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Reviewing Tri “Slowhabit” Nguyen’s “How I Made My First Million from Poker”

productimage picture my first million from poker 49 225x300 Reviewing Tri “Slowhabit” Nguyen’s “How I Made My First Million from Poker” I just got done reading a pre-release copy of Tri “Slowhabit” Nguyen’s “How I Made My First Million from Poker.”  It’s definitely not your typical poker book and if you’ve read some of Nguyen’s previous books on poker strategy this is an entirely new look at the game.

In many ways it will remind you more of Barry Greenstein’s “Ace on the River” than it will “The Mathematics of Poker” by Bill Chen.  In fact, Barry wrote the foreword for the Nguyen’s book.

Like “Ace on the River,” “How I Made My First Million from Poker” is less about what starting hands to play and more about avoiding the pitfalls of the poker lifestyle as a professional online poker player.  Where Barry focused on the casino life Nguyen concentrates more on the new, younger breed of players who fire up 20 tables and grind out rakeback.

I’m unsure if the release of Nguyen’s book is fortunate or unfortunate with all that has been going on in the poker world recently but perhaps if we get a regulated US market soon his book will find its place with up and coming online poker grinders.

Nguyen’s nuggets of wisdom are invaluable and are obviously from someone who has been there.  He talks about everything from how to keep yourself motivated to how to know when it’s time to walk away from poker entirely.

The parts I found most valuable though were sprinkled throughout the book on a topic he hits on repeatedly which is improving your game.  He emphasizes over and over again that the game is constantly evolving and that a tricky line that works today is going to become a standard move tomorrow and if you want to stay ahead you have to keep working on exploiting weaknesses in your opponents.

It’s obvious that Nguyen comes from the new breed of poker players.  These young, aggressive players that seem to give yesterday’s poker heroes so much trouble.  A lot of his advice is geared toward this type of player.  For example whereas Sklansky and some of the old-guard poker players talk about having X number of buy-ins or big bets in their bankroll Nguyen fully encourages you to take shots, risk your bankroll (intelligently), and play fearless.

For instance, in the chapter on Bankroll Management he says:

Another reason why you should try to move up as soon as possible is as you grow older, your willingness to gamble and take risk decreases tremendously. You have worked hard to get to where you are, making the risk of losing it all disheartening and even at times scary. You won’t want to deal with an enormous amount of stress anymore.

When you’re young, you don’t know any better, and that’s a good thing. You have a lot of hope and aspiration to be the best. You have that gamble in your blood. You want to play because you truly love the game. It’s exciting. The high when you win is comparable to the low when you lose. During this phase in your poker career, you should be as aggressive as you can with your bankroll. You have time and age on your side. If things go wrong, you can always rebuild.

That’s not the kind of advice you read very often.

If I could offer Tri some advice it would be to be a little more sensitive to those of us who are youth-challenged.  There’s nothing like reading a 25 year old write about being old and the challenges he faces with younger poker players coming up behind him to make you really feel your age.

This is one of those books where if you just take away one useful lesson you’re sure to pay for the book many times over.  And believe me, there are enough nuggets of gold strewn about that it’s almost impossible not to find something that you can take away from reading the book.

But make no mistake; this is not a book where Nguyen tells you which hands to play or when to raise.  You won’t be able to read this book and walk away a better player.  You need to follow up and actually follow his advice and do the assignments that he offers.  Being a better player is hard work.  There are no quick fixes.  As Nguyen puts it:

When you watch high-level pros at the poker tables, it might seem that all you see are monster bluffs and huge pots. But you don’t see the behind-the-scene preparation. That is, you don’t see the endless instant message conversations, the forum postings, the Poker Stove analyses, the personal coaching sessions, the downswings, the depressions, the anxiety attacks, the broken keyboards, the smashed screens, or the flying mice. All you see is the performance when you are the table.

This is really the essence of the book.  Nguyen gives you ideas and tools but then you need to go out there and act upon them.  When he tells you to write down a description of the type of opponent you have problems playing against and to figure out how to eliminate your weaknesses and to find the weaknesses in your opponent, you actually have to do it.  Just reading what he wrote won’t make you a better player but if you actually do the work there’s no doubt you’ll learn something new and hopefully improve your game.

