peterbirks: (Default)
I had an interesting encounter early on in my holiday in Las Vegas. I was talking to a rather intelligent ultra-liberal (for the US) poker player, about 30 years of age. Somehow the conversation got round to living for nothing in London, and I mentioned the word "ligger".

He reacted with horror, which puzzled me. Then he said that it would be difficult to use that word in the US, because it was too close to the "N Word".

Needless to say, this set me off on one. "So", I said, "the liberals are now so sensitive to the word nigger that you can't even use words that SOUND like it? Hasn't the fact that words which sound like each other don't necessarily mean similar things sunk in in liberal America?"

Subsequently I asked him if he had similar problems with the words rigour, figure, bigger and that character from the Jungle Book, Tigger.

Obviously, he hadn't. That was because the meanings of these words were in his brain. The transfer to meaning from sound was entrenched. However, with "ligger" (a word that he did not know) he had no meaning to fall back on -- only the sound of the word. It was this which caused him to think that there would be a problem with the word.

But does this not also say something damning about liberal America? The word "nigger" (even though he could not bring himself to say it) was so high in his consciousness; the fear of offending "African-Americans" was so great, that when I mentioned a word that even rhymed with nigger, then that was the first word he thought of. Not "figure", "rigour", "bigger", or "Tigger". No, his mind leapt immediately to a word that he could not bring himself to utter.

This, I feel, indicates a far higher level of race consciousness amongst white liberals than the white working class. I've long maintained that part of my problem (as far as white liberals are concerned) is that I frequently forget the race and colour of people. To me, they are people. As such I do not have this white liberal (and, it must be admitted, black intelligentsia) hyper-sensitivity to the "travesties of history". I'm not perpetually carrying a guilt trip for the misdeeds of people in the 18th century who happened to have a skin similarly hued to mine. They probably weren't even my ancestors.

It would be a lot easier if the white liberals and black intelligentsia could think the same way.


I typed in Facebook an interesting mathematical puzzle with real financial implications.

It related to a special offer at the Cosmopolitan -- "another day, another $100". Effectively, if you signed up for a loyalty card, you could get a free $100 cashback.

The question was, what was the best strategy? Kevin O'Leary fancied four spins at $25 apiece. Simon Galloway said that it was all down to preference.

The mathematics are quite complex and also depend on knowing (a) one's marginal value of cash, (b) the exact payment habits of the chosen slot machine and (c) how many days you would be remaining in Las Vegas.

I came to the conclusion that the best strategy for me would be a Martingale -- 14 goes at a dollar a time, 14 goes at $2 a time and 14 goes at $4 a time -- something like that. That seemed to maximize the chance of a profit each day before you eventually ran badly and lost the $100. (You then claimed back your $100 in slot vouchers and "washed it through" at 25¢ a time, getting back about $97).

Yesterday, however, it struck me that I had already played a similar offer -- that being "Ring Game" Tournament tickets on Full Tilt Poker.

When my FTP account was reactivated all of my Iron Man points and the like were converted into FTP points -- some 95,000. The FTP points tournaments are a reasonable EV, but are FAR too slow. Three hours to get into the money was not unusual.

The Ring Game Tournament tickets on the face of it don't seem a great offer. You pay (in my case) 12,500 points for a $50 ring ticket. You then sit down and play until you have lost it. OK. If you earn 1,250 points while playing, without losing the $50, then it gets transferred to your account as real cash. But you can only sit down at one table with the ticket, so that would require about 60 hours of play without losing two buy-ins. For here is the catch. If you win at the table, and leave that table, the money above $50 is converted to real cash. When you sit down again, you only have a $50 ring ticket. Eventually (see above, Cosmopolitan) you will almost certainly hit a run-in sufficiently bad to wipe out your $50 before you get 60 hours of play in.

One way to maximize your chance of conversion is to play very long sessions when you are winning at the table. If you get a quick double-through, that effectively doubles the size of your ring ticket and therefore quarters the chance of you going broke.

But you aren't going to be able to play for 60 hours straight.

It then struck me that none of this really matters. A "real" conversion can be seen as a $50 bonus that you will never reach. But the ring ticket is still worth $50, even if you lose it.

