Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bonus again

I finished Intercasino's wagering requirements ($2500) last night for their May 100% $100 match bonus. At the low point, I was only +$29 (at $129), but ended +$76 (at $177, minus their surprising $1 Neteller withdrawal fee). Although the account there started at $200, after the first six hands, it was never above the starting point.

Intercasino: $100 deposit match, +$76
Something out of nothing to date: +$662

Reminder: if you're thinking about trying this, let me know and we might be able to split the referral.

(I think my poker's probably starting to get a bit rusty.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cash on hand, thinking about stickies

Maybe I've been fortunate, but the speed with which the my bonus hunting cashouts has happened has surprised me.

I hit my Starluck wagering requirements (WR) on May 24. They said to wait 24 hours before requesting a cashout, so 24 hours later, I requested it, and the money was in my Neteller account within four hours.

Planetluck, same thing. Hit the WR May 27, waited 24 hours, requested cashout, and it was in my account late May 28.

WilliamHill, hit the WR May 28, requested cashout, and it was in my account this afternoon.

My previous cashouts at 7Sultans and Breakaway also came through within 36 hours.

I'm now grinding away at InterCasino (offering a $100 100% match for May, 25x WR), and expect to hit the WR tonight or tomorrow. This is supposed to be a monthly promotion with a 90 day time limit, so once I finish this one, I should be able to re-sign up for another $100 100% promotion for June. They've got a 5-spot multi-hand table, and at $5 a round ($1 a hand), my variance will be up a bit. At $183/$2500 into it, I'm ahead slightly, but more importantly, I can now afford the increased variance for the benefit of shortening the time it takes to complete the WR.

Once these non-sticky bonuses run dry, then it's on to the stickies, which take a completely different strategy than grinding away at $1 per hand. Sticky bonuses are money you can wager with, and collect the winnings, but never the principal. They're frequently larger percentages (200%-400%), so if I buy in for $100 and get another $300 (a 300% bonus), I can wager with $400, but when I withdraw, $300 of my bankroll goes back to the casino.

There's two strategies I've read. The first is the simplest: bet all $400 on one hand. There's about a 49% chance of winning $400, and a 51% chance of losing $100. Mathematically, it's a no brainer if you have the $100 to lose. Emotionally, man... $400 bucks on one hand? Butterflies galore, and I'm just thinking about it at this point. If you win, you have $800, $500 of which you can cash out after you meet the remaining WR by playing low variance $1/hand.

The second strategy is to use one of the many long-term defective betting strategies out there (e.g., the Martignale), and start with betting 10%-15% of your stack, aiming for a goal of 1.5x to 2x of the starting bankroll ($600 to $800, minus $300). You'll get to the WR more quickly, and have a few more hands to withstand a down start.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Good luck at PlanetLuck and William Hill

At PlanetLuck, I ended up ahead $136, then signed up for WilliamHill.com's $80 match as I was waiting for PlanetLuck's cashout. I ended up ahead $182 there. So, to recap:

BetRoyal: $25 free chip, $0
Cirrus: $25 free chip, $0
ConnecTo: $40 free slots chip, $0
GamingClub: $25 free slots chip, $0
CaptainCooks: Free chip, $0
7 Sultans: $15 free chip, +$74
PlatinumPlay: Free $200 slots chip, $0
VegasVilla: Free $10 Red Dog chip, $0
DesertDollar: Free $10 Red Dog chip, $0
ClubPlayer: Free $65 slots chip, $0
RoyalVegas: Free $100 slots chip, $60, but need to make deposit and 20x $60 to collect.
Portofino: Free $15 slots chip, $0
WinnersOnline: Free $15 slot chip, $0
VegasPoker: Free $15 slots chip, $0
Breakaway: Free $25 chip, +$26
Colosseum: Free $15 slots chip, $0
GrandHotel: Free $12 slots chip, $0
VegasJoker: Free $10 slots chip, $0
Vegas7: Free $11 slots chip, $0
VegasCasino: Free $10 slots chip, $0
7Sultans (again): Free $25 slots chip, $0
Starluck: $100 deposit match, +$168
PlanetLuck: $100 deposit match, +$136
WilliamHill: $80 deposit match, +$182

My something-out-of-nothing to date: +$586.