I did have some constructive criticism though.  First off is that the breadth of topics covered leaves one wanting more depth.  I got to the end of several chapters and wanted more.  Some topics should have been books unto themselves.

Also, while Nguyen is wise beyond his years, he’s still rather young.  What I mean by that is that what is wise beyond one’s years when you’re in your mid-twenties might not seem wise at all for someone considerably older.

For instance, when talking about keeping in a positive mind set Nguyen talks about eliminating things from your life that bring you negative feelings.

Write down a list of people and/or things that annoy you. Proceed to avoid these people and things like the plague. Your life and poker game will be better than yesterday.

There’s nothing wrong with the advice but the better answer would be to figure out why those things or people annoy you in the first place and work on not being annoyed by them.  For example, if your skin is exceptionally sensitive to the sun, one option might be to avoid the sun but the better answer would be to see a dermatologist who might be able to prescribe you some medication that either treats or cures your condition.

Likewise, Nguyen labels a chapter Mindfulness, but the chapter really isn’t about mindfulness in the sense that Buddhists, meditators, or psychologists define mindfulness.  For instance, he says:

This is what being mindful is about. You make a conscious effort to go over your choices and how they will affect you.

But that’s not the definition of mindfulness I know.  According to Psychology Today, mindfulness is:

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

These are really rather minor issues though.  Avoiding things and people that annoy you is a perfectly reasonable way to avoid negative emotions.  The more common use of the word mindfulness might not fit with Nguyen’s definition but the advice he does give is solid.

Besides, I felt I had to find something to correct just to show Nguyen that some of us old farts often pick up other kinds of wisdom along with our grey hairs.  J

Overall it’s a solid and much needed book in the poker community.  It’s not a book about whether to raise or fold or what starting hands to play.  And that’s a good thing because what makes you money today can change tomorrow.  If you’re just following a set of instructions on autopilot you won’t be able to grow as a player.  When change happens you’ll have to wait for someone to write a new set of instructions for you to follow.

Nguyen’s book attempts to give you the tools so you don’t need someone else to give you the answers (though he does recommend coaching and surrounding yourself with other poker players as a tool to help you work through your game).  It’s about finding a balanced lifestyle that allows you to become the best player you can be.

And what more could you want?

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What is a Professional Poker Player?

broke1 What is a Professional Poker Player?I’ve been doing a lot of light reading lately and nearly every poker magazine article is written by “a professional poker player.”  Likewise, watching many of the televised poker events the commentators will often identify a player as a “professional poker player.”

But just what the heck is a professional poker player?

Is it someone who makes their living playing poker?  That would be my definition.  But how many supposedly professional poker players derive all or most of their income from actually playing poker?

I mean, if you’re a sponsored pro making $20,000 a month in endorsements and coaching and then losing it all on the poker tables are you really a professional poker player?

Or, what if you’re grinding out $40,000 a year playing poker.  Are you more or less of a professional poker player than someone who has a full-time job but consistently wins $80,000 a year playing part-time?

It just seems as if the title gets thrown around pretty easily these days.  As far as I can tell, the generally accepted definition is, “someone who plays poker and doesn’t have another job.”

Over the years I’ve been contacted on numerous occasions by self-billed professional poker players who want an in on some entry level job in online poker.  I also know of a few “pros” that have done multiple tours of duty in the customer support departments of online poker sites.  They stick around long enough to fund a bankroll and then quit and come back six months later looking for work again.

Or how about the poker pro who has $1.2 million in career tournament cashes but it’s over a 10 or 15 year period?  That’s only $80,000 – $120,000 per year when you average it out.  Granted, that’s still good money but it doesn’t count buy-ins and how much they’ve spent in tournaments where they didn’t cash.  Nor does it indicate how much of it they actually saw.  If they sold a piece of themselves or took backing then they may have only seen a fraction of that.

That’s sort of like looking only at a company’s gross income without knowing the cost of sales.  It gives you a very distorted picture.

