Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Someone Needs to Sue Neteller for Fraud

This whole Neteller thing is starting to get ridiculous. They no longer answer calls from the US, and keep referring US customers to a FAQ page that has no explanation on why they are not allowing withdrawals for US customers. I think they realize that they will never get the US business back, and don't care how much they are pissing us off. But, they are committing fraud which can be rectified in a court of law. At a minimum, if someone sues Neteller for their money back, Neteller will be required to explain why they can't disperse the funds to US citizens through something like a check by mail.

This is what I believe to be true, but who knows.

1) The US is waiving there stick at Neteller claiming bad things will happen to them if they disperse the funds to the US customers.

2) The US has blocked the banking system from making electronic transactions with Neteller.

Item (2) does not block mailed checks or peer to peer transfers which Neteller currently will not allow for US customers. So, item (1) must be the reason that Neteller is not dispersing funds.

So lets take a look at item (1). The US is threatening Neteller in some way to not disperse US funds (I believe this amount is well over 1 Billion Dollars). So the US is effectively freezing its own US citizens funds, when said citizens have not broken a single law. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? You should at a minimum be charged with some type of crime before your funds can be frozen/siezed. I know that the US is no where near today, what the founding fathers had in mind, but this is a bunch of BS.

Playing poker online is NOT illegal. You could make a case that this is covered by the wire act, but it would be hard to argue that the wire act applies to Internet connections that are not dial-up and never use a "wire" (phone line). Also, there is no precedent for using the wire act to go after online poker players. The US may believe that Neteller has committed crimes, but what did the users of their service do that was illegal? Nothing is the answer. My guess is that the US wants records of our transactions to see if they can get taxes out of us. This is no reason to tie up our funds. Again, in this country we are innocent until proven guilty, right? Where is the proof that we are guilty of anything? Where is the due process that is constitutionally required.

This is why someone needs to sue Neteller for Fraud. It is fraud BTW. They are holding our money and not dispersing it which is against the policies that were in effect at the time of the deposits. This is fraud on a huge level. The only case they can make is the US will not let them disperse the funds. But the US can't stop them from mailing us checks or doing peer to peer transfers. So they are doing this on their own to cover their asses. CYA all you want, but I want my Fawking money right now. If someone sues them this will all come out, and get resolved. My guess is after Neteller uses their excuse, the Judge will demand that the US let all US customers not accused of a crime to get their money out by check or other method. The US will be hard pressed to say all the funds are from tax evaders and needs to be frozen. Where is the proof, or preponderance of evidence that they can make that claim with. 90% of poker players lose money, and should not be required to pay any taxes. So possibly 10% are winners, but the Neteller records will not prove this one way or another. Bringing this case will force both the US and Neteller to come clean and will be the fastest way to get our money out.

So who is going to do it?

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Ladder Challenge - More Statistics

Below is the detail statistics from PokerTracker from the challenge. I am not going to comment too much on this, other than I am revealing for the first time how I have a higher post flop aggression factor than the likes of smokkee or lucko who you would think are more maniacal then me. The secret is post flop I go into fold or bet mode most of the time. I avoid making calls in most cases post flop unless I am slowplaying, on a good draw that I can't semibluff (because someone beat me to the bet), or I am floating. I really think this is the correct way to play NL holdem post flop (especially if you are tight preflop). With the mixture of types of hands that you would call with (above), and raise/bet with, which includes made hands, monsters, draws, bluffs and semibluffs, it is very hard to figure out what you are doing, and find a strategy to counter it. There are other formulas that work, but this is what works for me. The hourly rates shown do not take into account for multitabling. I averaged about 3 tables at a time throughout the challenge.

Below are my hands sorted by position. This is a pretty normal distribution except for the #2 seat which must have been distorted by a few big losses. I posted $4,022 in blinds during the challenge. This is why you can't just play AA or KK or just pairs. Playing only pairs would have left me with a loss of about 1k. I do a pretty good job of fighting through the blinds, though I am not big on defending in cash games. I do a pretty good job of stealing from the SB when folded to me, and try to call smallish raises from the BB when implied odds dictate it. As much as I try to stay at full tables, you can see that I was at 8 player tables about 1/2 the time based on the lack of hands from the #6 position. You can also see how I tend to raise more in position than out of position.

