In Case You Missed It

I won another one. I’m still pretty shocked, but I guess sometimes we run good. Never thought I’d win the first one, and I sure didn’t think I’d win a second. So that must mean I’ll win a third?

I’ll have a longer write-up for you all soon. Right now I’m focusing on getting ready for the Main Event, which I start on Sunday. Best of luck to all who are playing.

D-Fence!

Hey Poker Fans,

I’m back in Vegas for another round of World Series of Poker. In fact, my first event is the title defense in the $1,500 Limit Hold ‘Em. During the final table in 2010, I vowed not to complain about anything poker for a year if I went on to win the tournament. I’ve tried my best to keep that promise, but once I bust from this next one, I’m free to gripe again!

If you’re interested in blow-by-blow updates of my WSOP, follow me on Twitter @Matt_Matros

CNN Appearance

Welcome, all of you who found this blog through my piece in the Washington Post! A CNN producer read the article and decided to film an interview with me. The segment should air tonight (I’ll update when I know the exact time–watch twitter for details). You never know how these things will get edited, but I tried my best to defend online poker.

Now I’m off to play Day Two of the Borgata Spring Poker Open main event. I’ll try to update throughout the day. Wish me luck!

Update: The segment is not going to air tonight. It seems some breaking news took precedence. Meanwhile, at dinner break I have 333,600. Average stack is 228K. 59 players are left, and 45 are getting paid. Don’t know how late we’re playing tonight.

Zero-tabling: My thoughts on Black Friday

We all knew something like this could happen. Online poker has existed in a murky legal environment in the U.S. since its inception, and there was always the possibility that it would eventually disappear. Still, the events of Black Friday (and for those of you who’ve been hiding under your desks, here is a good account of what took place three days ago) caught everyone by surprise. Four months ago we seemed to be pretty close to getting online poker legalized on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Now it’s completely gone. What gives?

Actually, if you remember back to December, one of the main sticking points of the Harry Reid Bill (which would’ve legalized poker, and which never got passed) was that sites that had been in violation of the UIGEA (aka, Stars and Full Tilt) would be left out of the newly legal poker environment, at least for a while. Even when the government was about to grant us our wish, it was still going to take away our Stars and our Tilt. A lot of poker players didn’t support the Reid Bill because of the short-term fallout of losing those sites. After Black Friday, we’re stuck with the short-term fallout, without the long-term guarantee of legal, regulated poker that would’ve come with the Reid Bill.

Also, it’s not that the government suddenly hates poker (although they still don’t like it). The Department of Justice has accused Stars and FTP and Absolute of committing fraud, of money laundering, and of bribing U.S. banks to process their payments. Sending cash to players and disguising its source is a serious crime irrespective of poker, or of the UIGEA. To be fair, the alleged fraud and money-laundering would never have taken place if the UIGEA hadn’t been enacted. But isn’t that the way? Isn’t it always the cover-up that gets you? The DOJ believes that playing poker online is illegal, but that’s hard to enforce. So they enact UIGEA, which is also hard to enforce. Stars and Tilt (again, allegedly) get around UIGEA, but in so doing they violate laws that have been around forever and that the DOJ is already good at enforcing. Thus they were finally able to nab Stars and FTP on these fraud and money-laundering charges. It’s sort of like how the government was only able to bust Al Capone for tax evasion–except that Al Capone killed a bunch of people, and Stars and FTP provided a respectable and secure way for Americans to play poker online.

As sad as Black Friday was, the banishing of the biggest online cardrooms from the US market has opened up an enormous potential revenue stream for the future version of U.S. online poker. Everyone–players, sites, the government itself–should be scrambling to get in on it. Forbes recently estimated PokerStars’s annual profits at $1.4 billion, and some think the figure is much higher. Whatever that outrageously big number was, more than half of it came from U.S. customers. Such an incredible sum should spur the government and the private sector to come together on a new version of online poker for Americans, and soon. This is probably why my boss over at Cardrunners has announced that he’s hiring.

Still, “soon” can be quite a while in a bureaucratic context. What are poker players to do in the meantime? I don’t know–maybe we should all get jobs! In all seriousness, the players aren’t the ones most hurt by this. The vast majority of Americans online were recreational players losing money to the rake and to more skilled opposition. It’s unfortunate that they’ve been deprived this form of entertainment, but it’s hardly the end of the world. As for professional players, there are always options. Move to another country. Become a live pro. Get another job (really!) until online poker comes back. The internet professionals I know are an extremely talented group who were playing poker by choice, not because society had locked them out of other occupations. If online pros had been running Wall Street, I sincerely doubt the economy would’ve crashed.

While I’m not crying for the players, my heart really goes out to the members of the poker media who will be crushed by this. Without FTP and Poker Stars at their backs, there probably isn’t much of a short-term future for poker reporting, or for televised poker in general. This really stinks for all the people who are about to be out of a job. I do think, however, that those jobs will eventually return along with everything else. This is little consolation to those looking for work.

