Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Cheating Online Poker - the Demise of ZeeJustin

This week Sean and Brent, over at Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio, raised the awareness of a story of an online poker player, going by the handle ZeeJustin (let's abbreviate, ZJ), who was busted alledgedly playing multiple accounts simultaneously on Party Poker. Reportedly he would make multiple entries into the same multi-table tournament, increasing his overall chances of winning. At times, he ended up with two account-players at the same table, which clearly created an unfair advantage, revealing to him multiple sets of live "hidden" cards.

ZJ's accounts were frozen, and his funds were confiscated by the poker room. Rumor has it that ZeeJustin had over $100,000 online at Party Poker when this occurred.

CLICK TO ZOOM. Shamelessly borrowed from teddyFBI at 2+2.Many keyboards have been abused in the last few weeks, discussing the "degree of cheating" that ZJ engaged in. In particular, there is a new thread at the Lord Admiral discussion board, sister to our board at cardclubs.net. And the thread that spread all the news is here at the 2+2 Forums. You can read those discussions for yourself. I happen to believe that this is cheating of the worst kind. It is tantamount to collusion, but worse, as it is colluding with oneself, giving one perfect information, rather than relying on signals or common understanding. If you collude in a public casino, they throw you out on your ear and blacklist you - or they arrest you. If you collude in a big private game or underground club, they break a few bones. ZJ hid behind his computer screen, and got away easy - so far.

To me, there is another, less investigated, topic. The new generation of poker player, those in their early 20s (or earlier if they can portray themselves of legal age), who play predominantly online, often do not have the life skills or business savvy to conduct themselves in a manner conducive to their long-term success. Many of these guys live at home with their parents, or have cheap rent in a dumpy apartment, and no substantial living expenses. When I was their age, I lived in a filthy campus apartment with two sloppy roommates. The difference is, I was broke, and needed to learn to budget the few bucks I had. I ate Ramen noodles and mac-and-cheese. I went to business school and learned about business law and accounting and economics and getting a job and when to be careful and when to take risks.

These young players are savvy at the poker table. They are very very good poker players. They do not have the basic skills required to protect their winnnings and look out for themselves in the "real world".

If the allegations are accurate, ZJ cheated - yes. But he also did so many other things that are just plain foolish:

  1. He kept over one hundred thousand dollars in the account of an online poker room, with only blind faith to trust that his money would be there when he went to claim it. $100,000. What levels was he playing? It only takes 24 hours to move money back and forth with Neteller, surely $20,000 would have sufficed.
  2. He took a risk with what I expect was a very significant portion of his net worth with a company that is based off-shore - in Gibraltar. He had never met a representative, he had never seen their facilities, and I suspect, he had never signed or received signed contractual documentation. He just clicked buttons, providing a virtual signature for an electronic contract. Would you invest all of your money with people you never met or even had spoken with? We're not talking about a bank, we're talking about a business that's run off-shore becuase it is illegal to host in this country.
  3. He "signed" that virtual Party Poker contract which stipulates that they may take his funds at any time for any reason! Think about that. He's in his early twenties. He has made over $100,000 playing poker (much more, from what I understand). He keeps it in an account with a company that has the right to take it from him for any reason. Maybe send a few bucks home? Would you invest all of your money with people you never met, who explicitly told you they may decide not to give any of it back, even if your investment returned perfectly?
  4. Finally, after doing business with the unseen company, for most of his net worth, and keeping his funds unprotected with them, he cheated them! He kept his money online while (allegedly) engaging in chicanery. If he was going to cheat, shouldn't he have siphoned some of it off occasionally? He let them handle a substantial chunk of his cash while he was cheating them!

This isn't unique to poker, to be sure. We saw many people in their twenties and thirties make millions in the internet boom in the late 90s, only to lose it all when the market came crashing down. Those with sufficient life experience and world savvy distributed their risk. Those that built businesses from the ground up often sold them to the likes of AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Hell, the guys who started Yahoo cashed in for a big chunk, and then continued to ride their own success with lower risk. The smart ones who invested took some of their money elsewhere, investing in fixed assets, real estate, bonds, and in some cases, sports team (a la Mark Cuban).

Today's young players should take a lesson.
  • Don't keep all of your money in one place. Keep a sufficient amount of money in your favored rooms, and keep the rest of your bankroll with a trusted site (e.g. Neteller) or better, offline altogether.
  • Learn about bankroll management. What do you need for the limits you play? What is your risk? How drastic are your win and loss streaks?
  • If you have substantial winnings, and this is your primary source of income, have a plan to take some of it out of play. Distribute your risk by investing in equities, fixed income, or real estate (buy yourself a home!)
  • Finally, don't cheat! Don't do it. There's plenty to be made out there without breaking the rules, violating sensible morals, and exposing yourself to losing it all. If you do cheat, don't ask your victims to hold your cash for you.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Ante Up! Listener Tournament Success

Chris and Scott over at the Ante Up Poker Podcast, recently highly touted right here at Chicago Poker Club, put in a a great showing Saturday afternoon with their first ever listeners tournament.