Company A has $10,000,000 in revenue but only makes $500,000 in profit.  Company B has $5,000,000 in revenue but has a $1,000,000 profit.  If we were to judge companies like we do poker players, Company A would be considered the better company to own because we’re only looking at gross revenue.

Of course, I’m not counting cash games and such but the point is that many of the people who are considered professional poker players aren’t exactly living the balla lifestyle.

In fact, back in 2004 I wrote about this when Fortune Small Business ran a piece on Annie Duke. After all of the backing, cash game wins, appearance fees, sponsorships, etc she was clearing $228,000 a year.

Again, $228,000 isn’t exactly chump change but it’s not really big money.   Especially when you consider the risk involved.  And $86,000 of that total was for consulting and appearances so her take at the poker tables was only $142,000.

Several years ago someone asked me whether or not I was a professional poker player.  I laughed and said, “Well, maybe a semi-professional.  I never quit my day job.”  He responded, “Semi-professional?  To me that means that you’re not good enough.”

It was a fair take on the difference between professional and semi-professional but only if you look at it on the surface.  Let’s say that you’re a college student or just out of college or working some low-wage job.  Making $50,000 a year playing poker might sound like a dream job if you’re slaving away for $25,000 a year bagging groceries or flipping burgers.  But if you’re making $50,000 a year in a 9-5’er it’s a questionable decision as the $50,000 from your job is somewhat reliable income (far more reliable than what you make at the tables).

In poker, you could win $100,000 this year and nothing next year and average out to $50,000 a year.  I prefer not to live like that.  I like having a reliable source of income (strangely, my creditors prefer that as well).

Plus there’s no medical, matching 401K, paid vacation, annual bonuses, annual wage increases, etc, in poker.  So your $50K a year also pays for many things that are considered benefits by an employer.  So really, after you pay for all of those things you might only be making $35K – $40K.

I was just reading a blog post and the author started off saying, “As a former professional poker player . . .” I wanted to laugh a bit because I know that writing blog posts isn’t exactly lucrative.  How much money could he have been making as a “professional poker player” if hacking out articles for poker blogs seemed like a step up?

You see this on the affiliate forums as well.  A self-proclaimed poker pro will offer to write poker strategy articles for $20 a 600 word article.  Twenty bucks!!

I have a friend of mine who got a cushy consulting gig where he cranked out a report every couple of weeks and they sent him what most people make working all month.  He called himself a professional poker player because he played poker online.  When the company cancelled his gig he sent me a frantic email saying he needed to find a job asap.  Why?  Because he was never really making much playing poker.  He was funding his break-even/losing poker playing with income from his consulting gig.

Professional seems like it should be an indication of whether or not you possess the skills to earn a living doing something.  If I quit my job tomorrow and start playing bingo and eventually bleed away my savings and have to take a job in six months, was I really a professional bingo player?

Or how would this apply in other sports?  If I retire, start collecting a pension, and start playing in golf tournaments but only earn a few thousand a year, am I professional golfer?

To be honest, I don’t know what constitutes a professional poker player.  I do know that a large percentage of the people who claim to be professional poker players need more than one source of income in order to be a professional poker player which doesn’t sound like a professional at all.

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Bomb Threat at Hawaiian Gardens

images Bomb Threat at Hawaiian GardensI guess this is a follow up to my previous post on bad behaviour in California card rooms.

So Sunday I was out and about running errands trying to get ready to fly out of here on hey  to sneak in a little poker since I was near Hawaiian Gardens and I didn’t feel like driving back home in the rain.

No waiting list for Omaha so I sit down and I think I was on my fourth of fifth hand at the table when all of a sudden a commotion erupts in the poker room.

This portly guy in his 40’s or so is being followed by about four security guards and the manager.  The group stops directly behind me.  Literally less than 6 feet from my chair.  He starts yelling that he won’t leave.  The manager informs him that he is now trespassing and he can either leave voluntarily or they’ll call the police and have him arrested.