Below is by final hand type. As expected, high card hands and 1 pair hands are not profitable in NL holdem. TPTK is not GOLD in NL. Usually, I do best with 3 of a kind, FullHouses, and flushes. Two-pair hands are the winner here which is a bit unusual. I won a nice pot on a flopped straight flush which you can see below, and the 7 times I would have made quads, I never went past the flop.

Below is sorted by month and level. I was pretty consistent month to month. For 2/4 NL, I had some success early, but then struggled. You can see that the amount of time I spent playing dropped off in 2007. I really do not play much at all right now, but hopefully that will change soon.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Ladder Challenge - Starting Hand Analysis

Sorry for the delays getting to this, but I just got back from a 1 week snowboard trip to Lake Tahoe. This will be the first in a series where I look in detail statistically at the ladder challenge. This post will just look at starting hands. Below are the starting hands sorted descending by BB/Hand. This is where you would normally see the "top 10" hands. With just under 9000 hands in the sample, it is still a little small to read too much into, but it is still some good info.

As expected you see the big pairs (AA-TT) on the list. With a much larger sample these would normally be found in order from the top, but the sample is a little bit small. My winnings with AA and KK alone exceed my overall winnings from the challenge. This is actually pretty normal. If there were no blinds in Holdem, the best way to play would be to fold just about all of your hands except AA and KK. The blinds destroy this strategy as we will see in a later post. Nothing is really to unusual about this distribution, other than the lack of AK or AKs on the list. There are reasons for this that I will get to later. Also, with a smallish sample size, you will see some hands that made it on the list because of one or two big pots. A few small pairs should be expected, and you can see 88 and 33 made the cut.

Below is the sort reversed to look at what hands were my biggest leaks during the challenge.

If you do not use PokerTracker, this list may be surprising to you. There are some pretty good starting hands on the list (no hammer though?). The AKs is a bit of an anomaly. I lost a 700+ pot at 2/4NL by overplaying AKs preflop. That hand alone made this a loser hand for the challenge. Ax(s) and suited connectors are usually highest on this list. This is true because people know how to fold junk preflop, but get themselves into trouble with suited connectors, Axs and small pairs. I know to fold the smallish suited connectors early preflop, but as you can see I still have some work to do. JTs and KQo are great starting hands in theory, but as you can see, I probably would have been better off just folding them.

So now for pocket pairs.

Pocket pairs are GOLD in NL holdem. From above you can see that I won almost $3,000 with pocket pairs during the challenge vs. $1,328 for all hands combined. This means that I lost almost $1,700 when playing non-pocket pairs. If you were dealt PPs more often, you could only play PPs and be profitable (assuming that nobody notices). Big PPs are the best, and small PPs are only marginally profitable. If you removed 88, you can see that there was pretty much no profit for 22-99 for me. Playing break even type hands is very important to make you not seem too tight, so I feel like I am playing these well.

Now for the suited connectors.

I suck at playing suited connectors, and I know this. Yet here they are again costing me money. The small suited connectors I only play late and in multiway pots with good implied odds. The one big AKs hand is throwing this list off. Normally that would be a winning hand, and the overall list would be break even. The takeaway here is that you need to play your suited connectors carefully, and they will probably just be a break even group of hands anyway. The bigger suited connectors have value on there own, and should be played. Just don't expect to make much money playing the small ones (expect to lose). They are typically a pretty big leak in most peoples game.

More to come so stay tuned

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

It Appears That I Am In a Special Class of Neteller Customers

No you do not want to be part of this class. I don't think anyone has brought this quite up yet so I will. When they say the US Government seized 55 Million in Neteller funds, this is from a very specific class of customers. Total US deposits at the time must be at least 10x that, and are probably way north of a billion dollars. The government can't just go out an seize the money Neteller holds. They are a foreign quasi-bank right? What they can and did seize is money in transit in the financial systems. For the 2-3 days the electronic fund transfer data takes to get through the interweb, the funds are out of Neteller's control. These are the funds that were seized. My funds were seized. I had a withdrawal for my last 3k pending prior to Neteller's announcement, and it still is pending with the cancel transaction button missing.

