all, when we play poker, we don’t get five minutes to think through a hand. We have to quickly analyze the variables and make a decision. In a live play video, you get to see the coach going through that process in the short time frame he has. It also allows the coach to explain his thought process while he’s in the moment, without relying on his memory to recap his thoughts later. I don’t really buy that making live videos is lazy or un-instructive, in general I think it’s a great format because no other format captures the coach thinking on his feet. I’m also a big fan of the spontaneity that’s inherent in live videos, and that’s what makes them my favorite videos to make. They also provide an open platform to talk about other poker stuff that’s not 100% related to the action on the table, and side topics can certainly be valuable as well. You don’t get that with the other formats.

There are a couple downsides. The first one that comes to mind is that the coach often does not have as much time as he would like to talk through a hand, because another interesting hand pops up. As a coach I find myself in this situation fairly often in my videos (and I tend to be fairly long winded as it is), I just stick with 2 tables to minimize this problem. Things can get hectic when I need to overlay the tables with a replay of a previous hand, and that’s another drawback. Of course the action can get slow as well, and that’s when its good to have a couple side topics in mind to fill in the space, or to comment on the hand that’s going on, what ranges I’d put the players on, etc.

Hand Replay and Delayed Commentary Videos: These videos have one very important strength. The coach is not inhibited by the action at the table, he’s got all the time he needs to talk through the hand in question. This allows for more in-depth discussion and analysis than is usually possible in a live video. Furthermore, it provides a great platform for stringing hands together with a certain theme. A hand replayer video can have any theme the coach wants, all he has to do is go through HEM and pick out a bunch of hands that show similar situations. Blind battles, overbet bluffs, big pots, whatever that concept is, its easy to show multiple examples of a single concept. You don’t have to catch the hand on film in order to put it in a video. That’s a powerful tool. The disadvantage with these is you don’t get timing tells, chat-box tells, or that kind of thing.

Delayed commentary of the recorded action has some big advantages too. I’ve tried to make live action heads up videos and I wasn’t too happy with the results. Mostly because you play a much higher % of hands and there is much less downtime in heads up, and that makes keeping the commentary up with the action a serious challenge. Recording a match and doing the commentary later solves the problem. As long as you make the commentary a reasonable amount of time after the match, there’s not much of a problem with forgetting anything. These videos also work especially well for MTTs, because MTTs are several hours long and there can be a lot of downtime (especially early on), a delayed commentary video is great because the coach can skip ahead to the relevant situations. Timing tells can matter a lot in MTTs and cash, and that’s where a delayed commentary video has an edge over a hand replayer. Of course, a hand replayer can much more quickly and effectively jump to different points or pivotal hands in the tournament.

Powerpoint Lesson Videos: These obviously have a lot of strengths. The biggest is that they allow a very clear presentation of a specific poker concept or theme. Powerpoint is a powerful piece of software and it can easily be recorded in camtasia, so often this is the best way to break down and discuss a single concept, especially if math is involved. It can also be a great as an intro to a video. I’ve done a few this way, the “Emptying The Clip” videos I made use this format. They start with powerpoint and then go to the hand replayer.

The downside to these videos is quite honestly the production time. Depending on the coach, these just take a lot longer to make than the other types of video. They also are challenging, because a lot of thought has to go into how to best organize and display the information, you‘re not just turning on the mic and speaking, you have to choose how best to display, lay out, and explain the concept visually. It looks like all you have to do is type up a few slides, but a ton of thought (at least for me) has to go into how to organize those slides and how to phrase the text so its clear and instructive. I’ve also seen complaints about powerpoint vids because there’s not any poker being played, so some people get bored just looking at slides while listening to the coach. I’m pretty ADD personally, so I can relate to that.

So basically, I totally get that some players will prefer different types of videos. However I don’t think that anyone should just write off one format or another. Instead I’d encourage everyone to watch a mix of all 3 formats, simply because they each have unique and important strengths. Also, think about where you are with your poker game, what are you trying to work on? Do you feel like you have a specific leak, or are you trying to figure out where you can improve things? Just because you usually get the most out of one type, don’t write off the others, instead check out the other formats occasionally. Its always good to expose yourself to different coaching methods.