This doesn't include the roughly $130 in something-out-of-nothing poker funds I've got in my CDPoker.com account.

Onward.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Caution; referrals

Two quickies:

1) Caution: At PlanetLuck, I was chatting with the customer service rep, and their $100 offer expires May 31. I fully expect that they'll renew it for another month (the rep accidentally said so), but I'll need to hit the $1600 by then. Shouldn't be a problem, but if I were trying this in a couple days, I'd be out of luck.

2) Referrals: If you're trying to do this, too, let me know ahead of time. Maybe I can leech a referral bonus out of one of the casinos.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Blackjack in Arizona and online: I'm just your standard deviant.

Yes, you too can make $45-$135 from the comfort of your own computer chair.

Knowing I had a limited bankroll ($70), I figured the likelihood that Casino Arizona had a low limit ($1/$2) table was pretty low. So, I've been boning up on basic blackjack strategy (not counting cards -- that's too much like real work), in case I was going to end up playing blackjack. I'm glad I did -- and it's not because I built my $30 buyin into $40 tonight at the $1 electronic blackjack tables (more on that later). No, it's because of this little bonus thing I found, thanks to a posting at FlopTurnRiver, salsa4ever's blog posting from last August (yay, google cache), a posting at bonusbug.com, and http://www.thewizardofodds.com.

On bonusbug, ScurvyDog writes:

You deposit $100 at StarLuck (http://www.starluckcasino.com) and get a $100 bonus, giving you $200. You have to wager $1,600 total. Betting the minimum of $1, that means you have to play 1,600 hands. Of those 1,600 hands, though, you’ll be splitting and doubling on some, so you’ll probably only have to actually be dealt 1,500 or so hands.

[With the StarLuck bonus,] your expected profit is $90. That never changes, no matter what the size of your bet is. If you bet the minimum of $1 per hand, your standard deviation will be about $45.00. Your results, on average, will be within 1 standard deviation of the expected profit about 65% of the time. So 65% of the time you’ll book a profit of between $45 and $135 when completing the bonus at StarLuck (http://www.starluckcasino.com/slcasino/links/65417.html)

Keep in mind that when we say 65% of the time we mean just that, nearly a majority of the time. Not always, not guaranteed, simply 65% of the time, and actual results can still fall outside that range of 1 standard deviation. Or, more simply, roughly one-third of the time your results will fall outside of 1 standard deviation, causing you to make less than $45 or more than $135.

I did it, and I've got a withdrawal pending for my initial $100 deposit, plus $167.50 profit. Yeah, I ended up a bit past the standard deviation on the positive side. Woot.

So, armed with 1500 hands of experience and a printout of the Wizard's blackjack chart, I head into Casino Arizona and look around. As expected, no poker tables. No shuttle, either. And bad news -- the lowest limit on the blackjack tables is $5. Pricey. After a bit of looking, though, I discover a bank of slot-machine like machines, five chairs to a side, in a 15 seat triangle. In the middle the triangle, facing each row, is a monitor representing the dealer. The lower limit is $1, but it doesn't round up, so you've got to at least bet $2 if you want full credit for your blackjacks. I ended up making $10, which offset my $10 loss on the slots.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

All-in Arizona bonus clustahs

It's been several days since my last blog entry. Here's what you've missed.

Good hands live in clustahs: Last Monday, at the 50¢/$1 table, I got quite a run of hands, five almost-in-a-row:
QQ - lost to AT offsuit when an A hit the board.
AA - lost to K7 suited when two sevens hit the board
AKs - lost to J4s and to J8o, who both made a straight.
T3 - folded
ATs - won $1.70 on a T95 flop
AA - won $4.40

All all in: At a $3+30¢ tournament, 160 players, the first hand of the tourney, I've got next to nothing at UTG+1, and I'm preparing to fold. The guy to my right goes all in, which makes my decision easy. I fold. UTG+3 folds, then the next player calls the all-in, as does the cutoff position and the small blind. Four players all-in preflop in the first hand of the tourney. They turn up their cards and show four pairs: deuces, sevens, tens, and aces. The board ends up JT5/4/J, so the pair of tens takes down the 4010 pot. Wacky.

