January 31, 2006

Gutshot Interview with Richard "Quiet Lion" Brodie

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The Gutshot Poker Collective has published an interview with me on their web site, complete with a couple of nice photos.


January 21, 2006

Memo on Online Poker

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Who needs a book?

I was thinking of writing a book on how to play online no-limit Hold 'Em but one of the other players said a memo would do:


  • Play good starting hands in position
  • Bet your hand
  • Never bluff


That's it! Now go out and win!



January 20, 2006

King of Vegas and High-Stakes Poker

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Mouth to Mouth

Being as I'm not playing the WPT and I decided not to endure the trip to Tunica, Miss., for next week's WSOP Circuit event, readers are prodding me to post something, anything, so they don’t fall out of the habit of reading my blog. Well, I've mostly been playing online at Full Tilt. Cash games aren't as sexy as tournaments but they aren't as streaky either.


The other night I watched the first episode of King of Vegas. Now this is a real gambling show. They've taken Survivor and transplanted it to the floor of Bally's Las Vegas. Each week, through a series of four mini-tournaments, they eliminate one player until they're down to the one, indisputable champion: the King of Vegas. And it's not just poker. The first week they started with Blackjack and moved on to Roulette and Caribbean Stud before finishing with TV's favorite son, No Limit Texas Hold 'Em.


They selected a nice variety of players: the telegenic (professional poker players Evelyn Ng and David Williams), the boisterous (Mike "The Mouth" Matusow and the equally mouthy "Hollywood" Dave Stann), the accomplished (Sports bettor Wayne Allyn Root and World Series of Blackjack champion Ken Einiger, and the hopeful (most of the rest of the field).


I liked the format and the banter, with Mike the Mouth rightly confident of his Hold 'Em advantage and Hollywood Dave verbalizing his calculations and watching as his supposedly optimal strategy got no love from Lady Luck's cold embrace. Poker is by far the hardest of the games to play and it is fitting that the final test of who gets voted off the island is the dreaded "Hold 'Em heads-up death match."


All the players used different strategies, most of them sub-optimal, but I liked Mike's theory. He didn't mind gambling it up in the table games because if he lost, he was confident of his big advantage in short-handed Texas Hold 'Em. Speaking of which, I didn't quite understand the rules of the poker round. For some reason, after one player got eliminated from the table, the player who did the eliminating seemed to get a free pass and left the table. That could lead to some odd situations in multi-way pots if that is indeed the rule. I'll be looking forward to the rest of the shows.



Also debuting this week was the Game Show Network's High-Stakes Poker. Daniel Negreanu ran over the table in the first episode of the series, which features actual high-stakes cash-game players tossing around actual money. Daniel had two "bricks" of $50,000 each that he dramatically tossed in a couple of times, pushing around notables such as Barry "Spock" Greenstein, Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, and Ted "Teddy Bear" Forrest. I was waiting for someone to bust out as the colorful Sammy Farha, runner-up to Chris Moneymaker in the 2003 WSOP, was waiting for a seat.


The show was fascinating because the texture of a cash game can be very different from a tournament. Winning players exploit weaknesses in their opponents and Daniel made no bones about tossing around the bricks if he felt anyone was playing with scared money. I look forward to this becoming my favorite poker show.


WPT on the Decline?

The Tunica World Poker Tour event started with a mere 327 players, not only less than last year's 512 but also below the previous year's 367! This was despite there being two major tournaments back to back instead of just the usual one. Is the World Poker Tour on the decline? We'll keep a close watch on future events.


January 11, 2006

What's up with the World Poker Tour?

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What's up with the World Poker Tour?

Please release me

Astute readers will notice I haven't played in the recent World Poker Tour events. I thought I'd fill in some background on what's going on. The bottom line is I no longer think it's a good deal.

I first got into poker when I saw my friend Andy Bloch on season one of the World Poker Tour. It looked like fun, like something I could learn to do well, and a hobby that would make, not consume, money. I taught myself to play, leaned on my smart friends for coaching and tips, and jumped into the shark-infested waters. I've had only moderate success, but no less than could be expected with someone of average or slightly above-average skill. Regardless of how good you are, you have to get lucky to win these things.

