Brief poker update

I spent the night grinding it out at Party 15/30. I ended up about $365, although it was very much up and down. My prediliction for playing small pocket pairs from any position almost got me in big trouble on this hand:

Party Poker
Limit holdem Ring game
Limit: $15/$30
8 players

Pre-flop: (8 players) Hero is UTG with 4â?  4â?£
Hero calls, 5 folds, SB raises, BB calls, Hero calls.

Flop: 4â?¦ 9â?£ Qâ?  (6SB, 3 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets, SB calls, BB calls.

Turn: 5â?  (4.5BB, 3 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets, SB raises, BB folds, Hero 3-bets, SB Caps, Hero calls.

River: 4â?¥ (12.5BB, 2 players)
SB bets, Hero raises, SB calls.

Final pot: 16.5BB
Hero shows 4s 4c
SB doesn’t show Qd Qh

The SB wasn’t that amused to have top set snapped off in such a fashion. If our positions were reversed, I’d have lost more than he did.

I’m feeling like I have no problems winning at 15/30, but I have so much cash tied up in sports betting that I don’t want to play too much higher and get short.

I had to cut the session short because there was finally a new Lost episode to watch.


Welcome to my buds from ITH!

I finally decided to admit to ITH that I have this blog, so I suppose I’ll see a few more people checking it out now. I’m thinking I can increase my readership to three people now, unless my wife has lost interest.

ITH is far and away the best poker discussion site on the Internet and there is some really good stuff coming that will make it even better. Things like a free WSOP seat, perhaps?

Anyhow, you guys are the best and welcome to my corner of the Interweb.


Protégé seat 1 round 1 freeroll

I went ahead and entered the freeroll last night based on my theory that it would be relatively easy to advance due to a smaller field. There were a number of last minute signups, but it was still only a field of about 250. I needed to make the top 40, so it seemed like pretty good odds.

I usually play very tight in the opening stages, but lately I’ve been experimenting with a slightly looser style. I still think I’m tighter than most people, but I’ll raise first-in with a wider range of hands and limp in family pots a lot more now. The goal is to find a big hand where I can take advantage of other people’s mistakes. I played only hand in Level 1, but it was a great one. I raised ATs from MP3 first-in and got flat called by the button and the BB. I flopped top two pair and bet out about 1/3 the pot. I was hoping to entice someone to come over the top and to my delight the button did. The BB folded and I just called the Button’s raise. The turn was a rag that made a flush draw possible. I check-raised the button and he called me. I pushed on the river since we only had about half the pot left in our stacks anyhow and he called with AQ and I doubled up very early.

In Level 2, people were playing quite tight so I stole a few blinds and lured a short stack into coming over the top of a raise from me with 88. I had AQs and quickly called him. The flop brought trip Queens and I was the overall chip leader.

In Level 3, I made another blind steal with 99 from EP and got called in one spot. I had an overpair on the flop and turn, where we end up all-in. I’ve got the overpair and he’s got A6s for second pair and no real draw. I think I’m a lock to have twice as many chips as the second place player, but he rivers the Ace. I’m still in the top 10. I make a nice call of a suspiciously large river bet with AT unimproved from the BB to snap off a bluff from KJ at the end of the level. I’m proud of this one because it was just an instinct play. I was sure he was bluffing, but I usually couldn’t call there even when I knew that.

Level 4 marked the start of a bad card-dead period. I might have won the blinds once and I had to let go on the flop once. Mostly I just folded and drifted down to 19th or so.

Level 5 continued the dry spell. I fall all the way to 42nd without seeing more than one flop. Finally at the end of the level, I use the fact that I’ve been folding for orbit after orbit to steal an away player’s blind from EP with air. Three hands later, I find AK on the SB and reraise someone who tried to steal from late position. He decides not to tangle with me and I’ve squeaked back up to 22nd with 69 remaining at the break. Since 40 players will make it through to the next level, I’m already feeling better about my chances.

Level 6 starts with a couple of playable hands. No one calls my KK raise and a continuation bet on the flop with 88 takes down the pot and I’m back up to 16th. I do nothing but fold for the rest of the level and end the level in 27th.