I’m not sure if the guy was on drugs or just drunk but he won’t budge.  He’s yelling and screaming and pacing back and forth and the security guards are mirroring his every move.  More security shows up.  I see at least one packing a handgun.

Whacked out guy takes a few mock throws at various security guards and the manager.  He’s challenged them to fight but they seem to be keeping their cool.

Not getting the reaction he wanted the guy starts yelling out across the poker room, “Get the fuck out of here everyone.  I’m going to blow this mother fucker up.  Blow it the fuck up!”

So I guess he wasn’t happy with simple trespassing and decided to tack on making a terrorist threat onto the charges that would eventually come.

At some point he pushed one of the security guards and seemed like he was trying to provoke some sort of confrontation.

Out of nowhere, the shortest of all the security guards walks up to the guy and just plows the whacked out guy square in the neck.  He stumbles a bit and all of the security guards jump on him and wrestle him to the floor.  It still took several minutes for them to get cuffs on him but eventually they did and he was walked out of the casino in cuffs.

One of the funniest parts in all of this, at least to me, was when they had the guy pinned on the ground and the casino manager is yelling “If anyone takes pictures or video of this you’re out of here.  No videos.  No pictures!”

Some of the floor managers try to take control of the situation and tell players to go back to their seats and for dealers to keep dealing.  But the guy’s still on the floor wrestling with the security so there’s absolutely no way that’s going to happen.

I gotta give it up to the Hawaiian Gardens staff though.  Other than making me laugh with the ban on video and pleas to keep playing they handled everything in a professional manner.  I probably would have stun gunned the guy the second he laid hands on one of the security guys but they were really making an effort in deescalating the situation without the use of force.

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The Changing Business Model in Poker Media

Funny enough Hard Boiled Poker covered a topic I was pondering a blog post about.  I’ve written in the past about the poker media and how the fact that they derived a large percentage of their revenue from the very poker sites that they were covering tainted their motivation to dig too deep or ask too many questions.

Well a new trend seems to be emerging.  Hard Boiled focused on the sites that are going for subscription revenue but I think there is a lot more business model experimentation going on in the post-Black Friday world.  People are trying to find a way to turn their blogs, news sites, etc into revenue generation machines without relying on affiliate payments from the online poker rooms.

Even new sites are foregoing slapping affiliate ads all over their sites.  I ran across LegalPokerSites.com and it seems like a fairly new blog covering the legal side of poker.  Notice the complete absence of poker room advertising. Normally a new site can’t slap banner ads on there fast enough.

PokerFuse is another post-Black Friday site that has declared itself “independent.”  I really enjoy the coverage at PokerFuse.  It’s really solid reporting written by folks with real contacts inside the poker rooms who have fed them some great content.  In their FAQ section they explain their independent model:

The inherent nature of poker room affiliate programs means historically it has been difficult for the poker media to maintain its independence. By referring a new customer to a poker room, the advertiser earns a percentage of all rake generated by that player for the lifetime of the account. Long-standing affiliate contracts can be exceedingly profitable, providing regular monthly income for all accounts. So, there is a high risk in publishing unfavorable sites or networks; a loss of an affiliate account means losing all future earnings for referred players.

A regular media establishment always risks potential future advertising; but a poker affiliate risks guaranteed rake for all players accounts. This tips the balance and makes it very hard to maintain an independent eye on the poker world.

For that reason, pokerfuse from the outset has stated publicly that we will never accept advertising from poker rooms, networks, or rakeback providers.

Another site that really started to hit its stride in the post-Black Friday fallout was Quad Jacks.  They do feature some affiliate banners on their site but they’ve recently begun a subscription service where you can pay to access some of their content.

Wicked Chops Poker is taking a slightly different tact and publishing a completely separate product for which they charge a subscription fee for.  Wicked Chops Insider promises to share all of the dirt they can’t or won’t post on the free website as well as digging deeper into headlines with detailed analysis.

eGaming Review has put almost their entire site behind a subscription firewall.  The one advantage they have is that they’re more focused on gaming industry news which means that most of their readership is employed in the online gaming industry.  By advantage, I mean that it’s far more likely that your company will pick up a subscription than say to Wicked Chops Insider or Quad Jacks because many of the executives at your company were already regular readers of the print magazine to begin with.

