April 26, 2008

Is the end of prohibition finally around the corner?

My friends are often surprised when I tell them my #1 political issue is repealing (drug) prohibition. Since they know I don't do anything stronger than Tanqueray 10, they are often puzzled. This piece in the LA Times outlines the arguments well.

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January 5, 2008

Apparently I'm a Democrat.

80% Mike Gravel
78% Dennis Kucinich
73% Barack Obama
71% Chris Dodd
69% Bill Richardson
68% Hillary Clinton
68% John Edwards
66% Joe Biden
40% Ron Paul
40% Rudy Giuliani
34% John McCain
34% Mitt Romney
28% Mike Huckabee
23% Fred Thompson
22% Tom Tancredo

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz


December 29, 2006

Pokerroom cheats customers

The online poker site Pokerroom has reneged on an advertised prize guarantee of $19,000 plus a $2000 television, withdrawing money from winners’ accounts and blaming a technical error, according to this thread on PocketFives. Several posters reported emailing Pokerroom support after money was removed from their Pokerroom accounts without notice. They said support confirmed that Pokerroom would not be honoring the advertised prize pool guarantee.

Pokerroom had previously shut their doors to American players based on the recently passed legislation banning financial transactions with illegal gaming sites. A few US States explicitly ban online poker but the Federal Justice Department considers it illegal regardless of the fact that there is no Federal law banning Internet gambling and only 11 States ban any form of online gambling.

The obvious point is that outlawing something a lot of people like to do is not a way to build a stable, safe nation. People will always gamble. Poker is one of the most entertaining forms of gambling, combining skill and luck in an exciting and sometimes frustrating game. When government nannies make it illegal for adults to play, adults will simply play illegally. But so will children, since without regulation there are no controls on who a site can allow. And, as we have just seen, there is no recourse when a dishonest site decides to cheat its customers.

I cashed out of Pokerroom long ago after an extended debate with customer service in which they refused to admit a technical problem in the software that cost me a few dollars. The only site I completely trust is Full Tilt, because I know the people who run it and their integrity is beyond question. I suspect PokerStars is also OK but I don’t know them as well.

Until we succeed in turning around the nanny battleship in Washington: caveat emptor.

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December 6, 2006

Anything Goes

An uberbabe invited me to a local production of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes the other night. The conversation went something like this:

Uberbabe: “I’m sure you’re busy but I have two tickets to a Cole Porter play and I remember you either love or hate musicals.”
QL: “Google informs me that you are referring to his most popular show, Anything Goes, which is in fact closing tonight at the Second Story theater in Redmond. Shall I meet you there or do you want to eat first?”

I do love musical theater (which puts me in good company with my and Jerry Seinfeld’s hero, Superman – watch till the very end) and Cole Porter is my favorite. The tiny theater had seats on three sides and we strolled right in and grabbed front-row seats. It was delovely.

The days of Anything Goes in Las Vegas are long gone, and to the amazement of many, this Friday smoking will finally banned in most public places in Nevada. While there are still exemptions for brothels, bars that don't serve food, and gambling areas, this will be a tangible improvement to health and quality of life for millions. Some businesses are mounting an unlikely last-ditch challenge to the law, worth mentioning only so I can quote the aptly named American Cancer Society director from the Las Vegas Review-Journal story:

Buffy Martin-Tarbox, the government relations director for the American Cancer Society and the spokeswoman for Nevadans for Tobacco Free Kids, which advocated for Question 5 but was not mentioned in the suit, said it's disappointing some business owners are doing their best to "skirt" the will of voters.

Buffy Martin-Tarbox is my new favorite name.

Atlantic City is keeping a step ahead and proposing to remove the casino exemption for New Jersey’s smoking ban. If they do, look for Vegas to watch closely how it affects business. Given the boom in poker rooms since they all went voluntarily non-smoking, I doubt the effect will be negative.

Meanwhile, New York City is making a bold step in public health, voting to ban the use of trans-fats in restaurants. No more tobacco, no more partially hydrogenated vegetable oil…long gone is the day when anything goes.