Level 7 gives me 77 in the BB where I call a raise from the big stack. I flop a set on a King high board. He bets the pot on the flop and I just call. The turn is a blank and I check-raise another pot-sized bet all-in. He thinks for a long time and mucks. He claims to have mucked AK, which would be a hell of a fold if true. I doubt it seriously. I’m now all the way up to 8th and pretty much assured of winning a ticket to the next round.

Levels 8-9 I only play one hand. It is a flat payout event, so there is no reason for me to get involved with any hand and I fold into the money. There was one interesting hand where the table short stack was trying to squeak past the bubble. He winds up all-in on the BB. The first four players fold (making me grumpy about people having no clue) and I limp with Kx. Four of us wind up seeing the flop of K99. I check and the player to my left pushes all-in. I have him well-covered. I grumble in chat that I’m going to fold a King and if he is stupid I’m going to be annoyed. I fold and he rolls quad nines. I’ve been wondering what he should have done. No one will call his push without a nine (or KK) and he has all of the nines. Maybe he should have bet smaller and hoped to build a side-pot?


Protégé quest update

It looks like I’m going to stay on the top 100 list for the first period without playing any more at Full Contact. There are five days left and I’m still at 45th place. I was 40th when I stopped playing five days ago, so it doesn’t look like I will have to play any more. I don’t know when the top 100/500/1000 freerolls will be scheduled, but I think they may be my best chance to qualify, so I’ll stay focused on that.

The series of 10 freerolls which are step one for Seat 1 have been going on for five days and have five days left. It seems that interest is going down a bit mid-week, so I’ll probably take a shot at that one soon. The good news is that 40 players from each round qualify for the next step. The bad news is that the next step then has 400 entrants. Then the top 40 from that one advance to the “final” qualifier. Of course, once you win that you still have only qualified for one more Sit-N-Go.

I used to ignore this silly freerolls, but then I had a nice cash in one and that changed my opinion a bit. I’m also turning my focus to MTTs a bit in hopes of making some kind of WSOP appearance this year. So, this never-ending protégé quest gives me a chance to build up my tourney skills at no risk to my bankroll (which is increasingly tied up in sports books anyhow).

poker sportsbetting

Update on this weekend’s action

I have been concentrating on my sports betting action. I put a few more dollars into play and I’m currently up $3,000 exactly. This is slightly misleading because I have unmet wagering requirements at some of the sites. I had won six bets in a row into CRIS and was getting closer to meeting the wagering requirements to cashout there. Now that I’ve decided that would be a good outcome to end up with all my money in CRIS, I’ve been losing at CRIS again. Instead of busting out at Hollywood and meeting my WR at CRIS, I’m now about even at Hollywood. This is bad because my WR at Hollywood is even bigger. I joined BetWWTS and deposited the full $2,500 to max out the bonus. I bet the whole thing against CRIS on the Redskins ML and promptly doubled up at WWTS. Since I haven’t been finding that many arbs (or the arbs are on bets that limit my bet size), I haven’t been able to get all my money in play as nicely as I’d like. This is also a bit of a problem because arbs are harder to find at some books than others and so far these three haven’t given me many good plays.

I took a big risk by picking one side of a bet on Monday and waiting to close the other side until game time on Saturday. I was convinced I knew which way the line was going to move. I was correct, but it didn’t move as far as I had hoped, so when I placed the offsetting bet I took a small loss. If I had the nerve to hold on until five minutes before game time, I would have got the arbitrage, but I lost my nerve. I don’t know if I’m willing to make these kind of speculations often.

So far, I’ve joined five books and busted quickly out of two. Three of the remaining books are above what I deposited to start with. Since two of them are close in value, I’m seriously considering making one huge bet pitting them against each other. That way, I’m sure to bust one of them. Even if I lock in a small loss, I may consider the escape from the WR worth the loss.