If you’re a poker pro who’s decided to stick it out in the United States, my advice mirrors that of Cardrunners coach Nicolak. Take this time to learn some new games. Think about coaching. Brush up on your live game. All of these things will help you as a poker professional in the long-run anyway. As I alluded to earlier, players who want to continue earning their living at this game should be positioning themselves to take maximum advantage of the new online poker environment in the U.S. the day it arrives.

Personally, I’m going to start hunting around for a gig in the academic arena while I continue to play events on the circuit (I’d already made five live tournament trips this year, before Black Friday). And yes, I’m going to try to finally learn these stud games where you have to, like, memorize folded cards and stuff. Memorization in poker has always been anathema to me, but I’ve recently fallen in love with bridge where memorization is a must. I guess I don’t find memorization quite so odious anymore. It’s these kinds of adjustments we’ll all have to make.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Best of luck wherever you are in dealing with the effects of Black Friday. Maybe there will be a new spirit of solidarity among poker players this summer at WSOP after going through all this together. Maybe.

Leaving Los Angeles

Another poker trip is about to come to a close. Sadly, I went 0-for-5 in tournaments for the week; 0-for-9 if you count the four online events I played Sunday. These things happen. I hadn’t planned on playing the main event out here unless I had a really good trip, poker-wise. And though I feel I’m playing well (I was essentially a coin flip away from winning my shootout table yesterday), I am going to stick with the plan and pass on the main. My decision not to play seems to be downright shocking to everyone I tell it to. I don’t really see why. We all agree that the players are better than they’ve ever been, that ten thousand dollars is a lot of money, that the last major tournament held in L.A. (the NAPT last year) had an extremely tough field, and that the number of entrants is down in this year’s LAPC. All of which, to me, adds up to the main event not being the greatest investment. Some have countered that historically the LAPC has always had an amazing field. I say, if I could buy-in to the 2006 LAPC main event tomorrow, I would. Times have changed. After I finish making these arguments, my friends tell me they’ll buy pieces of me so that I can play for cheaper. I appreciate their confidence, but I haven’t mentally prepared to play a big tournament this weekend, and there are plenty of great events coming up on the east coast. I’ll stick to those. My next one is the WSOP-C at Caesars Atlantic City, probably followed by the Foxwoods Poker Classic and NAPT Mohegan.

Good luck to all my friends playing the main. LA…it’s been real.

No Dice on Sunday

I managed to blow through five FTOPS entries in time to play the LAPC Ironman event. Somehow I didn’t think they really meant it when they said, “there are no scheduled breaks.” I guess what threw me off is that they also said, “3 Meals included scheduled at 10pm, 6am and 2pm.” In my silly head, a meal necessitated leaving the table. Not so, I found out.

I ran really good in my Ironman debut for the first four or five hours. I was eventually done in mostly by cold decks, although I did have one opportunity to go with my read and possibly bluff my way into an additional pot, but I cravenly went for the “standard” play instead. The standard play failed. Still, I’m pretty happy with how I played, and my bustout happened because a bad player caught a lucky turn card against my two kings, and not because I did anything crazy (as I sometimes do). It was an interesting eight hours for me, and I definitely think my poker endurance (and there is such a thing, I assure you) has been strengthened.

In an hour I’m playing the $2500 six-max NLHE event. I might finally get to play something with more than 100 runners!

Arrival in LA

Well I’m here at the LAPC, though at least for now my wallet wishes I’d missed the flight. I played the PLO rebuys today. In one of the first hands post-rebuy, a very loose raiser opened from the hijack and a very loose caller called. With 75 blinds on the button, I looked down at KK93 and quickly decided that my opponents’ ranges were so loose that I should be three-betting with any kings. I three-bet, the raiser called, the caller folded. The flop came 983 with two hearts and the raiser led out for a near-pot bet. I shoved in and he called with T985. His hand held, and that was that. In hindsight, I think even against the loose ranges of my opponents, and even in position, I should just flat with my naked KK (I had no flush draws even). It’s a pretty bad hand. As played preflop, I think I like my shove on the flop. My top-and-bottom two pair with an overpair redraw is priced in or ahead of a decent chunk of his range, and there are probably even some hands he would incorrectly fold against my shove. Oh well.

I played some 60-120 Limit Hold ‘Em cash games after that. Since I don’t like to talk about bad beats, there isn’t much to say. I’ll summarize: I took more crazy beats in a short span than I ever have, and I’m thrilled I only lost 30 bets.

I’m taking a personal day on Saturday, and then I’m going to start out Sunday playing online. If I bust quick enough I’ll try to play this ironman (no breaks except for three meals) thing, but my east coast body is pretty worn out after one day out here, so I’ll have to really feel up for it if I’m to attempt to be Iron.