That seems counter-intuitive, but look at it this way. If I do not pay the 12,500 points, I will still be playing at the same number of tournaments, and I will still eventually hit a $50 bad run. If I haven't paid the points, then I am minus $50. If I have paid the points, then I am even. In other words, I am fifty dollars better off than I would have been if I had not paid the points. Assuming that takes 10,000 hands and I would normally have won $100 over those 10,000 hands, that means (if I run according to average) that I will be $150 up rather than $100 up.

If I should ever get to the point where the ticket "converts" to real cash, I am still only $50 better off than I would have been if I had not paid the points.

So why try to get to that goal? Because, the longer I play with the ring ticket (i.e., the more times I have a winning session before I hit the bad run) then the more each FTP point is "worth" in conversion. If we assume that on average I win $100 with my $50 ticket before I lose the value of the ticket, then the 12,500 points have transferred at 8¢ a point. You have to pay 6¢ on rake to earn the point, so that's an effective rakeback of 125%.


I moved over to 6-max at the beginning of November. I dropped down significantly in stakes, and (re)learnt my craft. At the moment FTP seems much easier than Pokerstars. Some things in Full Ring transfer across, while some things do not. Some of the things that I have "brought across" from Full Ring appear to discomfort some of the regulars (the smaller average raise size being one of them).

6-Max is much more about betting your hand and going to showdown. Full Ring online is much more about winning bits and pieces here and there. I started off with too low a VPIP, but I've got it up to about 21% now. I've also moved to a full buy in from my 60BB buy-in strategy at Full Ring. For the moment, this is working better.

But I lost a small amount in November, so there is still work to do.

2013 as a whole has been a non-event -- about $1,000 profit online and about $1,000 profit live. I'm really just playing now to "keep my eye in" in the hope that things will one day get better again. I've shifted up in stakes since getting back from LV (but still lower than my old Full Ring days) and things have gone well (in Sklansky dollar terms, better than in results -- AA cracked back to back both times all in pre flop, by 92o and QJs, made for an interesting Christmas Day morning).

But with the new job in the new year I am not sure how much time I will have to devote to the game. Chleiger said in a tweet that he couldn't think what poker player left $300k in the back of a cab because he didn't know any poker players these days with a $300k bankroll. That reminded me how lucky I am financially -- probably far better off than most of the "name" players.

A winner of a "big" tournament in the UK recently (not much more than £70k, which would hardly make the deposit on a house in London these days) confessed that all that the win did was "get him out of trouble" and stop him from losing his house. I think that it's a widespread problem for poker players who don't have a proper job. For most of them, life is a matter of survival rather than luxury. It's not a life I would want, but, unless you devote ALL of your time to the game, you just can't be a consistent significant plus EV player. In other words, in terms of opportunity cost, poker just isn't worth it. The only reason to carry on is the intellectual challenge (unless you are a degenerate, of course, in which case it is the thrill of gambling).

There are two major types of poker player -- the thrill seeker and the thrill averter. For one type, there is no point in playing poker if there's no excitement. But for people like me the "fun" is in the intellectual challenge. I enjoy sitting and thinking about frequently occurring situations, and what the best strategy line is for those situations against the current crop of Russians, or Chinese, or Germans. If these groups have a big flaw it is that they talk to each other too much on forums. That leads to group think and group style. That leads to consistent (and exploitable) styles of play. Out-thinking these people is a bit like code-breaking. Even if you haven't played a guy before, if he is from Russia and he raises in the small blind and you flat call in the Big Blind, you tend to know what a bet on a flop of Axx means and what a check means. You know his "language" even though you have never met him before.


I start a new job in February as Managing Editor at Reactions magazine -- part of Euromoney Publications. The office is in Eastcheap (think turn right at the Monument station after crossing London Bridge South to North) and I will be in much more of a corporate role and much less of a lone-gun writer role.

It's a great challenge and not a little frightening, but I think that I have the ability to do it and to do it well. Quite simply, I want to blast the opposition to smithereens over the next 24 mohths, and make myself a fair bit of wedge in the process.


June 2017

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