I’ve not played much poker. Real life got in the way and I didn’t play the Weekend at Daniel’s freeroll. I played a bit of 15/30 at Party and finished up $220 on the weekend. I had a lot of fun sweating Tanya at the Stars 500K. She was in the chip lead pretty deep into the money, but she decided to take a coin flip for a huge chunk of her chips and flipped wrong. Had she won that one, she would have had such a dominating chiplead that she probably would have won the whole thing. It was fun to watch.

geek stuff

Computers can be a pain in the neck…

I had pretty much everything working on the site, but there was one little thing that annoyed me.  When you referred to my blog as it wouldn’t load.  You had to say for some reason.  Nobody else who uses WordPress has that issue, so I knew that I had something weird.  My site was being hosted as a virtual domain inside another domain that I already owned and I suspected that was the problem.  I chatted with the WordPress gurus on IRC and played with a few configuration items, but I could never solve it.  There were some poorly written Apache rewrite rules on the server that I couldn’t see which probably made things worse.  I tried to hack something together with .htaccess, but it was ugly and still didn’t seem to work the way I wanted.
I decided to just bite the bullet and make a regular domain and avoid this whole issue.  It seemed like a simple fix and my webhost assured me that it would be seamless and invisible.

Wrong!  All my old mail went the way of the dodo, the blog no longer worked and the forums produced a very long list of unhappy messages.  After several hours of tweaking and arm wrestling and cursing, everything is now working again and you can just type so I’m happy again.

The unfortunate side-result is that I played zero poker and didn’t get any sportsbets down either.  I did watch Suited play for a while and offered advice that turned out to be wrong every time I gave it.

On the plus side, we had a great dinner last night and I told Suited my new philosophy was that I was going to drink the good stuff when we had a nice meal instead of keeping it in the cellar forever.  So we popped open a 1993 Beaucastel that we picked up in France several years ago.   The general consensus is that you should hold it 10 years at a minimum.  The great vintages will last 30 years and the more ordinary ones will last 20 years.  1993 is not considered a stellar year, but a bit above average.  I can tell you at 13 years old that this bottle could stil have been held for several more years.  It was still a bit tight and tannic, especially when we first opened it.  I think that the whole decanting thing and letting wine breathe is often snobbery, but in this case it absolutely got better and better after it had some time in the glass.   and Chateauneuf du Pape in general and Beaucastel in particular are among my very favorite wines and this one was no exception.  Complex and a bit sweeter/jammier/fruitier than other Beaucastels I’ve had from stronger vintages, I would still rate this one high on my lifetime chart.  We were trying to take very small sips at the end to savor our last tastes of this bottle.  It brought back a lot of happy memories of our travels and reinforced our resolve to get back to Europe and load up on some more good stuff.


How to handle “free play” bets on sportsbooks

Some sportsbooks simply give you your bonus money as extra money in your account to do with as you see fit. These bonuses are my favorites, of course. However. many books give you the bonus as a “free play.” The rules for a free play are that you get to make a wager with the money, but you only keep what you win. You don’t keep the free play money (win or lose). So if you make a standard -110 bet with a $100 freeplay, you will get $91 if you win and $0 if you lose. This leads to some interesting math.

Obviously you prefer to win, since that leaves you with some money and losing leaves you with nothing. If you have nothing, you didn’t get a very good bonus at all.  So, let me pose a thought problem to you. Assume you have a $100 freeroll. Would you prefer a big favorite that pays -400 ($25 on every $100 wagered or $400 to win $100) that will win 100% of the time (let’s assume you have connections who can fix the outcome) or a bet that pays +400 and will win 10% of the time (It should win 25% of the time, but let’s assume there are very bad odds)?

Many people immediately say they’d rather have the guarenteed winner. They are wrong. Let’s assume you have 10 of these free plays. If you play the big favoprite that always wins, you will win $25 10 times or $250. If you play the $100 at +400, you’ll only win once, but you’ll win $400 the one time you do win. Furthermore, the real odds say that the +400 will win about 25% of the time and the -400 will win about 75% of the time, making the bet even worse for the favorite.

So clearly, you want to wager your free play on an underdog, to increase your leverage with the free money. But you may be saying to yourself that I told you that I prefer to bet where I don’t care who wins the game. You would be quite right. I don’t like risk all that much. Never fear, there is a way to handle these free plays in a risk-free manner.