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November 8, 2006

Well, we got what we asked for

In giving control of the House and possibly the Senate to the Democrats in yesterday’s election, America sent an emphatic message to Washington that the Republican Government had gone far away from the “American values” they claimed they stood for. While several self-destructed with scandals of their own making, even many of the Republicans who hadn’t yet been caught taking bribes or molesting boys were ousted by fresh political faces, leaving no doubt that Americans were ready for a change. We got what we asked for: now I hope the Democrats will actually end the war and restore civil liberties. This is a free country and it should be legal to sin.

While Bush’s private Vietnam, Iraq, was certainly a lightning rod for the voters’ thunderous discontent, talking to my few Republican friends revealed that they too were disturbed by the party’s about-face from their traditional stance of fiscal conservatism and social libertarianism. Becoming a party of religionist socialist warmongers finally lost them their critical mass of support. With the Republicans spending our children’s inheritance on a severely unpopular war, suddenly there was no reason to fear the Democrats and their penchant for spending. If we’re going to spend billions, better on health care than bombs.

Given the circles I travel in, it’s easy for me to see reaction to the online gambling legislation as one reason for the shift in the political winds. It was a pleasure to see Leach, who sponsored the bill, thrown out, and tinglingly exciting to see the first numbers showing Kyl losing, although he closed to win it. Politicians are rightly frightened of the ability of the Internet to take whole economies out of their reach, and they saw gambling (at least the kind without the lobbying money of horse racing and lotteries) as low-hanging fruit to pluck back under their control. The trouble is, Americans do not wish to be told what they can and cannot do in their own homes and, beyond that, control of the Internet is to a large degree technically impossible. It will be an uphill battle to reverse this legislation now that it has been sneaked in, but with rumors of MGM-Mirage’s interest in buying Party Gaming, the lobbying dollars may soon be climbing Capitol Hill.

A reader emailed me about domestic Bordeaux blends. Last night my old friend Tony and I shared a bottle of 1986 Beringer Private Reserve, smooth and elegant. Drinking young wines day in and day out, it takes a moment to get used to the absence of tannins but we enjoyed it with a pair of filet mignons at Purple Café. It had just a hint of acid, less than the BV George Latour, and was deliciously balanced. I had been saving it because I had two bottles of it, which made it good to serve at a dinner party, but given my current wifelessness and therefore no dinner parties in sight, I figured at 20 years old it was ready to drink. And I have one more bottle.

I took some bad beats on Moola but with optimal bankroll management I’m only down to 17 cents and can easily rebuild. I should cash out for $10 million pretty soon.

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November 7, 2006

Moola moola

OK, forget about Chuzzle. My new goal is to win $10 million playing Moola. It’s the latest addition to the non-illegal non-gambling skill game racket, with the twist that you don’t actually deposit any money but instead get paid for watching ads at the rate of about 10 cents/hr. It’s by invitation only right now, but they’re not difficult to come by. Once you find someone to invite you in, they start you off with a penny. All you have to do is double it 30 times and you can cash out for $10,737,418.24. They offer a choice of skill games including Tiltboys’ specialty Roshambo. I quickly analyzed the other two games with optimal game theory and came to the conclusion that in a little over 10,000 hours I could win the top prize. Naturally, I plan to spend the next five years accomplishing that goal, then cash out and put it with the rest. I’m already up to 24 cents.

Michael Craig is doing his best to mess up my love life, identifying cute girls as prospective mates for me and then using his unique wit and charm to send them running in the opposite direction screaming. Fortunately, I’ve punished him by getting him to agree to co-author the Lion Tales book with me. I just shipped him off several hundred pages, which ought to keep him out of my private-parts life awhile.

If you’re still getting these by email, check out Google Reader, a super easy RSS aggregator. I use Google Home Page and have the reader right on the front. It’s way better than the super slow, buggy Newsgator I had been using.

It’s minutes until the election returns come in so I have the TV on, a rarity for me when planes aren’t crashing into buildings. If you haven’t voted and the polls are still open, go and throw the lying cheating bastards out.

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November 4, 2006

World Poker Tour

If there was anyone who still believed World Poker Tour Enterprises boss Steve Lipscomb when he said the rights-grabbing release players are required to sign was nothing to worry about and simply there to “protect against frivolous lawsuits,” take a look at the new WTPE Academy. In what’s certain to spark a new round of lawsuits, WPTE has decided to sell the footage taken at WPT tournaments, including hole-card information from hands never shown on television, to people who want to learn how to beat the players who signed those “standard” releases. When I first went to the site, I ironically saw a photo of Andy Bloch, one of the players suing WPTE over the release and other issues. Good move, Steve.