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First Winning February, Book It!

Posted by Hunter Bick

Discuss:

So for the first time in my poker career I won money in February! I think I finished somewhere around +$5k, an amount that on any other month I'd be pissed about, but considering its something like $25k more than I made last February and the streak is over, I'm fairly happy about it. I definitely didn't run well (my EV line is $11k higher than my profit line) and it sure as hell still felt like February, but hey at least I booked a little profit. Getting that monkey off my back feels pretty good for sure.

At the same time I'm not happy with how I played this month, I give myself a B/B- overall on my quality of play. I've been struggling with managing my sessions lately. I usually work at least 12 hours a day on DragTheBar so when it comes time to play poker I struggle in a few areas. The first is that it can be hard to clear my head of all the DTB stuff going on, and if someone im's me during a session, that floods my poker analysis while I'm playing with business issues. I've talked to Jared about how to more effectively separate the two because I feel thats really important, but like anything else I need a little more practice before I'm really good at focusing 100% on either one or the other. It hasn't even been a year since we started DTB, and the workload has been at this pace for probably 4 or 5 months, so I'm still adjusting to it. Don't get my wrong, I love it and as a poker player and coach, there's nothing better, but I've also never worked harder in my life and with that will always come a learning process and some adjustments. I'm hoping I can successfully make those adjustments sooner than later.

Another issue that I'm trying to dial in is the number of tables I play. I used to play 8 tables at the most, but I rotated my two 30" monitors vertically recently so now they can each hold 8 tables instead of 6 (I like the default table size) and its far easier to play 12 tables with the vertical monitors than the horizontal ones. Anyway, I get into this mindset where because I often have only a couple hours a day to play poker, I think I need to play as many tables as I can to get my hands in. I've also never attempted 16 tables before, and its actually not that bad, but its definitely a few too many because I stop looking for the creative play, find myself just clicking a lot of buttons, and then my red non-showdown winnings line (which is usually around even) starts to dive. I need to find my optimum number, 10 tables is no problem, but 16 is definitely too many, so I'm thinking 12 is probably a safe bet. So there's been some trial and error with that. Because I was playing 16 tables a lot this month, I got a lot of hands in, but between running bad and not playing my a-game the profit doesn't reflect the number of hands I played. One cool thing about stretching myself with 16 tables for a few weeks is that I can play 10 tables like its 6 now, and 10 tables is still a ton of hands.

Lastly, I'm often pretty tired when I sit down for a session. Since I had that health issue last fall I wasn't working out much, so I'm trying really hard to get back in shape to up my energy levels. Also, I just realized I didn't update everyone on the medical stuff, I went to Indianapolis (where I grew up) in the beginning of February to see a world class cardiologist. My dad is an ER doctor and knows this guy, so I was very lucky to be able to sit down with him. He said I could immediately stop taking the beta-blockers that were prescribed to me and basically said as long as I stay hydrated, I should be fine and not have any more fainting episodes, and if I do, then up my salt intake by a few hundred % (start taking salt pills) so that my body holds more water, and that will do it. I feel sooooo much better now, the beta-blockers were rough and made feel absolutely exhausted all day every day. So anyway, I need to work on not playing if I am too tired, Stosh wrote a great blog on this subject.

So basically I have some things to work on that will help my results a lot once I get them under control. Bottom line is that long run, our results are our responsibility, so if yours aren't what you want them to be, keep looking for reasons that might contribute to that, and then fix those problems. My life is a lot different now than it was several months ago, so I just have to do a better job of focusing 100% on poker when I'm playing a session, and I have to not over-extend myself in terms of how many tables I'm playing. I'm not afraid to admit that I was knocked off my a-game for most of the month, it happens to everyone from time to time, and while it pisses me off to see my results diluted by 40k hands of mediocre play, as long as I learn some things along the way that will help me in the future, then it wasnt a wasted effort. Until next time.