The Fox Sports Network decided to join the fray, as did the Ultimate Poker Challenge on WGN and syndicated stations, making for many more opportunities to play televised poker. The unlikely Game Show Network threw in their gauntlet. Suddenly it wasn't imperative to fly to Paris to play poker. There were plenty of events in friendly Las Vegas.

When Harrah's jumped into the picture, adding money to the WSOP Circuit tournaments in the form of a freeroll and allowing players to wear sponsor's logos, their ESPN contract immediately jumped them ahead of WPT in almost every respect. World Poker Tour married itself to the marginal Travel Channel, meaning even if you could get it on your cable TV, it wasn't being aired in bars almost 24 hours a day. Sponsor logos were allowed, meaning regular players could get paid extra for appearing on TV. The WPT was making itself less and less attractive. I won't even mention losing Shana Hiatt.

To counter the perception of the WPT giving nothing back, they created the Professional Poker Tour, a series of freerolls where small logos were allowed. We all loved this, but they have been unable to sell the first five shows and have postponed indefinitely plans for a second season. With the PPT out of the picture, WPT finally relented and allowed small, pre-approved logos at the final table. Financially, this was not very significant to the players as the WPT events are very large and therefore the chance of making a final table is very small.

The straw that broke the camel's back for me, as well as Andy, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, and some others, was the WPT's release form. From the beginning Andy, a lawyer, had complained that it was overly broad. But discussions with Steve Lipscomb, creator of WPT, and other personnel assured me that it was simply a standard release allowing them to air and promote the program. I signed it many times based on that assurance. Then WPT decided to put a banner up on their online poker room with the likenesses of three poker pros without either their permission or compensation. It was quickly removed when they complained, but Lipscomb, in a letter to players, asserted it was removed "not because we were legally obligated to, but because the players asked us to." That was way out of line with the assurances Lipscomb had given me in private. Apparently he believed signing the release allowed him to legally use our names and likenesses for any purpose whatsoever, but in his great benevolence he offered to take our feelings into consideration when making his decision.

He goes on to say in the letter that since we have signed the release in the past, signing it again would have no effect. Legal advisors have told me this is untrue, especially since they have now changed the language in the release, and Lipscomb, an attorney, should know better. Lipscomb's claim that it is a "standard release" is simply untrue. Compare it to the ESPN release for the World Series. Andy Bloch has written a clear article about it.

And so I'm not playing in the World Poker Tour until things change. It's not a boycott. I don't think they'll miss me. It just doesn't seem like a good deal.

But Ultimate Poker Challenge season three—look out!


January 7, 2006

Announcing cashback and comps for Full Tilt players

Special deal

One of things I have wanted to do for some time is give my readers a special deal at my favorite online poker room, Full Tilt Poker. After working for several months on a deal with one of the top affiliate managers in the business, I am excited to announce a great program for new accounts on Full Tilt. If you have previously signed up through my link, you can also get in on this. Here's the program:

  • 25% rakeback (25% of Full Tilt's revenue from you rebated back)
  • Special contests and freerolls with cool prizes
  • Ongoing comps and incentives for regular play
  • Personal host to help with questions and problems

If you do not yet have an account on Full Tilt, go to www.ultimatepals.com/liontales to sign up and receive your comps and rakeback. You must sign up through this link in order to get the comps and rakeback. If you sign up some other way there is nothing I can do about it.

If you have previously signed up through my link you can still join this program. E-mail David at admin@ultimatepals.com and he will get you set up. David will be your personal host. You can email him or send him instant messages (BluffingDavid on AIM or Yahoo).

I realize many of you play at several different card rooms, which is one reason I went with these folks. They have similar deals at other sites all managed from the same place and through the same host. You can sign up with any or all of the sites through www.ultimatepals.com/liontales and get a great deal. In all cases, you must not previously have had an account with the site.

Go to the WSOP on me!