I filled out my mail-in ballot yesterday, voting straight Democratic as promised. It was easy to vote for my friend Ross Hunter for State Representative, and Jay Inslee for Congress, one of the few who voted against the Internet gambling ban. I was going to vote for Rodney Tom for State Senator simply because his opponent waged a negative and sneaky campaign including push-polling, but I had to hold my nose to vote for Maria Cantwell over the Libertarian candidate I would normally have picked. This is a time of crisis and the reality is a vote for a third party is a vote for the Republicans.

I achieved the ranking of Jam Master in Chuzzle on SkillJam, meaning I only get matched up against really good players now, making it kind of a bad bet to play for cash. I may have to take up Bejeweled.

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November 3, 2006

Coda to the wine-shipping story

After learning that shipping two bottles of wine to myself from Las Vegas to Seattle was illegal, I got several emails from readers advising me to pack the wine myself and lie about the contents of the box to FedEx. I do, of course, know how to circumvent the law. I’m just sad when I consider that nearly everyone is forced into being a lawbreaker as more and more sumptuary laws go on the books and police departments become paramilitary units. I’m sad when I consider it’s no longer newsworthy when a SWAT team breaks down a family’s door, shoots their dogs, and seizes assets because they found traces of marijuana and cocaine while going through their trash. I don’t use those drugs but I don’t want to live in a police state.

Another reader emailed me that he was voting for whoever was best at keeping us safe from terrorism, and he thought that was the Republicans. Please. Even if you suspended disbelief long enough to believe a President who can barely put a sentence together is qualified to understand the politics of the Middle East, not even the level of security they have in Israel can stop terrorism. What we can stop is the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. Asset-forfeiture laws make a mockery of the Fourth Amendment. Airport security is a circus. I can’t bring a bottle of water into the airport? Please. The Internet gambling ban is a disgusting mixture of protectionism and theocracy. I’m voting dog shit all the way.

By the way, the airline lost my luggage with the wine in it. I got a knock on the door just before midnight from a smiling delivery dude with the wrong bag. We decided he had just delivered mine to the wrong house. He vamoosed and I waited for his return while watching season two of 24. Finally I looked out on the porch and my bag had magically appeared, the driver too embarrassed to show his face again.

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November 1, 2006

Taking the Fifth

I took fifth place in UPC yesterday for $2200. I didn't hit many hands at the final table but the show should be entertaining as I attempted my usual strategy of compensating for my lack of poker ability with comic relief. Ted "The Milkman" Melikian and I bantered back and forth until I lost most of my chips calling the big blind's flop jam with AJo on a board of King-Jack-x. I shoved the next hand with Q8o and lost the race to The Milkman, who overjammed with AJ.

The tournaments are a lot of fun and I hope to play more of them. It's not really worth a special trip to Vegas given the small buy-ins but I spend plenty of time there anyway so when I'm in town, I'll play if I'm not busy.

Caesars Palace gave me two bottles of their house label Cabernet. I took them to FedEx to ship them home and was told it was illegal. Now I can't play online poker, ship wine to myself, carry shampoo on an airplane, or smoke cigars in a cigar lounge. Too bad the Soviet Union isn't in business any more or I would consider moving to a more free country.

I'm voting a straight Democratic ticket for the first time ever, not that I think they're good guys, but dog shit smells better than cat shit.

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August 29, 2006

ESPN and Chuzzle

ESPN just showed a very nice feature about me during the 2006 WSOP Main Event Day 2 broadcast. They had been collecting footage of me for three years and pretty much got tired of waiting for me to make a final table so they just showed it anyway. It's pretty entertaining. See if you can pick out my Phill Hellmuth imitation.

Meanwhile, I'm back in East Ber Washington State, where all forms of gambling are legal except online poker, which is a felony. So instead of 50/100 Hold 'Em I'm playing $1 Chuzzle tournaments on SkillJam, a site marketed by Microsoft through their MSN Games division. Chuzzle is just one of many games of skill and chance offered at SkillJam, which through the wonders of the Internet, we are able to place wagers on. Why is this legal but poker illegal? Beats me. By accepting wagers on the outcome of a contest, Microsoft would seem to be in violation of the Wire Act of 1961, so I'm not too worried about them coming after me.

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