The downside is that even though my company does have a subscription I typically can’t be bothered to login every time they send out their daily news headlines.  If I can find the same information on a site that doesn’t require a login I’ll go there first.  Only if EGR has a total exclusive will I go dig up that email with my login and password and read it on their site.  So either they better be cracking a lot of exclusive stories or I think their readership is going to take a bit of a hit.

But, whether any of these models works is irrelevant to me.  I just like seeing the experimentation going on.  Some of these models will work and some won’t.  Some will work for some sites and not work for others.  I really don’t care.  I think they all deserve some kudos for being brave enough to think outside the box in an industry of copycats.

There’s obviously still room for affiliates and I don’t think that every site has to rid itself of all poker room links but they need to be more transparent as well as keep a better watch on how the revenue side influences what gets written (or doesn’t get written).

For instance, a very, very big poker media site has their site review section with a page up about PokerStars.  Like most review sites they paint a sales pitch rather than an actual real review and conspicuously absent is any mention of the fact that the company is currently under DOJ indictment along with the site’s owner.

Are they really doing their readers right by omitting this important fact?  Maybe they might say that Stars’ legal situation has very little to do with the safety and security of player’s money as demonstrated by Stars’ ability to quickly pay back players after Black Friday.  But isn’t that being a tad presumptuous?  Who are they to decide what information I need to make a decision about what poker room to play on?  Shouldn’t they just review the site honestly rather than trying to sell me on signing up so they get paid?

We saw the same thing with both the Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet scandals.  Many of the top poker media sites were so married to those sites they refused to pull their affiliates ads and never mentioned the cheating scandal on their “review” pages.  I think a cheating scandal is material information and not including it borders on fraudulent advertising.

As the industry matures we need more news/media sites that aren’t being paid to turn a blind eye, to not ask questions, and to tell lies of omission in their reviews.  We need the independent news sites.

And since they need to make money in order to keep their doors open, at least consider whether or not their content is worth paying for.  Check them out.  See if they’re for you.  Even if you don’t think they’re worth paying for at least give them some feedback.  Maybe what they need is to tweak the model.  Maybe they need to totally scrap it and try something else.  Your feedback might help them cater their products to better suit your situation.

Because we’ve already seen the alternative and where that got us.

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That’s What A Bad Beat Jackpot Looks Like

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been at a bad beat jackpot table so I needed this to remind me of what one looks like.

Looks like the BBJ was $100K. Not bad.

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Stingrays in Grand Cayman and Skydiving in Cali

Some more non-poker related videos.

Here’s a video shot in Grand Cayman of a stingray feeding dive we did. The funny part is that for all of the danger people think is involved with diving with sharks I actually received my worst animal related bite from a stingray.

While trying to feed one of the rays she sucked hard to pull the food in and I tried to get my hand out of the way after releasing the squid into her mouth. Well, she kept sucking and it pulled the skin on the back of my hand into her mouth and she clamped down (no teeth) and tore off a huge hunk of skin. Pretty nasty with a huge piece of flesh just hanging there.

So, don’t fear sharks. Fear those evil stingrays :-)

The next clip is my first (and so far, only) skydive in Paso Robles, Ca. I was pretty confident right up until I was sitting in the doorway. That’s when it all sort of hit me. Good thing the instructors were there to give me a push (literally). :-)

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Shark Diving

Last night I did an interview for the Poker Affiliate Listings radio/podcast show and Jeremy mentioned my list of travels. Well, coincidentally I’ve been going through a bunch of old videos and such and ran across some stuff that I thought I would share for those of you who enjoy some of the non-poker content I post from time to time.

The first two videos are of some shark feeding dives I did in Nassau, Bahamas. The first video is the first dive where we just toured the area and made friends with the sharks. The second video is the shark feeding dive. A lot more action in the second one if you’re short for time and can only watch one.

If I can get the other two videos ripped I’ll post skydiving in California and diving with stingrays in Grand Cayman.