As the first step in the comp/incentive program on Full Tilt, anyone who signs up through my link and who accumulates 90,000 Full Tilt Points by June 1 will get a comp to the first event of the 2006 WSOP. This is in addition to your 25% rakeback and you get to keep the 90,000 points, enough to buy three custom sports jerseys and more! These points need to come from raked games or tournaments. Once you have you reached the 90k threshold we will award you the package (package value is $1800).

I am very excited about this and I hope you all will be as well.

Email admin@ultimatepals.com with any questions and tell them Quiet Lion sent you.

Again, to get this deal you must sign up through this link: www.ultimatepals.com/liontales


January 1, 2006

Shootout at the Palms: 2005 Global Poker Challenge

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Toto and the Lion

The field for the first Global Poker Challenge, a shootout-style no-limit Hold 'Em tournament with a cute but financially meaningless USA-versus-the-world theme, was 110, mostly top pros. In a shootout, you have to win your starting table to advance to the next round. I didn't mind this format as it would involve a lot of important pre-flop decisions, which leveled the playing field somewhat between the more experienced players and me. The buy-in was $5000 with no juice except the 3% in lieu of tips, and I got table 14, seat one.  As expected it was a tough lineup: I wasn't happy to see Layne "Back to Back" Flack, one of the top no-limit players in the world, on my left in seat three. Another excellent player, Toto Leonidas, had seat four. Seat five was occupied by 2005 WSOP final-tablist Tex Barch. Seat six had a pretty young Asian girl who seemed to be friends with the notorious Tony G. Seat seven had one of my nemeses, David Singer; and seat eight was an English pro I'd played with before but whose name I'd forgot. Seat two was empty, giving us a nice luck-of-the-draw advantage: I only had to beat six people, not seven, to advance.


We started with 10,000 in chips and I quickly chipped up to 14,300 by snapping off Layne and David when they tried to bluff me. The blinds went up fairly quickly and I won several coinflips with short stacks, bringing me up to 24,000 by the time we had eliminated everyone but Toto, Tex, and me. I got cold-decked three-handed when Tex and I got it all in with my pocket Tens v. his Queens but then pulled a miracle. I flopped a set but the board was Jack-Ten-Nine of Spades, giving him a Straight Flush draw! My set held up and Tex was down to the felt with 3500 chips left. He announced he was going all in on the next three hands. He did, on the button, and I found pocket Aces on the small blind. I just called, hoping Toto would make an isolation raise, which he did, 7000 more. I elected to reraise all in, hoping he had a middle pair and call me, but he folded what was probably a weak Ace. I busted Tex and had a 2.5-1 lead over Toto with 48,500. It was down to Toto and the Lion.


Knowing Toto was a great player, I wasn't going to make the mistake I did against Bill Edler at the UPC, underestimating his thought process and giving him too much credit for a hand. I would see flops with my positional advantage and move in when I was first to act, which I did with several decent hands before he called my pocket Fives with his Ace-King. Inexplicably, Presto didn't hold up and now we were close to even in chips. I still had him covered, though, and when he came over the top of my Jack-Five offsuit on a flop of Six-Five-Four with two Hearts, I moved in, thinking I had the best hand and putting him on a draw. He did indeed have a draw, but it was a huge one: he called with Ace-Eight of Hearts, giving him 18 outs twice. The turn was the Six of Hearts, making his Flush but giving me four outs to fill up. It was not to be and I was down to the felt. I got it all in with Queen-Ten of Diamonds versus his King-Jack offsuit and lost the race, finishing on the bubble.


It was nice to make a run at it but painful to get so close and miss. My friends Andy "The Rock" Bloch and Chad Layne, among others, were sweating me but Presto let me down and I once again didn't get the luck where I needed it.


Shortstack and I had a nice dinner at Tableau, the private restaurant at Wynn for Towers guests. I'm continually impressed by the seemingly endless parade of excellent restaurants in Las Vegas. We had the 2002 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir, which was unexpectedly effervescent on opening although it settled down nicely after a half-hour.