Let’s return to our big underdog who pays +400 (a $400 payout on every $100 wagered). In the real world, it is very hard to find an underdog who pays +400 and a favorite who pays -400. That would leave no money for the book. You will find these from time to time, but not that often. So let’s assume a fairly normal vig for the books and say that the best line for the favorite is -450. You bet your $100 free money to win $400 on the underdog at one book and you bet $329 to win $71 at another book. If the favorite wins, you lose your free $100, but win $71 at the other book. If the underdog wins, you win $400 from your free play and lose $329 at the other book for a net win of $71.  Viola!  No matter which team wins, you gain $71. This way you lock in 71% of the free play no matter what happens. In my experience, you can pretty much always find a return of 70% or so of your free play. A return of 80% or more is extraordinary good and should be jumped on.

Calculating the correct amount for the off-setting bet is not intuitive, so I’ve built a Free Play Calculator using Excel that you can use for that purpose. You can play around it and eventually the relationships will start to make sense to you. Although you want a big underdog, you also want a reasonable vig. If you find a +1000 dog, but the favorite only pays -1500, it isn’t that good of a free play. Sometimes you might find a fairly small dog where the favorite pays such good odds that it is a good free play. Experiment and see what you find.

Good luck and let me know how it works for you.


The risks associated with sports betting my way

I’m interested in sports betting purely as a way to make a few dollars with my otherwise idle poker bankroll. I’m particularly interested in arbitrage opportunities and bonus chasing. I believe that it is possible (and I think this may be conservative) to earn 1% on my sports wagering bankroll every other week after I’ve fully exhausted the bonus opportunities. In my more optimistic moments, I think I could do it weekly. When I compare the 0% NeTeller is paying me in interest and the 3% offered by my bank, 26% or 52% looks pretty darn good to me.
As an attorney, my lovely bride spends most of her time anticipating any possible way that things could go wrong and she and I have brainstormed the dangers of this pastime extensively. As best we can figure, here are the potential dangers in this game:

1) Financial collapse of a sportsbook while holding my money. This seems like the biggest risk to us. These sportsbooks are operating in a legal grey area, so they could scam you out of your money with very little recourse available to you. Moreover, they are in a highly risky business and it is almost impossible to obtain trustworthy information about their capitalization and business sense in running a profitable sportsbook. Because your goal is usually to win all your money into one book, they can end up holding a whole lot of money and it would be tragic if they didn’t handle your cashout. I’m mitigating this risk by doing a lot of homework first. I check Sportsbook Review and The Offshore Wire for reviews and have stuck thus far to the top rated books in both places. I also scan the popular message boards for any discussion of slow paying or bad experiences with a particular site. Its not perfect, but I’m semi-comfortable with this approach. If something goes terribly wrong, this is what I think it will be

2) One thinks of my style of wagering as pretty much risk-free, but there are a few ways you could screw it up. You could inadvertantly bet the same side twice instead of betting both sides of a contest or you could make a data entry error on one of the sites and not bet the proper offsetting amounts on each side. This would put you in the position of actually gambling on the outcome of the event, which clearly involves risk. I’ve already made one mistake that is a variation on this. I thought I was betting at a site that would reimburse 10% of my losses and I factored that into my balancing equation only to learn that the fine print excluded me from getting the 10% back. This cost me almost $400 — but the bonus that they paid more than made up for the mistake. I’m still very, very careful when I enter the numbers and calculate the proper bet amounts, but there is some risk that I will eventually get sloppy as I get more comfortable playing this game.

3) An event could cancel under the rules of one site (a one day postponement due to weather, for instance) and still be valid under the terms of the other site. This could again cause you to be making an at-risk wager on an evernt where you didn’t intend to do so. If you are careful and make the offsetting bet later, even if it means locking in a loss, you can protect against this danger.

4) If you don’t pay close attention to the betting limits, a site might retroactively reduce your wager and leave you with an at-risk situation. Most of the top rated sites will alert you at the time you place the bet and not accept a wager that exceeds their limits, but I’ve read some horror stories of sites that change your wager after the fact. The worst stories involve sites that reduce your wager after you win, but take your stake when you lose. Careful research should avoid those sites, but you should also read the rules at each site carefully and try to make the right wagers. I have a spreadsheet with each sites bonus terms and wager limits that I refer to all the time.

Finding appropriate betting opportunities costs some effort and you won’t find suitable ones every time you look, but when you do find them it can be like free money. The Internet was abuzz today with various opportunites to get $0.25 scalps on the Rose Bowl tonight. This equated to a 3% return on your money, which is crazy. Sadly, because I had to work late I didn’t get in on any of that action.