Arizona plans: I still don't know which option I'm going to take on Wednesday in Phoenix. I'm leaning towards just playing blackjack for a while, but I should really just give the casino a call and find out about the poker room (and, while I'm at it, the blackjack rules, so I know what strategy chart to print out).

Bonus hunting: I stumbled across ttanaka's article on bonus hunting at FlopTurnRiver.com on Monday night, and figured I'd give it a try. It's not as easy as he makes it out to be, mainly because I want to start with nothing and build a bankroll risk-free. But I've spent a few nights trying it out, and in the 12 casinos I've tried it at, I've ended up actually receiving $26 (from Breakaway Casino), and have $74 pending (from 7 Sultans). That coincidentally totals $100, which is usually the amount that you can buy-in for to get a 100% bonus. That's for next week.

Practice reading terms and conditions has helped a lot. There's a lot of fine print. It also helps to not be afraid to pick up the phone and call the casino if you have questions. And thirdly, the fact that I've got a domainload of free e-mail addresses is nice, because I'll be able to auto-kill any of the addresses that the sites end up spamming me on.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Thursday, May 11, 2006

More on Washington felony poker

I found two interesting posts yesterday, which I think explain the most likely reasons for the passage of the bill: heading off the possibility of Muckleshoot Online Poker, and the protection of B&M casinos

My take on the reason for this bill is twofold. 1) This was mostly a move to shutdown the Indian casinos from setting up domestic online poker rooms. Domestic online gambling is illegal but the Indian loophole would have allowed it…and they were working on it. If that happened we would have federal involvement quick and it would be a big deal. So the state forced through a quick bill to make it illegal to do in the state. The bill was created with no enforcement body named. Is that some sort of a tip off that they don’t care so much about the individual?2) And it does help local card rooms and keeps the money in state. Though for me they are actually reducing the influx of $ into the state since I a winning player online that spends my winnings here. Oh well. They assume most are losers (which is true).
http://www.washingtonvotes.org/Comment.aspx?ID=23282&ActionID=181551

[T]his new law is odd in that Washington has a thriving brick and mortar casino history. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Margarita Prentice, has been the recipient of several contributions from casino and gaming interests in the state and fellow Senator Jim Honeyford has been called by many pundits the greatest hope of initiating substantive regulation of the booming online poker and gaming industry in the United States. In the state of Washington, there are 65 casinos and poker rooms and residents of the state can also step across the border into Canada, where the province of British Columbia offers five more physical establishments as well. Is this new legislation a way for the state to ensure that people participate in poker and gaming in state taxed and permitted businesses? Isn’t this, in some form, a way that the state is officially sponsoring these outlets while banning participation on the Internet? And if this is true, wouldn’t this be a restriction of trade and perhaps offers a way for the law to be overturned by the State Supreme Court?
http://www.pokernews.com/news/2006/5/washington-state-online-poker-legislation.htm

This is a great final question that pokernews poses. Some have said it's similar to the laws regarding internet wine sales, which I've heard through the grapevine is goofily prohibited by several state laws, making it difficult for online wine clubs to get niche products to its members. I'd speculate that wine sales have been explored more deeply through the courts, and may spend some time this next week doing further research to see how analogous it really is.

Poker fever

I wasn't feeling great on Sunday night, and ended up down about $5. Monday I felt worse, left work an hour early, and skipped playing altogether. Tuesday, I had to force myself to go to work for a critical three-day meeting, as I still was feeling lousy. That night, I figured that my best financial move would be to read The Tipping Point instead of taking my chances at the tables.

Tonight, I'm feeling much better, and ended up ahead $5. Bummer hand was turning a set to my pocket jacks, only to lose to T9 which hit a jack-high straight.

Hmm... can I assume I'd have lost $5 on Monday and Tuesday, and consider myself ahead $10 for the week?

(By the way, The Tipping Point wasn't as good as the same author's Blink, which was good, but not as good as Freakonomics.)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Scary Poker and the Hors d'Oeuvres of Phoenix

The evening of Tuesday, May 23, I'll be arriving in Phoenix to speak Wednesday morning at the BFMA Symposium on MS Word as an E-Forms Design Tool. Thursday afternoon, I'm giving another lecture, Advanced MS Word E-Forms Design. Between the two talks, I'm considering participating in the BFMA's Wednesday night outing (.pdf) to Casino Arizona.