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The obsession with the word "Bumhunter," and why it makes no sense

Posted by Hunter Bick

The obsession with the word "Bumhunter," and why it makes no sense
The term "bumhunter" gets thrown around like crazy these days, and it basically makes no sense at all. Originally the term was coined to describe someone who sits around waiting for heads up action, but refuses to play anyone who is not a total fish. Then it started to mean someone who only plays bad players but not anyone good, so the meaning started applying to more and more people, but the concept remained the same: heads up player who only plays weak players. Some people look down on that, which is their right, but then they bash bumhunters for their high winrate and high earnings by saying they suck at poker because they bumhunt. Alright fine, I don't really agree with that, but at least there's a reasonable thought process behind that argument when it applies only to heads up players.

But now the word "bumhunter" is thrown around like crazy at 6max players. How is it even possible to bumhunt at 6max? The very nature of 6max, and the reason I'm getting back into it, is that you simply cannot avoid playing with good players if they are at your table. You have to play pots with them, period. So the answer to that question is, well if there's a fish and 4 regs at the table, then you're bumhunting. That's just ridiculous, it literally makes no sense.

So what are the criteria for being a 6max bumhunter? Here are the reasons that seem to make up the prevailing "wisdom" and why they are so ridiculous.

#1. They only sit at tables with fish.

First off, why would sitting at a table with 5 other players be a particularly profitable situation? Are we trying to make money at poker or are we here to measure various body parts? I didn't realize that the egos of online poker players have eclipsed their greed. If that's what's happened, then poker just got a lot more profitable.

Secondly, a "fish" on most midstakes tables is someone who's playing a 35 vpip. Thats probably not a profitable style for them, but they are by no means a 60/5 type guy who is bleeding money. Yet even if you make the effort to find tables with one weak player, 80% of your competition is still good thinking players. So if you have a winrate of 3 or 4 BB/100 and are one of the top earners at your limit, despite the fact that everyone tries to find weak players (why else are the waiting lists long when Scout shows up), then you are a bumhunter and suck at poker. The fact is when 80% of your competition are tough, good players and you never have an edge against them, you can't win at 3 BB/100 just by having one fish at your table. This whole train of thought makes absolutely no sense

#2. They leave as soon as the fish leaves, and this in turn is bad for games.

Let's get something straight. EVERYONE does this at mid/high stakes. Everytime I play a session, I'll open what looks like a good table from the lobby, only to find the entire table sitting out. Or I'll notice that one of my 12 tables is not running because the fish sat out, so everyone else did too. People don't even wait for their big blind anymore, they just sit out. This is STANDARD, everyone does it, so singling out anyone specific as a bum hunter when they do this is simply ridiculous. I mean, when Scout leaves the game does everyone keep playing? Of course not, he's driving the action, and he's why everyone is there. This is just how poker works, but suddenly everyone is a bum hunter if they decide to waste their time playing a bunch of other good regulars instead of using that time to find a more profitable table? Some say that you should play an orbit to "keep the game going." Who cares if that one table keeps going or not, there are plenty to choose from, we're online here, its not like we're in a casino where if our table breaks we might have to wait two hours to get another seat.

And how is this bad for the games? A fish leaves, the table breaks. A new fish shows up elsewhere, the table fills up, the waiting list fills up, the fish busts, everyone clears out, and this process repeats itself. This is how its always been, at least since early 2004 when I started playing. And if this is actually somehow bad for the games, why aren't the games dead when everyone behaves in this exact manner, and has for years?

#3. They don't help start new tables.

This one is just flailing, here's why. Everyone knows one of the easiest ways to get a seat with a fish is to start a new table, this is online 6max poker 101. Fish don't sign up for waiting lists, they grab the first seat they see. As a result, starting a new table gets them to sit with you, this is basic obvious stuff. So wouldn't it stand to reason that any "bumhunter" would be starting lots of new tables? The argument against that is they "hate playing shorthanded or heads up." Maybe they can't handle a HU match against a good player while playing 12 tables? They know that, but they also know they are walking away from a potentially +EV spot if a fish shows up. So how exactly are they bumhunting when they pass up this opportunity?