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Oh Behave

9252512 Oh Behave“You have to write something on your blog about live players.”  A friend said that to me the other day and while I normally don’t do requests I thought it was a timely subject as many online players transition to live poker.

In the course of maybe four sessions I’ve either seen or have had the previously mentioned friend report to me the following incidents.

An old, crusty fart sat down at my table and within a few minutes yelled at the dealer “Would you tell him to get off the phone?  I don’t need to have that ching-chong shit in my ears when I’m trying to think,”(he wasn’t even in the hand) in response to an Asian player sitting next to him (not in the hand) answering a phone call (he had stood up to take the call and was standing behind his seat).

A guy who seemed unable to fold his hand without making some sort of gesture of disgust (i.e. huffing, snorting, grunting, etc) and then violently slamming his cards on the table.  Not once.  Not twice.  Not three times.  Every hand.  Pre-flop, post flop, on the showdown.  It didn’t matter.  If he didn’t win the hand he was sure to make a big scene about folding.

A regular is quite well known for taking their bad run of cards out on the dealer.  If they haven’t received a playable hand in an orbit or two they intentionally fold their hand out of the reach of the dealer making it so the dealer has to stand up and reach across the table to gather up the cards.

A player who seemed to be running bad began asking the dealer to switch decks roughly every orbit he didn’t win a hand.

In one hand the dealer misread the low in an Omaha H/L game and almost awarded the pot to the wrong player.  She was corrected by another player (not in the hand).  She nervously laughed when the error was brought to her attention and the player who pointed out the error said, “Why the fuck are you laughing?  You’re incompetent.  Seriously, I don’t know why you’re laughing.  You can’t even do your job.”

A casino staff member was checking player loyalty cards and one of the players at my table who was returning from his third disappearance at the table in about 40 minutes starts yelling at the girl that he wants his loyalty card scanned.  She asks which table he’s sitting at and he launches into a verbal tirade claiming to be insulted that he would even be asked such a question.  He walked off and sat back at our table before she could act and then he called the floorman over and told the floorman that she had refused to scan his card.

Three players see the river in a monster pot (every street seeing a three or four bet).  River card completes a flush and when the nut flush shows his hand another player in the hand tears his cards in half and throws them on the table.

Those are just a few of the incidents that readily pop into mind.  There have been countless others.  If I were to go back farther than just the last few sessions I can recall fist fights, dealers being threatened with violence, and many other examples of completely unacceptable (and sometimes quasi-illegal) behaviour.

The point is that poker players can be some miserable pricks.  Seriously, it disgusts me to have to share a table with some of these people.

Believe me; I’m not easily offended or disgusted.  I am a connoisseur of foul language and bad behaviour.  But this isn’t about being slightly rude or annoying.  These types of people are Grade-A assholes.

It disappoints me that poker rooms don’t do more to police players.  I’m not saying you can’t exchange words or get angry or even mutter under your breath but it really isn’t enjoyable for the other players when you have one of these clowns demonstrating such bad behaviour.

And I know it can’t be enjoyable for the dealers who seem to have absolutely zero authority.  A player makes a racist comment about the dealer and the dealer just has to sit there and take it.  If a player is intentionally folding their hands out of the dealer’s reach or playing other immature games the dealer has to sit there and take it with a smile.

I know management walks a fine line between enforcing general rules of behaviour and keeping the rake coming in but it seems like Southern California card rooms are back to the Wild, Wild West days.

Like I said, I’m not suggesting we turn poker rooms into church halls or anything but there’s a huge difference between a guy saying “You gotta be f*ckin’ kidding me” when he gets bad beat and someone who angrily throws their cards at the dealer and says “That bitch does it to me every time.  She always rivers me, the little whore.”

I’m not sure if this happens across the US but one thing is for certain; poker rooms who allow this kind of behaviour to go unchecked are hurting poker for everyone.  If I was a n00b and I saw some of this stuff I don’t know if I would want to keep playing.  Hell, it bothers me and I’ve been around card rooms for years.