The trip to the casino isn't an optimal situation. The (free) bus leaves the conference hotel at 6, and will leave the casino at 11. As best as I can tell from my 'net searching, the casino that the bus takes us to doesn't have poker tables; the poker room is another couple of miles up the road. This is in spite of the PDF flyer linked above ("Guests will find ... 50 poker tables ... There's also a mahogany paneled high stakes poker room.") I wouldn't doubt that there's a shuttle between the two, but there's no guarantee. Net rumor is that the lowest limits are $3/$6 tables, and I've barely enough of a bankroll (maybe $100) to attempt that. The last time I tried that with a Benjamin, I was broke in 20 minutes. Net rumor is also that these are the toughest tables in the state.

Included in the casino trip are the bus ride, a free celebrity impersonation show (yawn), maybe hors d'oeuvres, but not dinner (which I can expense).

I'll have a rental car, if I want to blow this off and go elsewhere. There's other casinos in the area, but I've been unable to find any poker tables below $3/$6. That's not to say they don't exist -- on-line listings of brick and mortar casinos are notoriously outdated, and it's tough to find details on them among the avalanche of false hits on e-poker sites.

I'm seeing a handful of choices:

1) Go on the Wednesday night trip, blow off the show, catch the shuttle to the poker room, play until the money's gone or until I get tired, then catch the shuttle back to the bus by 11 (or catch a cab if the game's juicy enough to stay). Could be a quick trip.

2) Go on the Wednesday night trip, catch the show, play blackjack until the money's gone.

3) Go to the poker room on Tuesday night and test the waters. If the money runs out, then skip the Wednesday night trip and play online from the hotel room. If not, goto 1. (Drawback -- if I do really well Tuesday, I won't want to leave, and I'll have to give a groggy lecture at 8:30 the next morning. Bad move.)

4) Take most of my bankroll, get a tee time, and spend my money on a Wednesday round of golf at a local course. Then go on the Wednesday night trip and play penny slots for a couple of hours.

5) Something else.

Which one should I do?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Will I be a felon next month?

I don't know how I missed it, but the Washington state legislature passed Substitute Senate Bill 6613 (.pdf) in March, and the governor signed it. (See also, bill history.) What's it do? In relevant part, it amends RCW 9.46.240 to read:
Whoever knowingly transmits or receives gambling information by ... the internet... shall be guilty of a class C felony...

Sounds bad. I'll be as bad as a sex offender. Or an armed thief. But let's look deeper. What does "gambling information" really mean? For that, we look at the definition at RCW 9.46.0245:

"Gambling information" ... means any wager made in the course of and any information intended to be used for professional gambling. [I]nformation as to wagers, betting odds and changes in betting odds shall be presumed to be intended for use in professional gambling. This section shall not apply to newspapers of general circulation or commercial radio and television stations licensed by the federal communications commission.

It's strange at first that this only exempts newspapers and radio and TV stations, and not other media, but it was last amended in 1987, so that's why. I think the Seattle Times needs to open up an online poker room. Or PartyPoker needs to buy a radio station.

So if I send information intended to mean that I raise the betting $1, is that "intended to be used for professional gambling"? On to RCW 9.46.0269:

A person is engaged in "professional gambling" for the purposes of this chapter when... the person pays a fee to participate in [an unlicensed] card game, contest of chance, lottery, or other gambling activity...

Sigh. Doesn't look good. But wait -- is my buy-in a "fee"? The state gambling commission doesn't think that a home-game buy-in is:

Home poker games are permitted in Washington State as long as professional gambling does not occur. The Washington State criminal code defines professional gambling as occurring when a person pays or accepts a fee to participate in a card game (RCW 9.46.0269). No fees may be charged for arranging, facilitating, organizing, or for operating the card game.

Well, a buy-in isn't a fee. But the rake? Yeah, that's called a "fee" by the gambling commission:

If you learn that the [private] card game involves charging the players a fee to enter the game or taking a percentage from each hand (commonly called a “rake”), the game would be considered an illegal activity. However, card games may be played in a private residence as long as there is no fee collected.
http://www.wsgc.wa.gov/training/handouts/4-206.pdf

So the 10¢ piece of the rake that comes out of the pot I bet into might make me a felon. Of course, licensed restaurant/casinos can take my rake, and I'd be legal.