For those of you not in my shoes who had funds in Neteller, but not in transit I actually think your funds are safe. Neteller is pretty big, and has been making tons of money as the market share leader. There is no reason to think the money is gone. It will hurt them bigtime in the short term as they adjust, but they are still generating $200k in fees/day after the US closures. What about my money? Is it safe? It's not my fault that the US decided to seize my funds. I would say Neteller owes the transfer amount to me should the US not return them, but I am probably on the short end of the stick here.

Then there are the tax implications. I am probably going to get heavily scrutinized as a result of this. Much more so than you others whose money was not seized. They are probably going to want me to pay taxes. So I have a simple strategy. Claim that I am not a winning gambler. 1st off, I have earned a ton of deposit bonuses. I am not sure if something like that is taxable. Deposit bonuses can't be considered gambling winnings can they? It is like the gramdma who clips coupons. She makes the perfect run on the store where everything ends up being free, plus she gets $20 back. That $20 is taxable income? A $20 deposit bonus is taxable income? FT releases in $20 increments as do many others, and it can add up to thousands of dollars in a year. I break even, but end up ahead on bonuses? And the little extra I may be ahead is easily blown on wild gatherings in Vegas where the -EV games magically offset your measly winning left after all of the deposit bonuses. Plus you should be able to deduct all of the travel expenses it took for you to go blow your winnings. I have never signed a tax doc for any kind of gambling winnings, and I am no pro. Anyone buy this line? Whats the over under on if I am going to have to use it?

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Ladder Challenge Post Mortem

In general, the ladder challenge for me was a huge success. I had been stuck at .5/1 NL for a couple of years. I would beat .5/1NL pretty good, but get smacked around at 1/2 NL whenever I would try to make the move up. I needed this to force me to move up the stakes. If you take away the recent changes with Neteller that are making the games tougher, this challenge would have (and may still have) made 1/2 NL the lowest level that I play. I would highly recommend to anyone struggling to move up the ladder to give it a try.

A couple changes to the rules I would suggest are stating how many hands you will do the challenge for before starting. Something like 5000 hands or bust would be appropriate. Also, it should be clear that the ladder levels are guidelines. If the challenge says you are playing 3/6NL, and there are no games going at that level, or the only games are too tough, you should be allowed to play the next level down, so you can still play.

I made a few adjustments that helped make me become a winner at 1/2NL and potentially above that. These are not in order of importance.

1) Play with confidence.
I have done this a couple of times when doing challenges that I report on this blog. You cut some sessions short to "book a win" early in the challenge. This is not something that you want to get in the habit of, because it is a bad idea in general. However, when you are trying a new level or challenge, it is great for your confidence to start our strong. So early on, at 1/2NL I would quit when I had won "enough" for the day, and book the win. The next morning you wake up with the knowledge that your challenge is a success, your confidence grows, you play better, and you book some more wins. This can be huge when you try new higher stakes. If you take your first shot at 2/4 NL and during the session you were up $50 then down $50 you will have more confidence the next day if you would have quit up $50. The next morning you will wake up as a lifetime winner at 2/4NL, vs. a lifetime loser. This makes a huge difference in your confidence. I think this played a minor role in my success, and as I said above, it is really a bad habit, but you might consider it early in challenges.

2) Play only when you want to and are ready to play
Only play when you are at your best. Make sure you are rested, alert, and free from distractions before sitting down for a session. Don't play drunk, or tired. Don't play when you don't feel like playing. It is a bad idea to force the hand count up to make some arbitrary progress when you don't feel like it. I averaged a paltry 4 hours a week playing during the challenge, because I would only play when I was at my best.

3) Reduce the number of tables that you play.
I have been multitabling for years. I am pretty comfortable running 4 at a time, and sometimes run 6 at a time. For the challenge, I limited this to 3 at a time max, and less when trying a new level initially. The few extra seconds you get to make decisions, and watch the tables makes a pretty big difference. At the lower levels, ABC will get it done, and decisions can be near automatic. At the higher levels, this stops working as well, and you will need to be more thoughtful in your decisions. 1/2 NL is where ABC poker starts to break down IMO.