It just seems so odd to see debates about tournament rules like the one between Matt Savage and Daniel Negreanu about the no talking about your hand rule, meanwhile, in cash games anything goes.  In tournament poker if you let a “F*ck!” slip out you’re sent to the rail for a few minutes as a penalty.  In a cash game calling the dealer a “F*cking bitch” won’t even get the floor person called over.

As much as I love playing cash games this kind of crap is coming dangerously close to turning me into a tournament player just to get away from the real a-holes.

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Get Ed Miller’s “How to Read Hands at No Limit Hold’Em” From Bill’s Poker Blog

I’m such a big fan of Ed Miller’s new book, “How to Read Hands at No Limit Hold’Em” I want to give you a copy for free (a $49.99 value).

Here’s the deal:

1. Go read my review of Miller’s new book.

2. If you aren’t already following me on Twitter (shame on you) go ahead and Follow me on Twitter

3. Tweet the following message:

Just entered to win How to Read Hands at No Limit Hold’Em. Just follow @billrini and retweet. http://s.rini.org/ic8df

4. On Nov 21st I will randomly choose a winner from all people who have tweeted/re-tweeted the above message and are still following me on Twitter (you will be notified via DM so you need to be following me for me to be able to contact you).

That’s it. Nice and simple.

When I notify you I will ask you for your email address so I can send you the book (only available in electronic format).

Obligatory Rules:

1. You must be following me on Nov 21 for the reasons outlined in #4 above.

2. You must Tweet the message exactly as it appears above. I am experimenting with some code I’ve written that uses the Twitter API and this is testing that code. I will also check the results manually via Twitter Search but if you alter the message even slightly I may not be able to record your tweet using either of those methods.

3. You have 48 hours to respond after I contact you via Twitter DM. If you have not responded by DM within 48 hours I’ll be on a flight to Thailand and when I land I will award the prize to the next randomly selected person.

 

UPDATE:  The contest is complete and the book has been awarded to the winner, @petenumber2.  

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What Online Poker Can Learn From The Dotcoms

pets.com mascot What Online Poker Can Learn From The DotcomsThe other night I was invited to get-together with some of my comrades from the old dotcom days.  It was good to catch up and see people I haven’t seen since HTML programmers with no formal education in software engineering thought nothing about asking for (and getting) $75K+ starting salary and a BMW signing bonus.

But it also forced me to reflect on the parallels between the old dotcom days and what’s going on in the poker world.  In many ways the similarities are not just striking but kick you in the junk striking.

For instance, I got involved in the dotcom craze back before people even called it dotcom.  Most companies barely had websites back then.  Nobody had cable or DSL because they either weren’t available or were so prohibitively expensive that most people surfed the cyberspace desert on a 9600 baud modem.

Somewhere along the way the venture capitalists got involved and they started throwing money at anything that involved “online.”  Soon this little niche industry started to go mainstream and it wasn’t long after that there were companies like Amazon, Yahoo, AOL, etc taking in millions upon millions of dollars.

You could go from doing bong-hits on your couch to multi-millionaire in months.  No idea was too absurd.  No business model was too retarded.  If you could sketch it on the back of a cocktail napkin you could probably find someone willing to give you $10 million.

But back around 1998 the bubble began to burst.  The venture capitalist money dried up almost overnight.  Companies that just months ago were hosting million dollar website launch parties and buying employees $700 office chairs were suddenly bankrupt (as they should be).

Many of the old, traditional companies had stayed mostly on the sidelines during the dotcom boom.    The dotcom folks called them dinosaurs and spoke of a world where these old-school companies would be mere memories that our children would learn about in history books.

But the old-school companies knew there was no long-term potential in spending $300 to acquire a customer that would only spend $100.  When the bubble burst they jumped in and cleaned up.  They bought dotcom companies for pennies on the dollar and/or launched their own websites having learned what not to do from all of the dotcoms.

Some dotcoms survived but most didn’t.  Darwinism weeded out the weak and only the best of the best dotcoms survived.  And the dotcoms no longer resembled dotcoms.  They got serious about cash flow, fulfilment, strategic planning, marketing, logistics, and all of the other stuff that they mocked the old-school dinosaurs for being too focused on.