Perhaps the best thing to do then, when the cops come knocking on the door, is to tell your attorney that you assumed the gambling site was licensed.

And get ready to share a cell in Walla Walla with Bubba.

(Thanks, Wil Wheaton, for the heads up).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A streak, then a run

It's nice to have a big hand, finally. I haven't won a big one in more than a week. Three of my last six nights have been net losses. And I'm still bruised from my $58.25 loss on April 23, and a $34 loss last Friday. It's been a bad streak, punctuated with bad play and few good hands. Perhaps tonight marks the beginning of a new winning phase?

Tonight's first 8 hands at the 10¢/25¢ table:

53 (BB, checked to the river, fold to Q42/K/T rainbow board)
J5 (SB, folded)
KT (button, flopped straight, split $5.60 pot with QT rivered stright.)
K5 (cutoff, folded)
KJ (middle position, limped and called preflop raise. Board was Q97s/K/4; My KKQJ9 beat Q5, 92, and JJ).
AK (middle position, lost to QT straight.)
AQ (middle position, scared off the final better on the river to win $3.15 pot with A-high)
KK, my monster hand of the night. Won a $14.47 pot. Here's the details.

In fifth position (nine-handed), UTG and UTG+1 fold to me. I raise to 50¢. Johnny calls, the button calls, and the big blind calls. The flop is AQT. I'm pretty sure at least one of them has an ace, so I figure I've got six outs: the four jacks and two kings. Runner-runner hearts would give me the nut flush, but that's a slim chance. Make it 6.5 outs, a 14% chance.

The big blind bets 25¢, making the pot $2.10. The pot odds are 12%, but implied odds make it worth it. So call, or raise? I can't explain why, but I raise. This was probably a bad move that turned out well. Johnny calls, the button re-raises, the big blind calls, and I call. The pot is now $5.10.

The turn is a shocking A. With two aces on the board, I begin to wonder if someone really does have an ace. Maybe I'm facing a flush draw. Maybe I'm facing a set of queens. Maybe a straight draw. The big blind checks, and I bet. Johnny calls, the button raises, and the three of us call.

The river, the glorious river, is K. I've got a full boat, and only AA, AK, AQ, or AT can beat me. I bet, get a caller, a raiser, and a caller. I re-raise, can get an all-in and two callers. My hand stands up, for KKKAA, beaing Johnny's Q6 (AAQQ6), the button's A7 (AAAKQ), and the big blind's A9 (AAAKQ).

Yeah, I got lucky. Really lucky. And ended up with my best night in two weeks.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sunday night slowness

Empty poker roomTo paraphrase Doyle Brunson, the best thing about online poker is that there's always a table full of players, ready to play any game you want. Whether it's 8:00 Thursday night or 2:00 a.m. Sunday, it's always game time somewhere. (Yes, I read his Online Poker. And yes, it's as bad as the Amazon reviews make it out to be.)

So imagine my surprise last Sunday, when I hop on to CDPoker to play at about 10:00 PM PDT, and there's nobody in the 25¢/50¢ rooms, and nobody in the 50¢/$1 rooms. No problem, I just played $1/$2 instead. You'll remember how badly that went.

So after losing half my bankroll last week, I took a break for a few days. It seems that when I go into a game thinking that I'm hardly qualified to play at that table, I tighten up, bring my "A" game, and do OK. It's when I'm feeling confident -- maybe even cocky -- that I have the worst nights. The couple of days off would give me time to sulk and get down on myself. *grin*

Last night, I hop online at about 10:00 PM, and -- again! -- nobody at the 25¢/50¢, nor the 50¢/$1. Having learned my lesson, I decided the only winning move was not to play.

I stood in the waiting list for the 50¢/$1 tables for about half an hour, but only one other person joined the list.

In the meantime, I ended up +$4 playing blackjack. Silly Ruleslawyer.

I've still got $30 in bonuses waiting, but they're really of no use if I can't play the games to get the points to claim them. I'm seriously thinking of moving to a busier network.