I might be one of the few people who often welcomes heads up action when the table dies against a regular, simply because I've played so much HU that I think I have a HU edge when we both have 12 6max tables going. But the fact is if I'm in a couple tough spots elsewhere, its often better to just close the HU table so I can focus on the big-pot decisions. But when someone plays 3 HU hands against me and then quits, do I think less of him as a person? Do I lose respect for his 6max game? Do I rush to 2+2 to call him out? Of course not, he's making the best EV decision for his current situation and doesn't want to play heads up or 3 handed while he has a bunch other tables open. How is this not common sense? Why is this such a big deal?

Here's the final reason this take is so ridiculous. Since when were there a shortage of mid-stakes games going on Stars and FTP? Why is everyone all of a sudden so concerned about starting new tables? Why does anyone care about this? Until you get to $10/$20 there are plenty of games going, and new tables fill up quickly. I guess I didn't get the memo that outlined that as a professional poker, one of my obligations is to play with other professionals to start new tables because the 150 already sitting there aren't enough.

#4. They only buy in for enough to cover the fish.

Again, this is standard, smart gambling. Barry Greenstein, in his book "Ace on the River," page 96 said this: "If you are serious about making money, don't put yourself in situations where you can lose a lot and win a little." So if $10/$20 is above your bankroll, but there's a fish with $1k on the table, should you not sit because you aren't comfortable putting $2k on the table or should you sit with $1100 to cover the fish? No one's short-stacking for 20bbs to cover another short-stacking fish, that's just ridiculous and its not the issue here. If the fish has $1k on this table and you buy-in for $2k, the most you can win from the fish is $1k, but you can lose $2k to a good player. That's not a very good option in general, especially if the limit is higher than your normal game. So why not put in enough to cover the fish while also protecting your bankroll? Since when did everyone hate 50bb stacks so much? They don't ruin games like 20bb shortstackers do. What exactly is the problem here.

Conclusion

So for some reason certain people get singled out for being 6max bumhunters. My friend and fellow DragTheBar.com coach Leatherass is famous for it. Now BoyWonder, another very, very good player, has recently been attacked for the same thing. The Dang brothers also get mentioned in the list.

It is just getting completely out of control, there is a horde of people who are attacking individuals for being "bumhunters" when the term itself and the reasons for the criticisms simply make no logical sense. Maybe it has to do with what these guys have in common. Their work ethic to improving their game, their high win rates over large samples of hands, and the fact that they are all 7-figure winners at poker.

Is this where we are as an online poker society? Anyone who works their ass off to develop a strong game and then makes a million doing it is automatically marginalized, trivialized, and blasted for it? Simply because people have seen them leave the table with the fish, the same way everyone else does? Somehow that makes their results meaningless and their talents irrelevant? Are these not people that we all can learn something from? We shouldn't respect their poker game and their big win rates for absurd reasons like this?

I'm gonna wrap this up with 2 quotes from an aejones post from a recent 2+2 thread:

"It would be impossible to bumhunt 50k hands a month, but table selecting (and especially position selecting) is certainly not a punishable offense." -aejones

I'd like to thank him for clearing this up, since 50k hands in a month for an online pro is a joke. Oh yeah, his favorite "bumhunter" of all time, Leatherass, who aejones attacks and berates at every opportunity in his videos and on 2+2, plays at least twice that many hands every month and has for years.

The rest of his post is pretty good too and directly refutes the common bumhunting "wisdom" discussed above, all of which he's championed over the years.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to everyone not calling every good player online a bumhunter, its especially bad for those doing the attacking because they are throwing away any interest in learning from some of the best players online, and that is burning money.

Hunter Bick,
DragTheBar.com

Discuss.