4) Table Selection, Table Selection, Table Selection
This I think was the biggest key. Though I always practiced table selection, I was always pretty loose about it with the idea on getting on 4-6 tables pretty quickly. For the challenge I made it a point to be strict with table selection. Good table selection will put you on tables with players that are worse than you (at almost any level), and that is where you make the money. I honestly think a solid .50/1 NL player could beat 2/4 NL making no adjustments other than solid table selection. For me table selection revolves around three key concepts.

a) I want a loose (30% or more of flops) full 9-player ring with no open seats.

b) I want the mix of full stacks to short stacks to be weighted towards the shorties. My rule of thumb is no more than three full stacks (or near full) at a table. With this mix there will be plenty of bad players to take money from, though you will have to double through the better players that have you covered from time to time. In a cash game if you are good, you buy-in for the full amount and reload if you get low. The bad players are easy to spot because the start with a small stack or let it run low. Take advantage.

c) High average pot size.
With large pots you know some people are getting out of line at the table and overplaying top pair and other hands. These tables are easy to beat.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Yes Hoy, They Are Getting Tougher. No Hoy, This Is Not A Good Thing

Hoy asked me to comment on his blog about this, but I think I have more than I would want to cram into a comment to say on the subject. Yes, the games are now tougher than they were just a month ago. I actually thought the games got easier right after the law went through, but with Neteller out, there has been a huge change in the whole online poker landscape.

Personally for me the neteller thing was pretty big. I have 3k in limbo, but more importantly, I have no way of making transfers to and from the sites I play on. I am in no hurry to sign up with a new ewallet solution, and I am somewhat of a power user. I have funded at least a dozen other peoples accounts who did not want to hassle with neteller via transfers over the years. Those types of players are now gone. And those types are the most profitable to play against. The next type of person who is most profitable to play against are those who play a lot, but must continually replenish their roll with new Neteller funds. Those types are on the endangered species list, and are expected to go extinct in the next few months. That leaves the break-even and profitable players.

If you take a site like FullTilt for example, they rake money off the pot in cash games, and charge fees for tournaments. Unless the sum of all deposits exceeds the sum of all withdrawals plus all the fees and rake they collect, the total amount in accounts will drop over time. Normally, FT would offer a deposit bonus to correct this if it started happening. Now with the lack of methods to deposit, people trying to cash out directly (avoiding neteller), and no deposit bonuses, the total account balances must be in free fall mode right now. Given enough time all the money in online accounts will simply be raked away. The games are drying up period.

There are some other effects as well. People drop down in levels to find easier competition and for bankroll protection. So the games get tougher ultimately at all levels. If you could beat .50/1 NL in the past, you may have to drop to .10/.25 NL to stay profitable. MTTs will get tougher, and I am sure are tougher already. I am not sure why Hoy insists that the donks going away from MTTs is good. My MTT game relies on getting some donks money early, and later taking a nice chunk from the last surviving donk who has luck boxed into a decent stack. Its quite a bit more difficult prying chips out of a good MTT players hand. It will make them more of a crapshoot, not less.

What are the measurable changes? The play is tighter across the board in NL cash games. I have used 30%/players per flop as a criteria for table selection for a long time (I want higher than this). It was never a problem to get on 4 tables in a hurry 1/2NL and down meeting this criteria. With patience you could get this at 2/4NL pretty easy. Now you need to start looking to the microstakes for loose play preflop. Also, (I think Miami Don commented on this) there are more regular type multi-tablers per table than before. I like to look for a mix of mostly unknown and underfunded players to profit from at a given table. I do not want to be at a table with more than 3 profitable or break-even players. This is getting much harder to find as well. With the two criteria above, I am lucky to get on one table, and it might take a while.