I’m a pretty cautious guy and I’m convinced that this is going to be a profitable venture. I’ve also found a few angles that seem like they will assure an even higher rate of return, that I’m not yet prepared to post in “public.” Drop me an email if you decide to get into sportsbetting and I’ll dish.


My first forays into SportsBetting

My main man Bullajami talked me into jumping into the world of sports betting two weeks ago. I had always avoided it because it seems like the kind of gambling that your mother warned you about. You know what I mean, every movie that starts with someone betting on sports always ends with the same guy getting his kneecaps busted up with a baseball bat or living on the streets.

So far, it doesn’t look like either one is going to happen to me. I’m limiting myself to the highest rated sportsbooks by Sportsbook Review (which may or may not be reliable). Some people say that they effectively get kickbacks from sites who get the highest scores, but you’ve got to trust someone. Consumer Reports isn’t likely to do an off-shore wagering issue anytime soon.

I signed up with Pinnacle, CRIS and Hollywood. All highly rated and all with some kind of decent bonus offer. Hollywood offered $750 in cash and $750 in free plays on a $5,000 deposit. CRIS offered $1,000 in free play on a $5,000 deposit and Pinnacle offered $500 on a $5,000 deposit. I decided to wager them against each other willy-nilly and sort out the damage once I was done.

I looked for arbitrage bets and found what seemed like solid bets on every event. Since I had money on both teams, I pretty much knew what the results would be before games were played. Unfortunately, I misunderstood the terms of one of the bonuses and gave up almost $400 in value by misplaying my wagers. Fortunately, the bonuses covered my mistake and then some. I busted out of Pinnacle and lost most of my roll in Hollywood. CRIS almost tripled.

I can’t get my money out of CRIS until I’ve wagered a whole bunch of money, so I need to keep betting against them as often as I can. I added some more money to Pinnacle and got a $100 bonus on a $500 deposit at VIP. I managed to lose the entire $600 in one bet to Pinnacle and then lost all the Pinnacle money into CRIS again. At this point, I’ve done it for two weeks and I’m up $2,200. Of that total, $46.63 is my profit on arbitrage and the rest is bonus money. I’m not sure this will be a great money maker once I exhaust the bonuses, but it is pretty good when you add them in.

I’m going to try to finally burn through my wagering requirement at CRIS and get at least one other bonus this week. I’ve also got a $150 freeroll wager to place, which should yield at least $100 risk-free. I’ll post something on the strategy of freeroll betting later.


Wrapping up my Full Contact bonus hunt

I had a boring session where I drifted down $71, mostly by trying to get too cute and bluff with people who weren’t going to fold if I had a neon sign proclaiming “Rockets” flashing over my avatar.  Speaking of which, the PokerRoom avatars are really stupid.  My first order of business on any new skin is to set up my four colored deck and turn off the stupid avatars and cutesy animations.  I ended this chase up $248 and I cleared $403 in bonus.  At least I think I cleared $403 in bonus.  FCP is lame and won’t tell me if I really cleared it until sometime tomorrow.  I won’t be back here unless I need to crank out some more points to stay in the top 100 on the leaderboard.

Full Contact also has the most freerolls I’ve ever seen.  I was in one last weekend, where I donked off my chips with JJ against KK near the bubble.  I was getting short-stacked and bored and figured it was put up or shut up time.  I don’t even think that one got me any closer to the big protege thing anyhow.  I got an email tonight inviting me to some freerolls for Seat One.  I have to finish in the top 40 of any one of ten freerolls to advance to stage 2.  They start Friday.  I have no idea how many people will enter.  I should also be in the Seat 3 freeroll and the Seats 8, 9 and 10 freerolls.  There is also a play-money Seat 4 freeroll, but I don’t think I can handle that one because it would make six freerolls.

They also sent me an invitation to a “Weekend at Daniel’s Freeroll” which apparently will send 8 people to Vegas for SuperBowl weekend for some poker and a private party to watch the game.  I never know to value these freerolls, but after I won big in the CheckNRaise one I don’t just ignore them any more.