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February is sooooooo Rigged

Posted by Hunter Bick

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So here's a pretty sick coincidence. This is my 4th February as a poker pro. Each of the first 3 was my worst month ever as a pro. I've had 4 losing months in my career all of them are February. February 2006 was the first where I lost like 2k. In February 2007, I lost about 5k. Feb. of 2008 I dropped around 8k, and last February in 2009 it was close to $17k. But yeah, each February has not only been my worst month yet, but they keep getting worse, lol. Such a bizarre coincidence that it actually makes me wonder if there's seasonal depression or something else at work here. One of my really good friends offered to take a mere $5k to ensure that I didn't play at all this month, which was pretty funny.

Fortunately this month is not going nearly as bad as the others. I'm running badly of course but I'm still up something trivial like $2k over 25k hands. Normally I'd be fairly irritated but considering its February and I'm somehow winning I'm pretty stoked. Had a nasty weekend so far where everyone peeled the flop with middle pair and spiked their kicker on the turn, but whatever. I'm alright with how I played, wasn't my a-game but was ok nonetheless.

Running really well with Drag The Bar though, I'm really excited about all of our new coaches and I think they all add unique perspectives and styles, we can all learn different things from each of them. I'm gonna make some videos tomorrow, anyone who wants to see anything specific from me just pm me or make a forum post and I'll try to make it happen.

Later on guys.

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Players Only FTW

Posted by Hunter Bick

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I’ve been through a lot since I last blogged, so here’s a little recap complete with a very deserved public thank you to the management of Player’s Only, a poker room on the Cake network. I’ve been playing there a lot for the last 6 months or so because I tend to find good games on Cake and I feel that I play better without a hud than most of the regs do. Back in October, I blogged about winning an Aussie Millions package in a winner take all $320 satellite on the site. My wife and I were really pumped since we’d never been to Australia and we started planning a big trip around the tournament.

So a couple weeks after that I had a bad cold and fainted after getting out of bed, Deidre called an ambulance and everything at the hospital checked out, but they referred me to a neurologist. He ordered a round of tests including one called a tilt table, where you lay flat then the table is elevated to about 80 degrees to simulate fainting conditions. That took place in early December and I passed out on that very quickly. It turns out my heart stopped during both of these incidences and I had to spend the night in the hospital following the test. Scary stuff considering I’m 28, I work out a lot and eat pretty damn well. So after more tests they determined my heart was structurally healthy, but I have a very sensitive nerve condition that caused all this. I had to go see a cardiologist and take it from there, meanwhile being careful not to stand up too quickly and to lay down at the first sign of being light headed. Fun stuff.

So basically a trip to the other side of the planet no longer seemed like a very good idea and the cardiologist recommended I take things easy and not travel until we were sure that my body could handle the medication and that things would get back to normal. For example an 18 hour plane ride sitting upright could potentially trigger something, and having that happen up in the air could be pretty bad obviously. The good news is that long-run I should be fine since this is treatable, but I have to be cautious for a few months.

I emailed Players Only and explained the situation, but honestly was not expecting much considering that their TOC clearly says that tourney packages are non-refundable and non-transferrable. This is a very standard policy that every single poker site implements, so I wasn’t expecting much but figured it’d be worth asking. So one of their people checked on it and said they weren’t sure what they could do since they may have already bought me in.

About a week goes by w/out me logging into my account, and when I do, I see an extra $11.5k in there ($13k total package, and they shipped me $1,500 in October for travel), which even covered the hotel room refund! Needless to say I was very pumped, having these health issues has been hard enough to deal with, and having to cancel a trip my wife and I were really excited really added to the frustration. Then there’s the $10k in equity I thought I was having to give up, which makes getting the cash a nice relief so we don’t feel like we are completely wasting a great trip or giving up that equity. All in all, very awesome of them to ship the cash over, it would have been very easy and within their rights to just say “sorry, nothing we can do.” Without question that’s some of the best service I’ve ever gotten from a poker site and its very refreshing to see in the current climate. Thanks again guys.

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