It was a $5 + $0.50 buy-in over at PokerRoom, and 63 players partcipated. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to sit at the same table as Chris, Scott, or their recurring guest Mike "Fatso" Fasso. Despite that fact, it was a great time.

I had a great string of cards early on, and was able to build my chip stack steadily in the first four rounds. I played a lot of hands, more than I typically would, but played "small ball" effectively. After the fourth round, blinds were growing, and we finally started to see some attrition. My cards got much colder, though I had only shown premium hands to this point, and was still able to get some respect when I played a little aggressively.

I play as J_Chitown, the guy with the cowboy hat.

I was chip leader for a good amount of time, from about 30 or so minutes in until about the 1hour 15 minute mark. I misjudged my opponent on a big hand around that time, and ended up doubling him up. I had two small pair, and with an Ace on board, I thought he'd made top pair with a good kicker. He did. His kicker was so good that it paired the Jack on board and he took it down with two bigger pair. I fell to about 14th place, with maybe 45 players left.

In the next 45 minutes, I built my stack back to about the top of the heap. At one point I was all-in on the flop with top pair and a medium kicker. My opponent called with two overs, A-J off. The turn came a Jack, and my hopes crashed. The river gave us both a straight, and we chopped. MJ_Chicago, sitting at another table, and I battled back and forth as the chip lead was concerned. Prior to the final table (I later learned) MJ had to take his kid to the movies. He was away for 20 minutes!

The final table started about two hours after we began. There were nine players, as, apparently, one player from each table was eliminated as we collapsed to one single table. When MJ came back he was still in 2nd place! On his first hand, he moved to chip leader. Three hands later, I crippled him and became the overwhelming chip leader.

I never relinquished my lead from there (if memory serves), until I was head's up against the player sporting the moniker "smallstack". I had a sizeable chip lead on him, and we both pushed and pulled for ten or fifteen minutes. He roped me in to a hand, and I inevitably doubled him up. He had me slightly covered. After several hands I retook the lead by a small margin. I rebuilt a sizeable lead, and then doubled him up again! I rebuilt my lead, and at about the three hour mark, finall eliminated him to claim first prize!

Kudos to our hosts and to 62 excellent opponents.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Poker Bloggers in Chicago?

This is a call to all Poker Bloggers in Chicago! How many of you are there?

I mean, really, how long did it take me to ask this question? The Chicago Poker Club is about 6 months old, and we've never really rallied the troops. There are three Chicago Poker Bloggers whose blogs I visit occasionally.

First, there's Shelly's Hella Hold'em Poker Blog. Shelly's a sweatheart - and I say this only be cause we've exchanged emails, and she's been kind enough to make reference to my blog for the purposes of pure promotion. She's an active player and poster, and I really enjoy her stuff. Sometimes I live vicariously through her reports of WPBT events, which I've not yet had the opportunity to participate in.

Then, there's Maigrey, the Poker Princess. She doesn't know this, but we've actually played together a few times at Trump (okay, it's Majestic Star 2, you win). She doesn't know this, because, at a minimum, I didn't know it either at the time. I was chatting with Shelly, and looking at pictures from the last WPBT event, and I said "hey, I know her". Shelly said, "that's Maigrey". Aha. Now I know. I say "at a minimum", because I don't want to presume that if I said "hey, I read your blog. Hey, I have a blog", that she would give a rat's ass. She may, I'm not saying she wouldn't, I'm just saying that I'm not sure she would.

Finally, there's Bazkar. Baz, as he's often referred to, posts personal accounts of poker games, often with his father and/or brother. I find them to be interesting, and I occasionally read two or three posts at a time. That's all I know.

So, what am I missing? Who else posts about poker in Chicago? There were more, but they seem to have gone quiet. Let's support our community, dammit!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

High Stakes Poker

I think this is my new favorite poker show. Eight players (mostly pros) stake their own cash, talk garbage, and play a No Limit Hold 'em ring game. Players come and go as they please, they buy in for as much as they want (up to $1 Million), and the re-buy when knocked out, if they so choose.

I think I enjoy it so much for a couple reasons.

  1. There's so much tournament poker on TV, but no other cash games. It's a change of pace, and entertaining.
  2. My cash game is really lacking. I don't necessarily think about the hand in the right context. I've become somewhat of a tournament specialist, and as a result I occasionally allow tournament strategy to cloud my thinking in the cash game. Sometimes the players on this show think out loud, or Gabe Kaplan, who hosts, says something thoughtful. It's a lazy way to mildly improve my cash game.

Friday nights, 8PM Central. Monday nights, 8 and 9PM Central. I think. Game Show Network. Aww, hell - check your local listings.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Greatest Move He'd Ever Seen

Last Wednesday night I played $1/$2 NL Hold 'em at Binion's Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas. I was surprised by the level of competition. The table was full, and included my brother and my good buddy Steve. Other than the three of us, there were a handful of tourists, and a few locals. I don't know if the locals or the tourists played worse. The tourists were definitely where the money was, however.