In the end, the dinosaurs became more agile as they adopted the best practices that emerged from the dotcoms and the dotcoms that survived became more like the dinosaurs paying more attention to running a real business rather than pouring all of their available cash into Superbowl ads.

Black Friday was the online poker industry’s dotcom crash.  Technically, I guess the UIGEA was the real beginning but Black Friday has become the historical marker stone that most of us will, in coming years, define as the turning point.

The UIGEA started to weed out some of the stupid money.  The Reefer Pokers and other companies who had no unique selling points nor particular brilliance in running a poker room began to die off after the UIGEA.  Many others are in walking-dead mode hoping that some external event will save them from eventually having to shut their doors.

Black Friday was the other shoe to drop.  It put a massive, massive dent in the amount of stupid money being thrown around.  Full Tilt and PokerStars were the only two companies who had the cash flow to compete against each other while everyone else more or less just tried to stay out of their way.  Now with Tilt out of the picture and Stars unable to throw cash at the US market a lot of stupid money has dried up.

And just like the old dotcom days, the big dinosaurs are lumbering out of the jungle to come feast on the carcases left lying around after the Black Friday apocalypse.  The brick and mortar casinos are starting up free poker sites and placing big bets on legalized poker in the US.

Some of the online poker sites will make it through this but the dinosaurs, the brick and mortar casinos, will be playing a much bigger role in the future of online poker than anybody would have imagined a few years ago when the players and the industry just assumed that Stars and Tilt would continue to grow forever.

The new world order will not be run by companies flying by the seat of their pants.  Gambling will become a serious business just like it is in Vegas and Macau.  Instead of having some frat-boy running an online gaming site down in Costa Rica while snorting the profits off some prostitute’s breasts, you’ll need to have some serious business credentials under your belt before you can even get a gaming license.

The next phase in the business cycle is far more sober.

But being more sober doesn’t mean boring.  The industry will be just as fast and just as exciting as it is today but there will be a lot more people with grey hair running things.

Look at the dotcom industry.  Look at where things were back in 1998 – 2000 when the dotcom bubble burst and where things are today.  Internet usage has skyrocketed from 350 million users in 2000 to over 2 billion in 2011.  We are far more connected on our mobile phones, tablet computers, and other various always-connected devices than we were at the height of the dotcom boom.

What’s different is that that previously mentioned HTML programmer now makes $30K a year, you can get a website built on eLance for a couple hundred bucks instead of a couple hundred thousand, and most companies don’t blow all of their start-up cash financing a rock star lifestyle for the twenty-something CEO.

Online poker will make a similar transition.  Obviously, the growth will be less dramatic than the overall internet but as countries slowly come to grips with online gaming and how to regulate it the number of players will continue to grow in fits and starts.  Costs will come down as online poker sites realize that they don’t need to shell out such a large percentage of their profits to affiliates.  And the entire emphasis of the business will shift towards creating a long-term sustainable business.

In 10 or 20 years we’ll look back at this period and laugh.  It will be unimaginable that people used to Western Union cash to Panama to be picked up by some lady named Senorita Lopez, and this was considered a viable payment option to deposit money on an online poker site.    We’ll wonder in amazement at how people played on sites where the software was not regularly audited by a government approved third-party.

The next phase in the online poker industry business lifecycle will bring us debit cards linked directly to our online poker accounts and will be able to withdraw cash from our accounts at any ATM.  We’ll earn airline miles instead of FPP’s.  Your play will be continuously evaluated and you’ll receive promotions that apply specifically to the types of games you play, your average reload amount, and how often you play.

You’ll be able to walk into a McDonald’s and get a scratch off card with a chance to win a seat to a WPT or WSOP event.  Hell, it might even be the McDonald’s or Coca Cola WSOP just like we have Allstate Sugar Bowl and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl today.

There’s still a bright future ahead for online poker.  However it will take on a very different type of growth than how we got to where we are today.  Just like the dotcom crash did not spell the end of innovation in the online world, today’s issues will not be the end of growth in online poker.

 

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Bill Rini
Bill Rini
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