So is there anything good that can come out of this? Not really IMO. My time playing is way down, but I like to play more for a profit than just for fun. My win rate/hr will come down as well. I may not drop down immediatly, but my days of taking cracks at 2/4nl and 3/6nl are over for now. The only bonus I guess is that you can play with good players at more reasonable stakes now if you want to work on your game. The players who stick it out and work on their games will be rewarded. I know this is a temporary situation, with legalization around the corner, so those who come through this with top skillz will be rewarded big when the donks start galloping back. Also live games will be donkariffic for a long time to come. Its hard to be a donk without finding ways to donk it up at the tables. More of them will go live now.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

$2328 Ladder Challenge Over

No I didn't go busto. I simply pulled the plug. The games are much tougher now, and I wanted to follow the criteria for playing I have had in place from the beginning. It has been just to difficult to get any playing time in at what I would call a juicy table. Wes mentioned in his blog that he has moved down to 2/4 NL for bankroll protection reasons. With others out there like him doing the same, my pathetic little game does not stand much of a chance. I will probably wait this out in "play for fun" mode for a while. Any way, above are my final basic stats for the challenge. I was not able to finish positive at 2/4 NL which was the most disappointing thing about the challenge. Statistically it is hard to see why this is true. My guess is that it was simple variance and the pretty small sample size.

Above is the chart from the ladder challenge profits. The ladder roll was seeded with 1k and as you can see, I never had to go into the seed money. In the chart, you can see that I had issues banging through the 2/4 NL threshold. This was only relieved by my inability to find good 2/4 NL tables. I would play down a level if I could not get on a good table at the prescribed level. With a solid win rate at 1/2 NL for the entire challenge, I was able to overcome the losses and break even session at 2/4 NL and move the roll up towards the 3/6 NL threshold. The leveling off at the end was a combination of my lack of consistent playing time (rusty), and the tables starting to get tougher over the last few weeks.

Above is a quick look at some of the statistics from the challenge. I will be going much more in depth on this in the next few days. I was 3-tabling the entire challenge so the total hours are about 1/3 what is shown, and the win rate is about 3x or $28.50/Hr. Only about 46 hours of play and this thing went for more than three months. 4 hours a week???? You MTTers put that in on a nightly basis, lol.
More in depth analysis to come, and I will also reveal the key adjustments that I made to my game that helped me break through at 1/2 NL.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Resistance - Fall of Poker

My posting activity and poker playing in general has fallen off the cliff in the last few weeks. There are a couple of big reasons for this. First off, with neteller pulling out, and then pulling a fast one, I am just not as motivated to play poker for a profit. Currently, I have no way to get money in or out of poker sites, and I am unwilling to try one of the new ones. I trusted neteller, but it is hard to believe that I would be that trusting of a new e-wallet after what neteller has pulled. I quietly started moving funds out of the sites and into neteller, and then in to my checking account right after the port security bill. To stay under the radar, the checking account transfers need to be small and spread out. I had managed to move all but 3k out of neteller, and requested the last 3k the day after the neteller founders were arrested and while those types of transfers were still allowed bt neteller. A week later they say that there is no way to withdraw, and my withdrawal is still pending. They are basically holding all US customers hostage, as I see nothing in the new law (and the rules don't even exist yet) to prevent them from completing withdrawal requests. Well enough about the legal stuff, and on to my new addiction.

Resistance Fall of Man

I lucked into a Play Station 3 the weekend after Christmas when I found one in stock. I bought "resistance fall of man" and "need for speed" to try it out with. Resistance is a very impressive first person shooter type game. I went through the campaign mode in about three weeks of play. A couple weeks ago, I thought I would try out the online version where you play on teams with real people all around the world. It takes the game to a "hole nodda levol". It is a lot harder, a lot more intense, and 10 times as addicting. I find myself wanting to play it over poker almost all of the time. And since the wife does not have a problem with me playing video games (not gambling), I get less grief for doing it. It is more fun, and more intense than poker, but not as mentally stimulating. I prolly will lean more towards playing the PS3 over poker until the legal stuff shakes out.

So what about the ladder challenge? I am going to kill it at 9000 hands which I will get done in the next day or two. I will also do the full report that I have promised this week. I am sure this is a phase, and I will jump head first back into poker again soon. It would be nice to know I will get paid my winnings though.