After about 40 minutes at the table, the lone big stack, to my right, called it a night. The guy had five or six hundred dollars in chips, but also had an unbelievable stack of hundred dollar bills on the table. They were in a paper band or a runner band, I can't remember. But, by virtue of being on the table, I think they were in play. How did he get all this cash on the table at a $200 max buy-in? I'm not sure. I think there was too much, and too neatly stacked to have been won from his opponents.

At this point I had already lost my initial $200 buy-in on two unbelievable suck outs. Once a player sucked out after all of his money was in. The other time my opponent made a second pair on the river to take the remainder of my chips. I bought back in for $200.

With my the big stack, and probably toughest player, gone, I decided it was time to make my move.

In an uncharacteristic hand, four players all limped to me in the cutoff (the button and blinds were yet to act). I looked down to find a 2-4 unsuited. Normally this would be an obvious fold. I had been playing pretty solid, if aggressive, and I thought I would see what I could make happen. I certainly wasn't going to see a flop against multiple opponents if I was leaving someone a chance to fall in love with their hand. I raised a bunch - probably four times the big blind plus the value of all the limped bets - $16. It folded to the big blind, who looked at me, thought about it, thought some more, said "I'll gamble with you", and called. Everyone else folded. There was already $41 in the pot. The flop came 10-4-4 with two hearts.

I flopped trip fours. Excellent. My opponent would certainly not expect this, and now I had to maximize my winnings. The big blind was observant, and he'd watched me play aggressive poker. I wanted to make a bet that absolutely indicated no interest in playing the hand. If I bet 75% or more of the pot, he may figure me for a bluff, but if he couldn't beat A-K or pocket 9s, or whatever I may have played for the big pre-flop bet, he simply couldn't call. If I checked, he might suspect something, as I had been agressive, and betting pretty much everything. I decided that a bet just under half the pot would be perceived as merely a continuation bet, maybe even a weak one. I bet $20.

He thought about it, and raised to $50. I was really only beat by pocket 10s, or a bigger 4. I didn't want to wait around for another heart, or some sick suckout, so I put my remaining $130 in the pot - an $80 raise on top. There was $111 in the pot and he needed to call 80 more. He thought about it, decided it was worth drawing to his nut flush, and called. He flipped over A-9 or hearts (if memory serves).

The turn came a 2, giving me a full house, and he was drawing dead on the river. The player to my immediate left exclaimed, "oh man, that was the greatest play I've ever seen. I can't wait to tell my brother about that one." Several times thereafter he folded to my bets saying "I ain't calling off my chips to this pro". I grinned and raked in the pot.

I'm not sure it was as good as he made it out to be, but it sure felt good. I ended up leaving the session with a nice little profit.

What's the greatest move you've ever seen? How about the best move you've ever made?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ass on the River

We got back from Vegas last night. On the whole, it was an excellent trip. I played a good amount of cards, though I would have played much more if not for my obligations to bachelorhood. Soon I'll be married, then I can play all the time. :)

Thursday morning we played in a 37 person tournament at Bally's. Much of the competition was soft, though there were definitely some skilled players. I doubled up early with Aces - they held up, and they got paid. What are the odds of that.

For the next two or three rounds, I stole, stole, stole. I couldn't seem to get cards, but found lots of good opportunities to pick up unclaimed pots.

When we got down to two tables, I was probably fourth in chips. Over the course of 10 hands, I got my legs chopped out when two lesser hands sucked out on me, and once when my underpair got bested by two overcards who went all in behind me.

I was in trouble, big trouble, but managed to hang on to a few chips, and got to the final table.

What happened there, I cannot understand. The player to my left suggested that I must be "sleeping with unicorns". I went all-in two or three different times, under-the-gun, with about three or four big blinds. Somehow, no one called me. The player to my immediate right was most at fault, as he always had a big blind in. Each time he looked at his cards and said, "oh no! I can't call. I just can't." I picked up blinds a few times, and took a couple of small pots by pushing all in after the flop.

When there were four players left, the dealer acknowledged that with one elimination we would be in the money. I was about tied in third place with only around five or six big blinds left. About four hands went by when I was on the big blind and found KJo. The cutoff and button folded, and the small blind completed. I should have raised, but he was the chip leader, and I thought I might do better to try to trap. The flop came J-7-5, rainbow. The player to my right be about 75% of the pot, and I pushed all in with my short stack. He thought about it, and called. He flipped over the A of hearts and the 6 of hearts. Ace high!

The turn came a Queen of hearts. The river came... deuce of hearts. I was eliminated on the bubble by a runner runner heart flush.

I went back to the hotel and beat my unicorn.

For the sake of completeness, the blind-folding, ace-high calling player to my right came in second place. Ick.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

On our way...

We're Moblogging, Baby. Sadly, my BlackBerry does not have a camera, so I'll have to go in and add pictures later. Check back for updates...